Monthly Archives: February 2013

When Full Is Empty

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Ps103“Mummy!! Do you have clothes for me?” Our four-year-old’s voice was high-pitched and worried.

“Are your drawers empty?” I tried to remember if I’d put their laundry away yet.

“No, but they are not full of pink.” Her sad blue eyes spoke just as loudly as her voice.

Oh sweet daughter. I know exactly how you feel.

Sometimes things are simply not what I hoped for.

Despite abundance. Even when there is so much to be grateful for. Even when my drawers are full of (non-pink) clothes.  Even when full feels empty.

Sometimes my heart is set on something else.

Not because of ungratefulness or discontent.  But because of a desire, a hope, a dream.

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Adults love to ask little kids about their favorite color.  This question always left our gorgeous creative daughter silent.  It would stop her in her tracks and leave her unable to answer.  One day she said explained to me, “But I love every color.”  Ahhh she’s my kindred heart!

In order to honor and enjoy all the colors she loves, she decided to select a new favorite color every day.

Clearly today was pink’s day.

I LOVE to delight my kids.  I love to give them good things.  I love blessing them.

And so we found pink.

And I was reminded of a deep beautiful joy: Our Father, our Creator, loves to delight His children.

And I am thinking about all the times He blessed me with something more than what I had.  When He gave me the desires, the dreams, the hopes of my heart.

Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! | The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:2-5, 13 NLT)

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Peace On Earth

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Peace John 14v27The email from our bank was to notify us that they had declined two charges yesterday.

“As part of our ongoing effort to protect your account and our relationship, we monitor your account for possible fraudulent activity.”

Unfortunately, dear Bank who is wanting to protect our relationship, the charges you declined were for the citizenship applications we needed expedited.  Thanks to your “ongoing effort,” our application is now delayed and our tight timeline has been derailed.  (Sigh. Moving on to Plan B.)

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“… for possible fraudulent activity.”

In this instance, bank, your proactivity is not appreciated.

Being ahead of the game. Stopping a problem before it happens. Running pre-interference.

Hmmm.  This is the reality of today’s world.  We fight against the potential of attack.  We battle supposed evil.  We have to.  To not, is too great a risk.

And so we’ve added this as a cultural goal: evil is to be avoided at all costs.  Even if it means losing the good with the bad.  Apparently, the loss of good is worth the eradication of evil.

And so the baby goes out with the bath water.

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What does “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) look like?

The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7) said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51 ESV)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36 ESV)

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 ESV)

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What I see in God’s Word is that “peace on earth” is not an absence of turmoil.  “Peace on earth” is what the Spirit of God brings in the midst of evil.

As Yahweh’s children, as disciples of Christ, as a people filled with the Holy Spirit:  Should our pursuit be to eradicate evil? Or to be filled with His Peace in days of evil?

Praying today that my heart and mind will be filled with His perspective and His truth.  I don’t want my Faith to be shaped by culture or by fear.  I don’t want to be motivated by the desire to avoid discomfort and pain.  I don’t want to miss out on the good things in my quest to avoid bad things.

May we allow the Spirit of God indwelling in us, His people, to be the radiant, brilliant, blinding “peace on Earth.”  So that God’s glory is seen by all.

Selah.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV)

A day to love Love

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Honor marriageI love Love.

Oh Love.

Truly, loving and being loved is one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us.

I’m a fan of anything that elevates and celebrates Love. And so I’m a fan of Valentine’s Day.  The message of the story of St. Valentine is beautiful.

“The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner — until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor — whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn’t do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].” www.Catholic.org

Valentinus loved Love.  He married Christian couples when it was against the law.  He believed in the goodness of marriage.

“Give honor to marriage” (Hebrews 13:4a NLT)

Today I’m considering ways to honor marriage.  My marriage and the marriages in my community.

