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Archive for November, 2014

In the Waiting

I am not a good waiter,

and by waiter, I mean someone who (has to) wait.

I think that many people are not good waiters. I especially think that today, Black Friday.

Black Friday, the day that follows American Thanksgiving, is a day of reckless shopping, spending and individualism. It is the human behavioral evidence that we do not see benefit from waiting. Ironically, Black Friday falls just two days before the next holy season, on the church calendar, that of Advent.

Advent means coming, and when something is coming, someone is waiting.

Advent is about remembering the waiting for the arrival of the Messiah (as a babe) and the waiting we do now for his second arrival. He is coming again and that coming is Advent.

To know someone or something is coming is a far more exciting waiting than any other. For in this waiting is the promise that our waiting is not in vain. What we must always remember is that there is purpose, there is the attainment of skills and strength, and humility that will make us ready for the day that the promise is fulfilled.

As we walk through this Advent season, let’s try to prepare for the promise of Christ, just as we do in the gifts and food and parties of the other side of this holiday.

When we are in the waiting, ask the question,

What will you teach me through this, God?

The Bible is full of waiting for something to come. It is also full of promises that the waiting would not be in vain.

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God won’t give us more than we can handle …

Tell that to the mom nursing her child through the horrible effects of cancer treatment.

Tell that to the student who has dreamed all their life of becoming a doctor, and has not been accepted to a medical school.

Tell that to the man, whose wife, and mother to his three young kids, has just died in a car crash.

Tell that to the woman whose husband has just declared that he no longer loves her, but is leaving her for another woman.

Tell that to the father whose son is a drug addict, living on the streets in a large city, selling his soul to feed his habit.

Or to the twelve year old who has been enslaved in the sex trade.

Or to the family whose every earthly belonging, home included, was swept away by flood waters.

Where in the Bible, are we told that God will not give us more than we can handle? Is it New Testament or Old Testament teaching? Did Moses say those words? Or Paul? Or Jesus? Maybe it was Job?

The closest thing to that rather pithy saying would be found in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But, when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Of the numerous commentaries I consulted, there were also numerous interpretations of this teaching.

When I went back to read the first thirteen verses of the chapter, I started to develop my own commentary, and it had little to do with the words that could act like the salt in the wounds of the one who feels their cup is full of trouble. The words,

God will not give us more than we can handle …

Those first thirteen verses refer to the temptations which are common to man, through the history of the world. Temptations like greed, lust, envy, gluttony, laziness, pride, wrath (I am sure there are more, but I figure the seven deadly sins are about as common to man as we can get). In this passage we are warned to not give in to these temptations, and encouraged that God will provide a way so that we can resist such evil.

These temptations are very different from troubles inflicted by others, or to our human bodies. These temptations have nothing to do with a little girl, in India, being sold into sexual slavery.

IMG_1618-0.JPGI will no longer, ever, use that phrase, like salt in the most painful lacerations of a human soul, for I believe it to be a self righteous salve that can cause pain to increase even more. It does not offer comfort, but demands that we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Instead, I will lead the hurting to words which are, indeed, from God’s Word,

I have told you these things,
so that in me you have have peace.
In this world you will have trouble,
but take heart
I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

As Jesus was delivering the message of his own, impending demise, to his disciples, he tells that the words above. They are the aloe to a bad burn, the soothing comfort of love and of hope, in response to a very real reality …

You see, in this world we WILL have trouble. All of us, at some time, guaranteed.

But,

in the heartache, in the desperation, in the loneliness, in the pain, in the despair, and even in death

Jesus reminds us that He has already overcome the world.

Victory may not be ours, here on Earth, this very day,

but He has won the battle, and we live with Eternity in our hearts.

Hope, not demands.

That is the example he has given us.

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One of our kids desires to spend Christmas with extended family … on the opposite coast of the country. Although my momma heart wants all of my kids with me for Christmas, I also desire greatly for our kids to not miss out on opportunities to spend time living their own lives. I felt I had easily made peace with this desire, until the other day …

“I just don’t want to be here at Christmas”

Wanting to be away is one thing, but to not want to be here … ouch!

That very same day, another child returned from a weekend retreat with our church youth group. I was so excited to hear about his time away, until I heard his reply to my question about his time away …

“It was great! I just love being at camp so much better than being here

I felt the knuckle punch, hard, to my abs, my throat.

Ah, but it didn’t end there!

My daughter’s and I had a plan to go to the church that my eldest attends, but then she had to work later than planned. I suggested that, rather than leave her out, we could go to another church together, later in the day. Together was, in my mind, the joy. Well, child number three, when we got back home from church, was out of the vehicle and into her room, with her door shut, faster than I could lower my feet from the vehicle.

Apparently, it was not her church of choice, and not joy-filled.

I went to bed that night feeling rather low, unappreciated, unloved.

