Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'll Be Back

Hey Guys,
looking for some technical support over here. My blog posts seem to be arranging themselves in whatever manner they find most convenient. It appears that Terminator was right; the machines have taken over. Today's post, Blog Church, is third on the hit parade if anyone is curious.
Meanwhile, if you have any idea why oh why this is happening, let me know! So if you check in and there ain't nothing new, skim down the page. Who knows where the next post will show up? Maybe on the CNN crawl.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Me & My Mr.

Well good Saturday mornin' to ya! The blog goblins are at it again and my post is buried in archives and it's called 10 Things (different than last Saturday's ten things, thought I was on to a groovy pattern). Meanwhile, it refuses to show itself as directed. So I'm shootin' from the hip!
The Mr. and I are both off all weekend, hooray! That rarely happens and I'm all geeked about two days to be together, doing what I've no idea. So far I've done laundry and we've chatted about our lifegroup. Oh, and I got my hair whacked off so the next goal is an attempt to style it myself. Does anyone else find their hair never again does what their hairdreser made it do? So if you see me, please be sure to tell me I'm looking cute. Please, just throw a sister a bone over here.
We're going to pick up Jay's car from the mechanic after almost $200 in repairs and their assurance that even they aren't sure what the problem is or if they fixed it. Ain't life fun?
I think we'll hit a movie, maybe out to dinner tonight. I'm just excited for a weekend together, even if we're just staring at each other for 48 hours. Just an hour with a cup of coffee and some easy talk about God and what we want to do for Him has already given my spirit a lift. Just the slow-moving ease of a Saturday morning to let our conversation wind around from the little to the large is nothing short of sweet.
So I'm gonna post this here second string post, tackle this funky new hair cut and then the Mr. and I will...? I don't know what we're going to spend the time on other than each other. As my good friend Brad Paisley says, time well wasted.
Enjoy your Saturday.

10 Things I wish

I wish
1. That daboyz were little again.
2. That daboyz were grown and I could see what they will be.
3. That I was in ministry full time.
4. That I was a better wife.
5. That I was in Frankenmuth eating at Zhender's right now.
6. That I was more spiritual.
7. That I was smarter.
8. That I wasn't lazy.
9. That I had good hair.
10.That I never worked on Sunday.
11.(unofficial 11th wish) that I had nobler wishes! World peace doesn't top good hair.

Blog Church 1/28

Leviticus 17:11 (New International Version)

11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Love, Sara

Worship- Ardent devotion; adoration.

Psalm 29:2 (New International Version)
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his [a] holiness.

"It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men." C.S. Lewis

I like the quote by C.S. Lewis about God communicating His presence to men when He is worshiped. It’s not that God needs worship, but that I need to. Only in those grasping moments of worship does my life really respond to God as God. The more time I discipline my spirit toward a state of worship, the more time I’m really understanding the universe, and Him and myself in the middle of creation. Worship teaches me to glimpse truth.
I think I’ve always been something of a worshiper by nature but I’m not patting myself on the back for that. We are all worshipers by nature. Intended to do this thing, we seek out sports heroes, celebrities, lovers and even our own images as places to focus our devotion. I love to worship. As a small child I loved to stand in church and hear the collective cry toward heaven. I love the very feeling in my muscles when I lift my hands and stretch my body toward the throne in church or in my own home. Sometimes in my car I have to really concentrate because certain songs will take my spirit into that response and my mind off of the business at hand, driving!
I love it when my life responds as it was intended, in worship. Worship reminds me that God sits over my life with majesty, with power and with mercy. I miss out on the fullness of Him when I fail to worship like I should. How should we worship?
Constantly. Simply put, continually, always, unceasingly, without stopping. Clear enough? But I’m not always in a church full of co-worshipers, not always in my car with my favorite music or in my quiet home so how to pursue the life of worship in world of noise?
Worship is not just music set to a stirring rhythm. It’s not just corporate or Sunday morning appropriate. Worship is my life, continually thrown face down at the throne of my Savior. My Creator constantly acknowledged, as the Psalmist writes, due glory and in splendor. Worship is in constant glancing toward Him and saying, this life is lived for You. The action is taken for You. This word is spoken for You. Maybe I’m not in continual worship because much of my actions, words and life is performed for me. Much time is spent in worship I suspect we are DNA driven toward worship, toward adoration and devotion. My theory is that I am at all times, devoting myself toward something. Too often the something is on the Sara Agenda. Avoiding unpleasantness, seeking enjoyment, guarding myself.
It changes the backbeat of my days when I flip the switch and do all toward Him. I’m learning that my life is sweeter and fuller when I approach mundane tasks and say, “Here God, this is for You.” We don’t offer sacrifices anymore, like in the days of high priests and temples. We don’t have offerings to bring to the altar. The only offering I have is my life, the only altar is my heart. We do know though, that offerings were expected to be brought with joy and not resentment. We know that the sacrifice was the best we had to offer. Could it be then, in this age of grace, that my offering is excellence? Yes, I know that the perfect sacrifice has been laid down for me in the person of Christ. I’m not talking about a salvation offering. I’m talking about a daily act of worship.
Excellence in my attitude, my actions, my words and my motivation is my act of worship, my offering. I find that if I’m cleaning my house for my own sake, it is unsatisfying work. I think about why someone else should be helping. I resent that THEY made this mess and I have to clean it. I often don’t even do the work until I can’t escape it, then I’m more irritated than ever.
I want to live in worship though, doing everything toward God. I want my every breath, thought, action, word and motivation to be my offering to Him. I want excellence in my sacrifice. Not because I can purchase His love but because it reminds my heart of His glory, of how worthy He is, this God who gave the sacrifice that saved my life.
Worship is my thank you card. Remember the days when we sent thank you cards? Dear Grandma, Thank you for the blue sweater you gave me for Christmas. It will keep me very warm and it is so pretty. I will think of you when I wear it. Love, Sara.
We don’t send enough thank you cards. We don’t often enough acknowledge the kindness, the generosity of others. The thank you card is not just for the person receiving it though, it’s a message to us that someone loves us, someone graced us with kindness.
Worship reminds us that someone loves us. Someone graced us with kindness. God doesn’t want a thank you card, He wants a thank you life. A life stretched out toward Him, acknowledging His generosity. A life of worship. Hey, we’re worshiping something, why not God?
Dear God,
Thank you for life, for your purpose for me and for your grace. Thank you for sending your son to be my sacrifice when I didn’t have anything to put on the altar for myself. Thank you for strength to live the life you’ve breathed into me. Thank you for another chance to live toward you. Thank you for loving me.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Drain in the basement is backing up. I’m up a few pounds and always hungry. I tried to upload some new pictures on to my computer and my Kodak program has vanished. It’s overcast outside. My contacts feel dry. My dog has a rash on her belly. My roots need to be touched up. My bedroom looks like a war zone. My socks are wet from walking across the basement floor where the drain is backing up. We need groceries. Jay’s car is in the shop; not running for us/running perfectly for the mechanics. I have a pile of ironing to do. I can’t find one of my black boots. My left heel hurts. I want pasta. My old family photos have spontaneously exploded from the box they were in and are strewn across my bedroom, told you it was a war zone. I need to finish my continuing education tests for my nursing license. I need to read the publication application/guide I got in the mail last week. I need to make a guest list for Jay’s graduation party. My skin is dry. I need a manicure. I want a latte from Starbuck’s. I need to go to the bank. What are we eating for dinner? Has anyone commented on my blog lately? I look like a transvestite today. I wonder if I got any e mails. I wonder what everyone else’s blog says. I wonder if the author of A Million Little Pieces is really a fake. I wonder if there’s any breaking news on CNN. I wonder if I have any e mails now. I have no clean underwear. I need to vacuum. Why doesn’t anyone else notice that the floor needs to be vacuumed? I should cut back on my caffeine. I don’t like de-caf coffee. I think I’ll make a pot of de-caf coffee. Do I need a pot of coffee? I should drink water. I’m cold. Water makes me colder. I don’t want to spend all day peeing. If I drink anything I’ll pee. I wonder if decaf herbal tea is making me retain water or am I for real up two pounds? My toes are cold. Maybe I’ll take my slippers to lifegroup tonight. Will I look stupid if I take my slippers to lifegroup? I might forget my slippers at lifegroup then I won’t have them here. I think that kid on American Idol last night had Down’s. That’s terrible to let him get on there and look silly. Or maybe it’s not; maybe he really enjoyed himself. I wonder if he enjoyed himself? I think Paula Abdul is wearing hair extensions. Why do classic movie stations show so many westerns instead of good classic movies?
Today my only purpose was studying. I’m doing two different types of study right now; one for our Old School lifegroup and one personal. It is my first of two days off and we have lifegroup tonight. I have read the material a few times and I need to polish up what I want to teach. I also need to stay on top of my personal study because I lose steam on that stuff easily. I need to study. That’s all I really have to do today. Should be a good day. Except for paragraph number one. Everything in paragraph number one seems very pressing. I seem to have spiritual ADD (attention deficit disorder). I keep telling myself to focus but there are so many interesting things to think about and worry about and ultimately, to do nothing about. Why am I like this? I am truly interested in the Bible and I love to read so what is my deal?
Distraction is a killer. A literal life-taker. Look at the car accidents caused by people on cell phones, changing radio stations, arguing. Look at warning signs of illness ignored by people who were distracted by more important issues that were really not important. Clearly, it doesn’t take much to distract me. Sometimes I’m distracted by song lyrics that exist no where but in my head. Anybody else singing “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” right now? I am, in my head. Not out loud of course, that would be crazy.
I wonder what I could accomplish with focus. Let me clarify, with the right focus. I’m not drawn away from time with God by temptations of heroin or crime sprees. But it doesn’t matter because I’m drawn away just the same. So many things flitting across my psyche that eat up minutes, hours, days...
I need to focus. Spiritual ADD. It’s keeping me sidelined. Time to discipline this wanderer and tune in.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pray It Forward

