Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recommended: Cherry coffee, and good reads.

Today, I present to you, dear reader:
Miscellaneous thoughts from this week, and articles I have enjoyed from around the web.

I discovered a new favorite coffee recipe:

Chocolate Cherry Creamy Heaven
Michigan Cherry Coffee
Cream, cocoa, and sweetener
(coconut oil if you like)

YUM! (Use a nutribullet if you want to make it creamy and perfect!)

Sometimes, I drink it while I look out my window at a scene like this:

Indeed, I am blessed. And especially blessed this week, as I've had a little time to browse around the web and read for fun. This is quite a luxury, these days.  Here are some articles I found interesting for one reason or another, in no particular order.

Except for the first one. That one was my favorite. But the rest are random.

Gel Pen Faith
If you read only one post, read this one! Love it!

Encouragement for "just" mothers
We can't quantify it, but it matters.

Grateful for Grace: an abortion recovery story
please remember to pray for those who carry this burden.

Aging gracefully
a must-read for those getting old... ish.

The seasons change
lovely photography and devotional thoughts

On being sucked dry
Do you feel sucked completely dry at the end of the day? Here's what you're doing wrong....

Justification by faith alone is still the issue
Does the reformation matter today?  Yep.

It's time to end the stigma of infanticide.
I mean, why not?

Encouragement for single folks out there...

What is the great struggle of the day?
It's closer than you think.

Higher Things: The Gospel of Halloween
What to do with this day?  Nice thoughts here.

And finally, just for fun, here's what my husband and I look like right now, through the eyes of our six-year-old.

Pretty accurate, I'd say.

Have you read anything interesting lately? Feel free to leave links.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Go Get Some Water

One day, I opened my front door and walked into a warzone.

A child screamed, “You are so MEAN!” and another replied with throat-tearing anger.
They ran to me with accusations, tears.  I commanded deep breaths, but the raw emotions were just too strong.  Charges of the worst kind brought before me, loudly, by two children with wet cheeks and red eyes.

It was impossible to sort out. Each child’s view was raw, skewed, and conflicted with the others’.  I didn’t see what happened.

But I could see what was in front of me. Two kids, with hearts like fists, clenched in anger; in anger and hurt.  Their ears were closed to reason, and the anger everywhere escalated.  My own heart was balling up, and I was tempted to smash them all for being so irrational and dramatic.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's gonna be a great day! On preparing to suffer.

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. (1 Peter 4:1)

This is your goal today, self. This is your purpose.
Not “hope they behave so you can get some stuff done.” 
Not “just survive.”
Not “give them a few minutes of attention so they are satisfied and will leave you alone for a little while.”

Your purpose today is to suffer.

to not get your way
to be interrupted
to be taken advantage of by kids
to be unappreciated
to lose control of your schedule
to be bored, or exhausted, or irritated, etc.
Suffering will come to you for two reasons.

One: the work of God in you. He’s busy killing the old Adam and strengthening the new. He's pulling weeds, pruning branches. Do you expect this to be easy? Painless? Pretty?

Two: for the sake of those around you.
God calls the carpenter to his work by giving him skills, tools, materials. He calls you by giving you children, a husband, a family, a home-- neighbors, friends, a community.  Your vocation, your calling, your God-given task today is to serve those around you. And that means putting aside your wants for the sake of the people in front of you.

Remember this, self, when little one misses the potty, again.
Remember this, when the restlessness comes, while playing blocks, or playdough, or when you are feeling (oh, the horror!) bored with little kid activities.
Remember this, when your chores are interrupted by little one’s cry, and you are running out of words and hugs.
Remember this, when you are called to share or set aside things that are precious to you for the sake of those around you. (free time, cookies, whatever.)

Today, you are called to suffer. So get ready. Arm yourself.

Veggie "suffering"
Are you overwhelmed by your calling yet? Because I am.  This is too much for me.  I know this before I even begin.

I do not jump out of bed and say to God cheerfully, “Well, God, how would you like me to suffer today?”  I snooze as long as I can, then finally crawl out of bed.  I sigh;  I stagger to the kitchen, and I pray for a few more minutes of quiet before they wake up and it starts. IT. The talking. The needs. The suffering.

But notice something: we are called to arm ourselves.

This metaphor points us outside ourselves, not to the strength of our own hearts. We look outside, to Jesus whose death made us His children; outside, for His strength, compassion, patience, self-control; outside, for hope for our future in Him even as we live in this fallen world.

We grasp His hand.  We abide in Him, and the Spirit strengthens our faith and our wills and our arms and our backs as we bear our daily crosses.

