Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Use of Force

I want my kids to like serving others.
I want them to see everyone through God's eyes.
I want them to feel empathy for those in need and then be empowered to make a difference.

I want it so badly that when they have a bad attitude while doing parent-imposed service, I pounce on them like a ferocious angry panther.

I think I'm sending mixed messages.

Where do I begin with this? When do I let them choose to do right on their terms instead of watching them throw fits while doing what I'm making them do?

I know they're little. 5, 7, nearly 9. I've got time. But I feel like this is the formative part of their future. This is the foundation for what's normal, what's right, what's good.

This morning I sat and thought about my parents, and their posture toward the world. They obviously had an impact on my current frame of mind. But as I processed my childhood (who needs a couch?), I realized that I don't have any memories of forced service. I don't have an eye twitch from the hours upon hours of park clean ups, homeless ministry, hospital visits and the like that plague my children now. Not to say that I didn't do any of that. I did. I just didn't know that it was service. There were no badges earned. There was no imposed right-doing. There was no preemptive speech in the car that basically boiled down to, "We serve because we're supposed to. Jesus did it! Now stop complaining! Be happy!" In fact, I don't think I was involved in the decision making process at all. My parents were the ones serving. Loving. Being. I was witness to it, and participated without even knowing that it was special. It just was what it was: Life.

In my childhood, I can recall at least seven long-term house guests. I can not remember a single holiday without half a dozen extra-familial faces. I remember sharing what we had with others. I remember visiting the sick and abandoned. I remember praying ceaselessly for friends and strangers. My parents didn't force me out into the world to go do good. They invited people in and loved them. They gave when they had. They accepted when they needed. This was my norm.

My parents served and loved before it was cool. Because don't kid yourself. Right now, it's cool. It's a new missional trend in the church. It's a new helping-hand world we live in. Even "Idol Gives Back". How do we make it through? How do we ride this wave and still be standing when we reach the shore?

Right now, the kids get rewarded for doing the right thing. They earn rewards from their scouting organizations, they receive verbal praise and recognition, and sometimes they receive ice cream from their briber. I mean, mother. I continue to serve along side of them in their efforts. I think that the routine of service is good. And eventually, the reward is intrinsic within the service. In the end, they'll get it. (I think we don't really notice that there's people besides ourselves in the world until about 21 anyway.) All this is good. I'm fine with the whining and emotional scarring for now (they can work it out later). But the focus, the long lasting foundation, is in the unspoken moments. It's when I'm doing, and they're by my side. What's my posture? What's my attitude when I think nobody is watching? Who am I inviting into my life to bless and be blessed by?

So... there's work to be done. In my heart. It starts with me. And out of my overflow, they'll gather the seeds of love and service and sacrifice, and someday -- God willing -- they'll begin to bear their own fruit.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am, I am, I am

I got a new job as activities director for an assisted living facility. There are currently only three residents, so already I've gotten to know them pretty well. When my kids asked to come and visit, I gave them a brief run down as to what to expect.

"Marjorie is really sweet, and very smiley. But sometimes she gets confused. Selma is very smart, but you'll have to be patient for her to answer you back. And Bertie makes noise all the time." This last one stumped my kids a little.

"What do you mean?" they asked.

"Well, she makes a quiet sound all the time. She'll stop to answer you, but then she goes back to her humming noise. Like this. 'How are you Bertie?' 'Mmmmmmmm... I'm fine... mmmmmmm.'"


"I think she likes the feel of it. It lets her know she's still there."

Then the kids went off humming to each other for a good 20 minutes.

There's good justification in Bertie's idiosyncrasy. Aside from the real explanation of the advancement of Alzheimer's, there is the idea of a constant awareness of presence. It's reassuring to someone to whom life might seem scary and difficult. It's like a heartbeat.

What a thing, a heartbeat. Your heart is always beating. It starts in the womb, 22 days after conception, and it doesn't stop until you're dead. It is a rhythm that God gave each of us. It's our involuntary awareness of presence, like Bertie's hum. There are minutes, days, hours, phases of the moon that revolve around us in constant movement and pattern, so there is also an internal clock, a metronome of lifeblood that pulses through us. Your breath is like that too, but you can stop your breath, and control it. (I don't recommend this for your heart.)

It reminds me of Sylvia Plath's, The Bell Jar, when the protagonist states, quite mirthlessly, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am." It was her way of getting through a moment of despair, a way of telling herself that her body was stronger than her condition; her heart continued on in perfect time despite the melancholy of her mind.

Sure, someday Bertie's hum will cease. And someday our heart's song comes to an end. But we don't get to choose when our clock stops. It just goes on beating, beating the same pulse that it did when we were two, when we are 32, and when we are 82. Until then, it's a reminder that our time is here, our body is on earth. And our work is yet unfinished. Our heartbeat is a gift from God. It is our "I am, I am, I am" from the great I AM.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wheelchairs and Cartwheels

My doctor said these words to me today:
"Susana, it is amazing that after six years, you are not in a wheelchair. And you have absolutely no deformities. It's just amazing."

