For the unsung heroes with their warrior hearts…

We’ve made it to that time of year again. A time of celebration and reflection. We gather to honor achievements and to look forward in hope; all good things, but yet…

I sat and listened to another award’s day message. I applauded with sincere joy for those receiving recognition for hard work and achievement. I looked around the gymnasium and saw many proud families; parents, grandparents, extended family, etc. I also saw the empty spaces, and I heard the hollow echo of the unsung heroes. I saw many of them sitting among friends and fellow classmates with kind smiles offering their applause and congratulations. Dignity, I thought of them, such beautiful and amazing dignity…

I haven’t quite been able to free my mind of those images as I’ve carried a bit of sorrow for the missing words and acknowledgment of their meaningful and rich contributions to this place. How many achieve the highest awards? How many have all that is required for those achievements to be won? Isn’t there more to it than simply who worked the hardest or has the greatest potential, work ethic, intellect? Oh yes…So. Much. More.

Remember those empty seats I mentioned? Maybe the emptiness gives a hint to what is missing from some of these precious young lives. All do not have the same family support, strength, and commitment. Some families offer wings to their young. Some, for various reasons, weigh heavily instead.

I listen and I watch even as I teach. Some, it is necessary to mention, are distracted by frivolous or selfish things, and this stunts their academic progress. Others, however, are distracted by very real problems that require incredible emotional strength and mental discipline to bear. These are the ones for whom my heart pains…

Still pondering all of this on the drive in to work this morning, I recalled learning of how different names used for God in scripture reveal different aspects of His character. One of those names, El Roi, means “The God Who Sees Me.” Tenderly, I gave thanks for this truth: The God Who Sees both knows and cares for ALL. He sees the struggles and efforts not rewarded by human hands or by voiced accolades. I’ve often heard that God’s economy is very different from ours. He doesn’t measure anything superficially. He doesn’t have to. He sees all…

We can’t measure effort, but God can. We look at outcomes; test scores and grades. He looks at motives, obstacles, and the process. He knows who worked the hardest. He knows who overcame the most. He knows who made the most diligent efforts and the cost of everything earned. He knows our deepest needs, and He meets them. He sees, and He gives eyes to see to those who seek Him. In the grand scheme of worldly knowledge, I know little. But I give the deepest thanks for this seeing ability that brought me to these words this morning. The God who sees also remembers, and with the gentlest of Hands He heals the heart, renews the mind, and strengthens us for lives of worthy work. These are the greatest rewards of all.

Tender our hearts, Lord, that we may truly honor You in all we do.

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Weary Ramblings…

Things I think about when too tired to push it away:

It is often said that good health is the goal, yet most neglect the essentials for physical and mental well-being.

We know that oxygen-rich blood supplying the brain and body is necessary, yet how many days pass without exercise? Without exercise, we deprive the body of oxygen-rich blood.

Nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats are essential for proper body functioning, but it is easier in hurried moments to gulp down processed food that has been sitting on a shelf somewhere, dead, for months, and expect it to nourish life. It won’t. It can’t.

We value slender, lovely bodies, but to have them we have to forego the sugary sodas and sweet teas and supersized meals that lull us with their fizz or flavor.

We want stable moods but instead rise and fall like a see saw from the sugar rush and following crash that comes from eating for taste rather than health.

The same is true for the mind and soul. We say we want wisdom and sound minds, but what do we feed them, literally and figuratively? Do we consume a steady diet rich in goodness, truth, light, grace and love? Or do we spend most of our time consuming messages that rot rather than replenish the soul? Music lyrics, tv and movies, even books and magazines; what are they selling us, and what are we buying for ourselves by consuming them? How are they persuading us? Are they making us better human beings or corrupting us from the inside out?

We say as a culture that we want respect to be the rule, yet what do we peddle? Who do we promote? What motivates and drives what we do?
Is it fame and money and self? Or is it serving one another, honor, and the good for many over the good for self? Do we promote fidelity, lasting families, sacred unions, and mutuality? Or is it more about fulfilling the flesh for a moment despite the cost to others and the long-term cost to self? Which is it?

Are we getting better or are we getting worse?

The answer is obvious and heart-breaking. Only a change of heart will change a mind and better a soul.

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Can you see it?

Can you see a life of mending and tending?
Can you see mothers and fathers loving one another, building lives together?
Can you see hope lighting children’s eyes as they play unhindered in safety?
Can you see joy shared among neighbors who come alongside one another to offer helping hands with no expectation of anything in return? The reward is that you had the means by which to help, the gifts, the talents, the time and the treasure.
Can you imagine genuine goodness warming hearts and homes making havens of peace for all?
Can you imagine authentic concern for the entire human family where no one considers self above another?
Can you imagine exploring nature’s bounty as a daily practice and giving thanks for the wonder of it all?

I like to imagine the immense freedom in a life without strife and attempt to live it out and offer it to others from day to day.

Without a clear goal, a life is aimless. May our goal be peace and our steps ordered toward that end. How deeply and eternally it matters…

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On my mind…

I really cant recall a time in my 47 years where criticism was so prevalent. It’s everywhere. It’s in our hearts and coming out our mouths and dividing those who should never be divided, and I hate it.

