Where do I start?

I have been watching the news with increasing concern…

No. Wait, that’s not right, let me try again.

I have been watching the news with increasing alarm over the past few months.

And that’s not right either.

I have been watching the news with increasing certainty that we are truly in the last days.

Maybe it’s because the past 20 years have seen the internet become part and parcel of our lives and the news, wherever it is, or wherever it’s from, or wherever it’s going is instant. No lag time. No news that reads… “three days ago this happened in…” Now it’s instantaneous. We see the news as it’s happening.

All the time.

There are earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, tsunamis, drought, floods, landslides, mudslides, hailstorms with hail the size of grapefruit, tornadoes where we’ve never seen tornadoes, killer diseases whose names we’ve never heard before today and general mayhem in the form of little wars that turn into big wars that seem to be more like bulldozers running flat out over the land, people, creatures, nature without regard for any life at all.

Do these things touch you? They touch me to my core and my heart hurts. I shake my head, look up to the heavens and say “Lord, what do I pray for? It’s all beyond me. There’s so much happening, where do I start?”

And you know what? Those things I mentioned, He knows. He knew about them when the words were written in Scripture long, long ago. Before whole countries were devastated by earthquakes, before volcanoes erupting changed the ecosystem in a flash, before disease and death wiped out major portions of some countries’ populations. Before ISIS began showing just how little they value life in the name of their prophet, before Boko Haran decimated the structure of the land where they live and broke the lives of so many in the name of their god because they could. Before Hitler set his holocaust in motion. Before even the Knights Templar and those who followed them to the Holy Land wreaked havoc in the name of the god they served.

My soul is tired. My body is tired. My heart is weary beyond description.

All these things. So many things.

Lord, Look down upon our poverty.

Lord, reach down and help us in our misery.

We are poor and miserable. We have always been poor and miserable. But there wasn’t always a mirror around to reflect it back to us so instantly. There is now.

There are so many Things happening.

We pray, we send money, clothes, food, water. Some of us even wade into those ravaged areas and do our best to help with the gifts He’s given us to use. But it’s not enough.

It is never enough. It will never be enough.

We are woefully unprepared. Just as we were woefully unprepared for the Holocaust. There were a few, who saw the writing on the wall as it happened.

But not enough.

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment. Wanting no security, but in faith and obedience, laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of almighty God. Not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This world is broken.

When you hear of war and rumors of ward, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Mark 13:7

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:10-11

There is still hope.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we mingle have hope. Romans 15:4

There is still time to tell the world about the Blood of Christ that has provided the way for us to have peace. The end is near, but because these are the early skirmishes in this war against evil there is still time to show them Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

In a place where all seems lost, where do you look?

Psalm121

We sometimes find ourselves in a place where all seems lost. Where, when we look around we find nothing on which we can grasp to lift our spirits or on which to place our hopes. We live in a world constantly changing, growing, living, dying; rejoicing while singing “Happy” or doubled over in sorrow over violence, accidents, disease and death. 

It’s hard to make sense of it all when it’s happening at the speed of light. I offer the one thing that to me makes all the difference; when all hope is gone down the drain and we find ourselves staring vacantly out at nothing. I heard it put this way, just today: ” We need His presence more than His provision.

The link I attached here is to a song. The words are so poignant. Perhaps you may recognize yourself in them as I did.  

Faith

 

In the spring and early summer the night birds start up early, before morning. Tuning up to greet the day as it approaches. Now they are silent. The reason for their silence is a cat.

I hear that cat, caterwauling, letting the world know it is not happy for one reason or other that usually involves another cat or a dog. It tunes up and disturbs the night with its snarly tone. No soft meow for this cat.

I like cats. I understand them. But the caterwaul in the night sets my teeth on edge. It is menacing; full of aggression and gives notice to all that the cat is on the prowl. It makes me think of the bully in the schoolyard, strutting his stuff while everyone draws back and pulls away from him.