Oh yeah. Praise God.


Let me explain:

I have aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I've had it for six and a half years. I really have a bad case of the stuff, actually. And there have been times where I couldn't step out of bed because the floor felt like broken glass, and I couldn't brush my hair because my elbows wouldn't bend far enough, and I couldn't lift my kids because my knee caps felt like they were separating from my legs. By all accounts, I should have the unsightly arthritic hands by now, and I should be using a walker for the deformed knees and ankles I should have by now.

The truth: I could probably do a cartwheel. (Please don't ask me to do a cartwheel. I said I could, not would. Although I probably should while I still can.) By God's grace and the gift of modern medicine (and the help of really good insurance) I have defied the odds of this debilitating disease. I can play my guitar. I can dance. I can pick up my kids. I have not had bad inflammation in nearly two and a half years. I recently ran a freakin' 5k, for goodness sake.

Praise God.

I totally forgot -- until my rheumatologist pointed it out -- that I have so much reason to thank God. It's easy to overlook stuff when the cards are good.

But it reminded me of some other things, too. Things that are gifts.

Healthy Kids
Loving Husband

For all the things I usually take for granted, thank you, Lord.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Messiah Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Psalm 146

Call it cheating if you want to. But these words here are the only words I've had lately. They're just not my original words. But they're more powerful and meaningful and amazing than anything that's come from my lips. Ever.

To be read aloud (trust me on this):

Psalm 146

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


There has been this constant thread in my life for the past year and a half to two years. It's one I've periodically ignored, but that has consistently pursued me. And occasionally brought me to my knees. And here I am again. After a period of low hum, it's shouting at me again. And at 4:30 in the morning on a weekday, I'm finally quiet enough to let it wash over me.

More simplicity.
Less distraction.

It's amazing how easy that sounds. And how difficult it can be to implement. I want so badly to open the scriptures and learn how to do this. But alas, there is no Fox 3:16 that says, "Stop wasting your life with hilarious nonsensical drivel and read your stinking bible." And there's no Schedule 5:27 that says, "Be not like a chicken with its head removed, but slow down and fellowship with other believers." I have to remember that in biblical times, there were -- by nature -- less distractions. Or different ones, anyway. But definitely more silence.

And yet, I already know how to get there. I know that nothing replaces time spent with God. In prayer, in His word. It's like if I were trying to improve my relationship with my husband by thinking about him more while running errands in my car. Uh, no. That won't quite do it. It's the time. It's the one on one. God wants some face time, maybe some actual conversation.

So, I'm back to the empowered "Just say no" phase that I love and hate at the same time. I'm saying no to some things that I have the audacity to call "necessary", and some things that I just really "like" to do, and replacing them with Him whom I love. (And maybe a little extra face time for husband and kids, too. Bonus.) I already feel a sense of relief.

Less is more, here, folks.

It's so hard to remember that when I'm stuck in the whirlwind. It's easy to say, "I'm just so busy." It's a bad excuse when I've only done it to myself. But when I make my delight in Him, remove distractions, and I listen and obey, there's a beautiful picture that emerges from the frantic fog. There is clarity, humility, and a reordering of priorities. God sits on the universal, eternal, and most powerful throne. And everything else comes in a distant second.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I often speak of the unbelievable support and benefit of having my family so close by. 39 members of my family living in the Austin area. 32 within a five-mile radius. We are an anomaly, no doubt. Functional marriages, happy kids, love for Jesus, and a desire to actually spend time with one another. I can safely say that nearly every day I speak to at least two or three family members, (and I only get sick of them sometimes). We are in community with one another, raising kids together, and are each others' first go-to in times of joy and celebration, and in times of need or sorrow.

I know that not everyone has this. It's a blessing.

What is probably an African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," is also backed by scripture. Yes, it's nice to have my brother and his wife take my kids so I can get a date night with my husband. And it's so cool that my kids have tons of cousins that are their first best friends, and that we all love each others' kids as if they were our own. But I think it takes a village to get through life, too. Not just in the kid department. And this is where the scripture comes in.

Where kids need discipline and reinforcement through love and acceptance, we as adults also need people who speak truth into our lives. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

If you don't have the benefit of close family, you probably have (or need to build) a spiritual family. People who are in your lives, in your kids lives, in your business. And people who have investment in your well being. People who carry your burdens, and whose burdens you carry. Whether it is spiritual burdens, financial burdens, child-rearing burdens, or burdens of sin, as the context of the scripture presents.

Don't get me wrong. We all need to carry our own load. We're not to continue in being a burden (see v 4 and 5). But don't be surprised when your load becomes light because of all those around you who are carrying similar burdens in close proximity. That's what happens when you live in true fellowship.

Today, I am reminded what a gift I have. I love my village. I thank God for each person.

