Monday, December 11, 2017

Upheld (depression, again)

Let me tell you about a girl I know.
She has eyes that see the brokenness of this world and a heart that deeply hates what she sees.  She is burdened, maybe even suffocating with the grief she carries.  She wants to make it better, and she tries to, but her efforts don’t seem to make a dent in anything.  And what bothers her even more than being ineffective is that often, sometimes even as she works to right the broken parts of this world, she finds herself tripping over her own brokenness, her plans foiled by a mess that she made by her own self.

And her arms and legs and very heart are caught the web.  Any movement on her part is just wild flailing, but what else can she do?  She could give up in despair, try to sleep it off, and hope that she will wake refreshed and not with fang marks in her neck.  Flail or collapse, pointless activity or abject despair: these seem to be her only options.

This girl is me, when depression takes hold.  It hits me like a storm that comes suddenly and then passes over, It is ugly and dark and scary, but it is over (for now.)  And again, God has been faithful.  I am upheld.

I say that often to my close friends, when the question “how are you doing?” can’t be answered well in a word.

I am upheld.  What do I mean by that?

It’s complicated, this awful grace-filled life.  And when it’s not the time or the place to unburden my soul, to pour out the griefs and complaints, to recount the the faithfulness of God mixed in, to divulge the tangled mess of a heart that doesn’t even know what’s good for its own self and yet is still carried forward by her Father to be at this job or doing this mom thing despite all these glaring weaknesses… I say, I am upheld.

Sometimes, I am a house of cards and I’m sure one more thing will knock me right over, but I haven’t fallen yet.  Every moment that goes by, every push against my house that does NOT make me collapse feels like a miracle, reminds me that God is my helper, and I am upheld.

Sometimes it means: I have just found my way out of the pit and I don’t even know how it happened. My head is lifted up, there is some light in my eyes, and this isn’t my doing. God has again been faithful and sent relief, and yet I know my weakness afresh and its scary. But God is holding me (and He was when I couldn’t feel it, too), and so, I am upheld.

I am upheld: I crawled my way to church (on the inside) and Jesus met me there: He held me and covered me in his own robe, like a soft blanket, he fed me and restored me, He listened to my complaints, and I am upheld.

It is by pure grace that God holds me up, and oh how I need it.

I am re-reading one of my favorite books with my Sunday night book club, Grace upon Grace. And it occurs to me that I am STILL fighting some of the same battles with myself that I was fighting years ago when I read this book.  I am weary of my own weakness.  I want to graduate. I want to say that I WAS weak and loved, but now I am strong and loved and independant, too! I grow weary of being a beggar, of being reminded that I am utterly dependant on God for everything.  I wish I had just one solid mature independent area in my own self that I could count on to be stable and right and GOOD in my own strength. I’d sure feel more secure, or at least happier, that way.  But that is not the way of faith, the way of grace and trust and reliance on the gifts He gives.

Insead, we are invited to be upheld. We are invited to be children, and to be held.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

I think of my son, who cries when he’s tired and takes comfort in being held. Tasks undone, questions unanswered do not bother him in the least: he is held, and so he rests.

This same posture is taken by one Benedictine sister retired from a university professorship on account of a debilitating illness who said, “For so many years, I was taught to ‘master’ subjects. But who can ‘master’ beauty, or peace or joy? This psalms speaks of the grace of childhood, not of being childish. One of my greatest freedoms is to see that all the pretenses and defenses I put up in the first part of my life, I can spend the rest of my life taking down. This psalm tells me that I’m a dependent person, and that it’s not demeaning.” (as quoted by Kathleen Norris, THe Cloister Walk p.106)

We have not outgrown childlike dependence on God. We have not graduated. But take heart! God does not demand that we graduate- He invites us to watch Him provide! He calls us as His children to trust in Him, to wait on Him in hope, to look to Him for provision.  We are his children, holding on to Him with our feeble grip, even as He holds us with the almighty strength of His love.

It is by pure grace that God holds us up, and oh, how we need it.