I don’t pray right. I pray too often behind the problem. It is Monday morning and I’m watching the press conference in which the much anticipated Ford Restructuring Plan is being explained. People are losing their jobs. Bill Ford, CEO of his great grandfather’s company is talking about plans, damage control, what will and won’t happen, what Ford does and does not stand for. I’m watching him with a slight headache from worry about the Mr. and all of those dependent on the automotive industry. I’m trying to focus in and understand everything he’s saying although much is flying over my head. I’m trying to read the crawl on the bottom of the screen listing the locations of the plant cuts and closing. I’m trying to pray for the Mr., who I know is in Flatrock watching and wondering with greater tension than I have. I’m trying to “get it”. I hate financial/economic stuff.
Lots of it is flying over my head even as I’m grasping at the enormity and trying to comprehend what it all will mean when the pretty words are sifted away. But it occurs to me, I don’t pray right. I am praying behind this problem. I’m coming along behind the financial troubles of Ford Motor Company and praying for relief and rescue. I should have prayed it forward. It’s not some big spiritual secret that I was supposed to do this. It didn’t require the words of a prophet, a message in tongues and the confirmation of three others. It is right there, in black and white. But I’m lazy or spoiled or in denial or short-sighted or something. Pray for leaders. That’s what I’m supposed to have been doing. But when Bill Ford stepped into the podium I noticed he had on a gray suit with a purple tie and wondered if that was specifically chosen to inspire trust or calm or something. I noticed he was a little pasty and a little sweaty and that he had this thing of turning side to side as he spoke that for some reason was increasing my headache. I listened and read the crawl on the bottom of the screen. Then I realized; I have never prayed for this man. I want him to make good decisions with great wisdom. I want him to run a corporation that will guarantee my children and my husband and I are financially sound. I want him to be smart and good and honest. And I have never prayed for him. So I prayed for him just now. But I wished I had prayed it forward. I wish I had been praying for the CEO of Ford Motor Company since 1988, when the Mr. was hired. I’m sorry Mr. Ford.
Then I thought some more and prayed for my pastor, Pastor J. I do pray for Pastor J. OK, I do pray for Pastor J. sometimes. Regularly. Semi-regularly. Not enough. Not every single day. Once again, I often pray behind him, and not in front. When it’s time that I know he’s making a big decision, going through a struggle, dealing with a problem; I pray really hard then. But to my shame I confess, not every single day. Not the way the Bible tells me to. And while I’m at it; Adam is the youth pastor guiding my children and Mike is the Life Development Pastor carrying their own share of the shepherding of Metro. I don’t pray for them daily either. I’m sorry Adam and Mike. I’m sorry Pastor J.
Oh, and by the way; we’re at war. Yup. People dying. Boys, only a few hundred days older than mine are dodging land mines and enemy fire. My country is divided from within. I do pray for my president, when it occurs to me. It occurs to me a few times a week. Soldiers die every day. The math doesn’t add up. That one really makes me hang my head. I pray often that God protects my kids from entering the war, but I’m praying behind the problem. I need to pray it forward, God guide my president and the leaders of every nation. Grant wisdom and peace. I’m sorry President Bush. I’m sorry, soldiers who have lost their lives and soldiers who will lose today’s battle. I’m sorry mothers and fathers who outlived their military children. I’m sorry husbands, wives and babies whose loved ones never came back. I’m sorry, Jay and Mac.
There is only one leader I pray for daily, my husband a.k.a. the Mr.; Dean. But while I’m praying it forward, God please grant him your anointing, your joy and wisdom. When I’m less than I should be, spare him from paying for my shortcomings. Teach me to pray better for him. And in those areas that I do not cover in prayer, grant mercy. And for those times you’ve needed the prayer of your wife and I failed you; I’m sorry Dean.
Maybe you have failed to pray it forward too. I have a lot of “I’m sorries” in my heart; but they don’t count for much without a change of direction. I’m changing. I’m going to pray it forward.

1 Timothy 2:1,2
1. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—
2. for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


How do they do it? No, seriously, I wish someone would tell me. I don’t get it. How do people make it through the day without Jesus? I’m hyper aware of Him today. I’ve read about parents in airplanes that were going down, how they get out of their seats to drape their bodies over their children to protect them. That’s how I see Jesus, draping His body over mine to protect me. How do people walk around without that?
I had a meeting this morning with the president of our hospital. It was a little Q & A about the state of affairs of the organization, finance, plans, etc. The unavoidable theme of much of the discussion was that the economy is bad, worse in our area than most, things aren’t going to get better soon. He kept specifically saying one sentence over and over, “It won’t get any better at 10:30 this morning.”
At 10:30 this morning, Ford Motor Company is announcing its restructuring plan, a.k.a. telling the world who is going to lose their jobs. It’s all over the news, the drop in sales, the loss in stocks, the bleakness of the economy. It’s Black Monday, or so I’m told. My husband works for Ford Motor Company.
He went to work this morning with a worried look on his face. He has mentioned it a few times over the last few days. His plant is shutting down production to watch the announcement. He asked the guys in the band at church to stop and pray at 10:30. He told me he knows they will. He was very quiet this morning.
I feel quiet on the inside too. I’m home from my meeting. I’m watching the clock. I told him not to worry, nurses can find work in a number of positions for a variety of salaries. I’m not making my max, to say the least. We’ll be fine. He said he knows. He said he and the guys at work don’t seriously fear losing their jobs. He says a worst case scenario would be him being bumped to afternoons if workers from closing plants start seeking jobs elsewhere.
On the news this morning even the lady at Dunkin’ Donuts near a potential closing plant was fearful. Everybody is worried, scared, hopeless. It is a quiet, waiting, watching kind of Monday morning.
How do people face this kind of day without Jesus? I’m not a Pollyanna. I know things can change in a heartbeat, can get harder in one 10:30 a.m. press conference. I don’t think God will preserve the Christians and let the unbelievers take all the hits. I will say it. My husband could lose his job.
I only go so low though, before I feel the Body of Christ draped over me. He’s laying over my life this morning in a way that almost feels tangible. I can almost feel His big warm hands laying over mine as I type on this keyboard. I can feel peace pushing despair from my heart. I feel concerned, I feel prayerful and needy. I am not hopeless or afraid.
He goes before me, before the Mr. and daboyz. He knows all about economies and stocks and low sales on Expeditions and Explorers. He knows about Medicare and Medicaid and cuts to health care. He knows we need to get Jay’s senior pictures paid for, that the car is broken down and we have to decide to repair or replace. He knows that Mac wants to go overseas on a mission trip this summer and that we have to pay for a graduation party in five months. He knows that our church bought land and will be building and the money has to come from somewhere. He knows that all of the above and more gallops through my mind at unforeseen times.
He knows that I always say, “if money can fix it, it ain’t broke”; and now I’m wondering if I’m about to get a lesson about being so lippy.
He knows that when the Mr. is burdened, my heart aches.
He knows that I have to send two boys to college at the same time, and the first one starts in eight months and doggone if we never did start that college fund.
I’m not carrying any more on my shoulders than anybody else. So how do people carry it without Jesus? Seriously, I want to know.
I’ll tell you my secret first. I don’t carry it. I look at it, walk around it, try to heft it, realize I’m way too weak and this plane is going down awful fast. Sometimes I cry, I rant on bad days, I doubt for a while, I tense my jaw and give myself a tension headache. I pray, pray, pray, pray. But I don’t try to save myself from the impact. Can’t. Somebody has to drape their body over mine.
Today at 10:30 Ford Motor Company is announcing its restructuring plan. This morning at 7:30 my boss told me that the economy is bad and health care is taking a hit.
Out of the corner of my eye, I just noticed some movement. Jesus got out of His seat and He’s draping His body over mine to take the hit for me.
How do people do it, without Jesus?
Written Monday, 1/23/2006 @ 10:00 a.m.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Playing Solitaire

