Monday, April 30, 2007

Sailing to Tarshish


I wanted to write light yesterday. I wanted to type with a smile on my face. I wanted to hear Stuart chuckle as he read. I kept an eye out for a one-act comedy taking place within the interactions of the day. There was none. There were tears...tears from fighting children...but mostly they were mine. The manna for this post didn't come until after I had gone to bed. It isn't light.

Stuart and I sensed God calling us to the church that we are a part of almost as soon as we arrived. We joined, eyes wide open to its health. Months passed. We began to question. Is this really where God wants us? What difference can we make? We have been praying but His Spirit has been silent. We knew we had been called to work here but yesterday, like Jonah, we set sail in search of a healthier church. We didn't go to Tarshish. We went across the street.

As soon as we had made the decision to wander God's spirit began to move. A feeling of oppression and unease settled over the car. We sat in the parking lot. Faith was the prophet bringing God's message. "I don't want to go here! I want to see Miss Shirley! I want to see Miss Shirley!" We, like the kings of old, ignored the prophet and went in.

The Sunday School lesson was on the workings of the Holy Spirit. The teacher didn't have much of a grasp on the topic. I, sitting under that uneasy cloud, did. The lesson dissolved easily into gossip. The pastor delivered a message straight from the pages of The Purpose Driven Church. A man with purpose preaching to a church that could not comprehend his message.

We went home. I couldn't think clearly enough to put lunch on the table. I cried. Lauren made lunch. The kids ate out back at a table set up in the shade. Stuart and I ate in the sunroom and discussed our options. Stuart has been more resolved than I. He wants to stay where we are and share what we know about healthy churches. I'm a leaver. I want to leave.

Disobedience can bring exhaustion. Like Jonah, I slept...all afternoon. When I woke up, I understood that we were not to run away. The cloud lifted.

And so we stay. Stuart and I...timid Moses and questioning Gideon... stay to encourage, to pray, to confront. We wonder what God will do.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Behind a Locked Door


The library door is locked. For months I peeked through the window at the treasure within. I wondered, "How can I get in there? What books are on the shelves?" I made friends with the janitor of the church that we are attending. He showed me where the key is kept. It sits on top of the electric box in a storage closet. I can get the key and take what I want from the library.

Books by Beth Moore, Max Lucado, and Adrian Rogers sit on the shelves. The covers are new. The pages uncreased. There is a sign out sheet on the desk. My name is the only one on the sheet. I have checked out and returned And the Angels Were Silent, Six Hours One Friday, Walking Through the Fire, Signs of Spring. Last Sunday I pulled out and put back books, looking for an interesting read. I came home with Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Church. The binding crackled when I opened the book. Am I the first person to read this copy? How long has it been sitting on the shelves?

Rick Warren writes about creating a church that reaches the unchurched...a church that assesses it methods and motivations...a church that throws aside all that hinders spreading the gospel effectively...a church that is both culturally relevant and uncompromising in truth. Our family has been blessed to spend the last twelve years at two churches that are all of these things. In this season, God is giving us a glimpse at a different kind of church.

This church is run by deacons who have been the deacons for the last thirty years. People have been born to the comittees they serve on. I recently got a phone call from a member of the Committee of Commitees! Sunday morning the You need to be saved gospel message is preached...every Sunday morning. The congregation is harangued with messages of how sinful they are...how they need to straighten up and fly right. Like a used car salesman, the pastor tries to propel people to come forward to repent, to be baptized, to join the church. No one comes. No one joins. No one visits. The congregation grows smaller.

Ideas are guarded, personal growth is limited, biblical knowledge is stunted in part because the library door is locked.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Confessions of a Couch Shouter

I confess. I have become a couch shouter. My brother-in-law, Rob, created this term after he spent a deafening week with his extended family.

Couch Shouter
noun
1. One who parents from the sitting position. A parent who sends her voice to do a job that she is too lazy do herself.

Lately, too much of my parenting has been done from the sitting position.

I sit with a child for school. "Claire, you read this paragraph. I'll read the next one... Charlie, don't take Faith's Polly Pocket... Try that word again, Claire. Remember what does ou say?... Charlie, give Faith's Polly back to her. " I listen as Claire finishes her paragraph... "Charlie, do you need a spank? Give the Polly back!" And on it goes.

I am amazed at how the lack of discipline has crept in and taken over. The scales tipped toward justice at the beginning of this parenting journey. These days, grace and mercy are the tools I reach for. Justice has been stuffed in the back of the closet. To parent well, I need to use all three. I've let a lot slide this year. No more!

