Monday, May 15, 2017

Sticky Notes & El Roi

Rob is literally my favorite person to spend time with. Thankfully, he feels the same way about me and if we can avoid being apart we definitely do.

Knowing how much I really hate to be away from him, knowing me as well as he does and my need for constant reassurance of his feelings for me, and sensitive to the limited communication we would have as he was traveling overseas, he left sticky notes all over the house while he was gone. I was emotional with him being away, so every time I found one I would cry. Sometimes, I would try not cry because that seemed silly and then the tears would get stuck in my throat  (don't do this...it burns).  




So, the sticky notes idea was a real win. I loved them because they were little phrases that reminded me of his love. I also loved that they were hidden in places where he knew I would find them. He knows my daily routine. It is something really special to have someone know you like that. 

To be loved and known and also to be continually reminded is a treat in any relationship, and I greatly value this about him.

By the end of the week, my bathroom mirror was nearly covered with the little sticky notes. Every time I passed by them or looked into the mirror I was reminded. 

I couldn't help by think of my Savior. 

He knows how forgetful I am to His love. He also knows me so well that in my daily routine, especially when I am feeling especially lonesome, He whispers truth to me. He does this multiple ways, but most significantly through the Word.  The word "scripture" actually translates : "The calling out of God". It is significant for me to remember that His redemptive plan for doesn't involve me striving to win Him, but to restore me to my original relationship with Him. He is always calling me, wooing me and longing for fellowship with me. AMAZING. 

Simon Tugwell says: "So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we most often lose heart. But, it is the other way around: He is looking for us." 

To my shame, I need constant reminding, but His grace here is astounding.  He doesn't treat me with annoyance at this wearisome need. In fact, scripture upon scripture speaks to the opposite. He is desiring me to draw near to Him. 

 Isaiah 65:24 "Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear." 

I might not have the privilege of knowing where it is that you are today, but I do know that He wants us to know His love. He knows us. Individually. Personally. He knows your routine and your needs. He is invested into you. (Psalm 139). 

He is a God who sees you. He is El Roi and He is faithful to our intentional pursuit of Him. 

My heart gets achey. I run to friends, family or to my circumstances very quickly, but wholeness is solely found in Him. If you are achey today, let me share with you a few of these reminders; taken from the sticky notes that Rob left for me. We are a forgetful people with a faithful God. 



YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL: 
Song of Solomon 4:7 " You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you."
YOU ARE EVERYTHING TO ME: 
Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
YOU ARE LOVED: 
"This is love : Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10
I LOVE YOU: 
Zephaniah 3:17 "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing."
YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND: 
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father i have made known to you."
I HOPE YOU HAVE A GOOD DAY: 
Lamentations 3:22-23 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE YOU IN MY ARMS: 
"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." Is. 62:5
I'LL BE HOME SOON: 
"In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."


Monday, March 20, 2017

What being the wife of a Pastor has taught me about worship





This post has been banging around in my heart for a long time. I have wanted to write it for a while. For years, really. I have written it and rewritten it nearly a bazillion times. I might not even publish this one. I hesitate to write it for several reasons, but at the top of the list has to be :
1. Fear of being misunderstood
2. That you will judge me for caring too much what people think
3. Vilifying the Church to those whose hearts are already cold towards it.
Most importantly,  though.. .
4. There are wonderful, dear friends, sisters and brothers who love me and hurt when I hurt and I am so eternally grateful to them. They pray for me, they remind me of the gospel and they encourage me every time we are together.  I don't ever want to minimize their ministry in my life. 

The solid truth is that I love the Church. I love MY church and the people in it. I would hate for that to be misunderstood. They have ministered to me in ways I never dreamed possible. They have healed parts of me that were so broken. That continue to be broken. That is my great fear in writing this. That this will not be understood clearly. I can only pray that it is. 

There are many other reasons that I do want to put my words out there. It has little to do, however with some disillusionment that I have this all figured out. I like putting words to feelings, thoughts and to TRUTH. Especially in case there is another somebody out there that can identify, and who can limp along with me. I am a student of God's grace. I affirm for myself what Brennan Manning said: "My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." 

