Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Sign Points to a Free For All

This is one of our favorite street signs. There is one outside of the Michael’s parking lot. I fail to understand the direction that it indicates. Why don’t they just put “Free For All”, on a sign, or “Anything Goes”.

They could, but that is not what they mean. They mean that all of these directions are permissible. Instead of restricting, they are allowing. Technicality, I know, but my husband and I are at one of those life signs right now.

The big decision looms out there. We don’t feel a firm stop, and we don’t feel an imperative direction to go. So, we know that it will either happen or it will not, today or in 5 years. (You can insert your own decision anywhere you would like in this scenario.) So, although this future thing festers and burrows into our lives long after we dismiss it, we still have no idea what purpose it serves. My street sign is telling me nothing.

I can get stuck at this street sign. This is an A-type’s worst case scenario. I know what the decision is and I don’t want to be permitted this much choice. I want to be restricted to one way. I like rules because when you follow them you get a gold star (I really do give myself stars for completing my exercise everyday). This is a street sign of permission, and I want a street sign of instruction.

It is where we all stand in the middle of life decisions. We can go right, or left, or straight, take your pick. It leaves some of us crying at the top of our lungs for a severe “Left Only” sign.

In the midst of uncertainty, my main concern is faithfulness. My hope lies in sovereignty. I know that my faithfulness will pull me into God’s will. I don’t have to understand the outcome, as long as I am faithful in the process.

Could someone, please, remind me of this when I pace later today?

I know that the next decision, turning left, right or going straight, could take me down THE path. I just have to be willing to turn until He brings me there.

In this, I find that flexibility is key. When I trust, I can be flexible. When I don’t, I am capable of levitation. It is not flattering.

These struggles have happened during some important decisions. In Matthew 2:19-22, NRSV,

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.

Joseph did not start thinking, “I will fulfill the prophecy that Jesus will be called a Nazorean.” Instead, he went to Bethlehem, Egypt, and Israel, was on his way into Judea and ended up in Galilee. Was the hand of God on him at every turn? Absolutely.

This is my favorite part of the decision. Joseph is settling his family, finally. It is looking good for them right now. In fact, he just got orders to head to the land of Israel. Then what happened? He got scared. Do you have a question that God uses emotions like fear? There is your answer.

It was after this that the angel came and redirected him. The process is so important here. Joseph had to listen to the urgings of God as he carried his precious cargo across these borders. His emotions were affirmed by God’s messenger.

Imagine with me, Joseph was on the home stretch, believing that this ambiguous time of life was almost over, when there was one more change. This is usually our emotional tipping point. This was the only time that Joseph doubted the journey before him. God in His mysterious ways then granted them passage to Nazareth, and there they settled.

What does this mean for you? I have no idea. What does this mean for me? I am not being restricted, yet. I need to continue being faithful, listening to every urging of God. I need to wait for Him to affirm my urgings, and continue in His plan.

Are you at a permissible street sign (and how does that look for you), or are you at a restricted street sign, right now?

Father, thank you for showing us that you are faithful in our perceived ambiguity. Thank you for your sovereign hand controlling every moment of our lives. Urge us to see the plan for the next small step in your will. Affirm these urgings and carry us on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stubborn As a Mule Ox

Everyone has their quirks. I am sure that you have little idiosyncrasies that your friends know and love. It makes you, you. I would love to hear what they are, so have some compassion on this blogger and make me smile by telling me one in the comments section.

I have certain qualities that cause me some amount of grief. I am horrible with idioms. Yesterday, I was talking to our beloved church secretary, and I asked her if I was going up a dead tree. It made perfect sense to me. She informed me that I was mixing my idioms. This offers my husband minutes of head shaking and smirking every day of our marriage. I could stop using them, but then what would I say?

So, this morning one of my “qualities” caught my attention. I am stubborn as a mule ox. I don’t think that sounds quite right, either, but moving on.

I was doing laundry. Completely ignoring the heeding of Emily, over at Chatting at the Sky. I stopped to think half way down the hall. The laundry is sorted, so all that I have to do is get it to the washer. So, I take a pile.

