Friday, March 23, 2018

Parched or Pretty

 A meditation on Jeremiah 17.

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength...

Hopeless is the woman...
... who demands her own way for happiness.
... who must rely upon her own comfort for peace.
... who depends upon the approval of others for her validation.
... who strives in her own energy to accomplish her goals and succeed.

 ... whose heart turns away from the Lord.

Doomed is she ...
... whose heart turns away from the Lord.
... whose mind is distracted by self-centered negativity.
... whose body is weary from restless busyness.
... whose soul searches for satisfaction apart from God.

He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.

Her life is brittle and rigid,
rough and dry,
stiff, abrasive and empty.
She will bear no fruit.

 He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,in an uninhabited salt land.

She'll continue to abide and seek sustenance from sources that ultimately cannot provide.
In futility, she'll give everything she has to a lifestyle that will render her
withered, waterless, and alone.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.

Happy is the woman...
... who denies herself to find joy.
... who relies upon her Heavenly Father for peace and comfort.
... who depends upon the truth of her adoption in Christ for her validation.
... who treasures her weaknesses - knowing God will accomplish His goals in His strength.

He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream ...

Her life is supple and secure,
resiliently grounded,
sensitive, sweet and strong,
refreshingly pleasant.
She'll continue to abide and seek sustenance from the One True Source of Life.

... and does not fear when heat comes ...

Even when the trials come, she doesn't worry.
When pain lingers,
and problems persist,
she is not ruined - she finds courage and hope.

...  for its leaves remain green,

For His Life flows through her.
She abides in Him. And He abides in Her.
His Word dwells richly within her and she keeps in step with His Spirit.

... and is not anxious in the year of drought,

So she has nothing to fear. No worries.
She puts no faith in circumstances.
She is patient and does not grow weary.

... for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

With passionate purpose, she'll give everything she has
to this beautifully sacrificial life that will render her
fertile, flourishing and fruitful.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Psalm for the Elementary School Drop-Off Line

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be late.

He leads me beside the curb to release the little children unto Him.

He makes me sit patiently near green lawns,

He leads me beside quiet sidewalks,

He refreshes my yeti.

He guides me along the RIGHT paths for RIGHTeousness’ sake.

Yea, though I wonder why that car intendeth to cut in line -

and break all the rules - and make the traffic move even more slowly -

and be all selfish and oblivious all in one sharp turn of that Realtree steering wheel!

My shades mask the evil. My nod and my rolling pace shall prevent them!

Surely goodness and mercy … are in the car in front of me [gasp!] Because they LET.THEM.IN!!


OK. First two weeks of public school drop off were a bust. I mean, we were never late, and I did everything exact and correctly. But my attitude and thoughts and words … in front of my kids …

As parents we received strict and articulated instructions to line up and only enter circle drive from ONE direction. Thank you, kind friends.

Each morning, as I am so patiently and dutifully complying, I am faced with a mini-procession of insubordinate ignorants who demand to arrive mid process, then make their unjust and abbreviated way to the front. But [verily I say] I will not be trespassed against!!! Easing forward, allowing my front license plate to gently greet the next car’s back tag with a purposeful kiss.

“Don’t even think about it, mister. How rude!”

“Oh, No ma’am. Not today. So selfish!”

“Yes, the line starts way back there, Smart One.”

“So you think – with all these cars lined up on THIS side of the street – you are going to be the revolutionary one with a fantastic and time-saving strategy. Shimmy Shimmy, my friend.”

“Oh no you don’t! You are a rule breaker!! Jesus doesn’t like RULE BREAKERS!!”


And that’s where my precision and correctness hit a heart-changing low.

Jesus actually LOVES rule breakers. I know this because He said Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as [I] forgave you. (Eph 4:32)

As I obsess about your inability to behave, I lose sight of what I have become: a law breaker.

In car line, I am also “rude” and “selfish”.  Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not rude or self-seeking… (1 Cor 13) And though I am tempted to toss out a toddlerish “But SHE was rude FIRST!!”, I am compelled to realize I will not answer for your poor choices. I will only answer for mine. And based on the past two weeks, I have some answering to do.

And so, to the daily handful of motorists who are either sincerely selfish, or simply uninformed (and therefore literally know not what you do), I forgive you. And I apologize. I called you names in my head, and sometimes in my car. I was wrong. I need forgiveness too.

