Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Treasures of a Mother's Heart"

When I was a little girl all I ever dreamed of growing up to be was a bride and a mother. I can remember hours spent in our attic, stepping into my mother's old high-heeled shoes and donning a white towel atop my head or an old sheer curtain as my veil and walking the length of the floor as if I was in a large cathedral on my wedding day! If I wasn't playing wedding in the attic I was in my room with all my baby dolls, feeding them from plastic bottles, burping, changing, cuddling them until they quieted down. My baby dolls were my children. If older family members visited with their "real" babies, I couldn't wait to hold their precious ones. I was utterly enthralled with newborns and marveled at their perfectly formed, tiny features. I could sit and rock a newborn for hours. I still can.

Two of the happiest days of my life were when I learned I was pregnant with my very own children! I loved being pregnant, feeling them move inside of me and knowing God was knitting these gifts of life in His image, inside of me. I joke with my children that I "special ordered" them. My husband and I were fortunate to be able to plan for our children and when I prayed for them I was very specific. I wanted two children, a boy first and a girl second. I wanted our son to resemble myself and be a sensitive man like his father. I wanted our daughter to resemble my husband and be a strong natured, tom-boy type girl, unlike me, yet compassionate toward others. (I was frustrated with myself being so fragile and frilly. Life is tough on those who appear weak). And, honestly, God gave me what I asked for but I didn't know it right away.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn't pray to be the mother of the Messiah, she was told she would be by the angel Gabriel. She was informed from the beginning that she was carrying a boy, the Messiah, Jesus. She knew he would be the Savior of Israel. Yet, when Jesus was born and the shepherds came to worship, proclaiming the good news of the heavenly host, that this was the Savior, Mary did not join in on the praises and worship. Luke says "When they (shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed...But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:17-19). Again, in Luke 2: 41-52, is the story of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem when he was 12 years old, after the Passover to discuss Scriptures with the rabbi's at the temple. When his parents finally found him after searching for three days and nights and repremand him Jesus says, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Luke says his parents did not understand and "his mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). This amazes me each time I read that Jesus' parents did not understand. I mean, they were told from the beginning that He was to be the Son of God, the Messiah...but according to what was written for us to know, I guess they weren't given specifics of His life on earth. And so, enveloped in the culture and day-to-day life experiences, when Jesus did out-of-the-ordinary things or said things that claimed him as Messiah, they cocked their heads to one side and said, "Huh?" It's like life was so "normal" for Jesus that when these extraordinary things happened Mary had to ponder them. They were treasures she had to gather into herself and mull them over in her mind. I'm sure she revisited her conversation with Gabriel hundreds of times! "God, is my son, Jesus, truly your son? Is he the promised one? Is this all part of your plan?"

In the past 22 years of raising my children I too have been like Mary. When I watch my son hold his wife's hand or tenderly hold his newborn daughter I ponder, "Is that my son? How did he become this man of honor?" I am reminded what I prayed for, "a man who is sensitive like his father." And as I watch my daughter be drawn to the missions field in Africa, I'm frightened and ask where did that boldness come from? I am reminded again, "This too is what you prayed for. A strong natured girl with compassion for the world around her." So, my mind and heart are at rest knowing God is in control. My children are becoming what God created them to be and I will not stand in their way. I will love them forever and forever offer them back to God for His purposes all the while treasuring these experiences and pondering them in my heart.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Words. I love words. I love creating a picture with words. I love writing and speaking words as much as a painter loves her color pallet or a photographer loves the images created through a lens. Words have power over our lives like nothing else I know because we all use them. Words evoke reactions and emotions from the author/speaker as well as the reader/receiver. They can encourage, love, give life and freedom as quickly as they can discourage, hate, kill and enslave.

We cannot control the words that come at us but we can control what words come out of us. How? It's all a matter of the heart. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings things out of the evil stored up in him." (Matthew 12: 34-35). Whatever we hold in our heart cannot be contained and hidden but will spill out of our mouths. We can try to contain ourselves, control our words but in the heat of the moment eventually what we really think spills out. Our words, cultivated by the soil of our hearts, reveal the truth of everything we believe.

We've all said words we've regretted. You know, those times when you heard something horrible coming out of your mouth and cringe, reaching out, wishing you could stuff the words back in your mouth before the listener's ears heard them. Jesus warns us about careless words in the next two verses. "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12: 36-37). That's powerful!

Jesus was addressing the Parisees whose carefully crafted words were spoken as an attempt to entrap Jesus in a snare of trick questions. Jesus was warning them that they would be judged by their words because words reveal the character of their hearts. So too with our words.

If our hearts are filled with the goodness that flows from a relationship with Christ, who is the ultimate lover of our souls, then the words we speak will naturally be good, full of life and a reflection of Him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Do You See What I See?"

Imagination. It's limitless. It's freeing. It's the birthplace of new ideas, inventions, stories, movements, dreams. It's where our thoughts run wild with endless possibilities and no one shouts, "Stop!"

When we were children teachers asked us to close our eyes and imagine things all the time. Don't you remember hearing a story and the teacher (or your parents) asked you to close your eyes and think of your own ending to the story? And for a few minutes you were whisped away on a timeless adventure? Your own imagination created the colors, the sights, sounds and emotion of the story. There was nothing you couldn't do or accomplish because you were using your imagination!

God has a limitless imagination, too! He created the universe and all that it holds! He's placed us all somewhere in His story. Do you ever wonder what role you've been chosen to play? Have you closed your eyes tight and imagined what it is you should be in God's story? Have you asked Him why on earth you are here? Have you ever closed your eyes tight in prayer and allowed God to fill your imagination with His story for you? Do you see what He sees?

Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest" writes, "One of the reasons for our sense of futility in prayer is that we have lost our power to visualize. We can no longer even imagine putting ourselves deliberately before God. It is actually more important to be broken bread and poured-out wine in the area of intercession than in our personal contact with others. The power of imagination is what God gives a saint so that he can go beyond himself and be firmly placed into relationships he never before experienced."

I'm on a journey of God's imagination. He has given me the stories to write, the words to encourage. He's placed me in front of people I would never imagine I would meet and expereinces I never thought I'd have.

This past Saturday was an example of that as me and my childrens book "Auntie's House" made our debut at the CT Loves To Read Day in Waterbury, CT. As I entered the place of the event I was humbled to think that God had given me this venue to introduce my book. I was humbled that God had miraculously placed these educators in my life at just the right moment. I was humbled that I was able to read and speak to 200 children and their parents. I was humbled that God allowed me to tell my story, to encourage these children's hearts. It was truly an experience beyond my imagination.

We limit ourselves by our own imagination. Had I not trusted God's leading and the encouragement of friends and family to move forward into authorship, I would have limited the power of God's story in my life. I would have limited the power of God's encouragement to others through my life and my story.

There's more of God's imagination to tap into. There's more "wine to be poured-out" into other's lives. There's more relationships to be experienced. God's power is limitless!

Friday, February 6, 2009

"He Loved Him"

Children. I love to watch children play, communicate, manipulate the things around them. Everything is so basic, so simple. They're only concerns are for food, warmth, sleep, being dry and being loved. You keep a child fed, warm and dry and sit them in a corner and they will still complain. Why? Although their physical needs are being satisfied, they still want someones affection. They want to know they are loved. It's a basic need.

I've been reading through the Gospels lately. I love Mark. He didn't waste words or ideas. He's basic in his writing but in fewer words he packs a punch. I have to flip back to Matthew to get the whole picture sometimes, to see why Mark did or didn't add the details. I always go back to Mark and find he saw Jesus through the eyes of basic of human needs.

For instance, look at Mark 10:17-31. It's the story of "The Rich Young Man." If you've gone to church for any length of time you know this story by heart. The rich man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (v17). Jesus reminds him of the commandments. The man states he has kept all of them since he was a young boy. Jesus says, yeah but you lack one thing and asks him to sell all of his treasures and follow him. The man doesn't want to, hangs his head and goes back home. Then Jesus states the famous line, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (v 25). Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What amazes me is how Mark includes a description of how Jesus paused before answering this young man about what he was lacking. Verse 21 Mark says, "Jesus looked at him AND LOVED HIM." Wow! That boggles my mind! Jesus addressed the heart issue of this young man who needed assurance of Jesus' love for him before he reproached him with the truth of his heart.

It's the same with our children, isn't it? Before we rebuke their behavior or their heart issues, don't they look at us as if to say, "Do you love me?" Do our children cry when being corrected because they don't want to be wrong or because they think they've fallen out of our good graces and our love? A little of both, I think. But, from my experience children can accept that they need to change a behavior as long as they know we love them irregardless of the change occurring.

How true that is for ourselves and our adult relationships. We all fail at righteousness. We all fail at perfection. There's always something we need to change. We all need to be held accountable for our behavior all of the time especially if we claim to love Christ. But, how fast are we to speak without pausing and looking our brother in the eye and LOVING HIM? How many times do we speak words of rejection, irritation, hate to one another before we stop and love one another as Jesus loved this man? Did Jesus' love for this man stop him from pointing out the problem with his faith? No. The truth must always be brought into the light. But, relationship with this man's heart was forefront in Jesus' mind as he delivered those tough words.

As to changing our behavior? That's not up to man to try to accomplish in himself or in his brother. Verse 27 Jesus says, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Is Jesus saying we shouldn't strive to change or we don't need to change? No. He's saying it's a heart issue. It's impossible to change any sinful behavior within our own power. It's all about how much we give up of ourselves to the work of God in our hearts and lives.

Should we be accountable for wrong behavior and thinking? Absolutely. Should we show our brother that we love him even when we hate his behavior? Absolutely. Jesus does.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"If You Can Do Anything"

"If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

"Immediately the boys father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:22-24).

How often have we said the same things to God whether out loud or in our own heads? We look at our circumstances and try to reason in our own minds a plausible solution. When we can't figure out how to overcome the problem within our own means or by the help of others, then we finally look to God and say "If you can, help me...if you can find it in your heart, God to have pity on me, then please help." And then, even after the "amen" we doubt not so much in God's ability to accomplish a miracle but we doubt his interest in our problem. We doubt his interest in us.

My husband & I have been living a miracle for the past four weeks. His wrist that was so badly crushed after he fell on the ice, is healing perfectly without surgery. The doctor has admitted it's a miracle and there is no explanation for the perfect alignment of the bones. Yet, circumstances we face in other areas of our lives have us doubting (again) in God's interest in us. We've been guilty of saying to Jesus, "IF you can do anything, take pity on us. I'm sure we've exasperated him. I can even picture him sitting with his elbows on his knees and slapping his forehead with one hand saying, "You don't get it! You ignorant people! How much more do you need to see to be convinced of my love for you and my power and authority in you?! 'IF I CAN?!' Are you kidding me?!"

And so, I am humbled in reading this passage in Mark 9:14-32 and pray, "Lord, forgive me. 'I do believe; help me overcome my disbelief.'"