Thursday, May 31, 2012

this is what you can do to make God part of your day

I hate fixing fish and pulling wet babies out of a bathtub.  They’re both so stinkin’ slick!  I was always worried I would drop one of my kids, all Johnson-and-Johnson slippery, before I could get him wrapped in a towel. 

I’ve had a few people say to me, “I just don’t know how to make God a part of my whole day.”  A relationship with God feels slippery, like you get a hold of it when you’re at church for a few hours on Sunday, but then it’s all slick and hard to grip during the week. 

One habit I began in high school completely changed my relationship with God and allowed me to get close to him all day long –memorizing Bible verses.   



Last night our kids at church had an awards night for memorizing dozens of verses, some of them close to a hundred.  My husband was talking to our adult Bible study class, and he said, So what kind of award would us adults get for all the verses we’ve memorized this year? 

Moses urged the Israelites to remember and obey all of God’s statutes, and then he said, “Be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things that your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and grandchildren.”  (Deuteronomy 4:9 HCSB) 

All the amazingness of God that we want to experience easily slips from our minds.  Moses urged the people to work to keep in their minds who God was, what he had done, and how he wanted them to live.  We have to work at it, too. 

If your relationship with God seems to be slippery, you need to get a grip on his words.  What Bible verse could you memorize this week?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the two choices fear puts in front of us

I just bought this big, thick how-to book for writers.  By chapter three I pretty much wanted to curl up under the blankets and never come out.  I don’t know how to do any of this stuff.  Three chapters are about Twitter, and I don’t even know how to tweet.  (Does it seem ridiculous to anyone else that “to tweet” has even become a verb?)



So now I’m caught right in the middle of what I am convinced God wants me to do, which is to write about how he comes into everyday life, and what needs to happen on my end, which is to figure out websites, SEOs, twitter, ebooks, etc.

Aaaaaagghhh! 

Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

I’m afraid of trying to write and failing.  But I only have two choices –either to continue to pursue writing and trust that God’s going to help me figure out the hard stuff along the way or to give up.

Give up?

When I am afraid I will crawl under the covers and give up?    

Being afraid and trusting means being afraid and choosing to move forward anyway, except with help.  Not moving forward alone and floundering but moving forward with God as teacher, strengthener, provider, encourager.

So I’m going to stick with writing, even though the whole process freaks me out.

When it comes to that scary thing you know God wants you to do, which choice do you like better –trusting God as you obediently push into the scary unknown or giving up altogether?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

a starting place for self control

Yesterday I was thinking once again about that one area where I lack self control in a bad way, and all of a sudden I thought, What if I could say I used to… 

I have lots of things I used to do.
·        I used to eat a whole bowl of cereal before bed…now I just eat a few bites.
·        I used to go weeks without exercising…now I walk on the treadmill three to five days out of the week.
·        I used to wait days before doing dishes…now I just wait a day…or two.  (Give me credit for progress, people.)
·        I used to eat whatever…now I read labels and think about the nutritional value of food.  (Except for select labels I choose to ignore, like I have no idea what’s in a Lindt truffle, and don’t anybody tell me.)
·        I used to pull out the credit card to buy things…now I use cash. 

Because I have a list of successes, I know it is possible to make strides in self control, so my goal is to be able to say I used to about this one area of my life that plagues me. 

Ephesians 4:22 says, “you took off your former way of life”.   

You used to…but now… 

What area do you most need self control in?  Try saying “I used to____________” and see how it feels. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

do you know what season you're in?

We use the word “seasons” loosely in Montana.  For example, here’s a test.  Look at this picture:



Now look at this picture:



Winter or spring?   

These pictures were both taken from my backyard on May 26.  So we’re watering our tomato plants and then bringing them in at night because the temperatures are still dipping below freezing.    

It’s confusing to a person’s psyche.  I told my friend, It feels like fall.  She replied desperately, No!  It’s spring!  It’s spring!  It’s spring! 

