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Archive for April, 2015

  Sometimes we need to avoid that which is out of our grasp, but sometimes …

Ever gone into a store, a shop, a boutique that you can barely afford to browse the goods that are displayed?

Ever surfed the vacation websites for exotic destinations and lavish holidays?

Ever searched for real estate, and intentionally checked out properties that you couldn’t afford the maintenance costs, let alone the mortgage?

Doing such things can be a recipe for emotional disaster …

Sometimes, though, to see what is out of our reach might be the necessary nudge to change or improve our current circumstances.

Such can be the case when reading the Bible about what is required or expected of how we live our lives, as followers of Christ.

“… and what does the Lord require of you?
to act justly,
and to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

(that is not easy)

“But you are to be perfect,
as your father in heaven is perfect.”
Matthew 5:48

(perfect? yikes!)

“Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

(wow! I’m sure I am not that selfless)

These are just three examples of the standard for those of us who claim the name of Christian. The bar is high! Impossibly high! Yet it’s height is not to discourage us, but to prod us along, to encourage us to aim high.

We serve a risen Savior. In His rising he raised that bar for us. Not to discourage us, but to move us beyond our present circumstances, to something better.

 

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As I heard through the window the rain pelt hard on the roof of the deck, while an unfamiliar song played from atop my kitchen counter, I was transported back, about twenty-six years.

I was sitting on one side of an antique sofa, close, very close, with the one who made my heart’s beat become rapid beside me. In separate chairs sat another couple, a seasoned, imperfect, married couple. I remember that with every marital challenge they mentioned in the pre-marital counselling, I thought, “that is surely no problem for us, we are perfect for each other.”

“I wore the veil, I walked the aisle, I took your hand and we dove into a mystery …”

After twenty-five years marriage all I feel I know now is that we are not perfect, for each other, or for anyone else. Some days are “delight” … most are somewhere between tough work and a blood bath.

“no we’re not the fairy tale we’d dreamed we’d be …”

The way marriage is depicted, within the church, is like a fragile piece of crystal … always on display, with all difficulties, scars and imperfections out of sight. Ugly reality, we Christians seem to think, is not what the world should see, not what God wants us to show.

Mark Hall, from the music group, Casting Crowns, says, “marriage is tough. We bring a lot of fairy tales to the picture when it comes to marriage … then the problems hit and (we) don’t know where to file those into your picture …”

I would add, we don’t know where to go with our problems, our scars, our secrets, because we are scared that admitting a lack of perfection would scar the reputation of our Savior … (we really have quite the pompous view of ourselves).

“maybe you and I were never meant to be complete …”

Could we be wrong? Could it be that in marrying one who makes our heart skip a beat, we are never intended to actually achieve completeness? oneness? Or maybe, though given to each other in the garden of Eden, for mutual comfort, and oneness, the consequences of sin are such that perfection, and completeness cannot be achieved this side of heaven?

“we were buildings kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind …”

Probably the most commonly used passage in the Bible, at wedding ceremonies, is 1 Corinthians 13 … the ‘love’ chapter. It contains definition after definition of what love is, and what it is not. But little emphasis is give to two very important verses:

“For we know in part
and we prophesy/dream in part,
but when completeness comes,
what is in part disappears”
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

Of these verses, the Matthew Henry Commentary shares this thought:

“But there (heaven), love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! How much surpassing the best below (here)!”

Perfect love, perfect completeness is the goal, but the prize, the fulfillment of this is only in that lofty place of eternity.

“If you can bring your shattered dreams, and I’ll bring mine …
the only way to last forever, is broken together.”

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Whenever I get an idea of something I want to write about, I send myself a text, so that I do not forget. Then, when I have the time, I move that text into a draft post. Sometimes I complete the post, and schedule it then and there … more often it sits in my draft folder, until I am searching through my drafts for something to write.

As I searched through my thirty-something draft posts, I came across the one with no name, and only the image seen above.

Originally I had intended it for Easter.

As I read, and reread, the quote, I felt more desire to complete this one now, rather than put it on ice until next Easter.

What is your worst thing?

In our world there are so many things that can knock the air from our lungs, leaving us incapable of taking our next breath.

heartaches.

failures.

disappointments.

confusion.

stress.

uncertainty.

maybe it is something you cannot even give words to.

It, whatever it is, might even leave you wanting the glory of heaven more than the mire of Earth.

