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?







Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time out.

What if
this list of things that is never done,
this house that's never clean enough,
this body that's never fit enough,
What if this too, is grace?

What if the grace is in with and under the failing?
What if "success" would be to my harm?

What if God knows I would find rest in my well-ordered house,
that I'd be satisfied with fake rest,
shallow rest,
and so for my good,
He sent me dust, and sticky toilet seats,
and boys who fight,
and vanishing library books?

"Come to me," He says, "and I will give you rest."

But there is no time to come, I grumble;
there is only trying to get caught up,
trying to earn the rest,
and the finish line keeps moving,
and the invitation feels like an insult.

But the rest that God gives is a rest I do not control,
or earn,
or deserve.

It is a rest given,
Given right here in the thick of it,
on His terms, not mine.

He refuses to calm the chaos,
but instead, He gives me Jesus,
right here.  Jesus.

Perfectionism shouts orders;
my "reputation" worries;
my check-list screams for attention;
and God duct-tapes their stupid faces and sends them away

and He says,
"take and eat,
rest and trust,
be still and know,
I am God."


Father,
Here in the world of undone chores I am so easily undone. I need you, the rest you give me in Jesus.  Teach me to plan for soul-rest, and to fight for it. And when I am too weak or too distracted to fight, then please God, fight for me, even if you must fight with me. Drag me to those green pastures and still waters, and restore my soul as only you can. Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

snuff the easter air!


The trumpet of God has sounded--one long, sonorous arabesque of sound which broke upon the midnight air when the angels brought good tidings of great joy to shepherds, and all the hosts of heaven made melody when the glory of the Lord shone round about them, a trumpet call that rose with a swell and a surge as of the sound of many waters to rend the veil of the temple and to shake the earth to open all men’s graces, when our Lord was crucified and rose again. 

And that trumpet call is for us: “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” This trumpet call bids you snuff that Easter air, that air from which our Lord, upon the cross, as swept away all the dank and poisonous vapors of sin, all the miasma of mortality; it beds you scent that eternal air, and stamp that Easter-cloven ground, and to stand in triumph on your graves, and to cry Ha! Ha! 

Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets
(Martin H. Franzmann, author of Thy Strong Word) (5)

Monday, April 6, 2015

A two-year old's guide to Fit Throwing


** This little guy turns six this week! We made it through the twos, and threes, and so on... it's mostly a blur, and I have no real advice to mothers of 2yr olds other than yes, they know your weaknesses!  (Reposted from April 2011)


We poor toddlers have so much going against us.  We are surrounded by beings much larger than us, and the largest of the beings, the "mother," seems to have been created solely to thwart our fun-having and world-exploring efforts at every turn.  We would utterly despair, and perhaps shall, if all of our weaponry against them proves ineffective.  As for me, in all of my two years, I have found no success with weapons weilded by my siblings.  I have little success with the Winning Smile; the Reasoned Argument is yet out of my reach; the Sibling Blame is only possible for those who have walked on this earth for even longer than I, and taken ample time to store up the vocabulary and body language to decieve the mother.

As for me, I have grown in wisdom and knowledge, and have wisely reduced my arsenal against the large beings to one category: the fit.

The Fit has many uses and can be displayed in various forms.


The wilted flower
Slowly sink to your knees, hang your head and shoulders, and maintain grief-filled silence.  Refuse eye contact.  If a Large Person attempts to cajole you into talking or tempts you to smile, summon the powers of your imagination.  Envision a torn blankie left in a mud puddle, or stepped-on cookie, or anything else that causes your heart to ache with deep and indescribable pain, and continue to wilt.


The skull cracking scream:  When injured or wronged, you may find this scream comes naturally to you.  My only advice to my peers who use this weapon: Make sure you are not in arm's reach of the mother.


The toothy attack
A tool best used on siblings when the Large People are not looking.  Your stature may be small, but an attack with your entire body is often effective.  Run towards your enemy, and grab him.  A proper grab utilizes the muscles of the arms, legs, and jaw.

