Friday, April 27, 2012

From Isaiah - When the Enemy Approaches

One of the things I love about reading through a book of the Bible or the whole Bible without an agenda is seeing how what I read impacts my daily life even when I am reading about ancient prophecies written to an ancient people.

This week, the Israelites are but a remnant. They have been beaten down and beaten back and have even gone so far as to seek refuge in an alliance with Egypt, their former oppressor. And now in the middle of Isaiah, they are facing Assyria's strong army coming to subdue them.

Assyria's commander speaks loudly, confidently. He knows he will conquer this remnant of religious people. Their god has left them and Egypt cannot protect them. The Assyrians know, without a doubt, that Israel's only hope is to submit to them.

And what can King Hezekiah do? He knows logically it is true. His army cannot defeat the Assyrians. Egypt is not able to protect them as he had hoped. His people had placed their hope in Babylon which would not save them. There was nothing left for Hezekiah to do to fix this problem.

Nothing left but turning to God. And so he did. When Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers telling of Assyria's threats and taunts and had read it, he did the only thing left to do.
Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord... (Is. 37:14b)
I try so hard to solve my own problems, to figure life out. But then I am faced with an enemy I did not expect. A lady at the pool making a demeaning comment about my boys. A possible job loss that is both unexpected and really bad timing in our minds. Feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, of being unlovable. Enemies come from unexpected places and I am left with the only real solution, turning to God.

And here is the thing about God - He is still in control.

I love what the God says through Isaiah in chapter 37.
Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass... (v. 26a)
Don't worry Hezekiah. I have a plan. It has been in the works for a long time and you are just now going to see what I have been doing behind the scenes all these many hours, days, months, years.

Don't worry Jen. I've got this.

Again, I am surprised that God shows up in my life, my 2012 life, through the words written on scrolls so long ago.

But He does.

When I do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grace Is! (Not It Will Be)

A friend of mine asked me to lead My Girls on Monday. My Girls is a gift my friend Jennifer gives us each Monday when she opens her home to whoever comes and lets God's spirit fill the room and lead us toward Him. I was planning on posting what I shared but Jennifer beat me to it and she wrote an amazing post about how God works in mysterious and personal ways.

Read her blog post here.

I desperately want my friends to know God's grace because it sets us free. It saves us from ourselves.

I posted this comment at Jennifer's blog.
Been thinking about this post, this experience, for a few days. You are right that we didn't deserve grace. We didn't. But that's the thing. It is past tense. It is out of our hands. It was finished with the cross. It's not open for debate. It is only open for receiving. That's the thing about grace. It is a gift. It is not quid pro quo. The moment we try to earn grace, or to even merit it, to even be worthy of it, we diminish our experience of it. We reject the gift. It is still there waiting to fill our lives, our souls, but it is left waiting like a wrapped present under a Christmas tree still up in June.  
Because of Christ's work on the cross, because of God's love, we are redeemed. We are His children. We are His girls. And because of Him, we are worthy. We do deserve love.
If you are reading this and it doesn't make sense, or you want to talk about it, or want to share, I would love to help you find God's grace. Because it is God's grace that has redeemed me, has redeemed my life, and has brought "beautiful things out of the dust."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

From the Archives - What Are You?

I am trying to get reacquainted with the characters in my book. I have neglected them these past couple of weeks with the painting, and the moving, and the Spring Breaking, and the recuperating from all the doing.

So I spent my afternoon with Mia and Maggie and Tim, and the host of characters I am finding in my book. You can read the first few snippets here, just make you start at part 1 which is at the bottom. Also, if you like my blog, you may want to subscribe to it via email or follow me at Twitter or Facebook which are all available on the right side of this page.

But apart from all that, I have really felt a need to remember and to remind my dear friends that who we are is not what we do. So here is another post from the archives. This one is from November 2010.


