Monday, June 30, 2008

8:54 And All's Well

Today, with the help of a couple of faithful, brave (and crazy) friends, I went to Target and Walmart. It won't be a regular outing.

In truth, everybody did very well, especially since we're still getting over illness. But I couldn't have done it alone; I know that with complete assurance. That's because they took care of things while I actually got the shopping done!

For the most part, we seem to be on the upswing from the strep throat that has plagued our home. (I bought three cans of Lysol, today). Darin and I still aren't at 100% capacity, but we're definitely better off than we were. Thanks, Lord!

My biggest hope and prayer is that we'll get a good night's sleep. Maybe we were able to wear out everybody from our adventures! I know I'm pooped!

For some reason, the Lord has centered my heart on the book of Ephesians this week. It's honestly not one of my favorite books of the Bible, but I've been blessed as I've read through it a couple of times (aloud, once as I read someone to sleep!).

Mostly, I've clung to the third chapter, verses 14-21. In reading it aloud, I could hear Paul praying for me in my exhausted, weary and discouraged state. Paul prayed for the Ephesians and for me to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in my inner being (vs. 16) - boy, do I need that right now! He prayed I might grasp how wide and long and high and deep Christ's love really is (vs. 18) that I might be filled with all of God's fullness (vs. 19). I need that, because my personal supply is running on empty. I don't have much left in the well to be poured out. And Paul assured me this week that God is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or even imagine (vs. 20). I need an amazing God who can provide for needs I don't even know I have, according to his power that is at work within me, not according to what I can muster up.

So, even though I got less than four hours sleep last night, I can say with assurance that it's 8:54 and all's well, because my God is still bigger than my world and still loves me with unfailing, immeasurable love. I don't have to be a powerful "superwoman;" I get to be my exhausted, overwhelmed self in the presence of my comforting Daddy - the God of all creation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Olympic Athletes .... Pssh

I think caring for children must be incredible preparation for the Olympics. Since we've had the kids:

I've sprinted to catch streaking babies
I've hurdled baby gates to protect one child from another
I've had to dive to the floor to save the dog
I've contorted my body in gymnastic feats to hold down squirming bodies
I've lifted dead weight into the bathtub

Meanwhile, this marathon of sleep deprivation is taking every ounce of strength within me to keep from being the cranky, unpleasant person I usually am when I'm exhausted!

So, good luck to all those who will begin competition in Beijing in August, but I've got enough to keep me occupied here. And although I'll never win a gold medal; I wouldn't mind if the gold street that houses my mansion one day in heaven has a spa on the same block.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Breakthrough Diet Taking the World By Storm!

Tabloids are exploding with the news of the latest diet straight from the pits of hell itself! Success is guaranteed, or your soul back!

You don't have to buy a book, follow certain food restrictions or even count calories or fat grams. This simple 3- step program begins by depriving yourself of as much sleep as possible so your immune defenses reach an all-time low. Next, develop a viral illness that brings on nausea, causing you to avoid meals at all costs - this is essential to the program. Finally, take medication that has side effects of vomiting and diarrhea. Yes, it really is that easy!

Julie Wood testifies: "This diet is life-changing! I lost 9 pounds in only 10 days!"

Follow these four easy steps and you, too, could find yourself needing a smaller pants size in only a week!

*Please consult your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.*

For the record, I am doing better since the fever has begun to come down!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Down and Dirty

In John 10:11 Jesus describes himself as "The Good Shepherd." While that was a picturesque description for those who lived and breathed in 1st century Israel, it doesn't speak with quite the same volume in 21st century U.S.

I've heard lots of sermons and read books that explained the work of a shepherd, in order to help communicate what Jesus meant by that self-description, but I think I'm getting a clearer picture, now. Naturally, our world has a new axis on which it turns: three kids in need of love, provision and discipline. Yet, we can't forget that the central foundation of our home is Darin's and my love for one another and the Lord.

The Good Shepherd was the same. He changed his axis point by revolving his world around us: "Though he was God, he did not cling to his rights as God. He appeared in human form" (Phil 2:6-7), but he kept his foundational point of intimate relationship with his Father central to his purposes. What strikes me most is not the details of being a shepherd - the tasks and responsibilities, but rather the simple fact that shepherding is dirty work (as is changing diapers). Jesus got dirty (so to speak) when he took that human form. He walked around in the literal dirt of Israel's soil and in the figurative dirt of a corrupt society's social and religious structure. In the grime of our sinful pride and foolish logic. We're pretty dirty sheep.

The question then begs itself, "Who are we to think we should not humble ourselves among the 'dirty' of the world?" Is their dirt more filthy than mine? Are there categories of "dirtiness"? Soil is dirt whether it's fill dirt, potting soil, sand or clay. God doesn't look at me and say, "Oh, well, Julie's dirt is cleaner than _______." Rather, he holds up Jesus next to me and says, "This is what it means to be created in my image" (Michael Card).

Adam and Eve were created from the dirt of the ground - we're all dirty people, in need of a Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. Jesus is asking me right now to get down and dirty with some little people in our church; who needs you to get down and dirty with them today?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Those of you who've read Darin's blog probably have no doubt why I haven't written lately. I'm surrounded right now on either side by kids in high chairs filling their tummies with bananas and Cap'n Crunch.

Wow. My world has changed.

The 1st century Christians were accused of turning the world upside-down. These kids have done that for me!

I didn't get to spend any time with the Lord (other than begging for help) until yesterday afternoon. I whispered Psalm 103 aloud to read "Ace" to sleep. I don't believe it was merely coincidence that the Word of God soothed him to sleep and assuaged my weary soul simultaneously.

