"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Giddy Praise and a Few Puzzle Pieces

Have y'all ever noticed that God always answers bigger than you ever *really* think He will? The Carlins began the week with $825 in their Reece's Rainbow account. It was as a result of that that I set the goal of $20,000 on my link to ChipIn; wasn't really sure that I had enough contacts to reach that goal, but wanted to stand in agreement with them as to their needs and let anyone viewing my blog know the full amount of what was needed. As of right now, their balance stands at $11,825. Seriously, God??? Eleven thousand dollars in a few days??? Thank you!!!! I don't know if all of those funds are tied to this link from my page (there are a few folks out here in blogland that have joined with the Carlins to get the word out and have posted links to Reece's Rainbow) but I am giddy that God has used whomever He has used and answered in such a big way so suddenly. The goal of $20,000 to bring Daniel home is better than half met! Can't wait to see what God does next to provide fully...

***
As for the "few puzzle pieces", the story of how I came to run for Daniel is a little winding. Kinda like my mind. I'll try to be as coherent as possible.

It all began with reading the first posting by Jessica Carlin (a friend from my days in TX) about the potential for Daniel...I was drawn to pray and to follow...and then the reality of her being "paper pregnant." It may sound overly dramatic, but I think at that moment I could sympathize with what Elizabeth may have felt when John leapt in her womb. My heart literally skipped a couple of beats. My breath came quickly...the Spirit was moving. Immediately I felt tied to this story; as though there was something I was meant to do to help in the working out of whatever God had in store for this little guy. There was a certainty in my heart that *this was right*; that Daniel *is* the Carlin's son...and that I needed to do something about it.

But what??

I am a mom of 4, a wife of a Disney cast member, a part-time prep cook at Chik-Fil-A, a cash-only RV dweller who survived a recent bankruptcy. Oh, and did I mention that I'm states away from the Carlins? What in the world could I possibly do? I didn't have much but made a small contribution to their adoption fund...all the while feeling that there was something more. Something more, something more, but my mind couldn't seek out what that was.

So I waited and prayed and followed and commented and kept feeling that incessant "something more"...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wait.Now Go.

Red Light. Wait. Wait. Wait.

I really am not very good at that word. I don't like hearing it. I don't like doing it. I understand that it is necessary. I get it that rushing ahead with my own ideas, plans, energies is just not productive. I have personal experience with the destruction that my haste can bring and the beyond-anything-I-could-imagine things that can happen when I just stop and wait. It still makes me want to stomp my feet and throw a hissy fit.


Green Light. Go. No, really. Go. Now. RUN!!!


Until I'm in the middle of watching the things that God has hands to do when He isn't so busy having to use them untangling me from thornbushes and catching me in mid-fall from the cliffs I've hurried myself right into. (I know. His hands are never too small. But it's gotta at least make it *easier* on Him when I'm not pulling that kind of mess!) Now is one of those watching times. HE amazes me. The Good Shepherd who cares tenderly for each of His sheep. Who knows each one of us from before birth. Who has a plan to work every event in our lives together for good. And I get to see one of those awesome steps in the plan unfold. All because, with the help of some friends, I actually obeyed this time and waited.


I'll give you the short story now and use following posts to fill in the details of what God has done. He has fulfilled a desire of my heart and is using that fulfilling to help fulfill the desires in another family's hearts. Don't you love it when you *see* how we are all one body that He entwines together?


Anyone who has read my blog or been familiar with my FaceBook account has seen me mention little Daniel who is being adopted by the Carlin family. Those readers have also seen me both announce my intent to run a half-marathon *and* come to the disheartening realization that I had no funds with which to enter that half-marathon. Here's the "one body" part (and a few of the goosebumps, too!). God has made a way to pay that entry fee. He has done it by honoring the requests of a very few of His kids who laid the desires of their hearts before Him. He has done it by means that could not possibly be ascribed to anyone else's glory. He has done it so that the Carlin's ministry to Daniel of providing a home, a family, a LIFE, may be that many steps closer to reality. He has done it. And He has proven, once again, that where two or more are gathered in His name (even if our gathering place is cyberspace) HE shows up.


As of now, I have officially registered to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon on February 27, 2011. I will be running to raise funds for Daniel. The cost of adopting a special needs child internationally can be staggeringly high. The cost of the Carlin's inability to adopt over such a minor thing as money would be unthinkable. So I will run the race that has been set before me while trusting God to provide once again.


If you are compelled (I do not use this word lightly; I believe firmly in the unsilencable urging of the Holy Spirit to act and I do not ask or expect anyone to do something out of obligation or guilt) to become a part in bringing Daniel home to his adopting family, to sponsor him by sponsoring my run, please click one of the two links now visible in my sidebar. Any amount will help and 100% of what is given will go directly to the Carlin family for Daniel. The first is a Chip-In account which will accept any amount and will go to the family. Gifts given here will not be tax deductible. The other is a direct link to the Carlin family's grant account at Reece's Rainbow, the non-profit organization that is facilitating Daniel's adoption. This avenue will be able to give you the proper documentation to make your gift tax deductible.

Whether it is your part in Daniel's story to donate, to be a voice advocating by linking your blog or FaceBook account, to lift his need before the Father and wait believing that He will answer... whatever your role in this story, it is my prayer that you will play it without hesitation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fear. Evil. Death.

