Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Making of a Proverbs 31 Woman*

I walked slowly through the dark along side of a moving truck/make-shift 4 day sanctuary. Gravel shifted beneath my feet, the city lights spread before me, sprawling the valley below the time-warn rims of the cliffs which stalk this little big city.  I heard a baritone voice, steadily reading the words from old scripture.  Familiar words played at my ears as I drew closer to the truck's opening.  I didn't want to disturb the reader, so I hung near the light pouring into the cold night air, soaking, breathing in the Truth.

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

We had disagreed before I left for my post at the podium of a Marathon to declare God's Word over the fallen of the city.  A mission of hope running towards National Prayer Day. It was a silly, little, could.have.been.avoided disagreement... but I SO wanted to do my love good.  Lord, forgive this quick heart... I WILL give it over to you and repent to him. Thank you for Grace so Your Word might still be shared.

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.  

A light wind lifted stray hair, I pulled my coat tight, I pulled the dark close.  To be blessed by the late hour when I should be fast asleep preparing for my early morning rendezvous with the Lord, but here, with my lamp lit I stood, soaking, praying, lifting Hope to the Heavens.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Oh, Lord, make me.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband too, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.  

My eyes closed as I silently recite the Words which have become a balm, a hope, an anthem.  There is a pause, I step in to prepare for my place and I praise God for His Word, the hope.  I'm not that woman yet, I may never be... but praise Him for the Truth and joy we might set our hearts to... to declare his Hope to a city, a nation... a world.

May you be wrapped in His peace and love today.


Scripture from the NRSV Proverbs 31:10-12,15-18,25-26,28-31
I was blessed to be part of a Bible Reading Marathon, my shift was at 10:45pm because that is just.what God told me to do instead of sleep... and I am sooooo glad I did!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Decluttering: Slowing Down to Hear God*

The dishes clatter, kids call 'mom, what do you want me to do next', the laundry buzzes 'done', the to-do list is a mile long and it isn't even 9a.m.

The life of a mom.

A homeschooling mom, none-the-less.  Lessons to teach (or quick prepare because you forgot Johnny's spelling list when you set up his plans for the week... I did set up those plans for the week and didn't just dream it.... right?

How do we slow down enough.... oh, was that chocolate left out I can snack on or just a left-over pancake with syrup, hmmm, either way, the sugar will be good... what was I saying?  Oh, yeah, how do we slow down enough to hear God?

Well, for starters, set down the pancake... or chocolate... and step away nice and slow!  Food CAN help sooth crazy moments... a little "Hallelujah" chorus in the midst of the bustle.  But sometimes our obsessions with those crutches can get in the way of Listening and Hearing.  Whatever acts like an anointment to your hurried life (other than prayer and God) is in danger of becoming your idol and replacing those listening moments.  Be careful how you find peace!

Then, re-evaluate your 'priorities', and look for simple solutions.  How much of what you or your children do in a day can be stream-lined or just done-away with?  How much more can they help with chores?  How much more can you task them with studies (and chores) and trust they will do it without your help... even if it isn't how you would do it.  How much, in our effort to help our family, do we get in their way and stop them from blessing us?

Which brings me to the final point: husbands.  They need to know you need them too.  Trust them to get the kids a bath... it's ok if he forgets to wash behind their ears!  Trust him to read a bedtime story or tuck them in... no, it WON'T be the way you would do it... it will be the way he would do it which  makes it most precious to your children.  Dad is not mom... there is a purpose for that.  Trust God's design for marriage and parenting ... even in your differences!

This is just a quick-birds-eye-view.  Something God has worked with me on over the years... and I am still trying to perfect!  Are all these a fail-safe for decluttering your life so you can hear God better and have more Joy in His plans for you every time?  No... every life is different and some things... sometimes some of the most taxing things... can't be decluttered.  See them as purpose and give Him praise.  That may be easier said then done.  But it can be done.  Take out all that truly, in the end, doesn't matter or can be done by others, and rest in His presence so you might know His will.  You and your family will be stronger in the end.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

 I pray you find time each day this week to focus more on the Lord, rest in his presence, and find peace and guidance in even the most chaotic moments of life!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Letting Go*

I can still see her golden curls like a halo around her sweet little head... running in the woods that surrounded our home on a mountain side.  It didn't feel like a mountain side, compared to the steeper grades in ready view from our vantage point.  But truth is, especially to this Midwestern girl, it was a mountain side.

A house that had an entry point upstairs AND downstairs with a basement settled into the rock and carved, like other homes stretched wide in the neighborhood.  I still remember when the dirt road ended  just the other side of our steep horse-shoe driveway and, if the kids had not been properly instructed, could have easily wandered off to find bears or dear to make home with.  Mountain lions always kept my smallest ones close lest they be drug off as local legend said they could be if un-attended

I loved it, I appreciated it... but not as much as I should have.  And though it has been 3 years now since my children ran and played in those tall woods on that steep mountain-side, I still miss it.  I look at the grass and fences and houses so close you can smell what the neighbors are cooking for dinner and I long, sometimes, for the smell of pine and tamarack and ceder, the hush of the forest, chirps of birds and far-off sounds of boat horns and speed boats on the lake far below.

