Sunday, September 14, 2014

My dear pastor-husband...


You stood in the pulpit today, tears streaming down your face, and implored us all to be church, to hope in God, to lean on Christ as we walk with Kristie through the valley of the shadow of death. Afterwards, I wanted to hug you, to tell you how proud I am of you, the way your heart and your tears and your grief hang out in public, and you make no apology, only point the rest of us with hearts and tears and grief to Jesus. But I couldn’t hug you because I’d never let go; my knees would grow weak with tears and you’d have to coddle me like you do at home. The church sanctuary is not the place for that, so I snuck out the side door, saying quiet prayers of thanksgiving for you, and for God’s continued mercy on us all.

This weekend- two funerals, a wedding, and sad news from every corner- how are you still standing?

You stand because our God lives and upholds you. I see no other explanation.

Friday, September 12, 2014

consider this.



To the one who is exhausted
with the struggle of vocation,
trying to please God and others and it's never enough;

To the one
who feels the urgency to work,
and the guilt for the neglected things,
who wishes she could balance it all,
but there's never enough time...

To the one who is afraid
that she's failing those she loves,
that she fails her God.

To the sinner,
the child of God,
overwhelmed with the world,
and your own pathetic attempts to fix it all,
(like me);

Consider our Jesus.
Step away from all the things that will perish, and consider our Rock, our salvation:
God, who died for us, so that we will not perish eternally.

Consider Him who has called us by name.

Consider His passion,
consider His sufficiency,
for you.

Consider, and do not fear.


the passion of the Christ 8


I have sinned, Lord, and my sins are many and great beyond measure.  

I nevertheless refuse to commit that most atrocious sin whereby I would accuse you--you who testify by words and works and oath to have made satisfaction for my iniquities--of a lie. 

I do not fear my sins because you are my righteousness. 

I do not fear my ignorance because you are my wisdom (1 Cor 1:30). 

I do not fear death because you are my life. 

I do not fear errors because you are my truth (John 14:6). 

I do not fear corruption because you are my resurrection (John 11:25). 

I do not fear the pain of death because you are my joy. 

I do not fear the severity of the judgment because you are my
righteousness.

( Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, p. 35.  
If you are looking for rich, meaty food for your soul, get this book-
the digital version is free online!)

photo credit:just conservative

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

He didn't have to, but he did.

On gratitude...

“Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have.  This is expressed powerfully in the traditional African-American prayer of gratitude that the Lord “woke me up this morning clothed in my right mind. He didn’t have to do it, but he did.” 

(Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community)

Monday, September 8, 2014

It is enough to journey well (chaos and contentment #5)

Where are we leading this horse anyway?

Is there even time to stop and wonder? Or shall we just keep rushing ahead to who-knows-where? What counts in this race- effort, speed, attitude, trophies?


I am a finisher. I feel most successful after a job well done, heavy on the “done.” Completed tasks are a beautiful thing, aren’t they? A room, organized. A pie, baked. A garden, weeded. These are things that cause me to stand up tall, brush my hands off, smile a satisfied smile, and give myself permission to rest.


But my assigned jobs lately are never done, not in that way. Can you relate? Is your house ever clean enough? Are you organized enough? Are you physically fit enough? Have you children been loved enough? Have you prayed enough today? No, no, not even close, nope, and no.


Where are we leading this horse? And does it have to keep going at breakneck speed until we arrive at the end of the race, wherever that is? Can there be rest without guilt? Can we simplify our lives without failing someone or something?

Where is this horse taking us?
In church Sunday, my horse ran in to an electric fence. My aim was off, and I was convicted. After prayers for help, repentant feelings, and joy in God's grace, I returned home. And again, the work undone crowded in- the tasks, the kids, the noise. It crowded in so quickly I almost let it choke out the seeds that God had only just planted.

Do you feel that, too? The way the world and our flesh tries so hard to suffocate the life that God gives us?

You are aiming that horse in some direction. Do you know where? Have your muscles started to fatigue? Is your vision blurry? Do you rush forward into the fog, just to keep moving?

If we take no time to adjust our aim, than we will be directed by the standards of the world and the desires of our flesh. We will be pushed off course. It is certain. Sinners are guaranteed to lose their way if they do not constantly hold tight to the hand of the Lord.

He who has given life to us, gives us new life in Him. He who made us also forgives us and renews us. He who leads us also upholds us. How, then, shall we journey well? What does God want us to do with our days here?

