Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Hurry makes us hurt. Ann Voskamp, author of "One Thousand Gifts," wrote that in her book. I've talked about that book more than any other on this blog. Today, Ann was on my favorite radio program, "Live the Promise." Listen to it here.
I felt inspired by the program to, indeed, slow down and savor the season. To bend low like the Wise Men, not climb that ladder high like American culture tells us to. I wanted to come home and
I wanted to
Instead, I walked into a house full of homework and rushing to get dinner made so this one could go to Confirmation class and then rushing and fretting because the youngest was having a meltdown over dinner and then rushing to get him calmed down enough to get the 2 younger ones to their Awana clubs.
And now I am rushing to write this blog entry because it is burning inside of me, this longing to slow down and yet I'm rushing, rushing, rushing to slow down. And yes, Heavenly Father, it is hurting.
I want to scream at myself - Haven't you learned anything? What did you listen to on the radio?
Or I just want to scream.
Husband is picking up the younger two from Awana which enables me to go to our church's 7:00 Midweek Advent Service. Ironically, that's why I'm rushing to get this blog entry done. So I can go to that. And once there? Will I rush, too? At church? Really?
Advent is about
Waiting for the birth of Christ. Waiting for Grace. And as Ann says on the program, Grace is not just about doing good deeds so we get into Heaven. No, it's so much more than that.
To find out what Ann says, listen to that program. I want you to so very badly.
And then come back and tell me what you think of it. And remind me of what it says.
Because I think I'm going to need reminding.
Bless you during the beginning of this Advent season, the season of waiting, of slowing down, of breathing in the breath of the child born in a tiny manger. He had so much to hurry toward, you would think. I would think. Saving people, saving the world. But He didn't hurry, did He.
Monday, November 21, 2011
This post is for my husband and for my Lord.
I was driving home, grooving to Casting Crown's newest CD, "Come to the Well."
I love so many of the songs and have had huge spiritual highs with practically all of them. The song, "Wedding Day" came on, one I love, but hadn't totally connected with yet.
I listened to the song carefully, this time:
Listen to it here:
There's a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it's breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white
And she knows that she's undeserving
She bears the shame of history
With this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so
When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don't know you are
And all you've longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day
She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar's dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
And this is what he made her for
When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she'll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign
I first felt called in appreciation for my husband with the lines, "When someone dries your tears / When someone wins your heart / And says you're beautiful / When you don't know you are / And all you've longed to see / Is written on his face..." Yes! Husband has completely loved me when I felt unlovable. He has dried my tears like no one else. And everything I've longed to see is written on his face - love, devotion, honesty.
I heard those lyrics a second time and I realized that I feel the EXACT way about how the Lord does that for me. He has dried my tears, He has told me I'm beautiful on many occasions. His love is written across His face!! What love these two have for me!
Other lyrics that touched me were: "She has danced in golden castles / And she has crawled through beggar's dust / But today she stands before him / And she wears his righteousness / And she will be who he adores / And this is what he made her for..." I feel that yes, I have danced in golden castles - had wonderful experiences - and yet I also have crawled through beggar's dust - had horrible trials and tribulations. But you know what? I now wear his righteousness and this... this walking with the Lord, this living His will, this loving others the way Jesus loves me, THIS is what He made me for!!!
I obviously have assimilated myself into this song. I've thought about it in terms of me. And yet do you know what this song is really about? How Casting Crowns wrote it? It is a metaphor for the true Wedding - the Bridegroom being Jesus Christ, the Bride being the new Jerusalem:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ...
~ Revelations 21:1-27 (ESV)
I'd just like to say Wow. The Holy Spirit is surely with the lyricists of Casting Crowns.
I am married to Wonderful Husband, yes. For a little over two years now. And I have been "married" to the Lord for one year now. And the next wedding? Anticipation fills my soul...
Saturday, November 12, 2011
What do you think of when you hear that word?
What do you think of when you hear that word?
Do you feel excited and full of potential, ready to give? Or do you feel overwhelmed at all the need in this world?
Do you feel jaded by all the commercials over the decades that paste poverty-stricken children on the television screen and do you think to yourself, "oh, they're just getting the worst-looking kid to pose and they just want my money - my money won't actually reach them."
Are you thinking, "somebody else will take care of them?"
Maybe you feel guilty when you hear 2 Corinthians 9:7:
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Are you not exactly a cheerful giver? Please. Do not feel guilty. I have thought long and hard and have had it placed on my heart: God does not want you to feel guilty. Let me explain further.
Right now, a number of my favorite Christian writers are blogging from the Compassion International trip to Ecuador. You can read the many inspirational and heart-touching blogs and stories here.
I'm reading Ann Voskamp's blog posts the most because she speaks to my poet's heart. In her November 10th post, she writes about meeting one of her sponsor children, Lidia, in Ecuador. Ann writes,
"All poverty is first poverty of a relationship."
