Monday, December 14, 2009


This year, at my daughters' choir concert, I watched little 6-year-olds march into the church in their adorable sheep and shepherd outfits. Three teenagers carried in gifts, wearing splendid robes, like choir boys carrying the sacred items to the altar.

We know that celebrations of the nativity like this are not meant to be representations of the actual event. I started wondering...what would an American equivalent be? Joseph and Mary, good, church-attending kids, who got pregnant out of wedlock. Heads shake, because although we hope they do better, we know that so often church kids look just like the world. They drive an Aerostar, handed down in the family, to Kansas City, because Joseph hears they are hiring there, and he desperately needs a job. They don't have enough money for a hotel, and they are run out of several parking lots for vagrancy. One shop owner, locking up for the night, tells them to park behind his rental house, which hasn't been leased yet. He can't let them stay in the house, but they can sleep in their van in the driveway without fear of being run off.

In that van, in that borrowed driveway, Mary gives birth to the Savior of the world, whose head is cone-shaped, and he snorts a lot. We don't know His apgar score; they clean Him up as best they can and wrap Him in a blanket that Joseph's mom had bought for them, a beautiful new one, blue because Mary was just "sure" it would be a boy. The Savior, helpless in their arms. He's too tired to nurse, so they cuddle up as best as they can to try to sleep.

In a bar not too many streets over, some Hispanic landscape workers have stopped to have a beer before heading home. They are laughing and telling stories, the only people there except the owner and a waitress, when suddenly a brilliant light appears from the wall. A form appears in the light and speaks to them: do not be afraid, there is good news. The angel gives them an address, tells them they will find a baby newly born in an Aerostar van, and then suddenly the inside of the bar is bathed in light and angels everywhere, on every wall, across the ceiling, as if the roof has been lifted off and transported them all to heaven, giving glory to God Almighty...and then it stops. It's just a bar again. The men are stunned. They leave their drinks, their expensive equipment and run the few blocks to the place where the angels told them they would find a child. Sure enough! The beautiful blue blanket, the tiny, impoverished family, somehow just like them. The men marvel at the angel's accurate words. What a visitation! What could this mean! They tell everyone they meet, but no one understands it. The media won't even pick up the story, because it's just a group of Hispanics with a wild tale (from a bar, no less). The owner of the bar buys a picture of an angel to hang on the wall; they will never forget this night in this one run-down watering hole. This is the first place Jesus is exalted, God's choice of a church service.

Joseph does find work as a welder (his trade), and they rent a small house, and the baby grows. Mary gets a job at a fabric shop and Jesus stays with a woman next door who takes in a few neighbor kids. She's not registered with DHS, but they trust her, and she is very fond of their child. One day when Mary stops to pick up Jesus after getting off work, she finds three men in business suits talking with Jesus' caretaker. They were wanting to know if this was indeed Jesus BarJoseph, born on such and such date. Mary is puzzled and a little hesitant to answer their questions, but God somehow eases her heart, that it is safe to say yes. They have been searching for this child. The white-haired man who seems to be in charge introduces himself as Warren Buffett. Mary does not know who he is, but he says that he has been waiting for this child, and he would like to be a silent benefactor. He has set up a trust fund for the child, to provide private schooling, an allowance for necessary living expenses, and a college education. He would like to finance any venture that the child chooses when He is grown...could they sit and talk? Mr. Buffett has brought his lawyer and accountant. He assures Mary that he wants nothing in return; it is a blessing simply to silently provide what he can. Mary marvels at this. She remembers the immigrant workers who came when Jesus was born, and she stores these things in her heart. Her son will now be able to go to a good school, have decent clothes. How good of God to provide, even before the child is in preschool.

Because Mary and Joseph are not wealthy, the neighborhood where they live is a little rough. They are sometimes harassed for being Middle Eastern. When Jesus is about two, a very bad character begins asserting influence. He is an Asian gang member, recently moved to Kansas City from Los Angeles, and he has some ideas about what should be happening in their corner of the world. As his influence grows, their neighborhood becomes very frightening, and they often find themselves under attack by this new gang. One night, warned in a dream, Joseph is instructed to take their son and flee to Arkansas...

Wouldn't it be fun to set up a nativity with a tiny model Aeorstar, three figures stuffed inside, Hispanic workers running towards it, sometimes modeled with a weedeater in hand, to show their trade. A figure of Warren Buffet and two other men in suits standing to the side, with briefcases. Our version has a limo that these businessmen arrived in, and there is a stray dog cocking his head and looking in the van, curious like everyone else.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kneading Hands

Zechariah watched his wife, kneading
the bread with her strong hands,
hands that lifted water in their
heavy jars, hands that held no child.
We are good, he thought, but
no. No one is good. Just God.
And her empty hands brushed at
her skirt, she absently tucked
her hair back up. She lifted
the paddle to the oven door, then
reached for oil, pouring a small
amount to a vial stuffed with
rosemary. Again, wiping her hands,
again tucking her hair, again
standing empty. She smiled
over her shoulder, feeling
his eyes upon her aging body.
He knew her long hair, once
black like the darkness in
the corners of the Temple, now
streaked with gray, the wisdom
of her age. Only God
is good, he knew, and what
can we expect to have
from his hand.

No genealogies were written
of those without children.
No begats with no belonging,
no place to be written. And Zechariah
sat in the kitchen, his own age
allowing him this moment of rest
in days that were full of teaching,
serving, tending the garden.
Old Avirim who worked
in the Temple decades ago
had died, no sons. And Zechariah
now itched to write them down,
to write them all, the litany
of childless men, with women
baking their warm flat bread
in empty homes. An urge
rose in him, to know his wife,
to write on her beautiful
aging body his love, indeed
the mystery of God.

I'm dying

This summer was hard, but I feel like I've resurfaced. Ah, now I can get back to growing with God! But alas...I might have resurfaced, yet I seem to be merely bobbing in the water. I'm not swimming. In fact, I seem to be confused and tired.

My pastor is preaching a sermon series called Jesus Hates Religion. One Sunday, he equated his friends going to bars in the college years with the time he spent going to Bible studies. These activities were the same: both were seeking a place where they were accepted. Neither had anything to do with Jesus. This thought has occurred to me before, and I am camping here a while. A lot of why I go to church has to do with how much people like me there. It's not a bad thing.

In contemplating religious people, I have admitted that I am one. My husband has chastised me, "Don't get legalistic about not being legalistic," which highlights how prone I am to making & obeying rules. In trying to grasp this problem of religion, I have imagined going to bars and wondering why that is fun, compared with going to Bible studies.

In a bar, do you require yourself to be in a certain mood? Are you required to prepare before you go? Do you insist that you listen to everyone else's problems, but not burden anyone with your own? Do you have to talk or can you sit sullenly until you choose otherwise?

Today, I wish church was just a Panera, where you could sit, talk, and eat good food, with soothing music in the background and maybe a fire. I think I'm dying a little bit more to self--my stubborn, shiny, religious self.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Out by the barn

Law and grace. I'm not sure how much you have thought about these concepts, but our church has been discussing them intensely in a new sermon series, Jesus Hates Religion. Law says that you have to; grace says that you get to. The tension between these two is high, and I find myself wrestling with them while I listen to pastor. This is one of the core messages of our church; I have explored this topic in my thoughts, my practices, and my writing, and still...sigh.

A friend told me recently that the world can be divided into sinners and Pharisees. In the story of the prodigal son, you see the two: the heathen younger son and the good older boy. A line from a Rich Mullins song (can't remember which one) says, "Ain't nobody so bad that the Lord can't save 'em/Ain't nobody so good that they don't need God's love." Sinner and Pharisee. Wild one and the good boy.

I'm blogging this morning because I don't want to read my Bible. Part of me does...but I can't tell if it is a religious voice in me. If I just did whatever I wanted, I would go play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, but part of me knows that there is nothing down that road but emptiness. Hm, I don't want emptiness. I want purpose. The road labeled "Purpose" seems to have the first step of reading the Bible, but I think I'm going off-road. Talk to me, God. I don't want easy answers.

It is as if I am the older brother, and while coming in from the fields, I hear my Father celebrating with that stupid brat who has come home. In the story, the brother gets mad & his Father comes out to sort of chastise him, sort of coax him toward the right path. Since I know the story, I can hear the party, and I know I should go in. Put on a happy face for my younger brother and join in.

But if I go in because of obedience, because I am a slave to the Right Thing, then I am still dead inside. I think I will sit down, over here by the barn, and just think. Daddy will probably come out and ask me what I'm thinking, and I'll tell Him that I want to do what is right. I think He will pat me on the shoulder and let me sit here until I figure this out. You know, He killed a fatted calf for His lost son, but there is still another calf eating good feed in the stall. I can hear it munching. There is still grace for me.

And I don't think I'll read my Bible. I'll just keep sitting here, by the barn. I'm not going to put my tools away; I'm not going to wash up. I bet Dad will send out a plate, and some wine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why do you hate me

This morning my daughter said it again: "Why do you hate me?" Sometimes, I wish she'd say, "I hate you, Mom." It might be an easier statement to deal with. Her recurring question is a little like the catch 22, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Every time, I answer her, "I don't hate you. I love you." The enemy is speaking to my daughter, and I don't want his voice to stand without contest. I tell her the truth; she still has to choose what to believe.

When I have an imaginary conversation with my own mom about this morning's conversation, I think she would ask me, "What does Lizze really think? Does she really think you hate her?" My answer is that I think Lizze believes conflicting things. She knows that I love her, and I think sometimes she feels like I hate her.

