Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend wait and watch

It's the weekend again, another week spinning to an end, wrung dry of events, and ready for hanging out.

"Out of Joint" is the autobiography of a woman with rheumatoid arthritis. I read it this week, filling in the gaps of treatments, symptoms, emotions, and prognosis. Our daughter Kirsten has RA, and some years are better than others, but all are painful.

She has become one of my spiritual mentors. She amazes me with her consistent reading of scripture and prayers, trust that God will see her through each day, and faith in his ability to heal.

Over the years, many of you have prayed for Kirsten, even as we have prayed for your needs and requests. Thank you to each of you, especially since she is in another flare. W and I feel like your prayers wash over the rest of us in the family, giving us the strength to open our hands and release this young woman to God's care.

I would alter God's past course for her, providing she could be as close to him and love him as she does without this heinous sickness. I look back with sorrow, wishing she had been healthy, with fun teen years and a family of her own in her 20s, instead of enduring painful symptoms that require joint replacements and powerful meds.

But God's ways are definitely not our ways, and his thoughts are beyond understanding. Sometimes resignation to his will is the most excitement we can muster. Throughout, we continue to hope and pray that his plans for Kirsten's future include remission and complete healing... and that God's answers to our prayers on your behalf are more bearable.

Read more:
*Then Job replied to the LORD: . . . "I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance."

After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has."

So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the LORD commanded them, and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.

When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before! Job 42:1, 6–10 NLT

*I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyonefor kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all menthe testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6 NIV

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peaceful studies

Today was a reading day. I took my books to the conservatory after walking the dogs. Most of the morning, I scoured Martin Marty and Robert Handy's research for insights into C19 Evangelicalism. 

The dogs roam around, sleep a bit, wrestle with each other to pass the time. They run up the bank to the neighbors after I let them out. I holler until they came home, shut the door behind them, and settle back to read. The view from the conservatory is wonderful - nothing but woods. A few plants have been seeded by birds, like the red berries just outside the windows. I tossed a clump of bamboo into the woods a few years ago; it has sprung up between the firs and maples. I drink in the abundance of greens and browns, and the textures of leaves, needles, bark, and mulch.

If it weren't for my books, I could be at a spa in the middle of the forest. The chimes hanging outside the door sing as the wind stirs them. The trees wick the sounds of traffic away. The neighbors share the squirrels and raccoons who live nearby.

The day flies by. My paper is due at the end of the week. Under a fuzzy blanket that wards off the cool air, I thanked God for time and space to learn and write. I need these oases of peaceful study sometimes. The solitude helps me reflect on a God who is near, working in his Church in every culture.

Read more:
*Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:6-11 NIV

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Before and after...

I love renovations that show "Before and After." Architectural Digest won a loyal reader when they introduced their annual February B&A issue in the 1990s!

Do you see potential in every person or space, or are you more inclined to sigh at a mess and walk away? Are you a person who insists on perfection, or do you think in terms of possibilities and future greatness?

I'm following a couple of blogs with thrifty and creative DIYs, and this morning one popped up that made me smile. For under $500, this couple has fixed up their grandparents' kitchen. Check out the whole story.

I hope this kitchen inspires you to do two things: first, live within your means without compromising style and function. Second, enjoy the present and enhance it with whatever is at your disposal.
  • Got a crabby coworker? Tack up an inspiration board to sustain you at work, or cultivate cheerful friends who can balance out the moodiness at the office.
  • Got an ugly sofa? Splurge on a fantastic blanket or pillow to perk it up.
  • Can't live with the colors in your room? Find some color trends for repainting at Farrow & Ball or other color sites.
  • Got a space that's too small or too big? Read blogs like Apartment Therapy and ReNest for ideas on thinking outside your walls.
God lavishly shares his creativity with us. He must enjoy our response to his artistry whenever we view the present in terms of what it could become.