This sounds easy, but no. I stoop to the ground raking in clothes, piling them to the point of explosion in my arms. I cannot carry them completely upright because I am relying, partially, on the tops of my legs as a barricade. Bent legged and without adjustment, for fear of losing the load, I hobble to the laundry room looking more like a troll than a woman.

I had to stop and think because when you carry the laundry in your arms like this, the inevitable will happen. I heard the soft pattering of my usual defeat. Behind me lay the carnage of those discarded in the process, a sock, a sports bra, a shirt.

To complete the process, I actually do it all twice. In order to get everything to the laundry room, I unsuccessfully carry the first load and then go back to clean up the mess I left behind.

Some of you would say, “Buy a laundry basket”. Yes, you hit the nail in the board? Excellent advice. I happen to have one, five steps from where I stoop to scoop. It is lovely and tall with wheels. It is the perfect laundry cart. So, the problem does not lie with resource. The problem is me and my “the hard way is faster” mentality. I am stubborn as an ox mule, or is it the other way around?

In an overly simplistic way, this is the history of my prayer life. I know what to do, that is not the problem. I had to train myself to pray because I am a go-at-it-on-your-own, stubborn girl. I will pick up the mess of clothes strewn from one side of the house to the other several times before I say, “Why didn’t I just use the laundry basket?”

My spiritual life is not complete without constant awareness of His presence and dedicated time in front of the Father, but I still have to sit myself, in time out, to get it done some days. After I do this I say, “Why didn’t I just do that first?”

This decision is my act of worship. I turn myself to him in spite of my mental white noise, actively choosing Him. These choices make the difference in my walk.

I encourage you today to do it the easy way. Use a laundry basket, number one. Secondly, stop and think of the resources that are available to you. The Spirit has access to the depths of heaven. Thirdly, remember Rome wasn’t built in a pan’s flash, or something like that. Be patient with yourself.

Are you an ox mule? Let me know how that is going for you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

You Will Become Someone

One of the lessons that we are teaching the youth right now is life purpose. I keep telling the girls, “You will become someone, so you might as well have a say in it”.

The wonderful thing about being young is the constant present tense. This is, also, what sends their mothers to the aspirin bottle. Without the benefit of a long past, how can one foresee a long future? They are learning to gaze at an ambiguous trail before them.

We went over Psalm 139, again, yesterday morning.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth (Psalm 139:13:16, NRSV).

Can you imagine what an act of love it must be to take something in your image, crafted by your hand, and see him, or her, through to the end that you desire for them? Wouldn’t you want to give that creation the best purpose imaginable? It sounds similar to what parents want for their children, minus the creator part.

It makes me desire His will in every moment. If only I were that perfect!

As adults, we move from the constant present tense to memories of a painful and joyful past. We, stubbornly, start to think of our future. We make plans and we consider the “what ifs”.

Somehow, in our broken human minds, the future becomes our present. It is, as though, the present continued moving forward one second during each event in our lives. We no longer worry about the real present but the future present; it makes my brain hurt.

As the present shifts, our life experience makes us question control. We can admit our lack of it, but we relegate it to the winds of chance. We fail to carry it to the throne of God to sacrifice it. In this sacrifice, we acknowledge sovereignty of the one true King over every moment of our lives.

The lesson of life purpose, at its best, goes hand-in-hand with this sacrifice. It requires that we ask questions of ourselves. Do I believe that God is sovereign? Do I believe that God, who carefully crafted us, also has a unique, attainable purpose for us?

Wait, let me answer it for you; I know that He has a life purpose for you.

On my trek through Revelation, I ran across this verse.

For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled (Revelation 17:17, NRSV).

Even to those who will never choose to know God, those who will curse Him and never repent, He is still sovereign. He is sovereign whether we give Him that honor in our lives, or not. He reigns regardless of our formal acknowledgments.

I encourage you, today, because we serve a God who is sovereign. He made us wonderfully. We fall under His loving control. As His, we wait for His words to be fulfilled in our lives and in the course of the world. What an honor to belong to Him! What an honor to have a life purpose in Him!

Do you feel that you have a life purpose? Let me know what this looks like right now in your life. You are reading part of mine.

