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Archive for May, 2012

It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to a mother’s heart is quite a different route.

There are so many things that one can do to win the favor of one who is a mother. You can make a meal for her family. You can tell her she looks great (even with bags under her eyes from a sleepless babe, or talkative teen keeping her up at night). You can compliment her home, her work, her husband.

There is only one way to win the heart of a mother … say or do something nice, kind, or generous, for her child.

Just the other day, I got a text from hubby, telling me that a man in our church was gone. He was ninety-one years old, had a beautiful wife (just days from their sixty-sixth anniversary), supportive children, and his body had simply given in to the effects of aging. This man was dearly loved, by all who knew him. He was an amazing support to my hubby, teaching, mentoring and supporting him in a gentle, fatherly way. I always received words of encouragement, and love from him.

The thing I appreciated most about this man was that he told us, many times, that he prayed for our kids. In this act of love, he won the heart of this mother.

In hearing of his death, I felt the loss of the dear man who really knew how to love.

I also feel the weight of the loss of his prayers for my kids.

To know that someone is praying for your kids, is to know of a magical-like experience. There is a sense of other-worldly connection with that person. There is a sense of receiving love that is out of this world amazing.

To hear someone say, “I pray for your children” is to have won the lottery. Not because there is anything ‘magical’ about praying (God is not a sugar daddy who delivers all that we want), but because it is the act of love that cannot be adequately thanked for. It is not an act of love that gets acclaim.

It is an act of love that comes from knowing that growing up is not always easy, being a pastor’s kid is not always easy. The time that goes in to spending it with the God of the universe to lift them up to Him in humble prayer is the best gift there is.

In telling us of his sacrificial act, we were encouraged, as parents. This man knew of the intimacy of prayer, the strength that comes from prayer, and the reliance on God for every thing in life. He knew it, because he lived it.

He knew the way to this mother heart, and our family feels the loss of his love.

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I recently got to go to a great concert, by the group Switchfoot. It was something I was so excited about, and they did not fail to impress me.

It was extra special because my oldest daughter came along with me. I could not have gone with her a year ago, because the venue they were performing at was a nineteen and over ballroom, and she would have been too young then.

On the day of the concert I was speaking with a good friend (one who I respect greatly) about the concert that we were to attend later in the evening. I had expressed my excitement over my concert plans, and appreciation that a group of Christians would take their music to the ‘secular’ public, and be enjoyed by them too.

Then she shared her perspective. Her perspective was that the Christian group was “selling out”. That they were watering down their message to the point that it was no longer distinctive as a message from or about God. That they had no place in the mainstream music market.

According to Wikipedia “selling out refers to the perception that someone is compromising their integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for money or “success” (however defined). It is commonly associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream audience.”

As one who is drawn to those who are believers in Christ, who integrate their personal faith, and Biblical principles for life without staying within the sanctuary of  ‘church’, I had to chew on my friends opinions. After all, one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, by Laverne, a gargoyle in the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “you can’t stay cooped up in here forever.” I might even say that this quote by a stone cold, fictitious character is a (loose) paraphrase of Mark 16:15a, “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Jesus said those words to his disciples when they were huddled all together having an early church potluck. They had gotten word from Mary that she had seen the risen Jesus … and they did not believe it. Then they had heard from another pair who had also seen Jesus … and they did not believe that story either.

These men, who had received their seminary training from the Son of God himself, were not able to muster the faith to believe that God could do the humanly impossible with the one they knew (or did they?) to be the long awaited Messiah. Was it because Jesus had not revealed himself to them personally first? Was it because they felt that they had the only right platform for Jesus to show up to?

Finally, after Jesus showed up at their potluck (notice they did not go out looking for Him), they believed in the risen Jesus. Mark 16:19-20 says, “after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them … the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

Even they, who had been taught by the Savior himself, had to have their own eyes and ears opened to Jesus presence. Maybe, even today, Jesus and His message of hope, need to be taken OUT OF the church (go into the world) to be shared with those who are blind and deaf?

I am planning on chewing on the words of my friend a bit more. I respect her, and her views, and I know that I do not know the answers to every question.

When the lead singer, Jon Foreman, thanked people for coming and allowing them to share their songs of hope, I smiled … because I knew, what the group’s musicians knew, that God was in the house, and you would have to be deaf and blind to not see and hear His message of hope.

(song lyrics from pictures: “Your Love is a Song”, “Only Hope”, “Meant to Live”, “Red Eyes”)

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It was an exciting day in church when, one after another, three couple announced that they were each to have their first baby. The cheers rang out throughout the sanctuary. Smiles were wide and bright. A fresh sense of joy and elation surrounded the cloud of witnesses.

Each of the couples are healthy, educated adults, who will be fantastic moms.

It seems as though there is a baby boom of sorts in the circles of my daily life. There are baby bumps everywhere! It is as though pregnancy has reached epidemic proportions!

For so many of these pregnant women in and around my life, this is their first child.

