Monday, May 18, 2015

Isn't it time yet?

Right during service, she had another seizure. After a terrible weekend, after our prayers for relief from this very thing, the seizure still came. There, in the presence of God and His people, the seizure grabbed hold of her, again.  
Suffering, again. 
Waiting, again. 
Questioning, again.

As I prayed for this family, I remembered when my daughter had a seizure right after she had been up at the communion rail, seconds after she had received the blessing of God on her forehead. It seemed more insulting, somehow, that her suffering not only should continue, but continue violently, right there in God's presence. 


"Lord, help us," we pray,

and then again the suffering comes, and it seems as if His "No" is loud,
like a punch in the face. 

What good is a religion that can't fix this, now?
Isn't it time, yet?




Isn't it time yet?


The apostles asked this question of Jesus after His resurrection. They knew His power.  They had seen Him destroy sickness, stop storms, and even defeat death. They'd seen, and they were ready to see nothing but His power and goodness and healing for eternity, starting right that minute. 


Isn't it time yet?


Jesus said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)


Not yet, 
children.
The glorious end of all things is near, but it is not yet.
Gather together and receive the Holy Spirit.
Gather together and wait.

Here we gather Lord, and we look to You, and we wait. We gather with our seizures, our arthritis, our cancer.  We gather with our depression, our longings, our questions.  We have been punched in the face, the gut.  We limp into your presence, and you do not heal us, not yet.

It is not for us to know the reason.

Isn't it time yet?

We ache with our question, and yet we know we are not alone.  He has sent us a comforter, the Spirit who reveals Christ's continued presence with us here, even in this place of suffering. 

It is this Spirit within us that cries out Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15)
Thy kingdom come! (Luke 11:12)
How long, Lord?  (Psalm 6, 13, 35, 79, 80, 89, 90, 94, Habakkuk 1:2, Rev 6:10)
Is it time yet?

Like the apostles, we are ready to see nothing but His power and His goodness and His promises fulfilled. But it's not time yet.  
Not quite.  
May God uphold His aching people. 
Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.




We wait in hope for the Lord;

    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.


Psalm 33:20-22

Friday, May 15, 2015

Depression: Lookign up from the stubborn darkness

Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn DarknessDepression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"God sometimes puts his children to bed in the dark."

True enough. But how do we wrap our minds around that? How do we move forward, still in pain, and trust? How is it possible to keep living even in the dark?

This book is an honest, yet gentle help for the depressed spirit. While admitting that there are biological components to depression and encouraging medical treatment for them, this author addresses the spiritual questions and struggles that are often intertwined.

"What depressed people need—what we all need—are daily reminders of spiritual reality. As the truth of Christ is impressed on our hearts, we must offer that to others, and they to us. The target is always Christ and him crucified."

"Etch this in stone: if depression gives you an early warning—and it usually does—bring everything you have to the fight. Take your soul to task. Ask for help. Force feed yourself Scripture and words of hope. Be on guard against self-pity, grumbling, and complaining. And keep the cross close at hand."

This book is a great resource for those who strive to do that very thing.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

let her sing!

Once, in a college class, we were discussing finding God in nature. I was asked to look outside at a nearby tree, and tell the class what it told me about God. "Um... it's reaching up to the sky to show us we need God?" Maybe. Or maybe it has outstretched arms to teach us to embrace the whole world? Or perhaps a tree has disorganized branches because God loves wild spiky hair and hairspray is an affront to God?

Point made, professor. We can be inspired by nature, but we can't "read" it.  Without revelation, there is little we can say for certain. But we have the Word of God, and by it we know He is the author of this world, the creator and maker of all things.  And that which He has made is not silent.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 
(Psalm 19:1-2)

Read the rest of this article over at Sisters of Katie Luther

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Things I don't do.

As strange as it sounds, one of the most difficult challenges in my life right now is managing abundance.

Abundant hand-me-downs, toys, and books.

Abundant kids and their abundant needs and wants.
Abundant friends and abundant events and abundant good ideas!

I wish somebody would filter my life for me! Why it is all things seem to demand equal, immediate attention? And why does my brain seem incapable of handling all of those things equally and immediately?

I am not a computer. I cannot help with homework, make dinner, reply to a facebook message, and listen to a piano song all at the same time.  I cannot care equally about the skinned knee and the threat of ISIS and the funny elephant video and the boys' pet cricket and the lady in the hospital.

There are a thousand ways to do this life well... but "do every single possible thing" is not one of them. 

As part of my plan to not lose my mind entirely, I've been reading. And I want to share a gem from my current book (well, one of six) that stopped me in my tracks this week.

The book is called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. She was talking about this struggle, and the list making, and the feeling of never catching up, of always feeling the pressure to do everything better. 

