Friday, August 30, 2013

You Are



Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, 
and all that is in them, saying: 
"To him who sits on the throne 
and to the Lamb 
be praise and honor 
and glory and power, 
for ever and ever!"
Revelations 5:13

I am looking out of my office window at the green, green grass, and the green, green trees.  At the house across the road, down the hill of my front yard, with its white siding and black shutters, its red-brick chimney and front porch.  We found a beautiful setting when we bought this home a month and a half ago.  And I'm thinking about the word "worship", and I'm thinking that this beauty around me inspires worship.  Because it came, ultimately, from God our Creator.

Who also created my daughter.  She came down from her room this morning with eyes full of sleep and hair in casual disarray, one leg of her bike-shorts/pajamas up and one leg down.  She walked straight to me and gave me a good morning hug.  Isn't it worship when I whisper 'thank-you' for this gift.  This hug.  This daughter.  This morning.

Isn't it worship when I go to chapel on the largest army post in the lower forty-eight, and see the big, the tall, the young, the strong - in uniform - raising their arms and faces to God in praise.  I see the families of those deployed, in community, supporting each other through the missing, through the struggles.  When I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst?

Isn't it worship when I witness the kindness of a young man who took my daughter through the complications and excitement of her graduation ceremony.  His graduation ceremony.  But he was thinking of her, not himself.  A young man, child of God.

Is it worship when a single drop of dew on a single blade of grass sparkles with the light of a thousand diamonds?  When the glorious color of a weed in the grass raises its yellow spikes to heaven?

Is it worship when the sun rises and sets, the stars spin in the sky, and the universe parades it's glory?  Glory to it's Maker?

Isn't it worship when our thoughts, all that we are, all that exists - water and rain, grass and trees, flowers, even the dust in the air - when we all raise our collective hands, our very selves in praise and thanksgiving to God?  When we dance.  When we sing.  When we cry.  All worship to God who made us, to God who loves us, to God who molds us.  To God who knows us and holds us close in his own hands.

Reverence and awe.  Large and small.  Inside and outside.  Beginning and end.  Worship.

Father, Lord, Creator, King - thank you for all that you are.  
You are amazing.  You are awesome.  
You are.

Linking with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I DO Wish...



Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 

My husband and I were discussing recent advances in gene therapy.  And the question came up - would you 'fix' the Down Syndrome in our daughter?

What an interesting question.

First, to say 'fix' implies that something is broken.  I don't feel like my daughter is broken - in any way.  In fact, she has probably taught me more about how to live than any book, class, or sermon.  Just by her example.  She is forever optimistic.  She is incredibly fair-minded.  She encourages and rejoices in the successes of others.  She is helpful.  She has a quirky sense of humor.

But, am I being selfish by wanting her to continue to be my teacher?  By wanting to continue to enjoy her budding sense of independence and self-worth.  By liking to have her close?

Do I want her to be accepted by the people she meets?  Yes.  Do I want her to experience some of the 'typicals' in her life?  School dances, friends, sleepovers, boyfriends?  Yes.  Do I want her to experience ALL of the typicals?  Drama, temptation, substance abuse, premarital sex, disappointment, heartache, rebellion?  No!  Do I believe that we, without mental and/or physical/communication delays, benefit from overcoming difficulty and hardship.  Yes.  Do I want my daughter to overcome difficulty and hardship.  No!  Does that mean that I wish to stunt her potential?  Of course not!

Do I think that she would choose to change if she could?  I suppose that would be the true litmus test - the one on which I would base my final opinion.  What if she wanted to change?

I know that, in her mind, she is already part of the typical world.  When she does her Zumba in the morning, she calls out the eight counts and talks her 'class' through the routines.  Today, she turned around in the middle of one of the songs and told me she was still on 'So You Think You Can Dance'.  She told me she hadn't been cut yet.  She tells me everyday (several times a day) that she is 'a leader' this year.  She is in 'youth ministry'.  It was how we could justify her continuing to go to the church youth group even though she had already graduated high school.  Every year she 'goes to Hollywood' during the American Idol tryouts.

But the world she imagines is a world in which she is the STAR.  She doesn't know about cutthroat competition.  She doesn't recognize cheating.  She has been protected from real-world sin, real-world evil, real-world anger, real-world disappointment.  And it's not always a conscious protection on our part - it's partly due to her unique comprehension ability, and her joyful outlook on life.

I had to explain with pictures, how people voted for the finalists in choosing her high school's homecoming queen.  I drew votes next to fourteen stick-figure faces, then crossed off nine because they didn't get enough votes.  The stick figure face with her name got crossed off.  It took a couple of times.  But I knew she understood when she told me she wouldn't walk on the football field with the other finalists because she was crossed off.  Not because the students didn't know her, liked someone else better, or any of the other reasons she didn't receive the votes, but because she was crossed off.  She wanted to go to the game to see the finalists, to say 'hi' to the girls who didn't get crossed off, to congratulate the winner.  See, she doesn't get that she wasn't popular enough -  she just found joy in the whole process (yes, I keep learning from her...).

So - hypothetical question - would I 'fix' my daughter's Down Syndrome.  My husband had the best answer.  He said he would only ok making her typical if the process could be reversed at her request.  If she found that being typical was not all it was cracked up to be - she could go back.

I think about Jesus and His radical vision of a different world.  The Kingdom of Heaven.  Unlike my daughter - we are definitely damaged goods.  We need to be fixed.  Unlike the hypothetical question of being able to manipulate my daughter's genes to take away her Down Syndrome, changing her from the inside out, changing the foundation of her DNA - we have a way to change from our foundation.  The name of that way is Jesus.  Unlike my daughter, who, after all of this hypothetical thinking and second guessing, I wouldn't change FOR the world - I DO wish I could change the world.  I can't, but we can.  In the name of Jesus, we can.