Be held, and upheld in Him today.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


            Every year those Christmas lights were tangled.  Every single year, when the boxes came out, the complaints started.  "How did these get so tangled?  This is going to take all day!"  I remember sitting on the carpet with lights piled in my lap, tackling the mess with impatient little fingers.  If my mother dared offer help to her frustrated little girl, I would refuse, and storm into another room with my project, determined to untangle at least one strand all by myself.
            As an adult, I still hide away when there is untangling to be done.  I have learned to accept help with Christmas lights, but when it comes to the tangled mess of my own heart, I often revert to childish methods.  I wrestle in frustration.  Offers of help scare me away, and I take my mess into a secret place where I can dwell on it in peace.  I set my problems on my lap, and I try to sort everything out.  I know I need to go to God for help, but I do not want to go unless I can get my thoughts organized first.  I imagine myself untangling things, lining them up, and sorting them into piles:

Let's see...   I’ll put the sins in this pile, the hormonal glitches over here, the good works over there, the medical problems here, the fears over there, the understandable weaknesses here, and the legitimate complaints I have against other people right there. 

Good.  Now, I have a nice organized list of things to bring with me to God.  Now, I can tell Him exactly what solution I need for each of my problems.

            Of course, it never works out that way.  As I wrestle, I feel more like the child who is trying so hard to untangle Grandma’s Christmas lights.  I pull and tug and make every effort, but I never find the beginning or the end.  I work, unceasingly I work, but my efforts only make things worse.  It is still a tangled mess.  The pile changes shape, but the knots are still there. 
            I do not bring an orderly list of concerns and requests before God.  Instead, I take the tangled mess, and I throw it at Him in frustration.  I demand that He sort it out, that He makes it right.  It lays at His feet, I sulk on the floor, and I wait.

tangled lights Pictures, Images and Photos

            He bends down low and embraces His tangled daughter.  The white robe He wears envelops us both, and it swallows up all of my tangles.  For a moment, I quit fighting, and I rest in the presence of Jesus.

"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, 
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; 
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, 
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, 
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."  
Isaiah 61:10

originally posted 11/26/11

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Be adjusted!

A little one prays: “Thank you God for this day and help us have a good day, and bless everyone who's sick, and Jesus? Please come back soon, like maybe today!”

Wait, what?

Jesus come back today please? What kind of a prayer is that? Sure, we day “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Come Lord Jesus” now and then, but when you put it like that... I'm not so sure. It sounds almost. . . threatening.

Why? What is threatened? Well, my plans. My pet sins. My comfort in life in THIS world, how it is right now. My sense of control.

Ha, control. Why in the world do I even have such a sense?
What evidence is there in my life, or in yours, for us to assume that we have control over ANYthing that matters, really?

A sense of control, of trust in my own hands, this is something God should threaten, and ultimately, destroy. There is no hope in my hands, only in His.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, even today.
Thy kingdom come, the church cries... kind of.

What if you heard the trumpet now? What would you run and hide under your mattress? What would you try and finally get done “real quick?” What would you repent of, real quick, for real this time?

What if God gave us one month's heads up that He was coming- how then would we live? What if we knew our time is short?

And why don't we know it already?

Our time is short! Security is not to be found in this place!

We are forced to face this when our comfort is shattered- when loved ones get sick or die, when tragedy strikes. Those things that destroy our illusions of control, our comfort in this world, have the effect of adjusting our perspective.

It's painful, this adjusting.
But it is also God's good work in us.
Let it happen, friend; let it happen, self.

Be adjusted.

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:6b-8

Be adjusted.

Isaiah (40) describes mankind as grass, nations as a drop in the bucket, as dust. You are called a grasshopper, a tiny speck under an all powerful God. We are small, indeed.

photo by Fred the Flyer

Be adjusted!
God's Word shouts to us of our smallness, our sin, or desperate need for redemption.

And God's Word also redeems.

Come, ye who are small, to God; your rock, your gentle shepherd. Seek comfort and security where it may be found!

