Thursday, March 6, 2014

Heavenly Irony

I slip into my sleeping bag camped out on living room floor, Friday night tradition for longer than I’ve lived. One by one the candles are snuffed out, the evergreen lights on the purlins are unplugged. Room goes dark, last goodnights and love you’s are said. 

I crave reading my Bible. Just for a little bit. I roll onto my tummy, pull trusty iPhone out with lumens down and read for a moment, picking up where I stopped at noon... 


“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality...” 2 Cor. 8:1-2 NASB. 

*gulp*. 

My eyes lock in on the words. 

Ordeal of affliction - Abundance of joy - Deep poverty - Wealth of liberality. 

I click trusty iPhone off, lay my head on the pillow. I want this. I want the irony that appears every time God gets a hold of a human and lives out His life in their experience. What do I have? I’ll sell if I can have this.

What a combination. That an ordeal of affliction and an abundance of joy are experienced simultaneously. That deep poverty and a wealth of liberality abide in the same pocket. 

Human oxymoron. Supernatural feat. Heavenly irony. 


Who wants it with me? 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ground Effect

You know the story…
“Harken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and chocked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and it brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 4:5-9
I also had read it before. As I stopped and pondered, and sought the practical application, I saw what I had not seen before. The ground. It was way side, stony, thorny or good, before the seed got there. How did the ground get that way? Was it always so?


I understood (as do you) what happens after seed arrives. I had not thought through the effect that life has on the ground condition of my heart before the seed arrives. I also perceived that there is not a single, but continual planting of seed by a loving God who wants His character to grow in the ground of my heart.

At the moment I was focused on the ground. I was taking ash out of the wood cook stove and taking it to the fire pit, and had my house slippers on (Yes, I was lazy. I did not take the time to put on boots). It had snowed several days before and the ground was apparently dry around the fire pit. Or was it? I approached looking suspiciously at what appeared to be solid ground, not wanting to get my slippers muddy, and stepped cautiously, and sank down into mud covered with a dry crust. And not a few feet away, it was hard as rock! Same snow covered ground, but when the earth dried, one is soft and the other hard. So what happened?

Any gardener knows that plowed ground retains moisture and remains soft much longer than hard or stony ground. We also know what will happen when seed lands on that kind of ground. How did the plowed ground of my heart get hard or stony? 

The plowed ground was stepped on by feet that walked over my feelings. It was my choice to let the Spirit re-plow the ground and make it soft again, or allow the hurt(s) to remain like little rocks or harden the ground of my heart. It was my choice to allow a little weed (that thought, video, book, song, or whatever) to get planted there, so small and innocuous at first, but it grew while I was not paying attention, and the ground became thorny over time. Is it hopeless? You, who have come to know the Savior I know, already know the answer. It is not.

So, I re-committed, as I let the Sower examine the ground condition of my heart, to let Him do some weeding (removing) and plowing up (all that hardens my heart). I just want to produce! I don’t care so much if it is thirty, sixty or an hundred. I will let Him be in charge of the crop. 

I just want to have ground always ready for seed. How about you?

Edwin (Dad, Uncle, and soon Grandpa... can hardy wait ;))

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The New Normal: Old Truth I Love

I awaken as the car turns into the driveway. Look, tired but eager, for that beloved little log cabin to appear as we crest the hill. We stop, and I thank Dad for driving us while we slept. 

We step out under the stars. Unclouded sky, constellations shining. I gaze at Orion, from this home to that Home someday.

PC: NASA.gov


It’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Not bad, for an early January night. The moment of truth comes when we step inside and look at the temperature. 37 degrees in the house. That’s a record for a homecoming. I unload the necessities out of the car at a run while Daddy starts a fire. 

I stop to look at the package on the island in the kitchen. Just a random package, but the word Love is written on it in my oldest brother’s familiar cursive. Signature of familial affection, written three days before we arrived home, when he left the house for three weeks overseas. I miss him.

