Saturday, October 05, 2019

Lost Things

The thing about moving every 3-4 years is that there are hidden griefs beyond the obvious ones. Obviously, we grieve when we spend the first part of a move grieving the loss of friends and familiarity from the previous place we lived and trying to find our place in our new home. Then, just about the time we’ve established good friends and found our way around and it has begun to feel like home, it’s time to move again, and we go through that whole grief process again. Then when you get to the new place, you have to push on and jump in and meet new people, because you don't want to walk around bleeding the hidden grief all over the new people, you have to move on and be present here and make this place home and embrace all the good things and great people you get to know here. 

I’m going to be a little raw and admit that I am still struggling with this move.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m older this time and my kids are older and we’re kind of on the way toward being almost empty nesters, or what, but I am fighting like you wouldn’t believe against a gray depression and lack of motivation to really jump in and get to know people here. I’m doing it - I’ve joined the church choir, I’ve been to my first middle school band boosters meeting and I’m planning to sign up to help with an upcoming band event soon, and we are looking into joining the church as soon as we can.  But, with leaving both boys behind at college in Texas, I’m struggling a bit with the beginnings of the empty next on top of having to start all over again in a new place, after leaving a place we weren’t ready to leave.  I have to admit, I’m having a hard time with my emotions this time.  

What brings this up today in a fresh way is that I’m dealing with one of those hidden griefs of moving as often as we do - that fresh knife-cut wound when you realize something else that had a lot of sentimental value that should have been here, somehow isn’t here.  As we finish going through the last of the boxes and realize, “Hey, I haven’t seen……” and we go looking and can’t find that thing. There have been several things like that this time.  We know for sure that our University of Florida diplomas and some precious art work and photos that were packed with them are not here, and we have a claim and a plea with the moving company that stored our stuff to please find those boxes. They aren’t worth any money that the company could pay us, really, but they are full of irreplaceable sentimental value, and there's a catch in my throat every time I consider we may never get some of them back.  And today, as we’ve been going through the last of the bookshelf boxes, it seems that my “Omnibus” magazines - the creative writing magazine from high school where I was on staff - seem to be missing also.  My husband says we will find them.  I’m feeling less sure than he is, but I appreciate his understanding of my tears.

I know that this is just ‘stuff.’ I know that in the grand scheme of things, these are not really important things. But, today, right now, it’s one more opening of the wound of the grief of moving again.  This move has absolutely been the hardest one we’ve done yet.


BUT, I will still sing, and I will still praise, because through it ALL, I know that God is good and He has placed us here at this time for His purpose.  In some ways it’s been a great move.  My daughter has had the smoothest transition she’s ever had with a move, and has already made some good friends at school and at church - people who are truly glad to see her when she comes down the hall. That is priceless. And just living here, in this particular place, we see all kinds of opportunities, especially for one of our sons - because of some connections we’ve made here, he will be getting an awesome scholarship and we can foresee some wonderful internship possibilities.  And we have found a great church, where we know that in time will feel just as much like home as any other church we’ve been members of, because these are fellow believers who love Jesus, just as we do.  I love the choir already, and we’ve been invited by some sweet people in our Sunday school class to an informal fellowship tonight.  God is so good, and He always, always provides abundantly for His people.  I know that as I keep my eyes on Him, He never changes and I am His. He will heal my broken heart, and help me to let go of things that should not hold my heart too tightly, even when I feel that renewed cut at the realization of one more lost thing, and for that I’m thankful.  

Isaiah 26:3-4
"You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you, 
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock."

Psalm 34:1
"I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth."

Psalm 34:18
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit." 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

"Away for the Day"

2 Timothy 2:23 
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”

2 Timothy 3: 1-5 
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people.”

I’ve been reading 2 Timothy the past couple of mornings and these passages stuck out to me today.  To me, they pretty well describe much of what I see on Twitter - especially, “Christian” Twitter, to be brutally honest.  It seems like lately Twitter is becoming a more and more toxic place to hang out. “News” stories are posted as fact before all the facts are in, meaning that the original story often is NOT the true reading of what has happened, but by the time the retractions are printed, it is a bit too late - the first, misleading impression is already planted firmly in people's heads. There is a lot of incivility in interactions, too. So much arguing over things that are better not argued in the Twitter or Facebook space, because it’s really not designed for reasoned arguments. Anyway, most of the heated debates I see do not seem to be all that edifying, and are usually more unhelpful than anything. I know I’m being vague, but I don’t need to throw out specifics here.  If you’re on Twitter and Facebook at all, you’ve seen these kinds of things. And the conspiracy theories on various and sundry topics, oh dear.  Wowza. Not a wise use of time or mental energy.