(I mean, we would all just love it if you turned from your wicked ways, and stopped acting like you are the only individual who has somewhere pressing to be shortly after drop off. Or please, for the love of all things mild-mannered in the morning, please read the handbook, or get better instructions from your daughter-in-law who sent you with the preshies today…)

And I bet Jesus would just love it if I turned from my wicked thoughts and stopped acting like I was the only individual who was worthy of patience and grace. Or please, for the love of all things mild-mannered in the morning, if I could more quickly refer to the Holy handbook, or heed the wise counsel of my daughters who sit and listen today .

Here’s the good news for all of us. If we humble ourselves, He is faithful to forgive. He answers for us. He is the answer. And HEY! I don’t need you to change your ways for me to find joy. I just need to change mine. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

The school has given us guidelines. And it will be my distinct and honorable pleasure to adhere to them. [I salute you, fellow first-born overachievers!]

I also know that our Creator has given us guidelines. But they are not NEARLY as easy to follow.

Simple? Yes. Easy? Evidently not.

Christ, the ultimate Firstborn has achieved for us: salvation, grace, and everything we need for life and Godliness. And He will procide true pleasure and joy, each time we choose the right way. Even when – ESPECIALLY when we are trespassed against. For if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Everything hangs on these two commands. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Even elementary school car lines.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Meditation on Proverbs 3:5-6

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,"

Confidently place your hope in God...

The One who made you,

who loved you first,

who has plans for you,

who is working everything according to His purpose for your good.

"and lean not on your own understanding."

and don't depend upon your own intellect or discernment.

Don't rely on your own personal interpretation of life's perceived circumstances.

"In all your ways, acknowledge Him,"

In everything.

In all your methods and means and manners and modes...

In every action and every choice...

be careful to

realize the truth of God's character,

express gratitude for His mercies, and

recognize His sovereignty in your life.

"and He will make your paths straight."

The Creator and Sustainer of the universe

will exert comparable power and

incomparable kindness

as He

prepares, shapes, changes, and produces a pathway

for you to traverse

according to His perfect guidance.

Friday, June 03, 2016

No Pomp Nor Circumstance

A meditation on

Romans 8:38-39

as pages turn in God's unfolding story

For I am convinced

I have pondered these things, and I stand resolved (on humbled knees)

I believe 

that neither death

all the scary things that could possibly happen but haven't yet

nor life,

all the experiences and interactions that happen every moment

neither angels nor demons,

all the good and evil intentions hidden in plain sight

neither the present

these people and priorities we currently choose

nor the future,

these decisions and dreams we currently pursue

nor any powers,  

anything or anyone that has influence over these choices and pursuits 

neither height

the thrilling victories and soaring accomplishments

the thriving relationships and simple pleasures

nor depth,

the gut-punches of failure and moments of defeat

the hurtful betrayals, the stubborn silence, and the humility of seeking forgiveness

nor anything else in all creation,

all the things I shudder to consider

all the ways the world is fallen

all the folks who come and go

all the freedoms offered you by the Creator

none of it

will be able to separate us from the love of God

It is impossible to sever or interrupt or alter the free-flowing, life-giving grace

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

the One who is making this impossibility a reality,

the One and only - who deserves our attention, allegiance, and affection.

Choose Him. Follow Him.

This is Love. This is Life.

This is my constant prayer.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Your Attention Please