My heart's desire is to show how God works everything in our lives for His glory and for my good. I don't want my circumstances to define my life, I pray that my life is defined by the Cross of Jesus. So, that is my introduction...here it goes...

So, yesterday. It was Sunday. My heart wakes up racing. I don't know why it races on Sunday. I am sure it has something to do with my mind and my weak flesh, but anyway...it races and my hands shake. They shake all morning. There are a lot of thoughts going through my head on Sunday morning. Some of them are logistical. Getting the kids up and dressed and fed and a meal prepped for the afternoon and the place picked up for any afternoon guests. But, most of my thoughts are on other things. My flesh and the Spirit within me do battle on Sunday mornings.  I am faced with the challenge of putting my feelings through the grid of the gospel and it makes me tired (because it is hard work), it makes me feel weak (because it's the truth and I hate that) and it makes me feel vulnerable (because being the wife of a pastor makes me feel that way).

If you interviewed a million wives, whose husband's are pastors all across this country you might get a million different answers as to how they are feeling about the Church. I know that my particular struggles are not linked to where I am, but who I am, so I fear that naming my struggles will look one dimensional, or that the reader will think I am representing everyone. I don't and I can't.   But, I thought I would put mine out there (gulp) to hopefully help those of you who can identify and maybe for some of you who don't too.  Perhaps a look at my struggles will give you grace for someone like me.

My first thought on Sunday morning is for my husband. The light on his side of the bed is always the first one on and he is always in the Word. His first thought is of the people he under-shepherds and he is having his devotions. I hear him sigh when he gets up. I know his burdens. I know how much he loves the Church. I know how much he believes in it. I know the personal sacrifices that he makes to serve her.  I know the hours that he spends praying and counseling and pouring over scriptures to feed her.  I know his insecurities and areas that he is weak. I hear his prayers for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in him.  I  know the weakness in this man ; the frailty. The brokenness. The discouragement and the joys.  To then hear him preach the Word with power that I know as a witness comes directly from the Holy Spirit astonishes me every time. When I hear how people are growing, learning and excited  about what they are gleaning from the Spirit through his teaching I rejoice!  I get a front row seat on that and it thrills my heart. I am a witness to the work of the Spirit like few others.

 But, there is a harsh reality to being the wife of a pastor that is a difficult burden to bear.  In spite of all the of the wonderful things that I hear and get to delight in, I also have to bear witness to the hurtful, critical and often times abuse of him at the hands of the Church. I must bear it, while loving this man, admiring him and truly knowing him. No one knows him better than me. Not only do I bear with him, I sometimes receive the brunt of their dislike of him.  I have to pass people in the hallway at church as they pretend not to see me; avoiding eye contact, I have been in the position where I have overheard the whispers about him in the fellowship hall. Some of the same people we prayed for the night before, clasping hands by our bed now treating us coldly and with criticism.  I must also try to sing songs about my Savior and His goodness and His grace all the while seeing their faces and their folded arms if we sing too many songs they don't prefer. I have to put the hurt somewhere when people he has spent hours with, given personal money to, watched their kids, visited in the hospital, laughed around our dinner table with, cried with at their loved ones passing, held them at their funerals just walk away. I can see the hurt all over his face when he sees their spot in church empty. Again.  Sometimes, without a word of explanation.  I carry that hurt with him because most of the time we were doing these things together. I have to put my feelings somewhere healthy after hearing these same people have spent time with others where instead of breaking bread together in fellowship and praise, have spent this precious time whispering about him behind closed doors, tearing apart his character and questioning his motives.  My flesh cries, "FOUL!", because I KNOW this man. I know his heart. On so many levels it is unjustifiable to want to hurt someone who has only ever tried to love them and care for and sacrifice for them. It just doesn't make sense.  My desire to see justice for him is the prevailing theme of my thoughts. What can I do to make them see their sin? What can I say to prove his quality. I desire justice for him.  I go through a million scenarios in my mind of how to explain things better, or help them understand clearer. Couldn't I just shout it from the rooftops how much it hurts?

Then...

the Spirit whispers for me to remember Jesus.

