Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Fatigue

Isn't Christmas wonderful?  I love Christmas!  It's cold and grey outside but everything feels so warm and cozy.  During the first two weekends of December our family is always deeply involved in our church's Christmas Dessert Theater productions.  It's a wild whirlwind of activity that results in some serious fatigue.  We are in the fatigue stage right now.  But this year it's different.  I feel more peace, more comfort and joy and goodwill toward men instead of the usual fatigue-induced grumpiness.  My body is weary but my soul feels alive.  I've actually appreciated the fatigue because it has made me more sensitive to the beauty around me. 

Last Friday our family was doing some shopping and as Mike was in the store, the rest of us waited in the car.  I just sat there with nothing to do so I watched the Salvation Army bell ringer and noticed all the people who stopped to give their money ... women, men, young, old ... so many people in just the 10 minutes I was watching.  I found myself crying because of the goodness I saw in these people.  I understand that we cannot be good or do good without Christ but look how the world around us is trying, especially at Christmas.  Without Jesus, they'll get it wrong every time, but what I see in people is hope and longing for goodness; goodness in themselves, goodness in others and goodness in the world. Isn't this also what God desires?  He sent Jesus to give us Himself so we could be good and have good. Wasn't this the message of the angel?  "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY which will be for ALL THE PEOPLE; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE AMONG MEN with whom He is WELL PLEASED". (Luke 2:10-11, 13-14)

Some of my theology bucks at what I read here, God says he is well pleased with man.  How does that reconcile with the fact that no one is good and that we are desperately wicked without Christ's atonement?  I don't know ... but here it is.  God is pleased with his creation and He longs to see all people at peace with Him.  He wants everyone, even before they are good.  So when I watch the world around me do good and desire good, I see that they are bearers of God's image and what they are truly hoping and waiting for is Jesus to be the good in them that they cannot be on their own.  They do good believing it's the right thing to do, and it is.  They just don't have all the information yet.  I guess what I'm realizing is that the people out there who are not yet adopted into God's family are not the enemy.  They may generouly give to the toy drive and then grumpily curse at me on the freeway, but that's the mess they're in: the sinfulness in the world.  But Jesus came down into Satan's muck that we're all trapped in to pull us out of it.  What people don't know in their souls is that there is an answer and all their attempts to be good are a search for that answer.  They are wicked because they don't know the answer yet.  

Compassion.  That's what I feel.  Peace and goodwill towards others.  Most people want to be good, they really do.  They just need to be invited to know how they can be.  Christ didn't come for the people who are already "in", he came for the "searchers," people who are trying to do good by putting their money in the Salvation Army pot.  He is all the good we will ever need and when we accept him, that's it ... we're good.  There's nothing else we need to do.  "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence assured of his GLAD WELCOME" (Eph. 3:12).  This is why I love Christmas.  Now I can fearlessly come into God's presence because Christ has brought me peace and I know that I am gladly welcomed.  He came to bring everyone peace.   I just wish I knew how to tell everyone, how to invite them to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  I am glad to know that Jesus is still coming into our muck to live among us and to save us.  I am grateful that he exchanged his life for mine and has covered me entirely with himself.  I am overwhelmed by the blessing of Christmas and what it means for all who are willing to believe ... peace, goodness, comfort, joy, eternal life, love, protection, and so much more.  And this year I find that I am grateful for the fatigue.  It's good to be more sensitive.  God's heart beats for all people, he loves them tremendously which is the whole reason for Christmas in the first place.  I often do not love people or appreciate them enough (people outside the church, that is). Usually I choose to categorize them as "saved" or "unsaved", I guess really that means I'm saying they're either "in" or "out".  How about just calling them people who were created to love God and to do good and have either found out how or are still seeking.  And when they are doing good, recognize that as them reaching for the truth.  I cried on Friday because I realized that I do love people and appreciate them if they are not "saved".  I don't have to wait for them to be in God's family before I love them, God doesn't.  If he did there would be no Christmas.  Thank you God for the gift of fatigue that has allowed my heart to beat a teensy bit more in sync with yours this Christmas. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Battlefield

The evil one has certainly been on the prowl today.  My mind has become the battlefield and he's strengthening his troops to sabotage me.  I'm exhausted and it's only 10:30 in the morning. What is my weakness?  Where is his foothold?  How does he get in?  Well, I'll be honest, it's in my self-condemning, perfectionistic pride and lack self-acceptance.  I am constantly berating myself for not "being better", whatever the heck that's supposed to mean.  How can I ever prove that I am "better?"  What defines "better?"  It is some poorly-conceived notion of perfection that I think will somehow make me exhilaratingly happy if I ever actually attain it, which of course I never can.  The crazy thing is, I find I'm under the worst assault when I've just spent time using my gifts and allowing the Spirit to really live through me.