Jesus said,
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:27-29)



Did you hear that, friends with jobs that will never be done? Did you notice the way God both scolds and invites us in this passage? He does not call us to better, more, faster, higher, harder work as our culture does. How often I fall to this, and try to seek rest in those things that perish? Instead, God invites us to rest- rest given as a gift. He is at the head of the table, serving us the food that endures to eternal life. “Take and eat,” He says. Sit down.

Do this work, this holy work: believe in Him who God has sent.

Believe. Feed your faith, knowing that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God. Stop that horse, early and often, and feed on the words that give life. Let the God who serves do the serving. Let Christ our Leader direct your paths.

Receive: Will not He who gave you His own Son give you all things? He who poured out His blood for you will not withhold any good thing from His child's waiting hands.

Do not be deceived- this is work that He gives you. It is a battle against the world and your own flesh. You must fight for the time spent at His table. Do not let the things of this world squeeze you so tightly that you cannot open hands and mouth and heart and ears and receive from our God.



How do we journey well?

First, we cling to Jesus, we feed on His Word, we cling to life that is truly life. Then we break off pieces of what we receive to share with those around us.
Everything else-- the laundry, the dust bunnies, the homework assignments, the toned abs-- is just details.



Father,
Open our ears to Your Word and our hearts to Your love for us in Christ. Fill us Lord with your Spirit, with forgiveness and grace. Put your hand on the reins of our horses and guide us, ever keeping our eyes on You. Secure in Your love, let us then go forth with gratitude to attend to the details of loving our neighbor with the strength you provide. Amen.



"It is enough to get the love of God into your bones and to live as if you are forgiven. It is enough to care for each other, encourage each other, and wash the dishes." Chris Rice





This post is part 5 in a series on chaos and contentment- click below for the rest of the series.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

It is enough, even when you misnumber your posts in a series, to just fix 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Whoa Nellie (Chaos and Contentment #3)



As we continue our discussion on chaos and contentment, I want you to look down at your hands. See the reigns you hold there? You are driving this horse, mama.

I assume many of you share this job with your husband, and that in many ways he leads the family horse. If that is true of you, you are blessed. Yet even so, we wives do not have permission to let go of the reigns, to be passive and let our family life run without our leadership.

Mothers, keep your hands on those reigns. There are many things that require your attention, and yes, your control. And as with all responsibilities and gifts we are given, we are to use the authority we have for the good of our family.

This concept alone helps my husband and I work through many of the decisions we make for our family. When presented with an opportunity to be involved with this or that thing, we do not simply ask, “Is this good?” but we ask, “Is this activity good for the entire family?”

We have said no to some very good things simply to allow some time to breathe into our schedule. We say yes to other things only for a season. We think of other ways to allow our children to pursue their passions and develop their gifts. We ask “which gifts are worth developing?” As much as my son would like to learn knife-throwing, we’re pretty sure that’s not the talent he should focus on right now.

Sometimes, when they come home with that paperwork for that awesome thing that everyone else is doing and they already told their friends they were going, it may seem like mama has no choice but to say yes.

Again, I say, look down at your hands. Do not give up those reigns while they are young.
Ask good questions.

“Is it worth the time, money, commute?”
“If we do this will we sacrifice something else that is more important?”
“Do my children currently have time in their lives to breathe, to connect with family and friends, to learn basic chores and responsibilies, and to recover from everything else they are already doing?”
“Will this new activity tempt us to neglect time in God’s Word as a family?”
“Are mom and dad already spread too thin?”
And of course,
“Will this increase the chaos level so much that mom will fall off the horse entirely?”

Mothers, as you seek to navigate the chaos, I encourage you to be discerning with your “yes.” Use discernment every time something good comes along, because this life is not about sucking up every drop of every good thing everywhere at all times.

You%u2019ve%20never%20had%20a%20manicure%20that%20has%20lasted%20more%20than%2010%20hours.


Now I’d like to hear from you- what questions do you ask when deciding whether or not to do a new “good” activity?
Do you currently feel overscheduled?
Is it hard for you to say “no” to good things?

Up next: Where are we leading this horse anyway?




Friday, August 29, 2014

reach

Five minute friday:
Reach.

I'm reaching for a word prompt, for something to start inspiration. I'm reaching for the soul-settled effect I feel when I write. I haven't been writing, I've been nursing sick kids instead. I feel disorganized in my mind when writing is squeezed out of my days.

This week motherhood meant not only helping whiny children through the day, but even napping with them. Yesterday I lay in bed with one snuggled up next to me, and another with his arms around my neck- snuggling or strangling?  I lay in bed listening to the booger-bubble snores. Every so often he would sigh, and the most wretched of dragon breath overcame me. I'm sure it made the little hairs on my neck shrivel and die.

Motherhood can be gross.

