Archive for July, 2012


Links for This Week

This last week, I’ve been pretty busy working outside, playing with my sisters, and painting hope onto my wall. In other words, I’ve slacked off and not written a post, but it’s all good. I’ve been meaning to put up a post recommending another blog. In the last week, Kari provided some great posts, and I definitely think her work is worth reading.

For a little background, I found her blog on Facebook. Half my lifetime ago, Kari and I went to the same rural church. Since it was small and relationally oriented, everybody knew everybody. We were a community. The church attended services together, ate together, worshiped together, worked together, had retreats and Family Camps and weddings and all kinds of stuff. It was really a great church in a lot of ways, so for me, it was fun, 10 or 15 years later, to see that Kari had been keeping a blog. It was even better to read it and see that she definitely still loves God. I always love to see that! She writes about faith a lot, and when she’s not writing about that, she often writes about some practical ways to keep a house and live more frugally.

This week, she wrote a series of posts dealing with the dreadful “d” of disappointment. The first is called “When the road is long.” Kari shares some thoughts about disappointments which last a long time. The second is called “When no one understands.” It’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered how disappointing it can be to not be understood. The third is “When you must be silent,” and she talks about the difficulty imposed by silence. That’s one I do understand. Not being able to talk about things can just swell your throat shut so that the time comes that it would be okay to talk, you can’t. Come to think of it, that right there is pretty disappointing.

One thing I would mention about disappointment is that it can be quite the thief. It will steal hope from your heart if you let it.

Following those three posts identifying some types of disappointment, Kari wrote a great post about expectations titled “What to expect when you’re expecting…” I love this one. There’s truth in it, truth that can help point a person to God and make them aware of their need for Him. Look at this!

So what should we expect?

Opposition. Persecution. Obstacles. Suffering. Trials. Conflict. Hardship. Storms. But most of all …

Except to see and encounter Him in the midst of it all.

He is found in the midst of the storm, the suffering, the obstacle. When we run from those things,  we run from Him. He is there.

I expect to face these things, and I expect to see His face there.

That’s what I can expect.

I love this, not because the idea of being used as a punching bag sounds like fun, but because God doesn’t leave me. Because God is there. Because God works things out for good. Because even death can’t beat Him. Life is not a soft, fluffy, sweet teddy bear on which we can land without the least concern. Bad things, hard things, painful things – they all happen, and they happen without regard for my wickedness or righteousness, my foolishness or my wisdom, my poverty or my wealth, or any number of other things. We can’t control much of what happens. In the middle of it all, in the good and the bad, God is there. I sleep better at night because of that.

Have a good one!

Advertisements

I Believe in Love

I have been painting a wall blue today. It’s a beautiful, deep, rich cobalt, so blue it’s almost purple, and it looks really good on my wall. It will look even better once I get the last coat on and it’s had time enough to cure. Painting walls is a familiar task. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to run my brush and roller along, shedding blue onto white, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about other things. Curiously enough, I decided to listen to Leigh Nash today while painting, and the album is titled Blue on Blue. I didn’t remember that until most of the album had played through. Funny how a mind works, hm? Many of the album’s songs talk about love. I’m sure that had nothing to do with my thoughts dwelling on love while painting.

Couldn’t be.

Pure coincidence.

😉

Love – in a state of reverie, I thought about love. The music, Ted Dekker’s Black, conversations with friends and family members, a coworker’s upcoming wedding, thoughts started as I moved from task to task at work yesterday, and who knows what all contributed to the thoughts drifting off the rhythm of my brush. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll probably still be thinking about it tomorrow.

All these thoughts, some half formed or vaporous, intersected and coalesced into a single, strong, bold insight. I believe in love. I BELIEVE in love. I live for love.

I don’t mean a cute idea, a sloppy word, a nice sentiment, or even a verb. I’m not talking about ordinary love, like the love held for family, friends, communities, or a spouse. As wonderful as all of that can be, it is… inadequate. Insufficient. Pale imitations, all of them. Anemic shadows, too often selfish. These ordinary sorts are not enough, don’t last long enough, don’t fill me up well enough or long enough. They’re great, and I appreciate them, but they poop out. Those types of love get tired and stop, sometimes when my need for love is the greatest.

