Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Physicians' Prescriptions

I've not been well lately. My prescriptions over the past month have multiplied excessively (to me, anyway). I've been pondering medical prescriptions and their side effects. The nausea, the interactions, the heart palpitations, the need for probiotics.

And I've been reading about blueberries. And strawberries. And salmon. And I've been thinking about God's prescriptions. I've been thinking about His recommendations, His gifts, His answers. And the Scripture: "The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." The food He makes tastes good, it makes me feel good, it promotes healing, and brings pleasure. The pleasure God offers is therapeutic without side effects. It heals without damaging. It's sweet without tooth decay. His pleasures promote health, well-being, peace of mind. We crave sweetness and convince ourselves that candy will fill the need. It coats our teeth and rots them. But good ripe fruit -- ah, the bliss. The sweetness, the vitamins, the toxin-killing antioxidants. You don't have to know anything about chemicals to benefit from them. And He grows them in our own backyards.

In the back of my mind, I have swimming so many applications to that. Man's prescriptions for happiness, fulfillment, health, peace of mind, success, pleasure -- somehow all end up costing too much, and the side effects make us sick. They create other needs. They interact in deadly ways with each other, and there are casualties. Death, and morbidity. But God's prescriptions bring life, and well-being, and fruit. And I can enjoy them guiltlessly. Pure pleasure and a clear conscience, too.

"Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness."
(Psalm 65:11)

"Thou wilt show me the path of life: In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
(Psalm 16:11)

"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that taketh refuge in Him."
(Psalm 34:8)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The God Who Sees

I got a note in the mail from a friend the other day. She wanted to share something with me, and I was glad she did.

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you:
not as the world gives, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid."
(John 14:27)

She also shared a quote from Oswald Chambers:

"It is one thing to go through a crisis grandly,
but another thing to go through every day glorifying God
when there is no witness, no limelight, no one paying the remotest attention to us."

She said, "God sees all that you do and all the trials you will go through. Whatever trial it may be now, He will carry you through it."

Yesterday I sat down for a minute to read from a sweet little book I own called Daily Bread. I didn't have time to read much, so I grabbed that.

"He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge..." (Psalm 91:4)

"I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.'" (Psalm 91:2)

This morning I read from Spurgeon's Cheque Book of Faith:

"'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.' I see that I can do nothing, and that all reliance on man is vanity. 'Not by might.' I see that no visible means can be relied on, but the force is in the invisible Spirit. God alone must work, and men and means must be nothing accounted of. If it be so, that the Almighty God takes up the concerns of His people, then great mountains are nothing. He can remove worlds as boys toss balls about, or drive them with their foot. This power He can lend to me. If the Lord bids me move an Alp I can do it through His name. It may be a great mountain, but even before my feebleness it shall become a plain; for the Lord hath said it. What can I be afraid of with God on my side?"

And the Lord keeps reminding me of this:

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
and the joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not waiver walking by faith
He will be strong to deliver me safe
and the joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Logic

We prayed over a meal at my mom's house, and afterward, she teased Elisa, who had been chewing during the prayer. "Were you chewing?"

Elisa smiled and nodded.

"Do you think God can hear our prayers if we're chewing?"

"Well, I chewed quietly."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thoughts on Equality

Without discrimination, God offers His mercy and the forgiveness of sin to every man who will put his faith in Jesus Christ. And with full equality, He requires each of us to repent of our sin.

The most hateful, discriminatory thing I can think of is to separate out one group of sinners from the rest and assure them they have no need of repentance. It's the spiritual equivalent of offering them a shower and herding them into a gas chamber. A church that puts its stamp of approval on the very sins Jesus bled to pay for is a church offering indulgences. The indulgences are worthless to those who receive them, and the church shares in the sins it approves. If God smiles on sin, why crucifixion? How could He offer His Son to die in agony if our sins are no offense to Him?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

'Devotions' for the Sleep-Deprived


 This note is a compilation of an email conversation with several of my mommy friends. It's a little long, but I found the conversation a real encouragement, and thought other moms might also benefit. I tried to edit out some of the non-essentials.
It began with an email from my friend:

"All day long I have been thinking and praying about how to spend time with the Lord alone in the morning. As all of you know before you have kids, and even with just one, its fairly easy to set aside that time undistracted. Honestly, I have struggled lately with making it a priority. So since you all have little ones here is my question to you: How do you do it? Do you set your alarm and get up in the morning before the kids wake? Do you give them something to do while you are studying in a different room? Are you doing it during their nap, or after bedtime? I would really appreciate any help you could offer. The baby is finally on a much better schedule that is somewhat predictable. Thank you in advance. Oh and yes I know that things will be changing with her still under a year, and don't want to pressure myself into anything unrealistic. Just need some advice."