I am a solitude seeker. People worry about me because of it. They think I’m somehow disenfranchised. They say I’m a loner, like it’s a bad thing. I am a loner. I have said that I’ve never been lonely. I’m being honest in that. I don’t recall being lonely. I’m quite at peace all by myself.
I go to a wonderful church. I love my church. My church wants people to live in a community of faith together. They want us to “do life” together. Get connected they tell me. I think I’m an enigma to some of the wonderful people at my church. I am connected. In my own way, truly I am. But they love me and so they are concerned. On the positive side, they are open to weird people like me, so they are starting to “get” me. They don’t push me or wonder if I’m ok anymore. But I can tell that they still want me around more because when I do show up at a gathering someone will undoubtedly say with great glee, “Sara’s here ”, like “Santa’s here ” You get the inflection of the voice. They’re surprised and they love me, so they’re happy. You gotta love these crazy connected community types.
Still, I’m a solitude seeker. I like to be quiet and read and think. On my really good days, I pray and meditate and worship. On my off days, I sit and stare and eat fat free cool whip straight from the tub. It’s all good. I was once embarrassed by my loner ways. I’m kind of a contradiction because I’m pretty good in front of a crowd. Public speaking? Love it. Give me three hundred people, I’m on it. One to one, different story. I’m a social special needs child. I bond kind of slowly, like over ten years or so. I’m quiet at parties. I am perfectly content to sit against a wall and watch. When it’s my turn to talk I get red in the face, stutter, feel foolish, look for the nearest exit. Yeah, weird. Told ya.
So, is it wrong to be a solitude seeker? I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve an answer largely reached by my faith community of connected friends. No, it is not wrong. You see, the major obstacle for the solitude seeker is that by her lack of being there all of the time, she doesn’t always feel she has friends. Frankly, we solitude seekers don’t needs lots of friends, so don’t start weeping for us yet. But when those inevitable moments of parties happen, we are not at our best. My friends at church though, are solitude seeker friendly. You see, I love these guys. These get together, small group, let’s have lunch, talking on the phone Christians God has graciously placed in my life love my solitude seeking self. So it’s ok if I’m at every third event. They make me feel welcome. I never feel like I’m on the outside. It’s a good situation for a solitude seeker. So thanks guys, for that.
Solitude seekers aren’t lonesome. I have the aforementioned crazy connected ones forever willing to take me in. I also have my Mr. and daboyz. Although I’ve never been lonely in my recollection, I do need the presence of these three men. I don’t need them around 24/7. That would be a bit much, frankly. But they are my touchstones. I could take solitude seeking to unhealthy extremes to be quite honest. Because I seem to be missing the lonely gene, I am quite capable of staying in my house and becoming a lunatic cat woman, minus the cats as they are sneaky. These guys balance me. They remind me that people are good for me. That I need to talk and laugh and wonder about things outside my head. They distract me, they focus me, they thrill me and make me nuts. They mess up my house and give me a reason to be more than I was yesterday.
I have my family around whom I am comfortable enough to not be the red-faced party girl of a few paragraphs ago. With them I belt out karaoke and act a fool. They think I can do anything. They’re wrong, but it’s nice press.
I have wonderful friends and colleagues at work. I have a circle of friends whom I don’t speak to daily but who would run to my aid and I know love me deeply. I have a ridiculous dog who wears a red sweater and sleeps 23 out of 24 hours a day.
Still, I’m a solitude seeker. I like my aloneness. I need it the way social butterflies need conversation. We all sort through life in different ways and this is mine. I’m happy. A happy unlonely solitude seeker.
So thank you, Metrosouth Church family, who lets me seek solitude and still be connected. Thank you family who knows I hate the phone but e mails me constantly. Thank you my sweet Mr. and daboyz who just brazenly exert their loud loving laughing selves into my quiet and ordered world. This is why I’m not lonely. Never have been.
Done right, we all fit together, I guess. Seems like that’s the way we’re supposed to work. Seems like I’ve read that somewhere in my solitude seeking time. Seems like it works pretty good.

Romans 12:4 & 5
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blog Church

Hebrews 11:1
Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Delay of Game

OK, here’s the thing. I like to do things the right way, my way. I’m slightly OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). I think of it as being structured.
Here’s is how my day off is supposed to go. Up at 6:15, kids leave for school at 7:35. Study and prayer until 8:30. Shower and prep for day,leave for grocery store by 9:00; 9:30 at latest. Back from store around 10. Housework or errands. Laundry done intermittently throughout the above. Home before 12:00. Make dinner, iron clothes for work. Finish laundry. Game over.
That is how it is supposed to happen. That is how it has to happen or something very bad will happen. I don’t know what, but it will be very very bad.
Then there is God, who is trying to get all up in my game. This morning I posted my blog from an essay in my archives which I thought was appropriate. First thing as one’s blog entry must post before 6:30 a.m., that is just right and proper. Kids left for school, studied and then God starts talking to me and goes WAY past the allotted time! Then He decides, time to write! But I have to go to the grocery store and I was home all day yesterday and had nothing to write! It’s grocery store time! I gotta go!
Nope, time to write. Nothing in the archives to post on the blog tomorrow. Better listen now. Ugh. UGH!! But the grocery store..ok.
So I start writing and then He decides; let’s make it a LOOONNNNNGGGG one! And let’s make it take a LOOOOONNNGGGG time to write it! Won’t that be fun? But the time...ok.
So I write this LOOOOONNNNGGGG essay and time is just flying by and frankly, I’m bustin’ a sweat. I don’t like to say I’m inflexible, but messing with my schedule does give the Arid a run for its money.
So I wrote what He gave me. Was going to put it in drafts to post tomorrow. Went to paste it on the blog site and the beautiful post I had posted this morning? NOT THERE! What? It’s like, approaching 10:00 a.m. and the daily post is lost in cyber space? ARRGH! I checked archives, not there! What is happening to me? Post the essay I just wrote today? But that is supposed to be for tomorrow? What? Post it today...but...ok.
Now we’re nearing 10:30 and thank the Lord (literally) the new essay showed immediately and I noticed my first essay is buried down the line in past blogs. Add blog master to the list of the names of God. Can’t I do anything myself? What? No?....ok.
Dropped my mom a quick e-mail, hopped in the shower, will wear hair in pony tail and save fifteen minutes in styling, get dressed, jeans tight, ignore it, ignore it, IGNORE IT. Ready to go! Grocery store here I come...what? Write another essay? About how I’m being stretched? But...the grocery store...ok.
So now it’s 11:00 and all is lost. I know there’s a lesson in here somewhere. Probably similar to the one when I wanted to be a teacher and YOU sent me to nursing school. Probably like the time I decided to get divorced and YOU fixed my marriage. Probably...what? You are stretching me for YOUR purposes and that’s it? Can I go to the grocery store now? Yes? Thank GOD (literally).
By the way God, thanks for stretching me. Maybe now my spiritual muscles won’t ache as much when I am told to do something. What? Get going to the grocery store and stop typing? OK!
(Written 1/19/06)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ma Do it Ma-Self!!

Hello, my name is Sara and I am a sinner. Yes I’m a sinner. You don’t hear all that much about sin or holiness anymore. I was raised on hellfire and brimstone so maybe I’m hypersensitive to the shift. As a kid, the prevailing theme of my own faith was fear of the rapture and me being left behind. I don’t think I had five consecutive minutes in the 1970s when I wasn’t in a controlled panic about not “making it”. Some of you will relate to those heart stopping moments when it would suddenly seem that someone, my mom or dad for instance, was “gone”. “Gone” as in now the tribulation is starting and I’m stuck for seven years trying to duck the anti-Christ. Not to mention the constant vigilance to try to figure out who the current public figure that might be the anti-Christ was. Exhausting stuff for a seven year old. My relationship with Christ was fueled by fear and the knowledge that I was never perfect.
Frankly, I’m not really concerned with the rightness or wrongness of this approach and its impact. I did some major modifications in raising my kids pertaining to their concept of Christ. Of course, every generation does. I’m not entirely sure whether my fears and perceptions were internally or externally motivated. I’m grateful, approaching my thirty fifth year of Christianity that I was at least aware that I was in desperate need of forgiveness and this kept me from many destructive mistakes. I still made my share of errors mind you, but I’m thankful for a framework of faith that held my life in check. This saved me a lot of grief. So I’m not complaining. And I’ve moved past rapture fear and anti-Christ watches.
Back to my original statement though, I am a sinner. I think we need a reminder that sin is real. That was all that my pastor and Sunday School teachers were trying to tell me, I think. Sin is real and it hurts us. We don’t talk about sin much now. It isn’t politically correct or culturally sensitive to say the word, sin. Sin. But it’s real nonetheless. So on my personal blog platform, I’m humbly requesting a moment of your time to relate some truth about an unpopular subject. Sin.
As soon as you say “I’m a sinner”; people rush in to reassure you that you’re a good person. It’s a reaction driven from good intention but with skewed understanding. It’s not a tragedy that I identify myself as a sinner. It’s not because I hate myself or berate myself or think myself unlovable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When you take the idea of sin and follow it through to its conclusion, the sin story is a love story. I didn’t always understand the love story but if you enjoy a good romance, read Genesis.
We have Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it’s all lovely and fabulous. Then Eve eats that fruit and it all goes to junk. And there is where we, human beings, have inserted the theory that God got mad and kicked our sorry butts out into the world for punishment. He’s been mad ever since, right? And just waiting for the next chance to tell us we’re bad, slap our wrists, let the anti-Christ write 666 on our foreheads with a sharpie. Bad human! It’s hell-fire, brimstone and premenstrual water retention for you! He hates us now, right? Because we ate a stinking piece of fruit. Unfair! Harsh!
Let me tell you, that’s all propaganda initiated by he with the sharpie. Here’s the real story...
God created us with purpose. He has intentions on your life. Remember the old days when a guy would be romancing a young lady and her family would ask him, “What are your intentions?” Ask yourself, what do you think God’s intention is for your life? Do you think He created mankind with the intention of setting us up to watch us fall? That would make Him pretty crazy, frankly. I don’t think God is crazy. So that theory is no good.
Theory number two, God’s intentions are good. And the notion of sin is necessary to get to the good part. Not just the notion, the reality. God told Adam and Eve, don’t be eating the fruit from that one tree, you can go nuts with the rest of it. Enter the serpent (talk about crazy) and Eve is quickly convinced that God’s intentions are bad. She goes with her own instinct. She eats it.
This reminds me of my son, Mac. Mac is now an amazing young man of God. I say now because Mac wasn’t always such a paragon of virtue. Mac had a favorite saying as a toddler, “ma do it ma-self!” The ma do it ma-self approach bought him stitches in his foot, a puncture wound to his head and multiple trips to restaurant bathrooms for a little hands on time with dad. Mac was convinced for a long time that the Mac approach was good and our intentions were crazy bad.
Why did we keep spanking him? Because left on his own, his plan would be destructive even though he didn’t realize it. He didn’t have our perspective, our insight, our wisdom or our power to guide his own little life in the right direction. Of course, we kept making those emergency room runs too, to have him stitched up, bandaged up and fixed.
Eve was the first ma do it ma-selfer. I’ll make my own decisions, thank you very much. What that really means is, “God, I think your intentions are crazy bad.” Let’s follow that thread to its honest root, “God, I think you are crazy bad. You are not to be trusted.”
That piece of fruit, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What the heck kind of tree was that? Why did God put that sucker right there within reach? I have wondered for years about that tree. But it wasn’t the tree, it wasn’t the genus-species of the thing that triggered the birth of sin. It was the idea of ma do it ma-self that birthed sin. It was the decision to know what God says and choose something different. Sin is not in the hands, it is in the heart. It is the unspoken statement that God isn’t trustable. That He won’t be given God-status in my life. That is sin.
The only reason I defy God is that I think I know better than He does. Or I think He’s not real. Let’s just put it out there. Of course, this is not generally a spoken or acknowledged attitude but there it is. That’s pretty much what the serpent told Eve, God’s a liar. Try it, you won’t die. So is that what I think when I sin? Yup. I can pull it off. My wisdom usurps God’s. Or He’s not real.
Sin is real. Sin separates us. Not the fruit, not the thing of it, the decision that I will be my own God. My intentions are good, His are bad. He’s crazy.
My understanding of sin has matured. I used to think you could write a list of dos and don’ts and if you kept to the list, you’d make it. It’s not that hard or that easy. Yeah, there’s definitely a list in the Bible. In fact, most of the world still abides by some of the obvious ones. Most of us agree that murder is bad. A vast majority prefer people who don’t steal. Of course, remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy? God isn’t smart enough to decide that one, you decide for yourself. He goes overboard sometimes.
What is holiness? Opposite of sin? Yeah. I think holiness is really knowing and saying out loud, God you are my God. I believe you are smarter and bigger and more powerful than me. I believe you have intentions and they are good. I’ll let you drive this life of mine. I trust you. Holiness, righteousness, right-standing with God. All old-fashioned words, just like sin. Holiness is important too. It puts us back in the Garden spiritually. Back in fellowship, back in the grip of His good intentions. I don’t like the way sin feels. It’s gross to my soul. It’s heavy and ugly. It makes me, like Adam and Eve, run and hide in shame. It pushes me deeper into the underbrush.
You want a scripture to back it up? Here ya go...
“Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6. The Sermon on the Mount. The words of Jesus.
I don’t like emptiness, I want to be full. It is good to feel the ugliness of sin because when I realize I’m empty, I want to be full. I want righteousness. It makes sense that if I want to be righteous, I don’t want sin. That makes sin real. If being right with God is real, being wrong with Him is real too.
The Genesis love story is that God let us know that His intentions can be sidelined by our decisions. Why didn’t I let Mac do it all himself? He would’ve made too many mistakes that would’ve been permanent. He would’ve run into the street and we would’ve lost him. I refused to lose my son. I was not tolerant of his rebellion against me because the cost was too high. God refuses to lose me. If He let me make my own decisions, to refuse His instructions, to sin; the cost will be too high. It’s a love story.
I’m going to get personal here. I’m glad you’re still reading because this part is important. You are a sinner too. You have made decisions that didn’t line up with God’s instructions. You have trusted your own intentions and silently decided that God’s purposes are crazy bad.
But you’re the key character in a love story. In Genesis, the propaganda mongoring serpent sets Eve up and then when she’s ashamed and afraid, who’s left? He’s gone gone baby. The only one coming to find her in her shame is God. The one with good intentions. The one who fixes it so His purpose can continue. Does sin change things? Yeah. It does. It hurts us, leaves scars and alters our lives. The quickest fix is God. He set up His purpose for your life to include a road back to Eden. I know this has been long but I’m wrapping it up now. You’re in a love story and the next line is yours.