It’s a pain to maintain, right?
I cook. Folks eat. I clean.
I wash. Folks live. I wash  again.
I buy. Folks consume. I buy more.
Sometimes I just want to push pause: “Everyone just have a seat, and stop needing food and shelter!”
Many tasks I prefer to avoid, or at best, delegate to others. Toilet cleaning, yard work, stain soaking, gardening, sweeping the crumbs – every hour on the hour hello. Ultimately, these things are my responsibility, though. And it is to my gain to maintain.
But it just seems like so much. Don’t we all contribute to the mess? Couldn’t it be everyone’s job? Nasty pots, overgrown lawns, ruined garments, thorny weeds, cluttered spaces. This is the result of it being “everyone’s job”.
Because “every one’s job” becomes no one’s job.  The only way to work effectively as a team is to divide the labor and complete the joy.
In our church, the people who have been doing the “job” of ministering to young adults have moved on to their next assignment. And yet our task remains … to be maintained by those ultimately responsible.
It’s unrealistic to push pause on all youth ministry until the next leader is discovered. Ministering to young adults has now become “every one’s job” -which, if we’re not careful – will become no one’s job. No one has to do it all, or even a large part of it. But if everyone contributes a little something, the young folks won’t miss a beat, and we can all find fulfillment in a job well done.
The most selfish part of me wishes we could just toss some cash around, and check it off.
But we don’t need money. We need investors.
You may need to choose Sunday mornings. You can encourage meaningful conversations. You can serve the breakfast and take out the trash. You can give side hugs and happily listen to the lives.
Perhaps you will choose monthly Sunday evening fellowships. You can offer snacks and a safe place. You can enjoy watching the fun. You can engage with enthusiasm.
Maybe you can provide food for these activities. Munching facilitates mingling. Mingling builds community. You can change the world with cinnamon rolls and pizza.
You might invest a week at summer camp. Sharing life with these amazing young adults will inspire great things for years and lifetimes to come.
You can pray. Pray for the leaders God is raising up, calling out, and sending our way. Pray for these precious young people who’ve been entrusted to us. Pray for a hunger for the Lord, protection against the enemy’s schemes, and courage to stand firm.
It can feel like a pain to maintain, but it is for our gain to maintain!
Unlike the chores around my house, every single one of these tasks is ENJOYABLE.  And instead of being UNdone the minute they are done, these efforts have lasting, eternal value!
Undoubtedly, God is leading you to do something. Step up. Raise your hand. Push Play.
Be a part of the blessing today.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Manger Seen

“Hurry to the manger!” Asa chanted under his exerted breath. 

Up the lantern-lit path, into the woods he ran ahead of me. I followed after, straining to see which way the dark, leafy trail would turn next. 

I could have lost sight of him in the night, had he not felt compelled to pause at every single lantern. Peering down into each sand-filled paper sack, his face gleamed at the flickering candle, “Another Light. More lights.” Then back on task, he would race to the next one, “I wanna see the manger!”

In anticipation, we walked with a random group of friends and neighbors through this live nativity. The winding trail offered several narrated scenes commemorating the first Christmas.  

At each stop along the way, Asa would work his way through our small rambling crowd to see the action, and hear the Word. He wanted to see the angel. He wanted to pet the sheep. He wanted to be the announcer! In his excitement, I repeated my hushed reminders of being a good listener and keeping our voice down. He did his best;) *And when we lingered too long in one place, he experimented with dead leaves and open flames. It’s fine. 

At last, we rounded a cluster of rocks to see a manger aglow by a tree-mounted flood light. There were Mary and Joseph holding a mysteriously small, motionless bundle. But the quasi-realistic staging still somehow whispered, “Messiah has come.”  On cue, three costumed shepherds rose from their rock and entered the scene. 

“And the shepherds said to one another, ‘Come let us go to Bethlehem and see …” 

And there they went - all four of them. The last little shepherd boy, kneeling before the infant king was much smaller, and dressed in an Old Navy hoodie and his Bass Pro Shop hat.

My prideful preference for a two-year-old to behave and be subtle was overshadowed by the divine beauty of it all. Despite all my self-consciousness, I could not possibly rip him away from his curiously pure worship. After a moment, it was those standing quietly at a distance who seemed almost inappropriate.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” 

On an evening, where I set out to show my son something about Jesus, Jesus had something to show me through my son.

How often do I sincerely search for glimpses of glory? Do I consistently pause to take in the wonder of Light shining in the darkness? When have I rushed to discover and share the place where Jesus rests? What crowds do I need to edge my way out of in order to get a clearer perspective? What is my part to play? Why do I stay back too often … placing premium on propriety? 
Perhaps my intentions should be to BEHOLD instead of to BEHAVE. 

*Beholding is becoming, then behavior follows supernaturally.

At Christmas, and every day …
I pray we find our way … to the Way … from light to light. 
From glory to glory, I pray we are changed.

I pray we light the way for others. “Another light. More light.” 

Offering peace while the world around us strives and contrives, 
Promising hope where darkness crowds, and 
Showing love when so many are in need. 

May this season reveal surprisingly beautiful aspects of His story in and through us. 
May we chase toward the meaning and purpose of it all with humility and reverence … 
and receive the selfless courage to step in and bow low.  

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Joy of My Desiring

I like to believe I live a reasonably contented life. There are very few things "I want". But one exception comes to mind.