Heavenly Father, help me to do your work in this world.  Let me continue to learn your lessons from my daughter.  Help me put those lessons to work in my life, and in the lives of the people around us.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus; through Him, we really can change the world.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

#TellHisStory: Boats



But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.
Exodus 2:3

The voice on the phone was professional, friendly even.  He introduced himself to me.  It wasn't the first time I had been contacted by the police in this town.  

The first had been a visit to my door - the night before.  The officer had introduced himself then, too.  In a professional, friendly voice.  My husband was away.  Out of the state.  Working.

I didn't wholly grasp the message until the next day.  I was teaching.  Fifth-grade. In a portable along the fireroad, behind the school, next to the playground.  My daughter was in the portable next to mine.   We called those portables our little cabins in the woods.  The office had called me to take a phone call. They sent the school counselor to watch my class.

Walking up the stairs to the deck overlooking the back of the property, I thought about my daughter going to school in this beautiful setting - pine trees right in the playground - a school with decks and railings and stairs.  She loved stairs.  Such a difference from the city schools we had left behind.  And I wondered about being pulled from class to take this phone call.  I wondered if it could possibly have to do with those unexpected questions delivered by that police officer, at my door, the previous night, with my husband gone.

Are you and your family ok?  He had asked.  There was an incident with your ex-husband at the courthouse today.  He had said.  We're just checking to see that you're ok.

I hadn't been surprised, and I thought it was kind of sweet that the officer had come by to check on me.  That's what living in a small town meant, I thought.  The police check to see if you're ok.  I hadn't asked about the incident.  There wasn't a lot that surprised me about my ex-husband.  He had quite the temper. 

The office secretary directed me to take the call in our principal's office.  Hmmm... I thought.  The voice on the phone was professional, friendly even.  

"This is Captain so and so," the man's voice was crisp sounding, and oh-so-clear.  "I'm just following up on our officer's well-visit last night."  

Wow, this small-town police-thing is amazing, I remember thinking...

"Did the officers tell you why they came to see you last night?"  The man on the phone asked.

"They said my ex was responsible for some kind of disturbance at the courthouse,"  I answered - I know my voice raised at the end of my sentence - California-girl speak.

"He threatened to kill you."  The officer on the phone said, in his professional, friendly voice.  Crisp sounding and oh-so-clear.  "They were checking to see if you were ok.  Are you ok?"

Still not shocked, still not surprised, still not fully comprehending, I answered again.  "I'm fine." 

"Do you know," he asked, "if your ex-husband owns any firearms?"

I guess that was when it hit me.  What this officer was concerned about.  Why the police had been checking on me.  A grenade of thoughts fell from the sky in my mind.  And exploded in my head.  My ex-husband was ex-military.  His back-story included being trained as a sniper in the army.  His back-story included tales of working for the Phoenix Project in Viet Nam years prior.  His back-story included using a crossbow to kill a neighbor's cat that was bothering him.  And, even though I had reason to doubt his back-story - it didn't matter.  If it was true, there was a problem.  If he had made it up and passed it off as true, there was a problem.  Either way, yes, my ex-husband owned firearms, and that was a problem. 

"Yes."  My heart was pounding.  My little cabin in the woods was visible from so many places.  My daughter's little cabin in the woods was accessible in so many ways.   I couldn't say anymore.  My whole body was shaking.  The secretary had come in - I couldn't hide the tears.

"If you file charges against him; we can confiscate his firearms."  The officer told me.  "And you might consider an order of protection."

When Moses's mother didn't know how else to save her child from Pharaoh's edict, when she couldn't hide him any longer from his soldiers, she built a boat out of reeds.  She covered it with pitch to waterproof it.  Imagine her fear.  They could have found Moses at anytime.  Anytime in the three months prior, anytime during the making of the little boat, anytime during it's launching.  I have to assume that consequences to her and her family, if they had been caught, would have been dire.  Death to Moses, possible death to the entire clan.  Through her fear, through her trouble, she found a way to do something.  She wouldn't be a helpless victim.  

I'm sure she prayed.  Like I did.  When I was afraid for myself and for my daughter.  When I felt helpless.  I'm sure she had family support.  Like I did.  Not only my immediate family, but my school family and my church family.  I'll bet she was a force to be reckoned with - after the Pharaoh's daughter found Moses, when she was asked to be his nursemaid.  After all, she had been forged by difficulty.  All because she built a boat.

I built several boats after that phone call.  I went in front of a judge for an order of protection.  I filed charges.  I changed my and my daughter's schedules; I randomized them so it would be more difficult to track and follow us.  I informed my church and they prayed for us.  My family's churches prayed.  

Unfortunately, the story wasn't over.  And one day, I will be able to write the rest.  The good news is that my daughter is with me.  We are safe.  God was and is our refuge and our help.

He will always open a door - sometimes it's in the form of a boat - a boat to be built to keep from going crazy with waiting, to keep from perseverating, to keep body and mind busy, to keep Him in mind.  Sometimes, when hands are tied in every other way, building a boat is all that can be done. 

Linking with Tell His Story 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Everything Fits


For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, 
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Luke 10:24

Sometimes, things just fit.  The way they're supposed to.  Perfectly.  And I'm not talking about clothes, here.  I think everyone has this built-in meter that tells them 'this is right', 'this is all wrong', 'this needs a little tweaking'.  About a lot of different things.

The meter that says 'I love this photograph - no cropping needed.' And the meter that says 'oh! That harmony is perfect.'  The meter that says 'those words, put together in that way, are wonderful.'  The meter of silent applause at a job well done.  That meter.

Those things that fit - recognizing them when they happen - fill me with joy.

Like when I took a picture of the full moon - over the trees and out of the clouds - early, early in the morning.  In Virginia.  And another blogger, probably the same day, took a picture of the full moon in her backyard - over the trees and out of the clouds.  In Washington state.  The other side of the country - hours away.  We shared the moon.  I like the happenstance that just fit.

Like sounding out new music on the piano, and hearing the perfect transition chord from one key to the next.  And then playing the progression over just to hear it again.  Then finding out that my mother, halfway across the country, had been doing the same thing at her piano.  I like the way that fit, too.