The author shared something she learned from a friend:

"she said it's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about." (54)

We hear "DO EVERYTHING BETTER" when a friend knits or sings something beautiful and we think we could never do that, but maybe we should.

When the kids get dressed with clothes straight from the dryer, we rebuke ourselves with a silent "DO EVERYTHING BETTER."

When we're socializing, we feel like should be cleaning, and when we're cleaning, we feel like we are neglecting relationships. 

If only we could do it all, better.


DO EVERYTHING BETTER is the song we march to when we forget that we are mere mortals.


DO EVERYTHING BETTER sucks the life from our souls.

DO EVERYTHING BETTER makes us do nothing well, especially not those things we were made to do like love and rest and rejoice, and leaves us crying on the floor in a heap of guilty failure.

It is easy, so this author says, to decide what we want our lives to be about. I agree. 

But what are we willing to NOT DO so that we can do those things?
Because we are mere mortals, with limits that even caffeine cannot overcome, we must ask this question.

What do YOU do?

What don't you do?

What does it look like for YOU to love serve your family and love your neighbor and feed your spirit? We are not in junior high, mamas. We don't have to look like everybody else to be liked. There are a million ways to do this life well. What does YOUR list look like? What can you cut out that may be keeping you from the more important things?



Things I do
Feed my Spirit through the Divine Service and devotions
Provide a kid-friendly house for moms and children for the sake of community and fellowship
Cook real food (mostly)
Quality time with hubs
Read aloud to the kids
Read quietly for the joy of it
Take tons of pictures
Write
Teach 
Garden
Nap when my body tells me to nap

Things I don't do
Scrapbook (I store memories with words, not photos, and never, ever, with fancy borders or decals. I use scissors for opening cheese.)
Make clothes
Clip coupons, bargain hunt (If only Amazon sold groceries!)
Keep my floors perfectly clean (it's much faster to just wear shoes in the house.)
Attend every sporting event
Volunteer for every church and school thing offered
Garage sales or eBay
Chores kids should do
Spend time with pets
Interior decorating
Blow-dry my hair except on special occasions
Pay attention to my fingernails
Laundry on Sundays
Stay up past ten, except on special occasions

As I look at this, I realize there's still more work to be done. There are still some items on the chopping block that I should probably just chop already, but I'm not quite ready to do that yet. (Facebook? Learning piano? Ironing? I wish!) There are still things I am not sure about (coaching? babysitting? write another book?) 


Our lists will change every few months, as we flex with our lives. But do your soul favor, and add to the list of things you DON'T do to make more space for things that matter. Do it today. 




What's on your chopping block? What do you love, and what do you NOT do?


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A blessed flattening

Head in my hands, tears and prayers flowing,  I am flattened.
And in the flattening, blessed.

I am face down in the ugly realities of battle.
It rages: the battle inside, and outside.
The headlines blare, my own failings shout even louder, and it appears evil is winning.
I am powerless and the battle seems pointless.

I am powerless.
To whom shall I go?
He has the Words of eternal life.

When I was a helpless babe, the battle raged then, too.
And in the middle of the battlefield,
His name was put upon my forehead,
written in blood.

I wear it still.
I am not much stronger now.

I forget this, until by the grace of God again I am flattened and again I see:
my help is from the Lord,
maker of heaven and earth.

I am powerless.
But the battle is won.

Health, family, good food: these are all blessings from God, and I am grateful.
But those things He sends, those hard things,
for those, too, I must give thanks.
All things that wake me from apathy
and open my eyes
and lead me into His arms;
all these things are for my good.

Christians, let us go forth in battle today,
powerless as we are,
trusting in His goodness and mercy,
in Jesus, alone.


-------------
I forget so often, but then I find myself on my face in tears and I remember:
I am a daughter of God
Weak, for now, loved forever in Jesus.

Have you been flattened by your own powerlessness lately?


Monday, May 4, 2015

silver grace


I look into the wrinkle-framed eyes that have seen decades of life in this broken world.  Wrinkles deepen with the smile of welcome.

I sit beside my pastor-husband at the nursing home. 

We bring updates, hugs, and cheer to our grandparent-in-the-Lord.
Pastor opens his book, and the Words open a crack in the soul that few get to see.
Shaky hands, shaky words of regret and repentance spill out to pastor, to God.
God replies with comfort through human hands, grace from human lips.

A young pastor and an old soul,
speaking words of a Father together.
It is marvelous and strange, this work of God.

Trembling hands take and eat. The body is weak, but the soul is steadied.




Come you souls with silver hair
Take and eat what is prepared
Christ- He comes- you to embrace
Rest now in His perfect grace.