I find that I’ve been, once again, spending more time on Twitter and Facebook than is probably helpful, and reading 2 Timothy today, with the warning - “Avoid such people,” I got to thinking it’s time to take a breather. 

My daughter’s middle school has adopted a policy this year that they call, “Away for the Day.” Basically they have asked all the students to either leave their cell phones at home or at least turn them off and put them in their backpacks and lockers during the school day. I’m thinking that may be a wise course of action for me, too. So, I’m thinking that after I post this, I could very much benefit from an “Away for the Day” policy regarding my use of social media. Just today I’ve already seen a difference in my attitude, as time I would have spent scrolling through Twitter this morning I actually spent reading a book that is ministering to my soul, and spent some time in prayer that was desperately needed, and wrote this blog post, something I'd like to do more often - write blog posts, hopefully thoughtful ones, that is.  

So, I’m thinking “Away for the Day” will be a good thing to try for a while. And maybe, just maybe, I may need to clean out some of the voices I follow on social media and ‘avoid such people.’ I’ve already started purging my Twitter feed a bit.  

Happy Wednesday!


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Preeminent

Colossians 1:13-20
“13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Preeminent: Superior to or notable above all others; outstanding.

I have something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now. I’ve held off writing about it because I feel like sometimes I can be hyper critical, but as I’ve been thinking about this, I don’t, think, in fact, this is a case of being hyper critical, though people might see it that way.  Here goes….

We went to visit the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Before I get into my critique, I want to say the production quality overall at the museum is very high, very well done, from an aesthetic standpoint. From a historical standpoint, there is much that is good, and I liked a great deal of the exhibit on the Reformation and the translating of the Bible into the common languages. The Old Testament walk through experience had a whole lot that I liked, and which was done very well, but, in the end I left feeling a sad emptiness, like there was a huge missed opportunity - not once in that exhibit was the opportunity taken to point forward to Christ. In several places, I was shouting on the inside how much the opportunity was missed, especially when talking about Ruth and King David. No mention of the link to Jesus, just how great, but flawed, a king David was.  No, rather they ended at Ezra saying what a great thing it was that the light was restored because they had their scriptures and a rebuilt temple. No mention of the shadows pointing toward the ultimate fulfillment that those very Scriptures prophesied, the ultimate Light, who is Christ.

I hoped that when we went over the New Testament exhibit maybe that would be corrected, but I have to say that I actually left that exhibit offended, because really, though they mention Jesus, it’s almost like they kind of blew past the crucifixion and resurrection without expanding AT ALL about why He is so significant.  In the pre-movie about John the Baptist, they even made Herod almost a sympathetic character, like he was sadly forced into arresting and executing John, if only John had cooperated better, and made it more about politics than anything. Totally missed the point that John was prophesying the Messiah! And in the exhibit, much was made about the changed lives of the apostles and about Paul, but it was amazing how little focus was actually on Jesus. If you didn’t already know the gospel, I think you would leave that exhibit a bit confused - what was the point of it all? So He was a good teacher who sadly died, and oh, yeah, the grave was empty and these lives were changed but so what, really? I found that highly offensive, though I can tell the creators of the museum do not mean it to be.  I’m sure they mean to give much respect to the Bible and to how people have been impacted by it though the years, but they MISS THE POINT.  It is offensive to spend the millions of dollars I’m sure have gone into that effort and miss the entire point of the book they are trying to honor.  

JESUS IS THE POINT.  From beginning to end, HE is the point! From Genesis to Revelation, it is ALL about Jesus. To blow past Him and talk vaguely about changed lives but miss the actual gospel message that God is the Creator, and He has spoken in His word, and what He has spoken is salvation to a lost, sinful, and dying world is a hugely wasted opportunity.  I’m glad they want to honor the Bible as such a significant book, but it is significant precisely because in it we find salvation.  Those people’s lives were changed because they met God! Not because He was merely a good teacher who did some miracles, but those miracles pointed to Who He is. 

The message of the Bible is that God created everything, mankind sinned and we are under the wrath of God because we are sinful to our very nature, but God who is just and merciful, came to earth - Jesus lived among us and fulfilled ALL of God’s holy law, that law that we cannot fulfill, and He died on the cross, suffered the wrath we deserve as our holy substitute, He finished everything that He came to do, He did everything God’s righteousness requires, and He rose again, proving that the sacrifice is accepted, and to all who believe in Him and repent of their sin, trusting in Jesus alone, and only to those, He credits His righteousness and counts us as righteous and forgiven. 

