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Archive for September, 2014

IMG_1288.JPGGood morning to my greatest works!
of art, of creativity, of heart, soul, mind and breath.

The other day, one of you asked what was my favorite age of you three. That was an easy question to answer! I love the stage each of you is at today.

Another of you asked me to read an article about courting and dating and then asked me to tell you what I thought. That was not an easy question to answer.

When each of you was born, I contemplated the wisdom of pre-arranged marriages … I was so fearful that you, lacking in life experience, would make a wrong and disastrous choice.

Now, after twenty-five years of marriage, and nearly as many years as a parent, I am seeing things differently.

I no longer see myself as the better judge of your future spouse. You see, I am wholly and completely human … sin-filled, flawed, and my preferences as changing as the wind (as if my moving of plants in our garden does not confirm that reality).

The only area where I have an advantage is life experience, and age is no guarantee that I would not make mistakes.

Now, let me tell you about dating, the mom version …

As a teen, I did what everyone else was doing, in regards to dating. ‘Normal’ was to date, exclusively, to be as physical as possible without ‘it’ happening. To date meant trying someone out, until it fizzled. Heartbreak ensued. Then we (I) would move on to the next experimental guinea pig. And the cycle continued.

All of this happening as our minds and bodies were developing, our education being pursued, our futures dreamed, and our dear friendships taken too much for granted.

Marriage was still the aimed for end result, but exclusive relationships, one after another, resulted in many heartbreaks.

Suffice it to say that my own high school dating experience is foundational in the ‘motivational’ offer by your dad and I, of a car after high school, if you choose to not date until after graduating high school.

As a parent, I feel I have gone through a few paradigm shifts.
-I have appreciated the courtship model (loosely)
-I have discouraged dating
-I have even encouraged you to not expect marriage as a sure thing for your future

At this juncture, as I look at my parents, and I am thankful for something they did.

I am thankful that they let me make my own choices and mistakes. They entrusted me to make my own mistakes and good choices. And I am thankful for that.

What I hope that we, as parents, have done is give you all of the foundational love and instruction you will need to make the important choices in your life, regarding dating

I hope we have taught you all:

  • to love yourselves
  • to love and respect others
  • to respect your heart, mind and body
  • to not ‘settle’
  • to not say ‘I love you’, just because someone tells you they love you
  • seek Gods will for your individual life, before seeking a life with another
  • consider who you date as whether they are marriable
  • to not look for the perfect person … there is no perfect person, not even the one in the mirror

I hope that God is number one in your life, and I hope you only choose to date people who think the same. Know that there is more to being ‘evenly yoked‘ than just being married to a Christ follower. Christians come in many different experiences of Gods spirit … if you are charismatic in your beliefs and expressions, a lover of liturgy, robes and choral music could make church and family-related choices, in the future, almost as painful as being with one who doesn’t love God at all.

My grown and growing kids,

these things you NEED to know, about dating (and life) …
You’re gonna make mistakes,
have your heart broken,
and wonder (years, weeks, minutes) in your marriage if you made a mistake.

And there is no formula or guarantee that will ensure that you got it right.

I wish that your dad and I could be a better example of perfect, like Christ and the church, sort of love …
But wait, that is the model we have given, because we as husband and wife are like the church …
We are sin filled, flawed, selfish
We mess up, we want to leave, we hurt each other

And here we are, still, 25 years into the adventure

We are still as messed up as we were as single individuals,
but aiming for the same grand finale … NOT on Earth, but in heaven.

And that’s it.

No, that’s not it …

And we will be praying for you until our last breath.

Love,

Mom

“If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way”
Andrew Peterson

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When I was a kid attending Sunday School we sang a song about heaven …

“Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I wanna see my Saviours face
Heaven is a wonderful place.
I wanna go there”

But, I can also remember hearing a speaker talk about the excitement of one day going to heaven, then say, “I don’t want to die, I like it here.”

There are times when I understand both perspectives on heaven, the desire to go there as well as the desire to never leave this Earth.

A friend is in the midst of awaiting the joyful news of her mother-in-laws passing into eternity. Now this might just sound like a daughter-in-law who is eager to be freed of her evil M.I.L., but that is not the case at all. This lady is ninety-seven, tired of her decaying physical body, and eager for the home her heart longs for … her heavenly home. My friend purely desires for this dear lady to have her prayers answered, and to sit at the feet of her Savior.