Father, thank you for not leaving us to chance but, instead, being fully Yourself. You are the Creator, the loving Father and we desire your will in our lives. Shape us into our purpose and enlighten us to claim your victory in our lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Baby Steps Through Revelation

Consider this more conversational than informative. Most of the time that I blog, I write about something that I am reading that morning. So, if I am reading 1 Peter, I write about some little nugget that was pointed out to me while I was studying. What you see, is what I see.

I mark many nuggets in my bible that I never get to, or some that will have to wait until another time. That is what I have been writing out of lately, those that have waited.

Why? Because, I am reading Revelation.

Revelation is THE book that makes me step back and go, wow, baby steps. I once had to outline Revelation in seminary, to the detail. It might have conditioned me to aversion.

Not only that, but there is so much controversy about it…often, unnecessary controversy. I do not see the doom and gloom side of God, much. I never come to that conclusion on my own. I think that is because I trust Him.

I trust that, like every other event in my life, I will be ready for it if I am meant to go through it. I also believe that whether I am an amillennialist, pre-millennialist, or post-millennialist, I don’t have to be right. I trust that God knows what He is doing.

I see Revelation like a wonderful watercolor. It is full of distractions and runs. It has shapes but no defined edges. I don’t mind its lack of assurance, and then complete assurance. In all of these duplicitous tangles, I find God’s sovereignty.

This is my favorite image, so far. In my mind, I am a pillar in the temple of God; and, as I read, I find myself longing to be the church in Philadelphia.

“If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” – Revelation 3:12, NRSV

I am SO there; and, that is what scripture does for me. It leaves me wanting more.

This being said, I am enjoying my journey through Revelation.

Do you feel intimidated by any book in the bible?

BTW, thank you for those of you who went over to the Internet Café, yesterday. I appreciate all of your support and comments, more than you know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Today I Am a Guest Barista

Today, something special is happening at JESUS.WOMAN.WORDS. I am a guest barista over at the Internet Café. To read today’s devotional at the Internet Café, click here.

This is a taste of what you will see…


Luke 21:34 & 35 (NRSV), “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”

If there was just today, only today of which I was guaranteed, what would it look like?

I would have opened my eyes this morning, not half-heartedly and eager for my first cup of coffee, but eager to see the face of my Lord. I would think about Him like it was my birthday. I would wonder what He will look like and what I could possibly say to Him. I might even wear a dress…

To read more, click here >

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You Want to Pray for Patience, Really?

When I used to do singles ministry, as I was a single myself, I noticed commonality in prayer life. There are lots of life events that you wait for when you are single. You wait for a husband, a house or a pet. You wait for time to start hobbies or you wait for promotions. This is not to say that you only wait. As you wait, you fill your schedule from morning until night.

I recall many a women’s group at prayer request time. Someone would say, “How can I pray for you?” Without fail the answers rung out, “Pray that I will have patience”. It is interesting how a life can be so busy and, yet, require so much patience. It is like living on both sides of a coin. They were waiting for something.

I was an oddball. Did I pray for patience? False, I did not pray for patience (said like Dwight Schrutte of The Office). This prayer terrified me. Ask God to refine you and He will. There is only one way to get that lesson and I happen to encounter it, still, every time I leave my house. I do not want an extra dose of the lesson ending in patience.

I have also noticed that young mothers do not pray for patience, and if you do maybe that is the problem. God listens and He listens perfectly. Don’t say what you don’t mean. Can’t you imagine Him sitting there thinking, “What in the world is she saying, didn’t I give her a screaming baby, yesterday?”

I have good news for all of those who bravely traverse this land of patience, however. I have found your verse. You are the righteous ones it turns out, so congratulations.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home (2 Peter 2:11-13, NRSV).

It says it all right there, what kind of persons should we be if our goal is to look more like our Lord? We need to be waiting people. We are waiting for the return of Jesus and the completion of His promise. Waiting is the active verb in these verses.

Active? Waiting can be active. Although I have been, sort of, kidding about praying for patience, this kind of waiting requires acts of patience, as I am sure you know. Our lives need to settle like a laser beam toward the future, resting only on one prize, going home. In the meantime, we actively wait.

This patience rests in righteousness and promise. It is not patience based on the what-ifs, and I wants. It is generous for God to tell us exactly what we are waiting for, so we can focus our energies on Him. Some days I have to refocus myself, more than once, to remember that my primary act of waiting is not when I start dinner.

