Wednesday, February 29, 2012

thin places

Yesterday I learned that in Ireland there are historical geographic sites they call thin places.  You can actually take a tour of them -sacred natural landscapes where the distance between this world and heaven are thin.  Where God seems closer. 

Fascinated by the concept but worrying about having gas money to finish this month, let alone money to buy a plane ticket to Ireland, I wondered if there are any thin places a little closer to home.  An actual place where I could make a pilgrimage to seek the presence of God.

Please, please forgive me.  I truly mean no sacrilege or an ounce of disrespect toward the Irish, but the only thin place I can think of in my landscape is the bathroom.

I believe only moms can truly understand what I mean by this.  The bathroom is often the only place to find solitude.

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  (Psalm 27:4)  But until then, the thinnest place I’ve found is a little room with a door where the tasks of the day are set aside for a moment.  Where the hot water runs over my face as I pray and where the Sonicare vibrates while I have a little time to think and to talk to God.

I have done a lot of praying while I get ready in the morning.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It’s where God confirmed in my heart he wanted me to go teach the Bible for a few weeks in Uganda.  A little Crest and some multivitamins is where he convinced me I should give up the curriculum I loved and ask the children’s director about pursuing Awana (which would take us from 30 gradeschoolers at Wednesday church to about 150).  I was towel drying my hair when God pinned me to the wall about forgiving a friend.

I think the mystery isn’t so much in finding a historically sacred location as it is in seeking thin.  Wanting to be so close to God that I reach out for him in the moment. 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13)

Do you have a thin place?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

how do you know if you're okay?

Have you ever had these arguments with your child?

I’m ugly.  No, you’re beautiful.  Your eyes.  Your hair.  Your smile.

I’m dumb.  All A’s and one B?  That’s not dumb. 

John the Baptist had a moment like this.  He lived his whole life to proclaim Jesus is the Christ.  Now from prison he sends people to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  Have I been wrong about who you are?  Has my whole life been a waste?  Am I stupid?   

Jesus sends a reply to John and then turns to the crowd around him and says, “Í tell you the truth:  Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  (Matthew 11:3,11) 

Prison is the lowest place a person can go.  Stripped of dignity.  Not a place to feel confident.  The voice that proclaimed the coming of Christ loudly in the wilderness is now hunkered down in the corner.

Like John, I find myself there a lot.  Wondering,  Am I okay?   

Feeling the least.  The very least of anyone.  Completely inadequate and unsure of who I am and what I’m doing with my life. 

Did Jesus just say what I think he said about me?

Monday, February 27, 2012

double your productivity

I was disturbed to look at the National Geographic pictures (January 2012 publication) of people in Cambodia who have lost limbs because of land mines, but one fact caught my attention even more than the sad pictures of maimed civilians. 

There’s a clear link between land mine contamination and poverty.” 

One village chief said, “We did not have enough food to eat.  We could not grow rice on our own land because the soldiers had laid the mines.”   

Cambodia has been clearing its land of mines for over 10 years, and in that time personal income in the country has doubled. 

We all feel the obvious, immediate effects of lacking self discipline –obesity, broken relationships, credit card bills, filthy house…Like the missing limb of a child who has stepped in the wrong place. 

But have you ever considered that the mines of undiscipline in the fields of your life not only pose a danger to you but, by their very presence, are keeping you in poverty?  I urge you to look at all the land that could be planted, could be producing, could be bringing a richness to your life and to the lives of others. 

Here’s my paraphrase of 2 Peter 2:5,6,8.  “Once you have faith in Christ, take a metal detector to the field of your life.  Get down on your hands and knees and disarm, one at a time, each landmine of undiscipline.  If you do this meticulously, it will keep you from having to stare at your life, wondering why you own so much fertile land but feel so poor.

Friday, February 24, 2012

intrigued by lent

My only knowledge of lent growing up was when my Catholic best friend had fish for dinner on Friday. 