Another friend replied:

"I think I'm in the same boat you are: I don't have a set devotion time anymore and it is frustrating. I've tried having my quiet time while the girls are at the table having breakfast, but that ends with a huge mess for me to clean up and having to wait to have my breakfast till it's almost lunch. I was also unsuccessful at waking up early, or staying up later to get it done due to extreme sleep deprivation. The one thing I've found that somewhat works is sitting down with them and reading them a story from their children's Bible and then putting them at the table with crayons and having them draw a picture about the story. So far they haven't drawn anything about the story, but it will usually buy me about 15 minutes to sit and read something on my own. I've been trying to take whatever story is in their Bible and then reading it in my own Bible after. I wish I could say this works for us everyday, but realistically I'd say it happens about once a week. I also signed up for devotionals that come right to my email, so whenever I have a few minutes to check my email I can get a little boost throughout the day.

I'm really looking forward to everyone else's responses!"

I butted in:

"I haven't had a chance to read all the previous posts yet, but I wanted to say something anyway. I have found that the first year after having a baby, a schedule is unrealistic. If you have a baby that is up often at night, the baby creates exhaustion in Mom and Dad. You get what sleep you can, you feed everyone in the house, and you read a verse here and there. When they were tiny, some of them tolerated me reading my Bible while I nursed them. One didn't. I don't personally believe having a scheduled life is necessarily a spiritual life (although it certainly can be). I like to be scheduled, but every baby I have had has wrecked our schedule.

"Once my babies are about a year old, our life seems to fall back into place. We get regular sleep, we wake up at consistent hours, and do our dishes. For us, my husband gets up first, showers, and heads downstairs to do breakfast. He reads in the kitchen, and listens to teachings while I shower, and read my Bible up in our room. We get the kids up, eat together, and Daddy leaves. Bible is right after breakfast, followed by schooling. We're normally done by noon at the latest. If there's time left, they play. If not, lunch is right away. I put them down for naps (the youngest two at this point) at 1 or 1:30. The older two do something quiet for two hours. Dinner's usually by five. However, Sundays and Wednesdays are different. And Thursdays and Saturdays are different, because Jeff's usually home. I like a fairly consistent pace, but I think the main scheduled events for kids ought to be: getting up, eating regular meals, hearing God's Word, and healthy sleeping hours. And they need to play. One thing: our kids have to stay in their rooms till we're up. It gives us a little time and space for the Word.

"Don't forget that God loves you, He loves children, and He invented a family -- not to turn us into well-oiled machines, but well-fed children of God. Children are messy, slow people who still know how to stare at ants."

My sister said:

"My kids always wake up when I wake up, no matter how early I get up. Within minutes they are up, and with our schedule changing so often in the last year, I have not had a set time either, so what I would advise is for you to be ready. If they are watching a movie or playing quietly, sneak to a corner and open the Word. The dishes CAN wait. If the kids are quiet, take advantage of it. If you can't handle looking at a mess, get under a blanket, or face your chair to a wall. I have done this many times because I was too tempted to clean first, but by the time I am done, the kids are at my feet. But then when you are doing dishes or folding laundry, pray. Ask the LORD to speak to you in those times, and look for moments. Write out verses and place them on the fridge, over the sink, in the bathroom, and meditate on them as you work. I have been so amazed too, as I go through our children's Bible with the kids, how much the LORD speaks to me as I am trying to simply explain it to them. Do what you can to limit distractions: turn off the computer, turn the phone off. But be flexible. Sometimes I am not able to get into the Word alone until nap time, but at the point I am so tired I take a nap myself, so it is not until bedtime. So read with the kids, and ask the LORD to show you things. He is faithful.
"I read about some famous pastor's mother who would pull her apron up over her head and taught her kids when she did that not to talk to her because that was her prayer closet!
"I hope something from that helps."