“Father, Forgive me. I am a sinner. But your intentions are greater than my sin. Put me back in Eden with you, where I belong. I don’t want to do it myself anymore. I trust you. Thank you. Amen.”

If you made that decision, I’d love to know about it so I can pray for you. The road of your life just opened up. Join the rest of us sinners, saved by grace. Let’s get this party started.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Whatcha need?

I am a registered nurse who works on an inpatient psychiatric unit. My patients are in a battle for their minds and their thoughts betray them. Sometimes they will approach me but not say anything. They will walk up and then just stand there.
Usually I say the same thing, “Whatcha need?” That seems to be a tough question. Sometimes they come up with an answer, sometimes they say “I don’t know”, sometimes just a blank stare. The saddest answer is “Please help me”. In the worst cases, they don’t even know that they need to eat. So I start prompting them. “Do you know what your name is?” Do you know where you are?” “Are you scared?” “Are you hungry?” “Would you like some coffee?” Sometimes we go through ten questions before there’s a reaction. They know they need something, they just aren’t sure what.
It reminds me of the world going on outside of the psychiatric unit. How many people cross my path with that same burden of unexpressed need. How many times have I looked at someone and realized that they were hurting and then looked away? If I were honest enough to make a list, just the people whose name and phone numbers I know who need “something” would be long. Add to it the downcast eyes, the shuffling gaits, the catch of the heart as I walk past a stranger and the list becomes endless. To my shame, I don’t often enough say “Whatcha need?” when I’m off the clock
What if I caught those people in passing, like I do my patients, and asked “Whatcha need?” I bet lots of them would just stare back, a few would have answer and many would say “I don’t know.” I can hear a lot of “Please help me”s that are never spoken. And you know what? There’s my excuse. They never told me or surely I would have reached out. Or would I? I’m glad God doesn’t deal with me that way.
What if God never said “Whatcha need?” What if He never slowed His pace to make eye contact when I tried to look away? What if He didn’t have time to help me sort out the list of my needs? What if He waited until I let down my guard and my pride to beg, “Please help me”? I would be walking in a spiritual no man’s land betrayed by my own heart.
But that is not the way of my God. He notices my distractions. If I can’t figure out what my heart needs, He starts the prompts...”Are you sad? Angry? Lonely? Ashamed? Disappointed? Scared?” And then He starts the treatment. His Word, His touch. Human beings who, at His command, come to me to ask “Whatcha need?” And when I say that I don’t know, they don’t take that as an excuse to walk away. They bring dinners and e mails and cards and hugs. They insist on loving me when I want to be left alone. They insist on encouraging me when I know I’ve messed it all up. They tell me I am a great teacher when I feel like I’ve spent an hour babbling. They read my blog and tell me to keep it up when satan is telling me I’m making a fool of myself. They hand me a card that tells me I bless them. My church family has even surpassed the “Whatcha need?” question. They just do. They stand poised to guide, cheer, point or carry everyone they meet to Jesus. They have figured out what is needed.
I’m learning what is needed. In fact, just this moment I got the answer in one word. It’s the same answer for my patients as it is for my loved ones, my church family and the stranger in the grocery store with the downcast eyes.
I need to do better now that I know the answer. If I only do as much for others as has been done for me, I’ll be very busy. God knows the answer to “Whatcha need?” He has a heaven above and an army below standing at the ready for those of us who sometimes don’t know what to do. Two paragraphs ago, He gave me the answer to “Whatcha need?” Now I’m going to tell you the answer and neither one of us will have an excuse. To the world who stands with down cast eyes, to the question, “Whatcha need?”
“ one another deeply, from the heart. “ 1 Peter 1:22
You, they, I...need... love. I need to get busy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Boxer Rebellion

A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22

I just had one of those exquisitely silly moments that made me laugh so hard tears ran down my face and snot (yes snot) ran from my nose. A belly- laughing-snorting-doubled -over-merry heart moment. I’m blessed to say we have lots of those around here.
This particular one started when Jay shared the story of the day that Mac wore only his boxer shorts and a t-shirt to school. There was a beat of stunned silence before Mac started protesting.
“What are you talking about? I’m sure I never wore only boxers to school!”
“Yes you did, it was pajama day. I remember.”
“No, I’m sure I never wore only boxers...”
“You were in the fourth grade.”
“Jordan,”, by now we’re getting giggly, including Mac;”I would not have worn only boxers.”
“You had on a red robe too.”
Laughter. Mac unable to reply.
Jay, “Mac, I’m telling you, you thought your boxers were just like shorts so you wore them. Outside. To school. In the fourth grade. I remember.”
“Which boxers?” As if this matters.
“I don’t know, but your bathrobe was red.”
“Well, I did have a red bathrobe in the fourth grade, but I didn’t start wearing boxers until the seventh grade. Until then it was whitie tighties.”
“No, I remember. These were boxers.”
More laughter, snorting, wiping our eyes.
I tried to interject a moment of reason to reassure Mac. “Mac is right. He wouldn’t have worn boxers to school in the fourth grade. He wore panties.”
Mac, “Underwear! Boys wear underwear!”
Me, “Right, he wore underwear until the seventh grade, when he had to start changing for gym.”
Jay, “Nope, I remember. You wore your boxer shorts on the outside to school for pajama day. And your legs showed under your robe. Your robe was red.”
Mac, “My first boxers had Curious George on them and I still have them and I got them in seventh grade and I never wore my boxers on the outside to school!”
Jay, “Yes you did.”
Then the discussion took on Supreme Court dimensions.... “Who drove us to school in the fourth grade?” “Mom. “
“Mom would NEVER let me go to school in just boxers. If you had said Dad drove, it could’ve happened. But mom wouldn’t have let it happen.”
Just then the Mr. decides his name has been taken in vain and launches a stunning rebuttal; “Hey!”
The debate was never actually settled with finality although I have to say I’m quite sure I never let my son go to school wearing only his boxers. If I had, I am even more sure the school would’ve called for some emergency pants.
I have no idea what possessed Jay to launch this attack but I’m glad he did. I’m always glad for laughter especially the kind that comes in such waves that I can’t catch my breath.
When things had settled down a bit, I headed upstairs to check my e mail with a smile still on my face and a lifted heart. Just then I heard Mac,
“Do you remember the day I only wore my cup to school? That was sport day.”
I’ve had enough for one night.
And I know for sure I never let my son go to school wearing only his cup. I think.

