Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's not safe here.

I'm holding my little guy down so daddy can take out the slivers. He screams throat-tearing protests, while I stroke his wet curls and whisper prayers. “It's almost done, sweetie.” I say as I kiss tears. Except that it wasn't. Daddy found nearly twenty slivers there in the softest part of his tiny foot. How could this have happened?

"Mommy why are you doing this to me?" he screams.
“Oh honey,” I held him tighter, no words to say, only tears, tears mixed with anger and questions. Tears falling for more than just his tiny aching foot.

I hate this place today, Lord! Some guy stealing kids right from their mama's side at the grocery store so he can do awful things to them? A random sniper on the interstate?

And now slivers? Is this supposed to be some lesson to me? Am I supposed to trust you in the suffering, to somehow be OK with the pain from the shrapnel of evil in my heart? It's not OK. If there's a lesson for me to learn, send me an email, or use a felt board or something. My child is suffering real pain, screaming real screams.

This hurts my real heart. 
I do not understand.

Later, I hold his hand tightly when we go to the library-- much tighter than usual. I look to the left and right, again, and again. I notice the other children, the run-down car, the unfriendly face on that man. I keep my son close to me.
It's not safe here.

I am like Sister Bear. Remember her? She was a happy little girl bear who trusts everyone, until one day her Brother warns her about stranger danger. Later, she returns to park-- the familiar, friendly park. But everything is different. People are suspicious. The man behind the newspaper is hiding something. The sky is darker. The birds' beaks are sharper.

It's not safe here.
I know, Father, it's not You that does these things, I know. But why don't you stop them?

I have no answers.

So I set my shoulders back, I clench my hands, and I prepare to fight. I will use my concealed carry permit. I will be more aware, more vigilant. I'll buckle them and warn them and make them wear helmets.

No way, not my babies. I won't stand for it.

I'll stand in front of the wave of evil and absorb it all so it never hits them.
Except that … I can't. I'm not enough.

It's not safe here, and we will not leave this world unscathed.
I will not.
My babies will not.

God did not.

God deals with this broken world in a strange way. Instead of destroying it, He enters it. Instead of abolishing the law, He fulfilled it. Instead of punishing the sinner, He welcomed the full weight of the punishment onto Himself on the cross. Instead of pouring out the cup of His wrath on the earth, He drank it Himself.

Instead of somehow erasing death, He suffered it.

And then He rose.

He entered into our dying, hate-filled world, and He did everything backwards. He loved. He suffered. He died. He lives.

He lives.

And by His glorious resurrection, He proves to us that He is not of this world.
And, by grace, neither are we.

It is not safe here. There are dangers on every hand. The world is suffering, dying, and we share in that suffering. And we scream throat-tearing screams and we ask heart-tearing questions. And we are not OK.

And yet, by grace, we are being made new in Christ.

We are set apart, heirs of life.
Today, we are merely far from home.

We don't belong here.
Praise God, we belong to Him.

photo credit educationdiva

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not for sissies: On teaching violent love to children

"Mommy, it's so sad."
"Yes, it is sad honey. And it hurt really bad, too. But He did it because He loves us."

I think, a few kids ago, this kind of conversation with children might have been impossible for me. I probably would have been the one sitting quietly with a kid on my lap, letting daddy talk about the hard stuff, while I sat there wishing I could shield my babies from all of this.

(Read more:  Is Easter too violent for kids?)

What changed?
Well, Aggie got sick. And I tasted some real suffering. I held her, blue-lipped. And I considered the possibility of a sister, left without a sister. I considered myself, standing at a graveside, knowing in my bones that there is something horribly, violently wrong with this world.

Violence has no place around my babies.
Nor does death.
Nor does sin.
And yet, I sin against them, and they sin against each other, every day.

We live in a broken world.

Yet the broken God-man... He gives us hope.

So we talk about Him. We talk about His great love for us, which we see in His healing and His teaching, but most of all, we see in His death on the cross.

Jesus is not just like us. 
He loves us with a fierce love. 
A violent love.
He loves us to death.

But we preach Jesus crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. 1 Cor 1:23

One morning, my three-year-old took the cross off the table.
Then, he laid on the kitchen floor with Jesus, like this:

I tried to put the cross away.

"I want Jesus!" he protested. 

May you, too, find rest 
in the shadow of His cross today.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, 
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
 but in order that the world might be saved through him. 
John 3:16-17

Holy Week Recommended Reading:
Hunger Games and the Happy Exchange
He's Still Working

(originally published 4/16/12)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

but does it work?