Another is mourning the diagnosis of her good friend … terminal cancer. This woman is my age, with children younger than my own. She is holding onto life here with white knuckle determination. She likes it here.

Then another who told me of a story of her dad having a heart attack and her mom saving his life. When her dad came to in the hospital, he refused to talk to his lifelong partner and wife, for days. It was not until much later that he explained that he resented her … because she brought him back to life. You see he has memories of moving towards a warm and bright light, and a feeling of peace he had not known before or since. He had no thoughts of his life or his loves on Earth, and his longing was to continue toward the light.

Thinking of heaven always brings me back to the book of Revelation :

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said,
“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:1-5

The image created in Revelation is of a dream that would be hard to awaken from. To dwell with our God is to have an Eden-like experience. There is “no death or mourning or crying or pain” … as a female, it is difficult to imagine no crying (maybe that is easier for males). It is difficult to imagine no pain.

The reality is that I think our problem is not in thinking about going to heaven, but thinking about leaving Earth.

I believe that once we are there, ‘here’ does not exist in our thoughts … because what we go to, like that man who was traveling towards the light, is what our heart longs for from the moment we are first created.

“Indeed, we groan with this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven …”
2 Corinthians 5:2

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In the Pit

IMG_0001.JPGEver been in a pit?

Joseph was once in a pit … actually it was a well, but really, once you are in one what it is called does not matter anymore. It is dark, cold, full of creepy crawlies, and you’re alone.

Joseph had been thrown into the well by a band of angry thugs … his brothers.

Ever felt thrown into a well by someone you loved?

He was just a young man, the eldest of his mother, Rachel, the pride and joy of his father Jacob (Israel). Joseph had done nothing to deserve such a violent act of thoughtless sibling abandonment.

Ever felt that you were an innocent victim?

He was a good son, followed all the rules, even reported to his father when his older half-brothers were not. He had won his father’s favor, simply by being the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachel.

Ever felt like you were being punished for the heartache of another?

He was a dreamer. Joseph dreamed of things to come, dreams that made the eyes of his brother roll, and confirm their ire for he and his superiority complex.

Ever feel like who you are created to be pushed you into the pit you are in?

Did Joseph’s rule following help him in the dampness of the pit?

Where were Joseph’s grand dreams when he looked up from the darkness he had been thrown into?

Where was Joseph’s protective and loving father, as he realized he was being hoisted out, not to end a cruel joke, but because his very own brothers sold him into slavery?

Sometimes, like Joseph, stuff happens in our life and we feel as though we have been thrown into a pit. Sometimes, having the best of intentions, the best of behaviors, the joy of being loved by family and friends, the greatest of gifts and abilities, are not the insurance of being able to live our lives in the light that we might have hoped that they would be.

Sometimes, we fall into the pit.

Sometimes, we are pushed.

Sometimes, the extended hand that lifts us out, is one that lands us in slavery.

That can all be rather dire.

But Joseph was never alone, not in that pit, not as a slave, not in an Egyptian prison.

God was there, and God’s stories are always centered around the theme of redemption, re-making, renewing.

After Joseph had provided opportunity for his brothers to prove that they had changed, after he was reunited with his father, Jacob, and after his father had died and was buried, redemption came for Joseph’s brothers.

Genesis 50:20 tells us that Joseph said to his brothers, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good …”

When we are in the pit we need to remember that we are not there alone, and we need to remember that God has a plan … for good to come from evil.

 

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Rest Awhile

IMG_1234.JPGThe third week of September is coming to an end, and in just a few more days summer’s end.

We are all aware of the sun’s later arrival each morning and early departure each evening. As I sit at my computer there is rain falling, and the sky is dark and gray, like the winter months here in the Pacific Northwest.

We are, once again, slaves to calendars filled with good things, demanding things, obligatory things.

Children are requiring poster board, and more computer time to complete newly assigned projects and reports.

Date night moves away from the beach, and into the grocery stores, the Home Depot.

Exercise becomes something to schedule in as opposed to something that happens naturally when all of nature beckons us to come and play.

Awakening to a darkened room does not encourage the departure from the sheets, and their call to us to return seems to begin once the dinner dishes are put away.

There is hustle and bustle, and busy until your dizzy, and deprivation of sleep, sun and fresh air.

Overall, the fatigue of busyness has hit.