I used to try to figure out what I "really" feel or think. With the wisdom of being forty, I now think that I believe conflicting things all the time. The fact that I am so conflicted, naturally and easily, is why ultimately I don't trust my own heart. God is my anchor, in the sense that I choose what He says about me over my own feelings. He says that I am a saint, He says that I am His treasure, He says that I am His friend, the sister of Christ, and a joint heir in Jesus. It is a life skill to believe the voice of God over the voice of the Destroyer, but the Bible also tells me that I know His voice. When I feel conflicted, I remind myself that I know the voice of God, and I quiet myself and listen for Him. Then when He speaks, I choose to believe what He says.

God speaks the truth to my children all the time, and I pray that they have ears to hear. I also pray that the words I say echo His voice in their lives. Sometimes its nice to have a little Jesus with skin on, especially when you are thirteen and your world is a whirlwind of emotional chaos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Help, I hate morning

I am melancholy in personality. The cup is not only half empty, but if you are not careful, you are going to knock it...hey! what did I tell you? You knocked it over! Urg, go get the spray and paper towels.

I don't mind being detail-oriented and thinking deeply, but I get so tired of living with such a negative person (aka, me). I used to get up and spend some time with God, to orient myself to Him, get the day started a little better. But I am now living out Year 3 of Morning Torture.

Beginning in 6th grade, my middle daughter's scheduled bus stop was 6:55am. Such an early pickup is enough to make anyone contemplate life as a redneck dropout, but of all the possible people in the family, it had to be Lizze that the cruel fates scheduled for EARLY. When she was two, the bane of my existence was getting her out the door to go anywhere. She moves in a slightly shifted parallel time line, one that And she inherited my hatred for early. To this day, she will tell you that she gets up at 5:15 to catch the bus, but the truth is that I get up at 6:15 and begin coaxing her from bed.

I used to yell and plead and cajole and be firm and be succint and not waken her at all...but a while back I learned that being silly had better results. Now, when my alarm goes off, I stagger upstairs and joke with my unconscious child. For 10 minutes. Then make her breakfast, pack her lunch. Start my husband's coffee. Cajole sleepy-head a little more. Make my husband's lunch. And almost every morning, Lizze gets out the door in time to catch the big yellow monster.

And then my husband goes. And then my other daughters get up and I can start homeschool. And at this point my day has started off like Chinese water torture. I am seriously considering pulling Lizze home, and this early morning routine is a large part of why.

Before you post a comment, criticizing me for being Pansy Mom, pray for my spirit. I need God's peace & covering before I have to read how you think I am doing this all wrong. And I would love it if God would post a solution I can hear & understand.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I like to ask questions. I like to know myself and probe deeply into questions of how and why. Sometimes, this habit only serves to get me stuck in confusion. I find that talking helps me think better...that's a scary thought, isn't it? I make more sense when my mouth is moving, than when I'm sitting quietly in contemplation? I think sounding like an idiot about half the time is one of God's tools to work humility in me.

That said, my prayer time lately is comprised of more silence than I have ever known. I have found that if I sit before God instead of rambling, sometimes I can hear the true worries of my heart better. Then, instead of hashing them out with Him (although that is still a very necessary activity on many occasions), I just turn them over to Him. Instead of asking why and how of my Savior, I just bleat loudly and expect Him to shepherd me.

This week, I found myself staring out my kitchen window, steaming cup of hazelnut coffee in my hand, and I said, "Lord, help me see myself rightly." If someone had been able to photograph the spiritual depth of that moment, I think it would have been destined for a Hallmark card. I mean, wow, that is so spiritual. I was so frustrated with my insecurities and the accusations in my head, and I cried out to my God.

Please note that God rarely answers the questions we ask in some direct, logical way. I asked Him to help me see myself correctly. Immediately a verse popped into my head from the day before. I had been researching what circumcision represented in the New Testament, and attached to Romans 2:29 was this phrase, "And a changed heart, Angie, seeks praise from God rather than people." Okay, my name wasn't really in the Bible, but it sure felt like it. God gave me the key to seeing myself rightly: seek Him. His answer was not to see myself at all, but see Him, and seek His view of me (His praise).

He tells me to seek Him in Matthew 6, the famous passage about not worrying and seeking His kingdom above all else. He tells me to seek Him in Hebrews 12, where He says throw off everything that hinders and fix your eyes on Jesus. He tells me in the 10 commandments to begin with loving Him, and in Jesus' commandment to love Him with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. I am starting to wonder if the answer to all of my questions, no matter how profound and moving and spiritual they might be, is simply...God. Seek Him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Church Triumphant

I think the Church wins. Paul told us in Ephesians 5 that the husband's job in marriage is to present his bride spotless to God. He also tells us that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, so Jesus' job is to present us spotless to God. Remember in the Garden when he prayed to his father and said that he had not lost any of the sheep entrusted to him? Jesus doesn't fail. That's part of the idea behind him being sinless...remember? So Jesus is going to present us spotless to the Father. We win.

Things didn't work so well with God's first covenant, the Law given to Moses. No surprise to God: he said over and over that the Israelites were not going to be successful. Is the Church simply better than God's nation? No. We're all fallen people. The difference between the Old Covenant and the New is God's part. In the Old, God said he would punish wrong behavior. In the New, he said he would pay for our wrong behavior and give us a right standing with him. Because of Christ's work on the cross, we are triumphant. Not because of our behavior, but because of God. In the new system (grace), he guarantees our victory.

We don't have to keep laboring to "get it right." We now have freedom to love and to chase after people with the heart of God. When someone points out our bad behavior, we can say, "Yes! I know! I have tried to stop screwing up, but it doesn't work...I somehow always fail. So will you! But God has made a way for us despite our screwups. Come try it with me!" This is the good news. This is the freedom we have in Christ. We can't always do right, so God has covered our sin and declared us righteous when we have faith in him.

You can choose one of God's plans: the Law or grace. Grace now covers me. And the good news is that grace is not just for me individually; it covers his church too. He sees his Bride as spotless. If you do not see her the same way, perhaps you need to go back to the cross and see what has been won for us. Jesus is jealous for his Bride; be careful how you slander her.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So You Don't Want to Go to Church

My friend Judy asked me to blog about a book I read recently, So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. I have discovered a little about myself over this past summer: I like to walk with people. I like to figure out what God is saying and doing in someone's life, and then engage at that point. I don't like general theories or broad ideas. I want to know what you're hearing and what you think you should do. Sometimes, God doesn't give me insight into someone's life, so I am just generally encouraging & that's that. But sometimes He lets me walk very closely with people. This is my ministry; this is what jazzes me. I know that I myself don't have any answers for my friends, but I can be another set of ears, listening to the Father in what might be a confusing time, and He often chooses to show up (when two or more are gathered...).

A friend gave me this book to read, and so my first thought was that she was struggling with some of the issues in it. That turned out not to be the case, and again, I'm not very interested in ideas just for their own sake. When I read it, I thought that the Jesus/John character seemed to do kind of what I see my ministry as, this meeting up with people and listening to God together. I found John somewhat pedantic after a while, which makes me smile, because my husband will often hear me on the phone and tell me that I sound a bit "preachy."

Because I agree with so many of the ideas in this book, I found it a little scary. I am always running from things that make me feel "right," that puff me up, because I puff up easily. I don't mind you encouraging me--I desperately need that--but knowledge and theory divorced from action have an adverse effect on me. Most of the people I know who have a lot of knowledge lecture the rest of us but don't really walk with us. It is a huge danger for me personally to think I'm right and not be willing to help you out of your mess.

I love my "church," the organization that I belong to in my community where I participate in organized events. I know that the Bride is much bigger than my church, and that my church is not synonymous with Jesus' Beloved. It is the best place I have found to hammer out the Way, and not just because it has some great qualities. My church also has a lot of...well, people, and they are often wrong and irritating and they still love God. I find that element of church to also be a great venue for hammering out what it means to follow Christ. In fact, the problems are almost more helpful than the good aspects. I am also very happy to walk outside of my "church" to explore life with other believers, other seekers. But I won't make an appointment with you to do so, nor will I set up three shelters to commemorate any great experience we have together. :)

All glory and all praise to God. We'll never get things 100% on this side of the Rapture. I'm glad that perfection here is not His goal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I saw this bumper sticker the other day: "War is not the answer." I wondered, what is the question?

Another bumper sticker: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Hm, not really. Intelligent agreement or intelligent dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Either dissenting or agreeing without serious consideration is just lemming behavior.

And finally, if Johnny could design a bumper sticker for our new Nissan Versa: "This car is a product of socialism." My subtitle was, "Thank you, President Obama and the American taxpayers." But then, Johnny told me that the bumper sticker was NOT designed for our Versa, but actually the Trabant, a small two-cylinder car he has been interested in of late that was a product of East Germany. Where, I suppose, one could argue that there was a socialist government. If anyone owns a Trabant, we have a bumper sticker idea for you. And if you're selling it cheap, I might be interested in purchasing my hubby's Christmas gift a little early...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walking right

I gave up watching Law & Order about two years ago. A few weeks ago, however, Johnny was gone, and I turned on L&O: Criminal Intent. I like the characters, and I thought it would be a good way to pass the time. The opening portrayal of evil was a little shocking to my spirit, and it occurred to me that this might not be the healthiest thing to set before my eyes. Then my oldest daughter came in and plopped on the couch. I thought, "Well, we're through the worst part. The rest is just a puzzle. It will be okay if I watch it with her." Then my youngest needed me, and the television just had to be turned off. This scenario demonstrates that when faced with evil, the Lord will make a way of escape. Every time, however, we must choose to walk through the door He's opening up for us...or continue in the evil.

