Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Make God Laugh With Three Easy Words

"I will never..."

"I will never get married."
Yes, I said this once upon a time. I did not have time for husbands. I had plans. Big plans. I was going to get a degree in journalism and head to New York to rob Jane Paulie of her job and be the lone undercover, conservative journalist. So I got my degree in communications with some journalism, communication law, scriptwriting, and movie-making on the side.

What really happened: Enter Brett.
Me: Is that shining armor I see?
God: heh, heh, heh...

"I will never have kids."
Choke. I can't believe I said this, but once upon a time, I didn't have time in my oh-so-important life for children. I had places to go, things to move and shake, and no time for home fires.

What really happened: Enter Z. And A. And L. And E. And G. Then J. Then C. Then E. Then H. Then J.
Me: Hey! Someone stole my heart!
God: ho, ho, ho...

"I will never homeschool."
Once upon a time, I thought homeschoolers were overprotective freaks who multiplied like rabbits and did herbs and read badly written pop novels.

What really happened: I could not bring myself to turn out those wee folk who stole my heart to be educated by the government.
Me: Wow! Homeschoolers are serious educators who rarely read anything that doesn't have a Caldecott or a Newbery emblazoned on the front.
God: HA HA HA!

"I will never have homebirths."
Another comment I can barely believe came out of my mouth. But once upon a time, I wanted anesthesia and vitamin K shots and doctors.

What really happened: My fifth child got a fever because the doctor insisted on seeing her IN HIS OFFICE at four days. We ended up in the ER with four failed spinal taps, one baby who was totally fine (as I kept insisting to the staff), and one extremely angry, post-partum, grizzly bear mama. Five delightful, intimate, safe, and healthy homebirths later, I cannot believe I used to be opposed.
Me: Go to the hospital to have a baby? Why???
God: Laughing Out Loud!

"I will never be married to a pastor."
Once upon a time, I told myself that marrying a pastor would make me a pastor's wife. And I am as suited to that role as to being an Olympian knitter. Ain't nevah gonna happen, baby.

What really happened: When the old pastor quit out of the blue one day, my husband and the other founding guy were left holding the reigns. And that made me a ... pastor's wife.
Me: I can change. If I have to. I guess.
God: ROTFL!!!

No matter how true they seem at the moment, I am learning to resist saying things like:
"I will never move to Lubbock"...or...
"I will never leave the Republican Party"...or...
"I will never go to a Justin Beiber concert."

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
How well I know that.
For all those once-upon-a-times are only fairy tales; but God's plans lead to the true happily-ever-afters.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wound Washing

I fell today.
With all the gracefulness of Michelle Kwan missing her landing on a triple loop. At least she's got ice. I, on the other hand, was an experiment in Newton's first law of motion when my shin met pavement, and the applied force of that friction stopped this body in motion.

Quickly, I dusted myself off, checked for blood, and kept going. But I found I had to go back to what I know:
Back straight.
Thumbs tucked.
Shoulders back.
Elbows aimed to meet between my shoulder blades.

I've got a skinned leg, and within a few hours I'll have the scabs to prove it. For it to heal, I'll have to keep it clean and not let anyone bump it. Soon, nature will take its course; the scab will shrink until it is nothing, and there will hopefully be only the faintest scar to remind me of that fall.

I fell last week.
A different kind of wound.
A wound that was inflicted many, many times when I was younger. It never really had a chance to heal because the scab kept getting ripped off. These days, there is a scar there. And when someone bumps it, as people are wont to do in the crowded days of life, the scar opens up, and the bleeding starts all over again.

My friend and her husband work for a human trafficking rescue organization in one of the largest cities in America. I frequently get a call for prayer regarding a new "sparrow" they have rescued and taken in. Bev told me something poignant last month. "Hurting people hurt people." Apparently, those sparrows bite. Hard.

Last week, I was the biting sparrow. And when my wound got bumped, I bit. Hard. But my friend never meant to bump me. She didn't even know there was a wound there. So, at day's end, two of us were hurting.

Funny thing about these wounds. I'm not a fragile kind of person. To the contrary, I think I'm pretty sturdy. In fact, I'd have to say it's the only past hurt I've got. So, when I started praying about this situation a few mornings ago, and I went to wipe something off my face, I was stunned to realize that it was a tear. I was crying and didn't even know it! THAT is how deep some wounds can go. And when someone bumps it, I'm always taken aback by my own ferocity.

I suspect every Christian has his own scar. It seems inevitable as we are forgiven but fallen members of the forgiven but fallen Body. The key to survival is good wound care.

In other words, when the scab gets ripped off, I need to dust myself off and go back to what I know. And I need to wash it with the water of God's Word:
God is sovereign.
God is good.
All things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
He will wipe away every tear.
He will make all things new.