I have been doing some reading, and now I know that lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter –a time of penitential preparation of the believer.  Many people choose something to fast from during this time. 

I don’t believe, in my 35 years of walking with Christ, that I have ever once prepared my heart for Easter.  I’m intrigued at the idea of giving up a luxury for 40 days, allowing the pricking loss of that one thing to remind me of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, to remind me of my sin he carried on my behalf. 

I think I’m going to give up complaining for lent. 

It will be a painful sacrifice for the next 38 days (I’m getting a late start), because complaining is a luxury I indulge in often.   

Will my heart be different as Easter approaches… if I spend 38 days denying myself a pet sin? 

“Do everything without complaining…”  (Philippians 2:14)   

Will 38 days of without change my soul?  This Baptist girl would really like to know. 

Would any of you like to join me?  What would you give up for a season to prepare your heart for Easter?

we can't give from emptiness

We went to a Thursday night worship service at Youth With a Mission last night.  A rather raucous event with music a little louder than comfortable in a room full of people young enough to be our own children.  A visiting missionary from Taiwan spoke to us from the Bible.   

It was wonderful. 

There we stood, the preacher and his wife, absorbing the worship and the truth without having to contribute to the night.  Just filling up our souls with the goodness of who God is.  Singing loud and taking in the words from the Bible that soak in deep to the dry places. 

This morning I wake up and sit for a long time with a blank notebook in my lap, trying to decide what truth I can bring from God’s word that would be meaningful to life.   

I look at the page and realize I have nothing but blank unless God gives me words. 

I am nothing but emptiness unless God fills. 

I have nothing to give to you in the way of words unless I have received something myself.

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.  I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”  (Psalm 9:1-2) 

Every single day I run the risk of living an empty life.  I risk having nothing of value to give to anyone.  Unless I sing and pray and read the Bible.  Unless I worship God with all my heart and allow him to fill me with his joy and his character and his truth. 

How often do you spend time with God?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

do you love people like this?

Honey, there’s something on your leg. 

It was a tic. 

On a beautiful spring day, we set out with friends for a casual walk along a railroad grade.   

When I got up closer to him I saw it was tics.  Plural.  Lots of tics.  All over our legs.  We looked down, and they were like ants on the ground.  I’ve never seen anything like it. 

After fiercely swatting them off our legs, we all ran. 

I don’t run, but I did on that day.  Hard and fast.  More than a little determined to get to new ground that was not crawling. 

Love.  Preacher husband says from the pulpit that it’s a full-on run.  “Above all, love each other deeply.” (1 Peter 4:8).  The kind of love that exerts itself, like a horse in full gallop, stretched out. 

Running toward love like I ran toward tic-free ground.  Desperate and highly motivated.  Giving no thought to side-ache and burning calves.  Refusing to stop. 

A few weeks ago someone hurt my feelings -said something caustic.  I felt myself pulling back from her in anger.  But then I remembered that love moves to.  No, love runs to.  I exerted myself all week –forgiving, loving, trying to understand.

Who do you need to run toward with love?  You wouldn’t just stand there in a field of tics would you?  Move. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Life is very uncomfortable right now.  My job just got cut in half, and gas prices are going up.  I believe God wants me to pursue writing, but I don’t know what I’m doing or where my efforts will end up.  My firstborn graduates this year.  An overwhelming amount of change in a short time.  Uncertain future no matter which way I turn. 

I’ve been memorizing Jesus’ words from Matthew 18:1-4.  “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said:  ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” 

Unless you change. 

Tonight I will stand in front of 70 squirming grade school children and teach these words.  The girls hug me and tell me they like the shirt I’m wearing as they come in the door.  The boys come in loud and give me a fling of the head as a hello. 

Unless I change. 

Girls braiding each other’s hair.  Boys playing with whatever is in their hands.  I tell them stories about who God is. 

Unless I change.   

No one in this room is worried about gas prices or what job they’ll have when they grow up.  They’re not anxious about college tuition rates or the future of the economy.  They just want to know if I’m going to tell a good story tonight and how much longer till recreation.  They want me to know it was their birthday yesterday and that their friend is having a sleepover on Friday.   

