A Prayer for Passion

Lord,

You are the God of beauty, light, sound and color.

You inspire the birds to sing, the flowers to bloom and the sun to shine.

Thank you for surrounding me with such amazing reminders of your daily presence in my life.

 

 

Forgive me Lord, for my weariness, my fear, my doubt and my focus on all that I don’t or can’t see.

Restore my heart Lord-

Fill me, wash me, drench me in your joy, your desires, your vision, your energy and excitement.

Give me a heart of flesh so that when I serve you I will be focused on you, and your initiatives, not my comfort or my plans or my wishes.

Create in me a clean heart O God–

Use me I pray, use me Lord to do your work here–

Help me to breathe you in and to exhale you out as a daily rhythm in my life.

Amen

“Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” an interview with the author

One of the most surprising gifts this year in my career was having the opportunity to meet and work with author Lois Tverberg. She has written three books in the “Rabbi Jesus” series and I have the privilege of helping her launch the third book in that series entitled, “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.” Each of these books takes the time to examine Jesus in the context of his Hebrew heritage. Tverberg digs into the Hebrew culture and language to help us modern Western believers try to understand a bit more about the ancient culture of Israel, their ways of thinking, how they thought about God and she teaches us how to bridge the huge cultural gap that exists. This “gap” for a lack of a better word is something that I had not recognized or given much thought to in the past. However, now I am continually challenged to look deeper into the historical and cultural context of both the New and Old Testament. Lois’ books have opened my eyes to see that the scriptures and Jesus teachings are richer, broader and more complex than I ever imagined. Everything is new again!

Below you will find an interview with Lois as she explains her work more fully. If you have ever called yourself a student of the Bible, I implore you to read Tverberg’s books. I think you will come to feel as I have, like I have been standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon all of my life and staring in awe at a pothole. Please, if you do read her books, let me know what you think. I’d love to sit for a cup of coffee and discuss it with you!

An Interview with Lois Tverberg

“Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus”

You’ve written a couple of other books before this one that have similar titles – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. How do they relate to your new book?

Sitting at the Feet was about the Jewish customs that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, like the biblical feasts, the Jewish prayers, and the relationship of rabbi and disciple. Walking in the Dust was about the Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings. Many of the things he said make much more sense when you know the conversation that was going on around him. Disciples are supposed to “walk in the ways” of their rabbi and obey his teaching. So I chose some of Jesus’ teachings that are especially practical for our lives and have a Jewish context that sheds light on their meaning.

My newest book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, pulls back a bit and starts by looking at cultural issues that get in the way as we read the Bible in the modern, Western world. Among the things I asked myself as I wrote were, what cultural tools can I give readers to read the Bible more authentically? How does a lack of grasp of Jesus as a Jewish Middle Easterner cause us to misunderstand his words? Ultimately, my goal was to equip the average Christian to read the Bible more like first-century disciple.

In your new book you talk about cultural differences that get in the way of understanding the Bible and suggest that we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks.” What do you mean by that?

I started the book with a story about when my five year old nephew arrived in Iowa from Atlanta for Christmas. He had never seen snow before, so he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, so he assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead. We need to grasp how the Bible “thinks” – the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today. It’s also important that we don’t mix these two worlds together inappropriately, like mixing lawnmowers and snow.

 

You mention an acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. How do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?

The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans. We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We are industrialized, so that our world does not revolve around family and clan, but around work and business. We are relatively rich, so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.

I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes, like farming and kings, simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.

 

There’s a chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” where you discuss the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?

Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining that anyone could think any other way. Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. In this chapter, I show that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too, and to give readers some basic skills to bridge the gap between East and West.

 

Another chapter is called, “Why Jesus Needs those Boring ‘Begats.’” In it you point out that many people wonder why the Bible contains so many meaningless lists of names. What is significant about genealogies, culturally? Why were they included?

In the Bible, family was central. Even if you don’t agree with it on every issue, you have to grasp how it “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.

How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?

Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We also assume that the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd. When Paul tells his audience that they are a temple of God, we hear it as about how “my body is a temple.” But Paul is actually talking about them all together as God’s temple, not to each of them individually. In this chapter I point out many places where things make more sense when you see them in light of their communal implications.