It doesn't seem that Facebook or Seinfeld or Super Mario Galaxy can really be called evil, but it very much depends on my state of mind. My entire being is made to respond to God. I am alive to Him, and He is everything to me. He is the Vine; I am the branch. He is the Good Shepherd; I am the sheep. So when He calls to me, and I don't come, isn't the not coming quite evil? If I hear His voice, and I do respond, and then choose later to spend some time on Facebook or the Wii, it is not sin. Living the Christian life is really quite simple: respond to God.

Just because something is easy to grasp does not always mean it is easy to do. If you are reading this, I pray that you will be strengthened in your inner being, that "from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit" (Ephesians 3:16) and that your heart "will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those He called" (Ephesians 1:18). May you walk closely with Him today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My universe

Parenting is like creating your own universe. You decide the rules: bedtime, when to get up, when and what your kids eat, what is okay and what is a no-no. Your children see you as omnipotent and omniscient. You are the world to them. This seems a little daunting sometimes, but I kinda got used to being in control of the world. I made a pretty good world.

Then my kids got older. Last week I confiscated all the cell phones in the car just because they were annoying me. I needed five minutes without texting. When my fifteen year old handed hers over, I realized that she was obeying me not because she thought it was a good idea, but because it was my universe. I saw myself as a very fickle god.

Our family vacation was great, but I still struggle with seeing the glass half empty sometimes. Noticing the problems is natural to me. I saw a lot of things in me that were petty or small or less than I would like. In my own family, the world of my own making, these things were amplified. My flaws are picked up in my children's behavior; they are reflected in the rules that I make that govern my family. Now that my kids are older, my flaws are very often pointed out to me. Eek.

Not to switch the subject, but have you noticed God's universe? He created a world with boundaries (the sun rising & setting, the food we have to eat, the seasons). He created a world with rules. He disciplines and acts in a way that magnifies who He is. But God managed to create a universe where He looks good (hmmm...maybe because He IS good?). When given the opportunity, I didn't pull things off quite so well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Warping our kids

I often joke with my friends about all of our kids needing therapy, as if there is nothing we can do, they will somehow be messed up by our behavior. This joke started out intending to communicate mercy: we all mess up, everything is okay. But one day it hit me that I was completely wrong. In fact, I wrote it on a Schlotzsky's napkin: we are not warping our kids. (I also wrote on the same napkin, "Coreopsis is a cool word." I'm random like that.)

My parents did not warp me. I was born warped, into a warped world. Something inside me is just a little twisted, just a little off, and things don't go like they should. It's true of every single one of us, and when we get in a group (ie, Planet Earth), that warpness can get amplified. Had my parents been completely perfect in all of their words and actions and thoughts toward me, I still would have issues. The fact that my parents are not perfect is like saying, "The sky is blue."

And so it goes for my kids. One of my very dear friends has a daughter who is like me. Her home life is different than the one I grew up in, and yet some of the characteristics I would attribute to my childhood look the same in her, without her having my experiences. So I would have turned out that way, regardless? Who knew.

I don't give my kids permission to blame me in their therapy sessions. I think it's great if they want to talk with someone about how something I have done has hurt them or confused them or made them angry. It's fine if they think I have sometimes been unfair. I'm really sorry, and I hope they can forgive me. Instead of convincing my kids that I am doing the right thing, I think while they are living with me, I will try to communicate that I love them. I really, really love them.

I know people who came from the same home and see their upbringing in completely different ways. I know people who show their parents grace, and people who almost make up things about how bad their parents were. Part of how my kids see me will be their choice. It would seem that neither they nor I can truly judge my parenting correctly. It would seem that I should leave it to God to judge me (after all, He has plans to judge me, right?).

I hope that my kids will realize that I love them. I hope they choose to see the best in my heart. May God surround them with all kinds of people who will show His love to them, and may they learn mercy and kindness and how to deal with the warped-ness inside us all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Matrix and hope

I watched The Matrix with my oldest daughter last week. Sometimes the language made me flinch; the violence often did. And I also winced inwardly because she was apparently unbothered by it all. I watched the scene of Neo and Trinity storming the building to rescue Morpheus and thought of Columbine. But despite all of my reservations, I like The Matrix for its blatant philosophical musings. I love the picture it gives of a false reality and a hidden truth. I love being able to pause the tape and explain how the statement Morpheus just made has qualities of Eastern mysticism and explain what Christianity teaches. (She has learned not to roll her eyes at me too much. Such a good girl.)

When Morpheus is captured, Smith tortures him for the codes to Zion, and in the process the agent explains the origin of the Matrix. At first, the machines created a program that made everyone perfectly happy. Human minds wouldn't buy it and "entire crops were lost." Smith concludes that humans require misery...and although I didn't pause the dvd, my brain paused on this thought. I have often heard people argue that sin is necessary to the human condition, and something about that argument bothers me.

I thought through Smith's "perfect matrix." What the machines actually created was a world where people had everything that they thought they wanted. How deceptive our hearts are. I thought about how much I love expensive coffee drinks, but how horrific it would be to be given one at every turn. You can see the phenomenon of someone getting everything their heart desires in our pop culture stars: the athletes, musicians, and actors who "have it all" and seem so miserable.

We were created by Someone to need Him, to desire His purposes and His ways. Even if we don't recognize that hunger, it is real, and we think that we can fill it with things that this world offers. But the world doesn't satisfy, and when we have everything the world offers, if we are unaware of our true spiritual need, we think there is nothing else to attain. Having it "all" and still being unhappy leaves us without hope, and without hope we die.

Few of us reach the point where we have everything. Sadly, we are often content with hoping for the things of the world to satisfy us: a better job, more pay, more vacation, a new something, more expensive coffee drinks. We die without hope, but beware being tricked into mediocre living by being offered hope in something false.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To be on the list

"Afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him." - Mark 3:13

Have you ever wondered who the twelve apostles actually were? We have the list of names and we speak of them as the Twelve. As a group they show up with Jesus all the time. However, in the history of the church, recorded in the New Testament, these men seem irrelevant. Sure, Peter is important, but what about the other big NT leaders? Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Stephen, James, Timothy, Priscilla & Aquilla, Apollos...if Jesus chose twelve men to be with him, what did they DO? Surely, these were the men he would build the church upon. For the most part, however, the Bible is silent about them.

I think God might be making a point in this silence. Jesus called these men to be with him. To be with him. In fact, Jesus calls you and I to be with him. What we do is perhaps irrelevant. The closest men to Jesus, his best friends, have a few quotes, a few failures...and otherwise they are just names in a list. Jesus is stirring my heart to be part of a list like that: people that be with Jesus.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chaos and provision

This summer has been chaotic: adjusting to the kids being older and having more of their own ideas, trying new activities, Abby working more regularly, Johnny's family moving to town, my mom recovering from her chemo. Everything seems to be shifting. I used to be able to lay down and go to sleep. It was a matter of training, will power, and (as I have discovered) routine. Now that my routine is shot, my discipline is failing me. I have had several nights lately where I am awake in the wee hours, when nothing makes sense and demons come out of odd corners to mess with my mind. No wonder darkness descended during the final hours when Jesus hung on the cross. Darkness is the playground of the devil.

One of the things I find I am lacking is social time with peers. I need time with other moms to center myself: yes, it is okay to say no. Ah, someone likes being with me. Look, she laughed at something I said, instead of something I'm wearing. Today, I discovered something else about God. He truly is a provider of all things. This summer, my family has witnessed a lot of monetary provision. There have been times He has provided rest for me, or answers to issues with my kids. Today, He provided conversation. I was working at a friend's desk, making phone calls at church, and a woman wandered in, one of the secretaries in the office that I know. She asked me how I was and since I didn't sleep last night, I unloaded a bit. She made a point to sit down on the couch and listen to me, for fifteen minutes. It was just the fifteen minutes I needed.

I used to arrange time in my schedule to get together with friends (another loss in the summer chaos). What a lovely surprise to find that God knows about this need, and is able to meet it. It is rather lovely to receive from His hand, instead of my own efforts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What chokes us

Sometimes we fail to read Scripture with fresh eyes. I like to question things, shake things up a bit. Consider the story Jesus told about the farmer who scattered seed. He was teaching about how people respond to the Kingdom--some don't quite get it, some are enthusiastic but then fall away. Some grasp the good news and produce a harvest, multiplying what they received in the world.

Jesus also said that some people would "get" the gospel, but not do anything with it. This is the group I've been thinking about. I've tried to communicate what I'm thinking in several different areas, with minimum success. I guess I'll try again here.

If you were teaching about what keeps people from being productive in their knowledge of the Kingdom, wouldn't you assume that the answer is sin? We're busy doing wrong things, so we fail to do right things. Wouldn't you think in this parable that Jesus would warn about wrong behavior creeping up on us? But He doesn't preach against sin...not exactly.