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:28-29)

He gives forgiveness to the sinner,
bread of life to the hungry,
peace to the troubled,
freedom to the captive.

That which you seek is not in yourself, nor is it in the comforts of this world.

See those things crumble, and be adjusted.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith.

Even youths grow tired and weary
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Lift up your heart to the Lord,
this advent season, and join the saints in waiting with repentant expectation for our Lord's coming.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.

originally posted 12/4/14

Thursday, November 30, 2017

a song in the night

It is advent, and the darkness gathers.
I walk through the yard, my way lit only by the lights from the school.

Within, only one room is lit: the cafeteria, where we meet for Bible study.  I'd rather go to bed early, but I have to lead this thing. My mood is also dark, and I am weary.

But God does what He always does; He meets us in the darkness and lightens while he enlightens.  

His Word never denies the hard realities of life in this world. The darkness is oppressive, sometimes suffocating.  Never once does He tell us to deny it, or to pretend it is light. 

Nor does He tell us to fight the darkness in our own strength. 

There in that small lighted room surrounded by a dark building, dark parking lot, and a dark and fallen world, a small handful of God's people come in to the light of His presence.

It is not entirely comfortable. Our weakness is exposed. Our part in the darkness is also exposed: we belong here, really, as we consider the darkness that we have invited into our own hearts. The light burns as it exposes.

But He wounds only to heal.  
Turn us, O Lord, that we may be healed, and grant us repentant hearts.

By grace are we healed; by grace we are called into His presence, and covered with the robes of Christ's righteousness. By grace, we are given strength to wait, strength to look forward, even as the darkness gathers, to the breaking dawn.

Come, Lord Jesus.  

(If your soul needs a song of inspiration to sing while you wait through the oppressive night, listen to this wonderful advent hymn)


The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:11-14

originally posted 12/15/14

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I dare you to notice

Lord, open my eyes, I pray as if my life depends on it.

The eyes of my heart do not naturally see this place as God sees, and even when they do see, they tend to shut again.  I am prone to sleepiness, to forgetfulness, to blindness.

Father, help me to see.

She asked me to braid her hair before service, so I did, and it was not perfect but she loved it anyway.  She does that with everyone, everything, with the exception (sometimes) of herself. Lord, her eyes seem to see better than my own, but keep on opening them. Continue the work You have begun.  Beside me at church, she sings, "I know that my Redeemer lives."  Her voice always takes my breath away.  In it I hear such joy, and the joy has a way of highlighting the shadows. (Or is it the other way around?) She is grace, and her voice is grace, and this moment when I can see the grace in the gifts... that is grace, too.

Oh friends, there are so many things to be done!  It is no challenge to see the WORK in this place! And this seeing leads to doing, to conquering, or at least trying to conquer.   I excel at conquering. If fact, I can do it with my eyes closed.

I wouldn't recommend this.

The eyes of my heart: if they are not forced open, they see only the work that the children create, only the messes and the unchecked lists and the imperfections in this home.  They see ugliness, and proof of failure on my part, or theirs, or both.

Lord, open my eyes.

God gives me time-outs, and He forcibly pries open my eyes.  Sitting in a pew, or under a sick child, I am forced to SIT, to be still and open ears and eyes.  I fight the stillness, but not as hard as I once did. I know that stillness is soul medicine.

I am starting to learn when I need to give myself a time-out.  When I've been working blind and my head is sore from crashing into those things which I refuse to see... then, it is time be still.

Writing (and lately, painting) is a way for me to slow down and notice.  Making art is a way of collecting the gifts, tracing my fingers along the edges, savoring, and giving thanks.  My gratitude journal is open again.  There are too many gifts to record, but I capture a few, and they are precious to me.

Yet even creative expression can become narrow, if I merely look around me at the awful beautiful life in this world. Truly, I am surrounded by grace, but the greatest gifts give me by my lavish God are those I cannot see.

