Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My better half and I have spent nearly a year now reading through the Bible. The reading program we're enjoying will find us having read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice come the beginning of October. I'm loving the perspective and journey that comes with a broader overview and sense of context. It doesn't hurt that this particular program groups readings more or less chronologically, giving and even greater sense of flow. I'm noticing a pattern.
The nations of Judah and Israel--especially Israel--were rampant with sin. They built shrines and altars to pagan gods in the heart of the Temple. They sacrificed their children to the same gods. They cheated anyone they could, especially the poor and needy. They engaged in wanton orgies and committed every kind of detestable sin imaginable. Vegas had nothing on them. The Pharisees of Jesus' day stood in sharp contrast. Not only did they honor God's law, they built a system of laws around the law to ensure they didn't even come close. They had no tolerance for sinful acts and harshly punished anyone caught in such an abomination. They walked little old ladies across the street, they attended synagogue faithfully, they tithed AND donated to the building fund, they were, well, "good" people.
What is shocking, however, is that when the day is over and all comes to account, these two groups shared the same sin. They suffered the same malady that separated them from God and blinded their eyes to His power and beauty. What was it? Pure and simple pride. Both were entirely self-sufficient and darn proud of it. Both loved having others admire and praise them. Ouch! In the end, what impresses God is a heart in overwhelming love with Him. He longs for people who will humble themselves enough to put themselves in His complete care. Can I trust Him and His plans when they lead to obscurity and disdain? Can I trust Him to take care of my family and our future? Can I trust His leading when it doesn't look like the smartest path to take? Will I listen for the praise of Heaven above all other voices? Does anyone else relate?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Fortunately, there was an open (if dirty) bathroom on the premises. After he got back, we stretched and set out for the 20 minute run...this time for real. He amazed me at how fast he was as I watched his back and ate his dust most of the run. When we finished this first long run together, he kept saying, "Mom, I'm perishable." Of course, he meant he isn't superman and he was feeling the effects of pushing himself physically, but my mind kept mulling through the passage in I Corinthians 15 where Paul uses the same word in describing our earthly bodies.
"50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.'"
My body is perishable. I have limits. I fight the earthly desire to do the easy, convenient, pleasant, comfortable, etc thing. Daily, I must CHOOSE the eternal over the temporary. I must CHOOSE to run the race, to push the perishable in honor of the One who gave me the joy of being able to put on the imperishable and immortal.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Michael and I started a running program a little over a year ago. In the months since we started, we've both gotten stronger and have had a fun time (especially lately) challenging each other. My oldest has watched us banter back and forth over who has run the most miles in a given week. He's also heard us compare notes as to how the day went and whether it was a "good" or "bad" running day. About five weeks ago, he told me he really wanted to work up to running three miles by the end of the summer. I was thrilled to hear it. I was even more thrilled when he said he wanted to run with me, not his dad. He's always been a daddy's boy, so the opportunity to spend time reaching a goal just the two of us was an exciting prospect. He does tend to bite off more than he can chew and tends to taper off quickly when the going gets hard, but I figured we'd give it a go. We are now in the middle of week four and I'm very proud of his commitment and drive. Though running has been fun, the best part of this joint effort is one I couldn't have predicted. When you get a boy out running and moving, they talk more. My oldest is far from introverted. He's my social butterfly, but even the most talkative of boys like to answer questions about school and their thoughts and feelings with monosyllables like "fine, good, yep, okay, ick," etc. When we're out walking and running, the rules change. I'm connecting with my son in huge ways in the short twenty to twenty-five minutes we're out together. Plus, I think tackling this goal together has forged a greater bond even when we aren't out running.
This week I've been thinking about how often the Bible parallels our spiritual lives to running a race. The comparison is fairly easy to spot. The more we excercise our spiritual muscles, the stronger we become. It's not always easy to do and at times we may hit walls when we feel we're struggling and getting nowhere. Having a goal and the extra push of reaching that goal pushes us toward greater discipline and helps us reach depths and levels we could only dream of at one point. Running with my son is giving me new perspectives about running a spiritual race. It's more fun to run with someone else, even in those times when you're held back because your partner can't run as fast or as long. It's a great discipline for me to have to think about someone else and encourage them as I run, and I run better when I have the accountability of someone else watching me and expecting me to reach the same goals they are. I have also discovered there's greater joy and benefits in the relationships you forge as you work with someone you love, striving for the same end goal.
Summer has definitely been more laid back for me and the boys (sorry, sweetie), but I think with the change in pace and routine come greater opportunities for introspection and observation. Maybe I won't let the boys start school until September...