Yesterday at church I was sitting near the front. A place I am often found first because if I am up front, I am less distracted by my friends and the people around me. Also because there are always seats up front when I come in late. During the greeting part, my pastor came up to me, since I was up front, and asked me, "what are you?" Since it was Halloween I thought he meant what was my costume going to be.

Turns out he was asking what am I? As in what is the core of who I am. Since I was not expecting such a deep question I floundered for a second and the went with the obvious. "I'm a follower of Jesus," I said. Immediately after the words were out of my mouth, actually as the words were forming on my tongue, they felt false. I knew in that moment that while the "correct" answer might be that I am a follower of Christ, it was not really true. It is not the essence of my being or the deepest definition of who I am.

I may want to be a follower of Jesus but my life is evidence to the fact that I am not most of the time. I want to claim being sold out for Christ but I like comfort, warmth and safety a little too much. My every action shows me really shows me being a follower of Jesus only a percentage of the time.

But even more than my actions giving me away, the truth is that my identity is based not on my actions but on my being. Not on what I do but who I am. And to that question I answer confidently and gratefully that I am a child of God, loved and redeemed. That is the very essence of my identity. Being a Jesus follower is something I try to do because He first loved me. But I am first and foremost a child of God, living in the grace He has extended to me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

From the Archives - The Promises of God

Sometimes, people need to read old words anew. Somedays, I need to read my words again. Here is another post from the archives. This one was written in June 2010.

I have been thinking a lot about the promises of God recently. I think part of this was provoked by a sermon series on the Good News and part was prompted by my reading through the Old Testament. There are so many promises God has given us in His word:

- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

- And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20b

- Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

- The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

- Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

These are just a few of the thousands of promises that are written in the Bible, God's word for us. Truth we can hold onto in times of struggle, a foundation on which we can build our faith. Some of these promises are completely centered on God's actions, some require action on our part. But we can be sure that God will always keep His promises.

I thought I got it last week and was all excited to write a post about our need to know God's promises. Because when we know God's promises we can find comfort and strength in them. We can know for certain that God will hear us, protect us, guide us, redeem us and love us. Maybe by knowing God's promises we could let go of the stress we feel, the strange requirements we put on ourselves and the overbearing sense of being lost in a wilderness that we often feel as we traverse life. I thought I knew where to find the magic key we all seek.

And then I got reminded yet again, that I really don't get it. I was reading "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray (as always because I am sooo, sooo slowly making my way through this book which I do highly recommend) last week when this sentence struck me to the core.
Learn to believe in God, hold on to God, and to let God take possession of our life. It will become easy to grasp the promise. Whoever knows and trusts God finds it easy to also trust the promise.
and later he writes
It was the revelation of God Himself that gave the promise its living power to enter the heart and cultivate faith. Because they knew God, these men of faith could not do anything but trust His promise.
And then to get to the root of my turning God's gifts into my idols, I read this sentence.
Jesus is teaching us a precious lesson today. We seek God's gifts, but God wants to give us Himself first.
I was going at it backwards, yet again. Learning God's promises, knowing His word, points us to God himself. These promises show us who God is. They are an extension of His very being, the pouring out of His heart into our world.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Heavy Heart

There are days when my heart is heavy. Today is one of those days.

I am tired. Both sleepy tired but also mind tired. We have been busy these last few weeks. I have very little time alone and I need alone time, more than most probably. I have not had time to write much. I am not even sure where I last left off on my book. It almost feels like I am not writing a book and yet there are 50,000 words in a document somewhere that I need to return to.

I am also ever aware of my friend sitting in the hospital with her son, Hockey Boy's dear friend. I am sad and scared and hopeful. I am impatient, waiting for updates, waiting for my son's friend to come home and be able to play again. I am selfish because I need this boy to get better for my own son's sake. I am encouraged by the words my friend is writing on Facebook, knowing that God is drawing her close, holding her tight. I am embarrassed that I do not know how to help; how to comfort, what to write, where to show up in their lives.

This morning I heard a song. I immediately wanted to send it off to my friend who came to mind. But then I heard the words deeper in me.