Paul prays for hearts unsatisfied and blind like mine:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe.  (Eph 1:18-19)

Our Jesus-- what He has done for us, what He is doing now, and what He plans for the future-- HE is what the eyes of our hearts so long to see.  He is the Gift to which all others point. He is the final proof that our God is a God of extravagant grace and boundless mercy.

There is often grief mixed in with the noticing, when I consider the flower or the daughter in bloom and remember the dust to which all things return.  The dust makes me afraid to notice, to open my heart to things that shall crumble.

But, stay with me. Look with me. Do not close your eyes.

Zoom out.

Consider the whole picture. Consider the God who created the world and entered the world and died for the world and is making all things new. Consider His Story, and our small place in it.  Consider your life given, by grace, and the new life we have in Christ, by grace, and the promises of life eternal that are ours, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

Suddenly, the shadows look smaller. And we see that they are temporary.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up in Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:4-7)

What does God want to do with us?
He wants to use us.
To conquer the world? To overcome sin and death?
No, He has done that in Christ.

He wants to use us to show the world the surpassing riches of His grace. 

He wants us to live with open hands and open eyes, and to receive.
To see.
To take Him in.

He is the great gift, and each one of His other gifts are a drop from the same fountain.
Be still today, and notice.

Trace your fingers along the edges of the gifts.
Write, paint, sing, or knit about it if you like.
The laundry will be there when you're done.

My laundry was there yesterday, after the sick little boy finally fell asleep.  It is undone, because he just "really really needed mommy snuggles." I rested with him, on top of the covers, but he knows me too well. He knew I'd get up and run away the second he started snoring. So he moved closer, put my arm behind my head, and nestled into my breast.  He would not allow me to leave unnoticed.

I noticed his noticing, and I did not run away when I heard the sleepy snores.  I lingered in the noticing, staying close to the needy little one for just a little longer.  In my mind I saw him grow from baby to toddler in a blink.  I zoomed out, and saw God's hand forming him, taking care to give him that adorable pinky toe and those deep dimples.  I saw his spirit come alive in the waters of Baptism, the flood of grace waking his deepest parts.  I saw soul food in the form of a sunday school picture of Jesus, and I heard a little voice learning sing-song praises.  I saw God's sustaining care, from birth to the moment he needed "mommy snuggles," and I saw how God gave them to Him, granted him rest in this moment, in my imperfect arms.  I thought of our sabbath rest to come, and I rested then.

The tasks truly can wait while you let God restore your sight.

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished on us.  (Eph 1:7-8a)

Lord, open our eyes, we pray, because our lives truly do depend on it.

I dare you to notice.

originally posted 4/14

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why store moments?

Why store moments?

I am a writer, a gatherer of moments. I look for things that inspire, for drops of grace, for moments of beauty around me, so that I can capture them and pass them on.  I see them often in my children. My mind takes a snapshot with a “click,” and I return to it later and paint it with words.

And then I stop and wonder, why store moments?  Why keep my eyes and hands open? What am I collecting memories for?

When I knew my husband was leaving for Iraq, I feasted on every last second we had together. I think I tried to “stock up” on him somehow, as if I could fill myself up with moments to avoid future pain. As if I would miss him less if I just had more of him to keep with me. I feasted on him, and still, he carried my heart with him when he got on that plane.  Moments stored do not lessen future pain.

Also, I’ve been a mama long enough to know that not every moment can be a moment. There won’t be a “moment” every day, or every week for that matter!  Sometimes all I can say is, “well, we got through the day and nobody died” and I stagger through the dirty living room, kick aside the laundry, not even CARE to investigate the weird smell in the kitchen, pick the nerf darts out of my bed, and collapse in exhaustion.

Motherhood is not all moments, but there are some, and they are precious.

My children are fluttering through their days with no thought for gathering, so I gather for them. I collect a few bright spots from their childhoods and save them with the other keepsakes. I’d like them to be able to look back through my eyes and see that they were loved and blessed and cared-for by God. They already know that, but I hope to help them know it even more.  Moments stored may age like wine and bless us later. We will be glad to gaze again on the faded beauty, and we will thank God even for the days of re-living. We will remember and re-thank.

