Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grace, Warm and Hearty

The Spring night was hot and humid. For someone with naturally curly hair, this does not bode well for arriving with the look you were going for.  Mike and I were walking across the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from our dorm room to the chapel, and I was doomed to a night with frizzy hair.

Still newlyweds, we were holding hands and happy for a cheap date. Our lives were unrecognizable compared to a year ago. It was 1989 and  Mike had a college degree neatly tucked under his belt; I had drop-out status under mine -- pinching hard.  I had married him with the condition that I could stay in school to finish my last year of college. I was nineteen years old at the time of our plan, and still naïve to how life's unfolding doesn't always mirror the best-laid plans.

Mike had had a string of career doors slammed shut in his face. His desire to become an FBI agent (believe it or not) was so intense, he was willing to get into any federal department as a stepping stone - including border patrol and internal revenue. Bluuuh! Federal exam after exam led nowhere. He didn't even pass the Spanish exam, and he's bi-lingual! God was just flat out saying, "No."

With our wedding date looming large, Mike called his cousin in New Orleans, the president of a local grocery store chain, and we both ended up with gracious job offers. We returned from our honeymoon to foreign lives:  a new city, new jobs, a search for a new church and new friends. New furniture, new-found freedom (we had both been living with our parents), and nothing that resembled the lives we had known and loved. The only constant was each other, and even that was different because we were trying to get comfortable in our new grown-up roles of husband and wife. It felt like someone had kidnapped us from out of our own lives and dropped us in someone else's.

Mike was terribly unhappy as a grocery store manager, and one night he rolled over in bed and said, "Dawn, God is calling me into ministry. I'm going to call the seminary on the other side of town tomorrow."

Giving no credence to the gravity of his confession, I flippantly said "Why not? God's closed every other door so far, what do you have to lose?" And with that, I rolled over, stewing about his broken promise that I would be the student. We had moved across state lines, and that meant a college transfer and out-of-state tuition unless I waited a year to establish residency. That night, God graced me with sleep before my cheek felt the distinct draft from doors flying wide open.

Six months into our marriage, we were now living in the married dorm. God moved us from the bottom to the top of a year-long waiting list for housing, and we never did figure out how that door flew from its hinges. Mike was elated the night he showed me the humble room. I was trying to hide my tears. The cinder-block walls and institutional tile floor I surmised to be a jail cell.  Mike, who had hated every minute of higher education, was once more the student; and I, who was itching to return to the classroom, was banished to the workforce.

And thus began the three years of seminary that Mike crammed into two. The sweetest years of our lives.

That heavy Spring night, Mike and I entered the chapel doors to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. He was fairly new to the Christian music scene back then -- the chapel had a seating capacity of 250. He played with the passion and heart of someone on the front end of not-so-sure-this-will-work-out-as-a-career. It was raw and zealous. He did things with a guitar that were musical genius, and he left it all on the stage that night. Somewhere about two thirds of the way through, he dimmed the lights, dragged a stool center-stage and strummed mindlessly, spoke from the heart, and sang a quiet song or three as if we were really in his living room. It was very intimate. Among those songs was "My Redeemer Is Faithful and True."

And while I was cooking tonight's dinner yesterday morning, darn if that song from long ago didn't fill my kitchen with the sweet memory.  I stopped chopping peppers and stood before the singing computer to testify through song with my heaven-raised hands. My mouth formed the words, but my mind raced to that splendid night so long ago and back:  across every night -- two decades worth -- until now. I surveyed years of God's goodness and provision.

How does one say thank you for a lifetime of such faithfulness and mercy?

We will try again tonight, Mike and I and our three children. We will gather at the kitchen table and bow our heads in reverence before we eat. A recipe that has warmed me through years of winter nights. A man who has loved me and nourished me body, soul, and spirit. Our children who carry us into their futures. And a God who touches it all with his love. This is grace, served warm and hearty.




Baked Bean Stew

1 large can of pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
1 small can chili with no beans
1 can fiesta corn
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce

Combine in slow-cooker and simmer 4-6 hours on high. Serve with soda crackers. Partake with family, friends, and fellowship.



Chatting at the Sky is wrapping up a series on grace. If you'd like to explore more grace, join in or read more over there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Morning in the Kitchen

Cooking is therapy. Especially in a house that's empty. With a teenager and two tween girls, empty means quiet and peaceful. This translates into productivity.

