Monday, April 26, 2010

Familiar

So, did I leave you feeling a little uncomfortable the other day? Standing in the full presence of holy God is pretty nerve-racking and confidence-killing. I avoid being in this position like the plague (sorry, couldn't help myself), but I'm beginning to think I need to go there more often.

Like I said when I started my thoughts the other day, we've been in the book of Exodus in Sunday school, too. On Sunday we covered how God instructed Israel to build the tabernacle. We were asked why God prescribed such a precise plan, and we began to talk about how each article and piece of furniture pointed to Jesus. The tabernacle was a picture of salvation. If they got the details wrong, we would have ended up with a skewed image or message of the coming Messiah.

I realized I ended up with a skewed image anyway. For the first time, I began to see something else in God's blueprint -- Holiness. The precision of God's masterplan creates order and speaks to our unworthiness and His holiness. Build it this big, facing this way, with a curtain here, the cherubs in this posture, made from the finest materials and craftsmanship Earth has to offer. Build in silence, enter this way, with this sacrifice, at only this exact time, after you have washed like this, prayed like that....In other words, be very careful how you approach Me. Approach Me, but don't forget that I am holy.

I began to realize I'm way to casual with my God. The rent veil, the invitation to the Holy of Holies, the new residence of the Holy Spirit...it all feels like so much relief from being so uncomfortable in our separation from God and our un-holiness. This new communion is so wonderful I never again want to think about the holiness of God because of how dreadful it makes me feel. And I haven't, really. I know He's holy in the back of my mind somewhere, but all that unpleasantness is behind me now. It's all good.

Me and Jesus, we're best friends now. I've got unfettered access to the throne room of God -- and I like it, a lot. Watch this. Pretty cool - I can just barge right in any time I want, run right up to his throne and jump in my Father's lap. HE LOVES ME!! Yippee!

It's okay if He hasn't seen me in a while. He understands, I'm just busy. I'm a princess now, ya know. I'm redecorating, meeting the neighbors, getting familiar with the lay of the land. He's a big God, he's not threatened when I worry instead of trust. Or when I forget to pray or be thankful. It's okay; He forgives me. I'm his daughter, after all. When things don't go my way or I have to actually wait for something, I pitch a fit. I might as well be honest with Him -- He knows my heart anyway.

And when I do jump in His lap, it makes His day. I pray, and sing His praises. It's great to be so close to Him. I joke and laugh sometimes. We're very close.... Sometimes, I even forget He's God....

Why is it so hard to be intimate with a holy God? When I see holy, intimacy won't come. When I am intimate, I close my eyes to his Holiness. But He really does want an intimate relationship. And He really is holy. How can I see two sides of this coin at the same time?

Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my gratitude that Holy-He invites me in. I pray familiarity would no longer breed contempt. I can no longer bound into His throne room as if I'm entitled. I never want to stop being awed that I can -- and I do -- traverse burning Holy Ground, barefoot, without being consumed. And when I leap into his most holy open arms, I want to be caught and held close by a delighted Consuming Fire.

"Sunshine"


Photo Friday - "Sunshine"
Daytrip to Biltmore Estates, Winter 2007

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Holy

God's had me in the book of Exodus for both homeschool and Sunday school. The girls and I have studied from Abraham to the exodus from Egypt all year long a little at a time. We're about in the home stretch with three more weeks of schooling left and we're up to the plagues.

We're working through one plague at a time and learning that all those Egyptian gods we studied were systematically defeated by Jehovah through the plagues. God was also using the opportunity to earn quite a worldwide reputation for Himself.

It all starts with Moses being called to a curiously burning bush. God's first words to Moses are,"Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." (Ex. 3:5) God's instructions continue with, "Just tell all of Israel that 'I AM WHO I AM' sent you. This is my name forever, and this is My memorial name to all generations."

Did you see it? Amazing, huh? God's holiness bars us from approaching Him, yet God approaches us and introduces Himself. He wants us to know Him forever and remember His name to all generations. Us, who can't come near, lest we defile holy ground. He wants us and goes to great lengths to tell us, show us, redeem us. It's stunning, really.

God gets very busy introducing Himself in a big, huge way, too. It appears that God, from his throne in heaven, begins to have Himself a little fun by wreaking havoc on earth. But there's so much more to it than everything on earth going crazy, Pharaoh bribing Israel with his wealth to leave, PLEASE and NOW, and people (Israelite and Egyptian alike) wondering, "Er, what just happened?!" Well, God, because of His long-standing, unforgotten covenant (and since He now has everyone's attention), is more than happy to let Israel and Egypt know why He's doing what He's doing.