How about I Corinthians 13? Romans 5:8? Romans 8:38, 39? John 3:16? What about a love that never stops? That never quits? That gives? That is unending? That perseveres? That is transformative? Redemptive? What about a love that flows into and over, more than fills the need, straightens the crooked, and blesses the good? I believe in that kind of love.

That is how God loves me. That is how God loves you.

And it doesn’t stop there. The love God pours into me doesn’t have to stop at the edge of me, at my boundaries, changing only my life. It also pours into others. It can transform the love I offer from anemic to something more robust, something fueled by God’s love that can give more and go longer, something less concerned about me and more concerned about you. I can love others better because God loves me.

In that kind of love, I believe.

For that kind of love, I live.

I believe in love.

Not The Easiest Week

The last few days have been… er… interesting.

My brother is moving, somewhat unexpectedly, from 25 minutes away to more like 4 hours. He’s been frantically packing and prepping.  Several of us have been over at one time or another helping paint the house.

One of my sisters took a road trip and had another sister watch her puppy dogs. On the way to the dogs, that sister had car trouble. There was something with a fuel line and shredded tire. The fuel line caused problems on her way home, too, which meant gas went on the ground instead of her tank, two other family members ran to her rescue, and there was an attempt to hitch the van to a trailer to haul sheep for shearing that gave the van a dent. Oh, and one of the dogs? She might have ringworm. My sister tells me that the canine version isn’t terribly easy to catch as a human, but it’s a definite possibility. Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

An outdoor rave was thrown a few miles away. I can’t imagine what it was like for closer neighbors. We and others miles from it had no trouble hearing the bass and even vocals at times. That’s not at all normal for where I live. Noisy stuff is usually somebody’s power tool, tractor, or motorcycle. Something about the “festival” felt icky and strange. No neighbors received notification of a festival being held nearby, which I understand is common practice for large events. Seeing rescue vehicles held up at the gates instead of being allowed into the area (ambulance summoning usually implies emergent need) and hearing reports of drug usage and inappropriate defecations didn’t make me or the rest of my family feel any better, either.

I’ve had some stress from work. I also managed to acquire more blisters, scratches, and bruises from working outside over the weekend than I’d probably had in the last couple of years altogether.

My roommate’s summer work scramble has been stressful, and her homework load hasn’t been easy, either.

Another sister just had to treat her head for lice!

One of the dogs caught a chicken and yanked a bunch of her feathers. I don’t know that the hen took any more damage than feather loss, but I don’t think she wanted a summer do.

Little Miss Tire Troubled wasn’t done with her car woes, either. She went out last night to find a different tire had gone flat.

It’s County Fair week. Baking has had to be done; animals have had to be prepped; plants have had to be hauled. It’s a massive undertaking. I think this year three of my sisters are entering lambs, chickens, a bunny, baked goods, table setting, plants, fabric arts, and I don’t know what else. It takes multiple trips just to haul it all into the fair.

We (mostly my mother, a sister, and myself) worked outside. We hung a swing from a tree (the interesting part about that was cutting down the old tire to provide the tree limb with some protection), put a chicken wire top on the chicken’s run (we’re very done with them flying out, and they would not have been out for the dog to chase if the door had been properly shut), tilled a good sized patch preparatory to planting it with grass next fall, weeded (thistles – guess where some of my scratches came from?), removed the limbs from several felled trees, started cutting those trees down into firewood (need to figure out where we’re going to store the wood, but at least we got the downed trees off the fence), hauled rocks and sticks and other junk out of the area to be tilled, burned all of the excess wood and the (nasty) weeds, and did other random cleanup chores. We managed to do laundry, feed folks, and all the normal stuff. Mom even worked in crewing for her hot air balloon buddies early a  couple of those mornings.

It’s just been a crazy, busy, tumultuous week. Good stuff, hard stuff, weird stuff – all tumbled together and wearing us down until we were out of resiliency. No more rubber, no bounce back, gone was the elasticity! The lice last night were about the last straw. I had a moment where I thought one of my sisters was playing a joke in very poor taste, but no. True story. I poked my nose in to say hi and see how she was doing. The poor kid was combing the lice out of her hair, exuding something of the same horrified disbelief that I was feeling, that “How did this happen? What’s going to happen next?” She said, “I’m just trying to remember to be anxious for nothing.” She’s right. She’s exactly right.