They go and do what they’re told without giving it much thought, and they’re mostly concerned about having fun in the moment.   

I find myself saying, “Really, Lord?  It’s okay for me to trust you with all the grown-up stuff and I can just enjoy right now?”  This is one command that seems a little too good to be true.  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to obey. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the other side of impossible

The Highline Trail is at the top of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  A single-file trail with a sheer drop-off on one side but one of the most breathtaking views on this planet.  Definitely not a place for anyone with the slightest fear of heights.  (Seeing mountain goats in the parking lot is a bad sign.)

And I’m standing on it in full panic.  Trying not to cry.  Shallow, rapid breathing.  I can’t do it!  I have been holding in check my fear of falling down the cliff for a good half mile of the hike already, and now I have to walk through a tiny waterfall that crosses the narrow path.  It’s literally only a few steps, but the rocks are slippery from the water, and I am terrified of falling.

This should make you laugh.  My husband and two children have already crossed easily and stand cheering me on from the other side of this massive waterfall that covers three feet of ground.  But I.  Cannot.  Move.

Impossible.  I’m very, very seriously considering turning around and heading back to the car.

Fighting the stomach-roiling panic, I finally reach for my husband’s hand (yes, it’s close enough to touch) and step across.  I make it to the other side. 

The Devil is the Father of lies (John 8:44).  He manifests himself as a cliff and water-covered rocks.
He is the You Can’t.

He is the Turn Back.

He is the You’ll Fall.

He is the "You can't write.  Why start a blog?  Who in the world would want to read your thoughts?  They'll think you're stupid.  You'll never go anywhere with your writing, so why even try.  Nobody but your mom is going to read it."

This blog post is written from the other side of impossible.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  (Philippians 4:13)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Get self control. Now.

Son, get out of the car.

This is what I would say to the boy every morning when I would drop him off for school.  He loved school, but he just could not hurry.  My little tortuga I would often call him affectionately –Spanish for “turtle”.  So relaxed and laid-back I know he’ll never need to buy a bottle of Tums for an anxious stomach.

Hurry, we’re late!

His lips say okay, but his body rhythm doesn’t change.  Bend over.  Tie the shoe.  Grab the other shoe.  Slowly tie it.  No hurry in him.

I love who he is, this boy who often helps me slow down and breathe, but sometimes I wish I could light a fire underneath him big enough to increase his speed.

Peter says the same thing to the little tortugas in the church.  Make every effort…to add self control.” (2 Peter 1:5)

“To make every effort” is from the Greek word that means “to speed, to hasten”.

get a move on

pick up the pace

hop to it

chop chop

How quickly are you moving to gain self control?  Is your effort so slow that someone would need time-lapse photography to document it?  I imagine the Spirit of God tapping his foot, waiting for us to catch the urgency of hurry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

how to make Jesus part of your day

I only have to yell, “Dinner!”, and my husband takes over from there.
Sitting around the table after a long day of school and work, he looks first to my son and says, Tell me what happened in first period. We all laugh, because we know where this is going. It’s the same every day. We talk about first period - the funny, boring, embarrassing, frustrating, or discouraging moments of first period. We laugh a lot. My husband gives little bits of encouragement or sympathy or sometimes instruction on how to handle a situation better. Now tell me what happened in second period. Now third. Now fourth. On and on it goes through the seemingly trivial details of the day.

Then he turns to my daughter. Tell me about first period.

And our mealtime becomes an intimate, nothing’s-too-small, get-into-your-life event.

Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

It’s not about the food.

For him it's a constant act of loving deeply and caring about the minutiae of his children’s lives.

For us it’s knowing our Father is concerned about every detail, so we add to our lives the discipline of prayer that says, “Hello, come in” during first period. “Hello, come in” during second period. “Hello, come in” during third period.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

why self control is connected to your world view

The first day of the meeting he wore a dress shirt.  The second day he wore the same shirt.  And he wore it the next day and the next day.