Here’s another example of how “we” is important. People talk about Jesus is “my personal savior” and struggle to find the gospel in the Gospels. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom. When we “accept Christ” we are submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes right by us.

 

You tell about a Christian scholar who theorized that Paul knew his Scriptures by memory. Christian scholars were very skeptical, but Jewish scholars strongly agreed with him. Why was this story important to you?

When I first started hearing about Jesus’ Jewish context, I was skeptical about whether it could be of use to Christians. I was also skeptical of ideas like that Jesus and Paul likely knew their Scriptures (our Old Testament) by heart and expected their listeners to be very familiar with them too. I was told that they would hint to it and drop in little quotes often in their teaching, and these hints were often quite important to grasping the point.

At first, I absolutely didn’t believe this. But as I studied more about traditional Judaism, I discovered that even since the first century, rabbinic sermons have been overloaded with hints, quotes and subtle links to Bible passages. Memorization has been strongly stressed. I laughed when I read about a scholar on Paul’s Jewish context who spoke about this at conferences about twenty or thirty years ago. Christian scholars would all poo-poo him and say, “highly unlikely” or “totally impossible.” The Jewish scholars in his audience, however, would all nod their heads in agreement and say, of course he did!

In the last section of the book I go into more detail about how Jewish teachers studied their Scriptures and alluded to them in preaching. Most importantly, I talk about how some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in this very subtle Jewish way. There are a lot of skeptical scholars who have said that Jesus was just a wandering wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But they know nothing about Jesus’ Jewish habit of hinting to his Scriptures, so they miss some of his most powerful statements about being the Son of God.

 

What started your interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? Was there a particular event that piqued your interest?

I was raised in a devout Christian home. I’m not Jewish and my overall interest is in understanding the reality of Jesus and the Bible, rather than Judaism per se. A little over twenty years ago I signed up for a seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish culture of the Bible at my church, thinking it would be just some dry historical information. But all of a sudden Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world.

My background was originally in the sciences, and I have a Ph. D. in biology. I was teaching as a college biology professor and my background in research compelled me to dig deeper. Over the years I’ve traveled to Israel several times to experience the land and history in person and to study the language and the culture. Every time I come home I’m newly inspired, because in the past few decades scholars and archaeologists have unearthed enormous amounts of information that clarifies the Bible’s stories, particularly the Jewish setting of Jesus.

 

Why do you think that so many Christians are unaware of their Jewish heritage?

All of the disciples were Jewish, and the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. But within only a couple centuries Gentiles became the majority in the church, and many were hostile to its Jewish origins. Even in Romans Paul warned the Gentiles not to be arrogant toward the Jews, but his words went unheeded. One reason was that early Christians needed to establish their identity as a new movement, and they defended their faith by focusing on their differences with Judaism.

Through the ages there has been occasional interest by Christians in understanding their Jewish roots, but for much of its history the church has struggled with anti-Semitism. And Jews who had felt the persecution of Christians were understandably less than interested in helping them understand the roots of their faith. It’s only been in the last century that Christians have become avidly interested in the topic. One reason for this is because we mingle so much more. Jews and Christians now have relative freedom to discuss their beliefs, and both groups are curious about how the other reads their common Scriptures.

Click the picture below for a link to purchase “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.”

Christmas = The gift of Redemption

In one week we will celebrate Christmas, the greatest gift of love a parent could ever offer a child, redemption. Redemption doesn’t seem like much if you don’t feel the weight of the need. But there are moments, when we know we’ve screwed up and we wish we could go back and change the past…in those moments redemption is all we can hope for.

Stripped of our bravado, our private choices revealed and highlighted, our secrets being exposed to the light…

in those moments, REDEMPTION is the most beautiful gift of all.

It is a gift that is undeserved.

It is a gift that is wanted but unexpected.