Quit complaining and be grateful!  Focus on the positive!
If you want to have a friend, be a friend!

I say these things to myself, to my children.  And there is certain logic to this way of thinking.  Call it common sense, or the "law of attraction," or the "Secret..."

Like this:

life is an echo

You will get what you give. If you want life to work, then get to work.

I was recently challenged to think more critically on this topic thanks to our book club (we are reading Broken by J. Fisk.)  He describes the "law" of pragmatism--

You can find God with your mind and or feelings- whatever "works." Or if not god, then at least you can create the type of world you think he should have created in the first place.

There is such an appeal to this way of thinking. It assumes a few things, things that I tend to assume.
1. Life should work.
2. If it isn't working, I can and will find a way to make it work.

If life "worked," what would it look like?
Well, for me, it would look like mothering children that never fight, and handling all challenges with wisdom and calm confidence. It would look like never feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, but always feeling accomplished, fufilled, and successful. (And I'd also have the body that I had in high school.)

When I find that life is not working, what do I do?
I turn over every stone, looking for ways to fix it. Or, I try to solve the problem by forcing my feelings to change.

In many cases, THIS WORKS!  Of course it does! It makes perfect sense!

So what's the problem?

If the worldview of Star Wars was marketed as a real religion, would people buy it? Fisk argues that it has, and we do.  We humans so badly want to control the forces of the universe with our minds, we are eager to listen to those who tell us that we can.

From the popular book "The Secret" -

"Our thoughts dictate the reality we receive."

 "The law of attraction is that our thinking creates and brings to us whatever we think about," she says. "It's as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us." (Louise Hay-- The Secret)

I do not believe our feelings create vibrations that expand and attract either good or bad things back to us.  But Fisk's description made it clear to me: I do fall into the error of pragmatism.

Does it work?

I can't seem to help but ask this question. And I can't seem to help wanting all things to WORK in my life, by which I mean be easy and pleasant.  Isn't that the purpose of life? Avoid suffering. Be happy.  Sieze the day.

Further (sin upon sin!) I even approach God in this way.  I make Jesus "practical" in the worst way.
 "Hooray! Jesus loves me!  Now that I know this I can make life work! I'll avoid suffering! And I will be happy!"

But God...
But God does everything absolutely backwards.

He sees us fallen humans, turned in on ourselves, obsessed with making ourselves happy.  He sees us, stuck in suffering and unable to make ourselves free, cursing Him and hurting each other. He sees those who hate Him, who reject His Word.

The darkness of our hearts should repel God.
It should separate us from Him.
But His compassion draws Him right into it.

He comes right here, right into this suffering, that which we were born into, and that which we willfully brought on our own heads.

It makes no sense.

The pounding nails, and the reply: "Father, forgive them."
The heart clenched in a hateful fist, cooled by gospel rain.
The law-breaker, not broken, but pardoned by the Broken One.

Jesus is Jesus for me, but not to help me make life "work." He wants more for me than ease. He wants to kill my old nature completely, and nurture the new. He wants to draw me deeper and deeper into Himself, into his crazy backwards love, into his love that loves the unlovable and makes them lovely.

In this chapter, Fisk exposed one of my idols, the one called "I deserve a life that works."

I am reminded of two things, things I should already know. But these things change everything.

1. In light of my sin, I do NOT deserve a life that "works."  My attempts to force the universe to make life work are pathetic and probably sinful.
2. God in his great mercy has given His Son to die for me and I am forgiven.

Zoom out.
Look at the bigger picture.
Why worry so much about whether life seems to be "working" or not?
Your biggest need has been met. You are reconciled in Christ to the God that made You.
He is making all things new, even you.

When life "works," thank God.
When it doesn't work, know that it is working, because He is working.

No need to seek Him in your thoughts or feelings or circumstances.
Embrace Him where He is- in His Word.

"Lord help us to remember that this life is not about being perfectly happy 
nor is it about being well. 
It is about waiting in hope for you to fufill all things."

Related links of interest (if you want to hear more nonsense!)