All year I’ve enjoyed watching my daughter as a senior, but a few weeks ago I woke up one morning and a weight of grief settled on me as I thought about her leaving home.  Life stopped, and I cried for a week, just one week.  I told my husband I thought I might never stop crying.  He asked what he could do, and I said nothing, I just have to go through it.  A season of grief. 

I was talking to my daughter this week and said, You know, when this insane last semester of high school is over –all the tests, projects, dozens of scholarship applications, events to attend, anxiety about college prep –when it’s all over we’re probably going to feel a little lost and depressed for a few days. You can’t just go and go and go and go for a long time without having a season of coming down at the end of it.

My mother-in-law used to encourage me about seasons when my kids were little.  When I was saying no to a toddler 500 billion times every day, she would say, It’s just a stage.  It will pass.  It was a season of discipline that I have enjoyed the benefits of for many years now. 

The encouraging word from the Bible is that seasons are normal.  There are seasons of rest and playing.  There are seasons of crying.  There are seasons of busy achieving.  There are tired, rest-and-recuperate-from-it seasons.  There are satisfied, finally-achieved-it celebratory seasons and restless, I-want-more-in-life seasons.

There’s a time for everything.  What season of life are you in right now? 

________________________________________________________________________
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrance and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

 

Friday, May 25, 2012

sing like they need you

My son stayed after school today to make an audition tape for all-state choir.  Before he started singing, his choir teacher told him this: 

They need you, but they don’t know they need you yet, so sing like they need you. 

Jesus said the same thing to his followers.  “You are the light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:14  NIV) 

The world needs you.  

It seems arrogant to think I’ve got something the world needs.  Like when I hit new post every day on my blog site and have the audacity to think the words I fill the page with may be just the words God wants to use to change your relationship with him, to help you live.  Yes, arrogant indeed. 

But there it is right from Jesus' lips.  The world needs me –needs the unique, quirky wattage of light I have to shed on it.  Not because I’m so amazing but because Amazing lives inside of me.  Amazing light shining through all my faults and weaknesses. 

If you have invited the Spirit of Jesus to live inside you, then he has given you a shiny something that’s going to allow him to illuminate his grace and goodness to the people around you.  What do you have to offer the world?   

YOU are the light of the world, but the world doesn’t know it needs you yet, so live like it needs you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the importance of the mundane

Today I sigh and look at all of it.  Dishwasher needs emptied again.  Clothes need folded again.  Floor needs vacuumed again.  Bills need paid again.   

My son and I have a discussion about making the bed.  He makes his dutifully, but he wonders why.  What’s the point if I’m just going to crawl into it again tonight?  It matters! I tell him. 

But why?  Why does it matter?

And I give one of a mother’s finest answers.  It just does. 

Don’t tell him, but today I’m wondering the same thing –does it matter?  All of this repeat of menial chores? 

My mind goes to Uganda, the land of red dirt.  I was mesmerized by women sweeping the red dirt from store front steps.  Does this chore really matter, if someone is just going to tromp that red dirt up those steps again in a few minutes? 

We visit an orphan home that is filled with love but is literally nothing but a cement structure with some beds inside, and I see this: 



In a completely empty home –no living room furniture, no toys, no dressers full of clothes, no kitchen cabinets, no pictures on the wall, no washer and dryer –in this completely empty home order matters.  One lone piece of paper hangs on the wall.  It’s a schedule -a minute-by-minute schedule the orphans will follow so their day is routine and orderly. 



“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  (Proverbs 31:27)   

A clean kitchen counter, a pile of neatly folded towels, a scrubbed toilet.  These things matter because outside these walls of our home nothing is in order.  Outside these walls there is work stress and frustrating school experiences and rush-hour traffic.  As women we have the opportunity to create order.  Nobody notices it much, unless it’s not there, but it matters.  A peaceful refuge –that’s what the mundane chores add up to. 