It is approaching the end of October and once again, the old battle rages among those who call themselves Christian. To celebrate Halloween or to create an alternative; to speak out against any and all forms of celebration or to quietly close your doors and hide in the shadows until the evil day passes and you can once again carry on your daily life in the light.

Over the past several days, the topic has been running around in the back of my mind. Partly because a coworker's son is distressed at finding out that his family is Christian because that means, "I can't wear my Batman costume and get candy this year!" Partly because my own kids have been noticing and commenting on many of the decorations that are currently displayed, deeming some "nasty," others "stupid," and yet others "funny." The comments have afforded opportunities to talk about the difference between appropriate dress-up and glorifying evil; between demands/threats and accepting gifts; between the "whatsoever things" and those things that should not occupy our minds and hearts.

The more we have talked about these things, the more certain thoughts have worked themselves to the forefront:
"Fear not, for the Lord your God is with you..."

"For He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind."

"Grave, where is your victory; Death, where is your sting?"

"Let not evil overcome you, but overcome evil with good."

and, weaving in and through it all..."This is the day which the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."

It has all made me wonder. We debate, we argue, we study origins, we study historical context, we ennumerate changes in the holiday, we look down our noses at others who view the day differently than we... but do we ever ask how the Lord Himself views this day of His own creation? Not the celebration itself (and, really, which celebration? Halloween? Samhain? Fall Festival?), but THE DAY? He seems to have a high view of His creation. He loves it. Cares for it. Redeemed it.

And we call it unholy. Think about it. Generally speaking, THE DAY is seen as unholy. Not some of the actions that take place within it. Not some of the motivations of mens' hearts on it. THE DAY. October 31. It is unholy. Why? Why, when the Lord Himself created the day, when He went to great lengths to redeem ALL of His creation, do we say that His work does not extend to this one day? Because we have a problem with what certain people do on it? We cower in our homes, decry THE DAY from our pulpits, sequester ourselves in our churches, and pray for the day to pass and either protection or judgement to fall on those who live through it dependent upon their deeds.

We deny the power of our living God. We fear the evil that He has already overcome. We are afraid it will touch us, will somehow win the battle it has already lost if we do not hide ourselves from it. We do not counter it with good and live fully as unto our Lord on that day; we denounce any who would choose to find that which is good and lovely and dare to celebrate it on that day just because certain others choose to celebrate that which is abhorrent on the same day. We call it "softening the truth" or "imitating the World." I wonder how many other days in the calendar year that evil people celebrate evil things. Do they do it on Sundays? Saturdays? The days on which our birthdays and anniversaries fall? Should we scope it all out and make sure not to celebrate our Lord and the lives/families/gifts He has given us on those days as well?

Why, when He has clearly and explicitly commanded us to the contrary and assured us of our freedom, would we throw away the gifts of our Father and hand HIS DAY - the one HE created - over to the enemy? Why do we listen to the lies of fear, the taunting of evil, the cackling whisper of death who sneer that this is *their* day? Why do we block our ears to the joyous, jubilant voice of our Daddy who tells us that we are His and who calls us to rejoice in Him even on THIS day?

I don't get it.
Fear, Evil, Death...you've lost. Deal with it.
My Daddy and I have a playdate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Brief Revisitation...

***Okay, let's be honest. This is me. It's a not-so-brief revisitation.

Way back when, I was struggling with finding the good in life and seeing the beautiful that God has placed all around me. In an effort to overcome my depression and recover the joy that I had allowed to be stolen, I made a conscious effort to fix my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith and discover Him in whatever occurred. He does say that He is with me wherever I go, after all.

Oh, my, has He been faithful. He says that if we seek Him, we will find Him. He doesn't want to hide; He desires relationship with us so much that He makes Himself evident in everything His hand touches (which is, well, *everything* so He's kinda hard to miss...except to eyes fixed on their own host rather than their Creator.)

In recent days, I have become a bit wrapped up in school year planning, football practices, job stuff, keeping the household running... just the normal lifetime of a busy family. And I have neglected to make that disciplined effort to seek Him in the day-to-day; to stand in awe of Him in the little things. It is amazing how quickly we can become mired in the muck and drawn into exhaustion and frustration when we forget to be disciplined. So, for just a moment, join me as I regroup, refocus, and remember my First Love. He's worth remembering.

***Today, the 4 kids and I all went to an art class at Hollywood Studios. ALL FOUR were willing to sit at a light table. All four listened to the instructions and diligently followed them to the best of their abilities. When my autistic son became overwhelmed and felt that the instructions were coming too fast and he couldn't process them quickly enough, ***he did not tear the paper, scream in frustration, run out of the room*** He quietly put down his pencil, sat at my feet, and waited until the class was over. He wasn't happy with his product, but he listened - and seemed to have it sink in - that I was SO PROUD of him for both getting as far as he did and handling his frustration the way he did. I now have 4 precious drawings of Sorcerer Mickey and one unforgettable glimpse into how pleased my heavenly Daddy must be when each of His kids makes a small step or follows a few instructions, however messy the resulting product may be.