It was not that they were desiring bad things, but that they were desiring them … more.

more than me.

As I worked through the scar tissue, I realized what my problem was how I heard their words … I heard them through momma ears, where there are momma-sized regrets.

I heard their words of preference of another place, through my memories of saying no to things that they have wanted me to do with them, over the years. The times they wanted just one more story, the times they wanted to go to the park, or play a board or video game, or make cookies, or have a tea party, or go for coffee.

What I heard was my own condemnation, my own guilt, my own regrets.

Moms, we need to stop living the guilt-laden life. We need to stop looking back, with regret and sadness over our choices, mistakes and weaknesses. We need to live

today.

We need to look forward, not back.

Our children are moving forward, grabbing for life’s new adventures, and we need to cheer them on, and be thankful that they want to share the stories of their life with us.

In the days since my momma version of the horrible, terrible, no good, really bad day, I have been embraced by arms and words of love from my three. With each embrace I was reminded that their desire for other is not their method of punishing me. As a matter of fact, they have far more memories of things we did together than of times I said not today, just wait, or no.

They are not living their increasingly independent-of-me lives, as a punishment for my frailties. As a matter of fact, they are growing increasingly independent because they have had space to grow, to make their own mistakes, to experience their own successes, and then to share their stories with me … even if my ears are not always ready to hear them.

Moms, lets:

look forward

hear words as they are spoken (not as we imagine them)

receive their stories as a loving, healing balm to heal our momma guilt

love them,

imperfectly, but sincerely, love them.

 

 

 

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I sat in my morning chair, enjoying that the time change again allows me to soak in the visual beauty of the deep orange leaves on my neighbor’s tree. This, our eleventh autumn living in this house, was the first that I had ever noticed this tree. My eyes glanced back to my device with the red-lettered ‘wind warning’.

An hour later, with phone in hand I stepped outside to take a picture of that eye-catching tree, knowing that that day would be the last day of morning beauty for my eyes.

Throughout the day, whenever I looked outside and saw the trees swaying, I envisioned orange leaves being battered from the tree and to the ground below.

When I returned home that evening, I was preoccupied with preparing dinner, policing the completion of homework, and preparing again for the next day to come.

The following day, I grabbed my coffee, and headed to my chair, with regret for the loss of my beautiful view.

What I saw surprised me, as the tree looked just as it had the previous morning. I was so surprised I even got our my phone to compare the before photo to the exact replica before my eyes.

I sat in delightful surprise, in awe of, not only the beauty, but the resilience in front of me. Despite gale winds, the tree held her beauty. The wind may indeed have battered her, but somehow she held on.

As I looked, in awe and wonder, I was reminded of Hebrews 10:23,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering
to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”
Hebrews 10:23

We all have seasons when we are battered by the winds, some of them gale force winds, of life.

when families struggle to love each other.

when jobs do not fulfill us, or are lost due to cut backs.

when marriage is not smooth, or is ended.

when our health is failing, or our life is.

when we have to live with hurt, betrayal, disobedience, illness, worry, change, death,

and anything else that is battering our souls.

But, if we hold tightly, without wavering, to the hope that is Christ, He will not let us fall. We might get blown around, like those orange leaves on the tree, but we just need to hold on, to the One who can be trusted.

 

 

 

 

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My favorite place to go is Cannon Beach, Oregon.

IMG_1555.JPGIt is, for me, the happiest place on Earth … and there isn’t an animated mouse in sight (except, maybe, at Bruce’s Candy Shop). I cannot walk on that beach without a smile breaking out across my face, and tensions rolling off hubby’s shoulders.

It is where I have studied God’s Word the deepest. heard the most profound, yet human Bible scholars. prayed the most sincerely. joined in collective worship, in song, with a room full of people who participate together.

When we turn off the highway, and into the town, where we live but a week of the summer, our kids wave and call out to friends on the streets, even before our wheels have stopped. We have met friends with whom a year apart is as if days, for myself, my hubby, my kids. Friendships that have stretched across the continent, into our homes, and through social media on a daily basis.

It is the place that I have laughed the heartiest.IMG_1554.JPG

I never have to make meals, or make the bed. We are greater at mealtime by friendly smiles, and gentle leading to meet someone new. We have memories of candlelit dinners, and I have eaten pounds of bacon (without having to cook it myself, and smell like smoked Wilbur).

It is where we have watched our children play with freedom and abandon. stretched curfews into late in the night. giggled with my girl in the shops. shared s’mores with my son. snapped dozens of pic of my girl chasing the gulls from their beach breakfast feast,

I have loved and been loved.

Despite the many clicks of scenery photographed, I have come to understood that no device can duplicate what my wondering eyes did appear.

I have started my day with starfish, anemones, crabs, barnacles and other ocean life. I have ended my days over hot coffee, s’mores on the beach, with crowds, with my kids, with my guy, with my God.