It's been a long time since I've spent a morning in the kitchen, and, oh, how I've made up for lost time. Don't get me wrong, I cook dinner most every night. The difference is that after I get home from work and try to tackle cooking while directing three kids who are doing their best to skirt their mother, chores, and homework, it's not the most pleasant part of my day. Know what I mean? Hey, just keepin' it real around here.

But this morning, after I ran an errand or two, I was home by 9:30, and in two and a half hours, I had tonight's dinner, tomorrow night's dinner and a cake singing three part-harmony with the tunes coming from pandora. And I have the sinkful of dishes to prove it.



Yes, I licked the spatula

Okay, the cake was a box mix, but it was a spontaneous addition to the choir, and it's a small effort for the delight I get from my kids when they see it and devour it.



So who's coming for dinner? Here's what's making my house smell scrumptious right now:

Roasted Chicken Cubanita

What you'll need:
Whole chicken
Salt
Olive Oil
Mojo
White wine
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Oregano
Carrots
Potatoes
Adobo
Sazón
Onion
Bacon

Wash chicken inside and out. Place in a casserole dish that's been sprinkled with olive oil. Take all your frustrations out on the chicken by stabbing it all over with a sharp knife so seasonings can penetrate the meat more easily. Rub inside and out with salt, sprinkle Mojo over chicken until bottom of dish is puddled with liquid. Splash on a little cooking wine.

Sorry I don't have amounts here, but this one is just done by eye and taste. I don't measure a thing in this dish. But be brave -- you can do it, I know you can. Your taste buds will thank you.

Sprinkle top and bottom sides plus inside the cavity of chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano. Settle the bird breast-side up in the center of the dish. Sometimes I truss the chicken so it looks prettier after it's been cooked (that means tying him up with kitchen twine. If you enjoyed the stabbing, you might like the tying up, too.) Today I couldn't find my twine, so he'll just be all sprawled out and falling off the bone when the oven gets done with him.

Chop carrots and potatoes and add around chicken. Sprinkle the vegetables with adobo. Lightly sprinkle olive oil and sazón over everything. Cover chicken with uncooked bacon slices and onion rings. Cover and bake in 350 oven for two hours. Sometimes I baste once or twice if I remember to. If you forget, no worries.





Serve with brown rice and green beans. My kids love hot rolls to soak up the juices.

I love sitting down to food that's been cooked enjoyably and ahead of time. Bon Appetite!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Someone Else's Shoes

Google Image
I wore my daughter's sneakers a month or so ago to walk our three mile route with Mike. My sneaks are old, and the last time I'd worn them, the balls of my feet felt like I'd walked all three miles on sandpaper and were tender for the rest of the day. So, I decided, most unwisely, to put my feet in someone else's shoes.

A mile and a half into it, I had marble-sized blisters on both heels. But not the ordinary marbles; No sirree! I'm referring to the mac-daddy shooter marbles, called bumboozers back in the day. That's what I had -- bumboozer blisters. The friction had even worn holes in both of my socks.

I am not kidding.

Our skin is our largest organ. It helps to hold us all together, keeps us the right temperature, and serves as our protective armor for the very important stuff underneath it like bones, muscles and vital organs. Among the amazing things that it does is form blisters when there is too much friction that may pose a threat to those vital members of our bodies that lie just beneath its surface. The water inside them, blister water, is really called serum. It's plasma, the liquid component of our blood, that diffuses out of our blood stream to the crime scene and organizes the healing process. It helps new cells divide and grow into new connective tissue and epidermal layers. It's not supposed to be drained. It takes time for plasma to do its job. And blisters are painful. But they also protect.

Every step towards home was painful for me that day. And for a few days afterward, as I recall. I left the blisters in tact. They turned dark and lasted for what felt like an eternity. And they sure were ugly. And painful.

I'm feeling every step in another situation right now, too. It involves disciplining our teenager.

Discipline is not unlike those pesky blisters. It's painful -- but necessary to grow healthy tissue that's been worn away by an irritant and to protect much more vital stuff that's thriving just beneath the surface. It takes a long time. And did I mention it's painful? And ugly?

We've been tempted to pop the blister.

I never much liked discipline as a child, and come to think of it, I don't much care for it as the parent, either. I'd much rather skip these painful bumps and skip further down the path to a mature relationship with mutual respect, fulfillment, and peace with my kids.