Monday, May 25, 2009
I've always loved having people in my home. I really enjoy making them feel comfortable and welcomed. I revel in setting the stage and watching life altering conversation happen...the kind that draws people closer together. In recent days, God's been showing me that by trying to set a perfect stage, I lose sight of the greater picture. If I'm worried about having everything absolutely perfect, I sabotage people feeling at home and comfortable. For instance, a couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law dropped in with a good friend of hers who was in town. Our house had the normal mess that accumulates when I don't expect company. There were toys strewn about the living room, dishes in the sink, crumbs all over the counter and table, etc. However, I noticed the primary discomfort my guests felt was caused by my embarrassment over the "mess." If I had been okay with it, they certainly were. It made me think, and I believe I've wandered into Martha territory. If I'm projecting June Cleaver all over the place, hiding my unmade beds, dusty shelves, nasty looking microwave and such, are other moms going to feel as comfortable sharing the real hurts and dirt in their own lives? Probably not.
God, help me let my life shine clearly...warts and all. Help me focus more on the people you place in my life than in the cobwebs hanging off the chandelier.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Given my suddenly light position in life for these two days, I decided my youngest and I would play after I picked him up from school. We motored to Ikea to play in the children's section and finish up with ice cream cones. While he was navigating one of the many tunnels in the room display section (if you've never been to Ikea, this sentence probably makes no sense and by the way, I feel truly sorry for your sad station in life), he ran across a new friend, Braden. Braden came with his grandpa, who was a brilliantly charming Scottish gentleman, brouge and all. I love Scottish accents. We had a wonderful conversation for several minutes while the boys played with each other. It certainly didn't hurt how much I enjoyed the conversation when he commented on how beautiful (in a normal, non-child predator way) my son is and that he obviously "has a very pleasant disposition." Mothers love to hear those things. After we bade "goodbye" to these new-found friends and slowly enjoyed our ice cream, we headed home to get ready for T-ball practice.
My sons are amazingly good car riders. From day one, they've both loved riding in the car so much and are so quiet I sometimes forget they're even with me. This bit of trivia is pertinent to this story--really, it is. Since he is...well...an amazingly good car rider, I found myself reflecting on the conversation I had at Ikea. The Scottish gentleman was quite obviously "un-churched." At one point during our conversation he used some rather colorful language (colorful enough to still be banned from prime time TV, in case you were wondering), thrown out in a quite tasteful way. That's what caught me. I didn't instantly bristle in hidden and controlled condemnation. Five or ten years ago, I probably would have thought, "How sad that such a lovely conversation had to be ruined by a bad choice of language, even though he was careful to be quiet enough that the boys didn't overhear." Today I thought, "How sad this gentleman and his family don't live in Natomas so I could get to know them better. They seem just like the kind of people God's been throwing in my life lately." The shift is subtle, but clear to me. While I still don't condone or participate in "questionable" activities, I'm falling more in love with people who do. I'm seeing people who are far from God, feeling the tragedy of that and begging to help be the bridge to bring them to a point where they make an informed decision about whether they want to believe in Jesus or not. Besides, it just makes me laugh when I hear a friend who won't darken the door of a church tell someone else, "If you're going to go to church, pick my friends' church. They put on one hell of an Easter egg hunt!"
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Why, then, am I drudging them up? This past week I had an opportunity to re-visit jr. high with the maturity (no laughing, please) and wisdom age is supposed to bring. Michael and I were able to enjoy a minister's and spouses staff retreat. It was an actual retreat with a beautiful hotel room, meals out and the chance to play with our church staff, instead of the normal working "vacation/retreats" most churches like to host :). The challenge hit when we moved into the fun activities portion of the retreat. The first activity was go carts on a slick track, which was really fun...even for an anal driver like me. After that, we headed over to a great driving range located on the edge of a man made lake. The holes were on islands adrift in the lake, which is pretty darn cool, if you ask me. I love watching the guys hit a few golf balls. The weather was beautiful, the conversation stimulating, until someone happened to remember I was there and decided we ALL needed to hit a few balls. All of the sudden I found myself in jr high again. I had never even held a stupid golf club before...unless you call a mini golf putter a club--I don't. I painfully managed to swing a few times. I missed the ball more than I hit but eventually plopped a couple in the brink about 50 yards in front of us. With great relief, I handed the club off to someone else. For the final activity of the day, we ended up in a bowling alley and the torture that is jr high continued. I had only "bowled" one game about ten years ago (it wasn't pretty). Once again, I had no idea what type of equipment to use, how to hold it, etc. Seriously people, I do know how to do some things that involve active participation. I can skate (both ice and roller), ride horses, mini-golf, ski and hike to name a few.