When I get dressed in the morning I think of that young man in Africa who led music at our morning Bible study, in his one and only dress shirt.  I stand in front of my closet for several minutes, fingering shirt after shirt.  I’ve bought space-saving hangers because I have more clothes than closet.  What to wear. 

I once listened to a radio program about a school in Mexico that feeds the students at school because they live in poverty.  And how sad it makes them to have to wean the children down to one meal a day before the summer break, so the change isn't such a shock.

Paul says, “I have learned to be content…”  (Philippians 4:10) 

Learning about the rest of the world has shown me my own wealth.  With that realization comes a school teacher -embarrassment.  How embarassing that my struggle is trying not to snack between meals when so many people have no "between".  How embarrassing to pout in front of my closet because my clothes are so “last year” when others only own the "last year".

I highly recommend visiting a third-world country or reading about one.  Learning to be content requires a teacher, and embarrassment is a good one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

how to control incoming paperwork armed with only 10 pocket folders

Mom, where’s my release slip for the field trip? 

“It’s on the scary counter!” I holler back.

THE SCARY COUNTER is a geographical location in my kitchen where the slightest breeze could send a tower of papers toppling.  Receipts.  Bills.  A pickle jar I need to take to a friend for her craft project.  Half-finished thank-you notes for Christmas gifts (yes, it’s February).  Jayme’s immunization papers for college.  A CD with pictures on it.  Recipes I need to type and put in my cookbook binder. 

I always joke that there’s probably something in that stack of mess that I’m going to go to prison for if I don’t take care of it soon.

A proverb sings at me.  A place for everything –and everything in its place.”

Here’s a tip that has helped me immensely.  I put a magazine rack on “the scary counter” in my kitchen and have filled it with pocket folders labeled like this:

·        To file (when this gets full I take it downstairs and file it all.)
·        Tax stuff (for receipts, quarterly payment envelopes, etc.) 
·        Hang onto it (for things like directions to a baby shower, tickets to an event –stuff you’ll need soon but don’t need sitting on the counter) 
·        Christmas (lists, ideas, etc.) 
·        To do –URGENT. 
·        To do –not so urgent (for tasks on which you can procrastinate without going to jail)
·        Recipes
·        Scrapbook
·        Project (one for every project you have going –for example, right now I have one labeled “graduation” as we prepare for my daughter’s high school graduation in May)
·        $ (budget, bills, envelopes, stamps, etc. –I am able to grab this and have everything I need to sit down and pay bills)

Divide your paper mountain into these folders, and then you can declare, as one who has sailed the wide ocean, “Land!  I see Land!”

While you organize, keep in mind 1 Peter 1:6,8.  If the quality of self control is yours and is increasing, it will “keep you from being useless or unfruitful”.  If you were to get your scary counter under control, how do you think that might affect your productivity in everything else?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

self control: lonely

The first six months of my daughter’s life were the loneliest months I have ever experienced.  I was a stay-at-home mom, and Matt was finishing his master’s degree in psychology.  He went to class and did his practicum all day long, came home and studied all evening long, and then worked 40 hours on the weekend at a residential treatment facility.  (You heard me correctly -40 hours from Friday to Sunday night.)  It was me and this new little baby for five hours, eight hours, 12 hours –seven days a week. 

Sometimes I would load her up and head to the grocery store, not because I needed food, but hopefully to see another adult face.  I was so desperately lonely that the exchange with the checkout clerk was like food to a starving person.

My kids are all grown up now, and I’m free to move about and see people all day.  I still find myself lonely and searching, though.  I feel it around lunch time when I sit down to eat by myself.  I reach for the remote control.

I feel it on the weekend when everybody’s off doing their thing.  I reach for chocolate.

The strange thing is, sometimes I feel it when everybody’s at home.  People all over the house, but I still feel a searching.  Like a cell phone looking for a signal.  My soul reaches out, needing something but it’s not sure what. 