Like seeing my daughter's face at a community choral concert that she picked out - captivated by the blend of voices and the music.  Classical music.  In German.  Sitting in her coral, lace covered dress, reaching across me to put her finger to her lips - and then pointing at the choir.  Captivated and in control.  My daughter's pure enjoyment fit.

Like reading Scripture this morning - and yet another passage that said 'don't worry - don't fear - don't be anxious'.  I needed that reminder this morning.  It was just right.  A perfect fit.

I wonder if my attitude, my outlook affects the way I see connections and relationships.  Maybe my meter would always be applauding something - I just don't always have it switched on.  I wonder, sometimes, if more things would fit with more awareness.

Like when you learn a new word.  And all of the sudden that word is everywhere, in everything.
Like when you master a new skill.  And all of the sudden you need to use that skill on a regular basis.

My family used to drive down from Flagstaff to Phoenix on the Black Canyon Highway.  We played a game, coming off of the Sunset Point plateau, as we headed into and through Black Canyon City.  Spot the first saguaro.  See, those sentinel cacti are very picky about altitude.  And soil.  First, the only visible cactus is the ubiquitous prickly pear.  But suddenly, there's one and then a hundred of the stately saguaro.  Once you see them, they are there.  Awareness.

Jesus understood awareness.  He understood attitude.  He understood outlook.  He tried, in every possible way, to show his purpose, his truth, and his love.   Parables, miracles and healing, teaching, chastising, praying...even dying.  In his life, everything fit.

Through Him, everything fits.

Heavenly Father, open my eyes; open my ears; open my mind; open my heart. To You.

Linking with Monday's Musings


Friday, August 23, 2013

Dead Last


So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
Matthew 20:16

Dead last.  My girl's relay was dead last.  Again.  I watched from the stands, hundreds of moms and dads, friends and coaches yelling and holding up banners and signs.  Cheering their teams on.  I saw her run by, right leg swinging out in that differently-abled gait of hers, left hand clutching the metallic-red baton, barely stretching around the cylinder - small and mighty.  She was grinning again- ear to ear - because she just knew in her heart that she was 'fast as a rocket'.

"Did you see me?"  She asked when I met her after the relay teams were walked to the medal stands.  "I run fast", she said, eyes bright with the day of excitement and color.  Cheeks flushed in the warm sun, flushed in anticipation of receiving a medal.  Dead last and she would be getting a medal.  Her whole team got one.  Placed around their necks by girls from the local high school.  Young women, healthy, ponytailed, tanned and toned in their cheerleader outfits.  Spending one of their precious Saturdays at this place, volunteering their time to these 'others' - these differently-abled, oh-so-variously labeled adults, and teens, and kids.

Special Olympics track meets.  Where the last truly are first.

Thank you, God - for all the people who volunteer - for making these very special events possible for people like my daughter.  Thank you for teaching me the value of  UNcompetition - the value of fellowship.

Linking with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today You Did Good

image from video found at http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/21/20123239-he-said-he-dont-care-if-he-dies-911-call-from-georgia-school-shooting-released?lite

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 
that you may be children of your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:43-45

Sometimes I look at the news on television and just wish I could hide myself and my family from the sad, the cruel, the lost, the neglected.  From the evil.  Sometimes I wish that Newton's Third Law of Motion applied to current events as well - For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  That even if it didn't apply to actual events, at least it could be applied to the publicity of those events...something like For every bad news story, there will be an equal and opposite good news story.  I knew.  Oversimplification and wishful thinking.

But today, today was nice.  

Earlier this week, a man with an automatic and over 500 rounds of ammunition made his way past an elementary school security system into the front office of the school.  His intent was not a good one.  Thankfully, the students were evacuated safely; and the man stood down.  He was taken into custody before any real harm could be done.

The story could stop there.  The children were safe and the gunman was taken away.  But today we heard the rest of the story.  We heard the phone exchange between the 911 operator and the woman who called - the woman who works in the office at the school - the woman who was confronted by this gunman - the woman who walked with Jesus in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

How do I know this?  Look.  Read; in this transcript you can touch the places the nails entered, see the sword wound, feel His presence, because Antoinette Tuff absolutely, even in fear, did the things that Jesus would do.

            The exchange between Tuff and the suspect was captured on a recording of a 
            911 call made by school officials to dispatchers.

           Tuff begins by telling Hill of her own struggles, including raising a disabled child 
           and losing her husband. The bookkeeper reassures him by saying he didn't hurt 
           anyone, hadn't harmed her and could still surrender peacefully.


          "We're not gonna hate you, baby. It's a good thing that you're giving up," Tuff says 
           after having Hill put his weapons and ammunition on the counter. Tuff tells Hill she 
           loves him and will pray for him

          "School employee helped avert tragedy in standoff"  http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/
               news-national/20130822/US--Georgia.School.Shooting/  


I don't know how else to write of this thing - this good news thing - except to say that I am humbled by this woman's actions.  By Antoinette Tuff.  I am incredibly proud of her.

Today you did good
Reaching beyond rage
And violence.

Your calm voice of reason
Stretching across the gap
Of hopeless 
Desperation.

You shared your own story
Of struggle and loss
You saw the child lost inside 
A man uncherished

In the midst of fear
You gave that man your love
The love of Jesus

Today you did good.

Father God, thank you for holding us safely in your hand.  

Linking with Desire to Inspire

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

#TellHisStory: Fences and Walls


No longer will violence be heard in your land,
nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
and your gates Praise.
Isaiah 60:18

I've been thinking about fences and walls.  Yes, those structures that define boundaries.  It started with buying this house that doesn't have a fence for our dog.  Our ever-so-curious-just-a-little-bit-naughty dog who likes to take himself for solo walks.  So far, he's listened, albeit reluctantly at times, when we call him back to come inside.  But we're afraid 'so far' will not last much longer.  And, he deserves some time to himself, outside.  Without his human family holding him back from enjoying dog things.