So I’m going to hit “publish” on this blog and go unload the dishwasher.  What mundane chore do you need to get moving on?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

don't you listen to those mean people

Isn’t there always someone in your life who makes you feel an inch tall –either by words or by action?  For me it was in P.E.  Every single year of P.E. 

Can’t catch.  Can’t throw.  Can’t hit.  Can’t kick.  Can’t climb the rope or pull myself up on a bar.  Can’t run fast.  Can’t serve a volleyball. 

Nobody ever needed to say mean things to me out loud.  I could see it on their faces when I got up to bat.  I could see it in their eyes as I stood very, very lonely –last one picked for the team every time.   

One special day in P.E. Amy was nice to me.  I think she told me good job or something, and I remember it because it was such an incredibly rare kindness from an athletic person to a...not so athletic person.  But kindness was not the norm. 

Come to find out, I didn’t really need to be able to do all that athletic stuff.  I can swing a wicked pen, and I type 90 words per minute.  Now I type medical reports for a living, and I laugh at all the orthopedic injuries.  Foolish athletic people, I scoff inwardly.  Come to find out, a person doesn’t need rods or plates or screws or crutches or casts or stitches if that person is just really, really amazing at reading books and writing down stuff.  Turns out I’m not as big a loser as they thought I was.  I wish they could see me now –typing really fast about their injuries. 

So here’s a note to my special friend who walks into a place every day where people call names and cut, cut, cut you down.   

They don’t get to decide who you are.   

John 3:16 is all you need.  “God so loved the world.”  God trumps the mean people.  God gets to decide what you’re worth.  “…so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  You’re worth –everything. 

And for what it’s worth, I think you’re valuable, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the one thing I've done well as a parent

My dad offered words of wisdom when I was growing up.

Always eat your crow when it’s still warm. 

In other words, as soon as you know your mistake, make your apology.  The longer you wait the more difficult it becomes.   

The assumption was that I would need to eat crow –the advice was how to go about it.  Unfortunately, dad’s words came to mind this week when I was sitting with the phone in my hands, trying to work up the nerve to call and say sorry.   

I realize I have done one thing really well as a parent.  I’ve modeled fast crow eating.  My kids are so lucky to have a mom who has made so many mistakes that they’ve regularly been able to witness what humility in apologizing looks like.  (I know –I’m amazing.  If only you could be like me!)   

I’ve pulled in close to both of my kids and have owned up to my mistakes.  I’ve apologized often and quickly.  It’s not my perfection as a parent that has grown the sweet relationship I now enjoy with my two teens –it’s my willingness to readily admit when I’m not perfect.  My experience is that kids forgive with shocking ease the adult who will simply admit she has messed up.   

Titus 3:2 says, “Show true humility.”  The humble apologize when they blow it. 

Of course, this crow eating works in any relationship.  Do you have a bird sitting in front of you getting cold?  I don’t recommend you wait any longer to say sorry. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ode to Words

Oh words,


You are the first bite of a chocolate chip cookie out of the oven
or the first taste of curdled milk.


You are the nightlight in the hall
or the meeting of shin to coffee table edge in the dark night.


You are the underduck at the swingset
or the pulled hamstring in the last lap of the race.


You are the top down in a convertible on a summer’s night
or the puff of exhaust behind a diesel truck.


You are the warm sweatshirt pulled straight from the dryer
or the towel rolled and snapped on bare backside in the locker room.


Oh words,
You can be so life-giving or so murderous. 


“For every creature –animal or bird, reptile or fish –is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness…these things should not be this way.”  (James 3:7-10  Holman) 

It shouldn’t be both the blessings and the curses from one mouth.  I’ve seen them both pour from me this last week.  Some good words that brought smiles and truth and encouragement.  Some hurtful words that cut the soul.  It shouldn’t be both. 