Marriage is transforming.  Marriage often calls us to deep and unimaginable levels of sacrifice, selflessness and investment.  Marriage is the ultimate arena for testing our ability to love, respect, forgive, serve, help.  Marriage spotlights the destructive fruits of “needing to be right”, “needing to be powerful”, “needing to be in control.”  Marriage rubs healing salts into old festering wounds.  Marriage is a precious crucible.

Marriage is wonderful. Marriage covenant establishes a sanctuary for full vulnerability, full honesty and full transparency.  Marriage frees us to be exactly who we are whilst also giving the freedom to become who we could be.  Marriage is a fortifying alliance. Marriage is a glorious harbor from the stormy ocean around us.  Marriage showcases the beauty of being interdependent and intertwined.  Marriage is a powerful example of Yahweh’s Love.

In honor of Valentinus, let’s celebrate the goodness of marriage!  Thank God for Love!  And thank God for His Holy Spirit who give us the strength and vision to endure and enjoy marriage!

Take time to honor and celebrate the marriages in your life.  Thank married couples you admire.  Encourage them!  Tell them that their covenant impacts your life. Thank them for chosing daily to live out the commands of God’s Love.  Give encouragement and honor to marriages.  Every married couple could do with a dose of inspiring encouragement!

Happy, happy Valentine’s Day!  How wonderful Love is.

(A note about singleness:  There are all kinds of wonderful relationships in life.  You do not have to be married to experience incredible depths of Love.  The apostle Paul is very clear that being single is good and blessed. (See 1 Cor 7).  But, it’s also clear that God created marriage as a special relationship.  And it’s good to celebrate and honor marriage!  Let’s not become afraid of offending single people to the point that we become afraid to honor marriage.)

Keys To A New Life

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Immigration paperworkRead. Read again. And read again.

Each time I went over the document I found something else needed for the citizenship application.  How is that I can read a document over a dozen times and still be finding new elements?

Honestly, it felt like I was having to learn a new language and my mind could only comprehend one action at a time.  Each page contained important information and required actions.  As I completed the instructions, it led more to more important information and required actions.  With each page my understanding expanded.  With each action my experience grew.

After a week of compiling our submission, it was ready to mail!  Checked. Double checked. Triple checked.  And mailed! Ta-da!  Got home, unloaded kids.  A light-bulb went on in my brain, and I realized I’d made a mistake.  Jumped back in the car, raced to the post office, and retrieved the package!  Changes made, package resealed, and mailed. Ta-da!  Phew.  An hour later, I received an email from the Embassy.  It contained information I had not noticed.  Cue: emotional meltdown.  Long story short: Somehow (Thank you Yahweh!), late in the afternoon, our overnight express package had not left our local Post Office! For the second time we retrieved the package.  This time it came back home so we could add some more supporting documents.

Suffice to say, I am now an expert.  I learned the long and hard way.  And now I know the deepest layers of what it takes.  If anyone needs help with citizenship forms, I’m your girl.  I should add Immigration Paperwork Coach to my resume.

That’s what I needed!  A coach.  Someone who knew the language and the process.  To guide me how to apply the concepts and directions.  This application affects my family’s future and cost us over $200.  Getting it wrong would be costly.  But getting it right yields a big change in the opportunities for the future.  For in the words of this application are the keys to a new and different life.

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I can’t help but see a beautiful illustration that stirs my heart.

The Bible.

Every time I read it, I find something more.  Something I’d missed before.  Each time, another layer of life and meaning. It is in a new language.  A language of eternity and Spirit.  With each page my understanding expands.  With each action my experience grows.

And I look to Biblical coaches and teachers.  I read commentaries and studies.  I purpose to have discussions about theology and Biblical application.  I look towards the wise and mature in Faith for insights beyond my years and experience.  I am part of local church that has deep Biblical teaching.  I listen to podcasts of Biblical teachers from around the world.  I am looking to know God’s Word and to know how to apply it to its fullest!  And layer by layer, my understanding grows.  Each day, I learn more.  Each day, I experience the Grace and Love of Yahweh as I take the small steps.  Each day, I fail and see my need for Him even more.  Each day being transformed by God through His Word.