***Recently, a friend had a link to a post about how much our Daddy wants to see His girls twirl and dance with pure joy before Him. It hurt to read that. Because just a few days before, our family had been in a position to allow our kids to dance with abandon; it was an appropriate place, the music was happy, the joy and playfulness was all around us...and our kids sat. Unsure of what to do. Unwilling to look foolish. Unable to get past outward appearances and let their joy overflow into outward expression. O my. Have we been so concerned with proper behavior, have we pushed them so hard to "control yourself" or "be still" or "respect others by keeping the noise down" that we have made them self-conscious? Even in a venue where jumping for joy is to be desired and encouraged?? Ouch. How our Daddy must weep when He sees us rein ourselves in for the sake of keeping up appearances. But what joy it must bring Him when we refuse to let the opinion of others interfere with our enjoyment of Him and the wonderful things He gives us. The simple things: life, music, sunshine, rain, friendship, family, new experiences, delicious food, captivating animals, beautiful flowers, fulfilling work, meaningful conversation, creativity, play, the list goes on forever. Should not our joy AND our dance?!

Thanks, Daddy, for so many of the "whatsoever things" (check out this post for an explanation). Please help me remember to keep seeking You.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Breathe In...Breathe Out...

Aaaahhh...doesn't that feel better?

It's been one of those weeks. One of those months, really. Living life at break-neck speed and not necessarily handling the stress well. Most of the causes of the speed have been wonderful blessings: preparing for an awesome new job position for hubby, the return of football season for Mr. 14, purchasing a new scooter for job commuting, gutting storage areas, decluttering, rearranging furniture, getting organized for schooling, tons of research because we now have a direction with our 6-yr-old's autism diagnosis...lots of good stuff happening in our lives. Just stressful.

Some of the craziness has been not-so-good: family members and coworkers going through some tough times that weigh heavily on our hearts, me personally dealing with some wonderful shifts in my hormones that seem to be alerting me that my forties are fast approaching, some parenting challenges...not such fun but not dramatically horrible, either.

It has all reached a tipping point this week, though. You know that feeling that you've somehow reverted to your teen self and all that hormone-driven frustration/anger/self-pity makes you think your head is going to explode? (please tell me you know that feeling...I'm not the only hormone-crazed thirty-something out here, am I?) Thankfully, I have the benefit of age now and understand rationally that it's really not all that bad. In fact, my life is quite amazing. I just find myself thinking that maybe it would be even easier if other people weren't involved! ;)

So, rather than remove myself from those people or remove those people from the planet, I took some time to smell the roses today.

Well...not really the roses. More like the native flora and fauna of Florida. And you know what I found? I remembered that this is the place that the peace that passes all understanding is most felt. By me, anyway. The quiet rippling of a creek, the graceful dive of a seagull or pelican, the perfect artistic blend of colors and textures in the greenery and grasses...all of it carries the very essence of peace and oneness with my Creator. It is almost tangible and I find myself unconsciously breathing deeply the scent of tranquility.

This is my backyard.




I may not have material possessions, I may not have monetary wealth, I may not have status or prestige, I may not have perfect children or be in perfect control of my own self at all times...but I am blessed. In fact, in many ways because I lack some of those things, I am blessed. One step out of my door and I am graced with this. Beauty created for my eyes to behold, lovingly placed here by my Creator for my sustenance. It is not just water for drinking and soil in which to grow food, but sustenance for my spirit as well.

Quiet in the midst of noise, tranquility when I'm surrounded by busy-ness. The simple pleasure of space in which to breathe...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grace - Marvelous Grace

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Refrain

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Refrain

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Refrain

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?


Words: Julia H. Johnston, in Hymns Tried and True (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois: The Bi­ble In­sti­tute Col­port­age As­so­ci­a­tion, 1911), num­ber 2.

Music: Daniel B. Towner, 1910


**************
I have no idea how many times I mouthed the words to this hymn in my childhood years. Somehow, I always thought of it as talking about the moment of choosing to follow Jesus; what Baptist circles call the moment of salvation. A singular moment in time when a choice is made that determines an eternal future of forgiveness for everything past, present, future that I may mess up.

More and more as I walk with Him, I am beginning to see that choice, that moment of receiving His grace, as something that happens multiple times a day. Will I believe that His grace obliterates my sin? My guilt? My despair? Do I choose to acknowledge the truth that I *cannot* hide my dark stain...and that it is okay because He has washed it away? Not in some theoretical, I-know-that-is-how-He-has-arranged-my-eternity kind of understanding. Rather, in a practical, daily-living-in-freedom-and-abundance kind of understanding. Do I believe that *this* guilt, *this* stain, *this* despair, *this* shortfall - the one staring me in the face that I cannot deny and am loathe to admit - THIS ONE IN THIS MOMENT can be expunged from my record, will be expunged, if only I will choose to receive His grace? Now? Not at some past moment, not in some glorious prearranged future, but right now. As I follow Him. As I walk in relationship with Him. Now.

Will I THIS MOMENT His grace receive?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Melodramatic

How I feel today just feels so melodramatic. I know my life is basically good. I know my family is blessed in a thousand ways. I know that I have personally grown so much and am so thankful for that. And yet...

Today began with bickering kids. Then, I noticed a message on my phone. From my employer. Wondering where I was today... Today? I'm off on Tuesdays. Except for last week when I specifically asked for my day off to be switched to accommodate a doctor's appointment. But that was an exception to the rule. Except that my manager wasn't sure of that and scheduled me identically this week and I failed to notice when the schedule was posted. And, so... the message on my phone that I didn't notice until my shift was almost over.