I joined in again:

"I thought about how to answer this. I never want to discourage anyone from getting into the Word. We need it. But at the same time, I know we are often driven by the enemy to be discouraged because we are, in fact, mothers and not hermits. The scripture plainly says that the unmarried are the ones able to serve without distraction, and the married women have to worry about other things. Every house is different in how it functions due to job and child situations. Every time I have had a baby, the entire first year has been up in the air as far as a schedule goes. Some of my babies have been angels about lying in my lap nursing, and I've actually been able to read my Bible while I nursed. That was great. Others have been thrashers, jealous of every look I gave to anything besides them. I do not get up extra early. It wakes my household, and I'm such a night owl that I can't stay awake. Personally, a year after a baby has been born in our home, we find our feet again, and figure out how to do it. We have the baby in our room for months, and so it eliminates our room as a place of quiet to retreat to. A small house leaves few options.

"So: what has been working for us for some time is that my husband gets up first, showers, wakes me, and heads downstairs. He starts coffee and reads in the kitchen (or if he's able, out on the porch) while I shower. In the winter, I read up in my room while he makes breakfast. Lately, I've been reading out on my porch. The kids are not usually allowed out of their rooms, and have to play quietly (unless I'm on the porch, because they don't really disturb me). But see, I feel guilty admitting this arrangement, because my husband handles food in the morning. Most men don't. Jeff told me that he sees that as his way of washing me with the water of the Word -- providing that for me. But he starts work a little later than many men, and doesn't have much of a commute. And you can't tell a hungry baby to wait quietly. And I do my dishes at night, while he puts the kids to bed.

"Lani's reply was great. It was Susannah Wesley who did that, I think -- John's mother. She had something like eighteen kids. But I can't quiet my mind in a room full of noise. I feel utterly bewildered. Here's what I really want to say about all of it, though -- I keep coming back to this: The man asked Jesus, 'What must I do to work the works of God?'
And Jesus said, 'Believe on the One whom He sent.'
I can do that. I can do that in noise. I can do that in quiet. I can do that with a crying baby in my room. Because He didn't say, 'Spend an hour of quiet time in My Word every day.' He said to believe in Him. He made it possible for the busiest, most harassed, stupidest, smartest, most uneducated in the things of God to be filled with His Spirit, and accepted in the Beloved -- and that gives me devotion.

"'It is not by works of righteousness that I have done, but according to His mercy He has saved me.' The mothers in the early church did not own copies of God's Word. And they were righteous. They heard the Word corporately, as did the rest of the believers. Probably if anyone wanted to read the Old Testament scriptures, they had to go down to the local synagogue, and they might not have been too welcome. You think about it, you talk about it, you read it when you can, and you rest in the finished work that Jesus did, which leaves us with 100% free access to the throne of God. I write it on a chalkboard on my bathroom wall. I tape it to windows where the kids can read it, I put it by my sink and in the laundry room. There are four scriptures taped to my computer monitor. And my hope is in Him. I do not believe that abiding in Christ is reading a certain amount of scripture. It's existing in Him by faith. It's drawing my strength from Him. It's having my heart open to hear Him -- and sometimes He speaks through these distractions.

"He's spoken to me while I homeschooled the kids, while I changed peed-on sheets at midnight, while I was coaching a child through pooping on the toilet. He's answered my prayers for wisdom in what to make for dinner because there was almost nothing in the house. And it's that fellowship that feeds me, even more than a designated hour at a specific time. But when I notice that I need time in the Word that I'm not getting, I ask the Lord for help. And He shows me how to do it."

I added afterward:

"I read a great quote this morning I wanted to add, too: "The wholehearted believer lives consciously hidden in the secret of God's presence." (Andrew Murray; The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer)

"I want to grow in that. I know God is more interested in the position of my heart toward Him than the location of my 'devotions'. I can't remember if it was Elijah or Elisha (why did their names have to be so alike?) -- but one of them called Him 'The God before Whom I live' and I've thought about it a lot. Living in the presence of God makes all the difference in us. But we don't realize it. We're like that widow giving her last two coins -- she didn't even know He was watching her. And He was watching her with approval. Or (is it in Micah?) where the people of God spoke together about Him, and there He was listening in and having it recorded. I want to be aware of His presence, because that results in paying attention to Him. Moses 'endured as seeing Him who is invisible'. Enoch 'walked with God'. I love when I'm paying attention, and don't miss the little lessons His Spirit gives me even in the chaos.