I kept remembering what is recorded in Matthew chapter 16. In that chapter Jesus asks “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Then He asked His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus called Peter, “blessed” and said back to him, “…thou art Peter, and upon this rock I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” A beautiful picture of Jesus and Peter is found here, but just a few verses later in the same chapter Peter is said to have rebuked Jesus and Jesus turned and said back to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” What are we to learn from this???

Maybe we should be so very careful to consider our own steps and how from moment to moment we are susceptible to persuasion that leads us away from truth and goodness, from fellowship and honor. Even when we know, as Peter did, Who The Lord is and have moments of communion and ascent to Him as Lord, because of our sin nature riddled with pride we often fail. Every one of us fails.

How might this world be different if followers of Jesus examined self instead of other, walked humbly and at peace knowing our own need was and is great enough for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to be necessary for our redemption. Staggering, truly, when we look honestly at ourselves and is the only way to be right with The Lord and gracious toward others.

When Noah (so much like me when I was younger) comes criticizing others, I say, “be sure it isn’t you, son. Be sure you’re not the instigator.” I don’t do this because I think he is bad. I do it because I know he is human. We are SO inclined to cast stones forgetting we live in glass houses. Lord help us to live the humility seeing self rightly demands. One righteous. The rest sinners. That settles a whole lot when we are still and know…

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I don’t have these answers for Christian Churches and Christian Schools, but I know they are worth finding.

Because I’ve been in church my whole life save for a few years of trying to determine whether or not there was still a place for me there, and because I believe spiritual matters are the deepest most significant of all, I can’t just let disturbing things that come to bear on the soul go.

Sunday was communion at my church. I sat waiting to take part reflecting on the reality that the church where I was saved years ago wouldn’t offer me a place at the table. I remembered the scripture that said for everyone to examine himself (herself) before participating in The Lord’s supper. With deep, abiding peace and thanksgiving that transcends words, I took of His body in humility. I gave thanks in reverent obedience by remembering His sacrifice that pardoned all my offense. May I live this out daily in my walk with Him. Is this not what being His follower requires?

I now teach in a Christian University, my son did attend and my grandson still attends a Christian school, so I’ve had to consider the ramifications of tacking the term “Christian” on to school as well.

We opted after having Noah in school outside of home for 7 years, to bring him home to homeschool for many reasons. I’m so thankful we did.

I was with a child recently who was expelled from a Christian school. I’ve known this child for many years and he had a contagious joy about him for all that time, but not anymore. There is now a deep sadness; maybe some regret, maybe some shame, but most certainly some confusion about what this all means about him as a person. I get it. I remember when I was an unusual kid, a difficult kid who caused adults trouble they didn’t have time for. I was too much trouble and I knew it, but I could not help it. Lord knows I tried. So I have a tender spot for these struggling kids, and I have intense anger over what they are coming to believe about themselves as a result of how they are viewed and treated. It matters. It matter so very much.

Kids are incredibly perceptive and sensitive to hypocrisy. They know when others are given a pass for bad behavior while they are held to account. The question is why? Do they simply not matter as much? Are they expendable somehow in ways that another child isn’t? What about grace? Where’s the line? How do we know? How much is a church to put up with, or a school? Those are the questions I’ve not been able to answer. But when I turn to scripture, to Jesus, I realize I better consider it carefully, and I best not show partiality, not if I’m claiming to be a follower. Herein lies the crux of the matter. We are held to a higher standard because of Who we say we represent. And we are dealing with tender young lives, embattled souls. Oh. How. It. Matters.

The stone throwing is an offense of man, not God. Jesus didn’t accuse. He pardoned. Had I not found this truth for myself in His Holy Word, I still wouldn’t be in church and I wouldn’t be teaching in a Christian school because what I learned from other “Christians” is that I am not fit. That’s truth. And that’s sad.

I’m still looking for answers to the questions that haunt. I ask you all to do the same.

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This Deep Valley (tired ramblings at year’s end)

We get to revisit our past when we journey through childhood with our young ones. I wonder how different I would be had I not been partner to these who have come behind me and had not made these backward journeys with older, wiser eyes. I would no doubt see differently; with less compassion, less understanding.

Noah was sensitive to spiritual things from very early. He was inquisitive and serious to be so young, and he brought not only curiosity but feelings to the subject as well. This was a clear reminder to me of what I had been like and so I knew how important it was to shepherd him well. Confusion concerning spiritual matters makes for some miserable times and I didn’t want that for him. I got it nevertheless…

I’ve done a great deal of listening to Noah over the past year. Having him home was not just a good decision. It was a necessity. He had so much to work out and we are still wading through. It’s hard.

I know enough about human nature and life on planet earth to realize no life is perfect and all suffer. Yet I also know some of us are made with a bent toward the serious side of things and experience valley wanderings to a far deeper degree than others. Being this way does not hinder us from wanting to have fun. To the contrary, it makes us crave it even more. The greater jubilation we can get caught up in the farther away from the heaviness that’s always lurking we hope to get. So we try, maybe a little too hard, and some folks just don’t understand.