And who is that relationship with? She continues:
"Falling out of relationship with God was our first fall into poverty — and into conflict and sin and hardship. And all subsequent poverty —- All poverty stems more from an absence of right relationships than a right resources. Anything that takes the place of the primacy of the Christ-relationship leads to a place of poverty."
Tears spilled over as I read her 11-10-11 post, as she marvels at how she "fritters" away $38 a month when this child, Lidia, has waited THREE YEARS to find a sponsor. Or rather, for a sponsor to choose her. I looked at my bank account and felt ashamed at all the menial purchases when so many children are abroad, sick, starving, dying.
And then I felt what you might feel: complete ovewhelm. I can't do it all, God! I cried. I CAN'T! How can I help them? Do I go on a missionary trip and lend my services? I wondered if I could make a quick phone call, drum up some money, and join Ann, Shaun, and their friends at Compassion and quickly go there and lend my aid.
Then I realized I am a wife and a stepmother who is dearly needed at home. What was I to do?
Then...something else came to mind. I remembered an interview Susie Larson had done on "Live the Promise" with a family who had sold all their possessions (after learning that riches did not cause true happiness) and bought and R.V. and began their ministry, Passion to Action. You can hear their amazing interview here. (particularly important is the talk at 32 minutes and 40 seconds and on).
To fully understand the connections I am trying to make, I urge you to look at these links I am giving you. Listen to the podcast of the husband and wife's interview on Live the Promise.
Jay and Beth Loecken packed their 4 kids up and took an R.V. and decided to bring their family on the road to serve and love others. They say a lot about serving others and focusing right in our own community. They are not saying to disregard the needs in third world countries, but they made the point that there are needy people right next door to us.
And that made me think. What does God call us to do? I looked at Scripture:
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:1-4
He calls us to give, but to give quietly, without "trumpets" and fanfare. Basically, do not give for your own glory, but for His.
And then I read 1 John 3:17:
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
So for the love of God to be in you, you must think of those in need. To have a heart for the needy, is to have a heart for Jesus.
But what about all of us who feel guilty/overwhelmed/jaded by all the need that is in the world? Whether we don't actually believe that much is out there (I don't believe that) or whether we think that we can't possibly make a dent in this world...
Well, you know what? Yes, you. You. YOU can help. YOU are called to help.
BUT...God does not call you to do anything that He has not equipped you with.
So... do we do the BIG and go be a missionary for Compassion International?
Or do we serve our own communities? Do we bring a casserole to the recently-widowed woman down the street? Do we offer babysitting to a family whose parents are overstressed and burdened (that recently was blessed upon me)? Not that that kind of serving is "little," but it isn't as BIG-SOUNDING as the above mentioned example?
Big or little? Far or near? This or that?
I don't want to judge one or the other - the point is that you need to ACT. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17 once again).
Yes, I understand there are so many cries for help. So many men, women, children, abroad and in our own country, state, town, street. Where ought we put our focus?
Do we need to worry so much on the Where? On the How? Ought we just focus on the DOING of something?
Do we need to worry so much on the Where? On the How? Ought we just focus on the DOING of something?
Stay with me here.
What if EVERY ABLE person donated money to either a sponsorship program or money to a program that helps the poverty-stricken? Or what if EVERY ABLE person donated time at local soup kitchens, hospitals, or cooking dinners for that sick neighbor...
does God care about the HOW? He helps makes things happen. But we have to make the WHAT. We need to make the first step. The ACTION. God will make the HOW of our steps. He will use us to do His good if we allow Him to.
Now listen to this:
Our God is a God of HOW. He needs us to do the WHAT. He will direct us, guide us, if we let him.
Do you feel a little less overwhelmed? When I realized this - that I didn't have to fret over how my help was directed - just that I had to make that step to help...when I realized that God would take my help and use it for His glory and good, I felt so much lighter.
We all try to be God once in a while, don't we?
But God is God and we are human. Flawed humans who sometimes don't know what to do with all of our privileges, yet at the same time some of us don't know how to ask for help for what we need.
Let God be God and let us do what we need to do: take action.
I feel so passionate about this, folks. I was explaining this whole concept to my husband in the car and I was almost crying. I was so grateful to God for laying these thoughts and realizations on my heart because I feel it's so important to share.
You don't need to feel guilty or overwhelmed or jaded or think you can't possibly make a difference. The TV may make you think you have an obligation to this or that in a foreign country. And maybe you do. Is that something that calls to you? For some, it is. And God bless their souls and acts!
But maybe you feel called to help out locally - for the homeless or needy families in town.
The point is, my lovely friends who have stuck with me and are still reading this long blog post, is that you must first do something in order for the glory to go to God.
