Monday, July 26, 2010

grace and resourcefulness

My son Paul has been a sick little man this week so we have read many stories and curled up with a few movies.  In the sweet providence of God, just prior to his falling ill we had made a trip to the local library where I actually said yes to checking out a few movies.  So, in we popped "Arctic Tale" and entered the vast snow kingdom found in the arctic region of our world. There we "met" walrus pups and polar bears, among other critters.  About half way through, we came to this narrative about a polar cub: "Nanu faces her own crises.  She's never been stranded on shattered ice...never been so hungry...never been in circumstances where her mother's training was no help at all."

I sat there and chewed on that line for a minute.  Now I understand that people are not polar bears, but in a strange wee way I identified with that statement (for a brief second).  Here I am, watching my boy spike fevers each evening this week that have topped previous records set by my children in my almost 10 years of mothering and feeling powerless to do anything about it.   I pitied that wee bear cub... poor little thing!  Then I quickly personalized its helpless feeling... poor me.  And poor little Paul.  Then I had the overwhelming thought of the responsibility that I have to train my kiddos up to handle whatever they face in life.  And how I won't always be here for them.  Ever watch a movie only to get side tracked by a self-made pity party?  It can be a slippery slope, I tell ya.

BUT then I stopped and thought about how often I've been in situations that were new to me, and how God in His mercy has taught me to rely upon His ever-sufficient grace upon grace.  My mother taught me to be resourceful, so even though I don't necessarily know off the top of my head how to treat fevers that spike fast and high (like 104.7 last night), I had some good hunches from previous experiences and could pick up a phone to verify my hunches.  And unlike the polar bear cub, I am not alone - God is ALWAYS with me, and He has also given me the beautiful gift of community.  My mother-in-law kindly picked up MJ and went to buy some groceries up for us at Costco (thank you again Pat).  Paul wanted to hear my friend Barbara's duck joke, which I couldn't remember well enough to tell so I called her in Florida and put the phone on speaker so she could cheer him (bless you Barbara, I know you're reading this!).  Now my niece Talia is running another errand for me (thanks sweetie).  These are just a few examples of community, beautiful community - a gift not to be taken for granted for sure!  Ah, but this is a rabbit trail...back we go to the story...

Within a few minutes of starting a pity party, I was moved in my spirit from a fearfulness based on my own finiteness and insufficiency to restfulness in God who is able to uphold me and my children in His loving hands.  They too will face all kinds of things that I will in no way be able to prepare them for in terms of the specific circumstances, but I can point them to Christ daily, live by His grace, and put tools into their hands to increase their resourcefulness so that whatever God brings circumstantially into their lives, they can face it with faith and bear fruit for His glory. 

So now I sit here, thankful once again to the One who is infinite is knowledge and wisdom...the One who is sovereign and all-powerful, permitting the waves of difficulty to come only so far in our lives, graciously setting their boundaries as well as their purposes...the One who graciously works all things together for good for those who call upon His name and place their hope in Him.  He has rescued me once again from wandering down a pitiful road...thank you Father.

Friday, July 23, 2010


In Mark chapter 4, Jesus explains the parable of the sower.  My assumption is that we WANT to be like the good ground which receives the word, accepts it, and bears fruit.  Truth be known though, at different times in life I have resembled each kind of soil. 
  • How many Sunday's have I gone to church, sat in a pew, and had the words of a sermon pass through my ears only to not be able to tell anyone five minutes later what the sermon was about, not to mention it's specifics?  Verse 15: "And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown.  When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was was sown in their hearts."
  • And how many times have I chewed with delight upon God's word relative to His trustworthiness, His sovereignty, His goodness, His promises to never leave me nor forsake me, His promises to work ALL things together for my good, etc. only to enter a difficult stretch of life and grumble, worry, strive for control?  Verses 16-17: "These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time.  Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble."
  • And the Lord knows better than I just how often I resemble verses 18-19: "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
Now, I honestly do not think this parable was given first and foremost so we'd get all introspective about what kind of soil we are.  I think it is more of an encouragement to sow the word of God indiscriminately precisely because we do not know what kind of soil people are.  But at the same time, I have returned repeatedly to this parable prayerfully asking God to till the soil of my heart and make it good so that I'd have ears to hear, faith to believe, and a life that bears fruit for His glory. 