Monday, January 16, 2006

All These Many Mooses

“I don’t need all these many mooses.”
I was at my grandmother’s house when my cousin Brooke, then three, gathered three or four plastic “mooses” from the living room window sill and offered them to me. “Oh no”, I told her, “You keep those. Those are your mooses.”
My seventy-something grandmother encouraged me to take the mooses in question home for my teenaged sons. That’s when Brooke pushed the plastic Happy Meal toys into my hands insisting I take them.
“I don’t need all these many mooses.”
I was uncertain as to my sons’ need for these many mooses but sensing the household’s urgency to get rid of them, I put them in my pockets and off I went. I suspect my grandmother was more interested in relieving her living room of the many moose decor than supplying my sons with much-needed mooses. I wonder if Brooke’s intentions were two-fold. Maybe her mom had put her on Happy Meal restrictions due to too many mooses and she figured lightening the load would open the door to more prizes. Probably she was in a giving mood and wanted to bless me with the traditional blessing of the mooses. Clearly, Brooke wasn’t concerned that she would be moose-poor if she gave all her mooses away.
I like silly sounding sentences and words so in general, if I run across something like “I don’t need all these many mooses.” it will remain forever locked inside my brain with Green Acres trivia and the lyrics to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” There is a large portion of my brain devoted to useless information that keeps me amused but serves little purpose otherwise.
Where the mooses are concerned, however, I sense a deeper spiritual truth. Yes, I said spiritual. Mooses can be spiritual if you stop singing the theme from Green Acres long enough to think about it.
I have many mooses as well. In fact, I have not only the original mooses in question, but symbolic mooses laying all over the place. Unlike Brooke, I don’t always have the smarts to unload my many mooses when given the chance.
Brooke wasn’t worried about not ever having another moose if she gave me all of hers. She could’ve given me just one or two, she could’ve even shown me her many mooses and then put them away. But no, she shoved all those many mooses into my hands and never looked back. I need to learn the lesson of moose giving. I have many mooses too in the form of clothes, shoes, household supplies and sometimes even money (!) that I could push into the hands of those who don’t have any mooses of their own. But I hold on to my mooses more tightly than Brooke. I worry that I will want those mooses again someday. Sometimes I can’t even remember where I put those mooses when years later it occurs to me that I kept them for some reason. I have run across mooses that are old and now useless that someone else might have needed had I not stored them away for a someday that never came.
Brooke knew that if she got rid of her many mooses, her mom was sure to replenish her supply. She had enjoyed her mooses, collected them, perched them on the window and then when she no longer needed them, she passed them to me with assurance that her mom would not leave her without a new moose supply. Or whatever the next round of Happy Meal toys might be. She realized she needed to make a space for the new prizes coming her way or she might miss out. With the wild and foolish abandon of childhood, she dumped her mooses and made way for whatever was next. No regrets for mooses gone by, that was Brooke’s attitude.
My grandmother had her own wisdom beneath the surface of the desire for a moose-free living room. She knew the mooses just didn’t fit the decor. They had served their purpose and now it was time for the many mooses to move along.
I need to realize that I don’t need all these many mooses myself. Instead of hanging on so tightly to my “stuff”; I need to give it away with wild moose abandon knowing full well that my Father has better prizes just waiting for a space to occupy. I also need to notice when my mooses no longer fit into the decor of my life, and that they have served their purposes. Time to give away all these many mooses.
My mooses are material, emotional and spiritual. Sometimes, don’t repeat this, my mooses are tithes and money. I worry that if I put my many mooses into the offering I will miss my mooses, that God will not make my remaining mooses stretch. Sometimes my mooses are memories and hurt feelings that I need to get rid of, so God can put better things in the spaces of my heart occupied by useless regrets and offenses. Sometimes my mooses are ways of looking at myself and the world that I have grown past, they don’t fit the decor of my heart anymore. I thought as a child, but it’s time to put away childish things. Certainly, mooses are sometimes childish.
I’m going to be brave, like Brooke, and start giving away my many mooses. I am going to realize that there is a better prize I can have only after I get rid of the old stuff. I’m going to redecorate my heart with things more appropriate than these many mooses. I’m not going to selfishly hold on to many mooses that someone else needs. In fact, I think that if I can be trusted to share my many mooses, God will increase my mooses beyond that which I could ask or think.
I don’t need all these many mooses either.

Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I Knew It Not

OK,I'm commenting on my own blog. "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place and I knew it not"; see post below "Blog Church" if you don't know what I'm talking about.
I stayed home from church today, not feeling well. Dove in to some studying time with some scripture God's been tugging at me about unrelated to lifegroups or blogs, just Sara issues. My sweet friend Arlene forwarded me a devotional that didn't seem to be related to the scripture in question but when I started tracking through and following the scripture to where God was leading, it all folded together.
Sat down to do some journaling because that's how I take the word jumble that is my brain and make sense. And there He was. Surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place and I knew it not. I got some information, some rebuking and some redirection I didn't see coming. I got some clarity on some issues I thought I was clear on. I wrestled with God about all of it, just like Jacob did before he reached the same conclusion, surely the presence of God is in this place.
I felt good about doing some studying, felt bad about what it revealed about me, then felt hopeful at what God can do now that I'm under His hands and letting the potter do some reshaping of this vessel.
I'm a little worn out now. A little discouraged with myself, a lot encouraged about what Christ is willing to do to fix my broken hinges. I'm glad for the wrestling match and that He didn't let me win. You won't see the wrestling match on this blog, at least not for a while. That was part of the deal, like I said, Sara issues.
I thought I missed church this morning. But surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place; and I knew it not.

Blog Church

"Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place and I knew it not." Genesis 28:16
In case you're new around here, this is the Sunday challenge. What does this verse say to your heart?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What A Country

On my coffee table right now sits five Bibles. Another one, I noticed, was on the passenger seat of my truck when I went to the grocery store.
At the grocery store I purchased everything I needed, the challenge was choosing not to purchase what I didn’t need! I accommodated Jay’s gluten-free diet, the Mr. and my own Weight Watcher diets and Mac’s tator tot and corned beef hash driven lifestyle.
I came home and put my goodies away in my dry warm little house with the rain splashing outside my windows. My dog awoke from her third nap of the day and trotted by dressed in a red sweater to see if there was anything worth sniffing.
I made my grocery run after an hour of Bible study time and about a half hour of computer time. Daboyz are at school and the Mr. is at work. I was supposed to work but I’m battling what appears to be strep (poor baby poor baby) so I took a sick day. The grocery run will be my only outing but I’ve a few new movies from Christmas I want to watch and two books I’m reading. I’ll be entertained between naps on the couch.
Leftover chilli from last night is warming for lunch as daboyz have a half day and will be home soon.
My mom just e mailed to tell me that the battery of tests she had done for her annual physical were all normal. One more to go and we expect that to be normal as well.
So what’s my point? What a country this is, this United States of America. This nation where I can own as many Bibles as I want and leave them lying wherever they are most convenient when the urge to study strikes me.
What a country where I can make a grocery run and in 30 minutes stock my kitchen with specific items to suit four different people. Where my child with dietary restrictions can still have a full belly and good health. Where my only problem arose when there was only one six pack of Lipton Diet Green Tea, and I wanted two.
What a country where a mid-winter down- pour plays at gentle drops against my windows but inside I am warm and dry. Where I turn up my thermostat when I’m chilly, dial down when I’m warm. Where we pile extra blankets all around our living room for snuggling so we don’t have to walk all the way to our bedrooms if we’re cold.
What a country where at my leisure I flip through the Holy Word of God. Where I have a computer and not only I but my friends and family so we can check in with one another throughout the day. And if I don’t feel like searching any of those five Bibles on my coffee table, I can do an internet search to find what I need in seconds.
What a country where my children attend a school that their dad and I chose specifically, and to which they drive in their own car daily. Where they are safe in a new building with brand new text books and computers and educated educators to inspire and encourage them toward excellence. Where staff is helping them apply to college and pursue their dreams. Where they CHOOSE which college they will attend and assume they will indeed go to college. Where today they take midterms in trigonometry and physics and military history and college level English just 4 generations removed from immigrants and laborers.
What a country where my husband gets up every day to paint cars and our only burden is he is working SO MANY HOURS. Where I have a job and career of my choosing that pays me to stay home when I’m unwell.
What a country when I have so much that there are Christmas presents yet unused almost a month after Christmas and a voracious reader has two books to bounce between. Where a dog is better and more warmly outfitted for cool rainy days than some children across an ocean, or across a county.
What a country where we had such a large dinner last night that half remains for munching today and if we aren’t in the mood, we’ll simply choose something different for lunch. Where we’ve never been hungry for lack of food, although we’ve complained about lack of favorite entrees.
What a country where my mom can have a physical from the doctor she trusts and have tests to assure her good health.
What a country where I sit quietly to think these things with only a snoring dog at my feet and winter rain at my windows. No gunfire, no screaming, no air raid sirens to interrupt my reflections.
What a country where Jesus is so easy to find and my multiple Bibles sit unopened for days.
What a country, this United States.
Dear Heavenly Father, Remind me daily of this nation you have so richly blessed and anointed with purpose to use those blessings in a dark and hurting world. Pour your wisdom and courage out on our President and our leaders as well as this people with the privilege to choose who those leaders will be. Surround our military as they today stand against enemies that would take their lives, grant them safety and peace as well as victory by your grace and mercy. Make us good stewards of this plenty that you have graciously bestowed. Forgive our wanderings and our foolishness, change our selfishness to gratitude and gratitude to giving. Raise up our children to serve you better than we have served. Thank you for this nation, the United Stated of America. Today, we submit ourselves under Your hand. God bless America.
Written Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday, January 13, 2006