If I may digress a little, let me say that I am the first to admit that I am a bit selfish at times. I want to do my thing the way I want to do it. But I am tired of the selfishness. And I do feel called to go abroad and place myself in a country that is in desperate need. I want to force myself to serve others. Am I going to book the tickets next week? No, I know that trip will have to wait until God provides.
BUT I know I can work on that selfish nature by looking around in my own neighborhood. There is a woman at church who is in the hospital for a brain aneurism. She is such a sweet soul and I want to check up on her. And God has called me to serve my stepchildren. They are broken in their own ways. They have food, clothing, shelter, but they are very needy in emotion. They crave love and I need to make myself available to them. That sounds easy, but trust me - for me, it isn't.
So what I am trying so hard to say is...
just act. Don't worry about the HOW and just do the WHAT.
God is a mighty God, God is an awesome God. He is a mover and a shaker.
Trust in Him. Act. Be His vessel. Glorify Him with your good deeds and kindnesses. Look outside of your own personal box and make yourself aware of the needs around you.
In giving, we receive.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
May God bless you with ideas and passion and may He work your work, may he make your WHAT glorify Him and what Christianity is all about and may He work a miraculous HOW through your efforts.
Now, enjoy this song that has the lyrics that talk about what I've been talking about:
Steven Curtis Chapman's "Do Everything."
Sunday, November 6, 2011
I don't know how to start. Some moments I feel overcome with grief for what day it is: the 5th anniversary of my mother's death. The day my world stopped turning and spun out of control for many years. And then last year - on this day - I spun into the Lord's embrace and there have I nestled myself happily and gratefully. And yet some moments I rant and rail against God, asking him why? Why did He have to take my mother, my best friend, away from me? Look at what happened to me two years after her death: I got married and became a stepmother of three. So much happened in my life that she was not a part of.
Last night while sitting in the passenger side of the car, head leaning against the cold window with eyes searching the stars and moon above, I listened to the new Casting Crowns CD,"Come to the Well" and I was in an angry place. I wanted my Mom. I wanted her not just alive, I wanted her right next to me, holding me. I wanted to talk to her, to hear her voice, I wanted to feel her arms around me. And I was angry.
Then I remembered what I had heard in a Beth Moore Bible Study on the Book of Esther. She talked about "reversal of destiny." or peripeteia which is a fancy way of saying reversal of fortune - that is to say, a literary device and concept of a turning point, a change of circumstances. There are plenty of people in the Bible who have had reversals of destiny. Actually, that is what a lot God's Word is: the lowly, the least-deserving or the least-expected people turning out to reach the highest heights, become the greatest people, the wisest, the strongest. In the book of Esther, it was Esther, herself, who started out as the Jew, Hadassah, who rose in status to be the Queen of Persia. Such an "ironic" or upside-down turn of events is an example of "reversal of destiny."
I asked myself: what was my "reversal of destiny?" What became ironic in my life - born from tragedy which turned into something benefiting me or others?
I struggled with figuring this out until last night in the car, looking up at the sky. As I was venting to God how unfair it was that my mother was no longer with me, I began to feel a calm settle over my body. My mind stayed on thoughts of my mother, then drifted to thoughts of my stepchildren. And that's when the pivotal phrase hit me:
A mother mothering without a mother.
How ironic. What a tragedy turned into a blessing. Blessing, you ask? I often don't think so, but my stepchildren are in full-time care of Husband and I because of an emergency situation that happened in their lives and thank God Husband and I had a stable home and life. It has been nothing short of total chaos trying to manage a life which includes a (fairly) new family of 3 kids plus husband...but I'm doing it.
And I know you probably don't understand this because you didn't know the dynamic between my mother and me, but I think I would not be as effective a stepmother if my own mother, though much loved, was still alive. Oh, of course I long for Mom to know my family, but for some reason, God thought it would be better for me to go at this without her earthly presence.
I don't pretend to know the mind of God, nor do I wish to. But this realization gave me some purpose for Mom's passing. And whether or not I am right about the "reversal of destiny" and my place in it, whether or not it makes sense to you or to me, it brings me a certain sense of calm and peace and on this day of days, the 5th year of her passing, I think that's a fine thing to think.
I'll leave you with this verse from Psalm 30:11:
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
I hope to feel that way some of the time. I say some because I know I will grieve, I will hurt. But I know the Lord makes all things new, that He loves and guides...
and in coming to Him, I have been made free (mostly, because hey, I'm human) of this anger at her death.
I hope the verse comforts and inspires you.
And I'm curious. What do you think about "reversal of destiny?" Google it. Wiki it. Look up what Beth Moore has to say about it. And get back to me.
Happy All Saint's Day, as celebrated in my Lutheran Church today.
And Mom, I love and miss you.