Then I run, shivering, up to my room, pray, and slip under the covers around 11:30. I feel the familiar softness below, the gentle weight above, and in the darkness, I want to giggle out my joy. Peace. I’m home.

Home from a three week trip that brought tremendous change into my life and upturned the normal current. But has it really changed me? No... not really. This introverted girl under the covers is not a wit different than the girl that slept outside under the stars with her mama the night before we left three weeks ago. Except, that three weeks later I’ve had more practice leaning on the Everlasting Arms when I’m stretched beyond capacity. 

It wasn’t a task I had ever dreamed of having. Nor was it a task I wanted. Though I was willing for God to do as He pleased in my life, I had a general sense of what I imagined that course would be. Be right here, at home, serving my family, supporting my father’s and brother’s leadership,  ministering to people far and near through our family ministry, continuing my education, running on the ambulance, praying on the Mesa with my dog, exercising with my mom... until I got married. Then I could pour my energies into making a great man greater, and raising a crowd of world-changers. That would be the way it would go. 

And so... this came out of left field. But I took it after I was convinced that it really was the hand of my Master handing it to me. Because I want to do anything for that hand… 

---

Taking on the Presidency of GYC came only after months of prayer, struggle, family discussions, seeking counsel, and not a few tears up on my beloved mesa. I struggled at first to discern whether assuming the position would go against the Biblical principle of male headship. And even when I was convinced that it would not, I still agonized with whether it was expedient.  With role confusion all around us, I wondered whether it would be misunderstood and promote ideals I don’t believe in.  Whether in some way it would contribute to the warped view of God’s character and the erosion of Biblical values that has ushered in the unprecedented pain and misery we see today, in the near destruction marriage and the family...

I was 15 when I first understood the beauty and wisdom of the Biblical distinction of male and female roles and embraced God’s vision. Since then I’ve been enamored with the idea of letting my life display the character of God, and reflect the magnificence of Christ’s relationship with His bride. To this day there is nothing I love more than seeking to make a heaven out of my home, serving my family, and lifting up, loving and following the leadership of my daddy and brothers. And seeking that somehow, someway, the Potter will mold me so that someday when I marry I can be a reflection of the way Christ’s church should respond to Him…  

---

I feel the huge smile that wreaths my face there in the dark under my covers where no eye can see. And life settles into a new normal. To those who have wondered if my taking on this position reflects an endorsement of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry, I say - No. My life answer can’t be any different than it has been since I fell in love with home and gender distinction and gentle leadership and glad submission.  



So I keep climbing the Mesa with my dog and go to the end and look out at the most treasured view in the world, and remember that if this earth becomes so shaken that I come and find those mountains gone - the covenant of peace will still be in force (Isa. 54:10). I keep cooking and cleaning and loving my kitchen more every day. I keep serving “the least of these”. I keep studying, keep walking the right of way of our highway for exercise. I keep jumping into my uniform at the most inconvenient times of the day and running out the door to serve the hurt, the sick, the fearful in the back of an ambulance. I keep cupping that blonde face of my best doggie friend in my hands, wishing he would live forever...

---

The new normal is simply the old normal, just with more to pray about and more to serve and more to love and more reason to let His strength be made perfect in my weakness. And that is a new normal I can embrace. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

O Lamb Of God For Sinners Slain

A request just before the AMEN conference this year for a song led to this... A mixture of old lyrics and new, of ancient love and fresh wonder. Best appreciated in context of the stirring message it followed.


O Lamb of God
(click link to listen or download)

__

O Lamb of God for sinners slain
I plead with thee my suit to gain
I plead what Thou has done, to make me one,
And bring me to Your side again...
Didst thou not die the death for me?
Jesus, remember Calvary
And break my heart of stone, it is Thy throne
My days are Yours from start to end.

O Lamb of God for sinners slain,
Yours was the loss, and mine the gain
Let me remember, burn as an ember
And love as You ordain...