What are we working on? Or what would we like to see changed? Let's be part of the solution, rather than the problem! It might cost us some elbow grease, workshops for new skills, or sincere relationship-building. Let's make the most of what we have this day, so our own Before and After is a success in process tonight!

Read more:
* “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips;
meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.

Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9 NIV

*Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Psalm 68:19 NIV

*This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears uswhatever we askwe know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Putting up the New Year tree. Oh wait, trees.

A Christmas tree. Of course. Everyone has one. A New Year tree? Not so much. Two NY trees? Say again? What's going on?

Today I woke up happy, planning a project that wraps up an event we decorated a few years ago. I'd painted 12 5'X12' banners to fill the enormous foyer. We cleared out a nursery, hauling 60 firs (or was it 80? 12'-16' tall@$6 each, burlapped) to soften the corners of the banquet hall.

I smiled this morning, waking to thank God for the wonderful women who roped their husbands into helping unload those tall monsters off the truck. We had borrowed endless white lights and gauze from a church, and helpers wound them around clumps of tree bases.

The table decor cost less than $2 each. How? As we looked around the institution's storage closet, the wheels started turning. Candles. Mirror tiles aplenty (cliche, or...) 

W and I went to the river and loaded up 2 buckets of rock. Rinse, scrub. Ready. We were due to dig the moss off our garden path anyway. The morning of the event, I got out a trusty metal spatula and scraped three big baking sheets full of lovely, green mosses. Our shopping list was short: 
  • 2 contractor sacks of small round pebbles from Home Depot @4 each
  • Several packages of wild-looking mushrooms from Uwagimaya
  • 10 bunches of orchids (Trader Joes, a dozen stems@$5)
On each table, volunteers put down a mirror tile ("water"), piled a few rocks at one end, hid the other edges of the tile with pebbles, and surrounded it with moss. We placed mushrooms in the moss, draped a few orchids, and put the candles between. It looked very "Northwest." (Wish I had asked the photographer to take pictures for my file.

I brought two banners home after the event. They lay rolled up for nearly a year until this morning. 

W, who hates heights, crawled up the ladder to mount them in the living room. With his laser level, they're, well, perfectly level, and at the right height (5" below the drapes, which looks like the same height due to viewing perspective.)

Thanks, hon. If I can dream it, he can build it! What fun to share happy memories and art on one day.

What do you think? And what's on your weekend "to-do" list?

Read more:
*He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 8:11 NIV

*Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,   and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 The Message

*Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 NLT

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hunkering down

No one promises the Christian life will be easy, but most of us are still surprised when it is not. Believers lose their houses, have financial crises, get sick, and experience a variety of traumas, just like the rest of humanity. 

We sometimes may think our Father in heaven should take better care of us than he does. Ok, maybe you don't, but I admit to getting exasperated with my own "faith is the victory" expectations when the skies don't clear and torrents of stress and strain stream over me.

I remember when "blab and grab" gospels started circulating a few decades ago. The idea was that all you had to do was ask God for something and he was obligated to do it, like a trained street monkey. A lot of Christians were seduced into thinking "faith = magic," so saying "The NAME" would give us automatic access into heaven's treasure storehouses. Bingo, we asked for it, and here it is, a pink Cadillac. (Or rescue from overdrafts, sickness, and discouragement.)

Trouble was, that version of Christianity didn't work. We still got sick and went through rough times. Some people lost their shirts when God didn't show up to rescue them from bad decisions.

Muddling through life, we grow up enough to depend on a God who accompanies us through rather than around most challenges. Everyone has "something" they'd like God's to change. In our family, our daughter's still sick, a source of unending and ongoing grief to my husband and me. No matter how long we pray, God gives her enough strength for the day, but no healing. Oh well.

I've come to the place of simply praying, "Please look on YOUR daughter with favor today." If he will not heal, who can? We take what we are given, even if it's stamina.

Scripture promises good things to those who serve God, but sometimes we hunker down in the midst of a storm to enjoy Presence rather than provision. Most days, that seems like enough.

