Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Simple Pleasures

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15

Irresistible spring warmth brought excitement to her little face and we spent the day indulging in simple pleasures.

Underneath God's clear blue sky we cracked open the sandbox for the first time this year. Her little hands busied themselves baking sandcastle birthday cakes in green pails with twig candles and singing our best rendition of "Happy Birthday" for every family member near and far.

She stirred chocolate milkshakes in orange cups with red spoons and asked "How is it Grams?" to which I answered, "Delicious!"

We cracked open a rainbow in a big yellow box and the artist in us both leaped onto the cool black asphalt canvas. Our imaginations soared from crouching mama and baby cats hiding in cool green grass to birds soaring under a smiling yellow sun until Mr. Moon peeked out behind that tree.

She jumped on imaginary trampolines drawn in pink until her legs grew tired and her tummy rumbled. And we discussed all her curiosities between bites of chicken nuggets covered in red catsup and sips of grape juice--like which bird makes that song? Where do crows live? What kind of nuts do squirrels bury? Why she's afraid of tiny gnats but not yellow bees, and more. I knew most of the answers, but not all.

I love all her questions, watching her imagination take off, and listening to all her stories. And as I do I think of Jesus and how he welcomed the little ones - their curiosities and questions.

After his disciples tried shooing the children away from him,  Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them(Mark 10:14-16). 

How exciting it must have been for Jesus to witness the uninhibited imaginations of these children--witnessing their appreciation and joy for His creation--and to relish in their simple, all-trusting faith in who He was and what He taught.

Enjoying life through my granddaughter's eyes reminds me of life's rich beauty, complexity and details that only God could have created. On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful for her childlike faith that pricks my heart and reminds me to find God in all life's simple pleasures.

What are some simple pleasures you enjoy? Let's indulge today and slip suggestions of simple pleasures in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Teachable Moments: Lost & Found Bunny

My daughter’s independence-driven, unsupervised bedtime routine went smoothly.

Bath? Done. Jammies? Check. Bedtime snack? Finished. She even helped herself to a drink from the refrigerator without spilling!
Marching proudly upstairs to bed she climbed under the covers. I settled in next to her and started reading from Little House on the Prairie when suddenly, panic rolled over her little face.

 "My bunny! Bunny is gone!" she cried with big tears rolling down her little pink cheeks.

"Where is she?" I asked.

"I don't know. She's just gone!" she sobbed.

Calling for bunny like she was a beloved family pet, our family’s frantic search began.

We searched the bathroom, under the bed, the closet, her dresser, laundry piles, behind the couch, and even in the garbage. EVERYWHERE! No Bunny.

 "Oh, dear God please help us find Bunny! Please!" I prayed.

"Did you have Bunny when you poured yourself a drink?" I asked. 

She thought a minute and shook her head "yes" and flung open the refrigerator door.

Bunny sat chillin’ on the top shelf next to the juice carton staring back at her with a frozen smile.
“You silly little bunny!” she exclaimed snatching lost-and-found Bunny off the shelf.

I’m especially fond of this memory because God taught our family three things:
No concern is too small for God. Although our children feel small, they need to know that if something’s important to them, it's important to God, too.

God shows up ̶ present and alive–when we call on His name. Teaching our children to pray, even in the small things, allows them to see God at work in their lives.

When we’re lost, God stops everything to look for us. Seizing these teachable moments helps children tangibly grasp God’s love for them.

(I'm blog hopping today at Christian Children's Authors, so please click here to read more posts by other authors).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Compliant or Rebellious? Which Are You?

iStockPhoto/Monica Adamczy
"My son you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found."
Luke 15:31-32

Compliant children are easy to raise. They obey the rules, keep the peace, respect authority. They're agreeable, reliable and trustworthy and yet, easily over-looked because they don't demand constant attention.

Strong-willed children are more difficult to raise. They break the rules, argue often, question authority. They're disagreeable, demonstrative and usually nonconformists. They get the attention because their behavior demands it.