O let Thy Spirit shed abroad
The love, the perfect love of God
In this cold heart of mine, let warm sun shine.
And light the earth with faith and love
O might He now descend and rest
And dwell forever in my breast,
That I might faithful be, that He might see
And satisfy His soul's request...

Take the dear purchase of Thy blood
My Friend, and Advocate with God
My Ransom and my Peace, my Sweet Release
My Helper, Healer, Guidance, Stay
Surely Who all my debt hast paid
For all my sins, atonement made

The Lord, my Righteousness
All Holiness
Perfect in Faithfulness
And Graciousness
The Strong and Sinless One
For me undone
That I might live to see
His Majesty--


O Lamb of God for sinners slain,
Yours was the loss, and mine the gain
Let me remember, burn as an ember
And love as You ordain...


Lyrics: Seán Nebblett
(Adapted and Expanded from early 1800s hymn by Charles Wesley)






Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Love This Work


I walk through the cut fence, step over debris scattered everywhere from the crumpled car ahead. There’s this pile of coats, and a little bandaged face protruding from beneath them. The firefighter glances up at me approaching, lying on the cold ground as he is, and with short sleeves even in the cutting wind and drizzle. He gave his coat to cover this little one who’s cervical spine he’s been holding for a good 45 minutes. 

“This is Jimmy, he’s four years old*...” He runs down the litany of injuries and past medical history. 

“Jimmy? How are you buddy?” My heart sinks as I look at the face, nearly colorless from shock. Triaged to critical condition. Lacerations to the head, neck injuries, in and out of consciousness.

Oh dear God, please... 

I don’t have mind to finish the prayer. Why does this world have to be so full of this awful tragedy, in a moments notice? Why does innocence like this lying on the ground before me have to know pain? 

“Talk to me, Jimmy. What do you like?” From somewhere deep down the child’s face stirs, winces. Eyelids press, and his mouth opens, revealing two rows of tiny, perfect teeth. The sight squeezes my heart. Everything in me begs for him not to die. Not this child. Not today... 

He talks to us, but barely. And as he talks we move, rapid and automatic. Within moments that firefighter and my brother are following me back across the damp, uneven earth, carrying the tiny form now packaged up and immobilized. 

We get in the back of the rig. It feels like a sauna, heat blasting out of every vent. But that heat works wonders behind my back as I push through the cabinet for the pedi blood pressure cuff...

“I can open both my eyes!” Wonder and relief ring out in the little voice, sweetest music to my ears. I turn around, and those two little chocolate eyes are open, tracking me. I bend over him, smile down. His little hand reaches up. “That’s wonderful, Jimmy.” You don’t know how wonderful...

When we hand him off later, and I watch his little form being carried away, my heart sighs relief and satisfaction. You know what, I do love this work. I have plenty hope he’ll see his next birthday. And please God, many more after that... 

And he’s carried out of my life, as quickly as he came in. 

***

Later, I walk in the cutting cold, tired, aching, emotionally exhausted. My legs cramp so sometimes I can scarcely stand. My list is unaccomplished. And this day seems entirely gone wrong. 

I feel like that little tyke we picked up this morning, that’s what. Cut to the head, cut to the heart. Tumbled around and flung to the ground. Down on this cold world and wind whipping over my soul and why does this have to be this way? 

And worst! I know enough to know better than all this. The provision is there. There’s no reason to live less than triumphant Christianity. I know it. I’ve experienced it. So I should know better than to let the circumstances of a day tumble me like this. I know better than to be here. 

I feel half ashamed to lift my eyes to my Rescuer. How is it that You have patience to come to save me... Over, and over, and over? Lord... have mercy on me... 

His gentle whisper arrests my attention.   

Don’t you know, child - I gladly come in the cold and the rain to hold you? Don’t you know I gladly take off my robes and put them on you, to protect you from a tragic world? Don’t you know your pain squeezes my heart, and in the depths of My heart I intercede for you - “Father, not this child. Not today”? Don’t you know I carry you, across damp and broken earth, to bring you to safety? Don’t you know that your voice, speaking to Me, is music to my ears, that your hand reaching for Me is wonderful - you don’t know how wonderful? Don’t you know that the hope of your eternal life is utmost satisfaction for Me?