Read more:
*He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness nor the plague that destroys at midday. Psalm 91:1-6 NIV

*But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD's own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, "The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!"Psalm 92:12-15 NLT

*Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16 NIV 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Downsizing is a good idea. ? .

I subscribe to several blogs on minimalism, decluttering, and downsizing. Why? Certainly not because I'm doing a good job of any of that! But it's interesting to think of the extremes of life with hardly any stuff in a country of too much. Plus I like looking at other people's spaces better if I can see the furniture, rather than heaps of their collections.

The mandate on getting rid of stuff seems to start with, "If you don't use it, give it away." or "If you haven't worn it for a year, pass it along." Great ideas!

My difficulty in decluttering is squarely centered around those principles. What don't I use? In the past week, I thought about downsizing my kitchen some more. What else can I give away, after donating bags of stuff last year? The cabinets still feel full.

However, while I've been thinking on what I don't use,  since Sunday I have used (some more than once):
  • 4 teapots and over a dozen teacups, mugs, glasses
  • 1 kettle, besides our hot tap (love it! can't imagine a kitchen without it)
  • 7 different pans and pots
  • 3 sets of tongs (2 sizes)
  • 2 soup ladles, 5 kinds of spatulas (from metal to plastic to wooden)
  • 5 different Henkel knives
  • 2 juicers (our Vitamix and one with a strainer)
  • Various sizes and kinds of dishes and serving bowls
  • 2 different vegetable peelers, plus a metal scrubber for peeling carrots
  • 3 cutting boards
  • Microwave, convection oven, oven, stove, griddle, toaster
  • 3 trays (wood, metal, plastic, all for different uses)
  • 3 types of placemats (stiff British, with flower pics; Indonesian wooden roll-up; handmade double-sided fabric from a girlfriend - used both sides)
End of list - because I'm tired of counting, not because I didn't use more things. I haven't spent the whole week in the kitchen, though I cook most of our meals since I've been working from home.

People like me USE their stuff, and enjoy it. While I may not pull out my footed cake plates often, they are within reach when I need them. I like having the right sized baking dish for the recipe, plus a fondue pot and a raclette set.

Could I do without it all? Sure. I stopped buying things the past years, and have passed on more than I've kept  (including 10 teacups and saucers last week). My life is not defined by stuff, but I enjoy the tools God has given to create settings of hospitality and health. I feel recklessly thankful, living in a country so abundant that only kings and queens could have imagined such wealth in other generations.

Think about what you've used in the last few days. What could you pass along to someone else? Maybe readers will sigh over your beautifully clean, uncluttered space in Elle Decor magazine someday. But I doubt mine will make it there!

On a cheerier note, want to come over for tea? I have a few teapots, a plethora of teas, and at least a dozen cups and saucers we can choose from! And that's just in the kitchen.

Read more:
*Elisha told [the king], "Get a bow and some arrows." And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, "Put your hand on the bow," and Elisha laid his own hands on the king's hands.

Then he commanded, "Open that eastern window," and he opened it. Then he said, "Shoot!" So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, "This is the LORD's arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek."

Then he said, "Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground." So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. "You should have struck the ground five or six times!" he exclaimed. "Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times." 2 Kings 13:15–19 NLT

*She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Proverbs 31:25–28

*Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his life or forfeit his very self?" Luke 9:23-25 NIV

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reverse psalms

I love reading the psalms. The authors start out frightened, hostile, or angry. Then they take a turn and begin to worship. Sadly, I'm not much like them.

I write "morning pages" nearly every day, an idea inspired by Julia Cameron's book on living creatively (The Artist's Way). I rarely get to writing first thing in the morning, as Julia demands. Instead, I'll pull our my journal and scribble three pages of whatever comes to mind... whenever I can get time to write. I make sure there's a cup of tea handy.