Our son feels misunderstood and judged. His dad and I feel that way too. He thinks we're being unfair, that we actually enjoy his misery. We wonder how in the world our son could think we enjoy inflicting pain upon him. Can he not see that we are his blister protecting him?

He looks to the way his friends are parented as the measure we should be striving for. We look to the way the heavenly Father parents us as the measure we should be aiming for. He is desperate to gain back the privileges he's lost that are cramping his lifestyle. We have learned that it's not just about the toys and the lifestyle, and, as parents, can see past His punishment to see the loving heart that disciplines the child He loves.

God disciplines us, trains us, so we learn a better way, a righteous way, a bump in the road that leads to a mature relationship with mutual respect, fulfillment, and peace with Him. And in so doing he withstands being misunderstood by his children, patiently endures our pleas for relief, and applies blister water to the ailing place, the sore spot, and gets busy generating new growth, reconnecting healthy spirit tissue to our irritated flesh that's been rubbed raw. All the while, we whine and cry, and just want our blessings back. God cries, too, and just wants back our desire to do justly and walk humbly with our God. After all, it is what He has always required.

I feel renewed strength to parent steadfast. I thank God for walking in our shoes, for the blisters that form when there's too much rub, and liquid blood that heals, restores, and reconnects. I praise him for the painful injury inflicted to bring about a greater good. I thank him that he's gone before me in being misunderstood by his children for his discipline. I cling to hope. And band aids.

And I choose, most wisely, to walk a mile or two in His shoes, his perfect, purposeful steps, until my son, his dad, and I all make it safely home.

Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. ~ Matthew 5:41

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Save the Date: 2/25/2011

Mike and I had the unique opportunity to attend a pre-release screening of a new movie opening February 25, 2011. This movie is a must-see for the Christian and the skeptic alike, but for different reasons.



This movie doesn't "go all preacher" on you, and doesn't present the gospel. But it does paint a vivid picture of how a life can be changed by hope, forgiveness and grace. Who can't relate to tragedy, past regrets, and guilt, even if it's misplaced? We know all too well what cancer that can be - the past sabotaging the present and the future, eating away slowly at life's structure until it begins to crumble and fall.

This film is about broken relationships, unforgiveness, bitterness, and unmet expectations in a real-life scenario that's believable. It's about a man with a stalled career, a son who can't live up to his potential in the shadow of his deceased brother, a strained marriage, the toll of financial pressures on a family, race relations both personal and in general. It does a great job of showing why one might need a life of faith. And how a lack of faith corrupts every other potentially healthy area of life.

It also portrays the life of a Christian man who struggles with fleshing out his faith every day when issues hit too close to home for comfort. His struggles with falling short of his own expectations and grappling with these ugly self-discoveries show that growth for the Christian is a real struggle sometimes, hard work, and messy.

Christians need to rally behind this latest effort to provide wholesome entertainment. This film is a joint effort between Hollywood and Christian entertainment that will not disappoint the modern movie-goer who expects quality acting, directing, and producing. This was not a low-budget film, and the reception it garners in the marketplace will determine whether or not expensive ventures like this are undertaken in the future. Now is our chance to tell Hollywood what the American consumer wants. They will listen if our money is speaking loud and clear.

There are many ways to become involved in supporting this film. Please explore them at TheGraceCardMovie.com to get involved in the latest grace awakening. And save the date: 2/25/11.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gratitude For Today...and Tomorrow, Too

The gratitude is there all along just waiting to be discovered. I've looked back now through the pages and find that I remember them since I took the time to record them. I like that. The record. The remembering. The keeping of the grace.

Adrian likes it, too. He's asked to have my book when it's complete. He actually wants my gratitude, my list, my graces that are gifts, to be gifted to him.


Yes. This is my prayer. That he would take hold of the exercise and start recording his own. Someday he shall indeed have my record if he still wants it when the time comes. But he doesn't have to wait for mine, he can receive the gift right now by discovering his own graces, and beginning with 1.