We receive weapons for battle. And we receive mercy and grace.
He sends naptime quiet,
and joy-bringers,
and the soft sand of the ocean.
He places a hot cup of coffee in our cold hands,
and sends a breeze to make the fall leaves dance beneath a blue October sky.
He restores our souls and replenishes our ammo.

He calls us to suffer,and to fight sin, death, and the devil, in the world and in our hearts.  Yet the call is wrapped in grace, and heard only by ears that have been opened by grace.  We have hearts that trust the sufficiency of Christ’s death for us, and we shall not be put to shame.  We have hands full of His gifts, and we will use them in service and in battle for the sake of our neighbor.

Father, how would you like us to suffer today? “Command what you will… only, give what you command.”  (St. Augustine)

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

(1 Peter 4:1-11)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In the light

I did not teach them this.
We’ve read no books on the topic. Not one lecture given. Not once have I told them, encouraged them, commanded them.

Yet they know.
It is good to rest in the sun.

Bodies cooled by the water lay still, grateful; getting warm slowly, deliciously.

And I consider how these moments age like wine, how stillness in the vacation sun is treasured more deeply by me now that I have felt the stuffiness of an office building, of a schedule, of the daily grind.  The stillness-- the chance to breathe, to just be--  it is a blessed spot of time, objectively lovely, worth savoring.

My dear children know little of darkness yet, and so they do not appreciate the sun deeply yet, but they do appreciate.  They receive, rest, rejoice, as children.

And this mother who watches them, she rejoices too, but as an adult.  And she ponders these things in her heart.

I consider God, who spoke light into existence, Jesus, the light of the world; His Word, a light unto my path.  I consider the darkness in my heart, the ridiculous way I fight Him, asking to stay in the stuffy office building of my own creation, pretending to prefer the oppressive hot air of my own “righteousness” instead of the free and sweet air of His grace.

I consider the odd and amazing invitation given to me to live in the light, to walk in the light, as He is in the light.  

I breathe in, and pray for a heart open like my hands, for life and light to fill me, for Jesus to scatter my darkness.

The contrast increases as we age, does it not?  As does the threat or darkness, the shadow of death, the horrors we hide in our own closets: darkness oppresses, tries to suffocate, to strangle us.

Do we shut our eyes and pretend it is not happening? Or do we flee for refuge to the only place we can- to God’s infinite mercy, seeking and imploring His grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord?

Jesus, scatter the darkness.

I look at my dear babies, soft limbs still playing in the sun.  I would not dream of forbidding them this pleasure.  May they be surrounded with His Word as generously as the sunshine, that they may grow up in the light of Christ.

The light of Christ brings life and sight, warmth and energy with it. Just as the light of the sun produces physical life, sight, warmth, and energy in our world, so also God’s Word brings life to our dying souls, vision to our dark minds, warmth to our cold hearts, and energy to our weak bodies.  Through His Word the triune God comes to us, makes His home with us, and fills us with His presence (cf. John 14:23) (Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace, p 116)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Open arms and heart

This is Aggie in a pumpkin patch,
arms open wide,
 and heart, 
as if she could embrace the world and the sky, 
and every bit of God's blessings that surround her.

She can't hold it all, but she will try.
She will skip and run through the blessings,
squeal and giggle and notice,
always noticing, 

God, open my arms and heart,
teach me to love and live and rejoice
like this beautiful daughter of yours
called Aggie.


Seizure-free and tumor free since July 2009, and still thanking God for each day.

Have you read her story?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall "break" survival strategies

Is it safe to admit this here? I think so.
I'm bracing myself for fall break.

I love my kids, I do. And I love family time. And I am glad they get two weeks off of school in October. This is supposed to help us cope with shorter summers, and I admit, it really does. October is beautiful here in Indiana. Plus, this is a great time for us to travel, especially as a pastor's family, because there are NO religious holidays!

But still.

There is an image in my mind, perhaps an amalgam of images, in which I am sitting in the kitchen, near tears, with my head in my hands, saying, "How in the world are we going to survive this entire (spring? summer? fall?) break?"

So, self, you know this is coming. Let's take a minute, self, to ask your self, why is this so hard?  And what can we do about it?