I am reminded of Mark 6:31,

“then Jesus said,
“let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going
that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”

Jesus and his disciples were so very much in demand. People were wanting them night and day. Though they were fulfilling the purposes of their lives, for the greater good of the kingdom of God, their physical needs required replenishing and refreshing. And it was Jesus, himself, who suggested the temporary retreat from their work, and all of the demands connected with it.

If Jesus would put his purpose on hold for a rest, how much more do we mere mortals need to do the same.

Maybe, this weekend, we will each be moved to go off by ourselves, to a quiet place, and rest awhile.

 

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This past summer I heard that the first church of my childhood was to be torn down. When my brother shared that the contents of it, as well as architectural features, were to be auctioned off I found myself remembering that place and it’s people.

When I was three, my mother met my soon to be father. From their wedding on, my paternal grandmother took me along to her church each Sunday, for Sunday School, often followed by the church service.

It was a small, white clapboard building, with pine flooring, dark wood trims on the interior, and stained glass windows at (from my memory) almost every entry the sun could penetrate.

The small foyer opened straight into the vestry, where the opening of Sunday School would take place. I cannot remember all of the songs I learned there, but Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children (all the children of the world) and This Little Light of Mine were certainly ones that I learned in that small, but airy room.

Walking straight through the vestry to the back would then open a door on the left, then through the petite kitchen, to another petite room. It was there that I first encountered that classic Sunday School teaching tool, the flannel graph. If I close my eyes, I can still see the lame man being lowered through the roof, by his friends, so that he might be healed by Jesus.

Upstairs were more classrooms, though I only remember being in one of them. They were reserved for the older kids, and as I got older I attended Sunday School closer to my home.

Parallel to the vestry was the sanctuary. A rectangular room, with stained glass windows on one side, and on the other, a magnificent door that rolled right into the wall, separating the sanctuary from the vestry. The front was raised, and the simple pulpit in the middle. An old organ sat to the left, down on the floor. The back of the sanctuary was the most beautiful stained glass window (below).

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The image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, so gently carrying his lamb captivated by attention, and had me turned around staring in awe and wonder as a child. This image created from glass and lead, was and is who I see when I hear the name of Jesus.

But, the church was not just a building, but a people too.

There was that older lady who I sat behind in the vestry, who had the longest leg hairs ever (longer than any woman or man I have met since). Or the woman who made the cherry and cream cheese sandwiches, rolled up like a pinwheel. Or the kind man who always had hard candies in his pocket. Or the sound of my grandmother’s choral voice (equivalent to that of Lucille Ball). Or the ‘old ladies’ my grandmother picked up to drive to church every Sunday, even until the Sunday prior to her death in her mid 80’s. Or the women who, for a Vacation Bible School, were teaching the story of the loaves and the fishes, and they gave each child five buns and two cookies cut out as fish.

In recent years, the church … where I first met Jesus … had reduced to single digit attendance, and it’s hundred-odd year old building, badly in need of costly repair. It, and the community both suffering the effects of society moving away from the rural and towards more urban centers.

It is sad to think of a church being de-constructed. As the day approached, I imagined the sacrifices that those who built the church had made over the years. The coins in a jar, the roof replacement that was delayed by another year, the cookbooks sold, the pennies from a paper route. How sad that all their efforts would come to such a final end.

Though it is more sad to imagine maintaining a hollow building, with money and time that could instead be spent bringing light to those encompassed by darkness.

That church, as a building, taught me that Jesus was kind, and loving, and the main focus for that holy house.

That church, as a people, taught me that people were important, that I was important. They taught me that to worship God we did not have to have a perfect offering, but to offer what we have.

No place is so dear to my childhood …

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Can you name something you really want?

I am not talking peace on Earth, or for the males in your house to put the toilet seat down, or to win the lottery. I am talking about wanting something so badly, that your heart aches for it.

In my life, there have been few times when I truly wanted something that badly.

There was that day, late in spring, when hubby and I were discussing how we might spend vacation. For the past five to six years, our family (or parts of it) spent a week on the Oregon Coast, being nurtured physically, spiritually and relationally at a Christian convention center (check out http://www.cbcc.net). For me, this place has been my place of rest and renewal.

But, this year we would not be attending.

Sometimes we do not know what we want, until it is out of our grasp.

