Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Ponderings -- A Day to Rejoice!

Turkey soup consumed, egg custard pie yummy-ness enjoyed, and now the final "Thanksgiving Holiday" happenings would commence: White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kay, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. The family snuggles under blankets while candles glow and familiar melodies are sung.

That was last night. Today I will pull out bins of Christmas decor and begin the lengthy process of preparation for the grandest of holiday celebrations.

Our hearts are heavy this year, battered from months of storms, a bit weary of travel in this land. I need to remember today our heritage, our reason for celebrating, our cause for joy. I remind myself again.

What better time to remember His gift of love which came into this dry, sin-scarred world to bring hope, peace, and Love itself? I need to celebrate this year more than ever.

Garlands of evergreen and holly, songs of the Christ child's humble birth, golden angels and stable scenes -- all these things take on more important meaning as I experience first-hand time and again the brokenness of this world. He has saved us and we will know an eternity free from sorrow and grief, time and separation. He has redeemed us from the sin of others -- and from our own.

Oh, what a Savior! Come, let us rejoice together in His love this Christmas season.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Such Cost

He gave His son. He sent Him -- gave Him -- to this world of sin and grief, pain and suffering. He did it so that you and I might be redeemed, bought back from the death penalty sentence. He let Him go, sent Him forth, released Him.

Such deep heart-pain. Agony unparalleled. The separating of Father and Son, mother and daugher, parent and child. Unnatural. Unwanted. Unwelcome.

But done willingly in Him. Tentatively trusting that He alone holds us all. And He does.

We long to know and control all. We err. It is too big, too much. We cannot counter sin, heal brokenness, untangle the iniquitous web.

But to release is pain. To trust is challenge. To yield is agony.

Then with tenderness He touches, stirs faith, renews confidence. Healing slowly, oh so slowly, begins. We determine that we cannot know and control all, remembering that He is Love itself. Everything He does is Love, every thought He has is Love. He hears, He acts, He heals, He watches. He knows. Love itself knows.

But such cost to learn such truth. Such immense cost.

This is precious truth indeed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My daughter grieves. I swear I feel her pain as my own.

Grief is necessarily associated with loss and accompanying sorrow. It goes deep. It leaves you hollow, wandering, sick, and helpless.

The recent months have been marked by much grief. The marks remain, but time has moved past. Now I am in a new field of grief. Pain is fresh and real, deep and hard. She reels, I reel. Soon we will move past this field as well. How I cannot say. It never seems possible at the time.

And He holds us through it all. Through it all.


Please. Read her post. I could not say it better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Tree Grows In Madrid

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17.7,8
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1.2,3
Today I wept as I stood looking out of my kitchen window. My children love me. They love their Dad. They love each other.

From the front room I heard worship happening. Piano and voice joined to bring praise to Him. My children love Jesus Christ.

"How blessed can a woman be?" I wondered aloud, and broke into tears. I am overwhelmed by His goodness.

Many years ago, as a young woman, I experienced the Lord's blessing in my life, too. We used to sing this song:
"Lord, I live by Your Word.
Lord, I live by every word from Your mouth.
And I am like a tree by a stream,
I am like a tree, my leaf is green,
All that I do is prospering,
Oh, Lord, I live by Your Word."
And I would weep with joy. His Word was true. I had chosen to believe Him and would continue to believe Him. I had trusted Him and would continue to trust Him. I could already see evidence of His presence in my life. I was prospering. My children were a delight to me, even as His Word promised. My life was full. Joy and peace reigned in my heart; my soul prospered.

Now, years later, though trials and sorrows, joys and days of ease, have passed, I stand in my kitchen and declare with tears of joy,
"Lord, I live by Your Word.
Lord, I live by every Word from Your mouth.
And I am like a tree by a stream,
I am like a tree, my leaf is green,
All that I do is prospering,
Oh, Lord, I live by Your Word."

Oh, that all would come to Him and know such deep joy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three Days, Make It Four -- Maybe Six

Packed. Planned. All used up.

As if they aren't always that way in His book. But sometimes I look at a day as "free" -- mine seemingly, to do with as I choose.

Not so this morning. Looking ahead, several days in my book have words written next to most every hour. Why?

CELEBRATION TIME!! My son-in-law is receiving pastoral ordination. Folks in from out of town. A special service of prayer, declaration, and prophetic utterance. An afternoon to gather with out-of-town friends and family for food, fun, and fellowship. CELEBRATION!!