When I speak with other ‘veteran’ moms about those who are expecting their first child, we share the same thought that “they have no idea how their lives are about to change.” This is the common response of those of us who are ‘veteran moms’, when we hear of a woman expecting her first child. There is such a sense of joy for those expectant moms, mixed a bit with sorrow. Not sorrow, because they are having a baby, but sorrow because they are losing an innocence that they will never have back again.

When ‘veteran’ moms hear of a first-time expecting mom, we try to flash back to the point of life that they are at. We try to remember what our book educated, dreamy-pictured, idealistic thoughts were of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. We try to recall how little we thought that our life, our marriage, out BODY would change.

But, once we pass through the veil to motherhood … there is no going back! The door is shut, locked and sealed. There is no ‘before’ life, as a mom.

Whenever I hear of a woman expecting her first child, I think how beautifully naive she is (no matter the books she reads, or the people she talks to). I think of how she is living in a state of the calm before the storm (although, for some, pregnancy is a storm in and of itself). I think about how, when she gives birth (or brings that adopted child home), she is not just laboring for the birth of her child, but she is also laboring for the birth of her new self, for she is about to be re-born, as a new creation … she is about to be … mom.

She is new because she will be different from the inside out.

She will think differently, spend her time differently, shop differently and prioritize every part of her life differently.

No longer will she be able to hear a child cry, and ignore it.

No longer will she be able to watch news stories about lost, or abused, or sick children and be able to forget it.

No longer will she hear of a lost child in a public place, and not help to find them.

No longer will she be able to not glance at a baby in a stroller, when passing by.

No longer will she see a woman will an agitated child, and not have her heart go out to the woman.

She will be changed, a new creation, like the one she holds in her womb, or her arms, a new life is about to begin.

And what an adventure-filled life it is!

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Spring in our house means one constant, consistent thing … pool repairs!

This is our ninth spring in this house, and every year we attempt to open our in ground pool only to discover that another something needs to be replaced, fixed or upgraded … and I begin to contemplate moving … to a home without a pool.

Oh, I know, after the broken parts have been fixed, after the chemicals have done their miracle and changed the waters color (like a mood ring), when the heat of July and August arrives, I will be diving into that pool with great thanks that we live where we do. For now, I anticipate yet another bill, and wonder just how many hours I have to work to pay it off.

If you have been to our home for a cool dip on a hot day, you might not believe my reference to cesspool. Check out the photo to the right … This dastardly pool not only had a part on the pump that needed to be replaced, but it currently more closely resembles the swamp outside of Shrek’s home than a refreshing, crystal clear place of recreation and rest.

This is the way of owning things … they end up owning us.

I remember, years ago, Bill Cosby had a comic sketch about our ‘stuff’, and how it leads to needing places to store our ‘stuff,’ and how we need to get insurance for our ‘stuff’ in case something happens to our ‘stuff’, and on and on. I now am starting to understand what he was talking about.

Most days I feel as though I am owned by my ‘stuff’ and it is controlling every important decision that I have to make.

If we own a vehicle, we need to maintain it, repair it, protect it. All of that takes time and money.

If we own a home, we also need to maintain it, repair it, protect it. All of that takes time and money too.

So then we need to work more (our time) to make enough money to cover the costs of the ‘privilege’ of having ‘stuff’, and we need to use our ‘free’ time to look after this ‘stuff’ (I personally spent over eleven hours, on a delightfully sunny Saturday, working on our yard and pool ‘stuff’).

In the meantime, as we work to pay for, and work to maintain what we have, we need to remember that our ‘stuff” is not as valuable as the people in our lives. In the spring, we slave for as many hours a week as we work our jobs, to maintain the home and pool that we have so that our children can enjoy these things, and so that we can enjoy our time with our kids … in the summer. All the while, we are presently not with our kids.

I wonder what they would choose? Would they choose big yard and pool over time with mom and dad on a more consistent basis?

It makes me wonder … is it worth it?

Even in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes, it says, “all things are permissible.

It also says, “but not all things are beneficial.”

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I love to anticipate things to come. I love to plan vacations, and times away with hubby. I love to count down weeks to school breaks (currently only five more weeks of work until summer break starts …). I love to dream about concerts and other events that I have tickets to, I awaken and my mouth starts watering as I contemplate what I will prepare for dinner.

My brain loves to focus on the good things to come. It is a survival tactic, to get through the more mundane parts of life (this is my undiagnosed ADD talking). It is my way of focusing on the prize that is to come.

I plot and plan, I dream and scheme, all with the hopes of ordering my future fixation … whatever it might be.

It is not bad to look forward to good things that we anticipate coming our way. It is just that we must keep in mind that our planning for future events and experiences is not guaranteed.

I might plan a vacation, and then something comes up that requires I change those plans. I might be looking forward to a summer off, but when a job comes up that could ease our family finances, I need to take it, and forgo that time of R & R. A concert that I have tickets to might get canceled. I might plan something amazing for dinner, but because I end up taxiing kids all afternoon, that gourmet dinner is substituted with hot dogs.