David says, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely…”  (Psalm 25:16)  It’s really David who has turned, though.  His soul could reach for so many things, but he reaches for the Lord instead.

The last few years I’ve been practicing.  Feel the emptiness –reach for the Lord not for M&Ms.  Feel the emptiness –reach for the Lord not for a chick flick.  Feel the emptiness –reach for the Lord not for a trip to the mall.  I have found the secret of Christian joy –when my lonely soul reaches out in prayer, I find there is someone there.  A God who is available in every moment and who sees and listens and responds. 

Recommended reading:  Made to Crave (satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food), by Lysa TerKeurst

Monday, February 13, 2012

what God is doing for you

She stands in the kitchen, slumped shoulders, after a long day of school.  I’m upset, she says.  In the last class of the day the teacher left the room, and she watched two bullies picking on a weaker student, jabbing him in the ribs with cruel laughter.  The guy cried, hurt by the bullies but then embarrassed at his own response.  Her tears come, and I didn’t even do anything about it.  I see the pain in her eyes –a tender heart that feels the wound someone else has received.  I tell her it’s not too late.

The next day she performs a valiant act and informs the teacher.

I open an old book and read about two women.  Widows –helpless and alone in a male-dominant society.  Reliant on the kindness or cruelty of men who might offer the women food from their fields.

They just happen to return to this small town at the beginning of barley harvest.  The younger just happens to land in the field of a kind and generous man.  That man just happens to be a relative who could redeem her.

So she proposes marriage.  Unconventional.  Hopeful.

And he promises he will do what she has asked, fills her shawl with six full scoops of barley, and sends her back to her mother-in-law.

Then come the most powerful words in the whole book of Ruth.  Meanwhile Boaz…

The guy goes home from school.  Humiliated.  Miserable.  Meanwhile…  When he sags into his couch at home he has no idea there is a young woman thinking about him in her kitchen.  He has no idea God has filled her heart with compassion.  He can’t see her tears on his behalf or know that she is about to take action that will affect his life.

Meanwhile Boaz…

God has orchestrated the homecoming of the widows.  Bringing them to a place of kindness and redemption and provision.  And many years from now Ruth’s small little name will be listed in the lineage of the Great Redeemer.

Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait my daughter, until you find out what happens.”  Waiting for Boaz to act.  Trusting in the good and generous character he has shown so far.

The Bible is full of meanwhile.  The Israelites face the Philistines and Goliath…meanwhile David.  The Ethiopian reads the Scripture in his chariot, not understanding…meanwhile Philip.  Saul encounters Christ and sits blind for three days…meanwhile Ananias.  God taking action out of the line of vision.

When we belong to God we can tell our story of struggle and pain, finishing with the words meanwhile God…  We pray about the unknown and then take Naomi’s advice to “wait and see what happens”.  We have no idea what action God is taking as we speak.

(See Ruth 3:18 and 4:1.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

self control: failure -again

Ask me about healthy eating or working out.  Ask me about budgeting or financial goals or spiritual disciplines or relationship health.  But PLEASE don’t ask me about promptness. 

There it is, that one huge beast of a bad habit that I can’t seem to control.  I was late to my dentist appointment today -again.  There stood the hygienist waiting for me.  It was only five minutes, but it was five minutes that belonged to her day, to her schedule.  It pains me to write this down and let you see it all out loud on paper.  Late to meetings.  Late to lunch dates.  Late for my own funeral probably. 

I only have courage to write this because I know you have one.  One thing that, to save your life you just cannot seem to manage.  Try.  Fail.  Determine not to fail again.  Try.  Fail. 

Why is it that we can see the problem and even know how easy it would be to fix, but we just can’t seem to do it?  Really, how hard would it be for me to leave the house 10 minutes earlier than normal to get somewhere?  How hard to leave 15 minutes sooner and **GASP** be early to something.  Not rocket science.  Yet I find myself constantly apologizing and being ashamed over the same tardiness.