It is a small thing. A mistake and oversight anyone could have made. A miscommunication that is forgivable. I know this. In fact, my manager forgave me and put me on the schedule for tomorrow as normal. So why can't I let go of it? Why do I feel so very inadequate and guilty over something I would easily forgive in someone else?

This overdeveloped sense of guilt; this feeling that mistakes are unacceptable has plagued me since childhood. A "B" was not good enough; an "A" really only counted if it was 100%; I would not try activities that I did not feel I could excel in - better to miss out than to fail. Better to look stuck up and not participate than to look the fool when I couldn't accomplish something. Better to just say no than to say yes and then wind up letting everyone down. Better to have few friends than let many people in and have them realize that I was flawed. Immensely. The weight of the world on my shoulders.

I don't know why. Maybe I feel the effect of my choices on others too strongly. Maybe I worry too much about how others view me. Maybe personal responsibility and integrity can be carried too far and leave no room for mercy and human failing. The sentiment was only strengthened by my years of life in the fishbowl of on-staff ministry. How I was viewed directly affected how my husband was viewed; better get it right. All the time.

I am struggling today. Struggling to reconcile what I know to be true with my emotions. Struggling to silence the voice that is calling me a failure and telling me that my lack of perfection is causing those with whom I work to think less of me. Struggling to live in the forgiveness that I would extend to another in my position. Balancing on the precipice of depression which I have fought so hard to overcome.

Trying so hard to remember that love covers a multitude of imperfections. Even mine.

***Edit: Thomas Alva Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." So there, melodrama. I just found something that doesn't work. Onward to discover that which does!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sabbath

A day of rest. A day to look at what God has made and reflect that it is, indeed, "very good."

Today was truly a Sabbath. I'm still a little shocked by it all. Does it ever amaze you when God's presence is almost tangible? When you focus on His Word and experience the power of it? It was one of those days today.

Yesterday was not. Yesterday was full of fighting. Whining. Anger. Frustration. Foiled plans. Yuk.I was NOT a happy mommy.

My wonderful husband sensed this. I think it may have had something to do with the multitude of texts he recieved from me during his workday. Or the mild meltdown he experienced over the phone. Or the twitching eyelid and pronounced, throbbing vein he encountered when I met him at the door upon his arrival home. Whatever subtle hint he picked up on, he decided that it would be wise to have some adult-only time last night. And so we did. The kids got pizza and big brother babysitting. The adults went out for a real meal and some conversation.

We talked about the insanity that had been our day. We talked about the frustration of things that KEEP happening no matter how we beg the kids to stop. We talked about how our approach to some of them just wasn't working. We talked about how maybe we had fallen into a rut of "do this now" parenting rather than creative training. And we talked about some solutions. We returned home rested, renewed, and with hope and some ideas in our heads.

This morning, the kids woke up. Some of the same old things started happening. So, some of the creative solutions were implemented. We had identified how people spoke to one another as a real issue in our house. Normal sibling rivalry has turned into controlling, demanding, manipulating, and downright meanness lately. It's driving me nuts. But this morning, rather than saying STOP IT!!!! and becoming adversarial, we got with the kids and worked out a plan. We talked *with* the kids instead of *to* them. (This used to be the case, but as more kids got added to the mix and other things happened in our lives, we just got lazy. And we've paid for that laziness.) Turns out, they don't like the constant infighting any more than we do.

Our solution? Turn it into a game. We found an appropriate verse in Proverbs to be our reminder and our guide to right speech. It is prominently featured on our bulletin board. Underneath it is a crudely drawn game board on a piece of printer paper. It is sectioned into 12 spaces - one for each hour of the day from 9am to 9pm. Each family member has his/her own game piece. For each hour that the player successfully goes with using only kind words, he/she moves forward one space. For each unkind/whiny/mean word, there is a one space backward penalty as well as an immediate 5 minute time out. Yes, adults included. Each and every player that reaches the end of the game board at the end of the day is awarded something special on the following day. We will do this for one week, then choose another verse to turn into a game.

The consensus at the end of today? Everyone loved it. The kids said it was easier to obey when it was a game; they could more easily visualize the consequences of their actions. The parents never had to raise their voices - just had to ask if the player was choosing to lose a space. The entire family is accountable to one another, and each understands that ultimately we are accountable to the God who asks us to live in unity and love. In fact, it worked so well that THE KIDS THEMSELVES were busy figuring out which issues would make good games for subsequent weeks. Obeying the first time, keeping bodies under control, taking care of toys... the suggestions were endless. I love that today was so peaceful even as we worked on something that has been so difficult to overcome in recent months.

Thank you, Lord for a Sabbath. For a day to look at the family you have given us and see that it is very good. May it continue...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teacher? Student?

Do you ever feel like God only gave you kids so that you could learn from them? They reflect us back to ourselves, say OUT LOUD the things we think so that we can really hear it, and sometimes - I am totally convinced - say the very words that God Himself puts in their mouths for us.

Recent things heard in our household:

"I don't want to say what I really think only to have my face slapped with it." Ouch. That bugs my kids as bad as it bugs me, huh? To be heard...patiently and truly heard...is a beautiful gift.

"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Why do *I* have to get in trouble? He did it first!" Yep. I hear ya. Consequences rot. Especially when you were led into the behavior that earned them. However, you had a choice whether to follow. Learn to think critically and decide for yourself; casting blame is pointless. Yes, Mommy had to learn that the hard way, too.