John Piper wrote a book years ago titled "A Hunger for God" that has helped me beyond description to recognize the enemies described in this parable in my own life (the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things in particular).  He says in the preface: "Desires for other things - there's the enemy.  And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God.  The weakness of our hunger for God is not because He is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with other things."

This quote comes from his introduction: "The more deeply you walk with Christ, the hungrier you get for Christ...the more homesick you get for heaven...the more you want 'all the fullness of God'...the more you want to be done with sin...the more you want the Bridegroom to come again...the more you want the Church revived and purified with the beauty of Jesus...the more you want a great awakening to God's reality in the cities...the more you want to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ penetrate the darkness of all the unreached peoples of the world...the more you want to see false worldviews yield to the force of Truth...the more you want to see pain relieved and tears wiped away and death destroyed...the more you long for every wrong to be made right and the justice and grace of God to fill the earth like the waters cover the sea. If you don't feel strong desires fro the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied.  It is is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world.  Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great."

I heartily recommend the whole book. My God help us to feast and to fast in a fashion that enjoys and honors Him above all.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


My husband is sitting at the kitchen table with my precious cherubs right now, teaching them their weekly history lesson.  For the first part of the lesson, I went outside to trim back some plants, deadhead, water, etc...and as is often the case, when I go outside to "tidy things up," I move from one thing to the next therapeutically until I've worked myself up into what my mother used to call perspiration (because girls, after all, do not sweat).  After beads of whatever it is called covered my forehead to the state of dripping saltily into my eyes, I decided to come inside where I grabbed a clean washcloth (made easy by modern conveniences known as a washing machine and dryer), poured some cool, clean water coming right out of a tap in my bathroom onto it, and proceeded to wash up.  Now I sit here, in an air-conditioned house listening to my husband teaching happy children and I am simply overwhelmed by God's tender mercies.

Yesterday I listened to the first hour of a new book by Joni Eareckson Tada which you can download for free at Christian Audio through July 31st.  I love Joni!  I love her heart and ministry to others in this broken world as she points them to our amazing Savior.  She exults in God as one who has come to adore His sovereign love even in the midst of His severe mercies.

And here I sit, marveling at His tender mercies which so often I am guilty of taking for granted and thanking Him for being my Treasure at all times, be they tender or severe.  Also weaving into my thoughts this week is a three part interview with the Touhy's (the family that inspired the movie The Blindside) found at Family Life Radio (titled "In a Heartbeat").  One of the things that struck me about their story is their emphasis on God calling us to be cheerful givers.  Emphasize CHEERFUL.  The other thing that stood out to me was their answer to the question: Do you ever worry about getting scammed or taken advantage of?  Though there is certainly room for discerning neediness, their emphasis was on giving cheerfully when able as needs present themselves and leaving the judgment to God.  The same God who will judge us on how we stewarded the "plenty" He put into our hands will also judge the sincerity of the askers-for-help.  I loved their message.  The "plenty" may not be money, it may be time or encouragement or skills, etc...the cheerful giving is simply an opportunity God gives us to share Him with others as we meet a need.  Peter and John once said: "Silver and gold have I none, but that which I have I give thee..." -- God has given ALL of His children some form of "plenty." 