So can sanctification.  The work of God as He humbles me, teaches me to pour out my body as He has done for me. Yet even in pouring out He assigns stillness.  I fight it like a little baby, eyes staring at the ceiling, insisting I am NOT tired and I have so many other things to do; He says, be still. I am God, not you. Just be still.

The naps I was forced to take seem to be helping me stay healthy so I can play nurse. I know, God, that's more important for their health and my spirit than those other things I wanted to do.  Help me to see and believe this. You do work for our good.

Today I was given quiet, and time to again reach for inspiration. Why do I reach in so many directions at once, when I know from where my help comes?

My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.
He is able to sustain with a word the mama who is weary.

With a word.
It doesn't take three hours, or a weekend retreat.
Just a strong word from a strong God.


(post inspired by five minute friday with kate motaung; linked up)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

the Helper of helpers

“Jesus please help your child,” I pray, and the sickness does not vanish. 
Why did I pray aloud? Now there are questions to answer.  

Why doesn’t God take suffering away right away?

I don’t know, sweetie.

I stroke the little head with my hand, and pull him close to my breast.
I don’t know why He doesn’t answer immediately.


But God is not silent, either.
My hand running through the little one’s hair is part of His answer.
My lap, my compassion, my embrace- this is part of God’s answer to prayer.
He sends mother to comfort.
And dad brings home the bacon, and the coffee.
We are part of God’s answer in suffering.

This would be entirely too much weight if God did not help the helpers.

“Surely God is my help; the Lord the one who sustains me.” Psalm 54:4

Father, help your children who suffer today. And if we who pray are to be part of the help you send, help us help you help them. We are your children, and you our loving Father. Tend to us, Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mama controller (chaos and contentment part 3)

Idleness is not what I seek when I work to feel “caught up.” If I had nothing at all on my schedule, I would put things there. We were made to use our hands and our gifts for others. But is it possible to do it without turning into an overwhelmed, angry, frantic crazy-mom?


What is it, exactly, that pushes us over the edge?



Well, it’s complicated. I’m sure you know this from trying to untangle your own heart.


I think the causes fall in two categories.
1. Exernal Struggles: Clutter, overscheduling, unruly kids, imperfect marriage, health problems, etc.
2. Internal Struggles: My attitude, focus, mental health, expectations, or sin


In other words
1. Things you might be able to control, or maybe not, but why not go down trying?
2. Things you cannot control without constant connection to God’s Word, His grace and help.


First we will discuss some things we might be able to control, or at least make a little bit better. There must be a way to minimize the cracker crumbs, and you’d think they could learn to stop falling off the chairs at the dinner table. Get yourselves under control, kids!


Control is at the heart of this, isn’t it? We don’t like when life spins out of control. We respond with anger, resentment, or (if it’s really bad) blank stares.


If only I were in control.


God’s in control, not you. So chill out already.”


Right. But who is going to plan the meals? God’s control does not relieve us of the responsibilities of our calling as mothers. Mothers, it IS our job to control what we can in our homes! This is our vocation! We are called by God to plan the meals and the schedules and the appointments and LIFE for the good of the family!


So. “Chill out already” is not the answer.


Do you want to do this, and do it better?
I will not call you a control freak. I call you a mother.
(We will talk about the freakier parts of control in a later post.)


What sorts of things in your life right now are you trying to tweak or change for the good of your family and your own sanity?


I’d love to hear from you!

Father, bless us as we seek to manage our homes and our families for the good of those in our care. Guide our hands and strengthen our spirits as we seek to love our little neighbors. Amen

ors. Amen



This is part 3 in a series on Chaos and Contentment

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peck after peck after peck (chaos and contentment part 2 )

What would it take for you to “feel caught up?”
What is this elusive goal we chase after so hard?
I raised these questions in part 1 of this series.


I just want to feel “caught up.” I say this, feel this often, perhaps daily.
It’s a resonable request, isn’t it? I don’t need a perfect house or a completely empty schedule. I like busy, but not crazy busy. A schedule that is full, but not suffocating. I want a life that runs along at a pace that keeps me moving, entertained, and fufilled, but does not push me over into drained or exhausted.

Is this too much to ask?

What would it take for me to feel “caught up?” What does that even feel like?