Jesus, tame my tongue.  Get the soap and scrub my tongue of all the curses.  Whip my words into shape until only blessings come out.  Blessings on my husband.  Blessings on my kids.  Blessings on friends.  Blessings on strangers.  Let it be only blessings that comes out of my mouth. 

(You can borrow my prayer if you want.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

a shout out to all you sinners

I did it again yesterday.  The exact same bad I always do.  That one thing I tell myself, This is the last time.  I will never, ever, ever do this again.  But I did. 

I make another apology for thoughtless words sent via technology, but the damage is done. 

My husband hugs me in the kitchen and tells me it’s going to be okay.  Tells me if I wake up feeling sinful-yucky in the night to snuggle up close and know he loves me.  But even all that manly goodness can’t wash the pain of sin from my heart. 

I’m sinful and weak, I tell him. 

We all are, he says.  We all are. 

I trudge up the stairs to call it a night, but first I fall to my knees by the bed.   O God. 

“What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Paul’s words.  My words.   

I reach for my old Bible, gifted to me in 1988, to find this verse.  To find comfort.   

When I open to the verse the page falls out. 



Then I remember, Oh yes, that’s right.  I’ve been here before.  Struggling to control the sins that plague me.   



“What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God –through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (Romans 7:24-25  NIV)   

I read the words again, tuck them back in the Bible, and crawl into bed clutching the Bible like a little girl snuggles a doll.   

Thanks be to God –through Jesus.  Jesus took this sin of mine upon himself and paid the price for it.



Do you feel like I do?  Asking, How am I here again?  Struggling with sin?  Listen, wear out Romans 7-8.  Flip to those chapters often, every time you’ve blown it.  Finger those pages until they fall out of your Bible, because those pages have the rescue on them.  The thanks be to God –through Jesus Christ.  You’re not alone, my friend.  We all need those falling-out pages.

Friday, May 18, 2012

how to prepare for economic crisis

The talk last night was about the economy.  That’s just fun.  Trillions of dollars in debt and the coming national collapse.   

I look over my husband’s shoulder as he scrolls through blogs on his Droid –three steps to take to survive another great depression.  Great stuff to look at just before I go to bed. 

As I climb the stairs I think, Really, I just want to be happy.  That’s all.  I don’t want a great depression.   

Crawling into bed I grab my Bible and open it to the Proverb of the day. 

He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”  (Proverbs 11:27  NIV) 

Goodwill is defined as “pleasure, delight acceptance”.  Yes, those are all the things I want.  Those are the things I want for my kids. 

So there is the answer to strap on my back as I bend into a bad economy.  Seek good.  It’s not building a bunker or an acre garden in the backyard.  It’s not stuffing money under the mattress or hoarding stuff.  What I need to weather a bad economy is to look for good today.   

Hoard thankfulness.  Tuck Bible truths away in my mind for that rainy day.  Construct a bunker of obedience to God’s good ways.  Hunker down and find ways to love as if my future depended on it. 

What are you looking for?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the cure for afternoon stress

Life piled up, and my stomach knotted.  Worries of life choking out the joy.  Wandering around anxious about everything, unable to function. 

So I opened up the laptop and pulled a little David Crowder off the medicine shelf.  Plugged in the speakers and hit function key-volume-up-up-up.  Really high up, and I started cleaning house to the music.  The beat so loud I could feel it through the floor. 

All the rhythm and words of hope and truth massaged out the knots.  And I sang –really bad and really loud.  Even moving a little bit more than a baptist pastor’s wife probably should. 

Like the day Matt bought Bryan Adams’ If you really love a woman off iTunes, and we each put in an ear bud and slow danced in the kitchen –sometimes you just have to take a break and feel the love. 

“My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.  (Psalm 108:1  NIV)

dare I tell this story?

My husband assures me I don’t have to tell people every stupid thing I do, but I think some of us were created for the entertainment of the rest.

