Monday, March 31, 2014

Hard Decisions

...if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe - some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them - then you know that you're out of line.  If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.
Romans 14:22-23 (Message)

There is this thing that keeps coming up in our day-to-days.  The kind of situation where it doesn't matter if the cause of a certain action is based on truth or not, the effect (the action) remains the same.

Just this weekend, we had to make an extremely difficult decision.  A decision that (yes, definitely) rocked our world.  Our perfect world.  Which is no longer quite so shiny and perfect.  

We are leaving the church we have attended for the past year and a half which means leaving the youth group that made my daughter - my 22-year old daughter who happens to have Down Syndrome - feel so welcomed, and leaving the Friendship ministry that serves adults with cognitive challenges.  I have written about this youth group here and here - and about the Friendship ministry here.  But there are no other options.  This choice, this difficult decision is the effect.  

I have been over and over the circumstances and there are no work-arounds.  Which saddens me.  

I cried when I asked the couple who lead the youth group to take my daughter off of their morning lift-me-up text list.  They are good people.  WHAT!  They responded.  And I couldn't tell them why - just that it was necessary - that it was necessary for us to make a church change - that it was no fault of theirs but would be too confusing for our daughter to receive their texts, to continue a relationship that can't happen face-to-face, our daughter who tells everyone she is a youth leader.  It would be too confusing for her to continue to receive messages from people we would not be able to see.  I couldn't tell them why because - lies or truth - the cause involved other people, other lives, and the telling would create division.  Better to leave.

My daughter, thank God, is resilient.  She doesn't understand why.  And I can't tell her.  We have redirected her - You'll make new friends....  We'll go to a new church....  She has erased her friends' names from the whiteboard over her desk.  She has thrown away the youth group attendance list. Tears pour down the back of my throat when I hear these words from her.  I know the cost.  But I smile, and tell her I love her, and I am so very proud of her.

We will be moving again, soon.  The powers-that-be in the Army are already in the process of placing my husband into his next duty station.  After the move, I will be able to re-place my daughter's friends into the contact list on her phone.  I will be able to re-friend the youth on Facebook for her.  And I will be able to keep in touch with the friends I've made.  But now - not seven months from now - now, we need to find a new church.

There is a cost for joy.  There is a price in being consistent with what you believe, in not imposing opinion on others.  It is not easy to keep from lashing back, and the choices, sometimes the only choice we have is full of rocks and tears.  Pray for us.  Pray for the cause of this division.  Pray for joy.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your son - who gives us His joy.  Thank your for strength in difficult times.  Nothing can separate us from your love.

Linking With Monday Musings

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Always Faithful

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Isaiah 35:1

Been waiting for Spring
Holding my breath for dogwood trees 
Little buds popping at the ends of upturned fingers

I was surprised when I rounded the corner
Of the house
First by petals on the ground
Then I saw

Rejoicing and blossoming all over
Rejoicing and blossoming
Like a shopping spree of pink
You are always faithful!

Thank you, God, for your not-so-subtle messengers of Spring.  Help me to not be so impatient for the warm weather, flowers, and green.  It's coming.  I know.  You are always faithful.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

So Much

I remember the day I took out my Concordance and looked up Joy.  Because I needed it.  Because I craved it.  Because my ex-husband and Satan had taken my daughter away from me on charges of child abuse.  Trumped up charges and lies.  Because she couldn't explain.  Because her communication ability was incomplete.

I looked up joy because my joy, my daughter, was not waking up in my home, padding through the carpeted rooms to give me the first hug of the morning.  Because my sun wasn't rising - it had fallen.  Fallen in the anguish and tears of a broken heart.  And I had fallen.  Fallen into a pit of despair and un-hope.  And I had fallen to my knees in prayer - begging, wrenching, soul-crushed prayer.  Over and over, waking and sleeping, pacing through the house, the empty empty silent house...

Father.  Oh Father.  Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.

Because all I could do was call on the name...

So I looked up joy and found this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   James 1:2-4

God is amazing.  He showed me this passage and gave me hope.  That's when I started to pick up the pieces and fight back.  Perseverance is working through - surviving through the hard times to get to the better times.  And I did.

My daughter is with me.  Her life is free from the shackles of her father's lies.  And we have never stopped counting the joy of her in ours.  Now I write about joy - about finding joy in the ordinary and the everyday.  Even in the worst of times.  Consider it pure joy.... God, our Father, loves us SO much!

Linking With 5 Minute Friday

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

For All Nations

These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. 
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; 
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Isaiah 56:7

It was a vision.  Clear.  Vivid.  A vision.

Liat felt the press of bodies; her feet had been stepped on more times than she could count and the dust from the road was coating her throat, dry and persistent, like a waterless tide.  Relentlessly, the crowd moved forward toward the door - entry to the temple.  The temple of God, the One, the Holy.  She held her scarf in her left hand, reaching up with her right to touch the stone wall.  

The Lord our God, the Lord is One

Yes, she had been born into the right family.  The right clan.  The right people.  The chosen ones. Yes.  Even her name you are mine proclaimed who she belonged to.  Who she was.

