Saturday, October 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Paul and Sprocket

Laughter is beautiful.  If you listen to these two, you'll more than likely be smiling yourself by the end of this brief video.  The boy on the right is my son, Paul (and his cousin Patrick is to the left).  Tomorrow Paul will be unbelievably 8 years old.  He is our "baby" that is far removed from being a baby...he is becoming a young man before my eyes! 

 We began the celebration tonight as a family...
he was pretty excited to open his 8 presents!

His Daddy got them matching hats...I love these guys!

He also got a model of an A10 Warthog that he wanted to build immediately.

Birthdays can be such fun...we have a whole week of celebrations planned.  One of the most fun things for Paul this year is that he gets to share his birthday with another creature in our household.  From the moment we brought Sprocket home, he's been plotting a "Sprocket and Rocket" party, which will be happening this Tuesday, Lord willing.  We were all pretty stoked to learn he had been born on Paul's birthday!
So happy birthday, my boy turning into a young man!  We are so pleased you are a member of our family!  We can look back and see all kinds of ways that God has been at work in your life, we thoroughly enjoy you in the present, and we can look forward to seeing how God completes the good work He has begun.  You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.  May He bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you, and give you His peace.  We love you immensely!

And happy first birthday to you too, Sprocket.  We are glad (most of the time) that you are here too!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Glad in Him

"And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, 
and in Him there is no sin." ~ 1 John 3:5 

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, 
that we should be called children of God!" ~ 1 John 3:1

He is amazing!  
And we are so privileged to be His.
Let us rejoice and be glad in Him!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What has God put into your hand?

A good friend asked me a question many years ago.  I was in a time of transition and feeling confused.  She asked me: "What has God put in your hand?" That season, and the counsel this friend went on to share with me, was transformational.

That question  seems to keep coming back to me, from different angles.

18 years ago it was posed because I didn't know what to DO...I didn't have an overarching plan like I like to have, but I did know what was right in front of me. I learned to live the day in front of me, trusting God to lead me BECAUSE HE KNOWS the whole plan.

Now the question is lodged in my mind from an angle presented in Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts.  What has God put in your hand?  Ann talks about living with open hand, receiving His grace gifts.  This time the question isn't task oriented; it is receiving and responding oriented.  Will I receive the grace gifts He chooses to give?  And will I respond with thanksgiving?

Yesterday, one of His gifts was rain.  Refreshing!  I went for a long walk in it with my dog, getting soaked and loving it.  Some days I would chafe at the rain, but yesterday I opened my hands, received it, and gave thanks.  It was the big cry I've needed.  God knew!

He gives gifts of growth.  Sometimes we can learn the easy way by cracking books open, sometimes it comes by being cracked open...whatever tool He uses to grow us into the likeness of Christ, whatever it "feels" like, whatever it costs, will we open our hands?  Will we receive growth graces and offer thanks?

He gives gifts of fruitfulness in our lives... The writer of Hebrews prays that God would  "make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever" (Heb.13:20,21).  And Paul makes it clear in Phil. 2:13 that "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."  Remember to pause and give Him thanks for the fruit He bears in and through you (in contrast to the temptation to well up with self-glory).

He gives us times when we feel empty.  Times of brokenness and loss can feel this way.  His special grace is given then with the sweet invitation to draw closer to Him.  To be still and know that He is God.  The grace of surrendering our wills to His is a very special grace indeed.  Thank you, Father.

He gives us gifts of love and friendship.  Not to distract us from His love, but to magnify our appreciation of His love.  These are precious gifts, graces.  Thank you, Father.

He gives us gifts of the unknown.  These are invitations to trust His sovereign goodness, wisdom, power and love.  He leads, provides, and cares perfectly for us.  Why, oh why, am I still so quick to become fearful?  Here too, I am learning to open my hands, to receive, to give thanks.  In my weakness, You are strong.  Thank you, Father.

He gives gifts of beauty.  Sunsets, ocean's shores, smiling faces, flower gardens, puffy white clouds in the sky, acts of courage, the embrace of a loved one, the communion of saints, and SO MUCH MORE.  Thank you, Father.

God is the most cheerful Giver of givers.  The answer to the question "What has God put into your hand?" is always GRACE.

And if we ever doubt His goodness, let us remember what He opened His hands to...
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" ~ Rom 8:32

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rubies hard won

Psalm 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Sometimes, we wake up and the day stretched out before us looks bright and cheery.  Psalms like this one can be spoken or sung easily enough on such days.  Other times, the day ahead looks dark...and that day may fall on the heels of many others before it that were filled with trials.  But this Psalm, and many other passages, do not give qualifiers like "serve the Lord with gladness when you are having a Disneyland sort of day".  He is God. Period.  He made us. Period.  He is good. Period.  His mercy IS everlasting.  Even on the hard days.  Even in the midst of the trial. 