Friday, September 3, 2010



This is how I’ve been feeling lately. Like a boat at sea. I’ve been casting my nets here and there, trying to catch the fish. But I’ve lost my bearings. I don’t know where the shore is, and I don’t know which way I should go.

Then I remember my anchor. Yes. I have an anchor. I could go left right north south east west, but first I must get my bearings. And in order to do that, I must first stop, drop my anchor, and figure out where I am. I must plunge the deep before I move on.

The LORD is my anchor; praise His name. I must fix fast onto the scriptures, make my mooring in prayer, in His peace. Or I’ll end up floating wherever the wind takes me. This life can’t be lived left right north south east west. It has to start with the depth of the scripture, with the depth of prayer, with the depth of relationship with the Living God.

Then, the way is made known. The skies open, the compass points north, and water is made clear.

Let the journey begin again.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior.” 2 Samuel 22:1-3

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Embracing the Mess

If I had it all together, a cataclysmic event might occur.

As it stands, you can usually find me shoving the kids in the car, keys and purse flying, spilling coffee out of the to-go cup, franticly arranging bed-head hair, peeling out of the driveway at the very last possible second to get to [insert location] on time. I look at the calendar by the 1/2 day, okay? I'm feeling good to get six hours of sleep and a pot of coffee in the morning. Sometimes I feel like

To tell the truth, if I DID have it all together... I might need therapy.

I do well in the mess.

I don't understand my contemporaries who say that they're bored at home. Whaaa? Whenever I have two or three days in a row where I'm relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book on the couch, I start to feel restless. Don't get me wrong, I LOOO-OOOOVE (luh-huv) a cup of coffee and a good book on the couch. But then I start to think, Hmmm... What crazy ambitious project can I take upon myself so I won't get any sleep for the next two weeks? And then I start to turn the cranks.

Well, I'm there now. Running/cranking/shoving/spilling/peeling.

But I'm ready for the coffee/book/couch. Thankfully, it's as just a day away. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow.

So, I don't have any biblical wisdom to impart today. Just a reminder to myself to make some more room in the margins. Or put my projects in the margins, and make some room in the middle. I'm really feeling the "each day has enough trouble of it's own" vibe right now.

See you on the other side.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kick in the Pants

"What she needs is a good kick in the pants." -- Grandpa Joe, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971

I'm feeling like I need a good kick in the pants. Not that I'm trying to get my dad to buy me an Oompa Loompa right now or anything, but every now and then, for no real legitimate reason, a good kick in the pants is just what I need.

Part of it is an inertia thing. I just need the impetus to get moving. The other part of it is I have a sickness that craves a menacing double dog dare. I come by it honestly. I mean, I grew up with four brothers whose mantra was, "I invite pain!" So, a kick in the pants is not that far off.

Let me say it again, because it's fun.

Kick in the pants.

It's fun. Try it. Kick in the pants. Kick in the pants. Kick in the pants.

Okay. Enough of that. See... I really do need a kick in the pants. Not that I'm not moving. I'm busy. Sure I'm busy. But I need a kick in the diet pants. And the exercise pants. And the housekeeping pants. And above all, I need a kick in the spiritual pants.

This is a good thing. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul talks about how he beats his body and makes it his slave. See? That's what I'm talking about. Paul gets it. Paul invites pain.

Please, God, kick me in the spiritual pants.

(This is not nearly as eloquent as my friend Jen's prayer, "God, raise up in me a holy passion." But I think it means essentially the same thing, don't you?)

I know it sounds kind of stupid. But I wouldn't call it that if I were you. Don't call it stupid to want a kick in the pants. Because I'd hate to pull the old I'm-rubber-and-you're-glue on you:

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 12:1

What? Bring it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Widow

"A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture."
--Abraham Joshua Heschel

I recently lost my maternal grandfather. Or, as I liked to call him, Grumps.

Unfortunately, I am also soon to lose my paternal grandfather. Grandpa.

It's a weird time. It was hard to know what to say to Grumps in those last days, except to tell him that I loved him. And it's hard to know what to say to Grandpa now, except that I love him, and I'm so glad I'm near him. But he's in a lot of pain, he wakes up to a 90-year old body with useless lungs, weak limbs, and a 10-year absence of his wife, my grandmother, who was my first family death experience.

I've also been spending some time at a local retirement home. This is something that I always had a heart for. As a child, I visited the same home every week for at least three years to help my grandmother teach arts and crafts hour. I still remember their faces, names. Georgia, Rachel and Esther, and the blind lady who used to come in and play the piano, and Sharon, the young woman who had a terrible accident and was destined to spend the rest of her life in a convalescent home, among residents nearly sixty years her senior.

The place I visit now is top notch care with constant entertainment, stimulation, activities. Plush carpet and beautiful furniture adorn every room. A far cry from the home I visited as a kid, with hospital floors and the constant smell of soiled linens. Not that I minded that. You get used to it, and realize that your happy presence there is needed even more. It doesn't ever matter that they have no idea who you are. There is a desperation for attention in nursing homes, any visitors are appreciated. But even in this shi-shi place I go to now, with all the well-paid staff and weekly activities, the same loneliness is just under the surface.