When I look at Jesus,  I remember my sin. I remember how He loved me at my darkest. I remember how He took the wrath that I justly deserve. I remember that the scriptures say that everyone who was faithful to Him, even those who said that they would rather die with Him before they denied Him, did just that. They ran. They left him.  I remember how easily I do that too...even when I know what He has done for me.  I live in the freedom of His grace and mercy every day and how easily I run to what feels good at the time. How quickly I forget His love is enough and how quickly I abandon all the richness of that love for temporary satisfaction.

I remember that God sees my husband and he sees all of his best attempts at pastoring as filthy rags. God then looks at Jesus and His perfect pastoring, and then Jesus, my husband's lawyer, sitting at the right hand of His father says, "He has my record of perfect righteousness." and God is satisfied. He is like a proud daddy. He is satisfied with Rob because of Jesus.  I remember that my standard for righteousness doesn't meet God's perfection and I am thankful that my husband can preach the Word, believe it, and live it at all because of Jesus.

 When I remember our sin and remember Jesus, my heart no longer feels wronged. I feel thankful. I know that we undeserving of love. I am far worse than I would like to believe. Now, as I pass those people on Sunday morning,  as I hear the whispers, see the folded arms, hear how they are speaking of us in their circles, my heart is flooded with remembrance. I have communion right there.  My darkest. My desire for people to like my husband, appreciate him,  and follow him is what Jesus died for. It is ugly sin. The sin of  pride and arrogance and the idolatry of self-love. When I see myself for how I truly am, there isn't any room left to judge anyone else. What's left in my heart is thankfulness.  Jesus knew my idolatry and died for the punishment it deserved. He was raised victorious and my position is with Him. My sin was left in that borrowed tomb and left there. Now, instead of the delusion that Rob and I are deserving of nothing less than admiration and glory, I remember I deserve death.  I am flooded with a compassion and a mercy for the Church that is not coming from me  because the truth is that we are the same. My husband, for all of his wonderful qualities, does not deserve their love. He deserves hell.  And the desire for justice for him has not been answered, praise God.  Jesus took what my husband deserved. Wrath and Hell.  We all stand guilty and at the mercy of God.

So, I make intentional effort to forgive and to still serve because I remember that Jesus did this, does this and will continue to do it forever for me. And when I am in heaven with Him, He will still be serving me and advocating for me and He will be the only one with scars.

The Church is here to make Jesus beautiful, not me.  He is the Savior. If I am looking for people to acknowledge my worth then I am preaching to myself that what God thinks of me isn't enough.   Each thought must be made obedient to Christ. Each thought must go through the grid of the gospel.

As much as I wish the list of my struggles and my sin would start to grow shorter as I grow older, the list actually gets longer. Maybe this is a grace too. I need to see my sin as my biggest problem. It is humbling. It is embarrassing. It is weak. But, it is worship.

Maybe this is the point of  corporate worship after all. To gather together with other messy people who who don't always treat each other with the kindness of Jesus but who stand as grateful recipients of it.

 If the Church continues to be a place where I see my sin then keep me there. Rub me the wrong way. Show me the complexities of my dark heart. This will keep me grateful, humbled and broken before the Lord who deserves all the praise and all the glory.  I  can stand with arms open and heart abandoned. In awe of the One who gave it all.

Pray for me and for your pastor and their wives on Sunday (on Saturday night too), but don't pray that we are given what we deserve.  We deserved eternal death.  Pray instead that we stay thankful for the grace of Jesus. It is our only hope to serve and love the Church.

Much love.









Monday, January 30, 2017

A week of praise

"People who are loved the way we are loved should have lives marked by extreme thanksgiving and laughter because of the mercy and generosity of our King." -Elyse Fitzpatrick (Because He Loves Me)


We are in winter here in the Northeast! Winter. Gray, gray, gray winter. Sometimes white. But nonetheless it is a colorless palette outside my window. Occasional sunshine will light up my house and when it does, I find my face turning towards it and squeezing my eyes shut and taking in big, healthy gulps of it. Because... Its hard to find the sunshine in winter.