"'And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness." (From Romans 8) We don't know how to pray, so He prays for us. I LOVE that."

My sister added:

"I had another thought also after reading Laura's note. For several years I was going through the One Year Bible, and the first several I enjoyed it a lot, going through all the different parts at a time, but I think my third year, I had just had a baby, and it became a work that I was doing. My attitude was such that I wasn't going to the Word to hear from the LORD, but I was putting in my time, and when I recognized that in myself I realized that I was feeling driven by that time line and I wasn't actually even thinking about or praying about the scripture I was reading. So I stopped going through that. I started just going through one book of the Bible and thinking about it and praying about it, sometimes only reading a couple verses at a time, over and over. So for me, I really have to be careful about my attitude. I seem to get caught up in doing works, but we are called to a relationship with Jesus, and He wants to have us attentive our whole day, not just during 'devotions'."

I added:

"Yes.
"George Muller was asked once how much he read every day. (I think it was him). He said he read until the Lord spoke to him. If it was one verse, it was one verse. If it took ten chapters, it was ten chapters.

"I have a very old book called "Daily Food". For each day, it has two verses and a four or six line hymn selection. I love this book. Some days, it's all I get."

The first friend replied:

"I am always surprised (though I shouldn't be) how the enemy finds new and creative ways to distract me from what is important. The Lord is doing such a work in teaching me right now about having patience, showing love to my husband and the kids, and really seeking Him in everything I do. I find so often that my mind is filled with to-do lists and projects, conversations and the what-ifs of life."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Best of Show

My Dad has been doing some work for us in our house. "I think Grampy's the best builder in the whole world." Isaiah said.
Elisa looked skeptical. "I don't know... What about God?"
"Maybe second best."
"I don't know..." She still looked doubtful. "What about the angels?"
"Well... maybe third best?" he tried.
"But what about spirit? Don't you think spirit is a better builder than man?" she said.
"Okay. Fourth best. But do you think workers are better builders than Grampy?"
"No."
There. It's settled.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Putting On My Cowboy Boots Of Faith

In 2004, Jeff and I left our two children with my parents for a week and went to Colorado to attend the wedding of a dear friend. While we were there, we found a pair of cowboy boots which we bought for Isaiah, who was almost three. I told him about them over the phone several days before we came home. They were brown and black. My mom told me he went around for days telling anyone who would listen, "I have new cowboy boots! They're brown and black." He had never seen them. But he had them. He knew he had them, because his Mom said they were his. I wrote a prayer in my journal:

Lord, give me that kind of faith. The kind that believes what You tell me, and walks around triumphant over the things that I 'have', but have not yet seen or possessed. Faith like a child -- like Hebrews 11.

Personally, I consider myself a realist. (I know that some of you unrealistic optimists have now mentally labeled me a pessimist.) If I have a trip to Disneyland planned, I try not to expect it, to avoid the disappointment of failing to achieve it -- in the event the whole thing falls through. The plane might not make it, you know. Storms could cause me to spend my entire vacation in an airport. Maybe I'll die before the date arrives. I just don't know. I do enjoy Disneyland if I'm there, I'm just not one of those people who gets all their enjoyment out of anticipation. I wait till things pan out before I celebrate them. But I would have been so insulted if my son had said, "Yeah, right. I'll believe that when I see it." And with God alone, the things that He says are all 'Yes' and 'Amen' in Christ. No 'what ifs' about it with Him. He speaks worlds into existence, and whatever He speaks IS. I can walk in those cowboy boots now.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1)

Grace and peace be multiplied to you
through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
According as his divine power hath given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises;
that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
(2 Peter 1:2-4)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conquering Kings and Slaying Giants

At my children's request, I have been reading Esther to them in our Bible time. This morning we read chapter two. As I read verse fifteen, something about Esther stood out to me, and I'd like to share it.

"Now when the turn of Esther...
had come to go in to the king,
she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain,
the keeper of the women, appointed.
And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her."
(Est 2:15)

I was reminded of David, as he prepared for his battle with Goliath.