"These bones cry out..."

I don't want to cry out. I don't want to have a heavy heart.

But I do.


And then I sit down to read another chapter in Isaiah, whatever the next chapter may be. And these words stand out
O LORD, be gracious to us;
we long for you
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.  (Is. 33:2)

Yes Lord - be gracious to us.


Here is the song that woke me this morning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rules to Live By

I bristle at rules. I don't like to be told what to do. I don't like blanket statements about what is right or wrong about how to live life. (Unless of course I have asked for directions because then I really do want a set of step by step instructions. Especially if it involves cooking or furniture painting or something because I am not intuitive in the home arts.)

But in general, I don't like a list of rules to live by.

I love to learn from others. I love to hear stories of how other people conquered their fear, or dealt with that difficult relationship, or figured out how to get their kids to sit quietly at the dinner table without touching or looking at each other in a provocative manner. I learn from other people's successes and failures.

But I do not learn by being told what to do. No, at that I bristle and react. I cannot hear much of what someone is saying if they are giving a set of rules for living.

I think because in my life, rules were always safe. Rules gave me a set of standards to hold on to. They showed me what was right and wrong. They let me know I was safe and good if I stayed inside the lines.

But I don't think that is what God intended. I don't think He meant for us to create a list of dos and don'ts so that we could then just live happily keeping our actions in between the lines. In reading Isaiah, I am finding that a lot of God's words bemoan this way of living. This idea showed up again in Isaiah 29.

We do this. In worship, we create rules and rituals that allow us to act out our worship without it ever reaching our hearts.

In life, we do the same. We set boundaries around us that keep us from sinning physically without ever addressing what is in our hearts. Some people make rules about alcohol or movies or dancing or some other "sin". They create don't lists and share them with the people around them because of course what is right for them is right for everyone. Some people make sure they do all the right things; attend the right church, eat organic foods, listen to the right music, read the right books, vote the right way. They cross off their lists of things to do, relaxing in the knowledge that they have lived a right life.

To do lists feel productive. Don't do lists feel safe. But if we simply borrow from someone else or adopt the cultural rules of those around us, our actions are empty. Our hearts are still lost because we never really spend time searching through how we feel or think about any of these things. We never really consider why we do what we do. We simply do or don't do.

I believe in boundaries, personal boundaries. Because as Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:23:
"Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 
Boundaries are for my benefit. Boundaries are meant to be constructive, to help me grow. And what I need may be very different from what another person needs. My boundaries may look very different from another person's.

Not because I am right and they are wrong but because we are different and our needs are different and where we are in our spiritual growth is different. God made us unique. God gave us different needs and our histories bring out different struggles for each of us. What is permissible for me may not be beneficial for you. And what is permissible for you may not be constructive for me.

It is certainly easier at times to take up a how to live a good life task list. But if I am acting without knowing who I am and what God has in store for me, that list will eventually burn me out. Because it was never a list meant for me.

God has the list of dos and don'ts for my life. My list will not be the same as yours. And that is a good thing.

So I will not be sharing a set of rules to live by. But I will continue to share my stories, the stories of what has helped me grow and what has caused me to stumble along the way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

From the Archives - Love Actually

We moved last Thursday, again, after spending the previous week painting and painting and painting. We downsized so there has been a lot of Goodwill runs, Craigslist ads, and prioritizing our belongings. Needs v. wants. What will fit, what will not. I have been busy and now I am tired. So I am posting something from my archives.

The main reason I chose this one is that the mom I mention is dealing with some tough times with one of her boys who is in the hospital. This is one of my Hockey Boy's dearest friends. We are all scared and sad about what they are dealing with each day and what the future might hold but we also have great hope. Hope because they are an amazing family and hope because we share an amazing God.

So from February 2010, here is Love Actually.