Larry King Interviews Oprah on The Secret
A nice summary of The Secret on Oprah's website
Celebrity testimonies
How to use the Law of Attraction
Law of Attraction on Pinterest
A rebuttal to Be Positive or Be Quiet (From Fighting for the Faith)
(There is a nice thorough podcast here from Lutheran guys, which is worth listening to if you are interested in this topic!!!)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Writers gonna write

Haters gonna hate; writers gonna write.
Haters Gonna Hate (26 pics + 1 gif)
I am a writer, and I can't help it. It is something that happens all the time, the thinking, pondering, trying to make sense of things, playing with words to make them reflect reality, or to escape it.  Whether or not it gets on a page, wheter I publish or delete, still, always, I write.

There is something so gratifying in finishing a project, especially when it's a project that comes alive in book form.  The books I have nurtured have grown up, spread their wings, and left home.

Every now and then I get to hear how they are doing. I spoke at a local group this week, and I met a woman who just moved here, who found my book who knows how who knows where, and it blessed her through one of the most difficult times of her life. It's amazing to me, that what was a mere project to me, one that is dead and finished, still lives and grows and is used to bless others in ways I would not have guessed.

Writers gonna write, and I can't wait to tackle that next big project.
But not yet. Not today.

I will not be setting my gifts on the shelf, but I will use them in smaller ways in this season. I'll write my own children and in this little space, right here.  And for the sheer joy of it, when time allows.

With a prayer that my hands and feet and body and words may be used to bless those God sends as He wills.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday at http://lisajobaker.com/
The Word is Writer.

Weakness, how I hate you.

And then, there's this:

No God Craves a Weakling

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reach for the sky!

Last year, we broke our trampoline.

It was so incredibly sad. And humbling, because yes, I helped. Apparently me plus everybody = too much weight.  We will pretend it's because these kids are growing so much.

So, spring has finally arrived, and I really want to go buy another. I would like it here, set up, now.  Right now. I miss bouncing, and I miss the hours of exercise and giggles for the children.

After my husband agreed that we could spend the money, I got an idea.

It was a horrible, awful idea.

 I got an idea that would make my life more complicated, create more work for me and all of us.  It would require creativity, and persistence on my part and theirs.  It would be exhausting.

But it would be good for us.

Behold the trampoline project.

We're eyeing this one, unless I find a better deal locally.  I have time to shop around, because they won't earn it all in one day.

They have money from pet sitting, so I deducted that from the price.  $150 remains to be earned.

Because my kids are so given to destruction, I figured they'd like destroying something to mark their progress, rather than coloring in something, or checking off someting.

Every time they work to earn $1, they get to grab a cloud, crumple it up, and throw it in the trash.

They rip those clouds down with gusto.

They also made their own little people for the trampoline.  They like being able to move their own people up as the clouds disappear!

The day after we started this, my youngest two children shocked me: they got out of bed and immediately asked me, "What can we clean?" One had the broom and the other one had the dustpan!

Will they learn teamwork? Perseverance? Will the trampoline be that much more wonderful after they've worked for it?

I'll let you know, assuming we survive this project!

Monday, March 31, 2014

balance, or something

I'm trying to catch my breath right now

First, because I have rodent heebie-jeebies. My cats were fighting over a dead mouse in the kitchen. I didn't want them to eat it because I was sure it was a victim of the Decon I'd set out last week, so I smacked it out of kitty's mouth with a broom. The thing is, it wasn't dead.  But I had it, wiggling, under my broom. And everyone's sleeping. And I just wanted to get to my computer and write... finally... for the first time in forever...

But this mouse.
It all worked out, and he won't be back.

Now, to catch my breath. It's just my laptop and me, FINALLY, after days of longing glances and so many urgent needs everywhere getting between us.  I'd climb any mountain, swim across the ocean, and dispose of any rodent...

Ok, enough. I'm happy to be here. It's been awhile.

I'm trying to catch my breath.
The pace of life has been insane lately, and my reason for blog silence.

My quiet moments have been filled with study lately. I'm leading group discussions on two wonderful books right now (Broken and Gospel Motivation.)  These are challenging books, but rich food for the soul.

I'm also participating in a group called A Balanced Life, which is a group that meets to encourage both physical health and spiritual health. I do the devotion portion of this group.  And it's almost funny that I am teaching on this topic, when I've taken the sticky note that said "prepare for A Balanced Life" on my to-do list and moved it to "tomorrow" so many times.

How can there be balance amidst such chaos?

That is a good question indeed.

My husband is keeping crazy hours, being a pastor AND going back to school to get his PHD.  This place suddenly reminds me of college life again- there are piles of books everywhere, and I have to make sure he has enough Pepsi fuel stocked.  But in college he wasn't also daddy, and I didn't say things like "If you're not going to sleep, at least take your vitamins for goodness' sake!"