We are reclaiming lost ground...starting with Charlie. A timer and a stool sit in a corner of my bedroom. The timer is set for three minutes...ready for the next infraction. The seat is warm from one little backside. He has visited this cozy space for spitting... screaming... swinging a croquet mallet at his siblings. (He's got great aim. He took out three of them with one swing.) It's sinking in. "Hitting is naughty, Mama...I'm sorry for spitting, Faith...Don't bring me to time-out. I won't scream."

The sound of the drill rings in the playroom. Stuart is putting a lock on the entertainment center. The television is at the far end of the house. This allows for quality conversation in the main living areas. Unfortunately, the kids have been making the trek to the other end of the house on tiptoe. Animal Planet has set up shop in their playroom way too often. No more!

Four mason jars line the counter. Children are rewarded for jobs that are done efficiently and with excellence. Nickels and dimes clink into the jars throughout the day. This is Family Chore System 506. No more of Mama carrying the workload of seven people.

I need to parent with action... not perfection. I need to watch for when we start to veer off the road...get back on and keep going.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Betze-Post

Stuart returned recently from a business trip that took him to Betze-Post, an open pit goldmine outside of Elko, Nevada. He came home spilling over with bits and pieces of information. This is unusual for him. Work is work and home is home and never the two shall meet.

Stuart followed a tractor-trailer carrying an oversized load onto the mine site. Four tires lay on the trailer bed...replacements for an earth-moving machine. Since 1986 when the mine opened, these machines have eaten away an entire mountain and have dug an additional sixteen hundred feet below the water table. The resulting hole looks like an inverted ziggurat and is deeper than the Sears Tower is tall. Stuart stood on the precipice and peered over. Mechanical ants scurried around below with bits of dirt between their jaws.

The gold is microscopic and all of it is mapped out. This means that the miners can gobble and dump many truckloads of earth without sifting through for treasure. When they are digging in the valuable areas, they place the rock and dirt into storage piles to be processed. The rock is crushed and then put into a roaster. The ore that remains is mixed with sodium cyanide and a series of other chemicals. In the end, gold... and eighteen tons of waste to accompany each 18 kt ounce.

Betze-Post keeps longer hours than Walmart...twenty-four hours a day...three hundred sixty-five days a year. Walmart closes on Christmas Day. The mine has produced more than 33 million ounces of gold. Does this sound like a lot? Financially speaking...more than a billion dollars. Materially speaking...the gold recovered would fit in our living room.

God's Word is full of gold. Unlike precious metal, it cannot be mapped out. What I mine from a chapter today may not be what I mine from the same chapter a year from now. There is not a page that can be shoveled aside as worthless. This means locations (Numbers 33 for example) and the genealogies are priceless treasures!

I am astonished how we humans go to such great lengths for material gain. Our drive for more pushes us to literally move mountains! Betze-Post makes me ask questions. “Where am I on the greed continuum? How much of my time is spent grasping for wealth that will slip through my fingers? How much of my energy is spent storing up treasure in heaven?”

I want the riches that will last for eternity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

24 Hours


It has been quiet here this morning. Stuart gingerly carries Charlie into the house. Home from the hospital after surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. He lays Charlie on our bed. Charlie rolls on his side and curls into a tiny ball. Stuart and I discuss whether or not we should take him to the bathroom. He is on our bed and not wearing a pull up. Wanting to save the mattress wins out over not wanting to disturb our little guy.

The deed done, we tuck him back into our bed where he sleeps soundly for four hours. The house is still. We make great progress with schoolwork.

When he stirs, I bring him orange juice and "ball cheerios" (Kix cereal) He asks for more juice. More juice means another trip to the bathroom. I hate this part. Charlie tells me, "Somebody cutted me, Mom. Somebody glued me."

The rest of the day passes with Charlie lying on our big bed watching PBS Kids and Veggie Tale videos. The big kids crowd around to see the incision. Charlie stacks blocks on the floor at the foot of the bed. Faith and Claire sit on the bed and play with the miniature things we got for Charlie's recovery. Charlie is covered up in small bears, glittery doves, and tiny clothespins. The girls use the doll sized clothespins to clip doves all over the pillows.

When it is time for bed, we brush the menagerie of toys into a bucket, sweep the big guys out the door and tuck Charlie into a pile of blankets on the floor by the bed. His hands, face, and legs sparkle with the glitter that has fallen from the doves.

In the morning, I encourage him to use the potty. "Charlie, you need to go the bathroom. You had a lot of juice and milk last night."

"The juice and milk want to stay in me, Mama!"