Then, last night, to get "Champ" calmed for bed, I played classical music and quoted Psalm 23 over and over (and over and over). He fell asleep in less time than he has since he's been with us.

God's Word will never return void!

Friday, June 6, 2008

More Than Ten Years Ago

More than ten years ago, I knew a woman you'd have liked. Most people did, anyway. She was well-regarded by those around her and fairly popular. Fun-loving and witty, she had lots of acquaintances and a small circle of close friends whom she trusted implicitly. She was known as a very good person who tried to live according to biblical principles.

More than ten years ago, I knew a woman never too prideful to admit error, she was readily willing to say "I'm sorry." But quite frankly, she was usually right. I heard her confess one time, in honest humility, she didn't know what it was like to be wrong a lot; she'd lived life so long in obedience to the expectations of God's word, she averted a lot of mistakes. And because she was right and good, people spoke highly of her, and went to her when they sought biblical counsel or wisdom, receiving assurance of her love and prayers.

Over the years, that woman became accustomed to being right and good. She prayed carefully for others' needs as well as her own, she worshiped God in the fullness of what she knew of him, gradually expanding her understanding of him as he revealed more of himself, but as though "on approval." She had to agree with God's depiction of himself. If she didn't, she ignored that aspect of him because it didn't match her frame of reference. But it didn't really matter, because what she knew of him already was right, and wasn't that sufficient for now?

More than ten years ago, I knew a woman who began to believe her own press. She wasn't intentionally self-righteous, she just couldn't see that a thick film had begun to develop over the eyes of her heart (her conscience, or sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, so to speak). This film was a layer of pride which prevented her from seeing herself with clarity. It wasn't thick enough to blind her, just enough to make her perception hazy. Oddly enough, it didn't really dim her understanding of others, just herself. Like looking into a steam-covered bathroom mirror after a hot shower, she could look around and see others with clarity, but the truth of her own reflection was indiscernible.

She became a champion of "truth" as she saw it; but only to those who "needed" to know. And quite often, she was right to tell; they did need to know. This further validated her "goodness" and caused her to believe she had deep wisdom and insight from God himself.

More than ten years ago, that woman was ... me.

I wish I could say I had a miraculous turning point that instantly dropped the haze from my eyes, but it didn't happen that way. One day was the catalyst for start of my healing, though. Jesus used a friend to ask me a tough question about myself for which I had no answer.

That question prompted a brokenness in my spirit that led me to examine my heart and mind in ways I'd never delved into before. Through a painful process of confession and repentance, I began to allow God to wipe away the steam from the mirror of my life. It wasn't an immediate revelation or recognition, rather it was gradual, like the healing of the blind man in Mark 8:22-25:
Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
I think it's interesting that others brought the blind man to Jesus. He couldn't get to him on his own, because he couldn't see. We sometimes need others to get us to Jesus; my friend did that for me. We all need people in our lives who will tell us the honest truth about how far we are from where God wants us.

Also notice Jesus took him outside the village to begin this healing process. Sometimes, we're too close to home to allow God to work effectively in our lives. The noise and distraction of the familiar keeps us in the routine of life and unable to step into a new level of honest self-evaluation. I certainly wouldn't say I can see everything in my own life and character clearly today, but I know that I'm at least seeing "trees" walking around. One day, my eyes will be fully opened: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rumor Has It

A lot of things simply aren't true. Particularly when people label others' motives and intentions or misrepresent their behaviors. Then, of course, rumors fly and the next thing you know, someone is sacrificed on the altar of the tongue. Yes, altar. An altar glorifies the person, god or idol for which it was built, and what is sacrificed on it is ascribed less value than the thing being worshiped.

When we verbally accuse someone of improper motives or misrepresent their actions to others (in order to salve our own consciences), we have sacrificed them in worship of our own ideologies. God has never accepted human sacrifices; Satan regularly receives them. So I guess the question becomes, then, who am I fundamentally honoring with my lips? God or Satan?

For years, Mrs. Cleaver was accused of setting a stereotype for the "ideal" homemaker. Every woman is supposed to wear a dress, heels and pearls while washing perfectly clean dishes. What a lot of people don't realize is that Barbara Billingsly wasn't trying to set a standard for women. She suggested to the producers that she be allowed to wear the pearls regularly because she had a noticeable surgical scar on her neck. To wear a choker strand of pearls concealed it from the cameras. I've actually heard people speak derogatorily of Barbara and her portrayal of June Cleaver without knowing what she'd been through to cause that behavior and choice.

Rumor usually has only half the story, because the one who started it has an axe to grind. Therefore, those who perpetrate what they've heard are only sharing half-truths (a.k.a. lies), because they've deduced the motives and intentions of the involved parties without knowing what's happened to bring them to those behaviors and choices. Meanwhile, another person is sacrificed on the altar of the tongue and the testimony of believers to a lost and dying world is corrupted again. Or maybe that's just a rumor, too.
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
  • haughty eyes,
  • a lying tongue,
  • hands that shed innocent blood,
  • a heart that devises wicked schemes,
  • feet that are quick to rush into evil,
  • a false witness who pours out lies,
  • and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Am I Sick?

I found this quote from British Christian G.K. Chesterton on a friend's blog. Chesterton was a witty journalist, poet, novelist, playwright and apologist of the early 1900s. I've not been able to get it out of my mind, so I thought I'd share it, especially since Darin's sermon yesterday dealt with pride.

"The one spiritual disease is that of thinking that one is quite well."

I hope I'm not sick with this. The only antidote is humility, and it's usually applied intravenously, with a sudden, giant needle. Unfortunately, the diagnosis usually goes undetected for years on end, because we're too busy recognizing symptoms in others to see how near-death we are.