But, when you do? Your face turns to it. You appreciate it. You don't see things quite the same because your vision has been impaired by the sun. The things around you look "strangely dim".

I was amazed the other day, when the sunshine was literally pouring into my home, at the amount of dust that had settled into the dark corners. How didn't I see it? I seriously didn't know how I had missed it. How often on those dark days when the sunshine is hidden behind clouds, we blindly miss the dust bunnies that have been
piling up (metaphors ahead).

So, with permission from my kid I share this story with you about winter blues, the dust bunnies in our heart and how perspective enriched us and those around us.  This is how over a cup of hot coffee in our local Starbucks, my Mo, Rob and I determined that we would zoom out and zoom in.
This was our week of praise.

She yelled at us. She kinda...screamed. I didn't  remember ever seeing her this angry before. It hung in the air and also seemed to bounce off of every wall. We were all home and we all stood there in the kitchen looking at each other with wide eyes searching each other's faces and frozen in place. Rob sent Morgan upstairs for her outburst and with every step on the staircase, she seemed to echo the pounding of my own heart.  Rob and I looked at each other and at the other two who, like little mice scurried off into their own safe places and he shrugged and I shrugged and we decided that we would try to talk it out. Nope. She was not having it. She was as cold as ice. We left it for a day (any one that is reading this should stop right now and yell, "wow. ANNIE!) before Rob and I decided that what our middle kid needed was not what she deserved (mercy), but that she just might need something she didn't deserve (grace).

In this case, grace came in a cup (which...hello...yes.)

She was pretty rigid at first, but the latte did it's super power thing and she started to soften. I like to think some of this softening was her daddy saying, "Babe. Something is off with you. We aren't okay with the way you've been treating all of us. It hurts us. But, you are hurting and we want you to tell us everything." For good measure, while biting the inside of my cheek, I added, "And I solemnly swear that I will not tell you that what you are feeling and how you are thinking is wrong."  She took a deep breath and she unloaded on us. It took almost an hour. It was therapy for her and it was super sanctification stuff for Rob and me, but it was even better than we expected. We saw the light come back into her eyes and the way she was sitting even changed. It opened up for us some great insights into her heart and into our own but then... it took on a twist that we didn't see coming.

She started to give herself some truth. She admitted that her thinking about most everything right now was bent toward the negative. Like...she couldn't see the sunshine.  She admitted that in spite of what she knew, she couldn't seem to get past what she felt. Then, she listened intently to her dear dad , who battles with depression every single day, as he gave her gentle wisdom about prayer and perspective.
We decided together, there in the Starbucks, that an intentional leaning towards the joy that we find in Christ and the daily ways He ministers and whispers to us would be our aim.

I decided to also involve a few of my girlfriends in on the game and for this past week we have been texting each other every night different highlights from our day.
                                   
                                            It's amazing what a little light can do. 

This is no Pollyanna approach to life. It is hard work. It is purposefully choosing the joy that comes from a life touched by the SON. It is choosing to see the gifts in each day as a love gift from the One who could (and rightly should) give us a healthy dose of justice but meets us each day with His mercy and His grace. He welcomes us to unload onto Him (1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you") and then fills us with good things. (Romans 8:32 "He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, won't He also give us everything else?") Truly, the things from His hand are the good things.


A person that is marked with joy is one that has the knowledge that nothing can take away the love that the Father has lavished on us. Nothing. This is true thanksgiving. Joy that no one can affect and that no circumstances will change. This joy comes from a daily marinating in His love.

Yes, the clouds will roll in. The dust bunnies will settle again in the darkest corners of our heart, but what a comfort to know that when the sun shines, He will do the hard work of sweeping them away. (2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.")

This world is in a season of winter. Everywhere we look, the landscape is gray. Let us, as ones who have the hope and light of the gospel, be people of responsive obedience to God's command that we be people of great joy.

As I type this, the sun is sending its long fingers across my computer screen. I can hear Morgan downstairs. She is banging around in the kitchen, but that's not that sound that is making me smile. I'm smiling because...she is singing.