She felt the breath being squeezed from her slight frame as she squirmed her way through the threshold.  It was her first time, and she was determined to stand in the courtyard of love and prayer - determined to demonstrate her devotion, to prove herself worthy, to make her insignificant presence known to this mighty God.  

The air was thick with smoke and noise.  The air inside this gateway.  The stink of the bodies assaulted her nostrils.  She pulled the veil across her face so that her eyes only, wide and staring, were visible.  This was not what she had expected - this noise, this filth, this sea of humanity.  She was about to enter the courtyard of the presence of God; she had done everything correctly; she had been taught correctly; she had earned this right, this passage.

She was proud of her heritage, her family, her people.  Proud of the traditions laid down by the prophets of old.  Proud of the books of rules and law.

Proud of being different than the other tribes - the unknowing - the unchosen - the others.

She sensed, rather than felt at first, the thinning of the crowd.  The air cleared as the stone walls widened.  Stepping away from the tunnel, Liat allowed her veil to fall.

This too, was unexpected.

The Lord our God, the Lord is One 

Gone was the noise from the entry - the narrow door - the temple gate.  Gone.  The pushing and pressing.  Gone.  The dust, the smoke, the fetid odor.  Gone.

Liat stood in an open courtyard and her heart skipped a beat.  Before her - a radiant structure, focal point to countless people - all colors - all races - chosen and unchosen - they streamed around and through the steps and columns, around and through the wide rectangular doors.  Not crowded.  Not noisy.  Reverent.  Prayerful.  Raising their voices in praise.

Awestruck, she looked back toward the tunnel.  One by one, men and women were stepping out from the tunnel - the narrow, confining passageway of rock and dust.  Children spilled out from the crowd behind.  Some stumbling, some releasing hands on veils as she had.  All looking around with wide stares and open jaws.

In the next heartbeat she recalled the prophecy of the man, Isaiah...And it will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  She could see them - all nations - coming into this place, this holy place of prayer and worship.  She saw other narrow tunnels leaking with strangers, dark and light, in exotic costumes of unusual texture and detail.  She saw caravans picking their way across wide, open fields.  She saw wide roads and tree-lined drives.  All leading here.  To this place.

Unexpected and surprisingly wonderful.  Children of the One God.

I have been reading about division.  Not the math kind.  Division of ideas, division of beliefs, division of cultures, division of religious.  I see it on the news everyday.  Political division.  Even bands of weather and storms.  Boundaries.  Fences.  Locks.

I think about my last job.  The one I resigned from - the class I couldn't teach.  And what divided us.

I think about Christ.  And God.  New and Old Testaments.  Legality and Grace.  I think about differences and the lines drawn to separate, to categorize, to confine.

And I come back to this passage in Isaiah.  Put into the eyes of the vision of a woman who traveled a narrow road to reach a destination she really wasn't prepared for.  Kind of like that narrow road of law.  Kind of like that narrow road of right choices.  Kind of like that narrow road of not-good-enough.  Kind of like that narrow road of you-have-to-do-things-my-way.  Surprised by the others who also arrived through different paths.  Leading to a destination not earned.  I think about our Pastor who invites everyone to the Communion Table - to a destination freely given to all who seek it.  God's house.  A house of prayer for all nations.

Today I struggle with division.  With redemption.  With grace.  Today I am filled with joy at the thought of a house of prayer for all nations.  Undeserved yet freely given.  Unexpected and surprisingly wonderful.  We are His Children.

Thank you, God.  Thank you for your Son.  Thank you for Jesus. 

Linking with TellHisStory
Imperfect Prose
Three Word Wednesday

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Joy To See

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
Isaiah 42:16

The young man is not really so different.  He's dressed casually in a short-sleeved sport shirt, the kind with the ribbed crew neck and multi-colored stripes.  Not too tight.  And jeans - nondescript, really.  Not sagging, not Urkel-pulled up.  Just.  Jeans.  His hair is a little wavy; it might be considered longish by today's standards, but certainly groomed well.  I realize, as I watch him, that what draws my attention to him, is actually the woman accompanying him.  Middle aged.  A little more weight than I imagine she wants to carry, but her posture is good.  Glasses.  One of those curly-frame-your-face hair styles.  Even from three lanes down I can see the traces of lines in her face.  Softness.  Kindness.  Compassion.

She's guiding him by the wrist.

I watch.  Fascinated.  

She maneuvers him behind a steel-tubed ramp.  He swings the heavy ball up, following subtle cues from her hands.  Until it rests at the top.  She steps behind him and waits.  I can see her lips move, and see an answering smile from him.  He pushes the ball down the ramp where it is centered on the alley - the bowling alley.  This is special olympics bowling.  The young man is blind - the woman is his mother.

Before the ball spins off the foot of the ramp, mom has place her two hands on her son's back.  One by his belt, the other at the base of his neck.  The belt hand creeps up toward the spread-fingered neck hand - tracing the path of the ball down the alley.  It travels a little to the left of the spine then hooks in to the right just before the actual bowling ball strikes the pins at the far end of the lane.  Her fingers crumble in by ones and twos, both hands now acting like falling soldiers, until just one remains in the seven position.