As parents, we're left scratching our heads wondering how such opposite children came from the same lot. What discipline works well with one of them certainly does not prove eeffective with the other. In our attempts to be fair in discipline, we are constantly challenged to balance this with love. But, it never fails that one child accuses our attempts as unfair or unloving.

I'm reminded of this in reading the "Parable of the Lost Son" in Luke 15:11-31. Here, we have two sons from the same family. One is compliant; obeys the family rules, works hard on the estate and patiently waits for his financial inheritance. The other is disobedient, impatient and rebellious and demands his inheritance immediately. The father complies to his demands.

The rebellious son travels to a distant country, squanders the money in the worst ways until he is left with nothing. He finds himself so hungry that even pig slop looks appetizing! Coming to his senses he returns home and apologizes to his father, admitting he has not only sinned against his family but also against God.

Like any parent who has "lost" a child, this father is over-joyed that God protected and returned the son he thought he'd lost, so he throws a party in the son's honor. But the obedient so becomes jealous, angry and outraged that his father would "waste" even more on his irresponsible, rebellious brother:

"Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when THIS son of yours who squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for HIM?"

Oh, the wisdom of the father..."My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; HE WAS LOST AND IS FOUND" (vs 31-32).

Like Jesus taught us, it's all about the heart! It's not about obedience for obedience sake. It's about the attitude behind the obedience.

Why do we obey? Because we're supposed to? Because we're afraid of the consequences? Because of the reward? OR, is it from a heart that loves Jesus?

Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love me you will obey what I command." His words don't mean we obey like good little soldiers but rather we obey because we want to, out of a heart-felt, loving relationship. When we love someone, our hearts  yearn to please the one we love and obedience comes naturally, not dutifully. That's a heart change. That's being "found."

Oh Lord. May our hearts not obey you dutifully like a compliant child but may our rebellious hearts long to be like you and from the overflow of our hearts, may our actions speak volumes to those around us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reminiscing During Renovations

This week I'm emersed in renovations. Not the heavy-duty, knock-down-the-walls kind of renovating but rather the long-overdue scraping twenty-three-year-old wallpaper off walls type of work. So, pardon my mess, today as I veer off the road and just reminisce.

Part of me can't wait to cover up old plaster cracks and nicks in the woodwork with shiny new paint, but there's memories glued to these walls: like the indullable red masterpiece of my then one-year-old daughter, or the faded rectangles where Cape Cod sunsets hung reminding me where my heart sings, or the black handprints along the walls - evidence of life running by at top speed.

I've put off this work for years because it's so time consuming, but now I've carved out a week and I'm ready. I smile - take one last look around and breathe in the memories. 

With every score and scrape I ponder what new memories will adorn these walls. Whose voices will echo down this hall? How many more overnighters and good-night kisses will I give my grandbabies behind these bedroom doors? How many more new grandbabies will there be? Will we live here for twenty-three more years? Or more? What will those years look like? And will they travel at lightening speeds?

God gave us this home twenty-three years ago - a most perfect gift - a desire of my heart fulfilled. I celebrate his faithfulness to us throughout the years lived here and trust Him with our future.

I praise Him, loving Father and giver of all good things.

What fun memories are glued to your walls? Are you enjoying newly-made memories? If you're in the second 50 years of your life, what new memories do you want to make? Slip me a note below and let's have some fun sharing our lives.

* Hopefully I'll have a few pics of my hard work to share for my Thankful Thursday post. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday: God's Glory

"Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy...they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. "
Isaiah 35:1b-3a

This last full week of winter here in New England has proven a foretaste of coming spring, my favorite season. During a quiet afternoon, God's glory spoke louder than words in:

Mid spring temperatures on a late winter's day.

A picnic lunch and basking in sunshine.

Hope-filled bare limbs against blue skies.

Red-breasted robins return tweets and twitters with cardinals hiding inside forsythia bushes.

Crocuses wide-open take their last bow.

Daffodils welcomed from underneath earth's winter shroud. 

Straw hats, unfolded lawn chairs, a bag full of books and an ink-strewn journal.