For example, in the last 24 hours I've done laundry, baked muffins, made breakfast, lunch and dinner (all homemade from scratch), worked on three songs that I've just recently written, helped the kids with their homework, called and encouraged people, blessed my husband even though I was tired, painted an entire picture for the book I'm illustrating, emailed, vacuumed, done dishes, sweeped up junk off the kitchen floor, done some Christmas shopping, some chauffeuring,  read to the kids and kept my voice at a gentle tone (which if you have 4 children from ages 4-8 you'll understand how that takes about as much self-control as saying no to the dessert tray when it passes by you) ... you get the idea.  And today I feel like I'm useless, unvaluable, untalented, unproductive,  and just generally beaten up.  This is where I battle...this is where my depression seeps in.  I think that somehow I need to measure up to some standard.  I don't know exactly what that standard is but I do know it does not come from God, but from myself.  It is truly idolatrous when I stop and think about it.  I am worshippng a standard of my own creation and as I keep seeking fulfillment from it, I am left destitute and miserable.  God has none of these expectatins for me, he wants me to rest in his presence, be with him, worship him and trust him with my present, my future, my gifts and my talents and just let him live through me.  That's it, that's all he wants.  

And the lie of the accuser says, "no that's not all he wants and it's certainly not what other people want...they want pizazz and wonder, if you're not providing that then you are a nothing."  And now we're getting into my other greatest weakness ... fear of man.  I sometimes elevate the approval of man so far above the approval of God that I lose all perspective and joy.  Fear of man is a snare and a joy-stealer of the worst kind.  I'll be going along thinking I'm doing well; preferring others, being considerate and demonstrating the "one anothers" but in reality I'm just worshipping the approval and acceptance of other people.  God's approval and acceptance is left out of the equation.  Silly, really, especially since God is so much more gracious and accepting of me than any human can be.  As people, we put requirements on each other, but God never does.  He just wants me to release my whole self to him and then he'll do all the work of living his life through me ... I don't have to do anything, just surrender.  It sounds so easy.  It's not.  The will of self and the lie of the accuser are so persistent ... not strong, at least not stronger than the Spirit of God, but persistent like a nagging hang nail.  I can love my brothers and sisters, but I do not have to live for their approval, that is vanity.

So here I am, it's 11:15. What am I going to do with the barrage of negative garbage being thrown at me from every angle?  I think I'll go and sit in front of my fireplace and engage the enemy head on through prayer.  Satan has no power.  He likes to try to get me to think he does, but I know better.  I have God on my side.  And the best thing is, I already have God's approval, acceptance and joy-filled love for me.  I don't have to do anything to gain it, I am a child of the king today and every day whether I feel like it or not.  In exchange for my cruddy old life, God gave me his shining, glorious life.  It's mine now and nothing and no one can take it away from me.  

I think my enemy is in for a surprise attack...God's on my side and that no-good liar doesn't stand a chance!  I can never lose!!

"'My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.'  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite contnet with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (Christ) is a mighty power among you.  Although he died on the cross in weakness, he now lives by the mighty power of God.  We, too, are weak, but we live in him and have God's power."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 3:3b-4

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Brotherhood of Motorcyclists

My husband just bought a motorcycle.  I wasn't too excited about it at first but I do have to admit he looks pretty hot when he rides it, so I think I'm good with it now.  Our children all think he's the coolest dad in the world and they look at him on his motorcycle with such childlike's very cute.  He didn't buy it to be cool though, he bought it to save us some money.  I think it will accomplish that goal eventually, after we get him all outfitted with the proper motorcycle attire (to further enhance his coolness of course).

So, now that we have a motorcycle in the family, I'm noticing other motorcyclists.  I've never paid any attention to them before.  It's like there's been this whole secret world out there under my nose and I never saw it until I joined it (via my husband...I'm not going to ride the thing). And I've discovered something interesting about this world...there is an unstated brotherhood of motorcyclists.  If you are on a motorcycle and another motorcycle passes you, you get a wave of acknowledgement.  It's amazing to me, this person doesn't even know you and yet you get a gesture of acceptance.  And he could be across the freeway divide, six lanes away from you and you will still get his respect (unless he's a Harley snob and you're on a Honda...I guess there is some discrimination).  I've asked Mike if he's been invited into this club and he says yeah, he gets waved at all the time and he's only been riding for 2 weeks now.

