Saturday, June 11, 2016

weak prayers, resting

The architecture of a church points me upward, reminds me of God's majesty.
I am small, God is big. This is most certainly true.

I feel my smallness mightily this week after a depression flare, a reminder that I do not control a single thing that really matters.

I kneel in the pew after communion.

My prayers are weak, quiet, uncertain. I don't know what I even need. I only know that I have need, I am need, I am a huge black hole of need that doesn't even know what to ask for. My thoughts are tired. My prayer is weak.

There in that big church, I am small, and my God is big. But he's not too big.  He's not so far up there, not high in the sky where he can only hear loud prayers or confident prayers.

I know this because I know His Word.
He is near to the broken-hearted, to the crushed, to the tired in spirit.

My God is not way up there, waiting for me to assemble a good prayer and shoot it up to him.
He is with me, even me, even here.

What words do I pray that day after I receive His body and blood?  Were they profound, lengthy, or holy?  I remember only a quiet "thanks" and a weary "help me." But He prays with me and for me, right alongside me.

I imagine him there with me, on the creaky kneeler, His feet like mine resting on the torn coloring pages under the pews. I imagine Him letting me lean right on Him in my weary praying. His arm is around me for comfort and support. His other hand rests on my praying hands, and He prays with me and for me.

He sweeps my prayer up into His; he takes my prayer and amplifies it, sanctifies it.

He untangles all my tangles, and He knows exactly what I need.  He sees me with clear eyes and looks upon me with the love of the Father. He lives to advocate for me, and He does this even when I am too weary to pray.

My weakness takes refuge in His strength.

In His arms, surrounded by His prayer, I wait in safety.


But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3)

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)


For more on depression click here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

moving tips for children / the miracle...

The craziest thing happened today. It was a mini-miracle in my own living room, during our family devotion time.  It almost made my heart stop. My son, with hands folded and head bowed, said in his prayer, “Thank you God for calling us here.”
Read the rest, including tips on helping kids through a movie, over at Katie Luther!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

ride the wave.

"We are marked men, we who have been baptized and received the Spirit.

"We have upon us the imprint of Jesus.

"If we are privileged to bear the mark of Jesus, the obedient Son, and the mark of the life of the world to come which His Spirit has inscribed upon us, we are privileged also to bear the mark of the Servant. By the power of that Spirit, through whom God has raised Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies, these mortal bodies of ours can even now become Servant-bodies-- bodies offered to God as living sacrifices. By the power of that Spirit, things deemed impossible can be ours: we can aspire to Jesus' steady composure in the face of all the flickering malice that bedeviled Him and all the fumbling weakness of His followers that clogged His steps; can aspire to Jesus' spontaneous obedience to the Father's Word and will and His unclouded understanding of that Word and will; dare aspire to Jesus; freedom to love with the lavish and reckless generosity of the Father; dare aspire to His willingness to expend Himself for others--all that made His life the beginning and the pledge of the life of the world to come can be at work in us and through us.

"We can ride the cresting wave of God's purpose which will break upon the shore destined to be our everlasting and delightful home."

--M. Franzmann, Alive with the Spirit

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Generosity: receive and reflect

I love to listen to her song, especially in church.  She was once so sick I thought she would be silenced forever, but now, she stands beside me healthy, for no reason except the undeserved mercy of God. And she sings. She receives what He gives with delight and innocence, and she replies with song, even when she doesn't quite understand the words.

One day we sang "God moves in mysterious ways."  She sang those words, then she whispered to me, "You mean like this?" and she shook her hips and waggled her arms right there in the pew.  I got the giggles for the rest of the service. 

Last sunday in church we read about Elijah and the widow 1 Kings 17:7-16

As I listened to the widow's story, I kept thinking with amazement how she must have emptied her stores, every single day, and found them refreshed again the next day, every time.  What was that like?

I imagine the first time she made the cakes, she probably ate with mixed feelings.  Faith moved her to mix the dough, and to share, but faith does not extinguish all wrestlings, all human feelings and worries.  She may have yet wondered if this was really her last meal.  She may have second-guessed herself, wondering if she should have said no, should have held something back.  She may have wondered if God would really keep death away. Would He really fill the jars again? Would He really provide as He promised?

On the second day, I imagine she made the cakes with more confidence, with less fear, and a not little bit of joy.  It is amazing, when God provides. It is a joy to be His child, to be given something unexpected, free, and exactly what is needed in the moment.

Did she come to expect it? Did it get easier to trust God as He proved His faithfulness to her, time and time again?  Did she open her hand gladly, knowing that whatever she shared with one hand would soon enough be given back in the other?