CELEBRATION TIME!! Christmas preparation with little people learning to love Jesus and declare His marvelous works. Rehearsal: music, memorized lines, choreography. CELEBRATION!!

CELEBRATIOM TIME!! Ecumenical Thanksgiving service: we will tenaciously recall and recount the manifold blessing of God upon this nation and people, His mighty hand in our history. We will sing praises together with other church bodies in this small but precious community. Thanks be to God!! CELEBRATION!!

BATTLE FRONT -- Then we prepare to seek His hand, to engage in warfare, to pursue His will. A court hearing, a judge's decision, a changed life or two or four or more. May His grace be found throughout these court sessions, in every discussion, in every word. Let lives be placed squarely within Your perfect will, let words be edifying, let hearts be drawn to You. You alone are Hope and Love. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Amen. BATTLE!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Life unfolds.
Some days you feel in control.
Some days you don't.

The truth is that He always is.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Insightful Reading, Brave Writing

Caitlin Flanagan wrote a lead article for the Times this past summer. I stumbled across it as I sat in a waiting room yesterday. I was pretty amazed. The topic addressed was the condition of marriage in these here United States. She lobbied in favor of old fashioned commitment with no holds barred.

As I read it, I wondered at the audacity, the willingness of the editors to publish such writing. Sure enough, when I Googled the article I found plenty of heat and flack in response to their bold choice. Apparently Caitlin is known for her anti-feminist writings. Maybe mainstream media keeps her around just to stir the waters occasionally. But maybe some people will listen. Here are some of the things she wrote in black and white in a mainstream news source in 2009!

This, in reference to confessed infidelities of Mark Sanford and John Ensign:
And so two more American families discover a truth as old as marriage: a lasting covenant between a man and a woman can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world — or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children.

She cites, unfortunately, something unique to American culture:
As sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin observes in a landmark new book called The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, what is significant about contemporary American families, compared with those of other nations, is their combination of "frequent marriage, frequent divorce" and the high number of "short-term co-habiting relationships." Taken together, these forces "create a great turbulence in American family life, a family flux, a coming and going of partners on a scale seen nowhere else. There are more partners in the personal lives of Americans than in the lives of people of any other Western country."
Some troubling (and for some reason, surprising) findings from our social scientists' studies:
...on every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households.
(This was a reference to drug use, promiscuity, poor performances in school, incarceration, etc.)

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. "Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."

"There's a 'sleeper effect' to divorce that we are just beginning to understand," says David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. It is an effect that pioneering scholars like McLanahan and Judith Wallerstein have devoted their careers to studying, revealing truths that many of us may find uncomfortable. It's dismissive of the human experience, says Blankenhorn, to suggest that kids don't suffer, extraordinarily, from divorce: "Children have a primal need to know who they are, to love and be loved by the two people whose physical union brought them here. To lose that connection, that sense of identity, is to experience a wound that no child-support check or fancy school can ever heal."
Something in us longs for lasting unions. (I wonder why that would be...)
America's obsession with high-profile marriage flameouts — the Gosselins and the Sanfords and the Edwardses — reflects a collective ambivalence toward the institution: our wish that we could land ourselves in a lasting union, mixed with our feeling of vindication, or even relief, when a standard bearer for the "traditional family" fails to pull it off. This is ultimately self-defeating. It is time instead to come to terms with both our unrealistic expectations for a happy marriage and our equally unrealistic beliefs about the consequences of walking away from the families we build.
Getting down to the brass tacks of it all:
The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it — given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized — simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren't many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.
Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation's own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can't be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children's lives — that's the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.

So we have discovered, once again, that God knew what He was talking about. He, for some strange reason, hates divorce. Perhaps we have tasted why.

We could have spared ourselves the heartbreak and devastation of this costly experimentation with divorce culture, but we didn't. So what now? Maybe, just maybe, we'll return to Him, we will "reason together". Then He, as He alone can do, will heal us and put our families back together.

We can only hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Around and Around

Bedtime. Crazy day that had some unexpected twists and turns -- nothing bad, just canceled plans, forgotten commitments, and stuff.

So now I'm in bed with my cold feet, trying to get warm. And my computer's open for one last game, one more news article, and one final communique with special friends and family.

Hope my night is more dependable than the day.