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. - Matthew 13:22

Jesus says that people who fail to see fruit in their Christian lives are distracted by worldly concerns and a lust for wealth. Christians will not fail from chasing the opposite sex and hopping around bars. Christians will not fail because they are addicted to porn and gossip maliciously. Christians won't produce fruit in the Kingdom because they are very concerned about their children's grades and extracurricular activities. Jesus said that Christians fail to produce fruit befitting the Kingdom because they buy a house and the how to pay for the mortgage consumes them. We will be too busy being ordinary, and not make room for the supernatural in our lives. We have the key to all adventure, and we instead let the fun be choked out by...the ordinary.

This part of the story sticks with me because I am so consumed with my children right now. Homeschooling through high school, getting into college, getting a job, driving a oldest is on the verge of breaking from the nest, and there seems to be so much to be concerned with.

Every day, I need to ask my Jesus for ears to hear. When he was telling the story to the crowd, Jesus said, "Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear." I need to hear Jesus' voice telling me what is important in each day, and to trust Him that the "important" things (like my kids' character and education and social lives) will be taken care of. I need to trust Him as easily as I breathe with the ordinary, so that I can participate in the extraordinary: the Kingdom He is establishing on the earth.

I started off by saying that Jesus did not preach against sin as being the thing that distracts us. However, the Greek word for "sin" means to miss the mark. In our culture, sin is equated with the VERY BAD, but in Greek, it meant failing to do the exact thing. When Jesus said that the worries of the world and lure of wealth would choke our the good news, deaden our ears to His call, He was indeed talking about sin.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

If I remember correctly, there was once a time when raising my family, doing this full-time mom & teacher thing that I do, stressed me. If I remember correctly, I got pretty good at handling the chaos, and I called that spiritual growth. Lots of crazy stuff happening, but I still walked in God's wonderful peace. I am pretty sure I had learned something.

In the last six weeks, my in-laws have moved back to town. School has dwindled and shifted. I have had to make decisions that affect the next two years of our homeschool. Johnny has worked a mammoth amount of overtime. Abby has acquired a part-time job babysitting. My youngest daughter has successfully petitioned for a pet rat. My mom has recovered from chemo, meaning that my family of origin is back in the plans of my life. Things are spiraling so quickly into new territory that I no longer recognize where I am. I am starting to feel anxious.

In fact, I am beyond anxious. Anxiety is sitting on my chest on a daily basis, and my body is viscerally reacting. I was able to handle all of this change and all of this stress just fine initially, but it has gone on too long. I miss routine; I miss landmarks. I am drowning.

I feel as if God has pushed me beyond my ability to endure. What does it look like, to trust Him here? It is one thing to say, "I can swim" when one is swimming. I just can't swim anymore--what does that look like? And I don't remember how You help me here, God. How do I break down gracefully, without hurting the people I love?

"Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall into exhaustion. But those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31

Lord God, I really don't have a plan B. If you don't help me, I will fail.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Godly coffee cake

I have a few feminist impulses. Most American women do, I suspect. One of my most ugly thoughts arises over men and women serving God in a traditional Baptist environment. Somehow, I always hear teachings about having time alone with God with a jaded ear. I envision a man, rising to spend time with his Lord, while the woman takes care of the household and keeps him from being disturbed. Okay, I know this is a jaded view, but it is necessary background.

This morning I was up before the kids (not hard, since it's summer vacation), and I'm researching some things in the Bible and writing up some teaching on the computer. As I'm clicking happily along, one of my daughters approaches me and asks, "Mom, what about the coffee cake?" I remember that I had told the girls I would make coffee cake, probably before they were up so it would be awaiting their darling sleepy heads as soon as they roll out of bed. However, I had forgotten, and I am currently swept up in Bible study...which is IMPORTANT. In fact, it's GODLY. Little snots, they're interrupting GOD.

This is when my feminist demons begin plaguing me. If I were a man, studying the Bible would be more important than making coffee cake. And because I know that this voice is not my Father, I begin to question what is running through my mind. (Even as I write this blog, I have had to stop to listen to a description of a rat that my daughter wants as a pet and a long discourse on how my other daughter is starving and cannot possibly have juice on such an empty stomach. The coffee cake is baking...)

There is a knob in my brain that I can use to tune out those complaining, accusing voices, and seek the quiet voice of my Good Shepherd. This is what I think He says: making coffee cake is important. Not the cake so much as the ability to put other people before myself. It's great that I am studying the Bible, but it is even better that I can make my daughters a priority. He designed my family intentionally to grate away at my selfishness. If I allow normal life to chip away at my character, then my Bible study will truly be profitable. If I shut down people in order to pursue the "spiritual," then I am well on my way to Pharisee Land.

Friday, May 29, 2009

from The Worry Cure

I'm reading The Worry Cure by Robert Leahy, which my cousin sent to me. It has seven great rules to teach us how to worry. I knew you wouldn't want to miss it, and since I had the time to type them up, I'm passing them on.

1. If something bad could happen--if you can simply imagine it--then it's your responsibility to worry about it.
2. Don't accept any uncertainty--you need to know for sure.
3. Treat all of your negative thoughts as if they are really true.
4. Anything bad that could happen is a reflection of who you are as a person.
5. Failure is unacceptable.
6. Get rid of any negative feelings immediately.
7. Treat everything like an emergency.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bad boys

Have you ever found yourself in a situation at church with someone that you don't really care for? Has someone in ministry with you ever irritated you, or perhaps even troubled your spirit? Consider this: eleven men who were chosen to follow Christ closely were in very close fellowship with Judas. Judas, the original bad boy of church. Judas was put in charge of the disciples' treasury, so he had a leadership position. And Jesus never gave them a hint (that we know of) until the Last Supper that this person was less than 100%. Judas was one of the boys.

I wonder what the other disciples thought? Did they have a bad feeling in their gut about him? What about when Jesus sent them out two by two, and one of the disciples went out preaching and casting out demons with...Judas? What was Jesus doing, making them be in fellowship with a scoundrel, an unrepentant soul?

Frankly, I don't have an easy answer for that question. But I do know that the anti-Christ, and many lesser anti-Christs, will arise from the church body. There are carnal Christians in the church, and people who do good things but whom Christ will command, "Depart from me, I never knew you." There are goats, and even wolves in sheep's clothing. The Bible goes on and on about the faults of the people in the church, this fellowship of people that we are commanded in Hebrews not to abandon.

I know two things. The first is that we are commanded to love the "brethren," those people who wear the label "Christian." Without the ability to peer into the depths of their heart, we are commanded to love each other, to take each other's burdens. This love is a witness to the world of who God is, and it is training grounds for loving the world. The other thing I noticed is that the church is not a sanctuary to us. The only place we can truly hide and find solace is in the presence of God. People always let us down, and Jesus did not trust himself to them. We have a tendency to want to be comfortable, to want to be protected, and good friendships and good fellowship can give us a taste of this. But we need to love the unlovely and run into dark places with the light of God. Let Him be your hiding place; let your church, even your church, be a place of ministry.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have faith in...what?

"It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned." - Hebrews 11:29

I'm going to try to make a statement here; I hope it's not too muddled. Notice in this verse that the writer says the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea by faith. God wanted them to cross the Red Sea. In fact, He backed them into a proverbial corner, surrounded by their enemies. If it had been a sci fi story, he would have opened a freaky portal in the space-time continuum and said, "Step into the glowing goo!" The people obeyed that voice. They had faith in the call of God, that he wasn't doing something that would harm them, but rather calling them to freedom. Sure, the path looked a little strange, but they weren't called to use their earthly eyes. They were called to have faith in a God they couldn't see, who was calling them to adventure and obedience.

But notice that the Egyptians had faith too. They had faith that they could also cross the Red Sea. They watched all of Israel walk between walls of water, on a dry river bed. "If they can do it, why can't we?" the commander might have shouted. They were trusting with their eyes. They died, doing the exact same thing that God's people did only moments before them.

Hebrews 11:6 says, "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him" (New Living Translation). The Hebrews believed two things: that God was real, and that He was good. The Egyptians did not have the same faith. They had faith in what they could see. It didn't make sense to them, people walking through the sea, but they chose to believe it. Their faith was not saving faith.

Be careful as a believer that your faith is in God. Believe he exists; believe he is good. Follow his voice. Having faith that you can do X or you can do Y is simply looking at circumstances and making up your own mind. Have faith in God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Invoking the cross

Yesterday afternoon, my husband was on the phone with his mom when the soup was ready, and we sat down to eat while he was still talking. We normally pray before we eat, but since he was on the phone, we simply made eye contact & I crossed myself. The nice thing about being married for almost twenty years is that some communication becomes easier.

However, when Johnny and I were sharing our silent prayer moment, I noticed that I crossed myself with my left hand. I have asked my best friend, who is Catholic, to help me know how to cross myself properly, because I do not want to disrespect what is predominantly a Catholic tradition. Hollywood does enough damage in that area, and I do not want to make a sacred gesture common. She can comment on this blog to correct me, if necessary, but I think you are supposed to cross yourself with your dominant hand, and maybe it's supposed to be your right. As soon as I crossed myself with my left hand, I noticed a tendency: don't we often add Jesus on to whatever we're doing? Can't be bothered to stop our right hand from its work, so we offer a swift prayer with the left and keep going. I noticed, in that quick moment at lunch, that I am accustomed to making the sign of the cross with my left hand. I must do it more casually than I thought. I must make the sign more often when I can't be quite bothered to stop what I'm doing.