So, wall-type one - the fence we want - is the kind that allows my dog to see his boundaries without interference from us.  I don't think of this as a restriction, but rather a 'freedom enhancer'.  It isn't intended to keep anything out, just to keep our increasingly independent dog safe.  Kind of like a sheepfold.

But, as I think about fences, I think about others I've seen.  In Texas, we built wall-type two - designed to not only give our dogs space to run without supervision (see picture above...), but to keep outside eyes out.  It was a privacy fence.  We had fenced in a kind of personal retreat - no traffic movement, no passing pedestrians, tall enough to block the view in from the road, but not so tall that it hid the trees and woods that were not part of our property.  Kind of like the walls of Jericho.

Then there's wall-type three.  The very real kind we build inside ourselves.  Not always visible, not always acknowledged - but there.  This is the kind of wall that defines our personal boundaries - the kind of fence that we build around the tender shoots of our emotions, around our carefully cultivated beliefs - insulating and protecting us from the rages and unpredictability of the world around us.  Holding us in while pushing the world out.  This fence compartmentalizes.  It separates.  It protects.  It blinds.  All of these.  

And sometimes these fences break down, and need repair.  And sometimes these walls just need to be moved, in or out to redefine the boundaries of our thinking.  And sometimes, sometimes they just need to be removed.  Taken away because they are no longer necessary.  No longer necessary to mark property.  No longer necessary to keep in.  And no longer necessary to push away.

I imagine heaven as a place with no need of fences or walls.  Isn't that an image to keep...

Heavenly Father, thank you for your promise of salvation.  Thank you for this glimpse of Your Kingdom in heaven.  I know, that for now I need fences.  But I look forward to the day when none of us do.  Thank you for that vision.

Linking with TellHisStory

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Sign


When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.
Matthew 16:2-4

"What do you seek?"

The sun was rising over the teacher's shoulder as he spoke.  Bulbous and red, it demanded attention.  Bad weather coming.  They must make haste.  The rocks behind him stood like flames, capturing a fiery canyon that led away and away to the river and eventually to the sea.  

"What do you seek?"

Again, the question, 

"I do not seek," the traveller's eyes betrayed his thoughts.  No, looking for something was not his purpose.  He no longer looked; he already knew.  And now, with this snare, the world would know the charlatan, the faker, the false promise.  "I have come for a sign."   The words spun across the still space between them, like a single strand from a web.  A web made for trapping.   The traveler averted his gaze from the eyes of his prey, and he focused again on the morning sky.

"A sign?"  The teacher's mouth tightened slightly at the corners; his eyes lightened, pupils contracting in the brightening day.

These things showed the traveler the man was not simple.  He had understood.  The trap had been sprung.

"A sign such as this?"  The teacher stood and raised his eyes to the sky and the red underbelly of the gathering clouds.

Foolish man, the traveller thought.  Maybe he is simple after all - gesturing toward what every schoolboy knew.  Red sky in the morning bespoke storm and rain.  He finished the thought - and red sky at night was a promise of clear weather.  His impatience with his task, this baiting and trapping of this teacher, this prophet, this worker of miracles showed in the traveler's posture and demeanor.  His lips drew back from his teeth in an unwholesome smile.  This man before him, gesturing at the sky, knew not who his questioner was.  But, he would soon enough.  This rabble rouser, this spawn of Satan.  This destroyer of the Law.  He would know when God Almighty struck him down - or swallowed him whole.

"No," the teacher spoke again, with authority, "you have not come for a sign.  Because you have been given signs.  Isn't the world itself enough miracle for you?  Isn't the fact that you live and speak enough?  The sun rises and sets - the weather comes and goes.  If you don't recognize these obvious signs, how will you recognize any others?  You have come for me.  You are a foolish and shortsighted man.  There is no sign that will convince one who will not see.  Stop wasting time - stop traveling to places you refuse to know - stop asking for things you have already been shown."

He sat back down, crossing his legs.  His voice had dropped to a whisper.  The teacher's eyes - great pools of compassion - looked directly into those of the traveler.

"Swallowed whole is what you seek.  Swallowed whole will come.  But only for three days."  The teacher looked longingly at the heavens.  He followed the flight path of a bird, a bird that slipped between ragged scraps of sky and wisps of clouds.  A wild finger of light stroked his face and in the moment, in the moment, it was as if a fog lifted from the traveller.  He saw into the Teacher's eyes - Wisdom, Glory, the Ancient of Days.

And then the man spoke again - the man with the eyes of God, the Teacher.  "It won't be enough sign for you."  The last words were uttered with great tenderness and love.

Father God, thank you for this new day.  Thank you for daily miracles.  Thank you for your never-ending love, your undeserved love.  Thank you for faith.

Linking with Women Helping Women


Monday, August 19, 2013

A Cup of Cold Water


Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
Luke 12:51

"Come to the fountain and drink."  

The maiden was young, and he could tell, shapely beneath her robe and veil.  It had been a long, hot, dusty day for him and he was thirsty.  His sandals were wearing blisters on his feet; it was time to stop and rest.  It had been a long, hot, dusty day.

He watched as she leaned over the low wall, holding back her veil with one hand as she used the other to dip the long handle of the drinking ladle into the water - the clear, cool, soon-to-be refreshing water.  Precious water.  Precious youth.  Precious woman.  Cracks on his lips, the grit of the road on his face, he was tired.  Tired of this journey.  Tired of travel.  Tired of all of the nots he had grown used to.  Not sleeping in his own bed.  Not eating regular meals.  The people who were not understanding his message.  

He shook his head slowly, as much to stretch and work his neck and shoulders as to shake out his thinking.  

She held the ladle toward him, eyes downcast.  "Drink", she said, simply.  And he did.  And it was all he thought it would be.  His head tilted back and back until the cup was empty.  He could feel the change immediately, new strength, resilience even, flowed into him.  Renewal.  Yes.  It was just what he had needed.  Gazing at his men - his followers - he saw that they, too, had been renewed by the rest, by the refreshment, renewed by the view.