After he is dressed he wants to be carried to the playroom where the kids are folding laundry and watching cartoons. He lays on the sofa and eats...and spills... cereal. When the kids are done, I move him to the sofa in the living room, cover him with an orange blanket and bring him his "dudes." (His collection of small stuff.) He clips the clothespins to the blanket and dive-bombs the doves into his lap. John brings out two plastic hangers...one for himself and one for Charlie. They use them as bows without arrows and pretend to shoot at each other. Charlie "shoots" his dudes and his sisters for the next hour.

The first sign of recovery is when he stands on the sofa for better aim. He climbs down from the sofa and builds slides and obstacle courses out of blocks for his cars. He fights with Faith over which car she is allowed to drive. He wants to go outside. He uses his usual method to convince us to let him have his own way. He hops up and down. Ouch! He flings his body at me. Ouch!

School progresses. I have to read much louder today to be heard over the sounds of car wrecks and temper tantrums. One child is always on play duty so that I can work with the others. Things are back to normal.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Gifts

I do not usually like presents. I don't like to give them and I rarely like to get them. I am a practical girl. I know what I need. I like to do my own shopping. I don't like to guess at what family and friends want or need. My kids are rarely surprised on their birthdays because we go shopping together.

I received an unexpected check a few weeks ago. When I first opened it I thought, "God sent us money to cover bills that I don't yet know about." Then I thought, "Nah!" and prepared to spend the money on Stuart's birthday...all of it...on a great camera. I made him tell me exactly which model he wanted. Then, last week he was driving home from work and a rear window fell down...clunk... right down into the door. He couldn't coax it out. The mechanics at the car dealership could... and did...for six hundred fifty dollars. Next, Charlie needed to take a trip to the emergency room. Happy Birthday, Stuart.

My husband buys me funky artistic jewelry. I like understated elegance. I unwrapped a five disc CD player a few birthdays ago. "Thank You. It is just what I wanted." I rarely use it. I can't turn off the kids but electronics, that's another story. Stuart sees it differently...drown out the crying with Nickel Creek. For Christmas this year... more jewelry, hand lotion and a nail buffer. The last two were a hit. Why? Because they appeal to my real love language...acts of service, quality time and attention. Every once in a while he grabs the manicure tools and goes to work. Heaven!

God doesn't care if I like gifts or not. He pours out His goodness anyway. My family life is rich with His blessing... great husband, funny kids.

Some of His gifts come wrapped in some really ugly wrapping paper though. Aspbergers , PMS, this current season of loneliness... I wonder if He watches my face as I receive these...sees me recoil...turn away. He keeps holding them out to me until I begin to work my way through the wrapping. These packages that appear so unattractive on the outside are the ones that compel me to reach for my Father's hand, to listen for His direction, to pour my heart out to him. (One of His love languages must be quality time and attention.) God knows me so well He gives perfect gifts...ones that will transform my weaknesses into His strengths. Turns out, they are just what I wanted.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Firsts

It is 4:30 Saturday afternoon. We are going birthday shopping for Lauren and Faith. We drive a half hour to the "local" Walmart. We have six bikes but none are sized right for Faith. Stuart has been running alongside her for the past few weeks because she can neither start nor stop by herself on the behemoth she has been riding. Stuart and most of the crew head for the bike department to find an eighteen inch bike.

Lauren and I stop at the jewelry department. It's a big day for her. She just turned ten and because she has consistently shown true beauty this year she will be getting her ears pierced. Before we can proceed, we must purchase the earrings. I reach in my pocket...no wallet. We locate Stuart in the bike department. He reaches in his pocket...no wallet. We have gotten the children into such high excitement we must complete this mission today. We return home.

It is 7:30 Saturday afternoon. Dinner and baths are out of the way. We are going birthday shopping for Lauren and Faith. Lauren chooses her earrings. Stuart shows his ID and signs a consent form. Charlie and Faith climb the shelves and pull necklaces down upon their heads. Stuart herds the three little ones to the bike department. Stuart and I remain with Lauren for the ear piercing. John cannot believe that Lauren is willingly subjecting herself to a torture worse than shots. He has to see to believe.

Lauren sits in the chair and squeezes my hand. Ebony, the girl doing the piercing, squeezes the trigger. The first earring is through but the back won't attach to the post. Ebony discovers, after a few minutes of fiddling with it, that it is defective. She comes up with another pair and the back easily snaps on to the post that is already in Lauren's ear. The second ear is pierced without any difficulty.

It is dark when we get home so Faith's yellow bike is parked in the garage until tomorrow.

9:20 Sunday morning. Lauren leaves for church with her hair pulled back. The little aquamarine earrings twinkle in her ears. (This is not her birthstone, she just thought they were pretty.) She seems to have aged 5 years over night...walked right out of childhood and into supermodeldom.