So, will I pray for patience? Only if I mean it. I know that it is already promised to me through the Spirit. So, it is a matter of retrieval, not access. I have found that most of my patience problems come from my surrendering problems in the present. You know what I mean?

So, let’s set our laser beams on our future promise, actively waiting together.

Is there something wonderful that you are waiting for in the meantime?

Father, thank you for revealing our destiny to us. Teach us how to actively wait for your return. Fill us with this hope for your promise.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Well Intentioned Email


What a convenient, informative, misrepresentative tool that begins and ends conversations, and friendships, with a period in the form of a question mark. The receiver sits and wonders, what did that mean? She sounds angry. I wonder if I did something wrong. I don’t think I like her literary tone. If one has hit the send button, then one understands the well intended email.

This is a cautionary tale. Email is a blessing and a curse. Texting…I can’t even begin to talk about that. If you are in a rush, then your email separates itself from common niceties to fit within commercial breaks. If you have a weekend to spare, your friends scroll down in hopes that your monologue has an end. Either way, it is missing the most important element of communication, a face.

Isn’t it interesting that body language is said to be between 80% - 95% of your communication skill. So, when we climb in our inbox, we are only running at 5%-20% of our total ability. Anything running at 5% is basically flat lined.

Still we persist. It is a way to drop quick notes, and intertwine lives. What did our grandparents do? How exhausting to make social dates or have people drop by for dinner when they could have just followed Facebook status.

In reading the Johns, 1, 2, and 3, I have noticed all sorts of useful information. See yesterday’s, Three Steps to Conflict Resolution. John gives indication that he is savvy to the well intentioned email problem, and there was no email. If you think about it, snail mail (and this would be really snail-like) was the email of the day.

2 John 12, NRSV, tells me that communication involves choice,

“Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

3 John 13 & 14 reiterates this idea,

“I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; 14 instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.”

Sometimes there is a lot to say and, sometimes, it is important, as the content of the Johns demonstrates. Like John, we have to know when to wait and save it.

I have poured real emotion into an email before and it just did not translate on the other end. Sound familiar? I have been accused of arrogance when that was the last thing on my mind. I have sent out a note while rolling my eyes, which means it was destined to communicate my inability to control my emotional state. Unfortunately, I have, at times, come across as one who should not be trusted with the privilege of email’s immediate gratification.

In these two verses, I see that John demonstrates his concern for the recipient of these letters. The goal is complete joy within relationship, amongst believers. This reflects so much more than just communication. It demonstrates character, expressing the genuine nature of his intentions. Sometimes, we just need to wait.

Here is the challenge that I see from this. Whenever you are poised over the “send” key, think of John and ask yourself, if I hit send will our joy be complete?

Do you think this is a reasonable course of action?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Steps to Conflict Resolution

Interpersonally, our churches have the ability to struggle. Why? We are humans in a room with other humans. Ideally, we are loving and growing; but often, we are marking our corners and encouraging our friends to huddle up.

This is unfortunate but it is not new. I was reading 3 John this weekend (exhausting, I know, jk!). It is said to be written between A.D. 70 and A.D. 90. So, John is telling us that misuse of power in the church is already in full swing.

I came across a wonderful little subplot. I don’t watch reality TV, so this pretty juicy to me.

“I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God (3 John 9-11, NRSV).”

My first reaction to this passage was, “That is pretty bold”. John just said that Diotrephes is spreading rumors about John and his representatives, and it has turned into a full blown cat fight. As the evening news and the History Channel show us, ecclesiastical power is and, forever, has been a source of controversy.

The offense of Diotrephes is his refusal to show hospitality. Hospitality is not something that we have invented, although there are so many amazing blogs to check out revolutionizing the way it looks. Hospitality was essential to the Jewish tradition.

This rich legacy flowed easily through the first followers of The Way, meeting in house churches. Hospitality was not optional; it was a representation of the faith. The meeting of the church was literally embedded in someone’s hospitality. Thinking about this alters my understanding of hospitality. How about you?