" If then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on the earth, for your have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. " Col.3:1-3

**I encourage you to start this week. Text or email a few of your close friends. Ask them if they would be willing to do a week of praise with you. I'd love to hear how it goes.**












Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Starving

Several years ago, I had a dear friend whose little man would not eat. He was beyond a picky eater. He literally would not eat. My friend was beside herself with concern and anxiety. Her beautiful little child, whom she loved so much and had nourished in her womb and with her own body for a year was now refusing to eat and she was watching him slowly loose weight. He was literally starving. She took him to the doctor and the doctor would sometimes make things worse by stating the obvious to her. She researched, sought prayer and advice from others, she would work so hard to make meals that her little guy might eat. Still, nothing. She found that the only thing he would eat was sugar. Whipped cream and cotton candy. It was the most frustrating thing and I remember just feeling so frustrated for her and with her.  Ultimately, he did eat. He didn't stop being picky, but he did eat. He just decided one day that he wanted to. He began to thrive. He began to grow.

This memory floated back to me today because I was thinking of the ugly things that are in my heart. I have been starving myself again. God provides me with the choicest of food, His life-giving Truth to meet my hunger and my need,  and I quickly run to those things that I believe will fulfill me without giving a second thought to the great Provider.

How often I (in a need for control) discard the nourishment that God has provided for me through His word. How often I turn my head (my heart) from His well balanced meal and clench my jaw and slam my lips together.  How often I satisfy my needs for nourishment with things that don't actually feed me, but appease me. Sugary food that won't actually give me life-giving nutrients.

I have a dear friend who came to Jesus this year. I meet with her every week. Her desire for the good food is something that I am learning and growing from every time we are together. She has let go of relationships that are holding her back from growing in grace and she has asked the Spirit to change behaviors and even how she thinks about herself. She talks to Him everyday and she reads His Word to find the Truth about herself and about Her God.  She has yielded to Christ and her life is blooming. Idolatry has been the main topic of our talks together and she said something to me last night that gave me pause. She spoke of the gentleness of the Spirit. She said she felt like her life was this great closet full of worthless junk. Similar to the closet of a hoarder. Packed with things that she felt would make her feel whole. She explained that the Spirt of God wasn't just ripping these things out of her hand. He knows she would freak. He was offering her Himself and in light of His love, these things display their lack of worth and she is finding herself more and more willing to hand them over to Him.  I just LOVED that. I loved the trust there. The gentleness of God. The turning from worthless things. The satisfaction that is found in the love of our Creator.  Just awesome.

I had to admit to her and to myself that I so often run to my unbelief that God will satisfy the achey parts of my heart. I believe the lie that other things, the love of people, a change in my circumstances will bring me happiness. I don't just believe it. I sit in the filth of it. I eat the sugary food. I feast on the emptiness.

I am thanking the Spirit today for this memory. As a pastor's wife I am bombarded every day with my sin. Yes, MY sin. It would be easy for me to attach my frustrations  to others sin. It would be easy for me to justify myself based on the behavior of other people towards my family and my husband. But, the Word of God tells me that my sin is my greatest problem. I would much rather believe that if my circumstances would change, or if people would just be kinder, that I would be happier. The richness of the Word teaches me that the reason I am weary and anxious at times is because there is sin in me. The sin of unbelief and of control. It is an idolatry problem of which I am chief. The only remedy is a healthy portion of the Truth of my greatest needs being met in Christ from the Word.

When I submit to His Word and to His Spirit and allow them to feed me, I begin to grow. When I satisfy my frustrations with the idolatry of my own heart, I starve.



"Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts." Jer. 15:16 




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cranberries and what they taught me about conflict, grace & laughter in relationships

I have the BEST hubby. He decided to make me breakfast in bed this morning ( now...lest you think for one millisecond this means lounging around well past 8...don't you dare judge me. Our kid was up at 5:45). He asked what I wanted for breakfast and I said that I would love some oatmeal with cranberries and a pinch of brown sugar. I noticed the wild look, the eyes flutter upwards to the ceiling but I thought, "Nah. He'll get it."A few minutes later he reapperared and presented to me a bowl full of chewy, watery oatmeal (you have to cook it?) and whole cranberries from the fridge (The whole ones. The ones that are the size of baby apples). We both laughed.
"I thought it was weird, but I was like...whatever. I knew I'd get it wrong!", he said. Wrong? Seriously? No. Day MADE.  In the future we have decided that he can just stick to making the coffee and being handsome.  Seeing that he's really good at both.

