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Archive for January, 2014

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A few years back, like five or six, I read a book that was,

for me,

the calm after the storm …

or was it the calm before the storm?

A book written by an unknown author, who self-published a book that ended up going all the way to the New York Times Bestseller List (currently over twenty million copies sold).

Recently, through the daily reading of a teacher in whose class I work, I have been re-visiting the Shack, by William P. Young.

This novel, written as a story by Mr. Young, for his children, became both loved and reviled by the Christian community. Some felt it the best thing since the classic John Bunyan story of Pilgrim’s Progress. Others felt it was heresy.

I read it,

and received it,

as a fairy tale, drama, tragedy, love story

metaphor for the depth of love that God has for his children … His deeply beloved.

Last week, while the teacher was reading through a chapter, it happened.

I call it the Shack attack …

The words on the page pierced my heart, as though inked onto the page by my very heart.

“I guess part of me would like to believe that God would care enough about me to send a note.”

and my dry eyes were suddenly hydrated unexpectedly.

I think we all look hope for that kind of love, that kind of pursuit …

and my own experience of The Shack (and of The Word) is that He does.

Be prepared, there will be more posts of my return to The Shack.

Mr. Young stated to radio host talk show Drew Marshall that The Shack “is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged…the thing where shame or hurt is centered.”

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Some days it takes intentional effort to find the joy in the day.

Some days the best part is that first cup of coffee, or that hot and steamy shower, or that toast with jam.

When I saw the image, above, I was at the end of ‘one of those days,’ and it reminded me of something, God sometimes blesses through the everyday, mundane, never noticed but always utilized …

things.

Why, just today, some of the things I often forget that I am so thankful for :

  • a rain jacket
  • a borrowed umbrella
  • a fork to eat my dinner with
  • books … beautifully written books
  • a white board (my favorite teaching tool)
  • a table and chair
  • a photocopier
  • a drivers license
  • a wooden spoon
  • a clean facecloth
  • a sharpened pencil … and eraser
  • 50% off sticker
  • a radio in the van
  • toilet paper
  • a lock on the bathroom door (so very thankful for that

Many years ago I read a devotional about a little girl and her grandfather. The pair had heads bowed to pray a blessing on the food they were about to eat. The grandfather’s prayer was one of thanks, not just for the meal, but for the sunshine, the lazy dog at their feet, the granddaughter across the table, the sick neighbor across the street, even for the plates the food would be eaten from. Once the amen was spoken, the granddaughter sat quietly, not touching her food.

“Sweetie, are you not feeling well?” asked the grandfather.

“Shhh,” she replied, “I’m praying grandfather.”

Soon, her head popped up, a satisfied smile across her face.

“What did you pray for?” the fascinated man said.

“I thanked God for doorknobs,” she said, beaming from ear to ear.

The grandfather was puzzled. “And why are you thankful for doorknobs?”

“Because, Grandpa, when I turned yours, you were on the other side of the door.”

Ya, and I am thankful for doorknobs too.

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A Birth Story

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It’s three boys and …

Last evening I sat down to catch up on social media, when I noticed that a local animal protection agency was airing a live stream of a cat giving birth.

I clicked.

Two hours disappeared quickly (for me, not the Momma cat).

I went to my daughter, to share in the exciting event … “Ew” was all I got from her.

I went to my son, who was eating a ‘snack’ (just half an hour after finishing dinner), to see if he would like to view the miracle of birth … “Mom, I can’t watch this while I am eating, I’ll be sick” was his response.

So, I cozied up in my chair and watched solo, while the Momma cat (Sugarplum) delivered number four.

I then heard movements in the kitchen (with three teens in the house, there is always movement in the kitchen) so I took my device to share the view with our International ‘son’ from China. But, his water was boiling for tea, and he needed to return to his studies.

I climbed the stairs, while staring at my device, knowing that hubby would LOVE to watch additional felines enter into the world … he did look, but the call of the hockey commentator had his full attention.

So it was just me about two thousand others left to watch the final two arrive.

Pretty soon, Sugarplum was panting and growling … number five soon followed. Now two gingers and three dark.

After quite a ‘break’ number six, another dark one emerged.

This cat knew exactly how to breath, what to do and what position to get in, without a how to manual in sight. As each kitten was born she gave them a thorough tongue bath. She cleared fur away from her underside so the newby’s could find their source of nourishment. She endured their dog-piles as she was struggling to push the next ones out.

Watching this furry mom, I was also hearing the commentary of the process, complete with human directions for this feline momma. I had to laugh, as this cat has more instincts in this area than we on two feet will ever have.

