Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The True Hope

A friend from Texas called to say she wanted to drop in for a quick visit - tomorrow. The last time she was here (7 years ago) she was refreshed and inspired in her adventure of motherhood and homeschool. She was just getting started and I was already a mother of nine with two graduates in my trophy case. I guess she figured I knew something.

So she thought she would return for fresh inspiration. After all, now she has eight children, the oldest being a young teenager. "I just want to see how this works," she said. "Shane said that last time I came home with such renewed passion. He felt I could use another opportunity to sit in your home."

I must confess, I panicked a bit. "Oh, if she only knew how miserably I am failing. She can't come - she will be so disappointed."

But as she bubbled on in hopes of pulling such a trip off, I dropped back and reconsidered. She didn't need to see what I had or hadn't accomplished. She needed to see His faithfulness to me. And in that I can readily boast. The chore charts may not be functioning well, we are more than just a few pages behind in some textbooks, certain attitudes need weeding out, and closets are unsightly. But still, He has faithfully been at work.

I do not yet have a great administrative plan for this particular chapter of my life, it's true, so she may not have experienced the same finely tuned machinery that she saw some years ago, but she would still have witnessed a home where He is worshiped, loved, and served. She would see a different season - a picture of what her life may look like in a few more years - and an awareness that He is in it all. God is not confined to a perfect chore chart or a home that runs according to that chore chart, nor is He limited by that perfect chore chart and a home that is running accordingly. He is present in both scenarios if hearts are enthroning Him as Lord.

Sadly, my friend was not able to get flight arrangements that would allow her to squeeze in a visit this time around. But the call from her served as a reminder to boast in Him alone - always. Anything else is bogus - phony - a false hope. He is all we ever truly have to offer to one who is looking for hope. Only Him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thoughts on Parental Authority

authority - 1. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
2. a power or right delegated or given; authorization: Who has the authority to grant permission?

Notice two particular phrases used in the above definitions: the power and the right.

Sometimes parents just need to remember that they have been given authority by God; invested in that authority is power and privilege.

With power and privilege comes responsibility. The scriptural exhortation is to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." We must take our charge seriously. We are interested in accurate representation of Him through true judgment and appropriate discipline. Wisdom is coveted as we seek to instruct, train, and guide our children.

But in our fervent attempt to represent Him properly, in our awareness of the need to steward these charges for His purposes, we sometimes reach an impasse. We stall, choke, freeze. What if we do this wrong? Isn't it possible that we will somehow permanently damage his soul, his psyche? Couldn't we misshape him? What about that decision made on their behalf - did we misdirect them? Did they miss out on God's will because of us?

This is weighty stuff. It could leave your head spinning, and often it does. As I said, we freeze. At the very least, we end up with a knotted stomach.

But God, in His wisdom, gave us the power and the right - He Himself stands by our decisions. Obviously, we are talking about decisions made within the confines of Scripture - step beyond those bounds and you are on your own. But we can have confidence - no, we must have confidence - in His choosing us, in His investment of authority in such earthy vessels, and in His willingness to stand by that choice and empowerment.

We were sanctioned for this very purpose - to walk in His appointed authority. No psychology book will give you that authority, no culture or tradition, no talk show host, no author or specialist. That's right, not even the professionals. It comes from Him, and it is already yours. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." That is their portion, and the blessing of obedience to that command can be theirs. You have the power to
determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; the right to control, command, or determine.

You have the power and the right.

What you determine may not agree with a neighbor or friend. The command you give will often look different. That is okay! Maybe you aren't sure about the psychological impact of your discipline. Don't let it stymie you! Am I advocating a complete isolation from all input and counsel? Of course not! First and foremost is the scripture. We must always heed the principles and truths we learn from those precious pages. And the wise will look to those who have been successful before them. Look, listen, and learn. There is much to glean from the experience of others.

Remember, today you are equipped, not tomorrow after you've read another book or had that counseling session. Don't be lulled into inaction because of fear or lack of confidence. God will bless your efforts. God Himself will lead you. And He will use your choices for good in the lives of your children. My! What a totally hopeless calling this would be apart from the confidence we have in Him. The fact that He is working all things together for good in their lives is my life-line!

I want to encourage parents who are walking in the light to realize that they can determine, command, and yes, even control with God's endorsement. They rule the roost, they can have it their way. When Dad or Mom speak a word or command, it has just become God's will for their children. Period. A child's appropriate submission to Dad's word will build them for God's purposes. The command is not the most important aspect - submission is. God is able to use us in that way. Touching or not touching that particular toy is not the thing that will ultimately prepare them; it is their submission and obedience to what Mom and Dad require that will prepare them. It is not whether or not you administered that spanking in the exact same manner as your friend does - it is their response to the spanking that matters.

Please understand, I am not saying that we can be flippant in our dealings with our children. But I am saying this: God did not intend for this to be so overwhelmingly difficult that we need a doctorate in childhood psychology in order to accomplish His will. Nor should it intimidate in such a way that we are left immobilized. He is with us, He empowers us, He stands by us, He even accomplishes His purposes through us. And it is His doing more than our own.