In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.
Even here.




Friday, April 24, 2015

It's like this, children...




 “It’s like this, children,” said pastor-daddy, trying to explain the mysteries of faith one bleary morning, “Imagine little Peter walked across the street to the pond, and he fell through the ice and he died.”
“No daddy I didn’t do that!”
“Peter, it’s just a story, like a parable, I know it didn’t really happen.”
“But I DIDN’T! Don’t laugh at me, Marcus!”
“Okay, Peter.  We know. Just listen.............”
---------------------------------------
Read the rest of my post Welcome, Spring (that's an imperative)
at Sisters of Katie Luther

Thursday, April 23, 2015

a competition of words

In the beginning God created all that is, out of nothing, merely speaking it into existence.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God- by him all things came into existence." (1 John 1)

God has chosen to reveal himself to us as a God of words.

He is a God whose Word, whose story, 
as He speaks those words, 
is over all 
and in all and through all

His Word gives existence to us all.
He is the Author of life.

This beating heart inside my own chest, these children to my left and my right, the plants in my garden- each one of these things created and sustained by this God in whose presence we now sit.

God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth and what he created he called good.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve to believe that His Word wasn't fully true.

So from the beginning there has been a competition for truth, a competition of words.

God's infallible eternal Word which gives life, 
and Satan's falsehood which brings death, damnation, destruction.

When the word became flesh, 
God began writing into human history the story of our salvation, the Easter story.

The author of the story entered in, became man Himself
God entered into our story, our broken story, which has a horrible nightmare of an end, 
so that He could draw us into the new story that He is writing in Jesus

The author of life, far from being recognized as the Word made flesh, 
God incarnate, 
Immanuel-for-us,
was, as the prophets predicted, 
despised 
and rejected

This God! 
He, who would meet us in the future in the waters of our Baptism 
and write his word upon our foreheads and upon our hearts 
and mark us as one redeemed by Christ the crucified
that same man Jesus received our condemnation!

We took out our pens and we wrote on Jesus; 
on His forehead and heart: 
Condemned. 
Damned. 
Blasphemer
Not Worthy of Life

It was the pinnacle of mans' audacity,
his hubris against God
to think that he could take what God had written--
what God had spoken 
and blot it out!
and with human hands, write a new story in its place!

Satan and the religious leaders of the day rejoiced when Jesus breathed his last and said, “It is finished."
They thought that God had given up,
that finally man's word and man's story has attained the glory that it deserves.
And in our black hearts,
we join them in their rejoicing.

We long to rewrite the story, and every day we try. 
We rewrite the commandments so they don't say what they say.
We tone them down, so they don't condemn us to death and damnation-
We make them commend us for how much better we are than other people!
We use the law-
the very thing that is meant to show our lack, our weakness, our need for Jesus-
and we "tweak" it, 
edit it, 
change it, 
so that it seems to show our strength.

How evolved we are!
We know so much better!
At least we aren't like those horrible people over there who behead each other!
No, we're much better. We do our killing in sterile environments,
in secret, 
on only the weakest and smallest victims,
and for a reasonable fee.

You shall not murder!
God's word says in back and white, on tablets of stone even,
but we say “in some cases...”
and we shout our own words over His.

We shout, because we don't like to squirm under the condemnation of the law.

In this way, 
we are daily responsible for slapping Jesus, 
pulling out His beard and writing in our own hand:
crucify him

And yet, Jesus...
the Author of life...
keeps on writing His story.

Jesus takes all those sins,
the sin of abortion, murder, 
hypocrisy, 
selfishness,
greed, 
and He says, "Let it be said of me.
Put those sins on my account,
write them on my ledger.
I will die for them."

And so He does.
But when He says, "It is finished!"
He is not giving up!
No, He has just begun!

He writes the story of Easter,
He, with his precious blood has smeared over the tablets of our ugly story,
He has wiped the slate clean, 
and He is writing a new story.

He shouts His Words of grace and forgiveness and mercy,
He freely shares his triumph over sin and death,
He places His seal upon our forehead, 
our hearts,
on our lips, 
in our mouths.

What, then, is prayer, but asking God to keep writing?
Keep writing, Jesus, on this heart of mine!

And this very thing is God's desire for us!
"Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19)

Yes, God, refresh me!
This is God's desire for us, that we may be refreshed,
forgiven,
healed, 
and restored.

Written-on
with His eternal ink:
Beloved.


Let us go forth, proudly bearing His name.
Amen

-------------------

This post is almost entirely comprised of snippets from my husband's sermon last night.
Listen to the full audio here:  http://church.whitecreek.org/sermons.php
(The Author of Life 4/22/15)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prayer (a poem)

Prayer

A gentle rain, a nursing baby fed,
A gift acknowledged with a skyward smile,
A glimpse of hands that grant my daily bread,
A place to sip some tea and rest awhile.

