Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm not worthy....

There was a post on the Mom's group I'm part of on Facebook about abusive husbands and the long term fall-out around that kind of violence.  And it got me to thinking and remembering and reflecting on an experience from my college days.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years at Earlham, my bestie at the time, Sarah and I went on an adventure in Brazil.  We had planned on spending the whole summer trekking around the mountains and the Amazon.  And then our plans took a sharp left turn. 

We were staying in a house on the side of a mountain outside of a smallish town.  It was lovely - overlooking the ocean, quiet and secluded.  And in our youth and foolishness, I suppose that it never really occurred to us that it was also a dangerous choice.  One night, we were startled by noise in the upstairs bathroom and went to investigate.  And were robbed at knife-point.  It was beyond anything that the word terrifying can convey.  I will never forget certain moments of that night - there are perfectly preserved snapshots in my mind and heart. 

I was thinking about the days and weeks after that night and my struggle to come back into myself and step out of the deep fear that gripped my soul back into normalcy when it struck me that it had literally been years since I had thanked my God for preserving my life and the life of my friend that night. 

We did not live through that by our own strength or wits (we were too scared to even pee our pants).....we were spared from death and injury by nothing other than God's grace and mercy.  It wasn't fate or good luck or anything other than the Lord Jesus' hand staying the Enemy from destroying us. 

And had I not been taking a shower in the world's smallest shower stall, I would have hit my knees in joyful thanksgiving.  Instead I threw my hands to the sky and praised my Jesus for my life. 

Thank you Lord for the gift of my life.
Thank you Lord for the gift of my life.
And again...
Thank you Lord for the gift of my life.

And I wept tears of gratitude, humbled that the King of Heaven remembered me and Sarah in our distress.

And I prayed - Lord, help me be worthy of the gift of my life.
And instantly, I knew.  I knew that that prayer was wrong.  It was a wet blanket thrown over the joy of true gratitude.

What, Lord?  What is wrong? 

And then the voice of my Savior spoken into the deep and sad and angry and fearful places of my heart:  Mary, do you still not understand?  You are worthy.  YOU ARE WORTHY.  I have already made you so.  You are worthy of the gift of not only your life - but you are worthy of the gift of my life.  You have been worthy since I knew you before time began.  Now do you see?  You are worthy.

Crushed.  Humbled.  Hopeful.  Glimpsing God's goodness and mercy.  I wept tears of gratitude that perhaps I understood a little.

And a new prayer.  Lord, help me to truly rejoice in the gift of my life.  Help me to rejoice. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pick Your Poison

We have a neighbor who lost a relative to suicide in the last week.  And while I'm totally not negating the pain that comes with such a loss (a pain I cannot begin to imagine), I've wondered in the last few days about the meaning and nature of despair, about the means by which we combat deep sadness (or don't combat it, as the case may be), about having a living body but a spirit that is dead, about how culturally acceptable it is to slowly murder ourselves, about what it means to LIVE.

I'm not sure I have ever really grasped what the phrase 'abundant life' actually is, actually feels, actually looks like.  I'm much more  at home with the phrase 'ok life,' or 'this day has really sucked life,' or 'woe is me life.'  I'm far more adept at feeling sorry for myself than I am at giving thanks for really much of anything.  And I totally know how to get down and stay down - and in the process drag everybody else down with me.  I don't really mean to despair - but it's JUST SO MUCH EASIER in my flesh than to be joyful and grateful.

Are you with me?  Or am I the only bummer around here?

This down-ness inevitably leads to self-medication.  And there are many forms of slow poison we can choose. 

And then there's the heart issues.  What if our body is physically alive but are hearts are squeezed to death by spiritual immaturities?  What if we are slowly killing ourselves, our relationships and the hearts of our loved ones with things like

My friends, there are all kinds of ways to kill what is beautiful and holy and glorious in ourselves and others.  But there's only one way to live.  And his name is Jesus.  The problem is that we are too prideful, too apathetic and too frightened to let go our crutches and LIVE.  At least I am - because I know how to limp along and keep a bandaid on the really ugly things about myself.  But God's not fooled.  Not one little bit.  And every moment that I resist God's salvation for my dying self, every self-loathing thought and attitude, every breath that wounds another of His children - every barrier, fence, and defense that I raise to my Jesus' desire for my abudant life is choice to DIE.  I pray for the strength and courage to live and love and glorify my Lord.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The root of mercy

January was a long hard month.  Really long and really hard.  We had just over three weeks of really wicked stomach bugs that we just passed around and around (well, they passed...Mama never got sick - I just had to clean up after all of them!). 