Let us humbly acknowledge that it is Him, not us. And therefore, let us act with confidence, walking in the fullness of the authority He bestowed. He has supplied us with power and privilege so that the job could be done with joy and simplicity, knowing that our greatest hope is His great faithfulness.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Full Day Of Thanksgiving

My heart's cry has been that my home could be a center of ministry. Oh, how good and faithful is my God.

Breakfast served to the Sinclair household (thanks to Carina) at 8:30am (Sinclair household includes my immediate family and three extras at this time.)

Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings served at 1:00pm - 25 people served, including the above, my daughter's family from down the street, 5 Chinese students from local campuses, and three gentlemen from the Nordberg clan.

Cold buffet served at 6:30pm for anyone trailing through my home this evening. That includes not only us old fogies, but also the 18 young people presently playing "4 men on the couch" in my family room (a friend from church brought her cousins and sister over this evening and another family friend dropped by as well).

I just popped my head in the door of their game room to say good-night. Amidst the responses of "Thanks, Mom" and "Good-night, Mrs. Sinclair - thank you", I also heard a very loud and hearty, "We love you, Mom!" from our dear little Palestinian house guest. I guess that means she is officially adopted. At least in my book it does.

So I end the day as I started the day, with a heart full of thanks to my gracious God. He has filled my heart once again.

Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

My heart,
deeply moved with gratitude to Him for His marvelous salvation and faithful presence in our lives,
rejoices today -

It's Thanksgiving Day 2007
And He is to be praised!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Harried, But Calm

Violin and piano play through musical passages, the arpeggios and scales coming from two separate rooms. A little boy dawdles at my kitchen table over his math book, sporadically announcing answers to his arithmetic problems. I quickly respond to a google chat while writing an e-mail, attempting to plan final details for an upcoming speaking engagement at a nearby church. In between that scheduling, I research the best price for a special Christmas gift. At the same time, I consider the Thanksgiving menu one last time, send a note to my daughter who is bringing lots of goodies that day, and make a mental grocery list (now if that's not dangerous, I don't know what is...)

Through it all, I wonder what I should be writing here on my blog. So much busyness, which we all experience a bit too often. But deep inside, I am settled. That is precious.

A holiday house guest is with us for the week, an adorable young Palestinian woman from a local campus. The dorms were emptied and she had no where to go. So one of our household members told her she would be welcome here. And she most certainly is.

Upon meeting her, I was instantly charmed. She had arrived the night before; I was already tucked in bed and had not yet been introduced. The morning of our meeting, she came downstairs showered and dressed, and upon entering the family room where a documentary on the Underground railroad was being viewed, she cheerily extended a hand of greeting. She soon crawled beneath a comforter, sharing warmth on the couch with Camilla while exclaiming her interest in American history and how glad she would be to join the viewing.

Over lunch preparations we talked of homeschooling, her two years in Italy, how she has not been home since, how challenging and dangerous her life in the Gaza strip had been.

I read aloud from the book that is our daily lunchtime entertainment, Across Five Aprils. As we finished the portion allotted for the day, she beamed, and said, "How nice! I like this. I think I will homeschool my children someday! You can put into them what you want them to have."

The book we read is about war, our own Civil War. We read of a mother, her face twisted with pain, receiving news from a son who has survived a battle, but seen grievous things. He will see more. We read also of young men who were sobered through the reality of sorrow and anguish, facing things that we hope to never see. I knew that she had seen them. These things were already a reality in her young life.

Later she told stories at the dinner table of losing her home, living on the street in a tent with her 13 family members. We heard of greater losses; she told of a school girl friend, shot and killed by Israeli soldiers as she herself was holding the friend's jacket collar, reaching out to say "good-bye until tomorrow". Good-bye had taken on a whole new meaning in an instant of time.

So today I am pondering more lasting things in spite of the busyness. I love this young girl dearly. She is devout in her Muslim faith, yet happy to be here, "in my first American home!" May she find peace, joy, and love. May she truly find all these things.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Making Home

I'm here once more, sitting at the kitchen table, clothes tumbling softly in the background while the machine hums along. A little boys pj's will soon be clean and ready for his drawer. The dishwasher has been emptied, familiar cups put away. Dirty plates are waiting to be placed in their spot, now vacant and ready for them.

I was made for this, for now. This is the season for such things. But seasons come and go, as I've so clearly experienced and witnessed. Finding His will in each one is the important thing. Finding His will...

His will is to be made into His image, to become more and more like Him, to allow His work toward that end to be accomplished readily.

His will is for me to trust in Him, to rejoice in His salvation, so costly and dear.

His will is that I would worship Him in spirit and in truth, with honest devotion and a pure heart.

His will is considering others interests and needs before my own.

His will is to tell of His great love and faithfulness, His provision of a glorious salvation, His purpose of shared eternity with Love Himself, and to possess a heart that shines, witnessing the truth of things declared.