Her story reminded me of Grace upon Grace, when Dr. Kleinig implores us to live lives that "receive God's goodness and reflect His generosity."

Receive His goodness,
reflect His generosity.

How's that for a mission statement for the Christian life?

What does this look like, exactly?  When I read those worse, I think of my most unusual child: the extremely generous one.  This child loves a bag of Skittles, but more than that, she loves giving Skittles away. She loves making money, and she spends it all quickly, but on the most undeserving of her siblings, and rarely on herself.  A bag of Hershey Kisses makes her happy if she eats them, but not near as happy as she feels when she leaves kisses on our pillows in secret.

Her smile comes to mind, every time I think of "cheerful giving."
You know what else?  She is also amazing at the art of "cheerful receiving."

When God gives a spring day for bouncing on the trampoline, she bounces, and sings, too, and notices the flowers and the blue sky and the birds, and she thanks Him for it.  When God gives her chocolate milk, she drinks it down to the last drop.  In church, she sings hymns with loud voice and full heart.  

Fill up, give thanks, pour out, give thanks, repeat. 

This is the example of the widow, and my daughter, and so many others who live generously.

This is the life of faith, the freedom we have as children living under an open heaven, we who are loved by a generous God.  He did not spare His Own Son; surely He will provide for all of our needs. There is no need to hold back in fear. 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ 
or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, 
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Matthew 6:31-32 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 

Friday, May 6, 2016

9 things learned from the Big Move

It is now spring in the new place, and we are on the other side of the upheaval.

Join me over at Sisters of Katie Luther where I'm discussing some things God has been teaching us as He dragged/carried us through these past few months.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Big Blooms (on confirmation)

I taught her to walk.
I'd been doing it for years. I bent low and held her tiny hand as she fought gravity, and I taught her how to win against gravity.

I can still remember how it felt to scoop her up after a fall, and the way it felt to carry her on my hip.

Before long, she learned to run, and she'd give me running hugs so strong she'd tip me over and we'd roll in the grass.

We share shoes now.
She's a half-size bigger than me.
I taught her to walk. Then God sent her other teachers: school teachers, piano teachers.

I might borrow those shoes, I think, as I watch her walk up to the piano for her first solo&ensemble performance.

She's been nervous all morning, but you wouldn't know it to look at her.
I have heard her practice this piece for weeks in our living room, in fits and starts, interrupted by brothers, too fast, too slow, and sometimes so loudly it inspired only a snappy "not right now!" from her mother.

But today,
I watch her, in awe.

Where did she get that poise, that grace?  She didn't borrow that from me. As she plays some piece that seems, to me, incredibly complicated and impossible, she does not hesitate, she does not miss a note.

Where did she get that talent, that beauty?
From her fingertips flows a melody soothing and cheerful, and I praise the God whose beauty she reflects.

"Bloom flower!" I have whispered in her ear, and now, she blooms.

The following Sunday:
She whispers to me after communion, "Mom, that's the last time daddy's going to bless me like that." Next time she's here, she will be confirmed.

"In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always." Pastor-daddy has said this over her head for years, now, and Jesus has been with her.

Last times are sad and scary and wonderful. The last blessing, I think, the last blessing meant for children, that is.  The baby blessing will be replaced by another, greater blessing. "Take and eat, this is my body given for you."

The childish blessing is put aside, not because it is no longer valid, but because God has more for her, and she is now big enough to contain the greater blessing.  God, help me to remember this as I grieve the passing of childish things. 

Confirmation Sunday:

The flowers are blooming everywhere, and she blooms with them. Family and friends gather from near and far to celebrate. Her godparents, who remember her running hugs and hip-riding days, who have prayed for her and spoiled her even from far away, share in our joy at this thing God has done.

God has blessed her since she was little, since He called her by name. Now, she opens her own hands and embraces that blessing with her own heart.

There were Big Feelings on Pastor-daddy's face as he poured on her God's Bigger Blessing:

"Lorraine, the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace, to life everlasting. Amen."

God, strengthen her and keep her.
Strengthen her for the days to come,
the days of teenage struggles, 
of high school, 
of big feelings and big heartaches,
big growth,
big falls,
and hard lessons.