"And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these [all the armor of a warrior], for I have not proved them.
And David put them off from him.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook,
and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip;
and his sling was in his hand; and he drew near to the Philistine...
Then said David to the Philistine,
Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield:
but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
This day will the LORD deliver thee into my hand;
and I will smite thee, and take thy head from thee;
and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day to the fowls of the air,
and to the wild beasts of the earth;
that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear:
for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands."
(From 1 Samuel 17:38-47)

Both David and Esther went to their battles shunning the devices of human victories. They left the props behind. They went in simplicity, trusting the Lord to supply their lack. Esther went to conquer a king -- simply, as herself, trusting God. David went to slay a giant -- simply, as himself, trusting God.

Lord, help me to go to Your work simply, as myself, trusting You. I don't want to clothe myself in the strength of man, but in Your strength. And I want to be clothed in Your beauty -- the beauty of holiness, not in the fashions of this world. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

"...who through faith subdued kingdoms,
worked righteousness,
obtained promises,
stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong,
became valiant in battle,
turned to flight the armies of the aliens."
(From Hebrews 11)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts On Unjust Fees

I hate government interference. I hate unjust fees, unjust taxes, and the oppression of the underclasses through bureaucratic fines. I hate auto registration fees. I hate use taxes. I hate the confiscation of private lands by the corporation that is the federal government in the name of 'preservation' for the masses -- and the subsequent charging of fees to those masses to allow them to walk in the forest. It strikes me as arrogant elitism to 'preserve' nature for the masses while making it unaffordable to the lower classes to enjoy it. It confines the poor to crappy housing in crowded places, with no view of the sky. But this isn't about that.

I've had friends and family who've gone as missionaries to less law-abiding countries than our own. I've been thinking about the extra money they are forced to carry with them to pay off corrupt officials. To bribe the police not to unjustly jail them. To pay not to be hassled at airports and traffic stops. As much as this annoys me to think of, I've been thinking about the fact that the missionaries are not citizens of those countries. Many of those 'fees' and 'fines' are not legally owed by the missionaries who pay them. But they are the cost of being in those countries -- on a mission. I am not a citizen of earth. I am a citizen of heaven. And while these unjust taxes at times make me boiling mad, the revolt against fees and fines and blood-sucking regulations are not my purpose here on earth. I can be caught up in the fight against them (and in my opinion, I would be absolutely justified), or I can get on with what I'm here for. I can remember I don't LIVE here. I'm only here for a little while. And the City I get to call home isn't like that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lead Me on Level Ground

We sang a song at our ladies' retreat that included the line, "Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground." I was thinking about how we lead our children.

When I lead my two-year-old, holding him by the hand, I choose places he can go. I pick level paths, and I go slow. When I lead my four-year-old, I choose harder paths for her -- but not paths that are hard for her. I carry my children over steep places, lead them on level places, and let them run in grass. God shows no less care for His children in considering their needs, their abilities, and their joys.

Getting Home

I drove home alone today from our ladies' retreat. It was after noon, and I hadn't eaten lunch. I passed a number of appealing attractions -- antique stores, art galleries, a yarn store I like, yard sales -- and every time, the thought crossed my mind: 'I could stop for a minute.' Jeff didn't know I was on my way. He wouldn't worry if I got there later. But every time, I thought again: 'No, I want to get home. I miss my husband.' Just south of town, I passed a favorite junk shop, and the thought presented itself again. And again, I thought, 'No -- I want to see my husband.' In town, I passed McDonald's, and considered going through the drive-thru. My hunger had become pain. But again, I drove on. And then I had a lesson. My love for and longing to see my husband caused me to go on and look away from places I like to visit, to turn away from a quick fix for my hunger, and to look forward to home. When presented with temptation, my love for the God whom I serve can fill my mind so that thing looks less attractive. The hunger that I feel can be met at Home.

"It's not that I've already reached the goal or have already completed the course.
But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.
Brothers and sisters, I can't consider myself a winner yet.
This is what I do: I don't look back, I lengthen my stride,
and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. Whoever has a mature faith should think this way.
And if you think differently, God will show you how to think."
Philippians 3:12-15

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Praying for Mom

Jeff was away for a few days. The first night, Elisa prayed, "Lord, please bless Mom while she doesn't sleep with Dad, even though she likes to."
Amen.

Confrontation

Last week I took the kids to the park, where I introduced myself to several moms, and our kids took off playing together. After a little while, Isaiah walked up to one of the mothers and said, "Why does your little girl say that you said she's not allowed to go to church?"