It is my life quest.  To understand the language.  To apply the concepts.  To follow the directions.  For in the Words of God are the keys to a new and different life.  A Life of Love and Joy and Freedom and Healing!

And so I read.  Read again. And read again.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (2 Tim 3:16-17 The Message)
In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.  (James 1:21b The Message)

Human Danger

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Her voice was muffled.  Our conversation had to push through a special vent in the thick wall of bullet-proof glass.  “Check that all the Passport details are correct before you leave today.” She repeated for me.

Standing there, I couldn’t help but wonder why they need bullet-proof glass and armed security guards .  What horrors are expected here?  What violence was anticipated at this Passport Office?   What potential life-threatening attack inspired the design of such a fortress?

I can’t help but feel like we humans have become a like this office: over protective, over-cautious, over separated.

When the risk of being hurt seems too great, build a wall.   A thick wall.  And a lie sets in: humans cannot be trusted.  You give your heart but get trampled.  You share your journey but get judged.  You trust but you get betrayed.

Oh glorious wall.  Keeps those hurtful people out.

But the emotional fortress betrays the builder.  It doesn’t just keep the hurtful people out, it keeps ALL people out.

I left the building thinking about how to be more purposeful in keeping my walls down.  Thinking about how important it is to keep trusting people.

The blessings of sharing life with other humans far outweigh the pains.  Right?  Yes?  Yes. I think so.

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“Mummy! A man waved at me so I waved back! Then he started talking to me…” My sweet child was smiling through the car window at a pan-handler.

Oh the irony.  As we drove away from the bullet-proof Passport Office, I had to talk to my pure-hearted children about “strangers” and being safe.  About not trusting people.  Right after I sat thinking about how important it is to trust people.

It made me sad.

So where is the balance?  How can the beauty of human relationships thrive when the risks are so great?  When there are horrors and violence?

I don’t want us to live in a fortress of mistrust but I also don’t want us to live being needlessly exposed danger.

I’ve added this dilemma to my prayer list.  Only God can show us the way to balance.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)

Part Of Something

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“We didn’t want you to worry, so we didn’t tell you…”

My parents don’t want me to worry.  The day I moved across the world, they stopped telling me things that I used to be privy to in everyday life.  For the most part it’s a good thing.  I tend to take on the burdens of others too deeply.  This is especially true when it comes to my family.  And it has been heightened by the our geographical distance.  Being so far away makes me feel powerless.  I cannot help them.

In the 14 years I’ve been here, I’ve received several emails that started with “Don’t worry…” and then a story of things that made me worry.  The source of my worry is that I’m losing life with my family.  My parents, unwitnessed by me, have been aging.  My sister is married and has kids I haven’t met.  And none of them have met our youngest.  When I hear of my family members being sick, I worry.  I worry because we are not getting to share life.  And I’m not ready for them to pass into eternity yet.

Last week, God had been talking to me about my family and my worries. He showed me that I had been living tethered to my past.  He brought me into a new freedom and understanding about my life so far away from my family.  I felt lighter.  A great weight had been moved.  I was seeing life so differently.  And then, on Friday night, an email came:  “We didn’t want to worry you, so we didn’t tell you…” 

My strong, adventurous, resilient dad, whose life history strongly resembles the “Man from Snowy River,” has been ill for over a month.  Actually he’s been ill for some years but he’s been increasingly ill the past month.  In the past weeks, he’s been to a myriad of doctors for all kinds of tests.  They are trying to piece the puzzle together.  In typical ex-farmer strength, my dad said, “I’m not on a respirator in the hospital.  I’m fine.” 