To refuse hospitality was to offend the one who sent these friends. John understood the message that was being sent from Diotrephes. Diotrephes did not stop there, however, he was throwing people out of the church that showed the friends traditional kindnesses. It is like the worst case scenario, elementary school, playground routine. You are my friend and if you talk to them, you cannot be my friend.

Moving from the offense to the solution, John says not to worry. He does not say to make a big stink or confront Diotrephes. He simply says that he will talk to him when, and if, he comes. If he comes? So, this could never be resolved?

He gives good, concise spiritual advice…don’t act like that. We tell kids that all of the time. “Don’t act like Diotrephes; he is setting a bad example”. Then John lays it out in very simple words. If he is doing good, then it is from God, but if he doesn’t then he has not seen, or perceived, what God is really like.

Don’t we do that? We tell God who He is and then one day He just blows us away by revealing Himself. What a blessing of our faith that we continue to grow and understand God in new and more mature ways! I love those revelatory moments, although they make me feel a little silly in retrospect.

I hope that this was not the end of this story. I hope that 4 John said something like, “And then Diotrephes perceived God and invited the friends in for fellowship, while writing a letter of peace to me”. Maybe that happened, maybe not. Maybe the church was unshackled by his inhospitable ways, maybe not.

This is what we need to pray for amongst believers. There are people that we know who need to see what God is really like. They need God, not us, to show them when pride leads to overburdening oneself, or arrogance leads to being the one with the mic. We must persist in prayer for the body, while maintaining our sight, and perception, of God. This is tricky ground and requires diligence.

John’s advice is so relevant in our church, today. Don’t fixate on the problem. Don’t make it worse by gossiping, and if it doesn’t look like God then don’t act like that. The three steps to conflict resolution in the church.

Are you facing conflicts in your church body? Do John’s words help you process response to conflict in the church?

Father, thank you for dealing perfectly with conflict. Give us patience and perseverance in the middle of discord, and let us reflect you in uncertainty. Show yourself to us so that we can be unmoved. Give us a heart for your hospitality, and let us welcome in your people.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rescuing Hype

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:13 - 16, NRSV).

I read this a few weeks ago and never completed a thought on it. This morning I was looking through my margins during my quiet time, or my TAWG (time alone with God, thank you Amy for emailing me a new name for my devos).

I wrote “never be rescued but act”.

I certainly have been the object of rescue, although I usually sense it in hindsight. The present takes the act of rescue and turns it into steps of logic. Often, we go from one step to the other without thought. One reason could be because steps are hard. Hard does not mean rescue to us.

Rescue removes us from a situation unscathed, unmarked, and without fatigue. Rescue allows us to powder our nose before we make a hair-flipping exit. Rescue is appealing, but this life has not provided me much of this. My rescues happen by the skin of my teeth. I have scars and mental images left from these near misses. My rescues are born out of a million tiny decisions in a direction, but they are still unlikely and leave me on my knees, grateful.

This verse is centered in the present. It is the hard and fast how to, of “I have a problem”. I have often sat with people who did not want to hear this verse. They do not want to act, but be rescued. They want to say that cool one-liner existing only in movie land, as the building blows up behind them. Personally, I would like to be rescued of these 15 pounds, instead of having to get on the treadmill.

James say, no. If we suffer, we pray. If we are cheerful, we sing. If we are sick, we call for the body of Christ. If we sin, we ask forgiveness, we confess. It is in action, not in rescue that we demonstrate faithfulness, a steadfast love for Jesus.

Are you in a place where it would be easier to be rescued than to act?

Father, thank you for your methods of rescue. Thank you for showing us that we are the beloved in the way that you are in relationship with us. Where we struggle, let our hearts turn to you in prayer. Let every moment of this weekend turn us to you in celebration and in sorrow. Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stop Talking, Start Doing

I have hesitated to bring this up because of the fallout that can occur around the best of intentions. I have begun a new exercise routine. I am not doing it alone, however. I have a dear friend who has agreed to take this journey with me. I have not asked her if I can talk about it, so I will leave her anonymous for now.

Let me tell you why I started. I got sick to death of talking about it. Do you have those things in your life? Some day, I will (_______). I just hate being (________). I don’t want to be that woman who is always talking about doing something and never doing anything.