The woman looked puzzled. "What?"

He repeated his question. (The little girl was three.) The mother told him she didn't know why the girl had said that since they did go to church.

Later, in the car, I asked Isaiah about his conversation with the little girl. He told me he had asked her if she went to church, and she had said her mom told her she couldn't. "But she was just a little girl... she didn't know what she was talking about."

He said Elisa had asked her if she believed in God, and she had said, "No."
Talia said, "Are you a good guy?"

"NO!" The little girl ran away. When she came back again, Talia repeated her question.

The little girl said, "No," again.

Confused, Talia said, "Are you a bad guy?"

"No."

"Well, what are you?" Talia asked.

"I'm a good girl!"

Then Isaiah had told her she needed to believe in Jesus if she wanted to go to heaven.

She said, "I don't want to!"

At this point in his story, I said, "Isaiah, when you are talking to people about Jesus, you need to make sure that you aren't sounding bossy."

"I didn't sound bossy, Mom. I just told her that she needs to make a choice. Because God gives everyone a choice."

It's Just a Little Dirt

Isaiah dirtied his plastic sword outside. When we walked in, I told him to leave it outside. He objected.

I insisted.

He muttered something in exasperation, which I made him repeat so I could hear it. His indignation was apparent.

"Man! Some people think dirty things are unholy!"

I assured him I wasn't mistaking dirt with unholiness.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jail Break

What animates the mind and body of a man? What secret substance immeasurable to science brings all this meat to life? Why does a well-fed, well-watered, unassaulted human being lie there stiff and cold with no physical thing gone from him -- yet he is gone? A chair does not cease being a chair unless something physical is removed from it. How can a man lie there with every organ intact, every cell still there -- and yet be gone?

Death is an intruder. It gained entrance unlawfully. Well, I can't exactly say 'unlawfully'. Death was let in. Eve traded Life (her birthright) for a meal. And not even a meal, really. Just a snack. A piece of fruit. Like Esau gave his birthright away for a bowl full of porridge. And in Revelation, those who accept the mark of the beast (for the ability to buy and sell food) gamble away eternal life.

And so, a man in full physical capacity, with nothing missing from his body -- no injuries, no blood loss -- nothing at all physically removed from his person -- lies there lacking everything that made him a man. His soul is gone, and his body will not survive the loss. All attempts at resuscitation are just desperate, begging tries at persuading the soul to linger a little longer. The man himself can't often convince his soul to remain with him. It's a wonder that sometimes a stranger's pleas and efforts cause it to stay another hour -- or day -- or month -- or decade. But eventually, Death always claims his prize, and like the Pied Piper, leads away the soul of every man like the children of Hamlin. Where do they go?

Only one man that I know of said, "I have the power to lay my life down. And I have the power to take it up again. No man takes my life from me -- I lay it down of myself."

If you had witnessed his death, you might have been tempted to join the soldiers who mocked him. "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

Or perhaps the criminal dying beside him: "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!"

For even Elisha, that mighty prophet whose prayer raised the Shunammite's son from the dead, was apparently powerless when Death called him. In spite of the fact that his dead buried bones were power enough to reanimate a dead man thrown into his grave, Elisha could not say of his life, "I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again."

We might not take seriously the words the man said about his own power while witnessing the massive beating that men inflicted on him. He said no man takes his life from him -- and yet it was men who tore his beard out. It was men who nailed him to a cross and left him there to die.

You might be tempted to say, "Well, it was a nice thought -- pity he didn't really have that power. It seems Death won out in the end. Men did kill him." You might dismiss what he said about death, if it weren't for one more thing. On the third day after His death, He stood alive, speaking and eating with His friends.

In complete defiance of Death's call, He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."

Apparently, just as He said, the power is His. For if He had the power to take His life up again, it stands to reason that He did, in fact, lay it down of Himself to begin with. And that lends credibility to (or permanently settles) all that He said on the subject.

"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins."

"Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."

"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish."

Interesting words from a Man who has power over Death -- a Man who could not be abducted out of life like the rest of us sooner or later are. A Man who can lay His own life down and take it up again of His own free will has some authority to offer me eternal life. I don't have to die in my sins. I can follow Death's conqueror into Life.

