Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taking care of...

There seems to always be something that needs to be taken care of be it the lawn or the laundry, the bills or the baby. At no time does anyone sit down and say "Well then, I have nothing to do!" because it's all just unending.
And then while there is stuff to take care of there are also people to care for; friends, children, spouses, neighbors, co-workers, etc ad infintium...

But who cares for you?

There are days (like today) when what I want most in the world is to be taken care of; to have someone else come along and say "Don't worry about that stuff, I'll take care of it." For when people help us care for what we have to take care of, they are actually taking care of us. For me it's a huge thing when someone else decides what we're doing for dinner (and I know that sounds ridiculous but...). Sometimes it's nice to have someone else say, "Let's do this so you won't have to do that."

My son started washing the dishes, on his own!, yesterday - taking care of that was in actuality taking care of me. My editor girlfriend Karen was working with me on an academic paper that I'd worked on so long that I could no longer see straight. She brought fresh eyes and suggestions so that when it was done I didn't just think it was good, I knew it was because she thought so too. This morning Kathy left a bag of clothes on my doorstep as she is passing down items from her son to mine. And all these events, some quite simple really, are people taking care of me. I, who is most often I feel, taking care of everyone and everything else, being taken care of.

I think this is one of my favorite things about God; how He takes care of me. God loves me, cares for me but He also takes care of me which is like love in action.

I don't know if I saw it in this light particularly before but look at Psalm 23 - He makes me lie down, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul, He prepares a table for me ( as it, wow! someone else is making dinner?!) He anoints my head with oil - which for a sheep was both curative from bug bites and as a repellent to other nasty insects (which I found out thanks to Philip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23 which is an quick excellent read).

The whole Psalm says one thing - God is taking care of me.

So although I need to do more dishes, plan dinner, help with homework, prepare for the weekend and all the things I do to care for others; I can work with this peace in my heart that He will take care of me be it through the peace and comfort that He sends to my heart or a clean dish, handed down shirts, or an edited document from my favorite "poofreader".

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
You place your hand of blessing on my head (Psalms 139:5)

Monday, March 22, 2010

True Worship begins...

...with a set up like that I should have a profound way of finishing this sentence!

True worship begins...
...when your realize your brokenness and God's amazing grace.
...when you humble yourself before God.
...with an honest heart and open eyes.

True, aren't they?

But what I was going to say is that
True worship begins in the kitchen.

Do you have a place in which you can worship? Full out do and be whatever it is you're needing to be at that time in your worship? We come together to church to worship with stirring music and challenging insights from God's word but do you have your own place of worship? The place where you can openly and honestly respond to God without thought of anything but Him?

I read a quote a long time ago that said "Souls dealing directly with God have no curiosity to outside events." If I am praying or singing in church is there a part of me that is aware of what the people around me are doing or what they would think if I raised my hand - either in song or in response to an invitation?

Yea, there usually is.

This is why true worship begins in my kitchen, typically with some great music on that if I really listen I hear concepts in the lyrics that moves me to tears or praise (which are not mutually exclusive!)

Where do you worship?

Do you have a time and place where you respond to God with your whole being? When you come and sit in His presence and let the awesomeness of that realization wash over you; that you have an audience with God, the high and lifted up glorious God of Isaiah 6 that is surrounded by angels proclaiming incessantly that He is holy, and this same God is with you in this place, waiting to talk with you?

I hope so.

If your place is your kitchen, or your car, or on a walk, or in a certain spot in your house I sincerely pray that for those of you who read this (yes, actually by name!) that you will find both a place and the time to be alone and all there, body, soul, mind and spirit, with your God today.

True worship begins...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Long Road

I love to travel; however I hate the actual journey to get there.

It's amazingly mind stretching to see new things and go new places. You can't capture in photos or words what standing at the foot of the Grand Tetons does to widen the borders of your soul. But it is a tremendously long drive to Wyoming...!

We don't travel many short roads. Most of them are really, really long.

Like the road of grief,
of recovery,
of marriage,
of raising children,
of sickness,
of caring for aging parents.