For a few years we lived with my mother-in-law on her 72 acres here in Montana, in a beautiful, wooded placed we called The Hill.  On that hill was a dirt road, and on that road was a metal bar that swung closed as a gate.  For years my husband and his family drove their cars underneath that gate without opening it.  I drove under it for years without problem, too. 

Until the day they graded the dirt road, which raised it ever so slightly. 

Let me ask you this.  If you scraped a metal bar across half of the roof of your car, would you then drive forward or backward? 

How do we gauge where we are on the road?  Low enough to go under?  Too high?  I was talking with someone whose friend seemed to have it so easy –everything just handed to her.  Hard not to be spiteful and a little jealous.  She saw so many people in a better situation than she was in. 

Then I opened a Samaritan’s Purse newsletter that informed about the crisis in the Sudan.  Genocide forcing people into caves and refuge camps.  Children with all their bones showing through their backs.  People eating bugs and tree bark to try to stay alive. 

I made Tuna Helper for dinner last night, which made me feel like a complete failure in the kitchen again.  I was apologizing to my kids for fixing them something out of a box, but my daughter told me about this book she’s reading –learning about kids whose parents have a gambling problem and how the kids often are given a soda and some chips and left at home alone while their parents sit in front of slot machines. 

How do we gauge where we are? 

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  Thankfulness.  Instead of looking up at what’s above us, we look down to what could be were it not for the goodness of God.  We gauge where we are by whether we feel bitter because of someone higher or compassion because of someone lower. 

Learn from me the lesson of the bar.  You may be a little higher than you think you are.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

before you swing your legs off the bed

It’s 4:27 a.m., and I’m wide awake.  Ridiculous. 

My brain yawns and stretches before I do.  It has a cup of coffee –black.  Then when it’s wide awake, with all the worries and to-do lists spread out and ready to go, it wakes up my body.  So at 4:27 I wake up with a start and crash into all of it.  Thinking about the girl’s graduation party and the boy’s paperwork that needs filled out for his mission trip.  Three loads of laundry yet to do.  Need to exercise after last night’s birthday cake, and I hope to get some yard work done before I meet with a friend at noon.  Medical reports to type.  Can I spring clean the kitchen today –or maybe part of it?  What will we have for supper –and what will I pack the kids for lunch today?  Will have to go to the grocery store for meatloaf supplies. 

A morning tsunami.  

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8  NIV)   

He gets up early, too.   

So before I swing my legs out of bed in the morning I say one word. 

Father. 

I feel the press of the enemy from the moment I wake up, as he cunningly works to make me feel defeated before I’ve even attempted to be alive. 

Father, help me.  Give me the bread for this one day. 

The thief comes in the morning to destroy our day, but Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10  NIV) 

Two morning voices.  One to destroy and one to fill up.  Which one do you talk to before your feet hit the floor?

Monday, May 14, 2012

a trampoline and broken glass

So I was sitting at my computer on a blustery day, and a massive gust of wind whipped up, hurling one of our lawn chairs into the basement window and breaking the outer pane of glass.  I jumped up when I heard such a clatter but couldn’t throw open the sash because it was broken.  (Sorry, I think I’m a bit sleep deprived today.)  As I inspected the glass, I looked up and also saw a trampoline in my backyard.  We don’t own a trampoline.   

Isn’t that how life happens?  You’re just sitting there and in one gust of wind everything changes.   

I looked out the back door a few hours later and saw a neighbor standing in my back yard with her head tilted sideways.  That’s my trampoline, she said.  And we wondered how the trampoline could be in her yard one minute and in my yard the next. 

I called to find out we have a $500 homeowner’s deductible.  Sigh.  But dad’s words came to mind.  The words I heard him say my whole life. 

It’s just money. 

Perspective changes everything.  When the glass breaks and the unexpected flies into your life, how do you perceive it?   

“We walk by faith, not by sight.”  (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

There’s more to life than just what we can see.  More than broken glass.  More than an insurance deductible.  More than a trampoline.   