Jesus says the answer, but I don’t like it.  You’re not gonna like it.  “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”  (Matthew 5:30). 

Of course, I’m quite confident that tardiness is not going to land me in hell, but Jesus’ point still fits.  If something keeps pulling me down, I need to do something drastic to put a halt to it.  Something really drastic –like confessing my weakness in front of all of you.

How ashamed and totally disgusted with ourselves do we have to get before we’ll finally take a drastic measure to make a change? 

Uh.  I’m there today.  God help me, I’m starting a new boot camp (see my previous blog on boot camps from January 1).  No tardiness in February.  (She said with her game face on.)  Would somebody please hold me accountable to this? 

What’s that “one thing” for you?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

either one or the other

I used to sneakily follow Hispanic people around Wal-Mart in Texas, trying to understand what they were saying, because I was working on a minor in Spanish at college.  I was so excited on the day I realized I was actually eavesdropping because I understood!  (Conscience stricken, I stopped that practice immediately and turned to watching Spanish soaps instead.)

I can say the basics in Spanish, but it annoys my son.  He looked up how to say a phrase.  No matter what I say to him in Spanish now, he replies “Mi umbrigo esta en fuego”, which I believe means his bellybutton is on fire.

Besides being able to say simple things, like “Do you want milk?” or “Where is the bathroom?” I remember the strangest phrases in Spanish, like “Que quervas, y yo sin frenos!”, which means “What curves, and me without breaks!”  (I’m certainly not going to teach my 14-year-old son how to say it!)

But one Spanish phrase is my favorite.  "En que puedo servirle?"  It means, “How can I serve you?”  It rolls off the tongue.

Over lunch today I read what Philip Yancey wrote about Dr. Paul Brand’s servant lifestyle, “The pattern I observed in Dr. Brand and his family reinforces a trend I have noted among various Christians I have interviewed for magazines.  Not everyone fits the pattern, surely.  But I have encountered it often enough that I can almost lump these interview subjects into two sets:  Christian entertainers and Christian servants.  The Christian entertainers…we fawn over them, reward them with extravagant contracts and fan mail.  They have everything they want, usually, including luxurious lifestyles.”  (Ten Fingers for God, by Dorothy Clarke Wilson)

I sat for a long time at the kitchen table after I read Yancey's observation.  Which one am I?  Entertainer or servant?  An aspiring writer, I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months educating myself on how to build a readership online, how to write a book proposal, how to create a website... But after reading about Dr. Brand, I am forced to define what it is I'm trying to accomplish by writing.  Do I seek to entertain or to serve people with my words? 

Jesus says, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant." (Matthew 20:26) 

I choose servant.  Even as I say it out loud to myself I realize that perspective changes how I go about everything.

So I ask you, in all sincerity, En que puedo servirle? Would you leave a comment and tell me –in what areas of life do you most need a strengthening word? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

sight unseen...continued

Why do children love pretending to be blind?

blind man’s bluff
pin the tail on the donkey
pinata breaking

My friend and I used to take turns –one with a blindfold and the other leading.  The game inevitably found me, the blindfolded one, walking into walls, tripping over toys, falling down steps.  I would say anxiously, Am I going to walk into anything?  Is there anything in front of me?  Do you promise you’ll tell me if there’s a step up or down?  Not a lot of trust in the leader and for good reason. 

Psalm 48:14 says, “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide...

But what kind of guide?

Sometimes I’m that kid again with the blindfold on.  God, will you let me trip?  Will you lead me part way and then get bored and leave me in the middle of nowhere?  Do you promise you’ll tell me if I need to make a step up or down?

On this day I slip my hand under his arm, but before we start walking I pause and squeeze his arm tight to make sure he's listening.  Okay, I’m trusting you.  

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."  Psalm 55:22

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

sight unseen

We loaded up from church camp one year and took a day trip to a hiking trail for the blind. 