"...Then Jesus said unto him, "Go and do likewise." ~ Luke 10:37

227 ~ seeing Dad's name on caller ID
228 ~ cool mornings, finally
229 ~ missing Mike
230 ~ a daughter who's interested in cooking, with or without me
231 ~ Christopher Columbus, who proved the world not flat by bumping into a whole new (to Europe) continent that would become a place to live in freedom
232 ~ Guatemalan pastors eager to learn a biblical world view


233 ~ a husband who calls and facebooks several times a day while he's teaching in Guatemala
234 ~ panic attacks combatted by a friend's laughter
235 ~ sending baby clothes to our children's home for the eleven year old girl, violated by a family member, who just became a mother
236 ~ rescuing her little sister from the same dangerous environment and thus a similar fate
237 ~ a perfectly healthy pre-mature baby despite doctors' apprehensions


238 ~ missing read alouds from our homeschool days and reinstituting them after dinner each night for the fun of it
239 ~ King Solomon with all his wisdom and passion
240 ~ driving with the roof open and the windows down, singing loudly with my kids
241 ~ sunglasses
242 ~ my sister-in-law's homemade cookies
243 ~ Sunday afternoon nap
244 ~ a facebook message from Ginger
245 ~ thirty-three miners unearthed, safe
246 ~ real-life happy endings
247 ~ homemade pasteles de guava for sixth grade Spanish  foods day
248 ~ four new coffee mugs - delightful - just because
249 ~ anticipating the late midnight arrival of the one without whom I'm only a half
250 ~ ear infection diagnosed and treated and relieved
251 ~ one interview, then two interviews
252 ~ lazy Fall afternoon in the park with the ones I love the most
253 ~ Sunday's sermon
254 ~ a corner of the neighborhood glowing golden
255 ~ waiting on God, somehow, miraculously, worry-free
256 ~ a hot bath with my book
257 ~ the best foot massages under the sun

Join me, and others, who look for God's sublte astounding gifts everyday, and count with us to 1,000 or beyond.




holy experience

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday in the Park Part 2

On our way home, we passed by a corner we often pass on our way home. For the last week or so it's been glowing golden and begging to be photographed. I keep forgetting to bring my camera along, but after our picnic in the park, we started to zoom right past that familiar glow and I yelled, "Stop!"

Mike, thinking something was really wrong, slammed on the brakes. I made him pull over and asked Adrian to reach into the back for the camera. Rather than give it to me, he jumped out himself and began taking these:



Adrian and I both are infatuated right now with photos that focus on one particular thing and blur out everything else either in front or behind.


Adrian's getting good at it. This next shot is one I suggested, and it's no disappointment. Are these some small variety of sunflower, or are they Lazy Susans? The bush is at least six feet tall, and they are in full bloom in mid-October.


Whatever they're called, I call them magnificent. Thank you, neighbor, for planting and tending and sharing God's golden wealth roadside for all who pass by.


About that time, Mr. Bee noticed us intruders and began to lay claim to his territory. This was just another object for Adrian to capture. He tried....


and tried, and tried...(not to get stung)...


until he nailed it. Gosh, you're good, Adrian!


I must admit I'm glad he jumped out and insisted on taking the shots. He's probably a much better photographer than I. As I've said before, he's the kind that succeeds at whatever he attempts.  Not too bad for an automatic camera, huh. These are straight out of the camera, too, no doctoring or cropping whatsoever. Imagine what he could do with a good manual camera and a gorgeous afternoon away from his X box.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday in the Park

It's late-October and Autumn has only threatened to arrive. But this morning was downright cool and we slept until 9:15 after a midnight run to the airport to retrieve our husband and dad. The head of our family is home from a ten-day trip to Guatemala. He is tired today, but the sunny crisp air is calling to me.

We cleaned and did Saturday chores after coffee propped our eyes open. We made a rash trip to Kroger for a few essentials to fill our picnic basket. Reagan soon took over in the kitchen, chopping green onions and baking dough boy cookies. I stirred the cole slaw and retrieved the quilt and our read aloud book. We hit the park for a picnic and laughed and played and basked in the Autumn sun.








When we got tired we returned to the picnic table for chapter 6 of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and since I did the reading, no pics, but you can see it in your mind's eye, just like I tell the kids to do when we read aloud together.


My chicken salad is a family favorite, the exception being Noelle. She's still learning to eat grown-up foods, even though she's almost taller than me now. She slid a grilled cheese into the top of the picnic basket at the last minute when I wasn't looking.

Do you make your own chicken salad? I like it best on crackers, but a croissant makes for a heartier early dinner in the park, don't you think?  It's also a great way to get some fresh spinach in your kids as well. We washed it all down with ice cold IBC rootbeer bottles. Is there anything better at a picnic? Although Adrian's in high school now, he still can't resist pretending he's drunk. It was adorable when he was seven, but not so much anymore.... What is so irresistable about a brown bottle??