As the final decision to not go was made, tears began to fall, uncontrollably, from my eyes. As a matter of fact, whenever our ‘Cannon Beach’ friends asked if we would be there, a hard mass settled in my throat. Whenever emails from ‘there’ were in my email inbox, I would delete before I had to face pictures of the beach. Then the week when we normally would have been there … well, lets just say I did get my fair share of salt water (tears).

There was not a day this summer when I did not pray that God would make a way for us (or at least me 😉 ) to go.

Never in my life had a thing or place been so desired.

Things kind of bottomed out at the very end of summer, when hubby left for his third trip to the East Coast (our native land). I remember driving home, after dropping him off at the airport, and I had my getting real with God monologue (what a gentleman He is, to quietly put up with my pity party). I cannot remember all that I said, but the words “it’s not fair that he gets three trips” do still ring in my head.

After that very real confessional, I had finally let my desires go. And I awoke the next morning, still disappointed, but finally able to let it go.

About a week ago hubby had to call the conference center office on another matter. Out of the blue, the person on the other end asked, “you’re a pastor, aren’t you?”

To make a long story short, they have rooms available to pastors, on the off season … for free. To shorten it more, this past Monday hubby called (as soon as they opened) to reserve three nights. It also happens that we could do it without my having to takes unpaid days off.

I am delighted!

And I am cognizant of the fact that this provision was not something that just happened, but that every detail, down to the timing, was orchestrated by a God who cares about the desires of our heart.

I love Psalm 13. It is not a joy-filled psalm, but a lament … kinda like my getting real with God monologue. The Psalmist is feeling forgotten, ignored, and is throwing his very own pity party

… who cannot relate to hosting such an event?

Unlike myself, when the psalmist, David, comes to the end of his rant, he seems to take a humble posture, committing his trust in the mercy of God, thanking Him, ahead of time, for how bountifully God has/will deal with him.

And that is faith in the unseen, in the things to come.

“I will sing to the Lord,
for he has dealt bountifully with me!”
Psalm 13:6b

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IMG_1197.PNG As I sat in the school library, my attention was grabbed by a group of grade eight middle school students, working together on a group project.

It was one young man, in particular, who caught my gaze.

He was awkward … in every way possible.

His glasses kept slipping down his nose.

His round face, and body indicated that his upward growth had not yet stretched him vertically.

His clothes looked like ones a mom would buy (I’ve been that mom) without asking his opinion (though, to be fair to mom, maybe he didn’t really care what he was wearing).

He slouched in his chair, feet dangling inches from the carpeted floor.

Although his appearance was awkward (and I’ll bet his voice cracked, as well) it was the conversation with the girls in his group that captivated my attention.

The girls, oozing that early maturation that adolescent girls benefit from, were obviously speaking a language that he had yet to learn. They were talking quickly with their lips, as well as with their demonstrative hands. They giggled, they planned, they organized the role of the awkward boy in their project. The other boy in the group had an athletic build, and he smiled and laughed with the girls, causing the girls to hang on his every word. He was not awkward but amazing!

The young man looked like a fish out of water, totally and completely out of his element, his comfort zone, getting deep into uncharted waters.

And the girls giggled.

I have talked with this awkward young man. He is bright, makes wise choices, has compassion on others, is a great student … academically and behaviorally, he has a twinkle in his eye that makes one feel safe, heard, valued.

Here is what those giggling girls need to know:

that plain caterpillar will emerge from his adolescent cocoon a beautiful, graceful butterfly.

Now he might still not fully understand the language of females, and he may never have the buff body of an athlete, but the wise choices he makes, the use and development of the brain in his head, and his compassionate heart will grow him into a man of honor and success.

Right now, those girls are oblivious to this … right now he is oblivious to this.

Watching this young man in his group reminded me of 2 Corinthians 4:18

“So we fix out eyes
not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen

since what is seen is temporary
but what is unseen is eternal.”

So often, in the midst of the difficult, the ugly, the painful or the … awkward, we simply cannot ever imagine life being different or better. Our focus is completely on the mire of today. But God can see our future … all of it.

He knows where we are heading, and He plans to go there with us.

Just like me watching the scene in the library, believing that this young mans future looks so much brighter than his present, God looks at us in our awkward life situations and He knows what is to come for our lives, for our eternity.

Today is just a step in our life, lets keep our gaze on the unseen, who sees all.

 

 

 

 

 

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