"Why do I always do that?! I don't want to but I do!" Oh, darlin'. Lord, remind me to respond with compassion; I'm right there with you, kiddo.

"Mommy, Daddy... I love you even when I hurt you." spoken with hugs and direct eye contact. Ever disbelieve or respond harshly to that from one of your kids...only to realize you've said the same thing to God a million times?

********

Lest anyone have any doubts about why I was entrusted with these kids (not because I'm so smart or gifted but because I have so much to learn!!), allow me to enlighten you to what I discovered as I proofread this prior to posting. This post was written, start to finish, as the intro and various quotes came to mind. Assuredly, the last one listed was the one that prompted the post but the order changed in my head as I wrote and came out as you see it now.

Why is this significant? Because, as I checked for spelling errors, I found that each quote originated from a different child and they are listed in the correct birth order. This was not intentional. I honestly did not consider the mouth from which the quotes emanated; I just knew that these specific words had stuck in my heart this week. EVERY SINGLE ONE of my children has taught me something about myself, my God, and my relationship to Him and others. Thanks for the living lessons, Daddy. Help me to learn them well.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Resurrection: to make alive that which was dead

Interesting conversation with the hubby this morning. We were feeling strange - for the second year in a row - because Easter is here and we are doing...nothing special. Nothing religious. No Easter service, no eggs, no baskets, nothing. And we don't feel bad about it. Then Dan told me about a conversation he had with a coworker last night.

The coworker was angry. Really, righteously indignant-type angry. He is a Christian and had to work today. On Easter Sunday. He can't go to church. His take: "It just makes me so mad. As Christians, on Easter, we're supposed to just totally focus on Jesus. And here I have to work instead of being in church and focused on what I'm supposed to focus on."

Dan's response: "I was a minister in churches for 15 years. I worked EVERY Sunday - including EVERY Easter Sunday."

It stopped the coworker in his tracks. That had never occurred to him before. And it was a reminder again to us of how differently we view our walk with Christ now. That walk is a daily, personal relationship, not just a "special dates and occasions" acquaintanceship wrapped around certain programs and activities. We *can* focus on Him and the meaning of His resurrection - and the power of it in our lives - whether we are at work, on a playground, doing laundry, herding kids, whatever. The power of the resurrection works in our lives DAILY, in and through ALL of our activities.

Some will see what I'm about to say as heresy but I know it to be truth: the fact of the matter is that the power of the resurrection is MORE evident in our lives now that we *do not* attend religous services regularly than it was when we did. Jesus is a real person in our lives, capable and willing to love us for who and where we are, having COMPLETED His redemption in our lives. We can rest in that and just be who we are meant to be. We no longer worry about doing the things we *think* He (or others who claim to know Him) requires us to do to be good enough. None of the relationship with Him rests on what we are "supposed to do." It is totally and completely about what He has already done. The resurrection is the power to heal, to rescue, to complete, to reconcile, to love. It is the power to LIVE in the freedom of knowing that reality is finished, completely accomplished. When He hung on the cross and declared "It is finished" He meant it. For all time, for all creation. It is finished. He accomplished His purpose. There is no undoing it no matter how we fail or falter. We are free to live.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Free Range vs. Fear Filled

Okay, so it's been forever since I've posted. And I have a ton of things to report: new part-time job, new friends at said job, beginning to see how that whole living-your-faith-outside-the-church-organization thing is becoming a reality, great stories about the kids and the hubby... and yet... And yet I'm breaking my long silence for a rant. I'll get back to that stuff, I promise. But I have just got to vent.

When did we become a society that insulated our children, giving them a false security in the belief that if they simply follow the rules no danger will ever befall them? When did we stop realizing that LIFE, if lived properly, involves risk? That such risks are not only worth taking but are VITAL to our growth and development? That through facing risks, we learn wisdom, restraint, acceptance of failure, responsibility, tenacity, resourcefulness...any number of character traits that make life the grand adventure that it should be? To steal a favorite descriptor from a friend, when did we trade in our "Free Range Kids" for "Fear-filled What-Ifers"?

What brings this rant on? Today a 9 year old child was killed at Disney World. He was biking ON A BIKING TRAIL with his 11 year old friend. A bus passed. For whatever reason, he left the bike path, struck the side of the bus, was drawn underneath, and killed. Tragic. And the response?? The traditional "Disney is evil," mixed with tons of blame-casting in both the driver and child's direction, and then the one that infuriated me:

"WHERE WERE THE PARENTS??? I mean, come on! What were an 11 year old and 9 year old doing riding their bikes ALONE? My kids aren't even allowed in the front yard alone, nevermind riding bikes along a roadway."

What??!! Your 9 year old has not the freedom to play outdoors? Really? Do you have any concept how many children ride their bikes to school on much more dangerous streets than those at Disney's campground? Where were the parents? Probably at their campsite relaxing and thinking with joy about the freedom and fun that their kids were enjoying riding the short distance - along a clearly marked bike path - to the playground/pool area. Trusting that they had instructed the kids in proper bicycle safety (both were wearing helmets). Knowing that freedom is sometimes worth the risk. And knowing that an intelligent 4th/5th/6th grade child has the capacity to handle that amount of freedom.