I have sat alone on the sand bar sIMG_1558.JPGinging praises, thanks, laments. The salt of my tears of joy and sorrow have mixed with that of the ocean.

I have walked miles of sandy beach … in the warmth of the sun, the damp of the rain, the wind, the cold. I have had weeks where I trekked the beach to Haystack twice a day, and a year when I could not physically walk more than half way there … once during our week there. I have shared that trek with darling ladies, dear couples, our kids, my guy, on my own.

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I have …

fully, deeply, cleanly,

breathed.

And I am so thankful that my guy and I got to share a few days in that most happy place on Earth.

I returned home, yesterday, with sand in my shoes, color on my cheeks, a smile on my face, thanks in my heart, and a desire to go back to that rock in the sand and surf.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
Robert Laurence Binyon

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I grew up in a time which remembered sacrifice, on this day. I grew up in a place that understood peace keeping, as every high school graduating class included students who were to pursue that as their future profession. I have lived in our nations capital, of Ottawa, where the images of sacrifice were all around, and where every school, church and neighborhood had members of Canada’s peace keeping military.

This year, this Remembrance Day, social media has provided visual symbols of remembrance with relevance for today.

IMG_1547.JPGMy favorite image is the one to the left. A visual response by artist, Bruce MacKinnon (The Halifax Chronicle Herald), after the October 22, 2014 killing of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa. Although I have not seen any similar images, honoring Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was run down, while wearing uniform, in Quebec, I believe that MacKinnon’s image will bring both, and their grieving families, to the minds of all who see it.

We will remember them …

IMG_1541.JPGThe haunting words of John McCrae, and his poem “In Flander’s Fields.” The image of the poppy, representing the continuance of life, after those whose blood was spilled, fighting a foe we are encouraged to continue battling (“take up our quarrel with the foe … if ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep”). We must battle for peace, in word and, if necessary, in deed. Those, who McCrae wrote of, had to battle in deed.

We will remember them …

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The Tower of London, bathed in 888,246 ceramic blooms, each representing a lost life in World War I … 100 years ago, when that war began. This work of art is called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.”

We will remember them …

IMG_1540.JPGNovember 11, every year, we have opportunity to remember those who gave their lives, those whose lives were forever changed. Attending a service of Remembrance, watching one on the television or online … taking a moment to be silent, and remember. These are opportunities to honor, not war, but the privilege of living in peace, at the expense of others who have gone before us.

We will remember them …

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Our six years of living in Ottawa acquainted me with the honor no mother ever wants, that of being awarded the Silver Cross. This ‘award’ is given to Canadian mothers who have lost a son or daughter in service to this country. The National Silver Cross mother has been chosen to lay a wreath during Canada’s Remembrance Day ceremony, in Ottawa, as a representative of all mothers who have lost a child in service. This year, Gisèle Michaud, whose son. Master Cpl. Charles-Philippe Michaud, was wounded after stepping on an explosive device, in June, 2009, in Afghanistan, is Canada’s Silver Cross Mom.

We will remember them …

IMG_1546.JPGThe image above, of people atop a bank, overlooking a beach, with the image of the soldiers who fought for that beach, for the freedom of going to the beach, has caught my attention this year. I could not find the name of the artist, or of the specific place or story it depicts. Could it be Normany? Dieppe? Does it matter? What is important is that we remember that the freedom we have has been bought by a high cost.

We will remember them …

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To be successful would seem to be a goal (overtly or not) with all who are within the bounds of humanity.

According to freedictionary.com,

success is:

“achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.”

Who wouldn’t want for such things? To not desire achievement would be to live an apathetic life.

We are encouraged to fight, strive, conquer, overcome, use people, take, and spend time with those who do the same.

Recently I was struck by the dichotomy of what the world says is successful living, and what Jesus says is successful living. Like almost everything else that came from the lips of the Son of God, what He says of being a successful person is up-side-down teaching, compared with what our human expectation would be.

“The world says, follow the right people and be a success.
And Jesus says follow me and be crucified — and this is success.
The world says, follow the right people and be a success.
And Jesus says follow me and be crucified — and this is success.
The world says get rich now — or at least very soon.
And Jesus says give it away now — because “soon” might be too late.
The world says you find your best life when you spend it all.
And Jesus says whoever loses his life for me will find it — and if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it.”
Ann Voskamp

Reading what Jesus says of success means feeling that tightening in our throats. For success is not ours, through our goodness, our education, our climb up the occupational ladder. It is His, through His grace, and our … obedience.

Success may indeed sit in boardrooms, locker rooms and concert halls, but it also sits in prison cells, in senior’s care facilities, in homeless shelters and in ‘average’ homes.

May we all struck often by how the ultimate example of success lived his life.

“Whoever wants to save his life will definitely lose it.”
Mark 8:35

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