And don’t you know why? Because I do love this work...

***

I see it. I know how that feels. 

And I let Him come.



Know this: your God loves to rescue. 


And if you love His happiness, never deny Him the opportunity. 




*Not his real name or age. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Year and Counting...

We remember it as though it were yesterday. 
And all the emotions that came with it. 

We remember the laughter, the joy all wild, the way the sun shone soft at just the right moments. We remember the tears. We remember the tingles like silver glitter all alive, rushing like a river when the trumpets played their part. We remember the throbbing thankfulness that came in the course of the moments readily recognized as God's mercies-- because we certainly could not have orchestrated any such. We remember prayer that morning; embraces that evening. We remember counting firsts. So many firsts...

We're still counting. 

Today from a mountainside in Rwanda we look across the bay, see a sliver of the country they call home almost 6 months out of the year. And we count the memories of a month brimming with happiness. We count the times we laughed over the stories before bed, howled at the rocks we'd missed in the rice, sacked out on the concrete floor mid-afternoon to get rid of some heat. We remember jungle trails, and trademark african huts and ruts and roads and mud holes. We remember the river crossing in the dugout just for the fun. We remember eating out at the premiere local village fast food destination. For 20 cents a plate. (er, banana leaf.) We remember energetic discussions between siblings five on everything from humility to legislated morality.

And we're still thanking. 

Moments tick by and hearts beat steady, and we count down hours and minutes. 9 hours and 56 minutes, from the time of this writing. I know, because I started a timer after they said "I do," and it's still running. 
They've almost made it once around the sun. 

And after a year, more than ever we are sure:
God's gifts are priceless. 

We love you, Luke & Chantée.

Happy Anniversary.












Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Months Today

It has been 10 months today since the Lord filled our hearts with exceeding joy at the marriage of our Luke and Chantée. Since then, our families have been blessed with many seasons of sweet fellowship that bind our hearts together in heaven-born love.

"Let my mouth be filled with Thy praise and with Thy honor all the day." Ps. 71:8

"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee." Ps. 63:3

"Let all those that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee: and let such as love Thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified." Ps. 70:4

We have experienced Your salvation, oh Lord!  Thank You for rescuing our souls from the pit of sin and selfishness and bathing our lives in love. Cause our souls to "follow hard after You" (Ps. 63:8) even in times of perplexity and grief--as hard as we are inspired to do so in these days of rejoicing.  "Strengthen, oh God, that which Thou hast wrought for us." Ps. 68:28b

"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. The humble shall see this and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God." P. 69:30,32


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Love Your Master


The alarm clock rings at 4:30 am and through the cloud of sleep I hear Joshua’s voice telling Mama that is her 10 minute warning. I roll over in yet another unfamiliar bed, sleeping in this hotel room by the airport. I make her some breakfast burritos, kiss her goodbye, and moments later I’m back on my bed in a dark room after they whisk out the door.

Departures have been the main constant in my life of late, it seems. I, the girl that would love to camp out at home forever. But of the many aspects that make me dislike leaving home, one stands out above the rest - who we leave behind.

That little Christmas gift we opened in 2010, when dark eyes and blond ears peeped up through tissue paper - he took our hearts by storm. But apparently since then, we’ve taken his by storm. Because I dread seeing the desolation that comes into his face every time he sees our suitcases heading toward the door. 

It happened two and a half weeks ago. It happened a week ago again. And it happened yesterday, again. 

But this time the trip is short enough that he can stay home by himself without a trip to his kindly care takers. This evening I decide to leave him in the house where it is cool since Dad will be home in a few hours. 