Did that child make a mistake? Yes. Did it have tragic results? Yes. Was a vacation in the happiest place on earth forever marred by a horrific accident? Yes. Is it worth stripping children of freedom in order to make sure nothing bad ever happens? NO!! (btw, it wouldn't work anyway...planes fall into living rooms, cars crash through storefronts, fires break out, falls happen, heck I found a scorpion poised on the shoulder of a shirt in the closet once...the belief that absolute safety exists is a ridiculous lie in itself.)

Let's teach our children that bad things *can* happen, whether we are in our homes, on the streets, in a theme park, wherever. Not that they should be AFRAID of everyone and everything but that they should learn to be observant and make wise choices. Let's teach them to overcome bad things so that they can have confidence in facing adversity as they grow older. Let's teach them that while there are some things for which a specific person or event is to blame, it is never worthwhile to spend our time casting that blame; this just embitters and paralyzes us and makes us incapable of enjoying the beauty in life. Let's teach them that they are capable of making the wise choices, give them opportunities to do so, and be there to help them put the pieces back together when they fail. And if, in doing so, they fail in a manner that causes them harm, our hearts may break, but we will know that they lived a life worth living. A life not paralyzed by fear of the what-ifs. A life basking in the beauty and joys of experiencing life to the full rather than sitting indoors wondering what boogie man lurked just outside the door.

Okay, I'm done. But if anyone asks you WHERE were my kids' parents when they break their leg jumping into the creek behind our house, just know that I've taught them the dangers, stayed with them for several creek adventures, and am confident in their capacity to make the wise choice on that score. The choice is up to them now. Go get 'em my free-range kiddos!!!

**Edit: Of course, the day after posting this, my youngest decides to take advantage of the mad rush to get Daddy out the door to work, leave her known playtime boundaries, go visiting, and enter the rv of someone we've never met. Grrrrrr. More teaching about the bad things that can happen, shrinking of the boundaries, and a later attempt at regaining the freedom to be trusted on the porch seem called for. This whole philosophy of training your kids to handle freedom plays out in a *very* time- and energy-consuming way. But I'm still convinced that the payoff of confident, aware, character-filled kids is totally worth the work and risk!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Pursuit of Perfection

WARNING: This is the hashing through of some things God's been working on with me. It is sometimes a bit disjointed. Welcome to the chaos that is my brain...

What is sin, really? How we define it determines how we address it in others - and how we view God's take on it and on us. All of my religious life I've been taught a basic rule: Obedience equals righteousness equals love; disobedience equals sin equals hate. Simple. So I can measure if I'm righteous (pleasing God, measuring up, really love Him) by if I'm being obedient. But I'm not always obedient. In fact, I'm disobedient quite a bit. Which means I'm not measuring up. Which means I'm backslidden. Which means I don't really love Him. Which means I'm guilty. Which means I am condemned. Just ask me; I can tell you that my heart is telling me I'm not good enough - ever. The condemnation is nearly a physical presence. And it's all a logical following from that view of sin based on the proof verses that have been given; primarily the verses that say "If you love me, keep my commandments" and "to obey is better than sacrifice." But...

What if that understanding of those verses is wrong? What if they mean that my love for Him will manifest itself in acts of obedience, not that I need to self-examine and determine to will myself to obey, thereby *proving* my love? What if, in fact, obedience is simply an outgrowth of a loving relationship, a by-product if you will, rather than a self-willed act predicated on my understanding the will of God and turning away from "sinful disobedience" and toward "righteous obedience." Doesn't our very understanding of love recoil at the thought of having to "prove ourselves" to our lover? Doesn't love accept you for who you are and seek mutual service, not some series of hoops through which you must jump to gain its favor? Does love really say "if you don't do what I want you do to, you must not really love me"? If we saw a human relationship run on that understanding, wouldn't we call it "unhealthy" at best or "abusive" at worst? Yet we attribute this to God...and we transfer it to our parenting techique. IF YOU LOVE ME YOU *WILL* DO AS I SAY, AND IF YOU DON'T, YOU PROVE THAT DON'T LOVE OR RESPECT ME AND YOU WILL FACE MY CONDEMNATION.

If I was incapable of offering a perfect sacrifice of blood, how in the world can I be expected to offer a perfect sacrifice of obedience? I'm set up for failure and condemnation by this rule. How does that fit with the verses that say "there is none righteous," or "the Law was added so that trespass might increase"... does that mean that God sets me up for failure? That doesn't seem to gel with Who He says He is or with the whole of the rest of Scripture. Although it *does* make a convenient mode through which large numbers of people can be manipulated into furthering a certain person or group's ambitions or goals. Obey the Spiritual chain of command, voila! You're good enough. Disobey it? Tut-tut... you need to get right with God or get back into submission to His will (as revealed through said chain of command, of course.) And I'm thinking that it leads to the reproduction of lots of "whitewashed sepulchres" who are polished on the outside, but whose hearts are centered on self and whether self measures up rather than on God and loving Him.

However, what if sin's definition is what I read on another blog recently:

"Sin is falling short of perfection. Since we are not perfect, everything we do falls short. Thus, everything we do is in some way sinful....Debating forever about whether something is sinful or not is indeed long and tedious."