There is a nativity set that I have seen in stores for years. It is absolutely lovely. A new character is created and introduced to the collection each season and they never go on sale. Every time I see it, I stop and worship for a moment. Then I walk away - grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty again. I love it and want it so badly, but when it is on display, my attention and monies are usually already allocated. No time to splurge...

Two weeks ago, a large, mysterious package arrived at my front door. I opened it and began to weep. The UPS box contained dozens of smaller cardboard boxes. Every available piece of my longed-for nativity set! I continued to cry. The kids asked me what was wrong. "I've wanted this forever!" I sobbed. "I could never afford to buy this. It's so beautiful. I love it." Luke said with bewilderment, "Momma, I've never seen you cry happy." Over the next half hour, the kids helped me unpack each figurine. They carefully displayed them in the stable while placing the stars and angels in "just the right spot".

As I stared in adoration at the cast of nativity characters, the extravagance of the gift overwhelmed my heart with gratitude and joy. When I called the mystery sender, she was careful to explain, "This is not because of any of the wonderful things you do. It's not because you're such a very fun girl. It's just because I love you and you are special to me."

From now on - until my grandchildren come gather around this nativity scene and worship the King - I will have this precious memory of lavished love in my soul. The clarity of strong desire. Knowing for certain what would bring me joy, but not being able to meet that need on my own. Knowing the sadness of living without, then surprised and humbled to receive the gift that I could never repay. And from now on I will remember those priceless words on the telephone.

The Christmas message that comes straight from the Father's heart: "This gift - the life of my own Son -is not because of anything you do, not based on whether you're bad or good. It is just because I love you and you are special to me."

*originally posted Christmas 2008

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Follow Through

Love is here! God is absolutely GOOD. (But you knew that.)

I share this with gratitude for days turning to years, the gift of patience, and the opportunity to glance back and see how far He has brought us. 

He has actually transformed my heart (in this tiny little area - please hold while we reach the fullness you are looking for) and healed this relationship. Yay for grace!! 


March, 2013: Welcome to my breakthrough!

Lately, God has been rephrasing the same question, and repeating His desires over and over ... as if something important is happening and He wants to make sure I don't miss it.

For days and days,
through conflict and crisis,
sermons and sisters,
guilt and grace,
scrolling ads and Bible study,
He has been speaking.

I love you. Love Me. Love Others.

Not a new message, right?
But a fresh word to renew my mind, refine my motivations and heal this deceptive heart of mine.

I love you.

He really loves me - not the "best-foot-forward" me ... the "just-as-I-am" me.
I have nothing to offer Him in return, and basically, my selfishness is a daily slap in the face to His provision. My impatience is a hindrance to His perfect will. My chronic unkindness towards Him and willful resistance toward His priorities prove my unworthiness.

But His kindness leads me to repentance. His grace is sufficient. 
He loves me with a love that never ends. He never gives up.

Love me. Love others.

All that He asks of me is that I love Him back and love other people in the same sacrificial way that He already loves us.

It will obviously take me the rest of my life to fully know and understand and live out the wisdom in this divine relationship.

Right now, there is someone in my life who doesn't seem to love me. (It's not you and it's not her either, so we're good.) I have spent too much time dissatisfied in this relationship ... wondering what I could do differently to earn or deserve their love. I'd even settle for kindness or just baseline human respect.

I've been praying for them.
And it's not working.

But today's breakthrough is this: Guess what? I don't love them.
I say I do. I've always said I do.
But I still want something in return. I have expectations. I am hurt. I feel unloved. I want to be validated and appreciated.
I. I. I.
(which is barely appropriate for opera singers with lemon wedges before a show)

I must LOVE this person. I must love them WELL.
Not waiting for them to deserve my efforts and concern.
Not waiting for them to reciprocate or return the affection.

This is not something that can be fabricated or faked.
God is going to have to do a miracle deep in my soul. He will have to change the way I see this person, the way I hear this person, the way I speak to this person. He'll have to give me a genuine desire to be around this person ... to want them to be near and dear to me ... like they are to God.

I believe God can and will do this because it aligns perfectly with His greatest desire.
I'll find my satisfaction and joy in Him.
He'll fill me up and I'll offer myself to be poured out.

He sets the example, supplies the strength; we humbly submit and joyfully serve.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:34-35

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Special Dedication

Mother: to care for or protect; to act maternally toward.
Motherhood: the qualities or spirit of a mother.