I sometimes wonder if the behavior of animals is immediately identifiable to us because we see ourselves in them.  Played out before us in the world of nature, they are tender, identifiable, and sometimes shocking. The tolerance of a mother dog with her pups as they play around and on her. The encouragement of the mother bird as she pushes those chicks out of the nest for the first time, knowing they have to go to live. The grooming many mother animals do for their young. The way a mother lion puts herself in danger to protect those cubs and ensure the continuation of their species.  The methods the mother eagle and hawk use to find, dispatch and bring food back to nurture the young to adulthood. The protection and care the bees give to all the eggs in the hive to ensure just the right environment for hatching. It all boils down to propagation and preservation of their species.

And then, I watch the nightly news. And it seems that we humans use the lesson of the “survival of the fittest” to be the one thing we deem important to do that reflects the behavior of animal world. We are so quick to make an effort to propagate and preserve “our” species just as long as that species speaks the same language, worships the same way, wears the same clothes, has the same color skin, and whose culture mirrors our own.

But, all of us humans, ARE the same species. 

And those basic human rights we banter about; promote and vow to protect- it seems to me that not all of us got that memo. 

I ask the questions here that most disturb me-

Why is it that we either justify or condemn the behavior of another culture from our soapboxes, and pick and choose which side to be on; like we were back in the schoolyard?  Didn’t the confrontation with the bully teach us anything? If we all turn away, united in our going, the bully won’t have anyone to bully. Simple as that, yes?

Ah, but no. Just no.

There’s another dynamic in play here. Early on in our childhood we learn to pick “sides” according to our likes and dislikes. We play war, we strategize, we call it baseball, dodge ball, red rover, soccer, football, basketball. It doesn’t matter what we play; we imitate the grownups.  We learn to act and think as one entity in the team we are on. The ultimate goal is winning. That we all understand. Winning is the most important thing after all. It ensures we live to play another day. It does matter how we play the game because that determines whether we win or lose. Someone has to be better than someone else. Survival of the fittest plays out. Every time.

The thing is though, that it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were supposed to grow up in a beautiful garden, surrounded by animals living together in harmony, eating off the land and generally having a good time with all of our needs met by a God who created us and loves us and Who walked and talked with us there.

And that’s where I trip up. I start wondering why, if God designed all this, why did He let sin in the front door? Why didn’t he just do away with satan at once? Why even allow the snake in the garden? Why create a snake in the first place? Why didn’t he build in resistance in Adam and Eve? Why couldn’t he put in a failsafe? Why put that tree there? What was that fruit; that it was so powerful that it could show us what we are not? It was His garden after all. The questioner in me revs up and gets going. I start asking so many things that my mind, like Job’s begins to boil with questions.

And then I stop.

Short.

Because they lead to more questions that I can’t answer.  

The teacher in Ecclesiastes said it was “chasing after the wind” trying to understand it all.

Because I’m not God. I believe in order, not chaos and things happen for a reason.

Because I believe there is more than I can see or reason away in logic and that there is more than survival of the fittest going on in this world.

Because, some things demand faith.  

Faith that there is more than what I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch or feel with my emotions.

Faith that the other side of this fabric of life is not all knots and threads in disarray, but a beautiful picture that makes total sense once I lay my eyes on it.

Faith that God is God.

Why the wind blows where it does, how it blows, the direction, the strength, the ebb and flow- some of this can be explained but only to a certain degree. After that….

It’s either a good day to fly a kite or it isn’t.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible. Hebrews 11:1-3

 

Life Lessons

 

Through an event this past weekend I learned that I still have a lot to learn- about me. About people. And most importantly, about God.

I’ve spent most of my life learning. Drinking in knowledge. About life, the universe, everything. About God, about what a Godly woman/wife looks like, about Godly mothers, daughters, friends.

Yet, a painful discovery of how I can {still} make life miserable for everyone around me has hit me in the face.

I won’t expose the details here. It was not pretty, just downright ugly.  Most others would just shake it off and move on. Not me. If life doesn’t go as I expect, if others don’t do exactly as they said, my applecart is upset. And MY apples are ruined-at least for that moment in time.

This is not just due to my elevated expectations, but a lack of trust.

My entire life up through 2008 was spent dealing with an untrustworthy parent.  I can hear you saying: “surely not.” Maybe it is an exaggeration. 