It is a gift full of love…a love that surrounds you and accepts you and won’t shun you or turn you away. It is a gift that assures that you will never be alone, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

re·demp·tion

noun
  1.   The action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil.
             “God’s plans for his redemption of the world.”
saving, freeing from sin, absolution
             2. The action of gaining or regaining something in exchange   for payment or clearing a debt.
It is the gift of Christmas. God loving us so much that he came down from heaven in the form of a child. Leaving all of His glory and the perfection of heaven to save us from the mess we had created here on earth. He knew everything we had done, he had heard every hateful speech we had uttered, he saw every shameful act we had participated in and yet he loved us. He saw us for what we were and still his heart was full of forgiveness because we were His and he longed to redeem us and pick us up and save us. He couldn’t turn his back on us and give us what we deserved…he was our Father.
Today my bedroom looks like an Amazon warehouse. I still have shopping to do and none of my wrapping is done. It is so easy for me to get so distracted by the “things” of Christmas. To overlook and ignore the “why” of what we are celebrating.
Today I feel my Savior, my Father, lifting my head from sin and shame. He whispers, “I love you and nothing will ever change that.
And I believe Him.

Does this hurt? Being real with God.

My son Wesley plays Jr. league tackle football. This year he moved up to the Varsity level and is playing with the big boys. He has always been the largest kid on any sports team he has ever played on until now.

Puberty has a way of leveling the playing field when boys turn 13.

After his first game he came home with more bruises and scratches than I’ve ever observed before. On his shoulders, shins, elbows and hands.

There is something about big bruises that tempts others to poke at them and ask, “Does this hurt?”

Why is that?

It’s a fun game if you are the poker…if you are the one being poked…it just hurts.

Lately, it feels like life frequently pushes on the bruises of my heart and asks,

“Does this hurt? Here? Here? How about here?”

My answer, “Yes, it hurts! Stop! Please?!”

I assure you that my life is NOT in a full fledged fall out right now. I have been in much tougher places, facing much more dire circumstances…

In fact, the truth is my life is amazing. New and exciting challenges are popping up everywhere.

The blessings are numerous.

And yet, the losses are too. New challenges don’t erase old hurts no matter how much we want them to.

I have a way of minimizing hurt and trying to pack it into a box and put it on a shelf labeled LOSS.

I don’t readily embrace loss. Who does?

Sometimes that works…

Sometimes I can just move on and pick myself up and dust myself off.

But often, that strategy fails. And I have to stop. I’m forced to grieve which I don’t like.

I have to…feel and pray.

And be angry.

And ask, “Why?”

I’m reading a book written by Lois Tverberg entitled, “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus.” She talks about the “Jewish tradition of boldness toward God.”

She observes that “difficult questions for God may show a stronger faith than our own pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” This quote has rattled around in my brain lately.

I think many times I do bend over backwards to make “pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” I suppress and suppress but eventually the doubt leaks out. The problem with leaking doubt is that it will slowly fill my heart and thoughts without my realizing what is happening. Leaky doubt turns to bitterness.

Bitterness smells, it on you and you can’t get away…the smell fills up a room till you can’t help but breathe it in…it must be washed off.

I’ve been wondering about the boldness Tverberg speaks of and if it is a healthier way to conduct oneself?

See, assess, be real with God.

How would my prayer life change if instead of telling God the reasons why he must be allowing something I don’t like, I choose to talk to him about the struggle of my heart. Instead of hiding my feelings from him and myself, I choose to face them with his strength?

“It takes more faith to ask than it takes to fear the asking… Many of us Christians are so used to pious, solemn reverence toward God that we blush to hear someone addressing him…and yet behind this habit is the assumption that God is our loving Father, whom we can approach without trepidation or timidity.” Tverberg says on pages 123-124.

Do I approach the Father with such assurance?

Have I approached the Father with my hurt?

One more quote from Tverberg,

“The issue of prayer is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God. How you pray reveals what you believe about God.” page 125

I don’t think we are ever too old to out grown our need to preform a health check on our faith and examine if our current thoughts and beliefs are in line with what is Truth. The devil whispers so many lies in my ears and so many times I think I unconsciously agree with the lies…eventually those lies grow and bore tiny holes into my shield of faith and leave me vulnerable to attack.

Jeremiah 2:11-12 My people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

In the midst of the hurt I have been experiencing,

Have I exchanged Glory for a broken cistern that cannot hold water?

Jeremiah 6:16 Stand in the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and your will find rest for your souls.