We have separate homes for our elderly in this country. This itself is an anomaly to most of the world. And it's kind of a sad testament to our autonomous mindset and constant busyness. That's all I'll say. I don't want to offend. I just think we have pitiful excuses.

Like Rabbi Heschel said, it's easy to love children. Orphans, abused, abandoned. But the elderly... Well, I consider it a gift that my heart is drawn that way. Because it seems to be a rarity.

Thank you, Lord. Increase my love.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Okay, folks. I've been slacking. But May was crazy.

I've missed the rush and release that blogging brings for me.

So here's my new commitment.

One post a week.

I promise.


next week. :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Minivan Meditation

So much has come and gone in my mind that should have gone here. So sorry to have withheld. (I'll have to make myself some notes for the dry season.)

But I think, right now, I just need to meditate on the word meditate.

My mind is going 47 different directions this month. Commitments and responsibility... fuggettaboutit. I'm up to my eyeballs in them.

So, maybe I need to meditate.

I wish this were a word that meant the same as the "be still" in Psalm 46:10. You know the one, "Be still and know that I am God." That one literally means to cease striving. Which is what I'd like to do right now.

But this meditate word. Pshew. Not so easy.

Joshua 1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it."

This one means to not only to muse, but to groan, utter, speak. I mean, I get that it means different things in different contexts. But it's an action, not a stillness. It's the repetition, the constancy of thought and audible words, the low murmur of His faithfulness that we are to allow into the rhythm of our lives.

I can't 'cease striving' right now. Seriously, my cheeks haven't felt the couch cushions in weeks. It's bucket seat to bed to bucket seat to bed in an endless routine of errands and carpools and last-minute to-dos. The sliding door on my van is actually coming apart from serious overuse.

But allowing God's word into my heart every morning, setting my mind on him and his faithfulness, well, that's another story. That brings God into my words, into my actions, into my very breath. That's meditation. Even though my body says PTAing, scouting, volunteering, carpooling, working, etc etc, the spirit in my heart and the words from my mouth belong to the Lord and speak to his love, his faithfulness, his kindness, his mercy.

I know there is a time to be still. I hope it's coming soon.

But until then, I make my soundtrack with the words of the scripture. My holy playlist of Psalms and Torah and Letters and Gospel. And I meditate.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Your Anger

"In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your heart and be silent. Selah" Psalm 4:4

It's amazing how short is my fuse when I fall out of sync with my scripture reading and prayer time, when I forget to talk to God and forget to let Him talk to me. I wake up angry, spend most of the day's energy controlling that ill-sourced frustration, and go to bed exhausted. Add three kids and a busy schedule. Mix. Not a nice picture. I've become pretty good at pushing it down for the sake of no-regret parenting (and therapy is expensive), but I feel like the angry beast is just below the surface, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

It reminds me of what God said to Cain right before he...

you know...

slaughtered his brother.

"Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.'" Genesis 4:6-7

It's a pretty good description of how I feel sometimes. We have this evil thing. This angry evil thing. It is waiting for the right moment when the door opens so that it can devour us. Eeek.

So we must master it.


The psalm.

Search your heart and be silent.

Yes. At the end of the day, as we reflect on the day's frustrations, we should search our hearts in the silence. But really, it needs to be preemptive. It's also when we wake. The moment before throwing off the covers and smacking the alarm.

Search your heart and be silent.

I think I'll give it a go.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Behold the Lamb

Easter is crap. The word Easter is crap. Eggs and bunnies are crap. Saying that Easter is really about the resurrection and simultaneously ignoring the APPOINTED TIME OF THE LORD is the biggest load of crap. You can't really convince me otherwise. (Sorry, I always get a little cranky this time of year.) But instead of beating a dead horse, I'm just going to do a word study. Look at your watch. Give me 10 minutes.

One word.


1. It begins in Genesis 22. The bible's first appearance of the word 'lamb'. Abraham was told to kill his own son. "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there." And on their way up the mountain, Isaac got a little worried... "'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.'" and Abraham was going to slay his own son... but the LORD intervened. "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky... and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed."

Pretty important. God will provide the lamb, and bless the nations through Abraham's seed. You with me so far?

2. Then the next major lamb issue comes in Exodus 12. The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt. God tells Moses to get the job done, get 'em outta there. But Pharoh, the Egyptian leader, isn't okay with that. So, before the tenth "request" (read: plague), God tells his people: "On the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household... until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight." The lamb must be young and without blemish or defect. They were to put the blood of the lamb on their door frames as a sign. The LORD was going to come. "I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will PASS OVER you... This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD -- a lasting ordinance." The blood of the lamb was going to save their lives from certain death. Hmmm... That reminds me of something.

Then there's A TON of lamb sacrifices for offerings in the book of Numbers. This is a different study. And one I am as-of-yet ill equipped to teach. Then a couple more Passover lamb mentions. Then this doozy in Isaiah.