For me, it is a matter of discipline. I love the word of God. As I read it, I can’t ignore the call to discipline. I am not saying that the bible is referring to exercise, but we are supposed to live disciplined lives. That means we set priorities and we plan our lives according to these. My health is a priority.

1 Corinthians 9:27, says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

I don’t want to waste my time watching my body waste away. I certainly don’t want that for my husband. I want to steward even this part of my life.

It has been a struggle to find a program that works after my back surgery, last year; and because of this, I have been more lenient than ever in sticking to something. It is these days of discomfort that allow me say, “No, not today”. But, I have a new reason…fellowship.

It is worth the pain to commiserate with my friend. Luckily, she is hysterical and A-type, which are magical together. This will be an easier journey, and a more intentional one, with her by my side.

I encourage you today. What are the priorities that you are putting off? Are they cleaning the house, reading a book, having quiet times, doing something special for hubby? What about a new hobby? Usually the things that we should be doing are painfully obvious. I am sure that you could list them off.

Do yourself a favor. Make a plan. What is the first step that it would take to make this “thing” happen? Make it small and go from there. Tell someone else, and partner up. I am an introvert and I reached out, so no one has excuses.

Click on the “people have something to say” link, below, and leave me a note about what you want to stop talking about and start living. Let’s make it happen ladies!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There Will Be No Cars In Heaven

At least that is what I said to my husband this morning.

It was my first proclamation of the day, and I was so sure of myself when I said it.

See, yesterday, I was leaving the drug store when I heard, amongst other offensive noises, the sound of a man yelling expletives out his car window and squealing away. I live in the fifth largest city in the US, so this is not unusual. It is, however, unwelcome.

I think that people are at their worst behind the wheel of a car. Just before this incident, I had been at a stop light. I hope that this makes sense. There were three lanes at the stop light. I was in the middle lane. Past the green light we would merge into two lanes.

I was the lane to which people were trying to merge. I let one person in, although they were much slower than me. I thought that was an act of kindness, but when Mr. Truck rolled up next to me thinking that I was just going to sit through another one, I said out loud, “I don’t think so. I was being nice.” That’s right…you heard me.

My car looks like a mommy mobile, but she has a little something under the hood. I don’t mind making grown men cry as I leave them behind at stop lights…at least, that is the way I picture it in my mind, which only proves my point. I should not have a car in heaven.

Put people behind the steering wheel and, immediately, their universe becomes the size of their vehicle. Some of this is justified, as safety is important; but, you and I both know, it goes one step further than this. It is an un-inhibitor. You can say things with your windows rolled up that you might not while standing in a line. Then you speed away because you can.

So, standing in front of the drug store, listening to the sound of anger like a wind chime in a hurricane, I thought about how different heaven will be. Then, I thought about this car problem. Cars don’t make people crazy, people make people crazy. This is true, but cars get us there faster. I just can’t imagine that they have a proper place in heaven.

I told my husband all of this and more. His handsome face looked quizzical and then very sad. He sent me his vision of heaven.

I just love that man. Jesus loves him even more than me. So, I concede, babe, there might just be a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (1001 HP, 0-62 in 2.7 seconds) with your name on it in heaven. But, I still don’t think that you will be allowed to drive it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Confessions of a Shopper

“Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance (1 Peter 1:14, NRSV).”

Well, that is how this verse is supposed to read, but…yesterday what I saw, four times, was, “Like obedient children, do not be comforted by the desires that you formerly had in ignorance”.

I have to tell ya’, I like my misreading. It really spoke to me.

October is my birthday month. So, it is about this time of the year that I start to think of goodies wrapped up in sparkling packages, exploding with ribbons. I strategically insert my material desires into casual conversation, so that my husband knows exactly what to get.

I don’t like surprise gifts. I tell people exactly what I want, and I really mean it. This has been a misunderstanding between my husband and me. I used to tell him exactly what I wanted, and he would try to be creative with it. He ended up spending way more money and energy than was necessary. He knows now that I just know what I want. It is worth making me happy, the simple way.

Every year, my dad gives me some shopping money. He calls it one size fits all, which amuses us to no end. So, every year, about this time I start to dream about what I can get with my birthday shopping money. It gives me a little rush to think of all of that…well, retail therapy.