I definitely handled the whole situation and feelings that accompany being that awkward and obvious much better than I did when I was eleven. It's nice to know I've managed to mature some through the years. This brief relapse gave pause for introspection that evening. It all comes back to security and trust. Can I rest in God's love? Is His love good enough, or do I have to be talented, smart and witty too? It's a good lesson for me. After all, isn't trust about following Him even if you look (or feel) awkward, scared and inadequate through the process? I seemed to hear His words break through. "Do you truly love Me more than these...?"
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Three weeks ago yesterday my newest niece was born. She's perfectly formed-everything where it should be and a head FULL of blond hair to boot (blond newborns don't happen in my family). Blondie is baby #4 to move into the Gospel Wesleyan Chapel's parsonage (which is a modest size house to start with), so I knew my sister would need some extra help adjusting to life with four kids as a solo pastor's wife in a small town. The kicker came when baby was one day old. My sister hadn't even been released from the hospital yet when my brother-in-law broke his ankle--the RIGHT ankle! The new daddy can't drive, new baby can't seem to sleep at night and new mommy is trying to survive. Fortunately, my parents are parked next door (they have a house sized RV) and I flew out when baby was a week old. Between my brother-in-law and sister pastoring two churches 45 miles apart, giving music lessons and accompanying a high school musical next weekend-all with a broken ankle and newborn-it's been a zoo around here.
Today the weather is mimicking life. It's downright violent out there. As I sit here listening to the rumbling thunder and pounding rain, I'm reminded of the story in Mark 4. Jesus and His disciples were crossing the lake in a horrid storm. Jesus was sound asleep in the boat when His disciples woke him asking, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Jesus seemed amazed at their fear and complete lack of faith.
Lately, I've fought a storm in my own heart. As in most of the rest of the country these days, life is uncertain in our neck of the woods. I feel the sense that God may soon ask more of our family than I'm comfortable with. I believe He's on the move...HE'S on the move and I'm in a holding pattern waiting for His timing to move with Him. I'm not sure what that will look like, which can be unnerving at best. I think I needed to see the physical storm today and read Mark 4 to better understand the spiritual storm. I don't want to hear the words the disciples had to hear. "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Let me rest along side the God of the storm.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Today, I had a couple of errands to run...a quick trip to the store and working through homework and writing birthday thank yous with the boys. As the boys and I were walking back to the van after school, we bumped into a new friend picking up her son from 4th R. As we chatted, she started dropping subtle questions/hints about the possibility of a impromptu park play date with our four boys. Habit suggested I should beg off and make my vitally important trip to Raley's. Let see, spending time with someone I love and God is actively pursuing or price checking vanilla wafers? Honestly, how could I EVER think vanilla wafers are more important? We didn't discuss the fate of the universe or even how deep/wide/great is the Father's love this afternoon. Still, I think maybe tonight my friend knows I'm willing to interrupt my life for her. Today it was a simple little play date and discussions about picky eaters and sibling rivalry. Some day it might include how Jesus has made me different.
"God, help me interrupt my life for the 'unimportant' stuff. Help me keep a view towards people more than piles of laundry, shopping lists or projects."
Friday, February 27, 2009
A good friend of mine has had a month of dealing with hell (quite literally). He's a pk who works in the wide open mission field known as the work force. Recently, one of his co-workers lost a 9 month old granddaughter to cancer. His words touched me so deeply, I asked if I could share them with you. He agreed. I'll warn you ahead of time...it's long, but well worth the time to read.
I'm not sure why February has been this way, but it has. What the month has lacked in dreary weather it has made up for in sadness. First it was the lost of a coworker and then, this week, the 9 month old granddaughter of a fellow co-worker, past away after a sudden discovery of cancer, an attempted surgery and many attempts to keep her, Alli, alive. Babies die every day. This fact doesn't make it any easier to deal with but when we have the advantage of space and distance and we can shield ourselves from the pain.
On Thursday night Konnie and I went to visit the family at 'the viewing'. Upon entering the building we immediately saw a video playing, showing slides of little Alli that had been taken in her short 9 months of life. There were flowers, cookies and music playing. It was hard not to tear up even though I had never met little Alli in person. I could feel that space and distance closing in. We then started reading some poems that family members, including the father, had written for Alli. They were all very moving and brought even more tears to our eyes.