Oh the peace and inspiration of the place.  And I know it isn't I alone... the children long to run wild and not run into walls or traffic or impartial passer-bys.  Where everyone use to wave, now everyone waifs by in their hurried expeditions to go go go, do do do.  Their hearts groan to feel the pine-needle floor beneath their pattering feet... to turn over rocks and stumps in search of life... to poke holes with sticks and hunt rabbits and mice in dreams of a new pet!  To snip and sip honey suckles and pick wild daisies and dainty roses to mesh in bouquets of dandelion brought to mama.  To sit and watch deer and turkey pass slowly, trustingly through the vastness that borders yards in those parts.

Letting Go....

It has crippled me these months since passing from full-time en-route-traveling-around the country on missions into full-time life with a regular job, regular house again, regular duties and part-time mission dreams that never seem to produce because I can't let go.

I grew up a city girl, raised on the cement of Chicago suburbia streets and parking lots.  My cuts and scrapes came from hard asphalt not dirt and rock.  Rare excursions to forest preserves... preserve... as though preserving the beautify of what once existed before the cement disease took over.  It suffocated this girl and when I first glimpsed the mountains and pine that would usher in adulthood, I knew I could never go back to the cement cage of city life.

Yet here I am, where mountains give way to cliffs and plains.  Where 'city' in most senses of city, is all I see.  Forests are a journey... I still havent' found one and I am told, the mountainous beauty of the northwest isn't really Montana... THIS, this stark land scape, THIS is Montana and what the west was built on.  This, 'biggest city in the state' bordered by the wilderness of open ranges, cattle farms and wheat fields.  The other side of the mountains where the wind whips down from it's journey across the Cascades and Rockies of the northwest then sweeps across from here to the plains of the Midwest.

It was a harsh reality which hit me with those words.  One which I knew I must embrace.  God has called us for a purpose.  Our Mission to serve him has laid dormant much too long.  This blog, God's call for me to write, serving others... it has all been buried under letting go.

 The truth is, there is beauty in this place too.  It may not be in the woods behind my house that are instead neighbors' fenced yards... but it is in the beauty of a yard boarded by lovely deciduous trees which spread a green canopy in summer and colorful splendour in fall.  A yard vast and green which does not hurt bear feet for the pine-needles that kill the grass.  A beauty in cliffs etched with history and standing like centaurs watching boldly over the land between them and the mountains jutting up from the horizon far beyond.

The simplest beauty is the presence of God in my life... in knowing He is with me and where He is... where He has called... Beauty is a mere prayer away.

I'm letting go.

Letting go of the past that has bound me and kept me form writing and living and growing  I am choosing to reach out to the future and love the present for the hope my Lord gives me.  It is the least I can do... yet still nothing compared to all He has done for me.  He deserves ALL of me and so I am letting Go.

I pray, whatever holds you back from seeing beauty and hope right where you are, that you might focus on the Lord, letting go of the chains that bind you and reaching out for the hope that lies ahead.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Falling Apart*

Sometimes we fall apart.

It is just a fact.  Even the best and brightest God loving, Christ Worshiping, Christian... is human and falls apart sometimes.

We all fall apart.

A friend once told me, "Don't put me on a pedestal, I am afraid of heights." I have learned: so am I.  A few years later someone called me for faith advice... didn't like my answer... then accused me of pedestal standing and I found myself uttering the same phrase, "Don't put me on a pedestal, I am afraid of heights."

I fall apart.

I hope to stand tall, I try to do what is right.  But, like everyone else (whether or not they will admit it), some more often the others... we all fall apart.  But we never fall farther apart than when we neglect our time with God.

It started out simple really: everything I saw kept reminding me, "give your best to God".  I am a night owl forced to be a morning person because of hubby's work schedule and kids' needs, etc.  I would get up crazy early to do a Bible study.  But then, for (what seemed like) no reason at all one day my mind started drifting, I was suddenly too tiered to give my best.  It never use to be that way.  I used to be able to muster the focus to soak up God's Word, be fed, and share.... But somewhere it shifted.  My best must be at night then.  Night owl, stay up late, do my study then, sleep in an extra hour... it will work.

It did at first.  It was nice to give myself over to the shroud of hours when everyone rests.  But slowly it, too,  shifted.... kids up a wee bit later, needing or interrupting.... hubby wanting to chat when typically he would sleep.  What was  happening?  My once placid family looking for early slumber was now creeping later and later into MY time.  By the time I saw everyone subdued, I myself was languishing.