I am not Catholic, but I love the symbolism of crossing myself. I love touching my mind, my heart, and my shoulders (my strength) with the simple sign of the cross. It is such a kinetic prayer, and there is never a time I do it without thinking of how much I need the cross to cover me, no matter what moment I am in. I love sign language in the same way, the silent voice that takes my body and makes it speak. There is something holy and meditative about speaking without words. In the sign of the cross, I ask Jesus to cover me, to extend His mercy to me. I remind myself that His blood is sufficient for my weakness, my sin, and my fears. I praise Him for the sacrifice He made for me. I acknowledge His humility and meekness, and cry out for the same in my life.

When my husband is alone, he still prays before eating. He bows his head and is silent for a few moments. When I am alone, if I do pray, I usually pray while munching my first few bites. After all, my Jesus, who wears blue jeans, is perfectly comfortable sitting with me through the whole meal, so there's really no need to get all formal.

God made us to be relational, and part of that relational equation involves showing proper respect. He is holy; He is the Creator of all heaven and earth. As much as I know I am adored by Him, I think I would do well to STOP, and invoke His cross with a still heart. He will still sit and eat with me; He doesn't NEED me to give Him honor. But in my pausing and my stillness, maybe I am magnifying His greatness to all the unseen world that might be watching my dining room table.

Friday, April 17, 2009

From a place of pain to...something else

I bought a few cd's from a 2007 arts conference at Willowcreek when Jennifer and I went to Chicago. One of the speakers talked to artists about how easily they are wounded by the world, and how they often create from these wounds, from their brokenness. I know this. I first began writing poetry as an adult when I dropped out of graduate school, and I was angry and hurt and confused, and therefore a poet.

The speaker said that we have to move beyond our pain in order to continue being creative. The lead singer of Relient K once wrote a song about this (Devastation and Reform), and talked about how it's like he has to get hurt or do something stupid and let God help him, and then he can write a song. It's not the healthiest cycle. Coming honestly across pain happens to us all, and it's great to turn that into something creative, but we also must be able to create from a place of praise and power, a place where we are walking with God in a blameless life. Otherwise, there's too much value in sin. God created us to be creators, in His image. His original plan doesn't even have sin in it, so there must be another way for this to work.

I think this principle of finding a place of operation apart from our sin applies to more than just how creative people work. Our whole relationship with God certainly includes a lot of messing up and Him rescuing us, but does it also end there? He is a faithful help in time of trouble, but He is also powerful and beautiful and worth knowing in other ways than just the neighborhood police officer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

If I were mature

"Refuse to make a habit of complaining to God. It's a joy killer." - from Alex Himaya's sermon, 4/5/09, The Church at BattleCreek

I have been asking myself lately, "What if I responded to this situation as if I were a mature Christian?" If I can imagine an honest response, one that I consider mature, I try to act it out. Why not? Terry Maxwell has a chapter from one of her homeschooling books called "Hard Work and Dying to Self." I have reached several points in life where just this title was useful to me. Maxwell struggled with depression for years and years, and one of her pieces of advice was to smile, put on a good face for your family, even when you don't feel like it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, cites research that concludes that the way you hold your face can determine your emotion. Researchers, in trying to catalog facial expressions, found that days spent making sad or angry faces actually produced those emotions in them, no matter how they were feeling when they began. There is real value to acting out what you know, instead of acting out what you feel.

So if I am making myself up as I go along, I think I'll try for a happier me, a more mature me...a me that I respect. I am rather attached to whining and complaining, but hey, if this new spin doesn't work, I'm sure whining and complaining will still be available to me. Has anyone ever forgotten how to wield those two?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Make a pile and worship

The other day, while driving, I made the comment to God that if I could only get all of the pieces of me, all my fragmented parts, put together, I could serve Him better. In my mind, I could see all my broken pieces coming together into this wonderful marble statue—and then the Lord interrupted me. He wants me to bring my broken self to Him and pile all the pieces in a heap. From that offering, He will raise up a new creation, His own child ready to serve Him and bring Him glory.

Exodus 20:25 says, “If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use” (NLT). We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1), and He does not want us to shape ourselves before we come to Him. Our own effort does not make us acceptable to Him; no tool of ours will make our lives pleasing.

However, He is delighted when we bring our lives to Him and pile them in a heap and then worship Him. This is the picture of every altar in the Old Testament, and from the New we know that altar is a picture of ourselves. The service and praise that arises from a heaped altar is pure and holy, set apart by God Himself, and not hewn by our own hand.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Graham Cooke made the statement that we are made to magnify; it is in our DNA. If we are not magnifying God, we will magnify something.

People are rational creatures with complex emotions. The majority of animals simply react to situations, go about peacefully seeking their own welfare, and do what they must to survive. People bring all sorts of feelings to their circumstances, and their reactions are much more complex than survival.

When bad traffic happens, a group of ants would muddle along. They know they must go forward, but they can't because of the bunches of ants around them, so they push and wait. People, however, interpret their traffic. They decide the gods are against them, or they complain about the problem (thus magnifying it). Or they enjoy the time to be in a quiet car, or listen to talk radio or music or some kind of tapes. Because people do not merely react to their circumstances (like ants), they add something to it. Very often, we magnify the problems around us. We magnify the negative.

Ironically, it is tricky to "magnify" the positive in a situation. We all know people with a Pollyanna disposition, but this eventually grows wearisome. You cannot continually put a positive spin on circumstances, because some of them are simply lousy. However, what you can magnify, in any situation, is God. In any situation, if you look to him, you make him BIGGER in those circumstances. You can magnify his goodness, his faithfulness, his presence, his can magnify his Name.

It has been useful for me, when reacting to situations, to ask, "What am I magnifying?" I thought you might like to think about it, too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seeing me

"Jesus was as certain of the future as we are of the past." ~Alex Himaya in a Sunday sermon

This statement almost made me laugh out loud, but with delight, in a good way, not a mocking way. Jesus does see the future and past clearly--what amused me is how poorly WE see things. Not only do we not see the future, but we really don't see the past clearly either. We can't even judge our present very well. The apostle Paul said that he didn't judge his own ministry because he didn't trust himself to understand his own work, that he would leave God to be the judge: "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV). When I study history with my girls, I realize how subjective my presentation is, how the past can be manipulated and distorted, and is very difficult to know because it always comes to us through a lens of human understanding--and we humans are so fallible.

I want to ask Jesus to tell me my own story. I know that I will not see things clearly until I stand with him, but even as I live my every day life, I want him to reveal even my own life through his eyes. My past, my present, and my future--I want the freedom and joy of seeing me the way he does.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Working for coffee, working for Jesus

Last week, when I was in Chicago, I had a lovely time. Filled with peace and purpose, confident in my girls back was great. Except for this one moment. I had gone with my preschool director, and she had joked about "Starbucks every day" for weeks in advance, almost a motto for the trip. I myself have always said, with regards to the church, that "I work for coffee." Seems like such innocent fun, eh?

Just as we began the trip, she mentioned what our food budget was, and decided that meals would be on the church budget, but between meal snacks and drinks would be out of our own pocket. Hello? The church isn't buying my coffee? But I work for coffee. With the joking we had done, and the emphasis I had let build around it, I was actually...hurt. I know it sounds ludicrous, but really, don't we do that? Let things get into our spirits that don't belong there, and then ZAP, they sting us.

I could sort of see a problem brewing on the trip, but I did not heed any warnings and examine my heart. On Friday afternoon, after the last conference, I told Jennifer, "You have to buy my coffee this afternoon." I knew we had the budget for it, and it was my RIGHT. I have since been quite grieved by my attitude. I suppose I should praise God that it came out. That is how God often works: if we ignore something festering in our souls, he will let it come into the open. I believe, the more we ignore problems he is trying to bring to our attention, the more public he will make them.

I'm not sure Jennifer ever knew how much ugliness there was in that moment for me, in my heart. She bought me a venti mocha, which I did enjoy...mostly. But this week I am off the fancy coffees and humbling myself before God. Our pastor shared this verse in his sermon on Sunday: "Do not love this world or the things it offers you....For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions" (1 John 1:15,16 NLT). He said that we are all easily enticed; never get to the point where you think you are above the temptations of the world around us. Some day, I will stop at Starbucks again, but for now I am laying down my coffee for the sweeter prize of Jesus.

Monday, March 16, 2009


My last blog kind of bothered me. When writing, one likes to create a certain shape, an aesthetic that is appealing. One crafts words. That said, I wondered about how easy it is to diminish oneself. I was listening to a woman teach the other day, and she commented that something she had done was, those aren't her exact words. I can't remember them, but the idea was that she was somehow bad for making an error. And my thought was that in diminishing herself, she diminished her students' ability to learn. Or rather, what students learn, from authorities who lack confidence, is to lack confidence themselves. Remember the research done on children, how every child thinks he or she can draw until they have been in school a certain number of years, and then most are convinced that they can't...We lose our freedom to BE, to be something, if we feel we must be the best or perfect all the time.

So while I love my iceberg lettuce imagery, I must admit that I'm deeper with God than 10%. I'm not 90% below the surface--I like to talk way too much to achieve that. Maybe someday, as God becomes more satisfying and fulfilling and rich to me. I know for certain that I walk deeper with Him now than I used to. That's encouraging, isn't it? And my walk with God is not steady improvement. It comes in fits and spurts, perhaps less fitty & spurty as I grow, but never a steady curve of improvement.

Sometimes when I am listening to Christian music and it is heavy into angst--why can't I love God well, why will I never follow Him like I should--I wonder about the derth of songs that express confidence. It is certainly okay to have doubts, but isn't there something else? I like Paul's confidence in his epistles. I like to think that someday I could write to my friends with that same confidence. Paul was the New Testament writer who said, "Imitate me." That's pretty good living, to feel confident in your faith and your humility enough to put yourself on display.