Afternoon phone calls and twittering mail; friends words encourage my heart.

Open windows in mid-March.

Cat sunning on sandbox beach.

Winter's last full moon shining God's glory, hope for spring .

God's glory fills the earth.

Where have you seen God's glory this week? Let's praise him together and tell us how his glory shone on your days in the comments below?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."Hebrews 6:19

It's either the gray hair, my recent birthday or it's all part of the human condition, but lately, I need Post-It notes to remind me of everything, even why my alarm is ringing.

And I've found my soul forgets, too. It forgets whose daughter I am, who holds my future and who anchors my boat. Lately, it needs reminding more often.

Maybe it's a girl thing?

The women closest to Jesus suffered forgetfulness, too. They thought all hope was gone that first Resurrection morning when they found Jesus' tombstone rolled away and his body missing! You can imagine their panic, "This can't be happening?! Who would steal our Lord's body? Where have they taken him? What will we tell the others?"

And at that moment, in the midst of their amnesia, God sent a reminder. Two angels appeared saying, "He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’Then they remembered his words" (Luke 24:6-8) and headed back to tell the disciples.

But, who would believe these women? Surely, the disciples would think them mad, overcome with grief? Maybe God knew that, too.

Matthew tells us, "Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'"

God reminded these women not only of Jesus' own words of hope for the third-day resurrection, but God provided them a Jesus encounter; physical proof of this resurrection. Their resurrection hope met the reality of God's promise fulfilled. At that point their hope was fully anchored. Firm. Secure. Immovable.

And we need these reminders and Jesus-encounters, too.

Scripture serves as our reminder of this same hope - first Resurrection Sunday hope -  and anchors our souls firm and secure and immovable in God's promises. And community, meeting together with fellow believers in Christ, encouraging one another in faith, serves as our Jesus encounters - proof that He's alive through the power of his Holy Spirit in them and us.

There's certain people God placed in my life this weekend who served as encouragers of His hope and helped re-anchor my soul. They offered encouraging words, a prayer, a hug, a phone call and an email, turned my eyes back to God's word for my remembrance. To them, I'm forever grateful how God uses you in such a powerful way in my life and always at just the right time. 

Who has God placed in your life to help anchor you? Is there someone God's placed on your heart to speak encouraging words into their heart? Don't hesitate. Their soul needs help remembering and anchoring.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Silence and the Creative Process

" 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." Mark 6: 31b-32

Silence. Pure quiet, hear-my-own-heartbeat silence is where I'm most comfortable. Silence is where I rest. Silence is where I gather insights through reading. Silence is where I process life. Silence is where my heart talks and my hands write. Silence is where I hear God whisper loud and clear.

So much of life is full of noise. Screeching sirens, clacking train tracks, engine whistles, honking horns, people walking, children crying, people talking, talking, talking; talking to me or talking at me in real life or on T. V. It's all the same. It's all noise.

 When Jesus was at the peak of his ministry his days were full of people, noise and activity. He traveled miles in a day, teaching and performing miracles along the way. People as demanding as the paparazzi followed him around the countryside hoping for a glimpse, a touch, or a word. By the end of the day, he said to his disciples, "I'm beat. Let's get outta here!" Okay, maybe not those exact words but that's what he would've said in modern-day English. In those moments, he taught us all a great lesson: Rest comes when we retreat to a solitary place, with Him.

Today I need one of those solitary days. Rest. Retreat after a busy weekend and Monday, with only the sound of the ticking clock. My mind needs rejuvenation where thoughts can flow and gain perspective. My spirit needs food while I digest and birth new ideas.

I relish the creative process of silence.

Jesus knew the importance of silence and the creative process. Without both work and rest, our creativity suffers. Work allows our thoughts, ideas, visions to become tangible objects. But rest is where more thoughts, ideas and visions germinate.

We don't have to be secluded or alone to enjoy the benefits of rest. Jesus rested while he was surrounded by his dearest friends. He even invited them to his solitary place. We too, can enjoy silence, rest and take those we love with us. There are many nights my husband and I spend hours, shoulder-to-shoulder, in silence. We enjoy the presence of one another without speaking a word.