Wounds are inevitable; but only my Father and His Word can apply the truth that brings the healing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'm So Vain


I was only in the fitting room for a few minutes. That's when I noticed them. Dimples. And they were not the cute kind on the cheeks, nor the sexy kind on the cleft of the chin. They were the hideous kind--on my biceps. Or where my biceps used to be.

The other day, I bent down to tie my running shoes, and I noticed that my knees were disappearing. My thighs are encroaching upon them faster than the Pacific Ocean on the Japanese coast...which is why I was tying my running shoes.

Yeah, I started running again. I've never been much of an athlete. I enjoy golf and outdoor racquetball. And I ran cross-country in high school. But, even then, I was far from our team's star runner. So, taking up running again is something of a feat for me.

And to combat those nasty dimples, I am also doing weights again.
Which is why it now hurts to type this post.

I am hardly a health nut. In my food pyramid, ice cream is a food group all of its own. To be enjoyed daily. In heaping portions. Chocolate is a close second. Followed by Polish food. On the other hand, I inherited a killer metabolism from both of my parents, which means I burn calories watching tv.

Or, at least, I used to.
Before I turned 43.

Yesterday, I was outside enjoying the weather with my younger kids. Someone (young and fleet of foot) suggested we play hide and seek. We've got a great yard for hide and seek, so I thought this was a good idea.

Until my six year old was "It."

That's when he leaped after me as I was making my way to base. And that's when I turned on the speed--enough speed to beat my six year old back to base--which I did by the skin of my teeth. Since when could a six year old almost outrun me? It was another blow to my vanity.

Today, I asked two of the kids if they wanted to run with me. As we started off down our street, my 10 year old quipped, "Running. This isn't running. This is jogging."

And top off the dimples and disappearing knees with the haircut from hell and, dang it all, if I don't just start shopping for burqas instead of bathing suits this summer.

Vanity is a costly, worthless pursuit. Oh, I still wear make-up. We'll call it a kindness. And I'll still try to manage this mop that grows out of the top of my head. But I can always fall back on my famous yellow cap.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain."
I want to be a woman who fears the Lord.
Besides, there's so much perogi--and so little time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fury

The fury waits above the sky; the Lord of Hosts will purify.
He pours His wrath upon the earth to His kingdom giving birth.
(Kerry Livgren, "The Fury")

Birth pains.
I know them well.
There is no way to prepare a first time mother for what is about to happen to her. Her body will go into labor. The contractions will come. And they will come again. And they will get longer, stronger, and closer together. Her body will ride a wave so intense and so beyond her control that she will never experience anything else like it. She can seek solace in water, walking, position changes, massages, even drugs. But the body will continue the process. The baby will come. And there is nothing she can do to stop it.

For a control freak like me, it is an uncomfortable position to be in. And labor is always the first thing I think after I see a "positive" test. Truthfully, I feel claustrophobic. I am in a condition for which there is only one way out, and the only thing to do is set my face like flint and face down what I know is to come.

When Jesus compares the end of all things to birth pains, it makes me shudder.
I know birth pains for what they are.
Wave after wave after longer, stronger wave.

In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, the gospel writers document Jesus' warning to us to be alert to birth pains. He also reminds us that no one will know the hour, but the thrust of the conversation is really a heads' up from the Lord Himself. "Stay awake!"

And what will those birth pains consist of?
Rumors of wars.

There is nothing quite like the elements of nature to make mankind feel so utterly helpless and out of control. The farmer can sow his seed; but he can't make it rain, and he can't stop the grasshoppers. The city can build its seawall; but it can't stop the tsunami. The architects and engineers can put their skyscrapers on rollers; but they can't prevent the earthquake.

When I look at pictures of the latest earthquake in Japan, I am reminded of Jesus' warnings to us. The devastation there is utter. The grief, the loss, is excruciating.

One earthquake.
Numerous aftershocks.
And a tsunami.
And at least three nuclear meltdowns.

There are tens of thousands missing.
Missing humans made in God's image.
Missing humans with real souls destined for a real eternity.

On a normal day, one soul meets his Maker every three seconds. But in a natural disaster of the proportions of this last earthquake, thousands went to their eternity in just a few minutes' time.

At the hand of God.
The God whom the wind and the waves obey.
It chills me--for the sake of every lost soul.

For this may not even be the wrath of God yet. This may just be living in a fallen world--just a little foretaste of what is to come. And if Jesus testified that it will be like birth pains, then I can testify that it will be unstoppable, uncontrollable, and fierce. It will be a divine fury let loose on a creation that has rejected and rebelled against its Creator.

"But because of your hard and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of God's wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5)

Are you ready?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Radically Biblical, Part Two

"Mom," my five year old sighed a few days ago, "you said you were going to play four rounds of Stratego with me, and you've only done one!" I had merely gotten up to stir the pasta on the stove. I knew I was coming right back. But he wasn't sure.