The leaky faucet
Best used on tired Large People.  At random intervals throughout the day, emit unhappy noises. Screams, whines, fusses, and gibberish complaints are all acceptable.  You do not need a reason for such noises, your job is to simply make them frequent and relentlessly.  If you are feeling creative, you may want to add some bangs, crashes, and "injuries" just to mix it up a bit.  If successful, the mother may give you a blankie and set you in front of your favorite movie while she hides in another room. But beware: if you push her too quickly, you may just end up with an extra nap.


The despairing soul
When you find yourself frustrated, and unable to solve your problem with screaming, try this technique.  First, make your desires known in the best and loudest manner possible.  If the mother, chair, stool, or toy refuses to obey your clear direction, fall dramatically to your knees.  (See wilting flower above.)  After a moment's wilt, make plain the utter despair welling in your heart by sinking to the floor.  From your knees, crash forward to your belly, splaying arms and legs out wide to show the depth and width and height of your despair.  Roll from your stomach to your back, ensuring you still have an audience.  If you hear laughter or any other unhelpful noise (like advice on your problem,) simply roll back to your stomach and display the utter sadness and hopelessness of a splattered bug.



Daily I build my arsenal, daily I practice my techniques.  I do not give up, because I see the Large People around me are imperfect, vulnerable to attack, and prone to their own version of fit-throwing.  Though I cannot yet claim victory, I sense that the mother is weary.  My triumphant reign may be right around the corner.  I shall press on.


Friday, March 27, 2015

worry prayer problem days: when mama has a limp

At one time it was epilepsy, but it has been everything from church problems to health problems to someone else's problems to something on the news.  Some days are defined by that THING, that one very loud thought, that worry-prayer-problem that refuses to leave my thoughts alone.  It is a concern with a strong gravitational pull: I may be able to wrest my thoughts free for a moment, but the second I am not preoccupied, the concern sucks my thoughts right back to that place and tries to consume me.

Days like this I know I must begin with prayer.  I do this, but what often follows is a day of futile coping and very little relief.  I do not have an easy answer for this kind of day, but I would like to put words to some of the things I know do NOT work, and share some of my favorite crutches.  (Please share your own too!)

That kind of day

The worry-prayer-problem there in my mind, loudly taking up my thoughts even before my feet hit the floor.  I linger in bed to pray about it, but long before I am ready, little feet stomp down the hallway, and little bodies crawl into my bed demanding cartoons and food.  I sigh.

How do I enter the world of child joy and noise and frivolous "crises" one after another when this worry-prayer-problem hangs so heavy?
 
Chasing the Wind- futile coping measures I have tried repeatedly
  • Solitude: Perhaps I ought to hide from the kids so I can obsess on the worry-prayer-problem.  It's taking up so much of my mind I know I am going to be short with them anyway....
  • Mental Gymnastics: If I hide for a little while, maybe I can contort my mind in just the right way so that the worry-prayer will go away.
  • Numbing: Perhaps I can try really hard and kill the feelings associated with the worry-prayer-problem.  THEN I can reenter my vocation.
  • Demanding the above through prayer: Ok God, here's my problem.  Can you make the kids leave me alone today so we can talk about it until it is resolved?  Or you could take it utterly out of my mind please, and let me get back to life? (Does this actually work for anyone? It seems to me that God says NO to this prayer more often than not.)
There is a false presupposition underneath all of this "coping:" 
I cannot do my job with this worry-prayer-problem.

A half truth
What do you mean by this, Emily? 
I do not want to do my job with this worry-prayer-problem! and I simply cannot do it... perfectly.  I cannot do it even as well as I normally do it.  I am tired and emotional and... Lord, Can't I just take a personal day?

On normal days, I am much more capable of being patient, fun mommy.  If I didn't have all these distractions, I could be that mommy who skips cheerfully with her well-groomed, cooperative little flock, singing hymns as we frolic joyfully down the path of righteousness.

Haha, OK maybe not.  So today I will not do my job perfectly.  What else is new?

Lowering standards
It is true, I cannot do my job perfectly when I am carrying a worry-prayer-problem, when I am limping with some kind of wound.  And in my experience, God doesn't just make those kinds of things vanish when we ask Him to.  Sometimes even in the midst of our vocation, we must limp. Sometimes, instead of instant healing, He offers crutches.