The miracle of birth is amazing. The manner by which life duplicates life …the efforts of the female to push this new life out from her body, the waiting for and then the anticipated moment when that first breath is taken.

That first breath …

The sign of life, unattached to any other … the final act before entering into eternity …

Holy ground, as we attend both the first and final breaths.

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Reaching Down

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In the the book of Exodus, the story is told of God coming down to Earth, down to where Moses was, to present His desires, His plans for this Israelite-born, Egyptian-adopted man. God ‘appeared’ to Moses in a bush that was burning but not burning up.

“God said, “you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:5) …“now I am sending you to Pharaoh. Go! Lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (3:10)

God confirmed who He was in the language of the time, in the language of the genealogy of the Jews, naming three great men of God, whose power and might came from Yahweh himself. God came to Moses … Moses was pursued by the Creator of heaven and Earth.

But Moses said to God, “I am not a great man!
How can I be the one to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”
(3:11)

Moses does the ‘gosh, darn, golly I just don’t think I’m your man’ response. Humility … it can be attractive, but God’s response might indicate that Moses wasn’t understanding that his abilities would not come from within himself, but that Moses would be the vessel through which God would work (hum, kind of reminds me of a post from last week, False Boasting).

God said, “You can do it because I will be with you.” (3:12)

God is not only pursuing Moses, but He promises to be by His side … he won’t be left alone.

“Then Moses said to God, “But if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me,’ then the people will ask, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them? Then God said to Moses, “Tell them, ‘I Am Who I Am’ … Tell the Israelites that you were sent by Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (3:13-15)

This Moses guy either had spent too much time in the home of Pharaoh or really did not understand his people (that list of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is pretty much the all star line-up for the Jewish people). After all, Yahweh is largely a title normally written YHWH … no vowels, and, when said, one is not really speaking, but simply breathes … YHWH is breath.

“Then Moses said to God, “But the Israelites will not believe me when I tell them that you sent me. They will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” (4:1)

I thing that what Moses is saying is … “if you like it then you should put a ring on it” … aka if you’re serious make it public!

After this God provides Moses with signs and wonders (kind of like an engagement ring) to show to others that Moses is His main man!

“Then Moses said to the Lord, “But, Lord, I am telling you, I am not a good speaker. I have never been able to speak well. And that hasn’t changed since you started talking to me. I am still not a good speaker. You know that I speak slowly and don’t use the best words.” (4:10)

As a mom, I can honestly say, that Moses was whining!

“Then the Lord said to him, “Who made a person’s mouth? And who can make someone deaf or not able to speak? Who can make a person blind? Who can make a person able to see? I am the one. I am the Lord. So go. I will be with you when you speak. I will give you the words to say.” (4:11-12)

Seriously, does anyone have the patience of God? Anyone in their right mind would drop Moses and find someone with better abilities, and more worthy of this task.

“But Moses said, “My Lord, I beg you to send someone else, not me.” (4:13)

And finally, finally, God busts a gut …

“Then the Lord became angry with Moses and said, “All right! I’ll give you someone to help you … Aaron will speak for you … you will speak to him, and he will tell the people what you say.” (4:14-16)

God altered His plan, because His plan was as important as His man.

“So go and carry your walking stick with you. Use it and the other miracles to show the people that I am with you.” (4:17)

And Moses went, following the plan that God pursued him to fulfill.

Folks, God doesn’t only pursue the spiritual greats of the Bible. He pursues His people even today.

The other morning I snapped the picture at the top of the page. What I loved what how the rays of the morning sun were not just peeking through the trees, but they were reaching down to touch the Earth.

God may not speak to you and I through a burning bush, but He pursues us like no other lover on this Earth. He reaches down to touch us, His creation, to reveal the plan that He has for our life.

Sometimes that means we need to look up, in search of the light that is reaching back at us.

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Crying it Out

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“Mom, did you let any of us cry it out when we were young?”

There it was, a child to parent question, that can zip my lips faster than crazy glue.

It’s not the only one. There is also,

  • “did you have drug-free childbirth?”
  • “did you breastfeed all of your babies until they were one year (or two, or six)?
  • “how do you feel about circumcision?”
  • “did your kids watch TV as preschoolers?”
  • “did you get your kids immunized?”

My daughter’s question was a fair one, a reasonable one, after all she is a Psychology student, and numerous psychological theories deal with issues of nurture and attachment. But, I was not ready to talk about such theories … I am still, and may always, be living the motherly existence of being chased down by momma guilt.