In the midst of my plotting and dreaming, my hopes and dreams, life happens. It is rarely what I would have chosen the path of my life to be.

Even worse, though, than having my plans not be fulfilled, is that I can be so fixated on what is to come, that I forget to enjoy and fully live in the present moment. My eyes can be straining so hard to see the future that they cannot focus on what is currently before me.

That might mean that I am missing out on the beauty, the lessons, the preparation for whatever is around the next corner. In my preoccupation with the future, I might be missing out on the gift of the present time.

“Today is mine.
Tomorrow is none of my business.
If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future,
I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly
what is required of me now.”
Elisabeth Elliot

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As I was recently walking a student through the story of Samson (Judges 13-16) I was reminded of how inhumanly strong Samson was, physically, and yet how humanly weak he was.

The story begins with a barren, childless couple. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, this woman is informed by an angelic messenger that she is to give birth to a son who would be part of God’s plan. She is told that she should not drink any alcohol (the first written advise that would eliminate the possibility of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), and that her son should never have a haircut.

The first recording of Samson’s post-womb life is that he saw a pretty lady and told his parents to get her for him as his wife. They were not so happy, because they were Israelites and she was a Philistine (think Red Sox vs. the Yankees), but they did it.

The story is worth a read, I could see a miniseries or major action film come from this story, mostly because of his desires for the pretty lady. Suffice it to say that many people died.

Then he falls in love with a woman named Delilah, and she is his sweetest downfall.

As the story of Samson progresses, the Philistine rulers offer Delilah a deal she cannot refuse … lots of money if she can find the secret of his strength. She accepts.

Samson meets with Delilah a number of times. Each time she asks him the source of his strength (imagine lots of blinking eyelashes, and pouty faces). Each time he tells her a lie, until the final time when he tells her that the source of his strength is his hair.

He blew it! He, who was set aside God from before he was conceived, blew it for a pretty face (I am sure the attraction did not stop at the face) … again! What happened next is rather ironic, as the Philistines gouged out his eyes … hum, kind of makes me think of Exodus 21:24, “an eye for an eye.” His strength may have been his hair, but his weakness was most certainly his eyes, especially his eye for attractive women.

Samson was shacked and working in the prison. This was the lowest point in his life, but he was finally using his brain rather than his lower extremities to think with.

The Philistines were partying, celebrating, and sacrificing to their god, when they had Samson brought out from the depths to ‘entertain’ them.

Samson saw this humiliation as an opportunity to redeem his life.

He asked the servant who was guiding him to place him between two pillars of the temple, so that he could touch each one. The temple was said to have about three thousand people in and on it. Samson asked God for strength once more. His last words were, “let me die with the Philistines” (16:30), then he pushed with all his might, and the temple came down on all who were there.

Like Jesus, the other angelically announced baby boy, he gave his life, so that others might live. Unlike Jesus, he was fully man, but not also fully God, and his weaknesses are as memorable as his strength. Also, unlike Jesus, his purpose was to redeem his people through physical strength and death. Whereas Jesus purpose was to redeem all people through his loving sacrifice.

Samson was thought to be strong, but was only his strongest when he was weak. Jesus was thought to be weak, but his weakest human point was when he was most strong.

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To be pursued is to be followed, chased, sought after.

When a villain is being pursued by the police, it is for capture, incarceration. The police are determined to do whatever it takes to get their man/woman. It is of great importance, great need. They seek to know all they can about the one they want in order to make that villain theirs.

When a lover is being pursued, it too is for capture. The person pursuing is determined to do whatever it takes to get their man/woman. It too is of great importance, great need, and the one seeking will do all that they can to know the person they pursue in order to make him or her theirs.

When we know that we are pursued we either ramp up our pace … or slow it down.

In the phases of life and love, our nature often overtakes our brain in matters of being pursued, and in the pursuing.

In the phase of young or new love, one person is often a pursuer, followed by the other. Often the male is the pursuer, which is probably due to his ‘hunter gatherer’ nature, and we females are often the pursued, naturally ready for the chase. They strive to know how to get together, how to be together. Their energies are focused on this end goal.

Once the pursuit has achieved it’s goal, naturally the pursuing wanes. The euphoria of being pursued also wanes.

But, the need to be pursued continues.

There is nothing more sad to see than such a recipe for disaster. The ingredients of disaster in relation to committed love involve a discontinuing of pursuit of each other.

You can see it in the people you work with, the people you have coffee with, in the mirror. It is the look of stagnancy, of going nowhere, because there is no one who is moving them forward in the pursuit of them. Once this stagnancy begins the risk of responding to the pursuits of others increases … for we were made to run.

Our human need to be pursued continues, even when jobs are demanding, even when kids schedules equal those in the leadership of nations, even when we feel there is nothing and no one left to pursue, because we have caught, been caught, already. And if we, who once pursued so voraciously, cease to continue the chase, there is always someone else willing to lap us in our easy chairs … it’s our nature.

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