Well, self, what do you think will happen when you mix the following things together?
- little kids, accustomed to little-kid pace, little-kid games, and mama's full attention
- big kids who have been to school and therefore know SO much more than little kids
- all kids, with free time, who are now on "break," and interpret that to mean they ought to be having maximum fun 100% of the time
- mama, who wants to facilitate a reasonable amount of fun, but also must remember to keep up with the laundry, dishes, etc; who shouldn't be the only one doing work around here; who simply can't play line-tag and snuggle the baby at the same time; who needs another cup of coffee, again; who just wants us all to survive this week with everyone still loving each other!  Why is that so much to ask?

It's going to be a challenge.
So here's my plan. The way I see it, this will be a great break, if only we can keep three major factors in place.

I must accept my responsibility in this, early on! It is my job to make the expectations clear and enfoce them with consistency.  Daily chores, basic manners: these things have not changed just because our routine has! This part of my job must increase on "break."  If I send mixed signals or get lazy, it will be every man for himself, and war will ensue, and I will be crying in the kitchen again.

So lace up those running shoes, mama.

Oh, the power we have, mothers. We have the power to send them to their rooms. We have the power to cancel the sleepover. And we have the power to ruin an entire vacation if we allow ourselves to succumb to bad attitudes.  We can live like goats, get mad about the mess and clutter, and become generally impossible to please.  Trust me, I'm really good at this. And the temptation to be this way WILL come.

So what helps you change your attitude?
I've found a few things that help me. Prayer is a given.  (God help me be a fun mommy and not a jerk!)  Along with that, I find that it really helps us all if we can find a way to shake things up a bit-- to do something simply unusual.  (This is why I had to throw a party during another break.)

Get outside
- Collect leaves for leaf art while
-go for a walk, hold hands, sing songs
- Send them outside and tell them they can't come back until they collect 5 red leaves, 6 pinecones, 7 flowers, 8 acorns, 9 striped rocks, and 10 spiders
(Do you think they will get distracted along the way? ha.)

Get them laughing
I have big plans for crazy activities.
I'm hoping there will be sometime when nobody's in time-out, they've actually practiced piano, and I'm not frazzled beyond sanity, when we can actually have some fun.

Right now, I have "snowballs" waiting in my garage that I plan to use in a surprise attack.  There's nothing like a surprise attack for shocking them out of bad moods!

For more ideas see my pin board: Things to do with kids
or listen to this song with your kids (What does the fox say)

"Vacation time shouldn't mean vacation from God's Word." Pastor Cook

Do I take a vacation from food or from air? From medicine? Sleep? And yet how much more important is God's Word, for the health of my soul, and that of this family?  If I want to see them as He sees them, to love them with His love, then I must abide with Him, in His Word.

We will need God's help, His Word, His grace.

Thank you for autumn, for changes of season, and for time away from our normal schedules.  Thank you also for being our unchanging God, for your unchanging love for each of us. Grant us patience, compassion, self-control and a sense of humor as we spend time together. Help us to see as you see and love as you love.
In Jesus, Amen.

What challenges do you face during school "breaks?"
What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Loose ends in God's Word

Bible study this week:
I am frusted with myself at the end of class. Or, with God, maybe.

We discussed Luke 13, the parable of the mustard seed, the narrow door, the judgment day.

The things we talked about were hard things, and I like to be the good girl with solid, logical answers, and I like them to be answers that make us all happy and comfortable.  But I did not have those answers, and questions still hang in the air.

Jesus is good at making people uncomfortable, even now.

Thinking about end times, judgment day, the final FINAL separation of sheep and goats... well, I pretty much don't like to think about that. I want there to always be hope, always be possibility for change and miracles.

But Jesus points us to a truly END time, and we can't help but ask, how many, Lord? This one? That one? Me?

I notice something: As I consider this in light of the sinfulness of the world, of my own sin, and sometimes small, hard-to-find faith, I wonder, how can any be saved?  Looking inward and down, it all seems hopeless.

Then, looking to the compassion of Jesus, His love for sinners, His serving and stooping and pursuing... His mercy is enormous. He desiers that all be saved. And so I wonder, how can any be lost?

There is mystery here. 
How can love not melt every single heart? How can a fist remain closed to such a gift? But that's evil, I suppose. Good-rejecting, darkness-loving, irrational nonsense.

There is a mystery.
But the mystery is not in how God feels about us.  He does not want us to wonder. He sent His son, sends His Son, for sinners. We are the sick: He sends us His physician, Jesus. 

 Word and Sacrament embrace us and we are assured of His abundant mercy.

It is so good for us to gather together and be in God's Word, even when things aren't wrapped up in a little bow at the end of our time together.  We look inward and downward, and we are rightly worried. But He lifts up our heads and points us up, to Jesus. He does not answer all of our questions, not yet, but He is enough.

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