I am a mother.
I've birthed a child or two.
I've miscarried a tiny precious baby.
I've had more C-sections than wisdom would advise.
I've adopted a child. 

I am the full embodiment of the noun mother.

The world is filled with noun-mothers. Their kids play at my house. Their kids are in my choir. Their kids teach my kids. Their kids are in class with my kids. In some cases their kids are lonely or uneducated or fending for themselves because life is hard.

This fallen world allows noun-mothers to exist and be honored to some extent without always being verb-mothers.
And God's creative providence allows for women to be verb-mothers without actually being noun-mothers.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Adoption Journey: Part 3

[Click here to read "Adoption Journey: Part 1"]
[Click here to read "Adoption Journey: Part 2"]

We finally scheduled [read: hounded CPS relentlessly until they caved] a personal visit to meet Asa. We only had a two-day break between two consecutive weeks of ministry travel, and we needed to get our hands on that little guy! The girls were at "Grammy Camp" at my mom's, and Landen was away working at summer camp, so Luke went with us.

On a bright and steamy morning in July, we drove to the social services office in Smith County. And we waited.

Eventually we were led to an out-dated little room ... stale with musty smells and muffled noise. The room was equipped with a small play table, a crate of old toys, a sunken sofa, a creaky glider, and a camera mounted in the corner. With holes in the upholstery and a sticky film on the floor, to me it felt like a neglected thrift shop.

Soon the case worker walked in with a child who had been woken from a nap, taken from his car seat, and dropped-of by his foster mom. We wanted to pounce, but needed to be patient.

He began to cry. I looked at him and gulped back tiny hot tears.

Philip took him and held him close, but the stranger-baby who seemed supernaturally familiar continued to cry.

I watched helplessly (while shutting down emotionally ... ever-so-slightly ... it's what I do).

We tried all the tricks in our six-kid book. Nothing would soothe his frantic cries.

Ultimately he gave up and fell asleep ... his face sweaty and swollen from emotional exertion.

At one point, he opened his eyes and looked up at me. It was disturbing to me that he was neither soothed nor scared by my holding him. He just lay there still, slowly blinking those gorgeous big brown eyes at me ... ... still interjecting mini-gasps for every other breath.

We gently took turns holding that warm, wonderfully squashy baby boy. We rocked and took pictures and whispered words of hope.

Our two hour visit seemed both brief and eternal - over an hour of emotional strain mingled with many faint rays of hope and glimpses of bright possibilities. 

I remember a few details...
His shirt smelled like fresh laundry. His big brown eyes had a sad glaze that didn't quite match the cheerful photos that had filled my mind to that point. He seemed healthy and strong. I remember Luke being quietly helpful. And Philip was amazing - confident and nurturing and strong.

The social worker came in and announced that our time was up. We packed up the baby and his gear, and soon the foster mom walked in. We introduced ourselves, thanked her for her kind efforts and care, awkwardly kissed Asa goodbye, and handed him back over.

I will always remember the shirt Luke wore that day. I read it a hundred times while I bounced and paced and shushed that sweet baby boy - feeling so completely inadequate.

"Protect this house, I will."

I know I can be SUPER cheesy ... but God made me this way, and He knows how to speak straight to my dairy-laden soul. And so I believe - that in that moment of weakness - He gently reminded me of His promise ...

"Protect this house, I will."

The car ride home was pensive and silent ... except for the Casting Crowns cd in the background.

Lift your hands, lift your eyes.
In the storm is where you'll find Me.
And where you are, I'll hold your heart.
I'll hold your heart!
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go ...

The next day Philip and I drove back along the same stretch of highway to take a flight out of Dallas. As we passed the Tyler exit, I thought about how close we were to Asa - and still so far away.
My emotional dam found fault, and gave way.
Tears steadily streamed down my face onto my shirt for more than an hour.

The gravity of this beautiful mess.
It was almost too much.

God had mercifully ordained that we spend the next few days at the Celebrate Recovery National Summit. A marvelous place where brokenness is encouraged, recovery is celebrated and messes miraculously morph into messages.

Surrounded by soul-level companions, [and exactly zero children, ahem] we were able to process all that God was doing. We worshiped and learned. We looked at Asa's photos often, and phoned our kids at night. We dreamed big dreams, believed the best, thanked God for being in charge, and prayed for grace to trust Him more.

* to be continued

[Click here to read previous posts on Adoption]