So connecting the dots, I am thankful for the plenty God has given me and I want to do a much better job at sharing it with those in need and giving it away cheerfully, for His glory.  Stuff -n-comfort isn't my treasure, God is.  I want to live in a way that makes that plain.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Family Camp 2010

For about 20 years now, we have had the almost yearly joy of gathering with fellow Christians from our church and beyond in a camp environment where we feast and play and fellowship and learn from God's Word and sing together.  What a blessing!  Thank you Father for giving us a time to be refreshed and strengthened for the good works You've prepared for us to walk in.

Today's post will mostly be pictures, simply sharing our week at camp with you.  We arrived at Twin Rocks on a Sunday evening and after unpacking our things, we headed down to the beach to behold the above gorgeous sunset.  What a lovely way to begin our time together.

A campfire on the beach

Bekah and her friend found Big Foot on one of our hikes.

MJ simply looking beautiful in the dining hall

Our friend Miwaza caught us doing a little smooching on the beach.  I'm not usually fond of kissing pictures, but for some reason I like this one.  Maybe it is because Miwaza is such an amazing photographer.  Though the rest of the pictures were taken by moi, Miwaza gets credit for the above picture of MJ too.  Thanks was SO MUCH FUN seeing you again this year. 

Bekah and Paul among the kids learning some things about gymnastics
(correction: I didn't take this picture either, but I can't remember whose face book I borrowed it from...thank you to whichever friend took this)

Our three kiddos having a grand time playing in the water

Bekah up to bat in a softball game

Mike helping with a track meet and MJ cheering other kids on after she just won first place in two races...
woo hooooo!

Bekah and Paul playing miniature golf

Some people are gorgeous even when soaked
...Bekah is one of them.

Paul spent an amazing amount of time sword fighting his friend Jared...what a hoot they were to watch.

Our kids were on a sand sculpting team that created this Jonah being swallowed scene.

Paul competing in the long jump...this boy can fly!

Paul, and his buddy Paul drying off in the sun.
(yes, we have a lot of Paul squared around here)

Paul and his friend Jacob
 waiting cheerfully for some food.

Tradition at the end of camp is to go to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for ice cream on the way home...
our camp folks pretty much take over the place before we part ways, each on their journey back to their dwellings to slay their very own laundry dragon.

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you can see more pics, but these ones give you a taste.  It was a much needed time of rest and play and refreshment for us this year; a growing experience in many ways.  We are thankful.

Pray and Work

After writing my last post, something about it didn't set right with me.  Later in the day, it dawned on me that it could possibly give the impression that I expect provisions just to drop mysteriously from the sky with every call upon our lives.  Since that is not the case, let me clarify.  

I went for a lovely hour long walk with my friend Melodie yesterday (as I often do on Fridays while our friend Mira drills our children in P.E. class) and we discussed among other things the question of how our Father provides for everything He calls us to do.  Does He always relate to us as little children, or does He mature us and relate to us as adult children?  

She rattled a phrase off in Latin, and showing my ignorance I had to ask her to translate what she had just said.  "Pray and work"; it was the first phrase she ever learned in Latin.  Here are a few more thoughts after our discussion. Some pray, then sit on their hands just waiting for their request.  Some people work, and neglect prayer.  But we SHOULD pray (trusting God to provide) AND work (with the understanding that God uses means). And we should do both with the aim of glorifying the One who gives both the provision and the means, with thankfulness, faith and diligence (in contrast to fretfulness, doubt and halfheartedness).  That we pray with confidence, and how we work matters.

I watched a movie over a year ago with my kids that for the life of me right now I can't remember the title of.  But in this movie there were a couple of kids with a dad who faithfully provided for them, but because they wanted to buy something and didn't want to ask their dad about it they started seeking out any kind of odd job they could get folks in town to hire them for with a sense of urgency and desperation.  The folks in town started asking the kids' dad if he'd fallen on hard times.  After enough solicitations, he was bewildered and went to investigate.  See, the kids had gone about their efforts in such a way that it reflected poorly upon their dad.  We do NOT want to do that relative to our Father.  We do not want to project the image of Him being miserly or unable to provide because that is SO NOT TRUE.  We are children of the King of all kings, not beggars.  And our Father, The King, is gracious and kind and good and full of mercy and love towards His children. So as we pray and work, let us do so seeking His honor by trusting Him, and walking faithfully before Him in all He calls us to do. 