I'm no psalmist! I start by thanking God for provisions, resources, and the hopefulness of my faith, but it goes downhill from there. My thoughts wander to my to-do list, unfinished projects, feelings I wouldn't share with any sane friend or relative, and wishes for things that will never come true. My pen processes the blackness of my thoughts, the greyness of the day, and the smudges of hopes gone awry. 

When I close the journal (whew, my three pages are done done done today!!!), I am often unsettled and upset. 

That's when I reach for the psalms. They reorient me to what is true, worthwhile, and lasting. Reality is not just an endless checklist, not the disappointments, not the unrealized dreams. God pulls me into his presence as I speak aloud the ancient praises. The psalms give me confidence and balance. They remind me that our concerns and little tantrums are small ripples in life's sea, compared to God's goodness, the everlasting Father's love, and the ability of the Prince of Peace to direct history and run the universe.

I am so thankful that God preserved the questions and assurances of his ongoing care for humanity in scripture. "Stuff happens" to us all. But underneath are the everlasting arms. How cool is that! 

Read more:
*Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NEV

*Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Psalm 86:4-5 NEV

*I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. Psalm 145:1-3 NEV 

*So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16–17 NLT

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving on

Life is full of changes based on our decisions. A friend sent a query this morning that got me thinking. "What do you think of when you hear 'spiritual transformation,'" he asked.

I could think of only one word for any kind of transformation, whether physical, spiritual, mental, vocational, or emotional.


This afternoon my beloved swim spa went up the driveway. Loaded on a flatbed truck, it's destined for its new home in Oregon. Someone snapped it up as soon as I posted it on Craigslist. The buyer offered me a little extra money to hold it until they could pick it up. The big fiberglass pond wasn't going anywhere on its own, so I agreed.

Everyone who knows how I love to swim asked why I sold it. Besides the expense of heating it, I was the only one who used it: it wasn't a priority for the rest of the family. The garage was really full with it taking up an entire bay, and the two-foot-wide path to the freezer got annoying.

The pool leaked slightly from one of the connectors underneath, and that never seemed to get fixed. The level would drop so the water jets hit the back of my neck instead of creating a smooth stream to swim against. Ouch. Refilling meant treks with the hose, then waiting hours for the water to heat before swimming.

The swim spa's electric breaker would trip when the electricity surged or blinked, so I'd come down all ready to swim... only to find the water a frosty temperature or at the autoset of 100oF. I'd have to reset the heater before heading back upstairs to change. Another wait for a swim.

I reckon I was swimming less than half the year, with all the variables. It was available only December to June the year before, and I used it twice since last summer. The unreliability just got old.

Recently, I joined an exercise class that challenges me and gets me moving at 6am, a few times a week. Someone else maintains the room and it's always ready when I walk in. I don't look at anything but the interior of the car on my way into the gym. The change rooms are orderly. Someone telling me what to do means I don't think about quitting early. (Ok, so I think about it, but I never leave before it's over!)

I'll miss having a private pool, especially as I'm thinking about the steady chugging of feet kicking and arms pulling against the warm current. How I enjoyed those swims! I'll probably never find a swim spa again. But it's time for change.

Sometimes you know when change is coming, and sometimes it's just sitting in the garage, doing nothing except take up space until you recognize a different season. You know it's the right time for change when you sigh with relief as life moves on or the swim spa trolls up the street.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One last look

Paul and his companions were  home from a missions trip, full of good news and relief money for the church in Jerusalem. They checked in with James and the church elders.

After the report was over, the leaders said, "Good work, buddy. Thanks be to God," and had a request. "Not everyone thinks you're doing things right, Paul. Thousands of Jews in the city believe you're violating laws and encouraging Gentiles not to be moral or upright. We think we've figured out a way to change that."

Paul replied, "Why not, if you think it will help the Church."

He began the prescribed, week-long Jewish ritual with several fellow believers. He even agreed to foot the bill for everybody to prove his sincerity. That should have worked. Should have cleared his name. Should have appeased Jews who were libeling the Church and Paul.