Eight year old Claire soothed him. "Ethan, did she say she would play four games with you?" He nodded. "Then, don't worry; if she said it, she'll do it."

I was struck in this conversation by how much my children trust me implicitly. I guess it was a good barometer of how much I had kept my word where they are concerned. But it was also sobering as I realized just how much power the words of a parent can have in the lives of their children. And I don't think this small exchange between the two of them was coincidental. Not when I am immersed in my ponderings of legalism and how not to be legalistic, and, more importantly, how not to inadvertently pass that on to the children.

Last week, I wrote about two of my guiding principles when making choices regarding issues of the conscience. Then I mused on Ecclesiastes 10:2 and desiring God's ancient wisdom. If Ecclesiastes 10:2 tells us there is a fork in the road, and the wise man takes the one on the right, there are many more scriptures that tell us that even that road has ditches on either side--ditches that result in evil-doing.

Principle #3: "Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." (Proverbs 4:27) Translation: Be radically Biblical. At first glance this doesn't sound very radical at all. But I am a person of extremes, and I live among a people of extremes. And, somehow, I oftn think I serve a God of Extremes. But God would beg to differ, I think.
Deut. 5:32 "You shall be careful, therefore, to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left."

Deut. 17:11 "According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision that they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left."

Deut. 28:13-14: "And the Lord God will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them."

Joshua1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go."

Joshua 23:6 "Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left"

2 Kings 22:2 "And he (Josiah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left."
If I am going to make choices and live a life that glorifies God, I must put on the mind of the Spirit and learn to think like God thinks. And I must admit from the verses above--and there are more like them--that God is neither radically right nor radically left. Neither is He a moderate. (A moderate is simply someone who likes compromise and is typically fully convinced of nothing. The word "spineless" comes to mind.) No, God is something that is not right, not left, and not moderate. God is radically Biblical. And that is a category unto itself.

But I can confuse submitting to the Ancient of Days with "erring on the side of caution." In my frailty as a forgiven-but-fallen human, I like to play it safe with my decisions. However, erring is erring. To err is to miss the mark. To miss the mark is ... sin. So, to choose to be more pious than God is to ... sin. Playing fast and loose with Scripture is not Biblical; being more pious than God is not Biblical. Only the Bible is Biblical. And where the Bible is silent, I have a duty to wrestle with issues and let Biblical principles inform our choices.

From this point forward, ...
...I am guarding myself against adding to or taking away from the Word.
...I am going to be fully convinced in my own mind.
...I am refraining from veering both right and left.

Who's with me?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Inclination of the Heart

"A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left. " Ecclesiastes 10:2

I've been wrestling over the past week or so with issues of conscience and how we should handle those with our children. As there are far more issues of conscience than rules in the New Testament, I realize the need to seriously grapple with those both as an individual Christian and as a parent. And, while my amazing Redeemer is wonderfully knowable, He is also wonderfully complex.

So, before I reveal the third principle that must guide my decisions on issues of conscience, I want to unpack Ecclesiastes 10:2. There are too many battles of ideas to list here, but the underpinning of our inclinations is, as the Scripture states, a battle between right and left. And that battle is much older than elephants and donkeys.

Right: conservatism.
No matter the ideology, conservatism is the tendency to approach change slowly and skeptically. It views ancient things as good and new things as bad.
Left: liberalism.
Again, no matter the ideology, liberalism is the tendency to approach change quickly and wholeheartedly. It views ancient things as bad and new things as good. This is why liberals, while often eschewing the "L" word, embrace the label "progressive."

Therefore, what Solomon was saying was that the wise man values ancient wisdom, and the foolish man disdains ancient wisdom. Unfortunately, to disdain ancient wisdom is to disdain the author of all wisdom Himself. For it is no coincidence that Daniel, in chapter 7 of his book, refers to God as the Ancient of Days.

The Ancient of Days who sits on the throne of heaven and is served by a thousand thousands...
The Ancient of Days who will delegate all dominion to the Son of Man...
The Ancient of Days who will preside in judgment at the end of all things...

Allow me, then, to connect some dots. Solomon is exhorting us to train our hearts to seek wisdom from the Ancient of Days. And that wisdom is found in His Word. That brings us back to what the Reformers called sola scriptura. It is a stern warning from the Old Testament that directly links to John's stern warning in the New Testament (Rev. 22:18-19) not to change the Word by adding to or taking away from it.

We need to train our children to beware of "change" both in politicians who stray from founding documents and from false teachers who stray from THE founding document, the Bible. New ideas and new teachings are not just possibly erroneous; they are probably erroneous. And as we navigate our children through issues of conscience, we must direct them with the wisdom of Solomon always back to the Ancient of Days.

But that does not mean that it is okay to "err on the side of caution..."
...which finally brings me to my third principle.