Are you ready for this?

6:1 ~ ...you shall know that I am the Lord your God...
6:5 ~ ...the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord...
6:17 ~ ...by this you shall know that I am the Lord...
8:10 ~ ...that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God...
8:22 ~ ...in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land...
9:14 ~ ...so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth...
9:29 ~ ...that you may know that the earth is the Lord's.
10:2 ~ ...that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your sons, and of your grandsons, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.

They're all so spread out that they're easy to miss. But when you pull them all all together like this, it seems a little bit ridiculous. He wants us to know Him. All that drama, just for us. It's quite an introduction, isn't it. Bloody Nile, Frogs, Gnats, Insects, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, and finally Death of every firstborn.

That must have been some demonstration of might. What does He want us to know about him? What did God reveal about himself through the plagues? It's an important message, because God went to great lengths to communicate it.

I'm Holy. That's it. He's holy. "Hi. I'm your God. I'm holy."

It makes me want to do more than take my shoes off at the burning bush. It makes me want to run in the opposite direction. And Fast!

I'm not alone here, either. There are a few more times that come to mind when an Ancient was privileged to see God in all his holiness.

...I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings...and one called to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined!"


And Peter, when he first met Jesus, heard his teachings and saw him do the miraculous, fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"


When was the last time you saw the Lord in all of his holiness? Have you ever crumbled at the feet of Jesus, pained by the presence of his holiness? Has it occurred to you that in light of the holiness of God, that you are RUINED and found yourself crying out, "WOE IS ME!"?

His holiness is heavy ... dreadful to me. If it is the sole thing I know of God, it does not look good for me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of Friendship and Roses

"Hello?"

"Dawn?"

I finished loading clean, wet clothes to the dryer, the phone cradled between shoulder and ear, and smile with realization that my afternoon just got much, much better.

"Stacey! Oh my gosh -- it's so good to hear from you!"

When I say it's been ages, I don't exaggerate -- it's been almost two, actually.



As we talk, I upload from the camera the pictures I took last weekend of the roses beginning to bloom on the side of our house.


A previous homeowner planted the row of roses. I've always been a little leery of roses, thinking they are hard to grow. But I've found that's not always the case.


One particular bush is twice as large as the others and has threatened to take over that entire side of our home. We've chopped it to the ground more than once and gingerly rid ourselves of its prunings. But each Spring it returns in all its bold, persevering stature.

It blossoms even now despite neglect, abuse, and lack of cultivation. It blooms because of years worth of past time, attention and healthy growth.

Stacey and I dig up a long history of friendship-seed planted long ago and converse with heart communion, sharing life and work and children and blessing.

I cut the blooms as we speak, gathering them to the table to stand in their proud beauty. Their fragrance fills my kitchen as an old friendship saturates my soul deep.

The friendship cultivated in childhood can't help but bloom anew. Old roots with long history are not so easily choked by crowding grown-up responsibilities and distance neglect. And age-old friendship, never outgrown, eventually blooms into one of life's richest treasures.




1~ roses that illustrate God's breathtaking creation wonder

2~reaping the harvest of someone else's labor

3~ yellow enveloped by faintly whispered pink edges

4~ sunny springtime afternoons changed in a moment

5~ a long history with one so loved

6~ tiptoeing barefoot through flowerbed mulch, scissors in hand

7~ breakfast table beautifully adorned

8~ crystal vase carrying God's handiwork

9~ childhood friendship that blooms into lifelong fragrant beauty

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bedtime Reading

The rule around here is that at bedtime, you can either read for thirty minutes or turn off the lights and go to sleep right away.

Well, lately, the girls have not been wanting to read - they both are in need of a trip to the library for a new book. They've been opting to go to sleep instead.

You realize that my motivation for this rule is to carve out intentional time to read for leisure and foster a love for reading. Not to mention that reading before bed is a great way to settle in, get still and quiet in preparation of a good night's sleep.

Well, tonight, at five after bedtime (which I'm keeping secret lest you judge me for being too strict or too lenient), I called for them to go to bed. I can't find them and they don't answer. When I call again, Mike answers from the kitchen table where he's working on the laptop. He tells me the girls are in there working.