Thinking about the oatmeal thing this morning got me thinking about the way we communicate. God uses things like this to teach me because I am rather simple minded.

Relationships are tricky with communication. How often we think we are being really clear with those closest to us about our needs, our feelings, our fears and our joys. We leave these subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) clues for them to pick up on and we walk away feeling confident that we were heard and understood only to be disappointed down the road.  Most often the disappoint leads to bitterness and that is even trickier to manage in relationships and can create more chaos for us both.

Communication is tricky in relationships but mostly because of our expecations. So often in my marriage, in my relationship with my kids and even with my close friends and family, I find myself on either the side of disappointment at my unmet expectations or on the side of having disappointed those who thought they were super clear with me about their's.  There's the:"Whyyyy would they do that when they KNOW how much it bothers me?" or "Whyyyyy wouldn't they do this when they KNOW how much it means to me." And then there is the other side of:
"Whyyyy would they think I would intentionally hurt them?"or "I'm not a mind reader! What the heck is your problem?" *insert your favorites here*

It takes dedication to the relationship and a supernatural work to push past the feelings of unmet expectations and justification of behavior to be willing to "go there" with each other and teach each other or to be taught by each other. It is humbling, stretching, growing, beautiful and sanctifying work.

I know the pain of unmet expectations in relationships most of the time can be much more difficult than the wrong cranberries in your oatmeal. Hurt at the hands of parents, pastors, spouses, children and so-called friends can be brutal and I have lived through several worst-case scenarios too. There is truth though, that intentional grace towards those who might not have evil intentions towards you; some clarification and some honesty with each other, and yes, even some laughter at the end of it can be so good for you when you missed something or when those who you love just don't "get it".

I am reminded of my Savior Jesus when I think of Someone who did this perfectly (thanks be to God for this gift because we can't do this perfectly!) towards me. The kicker in the jaw really is that He knows that my intentions are evil continually. He knows my fleshly heart is prone to seek my own happiness above a relationship with Him and personal holiness and yet He generously and liberally lavishes grace on me. I haven't met any righteous expectations that He has of my life and yet He forgave it and continually covers it with his perfection. HIs identity is mine now so I can be free to sit down with my husband, my kids, my friends, my parents and whoever and honestly listen when I have disappointed them.  The reason I can do this with an open heart and ears is because their disappointment in me isn't attached to my identity anymore. I can pursue the humble act of asking for forgiveness (even when the hurt was unintentional!)  because this isn't attached to my identity. I can tell my spouse, children, friends, my parents and whoever else that they have disappointed me when they have because I don't need to worry about being weak and vulnerable and maybe even wrong. He has given me His strength. He sees me as always having the right intentions because of Jesus' justifying work on my behalf. He has made it possible for restoration because He redeems the weak things. I don't have to be afraid of my friends, pastor, children or husband telling me that I got it all wrong because I am free to make mistakes and repent of my selfishness. The shift of my heart (because of the work of the Holy Spirit) is evidenced in the fact that I now welcome the healthy conflict. I want to have the tough conversation instead of being afraid of it. It helps me grow and my relationships to grow.

The challenge of loving people enough to "go there", giving people the benefit of the doubt, and being willing to hear that you might have it all wrong in your head is hard, disciplined work but it can open up a world of learning about yourself and about each other. More beautiful still? You will walk away with fresh eyes and a thankful heart for the way your Father has loved your intentional hurt and sin. What a gift for your own soul and for those who cross your life today.