 

Most days I wake up in the morning with a song in my mind, a lyric on repeat that plays until I’ve learned what the Father is trying to teach me. This song by Tauren Wells called “Hills and Valleys” is playing this morning. “The Father who gives and takes away, every joy and every pain…through it all He will remain over it all. In the valley I only will lift my eyes.”

God is good, that is Truth.

Nothing can or will change that…forever and ever Amen.

“Walking in the Dust of Rabbi” Jesus by Lois Tverberg published by Zondervan Copyright 2012  is available on Amazon. Use this link to order a copy for yourself.

https://tinyurl.com/yavjba4q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasuring up and pondering…it’s a mom thing

The moment I found out I was pregnant, everything changed. Every thought, every plan, every idea of the future instantly became something new. I’ve experienced that 5 times in my life. A piece of my heart suddenly belonged to someone I’d never met and that fact that we’d never met meant absolutely nothing…we were connected. I was 23 years old the first time, just a baby myself really. I never got to meet that child, he only survived for 10 weeks but his short lifespan changed my heart the very second I knew he existed.

I was a mother.

I’ve been told the same happens when you adopt. The very moment you find out you have been placed with a child he/she becomes yours instantly. They have your heart.

You are a mother.

My Facebook feed is filled with “First day of school” pictures…

It’s an interesting social media phenomena. We all share in the triumphs and challenges of theses firsts…a shared mom community experience…taking pictures, posting pictures, bragging or bemoaning whatever transitions are taking place in our lives. None of us able to believe how fast time flies by…how quickly our babies become kindergartners, 8th graders, college students. Older moms always warned me that time was short but I couldn’t hear them, I didn’t understand them, I was just so tired and weary. And then suddenly…

Today my phone lit up with a picture of a soldier in training, my girlfriend’s son. I remember when this kid was born. Her heart is straining to stay together as she waits for a phone call from him, it’s been weeks. Another girlfriend is messaging me about her daughter who is grown, lives in another state, has a job, and yet her heart is wrenching because of the distance between them.

 

 

A first step, a first tooth, a first concussion, a first dorm, a last kiss, a hug good-bye.

 

 

 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

As a child, I knew that verse was the end of the Christmas story. As a mom, I know that’s just the beginning. It’s the one verse in the Bible that completely summarizes motherhood. I am amazed that at such a young age Mary knew how to treasure up and ponder, it took me a lot longer to know I had to hold on to moments. I was often too exhausted, frazzled, too busy.

I just read a passage from “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. “Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into my protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.”

The irony is that no matter if we do or don’t entrust our babies or grown children to Him, he still watches over them. However, if we do trust God enough to open our hands, there is freedom. Room to breathe. Space to feel, to rejoice and mourn all at the same time. A chance to be in awe of His plan and to thank Him for his care.

This morning these words came to mind. This is the God we serve.

 

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Take a moment to inhale His love. Allow His presence to surround you. Sink into His embrace. Lift up your head and feel the warmth of the sunshine He has provided.

Trust Him, dear mom.

Trust him with your heart. The one you feel beating inside your chest…

and the ones that beat outside of your body.

 

 

 

Everything is changing

 In 46 days we will move my daughter into a dorm room 6 hours away at the University of Missouri and then get in our car and drive home without her. None of the parenting books, MOPS meetings, Facebook posts or blog articles I’ve read have prepared my heart for what it is feeling right now.

I have never subscribed to “helicopter” parenting and have often been known to freely spout the wisdom that “our job as parents is to help them grow up to be contributing members of society, to leave the nest and become full fledged adults, blah, blah blah.” That advice always seemed relevant and wise when the next step was walking into a 3 year old classroom for 2 hours or hopping on a bus to join the ranks of full day school children. I relished the increased freedom I had when my children were finally old enough to leave me for a few hours each day. I had finally found time to take a shower or read a book or plan a meal in peace.

But this, this is very different. Our home will no longer be her “home base” and I am NOT cool with that. Oh, believe me, I’m trying to “suck it up” and make nice with this idea but honestly, it isn’t working.

Everything is changing so quickly around me this summer. One girlfriend is preparing to send her baby boy off to the military, and another just moved her mother into her home and is watching her slowly slip away to the ravages of dementia. We had to put our dog down after 16 years…so much change.