Tomorrow morning I am supposed to be talking to a group of moms about love. Thankfully I just have to fill 10 minutes. I have some ideas and some good quotes to use and can probably wing the rest. I am supposed to be writing something brilliant right now. But the truth is I feel completely inadequate to address this topic, to talk about love. Love does not come easily to me. I have only been in love once. So glad I married that guy!

My heart is completely engrossed with my three boys, though it is really my mind that is usually leading the love train. So much of love it turns out is daily choices to do what is best for the other person, often with disregard to the cost to yourself. Love is making the lunches, doing the laundry, giving the time outs - though only to the kids because giving time outs to the other grown ups in my house does not go over well. Love is so many daily actions and decisions that I find myself often so focused on the daily and the actions, that I forget the feelings. I go through my routines, get annoyed when people are not doing things my way, rebound and get back to taking care of everyone, and miss out on the feelings of love. And just when I start to feel a bit heartless in my care taking, a bit like I am just doing not feeling it, I am hit by a huge wave of overwhelming love that makes my heart full to bursting. These are the moments, I look at my child's smile and cannot stop smiling myself. The moment when, as frustrated as I am that my husband is late for our date, he walks in and my world is right again because he is in it.

I have a friend who I really admire because of the way that she loves her boys. She also has three boys so we are kindred spirits in the moms of all boys club. When you see her with her boys or hear her talk about her boys, you feel the love coming from the very heart of her being. I wanted to be like that, I wanted to delight in my boys very existence. But I was often distracted by my circumstances or frustrated by their behaviors, focused on what they were doing or what I was doing. I decided to take a lesson from my friend. I was going to focus on the good in my kids. I decided to strive really hard to see the best in my kids at all times. To see them through the eyes of God, their maker, their designer, who has a very special plan for their lives. And you know what. It works. I still get frustrated. I still get annoyed. And then I get frustrated and annoyed at myself. But when I started looking for the good in my kids, when I decided to see the best in my kids, to enjoy my kids, to celebrate who my kids are, I began to delight in my kids in a new way. I am falling more deeply in love with my kids each day. They are teaching me to love not just in my head, not just in my choices, not just in my actions, but in the deepest part of my being.

As a mom, I get to spend most of my day loving on my kids. Loving on my friends. Loving on my husband. Like the movie says, love actually is all around us. And I am learning to feel it more each day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Woe to Someone Else

I am sitting here reading Isaiah 28 which in my Bible is subtitled "Woe to Ephraim." There are a lot of Woe to... passages coming up in this part of Isaiah which I normally see as a quick read because I don't have to really think about what it written since I am not Ephraim (Is. 28), or David's City (Is. 29), or the Obstinate Nation (Is. 30). Wait a minute, I may be part of an obstinate nation.

So I am sitting here skimming over Isaiah 28 when these words jump from the page,
For it is:
     Do and do, do and do,
     rule on rule, rule on rule;
     a little here, a little there. (v. 10)
And then I keep reading:
Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,
to whom he said,
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest";
and, "This is the place of repose" -
but they would not listen.
So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there - (vs. 11 - 13a)
Whoa. I had to go back and read this whole passage again. It took me a minute to realize that the first time the phrase do and do, do and do... is used, it is the priests and prophets saying these words. They are taking the warnings of Isaiah, the prophecy of God's chosen voice and breaking them down, mocking them as do and do, rule and rule, a little here, a little there. They took God's words through Isaiah and turned them into action statements, into to do lists, into rules to live by.

We do this, all the time. We read passages in scripture and make them a task list. We take verses out of context and them mold our lives around them. We, the church, the Christian community, have said to do and do, rule and rule, a little here, a little there.

And the truly sad part is that was never God's intent for his church, for his priests and prophets.
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and "This is the place of repose" (v. 12)
I may not be Ephraim, but woe to me the one who condenses God's word down into a to do list. The one who has traded in God's resting place for a list of dos and don'ts.

And the woe is there, right in the text.
So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there - (v. 13)
When we choose to distill God's word down to a to do list, we end up being tied down to something that cannot save us, cannot help us, and cannot gives us rest. We tie ourselves to a burden that God never intended for us.