Working? What kind of work? "Doubling up on math, Mom!" calls Reagan.

It appears that since they were bookless, they thought any old schoolwork would be a great substitute for bedtime reading.

It's pretty clear that somewhere along the line, they've totally missed the concept of reading for pleasure. I hope they're counting sheep.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Girls At Play

My girls have made a sidewalk chalk path that leads from home to the road that will ultimately lead them into the world.


What I see is little-girl-lives-in-living-color lining a path on the driveway...colorful, whimsical, messy.

I am not ready.


My eye is drawn to the heart that is the center of the palmprint and know they will carry my love with them when they eventually go.


Rain will wash the dust-path away, but memory-crumb path will remain to lead them home when the need arises or the heart longs to return to a mother's love.


I smile that nearly teenage girls still delight themselves in sidewalk chalk and simple art. That they delight themselves in each other.

Their handprints...stamped for a moment on the concrete drive, and forever in their mother's heart.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Early Morning Devotion

I awaken to the remnant of last night's work on the way to the coffee pot. The house is still, the early morning darkness still clinging to new day. Family sleeps.

{Disclaimer: In hindsight, this picture was snapped after supping with my Lord and the sun had joined me.}

My mind awakens to today's To-Do list beginning to scroll through my mind, with it's promise to capture much of my day. Resisting, I open the Word, and find my Lord to break the fast.

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David. ~Isaiah 55:1-3

I come to Jesus empty-handed. Spent. Wasted on things that do not sustain life.

He feeds me nonetheless. Loves me regardless. Tells me to eat of Him. To listen, eat what is good. To delight in his abundance. His faithful mercies.

Manna does not disappoint. I am soul-satisfied.


Friday, April 16, 2010

"Wheels"


Photo Friday - "Wheels"
~ Somewhere in Alta Vera Paz, Guatemala, November 2008.
I seem to be on a Guatemalan theme. These old wheels were used as decor all over the grounds of this countryside inn our family toured as a possible venue for the annual pastor's training conference Mike holds annually to train the pastors of the primitive villages of Guatemala. This place was amazing and looked like a movie set rather than a functioning inn. It had once been a coffee mill and had beautiful courtyards.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guatemala Extreme

If I had been on the the Guatemala Extreme Mission, these are a few things that would have happened along the way.

I would have been intimidated by a three mile trek up steep rocky paths up the mountainside that took about three and a half hours in almost triple digit heat.


I would have been put to shame by a family carrying the youngest members on their backs when they PASSED UP our team on the path up the mountain.


I would have been grateful to be living in the time and place of indoor plumbing when I was a woman, because seeing this women's work of biblical proportions made my heart break and my back ache for those who haul water up the mountain every time their waterhole dries up.



I would have somehow gotten bit by fleas and bruised my hip bones from sleeping on a concrete floor inside my sleeping bag, inside the tent, inside the church building. The building alone is not enough protections against the tropical critters, so we would have slept in tents inside. I use the word "slept" loosely, though, because it's hard to sleep when it's stifling and the wild monkeys in the not-so-distant woods are howling you a lullaby.


I would have cooked beans and rice and homemade tortillas for supper each night on an open campfire....INSIDE the pastor's home. Yes, this is somebody's home. They cook every meal this way, and daily breathe into their lungs the black soot that covers the ceiling and their makeshift shelf.


I would have been grateful that this huge fuzzy spider didn't enter the church building we slept in until our team was packed up and walking out. I definitely would have been wondering if he had friends that forgot to vacate when we invaded their territory.


I wonder if I would have embraced showers from heaven this enthusiastically, thinking this just might be my last bath for a few days.


Easter morning church would have looked like this:


and commemorating the Lord's supper in such a place with such a people would have been a singular event that would stand out for all time.


I would have seen that the Lord shed his blood and gave his body for the simple and useful, the discarded trash, the broken and worn alike.


I would learn that going to the ends of the earth can seem much more like "this end up" and require more endurance and sacrifice than ever imagined when reading those familiar words from my comfortable pew.


I would hear God's love reverberate from English to Spanish to Kek'chi and dissolve barriers that culture, language and lifestyle erect.


I would see that a smile, a hug, God's children look more similar than different.


I would have looked into eyes that had never before seen a movie and seen hundreds come out of the jungle drawn by a meager sheet-screen and projector run by a humble generator.


I would have worshipped in a church that our team built last summer for this village.