Momma guilt is a most powerful, dark and destructive force. It can erase the ten good things a mother does with one newspaper article, one crime drama, one conversation with a mom who ‘did it all right’ and is currently wearing the coveted mother-of-the-year crown on her perfectly coiffed hair.

I wrote about Momma Guilt a couple of years ago, especially in regard to those perfect TV moms, that so many of us grew up with.

But, the TV moms of the past have been replaced by the scientific study, or the psychological theory about development and attachment (or the mom next door), and they are so convincing with their charts, their studies and their scientific process.

But what they tell us (and I still keep needing to remind myself) is what they know from their studies, their theories and their observations … today. The results tomorrow might just be different, they might point us to a very different direction.

They are also only telling us one side of the child nurture and rearing process … that of the child, not taking other circumstances into account, such as physical or mental health of the mother, familial circumstances and support (including the role of the daddy), family or cultural history.

The difficulty with being a mom is that no matter what investment we make into the lives of our children, we will indeed make mistakes, and some of them will be whoppers! We will say things, do things and make decisions that will result life-long effects in how our children see themselves, others and their place in this world. We will hurt them, we will make decisions that leave them deficit in areas, we will over-do things that will leave them ‘damaged.’

And, if that is all we consider about our roles as mothers, we will have enough momma guilt to carry our bodies six feet down.

But …

we do what we do, as moms,

with the greatest of intent.

with the most deep desire for success of our children.

with an immeasurable amount of love.

and we know, from the moment that we hold that perfect personification of our heart’s beat, that we simply are not qualified to do justice to our child.

but, that does not stop us from putting more effort into the task,

than we put into any other in our lifetimes.

Today, my three earthly children are speaking to me

each one has hugged, or been hugged by me

I am satisfied to say that today … just today, I am a successful mom,

no momma guilt needed.

And my answer to “Mom, did you let any of us cry it out when we were young?”

“I’ll let you know later … when you are a mom.”

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“Hello, my name is Carole, and I like to avoid the dark of night … of life.”

So, I had a guest post all prepared and scheduled for today … and then Wednesday happened.

If you have read my Sunday guest posts for awhile, you will know that I quite like the writing of Ann Voskamp, over at A Holy Experience, and this past Wednesday was pure delight.

Ann introduces us to a delightful, plain, unassuming man … one who does not stand out like a spotlight … but one who most certainly resembles a nightlight. One who does not let the dark stop him … but one who keeps running through the dark of night.

This guy does not avoid the dark of night … he runs right through it!

Here is his story (How to get Through the Dark Places), told through the soul-whisperer herself, Ann Voskamp :

“The old cahoot ran in his boots.

Weren’t too many of anybody who believed he could.

The kids and I read about the old guy one night after supper and the dishwasher’s moaning away, crumbs still across the counter.

How the old guy ran for 544 miles. His name was Cliff Young and he wasn’t so much. He was 61 years old. He was a farmer. Levi grins big.

Mr. Young showed up for the race in his Osh Kosh overalls and with his work boots on, with galoshes over top. In case it rained.

He had no Nike sponsorship.

He had no wife – hadn’t had one ever.

Lived with his mother. Never drank. Never ran in any kind of race before. Never ran a 5 mile race, or a half-marathon, not even a marathon.

But here he was standing in his work boots at the starting line of an ultra-marathon, the most grueling marathon in the world, a 544 mile marathon.

Try wrapping your head around pounding the concrete with one foot after another for 544 endless, stretching miles. They don’t measure races like that in yards – -but in zip codes.

First thing Cliff did was take out his teeth.

Said his false teeth rattled when he ran.

Said he grew up on a farm with sheep and no four wheelers, no horses, so the only way to round up sheep was on the run. Sometimes the best training for the really big things is just the everyday things.

That’s what Cliff said: “Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go run and round up the sheep.” 2,000 head of sheep. 2,000 acres of land.

“Sometimes I’d have to run those sheep for two or three days. I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

“Got any backers?” Reporters shoved their microphones around old Cliff like a spike belt.

“No….” Cliff slipped his hands into his overall pockets.

“Then you can’t run.”

Cliff looked down at his boots. Does man need backers or does a man need to believe? What you believe is the biggest backer you’ll ever have.

The other runners, all under a buffed 30 years of age, they take off like pumped shots from that starting line. And scruffy old Cliff staggers forward. He doesn’t run. Shuffles, more like it. Straight back. Arms dangling. Feet awkwardly shuffling along.

Cliff eats dust.