Yes, I love to shop, if I have the money to do it. At my age, there is not joy in buyer’s remorse or credit cards. So, my birthday brings a little, or potentially a lot, of comfort that can only be found at this time of year.

Unfortunately, I have searched for comfort in this world. I have shopped for comfort, eaten for comfort, escaped for comfort, and exercised for comfort. I have looked to house cleaning, phone calls to friends, TV watching, or working on the computer for comfort, as these tend to be less obvious means. You know what? I can't fix any discomfort like this.

I want to fix things that go wrong. I want to fix them for my husband, my family and my friends. Naturally, when I experience the bad day, or disappointing moments, I want to fix them.

I look out and grab the first thing that I can see, whether it is food or my wallet, and offer a solution. Each year that ticks by, each October that I face, I have to remember that this didn’t fix anything last year. The things that we label as comforting were birthed from false hope. They rely on ignorance for their full effect. What is the most ignorant statement that I can make? THIS is going to make the difference.

To return to the broken for comfort, is a step away from relief. The solution lies at the source of discomfort. Walking into the discomfort usually leads me to the throne of the King.

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7, NRSV).”

There is danger in looking for comfort in our leftover, dysfunctional desires; but there is a greater danger in the actual verse. Some people take one more step away, and one more, until they are far from the safest place. This is the true danger of the passage, conforming to the desires that are embedded in ignorance.

This is the subtle change that occurs when one revisits established ignorance to give it another chance. In fact, sometimes we can camp there for a while. It has an effect. It requires more of us, than we do of it. We are changed, conformed.

I do feel that I am a child being told not to touch my presents, but to think, instead. If I have expectations from a birthday, I should just go outside and wish on a rock, instead. It will be just as effective. If I want to experience true joy and celebration, I will take one step back to the throne, and hold my party with someone who cares.

What is that one thing that you are tempted to turn to for comfort, before you turn to Christ?

Father, thank you for caring for us, unlike anyone else. Free us from the ways that we try to comfort ourselves. Let us step toward your throne, reflexively. Take our anxiety and point us to true relief.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Once Upon A Time, High Up On a Wall

I was reading 1 Peter this morning. One thing that I should expect by now, from the Holy Spirit, is His uncanny ability to make me pay attention. I didn’t realize that today I needed to remember where I am wedged into this life. I did.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6, NRSV)

I am in the middle of planning a conference, planning a youth activity, planning my grocery list, planning this week, planning a new exercise program, planning a devotional, planning my future…and I was told to look down. I am high on a wall. Right below me I see countless living stones. I hear them mumble of lives lived from on top of the Cornerstone.

Around me I see that we have built something grand, a spiritual house. I see that there is not one building but many in this spiritual house. There are spires and buttresses.

We are fitted tightly together and we cannot fall. The Cornerstone assures us of this. We are sitting on top of the apostles, the saints. We are placed upon mothers and grandmothers who stood in the gaps of this wall so that we could be placed above them.

It is beautiful, but no one is admiring the grandeur of this structure. All of the stones are transfixed on one old, worn, sturdy stone. It sits in the corner.

Living stones, one on another for eternity.

Are there significant people who sit under you, or next to you, in your wall? If so, who are they?

Thank you, Father, for the living stones that we sit upon. Thank you for being the cornerstone of our faith every day. Let us build on you today. Let us make something noble and deserving of your greatness and stability. Give us the strength and direction to accomplish this.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Basic Math of the Mouth

Today I want to share some basic math that I have found in scripture.

A (Me) + B (My sin) = C (Why I need Jesus)


(The way that God made me)

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name (Hebrews 13:15, NRSV).



(My sin that has a way of coming out of my mouth)

And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell (James 3:6, NRSV).



(Why I need Jesus, who is the only one that can stop it)

I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you. Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141: 1 – 3, NRSV).

Do you, like me, have trouble with basic math?

Father, thank you for being stronger than I can imagine. Thank you for sharing that with me. I need you desperately. I desire for you to be powerfully with me and these women today, Lord. Do what you promise in our lives. Open us to the power of change, in You.

JWW meets Caffeinated Randomness

One thing that I have done today...I visited Under Grace & Over Coffee to enjoy a Friday morning with them.