I remember when it seemed as if nothing was changing. One summer felt the same as the last. I was harried, tired, stressed out and begging for quiet. The kids woke up too early, made too much noise, fought too much, were bored way too often. Back then my girlfriends and I would spend each Wednesday watching the kids play in the pool, drinking margaritas, order fast food for dinner and play till the sun went down. We counted down the days till they all went back to school.

I guess I’m still counting down the days…

Today I was reading about God as ELOHIM, which means mighty creator, the one who was at the beginning of it all. The most ancient of all.

I’ve often thought about the Creator as the one who made everything I can see…mountains, trees, animals, the sun and the sky, the moon and the stars. But this summer, my eyes see the Creator as the one who created the texture of life. Happiness, sadness, love that makes the heart ache, the joy of memory, the pain of loss, the music of a baby’s cry, the warmth of a child’s unrestrained giggle. There is so much more of the Creator surrounding us than we will ever realize. Maybe it’s summers like this one when my heart is feeling more than my eyes are seeing that help me glimpse the Creator more fully.

The Bible says God created us in his own image. It’s possible that our physical image is a reflection of him but even more so I believe we reflect him in our unending capacity to feel and experience life, relationships, friendship and love. And I’m awestruck that all the emotions my heart can hold are only a glimpse of the ELOHIM who created me.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

Soaking up summer has a different meaning to me than it ever has before. We are soaking up our time together, we are soaking up our love for each other, we are soaking up memories and kisses and hugs. I’m grateful that I’ve been created to experience all of these things even when they are painful because it all is a reflection of the God who created us.

There is a line in a song that says, “When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.” Sometimes this summer, I feel like this. But the next line says, “You are good.” This is the refrain of my heart. . . You are good.

ELOMHIM YOU ARE GOOD.

 

Tell me when…

Doug and I went to out for dinner this past weekend to celebrate his birthday. I spent some time alone at our table and rather than whip out my phone and check Facebook or my email, I took those few moments to look around and observe the people sitting near me.

I watched two interactions that looked similar. A lady at the table to my right had ordered a salad and the waiter had come over to offer her fresh ground pepper. I watched as he slowly sprinkled the spice over her plate and quite quickly saw her hold up her hand and smile saying, “Thank you, that’s enough.”

Almost at the same time, a gentleman just beyond her was having parmesan cheese freshly grated over his pasta. He too was allowed to tell the waitress when she had given him “enough.” He smiled and watched her turn and turn and turn the crank on the cheese grater and laughed with the whole table when he finally held up his and and said, “thats enough.” His dinner guests were commenting loudly how they were afraid he was never going to stop, that he may have taken all of the cheese.

Both of these interactions were almost the same, and yet they weren’t at all. I’m curious why pepper and cheese get special treatment at restaurants, why are those the two items that are important enough for personal service? A little or a lot? It sort of depends on what is in the grater.

Have you ever felt like you were looking up at God saying, “That’s enough, thank you?” The pepper of life falling down on you and you are quick to say, “no more.” Or, have you ever looked at your life and had it feel like God was grating Parm all over your days and you didn’t want to ever say, “Stop.”

I’m not sure where this analogy goes but it makes me chuckle. Doug and I discussed at dinner how blessed we were, “beyond measure” is how the Bible puts it. I could sit here and list all the amazing blessings I have been gifted with; a complete A-Z list with footnotes included. I’m overwhelmed when I drink in all that God has given me. The “cheese” of life is gooey and melted and makes me feel a little guilty because He has given me so much.

And yet, at the same table where Doug and I discussed how richly blessed we are, we shed tears. It’s was such a strange juxtaposition. We miss Dad, we know Emily is going away to college soon, there are prayers we’ve prayed for years that still feel unanswered. It’s the pepper of life.

King David wrote about pepper and cheese, maybe he didn’t know it but he did. Not every psalm but many start with praise and adoration. He gives voice to the many blessings of God. Then for some reason David also includes what he is struggling with and talks about the people or circumstances that plague him and cause his heart to ache. He then ends with an affirmation of who God is and testifies that God will never change.