They were scattered around the fountain, sitting and standing in clusters, like heads of grain - some here, some there - full and ripe and waiting for the threshing floor.  And he knew what they didn't.  The threshing floor was close before them.  A time of separation.  A time of division, of conflict.  A time of winnowing, cleansing.  He knew the things to come, and they were not easy.  But they were necessary. 

 He was molding soldiers for his Kingdom.  He was preparing the way.  He closed his eyes.  Father, they want it all now, he prayed, they want instant everything: instant riches, instant glory, instant peace.  Show me, help me to make them see how far they need to go, how long and how difficult the road is.  God, like water, flowed through his limbs.  He could feel the power, the resolve.  Standing, he called his disciples to him.  He was about to turn their world upside down. 

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth."  

He saw the confusion on their faces, he felt their puzzlement.  The women at the fountain stopped filling their water vessels.  Even the breeze had silenced, as if the world stood still.  

"I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.   

Glancing toward heaven, he silently thanked his Father for the words, the words from the ancient scripture, words that everyone knew.   

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."   

Upside down.  On the threshing floor.  Confusion, like a wall, pushed at him from all sides.  But his time was so short, and there was so much to be understood.  He tried to explain again, another way.

"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Some of his followers were nodding in assent.  He could sense the wall coming down.

"Whoever finds their life will lose it..."

More confusion.  Upside down.  This was so difficult - one of the nots.  They were not understanding, not comprehending.  He was losing them.  Some of the women had turned away and were beginning again to ladle water - precious, change-making water into their jars.  The clay jars, vessels of life.  He spoke louder, turning toward the women at the fountain.

"...and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."

He had found life at the hand of the girl.  Renewal and refreshment.  What were they, after all, but vessels of clay, made to hold that life.  This, the people understood.  This, he could use.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."  He pointed toward heaven, lest there be any doubt.  And appealed to the age-old custom of hospitality.

"Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward."  This they understood.  They had grown attentive again.  He walked, purposefully, toward the young maiden who had given him refreshment.  He smiled at her, encouraging her to look at him, eyes at him.

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Father, sometimes we want peace now, everything now.  Sometimes we over-simplify.  
Thank you for showing us that conflict and division can grow us in you.  
That understanding sometimes comes from faith.
  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Small Huge Thing


Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay.
Job 33:6

It was just a small thing, really.  Just a flip of the hair.  The hair that we had finally been able to grow out after years of Buster Brown haircuts she had long outgrown - after years of forced visitation to a poisonous environment (read I-won't-say-any-more-because-it-isn't-very-nice).  The hair was finally long.  Finally her own to choose to do with as she wanted.  Finally so many things.

And then this small gesture.  We were at lunch.  My teacher friends, me, and my daughter.  We'd made a date to go to the outlet mall for some shopping and long overdue relaxation.  And we were at lunch.

And the waiter was a young man.  And my daughter asked for a diet coke and then flipped her hair.  At him.  With a smile.  A big smile.  And a little giggle.  And she turned to us and said, "I love men."

Oh dear!  Such a small thing and then it was huge.  This girl, my daughter, my beautiful, then-seventeen-year-old Down Syndrome daughter was making her hormones known.  Like a typical teenager.  Like any other girl.  Flipping her hair and giggling.  Oh dear!

And in an instant, I saw her in a different light.  Perhaps in God's light.  This child, this teen, this young woman.  Doing the normal, the typical, and doing it out loud.  Such a small, huge thing.

Linking with Five Minute Friday


His Peace


Do not be anxious about anything, 
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:6-7

How gracious is our God!  It is good to be reminded on this beautiful Saturday - one week ended, one week about to begin.  The school year about to start.  New opportunities on the horizon.

How he loves us!  How he shows us - always - in the big and the small, the loud and the soft.

He lives in every atom, every molecule, every seed, leaf, branch, and flower, every insect, every star, every grain of sand.  He lives in every one of us - we are His children.  His precious children.

And he gives us peace.

Thank you, God, for taking my worries and anxieties and transforming them to eagerness and anticipation.  Opportunity and discovery - discovery of Your plan in my life.  Thank you for peace.

Linking with StillSaturday

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Clothe Me in Faith


And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. 
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today 
and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
will he not much more clothe you—
you of little faith? 
Matthew 6:28-30

I have an interview today - for a new kind of position.  I have been preparing - reading up on policy and procedure, reminding myself of the technical vocabulary, asking myself practice questions, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses.  I want to be ready and I can't seem to stop thinking about everything.  Thinking - read worrying.

So, at the same time, I decided to take my camera around the yard yesterday.  I've just hung some photographs in my dining room and I have some planned spaces for a couple more pictures.  Green pictures.  

God is good.  I am putting my interview and job-search in His hands - again.  It is something I do on a regular basis.  Lord, I believe.  Help me in my unbelief.  In the meantime, here's my thoughts.  Jesus used the beauty of the flowers and grass to demonstrate how God takes care of us...even our clothes.  The common greenery I found around my home is more splendid than Solomon.  And it's not even the flowers of the field!  So, how much more will he clothe me....

Thought I'd share....
















Oh God, thank you for the reminder of Your love, and Your care and Your blessings.  Clothe me in faith.  Help me to be a blessing to others. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#TellHisStory: Eyes That See, Ears That Hear


But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Matthew 13:16-17


Fern was a master storyteller.  A game of adventure with her was like becoming a character in a play, and watching it all at the same time.  Her voice was her instrument, sonorous and deep, reminding me of thick, golden honey flowing over bread.  Her imagination was our script.  She created visions of butterflies darting among flowers with her whisper, and the clash of sword against shield with her shout.  She could roar like a spring flood, and murmur like the hint of a breeze on the still water of a pond.

Adventures always started when Fern told us to close our eyes tightly and hold hands.  We were never, never to break the magic circle of hands on our journeys.  She took us to many other lands, wielding her imagination like a sorceress, her voice like a giant of old.  Land of the Purple Castle, the Kingdom of the Blue Queen, Dragon Mountain, and Village of the Green Fairies... my sister and I watched and participated in dramas and activities directed by Fern who was always our hostess and guide.  A circle of mushrooms, used by the fairies to dance under a full moon, a solitary blue flower in the midst of yellow ones, used by the Blue Queen’s daughter to signal to her lover, circular patches of brown grass created by dragon celebrations; everything had meaning according to the adventure.  