Isaiah 30:15 says, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." First learn to find a place of quietness. Then let our Lord feed your confidence. These things become our strength. The entire verse is worth meditating should look it up. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Resurrection and icebergs

I am good at shutting down. I too often escape the issues of life by reading, playing games, being busy, talking with friends... Our culture offers us every opportunity to be distracted.

Today, I was thinking about intimacy with God, and it occurred to me that just as I struggle sometimes to stay connected with the people around me, so I suffer in my intimacy with God. How many times do I shut out the noise & people just to be with him?

Sometimes I feel as if I am not fully alive, and I prayed tonight that God would awaken me. Awaken me from all the things that pull me away from him, and and away from the people in my life. Teach me the give and take of being together, the peace of not performing, something deeper than a mask. I am amazed when I really look at myself in the quiet how little of me there is beneath the surface. A mentor of mine once said that the Christian life should be like an iceberg: 90% below the surface. He also pointed out that most of us live 90% in public, and have very little just between us and God, in the depths. Rather than an iceberg, I seem to float like iceberg lettuce--pale green, bobbing, not very nutritious.

While I was thinking about these things, the phrase "resurrection power" came to me. Paul wanted to know this resurrection power. I looked up the verse where Paul makes this statement: "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead" (Philippians 3:10). I once was lost but now I'm found...I once was dead, but now I'm alive. I am alive by resurrection power. The Bible speaks of our salvation as an event and as a process. Maybe, just as I was made alive in Christ, he also keeps making me alive to his presence.

By the way, verse 10 finishes with Paul saying, "I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death." I'm going to chew on that first part of that verse for a little while. It's daunting to think about coming alive to God, and then laying my life down again...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Seated with Christ

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) says, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." I am not personally seated in heaven at this moment, next to the throne of God, so I am going to assume that Paul's language is figurative. To be seated means to have authority, and this passage of Scripture is in present tense: when we are in Christ, we are--in the present time--given the authority that Christ was given by God.

Okay. That's a big thought. We were talking about this in my community group at church, and this passage comes right after a reference to Satan as "the ruler of the kingdom of the air." Remember how the ruler of the kingdom of the air came to Jesus in the desert and said, "All this is mine, but I can give it to you if you bow down and worship me."

Satan knew that Jesus had some pretty awesome authority that was given to him by his Father. And he knew that Jesus had a pretty important work to do, just like Ephesians says that we have: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (v.10) So to "trump" Jesus' authority and distract him from his Father's mission, Satan offered to give Jesus his own authority over the kingdoms of this world.

Where are you going with all of this, Angie? Follow me just a little longer on my rabbit chase. There are lots of parallels between what God planned for Christ as the first of many brothers and what he has set before us. And if Satan tried to distract Christ, isn't it just possible that he is trying to distract you and me? Has he ever taken you up and shown you what you could have in the world? When he offers you worldly pleasures, worldly authority, worldly opportunities, how do you respond?

I'm afraid that sometimes I don't even notice what the prince of this world is offering me until I'm already down his path. Jesus answered the enemy, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY'" (Matthew 4:10). May we see what the worldly prince puts in our path, and turn our hearts to God and worship him only. Give us pure hearts, Lord.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Free to be incomplete

On Friday, I got to hold a baby. I was at a co-op with my daughter, but my teaching job wasn't until after lunch, so I was just looking around for a gap to stand in. The co-op's director came down the stairs with this little pink bundle. The director had many things to do, so I offered to hold the little girl. She wasn't able to stay in the nursery because she was just too fussy for the workers to handle with all the other kids. When I took her in my arms, she was stiff as a board and very tired. She looked at me, and every fiber of her being proclaimed, "YOU are not my mommy." After five minutes, all my learning as a preschool worker at my church came to play, and she relaxed in my arms. Within another five minutes, she was asleep.

Her mom had been going from class to class that day to lead the children in learning the tin whistle, for an end of the year presentation for parents. All the tutors were so grateful for her using her remarkable music skills to lead the kids. I wasn't running the nursery; I wasn't directing the co-op; I wasn't tutoring children; I wasn't teaching the tin whistle. For a short while, I held a baby. I was one piece in a large body of people who were serving each other.

I saw the best definition of community last week on the Burnside Writer's Blog:

The gift of community is that each one of us is absolved of the burden of completeness. In and of ourselves at every moment we can lean on one another for the elements we lack.

I love community, where I can give whatever small piece I have to offer, and God makes something beautiful in the whole.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On being sick

I am not a good patient. And isn't it interesting that the word for "a person receiving medical care due to illness or injury" is patient? There is a key in our very language to what God might be accomplishing during times of illness.

I have never been able to believe that God does not allow his children to get sick. But I live in Tulsa, OK, one of the charismatic capitols of the world, and the airways are full of the idea that a Christian immediately and always has access to immediate healing. Every time I catch a cold or a stomach virus or develop an infection, I pick up the healing question and start batting it around--it's like a ball that doesn't quite respond to the way I understand gravity.

I have a friend who serves God in a very difficult part of the world. The climate is hard on her, and she is under a great deal of stress in what she does. She becomes emotionally exhausted and sometimes physically ill. From where I sit, in the comfort and ease of the United States, I think DUH, girl, your environment is harsh. But from her perspective, she wonders why, if God called her to serve, she is unable to do so on certain days. Surely she is failing him?

For some reason, I began thinking about the apostle Paul. Church people argue a lot about Paul's health. Galatians says that he was sick when he first preached the gospel to them, and 2 Corinthians speaks of a "thorn in his flesh" which could mean a variety of things. Those passages aside, we know that Paul suffered beatings & other physical calamities that would have left him bedridden, recovering. What if he had spent that time berating himself for not being out in the marketplace, preaching to the Gentiles? What if he saw himself as a failure for not being ON 24/7? That's kind of a funny picture, isn't it?

When Paul said in Philippians that he had learned the secret of being content in all situations, he was speaking about finances, but I think we can extrapolate. Paul knew that the Kingdom of God doesn't only advance in direct, fierce battle. The Kingdom also advances within us, in all of our heart choices. When we allow God's peace to reign in us, when we follow our Savior with our whole heart in worship and adoration, no matter what our circumstances, I think we are triumphing over evil.

Graham Cooke made the statement that God often allows in his wisdom what he could prevent in his power. Maybe, all across the planet, the Lord would like to hear his children praising his name. Some of us are in prison; some of us are sick; some of us are living out great victories; some of us have just fallen (again). And all of us are singing to our God and Father, singing about his wonderful goodness. If there is a war waging between good and evil, who would be strengthened by such a chorus of praise? Who would rejoice in our being patient?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pure joy

"Consider it pure joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-3

I am sick. I have a very sore throat, but it's not strep, it's not flu. I can't really talk with my family (which means my schooling is limited, since I read so much to the children). I have a low-grade fever in the evenings, and the last two mornings when I wake up, I don't feel any better. Beka has a birthday party on Friday, and I am tutoring at a new homeschooling community for the first time, also on Friday. I wonder if I'll be well? I wonder if anyone else in my family will get sick? I wonder if we'll have to reschedule Beka's party?

I'm not sure if I'm at the point of "pure joy" but I am content that God will work all this out. Things may not go as I like; I guarantee I don't like being sick. But the God who loves me and takes care of me, who has a plan and a purpose for my life, has not suddenly bumped into something He can't handle. The God who took care of me last week is taking care of me now. I think He is pretty wonderful, although the only shouting I am doing about it is in the quiet of my heart. Pure joy...I wonder what that looks like?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kneading Hands

Zechariah watched his wife, kneading
the bread with her strong hands,
hands that lifted water in their
heavy jars, hands that held no child.
We are good, he thought, but
no. No one is good. Just God.
And her empty hands brushed at
her skirt, she absently tucked
her hair back up. She lifted
the paddle to the oven door, then
reached for oil, pouring a small
amount to a vial stuffed with
rosemary. Again, wiping her hands,
again tucking her hair, again
standing empty. She smiled
over her shoulder, feeling
his eyes upon her aging body.
He knew her long hair, once
black like the darkness in
the corners of the Temple, now
streaked with gray, the wisdom
of her age. Only God
is good, he knew, and what
can we expect to have
from his hand.

No genealogies were written
of those without children.
No begats with no belonging,
no place to be written. And Zechariah
sat in the kitchen, his own age
allowing him this moment of rest
in days that were full of teaching,
serving, tending the garden.
Old Avirim who worked
in the Temple decades ago
had died, no sons. And Zechariah
now itched to write them down,
to write them all, the litany
of childless men, with women
baking their warm flat bread
in empty homes. An urge
rose in him, to know his wife,
to write on her beautiful
aging body his love, indeed
the mystery of God.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Saving intimacy

I'm so glad for who Jesus is. I mess up all the time. I know a lot about how to follow Christ, but I'm always doing the wrong thing, making the wrong choice. And he is so patient with me. I remember, years ago, watching Law & Order, which always made me feel slightly guilty. After all, there is a murder at the beginning of every show. If you have to yell at the kids so they don't accidentally walk in on a scene that will give them nightmares, you should feel a bit uncertain about your programming choices.

I asked him that sort of classic Christian question about behavior, a variation of WWJD: would I watch this show if Jesus were sitting next to me? Before I could answer myself (and the correct "Christian" answer would likely have been NO) I heard my Jesus whisper to me, "I am inside of you. I see through your eyes."