3. That's right; Isaiah 53. 700 years before the birth of the Messiah. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed... The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter." That pretty much seals the deal for me. Missing out on the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice and the meaning of the Passover lamb is missing the point of what Jesus did on the cross. Yeah, I mean it. Christians are missing the point of the cross. From these three scriptures, I already understand Jesus better, and we haven't even broken the zero yet. But let's add a few more AD scriptures for good measure.

4. John "the baptizer" was doing what he did best. Preparing the way for the Lord. When he sees Jesus coming in the distance, he doesn't give him a regular greeting. Here's what he says in John chapter 1: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" This is one of those bible-y (bible-ish?) things that we just get used to, and it consequently loses its bite, but think about it. Stop and think. I'm going to go ahead and say that it was a weird way to greet his cousin. Unless you understand the Abraham and Isaac story, and how God is finally providing the lamb. And how that Lamb will take away the sin of the world. (And cf Gen 22:2 with Matt 17:5. "Whom you love" / "Whom I love". Pretty intense.)

A few more quick references. Stay with me.

5. Read Luke 22. Figure it out. Jesus was crucified ON Passover. ON the night when the lamb was to be sacrificed. And it's on purpose. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Cross reference Leviticus 23 for the passover week timeline. It's real. Okay? It's real. (Remember the biblical days go evening/morning and not morning/evening.) He broke unleavened bread and poured wine with his disciples. On Passover. "Do this in remembrance of me." Do WHAT in remembrance? Passover.

6. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 "For Messiah, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Feast." It's all there, black and white, clear as crystal.

7. 1 Peter 1:18-20 "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."

The word "lamb" is undeniably significant here. And "Passover" appears 77 times in the NIV. And "Passover lamb" appears 7 times. (Okay. Just gave myself chills. 77, 7. C'mon, Missler fans.)

(Stepping off soapbox.)

And I'm done.

(Stepping back on soapbox.)

Okay, wait. Let's be fair. "Easter?" Nope, not in the word of God. (The word "Esther" is, though. But that was just the nickname given to Hadassah, because she was beautiful and the name Esther was from a goddess of beauty and fertility. FERTILITY. And Asherah, too. Another fertility goddess. Both derivatives of Easter. ) "Easter eggs?" Swing and a miss. Not in the bible. "Bunnies?" Strike three. Come now, let us reason together. Let us be seekers of the truth.

(Stepping off soapbox.)

Until next year.

(Stepping back on soapbox.)

Except I just have to say it plainly. Stop messing with Easter. And eggs. And bunnies. Trust me on this. It's probably irritating God. We should want so desperately to please Him. And here's the thing. He tells us how. Celebrate Passover, and the Lamb that was slain for the forgiveness of sin and the conquering of death.

It's okay to do it.
It's right to.
He told us to.
It's HOW we're supposed to remember him and what he did.
Every year.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Getting the Best of Me

My family (husband, three kids) and I sat down to watch nearly ten years worth of home movies the other day. A love marathon. It began with our wedding, and then moved quickly on to the kids. They appeared magically into our lives one by one, growing bigger and changing before our eyes by the minute. It was a sweet time for us, reminiscing and laughing and waxing poetic about chubby cheeks and funny firsts. But I was also faced with an ugly reality. In many of the videos, I noticed myself giving irritated glances to the photographer (aka my husband), as if his meticulous documentation of these wonderful years were somehow putting me out. Sure, we women worry about how our hair looks, or if we need a touch up on our lipstick, or the ominous unflattering angle. But to see myself from the other side, giving quick little huffy eyes to my husband, well... yuck.

I turned to him on the couch next to me. "Am I always such a turd?"

He attempted a quick smile, "Well, yeah." Then quickly thought to ease the blow, "I mean, sometimes. But I love you."

After I smacked him a good one, I softened. "I'm so sorry."

Why do I do that? I know we all do, sometimes. We give our best away, and leave our crappy, raw selves for the people we love the most. Over the next few days, I thought about who I was at home, and what a different person I can be with my friends. I started to wish my husband could see how sweet and caring and hilarious (and humble, too) I am around others.

Isn't that idiotic? Why do we give more to those, who -- quite frankly -- mean less? Why wouldn't my husband get the smoothed over, even-tempered, lovely and charming version of me? Even if only SOMETIMES. I know we get to be 'ourselves' around our spouses. There's a beauty in that, don't get me wrong. But we need... I need... to be careful not to abuse that private privilege. Sometimes, I need to give him -- and my kids too -- the 'me' that I use to charm my coworkers, acquaintances, and even strangers. Imagine that.

Think about it. I am willing to spend the extra fifteen minutes getting ready for a lunch date with a girl friend, and even after the most horrific morning with the kids (c'mon, it happens), I can somehow manage a winning smile and a funny story. So how hard is it, then, before my husband walks in the door after a long day, to at least do a quick fix-up in the mirror and put my attitude in check? It just might remind him that I'm a person who puts out a little extra effort for the ones I love. I do love him so dearly, after all.