These things are mine to do anywhere, anytime. There is no limitation that can hinder His will, no circumstance that can stop it. His will can be fulfilled in us, through us, here and now.

Lord, help me this day to set my eyes on You, to find Your purpose and will in each moment of my day. You alone are great, O God. You reign above all things; our times and places are in Your hand. I find rest, peace, hope, and joy in You, O my wonderful Redeemer and Friend, my Father who cares forever. Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Honors and Tears

Today at 2:45pm the army will participate in what is known as a ramp ceremony for Christian and the other fallen men. We have been forewarned; this, they say, will be difficult. Apparently it is very moving, very honoring, very final in many ways. That is 8:45am EST.

The family is doing well, finding hope in Christ, lending strength to one another. Our God is a true buckler, a mighty fortress. We see the difference between those with hope and those without. Liz is grateful for hope. She knows this will be hard. She wishes with all her heart it could be different. But she knows that she is in His hands. And better yet, she knows that Christian had placed himself there as well.

Rick and I will fly home early Thursday morning. Later that day will be the memorial service for these men. Most of the family will return shortly following that. The current plan is for Liz and the women of the family stay and pack her home belongings, hoping to follow in a couple of weeks. Pray that all goes smoothly. Pray, too, for her arrival home. It will be difficult and painful, as you may well imagine.

We serve a good God, a wonderful God. He has shown His faithfulness in countless ways in these past days. He has been a true Father.

Thank you all for praying.

I spoke with Margaret and when people will leave is not decided. Tickets, dates, schedules are all being considered and consulted.

The times have been pushed back one hour: 3:00pm tea at the general's, 3:45pm ramp ceremony. The army...

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Grief comes in waves, crashing at times, taking a person down, plummeting souls to the depth of sorrow. Other times it is a gentle washing, a reminder of a smile, of eyes that shone full of the love of living.

Grief visited me over and over again as I traveled here. Thoughts of a happy couple, a marriage just begun, a young man full of potential as a leader among men. As we flew over the snow-topped peaks of the Italian Alps grief apprehended me in fullness. "I just know Christian loved to see these mountains. I'll bet he always looked at them when flying here. He will never look again."

That is what this kind of parting is like. He will never be in our midst on this side again. I mourn for Liz. Her dreams have disappeared with him. Her future plans are forever interrupted. So abrupt. So difficult.

God will renew vision, replace dreams. I know that. You know that. But that is not for now. For everything there is a time and a season. This is the time for grief. This is the season for weeping. Thank you to all who weep with her, pray for her, and stand with her. She needs this season to mourn.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I am without words to express - nothing.

On my way to Italy to be with a dear friend who is in much anguish and sorrow. A young man perishes, a husband, a son, a good man. He knew Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for comfort that such knowledge affords. Eternity looms dearer and dearer.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Our Annual Outing

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Syracuse with honey by my side. We've been Christmas shopping and will continue tomorrow until the stores kick us out and send us home.

This is always such a treat. Not only do we buy nice things for favorite people, we also spend time together.

Tonight we sat and shared a quiet meal, laughing and catching up on friends' lives. We talked all the way here of sabbatical plans, goals for our home, dollars saved and how to use them (wedding fund got my number one vote - we still have five unmarried daughters you know), children's future plans, etc. I cried a bit, he smiled and consoled and assured me that was alright to do, too.

Bulging shopping bags sit in the corner of the room waiting for morning inspection and re-evaluation. Lists will be checked and plans for the day will be set. I think I've made some good purchases. So far so good.

Will check in on the other side!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Springtime In NY

I've been in a bit of a slump. There's been no fruit in the vineyard, and that is cause for despair. I contemplated my failures and weaknesses and came to a conclusion. I was settled that in certain areas it was a given: after this many years of trying, there would be no fruit on those particular vines. Sounds probable, right? Yeah, probably. And promising, right? Wrong. I was pretty discouraged.

But the wind of the Spirit blows when He will. And the wind of the Spirit is a warming wind, refreshing, bringing hope, because He is faithful even when we are not. He never forgets us, His own people. He loves us so.

Sunday, I sat in church singing these familiar words -

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

The congregation kept singing but I was stuck on the first line.

"'Summer and winter and springtime and harvest.' Seasons - it's about seasons," I thought to myself. "Life is made up of continuous cycles - and winter leads to springtime."

Winter is where I had gotten stuck. Barren. Fruitless. Frozen. Hardened. Destitute of life.

He was reminding me; if I want to see fruit in my life, I first need springtime. Springtime, with the warmth of lengthened days in the sun removing the frost from the earth, preparing the soil to be worked. Then labor could begin: tilling the rich dirt, turning afresh the fallow ground, planting seed - good seed. Waiting. Weeding. Watering. Waiting some more. Pruning. This must all precede harvest time.

A fresh wind was blowing, arousing renewed desperation for fruit. As I took in His presence, I felt the hard, cold soil of my heart warming and softening. The frosty, hopeless grip of winter was fading. I could now receive words of encouragement and faith. He was moving, doing what I alone could never do - He was bringing springtime.

Now, as always, my heart is His to keep.