Let me rephrase that: In a world where, if we truly trust God to be Who He is and that, like Joseph, things meant to harm me, God intended for good, then we can bear up under most anything thrown our way. 

For most of my adult life, someone managed to throw harmful things my way. Whether intentional or unintentional-that’s what my parent represented in my life. Lies, accusations, victimization, manipulation of circumstances, all were a daily part of the interchange with my parent.  It was standard operating procedure to try to control through deceit.

Expectations by me that said parent would change, maybe this time it will be different…. Went unmet… There were the occasional times when a surprise glimmer of the person I wished for would show, but those fast faded in the next sentence spoken or question asked. I kept believing that eventually there would be a place where everything would fall into place, but that was not to be.

I had a functionally insane parent who re-wrote the rules of behavior every morning.

The erosion of trust in my heart began long ago and continued until death us did part.

Fast-forward. I find myself still operating on those same expectations. I just want people to do what they say they will do, exactly when they say they will do it. When they don’t there’s another erosion in my trust bank.  How sad is that?

All that time God intended for good, was to mature me, to teach me to trust Him for everything and depend on Him only. Yet, I find I still haven’t quite learned the lesson well enough that it has stuck. 

I still try to trust that my expectations will be met. My skepticism and cynical nature have not served me well in that department. I still want to believe that, someday, everyone will do what they say they will do and when they will do it.

So, this lesson is being re-taught. Again.

From my earliest recollection in nursery school{preschool to the younger generation}, the first two Bible verses I memorized were:

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3

 And

 Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Trust. In. Him.   

Know. Him.

The preschool lesson I am still learning.

 Is He still teaching you a lesson you haven’t learned yet?

 

 

Dear Little Man

 

littlemanweb

Dear Little Man:

Little Man. 

That is how I see you, not as the sweet babe in this picture.  I see in my mind a young man, grown, tall, lean, with a sparkle in your eye. The baby of the family; at least for now. That position will cease to be yours with the next generation.

You have been born into a privileged estate. You may never know anything different.

What makes me say you are privileged?

You were born into a family- whole and intact. A mom, a dad, and siblings who love each other and that love will surround you daily. And that family will teach you and care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They will introduce you to the Author and Creator of the Universe, the High King of Heaven and His Son who gave up all He had for us.

Your grandparents (all of us) are praying people. That means we rely solely on the Lord God Almighty for our strength. We will pray for you. That is certain. We don’t know whether we will see you as a grown man with our earthly eyes- you are the youngest and only the Father knows the number of our days. But, we will pray while we have breath.

You have a Godly heritage. He is the center of our existence and we will all strive to show you Him every day in every encounter and when we fail utterly we will ask your forgiveness and point you to the One who never disappoints.

You have been born into what some say is the most affluent culture on earth. By accident of birth you have been born in America. Where you can practice your faith freely. Where you can state your opinion whenever and wherever you want.  Where you have the right to defend yourself. Where, if you are charged with breaking the law, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Where you can choose what you want to do with your life when you grow up. Where being a citizen is a right by birth and also a privilege and a responsibility. You can vote your choice here with impunity. No one will haul you off to jail if you support the losing party or make you a non-person because of your choice.         Yet.

There is history in your family, too. Of love and loss; of brokenness and healing; of orphans and veterans of wars; of country hicks and big city folk; of children who barely learned to tie their shoes as an adult and those who could solve a high algebraic equation in their heads; of dreamers and realists; of writers and doers; of educators and medical professionals;  of travelers and homebodies; of those who hold a college education and those who never got past the third grade; of step and half siblings; of marriages for life and multiple marriages in one life; of pious little old ladies and swearing sailors; of great cooks and let’s go out to eat grandmas; of Mr. fix-its and Mr. financial-whizzes; of crazy people and those who loved them; of patriots and protesters; of Tennesseans and Texans and Mississippians and Scottish and Irish and German and Scandinavian, too. So you see, what you will be is made up of all of this. I just don’t know how that will look in the little man I now see.

I was asked today how it felt to be a grandma again. I really couldn’t answer in a small sentence. That’s how this post came about.

I think it feels like this: I have been given the greatest opportunity that one can be given.