Chunky Chicken Parmesan Salad

4 cups of chopped cooked chicken (either cooked at home, or, in this case, Rotisserie from grocery)
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
4 tablespoons cole slaw dressing (omit if you add chopped apples or grapes)
1/4 cup freshly stredded Parmesan cheese (or more)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Feel free to make this one of your family favorites. Also, feel free to spend a Saturday afternoon at the park with your kids and your spouse. Even if they need some coaxing to get there, I can assure you fun will be had by all.


It was a great way to spend some much needed quality time with a tired Dad (and apparently a tired teen) after thirteen days away since September 29th. Welcome home, Mike. We missed you.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Living Vicariously

My best friend is a farmer's wife. Except for Mike, he's really my best friend, but he's my husband, so he counts, but he doesn't really count. Anyway, Tammy hates the term best friend because she's concerned about the potential hurt feelings of all the others in line who thought they were my best friend?? (I think it's safe to say you can stop worrying about this one, Tam. You alone are saddled with the dubious honor.)


BFF and Tammy's Farmer in the background
 I've also begun to read a few blogs from farms and/or farmer's wives that I absolutely love. So lately, I've been feasting on nostalgic photos and beautiful words about sunrises over the creek up on the north ridge, and beat-up pick-up trucks, and barbed wire fences that collide with the land and the sky at the horizon. It's iconic Americana, the stuff of legend and coffee table books. And I'm falling hard. Let's face it, I had about as much of a chance as an egg when there's a fox in the hen house.


The old barn at Tammy's dairy farm

After all, I live in a cookie-cutter house in a sub-division in a suburb of a smallish-sized city. How exciting, huh? Words like commute and cul-de-sac are a part of my daily life. We have to worry about who is bothered when Boomer barks too much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love my home and my neighbors (yes, we actually know our neighbors about three houses down in each direction on both sides of the street). When we moved in several of them actually baked us cookies and a cake to welcome us. I thought I had died and gone to Mayberry. It really is a great place to be.

It's just that Tammy's vocabulary includes words like mud room, hay mow, silo and milking parlor. She sells raw milk and compost and feeds her family organic meat she raises herself. Her back yard has a whole mountain in it. Mine has a privacy fence (although I don't know why since our houses are two-story and you can see into six backyards from the upstairs bathroom window - so much for privacy). My house was built almost thirty years ago. Her "farmhouse" is "turn of the century, circa 1890." Mine sounds like a fixer-upper, hers sounds vintage and historic. She has a parlor, I have a den. (Dens are where wild animals live...hmm, maybe we're closer than I thought...)


Dolly: a name means not for slaughter


Welcome to the Davis Farmhouse, the door's always open.


Once when we visited Tammy's dairy farm, she wanted to show me the new barn (another vocabulary word I wish were mine). It wasn't really new - it was only new to me since it'd been about twelve years since I'd been there, when they were just about to build it. I grabbed the only jacket I'd packed and my new tennies and rounded the corner to the back door. This is the jacket I was wearing:



Tammy said, "I love you. You're beautiful." But she was laughing at me. She helped me out of my jacket and handed me one of her hubby's. I had to borrow her son's boots too - such a city girl. I shrugged and said defensively, "I don't own barn clothes!" Tammy just laughed some more.

My kids and hers had a hay fight on that trip. The tally on the kids? The city girl: three, the farmer and his wife: six. Surprise, surprise. My daughters, also city girls, ended up falling through the hay mow and getting zapped by the electrified fence. I almost complained to the management on behalf of the ignorant city-fied kids. You should have heard Noelle try to describe what happened to her. Only the dairy farmer, who's been zapped-a-plenty, could figure out what on earth she was talking about. To this day Noelle doesn't understand how a fence can electrocute you. And Reagan still thinks putting a hole in the floor is just plain stupid - after all, someone could fall through!


No name pigs - Uh oh!

All these thoughts and memories and pictures from blogs of farm life have me just a little bit jealous. The mud on the other side of the barbed wire is definitely muddier than the green grass on my side of the privacy fence.