What if sin is, indeed, simply the missing of the mark of perfection. What if that military term is what it means, pure and simple - nothing more, nothing less. Just slotting your arrow, aiming as best you can at the target, drawing back the bowstring with all your strength, retaining as steady a hand as you can manage, letting fly,... and missing. What if, before the foundation of the world, the Creator *knew* that the creation couldn't hit that mark. What if that's why the Lamb was slain BEFORE THE FOUNDATION? This seems to gel better with Who He says He is and what He says my relationship to Him is. He says that apart from Him I can do nothing. He says that all of my righteousness is as filthy rags. He KNOWS that I can't hit perfection to save my life. That's why He saved my life for me. That's why He sacrificed Himself from the beginning. That's why He says that sin was in the world already before the Law (we didn't measure up before we ever realized that we didn't measure up.) That's why He sent the Law to reveal my need to me and the Messiah to fulfill the Law for me. That's why He says that there is no condemnation in Him; what is there to condemn? I just can't do it on my own - the created cannot attain being the Creator. No condemnation there, just truth. I'm good, but I'm not *that* good. And He doesn't *expect* me to be. What He wants - what He desires me to obey - is that I love Him for Who HE is. That I accept that I can't be Him, relax in being who I am, and let Him provide the lack. That our relationship bind us together as one, He the undeniably stronger partner, and that I rest and revel in that love, returning it as I am able through doing what would please Him rather than trying to *compete* with it and prove that I can be as good as He can.

So, what is it that would please Him? Do I need to cull the Scripture for a listing of activities in which I must involve myself? Attitudes which I must adopt? Or did He really mean what He said: that the whole of the Law and the Prophets hangs on two simple things - Love God and Love People. Can it really be that simple? Can it be so easy to individualize to my own talents and interests? Can my relationship with Him be just that - mine - and not have to look like anybody else's who has different talents, interests, and strengths? Can He really be able to love me, and you, and everybody else, for who we are? Can He complete me where I'm incomplete, and you where you are incomplete, and accept our love in the ways that we can exhibit it? Even if it's different from one another? Even if it isn't perfect?

And can we pass that kind of love on to our own kids? Can we accept them for who they are, love them and help to fill in their gaps, without condemning them for being incomplete and in need of a Messiah, too? Can we be patient with where their gaps coincide with our own and we both need the intervention of our Creator? Can we accept the love they can give in the manner in which they can give it and not bat it aside as not quite as perfect as we'd hoped? Can we accept their obedience as an outpouring of their love rather than demanding it as a proof of it? Can we accept their disobedience as a sign that they're as much a created thing as we are ourselves? And can we use it as an opportunity to introduce them to the Creator who loves them and knows they miss the mark and provided for them before the foundations of the world?

Or will we continue the cycle of predictable failure? And predictable depression? And predictable turning away from a god they can never please?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Torn

I'm feeling terribly torn right now. I want to know but I want no part of it. I'm hurting for my friends but I don't want to take up offenses of others.

What am I talking about, right?

Some background:
I recently spent a little over a week in Texas with a dear friend and her family as they celebrated the marriage of their firstborn. It was a whirlwind of a time full of the event itself, prep, cleanup, visiting and laughing in-between, getting to literally live their lives with them for a week (how fun to get a glimpse -- and whew! I thought we were busy!!). It was such a blessing to be there. To get to talk to them face-to-face after two years of absence. To play with their kids. To share some of the joys and hurts they're going through. Loved the time.

But...it also held a few surreal moments for me. You see, it also put me in a position to attend the church that we left when we decided to leave full-time vocational ministry. My eldest son basically grew up there and was anxious to attend the youth group so he could see his old friends. When that possibility came up, the second son asked if they still had the AWANA program he had enjoyed. Son #3 didn't really remember much and has little to no interest in organized class settings, but the minute a playground was mentioned, he was up for going. The little princess is a social butterfly and wanted to go make new friends, too (it was so cute watching her play with some of the other "Hurricane Rita" babies - they're all so grown up now!). Of course, this was brought up a little more than an hour before said activities were to take place, so another whirlwind ensued getting everyone ready to go.

I was nervous at best. I didn't want to hold my kids back from their friends but I also had some serious reservations about going back to that setting. Would I be able to stand in the freedom I've found without becoming condemning toward my brothers and sisters in Christ who have remained in that organization? Would I feel like I had to explain myself? How would I answer the "so what church are you guys at now" question...or the "where's Dan ministering" question... it's easy with folks who haven't lived the history with us but these folks had. And some of them were a little unhappy with us when we left. Some of them had judged our motivations incorrectly, disagreed with our decision, and really didn't bother to take the time to know us well enough to realize the truth. Some of them I knew loved us and would take us as we were...but what about the others? Some of them I loved and would embrace freely...but what about those whose actions and words had hurt me? It's one thing to forgive a thousand miles away...would I find old grudges rising up in my heart or had the healing really been effective? I prayed as I dressed the kids, dressed myself, and headed out. Our God is awesome.

Ben, my eldest, sat in the front seat of the car with me. He knew I was nervous - and he knew why. We've had open conversations with him about things. Sometimes he's a pretty insightful kid. When we were almost to the church, he turned, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Mom, listen. God's encouraging you. It'll be fine." I was puzzled but then realized he was turning up the song on the radio that I hadn't really clued in on. David Crowder's "I am free" was playing. Go God. And Go, Ben. Thanks, kiddo.