Other times, maybe in the instance of this scripture today, our rest includes decompressing together from the hard day in the seclusion of our living room. We block out the world and share stories of big and small victories or put our hearts out on the table when it's been less than a stellar day. We laugh. We cry. We disagree. We listen. We encourage. We come together. We rest. We end the day together in silence.

Don't fear the silence but relish it. Take full advantage of time, however small or large the chunk, go to a solitary place (even the bathroom) and sit in silence. Allow the day to drain from your veins and invite God's whispers to fill your heart. It's in these moments of rest where God's seed can germinate and we are prepared for the work ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Take It

 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

I offer my cup, hold it out, offer it up for others to take and sip. But it remains mine to drink. And why should I expect anything different?

Jesus begged the same question that night in Gethsemane, "Take this cup."

Facing cross-shaped pain and death, Jesus offered up his cup. If obedience came in any other form, if any other payment could be offered, Jesus wanted a trade. But the cup remained his to drink.

My lips rest on cup's rim before I tip. The strong aroma of blood-red wine overwhelms me and I hesitate, asking one more time, "May I trade this cup for a sweeter white?" And when my cup remains, no trades allowed, I have a choice: refuse the blood-red cup and walk away or accept it and drink.

Before Jesus tipped his cup he surrendered all - his will for the Father's perfect redemptive plan. And when I first read this, I think of course he did, he was God's son. But the white spaces between the cup and his obedience reveal his torment.

"An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."
Luke 22:43-44

He didn't want to drink this blood-red wine. Dismayed, Jesus begged and pleaded for a sweeter white until his humanity perspired, weakened and slumped. Could Jesus, fully-God, fully-man not see resurrection joy ahead? I don't know.

"The discipline of dismay," says Oswald Chambers, "is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. The danger is that we tend to look back on our times of obedience and on our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for Him strong. But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure it until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy" (My Utmost for His Highest, Discovery House, 1992).

Knowing the hour, God sent Jesus his strength-ministering angel so that He might endure the drink until the full cup of blood-red wine emptied at Calvary. And Calvary held no joy. No, for that was the saddest day when Jesus fully surrendered his will, endured the cross and took on sin. That death-consuming day the earth grew dark and shook at the weight of all He bore.

Joy came after the dying.

And still does.

Lips pressed against my communion cup, I drink. I do so in remembrance of Jesus' obedient sacrifice - his laying down and dying - for me, for us all. And I empty myself right there, in the memory of the cross, knowing that whatever transformation takes place after the laying down, I'm assured joy follows. For part of remembrance is the empty tomb - the joy of transformed resurrected life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Price of God-Sized Dreams

"So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD." 1 Chronicles 1:19

The deep waters encircle my boat and my white knuckles prove my fear. He's calling me out of the boat and I hate it there. I'd much rather coast along the seashore looking at all the beautiful scenery, imagining myself a seaside landowner. But, that's just dreaming. Dreams accomplish nothing unless we pay the price and the cost for God-sized dreams is obedience.

I shove my hands into my pockets as my writing dream dangles over the side of the boat. Searching frantically for another form of payment, my hands turn up empty. No substitutes. God only accepts obedience. It's that simple and complicated all at the same time because when God calls me out of the boat and I step into the deep, I'm faced with fears.

Right now, leadership defines my deep waters and as an introvert by nature, I've got a boat load of fears staring me down. I'm facing them right here, right now and asking you to stand with me in prayer:
  • Inadequacy - how can I possibly lead others when I have so much to learn? There are others more qualified, more experienced and talented than me, but they remain unavailable.
  • Conflict - where there's people, conflict ensues. Conflict resolution makes me want to throw up because no one, especially introverts, wants to be the bad guy.
  • Likability - who doesn't want to be liked? Difficult decisions are sometimes unpopular decisions and leadership inevitably calls for them.
  • Lack of vision - I'm not a visionary. Envisioning the big picture isn't natural for me and I know without vision, organizations die. I fear that.
Though I fear leadership it serves a transforming purpose in my life; from fierce independence to humble dependence on God for the wisdom and resources I lack.  