I don't get to wake up to a snow-dusted Rockwell painting right outside my back door or say to my kids, "Wake up, it's time for barn chores." I don't get to feed my potato peels and egg shells to the chickens, nor do I own a pasture or get to help birth a calf. My kids don't build bonfires in the side yard or play hide and seek in the hay bales or milk cows or harvest maple sap and make syrup. We don't have a creek, or a north ridge, or even a visible sunrise.


Snowy dawn


Headed home from pasture

Instead they have friends across the street to play football with in the front yard. And a road that's paved to ride bikes on. And neighbors to both borrow an egg from and to feed our dog when we're gone overnight. And we actually get to be gone overnight.

We may not be married to the land or the animals, and I still don't really like cowboy boots, but it sure would be nice to own a big red barn. We owned the board book when Adrian was a baby. Does that count? 

I guess I'll have to live vicariously through my best friend and cyberspace. And rely on this gem that I pass every day on the commute from my cul-de-sac circle to the interstate that leads to the smallish-sized big city.












Friday, October 8, 2010

When All Is Vanity

And I keep coming back to this:

Why was I thirsty, when the River of Life was rushing right there on my counter top?

The cycle has repeated itself more times than I care to count:

The determined vow: daily will I meet with Him.
Then beginning strong, thinking, "No problem, I can do this thing."
Routine somehow morphs:  easy-peasy into steady as she blows,
Which reduces itself unnoticed into...I think I can, I think I can....
Finally the death knell:  Missing one day won't hurt, I have too much to do today.

There's that; and then there's the morning routine:  empty the dishwasher, begin to reload, pack three lunchboxes, recite the breakfast offerings to three unenthusiastic kids, the shrill countdown to oh-my-gosh-we're-gonna-be-late. There's also the laundry baskets, the bills, unopened mail, supper plans, and a blinking, beeping smart phone sounding a night's worth of notifications. And that's all before 7:30 am, the day still young, the "To Do" list still long.

What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
...the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.
...All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing;
...I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind.
~Ecclesiastes 1:3, 5, 8, and 14

One day may not have hurt, but when they add up to a month of days, they begin to thirst from the striving after the wind. The circuit ends in vanity, futility, a hamster wheel with a weary traveler.

I search for the compass of meaning and hope, but find
"Empty"
"Spent"
"Used up"
on the dial that used to show True North.

I know this, and still I cycle again and again, the hamster in his wheel. Why do I do this to myself over and over?

The Hebrew word habel is vanity. It means unsubstantial, fleeting, like a breath or a vapor.

Meaning seeps out of the cracks of the earthen vessel that I am when I exhale life's heaviness, the vapor. We leak Living Water when we live in the flesh, and we thirst, because the flesh, the dust of the earth, does not hold spirit but spirit holds together the flesh.

And we so often live life inside out and upside down. We live by the flesh, under the sun, when God's word says walk by the spirit; you are seated with Christ above the earth in heavenly places.

We struggle because it's part of the curse. We struggle because of our slavery ... and by God's design.

For the creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him, who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. ~Romans 8:20-21

What kind of God would subject us to futility (the New Testament/Greek equivalent to the Old Testament/Hebrew habel) against our will?!

The kind Who rescues us in our need;
when we saw our shame and hid from him in the garden.
when we disregarded his command and tasted forbidden fruit.
when our eyes were wide open to the knowledge of good and evil.
when we turned away from faith in him and became our own source of discretion and discernment.

But our judgment is unfair and inequitable because it serves our self-interest. We will always judge a matter to protect ourselves just as Adam and Eve hid from God when they saw their nakedness.

When our sin separates us from our God, He comes to us, and He brings a curse to offer us freedom.

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorn and thistle it shall grow for you;
and you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread;
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you will return.
~Genesis 3:17-19

God cursed the earth under the sun, and every earthly thing we do under the sun is subject to the curse.

We toil and we sweat with our labor, yet it is futility. We leak out our water from our dust of the earth and our souls gets thirsty.

Then he offers freedom:  that in our thirst we might seek Him - not under the sun but above it, as a deer pants for water. That we would guard against the earthly things from crowding out the godly in our lives. That we never again leak his water from our dust that dry-rots.

I need to learn this lesson once and for all, to stop the hamster wheel and the vanity. Stop the rushing River from spilling on the counter in my kitchen and redirect it to daily spill into my spirit that holds together my flesh.