And I'm sure going to remember it the next time it's recorded for posterity!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Service Contract

Let me start by saying, please disagree with anything I'm about to say, or tell me if you have some new insight. I'm begging to be wrong.

I attend a missional church, a group of Jesus-lovers who want to make an impact on their immediate community by acts of love and service. It is a right and honorable thing, and is rooted deeply in scripture.

Our church leaders were wrought with real conviction to start this church, and their heart is for the poor, the downcast, the neglected, the widow, the orphan, the 'least of these'. And I am in total agreement. Yes, yes, yes.

Everyone in my small group (a subset of our church) , then, has decided to volunteer for an organization that meets the needs of individuals and families who are struggling with terminal cancer or AIDS, and who don't have a support community in place already. My husband and I went through a weekend training, with videos that showed real people giving testimony to the vital help and friendship their caring volunteer partner provided when they had no one else to turn to. Examples of help included taking the person to and from doctor appointments, providing home cooked meals, and occasionally, some light housework. The general goal is to lighten the burden of someone in desperate need.

Why, then, has my old crappy minivan been sputtering to a halt between sculpted lion heads to a nearly-million dollar property to go clean someone's bathrooms and dust their wine glasses? How did helping those in need turn into being 'the help'? I don't know how I got here, dusting chandeliers and praying to God I won't break something that I'll have to mortgage my house to replace. And the terminally ill patient and family? Nowhere to be found. No real connection* has been made in nearly four months. Even if what I was doing felt meaningless in the face of what the family was struggling through, I felt I needed to at least get a "thank you" every now and then to know that it mattered to them, that it was helping in some way.

So, I went through all the thoughts I could think: I know that this family had to go through the same approval process as everyone else, and they were in fact approved by the organization. I know that it is probably easing their minds to have a clean house. I mulled over 1 Peter 4:9, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." And Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." So I pressed on, but inside I continued to grumble in my spirit. I got angry, frustrated, and even a little indignant.

So I went to the scriptures to justify my irritation, give validity to my cause, like an idiot.

I read in Luke 17, about when Jesus healed the ten lepers. Only one came back to thank him, and Jesus says, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" I identified myself with Jesus, performing great acts for thankless return. But then I got puffed up. Awesome, what else you got, God? And I started to read the rest of the chapter. Well, right before the ten lepers, Jesus just finished telling a quick story about servitude. Wah, wah. My bubble deflated. "So you also," Jesus says in v10, "When you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" Oh, right. Yeah. I'm NOT Jesus healing lepers, here. I am... the servant, doing what Jesus asked me to do. Serve.

So, while I may have opened a can of worms last night in my small group by exposing my true feelings on the matter (and finding that many felt the same), I continue to seek a servant's heart. I know that service isn't about me and my fulfillment. But I also don't want to do trivial pseudo-service so I can 'check the box' in my spiritual walk. And I definitely don't want to do something that I'm not passionate about. It just doesn't make sense to.

I'm seeking the Lord. Praying for guidance. I want to do what He wants me to do. Something I can commit to in my heart. Something more than, as George Patterson put it recently, "trying to shove the camel through the eye of the needle."

In the meantime I'll wear my rubber cleaning gloves and press on. (I've committed to serve in this organization for one year.) And I'll pray. A lot.

*Afterthought: I've had many people start to question the organization, thinking I had never met the client. I guess I should clarify 'no real connection'. I have met and spoken with both the client and spouse. They're legit. It just isn't the mutually enriching relationship that the training videos exemplified. Please look for my comments below for more info.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It's really tough when someone you know gets struck by tragedy.

But then life goes on. We get distracted. When you have hundreds of thousands of media stimuli daily and life happens, it's easy to let things get pushed down on the list. Like an email inbox loaded with spam -- we tend to forget the important message that has scrolled off the page.

My friend Jim is dying.

He has an aggressive, malignant, inoperable brain tumor. Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme. But more importantly, Jim has a wife and three children (2, 4, and 7). He was diagnosed in November, when he felt general fatigue and dizziness. Without treatment, Jim would have been dead by now. But they are fighting every day with anything that's left to do.

I had let Jim slip from my prayers.



Life. Numbness. Distraction.

Then I saw him on Sunday at a Superbowl party. And I apologized to him profusely (instead of lying and telling him that I had been praying) and told him I would take up his burden in prayer. Every day.

If we stand close enough to someone when they get hit by a ton of bricks, we can take some of the hit. Jim may literally feel like he's been hit by bricks, and his family is dealing with this on a minute by minute scale. I just happened to catch one of the bricks by proximity on Sunday, and I'm walking around with the bruise. Even in these last two days of prayer for him, I feel wasted, worn out, sad, physically ill, angry, hopeful, depressed.