This is my first time here, but I don't think that I can get these wrong.

Okay Lovelies, straight up - how do you take your coffee?

1. Black and strong. Preferably, lots of it.

Shoes or chocolate? (I thought of this today when I was looking atFirefox Personas - there was actually a thing that said "I love shoes more than chocolate or boys." And I thought, "Really? Wow, those must be AWESOME shoes!")

2. I would have to say chocolate, but I have found Fitflops this summer and I would do a lot for those.

I need some new music for my iPod - who do you love to listen to and what is your favorite song by them?

3. Francesca Battistelli pretty much rocks my bathroom. I love her song, "Unpredictable".

You look fabulous - how do you do it?

4. Well, how kind of you to notice. You should see me out of my pajamas!

I have had the understanding for a long time that I am not in control of the gradual decline of this temple. My plan is to stay just ahead of it to prevent collapse. I have started running again, which my mother tells me will only send my skin south faster. It's pretty much a lose, lose. But, my husband likes it.

Lastly, what's your favorite thing about fall? (That one was for you, Christine!)

5. The clothes! The weather being under 100, which we still will not reach this week, argh! Sitting outside, doing my devos in the spring/fall thinking chair.

Loved it, be back next week!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tale of the Sootbottom

The story of this picture has to start with my mother’s visit in July. We were shopping for house goodies and we ran across a couch, reduced 75%. It was in my mother’s favorite color, almost a lime green. How do you explain it? Destiny.

She went home and thought about this couch, they kept reducing it. What is a girl to do, but buy it? So, after the price was right, and the negotiations done, my husband and I picked up the couch from the store. We stored it in the garage for a month while planning a trip to her house.

So, Labor Day finally came. We loaded up the couch and lovingly took it, even in a little rain, to my mom’s house. My husband did an amazing tarp wrapping job. After months, it was all hers.

The couch was in place the day that we took this picture. This is one of many that were taken for my mom’s Christmas card (So, if you are on the list, look away, please.). I am in the back, in the white sweater. The others are sisters and mom. It might be confusing because she looks like she could be my sister (she reads this), but my mom is on the right.

What is interesting and difficult to see is that I am on my knees and somehow my behind is lodged in the fireplace. I did not know the exact location of my behind, nor did I know that gas fireplaces made soot. I was concentrating on bright eyes and avoiding gummy smiles. My husband calls this picture, “Tracy Sootbottoms”.

I was walking through the living room after we were finished when I realized that I had a dark spot on my sleeve. Soot? From a gas fireplace? Novelty. Then I looked over to the brand new, destined to be my mother’s, lime green couch, where I had been sitting after this picture was taken. There was a dark spot on the cushion that was cradling my sootbottom only moments before.

Then I looked to the couch’s perfectly coordinated pillow where I had rested my arm…dark spot. I essentially had carried my sootbottom throughout the house staining every single object that came near me.

That was a lovely couch, and luckily it fared better than my white sweater.

Enter life lesson here…

When I was younger, one of my pitfalls was misunderstanding the influence of one dark sooty spot. It could be a negative friend, dabbling in something that opened up unhealthy doors, or being around that “yes” person. It only had to be a tiny spot, but it spreads.

We, as humans, move down, not up. That is why we are told to find someone that we admire to emulate. I have found AMAZING women who offer their lives in the ministry of writing every day. Please look on the side bar and click until you bubble over. On our own, we move to the lowest common denominator and it takes relationship and encouragement to move against our will.

The easiest way to move up? Be completely focused on Christ. He moves His people up.

This morning I was doing my “morning study thing” (which I would like to make a new name for because I love themes, e.g. Seafood Sundays and Mexican Mondays) and I ran across, James 1:27, NRSV, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

In this Christmas card experience, I understood the influence of a spot. We all have them. To keep ourselves unstained by the world, we have to be diligent; even, having eyes on the back of our heads, apparently.

So, ladies, watch your back!

Do you relate to the Tale of the Sootbottom?

Do you have a special name for your quiet times?

Father, thank you for pulling your people up against our nature. Expose the dark areas around us that spread. Let us eliminate these things from our life so that we remain unstained by this world. We need you, Father.

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