Jesus is the preeminent One. Any effort that attempts to respect His word, but downplays HIM, is offensive to a degree that I just can't get over. It doesn’t matter how beautifully done the production value is if Jesus is not ultimately lifted up as the preeminent One.  It may succeed in pleasing those who do not want to see Him as preeminent, but it is ultimately lacking in what matters most.  


So, at the risk of once again being too critical, that was my take away, much as I wanted to like the museum, I just can’t fully. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Resilient

Resilient: adjective
  1. springing back; rebounding.
  2. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
  3. recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.


*This is me being a little raw, so it may not stay up for very long.*

I have come to rather dislike the word, “resilient.” I have grown a little weary of people encouraging us by saying how they have so much respect for my kids and my family and how we are so resilient and what amazing coping skills and wider horizons we’ve developed when I share the grief we experience when we have to move yet again. Yeah, they can be, and we can, but only because we’ve had to be, and in our case, most definitely by God’s amazing grace have we been able to ‘recover rapidly and spring back’ when we’re stretched. 

We aren’t fundamentally made of different stuff from other people.

I think what happens sometimes is that people see how quickly we adapt and jump right in to our new situation, and they assume that we are fine, better than fine. My kids seem so well-adjusted, so we must be used to this life. There’s so much there you don’t see, though.

When I sit crying with my weeping teenagers over the real, deep, wrenching grief of having to sever friendships with people they know they probably will never see again, it cuts deeply and rips my heart along with theirs. When people hesitate to become close with us because they know we’ll be leaving in a few years and we haven’t always been in this place, it’s lonely and it hurts. When people start pulling away emotionally even before we leave, and we unintentionally do the same, again, it’s a lonely place to be. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t get easier with subsequent moves because we’ve gotten ‘used to it.’ No, if anything, it gets harder, because we know how long it takes for the ‘next adventure’ to finally start to feel like ‘home.’ 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of good that has come with moving often.  There has.  It’s also not to say that I resent my lot in life or don’t accept God’s sovereignty over it all, or that I’m at all ungrateful.  I am so very grateful.  All those things you hear about - that resilience word I’m resenting at the moment, for one, my kids and I have, indeed, learned it. And it’s a good thing. My husband and I and our kids have developed a close-knit love and respect for each other that runs deep and has rich roots in our mutual faith in Christ that I cherish deeply. We have made real friendships with people in lots of places we never would have met if we’d not had to move, some who we still stay in contact with. It’s true that my kids have a much wider understanding of the world and ability to talk to and befriend people who are different from them and who think differently than I did at their age. We’ve had lasting and deep and meaningful friendships with our church families everywhere we’ve gone, and how incredibly thankful I am for this! Christ’s church has been a blessing to us, and Christ is the absolute anchor for my soul, always, no matter where we go. And that matters way more than some ‘stiff upper lip, grin-and-bear-it’ sort of resilience that anyone who moves a lot has to learn. No, what I have in Christ is a real peace that passes all understanding, a knowledge that no matter how lonely, no matter how full of grief, we are not alone, and we are called to glorify and enjoy Him in all things.  There is meaning and purpose in embracing our portion and seeking to honor Christ, even in this.  

But in those moments when I’m struggling with the grief, and even harder, with the grief my kids are experiencing, please don’t comfort me by telling me how you respect our resilience.  I’m not feeling all that resilient at the moment. I’m feeling pretty broken, in fact. I’m feeling pretty empty of words. One of the most meaningful ways a friend ministered to me the other day when I broke down in tears and told her this is the hardest move we’ve ever done was to just stop, open her arms and hug me while I cried, no words necessary. 

What I need to remember again and again and again is how Jesus, my perfect and great and loving Shepherd binds up the broken hearted. Pray for us to love our children well and, while we cannot shield them from the sadness and difficulty of yet another move and all the emotionally difficult things that come with it, we can help them to also know they can cling to the One who perfectly understands all the emotions we can barely put into words. 

Psalm 34:18 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Praying With Faith and Wisdom

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Proverbs 9:10


This morning I reached 2 Kings 19 in my daily Bible reading.  I think King Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19 may be one of my favorite passages. Let me quote it here and then share my thoughts today. (Read all of chapter 19 for context)

“14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: ‘O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.  17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone.  Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” 


King Hezekiah and Judah were facing a dire threat.  They knew what Assyria had done to other nations, and now they were threatening Jerusalem. The Assyrians wrongly assumed the God of Israel was like the gods of the other nations and mocked Him.  They did not know that while they may destroy those gods who were not gods, but mere inventions of man, this God is the Creator, the one true and living God.  Hezekiah knew his God. He knew the promises of God and he was one of those kings we rejoice when we read, in 2 Kings 18:5 - 7, “He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD.  He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.  He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.”  