But I don’t really gather moments for later. In picking them up, I savor them right now.

Moments gathered water my soul and help me to love. Living with open hands and open eyes is a way of keeping my antenna tuned to what is important: to God and the people around me. When those precious moments come, free and beautiful, like grace, I drink them in.

And as I drink, I remember:

I remember that the noisy, dirty creatures messing up my house each day are people, beloved by God, wonderful works of His hand.
I remember that I am a child of God—weak, and loved.
I remember that my Father sees me, knows me, cares for me.
I remember that I am here to receive love and to love.

No automatic alt text available.And the grace swallowed down waters my heart and makes it soft and grateful, even when my hands are in the dish water again.

Thank you Jesus, for this moment.

A few recent moments:
- When the little one said his memory verse, "Ceasar Augustus issued a decree over the entire Ramen noodle.."
- Evening church, and it feels like midnight. I stop singing the hymn: the voice behind me is too beautiful. My heart worships louder when I listen in silence, marveling at the miracles God is still doing- in my very own daughter.
- We're listing things we're thankful for, and my littlest baby writes "marriage." This makes my older son squirm and blush, and I am doubly thankful.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Aspire to breathe

“I’m good, just busy, you know how it is.”

Yes, I know how it is. The never-ending rush from this thing to the next.  
It’s letting your house go and eating fast food and never stopping to take a breath or read a book so you can keep everyone moving, moving, moving. It’s the American way. Everybody’s doing it.  It’s feeling powerless, like someone else is filling up your calendar.  It’s never going to stop; we will never feel caught up.

Is this how it has to be?  What are we chasing after?
Our culture expects us to plan and schedule Important Things for every waking hour, for ourselves and for our children. But should we?

Imagine for a moment that your “How are you?” and was met not with the usual line about busy-but-good,
But something else, something like:

“I whittled down what’s on my schedule and suddenly I feel like I can breathe again. I have.. Free time. It’s wonderful.”

How would you react if you heard that? I posed this question to a group of women and they replied:

“I think I’d feel jealous.”
“I’d want to know their secret.”
“If I said that, someone would just say to me ‘Oh great, we’ve been looking for volunteers for ____.’”
“I wouldn’t know what to say.”

It is really that weird.  We’d hardly know what to say if someone told us they were NOT busy and had space in their schedule and lives. WHY is it this way, everybody? It has not always been this way in the history of the world. And I’m not convinced it HAS to be, even now.  Consider this with me: could it be that the pace of our lives is suffocating us?

My husband and I have begun to ask this question: Is the benefit of this commitment worth the busyness we feel as a family?  (Or in other words, why are we doing this to ourselves again?)
If we cannot come up with a good enough answer to this question, that’s it. We quit. It’s off the list.

It helps that we have so many children. We learned early on that if we say “yes” to every good thing offered to each child we will be running in too many different directions and the whole thing will come crashing down. We also realize that a “yes” to one thing necessarily means a “no” to something else.  Is that “something else” important? This question must be asked. It is important to receive God’s Word together.  Isn’t it also important to play outside, eat together, interact as a family, and have unstructured time to breathe and imagine and rest?

Imagine a world where we said more things like this:
“I just sat with my kids and enjoyed them today. We didn’t accomplish anything- we were just together.”

What are you doing this weekend?
“We’re sharing a meal with some friends and just spending time together.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing this weekend- there’s nothing scheduled!”
“Nothing much: Breathing in. Receiving from God. Feeding my spirit and resting my body.”

I’m not advocating laziness, but rather, discernment. If I let the expectations of others or the world fill my calendar, it might be full of fun experiences, and I will definitely be busy, but I will almost certainly be neglecting the things that matter.

I’ve been pondering this Scripture:
Love your neighbor and aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands… 2 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Did you catch that? Aspire to live quietly. ASPIRE to live quietly!
Love your neighbor, work with your hands, and live quietly, waiting with joyful expectation for the coming of the Lord.  Receive from your God and live.