There are eight little souls who will be impacted by my presence in their lives.

I can be a positive influence or a negative one. I can be a Godly or a worldly representative. The choice is mine to make and this is the most important choice a grandparent could ever make. I choose to handle each soul with care and careful discipline.

I am a boundary maker and one who builds esteem. When you are small I will correct you when you are being willfully disobedient in my house. When you are older I will give you my opinion-it will not be my place to discipline you; and you may take or leave my words with a grain of salt but I will hope that you will value my words. I will see your strengths and weaknesses for what they are and I will encourage you to always do your best, to be honest and live with integrity. I want you respect others regardless of their sex or their standing in life. I will love you to my last breath and beyond regardless of your situation in life. We all make mistakes; no one is perfect. Life is meant to be lived – so live with joy even in the pain; live with hope even when there’s only darkness around you. And finally, in the words I live by:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault though you live in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in for nothing. Philippians 2:14-16

And finally:

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20

Always remember I love you,

Your Nana

A Mother’s Day Gift

As this Mother’s Day draws to a close I’m reminded of a gift I was given several years ago when my kids were young. It was a list.

Strange gift?

Yes and No.

It was a list of things to pray for your children. I was given this list in my Bible Study group as we looked forward to Mother’s Day that weekend. The list contained some deep character building, responsible adult producing and God-sensitive traits that I saw at once were what I needed to pray for my children. I was already praying for their salvation; but I must admit my prayers were simplistic and global in the way I prayed. True Confessions time: I was unorganized and to tell the truth a bit in ADHD mode in my prayers. I was easily distracted and other thoughts flitted around my head like starving butterflies.

We were asked to pray for each item on the list for a solid month. And then, we were asked to pray these, once a month, every year! What a challenge! 

To pray over one aspect of your child’s life for an extended period of time takes time. 

What mom wouldn’t wonder where that time could be had? Ahh, but what better investment?

Instead of praying all over the place, here were specific, God defining things that I should have thought of myself.  {It takes some of us longer to mature in Christ than others- no matter how long we’ve been believers!}

These twelve areas made an eternal difference in my children’s lives. My adult daughter still talks about one of the things on the list. I’ll let you in on it later!

Here is the list:

  1. Pray that your child would know Christ as savior early in life. 
  2. Pray that your child would have a hatred for sin.
  3. Pray that your child would be caught when guilty.
  4. Pray for your child’s protection from the evil one.
  5. Pray that your child would have a responsible attitude in their relationships.
  6. Pray that your child would respect those in authority over them.
  7. Pray that your child would desire the right kind of friends and for God’s protection from the wrong kind of friends. 
  8. Pray that your child would be kept from the wrong mate and be kept for the right mate. 
  9. Pray that your child, as well as the one he/she is to marry, will be kept pure.
  10. Pray that your child would totally submit to God and resist satan in ALL circumstances.
  11. Pray that your child would be single-hearted and sold out to Jesus.
  12. Pray that there would be a hedge about your child so he/she would not find wrong people or places and they will not find your child.

 

Although this is obviously not an all-inclusive list, the issues in this list are issues of the heart and mind. And eternity is at stake. In a world where it seems that everyone and everything is competing for our children’s attentions and affections we must see this is a battle for our children’s eternity. Not only for their present condition.

I also discovered that God brought so many other specific things to my heart to pray for them every day. Over the years I have seen God accomplish the shaping of their lives and He continues to shape their lives as they pray for their own children. I also discovered that I was a beneficiary of this time spent in specific prayer.

There are no magic potions, no magic cures; no quick and easy have perfect children solutions. Even the most obedient child has a misstep {or two} along the way. Whether that event is small in the bigger scheme of things or it’s a game changer and causes deep pain, praying for our children is the most important thing we can do for them.  

Ok, drum roll please –

The one she still talks about is #3. And, the truth of it, she and her brothers were each caught at one time or other. Not every time, but they did learn that very real, sometimes serious, consequences were the result and they understood how the poorly thought out and even flat wrong choices and acts were harmful to them and harmful to others around them as they matured.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 2 Timothy 1:3

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15