Study time suffered.  It was worse than ever.  Worse then my most distracted morning.  I denied it at first.  I wanted to redeem it.  Reclaim those hours and resolved it was me... surely I didn't manage my day right that I should be so tiered so "early".

I began to fall apart.

Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.  This is only true if I am building that relationship... deliberately and devoutly inviting Him in.

But I wasn't.

Oh, I still prayed.  Those passing prayers and prayers with my husband before he drifted off to sleep.  Prayers at meal time... but I wasn't really seeking the deep quiet.  I wasn't wholly and regularly devoting MY BEST to God.

I began to see how giving our best to God isn't necessarily that prime spot of time... time being fluid in a mother's world; what is prime now may not be prime in two days.  No  I numbly began to realize a word missing from the idea of giving our best to God : sacrifice.

If we give "our" best of what we want to give to God, we are putting him into our box of what works.  Study and prayer become a time slot to fill and a duty to complete.  Anyone can pick their "best time of day" and squeeze God into the time it allows.  But not everyone will sacrifice .... sacrifice sleep, activity, comfort... that, is giving our best to God.  And I believe scripture confirms this:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
- Romans 12:1

sacrifice  according to the original 1828 Webster's dictionary:

2. To destroy, surrender or suffer to be lost for the sake of obtaining something ...
3. To devote with loss.

That being the case, why do we give "our" best time for Bible Study and prayer?  Why don't we sacrifice whatever God calls us to give so that we can meet him when we are letting go of the most?  An interesting theory when considered in the context of how Romans 12 continues:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:2

Are we conforming when we wait for the right time to study and worship on our own.  Conforming to the expectations and flow of the world around us or are we sacrificing our interests, our desires, our comforts to obtain the presence of the Lord at the center of our lives and know God's will?

"For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"  "Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?"  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. 
- Romans 11:34-36

What does God owe us?  Nothing.  He has already given us more than we deserve in Jesus Christ.  So why do we treat our time with him like it is indispensable?  Like it is a gift to Him that we should take the time to approach the throne?  Why do we enter it with anything other than a humble, sacrificial offering of self and a desire to know Him better simply because From Him and Through Him and To Him ALL things are.  Because HE deserves our praise, our worship, our sacrifice forever.

Maybe you know this already.  Maybe you are already an expert navigator in a life of sacrifice.  May God receive glory through you.  I thought I was the expert navigator in a life of sacrifice, until my recent bout of falling apart.  But I had to fall apart in order to be picked up and put back together... in order to realize how much of HIM I need at the center of me and how easy it is to fall into a rut of complacency and expectation without true sacrifice or proper humility.  No matter how much Bible training we receive or how old we get, we must guard our hearts from religious ruts; activity performed because that is what good Christians do... and devote ourselves daily to being relational and invested in our Lord and Savior.... after all, He has invested in us when we were (and often still are) falling apart.  He deserves the glory and worship... forever.

I pray, when you fall apart, that you find your way to Him to piece you back together... whether sacrifice or humility or some other issue busts you to pieces.... my hope is that you surrender yourself to Him for His binding Glue!



Related article:  On the Path to Center

Friday, April 4, 2014

On the Path to Center*

She sat there on the couch across from me.  My stirring returned and escalating still.  Her composure was more like 'not paying attention', her eyes fixed on her own interests as I, the elder, complained.  

"Too much complaining annoys me." she said matter-of-factually with an uncaring tone.

I tensed, ready to pounce on such 'rudeness' but my Spirit held me in-check as the question was spurred in my heart, "Is that what I sound like... simply complaining?"  After all, what was I doing to fix the problem? ..... what was the problem?

I'm inundated lately with articles and messages which I am certain are earmarking cause and potential solution.  

Quiet time.

One reminder triggered the rest... our attitude is often a reflection of our relationship developed from the time spent devoted to the the Word and God.  One without the other and it all falls down.

How did this happen?  Me... the one who was attending School of Biblical studies... missionary mama and wife... women's ministry advisor... Bible study writer.... dreaming to one day be women's retreat leader.... HOW did I get so far from center?

Ok, so I am not off-the-chart-far but I am not at-the-center being filled-with-His-peace-and-presence close either.  At the center is where we are all called to be... at all times.  When we look and find ourselves missing center, we must turn and seek the way back.

Perhaps this is my time to recognize the points where the road turned.  Perhaps my past experiences and my future hopes are hinged on this time of present trials.  Of learning, in all facets of my life, how not to complain, loose attitude and find meaning and growing as I work my way back to center.

I'm just now finding my way back on toward center, but I had to share at this point on the path... to place my life out there as an example so others might be encouraged... where ever you find yourself today from the point of center - to far beyond.... Seek Relationship, Quiet time and Devotion and I guarantee; you will begin to feel the presence of God guiding you back.

Blessings sweet friends,