"I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

In another place, He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live."

In response to this, I quote 1 Corinthians 15:54,55: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" Be gone, foul intruder! Fly away, lurker of corners -- silent salivating watcher -- you uninvited observer at weddings and births! No more jurisdiction here -- your warrant's been revoked. Every man since Adam has answered when you called. You've taken our parents, our children, and our friends. You've robbed us all -- but your reign is ended. Christ conquered you -- do your worst: it cannot stick.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Meditations on Peace

I am not into the peace symbol, mainly because of its association with pot smoking and protests. But I was given a necklace that has 'peace' repeated across its pendant and stamped once on the back. I like the look of the necklace. I've been wearing it the last couple of days, and have found myself lost in meditations on peace. The first one that looped through my mind was just the phrase 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Romans 5:1

Peace with God?! It overwhelms me. In Christ, the constant state of war with God into which I was born has been made PEACE. God accepts me as a friend because of the position I hold in Christ.

Have you read Ephesians 2 lately? It thrills my soul and brings me to tears.

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one,
and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity... thus making peace,
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross,
thereby putting to death the enmity.
He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father."
From Ephesians 2

"Therefore, He had to become like His brothers and sisters so that He could be merciful.
He became like them so that He could serve as a faithful chief priest in God's presence
and make peace with God for their sins."
Heb 2:17

He became like us that He might know our weaknesses, which He has mercy on.

"Peace I leave to you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives I give to you.
Stop letting your heart be troubled, and stop letting it be afraid."
John 14:27

The peace the world gives is always strained. It is enemies held at bay by mutually assured destruction, or by threats of exposure, or by the conventions of society. The peace Jesus gives us with the Father makes us friends of God. I don't fear hostility from friends who love me. They love me. God loves me. He's at peace with me.

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Rom 15:13

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Speaking With Authority

Talia, who cannot read, is very fond of her small Bible, which has no pictures. She opened it up, and said authoritatively, "Let the wicked forsake my way."
She shut the Bible.
Amen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Drive Or Not To Drive: That Was The Question.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to a town about two hours away. I had heard we were going to get hit with a snow storm, and asked Jeff to check the weather report before we committed to going. He checked our report, and cleared us for takeoff. When we were about an hour away from our destination, we started noticing snow. By half an hour before, the blowing and drifting slowed us down to 25 mph. Sections of road with fields around them looked like boiling dry ice, and gave us the sensation of driving on moving clouds. I wished we had time to stop and take pictures for you. It was beautiful, but made me really nervous. Jeff was supposed to teach a Bible study at 7, and it was only 5.

I asked Jeff, "Did you check their report, or just ours?"

"Whoops," he said.

He got done with the study, and afterward we tried to decide whether to crash at our friends' house, or hit the road. I checked the weather report. Hazardous Storm Warning; Travel Advisory; blowing and drifting snow; low visibility; sub-zero temperatures with arctic wind chills... you get the idea. I was in favor of staying till morning, waiting till the roads were cleared and we could see. I hate swirling-snow driving -- especially at night. Jeff wanted to go anyway. We packed up the car.

The snow was falling hard. I said to no one, "This is really stupid." We left after 9. We were taking a route we'd never driven before. I turned on the Magellan, got out my map to orient myself, took a deep breath, and told the kids to be quiet. We slid from side to side getting out of their driveway. We made it onto the road, and made our own tracks. Every once in awhile we saw a faint tracing of tires that had gone before. They disappeared quickly. My anxiety level was high. We don't have a cell phone, and these roads are not exactly in civilization.

The blueberry barrens (only recognizable by their white barrenness, and total lack of trees) are perfect wind corridors. The roads that travel through them can disappear in minutes, even if they have been plowed. Many of these had not been. In addition to the dry ice, moving cloud look I described before, the darkness at that time of night makes the snow that blows just an inch or three over the surface of the road look like dark shadows flitting about like specters. The snow is mesmerizing. It's like flying through space when it's snowing toward you.