In James 1 it says, "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be give to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord" (vv4-7).

The wind-tossed waves are slapping me around, threatening my stability, ready to drown me and my dream. But I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus who called, "Come" and I shout a prayer above the surf, "Help me!" And he hears and sends help in the form of strangers and experts, forums and blogs. He sends wisdom and knowledge, courage and hope. My feet stand firm for one more day.

Obedience isn't fun and rarely easy but I keep my eyes on the prize...on the dreams you planted in my heart. Fix my eyes on you in the midst of these deep waters and supply the confidence I need to believe that you will supply all I need.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unmerited Favor

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15

Frustration and anger brimmed over and my entire body steamed under the pressure. I stormed toward his office hurling insults under my breath, ready for a fight. But she stopped me, gently pulling me aside.

 “Sometimes we just need to grant a little grace,” she said.

Grace ̶ a familiar word ̶ God’s unmerited favor and love, freely given through Christ. I knew grace. God’s grace covered my ugly brokenness and allowed Him to see only beautiful wholeness. But what was this grace she spoke of? How did grace apply here?

“He doesn’t deserve grace!” I barked.

“No one does,” she refuted.

Arms crossed, leaning against the copier between his office and my wise co-worker, my eyes spilled as her words pierced my heart. She stood silent there without condemnation ̶ only compassion ̶ until my demeanor softened and I gained composure.

 The silence between us taught me more about grace than any church sermon.

 No one deserves God’s grace and yet he sacrificed everything ̶ his only Son and all creation ̶ to offer it to us, through Christ’s death. He put aside his anger and offered Jesus so that we might enjoy the richness of relationship with him and through that same grace, draw others to him.

 God’s grace duplicates through us. That’s his plan ̶ Christ in us the hope of glory. For those who carry God’s grace are called to bring God’s grace to the world through our words, our touch, and our actions.

 Is there a difficult situation, person, or place where God’s called you to carry his grace?

Where would we be without your grace? Teach us, Lord to forgive as you forgive, to love as you love, and to carry your grace wherever you lead.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thankful Thursday: At the Edge of the World

Nubble Light House Point, York, Maine
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may...grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." 
Ephesians 3:17b-18 

He knows where my heart fills. Like many times before, we travel there.

Winding Down East on shoreline roads, the ocean's breadth awakens my soul. Witnessing God's majesty everywhere, he captures what words can't possibly express. He knows me so well - knows how to make my heart sing and where it must empty in order to fill.

I empty everything I am at the edge of the world - where land and water touch - along rocky ledges and sandy beaches.

Under cloudless winter-blue skies stretching out in one endless canopy over ocean depths God woos me. "How wide and long and high and deep is my love for you?" God asks. "Do you see? It's endless. Unfathomable. And I take great delight in you!"

My eyes sting joy but I hold it in and let him capture more images while I listen with my heart some more. And God and I have this secret conversation. "Yes, my creation is huge and you seem so small, don't you?"

"But here's what I need you to know: out of all creation, I love you most. I look at you and I don't see your smallness. I see My image in you and I love that. And if you could grasp just a tiny inkling of what that means, you'd know how wide and long and high and deep my love is for you."

And as his Living Water fills my heart, rough edges fall away like sand under ocean waves. This Living Water re-forms me, carves me hollow and fills me deep with more of Him.

We head for home, away from the edge of the world. My heart feels empty yet full, re-formed and carved, born anew in God's image.

I study His image- His majesty, His beauty, His sovereignty and His love - captured in these digital pixels. And, I begin to grasp how wide and long, how high and deep, is God's unfathomable love.

Is there a place you go to empty your heart of cares and fill with God's Living Water? Where is it you go to feel closest to God's presence? How do you capture your experiences? Photographs, journaling, blogging, song?