I can tell you what it doesn’t feel like.
It doesn’t feel like trying to help a child with homework and then you can’t find a pencil and I know the bird is squawking so who forgot to feed the bird and - no, I said feed the BIRD… get your peanut butter cracker off your brother right now! and I know you want a drink but I have to help your sister with this math problem first but oh my WORD why can’t I find JUST ONE PENCIL in this house? No I don’t know where your kneepads are, no you can’t make cookies right now, YES please go outside but stay away from the road and don’t let the dog go to the school and you can eat the raspberries but don’t pick the tomatoes unless they’re red— oh forget it, just stay away from the garden— because I said so that’s why, YES, fine play in the hose I don’t really care if you get muddy, so now where were we daughter? A pencil! I could kiss you and I might after I finish this math problem; wait, you’ve got to be kidding me when did you start doing algebra? Why is the bird still squawking? Why can’t you all just be quiet so I can THINK!?

I could have gone on for five more pages, typing down the wild runonsentence that is my never-caught-up life, but I will stop there.

Someone, tell me you relate.

And when the loud cry of tasks undone surround like a flock of birds around prey,and the small irritations assault, peck after peck after peck… is anyone surprised when a mama explodes in yelling, flailing, and (perhaps) running for her life?

I do not always perceive a room full of children with needs in this way, but when I do? Suddenly everything is personal. Every mess, every need, every inconvenience is an attack on my sanity. Life out of control leads to emotions out of control, and that is when things get ugly. Again, do you relate?

It’s not always like that, of course. (How would we survive if it was?)
Sometimes, I’m merely on the edge of this and praying that someone falls asleep before I am pushed right over.

But sometimes- sometimes I feel caught up. Every now and then, I can sit in a chair next to unfolded laundry, ignoring the booger stains on the couch, and I can hold a child, start a book, make room for more children, read more of the book, and still feel…calm.

I am not frantic, not hurried, not wild to get it all done.
I sit even in imperfections, and I let them be imperfect.  The fingerprints can wait, and I refuse to let them rush me.

When I “feel caught up” there is space in my heart and my mind for interruptions.
A visitor is not an intruder.  A child’s injury is a chance to show compassion.
A need is not annoying but a God-given task which I respond to gladly, receiving His strength.

If there are problems too big for me, they are placed at the feet of Jesus through prayer.

I am not the glue that holds the world together.
I feel my own smallness, and accept it.
Like the world, I am created.

I see the bigger picture. I have been placed here by God who keeps my heart beating.  He made my small hands, made them to receive from Him, and to do the small jobs He puts in front of me.
He gives big gifts, pours out lavishly on me as I receive from Him moment by moment.

I receive the moment that flows over me with gratitude.
I am where I should be, doing what I should be doing.
I am content.


Feeling caught up.
What is this thing that I chase after so hard?
Feelings- blown here and there by circumstances, weather, hormones— feelings cannot be bottled and kept, nor it is worthwhile to chase them.

But contentment-
An open heart and open lap,
Eager hands,
A body happy to serve, or rest, or play, as the Lord wills,
This is worth pursuing, with the help of God.



Come back soon, as we continue to think together on these things.
Meanwhile, tell me: How would you describe your struggle with contentment?
How do you feel/behave when you are NOT content?

This is part 2 of a series on "chaos and contentment"
Part 1: I'll never be caught up


Friday, August 15, 2014

May the Lord sink you and save you

The pastor stands in the pulpit, and he begins his sermon with strong words,
words that shock my ears:

"The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks the boat."

He has my attention.
I feel a little like he's picking a fight with me.

I know that boats sink. That's part of the broken world we live in.
I think of this post-- and the feeling I have frequently of sinking under the weight of vocation, of unbearable blessing-burdens that break my back and snap my patience in two.

I sink, but it's their fault. My fault. Something we can and should be able to fix.
And so pride works, underestimates the danger.
And continues to sink.

The pastor speaks of the sinking, and the disciples afraid.
Disciples heavy with all-night work, heavy with disappointment- suddenly in a boat heavy with fish. And it is sinking.  And Peter fears, not the waters but the God who sinks.

The boat sinks, and it is God who does this thing.

Fear of God's holiness, knowledge of sin, helplessness- see the sight given to the one who sinks.
Blessed clarity.
Weakness revealed, to make room for reception of love.

The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks this boat.


Cling not to fish or fig leaf,
not to repentant feelings,
or action plans.
Hope not in child-training strategies,
or anger management theory,
or sheer force of will.

Fear the Lord, and fear the sinking of the ship.
Fear the Lord and grieve your sins.
Fear the Lord and experience the powerlessness of your own hands to save.
Fear, and yet reach for Him, for He is gracious and merciful.
He sinks, that He may rescue.
He warns, that He may save.
He dies, that you may live.


* Looking for a faithful church in Grand Rapids MI? I recommend Mt. Olive!

** this is not a transcript of the sermon, only my thoughts on one main idea presented therein.
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