I'm wrestling with the idea that our God is the SAME GOD who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, who sent his son to live out our death for our sins, and raised him to life. The same God who protects, heals, transforms. He created the universe and everything in it. He could heal Jim. But he also takes away. Sometimes, he chooses not to heal. And His name should still be praised. There's the struggle.

I can't imagine three months of this, and trying to deal with the potential loss, and explaining it to the children who are too young to understand, and the one that isn't too young. I can't imagine what his wife, also my friend, must be going through and what her daily life must be like right now.

I'm just so sad for them. I'm trying to be hopeful. But mostly I'm just sad.

I've taped his name to a prominent place in my house so I'll be reminded to pray. I'm going to move it around, so I don't get used to it in one place. I feel like I should do this for so many things: Haiti, poverty, my uncle's dad, my friend's grandmother, slave trafficking, my friend's mother-in-law, the peace of Jerusalem, my husband's brothers, orphans, my children, their teachers, etc etc, and the list is too too too long.

I can't tape up everyone's name -- It'd start to look a little bizarre to the outside world. "The Crazy Post-It Lady." That's what they'd call me. But when I start to push away the distractions in the controlled space of my home, the few things I allow to stay in my inbox will mean more, command more attention, and will move me repeatedly -- to prayer, to work, to action.

I praise God that I have never been struck with tragedy. My burdens are light. But that's why I can help carry someone else's. I have the arm room. I need to try not to fill it with stupid things. I'll be able to carry more. Praise His Name.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm an Alien

Okay, so I'm beginning to think that this sobriety-from-the-distractions-of-the-world thing stinks. I'm not entirely there, mind you. It's near impossible to eliminate everything. But in being obedient to the Lord's calling in this, I'm really tearing away at myself. It's totally against the everything my head wants to do.

Not to mention people think I'm a freak.

(Which, I admit, is both fun and unsettling.)

It's weird how people react -- mostly my Christian friends -- when I tell them I'm not following American Idol this year. (I've never missed an episode before.) It's not like it's a bad show. Most people watch it with their kids, even. But it's the total dedication two hours a week for over four months. It's the setting aside of whatever else needs my attention, laundry housecleaning kids husband God, for this show that is about creating an Idol for America to worship. ... and now you hate me. But it's true. I, too, deceived myself into thinking it was about hearing beautiful singing. Sorry. It isn't. (Watch Celtic Women or listen to Carmina Burana instead.)

Or JJ Abram's "Lost". Oh, Lost. My abusive boyfriend. How you have toyed with me for five years. You have abused my patience, you have taken advantage of my intelligence, and you have drawn me back with lulling sweet promises year after year. And now you want me back for one more fling. You have promised me all the answers. You have given your word that this is the last time. But alas, my heart cannot take one more abusing. My nostrils refuse to inhale your intoxicating lure. I will not come back to you. My decision is firm. In fact, I should have left you long ago.

Okay, this is helping.

And those are the shows that I watch. Except for the righteously violent, heart-rate stomping, teeth gritting, adrenaline-packed "24". And the jury's still out on "24". I'm asking God to take away the desire. It's pretty deep, and He's working overtime.

And "Glee". But this one is packed with ridiculosity and inappropriate content. And it's wonderful. And I want Jane Lynch to be in my posse. I'm praying about this one, too.

Oh, and "House". But only because I have a major actor-crush on Hugh Laurie. He's a brilliant actor. Genius, even.

(Okay, so I'm only divulging a fraction here of what I actually end up watching.)

See, the more I dig, the more I realize how much time I have dedicated to this magic glowing box.

"'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless'... All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:2, 8-9

But now I'm an alien. Now I induce the blank stare. Now I'm the conversation killer. Now I am the party pooper, fer real y'all.

You: "Hey, did you see that..."
Me: "No. Sorry."
You: "Oh."

You: "Wasn't that hilarious when..."
Me: "Oh, I didn't see it."
You: "Oh."
(chirp chirp.)

Me: "But I was reading in Jeremiah and it's so cool, did you know..."
You: "Oh... Cool."
(eyes shifting, looking for the nearest exit.)

But whatever. It's cool. Because you know what? I'm praying for you, too. Because this is a good place to be. There's no flashing lights or enticing previews. But the rewards of this obedience are already starting to whisper into my ears.

The obedience has brought me to my knees in repentance over the slightest hint of anger, jealousy, selfishness, or laziness.

The obedience is changing the way I perceive holiness, purity, love.

The rewards have come in the form of crying, heartbroken for other people's pain and loss, instead of a forced sympathy.

Doesn't that sound fun?

Okay. I know. My face is green. It's a side-effect, too.

I'll retreat back to my home planet now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What a day, yesterday. I had three major cries.
One was for a joyous and emotional occasion.
One was for love and friendship even through difficult times.

And one was for the death of tens of thousands of Haitians and the confusion and chaos that remains.

I don't know what to say.

It's just... too much...

with Haiti...

They need help. And they need comfort. And I can't imagine the frustration and sadness and brokenness. And the loss.

Oh, Haiti. I am so so sorry.