We just got through spring "break," which was neither spring nor a break.

And oh, the children. Sometimes they are sweet little chicks and I just sit and delight in their sweet little peeping laughter.

And those other times?  They're like hornets, mad hornets, and they sting each other and then everyone's crying and they look to me for comfort and I'd rather just swat them all. But no, I must teach the hornets, discipline them and love them, each in the way that they need, because some are born with sensitive skin and others are born with thick heavy armor.  And the armored ones have soft places and the soft ones have crusty spots, and I'm amazed at the way their little stingers can hurt even a mommy heart.

home, sweet home

What do they need?
There is always something.

And also, what can I give?
(My dear husband gently reminds me that I should ask this question, too.)
What can I give?
Not all things.
I am not God.

So I go to God with the welts and questions, seeking help and healing and balance.

He gives me Jesus.
It is enough.

Jesus, with his wild grace, forgiving sins and using sinners to do good in this broken, mouse-infested place.

Jesus in this place where everything is fragile.

Aggie scared me last week.

She had the dark circles under her eyes and wanted to sleep.  When we woke her for dinner, she was scared. Of the noodles. On her plate. "They're creepy! I can't eat, it's too scary!"  She was completely terrified.

What was this episode?  Hallucination? Could she have been stuck in her dream?
I stared at her head.
I gave her milk and snuggles.
And I called the doctor.

I was back there, right back in that place. I know she's not mine, God, but please not now, not that.

It's been several days.  Doctors are not concerned, and she seems fine. Tonight she would not stop talking, not unless she was singing at the TOP OF HER LUNGS.  I love the way she sings, especially in church when she knows the hymn. I can't help but stop singing and listen to her sweet voice, and let it sing hope and faith down deeper and deeper into my heart, as it is in hers.

This will not last forever.
This pace, this chaos.
This everything.

How, then, shall we live?
How do we order our days?

I'm not sure a balanced life is possible, not if "balance" means having and keeping all things in order, in one's life and one's heart, so that all emotions are smoothed away, and there is no stress or worry or anxiety.

But I consider these verse from Jeremiah 17:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Like a tree planted by the water-

God has planted us, and He is our stream; He is that living water welling up into eternal life.

By grace we have been saved, by grace we have been planted.   By grace our trunks grow strong, grounded in the love of God, fed by His Word.

My branches get tired in the battering wind, and they are sore from the little people climbing and plucking my fruit.

But God is my stability, and He grows my roots down deep into Him.

My branches are weary, but the weariness just reminds me of my need, my desperate need to drink
deeply of the love of God in Christ, to fill myself with His Word.

How then shall we live?
What does it look like to be a child of God, rooted and secure, and yet tossed about by the demands of life?

In tihs house, today, it looks like considering April Fools jokes to do to the kids, and googling "strep throat symptoms."  It looks like reading our favorite Elephant and Piggie books, and fishing rocks out of the baby's mouth. It's dancing in carline and cutting cheese and apples and one more cup of coffee.

It's ignoring, for just a little longer, those five loads of laundry that need to be put away, so that I can finally finish a blog post.  It's drinking, sipping, gulping, all day long, from the well that cannot run dry.

My outdoor Christmas lights are still up, and the shoes on our front porch are muliplying like rabbits, but Jesus is here.

It is well with my soul.

Plus, the big kids will be home soon and I'll make them clean it up.
That, or we'll just go to the park.

Maybe we'll find some balance on the balance beam. 
Har har.

photo credit

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a heart list

As you know, I love lists. This list by John Bunyan, surprised, convicted, and comforted me all at once. It is good to know I am not the only child of God with a list like this.

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:
(1) An inclination to unbelief.
(2) Suddenly forgetting the love and mercy that Christ shows us.
(3) A leaning to the works of the Law.
(4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.
(5) Forgetting to watch for that which I have prayed for.
(6) A tendency to murmur becuase I have no more, and yet a willingness to abuse what I have.
(7) I can do none o fhtose things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thurst themselves upon me so that "When I would do good, evil is present with me."

These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good.

(1) They make me abhor myself.
(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.
(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
(4) They show me the necessity of flying ot Jesus.
(5) They press me to pray to God.
(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.
(7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me thro
ugh this world.


---- John Bunyan
(from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.)

Hold my hand!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dear expectant mama— on being immature

Have you ever seen a grownup stop the car and run out into a field just because it looked fun? Or run with her shopping cart and ride on it across the parking lot? Or climb up a tree and throw things at people below? 
That would be too weird. 