She took us beyond Wonderland, beyond any book or story.  She made us believe, oftentimes quoting entire passages from the books she had read; she made our imaginations soar.  She wove us into a magic spell, transporting us safely to our destination.  Did we truly go somewhere else?  Probably not.  But upon opening our eyes, the world always seemed a little different, skewed to unearthly spectrums of color and sound perhaps.  The greatest joy was in the possibilities awaiting us at every turn, possibilities of enchantment and magic that we had only experienced whispers of in our ordinary lives.

And years later, I still believe in enchantment and magic - of a different kind.  There is a book full of incredible stories, full of poetry, full of Glory.  I never get tired of reading about the Kings and Queens, about the prophets who foretold the future.  I allow my mind to imagine a pillar of smoke, a pillar of fire, the parting of a great sea;  I picture a great temple, covered in gold and precious stones.  I see a man - a savior of nations - telling stories, eating bread - a man with dusty sandals.  I hear his laughter; I hear his prayers; I hear his grief.  I close my eyes and feel him in my heart, and upon opening them, the world always seems a little different, skewed to unearthly spectrums of color and sound.  I have only to believe. 

We have been given ears to hear.  We have been given eyes to see.  We have met our master storyteller, host, guide, and director.  His name is Jesus and He is our greatest joy.  

Heavenly Father, God of the Universe, thank you for Jesus.

Linking with TellHisStory

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love That Coat


For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.
Matthew 12:37

"It's the Redskins, now."

My daughter was sitting at the kitchen table, hands wrapped around her coffee cup, hair in morning waves.

"My team.  It's Redskins, now."

The news was on - as always - I'm not one for missing the weather report in the morning.  My husband had just left for post - no rain in the forecast - so he rode his bike in.  She had already come over to my chair and wrapped her arms around me for my morning hug - now we were sharing coffee time.

"Redskins?" I asked.  "What about the Cowboys?  I thought you liked the Dallas Cowboys."

In the five years we lived in Texas, my daughter had become a staunch fan of America's Sweetheart team.  That suited me fine.  They were featured on the weekly game schedule, so they were easy to watch and follow, and stores always carried the sports paraphernalia to give her for birthdays and Christmases.  In fact, just last  season, we'd found the perfect 'letterman' coat - with the championship year patches sewn up the sleeves, and the signature star emblazoned on the back.  She loved that coat.

Past tense?

"No, Washington.  Remember.  It's the Redskins.  Our house."

Oh!  I don't know why I get surprised by my daughter's thinking - but I do.  When we lived in Tennessee, her team was the Titans.  I'd forgotten how geographical she was.  Probably because we'd been in Texas so long.  But, sometime over the summer, she had discovered that the Washington Redskins were the closest team to us.  And she was making the change.

Her birthday was coming up - probably a good time to begin stocking her up with red and gold...  But, what in the world were we going to do with all of the blue and white - the various jerseys, the pants and t-shirts, her Cowboys coat...  I didn't say anything.

So later, she surprised me when she came down dressed.  In a Dallas Cowboy's t-shirt.  She showed me.  "See," she said, rubbing the hemmed edge of the shirt on the shorts, "It's Dallas," she said. "Color is blue," she said.  "Match."

Yup.

She went over to the refrigerator where we keep our menu of the week's dinners.  "It's spaghetti tonight."  She looked over to make sure I was paying attention.  "My favorite."

I had to laugh.  See, everything is her favorite.  Spaghetti, brats, chicken and rice.  Everything.

Yup.

Do you remember when you were young and learning your way around social skills and relationships.  Remember best friends, and favorites?  Remember those situations when you couldn't be friends with one if you were friends with the other...  Remember having to choose a favorite?  Competition.  Always one.  To the exclusion of all others.

Take the competition of shows like American Idol, or The Voice - even Big Brother, Amazing Race, etc.  There is one winner.  One person comes out on top - even if they're all good to start with.  Even if they all do something or several things well.  One.  To the exclusion of all others.

Think about the news and politics and issues like immigration and gun control - issues that cause division.  Even our political parties.  Democrat OR Republican.  Either.  Or.  Never a compromise.  One answer only.  To the exclusion of all others.

But it doesn't always have to be that way.  We don't have to always compare everything.  We don't always have to choose the best, the fastest, the most correct.  Every time we make a choice of better - we also make a choice of worse.   Imagine a world without that.  Imagine taking away the argument, the for and against, and finding the relationship - the commonality. Imagine not making the comparison - black and white - but finding the joy in the mix.  My daughter is constantly teaching me new ways of looking at life.  Everyday.  She's found a way to wear both teams.  They're all her favorite.  My guess is she'll still love that coat.

Father God, thank you for this day.  Help me to be an encourager.  Help me to think positively.  Help me to make good decisions based on complete information.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'll Write Tomorrow



 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

I'll Write Tomorrow

I'm getting nowhere
with my afternoon writing
I'm trying too hard.

Maybe I should stop.
Fingers pause on the keyboard
Screen saver comes up.

I hear a movie,
In the den.  My family is
there. All together.

Gently with eyes closed
Breathing in, breathing out, I
Push the keyboard back.

Oh God, sometimes I
Can't see the forest for the
Trees.  Thanks for this day.


God, hard lessons - sometimes we have to let go...sometimes - we just need to take the time given us to spend together.  It is good.  Thank you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Joy is Enough


The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:24-31

I heard it in my sleep last night.  Over and over.  It is enough.  It is enough.  Like an echo lost in a dream I can't remember.  

So I looked for it.  That phrase.  I looked in the events of the past day - a wonderful day of joy and fellowship - a youth outing to the beach.  No.  It wasn't the activities of the day.