Once my friend, Alli's grandpa, came in we hugged and visited with them for a little while. Then we were taken into the room where the body was; where the baby was. This is when the distanced closed and the space around us seemed so close and tight that breathing became difficult. I noticed the photos, the memorabilia and more flowers that were lovingly placed in the small room. There was a bassinet with pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. The bassinet was empty in regards to a body though. At first I was somewhat thankful because I really have a hard time with the death of children. That fact doesn't make me special, it simply makes me human. But as I turned to the right, there was a couch with some people on there. And there they were. The mom was holding what almost looked to be a doll, but it wasn't a doll... it was Alli. She was stroking the babies hair and smiling at her. She then realized people were coming in and said, 'time to lay you down sweetie... I love you so much'. She smiled, she wept... she loved. She loved her little girl.
Writing about this doesn't make any of it easier. It wasn't my child; I had never even met her. But the overwhelming sadness I felt at that moment was undeniable. And it wasn't just me. My sweet wife began crying and I know she was thinking back to when our little Kaden was born and in intensive care for the first week of his life. How close we came to being where this family was.... the space we had and the distance we shared closed.
I spoke to my friend, again, of why I had to believe what i believe about God. I can't believe that this life has no meaning and that there is nothing beyond this life that isn't wonderful. Because if there is no reason that a 9 month old little girl gets cancer and dies, then I'm not sure I can be on board with that sort of cold, brutal universe. When my cousin's 2 year old died in a drowning accident I wrote a blog about Jesus saying 'Let the little children come to me'. It's with a heavy heart that I really need to hear Jesus say 'Let Geoffrey come to me'. I think we all need to hear him say that; to hear our name come from his mouth. I know I hope the family of Alli can hear Jesus calling them to Him. He's ready to hold them. When there is distance and space between you and God you can hide from emotion; you can hide from pain. But you also miss the comfort and love that only He can offer. We need to close the space and distance sometimes because we need to feel. We need to feel hope. We need to feel love. Because we surely feel the pain don't we?
There's nothing more powerful than when these little angels are born. There's nothing more painful than when these little angels die. "Jesus, you mind if we climb on your lap for just a bit and be held?" 'Come to me......'
Thoughts? Anyone, anyone...
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Here's how Jerolyn Bogear (a friend of mine) and her family celebrate Christmas.
"Christmas Eve dinner has always been a tough one for our family to work out. Every church we’ve been in has had a Christmas Eve service with, of course, the pastoral families in charge. After setting up in the late afternoon and tearing down after the service, how do you have a special supper? We solved that problem completely by accident a few years ago. Here’s the story. We came home from the Christmas Eve service to find a stack of four pretty boxes in graduated sizes, tied with ribbon sitting on our front porch. While we were at church serving others, one of my mother’s Christmas gifts--edible goodies—had arrived. There were sausages, cheeses, crackers, cookies and petit fours – a complete feast. We ripped into the boxes and started chowing down. I’m usually a stickler about table manners, but that night was a free-for-all.
And so the tradition continues. We’ve modified it a bit over the years, adding peel and eat shrimp, a crock-pot of BBQ mini sausages, and cheese squeezed from a can. We also watch a Christmas movie while we pig out. One thing hasn’t changed; the annual manner-less, plate-less munch fest tradition lives on. We learned a valuable lesson that Christmas Eve a few years ago. We can serve others and have holiday family fun at the same time."
Your turn--Does any one else have any great ideas or stories to share?
Monday, January 26, 2009
As you may well know, being a pastor's wife has it's own special challenges. You face the struggle of balancing your own active personal ministry as well as what comes with trying to support your husband in a very difficult (albeit rewarding) ministry position of his own. I think we've all felt the struggle of the dance to be a vibrant, supportive catalyst for his ministry, being obedient to our own calling and trying to raise children who follow passionately after God--the whole time living in somewhat of a glass house. It's easy to feel a little “Barbie dollish” (is that a word?) and glossed over. In spite of all that, this world needs pastor's wives who are real and vulnerable.
A few years ago now I had an instant flash of “what if.” What if there was something out there for the special stresses pastor’s wives face? What if there was some way to connect women who feel so very alone and disconnected. What if pastor's wives could get advice and encouragement from women who are where they are, facing what they face? Those very thoughts gave birth to the idea of having "ordinary" pastor's wives contribute to a practical book. Unfortunately, after untold hours spent writing, editing, pitching the idea, ect. it still sits in a lovely and very large folder in my hard drive. With the marvels of modern technology, however, there's no reason the issues, comments and insight myself and four other pastor's wives tossed around can't be out where some women will possibly feel encouraged and strengthened. In fact, the exciting thing about a blog is that there is wonderful opportunity for much more interaction and comments from women who have been in the ministry trenches many more years than the five of us.
With that in mind, I believe the first (or I guess it would be second) post will be a fun one to contribute to...