How often I do this. How often I tell myself I need to do this, I need to be that, I need to...

Thankfully Holy Week, this week before Easter Sunday, reminds me that I don't need to do anything. It was already done. I just need to rest in it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Book - 7: Intrusions

Here is the next installment of my book. If you missed any, you can find them all using the Take Me To.... the book link to the right of this page. Enjoy!


She remembered back to her freshman year when she first left home for college. Mia had answered every call, worried the electricity had been turned off due to unpaid bills or that her mom needed help. But the phone calls were hard on Mia. Sometimes her mom missed her so much and would call begging her to come home for a visit. When Mia explained she couldn’t, that she had work and classes, Maggie would cry. Other times, her mom would ask question after question about school, the classes, her roommates, the food, the boys. Her questioning was frenzied and erratic. Mia would try to share her life but the questions became more piercing, more intrusive. Even so many miles from home, she was expected to include her mom in everything. When the phone rang, Mia never knew what to expect, she just knew it would be hard. 

Mia had thought the distance would help but the constant contact was stifling. She needed some space and so she stopped answering the phone every time it rang. The voice mails were full of tears and raging that Mia needed to call her mother, “NOW!” But she waited. Mia would call her mom back when she had time or felt like dealing with the mood swings. She decided she would control the interactions by limiting the contact. 

In the spring of her freshman year, after a difficult Christmas at home, Mia stopped answering her phone altogether. She did not call her mom back either. She wanted the space to think. She wanted a chance to breathe a bit and figure out her thoughts about the yelling and name calling that had happened around the Christmas tree. She had heard enough stories of happy Christmas vacations from her suite mates to know that her Christmas, her relationship with her mom was seriously messed up. 

She had planned to wait a week. She had planned to call her mom on Sunday. Mia had not planned on hearing her mom call her name across the quad when she was walking to her first class. She did not plan on her mother having a map of the campus and Mia’s class schedule in hand, stopping students asking for help in finding her daughter, her daughter who would not call home. 

Mia learned very quickly that she did not ever want her mother visiting her campus again. She did not want her two very different lives crossing paths. She did not want her past visiting her future. And so she would return her mother’s calls. Just another way her mom kept control on her even though she lived a five-hour bus ride away. Even though Mia was now a grown woman with a life of her own. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

From the Archives - In Honor Of Good Friday

I was going through some old posts looking for a link for something I was writing and I came across an old blog post I wrote in August 2009 entitled "Depravity to Grace". On this Good Friday, it is a good reminder to me of my need for grace, for Christ's death on the cross in my place.


Most of the time I can go through life thinking I am a good person. I am usually kind and caring, supportive and encouraging, I wait my turn in lines, pay my bills and taxes, volunteer where needed and sometimes even cook dinner. I have picked up some great women along life's adventure that tell me I am awesome which is a great trait to have in a friend; someone who will tell you how amazing you are. I think one of the reasons we are so often comparing ourselves to others is because we are comfortable with that comparison most of the time. Maybe she is thinner or her kids actually eat their vegetables but I did work out three times last week and have a Masters Degree (don't ask me what I use it for though). There is always someone better but there is always someone I can look at and be thankful for how wonderful I am.

But there is the catch. I am not meant, as a Christian, to compare myself to unworthy measures but to the only worthy measure of this world, Jesus Christ. And when I compare myself to that yardstick, I live in the depths of depravity. My anger is very rarely righteous and most often fatigue or impatience induced vitriol spewing in my mind. I may be able to control my outbursts but my heart tells the truth of my soul. When I am feeling down about myself because of my slothfulness or laziness, I start to focus on someone outside myself who is worse of than I and project my insecurity onto them. I can become so frustrated with my kids that I can lash out in horrible anger and meanness.

I am depraved.

I am sinful.

I am in need of saving.