Philippians 4:6

New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Blessings Found in Brokenness

In my last post, I talked about my revelation that God is truly good. That sort of interrupted all my yakking about brokenness, but I think it was a timely interruption. When God asked me what I would if I stayed broken, I’d already realized that He was good. I had a confidence and trust in His willingness to care for me that absolutely helped me to consider His question with less defensiveness than I had before. Please note that I did not say “no defensiveness.” I was hardly free from it. However, I was much more willing to listen. God is not out to get us. He is good. Brokenness: my lack of perfection, my deformed limp, my pain, my weakness – it might not be the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. In some ways, it’s been good for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God has worked good out of it for me. I could quote some Scripture (Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” with its claim that God’s “grace is sufficient” certainly leaps to mind!) to slap a coat of religious paint on, but I’d rather just tell you about what I know and am learning about living with a limp.

The funny thing is that there is some freedom in limping. I didn’t expect that. For instance, I don’t struggle as much with pride. Neither do I struggle as much with being afraid of finding pride within me. Both of those battles consumed a lot of effort. I’m a gifted individual, and the pitfall of pride correlates well with giftedness. So does the (sometimes false) accusation of pride. I used to get so tied up trying to figure out where my real problem was so I could fix it. Thing is that a lot of my pride was tied up in my “perfection” compared to other people. Having to accept my own brokenness and let God’s grace be sufficient slapped that one down hard. It’s great!

I learned more sympathy. This would be a no brainer, right? It seems like learning to accept, instead of rejecting and fleeing and shunning, my own pain would help me to be more kind to others experiencing hurt and disappointment.

The world became less black and white. One of my friends gave me an interesting tidbit about abuse survivors. After making it through a world of overly simplified values (like, kill or be killed; fight or flight; fight/flight or be thrashed; bad people or good people; it’s safe or it’s not – I’m sure you get the idea), former victims don’t know that the world is full of greys and even color. It’s not all an either/or proposition. I don’t know if that’s true of every abuse survivor, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen in myself and in my family. Where it can cause lots of trouble is in relationships. It’s a rare person who is an angel or a demon. Most folk are quite the mix, and I didn’t assess that well, not even in myself. It made me unnecessarily rigid, and I lacked grace. Enter ‘“My grace is sufficient,” right?

I am more able to live with uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with the world not seeming as black and white. The unknown is not as terrifying. Nor do I assume it to be populated only with bad things. Good things must be there, too. I have more hope.

One reason for that is I learned that brokenness is not necessarily pathetic or despicable. It’s not a disqualifier. God doesn’t hate me because I’m broken. People don’t always deal well with it, but God doesn’t have that problem. Although there frequently is pain involved, the pain is not a disqualifier, either. God still loves me even when I hurt. Brokenness is not leprosy or cause for quarantine. It is not contagious. Ain’t nobody perfect, folks. We all be broken.

I am more able to learn. Rigidity doesn’t lend itself well to the acquisition of new information, experiences, or opinions. Even when a person tries hard, rigidity greatly complicates the learning process.

I always have someplace to go. Brokenness cannot keep me from God and His provision, instruction, and comfort.

I’ve learned more patience. Please note that I do not claim to be a patient person! But I’ve had to learn some, because limping precludes getting anywhere fast.

It’s helped me to forgive. Oh, my, that’s a good one! That’s freedom! Once pride lost its grip, and I accepted that I, too, am broken, I realized that my dad and I have that in common. He’s broken, too. He took things to extremes that I have not, but that’s no reason for me to feel like I’m somehow better than him. I am not without sin. I am not perfect. Accepting that at an emotional level definitely helped free from my burning desire to start throwing rocks. Of course I was angry with my dad. I should have been. He did not treat me well, but living out my life hating his guts and everything about him was a horrible way to live, because, truthfully, I have more in common with him than brokenness. For example, writing is not my mom’s thing. It was most definitely my dad’s.

Happy Independence Day!