Well, as I think of this I can't help but think, "wouldn't it be nice if we all did this with one another?"  When I'm in my green Toyota sienna, I do not get any special treatment from other van drivers.  People in cars don't like each other, people on motorcycles do.  People in cars will find any reason to grump and complain about those other "stupid" drivers,  people on motorcycles give each other grace and respect.  What is this?  It makes me have to stop and think.  Philippians 4:5  says I should let my gentle spirit be evident to all because I know the Lord is near and he is watching over not only all of the good but the evil too (Prov. 15:3), they participate in his notice and care.   I may be tucked safely inside my car, but God sees my scowl and he hears my complaining and very UN-gentle spirit.  

What about outside the car and just in the arena of life?  Do I automatically give people acceptance and respect like a motorcyclist does to his fellow?  Do I make it my ambition to never repay evil for evil or insult for insult?  Is my goal to bless others, to seek their good and not my own?  How about being patient with them or always looking for ways to speak with grace as if seasoning the hard blandness of life with salt, with acceptable and enjoyable flavor so that all who eat of it are filled with good things.  Do I want to be known as one who is harmonious, sympathetic, friendly, kindhearted and humble with all people?  This is who I want to be.  This is who I hope we all want to be.  This is who Jesus is.

What about the recent election?  If we were like the brotherhood of motorcyclists we would look at our fellow American and although he's riding a different set of wheels and his gear is red while mine is blue, we would still wave at each other with respect and admiration because we are both Americans.  I didn't see a lot of that kind of attitude from the camp I usually side with unfortunately.  I saw people in their cars, behind their tinted windows cursing at the other drivers because they weren't exactly like them.  So out of the same mouths I would hear praises for our Lord and then curses against those made in his likeness.  Some may not like the man God chose to be our president (and if you think God didn't choose him, look up Romans chapter 13 and Daniel 2:21) but he has been made in the image of God and for that reason alone he deserves our respect.  Yet that's not all, he's been chosen to lead this country (a job I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy) and that deserves our honor and obedience on top of our respect.  

Our duty is to love others and stand on God's truth, always rejoicing and overflowing with gratitude.  It's God's business to execute judgment and determine people's motivations.  For now, I choose to believe the best about people as much as I can, even those I disagree with.   I want to give a gentle answer and send any kind of wrath or anger packing.  I want to use sweet words that heal those who listen.  I want to cover people around me with love and grace, not hatred and judgement.  Have you ever realized that God passionately hates complaining? He put a whole mess of his own people to death because of it (Numbers 16).  If you ever just read through the Bible and look for all the times he commands us to rejoice and be thankful, you'll be astounded.  Complaining poisons the soul and cannot be called anything else but sin.  Man, when I'm hidden "inside my car" it's so easy to complain.  I think it doesn't effect anyone else, but it does.  It effects all of my "driving".  It steals the joy from my face, it spoils my sweetness and it robs others of seeing the Spirit's beautiful basically I'm stealing from God.

I'm not sure how all of this comes from observing motorcyclists.  I think their brotherhood just sparked some things in me to consider.  Maybe they are one of those little pictures in life that God gives us to open our eyes, to give us tangible reminders of how we should treat one another. So now whenever I'm out driving around town and I see the motorcyclists waving at each other: acknowledging, accepting and respecting perfect strangers, it reminds me to show that same courtesy to all people no matter what or who they are.  We are fellow human beings, created in God's image and our job is to love everyone and let God take care of the judging.  We are in a brotherhood of humankind, a club where all the members are image bearers of the one true God. We live here together and God reigns over the just and the unjust alike and I am going to honor the people he has made...well, at least I'm going to try to by the Spirit's grace.  But don't judge me too harshly if you see me tailing the slowpoke (my worst habit).  Sometimes I forget what club I belong to.  Just wave to me from across the freeway and jog my memory.

Scriptures to ponder:
I Pet. 3:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; I Thess. 5:14-15; Eph. 4:2; Gal. 5:26; Phil. 4:5; I Cor. 10:10 & 24; 
Col. 4:6; Prov. 10:12; Prov. 12:14; Prov. 15:1; Prov. 16:7 & 24; James 3

Thursday, November 6, 2008


It’s fall.  For me fall always signifies change more than any other season.  I love fall, it is definitely my favorite season.  Yet I struggle with fall.  When the time “falls back” and the days get darker earlier, I often feel the darkness settle into my soul.  How do I find places of joy and peace inside this darkness?  That is the question I seek to answer this year in order to prepare me for the long grey days of winter.  