And that is where the good news begins. I have been saved. My debt has been paid. I know who Jesus is and what He did for me. I choose to follow Him. I am a child of God able to enjoy His presence in my life. I am able to answer my natural depravity with His grace. My anger with His peace. My insecurity with His goodness.

So truthfully most of the time I am a good person because Christ is working in me. But the good you see is my overflowing with His love and the beauty of His creation. And that is awesome to me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Think I Might Have Trust Issues

With our next move coming upon us quickly, we spent last weekend going through old boxes trying to determine what to save and what to toss. We found some sweet surprises in the boxes.

The boys' baby shoes. I actually had all six shoes, three pairs for three boys.

High school photo albums for both my husband and myself. Very funny to see all these pictures, especially in these Facebook days. I would consider posting some but that would require me scanning the old fashion paper photos into an electronic format. Instead back into the memories box they went.

We found this:

We had to keep this floppy disk if only to completely confuse the children when they open this box of memories someday.

And then there was a letter I had written a dear friend right when my husband and I were first starting to date.  I had been reading the book "Inside Out" by Larry Crabb and sent my friend a couple of quotes that were challenging me at the time. Sixteen years later, I am still challenged by these words,
Trusting another is perhaps the most difficult requirement of Christian life. We hate to be dependent because we have learned to trust no one, not fully. We know better. Everyone in whom we have placed our confidence has in some way disappointed us. To trust fully, we conclude, is suicide.
After this quote I wrote to my dear friend,
That is me. Independence and self sufficiency I hold to so tightly. I hold to them because I am scared of needing anything or anyone besides myself because what if I am let down. What if someone chooses, or not, to hurt me and withdraw their soul that was watering my deep thirst. I would be left to emotionally die all alone. And that is terrifying to me. If I don't let myself need people, I may never know deep satisfaction or joy, but I also won't feel deep pain and death. To my fearful spirit, to trust fully IS suicide. And yet, I am learning that to live without deep relationships that require trust and dependence, I am already slowly dying. 
The angst of a 22 year old. I am older now, wiser, more trusting but sadly this is often the angst of this 38 year old.

I am so thankful that I have an unchanging God who loves me, that He is where I place my trust.

But as for his people, the ones he has brought into my life, they scare me a bit. I have trusted and been let down. I have built walls and missed out on deep connection. I have struggled with how much to need others and how much to let God fill those needs. I wonder when to speak up for myself and when to give grace. I try to trust but my soul flinches.

I have grown a lot in the last sixteen years but it appears that I still have trust issues.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Book - 6: Her Mom

Here is the next installment of my book. If you missed any, you can find them all using the Take Me To.... the book link to the right of this page. Enjoy!

But somewhere in the last few years, Mia began to find herself. She was slowly finding her own voice, her own place in this world, apart from her mother. She discovered she loved numbers and math, balance sheets with red and black numbers. She liked living on her own; she liked making her own decisions without having to consider her mother. She found a world that did not spin on the emotions of one person, but that was controlled by handbooks, social norms, history, and cause and effect. This world was predictable and that brought a sense of freedom to Mia. She could breathe her own air until her mom intruded.

Mia set the water glass on the nightstand. She had found it, along with the dresser, at an estate sale last year. Before that her room was adorned with old crates from the restaurant. She sat on her bed needing to study a little longer before getting ready for bed. She pulled a textbook from her bag along with her laptop. Her phone started vibrating in her back pocket. She pulled it out and saw her mom’s name light up on the screen. She froze waiting for the ringing vibrations to stop. She desperately wanted to hit the ignore button but knew her mother would correctly guess that the push to voicemail was because Mia was ignoring her.

When the ringing finally stopped, Mia saw that she had ten missed calls, ten voicemails all from her mother. She let out a sigh as her body fought its fight or flight instinct at seeing her mother’s face and name on her phone. Her heart always sped up when her mom called. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. She could ignore the calls now but at some point, and soon, she would have to listen to those voice mails. She would have to call her mom back and enter into that world again. Mia had learned the hard way not to ignore her mom for too long.