It is by the grace of God alone that we are here with beating hearts and breathing lungs.  His grace has called us into fellowship with Him, we are to be set-apart, and to grow in His word.

We pray often that God helps us grow ”in faith towards you and in fervent love towards one another.”
How does He give that help? He feeds our faith with His Word. He teaches us to love by drawing us into community where we spend actual time together, sharing meals and lives together.  These things take time. But do we have the time?

“Aspire to live quietly.” I hear this as an invitation, permission to say no to the things that choke out what matters. Nobody is going to say no for me.

But what does saying yes to this invitation actually look like?  This is something I am really wrestling with, friends. How do we keep the busyness from crowding out what matters?  Share your thoughts with me, please!

This is a day that You have made- help us rejoice and be glad in it!  May we aspire to receive your good gifts and make good use of the time you have given us here. Grant us wisdom in what we say “yes” to, knowing that every “yes” is a “no” to something else. Help us not get distracted by mindless busyness, but instead say “yes” to those things that are good for our souls and our neighbor, and live confidently and peacefully in your grace. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

assorted passengers

Wind and whitecaps today, but we’re on the boat anyways. He steers us right into the stomach-dropping waves, and as we cruise along I observe the manifold reactions.

One asks me questions I can’t answer: “How big are these waves? What happens if this or that happens? Is this a good idea?” I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe because I trust his dad, and his dad is going forward (with a small smile, even.)

One snuggles close to me.  He puts my arms around him just so, and then he bows his head in prayer. He keeps his eyes closed, praying, fearing, enduring.

The youngest knows just how to cope: it’s time for a nap.  He pulls a blanket over his head and is asleep in an instant. I’m not sure if this is evidence of strong faith, or some kind of stress overload shutdown effect, but I watch his sleeping body bouncing all over with the waves and I am amazed.

A giant wave, a hard landing, and I let out an angry, “HUN!” Yes, I’m a little scared, and my anxiety can easily turn into anger at the one with the steering wheel.  He can’t control the waves, he says, and I can tell he’s trying not to laugh at me.

One child does much better if he can stand. He holds on loosely, and his knees are bent so he can sway with the boat and keep his balance. He’s not in control, and he’s not trying to be: he’s just keeping his eyes forward and accepting the waves as they come.

And then, there’s the group of crazies. They’re sitting in the very front, hollerin’ encouragement to the waves.  One keeps flying off his seat while his sister holds the tail of his life jacket.  Water sprays them and they scream-laugh; it pours down their faces and they greet it with wild-eyed excitement and screams for more, more, more!  When we get there, they will be the ones to talk excitedly about the ride to anyone who will listen for days to come. They will be exhausted but happy.  I admire them, but I do not sit with them.

And the captain simply keeps driving forward.

A wild one gets scared and comes back to snuggle me. The sleeping one gets brave and moves to the front. The standing one gets tired and sits down for a rest and a prayer. And still, the boat stays the course. The captain knows the seas, and he can keep his bearings even in rough weather.

The captain guides his boat with his assorted children, and eventually each one gets to land safely.  Because, you see, the success of the venture depends on the captain.

Father in heaven,
Captain of my ship! Guide me in rough seas and in calm. Thank you for your strong hand on the wheel, for your promise to carry your children to safety.  My own feelings toss me about so; thank you for staying the course even when your children aren’t handling it well.  Keep me in the boat that you are steering Lord: I am helpless out there without you!  In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 13, 2017

church bells

I quickly switch the laundry, get out the snacks, make sure there is a plan for dinner, know who has practice and who has memory and who forgot to do their chores this morning, take one more sip of coffee, and then dash out the door to pick up the kids from school. I’m multitasking at super-speed and I almost trip over the dog as I step outside. 

WHAM. The air is different out here, and it’s like running into a wall.  It’s the  smell of wet leaves and pine trees, the cool air, and the sound of church bells. I have been smacked in the face by Life: the sensory delights of fall combined with the music that lifts my soul straight to heaven. I slow my pace, no longer walking as if I have to conquer the world. I walk slowly, inhale, and look to the sky.  My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

I am small.  My mountain of tasks set before me, they are small too, really, when I remember who I am and whose I am.  I walk this path daily, the one that leads me from my afternoon quiet to my evening of noisy vocation. And my transition is helped along by the songs of the church.