Through the last minute flurry he gets more and more sad. As I’m running out the door the last time, I crouch down to his level and he buries his face against me. “It’s ok Rubee. Daddy will be home in a few hours. You stay inside.” I cup his muzzle in my hands, then stand up and walk out. He watches me with a look of sad resignation, then turns and heads for the parents bedroom to wait, for how long he doesn’t know. He’ll wait, until we come home. Sometimes that’s five hours. Sometime’s that’s five weeks. 

******

That night I kneel beside my bed. I pray, ending with a rapid and many times rehearsed “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” then I jump up from my knees and crawl into bed. And I end a conversation with God as summarily as that? 

The next moment a sad face flashes before my mind's eye. A creature so bonded to his masters that leaving their presence is grief to him. And I sometimes pray and calmly glide out of His presence so quickly, without waiting for a peep from Him. What in the world? 

Love always makes parting desolation. And we know how much we love God by how sorry we are to leave His presence.

******

Admiral
Every morning when I descend the steps from my loft bedroom he reacts the same - sleepy face, wagging tail, unbridled happiness, walking loops around me and growling out his uncontainable pleasure. And every time, crazy dog, he acts as if I had never descended those steps before, for the joy of seeing me again - seven hours of sleep later. When I come home from a trip and pick him up from the gracious neighbors he always reacts the same too - running to the end of his leash and there leaping and squirming with constant squeaks of excitement until I come and lay my hands on him. 

And every morning, every morning, Jesus’ footsteps approach my soul and His sweet voice calls for time with me. And do I jump up every time, circling around Him in unbridled happiness, calling out praise in uncontainable pleasure, even though I was with Him 7 hours of sleep ago? Do I run to the limit between the visible and invisible realm and wait in bounding pleasure for Him to come and bridge the gap and shower love on me, as much, no, more, than He did yesterday?

Love always makes reunion unutterable joy. And we know how much we love God by how happy we are to be back in His presence. 

*****

And so He has three little words for me today: 

Love your Master. 



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gift Given Back


And so right in the middle of a noisy music practice for an upcoming wedding, I learn that my horse's little sister and practical look-alike, my favorite since mine died on that tear-drenched November night, has the beginnings of the malady that claimed my Black Diamond's life.

Practice ends quickly, and I get into the Suburban and go there. I cannot stay away. If she dies too, it won't be because I didn't fight for her life. 

And on the way I fight the tears driving. Please, not another loss. Isn't three graves enough in the space of a year? Why do I need to stand over a fourth and look at the fresh mound of dirt blanketing a treasure?

I get there and see her, and she reminds me of my horse - her older sister - and all the pain and struggle when 800 pounds of velvet covered muscle lost the battle for life. And even as I watch this beauty hurt, I can't help but think of my beauty that lies buried only a couple hundred yards away. 

Hours later the vet takes her away with him. And I? I go home, hot, sticky, and tired, and wash the sweat away but the memories remain with me. And when darkness falls and during family worship I pray for the life of that beautiful horse, it is as if I am back in November again, with sweat pouring though the night is well below freezing, the guest cabin flood light illuminating loss lying still on the lawn. 

But even then my thoughts find themselves arrested in their track.

Loss? Actually, loss? Didn't I kneel on that lawn and give her back to the Giver?  Is it really loss when you give a gift? 

When I get up to my room, my journal and my pen find each other, even while tears stream down my face - 

"What You've taken I have not lost. Because I gave her to You willingly, a gift given back."

***

Two days later I stand above the fourth grave in an eventful year. Look at the mound, stand beside the girl that is just like a little sister to me, and it’s been only six months and she has buried her treasure, who was a little sister to mine. I think of how my brother said she was as pretty as a flower when he returned from helping bury her, even after her struggle. We cry together, because they meant exactly the same thing to us. I know how she feels. She knows how I do.  

We crouch in silence, one mound on one side, the other mound on the other side. Between her sister and the fence is buried the other half of the dream. 


These graves are mysteries to me. 

But they are not lost - not the treasures, not the dream. 

Nothing is lost if it is a gift given back...



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