I looked at the events of the day.  Relationship.  The acceptance my daughter received from the group we were with.  The sometimes difficult job of guiding her behavior with them.  Yes, I'd said "That's enough," to my girl - enough waiting to be the center of attention, enough emotional manipulation, enough social poor-me.  But no, that wasn't my dream.  It is enough.

I looked at the summer.  The move.  The vacation.  The budget.  My I-don't-have-a-job-yet situation.  Maybe.  Maybe it's enough worrying.  After all, we are in our Father's care.  Maybe it's enough with the twinges of gotta-do's, and our never-ending list of home-improvement projects.  

I looked at my writing.  Maybe it's this blog; it has been consuming my thoughts with topic, tone, readership, comments, and future plans.  Can I turn my writing into a job?  Is it good enough?  What do I do; how do I start?  Is that the purpose of my posts - to make money?  To earn a living?  To find joy and share?

I opened my concordance.  It is enough.  Right there in Matthew.  Oh my!  And it's about teachers and students and speaking and proclaiming.  It even reminds me of how well and how much God cares for each of us - even me.  So there is the answer to all of my maybes.  The job applications will stay open - something will come because I am in my Father's care.  The house is enough.  It has been made home.  The blog will continue because I need to speak in the daylight and proclaim from the roofs what is whispered to me in the dark.  No fear.  Jesus was not Lord of the Flies;  He was Lord of Joy.  I will continue to seek joy in the everydays and ordinarys around me.  Joy is my path; joy is enough.

Father, thank you for life.  Help me to find your joy everyday.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Born of the Spirit


 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
John 3:8

So, I was thinking about the wind this morning.  I'm not seeing any outside my office window.  Not that I would actually see it.  But I would know it was there by the movement of the trees.  Even though I hear thunder, and the ground is wet from rain - apparently this is not a fast-moving thunderstorm - the leaves are only gently rustling.  No wind.  Barely a breeze.

Hmm...  Wind.  Prime factor for change.  Change on the earth's surface.  Change on structures.  Change on lives.  And you can't see it; you can only see the results of it.  Wind.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Gautier, Mississippi.  You can look it up on a map, right on the Gulf Coast, at the mouth of the Pascalgoula River.  It's about 15 miles east of it's more famous neighbor, Biloxi, and about 100 miles from New Orleans.  Gautier was one of the many places to get hit by hurricane Katrina in 2005.  It was hit badly.  

On August 29, 2005 Gautier was one of many cities affected by Hurricane Katrina. Many of the coastal homes were either destroyed or flooded. Some of the houses along the coast were built on hills, leaving them with wind damage only. Homes built on the water were completely destroyed, occasionally leaving an intact slab. In a few cases the slabs were cracked in half. One home in particular was built on pylons 13 feet (4 m) above sea level and had the floor ripped out from underneath. Most of northern Gautier, above the railroad tracks, had some wind damage but largely remains intact.    
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautier,_Mississippi 

We certainly saw the results of the wind.  Our small group was kept busy re-roofing homes.  Homes that had lost those roofs during the 100 to 140 mph winds of Katrina's landfall. 

This scripture snagged me during my reading this morning.  Of course, there is so much more in this chapter of John - being reborn of the spirit and God so loved the world...  But none of that caught me like this little triad.  I didn't get hooked in a wide-eyed-God-is-amazing way, but rather in an I-am-a-little-confused-about-God's-purpose-sometimes way.  Jesus is so convincing that I almost missed the but wait moment.  

Here it is.  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  Yup.  No argument there.  You hear its sound - again, no argument... but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going - well....minor adjustments there for me.  See, I believe in the Bible AND science.  Science can measure wind speed AND direction with a handy dandy contraption called an anemometer.  It's almost like the paper windmills we made as kids - blow on them and they turn.  So, yeah, we know where it comes from and we know where it's going.  But...track back a little more - science says wind is caused by changes in air pressure and temperature.  And where do THOSE changes come from.  (Earth's rotation, water in the atmosphere, currents, distance from the sun, position of the moon and planets, and so on, and so on...)  I'm not scientist enough to track back much further, but I eventually come up against GOD.  Yup.  So I'm ok with minor adjustments - the end result is the same.

So here's the real kicker.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  Huh?  Did I miss something?  Jesus was answering Nicodemus's question about being saved.  How?  Where?  What is done?  Jesus has already answered one way, with rebirth, not literal birth, but of the spirit.  Nicodemus still doesn't understand, so Jesus describes the vagrancies of the wind.  Then the simile.  The one that stops me - the vagrant wind is the Spirit?  Being saved by the Spirit causes us to be like the wind?  Vagrant, unpredictable, unreliable.  Connotations that are weighing just a little toward the negative, right?

So maybe I read it wrong.  The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in a violent wind from heaven.  The breath of God is the breath of life for Adam, Job, Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.  It is the wind of destruction for the enemies of King David.   And then there's Solomon.  

As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5

You have to love Solomon.  

The wind is not vagrant.  It is God's agent.  An agent of change.  Of life.  Of death.  Of purpose.   The wind is not unreliable.  It will come.  A change will come.  We live, we die, the only things we can control are our choices - our purpose.  Poor Nicodemus saw all the outward signs of Christ's teaching, and he wanted to be a part of the Kingdom;  but with his earthly eyes, his cause and effect mentality, his concrete facts and observations, he just didn't see the wind.   Yeah.  God is sovereign.  He is God.  And Jesus?  Amazing Grace.  The Holy Spirit.  Wind of change, breath of life.  Yeah - three in one.

Thank you God, for your patience with our questions and doubts.  Thank you for answers to questions.  Thank you for rebirth and holy change.

Linking with Teach Me Tuesdays

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Few Smudges


 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.   She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to 
what he said.   But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me 
to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better,  
and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

Fingerprints, handprints, and believe it or not, footprints.  Smudges on the computer desk, on the windows of the cabinets in the kitchen, on the glass tabletop, on the glossy finish of the floor.  Everywhere - little signs of life in this home.