The bells ring and my soul is nudged to pray and to remember:

God is my Mighty Fortress and my helper.  
Abide with me Lord!
Amazing grace: it is in the very air we breathe. 
God Himself is present here!
God is not silent. He calls and gathers us, He sets us apart from this dog-eat-dog world into something new: a gathering of people loved by God who are learning to love one another.
I know that my redeemer lives, and this changes everything!

The youngest greets me with a running hug.  Another greets me with a pile of papers and a “Hi-mom-how-are-you-what’s-for-snack?”  There will be racing, probably falling, definitely arguments. One or more will be delayed by the excited dogs or the call of the trampoline.  The tasks continue their relentless demands. Yet in the background, the bells are still ringing their song of welcome and grace. 

Surely the Lord is in this place.

“An alarm summons nameless masses to their task. A church bell summons human beings to the worship of God. An alarm is a veiled threat. A church bell is a solemn welcome.” Anthony Esolen

Father welcomes all His children to His family through His Son
Father giving His salvation life forever has been won

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hurricane Relief

Lorraine (age 14) just returned from a trip to Florida with her grandparents and Samaritan’s Purse to help with Hurricane relief efforts. She was gone for almost two weeks (counting travel time) and was able to do her high school work on the road. She returned full of stories, thankfulness, and mementos from the beach.  Recently, I sat down with her for an interview.

I know you didn’t really know what to expect when you went, but was there anything that  surprised you?
How friendly everyone was (the volunteers and the leaders.)  I will never forget the people on my team!

Did it seem weird being the youngest there?
Most people were retirement age. There were three 17-yr-olds and one 14-yr-old. It wasn’t weird though. People don’t talk to me like I’m a kid (probably because I don’t talk like a kid.)

What was it like? Tell me about some of your experiences.
At one house we thought it was going to be a simple mud-out (throwing everything away that got water damage/mold) but when we got there we also had to take the whole kitchen out- we had to gut the whole thing. Even the cabinets were moldy. They had thought it would be a half hour job but it took us all day.
In one of the rooms an entire wall had blown out and they put blue tarp over it. We took everything out of that room (TV set, everything in the closet, etc) When we took the tarp down to help take down the wall we discovered it was ALL termites. I couldn’t believe the wall was still standing because it was paper thin. In another room we had to take down all the walls and insulation and even the ceiling!  Sometimes they had to let the insulation just hang form the ceiling for a while so that all the water would pour out onto the floor!  We also had to fix the roof- there were tons of holes and it just kept leaking into the house.
They were so thankful they ordered us pizza. They had to drag us away from the work to make us sit and eat with them.
Another house we went to was like a hoarder’s house. They had a bunch of pieces of metal just laying around their yard, and you could barely walk through the house. The girls cleaned up a patio.  Bump (grandpa) had to put on tyvek suit (it made him look like a sausage!) and wear a mask to deal with all the moldy insulation.

What was the hardest thing for you?
The work wasn’t bad because we were with everyone else while we worked and having fun kind of. It was hard to leave the people’s house when we could have talked a lot more.  Also, another team went out to work one day and discovered a suicide. I’m glad that wasn’t us.

How did you see God at work?

Sometimes people were quite rude at first but they usually softened up after we worked for awhile. I think it helped them to see us work hard but still be laughing and having fun too.  At the end of every job we would pray with the people and give them a  Bible at the end (that everyone in the group signed).Some people started crying when we prayed for them or when we gave them a Bible.

Well Lorraine, your family prayed for you the whole time you were gone. It is a lovely thing to see you going off into the world and using the gifts God has given you to bless others. What a joy it is to see you growing into a young woman with a heart for God and His people!  May He keep up his good work in you!  

What other questions do you have for Lorraine?

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