He almost made it. But near the end of the seven-day ritual, some outsiders came along and stirred up the locals. Pretty soon everyone was screaming at Paul, trying to rip him apart as he worshiped in the Temple. The agitators pulled Paul outside into the courtyard and the Temple door was slammed shut behind them. Things got so violent that Roman soldiers had to intervene. The Romans held Paul in prison... for his own safety.

As Paul was dragged off, he may have glanced back at the Temple with its doors closed against him. This was the place on which his life had been centered as a rabbi and as a faithful Jew growing up.

"What just happened? I love this place. I've never done anything to disrespect it, and everyone knows it. I've served God with all my heart, planted churches, taught the gospel. Today I was going the extra mile, exactly as my church leaders requested."

As far as scripture reports, this may have been Paul's last look at the Temple. He had no idea that his obedience and appeasement were sending him to two years of prison in Caesarea, dangerous journeys across land and sea,  and would culminate in a long imprisonment in Rome.

I've watched the doors clang shut behind several excellent ministers. Sure, a few people said they were doing a good job along the way. But the positive voices were drowned out. They might have done something silly that made someone mad. They may not have toed the line as they reached out to the community. But most of them had done nothing at all, except serve God with all their hearts.

Sometimes the pastors and missionaries were ousted by a crowd yelling for blood. But sometimes the bloodbath began as a quiet series of backroom manipulation by church influencers, ending in votes for "outa here!"

How crushing to the spirit - and maybe to our confidence in God - to know we have done our best... and it hasn't been enough. Through no fault of our own - or maybe because of a misstep we'd avoid, knowing what we know now - we face a move, looking for another church or mission, uprooting the children from school, and a long process of healing and forgiveness.

Paul's heroism was that he continued steadily in doing what he was called to do (Acts 20:24). He was not diverted or angered into quitting. His later letters show a mellower side (Galations) of forgiveness and grace, modeling how God had forgiven his own failings. We would be poorer without the Pauline corpus in the New Testament, much of it written during difficult times and persecution.

What new things and blessings is God writing into your life, into your family, into His Church, and into eternity... while you feel like you are being crucified instead of appreciated?

Read more:
*“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 NIV

*But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NASB

Monday, January 10, 2011


I learned from this poem. Hope you do, and that you think about your journey as you read it below. (Here's the link.)


by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Forest view

Our house was built for Christian hospitality. We're always looking for ways to make our home more useful and beautiful. 

Crate and Barrel was selling off Christmas stuff, just like other retailers. We picked up a Christmas display unit. I intend to re-purpose the four customizable shelves as greenhouse trays this spring. 

Rarely one to think within a plexiglass box, I've temporarily reinvented it for vegetable and fruit storage. It's an easy step from the kitchen door to glance at what is available for juicing and cooking. 

Waldemar may be a theologian and academic but he is rare among peers because he's also skilled in practical things. He's great at building things I design. But he has good ideas of his own, too. 

The sun porch emerged this fall. W was getting ready to replace rotting cedar on the back deck again. He priced hardwood decking and figured he could enclose the space for about the same price.

W worked evenings and weekends, tearing up the old decking before laying down a new sub-floor. He installed insulated greenhouse roofing and built frames around double-paned windows salvaged from patio sliders. Then he sliced 2"X10" boards for 1" pine flooring, which will be stained medium brown to match the house flooring when it warms up.

W finished the initial phase the Sunday before Christmas. The sofas from the LR were placed in the space for December, and we immediately used the sunroom for overflow Christmas entertaining.

After the holidays, we took our chaises, a patio table, and two chairs from storage. With a few blankets and a space heater,  we are enjoying the forest views even though it's winter outside.

I'm so proud of my husband's work! Isn't it beautiful? 