But,

the fat lady is not singing,

hell has not frozen over,

the sun will rise tomorrow.

It is not over.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ showed us that our Savior can defeat death, and He offers that victory for us as well.

As bad as our worst thing, here on Earth, might be, nothing here is the end … resurrection gives us an eternity of best things.

Originally, I had intended this quote for Easter,

but

the resurrection was not originally intended for just one day, but for eternity.

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“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

As I read the above words I thought of how ‘hounded’ I was feeling that particular day.

Hounded was I by the pressures of relationships, and bills, and work, and making dinner, and seeking the location of just one ibuprofen to take the edge off this pounding headache.

Her words made my eyes fill, and their banks refused to hold the flood back … the dams burst, the water fell.

Later I sought the The Hound of Heaven … the poem I had a vague knowledge of once reading. It was written in the late 1800’s by English writer Francis Thompson. Mr. Thompson had studied to become a priest, then a physician, then lived in terrible poverty (as a writer) where he survived by selling matches. He then suffered with the constant pain of neuralgia, which he treated with laudanum (containing opium), eventually becoming addicted. He last years were spent in a monastery, where he was cared for by friends.

The first link I opened to read the poem, The Hound of Heaven, made the dams burst in another way … tears of joy.

I read the ode, allowing the pursuits to settle on my heart and mind. The pursuits that we make for ‘more’ of this world, and the never-ending pursuit of God for his child.

When I came to the end of the verses, there followed yet more verses … this time written by David …

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

… the words of Psalm 139 … the words I have been hiding in my heart for months, as though ‘I’ had anything to do with it … as though those words were chosen for me, for such a time as this. As though those words were the instrument of the Hound himself. He who is willing to use whatever means possible to draw us back to Him.

“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

 

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This is a re-post from about four years ago … but the memories shared here are remembered every spring.

I lost it, and I don’t know where …

I lost it, and I don’t know why …

I lost it, and I’ll never get it back …

It was my creation, my gift, and there is no way to ever fully re-create it 😦

Now, if you know me, you might think I am talking about my losing my marbles … and … you are probably right. But the loss I am talking about is my original post called “Love = Pussy Willows.”

I wrote it, as a gift for my parents, who DID both read the original… before it got lost in cyberspace. But, I wanted to keep it … for me, for my kids. So that when my mom and dad are no longer on this earth, we could be reminded of the legacy of thoughtful, kind and even romantic love, that they shared for each other, and left for us to duplicate in our own lives.

And so, here I go, trying to re-create that which I’ve already created, and is now gone. I feel a bit like I am one of the scientists who created/cloned Dolly the sheep. I am consulting my sieve-like brain cells for what I can recall (not much hope there). I am mixing memories, words and thoughts with the hopes of a carbon copy result. I even consulted others who also read my post, for what stood out to them. The problem is, that as a writer/creator I cannot duplicate my creation perfectly – I may have all of my childhood memories, phrases I remember writing and the help of others, but I can not go back in time.

I cannot duplicate the humidity or temperature of weather on the day I wrote it. I cannot duplicate the food I ate, the exercise I did or didn’t do, or my hormonal levels of that day. I cannot perfectly replicate the motivation I had for writing it.

So, all that said … just like Dolly the sheep, I might have all the exact pieces to clone my post … but, me, as the creator, will never, ever feel it is possible to look on the clone as anything but a cheap imitation of the real thing.

But, all that said, her I go … again.

My parents will celebrate their 40th anniversary on July 24 of this summer. I am so proud of them … (I’ve been married about half that, and I know that each day provides a new opportunity to re-choose my hubby … and he to re-choose me … and lets get real, there are many days we would like to return the other for a refund).

Mom and Dad are a fairly average married couple. They have loved, fought, struggled, and survived each other.

I was blessed to know romantic, but true, deep love and affection through them … and pussy willows.

My memories of pussy willows are so vivid, so clear, and they go as far back as when I was four or five … but they happened for many years!

In the spring my dad would be driving down a country road, usually taking out weekly trash to the ‘Dump’, or driving to my grandmothers house. And, all of a sudden he would pull over to the side of the road and get our out of the car.

Then he would be in the ditch, unaware of the presence of water, or spiders or snakes (yuck!). And he would reach out for what he was after … pussy willows.