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, gentle, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere ( THIS IS THE WAY HE LOVES US!) 
A harvest of righteousness is sown my those who make peace." James 3:16-18

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Lesson of the Mockingbird

**I have benefited my entire life from the wisdom of my mom. She has had one of the strongest voices in my life when it comes to pointing me to the Truth. How very normal it is for me, and for perhaps all of us, to cling to the world's song above the sweet melody our Creator is singing over us. She wrote this piece several years ago, but it was timely in my life this week. I am sharing it with her permission as a way to encourage someone today who needs to be reminded that  HE is singing over you. He has uniquely created you with the song that only you can sing. May our song be filled with the lilting melody of His grace and of His love. May it anchor us to heaven.** 

The Lesson of the Mockingbird

To my dear children and grandchildren,
It is early morning, and the soft glow of the rising sun is already casting its reflection on the shiny green palm leaves outside of our house.  A soft breeze is stirring, and the giant leaves seem to be waving a pleasant “Good Morning” to me.  I open the doors to welcome in the breeze, and I feel it ever so gently kiss my face.  It’s going to be a lovely day!
As I stop a moment to drink in the beauty of it all, I hear a familiar sound.  A mockingbird is waking to this new day as well, and is busily chanting a cadenza of melodies borrowed from other birds – a musical “plagiarist” of sort! One by one his songs ring out, loud and strong, as though he is trying to be heard above all the rest.  He is like a one-man orchestra tuning up for a concert.  My mind wonders -- when and where did he first hear those songs, and what prompted him to copy them?  How long have those melodies been in his little head, and just how many songs are stored away there?
After a few minutes, the bird flew off, and a strange quietness settled over my soul. As I thought back upon his music, something began to trouble me. The sad part about a mockingbird concert is that there is not one melody to remember.  He playfully segues from one song to another, and rarely repeats a line.  Sadder still is the thought that the mockingbird has no song of his own, but merely echoes the many voices around him, exotic and beautiful though they may be.  Again I wonder –- where is the song that makes him stand out from all the others; that belongs uniquely to him alone, and rings out in jubilant, personal praise to his Creator?
And then, I thought about each one of you.  Over your lifetime, into your ears will come the sounds of a myriad of voices.  Some of them will be lilting and lovely; others will be mellow and even monotone.  Some will lift your spirits, and others will break your heart.  Some will feed your soul, and others will starve it. All of them will sing their songs over and over again.  Sometimes you will become so bewildered by the cacophony of sound that you will almost forget the song that you and you only were created to sing.
Above the sound of those voices, stop to listen for the voice of your Creator.  Sometimes He will speak in the “still, small voice” of quiet meditation.  Often it will be heard at various decibels in and through the daily rhythms of life.  At other times, He will call loudly to you in the thunderous voice of adversity.  Through it all, He is the One who calls you to “be still and know” that He is God.  It is His voice and His voice only that can teach you the song that He has uniquely chosen for you.  Follow His lead and sing joyfully, with all your heart, the song that the Master Composer has Sovereignly composed for His glory and for your good.
When other voices sing out, enjoy the songs that their Heavenly Father has given to them to sing.  Learn from them; gain from them.  Draw deeply from their resources. And when, according to God’s masterful composition, it is the right time and place, add your voice in harmony to their music.
But when those voices would threaten to drown your song out, or persuade you to sing a song that is not from the heart of God, then DO THIS -- with your head back, your shoulders straight, and your arms lifted toward Heaven, sing your song back to your Divine “Maestro” all the louder!  Crescendo fortissimo! It is the most profound act of worship that you will ever give.  It is the “Hallelujah Chorus” of His “good, acceptable and perfect will” for you, accompanied by a symphony of His mercy and grace.  It is purposefully and intimately orchestrated with YOU in mind.  Always remember that it is His strength that will enable you to sing it and sing it well, and that no one longs to hear your performance more than He.
As your Mom, I will be praying, listening, applauding, and welcoming in the breeze of God’s Spirit in you.  Then, dear children, as you sing your song, I will revel in the beauty of the melody that He plays in your life, and I will cherish your song in my heart for all of my days.

All my love,
Mom

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Totally and Completely the Point

We've fallen into something in our parenting that seems to be working. Whether or not it is working in my children's hearts, I may never know. What I do know emphatically is that God is using it in my life as He parents me. He is using it to teach, correct and reshape me.