I don't know if I would have answered myself with the correct Christian answer. I am a bit of a rebel, even about following God, so I probably would have ignored the entire question and just kept watching Law & Order with my little bit of guilt. After the first 15 minutes, I was usually able to relax and not worry so much about the kids bopping in (unless I was watching the Special Victims Unit, which is horrific throughout). But when I realized Jesus was watching the show from within me, using my eyes, I felt a little giddy. I felt a little excited. As if the Creator of the World had come to me, and I was playing show & tell: "And this, Jesus, is what cop shows on tv are like now!"

Maybe my reaction came from realizing that he was always with me. I could not turn on my Lord and turn him off like some personal electronic gadget. My watching Law & Order had not banished him from my presence. There he was, watching with me! Since he was already there, I asked him what he thought about it--he never seems to answer those questions directly. I think I ended up telling him why I liked it--I liked considering all the facets of justice that arise in the different episodes. If some verdict doesn't come down on the side of justice, I will get quite steamed; some episodes I almost can't watch for that reason, more than the icky murder part.

I actually don't watch Law & Order anymore. But I do take Jesus with me everywhere, and he looks out of my eyes, and we talk. Saving intimacy...I didn't have to clean myself up before I walked with him. He makes me clean, and there we are, together, looking at the world around us.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was listening to a cd of Bill Johnson yesterday, who is a pastor out in California. He was discussing the spirit of religion that has beaten Christians down until they are "locked into routines without purpose." That phrase has really stuck with me. When I was telling Johnny about the sermon last night, I started to qualify Johnson's statement by saying, "Of course, I know life has a certain amount of routine..."

Really? Maybe a better word is rhythm. Every year in Oklahoma, we have spring, summer, fall, and winter. It is a rhythm to the year, but there is nothing routine about our seasons. Spring will come sometime soon, but this past week, in our "winter," we have had 70-degree days, ferocious winds, and rains without storms because there was no cold air hitting the moisture to make the nasty stuff. Every morning the sun comes up, but sometimes there are clouds, sometimes not. The temperature is always different; I am always different. Today I stepped outside to watch my daughter's bus wait for her, then move on (because she missed it AGAIN), and the air was damp and alive with a grey, hazy light. It hasn't been light at bus-catching time for months. Is this routine? No, it is rhythm, and each moment is a fresh delight.

I'm glad for the rhythm, the feeling of sameness. Humans like the anchor of "normal." We are comforted by the familiar. But our God, the Creator of the infinitely-detailed, surprising universe, does not condemn us to routine. He has made us creative like Him. I pray that today you would open your eyes to see His beauty around you, to feel the rhythm of the earth, and the Creator of the world in the soles of your feet, your fingertips, even tingling your ears. May the creativity of your spirit wed to His redeem the routine of your day.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I have always made my way through difficult circumstances by complaining. I'm not one of those downer people (usually, I hope). I'm actually quite funny. When I complain, I do it in an exaggerated sense that says, "Yeah, I know this is bad, but I'm surviving." We all laugh & I feel better. I get things off my chest, I am honest about how I feel, and I know I can't take myself seriously.

For some reason (let's say growth), in this season of my life, this tool is no longer useful to me. It is so familiar that I will pick it up almost without thinking, but it is like cussing in front of a child--the inappropriateness of my action, my habit, is apparent to me. It's not an easy one to lay down, but as I make the attempt over and over again, I am starting to realize something. What if the very tool that has helped me survive in the past is no longer a good tool for me? What if God is calling me to lay it down? What was once alright is now simply blocking Him from coming to me...

The thought that what I'm wielding might be blocking God instead of propping me up is helpful to me. I am now motivated to let go of my witty griping. I want God more than my own security, my own comfort. Lots of things that seem part of us I think God can strip away in order to touch our hearts: insecurity, emotions, reasoning, any number of habits. What's yours?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Doing the right thing

Doing the right thing is a trap. When you do the right thing, you feel very secure, very proud of yourself. When you imagine that you know the right thing and have somehow failed to do it, you feel condemned, you blew it, you beat yourself up. (Why am I writing in second-person? I guess I've said this so many times to myself, it now feels like a lecture...)

A better paradigm is to follow after God. If you obey God in a given circumstance, it gives you a deep sense of peace. It is gratifying to please someone else more than yourself. It is a place of humility. If you do not obey God, he is good to correct you. God disciplines those he loves, and if you listen to his conviction instead of the ugly voice of condemnation, you will be blessed even in your shortcomings. If you do not know God's will in a given situation, you can seek him, which is always profitable (remember, if you seek me, you will find me?).

This is Angie, leaping off the Perfection Train to seek the God who doesn't follow tracks. Or even roads.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I don't know why traffic is speaking to me so much lately. Jesus said that we would be accountable for every idle word we utter come judgment day (Matthew 12:36). If he were speaking in contemporary times, I think he would say that we will be held accountable for every word muttered in traffic. Don't think that because you refrain from saying your idle words out loud that you will be okay...see the Sermon on the Mount! This passage is not an issue of salvation. It simply teaches us that as Christ-followers, we don't get time off. Jesus won't be pocketed in our lives.

Coming back from taking my daughter to school this morning (yes, she missed the bus AGAIN) a jeep pulled out of the neighborhood, angling for the turning lane. However, he ended up basically parked in the straight lane, waiting for the light to turn. I was listening to a fabulous worship song on the radio and even tearing up when this guy pulled out into the road like an idiot. Oops, idle word. I was able to drive around him, as did the other seven cars behind me, while Mr. Jeep waited for the light to turn. I've made mistakes like that before; it is embarrassing, and I felt compassionate for the guy. But I also noticed the swell of irritation rising from within me--the same place that tears were rising up a moment before. I feel overwhelmed that Jesus would die for my sins, and overwhelmed that someone would pull into my lane of traffic. To quote James, "Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be."

Jesus died for me before I was born, before I did anything wrong. He preemptively paid the price for my sins--the accidental ones, the intentional ones, the little ones, the ugly ones. So as I drove around Mr. Jeep I began to ask God for a heart that forgives preemptively. Before anything is done against me, I have filled my pockets with the rich forgiveness of God, ready to distribute. As I waited to turn into my neighborhood, the stream of traffic down the highway was like a pack of buffalo, thunderous and never-ending. I watched each car go by and thought about how dearly God loves each driver, even the few passengers. He knows their hurts and their dreams and their idle words. He has filled his pockets with mercy and grace and help, just waiting to hand out to those who ask.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Slow motion

When I am behind a slow-moving car, I assume that the Lord has put an angel in front of me for His own purposes. Perhaps he is helping me avoid a speeding ticket. Perhaps he is keeping me back from a dangerous intersection. I like to think of radical possibilities, because it helps me be more patient. This slow car becomes, in my mind, a pace car--which I will go around if given the opportunity.

In life, does God ever put a pace car in front of you? When my husband doesn't instantly see a decision the way I do, he delays us moving forward--he is my pace car. When my three children are with me and we must stop to deal with their issues, instead of just mine, they are a pace car. Perhaps that annoying person who answers the phone in some office, who cannot seem to understand your question and patch you through quickly to the solution--perhaps she is a pace car. Look for them; they are present all around you. Now the question is, why is God pacing you? Something to think about next time you are stuck on a narrow road, going 18mph...where do you think I came up with this post?

Caught up in judgment

Ezekiel is a scary book. The people of God have aroused his anger to the point that judgment WILL come, and it will not be pretty. In Ezekiel 21, the Lord tells Ezekiel to make a map and trace two routes for the king of Babylon to follow: "Put a signpost on the road that comes out of Babylon where the road forks into two" (verse 19). Do you have a signpost in your life, to direct the enemy? Do you put up anger or bitterness or depression and say, "This way! Come over here!" Lord, show us the signposts we have put up for evil, and help us pull them down. Make new maps for our lives, Father!

The other thing that struck me, with that same weird comfort that I spoke of in the Perhaps post, is that God's wrath fell on "the righteous and wicked alike." He was very clear that he was not going to spare the righteous in his judgment on Israel. Wow, what a heads up. When the church my husband & I had attended all of our married life split, I saw all sorts of damage to righteous people. I felt damaged in my own life & ministry. And here God says plainly: I will not spare you when I bring my judgment.

Knowing something is good, but it is also nice to know what to do next. The end of Ezekiel is full of promise, of God's plan to restore his people. When you are caught up in a judgment, some kind of wrath that seems to fall from God's hand, you might get hurt. But he is the God that restores as well as the God who judges. When you look at the wreckage left over from his sword, begin to seek out his restoration. It is there. He is faithful and good--both to tear down and to build back. Remember that he is holy, and he will triumph. No one said that getting there was a pretty skip through daisies.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


In Joshua 14:12, Caleb asks for the land that he was promised forty years before when he and Joshua helped scout out Canaan. From the older generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land, as a reward for their faith, and now Caleb wants his piece of the fight. He has been faithful to follow God whole-heartedly, and in his old age, he is willing to pursue God's gift to him.

Notice his language. In the NAS, this verse reads, "perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken." He knows that God has promised to drive the inhabitants from the Promised Land, that the Israelites will take this land as their new home. Yet he uses the word "perhaps."