Read more:
*Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:1-5 NIV

*Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV

*Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2 NEV

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

High trust

"Rosemarie... Trust me.-------I have everything under control. ------Jesus"

A decade ago, Margaret gave me those words on the 4X7" sheet of laminated paper that I keep propped up on my office window sill. It hung on the mirror of the piano studio to keep me sane during another rendition of "Twinkle Little Star." It sat in my alumni office as I served and prayed for alums, and then came home to roost beside stacks of dissertation research.

I'm reminded that 2011 is an artificial designation, honored by the eternal God who works inside time. Our "New Year" is just another day on God's calendar. Scripture tells us, "His mercies are new every morning."

That means that even a week into the year, God's care is sustaining us. We can rely on him today, whatever our circumstances. Whatever our challenges. Whatever the "new" looks like on our resolution calendar.

It seems easier for nature to cooperate with God. Animals take a leap of faith daily, trusting him for each meal. The trees grow toward the sun, the rain falls, the water laps the shore in ceaseless rhythm.
Oh, that we could have the same confidence in the One who promised never to leave us or forsake us!

Read more:
*O God, You are my God. Early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.  

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. Psalm 63:1-4 NKJV

*And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 NEV

Monday, January 3, 2011

Say the words

A few things you never want to hear.
  • "Hey, did you scrape the snow off the windshield yet?" from your pilot.
  • "Wasn't the street right here?" when you're ready to get in the car.
  • "Oops, we've got three less tools on the tray than we had going in," from your surgeon as he or she sews you up.
Everyone thrives on sincere praise. We stand a little taller with a "Well done!" from our parent or our boss. We like to hear the new outfit looks good on us. For those of us who have begun to exercise or changed eating habits, it's nice to have someone notice the pounds melting away or our firmed-up silhouettes.

It surprises me how hard it is for some people to give compliments. They want to be noticed, but never pass along a nice word to others. 

Sometimes parents critique little details of progress in their child. What's our response to: "Look, Mom, I put my red skirt with this blouse. I think it looks great, don't you?" or "Here's a drawing I made for you in class."

Are we inclined to "help" with these words? "Well, I think the reds are a little off and don't match." Or, "Those stripes don't go with that pattern." The child would walk away crushed, when it would have cost so little to the parent (and meant so much to the child) to be affirmed.

Some people are generous only to manipulate, compare themselves favorably, or when it is in their best interests. "I noticed you were still working at 7.30pm last night. I was writing my report until 8. What a late night, huh?" Or, "Your suit looks good. I saw one just like it at Nordstrom Rack on the weekend. I bought this there." Or, "Cool that your son hit a fastball during the game. My son caught two pop flies, too. What a great team."

Likewise, some bosses control their employees with criticism, intimidation, and unrealistic expectations, ensuring failure and a dread for the job. Eventually the employee gives up trying to please or achieve, not giving best efforts, clocking in and out to collect a paycheck. In retrospect, this memory is really funny: one of my supervisors pointed to the tissue box on her table during my initial interview, remarking that I would be in her office crying, at some point of working for her. "Just expect it. Everyone cries in here." When I asked why, she said she sometimes made people cry because they thought she was harsh.

"What?! I don't think so!" snapped my inner dialogue. I remained cautious ever after, anticipating words from someone accustomed to dominating rather than supporting her team.

In contrast, God speaks good things without coercion or hidden agendas. He is openly delighted in his children and unstinting in his kindness to those who know him.
  • "I love you because you are mine, but I sent my Son to die for you even before you knew me."
  • "Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened."
  • "Confess your sins and I will forgive them."
  • "I send the sunshine and rain on the good and the evil."
In this year, let's put effort into noticing others at work and rest. How about affirming carefulness in dress, hospitality, and friendships? Let's speak words that lift and support, carry and enlighten. Let's be unstinting and generous with praise to everyone, saying thanks where it is due. 

We might occasionally notice some of those words coming back to heal our own hearts, too.

Read more:
*The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 NIV

*"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19 NEV

*Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 NEV