Grown-Up Child

Read me another story. Sing it again. Peek-a-boo. I’m taking lots of strolls down memory lane lately because my kids are suddenly grown. I’m not sure when that happened. I’m looking at old pictures with teary eyes and wondering if I really understood how precious the time was and how blessed I was to be their mom. I do know that they have always been a better teacher than I. I’ve never had to tell them to be kind, it seems to have come naturally. I never had to tell them to give grandma a hug or a grandpa a kiss, they just do. Maybe it’s normal, when your kids grow up, to look back in amazement at the time gone by and what they are becoming.
I have good kids. No, I have great kids. I say that taking no particular credit myself because it is a mystery to me how the Mr. and I pulled it off. All I can attribute this miracle to is that with all our fumbling through life, we kept Jesus at the center of our almost constant storms. It appears that He kept our kids in the eye of the hurricane with Him. Of course, this isn’t all; it’s everything.
I’ll admit that when my boys were little I would grow weary of reading the same stories “one more time.” I’d wish for quiet and extended naps. It just seemed like they needed so much more than I could give. Now Mac will take my small hand in his large one and I’m slammed with the imprint on my heart of his tiny fat hand in mine. I run my hand through Jay’s hair to push it out of his eyes and can feel like yesterday his baby soft head cradled in my hands. I thought they would be snuggled on my lap forever. Forever was not as long as I thought it would be. Lately I’ve been longing for one more cuddle with a little boy drifting to sleep in my arms.
I wonder if that is how God feels about me. Does He look down from heaven and long for my tiny hand in His? When was the last time He rocked me to sleep? When the wind is blowing, is He running His fingers through my hair and remembering my tiny baby form, now all grown up? Does He look at me with joy at how I’m turning out? Does God get lonely for me, like I get lonely for my boys, when I’m too busy with life to give Him a few minutes of time?
I said that my boys are my teachers and they are. When I’m ranting about the latest unimportant issue they always tell me it’s no big deal. They laugh loud and easily and often. I sometimes lay in bed and listen to them talk about important things and then immediately switch to the ridiculous and how easy they are together. I learn that I need to be more at ease with those I love. I need to learn to deal with the important but to switch to the ridiculous before I’m overwhelmed.
I’m learning from my children to be a child. My nostalgia has made me realize that there is a Father with more love for me than even I have for those boys. A Father who has never wished I’d quiet down or go to sleep or grow up and stop needing Him so much. A Father with abundant supply just waiting to extend His hand to me. I have great kids. I have a great Father.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of life and of these children. Remind me that I am the child of the Most High who longs for His child to rest in His embrace. Let my family serve You, love You and glorify You. Keep my kids in Your hands, be the calm in their storms. Write your name on their hearts and teach them to always abide in You. Thank you. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's All Good, Very Good

Who is this King of Glory that pursues me with his love?
Have you ever experienced those moments in your life when you can just feel your place in creation? Where you can say, like God did on those first days, it is good?
Yesterday daboyz and I went out to dinner and got to chatting about our church's new study, "Old School". We're spending a year going through the Old Testament and following the series with our lifegroup which started last night. So we were talking in the restaurant about God and creation and how unimaginable He is and how cool it is to catch those glimpses of GOD, creator of all things. Next thing you know, Mac is doing this one-man show of the Holy Spirit hovering over the face of the deep, and the Father and Son creating time ("Go spend about 15 minutes building some mountains, Son." "Minutes?, What are minutes?") Maybe you had to be there but it was hilarious. It was good.
We went to our first gathering of our new lifegroup at the home of James and Tonya. God forever amazes me by introducing me to friends I never knew existed. We chatted and introduced ourselves and loaded up on donuts and coffee and then settled in to the Word, Genesis chapters one and two...Creation. Seems like the day one He created; day two He created story would be old news but suddenly we were all like little kids discovering this Creator of all things for the first time. We read every verse and stopped to examine the ones that caught our attention. It was good.
Little ones played on the floor and adults became like little children earnestly seeking Him without pretense. It was easy. Not easy in the sense that the text was easy but easy in the sense of sweet and loving and knowing that you're right where you need to be with the people you need to be with. Easy in the sense of being in the flow of God's generosity. It was good.
This morning I dropped daboyz at school and driving back home the sun was peeking up pushing away the Michigan winter clouds. I turned up the radio and Third Day came on, Who is this King of Glory? I cranked it up and felt Glory for a moment in this mortal body. Who is this King of Glory who teaches me creation through my children; who gathers me with His people and knits us at the heart to chase Him; who reveals His words to unworthy minds; who splashes me with the sunrise? Who reminds me that He is the center of it all with a song on the radio? To quote Him, it is very good.
Who is this King of Glory that pursues me with his love; and haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words?
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need. Who is this King of Glory who offers it to me?
Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace. Revealing things of Heaven and all its mysteries.
My spirit's ever longing for His grace in which to stand. Who's this King of glory, Son of God and son of man?
His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty; the King of my heart, the King of glory.
Who is this King of Glory, with strength and majesty? And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings. The Lord of earth and heaven, the creator of all things. Who is this King of Glory, He's everything to me.
The Lord of earth and heaven, the Creator of all things;
He is the King of glory,
He's everything to me.
(Third Day)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"That Time" of the Month, Problem or Promise?

Last night was our last official Problems & Promises; the lifegroup for ladies that I've been teaching since April. I'm moving into a different lifegroup series tonight so I had to wrap up P & P.
We had a lesson called "Learning to Learn". Being the last group, I wanted the ladies to have a lesson in finding out what God and His Word have to say about their questions on their own, how to flesh out the truth of scripture. I thought that would be a fitting finale. Boy, was it.
First of all, we had about 18 ladies in the little corner of our coffee shop. I think that's the record. After a crash course in Bible and reference use, we started throwing out topics and studying them out together. What a time. It was loud and obnoxious and silly and one of the most profound moments of fellowship and truth of my ministry, perhaps of my entire Christianity.
Question #1, were Abraham and Sarah really brother and sister? Well if Old Testament genealogy isn't an easy topic to comprehend, I dont' know what is! Thank you very much Becky for jumping right in to expose my ignorance! So 18 laughing women jumped in and dug and interpreted and questioned and read and yup, it appears they were. Which opened up the discussion to God's command for purity in the bloodline that His people would remain untarnished. Which was a really cool discussion.
I won't give you every detail but will tell you that we now know if we can have "those kind" of relations with our husbands during "that time" of the month. Yup. Reactions were mixed. Laughter was loud. We also talked about divorce and submission and love and rebellion and abuse and hope and escape. We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we could laugh again. We got vulnerable and raw. We touched hearts and hands and heaven.
We decided important issues like tattoos and plastic surgery and trust and sacrifice. We found out it all comes down to the heart. We looked into the corners of our own hearts to see what we might give away, and what the Lord might put there instead.
We ended Problems and Promises tonight. And we started something else. We got unabashedly silly and scared and unsure and unashamed together. We all left reluctantly after one more hug and a lot of "I love yous". We all left wanting more of each other and God and His Word. We started something. I can't wait to see what it is.
I love you, my sisters and fellow brides. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Crazy Lazy Maintenance Day

Good morning!
If you're wondering why I'm posting so late past my usual time, you spend way to much time reading my blog. Ha! Just kidding. I'm posting roughly 5 hours late today because this is the day that the Lord has made.
Sometimes the Lord makes cookie-cutter days when it's all pretty much like the day or week before. Get up, go to work, wonder why you chose this field, come home, wonder why you bought this house, have dinner, wonder why you ate so much or why you feel so fat when you eat so little. You get the picture. On work days I'm up at 4:30 and non-work days I'm up at 6:15 to spend time with daboyz before they head to school. Those are all days made by the Lord and they are good.
Today He made a weird day though. The Mr. woke up for work and per our usual routine, he attempted to tell me good morning. I told him that I had nothing to say to him at 4:30 on a day I didn't have to go to work. As you can see, I am forever spiritual; even when very sleepy. He said, "Huh!" and went about his business. He likes me so he'll still come home tonight and pretend I'm nice.
Telling myself I'd never get back to sleep now, I went back to sleep. I awoke at 6:15 and did something I have never done before. Don't tell anyone, it'll be our secret. I listened to be sure daboyz were up for school and when Jay yelled up to me from the bottom of the stairs (expecting me to come down and chat) I said, "Have a good day. Drive carefully, I love you." Telling myself I'd never get back to sleep now, I went back to sleep.
The dog was ever so concerned with the morning's turn of events and around 7:30 she whined and pushed her cold dog nose into my eye sockets. I told her to go lay down and graciously invited her to use the Mr.'s abandoned half of the bed. She decided to join in the madness and fell into a deep sleep immediately. I bet you have seen the pattern by now. I went back to sleep.
I awoke at 8:45 and stumbled downstairs into the bathroom. Usually it's straight into the shower for an efficient launch of a busy day. I looked in the mirror and decided I looked acceptably cute for the moment in pajamas and bed head and proceeded to the kitchen. Things continued to rock the ever structured and scheduled Sara Ship as I decided to eat a "big breakfast". Breakfast for me, if I'm absolutely starving is a fat free toast with something resembling butter but without the calories or deliciousness. As yesterday's post mentioned, I'm on a body maintenance program over here. Usually that's fine. But today, I went nuts.
I made egg beaters, two links (two!) of fat free sausage and a big pot of coffee. I never turned on the television. I watched the sun streaming through my beautifully ugly lemon curtains in my kitchen and watched my big breakfast simmer. I ate in silence and sunshine in my pajamas. Then I made toast with fruit spread for dessert.
Here we are, approaching 9:30 with "nothing" done. On a normal day off, the laundry would be nearly finished, I'd be showered and dressed and headed to the grocery store but here I sit. With no particular drive to hurry.
The Lord made me a different day that makes no sense. I have an unsually busy week ahead of me. I'm teaching two life groups this week. I'm working the rest of the week. My house needs the usual attention and doggone if those people who live here with me don't expect food in the kitchen.
I didn't always to know how to move slow. I still don't do it well. But today God made me what I already see as a system maintenance day. I have plans and for a change, I'm quite sure I'll get it all done. I'm going to finish this post, take a shower and put on some sweats. I'm going to have some more of my delicious coffee and I'm going to sit in my sunshiney dining room and soak in Jesus as I prepare for my small groups. I'm going to let my body and mind rest and recover from a few hard days at work which have left me with aching muscles. I'm not going to watch television to see if there's something I need to see that I didn't realize I needed to see until I found it channel surfing. I'm having a different kind of day.
So I'm posting late. I'm letting the Holy Spirit whisper wisdom to me and not leaning on my own understanding. If He loves me, He'll set me up to prepare for a busy week in the best way. My way would've had me at wit's end by lunchtime. I'm going to give this crazy slow-moving day of spiritual and physical maintenance a try. So far I like it. My belly is full. My body is rested. I'm excited to get into the Word and into my conversation with Jesus to see what He's up to today. I'm quiet on the inside and I'm going to keep my house quiet too. I'll let you know how it goes.
This is the day that the Lord has made for me. I will enjoy it and be glad He made me a crazy lazy maintenance day. Psalm 118:24 New Sara Version (NSV)