For 18 hours, the racers blow down the road, far down the road, and old Cliff shuffles on behind.

Come the pitch black of night, the runners in their $400 ergonomic Nikes and Adidas, lay down by the roadside, because that’s the plan to win an ultra-marathon, to run 544 straight miles: 18 hours of running, 6 hours of sleeping, rinse and repeat for 5 days, 6 days, 7 days.

The dark falls in. Runners sleep. Cameras get turned off. Reporters go to bed.

And through the black night, one 61-year-old man far behind keeps shuffling on.

And all I can think is:

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.

καταλαμβάνω Katalambanō – Comprehend. Understand. Master.

Cliff Young runs on through the night and there is a Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not master it.

The darkness doesn’t understand the light, doesn’t comprehend the light, doesn’t get the light, doesn’t overcome the light, doesn’t master the light.

Darkness doesn’t have anything on light, on hope, on faith.

The darkness that sucks at the prodigal kid doesn’t have anything on the light of his mother’s prayers.

The black of pornography that threatens at the edges doesn’t master the blazing light of Jesus at the center.

The pit of depression that plunges deep doesn’t go deeper than the love of your Jesus and there is no place His light won’t go to find you, to save you, to hold you.

That low lying storm cloud that hangs over you can’t master the light of Christ that raises you.

Darkness can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that,” Martin Luther King had said it, had lived it.

Only words of Light can drive out worlds of dark.
Only deeds of Light can drive out depths of dark.
Only lives of Light can drive out lies of dark.

Darkness can never travel as fast as Light. No matter how bad things get, no matter how black the dark seeps in, no matter the depths of the night — the dark can never travel as fast as Light. The Light is always there first, waiting to shatter the dark.

You can always hold His Word like a ball of light right there your hand, right up there next to your warming heart.

You can always count on it: Jesus is bendable Light, warmth around every unexpected corner.

Cliff Young runs on through the dark — because he didn’t know you were supposed to stop.

The accepted way professional runners approached the race was to run 18 hours, sleep 6, for7 days straight. But Cliff Young didn’t know that. He didn’t know the accepted way. He only knew what he did regularly back home, the way he had always done it: You run through the dark.

Turns out when Cliff Young said he gathered sheep around his farm for three days, he meant he’d run across 2,000 acres of farmland for three days straight without stopping or sleeping, without the dark ever stopping him. You gathered sheep by running through the dark.

So along the endless stretches of highway, a tiny shadow of an old man shuffled along, one foot after another, right through the heat, right through the night. Cliff gained ground.

Cliff gained ground because he didn’t lose ground to the dark. Cliff gained ground because he ran through the dark.

And somewhere at the outset of the night, Cliff Young in his overalls, he shuffled passed the toned runners half his age. And by the morning light, teethless Cliff Young who wasn’t young at all, he was a tiny shadow — far, far ahead of the professional athletes.

For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight, Cliff Young ran, never once stopping for the dark – never stopping until the old sheep farmer crossed the finish line – First. He crossed the finish line first. Beating a world record. By two. whole. days.

The second place runner crossed the finish line 9 hours after old Cliff.

And when they handed old Cliff Young his $10,000 prize , he said he hadn’t known there was a prize. Said he’d run for the wonder of it. Said that all the other runners had worked hard too. So Cliff Young waited at the finish line and handed each of the runners an equal share of the 10K.

And then the old cahoot in boots walked a way without a penny for the race but with all the hearts of whole world.

While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance.
While others impress, you can simply press on.
While others stop for the dark, you can run through the dark.

The race is won by those who keep running through the dark.

Could be the year to pull a Cliff Young. 

When those reporters asked Old Cliff that afterward, what had kept him running through the nights, Cliff had said, “I imagined I was outrunning a storm to gather up my sheep.”

And I sit there in the thickening dark.

With the One who mastered the dark and overcame the storm to gather His sheep and now there is a Light Who shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.

And you can see them out the front window, far away to the west, out on there the highway —

the lights all going on through the dark.”

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Well folks, it is just eleven more months until Christmas … done your shopping yet?

I am!

NOT!

Now that was False Boasting, and that is exactly the name of the most viewed post of this week. It is a post about how we tend to advertise falsely about our lives, and what we should really be boasting about.

Also this week were :

Life
(be careful in looking forward that we do not wish our one life away)

Got a Dementor in Your Life
(what is sucking the life from you today?)

Choices > Abilities
(sometimes success comes not from our abilities, but our choices)

Friday, Where Have You Been All Week?
(a little something to bless you this day)

Blessings to you this day,
Carole

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