1 John 5:14-15 "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

Oh, and thank you to Erica and Rachel for leaving stories of God's provision on the last post -- love you gals!  And I love getting comments and clarifications and further thoughts left in the comment section so go for it readers ;-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Art camp - paid in full

The kids and I were talking this morning about how God provides for everything He calls us to do and I related that to their experience with us, their earthly mom and dad.  My girls, for example, have been going to an art camp every day this week. We signed them up for art camp, provided the supplies needed, covered the cost of instruction, and expect them to go and learn all they can while there, representing Christ well in how they listen, learn and interact.  They came up with other examples like: We expect them to eat; we provide the food...yep, check. We expect them to cover their naked bodies; we give them clothes...another yep.  And so on.

If this is true of us, how much more true is it of our Father?  He gives us the very air we breath and the abilities and resources needed to do the tasks He puts into our hands.  That is true whether the task He calls us to is small or great. Has there ever been a time when our Father has called us to something and not provided the means by which to do it?  Why, oh why, do we fret?

In the comments section, lets encourage one another by leaving stories of times when God proved faithful even in the midst of your worries.    One of the joys of blog-ville is getting to know each other.. if you read this blog, and haven't done so already, would you click one of the "follow" buttons on the left so I can know who you are pretty please?  Thanks. 

Going over the cliff

Twenty plus years ago, after working for Camp Collins in Oregon for 4 summers, I sprouted wings and headed to North Carolina for my 5th summer camp job.  This is when I learned that you can do something in one setting, get comfy and think you know what you are doing only to find out that when you change the setting, you don't know quite as much as you thought you did.  Camp work in NC was very little like my experience with camping in Oregon, but it had beauty all its own.  I grew up a lot that summer, and swallowed a good dose of humility which was mighty good for my soul.

My camp director, Jack (bless you Jack if you read this!) took the staff rock climbing during the training week.  We actually went to the top of a cliff, belayed down and climbed back up.  Being terrified of going over the side of a cliff, I was the very last staff member to do this.  I cried.  I tried every tactic I could to get out of this for my fears had the upper hand at the time.  Jack just looked me straight in the eye and said I was either going to do this, or I was going to get on a plane and go home.  All of a sudden, the fear of failure was bigger than my fear of going over the cliff and over it I went.

Jack is retired now, but remains a mighty good and godly man.  I have learned a lot from him.  He instructed us that day at the top of the cliff that going over the side of it with nothing but a rope for security is like living the Christian life.  Christ often leads us to do things that go against our natural inclinations and we follow Him, trusting that He, better than any rope, will hold us.  I was ruled by fear that day, not trust, but I really think that was a turning point for me.

The rope held, and it became a picture of God's sufficient grace that has lead me to trust Him day by day.  The rope held the next time too, by the way, when I went back voluntarily to climb.  You see, I began to see that forsaking fear and putting on trust in the Trustworthy can lead you to experience some pretty exciting things in life.  The Trusted also gets the glory of being tested and proven to be worthy of the might say that was another important "lesson of the rope" for me. I was far more interested in my safety, comfort and pride than I was in giving the rope glory.  And when you're talking ropes, it isn't that big of deal (who really cares whether a rope gets glory?), but when you transfer the lesson to life in relationship to God, it is something we all should take to heart.  God knew I needed North Carolina and Jack, and the rest of the wonderful people there who helped me learn that summer to LIVE outside of my comfort zone and to follow Jesus where He leads, even when it seems scary.  He is indeed better than any rope, and as we cling to Him in faith, He is glorified while we have the thrills of going over the sides of cliffs.  I, for one, do not want to go back to Egypt.