Thursday, March 24, 2011

Every Creeping Thing

God made… all the creatures that move along the ground. – Genesis 1:25

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. – Romans 1:20


Nothing’s permanent. When I move, will I realize too late how blessed I was by the beauty all around me? When I was looking at homes in the San Lorenzo Valley, a realtor told me that I would sit on my deck with a cup of coffee and hear the Stellars jays squawking and the hollow tap of woodpecker beaks on the redwoods. I didn’t forget that, but I always viewed her prediction cynically. Yeah, like I’m gonna have time for that!

I will regret my complaints about the winter storms, the falling trees, the abundant insects, the fire dangers. When I focus on the problems, I miss the beauty that I have only this opportunity to see. Worse, I miss its God-sent message to me. How shortsighted! The years are passing, and someday I may have to live in the city again.

Here’s an interesting memory. I was driving the kids to Quail Hollow park for a hike. I heard something rustling near my left knee. Glancing down, I saw a huge, HUGE beetle, scuffling around on the van door, very close to my leg. There was nowhere to pull over, but screaming helped a little. Finally, I hurtled through the park gate and zipped along the curved driveway, scraping at last to a quick stop amid a cloud of dust. The creature’s leg was caught somehow. We found a jar and trapped it, and the kids studied it. (That always calms me down.) It was a June bug. They are black and a couple of inches long. Seriously. (Now you’ll excuse me for screaming?)

When my son tried out his macro lens, he made a profound observation. “Mom, I think that God made everything beautiful in its own way. Even bugs – they just look ugly to us because we can’t see them up close.” He was right, sort of. If not beautiful, they are at least really cool. Check these out:

Cricket

Fly

Mayfly wings

Garden spider

We can learn something of God’s nature through every created thing. Even the delicate Daddy longlegs, gingerly reaching out its threadlike legs along a shower tile, can inform us of the Creator’s incredible precision. It’s a miniature machine, doing its fragile best to survive the perils of a girls’ bathroom.

Holiness hovers in the air we breathe. If we pause, we can catch a glimpse of God. Let's not miss it!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Essential Sunshine

Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live. – Isaiah 55: 3
A friend once shared a song she learned as a child:
Oh, let the sunshine in!
Face it with a grin!
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in!
How irritating is that?! Another friend told me her mom’s motto was “Smile, smile, smile!” Smile. All the time – even when your school folder slides off the dashboard and your son steps on the papers with muddy shoes. Even when someone drops his grapefruit face-down during the countdown to van take-off. Even when there’s too much to do, the kids are whining, and you forgot to defrost the chicken. Smile, already!
You know, I think they were on to something. A revolution occurs in the heart when sunshine makes contact. I tried it – it’s fast, and it’s astonishing! I think it happens when deep within we flip the switch of our will to “on,” to “Hello, God! I’m listening.” We open ourselves to love, and it changes everything. As essential as vitamen C, love promotes healing and protects us from the disease of self-pity.
But I must admit, I do squirm. Insanely, I prefer the dark, grouchy tension of My Way. It hurts to flip the will-switch. Inherent with that action is an admission of guilt, neediness, of choosing the wrong path. As the day wears on, the invitation stands, but it becomes harder to accept because I’ve invested so much more in my failing plan.
And exactly how do we let the sunshine in when facing catastrophic circumstances? To exhort Japanese believers to smile in the face of their current tragedy would be abhorent. Sometimes, the sunshine presents tears of release and brokenness. This is genuine. God’s love is not an injection of glib happiness when life throws us its worst. It can manifest in many ways, but it is always real. And healing.
If we know someone who’s suffering, we can offer them a real, valuable response only if we are connected to God. Let’s pray.
Dear Lord, we lift up the Japanese people to You. We cannot imagine what they’re going through, and our hearts are torn for them. Surround them with Your presence, and give them the strength they need to endure. Comfort them and give them the hope of Heaven and the peace of knowing You in their suffering. Please, by Your sovereign power prevent a nuclear meltdown, and protect them from radiation. Restore their country and give their leaders wisdom. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Please feel free to add a prayer for Japan, or any suffering country, in the comments section.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Little Things Mean a Lot