Is that harsh?  No, it is loving.  He tenderly reminds us that this is not our home; that the glory that awaits us is not worthy to be compared to the sufferings of the moment (Rom 8); that we can count it all joy by His grace when we face various trials because He is using it to make us more like Jesus (James 1), and because He is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), and most importantly that HE HIMSELF IS OUR JOY, and that our joy in Him is our strength (Neh 8:10, Ps. 28). 

Last night, I finished reading A Lifetime of Wisdom, Embracing the Way God Heals You, by Joni Eareckson Tada.  In it, she illustrates many "rubies hard won" over the course of her life as a paraplegic.  She has faced hard days, and shines!  I highly recommend the book.

She points us the Jesus over and over, the One we can trust in our darkest days.  The apostle Paul tells us to note such people, and to imitate them.  I know I need to.  On my dark days, I am still far too prone to whine, or to allow fears to overtake me.  Maybe you are too.  There are many mentors in life and in books, and my Mom used to tell me that when the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.  I want to learn.  I want to grow in serving the Lord with gladness ALL the time.  Wanna join me?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Driving Nails, part 2

In John 8, Jesus said: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 
Yesterday I wrote about driving nails; about replacing old habit/thoughts with new habit/thoughts.  Throughout the day I kept thinking about another set of nails...the ones that were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus.  I believe His testimony.  He bore much more than a set of nails in my stead, but bore He did...He drank down the cup of God's wrath that I was due.  And not just for me, but for many, many others.  And He is risen!  Risen indeed!  We do not need to wait for Easter to celebrate that, right?

Anyone, believer or unbeliever alike, can replace old habit with new...but that is not really the full point I wanted to make.  What I want to be doing when I drive nails is to celebrate the victory I have in Christ who took nails into His flesh for me; to live out a life of praise to Him.  As He brings it to my attention that I am thinking thoughts or doing deeds that in effect deny Him or are displeasing to Him, it is time to get out the hammer and nails. 

We are told in Phil 2:12b-13 to " out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."  Work out?  Yes.  We sing of His amazing grace...a grace that saves us, sanctifies us.  He didn't just give us a ticket to heaven, He gives us the grace to overcome our hellish hearts and practices.  He gives us the grace to bear Spirit-filled fruits in our lives for His glory of "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:22-24).

His crucifixion involved nails and ours do too.  Daily we drive in nails of truth so that our lives become more and more like the One who bore nails for us.  Daily we work out our salvation.  Daily we put off the old man and put on the new.

Eph 4:20-24 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

To God be all glory!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Driving Nails...

Erasmus said: "A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit." I am learning the truth of this.  So are my children.  And I am thankful.  Often I have tried to wrench out the unwanted from my life by focusing on the problem...for example, if I am fearful, I might tell myself over and over again "don't be afraid."  Hmmm.  How effective is that?  Not.

Neither has it proven effective to read every book and scour every google page that describes the problem in an attempt to reason myself away from the problem...reading about whatever the problem in hand is, at least in my case, has not done a whole lot to alleviate it.  It educates.  It sometimes provides leads. But mostly it tends to bog me down as my appetite for learning more about the problem grows insatiable.  More than once I have been accused (rightly!) of over-thinking things..."go easy", "breathe" my friends say.

So thank you Erasmus, and thank you Ann Voskamp for quoting him because it was in your book I read his words.  This insight is proving far more helpful and effective in practice, and I get to share it with my children while they are yet young.

My eleven year old daughter fell recently and wounded herself.  The obvious wounds were the gnarly scrapes on hand and leg, but as time marches on and the increased pain in her right arm drains the color from her face we are searching out answers to the extent of harm done.  And as family plans for together-fun get rearranged, and homework is tediously slow due to needing to use the hand not used to writing, fears creep in.  Guess what?  It seems like it is instinctive for her to do the very same thing I had done for years..."don't be afraid, it'll be alright" is the chorus of the mind but the fears seem to scream louder that it is NOT all right...there is pain, and there is disappointment, and I don't know what is going to happen at the doctor's office (what are they going to do to me?), and how am I going to do school?, and, and, and...

Together we begin to drive nails.  We sing "Amazing Grace" together. We talk about how this is  NOT taking our Father by surprise, but rather it is here in our life by His wise and loving design.   One hammer stroke after another, we pound in trust and drive out fear.  We pray.  We take the next step in front of us, trusting our Father's grace-laden love and perfect care.  And it dawns on us as we drive up to the hospital for the second time yesterday...fear seems to have taken leave and we laugh freely.