Then my Nana was taken to the hospital for a week long stay after a dangerously low blood sugar and now is finishing up a month or so of inpatient rehab. 

And the Big Sarge switched over to third shift. 

And I've been really, really, really tired.  And thus, really, really, really rude.  To everyone.  But mostly my husband.

At some point this month, I made a conscious decision to really pray about my mouth and its destructive power.  And I've been doing pretty well.  Not perfect...but, my name's not Jesus. 
I'll give you an example:  the other day, The Big Sarge said something that really irritated me.  Really.  I just totally thought that what he said was really stupid and immature.  And instead of telling him so, I kept my mouth shut.  I knew that I just needed to pray about this area for him - pray that he would get a little further along in his journey and really just be better...and because he had this little wrinkle in his personality, I really wanted to be merciful towards him...I'm not immature in this particular way so I should be patient and kind to him until he catches up with me.  That's mercy, right?


That's not mercy.  That's pride and self-righteousness.  My Holy Spirit whispered these loud, blaring words into my heart.  Mercy is not born out of seeing the one, microscopic aspect of myself that I have momentarily conquered and then patronizing and patting on the head those who are still struggling there.  Mercy is born out precisely the opposite place.  It is born out of the real, deep and total knowledge of my own shortcomings - when I view myself in light of God's perfect holiness, there is no room for me to be anything but humble....when I view myself in light of God's mercy on me, how can I do anything but show real, true mercy to those around me.

The end result may be the same - I may manage to keep my mouth shut - but Jesus isn't interested just in the end result....He is interested in the heart.

The Heart. 

My Heart.  Your Heart.

And while I do think (hope.  pray) that I get half-credit for at least keeping my mouth shut, dear Jesus isn't satisfied until my motivation is right.

Does this discourage you?  It discourages me.  A lot.  But it shouldn't.  Five years ago, none of this would ever have even occur ed to me. I would have gleefully slayed my man with my mouth and never looked back.  And I would have stomped on and flamed the little bits of him that had dropped off during my attack.  It's a process.  Five years ago, I had no idea my heart wasn't right - at least now I know and can pray for forgiveness. 

And strive.  Strive.  Strive. 

Not striving for right behavior.  But striving for a heart that is like Christ's.

Monday, February 13, 2012

For Finding Peace of Mind Through Forgiveness

Our prayerbook prayer for tonight:
For Finding Peace of Mind Through Forgiveness

     To Your Father-heart I come today, Lord God, seeking peace of mind.  I am distressed and perturbed, irritated and worried.  I am dissatisfied with myself and the world around me.  My sinful heart is rebellious, my day is filled with envy, and my feelings are so easily hurt.  I know, O  Lord, that I am at fault.  I have not opened my heart to You, nor have I given service and consideration to those with whom I live in this home and to those with whom I must work throughout the day.  Everything annoys me, I must confess.  Those with whom I work get on my nerves.  O God, I admit that it is I, my sins, my lovelessness, which create these situations.  Therefore, I come to You, asking You for grace to conquer myself.  Restore to me the desire to walk in Your presence, and let me live in the sunshine of Your love.
      Forgive me all my sins, and fill my soul with peace.  Go with me, Lord, throughout the day, put my mind at ease, and speak peace to my soul through that reconciliation which is found in the Cross of Jesus, my Savior.  Amen

prayer from My Prayer Book, published by Concordia Publishing House, 1980.

Monday, February 6, 2012

that about sums it up

To maintain a joyful family requires
much from both the parents and the
children.  Each member of the family has
to become, in a special way, the servant
of the others and share their burdens. 
Each one must show concern not only for
his or her own life, but also for the lives of the other members of the family: 
their needs, their hopes,
their ideals.
Blessed John Paul II

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'd like to introduce you to my new friend: David Platt
I'm about three chapters in so far....
My early opinion:  This is a hard-hat, steel toes only area.
This book is not for the faint of heart.
This ain't no jive talkin'.
It's kinda hard to explain - I'll let Pastor David speak for himself.
Buckle up.