I chose not to pursue a career so I could homeschool my kids. I don’t believe women should never work, or that children should never be schooled in conventional ways. But the decision to homeschool has been right for my family.
If you’re in a position similar to mine, you may have sensed the message that because you are not a career woman, you’re not very important. Even in the church, we can get the impression that real ministry is outside the home, and raising our kids doesn’t amount to significant “Kingdom work.” Add to that the sometimes low view of single parents and you can find yourself feeling pretty invisible.
I used to think this contempt for mothering was a modern phenomenon brought on by feminism. Then I found a sermon by John Calvin, written in the 1500’s. He exhorted women “to take pains about housewifery, to make clean her children when they be arrayed, to kill fleas, and other such like.” (Don’t you love the killing fleas bit?!) He continues, “although this be a thing despised… such that many will not vouchsafe to look upon it, yet are they sacrifices which GOD accepteth & receiveth, as if they were things of great price and honourable.”* Apparently, even 500 years ago staying home and raising kids was “a thing despised.”
The wonderful truth is that God sees and applauds every little sacrifice we make. What the world deems worthless is precious to God. Every mess we clean up, every lesson plan we prepare, every trip to the park, every luxury denied us for the care of our children – God sees and values them all. Moreover, “Whoever gives a cup of water to the least of these My brethren,” says Jesus in Matthew 10:42, “shall certainly not lose his reward.” I believe many of heaven’s highest honors will go to people we’ve never heard of, people who simply chose to forsake their ambitions and love those God had placed in their lives.
And you never know what God might do with your decision to love. One promising itinerant preacher cut back his traveling schedule so he could invest in his son’s growth. His career never recovered from that decision. I’m sure he didn’t regret it, though – his son was Dr. Dobson!

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

*As recorded in A Sermon of Master John Caluine, vpon the first Epistle of Paul, to Timothie, published for the benefite and edifying of the Churche of God (London: G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579), excerpted from Calvin’s sermon on 1 Timothy 2:13-15.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Four Steps to a Peaceful Day

If you’ve been following my blog this little distance, you already know I’m subject to feeling totally overwhelmed. Actually, it’s like this:

Hi. My name is Lisa and I’m a stress case.

If you still like my blog, maybe you can relate. Like me, you also may have experienced the relief of connecting with God, so that you’ve seen your situation become managable, and you’ve faced the day with confidence. Did you know God has established a simple procedure for finding this confidence? Rather than floundering around until we stumble upon it, we can apply it right away! Sunday's wonderful sermon on handling worry helped me grasp this. Now I’m going to share this new, breakthrough formula with my comrades in stress!

OK, it’s not new and it’s hardly a breakthrough, but it was for me. I’m not the brightest kid on the block! Here it is:

1. Stop looking at the situation. Instead, think over a couple of Scriptures. This refocuses us from our problems to God.

2. Pray. Tell the Lord Jesus what’s bothering you and let Him know you can’t handle it without His help. The Hebrew verb is “galal.” Because I like horses, I’ll call it gallaloping. It’s translated “commit” in Psalm 37, and it means “to roll.” Not as in a fit of despair, but as in off-loading a burden onto someone else’s shoulders. Just knowing God has heard us is a huge relief.

3. Next, give up control. Now, this part is a little tricky. Even though our way is less efficient; even though only God knows what’s going to mess up the schedule at 2:28 p.m.; even though being in charge distracts us from what we’re doing – we still cling to control. Before we can receive God’s wisdom, we must release it.

4. Finally, wait quietly. God will give us insights that we desperately need. For example, we’ll be less distracted from the biology lesson if we write that letter we’ve been putting off. We can write it while the kids are playing tennis. We’ll be free to fix the budget while the kids are at their dad’s. It’s OK to defend our “me” time. The dust will still be there when we find the energy to clean house. And so on.