"'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." 1 Kings 19:11-12

Lord, now is your time. Send your breath of holiness to bring peace amidst the chaos. Send your spirit to comfort the loss. And send your servants to repair the broken. You are good and faithful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Be Sober

I'm sure there's plenty of folks who are also thinking "be sober", especially after some pretty rowdy New Year's parties.

But that's not what I mean at all.

When I completed Pick Five, a spiritual exercise in simplicity, people would ask me what it is that I gained. It was hard to put my finger on it exactly, but it felt like sobriety. It felt like, in life, I had been drunk, fuzzy. And now I was seeing clearly the charade that had once been so entertaining. I saw the man behind the curtain. Things were... just clearer.

This is not an enviable position. It makes you the official party pooper. It causes anguish in your mind. It makes you fight with God (in vain) over the details.

But it didn't stop then. EVERY time I sit down and am still in the silence of the Lord, and I give him my attention, I hear it again. "Be sober."

The letters are full of this warning -- especially the Ts: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Thessalonians. And most prominently 1 Peter.

"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be sober and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:7-9

Sobriety in the bible carries the meaning of calmness, clarity of mind, and above all, watchfulness. In fact, the Greek word νήφω (nepho), appears in the New Testament six times. Twice as the word "watchful", and four times as the word "sober". Of the four "sober" verses, three of them also contain the word "watchful" in close proximity.

There are plenty of things in this world to which we can lose our sobriety. There are distractions beyond compare in the west. In fact, our distractions have become the norm. Prayer and time in the Word have become distractions to our otherwise busy life.

But the time for sobriety is at hand.

We cannot afford to drink the nectar of the gods any more. We cannot bow (read: sit on our couches) to the idols that pervade the world in which we live. We cannot cloud our minds and our vision with meaningless fodder. The party, my friends, is over. It's time to sober up.

I am the worst offender. I'll admit. But no matter how much I desire to see the ending season of Lost, or the next American Idol (um, hello?), or Jack Bauer take on New York City, I cannot get it out of my mind that I won't be able to afford the consequences. This is time that I won't give to God, but I'll give to the god of Hollywood.

And these are the details about which I fight with God. But I want to, I tell God. I mean, really? When sobriety strikes, it's easy to see these things as meaningless. Vanity. Wasteful. Ugh.

But let me tell you something. It really isn't a big price to pay to let them go. In fact, it's freedom.

No, really.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:8-11

Lord, it is so stupid of me to think that I need the things of this world. You have given me eyes to see and ears to hear. Help me not to waste them on meaningless things. Help me to be watchful, and sober. That I might hear you and see you clearly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Discipleship and Discipline

So, it's the first day of a New Year. And it's a fresh start. We've all got the "Starting Monday" syndrome, which is to say that we've suddenly taken on the desire to do more, be more, mean more. We've denied all our weaknesses, forgotten all our shortcomings, and are filled with hope and surety for a new direction.

When Jesus chose his disciples, it was a fresh start for them, too. Jesus was a rabbi, and he took on disciples just as any rabbi would. Except His method of choosing was, well, unconventional at best. Most rabbis chose their disciples according to the pupil's religious fervor, or purity, or dedication to the teachings of the Torah. But Jesus chose those who didn't even know they wanted to be a rabbi's disciple. He simply said, "Follow me." And they did.

But the story doesn't end there. Read through the gospels. Dang, did those disciples mess stuff up. If they had the illusion of a new life free from mistakes and dedicated to perfection, they would have banged their heads against walls for a good three or four chapters.

But the "follow me" part of their journey is what kept them going. Discipleship isn't perfection, it's growth. It is following Jesus' teaching, and dealing with consequences when we mess up. It's asking for forgiveness, and continuing to sit at His feet.

One of my Facebook "friends" (for what that's worth) spoke of his new positivity. He said he woke up on this first morning of 2010 singing a new song -- literally. He walked over to the mirror to perform his morning groom, and realized he was singing. He said that this year, he'll be "a whole new me". That's great, and I hope his year is filled with joy, but it's important to remember that the positively-charged "Starting Monday" syndrome is temporary. After all the talk of resolutions, and new beginnings, we've got to put one foot in front of the other. We've got to actually live life, and deal with unpleasant people and situations. We've got to love our neighbor and try to promote justice.

Being a disciple of Jesus is a clean slate. Don't get me wrong. But it's a clean slate that requires discipline, and forgiveness. It's asking for a clean slate every morning, not just once a year. And it's following Him daily, but never actually arriving. It's a process.

So, as I make my resolutions for the year, instead of doing my normal thing -- deciding what I'm going to do, what I'm going to be better at -- I'll ask Him what He would have me do, and I'll ask Him to make me better for His kingdom's sake. I realize that asking for God's discipline is a dangerous thing. But I also know it will make me a better disciple.

God, allow me the privilege to sit at Your feet, that I might learn more. Allow me also the privilege to get up and walk in Your footsteps, so that the work might be done.