I like those furniture polish commercials - spray, wipe, and voila - everything shines.  Everything glows.  Everything smells good.  I've tried them.  They don't quite work the same way for me as they do for the lovely advertisement housewives.  But they do smell good.

So, I'm sitting here thinking about those fingerprints.  Those handprints.  Those smudges.  I'm thinking about my daughter getting up in the morning and putting her hands on the cabinet doors to get the little plate she uses to microwave her lean pocket for breakfast.  I'm thinking about the way she pushes that microwave door closed and concentrates on pressing 2-0-0-start.  I'm thinking about the gathering she does - at her place at the kitchen table - the rest of her breakfast... getting into another cabinet for her vitamins, getting a yogurt from the fridge, and a spoon, finding some fruit.  I'm thinking about how she places her bottle of water just so on the placement so that it doesn't touch the glass of the table top beneath, but how her place is always the one with the most mess to clean.  So purposeful.  So precise.  So independent.

She makes our coffee at night.  I know.... night.  But the thing has a timer - which she sets - so that the coffee is freshly made when we come down in the morning.  Five o-clock at our house sounds like the donut commercial.  My daughter picks up her watch from the arm of the sofa, stares for just a second.  It's time to make the coffee.   Everyday.  Rain or shine.  Fingerprints all over the stainless steel.

She works at her desk in her room.  She has an old laptop computer with a replacement keyboard - mouse on the left.  If I leave her room alone, she eventually covers every flat surface with stacks of her papers - her work - old school worksheets she copies into a word document, workbooks and coloring books, yearbooks, old spiral notebooks filled with her printing, pictures, construction paper...  cards she's made with scissors, glue and glitter.  Underneath it all - fingerprints and dust.  I tell her she needs to clean her room and she looks up and smiles.  I like it that way, she says.  Purposeful.  Precise.  Independent.

I'll still clean up.  I'll still work to get rid of those smudges.  But I won't resent them.  I wouldn't trade those fingerprints of purpose and independence for a world of clean houses.  I just shake my head at the wonder of it - focusing on my daughter's abilities rather than her disabilities - realizing that she has left a very real fingerprint on my life.  On my heart.  Cleaning up a few smudges won't change that.

Heavenly Father, thank you for my girl and her fingerprints.  Not only in my house, but in my life.  You are an amazing God and full of surprises.  

Linked with Monday's Musings
Hear It On Sunday

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Would I


Would I answer the call
If He were here?
Would I drop everything
And follow Him?

To know Him
To love Him
To walk and talk with Him
In the flesh
In the spirit

Would I?


Linking With Still Saturday



Friday, August 2, 2013

Fishing and Feeding His Flock



Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10


"I don't judge."

He said it over a campfire in the mountains of Arizona, hot chocolate steaming in the white, styrofoam cup held in both hands.  It was cold; the stars, the countless myriad stars, were spilled like precious gems across the depths of space above us.  Vault of heaven.  It took my breath away.

"I don't judge."  But you do, I thought.  Just by that statement, you do.  We were sitting at the picnic table - wood, shellacked and smooth, worn by weather and campers - not cold metal tubes.  Not modern.  Not new.  It had taken awhile to get the fire started because of the rain that afternoon.  Rain while we were fishing together.  Fishing for trout.  With marshmallows.

Funny what I remember.  Salmon eggs and marshmallows.  A double-hooked line.  Spaced about a foot and a half apart, a lead weight pressed on at the the bottom.  I would cast the whole contraption out - feel the bottom hit, tighten up the line - then wait.  I could picture it, the line diving from the surface of the lake, extending diagonally away from shore to that little pebble of split lead, resting on the bottom.  Between, floating in the rocky depths, one hook above and slightly in front of the other, dangling bait - those bright red and white buttons, hiding the point and barb, hiding the metal - dissolving into the water in an inviting cloud of yum.  Yum for the fish.  Yum for me.

If I kept my finger on the line, I could feel those first tentative nibbles, the tiny movement traveling in pulses.  I loved the timing - carefully pull the pole in closer and close my hand on the reel.  I imagined myself a fish at the bait.   Test - test - oh it's good.  Bite.  At the bite, I yanked back and started winding in.  At that instant I knew - I had it, or I didn't.  They fought hard, those trout.

And then, at the end of the day, the campfire.  Cleaning the catch, grilling it over the flames with a little butter and salt.  Oh, but it was delicious.  Flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, fresh.  Satisfying.  Then, the hot chocolate and solving the problems of the world, tall pines silhouetted against the bright, bright stars.

I tried to explain to him.  That he was.  That judging was the idea that something or someone was right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse - it was a choice.  That he was choosing NOT to.  That his choice was in the NOT; it was his judgement about judging.

Funny what I remember.

Because lately, I've been reading a lot about what it means to write Christian material, and create Christian art.  It's too saccharin sweet.  I read.  Life isn't all fluffy, and pretty, it's not all a Thomas Kinkade painting.  I read.  I would rather be considered a secular author, than wear the Christian label.  I read.  Zondervan wouldn't publish my work; it visits too many dark places.  I read.

Labels.  Judgement.  Better.  Worse.  Right.  Wrong.  Good.  Bad.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; 
no one comes to the Father but through Me.

If you choose to write or create only part of the truth in this broken world - only the darkness and the squalor, only evil, only sadness, sickness, disaster - then yes, you belong in the secular world.  But when Jesus is in your heart, then He will show up in your work; glimmers of His light will shine through the brokenness - hope, redemption, grace, healing, faith, joy, love - the rest of the truth...  Own up.  You are a Christian.  You've been hooked.  You can't help but be changed by the Holy Spirit.   You are feeding His lambs.  You are taking care of His sheep.  Indeed, you are feeding His flock.

Father in Heaven, thank you for this new day.  Thank you for changing me, for changing my heart, for forgiving my wrongs.  Help me to live today to glorify you, to proclaim the name of your Son in my words, my actions, and my thoughts. 

Linking with Faith Filled Friday, and Fellowship Friday