I cannot be normal mommy on days when I am not normal mommy, when my heart is weighed down by one of the million griefs of this life.  Yet I can still be mommy.  And so you  have my epiphany: Wounded mommy can still be mommy!

Because mommies are not machines, we cannot perform the same tasks in the same way day after day after day.  We are affected by events, weather, hormones, health, and problems of all kinds.  Some seasons we buzz about on healthy legs with no limping, but in others, we mother with injuries, and when we are injured, we would be crazy not to use crutches!

So, wounded mommy is going to do things a little bit differently than normal mommy, children.  She is going to lower her standards, and she WILL be using crutches.

My favorite crutches
  • Depending on the type of worry-prayer-problem: Good, sweaty exercise can be cleansing and invigorating
  • Shortening the list: Eliminating anything that requries uber-energy or uber-patience that is not absolutely necessary.  Wounded mommy cannot do crafts, cannot let you paint, will not let children "help" make cookies, and probably will not be up for a wrestling match.
  • Nap: Perhaps for me, but definitely, DEFINITELY for all the other kids, at once.  They shall not come out of their rooms until I say so, period.
  • Receiving God's gifts through His Word and hymns (wounded mommy must do this frequently throughout the day, even if she has to lock herself in the bathroom for a minute!)
  • Soaking up the sounds and smells of the country, especially on warm evenings
  • Receiving help offered
  • (still learning this one) ASKING for help! 
  • Being honest with children and even (gulp) husband about why I am "limping" today
  • Comfort food. (Does anyone need to be told this one? I often receive grace through mashed potatoes)
  • Looking at the children: Really looking at those I have asked God to help me love.  Taking a real time-out, refusing to work on whatever else it is I think I need to do, banishing worry for a few minutes if possible, and getting down on the floor, looking at those blessed details that make my children unique, listening to their laughter, doing something with them that is fun for me too, just because I want to. 
  • Prayer, frequent prayer.  Such as:
  • Lord, help me to parent despite this wound.  Teach me to love even when I am hurting.  Help me to remember that it is not the children's fault that this world is fallen.  Nor is it my husbands, or the dog's.  Keep the pain from turning into anger and hurting those I love.  Those acts of love You require me to do today- equip me- and show me what I can let go so that I can rest in You and heal.  Thank you for your tender care for me when I am limping.

(originally published 5/17/11)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

sky paint



The sky looks like a rainbow at first, with a bright orange center above the horizon. Brilliant pink clouds rest above the tree line.

Do you think God gets to paint the sunsets each day with his giant brush?

We sit together in the back yard under the changing sky.

I sit with my son, He-Who-Notices, and in the quiet, we do nothing but notice.
“Mommy look, it's getting darker!” 
 We see the subtle the color change. 
The pink clouds turn purple.

Does God have a special brush for the soft clouds? 
How does He make them look like cotton candy? 
When it's foggy, does He just use that brush for everything?

The orange glow melts away, and the blues become deeper. We look all across the sky, taking in the change in the shades of blue. We spy a small strip of green, and the clouds are turning gray. The tree tops reach into the fading yellow.

“Mommy, look! It's a star, the first one!” He jumps with the excitement of noticing.
I pull him back on to my lap, resting my cheek on his while we look together.

Does God use a special brush for the stars? 
Maybe He uses twinkle paint.

The blues deepen. Near the star appears a sliver of the moon, barely visible.
“It's a smile, Mom! A smile!”

That “smile” made more smiles, and the God who made all of them calls each one good.

-  -   -   -   -   -

Night falls, and the noticer is in bed, but my heart still bursts with the thrill of our sunset moment.

I try to paint the sky, but I do not command my brushes like God commands the world. So I write the sky, but my words are but a cheap imitation of the moment.

I am left with nothing worth hanging on the wall, yet even so, my soul feels larger.

God did not make the sky so that I would DO something about it.
The faint echo that flowed from the seeing and saving is not the reason God made the sky!

Tonight, God's good work in the sky over that cornfield has been seen and savored by at least two of His creatures. God's good work, received with joy from His hands by His deeply-loved children. 

Does God use a special brush for mothers' eyes, to help them see like children?
If so, it is the same one that fills hearts and lifts them to Him with gratitude.

-  -   -   -   -   -



Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2




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