What unexpecteds have blown into your life lately?  Check your perception –are you seeing them only at face value, or are you viewing them through the lens of faith?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a homemade Mother's Day card

Yesterday I drove to the grocery store, and as I rounded the corner I saw the massive United States flag flapping in the wind.  I stared at it as I drove closer.  Stared at it while I waited at the stoplight. 

Why isn’t that flag at half mast? 

Don’t they know I’m grieving?  Doesn’t the whole place know I’m about to let my baby girl walk the stage to receive a diploma and then leave the stage.  And leave me? 

In that deep heart feeling as I watch the flag, I feel a painful appreciation for you that I’ve never experienced before, mom.  The way I felt when I rubbed dad’s name at the veteran’s memorial.  When as an adult I began to grasp the danger and pain and sacrifice of Vietnam. 

My mind does a flash back to two people crying.  A mom and a daughter.  Crying all the way through a Texas church service.  Our last Sunday before you drive away from me at college.  As the service finishes a kindly old man and his wife touch our shoulders and ask if we’re okay.  I’m the president of the university.  I promise we’re going to take good care of your little girl.  We cry some more.  They sat through an entire church service, watching a mother trying to imagine letting go.  Trying to imagine not having her daughter crashing about the house anymore.   

That moment is all I can think about this mother’s day.  You let me go.  I’m searching back in my mind to see how you managed it.  How did you make me feel so free and so loved and so secure?  Free enough to go to a college I had never heard of four states away from home.  Loved enough to be happy wherever I went.  Secure enough to fly up high like a kite without feeling lost and alone.  How did you do it mom? 

My little girl takes a personal finance class.  We talk about credit cards and balancing checkbooks.  Savings accounts and retirement plans.   

You are my biggest investment, little girl, and now I am about to give you away.  Give you away to the world, because you are too beautiful a work of art for me to hang in an obscure, safe corner of my little house.  The world deserves to enjoy you.   

How did you do it, mom?   

·        A kajillion batches of hot chocolate chip cookies waiting for me after school.
·        Every single new Trixie Belden book ever written, bought for me.
·        Wait mom, can I just tell you one more thing? as you keep trying to close the door after tucking me in.  You keep listening.
·        Don’t stop playing.  I love to hear you play the piano, you said.
·        Breakfast for supper.
·        Kissing is like cauliflower.  You acquire a taste for it, you said. 

So much goodness poured into me.  Then goodness let go. 

We’ve been here again this year.  Mom, I want to be a writer, I say to you over the phone.  You send me an email saying you love my blog and you can’t wait to read more.  You read it every day.  Here you are again encouraging me –to take my little suitcase of words and go out into the world. 

How do you do it, mom?  Invest so much and then give it away? 

So gracefully. 

You are an incredible woman.  I hope I’m doing it as well as you did –this letting go of a little girl.



I love you,
Chris         

Friday, May 11, 2012

custom epitaph

I don’t really know how we got onto the conversation, but on one of our romantic Taco Bell dates my husband and I were discussing what my tombstone would read.  (My brain goes in odd directions, so I’m sure I brought it up!)  We decided it might read “one idea too many”. 

This week I was typing medical reports, and the doctor used the word assiduous.  I have decided I would like that chiseled on my tombstone, please.   

Assiduous:  Constant in application or attention, diligent, persistent, unceasing. 

A lot of times I sit down to write a note to you, and all of my gunk comes out.  The failures, discouragement, and reaching for hope.  But I hope through all of the sighing, shoulder-sagging words you see me as assiduous. 

Hebrews 10:36 says, “You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” 

When it’s my turn to push up daisies (who thought up that phrase?), I hope the talk is all about my assiduous attention to the will of God -unceasing focus on what he wants me to do every day.  Sticking with it despite the tedium of obedience, despite the discouragement, and despite the failing days.  

Because the promise is life beyond the tombstone, so today I design this custom epitaph that shows what I am really living for.  

What one word do you hope people would choose to describe your life?