And in the morning, I get a new day, another grace-infused go around.
I say, isn't God's plan a good one?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

All On a Sunday Morning

This morning's teaching was from the first chapter of Philippians. My husband was reviewing Paul's history: shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, and now chained to a guard for months on end. Still he wrote to this fledgling church with words of comfort and love. No complaints, no heavy heart.

Instead, Paul carefully recited his ministry amongst the guards, the impact of the gospel in that place. He also referenced the growing boldness of saints upon seeing his own confidence in preaching the Good News. Paul was making known that even in this situation, this season of chains, ministry abounded.

Even so, was this Paul's most fulfilling season? Did this imprisonment grant him the deep enjoyment and pleasure that he had known when living in the midst of his dear Philippians? Did his flesh enjoy this particular chapter of life?

I submit that, no, his flesh did not. This season of ministry may not go down in history as Paul's personal favorite. It yielded significant ministry, but it may not have been due to personal fulfillment.

And right about now God spoke to my heart, personalizing the lesson that was afforded through Paul's life.

Tears, to this very day, fill my eyes upon recalling the years of young motherhood when all my children were small. I loved that season. I was rewarded everyday. I would go back in a second if I could.

Paul loved his time spent with the Philippians. But here was Paul, no longer in the midst of the church and still finding purpose. Guess what? Purpose is not always directly linked to fulfillment!

Some seasons provide a natural sense of fulfillment. That's okay. As a wonderful man of God once said, "My soul feels good today -- I think I'll enjoy it!" Other times we have to speak to our souls, like David did. "Soul, get in line with the truth -- God is on the throne so rejoice!"

Here's my Sunday lesson:
Enjoy the seasons that are full of human pleasure. But hold them lightly. And don't expect that the same kind of enjoyment accompanies all seasons. Still, they can be and should be full of purpose. They can be just what God has planned and He will use them. After all, purpose is not always directly linked to fulfillment.

Friday, November 06, 2009

7:40 a.m.

Ah -- the last one calls out, "Good-bye, Mama!" as he swings the front door shut behind him. A house full of noise and bustle just a mere split second ago now resounds with silence.

Mama breathes a deep sigh as the rush of that silence crashes in on her. An awareness of being alone in a home usually filled with human sounds and busyness washes over and another sigh ushers forth. She savors the vacuum momentarily, almost heady with intoxication. What can she do with this emptiness, this freedom? The thoughts tumble forth. She keeps them in check; she's experienced this before and found that a moment of silence can lead to wild imaginings of accomplishment that never quite materialize. Successful harnessing leads to another reflection.

"I'm glad we don't do public school. Who can imagine enduring this every morning?" She smiles openly to no one.

Mama turns, heading back to the kitchen for her reward; coffee has been put off in lieu of preparing lunches for her students.

She stops short, arrested by the sight. Standing in the doorway, she surveys the aftermath of the already exhausting morning. A bowl of tuna sits uncovered on the counter alongside an open jar of peanut butter. Knives are strewn here and there, coffee mugs scattered as well. Packages of vanilla wafers take up temporary residence on the granite topped cupboard next to the bag of pumpkin muffins that moved in last night. A half consumed bowl of Rice Krispies sits on the kitchen table, spoon still in place, box opened standing guard. Can opener, spoons, sugar bowl, bread, jacket, granola and yogurt -- no, wait. The daughter who had that as breakfast sustenance had dutifully returned it to its place.

Dad had announced a bit ago that he wanted to depart 20 minutes earlier than usual. Twenty minutes can make a big difference in an already tight routine. So...

...helter skelter.

Mama pours her coffee, turns her back to it all and walks away. "Later. For now I will sit with my coffee and computer, my Bible and journal. For now I will enjoy the peace and quiet afforded to me this morning."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


"For everything you want for your child -- there's MasterCard."

Bah humbug...

Do you think anyone really, really believes that?
I'm afraid someone does.

Bah humbug...

Reality Check

I was standing outside of the polling place. He arrived on the scene to cast his vote. My recognition of him wasn't immediate, but it didn't take long. His face hadn't changed. Well, not that much. A bit of a chat, a reminisce, the usual "Wow, it's been a long time!" and off he went.

As we strolled back to the van I said to my husband, "'Wow!' doesn't begin to cover it! He's really aged!"

I see the telling signs on this old friend -- crows' feet, grayed and faded hair, settled lines connecting nose to mouth, and creased forehead. He even bent a bit as he walked away.

Then I realize -- and I wonder what he saw in me.