This passage was drawn to my attention by Richard Dahlstrom, and you can find his excellent blog at Caleb knew that God would accomplish his purposes for Israel. He also knew that things could go wrong. He had seen Israel routed at Ai after the remarkable victory at Jericho. Even though things were set straight, people died in the initial battle. Following God has a large risk component--and still Caleb plunged ahead.

Following God will not allow us to stay in our comfort zones. Ever. Even when you follow him for a bit and find that you like it, and get rather used to the crazy life he gives you...when you reach a comfort plateau, hold on, because following God intentionally will put you at the front line of battle, and things are messy there. Oddly enough, I find Caleb's "perhaps" comforting, just like I find the book of Ecclesiastes comforting. I want to live a life where I see signs, miracles, and wonders from the hand of God, but sometimes life is confusing and overwhelming. Because the bible shows me life as I witness it while still giving me something to reach for, I am both comforted and inspired. Thank you, God, for being real, and yet so very amazing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Jesus loves you
sang her bumper,
just one small tasteful
sign. Jesus rode
in the backseat,
hunched down
flipping the lid
on the ashtray as
the car left Wal-Mart,
passing the remarkable
young and handsome
homeless man, hastily
lifting his cardboard sign.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The faith of teenagers

God surprises me sometimes. I tend to be more surprised when he says "yes" to a prayer than when he says "no"--that's rather funny for a person of faith, but it's true.

My daughter invited a friend to a discipleship weekend at our church that began this last Friday. For a week, we had high drama, with new stories every day (or two hours) about why she couldn't go. It was like holding on to a shape shifter (if you have handy sci-fi images in your databank to draw on...). Just the uncertainty of it drove me crazy, but my daughter persisted. I would have given up so many times, but in the end, her friend went. Furthermore, she made friends at our church, had a blast, and now wants to attend every time the doors are open.

We told stories about this weekend in our community group that had the chorus of "but the adults said." Always, these kids were out-faithing us. They thought they could make an effort, and God would respond by working in the lives of people around them. We adults thought they should seek their own comfort, stay within boundaries, put God on the spot a little less often. We were safe. They had the faith of...children.

Don't tell my teenagers I used that word!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rambling about books

I just finished reading the second book in Anne Rice's trilogy, Christ the Lord. The first book is Out of Egypt; the one I finished is The Road to Cana. Anne Rice is the vampire-guru from pre-Twilight days, best known perhaps for Interview with a Vampire, which was made into a movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Her vampire tales never appealed to me--too creepy. But one afternoon I did catch 20 minutes of the movie, and was even more convinced I should stay away. The movie screamed "Danger!" to me--not because it was occultish, but because it was too seductively attractive to me.

A few years ago a Mormon friend was late dropping her daughter off for my daughter's birthday party, and she was gushing to explain why. She & her daughter were reading this GREAT book by a Mormon woman about vampires. Don't get freaked out! she said, It's not weird! It was a love story without any sex, blah blah blah. From my first introduction, Twilight was clearly a book I wasn't interested in.

Then one day I chanced on Out of Egypt--Anne Rice, writing about Jesus? And she was not only writing about Jesus. She was writing Jesus in the first-person. Wow, that's bold, I thought. I researched her on the internet before reading, and who knew. She was raised Catholic, married an atheist, and after decades with a man she loved, she lost him to a brain tumor. Somewhere in her grief, she came back to the church...and to Christ the Lord.

It was a bit freaky to me to read a fictional book about Christ in first-person. However, I love Rice's portrayal of Jesus. He is human; he is divine; he is the Almighty in flesh, and her depiction does not conflict with the Jesus I am in love with. She is using the writing skills honed all of those years on vampires in order to write about Christ.

I wish I had some kind of conclusion or observation, but really, I simply enjoyed this book that I read. So I blogged. Thanks for reading. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

What we hold

Pharaoh finally told the Israelites that they could leave their place of slavery to go worship their God. As they were leaving, God told them to ask their Egyptian neighbors for jewelry and clothing and things made of silver and gold. In essence, they plundered their captors as they left the country. This must have felt sweet to the Israelites. They were kicking butt!

Some of them probably ate every day from their new silver plates, or toasted their neighbor with the fancy gold goblet that their overlord used to drink from. Some of them probably donned their new beautiful clothing for special occasions. Some might have kept their new treasures tucked away, a bit overwhelmed by all the splendor but quietly very happy.

After a few months, the Israelites watched Moses ascend Mt. Sinai. We know he came back with the Ten Commandments, but it was really more than that. Moses returned from meeting God with a whole new culture, a way for the Israelites to live that included a system of justice and a way to worship Yahweh, the God to whom they had been formally introduced during this Exodus experience. One of the components of the new religion was a Tabernacle, a tent where God's presence would live.

And guess what? Anyone who was willing could donate articles of silver and gold and fine fabrics of all kinds! The Tabernacle would need jewels, too. Can you see Ben looking down at his tunic, Ruth thinking of her bracelet tucked in her bedroll, and Levi considering the fifteen gold plates on which he's been serving manna? God does not require them to give their plunder over. He asks anyone who has a willing heart to give.

When they enter the Promised Land, forty years later, they are forbidden to take any plunder from Jericho, the first city. Subsequent plunder will be theirs to have, and they will settle in a land of wealth. But now, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, with their new goodies in hand, God says, "Do you want to give those things to me?" God is always more concerned with what we hold in our hearts, than what we hold in our hands--but what I'm holding onto physically might actually represent what is holding my heart.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free to worship

The Israelites followed Moses out of Egypt, the place of their slavery, and wandered around for a while before coming to Mt. Sinai. Everyone, whether they are a bible scholar or not, knows that Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt--duh. But what struck me this time as I was reading Exodus was what Moses told Pharaoh: we're going into the desert to offer sacrifices to our God. Over and over, Moses and Pharaoh argue over the details of this worship. Pharaoh says only the men can go, or you can't take your possessions, etc. Moses insists that they must go worship God, every Israelite man, woman, and child, and they must take everything they own. After all, you never know what God is going to require of you when you get to the place of worship.

There is a duality even in Scripture over their going: are they going for freedom, or are they going to worship? Obviously, Pharaoh does not think they will return, so this "worship" thing seems like a ruse. Was it really? Why did God direct Moses to ask about going to worship? Couldn't Moses have just approached with the demand, "Let my people go!" All the movies give us the non-confusing version, the simple "deliver us from slavery." Yet God added another dimension: let my people worship.

I wonder if the Israelites should have payed more attention to the worship demand. They were thrilled to be free--until it got uncomfortable. They were thrilled with God's deliverance--until he seemed distant, and then they wanted a god they could SEE. Maybe if they had kept in focus that they were going out of slavery in order to worship, they would not have screwed up as much as they did. When we are leaving our slavery, are we seeking worship? Are we looking to praise and adore and know the God who can set us free? What other reason could we have to leave slavery behind?

Friday, January 16, 2009

What to eat

Is there a situation in your life, where you feel you are moving from slavery to freedom? God took Israel from the slavery they suffered in Egypt, and with signs and wonders, he delivered them to the Promised Land. However, the story doesn't read like a fairy tale.

The Israelites were slaves. They were miserable, and they cried out to God probably for hundreds of years before he sent Moses to lead them away from their slavery. Hundreds of years. . .yet when they found themselves in the wilderness, free men and women, they grumbled that at least in Egypt, they had had bread and meat. In slavery, they had plenty to eat, and now they were hungry! I wonder if their prayers for deliverance hadn't lapsed into just a status quo repetition. Familiar misery is at least familiar.

God did give them food in the wilderness: manna. Manna came every day, and it was just enough. If you are moving from an area of slavery to freedom, ask God for manna to sustain you. Someday you may get to a land flowing with milk and honey, but for the journey, sometimes there's just manna. Enough for the day; it cannot be saved; it rots if you hoard it; a little extra when God says you need it (Sabbath).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No news is good news

I don't watch the evening news very often, and I rarely read the newspaper. Does that horrify you? I suppose my thinking is similar to why I don't watch Law and Order any more. It preoccupies me with the wrong things. I have other things to do with my life.

The other day I received an email about a new law addressing lead in children's products. This law requires testing of all products to be used by children ages 0-12, including clothing, to make sure it is lead-free. Clothing was included (not just toys) because a child once swallowed a button colored with lead paint and died. The law passed through the House and Senate very quickly and almost without opposition because of the recent problems with toys during the past few Christmas seasons. I researched the information via the internet and felt assured of its validity.

Perhaps, because it was passed quickly, the law wasn't well-thought out. But unless local merchants ignore the law and it is not enforced, consignment shops will be largely forced out of business. Who can afford the $50,000 to test inventory of used clothes? Even if the cost of lead testing were brought down, with consignment stores earning an average of $2.50 per item sold, this law is devastating to them. And since the economic news turned bleak, second-hand sales have been booming.

When I heard about this, I felt compelled to take some kind of action. I wrote my U.S. Senators; I posted a note explaining the situation on Facebook. Studying history in depth with my homeschoolers, I believe it is essential that we the people participate in our government, or we will not long enjoy its freedoms. But it is a daunting task, this responsibility to be engaged.

My mind is occupied with many things: schooling my kids, parenting them all, having a good marriage, keeping the house clean, the preschool ministry at church, situations my family and friends face, growing with God. I try to responsibly respond to news I encounter in my daily life: emails, phone calls, Elizabeth coming home from school. The BBC or Jim Lehrer or Charlie Gibson bringing me news from the world, some of which I can have no response to, almost shuts me down. Until I teach current events, for the sake of my own sanity, no news is good news.