Our lives can overflow with blessings and our hearts can ache all at the same time. Laughing through tears isn’t abnormal, in fact, it’s the most real any of us can be.

I encourage you to open up the Psalms today and see for yourself what King David has written. You may find a voice for the unspoken words of your heart. Laugh with Jesus about the blessings he has given you but also let him see your tears and allow him to speak to your pain, to your fear, to your longings.

Pepper and cheese may not be the deepest thing I’ve ever written about but I hope it does make you think…and maybe laugh a bit too.

PS. Happy Birthday Doug!

 

 

 

Time Out

When my kids were toddlers they spent a fair amount of daylight in a time out chair. Some of them were more familiar with the phrase, “Ok, time out!” than others, believe me.

Using “time outs” was a great tool for me to establish order to my home, give each of us a quiet minute to collect our sanity and distract my child from whatever it was that warranted the consequence in the first place.

Sometimes, I would put them in time out and when I came back to “free” them, they had fallen asleep. Most of the time, I knew that what they really needed was a nap but they would have never believed me. They were tired, they were worn out and sometimes I think it was when they were learning new skills that they needed more sleep than what they could gain from a normal routine.

The image of a “time out chair” hit me as I looked at the last date of my last blog post, December 28. It’s been a long time. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I really have. It’s not even that I had nothing to say even, its just that I wasn’t able to write or speak or pray. I’ve been in “time out” and I believe God placed me there.

Why? 

As I look back, I see so many reasons.

This past year has been filled with so much. Much to be thankful for, much to mourn, much to be exhausted by, much waiting, much processing, much longing…much.

My relationship with my children never changed when I put them in time out. Although they might have been spitting mad at me, I always knew they still loved me and I always still loved them. As they grew older they adopted the silent treatment as a way to communicate their displeasure with my parenting…even through that, my love was never questioned.

I’m so relieved that I can say the same of God and so much more. Even though I’ve chosen silence, He has chosen relationship. Even though I’ve chosen anger, He has offered joy. Even when I’ve chosen to be ungrateful, He has continued to give me more than I need. And when I’ve cried, even if I didn’t invite Him in to comfort me, I know that He never left.

Time outs kind of suck if I’m honest. I wrote that sentence many times but couldn’t find a more eloquent way of saying it, sorry. But I needed this time out, I’m at least mature enough to see that ….it took me 6 months so don’t even bother being impressed. I’m not even sure this time out is done yet?

Maybe this is my time to “think about why I’m here?” I used to use that line on my kids too.

I think I may be ready to come back? I think.

I woke up this morning with this line on repeat in my heart, “The evidence is all around, that the Spirit of the Lord is here.”  repeat, repeat, repeat.

He will lift up my head. That is a promise.

Psalm 3

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 It’s with tears falling down my cheeks that I share this song with you. My heart is so full and so raw. This song seems to speak truth more than my words right now.
https://youtu.be/IR-7O57IQUA Elevation Worship, “Here as in Heaven”

Book Review: Waiting for Wonder

Waiting & patience have never been two of my strongest character traits. I’ve spent so many hours on my knees begging God to move things along and telling him exactly how He should and could as if he needed help.

This past month has a been an extreme test in patience as I watched my oldest endure some of the most intensive pain and suffering with complete TMJ replacement surgery. God and I have had countless conversations about why he was requiring my son to put his schooling and career on hold, why God would give such an amazing musical gift and then seem to take it away with a defective jaw, why it seemed that God is playing a cat and mouse game with my son? Giving him a passion for saxophone and music only to then yank it away as soon as that passion was realized seems like a cruel joke and a terrible plan.

If it was left up to me…and then I fill in the blanks with unrelenting speed and accuracy.

Waiting for Wonder Book Review

I volunteered to be a part of a book review this month, something I haven’t done in over a year. The book is called, Waiting for Wonder by Marlo Schalesky. The subtitle is: “Learning to live on God’s timeline.” Who says the Creator of the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor?

This book is a fascinating study of the life of Abraham and Sarah. The author combines a historically accurate yet fictional account of Sarah’s waiting for the promise of a child along with actual accounts from the author’s own life. I’ve never read a book in this form before and honestly I have never studied the details of Sarah’s story either. I learned so much from walking along side this hero of the faith as she waited and waited for God to fulfill the promise he had given her.