As in much of my walk with God, finding peace boils down to trust and obedience. God has unlimited grace and wisdom, and His word is full of promises that His way is trustworthy. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,” implores Jesus, “and I will give you rest…. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28, 30) That sweet rest is dramatically different from the unyielded, rigid tension that results from playing God. Instead of keeping an anxious eye on everything I can’t control, I am free to focus on the tasks God has set before me right now. I’m a much happier mom, too – my kids appreciate that!

And now it’s time to focus on making breakfast. Have a grace-filled day!

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Three Words to Get You through Anything

Driving to Taco Bell, I was hit by a tsunami-type question: “Mom, sometimes I don’t know who to trust – you, or Dad. How do I know which one to believe?” The question was partly about faith issues.
My son had a recurring nightmare that I found deeply disturbing. It seemed related to the divorce, and it wouldn’t go away.
One evening, the stress was at an all-time high and everyone was upset. I could see we were on the edge of a massive meltdown.
These situations (and countless others) had one thing in common: I had absolutely no idea how to handle them. Rapid-scanning through memories of parenting classes and books turned up nothing. I was clueless, yet responsible. God. Help. Me.
Every time I’ve asked that, He has. Out of the wide, blank nowhere, I’ve miraculously spoken the exact words my children needed. I’m astonished at God’s simple answers to complex problems. No counseling needed – not that I’m against counseling. We’ve benefitted from it. But sometimes there isn’t time to make an appointment. It’s just me, God, and the crisis.
The child who asked the tsunami question was then only seven. She wasn’t wrestling with faith issues, analyzing, and subsequently owning her faith. She was simply looking for something to trust that overrode the confusion of divided parents. She knew, as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, “They can’t both be right!” I’m very thankful that her father has been supportive of the children’s faith; but she was still sensing deep differences between him and me. I hadn’t a clue how to answer her question without stirring up loyalty conflicts. God, help me!
I believe the Holy Spirit led me to Galatians 1:11-12: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” These verses directed my child’s trust beyond parental authority, to the God who designed our faith. I explained that neither her dad nor I know everything – but the gospel is God’s plan. Neither parent made it up, nor could either parent disprove it. God was bigger than her parents’ differences.
When my son told me his horrific recurring dream, I thought it was too serious for me to solve. I was way out of my depth – another “God help me!” moment. But we prayed, and we found the troubled thoughts that were causing his dream, together with some truths that countered those thoughts. He never dreamed that dream again – it was clear that our conversation had put it completely to rest. And later, a licensed therapist affirmed that part of my analysis was standard in counseling! Who knew?!
When we were approaching meltdown, I told the kids I didn’t know what to do, so we needed to ask God to help us. The children took responsibility and began praying from their hearts. The change in our home was palpable, as we asked God’s forgiveness and thanked Him for His love. One child literally danced around the room, singing and praying. (They were a lot younger then!) A wonderful peace replaced the tension, and I am sure this event strengthened their faith.
It’s unsettling to be out of my depth at times, but the payoff is so great. My kids are learning they really can trust God with anything. And now they’re telling me about some of their own “God help me!” moments! I don’t think I could put a price on that.
“I want to you trust me in your time of trouble, so I can rescue you, and you can give me glory.” – Psalm 50:15


How to Die

“I have no hope, except that I believe that Christ died for my sins, according to Scriptures. I expect to swing out into eternity on that.” - Michael Card’s Grandfather Brown.
Um… excuse me? You expect to swing out of here on that alone? No good works to bolster it a little?
Most types of swinging out scare me, frankly. The last one, especially. To go out by faith alone seems like swinging across the Grand Canyon on a thread of spider silk. Until recently, I wasn’t feeling too assured about death, even while having a relationship with Christ. I wasn’t quite sure I’d be allowed into Heaven after all. I know I’m sinful; perhaps I didn’t have enough faith to mitigate that? Trusting God just couldn’t be enough for me. Could it? (I know – I’m one of those anxious types, lol!)