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Weight Is Over

“...let us lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

I have carried my share of weight never intended for me. I have been literally obese at 265 pounds and spiritually obese with worries and sins and shame. My body has been an allegory for my spirit.
I took on the weight in my body during my first pregnancy in 1988, but truthfully I had been creeping in an upward direction for a few years before that. That’s the insidious thing about weight, you tolerate a few pounds and a size or two or discomfort in your jeans and if you’re like me, you remain intentionally in denial of what’s really happening. During that pregnancy though, what was hidden and secret became impossible to ignore. The first non-pregnancy clothing I bought after my son’s birth was in a plus size store and a size 22 skirt. Roughly speaking, I was up 80 pounds. I don’t exactly remember as I let the numbers float over my head when the doctor weighed me and warned me about my excessive gain.
Pregnancy number two came in six months and unexpectedly (my mother recommended the Mr. and I watch more television). A six month old at home, mounting stress, immaturity and another baby on the way. I kept gaining. Maternity clothes were difficult to find so I had few and did little. I finished that pregnancy in a size 22-24. Elastic waists became my best friend.
I had a fantasy in which I was thin and beautiful but no determination to bridge fantasy to reality. I was in a state of heart I would only call existence. I loved my boys so that was a source of pleasure and distraction rolled into two perfect little packages. My marriage was turning uglier by the day, not unlike my body. The Mr. and I had a common interest, food. I could win his favor with a good meal, his favorite snacks or a dinner out.
I told myself that motherhood had elevated me beyond vanity and so my weight was acceptable in my role. I was neat and clean and wore comfortable “mom” clothes. Moms don’t need to wear high heels or look or feel attractive. They only need to be good moms. I worked at that and lost myself. I told myself that bigger was ok, in a way it was empowering. So I lost myself in that too. I was in a marriage headed for divorce and felt no desire to feel desirable. I lost that part of myself. I lost so much of myself that I was a huge empty shell that I continued to attempt to fill with food.
God remains forever faithful even as we are foolish. Whatever parts of my life I was willing to truly surrender, He took and made right. My boys are jewels. My marriage was healed. And still I ate. I had accepted the weight that had so easily beset me even as I attempted to run the race before me. Somewhere in that time I threw away the fantasies of a thin and beautiful me and decided I was meant for fatness. Or at least I could tolerate it. I could live with it as my life was happy and rich. I’d just be the fat woman. Fine.
Spiritual obesity is the same way. I think that’s why Paul draws us to the concept of weight and sin that besets (troubles or harasses persistently) us. Once we’ve accepted the Christ of salvation, we start attacking those sins one by one and identifying what needs to go. The weight though, the weight is different.
My spirit was as overweight as my body. My heart was full of things I should have laid at the cross with my sins. I was convinced, though, that certain aspects of my heart and my mind were my own responsibility to fix. The irony was that I had surrendered my life, but not all of my life. I didn’t lie or cheat or steal or murder...these I gave away my rights to. But I held on to hurt, disillusionment, offense, shame, anger, bitterness, disappointment, fear and much more. I thought it was my job as at the Christian to bear these little crosses. I thought that’s what the writer meant when he said, “take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). I thought it was a mark of valor to bear my great weight.
Weight of the body and the mind affect us in ways of which we are aware and those we are not. At 265 pounds I slept poorly and awoke tired. I had sore feet, legs, back, everything. I was lethargic and short-tempered. I didn’t want to be around anyone and called it a “loner personality”. My stomach hurt, my chest hurt, my head hurt. I called it poor stamina. I didn’t participate in physical activity and explained that I’d never been athletic. I never said, it’s my fat. I can’t do this, or I must do that because I am fat. I didn’t even tell myself the truth.
My spiritual weight held me back as well. I kept people at arm’s length but never knew I was missing out on joyous friendships. I called myself spiritual, a deep thinker and believed my high standards were why I didn’t touch people in “the world”. I peered at my pastor and church family through self-righteous lenses and found no one worthy of their position or my trust. I heard the spoken and the unspoken from those around me and assumed the worst. I was too smart to let someone who had hurt me hurt me twice so I threw relationships away with ease. I applied the same microscope to my own life that I did to everyone else and found myself lacking too. And I hated myself. And I was too ashamed to feel God. I didn’t want Him to look at me. It was a relief somehow to not feel His love because then I wouldn’t feel my lack of worthiness.
My overweight body isolated me and buried the real me under layers of physical fat and emotional shame. No matter what I attempted I thought of myself as “the fat woman who...” There is no hiding the fat woman. I dreaded social events, especially those when people who hadn’t seen me in years would be present. I’d dress up and push the reality far from my mind. I would never, never say that I didn’t want to be seen. I’d say I don’t like those people, those people don’t like me, I hate social events. I’d make an appearance if there was no escape, but I’d exit as quickly as possible. I’d tell myself that I was dressed in pretty clothes and that people would call me a pretty fat woman, and that was ok.
The fat limited me into a smaller and smaller space and hid me behind a larger and larger curtain until there was no me to be seen. My spiritual weight did the same thing. It convinced me that it wasn’t really hurting me, it isolated me, it shoved the creation of God aside until I was barely recognizable.
The end of the charade came one September day when I prayed the prayer I always had, “God make me thin tonight without dieting. Let it be a miracle and I will praise you. Make me never want food again. Amen.” But the spiritual fat girl had been working out for a while at that point. She had been cleaning house and throwing away the weight of her heart. She had given up her rights to her heaviness and learned to walk lightly in joy. The spiritual fat girl was getting lighter and leaner and stronger. So I added an addendum to my prayer, “God, show me who I really am and what this fat body really looks like and what cost I’m really paying. Take off my blinders.”
Scary prayer, take off my blinders. It was a rough few months after that. I had become adept at looking in mirrors and seeing myself in small parts. Blurring the edges and not looking too hard. Now I saw, I really saw, me. Two hundred and sixty five pounds on five feet and five inches. Sloppy, large, unhealthy. I looked unhealthy. My complexion was too ruddy. My hair was limp. My eyes were dull. I looked tired and I had dark circles that make up couldn’t touch. Then I started feeling unhealthy. I felt the heaviness in my chest with minimal exertion. My legs ached and my feet ached and I felt it in every nerve. My back hurt. I became acutely aware that I didn’t sleep well and so I wanted to doze constantly. And all of this became uglier and uglier to me. And I asked God again, “let me see the ugliness.” And I saw a woman killing herself and a woman who was making herself incapable of God’s calling.
I went to Weight Watchers. I prayed for my leader and my husband (who went with me) and myself. I prayed over my food and my mind. I made it spiritual the moment I realized it’s all spiritual. The weight had so easily beset me, but it didn’t so easily be-leave me It was work. But after one week, with only a little bit off and over a hundred left to lose; the heaviest weight was gone. Shame. I wasn’t ashamed any more. I was the same size but I was different. My spirit was reshaped.
Yes, I lost all the weight after three years. Yes, it is sometimes still hard. Yes, it is worth it. The weight fools you. It makes you think it’s pleasure, but it is the pleasure for a season that kills. I don’t hurt anymore, in body or spirit. I can reach out because now my spirit is light with real LIGHT and my body is no longer in my way. I have decreased so He can increase (John 3:30). I got out of my own way physically and spiritually.
When God tells me to approach someone on His behalf, there is no fear of what they will think of my body. There is also no fear of my spirit being unprotected. I am light. He is Light. It’s a good combination. Run with confidence. Lay aside the weight.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Happy Sunday! I have a problem with every other Sunday. I work. I'm a nurse, have been for almost two years now. Prior to that I had NEVER worked Sundays. I am still not used to missing church, I ache inside everytime I miss church. I watch the clock and think, now they're singing, now the lesson,... Ugh. Makes me sad. So to comfort myself I decided to put "church" into a scripture search and share one of the verses I got. From here on, I'll post a verse on Sundays and instead of my insight, I'll ask for yours. Look at it, think about it, wonder about it. And if you have something to share...comment! From now on, I'm at church every Sunday morning...with you! God Bless!

"Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever., the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified." Isaiah 60:21

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In His Image

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27

Our church is starting a series Sunday called “Old School”. We’ll spend the year looking at the beginnings of this journey by starting in the Old Testament. Can I tell you that I can’t wait? It’s like the best of the old Sunday School stories with an edge
My mind, roaming around in Old Testament territory, wandered to Saturday and the question of what God did on Saturday, a.k.a. Day Six. OK, Saturday is our day six and we’re on a different calendar but cut me some slack. You may already know the answer, He created me. Well, not just me but the potential of me. He created the possibility of me. And you.
I look around everyday and find Him in snowy landscapes and rushing rivers and even starry skies on my way to work. I take in the grandeur of creation and see His fingerprints but I’m missing the real fingerprints of God because they are on me. Nothing else was created in His image. Nothing else is so magnificent as His image. And that is the template for me?
I don’t feel all that spectacular. I’m tired and I don’t want to go to work. I’ve eaten too many fat free potato chips the last few days and I’m bloaty. I can’t imagine God is ever bloaty. I am easily distracted, discouraged and disenchanted. If I were the Creator, I’d have called it quits on Day Five.
But no, on the sixth day He was back on the job. Having flung the solar system into place, scooped out the oceans and sent the earth spinning into the days and seasons in which we still live, God created man and woman. With the ability to procreate. So someday He would have me.
It seems sometimes like maybe He started the job and took an extended coffee break that He isn’t back from yet. The only image of God I see is my five-fingered hands and five-toed feet. It’s like He had a good start, two eyes, one nose, a head. But then the really good stuff, the God stuff, got overlooked.
However, I’m questioning, when did I decide that “in his own image” meant physical characteristics? The image of God might be more than flowing hair and piercing eyes. Don’t go nuts, I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t “look” like we imagine, as if we could imagine. I’m saying that there might be a long buried potential for His image in me. There might be a treasure buried in the Garden of Eden that is supposed to be me. The image of God, stamped on my DNA. My potential and the possibility of my life breathed into reality on Day Six. In all that creative fury, in the painting of the flowers and the sculpting of the mountains did God have something more in mind for me than a face?
My mom and dad passed on certain physical characteristics to me. I have his chin, something of her in my eyes, shades of them both that are hard to describe. I think I have the same elusive shades of God in me too. But I also inherited her voice, his need for justice, her sense of humor, his sense of family, her nurturing, his values. Some of the invisible is visible in me. All those years ago in Eden on Day Six, what potential did God lay over my DNA from His perfect image? Do I love like Him? Would I give unlimited second chances? Do I cloak people in grace? How far does my mercy extend? Do I act kind, or am I kind? Would I give my only begotten son for a world who would reject Him?
I want to live up to my potential. I want to see more of God in my own heart than in all of creation. I want Him to look on me from His throne and say, “That’s why I created her.” So God created the potential for Sara in His own image, in the image of God created He what Sara can become. You and me and all of us, He created. With potential. With enough second chances to find the way back to our Father’s DNA. In His image.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Better Days

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere...Psalm 84:10

One of my favorite verses reads that one day in the courts of the Lord God is better than a thousand elsewhere. In fact, the entire chapter gives me gooseflesh. The writer says that his soul faints for God, that his heart and flesh cry out. He says that everyone in Zion goes from strength to strength and appears before God. David, the author of Psalm 84, calls God his sun and shield and proclaims that no good thing will be denied to His people. No wonder David is excited about one day in God’s presence. It makes me think of how busy I am and of the time I waste “elsewhere”. It makes me ask myself, would I trade the years ahead for one day with Him? I’ll be honest with you, I spend most of my time elsewhere.
My friend’s mom just died. She was in her 80s and had been ill with Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. My friend has known this day was coming since I met her almost two years ago and has dreaded it with every new morning. Death does to me what I think it does to most of us; we think of the deceased with tenderness, we think of the bereaved with sympathy and then we think of ourselves. We think of our own mortality. I look at my grieving friend and wonder about those that will grieve me. I wonder.
I know few things but one is that I have already spent roughly half the years allotted to me. That’s assuming old age. On the long list of the things I don’t know is if I’m overestimating what remains of me. My friend’s mom died today after a long illness with plenty of time to prepare, to speak and to love. I’m hoping I’m living the same way but in case I’m not...
Don’t mourn me hard. Better is one day, one moment, one breath in God’s courts. That’s on the short list of things I know. I have had glimpses and it left me hungry. It left me saying like King David, my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Don’t weep if my years are short, better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere. I don’t want that thousand. I am myself in His presence, and spend too much time in the elsewheres. So don’t mourn me hard.
Don’t grieve me long. If you are taken with the need to honor me, stretch your life toward Jesus. If thoughts of me don’t turn you toward Him, I have not lived as I intended. Don’t spend time with graveyards and tombstones and flowers. Run, run, run to the life He gave you. Don’t let grief become your elsewhere, go to His courts.
Don’t wonder if I knew I was loved. I know. I’m overwhelmed with it. Don’t think it was your job to make me feel your love, it is my job to accept it. If you suspect I didn’t always know how to be loved, you are correct. But I learned. That came with my moments in the courts of God; I learned to be loved. Time well-spent.
If you’re feeling morbid, please don’t. I don’t. I’m in a celebratory mood. I know the path to God’s courts. I’m allowed in. I can even get there from elsewhere. And I finally understand it is better there. That’s why when I’m the one who has died; I’ll be better off than you, if you remain. Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere? What about forever in His courts? Elsewhere over, better days coming. Move over David.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Content: a state of peaceful happiness, this according to the Oxford dictionary. I don't have a better definition. Happiness can be attained by a variety of means but peaceful happiness goes deeper. It's soul happiness. It's past understanding (Philippians 4:7).
I noticed yesterday my own contentment and the words of Paul came to mind, "for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances." It's just like Jesus to show us truth like a photographic negative. Where better to test your contentment than in those circumstances that should destroy it?
Yesterday I was a busy girl. I had a ton of organizing on the agenda with our kitchen remodel nearing completion, groceries to be bought, etc. Ever the multi-tasker, returning from the grocery store I threw the chilli ingredients into the pot as I unpacked the groceries as I sifted through the clutter. Soon I was humming along with grocereies put away and chilli simmering. It was a lovely pot of chilli too.
So I turned my attention to the organization of my new cabinets and dining room and turned the chilli up to high for that ten seconds of boil it needs to get "right". Have you guessed? Yup. I noticed the chilli after I smelled the burn about 15 minutes later. With dread I dipped in the ladle hoping I could salvage it and felt the singed pinto bean goop on the bottom. I even put a little in a cup to taste it. Burned. Ruined. Gross. Down the disposal.
I filled the pot with hot sudsy water and returned to my organization and then realized several minutes later that I was happy. Content. I even tried to get aggravated for a minute because this was certainly a justifiably aggravating turn of events. I ran over the reasons I should be upset; money wasted, no dinner, pot needs scrubbing, house stinks, effort wasted. Nope. Still not irritated. Huh. Whatever the circumstances, content.
I am learning to be content. Learning is an important word because it implies conscious effort. Intentional discipline of the mind and emotions. It's a decision, really, to learn anything. Therefore, we must
decide to learn to be content. This brings to mind another truth. We only need to learn that which doesn't come naturally. Our fallen state, our humanness, our imperfect instincts lead us away from contentment; from peaceful happiness. We live in an attitude of "why me?" Why does the next guy have more money, better hair, more breaks? It's fertile ground to be discontent. It's easy to see the cup half empty or the person with more rather than the person with less. So we must decide to be content by refusing discontent. Like me, maybe you've even searched for the reason to hold on to being miserable. It's so much easier to let it go. Whatever the circumstance.
I will be content. It's not I will react with contentment or I will get content when...fill in the blanks. I will exist in contentment. Back to the Oxford Dictionary. I will have the specified state of contentment. Whatever mess is happening, my state is peaceful happiness, says the Apostle Paul. Stop waiting for perfect circumstances. Start living and being
Perspective. Take a peak at the fourth chapter of Philippians in its entirety. Paul tells us to think of things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praise-worthy. What's rolling around in your mind today, yesterday, tomorrow? Paul also says to take everything to God in prayer, rejoice and then after that, rejoice again. Once that's done, peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds. Try it. You'll be astounded when your chilli burns and it doesn't phase you. And it works with the bigger stuff too.
The heart and mind guarded in Christ. I have had a heart and mind unguarded, unkept and vulnerable. It wore me out. It caused dehydration of my soul. Ever been really thirsty? Feels awful and you can't even think straight. That's not just discomfort, that's your body telling you that it's hurting. And only water can re-hydrate. Pop, coffee, tea,'s all a momentary comfort to our palates. We still need good old water. The Holy Spirit is water to my soul. I can put alot of other stuff in to push aside the tiredness of my dehydrated spirit. Entertainment, work, even anger or denial. But until my mind has been surrendered by the act of disciplining my thoughts; there is no guard over my heart and therefore, no peace.
So I decide to be content and think on the God stuff. Rejecting hurts, disappointments and offenses. Rejoice, and then do it again. Praise pushes the junk aside and as it floats to the surface I pray and give it to Christ. Then I rejoice again because He always takes it. My heart is guarded and my soul thirst is quenched by peace that doesn't make sense and suddenly; I am content.
Read the rest of the chapter. Verse thirteen, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." Verse nineteen, "My God shall supply all your needs..." I can face this day of burned chilli or broken hearts. I won't be destroyed. There is a guard at the gates of my heart.
I am learning to be content no matter what. I am learning that the stuff that won't matter after Jesus comes doesn't matter at all. I am learning that if money can fix it, it ain't broke. I am learning to rejoice and then rejoice again. I am learning that the good, pure, holy, true, honest, just, lovely,virturous and praise-worthy would fill the sky if I wrote it all down. I am learning to not need to understand why things happen. I am learning to not understand my peace. I am learning that I do understand...because my God has always supplied all my needs. He loves me. HE loves ME. That is beyond understanding. That is peace. I am content.