I have so many quotes from this book highlighted and underlined, I wish I could share them all with you. There are gems in this book when the author names truth so honestly it takes your breath away. She carefully reveals God’s loving nature in a way that shows a deep and profound understanding of Him. This is not a one note book but a symphony of love and patience and acceptance. Revealing a God who is bigger than most of us ever can believe. She also puts her finger on the painful truths that most of us privately harbor in our hearts and by naming them allows the reader to examine the holes in such beliefs.

“For a moment, I see God’s truth so clearly: he is the God who calls us at the very place of our deepest shame, our deepest pain, and transforms that place into something with breathtaking beauty. No one but God-no one but Elohim-would dare do such a thing.”

 

“God does not forget. He does however, sometimes let us wait. And in that interval between promise and fulfillment, in the “not yets” of life, we typically do not lose faith in God’s omnipotence; rather we lose sight of his love.”

Waiting for Wonder has been a balm for my weary soul. It has challenged and uncovered so many questions I have for God and it also has given me hope as I see how God fulfilled his promise to Sarah.

As we head into a new year, add this book to your reading list and allow the God to speak truth and hope to your soul.

“God sees us in the shadows of our tents, in the places we hide because we are afraid to hope anymore. He sees us and he speaks.”

Click this link to order your copy from Amazon.

 

Lessons from the edge of the ocean

I spent the first two weeks of December on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico’s beautiful water. Each night I watched the sun change the colors of the sky into something unique and different every night at 5:45pm as it melted into the horizon. If you’ve seen it once, you’ll never want to miss seeing it again. There was never a repeat of the same colors or the same sounds, each day was completely different from the day before. The condo we stayed in was only hundreds of feet away from the the water’s edge, the only thing separating my bedroom from the ocean was fine, soft, powdery white sand.

The noise of the ocean is a constant. There were days when the surf was minimal and the waters were calm but the sound was still persistent. The days when the waves were tall and angry the volume would be turned up 10x! The ceaselessness of the ocean’s call amazed me, it just never stopped. That may seem like a ridiculous statement but for a girl who grew up in the midwest, I kept waiting for the ocean to “turn off.”

The first few days we were there the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the breezes were gentle. The water looked like a lake, calm, clear and soft. After 5 days of the same, suddenly the ocean turned into an angry companion.

The skies turned gray, the waves roared and stood up 6 feet in the air. It looked and felt like a completely different body of water. It was hard and frothy and filled with energy and warning. I’d sit for hours looking at the different colors and wondering about how so much change could occur seemingly overnight. My position hadn’t changed and yet my view was 100% altered.

And then, the fog rolled in. Thicker than any autumn midwest fog I had ever seen, this fog appeared out of nowhere and completely clouded my vision. It was even hard to breathe the air, it was so thick. From my position on the balcony where I just moments ago had been able to see where the water met the horizon, I suddenly couldn’t even see where the water met the sand. I was surrounded on all sides and felt like I was blind.

The one constant was the rhythm of the ocean, a pounding that never ceased. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was there just beyond my sight. A sustained and staccato crash that assured me it was still there.

As I sat and pondered the mystery of the ocean, I heard God’s voice of compassion and reassurance. “I am like the ocean,” he spoke to my soul. I am constant, I am continual, I am powerful, I am beautiful.

I Am.

Nothing will separate my love from your soul. Nothing. You may choose to leave but when you return I will still be here. You can not predict what I will look like, sound like, feel like or how I will behave but you can be certain that I am fixed, I am eternal.

I Am.

 

I could tell you so much more about the ocean. I could write about the multitude of colors I saw, more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. I could go on and on about the diversity and life that I experienced just along the shoreline and how my imagination ran wild as I contemplated what was under the dark waters. I could describe the endless mixture of birds I observed and their unique personalities.

Or the mixture of shells and sea sponges, rocks and sea grass that collected on the shoreline. The creativity that surrounded me on my little patch of sand was endless and overwhelming and humbling.

And I found myself asking,

 

Who is this King of Glory? 

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

I am small.

That is ok.

The Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory. He is the creator.

And He calls to us just like the ocean.

I Am.

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