We became parents almost 17 years ago. It didn't take long to realize that the majority of our time is spent actually parenting them. We enjoy them too. LOTS. But, lets just say that at least 60% of our job involves correcting and shepherding them. We also spend a whole chunk of our day taking care of them. Physically, spiritually and emotionally they are still dependent on us for their well being and care.  Rob and I have made it a practice to say to our kids when we are doing these tasks, either menial or truly sacrificial, "Do you know why I will *fill in the blank* for you? Because, I love you."  Sometimes, they repeat it back to us, "I know...because you love me". It helps us too because Lord knows... it takes reminding. Parenting asks a lot.

We try to make a mental note to say the same phrase in our discipline too. They, like any self-respecting person, say (as we did when we were kiddos) whether verbally or non-verbally with a slammed door or a temper tantrum, "Ya...sure...if you really loved me you wouldn't punish me. You wouldn't wound me. You would just let me off the hook!". We still say it, though. It is important language. When I say these words; whether through serving or with discipline, I am sending my kids the message that I am for them and not against them.
When I say, "I do this because I love you" as I am serving them, it is very easy for them to believe that I mean what I say. I am doing a kindness for them and the feeling matches the sentiment.  Conversely, it is really, really hard when I am disciplining them to believe my heart.  The hope is that I am more often, than not, communicating (albeit imperfectly) that I am pro-them.  I have been given a great task to nurture and shape them and that sometimes means they feel good about it and sometimes they just won't. On the days that our love and our consistency in being pro-them just doesn't cut it, we ask them another question: "Can you trust me?" It's an honest question that usually gets an honest answer. Sometimes we get a hefty sigh or a lengthy pause. There are a lot of times that there are tears. And from the toddler a wail. Other times we get a reluctant nod or a mumbled, "sure" but we know it is a willful act of submission and that isn't easy for them and so we thank them. It is hard to be under the authority of another. So super hard.

God is using this in my life.  God will sometimes apply pressure to an area of my life that feels fragile and bruised. He will allow people to come into my life that betray or upset me. He will withhold something from me that I feel deserving of.  When this happens, under a myriad of different circumstances, my first thought is that I want Him to remove it. And yet, most of the time, He continues to apply pressure. I have to acknowledge that this is coming from His hand;  He is allowing it. My next thought inevitably is that if He loved me that He would spare me from the trial. My temptation is to want to give up or run from relationships that are hard and yet the Holy Spirit never lets me. He keeps telling me, (like the wise counselor that He is) to keep going, keep leaning and to keep striving, keep loving.
  He doesn't say this so that I will master the trial but only so that I will see how very weak I am
The point of the entire struggle is to prove my inability and His sufficiency. He is bringing out the messiah I think myself to be and allowing me see to my weakness so that I can witness His strength, His love and His sufficiency. His love in discipline is breaking me down. It is purposefully bringing me to my knees.
It is completely and totally the point.

God is so committed.  He is doing deep work in me because of His commitment to me. Left without struggle I would become my own messiah. I would lean on my own understanding. Through the struggle He is communicating the importance of my knowledge of my weakness. He is communicating the authority He has over my life and then reminding me that He moved heaven to earth to rescue me from me. He is committed to seeing me grow. He won't let me believe that I can do it without Him and this is all because HE LOVES ME. This knowledge does something in me. It changes the conversation from a prayer for the removal of the trial to a submission to it. Yes, there are sighs and there are tears. Sometimes a temper tantrum. He says, "Trust me?" and I don't want to. I want to trust me. Then, God's love and His kindness leads me to repentance and I remember that this pressure and discipline is from HIS hand (the nail- pierced one) and that it is for my good. I  mumble out my response. He is okay with my unwillingness and my fear and my desire not to submit. He knows it is hard. He died because I wouldn't do it on my own. He remembers I am dust. He knows my faith isn't sufficient. He is committed to me in spite of me. Grace.

Father God, I surrender again today. I am weak. You are strong. I trust you. I believe you want freedom for me. Give me the faith to believe you. Help me in my unbelief. Help me to remember salvation. Give me joy in it. Thanks for loving me.