Now this was the spring time ritual for my dad, And, as an adult, I have to say he has the eye for the perfectly developed (not too soon, not too late) pussy willows. I always seem to find them as they are just opening, or once they have gone to seed!

But the ritual didn’t end with a bouquet in his thorn punctured hands, and soggy wet feet. No, mom had her part to play as well.

When dad arrived home, with his freshly cut bouquet, he would beckon mom to the door.

And, every year her response was the same, “Oh Denny, pussy willows.” and then that ever-embarrassing (for any child who has hoped and prayed that the stork truly was responsible for the reproduction of humans) hug and kiss … and gaze into each others eyes (I can hear the adolescent within me say “blech”).

Then mom would scurry to the ‘special’ golden-yellow vase, where last years bouquet of pussy willows (cob webs and all), would still be. She would discard the old, and arrange the new bouquet to perfection. Then, the special golden-yellow vase would be set out on display.

The whole experience of the the pussy willows sticks in my head because of how they were GIVEN, and how they were RECEIVED, by each of my parents. If my mom had pestered my dad to go get her a new bouquet … the receiving wouldn’t have been as a gift, but a duty. And if my mom stuck the bouquet in just any old vase, and discarded them after a ‘respectable’ amount of time … the giving wouldn’t have been received in the manner they were given.

I love this way that my parents, unaware, taught me about giving and receiving. And I hope they can receive this post in the spirit it was intended … that of a gift to show my love.

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One of the most common disorders for adolescents, and increasing in numbers affected, is anxiety.

According to Free Dictionary, anxiety is everything from “uneasiness caused by fear … to apprehension or worry accompanied by physical symptoms common in mental illness or following a distressing experience.”

Anxiety is part of being human. At an early age, when a mother or father leave their child with someone else, and the child experiences the anxiety of separation from those parents who represent safety and security for them. This may produce tears, screaming and death-grip holds on mom and dad.

Anxiety commonly also can occur during the stage of night terrors (nightmares), starting school, moving, death of a loved one, divorce of parents, an upcoming test/exam, a trip, a marriage, an illness and on, and on.

Children with anxiety disorders are missing out on school, on friendships, on life experiences, because they are filled and dominated by fears. 

What is it that has caused the increase in anxiety of children, to the point of being diagnosed with a disorder?

Some claim it is violent video games, addictive use of social media, sexualization of children, and/or the breakdown of the family. All of those things can certainly contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Whatever the reason, the problem is before us, as parents, as people who work in schools and churches and places of recreation. 

So, what can we do for someone in our life who has (or may be silently dealing with) anxiety and fear? 

Be kind.

It may seem like an oversimplified response, and kindness does not dissolve fears and anxiety, but it really can help. 

The thing about kindness is that it can let someone know that they have been noticed, that they matter. Kindness can make someone feel good, make them smile. To receive kindness is to receive an unexpected, often unmerited gift. Kindness can give hope to one who may not feel there is any hope. Kindness can provide comfort, consolation.

Kindness is not the cure, but it might be a little remission from the fears that dominate.

 

 

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As the teenage student spoke of his experience in the small South African town, I found myself smiling, knowingly.

He spoke of people on the streets saying hi to him, waving from a distance, knowing him before he had even arrived from traveling the thousands of miles from the Pacific Northwest. He had visited a place, as a stranger, which had immediately felt like his very own community … because he felt known.

That is what it is to be in a small town … you feel known.

Many people who visit small towns speak of similar experiences. Hubby and I are both from small towns on the East Coast. When people we know visit the East Coast they often return with tales of how friendly the locals were. Hubby and I usually smile, knowingly, then tell them the truth … the people are friendly, but they are nosy too.

I realize now that to have grown up in a small town was a privilege that few get to experience.

When I walked down the street everyone, from the postmistress, to the car salesman, to the corner store cashier, to the town gossip knew my name, who my parents were, and where I lived. If I was hanging out with the wrong person, my parents knew it before I got back home. When I graduated from high school, I received cards of congratulations from many of the people in our neighborhood.

Growing up in a small town can provide a great sense of security, support and community. It can provide an ownership and responsibility to all who you share life in the community with. It can make you feel like you are part of something bigger.

Sometimes, when we are in the midst of an experience, we fail to appreciate the blessing of where we are. What a great experience it was to have grown up in a place where everybody knows your name.

 

 

 

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