These are great destinations we're heading for -
a time of remembering ones lost with less than soul strangling anguish,
where addiction ceases to have hold over every thought
when you are synced with your spouse as your best friend and biggest supporter
when someday they'll be grown up, and whole, of good character and leading rich lives,
to be able to function day to day, every day, leaving all infirmities behind...
and of aging parents - well, there's such a desire for them to be able to return to the strength and vitality they once had and a reestablishment of the relationship you once shared but as that destination is not available this is this longing for them to be comfortable and at peace.

Think of a decision to lose 30 pounds. Let's just say that you could do that in 6 months, which doesn't sound all that terrible, right? So six months is approximately 180 days, which is 540 meals at which you need to make the right choices, it's also 180 mornings when you have to decide whether to get up and exercise or take another half hour of sleep, and then when you are excercising do you do the ten more reps or the extra mile? It's numerous snacks, and sweet treats at the office, assorted holiday parties and the ever-tempting, more prolific than bunnies fast food eateries inhabiting every other corner... It's a long road. It's a lot of decisions that need to be made well to continue you on to your goal.

We are all on several long roads in our lives and sometimes we wonder -

"Are we there, yet?"

"How much farther?"

"How much longer can I keep this up?"

"Will I ever get there?"

"Is it really going to be worth it?"

Because although "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", it is still a thousand miles between you and that final step.

What makes a long road easier?

A good traveling companion.

I've been on trips when three hours has past like 15 minutes and on others where 15 minutes seemed more like three hours …and I'm sure you have too.

We are blessed by those who walk with us on our journeys; those individuals along the way who are as an oasis of refreshment. They help, they advise, they encourage, they listen, and sometimes they just walk with us so that we know that we do not journey alone.

But we all have our own roads and as much as we’d like we cannot accompany each other or be accompanied by them the entire way. There is only one who walks every step with us and that the One who loves you unconditionally and eternally.

I Peter 2:21 says “…You have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” What is a guardian? It’s defined as “Somebody who guards, protects or preserves somebody or something or somebody who is legally entrusted to manage somebody else’s affairs”
The synonyms for guardian are protector, guide, guard, defender, sentinel, and keeper – all such very rich words.

God is the guardian of my soul, of my days. He walks each step of this thousand mile journey with me. “You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am…You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength support me.” (Psalms 139 :1-10)

The road is long.
Like it or not, it just is.

But we’re never alone, there’s not a step we take unaccompanied.
He knows all, He sees all that befalls us.
He has promised to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5) and to provide strength for each new day. (Lamentations 3:23) He knows the steps I’m taking today and the ones I will need to take tomorrow and exactly how many tomorrows there will be until I reach my destination and, knowing all of that, He has signed on for the long haul.
The road is long but it doesn't have to be lonely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Winning Combination

As you know, Scripture needs to be read and interpreted in context; and this morning in Isaiah 40:11,12 I found the most amazing combination...

"He will feed his flock like a shepherd (ala Psalms 23 and John 10)
He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to His heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."

Beautiful isn't it? Christ, the Good Shepherd, holding us, leading us, responsible for our lives and well-being, tenderly watching over us, carrying us in His arms...

"Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed out the mountains and hills?

We are held by the same hands that have held the oceans and measured out the heavens; the hands that scooped the earth onto scales and made the mountains - these, these are the same hands that surround you today.

It's little wonder then that we can say, "God is our refuge and our strength. an ever present help in trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea!" Psalms 46:1,2

Friday, March 12, 2010

Banana Bread

This morning I made some banana bread and the whole house smells so very good!

The first step was to select the bananas. There were bananas in the bunch that were good for packing for the lunches today and then there were the bananas that were all soft and mushy and therefore perfect for my plan.

You'd be reluctant to peel one of these bananas and eat it outright because it doesn't look so great. It's lost it's resiliency and unblemished yellow skin. It has been beaten up a bit and it's not a brand new banana anymore; definitely not the prettiest banana in the bunch...but this is exactly the banana that I need to make something wonderful.