2:30 Sunday afternoon. A bike train leaves the garage. The four older kids on their own bikes...not a training wheel in the bunch. Faith's were removed five minutes ago. Charlie rides like a king on the back of Stuart's bike. My eyes savor his littleness for a minute. I don't want to hold the clock back though. I like the friendship, humor, and growing maturity that I see developing. I like watching my children unfold.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hobbits in Heaven?

It is too cold to eat in the sunroom this morning so we crowd around the table in the kitchen. Between bites of french toast the conversation turns to heaven.

We start with the practical.

"In heaven I won't have to take medicine." John lines up all his vitamins and prepares to gulp them down with a large glass of orange juice.

I pull my hands into my sweatshirt, "I won't be cold in heaven."

"I won't be hot!" says Lauren. She has on her pajama bottoms and a spaghetti strap top.

John announces, "I'll be very good at the math that I won't have to do!"

Lauren, who is currently struggling with percents, runs with this idea, "There will be no percents!"

"...and no spanks!" The two little ones solemnly nod their heads at Faith's pronouncement.

She continues, "I'll be able to fast forward the sermons." Much laughter ensues. Sermons have left a little to be desired recently.

We hover around the fanciful. The volume gets louder with each idea that is tossed out.

"Mama! There will be real fairies in heaven!" Faith's eyes widen as she says this.

John rolls his eyes, "Yawn!"

The conversation switches to the Lord of the Rings as it often does and settles there.

"Who would you like to meet in heaven?"

John dips a bite of french toast into a puddle of syrup. "JRR Tolkien...and CS Lewis and Colin Hardie."

"Colin who?"

"Colin Hardie. He was Tolkien's friend. Tolkien will have a huge mansion. He will have dozens of armchairs. His friends will sit in them and discuss folklore of Middle Earth. I will sit in one of the chairs."

Claire leans forward. "The people of Middle Earth will be real."

Faith begins to think about the hobbits. "In heaven Hobbits might not have hairy feet. They might even wear shoes!"

John is indignant. "Hobbits like their hairy feet and they don't like shoes!"

He continues to think about the idea of many mansions. "My mansion will have billions of books. I will have a portal to be able to go into any book that I want."

Revelation 21 and 22 give us a more accurate glimpse. They are two of our favorite chapters in the Bible. We know that there will be no more night, there really will be pearly gates...twelve of them with giant pearls...and that the tree of life will bloom eternally. There will be no sin or suffering. We will see Jesus face to face.

John sighs. "I'm only ten percent of the maximum age that I can possibly live. Heaven will be awesome! I can't wait to get there!"

We transcend the ordinary for a moment around our kitchen table. We are reminded that we are not home yet. Heaven awaits and it is awesome. Oh, to live each day with that longing and perspective.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Backyard Theater

Our house is tucked into an alcove of trees. We are surrounded by a living stage. Birds step from the shadows and give impromptu performances from dawn to dusk.

There is a aviary card game at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window. House sparrows trump song sparrows. Cardinals trump downy woodpeckers. Bluejays and red headed woodpeckers trump cardinals. Insatiable Squirrel trumps bluejays. Allegra, the cat hidden in the hosta plants, trumps Insatiable. I watch. Watching trumps my attempt to wash the dishes.

Robins and thrashers hop about in the grass. They pluck an insect dinner from the ground. Cardinals "chip" and chickadees "buzz." Bluejays chatter and scream...a wildlife alarm system. The right cry can send clouds of birds winging for cover in the canopy above. A red bellied woodpecker chuckles to himself as he backs down the tree leading to the feeder. A red winged blackbird whistles a lonely whistle.

We eat lunch in the sunroom and see an unusual sight in a vine twining around a tree at the corner of our house. A cedar waxwing tears at ripe purple berries and whistles the location of the booty to his companions. A horde of masked bandits descend and break the silence as they gobble and whistle and chatter. Before we can get the camera, the cat escapes and lies in wait under this flurry of activity. The birds fly away. They do not return. Berries remain on the vine. We return to our lunch, disappointed.

A hawk glides out from the trees. He catches a thermal and floats in circles. We clear away the remainders of lunch. He is still circling as we finish.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Liars and Thieves

I recently received a genuine facsimile of a linen handkerchief. Its proportions match the 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper found in my printer. Three or four sheets of instructions accompanied this “handkerchief.” I read them. I learned that it was a prayer handkerchief. Great blessing was guaranteed. In order to pluck this good fruit from God’s Bounty, I was to write wishes on the handkerchief, tuck this slip of paper into my Bible and sleep with my Bible under my bed. The remaining instructions told me to fold the handkerchief and place it in an envelope addressed to St. Matthew’s Church…Tulsa, Oklahoma. And finally, sit back and wait for the shower of prosperity, healing, and relationship mending to begin.