I see him nod and his lips move again as she guides him back to the ball return.  They re-rack and he pushes the ball.  The hands begin their journey - their story - and the young man stands attentively watching what he cannot see.  The seven pin remains.  A miss.

I have never spoken with this pair.  I don't know their lives.  I don't know if he still lives at home, or if he is in supported living in the community.  I don't know if they argue.  I don't know what makes him smile, what makes them laugh.  I don't even know the words between them, when they stand at the head of the lane.

But I know her.  Not her name, not her address or job.  I know her motherhood.  I know her find-a-way spirit.  The I-want-him-to-be-accepted attitude she has.  Her patience, her will, their determination.  I see this spirit, this attitude, instilled in him - in his clothes, his demeanor, his confidence, his pride.  Ball after ball, frame after frame, game after game, week after week.  She guides him.  She shows him.  She leads him.  Down unfamiliar paths.  From darkness to light.  She makes his rough places smooth.  How biblical is that?  Support.  Friend.  Mother.

They are a joy to see.

Father God, thank you for showing me joy in a different way.  
Thank you for bringing light into darkness.  
Thank you for making rough ways smooth, 
for your guidance, for your support, 
for your friendship, 
for your love.  
Thank you.

Linking With Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, March 17, 2014

That Want/Need Thing

I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. 
I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there.  
I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. 
But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: 
the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
Acts 20:22-24

But Paul wouldn't budge: "Why all this hysteria? 
Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? 
You're looking at this backwards. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, 
whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. 
Can't you see that?"
Acts 21:13 Message

I watched my daughter do her Zumba this morning - while I trudged away on the elliptical machine.  I have to admit, her exercise looked like a lot more fun than mine, what with all the shake-y shake-y going on... She's been doing it on and off for a couple of years now.  Of course she follows a very particular routine - I think it's that extra 21st chromosome.

We have to start our day with coffee.  Coffee she makes according to her daily schedule - at 5:00 every night - yes, the night before.  Set on a timer for early early.  I've discovered she's not very conversational before she's had that first cup.  She tells me.  "Mom, I am not awake yet.  I need it, my coffee..."  And I wonder when liking coffee turned into needing it, and for the life of me, trudging away on that elliptical, I can't remember...the liking versus the needing...

I remember her first cup of coffee.  It was a Starbuck's Mocha Frappacino.  My husband bought it for her when we were on an outlet-store-shopping-outing with my parents and Sierra was starting to get those low-sugar grouchies she sometimes gets.

"I'll take her."  He said.

"Ok,"  I answered, wondering what in the world are they up to??

I found out a couple of stores down the way when they caught up to me.  Sierra with her wide-open smile and the dancing eyes.  My army guy with his laughing-behind-the-Oakleys expression.

"Mom, coffee breath."  She breathed on me.  Close and warm.  And, yes - smelling suspiciously like coffee.   "Chocolate Chino,"  she said proudly, showing me the almost-empty Starbucks cup.  The
B-I-G almost-empty Starbucks cup with it's foamy lining of whipped cream.


So, she exercises every weekday morning.  Like clockwork.  With her routine.  Because we've laid down the law in our home.  If you don't exercise, you don't earn a Starbucks on Saturday.  The funny thing is, we don't really worry about the actual exercise she's getting - the deal is really just to get her up and moving.  To get her doing something.  With us.  As a family.  Sometimes it's Zumba, sometimes it's those dance videos.  She has her section of the floor - we have our machines...elliptical, treadmill, rower...

She tried to tell me once that she needed it, her Starbucks.  One morning when she and I had both been 'bad ladies' - when we hadn't even entered the exercise room.  Needed.  When in the world did wanted become needed??

Paul seems to be pretty straight on that want and need thing.  Want is a choice.  Want is nice.  Want is easy.  Want is whipped cream on your coffee.  Want is short-sighted.  Paul's followers were short-sighted.  They only saw what was in it for Paul.  For them.  Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to confer with the church elders - the apostles - and to try to set the growing rift of circumcision versus non-circumcision, legality versus grace to rights.

Need is obedience.

Paul already knew things wouldn't be easy.  He'd already been warned.  He didn't want to be in difficult circumstances.  Yet he went.   He was going because through the Holy Spirit, he was being sent.  He had been given the vision of long-sightedness.  And he trusted in God to deliver.  He needed to go.

Want versus need.

Through Paul's obedience, that new christianity - that new church - became stronger, more resilient, more able to withstand what was to come.

I don't suppose either one of us, my daughter or me, really need our coffee in the morning.  Even when we aren't stellar conversationalists.  And although we may want it, especially on low-sugar, grumpy days, we certainly don't need Starbucks.

But we do need the incredibly extravagant generosity of God...  Thank you, God, for Paul's obedience.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your saints and apostles.  Thank you for those from long ago, and for those who continue to preach and obey - even today - even now.

Linking with Hear It On Sunday, and Monday Musings