The trail was smooth and easy, lined with a hand rail all the way.  Every so often the hand rail would stop at a point-of-interest sign.  In words for the seeing or by Braille, a hiker could read about something to experience with the senses at that point in the hike.  The sign would tell you to listen for something or to reach out and touch –moss or tree bark or stone.  As a child I closed my eyes and walked along the trail, trying to imagine what it would be like to experience the hike blind.

This year is full of things I know are coming, but I can’t see them.  My daughter’s graduation from high school.  The scholarship award ceremony where we hope she will receive bucket-loads of money to go to school.  Helping her find her first job this summer.  Taking her to the university in the fall.

Sometimes concussions of fear hit me in the chest, and I can’t breathe.  I stand still on the trail, and my foot reaches out.  What if…

What if…she gets no scholarships?
What if…she does gets scholarships and she leaves home?
What if…we steer her in the wrong direction?
What if…she’s miserable in college?

So easy to be afraid of what I can’t see.

I catch myself paralyzed on the trail, standing at the hand rail -knuckles white.   

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

It’s strange, this life where God wants us to step out boldly on a path we can’t see.  He wants us to move forward –one hand solid on the guide rail but feet stepping out with confidence.  Living.  Taking the risk to move into the unknown, completely trusting him to maneuver us along in the right direction.

I’m determined to accept my blindness.  I can’t see, so I will be dependent.  And I will learn to walk without constant fear.  Risking steps and trusting my heart to the Rail.     

Sunday, February 5, 2012

two women and a VCR

Mom, do you remember the night the guys were gone, and we wanted to set the VCR to record a show? 

So we got out the instruction booklet.  I can’t remember –did you read and I pushed the buttons, or did I read and you pushed the buttons?

Step by step we followed the directions, and as we laboriously neared the end of the sequence we came to this instruction:

“But first…”

And I thought we would never stop laughing.  Did we ever get that show recorded?  I think we gave up.

I don’t know why that moment came to mind during church tonight, but I almost laughed out loud remembering it.  (That would have been bad, with my husband up there preaching and all.)

I catch myself doing that sequence all the time.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  But first...

But first…I should have prayed.
But first…I should have asked God what he wanted me to do.
But first…I should have humbled my heart.

 Matthew 6:33.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”

 Maybe it’s really helpful to get things in the right order.

Sunday morning

I’ve been doing the same task every Sunday morning for 20 years.

dress pants

a shirt that goes

ironing board

I choose his clothes for church and make sure everything is neatly pressed.

“Brown or black shoes with these?” he asks.

Not because he’s lazy or incapable but because I love him.

“What color t-shirt underneath?” he asks.

Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”  Proverbs 31:23.

He takes his place at church Sunday morning, this preacher husband of mine, and he looks good, if I do say so myself.

Friday, February 3, 2012

self control: inching forward

Pencil marks on the wall mark my son’s growth.  For two years in a row, every three months I gave away all of his pants and bought him new ones.  He went from hugging me and laying his head against my shoulder to hugging me and pulling my head against his chest.  I couldn’t see it happen as I watched him every day, but jeans don’t lie.  One inch at a time he became the one I call to reach for a dish from the high cupboard. 

Peter says we are to add self control to our faith, in “increasing measure” (2 Peter 1:5,6,8)

Pencil marks on the wall.

There is always a starting point of measurement. 
·        The weight on the scale.
·        The balance in the checkbook.
·        The temperature of relationships.
·        The spiritual habits.
·        The white glove across furniture.
·        The investment in hobbies.
·        The volunteer hours.
·        The work ethic.

I want to hug Peter and thank him for not giving a number on the ruler.  He didn’t say, “Add self control by the foot or by the yard or by the mile.” 

Just add it.

One mark at a time.  Millimeters count.

I open the door to my sons room, and behind his wall are the markings.  And I love them.  Love seeing him become a man. 

Open a door in your home, step behind it with a pencil, and mark where you are now.  Then, add a measure of self control, some tiny increments and some huge-gotta-buy-new-jeans-cause-mine-are-high-waters-now increments.