Be her Big Father,
be stronger than the world's attacks,
and brighter than the darkness she faces.
Be the solid ground in her changing world
and keep her safe in your unchanging love,
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness

On Passive Love and the Blessing of Neediness
by Haleigh Morgan
I am watching the family interact with our new member. This member does nothing. Contributes nothing materially to the household. He does not mouse or guard. In fact, at the moment he is a material drain. We do for him. We feed him, wash him, hold him, pay for his needs. He literally does nothing ... Except receive the love we give.
That is a huge nothing. We do all this "work" and feel blessed by it. In fact we *are* blessed. It is more than a perception or a mere feeling. There is real blessing in getting to love. Not just to feel contented, affectionate emotions - to do things that are loving for another who simply receives them.
Does he feel like he is a burden to us? Does he worry that he is not productive or useful? Does he fret that all he does is take? Not at all. He is doing his part for us by simply receiving what we give.
Think about that. His gift to us, his "work" for us is just to receive. He loves us by receiving the love we would give. And we delight to give it and are blessed by the giving.

Friday, April 22, 2016

these days (2)

These are the days of waiting for flowers to grow and school to end and bread to rise.

These are the days of painting sermons into the journaling Bible, and celebrating imperfection.

These are the days of wondering why my body doesn't work like everybody elses's body, and trying to learn to live within my own limits. These are the days of counting carbs and learning to love running again.

These are the days of gratitude for the joy my children have as they push their bodies, try new things, and discover new skills.

These are the days of painted handprints on flowerpots, and tables covered in craft supplies or legos, often on top of a sticky undercoat of syrup.

These are the days of girls in bloom, and secretive womanly talks, and "we need you to babysit again," and losing track of time on school nights because we are lost in our books or our paintings.

These are the days of waiting for little boys to "sound it out," for daddy to come home from his meeting, for spring to finally get here.

These are the days of missing the smells of spring in the country, and the days before sports when our evenings were calm and at home.

These are the days of getting paid to be the tickle monster and to play with play-dough and oobleck and preschoolers; and learning to rules of baseball for kids; and enduring long track meets and finding rides for everybody everywhere all the time.

These are the days of using the giant library suitcase, and making a scene everywhere we go, and yes, they are all mine, and sure, we can stop for a slurpee.

These are the days of switching between playlists: from "Country Time" to "Funky" to "Holy Pop" and back again.

These are the days of God's fitting our hearts exactly for this place, and opening our eyes to new joys and callings where He has put us. These days, He sends sunshine and rain together-- we grieve for the brokenness around us, everywhere, in this place; yet the harvest is ripe, and we are flooded with great conversations, renewed interest in the faith, and opportunities to share the love of God on a daily basis.

These are the days of time flying by and feeling behind and wanting the kids to stop growing so fast. But these are the days of God's faithfulness, as He grows our hearts and proves He is God FOR us.

What's happening in your world these days?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

these days: your turn

We are loved by a God who is with us, right here, in the details of this day that he has given us.

He meets us here.
But are we here to meet him?
It's easy to ache for the past, or to hurry towards the future. But God meets us here, right here.

Stop, look around, and notice where you are.  Get your bearings, and as best as you can, try to see where this little day is in the big picture. Remember that there IS a big picture, and that there will be a finished story, and that God is the author.  As you move from birth through darkness towards redemption, the days will come and go, but will you notice them? And will you take the time to see Him in them?

What is it like where you stand today?
What trials, what grace do you see? Take time to look around.

Carry God's Word into your day and watch as its colors bounce off everything.

This is the day the Lord has made.
It is a gift. It will pass away.
Much that we love will pass away, and yet, the Word of the Lord stands forever.
Safe are we, kept in that Word.
Safe are we, in His eternal hands, hands strong to save.
Yet where we walk is decidedly unsafe.  Bodies fail here, babies die, addictions consume, and hearts break.  It is easy for us to let the darkness cloud our vision.

We must take and read.
We must sit down, and look up, and pray for softened hearts and opened eyes.

These are the days of battle.
These are the days of uncertainty and fear.
And these are the days of mercy and grace,
the days of clinging to His hand and being upheld by His strength.
For he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
Do not harden your hearts !

What's happing for you these days?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! (I will post mine tomorrow)

These are the days of waiting for...
These are the days of missing...
These are the days of (doing)..
These are the days of (God's doing)...
These are the days of waiting for God to fix/redeem...
These are the days of inspiration from this song or Scripture...
These are the days of wondering why...
These are the days of gratitude for...

Monday, April 11, 2016

thanking God in remembrance

After a lovely visit to White Creek...

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 
always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 

And I am sure of this, 
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, 
for you are all partakers with me of grace...

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,with knowledge and all discernment, 
so that you may approve what is excellent, 
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-10

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