I feel as though the year has been a time of pause, a time to step back and see where we are and how we got here. Understanding is crucial. Noah made a comment this week that was clarifying. He explained how he once knew right from wrong from being told as opposed to knowing it now “from on the inside.” I smile knowing…a little discernment is developing. That’s good.

We’ve spent so much time on honesty, sin-what it is-that it’s common to all. I’ve also said to Noah more than once, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) This is true. Though we can discuss, and rightly so, the state of moral decay and depravity in our culture and the world, it’s always been. Let me state that again for emphasis: it has always been. Another thing I’ve said to myself as an encouragement in this difficult age is this: “no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

I wonder sometimes if we give kids the impression that things are harder for them than has ever been on other generations. Though it is true that technology makes access to impure things quite easy, 40 years ago there was plenty of impurity being found and shared. It’s what we choose to do with our time and our opportunity that must be stressed. Young people CAN make wise choices. Expect them to.

Many complex questions have been raised. We’ve talked about sin nature vs. premeditated, habitual sin. We’ve grappled with whether or not some sins are “bigger” than others and how and when to confess sin; how to know when sin is forgiven; how to even know when it’s sin nature vs. chosen sin. Man…deep, tiring stuff! But I’m thankful he asks. I’m thankful he cares enough to ask. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to understand “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” in a way I never have before; how I’ve come to see sin breaking Christ’s heart out of deep, abiding love for us rather than just from the standpoint of us transgressing against His holiness. His love is tender and ever so perceptive. He understands our temptations because He, too, was tempted. I’m not sure I realized this so well until I looked at my own son through understanding eyes; understanding from having been there as a young girl myself, hurting under the weight of my own conviction.

In the past year, we’ve left a church home of 10 years and a Christian school where we had been involved for 7. It’s been a lonely time of deep sadness, but a time of learning, a time of seeking, and a time of growth. I knew already but know even more so now that love never fails. I knew already but also know more so now that The Lord draws us closer to Himself for deeper communion to prepare us for the next part of a journey that only He can see.

I believe to grow stronger, though I don’t like it to be true, we must struggle. I remember the Easter of several years back when we watched some butterflies go through their metamorphosis. Just so happened, the final opening of their wings occurred on Easter Sunday. The evening before there was movement and before church I noticed the beginning of opening. We came home to fluttering wings in flight within the netted enclosure. What had appeared as death and waiting gave way to a vigorous, shaking struggle and culminated in open flight. This life is no different. The process of learning and unfolding occurs over time and we don’t get to soar before we wrestle our way free.

If only…if only we could love a little better; judge a little gentler, and hold a little closer, I believe life would be a little sweeter for us all. May we do it…

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The Honest Heart…

It’s true that only the Heart-Maker enters in with perfect understanding. Though words allow us to connect to a degree, the deeper meanings of experience cannot be fully articulated.

On my bed in the dark of night, waking, I offer prayers to the One who never sleeps. I ask for all the help I’ll need in the light of the following day. I remember my son who sleeps across the hallway unaware that Mama is awake praying on his behalf.

Noah says quite a lot and though he thinks I don’t understand his experience, I do far more than he can imagine. The anger over injustice and the woeful lacking of those in authority who gravely fail to acknowledge their own lacking while holding little ones to account for theirs. I remember…

I remember holding my tongue when my chest was filled to near bursting with anger. I knew I was defeated by a system in place that allowed my silencing regardless of the rightness and truth of my disallowed words. I knew that respect was a one way street. Children are often discounted though in truth they may see more clearly than those who make the rules. Might we adults do well to listen?

Thinking this morning on the drive in to work about Jesus and His Words. An angry world hurls insults at us “foolish” believers insisting restraints on behaviors that He (and His followers) call for are oppressive, divisive, and antiquated, yet without behavioral restraints all value is laid waste and here we are…nothing secure; no objective reality; no moral truth; no dignity.

I’ve measured the competing worldviews and find relief only in the one that reassures of good that will, in the end, overcome evil. I delight in the loving-kindness demonstrated by Jesus and His pure and perfect wisdom that welcomed the children and corrected the Pharisees. I adore the image of Jesus bestowing forgiveness on the humble sinner and rebuking the accusers who were turned away in shame by one simple statement, “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Noah sometimes questions my seeming lack of fear. I temper what I say to him about my past knowing he is still so young and wanting to spare him from my former hurts that would hurt him, too. I answer, “a life lived in fear is no life at all.” So true…

Gifts that result from longsuffering are many; gifts of depth, compassion, courage, and acceptance. We learn not to ask if others are trustworthy. The only question to ask concerning trustworthiness is, “am I trustworthy?” Similarly, I am not to concern myself with other’s intentions, just my own. This life of mine is about developing within myself those values and qualities worth having. I have no control beyond this. I can ask of God to use my life as He wills, knowing He works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). It’s all in His Hands. Leaving matters where they belong is a lesson each one of us must learn for ourselves. Judgment and vengeance belong to The Lord, alone. As much as it is within my power and yours, we are to live peacefully with all. We do this by trusting God’s sovereignty and recognizing our personal limitations.

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