But since I didn't take this amazing journey, I can remain ungrateful for my bathroom,


and my laundry room.


Since I didn't go Guatemala Extreme, I was home to pray that our team would be safe and remain strong so that their prayers would be effectual for a people who have only God to turn to when problems arise.


Since I didn't go, I won't have learned that like Paul, we can buffet our bodies and make them our slaves, so that, after we have preached to others, we ourselves will not be disqualified.


I wouldn't know so completely the humble kindness it was for Jesus to wash his disciples' feet,


and I wouldn't see what He saw when He said, "Suffer the children to come unto Me."


Or then again, maybe, in God's grace, I would.



{My thanks to the team members who made their photographs available to me to tell their incredible story.}

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Sign of the Times

You know what happened to me last week?




I got older.




So far, not too many things have made me feel old.




Having three children didn't make me feel old.




Turning (almost completely) gray didn't make me feel old.




Sending my last baby to school made it official - I didn't have babies anymore, I had three "kids." All right, I admit, that one, maybe a little.




Turning 40 didn't make me feel old.




Having a teenager didn't make me feel old.




Getting mammograms didn't make me feel old.




But this week something happened that made me feel old.




Can you guess? Want a hint?




Did you catch it?



~~~~~~READING GLASSES~~~~~~

Oh my! The eye doctor told me I needed reading glasses. Uuuggh!

That did it - I feel old.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

L&D Part 4: Final Thoughts

I have just a few final thoughts to wrap up all this bittersweetness (I told you at the beginning was) swirling around my mind. I promise to be back to lighter subjects with my very next post. So sorry to return to such heavy thoughts, but real life doesn't always ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after, does it.

Adrian really has grown up to become a young man that is much like the brother I had. Adrian is also athletic and a musician. He skateboards, plays football, the piano, and the guitar. He's even written some of his own music that's pretty darn good, if a Momma dares say so. They have the same sparkle in their eye when they smile, and Adrian has that so familiar personality that draws people in. Jeff never met a stranger.



I wrote this poem shortly after Jeff's death. It just came spilling out of me one day at the most inopportune time. It's all original, except the last line. Those words are plagiarized. Jeff penned them on the simple card that accompanied his wedding gift to Wayne and Kristy, which we opened all together after the funeral.


My brother - beside me, within me,
My life so in tune with yours
That in spite of the miles between us,
The blow that jars you to eternal sleep
Jars me to Dawn's wakefulness.

Flesh and blood may cease
But soul and spirit and love,
The essence of who you are,
Eternally reside in the presence of God
And in the deepest place of my life.

Unfaded memories will remain
Forever young and forever revisited
To celebrate the life, the love,
The blessing you were, all that you gave.
Your life yesterday lived,
Today, in an instant, a lifetime ago,
Adds sorrow and emptiness to each tomorrow.

Because your life made music despite the dissonance,
A symphony of beauty, depth, talent and charm,
All things that I do, that I am, and become
Will be some of you . . . a little bit for you.
The sister, the daughter, the aunt, the mom that I am
The life I live, the love I give, are a little bit because of you.

How can it be
That on the brink of beginning new life together
We mourn instead life's end?
Indeed you'll be best man eternally,
And now truly have you given me away.
Would that I could give you as completely.

Death neither seeks permission nor gives explanation,
She often comes unannounced.
Her laugh echoes in the deathly quiet,
As we whisper, scream, "Oh, God! No!"

However, life is in love, and love in life.
And Death has no place in either.
So to me your life and love live on
And you will never be dead to me, for
I love you forever, Jeff


And now, some sixteen years later, I'm convinced that because I knew you (him) I have been changed For Good. [Please click the link to listen.]

Friday, April 9, 2010

L&D Part 3: Hello, Future!

Mom came. Who knows what she was feeling. We don't often talk about those difficult days. I do know this though, Mom's smile has never looked quite the same since Jeff's been gone, but she had become Grandma.

Wayne, too, made a surprise visit. It was good to be happy.

On Mother's Day, we dedicated Adrian to the Lord and he wore Jeff's christening suit. It was a little yellow with age, but we wouldn't have had it any other way.

Eight pounds three ounces made a marriage a family.
And he did it easily... with style; so easy he could do it in his sleep.

He brought Laughter...
and the magic that only childhood can bring.He exuded Life.He brought us Joy.
Happy Birthday, dear Adrian, my soon-to-be fifteen year old Man-Child.
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