About half way through the 45 minute stretch on this road, I thought, "No one knows where we are. If we have an accident, or a flat tire, or just can't find the road to drive on, we're going to die." It was a comfortable thought. Thinking on it, I grew more anxious. Then I thought about Hagar, when she was sent away from Abraham and Sarah, and sat down in the desert to die. She was in a different kind of deadly wilderness, but thinking the same thing as me, no doubt. The Lord showed her a well. The other time she had run away, the Lord had told her to submit to her mistress. She named the place He had spoken to her 'You-are-the-God-who-sees', because she said "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?" So I thought about the God who sees me, and hears my prayers, and I prayed. It wasn't the first or the last prayer. But I was comforted.

The only way we could tell we were still on the road and making progress was by looking at the Magellan. It slowly counted down the miles until the left turn on the next road. Oh-- I should mention that the first road is a steady climb upward. The other is the high road, so to speak. When we turned onto the high road, the Magellan said we had 64 miles until the next turn. It is the major trade route between Maine and Canada. So nighttime driving can always be expected to be with semis, which I also hate. The first one that passed us served as a snow blower for our van. The maelstrom of snow blinded us completely. By the time it settled down and the snow-dust cloud also dissipated, the semi was gone -- completely invisible in front of its rear snow-shield. Jeff grew quieter after that, and slowed down more. Two or three more semis passed us that night, and each time, we pulled over to the right and slowed almost to a stop. I tried to look out the rear window at one that was coming up, and couldn't see it. We turned on the wiper, and realized why.

Looming out of the dark whiteness, we saw the orange lights of semi trucks on the sides of the road, coming up. "What is that?" I asked. Jeff was quiet. We came slowly toward them. Two on the left, pointing up the hill we had just crested, a dump truck behind them, also stopped. And another on the right, on our side, pointing up the hill. We slowly made our way through them with our windows down, just in case anyone wanted to tell us anything. They were partly blocking the road.

"Why were they stopped?" I asked nervously.

"They couldn't make it up the hill." Jeff said, slowing down a little more.

Silas started crying, and a sign for a rest stop came up. I asked Jeff to please stop, if it looked like we'd be able to get back out again. I hoped there was an open bathroom, because I needed one. Two semis were in the snowy lot. We had passed another two or three in a turn-out. Jeff changed Silas, and I happily discovered an open, working bathroom. I thought if we couldn't get back out, we could at least shelter in this bathroom. But we got out. No more semis passed us, because the bottleneck we had driven through protected us. That was a blessing, actually. But it was nerve-wracking to see a little further down the road the lights of what looked like an endless line of semis stopped roadside on the left. I counted, as we drove past, at least fourteen stopped end to end. "They're talking to the ones we passed already, and they'll wait until it's open," Jeff explained to me.

Those 64 miles trickled out, a half mile at a time. At 11:45 our ETA was still 45 minutes out. When we were nearly home, Jeff said, "I'm going to be really sore tomorrow."

"Why?"

"From being tense."

"Well, you can't say I didn't warn you." We laughed.

We got home at 12:30. After hauling in kids and crap (diaper bag, knitting bag, plastic bag of extra clothes, purse the size of a diaper bag, two children's backpacks full of dolls and spy supplies, and various loose junk), I called my sister Bri to let her know we made it. Jeff asked me if I had seen the back end of the car. I shook my head. "You need to go look at it." he said. Puzzled, I walked back outside. The back of the van had no van showing through. It was like a wall of snow. My heart stalled for a second, as I looked where the tail lights should be. Just snow. I don't know if those semis that passed us ever even saw us. It was a sobering thought. I thought again about the God who sees me, and thanked Him again.

Jeff said, "That was really stupid."

"Can we please just stay next time?" I asked. (And next time, I'm checking the weather.)

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
(Isaiah 41:10)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Real Love

Under the influence of floods of warmth and good will, it's easy to look down your nose at older couples who have mellowed, as though their love is less than your flaming attraction.

What is love? Is it flowers and moonlight? Is it declarations on a billboard or a status update? Or is it something else?

Real love comes in tired and reaches out to help. It calls home to keep them from worrying. It doesn't have to put it on a billboard or a status update -- actions show it. Real love learns how to cook. Real love cares more about the loved one's soul than its own wants, desires, and "needs". Real love smiles and assures his wife that the horribly oversalted garlic bread "is fine", even though swallowing it will likely bring on a heart attack. Real love helps you walk stronger -- it doesn't pull you into sin. Real love stays home when going out is more fun. It goes out even though it would rather stay home. It sits through a football game though it HATES football, because he likes it. Real love turns off the game to give her the time she needs.
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