     "I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the Gospel we claim to believe." pg. 3
      "We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves." pg. 7
     "We are giving into the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with....A nice, middle-class, American Jesus....who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts....who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes...A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity..." pg. 13

     "And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible.  Instead we may be worshipping ourselves."  pg. 13
     "We spurn our Creator's authority over us.  God beckons storm clouds and they come.  He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately.  He speaks to the mountains, "You go there," and he says to the seas, "You stop here," and they do it.  Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator...until you get to you and me.  We have the audacity to look God in the face and say,'No'." pg.31
     "Both our diagnosis of the situation and our conclusion regarding the solution fit nicely in a culture that exalts self-sufficiency, self-esteem and self-confidence.  We already have a fairly high view of our morality , so when we add a superstitious prayer, a subsequent dose of church attendance, and obedience to some of the Bible, we feel pretty sure that we will be all right in the end." pg. 32
     "What happened at the Cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus' hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon his soul...One preacher described it as if you and I were standing a short hundred yards away from a dam of water ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide.  All of a sudden that dam was breached, and a torrential flood of water came crashing toward us.  Right before it reached our feet, the ground in front of us opened up and swallowed it all.  At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God and when he had downed the last drop, he turned the cup over and cried out,'It is finished.'" pg. 36
     "We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced Him to a poor puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept Him." pg. 37
     "I invite you to consider with me a proper response to this gospel.  Surely more than praying a prayer is involved.  Surely more than religious attendance is warranted.  Surely this gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that he is." pg. 37
     "Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus....And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity and the desperation of our need for his grace.  Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender."  pg. 39

Total surrender.  Total surrender.  Total surrender.  Lord, help my unbelief.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Organizational Nonsense

Several months ago, after trying to get one thing out of my spice cabinet and having fifteen others fall out on my head AGAIN (!#^@*), I decided it was time to _actually_do something about this mess besides complain and semi-swear about it.

So I pulled everything out of the cabinet and was surprised to see how much really cool stuff was hiding in back of my cabinet.
Chaos!!  Chaos!!
that's A LOT of coriander...good thing we eat it 'most every day...
baking stuff....too bad I don't bake much....
So, we sorted and got rid of, labelled and reorganized....and it was beautiful.

Baking stuff all together on the top shelf....herbs together, seeds together,  all the bags poured into jars and labelled, all the spice blends snuggled up together.  It's lovely.  Really.  I was really feeling great about myself.  And then this thought came to me:
Child, you've just spent an hour organizing hundreds of dollars worth of seasonings. 
Seasonings.  Not even food
that would keep you alive.  Do you know
that people are starving?  Starving.  Are you sure your priorities are in the right order?
I would like to think that my cabinet of spices is no big deal.....but is it? 

How do I justify it to this baby's Mama?
How do I explain to her why my babies are healthy, clean and well fed.
Or how about to these people?

Do you think that they would be sympathetic to my dissatisfied heart about my house because its a double-wide in a really nice park with no room for a real garden - and not a real house with a big yard and a tree swing? 
My life's really tough, isn't it?

And I moan and groan because I've overfed myself and so some of my clothes don't fit and I don't have money to buy new ones.  Or my husband blessedly has a job in this tough economy, but he's not making enough money for my taste.  Or my Bible isn't the perfect translation.  Or I can't afford the most perfect curriculum for my homeschooled kids - while all over the world, children are doomed to a life of illiteracy because they lack a pencil.  A freaking pencil....
<><> <><> <><>
Children of the Lundazi Village Pencil Project gifts
(photo from 
check them out....I think we'll be getting to know these folks very soon!)

I'm not saying that it's wrong to research good curriculum or buy new clothes or even have a really nice house.  I'm saying it's wrong to have those things first - first on our minds, first in our checkbooks, first in our hearts. 

What kind of wretch am I that I won't buy cheap mayonnaise because it doesn't taste as good, and then go home and wonder if I can afford to make my monthly commitment of $64 to Food for the Hungry for two sponsored children? 

What, I'm really not willing to go without one bit of food for my over-sated self, one bit of comfort in a house crammed full of comforts, one single ounce of selfishness to meet the basic needs of a brother or sister in Christ? 

Maybe I'm overthinking this.  Exaggerating.  Making something out of nothing.  Maybe.  But one thing I KNOW for certain - one day I will have to stand and face the Lord Jesus in judgement and I will have to give an accounting for my life.  And I seriously don't think a well-ordered spice cabinet, a well-groomed lawn or even well-educated children are going to win me any favor. 

If I have any hope of hearing, "Well done..." my life, my heart, my priorities, my goals, my dreams, my checkbook, my waistline, my closet, my attitude - they all have to begin to change NOW.  And change radically. 

My whole life has to be about Kingdom work....about making sure that EVERYONE - from LadyBug, Firecracker and the Griz to my neighbors to my brothers and sister around the world - knows that the Lord Jesus is in love with them.  That He seeks them.  That He wants, more than anything, to wrap them in His mercy and goodness - no matter who they, where they are or what they are doing.  That the Bible is not ancient history, not a collection of moralistic fables, not an instruction book - but a LOVE STORY written to and for and about them. 

It's ok to organize our kitchens....but it's probably also about time to organize our priorities.