Fearful prayer, an upward reach for strength,
I squeeze the hand that bleeds to reach for me;
I flail inside the depth and height and length,
Of flooding mercy pouring from that tree.

Prayer, a skyward glare, a slap across His face,
A sinful heart subject to burning light,
A heart exposed to scalpel and to grace,
A shield to fight off terrors of the night.

Prayer, a smoking gun, an angry question: why?
Cross my arms, no, cross my heart and hope to die,
And afterwards, to live and be at home,
In holiness, in robes received, before His throne.


Inspired by George Herber's Prayer 
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173636



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love with Busy Hands (Acts of Service: Motherhood and the 5 love langauges)

It’s children’s sermon time, and they’re all up front around the Vicar’s knees. He asks the children about serving our neighbors:
“Who here helps with the dishes?” some hands are raised. 
“Who here knows how to make your parents a cup of coffee?”
Thirty kids sit, only six raise their hands. Every one of them a Cook kid.
Adults turn their heads and find me and we laugh.
Yes indeed, all of my kids know how to make coffee, though not one of them can stand the stuff! And every single time they do it for me (even if they do need help) it fills my love tank.
Acts of service
Talk is cheap for the acts-of-service lover. She speaks her love with her busy hands.
Little man notices when daddy fixes his bike, and he tells everyone all about it as he races around the park.
Sister shoos the other sister out of the room so she can make both of their beds.“Surprise, I cleaned the whole room for you!”
Mom does “sewing surgery” on a stuffed animal that she’d rather just pitch.
“Would you mind if I organize your Tupperware drawer?” (This question was really and truly asked of me by one who just “loves!” to organize! Thank God for these people!)
Simple, daily things like help with homework, cooking meals, laundry, help with chores, and so forth. This is love, spoken with the hands.
“Why can’t you just sit still and be with me?”I have spoken that sentence, and I have had it spoken to me many times! It is easy for a task-oriented person to get so swept up in the tasks that she doesn’t even notice that her loved ones are aching for a different flavor of love. (Quality time, perhaps?)
This is why the love language concept is so important. It is good for us to learn to speak all of the languages, and learn to hear them as well! True love learns to compromise, and is willing to stretch beyond what comes naturally to ask and answer the question, “What best serves my neighbor right now?” Sometimes, it’s matching socks. Sometimes, its sitting down on the couch and watching a movie while they crawl on you.
Acts of sabotage
If you “do” love and “hear” love through service, what does that mean for lack of service? When you want help but do not receive it? What about the opposite of service- when people actually make more work for you?
The sock in the lawn was left on purpose. I should make them do their own laundry because they obviously don’t care.
The pile of clutter in our bedroom is proof that nobody cares what I do around here.
The toothpaste on the toilet seat was a deliberate trap for me.
The sticky floors, mucky boots, sloppy windows, and moldy towels are all part of a conspiracy against me in which the entire family is involved.
An empty shampoo bottle? A diaper in the washing machine? Grounds in my coffee? These things are nothing less than deliberate, premeditated, sabotage.
Ridiculous? Well, maybe. But honestly, I have to talk myself down from these feelings at times, especially if I am overwhelmed or running on an empty tank!
Acts of service and children
“Thank you for finishing my chores for me, mom!”
This statement would not have been possible if the child did not have chores in the first place. My husband and I are trying to teach our children that the work of this house is to be shared by all. That’s what it means to be part of a family. We serve each other with our hands, whether we feel like it or not, and even if we didn’t make the mess.
And we fill in the gaps when necessary. The biggest child cooks dinner when I’m feeling sick. I finish loading the dishwasher when my son runs out of time. The girls do their own laundry, but sometimes I fold it for them. Brother helps the other brother look for the missing shoe. All of these little things are acts of service that communicate the love we have for one another.
How can I serve my neighbor?
Is there anything helpful you can do for your child today? Making dinner counts, by the way. And there’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to your act with your words (and maybe a hug too!) “I made you lasagna tonight because I love you!” (shoulder squeeze) Become multi-lingual for the sake of those you love!

Dear God,
You love us first, and Your love looks like sacrifice, and suffering, and willingly setting aside your own comfort for us. As your children, help us love as you love, with our hands, words, and time, always seeking the good of our neighbor. Forgive us when we fail, and help us when we misunderstand each other. Draw each one of us closer to you in love, and let your love overflow on to others. In the name of Jesus, Amen.


Acts of service: Love with busy hands
What does it look like in your home?







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