That He might fill me up and I might never thirst again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

I sing loudly and feel each word formed as it leaves my lips. I lend the fullest measure of sincerity to each one, hoping sincerity will lift them to rise higher, smell sweeter, and gain the attention of my Beloved.

At the service end, I kneel, then sprawl, across the altar steps, begging, sobbing, praying, "Speak to me, Lord. I miss you so." I linger to pour the full burden of my thirsty soul into the bowl of incense. When I rise, my ears are deafened by still more silence, my heart spent but my soul still longing.

As Monday gives way to Thursday, my bible, too, remains silent, mocking from the kitchen counter, the Bread stale beside the thrice-used-daily table setting waiting confidently for the next full plate to be delivered and consumed. And I was waiting, too, in his silence, for Him to consume my prayer.



That weekend found me in the bookstore, and my aimless wandering delivered me to the bible study section, where I noticed one with a spiral binding.

"The better with which to write comfortably your thoughts, your answers, the questions," it called out luringly.

I reached for it and dropped my purse and myself right there in the isle. As I swung the pages open, God began to speak.

"See the written words on the page?"

"Yes, Lord," I choke out, because conversations with God are always accompanied by a large heavy lump in my throat that will not be swallowed.

"They are the words of another; they can be neglected."

I look, and I listen, and my spirit's mouth waters with realization that my long thirst is about to be met by Living Water, flowing again at last. I don't steel myself against it; it has been too long awaited. I open myself vulnerably to be ravished by the flood of Him right there on the floor in the store.

"See all the blank places, Child?"

"Yes."


"Empty space awaits your words, your scribbled questions, and answers, and your love letters, prayers, your heart," He says.

His words pound in my heart. I feel his breath over me, and I hear his voice and cling to it, when I hear Him whisper, "And I have missed you, Beloved."

The tidal wave of Word comes strong and powerful and quiet. "I have written to you as well, all these things: My questions, the Answer, My heart and prayer for you. Eat it - this Bread will nourish your hungry heart. I have prepared the banqueting table before your enemies. Remember? Eat and be satisfied by Me . . . and respond in the empty places."

The discipline of His silence and His words achieve their goal. I buy the book and accept His invitation hungrily. I begin to partake of a thanksgiving dinner more like a starving orphan than a royal heir.



Last night our family gathered, as we do nightly to read together, and read from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis. We are still early on in the story, and Eustace is not at all pleased to find himself at sea on the Dawn Treader. He is seasick and blames it on a non-existent storm, acts indignant to mask his fear and complaints, and begins a sea journal to record his experiences at sea. This is the beginning of his first entry:

August 7th. Have now been twenty-four hours on this ghastly boat if it isn't a dream. All the time a frightful storm has been raging (it's a good thing I'm not seasick). Huge waves keep coming in over the front and I have seen the boat nearly go under any number of times. All the others pretend to take no notice of this, either from swank or because Harold [his uncle] says one of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to Facts.

My eyes fly open and my heart plummets. I am Eustace, whose own eyes were shut to the Facts, to Truth Himself. The wisdom from his uncle he piously received and applied to others rather than himself. Cowardly and ordinary surely describe someone else. But they don't describe Someone Else - Him.

My thirst and God's silence come to mind. Then the grace invitation to draw near in my empty spaces and be fed. And my heart sees itself with eyes wide open in the mirror of His word and the error of my way.




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Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Wish

If things had been just a little bit different
so long ago
deep inside the darkness of my mother's womb,
I just might have been conceived
with a different set of chromosomes
the kind that are notated with an XY rather than a XX.

If that had been the case,
then I'd be in the mountains of Tennessee today,
rolling up my jeans
to tiptoe over the cold stones
and wiggle my toes in the even colder water
and hear it gurgle down the river.


I'd relate first-hand to images and ideals of brotherhood like this.


I'd be discovering modern day idolatry 
from this book that I can't wait to read for myself.


I'd wake up to a balcony
that runs staight off the highest cliff's edge,
high enough to kiss right back the sun that kisses me


and be visited first-hand by a cool morning's puple mountain majesties.


And I'd be with this guy
instead of missing him like crazy.


So, today...
and just for one day...
well, maybe for the whole weekend... 
I wish I were a man.

{ Gatlinburg photos by Carlos Gonzalez Jr. and used withouy his express permission, but he probably doesn't care. :O) }

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Macro Shot"


Photo Friday - "Macro Shot"
A rose growing (with no help from me) on the side of our home last Spring.
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