But on Friday my Mum felt the Holy Spirit tell her it was time to tell me about his illness.  When I read her email, I immediately knew I needed to go home.  It wasn’t the desperate reaction of the girl-who-had-abandoned-her-family like I’d had in the past.  It was like God had arranged the seasons and times to line up and He was ushering me home.

Yesterday dad received a very good batch of test results that showed improvement!  The doctors don’t know the source of the issues yet.  But I have this hopeful vision: For my dad to be well enough to play with my kids.  For my kids and my parents to walk on the beach together.  For them to chat and share secrets.  To build memories.  To be in relationship.  I want to go home while my parents are still able to interact and commune with us.  It’s time for me to go home.

One of my precious mentor mentors called me.  She had some news: a group of dear people are raising funds for me and my kids to go home.  I cannot believe it.  I am utterly humbled.  My pride is being peeled off.  My dreams are coming true.  When my precious mentor told me, I curled up on the kitchen floor and sobbed.  Tears of gratitude.  Cries of hope.

This is a deeply personal journey for me.  I hesitate to write about it.  But I feel like God is doing something that extends much further than just me and my silly homesick notions.

My mentor told me that she felt God speak to her in September about me needing to go home.  Another person says that in December they felt like God put on their heart that I needed to go home.  Two weeks ago, a friend felt moved to pray for me to be able to go home.  This weekend she pointed out, “We prayed and God is already making it happen.”

I do not believe that me going home is very important in the grand scheme of things.  But something grand is happening in the midst of this.  I feel like God is doing something personal and majestic in the lives of those who are praying and giving.

People are giving so sacrificially.  People who have already been giving to us… for we have had several years of big needs.  People who have already given us groceries, paid our rent, paid our bills.  People who have given toward my Lyme treatment.  People who have given us gift cards, free babysitting, gifts.  Truly we have been poured into over and over for many years.  (Confession: My pride would say, “Too many years.” To be honest, I would rather be on the giving side.  Pride, pride, pride.)

I feel like my little family is, for no reason deserved, receiving the abundance of the vision of the Acts church.  The Body of Christ is pouring out the blessing of God they’ve received.  Giving despite their own needs.  Giving with love and mercy.  Trusting that Yahweh will fill their needs too.  I feel like I am part of something huge and sacred.  My heart is quivering with expectation.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph… sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”  (Acts 4:32, 34-35 ESV)   “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10)

My Love: The Word

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2Tim3_16Beth Moore tweeted: “I wrap up this work day moved to tears over Scripture. Only 1 book can hold our fascination for decades. Only 1 glorious word-breathing God.”

And my heart cried, “Yes!”

Confession: I am a passionate Bible lover.  God’s Word brings me life.  I love the histories.  I love the biographies.  I love the journeys.  I love the letters.  I love the tastes of eternity.  I love every page.  It is my home and anchor.

Only one book has held our fascination for decades.  Generation after generation has found life in this Book.  I feel intertwined with humans of centuries past… we have studied the same words.  We have walked life with the same Love and Light guiding us.  Regardless of our era and our time, the words of the Word apply to our lives.

Only one glorious word-breathing God.  Words fail me.  He is, incredible.

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.  (Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.  (Romans 11:33-36 The Message)

As I walk through this journey of illness, I have started writing letters to our kids.  I want to capture my thoughts about who they are today and what I see in their personalities and characters.  I want them to know how much I love them.  I want them to know what a gift they are in my life.  But most of all, I want them to know how amazing God is.  I want them to know His Love and passion.  I want them to grow roots deep into His Word and to have their identity anchored in His Truth.   I am so grateful to have the freedom and opportunity to hold the Bible in my hands and read it with my eyes every day.

My sweet kids: study, know, love His Word.  This amazing Book is full of Life and Light and Love.  My Dad and Mum showed me the power of the Word in their own humble lives.  I couldn’t help but want to read this Book that brought such beauty, strength, and hope to them.  There is no greater book you could study.   My hope is that you’ll become Bible lovers too.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (2 Timothy 3:16 The Message)