Do you ever feel that way? Like the old banana? The one that's sat in the fruit bowl too long or that went out in a lunch bag and came back bruised? You've not found your purpose or you've gone out there and come back the worse for wear?

I was encouraged today that the bananas I needed were not the ones that were the most obviously desirable...I had a plan and I needed those older battered bananas; and if that were true for me and bananas...

Is it hard to imagine that God could have a plan to redeem bruised lives for a greater purpose He has in mind?

Is it?

Best Ever Banana Bread (bet you'll agree after you try it!)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sour cream or yougart
1 T. milk
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Pour into a 9x5 loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where is my "help meet"?

Help meet: it's from the old KJV where in Genesis 2:20 it is observed that all the animals had mates but Adam had not a "help meet for him". In today's English Adam needed someone to help him - the Hebrew word 'ezer means "help" or "one who helps."

I've decided tonight, as I was tackling the mountain of dishes and pots and pans on my kitchen counters which apparently were invisible and inconsequential to the rest of the family until they needed a spoon!, that I need a "wife"!
Where is my "one who helps"?

Apparently the female species was created to be helpers... that's sure what it looks like to me from Genesis 2. But the more I think about it, the more true it seems to be...(stay with me now it's not as sexist as you may think)

Women are helpers.
They are the most amazing and creative helpers on the planet.

Girlfriends call when they haven't talked to you in a couple days just to see how you are or when they're at the grocery store and have just found the most fantastic sale.

They both rejoice and weep with you sometimes in the same conversation because they are able to change gears just as quickly.

They love your kids.

They help you figure out what to do with that pound of frozen hamburger and only twenty minutes till dinner.

Girlfriends share what it's really like in the delivery room, nursing babies, raising toddlers, surviving teens,going through menopause, and caring for aging parents.

They may know and be friends with your husband but they always understand and support your side in a disagreement.

They encourage, challenge, support and inspire us.

Women show up.
At soccer games,in classrooms, in hospital rooms, at weddings and graduations and PTA meetings, and with prepared food, hot tea, and aspirin when you're sick.

They have this wonderful ability to adapt their own lives, schedules and sometimes even abilities to do whatever they can to help. Woman are ones who help.

God may have given my husband one "help meet" for him but He's given me a myriad of ones who help me.

Surprisingly when I looked up this term I found it in places other than its most famous appearance in Genesis.
This same term 'ezer appears in 19 other places than Genesis.
Let me share some of them: (in the same KJV in which we started)

Psa 20:1,2 In times of trouble, may the Lord answer thy cry and send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;

Psa 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he [is] our help and our shield.

Psa 70:5 But I [am] poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou [art] my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.
Psa 115:11 Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he [is] their help and their shield.

Psa 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help [cometh] from the LORD, which made heaven and earth

Psa 124:8 Our help [is] in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Psa 146:5 Happy [is he] that [hath] the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope [is] in the LORD his God.

I was really surprised as I had no idea that same (often frustrating to me!) word from Genesis 2 is the same word in all these verses that tell me that not only has God put other women in my life to help me but that He is my "one who helps" and "happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help!!!"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Is Spring coming?

It feels like Spring is coming.
The night’s stay above 0 and the day temps are regularly getting to 40 and beyond! (And yes, it's crazy how "warm" those first 40 degree days feel and how we run out with only long-sleeves on as opposed to those first 40 degree days in the Fall where we're swathed in hats, gloves and scarves!)

There are little green stalks emerging from the flower beds and squirrels trying to eat them...
But the biggest indication of Spring is the receding of the snow. In some places it's totally gone and yet other parts of the same lawn still sport a solid ice pack.

It's all about where the sun has been shining; even though some areas are now greening and growing there are still these stubborn areas of frozenness; hold-outs resistant to a new season of growth. They are bitter and cold and they're going to stay that way.

A lawn is one thing but a heart is completely another.
Let the Son shine today in all the corners of your heart.
And watch in wonder at the new growth that will begin to flourish when you let Him shine His love on all that is cold in your spirit.