We went to the church that night and I was so blessed. Hugs and great conversations with old friends. Granted, a few sideways glances from some folks...the very ones I'd expected them from. But I found that the healing had indeed held true. I wasn't surprised by their coldness, I found my assessment of their take on things to be exactly what I had expected...but I wasn't personally hurt by it; I wasn't angered by it. I was a little saddened by it because there is no way I can possibly correct their view of myself and my husband. There is no way I can make myself acceptable to them or cause them to understand my point of view and agree to disagree. In the face of that knowledge, though, I was able to say "it is what it is" and move on and truly enjoy fellowship with some of the others there. When we returned for Wednesday service, I was able to fellowship with more of my family in TX and worship our Father with them. It is still not a setting to which I wish to bind myself again but I have found that when I am in it, I can freely love my extended family and freely worship my God. It's awesome to test the limits of His grace and healing and find them boundless.

So...why am I torn?

Since I've returned home, snippets of communication have come to my notice that prove that all is not well in that church. Hurtful things are happening to people I care about. I don't know the details. I haven't recieved any direct communications about it. It's just kinda swirling out there on the edge of things within my view. I don't know who is behind the hurt. I don't know specifically who all is targeted. But I know that people I love are being hurt. And the defensive, loyal, protective side of me wants to know who the culprit is, what exactly they've done, who has been affected, and set it all to rights. But I know I can't fix it. Deep down, I know that it's probably not good for me to know the details because my tendency would be not to pray for healing (at first) but to take up the offenses of the hurt party and sit the offending party down for a good talking-to. *sigh*

It is things like this that make me so thankful that I am free from living in that setting. Yet, it is things like this that make me want to still have some insight into what's happening in that setting so that I can help my friends. It is things like this that bring me to the point of decision...do I really believe that I can do anything more for my friends than our mutual Father can do? Do I want to surrender my freedom to become embroiled in the bondage of my past "for the sake of friends"? No on both counts. I find myself resigned to fight for my friends in this battle in the only way I know how: by lifting them up before the Father.

May He protect you. May He bind your wounds and be the balm of Gilead to you. May He guide your footsteps and keep you from falling. May He guard your tongue and keep you from being ashamed. May His love superceed your enemy's hatred. May you stand in the Truth and be kept safe from harmful lies. May you face battle with the Armor and Host of God Almighty and find respite in your Rock and Fortress. May you know, through it all, that you are beloved.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's a Personal Thing

The situation in Haiti has become of personal interest to Dan and I because of relationships with his co-workers. Some of you may not be aware, but Disney World is run with a large population of Haitian workers. It is so great a population that all employment documents are printed in 3 languages: English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. The effect of this earthquake - it's devastation to entire families - is heart-wrenching. Disney has effectively offered amnesty to any Haitian nationals for days off of work; they are calling in daily and there are no reprimands at all as they try to spend their time tracking down family. Communications have been difficult at best.

One of Dan's coworkers has heard nothing about her family, but chooses to come in to work anyway rather than sit idly in her apartment worrying. Another has had her uncle call in for her every day since the tragedy because she is so distraught; her friend in Haiti was able to send her news that she has likely lost her *entire* family. Their apartment building collapsed and they can find none of them. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, neices, nephews, brothers, sisters - all shared 3 apartments in the same building and none can be found. To her knowledge, her only remaining family is the uncle with whom she moved to the United States. Hers is not an isolated incident. Those who have lost family have lost great numbers of family.

And the effects do not end there. Port-Au-Prince is the supply center for the entire nation. As its infrastructure has collapsed, the outlying areas find attaining food and fuel - basic necessities - to be near impossible. My friends, I find myself wondering what one person can do in this mess. Will the monetary donations make it into the right hands? If supplies are purchased, can they be delivered? What can be done?? And what difference will it make? I don't honestly know. I find myself remembering the words of another missionary in Kenya, Johnny Brooks. He says that he went there with big visions of ending poverty, changing the world. And over time, he realized that he could only touch one life at a time.

Can we fix it all? Can we make it all better? No. We can't. Not for everyone. But we *can* use the connections that we personally have, the resources that we personally have, and we can use them to help in the small place to which we have access. It won't fix everything. But it will minister Christ's love in the place He can use us. It may seem small. But think about the times when someone who could touch you helped in a seemingly small way. It made a difference *to you* didn't it? Maybe that's what it's about. Not one person tackling the whole big world of problems, but one person reaching one other person.

On that note, let me introduce you to the small place to which *I* have access:

Good Shepherd Ministries is led by a family - the Youngers - that I knew from my teen years on. I babysat their kids (and their pit bull who was such a teddy bear!), watched them train them up in the love of the Lord, and, along with them, heard many presentations from the organization they now lead in Haiti during my growing-up years. After I had married and moved away, they chose to become full-time missionaries in Haiti with the missions group that had presented so many times in our church. Good Shepherd has been operating in Haiti since the 1970's, providing schools, orphan care, medicinal care, and living the love of Christ. The Youngers were not in-country at the time of the earthquake, but you can read of their ongoing work there, ways that you can help, and the people that they already have on the ground at this time. There are far-reaching consequences to the entire country from this earthquake, and Good Shepherd is uniquely positioned to help even in out-lying areas of Haiti beyond the Port-au-Prince area.

Please be praying for the Youngers, their staffers, and their families. Take a look at their website and decide if maybe theirs is a ministry that you are led to support. Find the small thing you can do to touch the other life you can touch.