So, what I love about this passage which records Hezekiah’s prayer, is how he takes this terrifying and impossible seeming situation and spreads it out before the Lord.  While he is concerned with deliverance from the threat, from reading the prayer, his deep concern is for God’s glory.  He has absolute trust that God can save them and that when He does so it will show all the kingdoms of the earth that the LORD is God alone.  

I want to learn to pray like this.  When I pray, may my overriding, main concern be to see God glorified. I think too often I am too focused on wanting to be delivered from the pain or the hardship or the discomfort, too focused on my own anxieties and fears and sorrows, too focused on myself and what I want, and not nearly focused enough on wanting to see God’s purposes advanced.  May I learn to pray to the end that all the kingdoms of the earth, and all my family and friends and neighbors, may know that He is God alone.  I think that would greatly change the character of most of my concerns and prayers.  


What a gracious God, to grant us the privilege to trust Him completely, no matter how impossible the situation may seem from our limited perspective.  We can rest in His sovereignty. This is wisdom. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Respect

Before reading this post, please read this and watch the video clip at the end.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for David Platt and how he handled this. His longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in his church ought to be the longing of all of us who belong to Christ. Platt wonderfully did not allow this to become a distraction from the main message of our unity in Christ, and chose, instead, to allow his pastor's heart to shine through and to speak the gospel truth and to demonstrate beautifully how we are to pray for our leaders - no matter who that leader is. He was humble, gentle, and respectful, and he was laser-focused on Jesus. 

I have grown discouraged with what I see as a too America-centric view of Christianity in my country, especially among my tribe - those who lean conservative. Too often we tend to blend patriotism with worship of Christ and it is not right. It just isn’t. It becomes a syncretistic different gospel, all too often. If our church service is more American than it is Christian, we are doing it wrong.  If we are known more for being “America first” than we are all about JESUS first, we are doing it wrong.  

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my country, and I am patriotic. I am not saying it is wrong to have strong political opinions and beliefs and to be civically active. If you know my family, you know the whole reason we move as often as we do demonstrates our family’s service to our country. HOWEVER, that pales into nothingness compared to my worship of my Savior. HE is supreme, and He will not share His glory with anyone or any nation. Being a proud American and wanting to make her ‘great' is not what makes one a good Christian.  Christianity is not America first.  Christianity is Christ first, Christ above all, and Christianity, the good news of the Gospel, is for the whole world. 

So, watching David Platt graciously pray for our president in such a gospel-saturated way makes my heart sing.  His longing not to have the main message be obscured is admirable, and I hope more of us will have such a longing. That is the very reason I’ve chosen not to talk much about politics on my social media. We must not obscure our message. Jesus is everything. He is supreme and sovereign over all. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Remembering the Impact of a Kind Teacher

I’ve recently joined a Facebook group made up of people who went to my high school in the ’80’s and ’90’s. It has been fun to reconnect with old schoolmates and remember some things I hadn’t thought about in years. In one thread, we’ve been discussing memories from our elementary school years, and it reminded me of something I have thought about often through the years.

In about the fourth grade, I had a teacher who, as I look back over the years, made a big impact on my life, and I’ve often wished I could contact her and thank her, but I don’t know how to do so. Anyway, one day as we were sitting in class doing some desk work, I remember us kids talking, like kids do, and I said something unkind about someone else. Word got back to the teacher about what I had said, and she called me over to her desk. I was mortified, just sure I was in trouble. However, she very kindly, very gently told me a story about how she had known a girl when she was in high school who she hadn’t been very friendly with and who wasn’t the most popular kid, but later they ended up going to the same college and living on the same floor in the dorm. She told me she and this girl ended up being really good friends, and how she regretted not being kinder to her in school sooner because she missed out on those years of being friends with her. The point was, be kind no matter what. I felt then, and still to this day feel ashamed of what I had said that day. I don’t even know why I said it. I didn’t mean it, and I was being a dumb kid.

As I’ve thought about that incident through the years, I’m so thankful for how kindly my teacher handled that situation.  She could have just scolded me in front of the class, but she chose to make it a teachable moment instead, and I remembered it. Forever after that, it made me think before judging or dismissing someone unkindly. Even at that age it helped me to realize it’s not all about me.  Everyone has a story. I believe the Lord used that teacher in my life to begin chipping away at my prideful little heart, because as I look back, wow, I sure did have a lot of self-centeredness going on, even in fourth grade. I’m thankful for that teacher’s influence in my life. She probably doesn’t even remember that day, I’m sure there were lots of moments like that in the life of an elementary school teacher, but I have never forgotten it.