Unless she had kids with her.

As your belly stretches, I am sure you have felt the weight of this new vocation pressing heavy on you. Yes, it is challenging to be a mother. Yes, you do have to start thinking about safety hazards and carseat laws. You have to grow up in so many ways. But … has anybody told you this yet? There is a wonderful, child-like joy mixed in with this calling.

Sure, you will make sure you are guarding the edges of the dock when you run down it with her. And you might even make sure the snow is not yellow before you eat it together. But think of it— those wonderful things that you loved to do when you had a little body, and no worries? You get to do many of those again! Motherhood will actually provide a healthy outlet for your remaining immaturity! That girl, the one who likes to jump on trampolines, listen to loud music, and swing on swings- she doesn’t have to die!

I can still do this.
And you won’t understand this, yet, but I have to tell you: In some ways, these things are better the second time. Sure, this time I know it’s truly dangerous to get caught in a riptide, and that’s terrifying… but to watch a child discover the water for the first time? It’s amazing. Seeing him curl his toes in the sand, and discover that it doesn’t taste good; watching his delight as he throws rocks in the water, and seeing him laugh when they make a “plunk” EVERY time!

You will lay a sheet out on the grass in the summer, and you will kick off your shoes just to sit with your baby. And you’ll remember that other grass in that other lawn when you were little, and you might want to turn on the sprinkler. And you can! It won’t be weird at all! Your child will probably think you are the smartest person on the planet!

There are moments- sweet, fleeting moments- when the weight of your years lifts away, and you will feel what it is like to be a child again! You’ll get swept up in a glorious fall evening, or knocked over by waves upon waves of grace, and you’ll remember how to give a full-hearted from-the- belly laugh. And your little one will laugh with you, and it will be the most beautiful echo you’ve ever heard.

It’s not all fun and games, but SOME of it is! When the weight of the one you are carrying bears down heavy, allow yourself to look backward, into your favorite moments from your own childhood, and then imagine your child, your favorite little person in the world, there with you, sharing your marshmallows.

Hang in there, mama, when your baby is heavy.
Lighter moments are coming.

— Emily

this applies to Grandmas, too! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday is hard on a mother’s heart.

It is one thing to consider your own mortality. But I remember the first time the ashes were placed on my baby girl. Something inside me wanted to reach out and stop the pastor. My heart said No! That black stuff does not belong on my sweet little child. But the pastor put them there, and every time I looked at them I was surprised all over again.

            Little Lorraine quickly forgot the ashes on her head, and had no understanding of why they were there in the first place. She smiled and flirted with me with her big brown eyes all during church, and I was struck by her cheerfulness in contrast to the portent of death on her forehead.

            My children are mortal and I would rather not think about that. It is easier to pretend that life will keep going just as it is right now, to imagine that I will be here to comfort and love my babies forever. It is not hard to join the world’s denial of death. There are plenty of things to distract myself with, and when then thoughts come anyway, I can soothe myself by putting it so far in the future that it feels less threatening.

As adults, we know that the smooth skin on our babies will not stay perfect forever. We know that toddlers (and teenagers) are not invincible, even though they believe they are. Yet we are still shocked when they get the high fevers we cannot treat, when they do something dangerous (like eat glass!) and have to be rushed to the ER. We are shocked to be reminded that we live in the “valley of the shadow of death,” and that our children are vulnerable to this death just as much as we are.

           God’s word intrudes into our comfortable little worlds to remind us of what we already know: this life is not going to last forever. It is easy to get caught up in training our children merely for life in this world. While it is a good thing to have a house that runs smoothly and children that are clean and relatively kind to each other, that is only a part of our vocation as parents.

           This life is not going to last forever. We need to say this out loud to ourselves, and to our children. We must remember those ashes, and take to heart those ER trips. We must teach our children that they live in fragile bodies in a dangerous world, and remind them that their hope is in God alone. Every minute of this life is a complete gift from a Father who loves us more than we can imagine—a Father who plans to have us with Him in heaven forever. His grace frees us to live with joy in these mortal bodies. His love frees us to giggle like toddlers, sometimes, even under the shadow of death.

ash wednesday photo: Ash Wednesday Ashwednesday.jpgChrist is Risen—He is Risen indeed.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-
Psalm 103:13-17

(written on the old blog in 2005)
photo credit photobucket
Web Analytics