One thing I love about fall is the feeling of something new being just around the corner.  The old things are dying off and making a way for new beginnings.  There is beauty in the death around me.  The leaves have displayed their Creator’s glory and now they have one last burst of magnificence before they move aside and make way for new life.  The colors everywhere just astound me and leave me full to overflowing.  I say over and over again to my children, “wow, do you see all these fabulous colors, isn’t God’s beauty amazing?!”

Another thing I love about fall is the new school year.  I’m not in school anymore but I have three boys who are.  And the feeling that anything is possible is not just theirs, it’s mine too.  New teachers, new schedules, new friends and the past is over.  The future is unwritten and waiting for me trembling with excitement.  It seems strange that things are dying all around me and yet it feels like everything is just beginning.  I love this circle.  It is such a confirmation of God’s continual faithfulness to me.

I also love the brisk air outside and the cozy air inside.  Such a contrast to each other and both are needed.  I like being cold (for a short amount of time) especially when I know a warm house or bed or chair by the fireplace is waiting for me.  Oh and all the smells of fall; those comforting, nostalgic smells of cookies, soups, breads, leaves, rain and the autumn sunshine nestled in the skin of my loved ones…is there anything more lovely?

But then the darkness comes and my soul droops.

I have a history of depression, it’s one of the down sides of my tender, emotional and artistic nature.  So when the days get grey and dark, the demons of despair threaten to ruin all of my joy and mess with my perspective on life.  But thankfully I’m 32 and I’ve been through this cycle enough times now that I finally recognize the signs and I feel more prepared for the battle this year. 

One thing I do during my dark hours is journal.  And the great thing is that while I thoroughly enjoy journaling, it is also the best way I learn.  I have stacks and stacks of journals all over my house and when I look over the pages of past entries I see tangible evidence of change and growth.  I seem to learn best when I interact with something by writing about it.  If it doesn’t get written down it tends to get lost.  But God is patient with me and brings it back to my attention again if it’s something I need to work over.  For as long as I can remember I have loved writing and I’ve learned that truths get solidified in me when I physically write them down on paper with a pen in my hand (the pilot precise V7 pen to be exact).  My journals do not record what I did that day, they record my spiritual journey, my thoughts, my downs and sometimes my ups (it seems easier to write when I’m down than when I’m up, I don’t know why that is), insights given to me by the Spirit either through His Word or through quiet times of meditation, prayer or just quiet listening, poems, prayers, songs and pictures that I draw when I can’t think of anything to write.  So much of who I am is inside those journals and very few people ever see the me that is in there.  I am venturing out this fall to share some of this me with you.  

As the fall approached and I asked God what new thing He wanted me to try this year, He specifically asked me to open up the pages of my journal so more people could see and be encouraged by another laborer in the Lord.  I warn you, I am nobody special.  I am no more unique than anyone else.  I don’t know what all this blog will be about, who or what it will be for exactly.  I only want to share whatever God lays on my heart to share.  I want to be vulnerable and real and hopefully encourage you in your own journey.  And maybe, as you look into the pages of my life you will see some of yourself and hear God’s still small voice whispering his love for you. 

Dark days are a part of everyone’s experience and sometimes the dark days come right in the middle of those brilliant autumn colors.  But God is in the dark days just as much as He is in the sunshine.  This fall is going to be different for me I think.  Maybe this time, when all the leaves give their last sigh and the trees lay naked and bare I will not feel my own heart go naked and bare, but I will feel the new life of spring waiting in me underneath the cold, grey limbs.  I invite you to walk with me and see what happens.  Death has to come in order for new life, I want to welcome each season anticipating the hand of God moving in power and in gentleness.  He is good all the time.

“The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.  The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”      Psalm 145:13b-14 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Welcome to Heidi's Blog!

For much longer than I've known her, Heidi has journaled.  She writes to process her thinking in much the same way that I talk to process.  We have boxes of her journals in the garage.   She lets me read them sometimes and her writing is always thought-provoking, edifying and a pleasure to read.  I've been encouraging Heidi to share her writing.  I think many people would be blessed by her writing like I am.  So here she is.  Enjoy!