I did not write out my prayer requests. I whispered them in the dark to the One who hears for He is compassionate. I did not place the Bible under my bed. I fell asleep reading its promises and woke up the next morning with it open beside me. I did not slip the handkerchief into the envelope. I did not even write a letter of complaint and mail that instead for I noticed a strange bar code at the bottom of the envelope. I became suspicious that I might be placed on St. Matthews Churches, Inc.’s eternal mailing list.

I did search for St. Matthews on the Internet and found out that the mastermind behind this mailing is James Eugene Ewing. A man with a not quite eighth grade education and a talent for stringing together words that tug at heartstrings. A man with a talent for separating coins from those who can little afford to give them. I learned that I was specially chosen to receive this letter. Or rather, the area where I live is ripe for the fleecing. St. Matthews targets the poor, the uneducated, and the elderly.

I am not poor, uneducated or elderly. This letter was never intended to reach my hands. I am glad it did. It opened my eyes. It made me angry. Mr. Ewing is taking advantage of the people that I stand behind at Dollar General...like the woman I saw yesterday who put back the bottle of cough syrup in favor of Raman Noodles. Four dollars can only stretch so far and there is still another week until pay day. I once watched a woman who filled her cart with groceries at the local "Scratch and Dent" for a mere seven dollars. I walked out ashamed that I had spent thirteen on only two bags. James Eugene Ewing is a man who has tasted poverty and now feeds off of people who are as he was. (Though I doubt he has received a dime from Mrs. Seven Dollars.)

I wonder how people who hang two dollar jeans back on the rack at the thrift store and declare them too expensive can be seduced into handing over a few dollars to St. Matthews and other Prosperity Gospel bank accounts. Sometimes I see that there are those who don’t think for themselves. The conversations at the thrift store clue me in.

A woman walks in and squeezes between the racks. She does not look at any of the merchandise but makes her way straight to the counter.
“Hey Annie, Got anything you think I might like?”
“How ‘bout this pair of red boots?”
“Thanks Annie.” And the customer is out the door, red boots slung over her shoulder.

I separate and evaluate the clothing on the racks and wonder, “You didn’t even try them on. How do you know they will fit? Do you need boots? Do you like red?”

There are those who approach God’s Word the same way. They are willing to believe that riches will fall from the sky if they follow a superstitious hocus pocus procedure because they don’t know what God says. Sometimes I get e-mails that say “Forward this to everyone you know and you will be blessed.” I read in the Personals section of the newspaper, “Thanks St. Jude for an answer to prayer.” I think, “Get out your bibles, people. It doesn't mention e-mails or St. Jude dispensing blessings on a single page!”

There are those who don’t approach God at all. They look in disgust at the stealing, manipulating and lying that goes on in the name of the Lord. They don’t look beyond this obstruction to the One who formed them, who knows their name, who wants to be their friend. The One who loves them. The One who was so angry over this same type of fleecing that He dumped tables and drove overpriced goods from the temple, twice. I think," Tear your eyes from the ugly and see the Truth.

I wonder if some of the money that belonged to the "woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years and spent all she had" went into the pockets of a swindler who preyed upon her desperation. But, in the end, she saw that Christ was the only one who could deliver her. She screwed together her courage and reached out and touched him and that was all it took.

That is all it took for me, too. I put my life in Christ’s hands. I put the handkerchief in the garbage.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Prison

Fear. Its chains bind us. Imprison us. We may be able to do great things beyond the bars of fear. Do we dare muscle our way out of the cell that confines us?

Lauren is ten. Smart, artistic, driven, gifted…fearful. Her voice shakes when she answers the phone. A stern mask shades her face in a crowd. Tears spill at anything less than perfection.

“Lauren, God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power and of love. You have so much to offer. Satan knows that and he wraps fear around you to keep you from achieving the great things that God has planned for you.”

Through tears, “I know, Mama. I know. I try. I just get nervous when there are so many people around me. I can’t think!” More tears and snuffling into a soggy tissue.

The issue at hand. Bible Drill. Twenty-four Bible verses. References must be noted. Each verse must be word perfect. Sixty-six books. “Attention. Present Bible. Mark…Thessalonians…Malachi. Start!” 10 seconds of frantic page turning in a quest to find the few pages that make up a book. Step forward. List the books that come before and after the book that has been called. Finding a key passage is even harder. Now zero in on a specific verse in a specific book in ten seconds.

For weeks, Lauren works. “Do not listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 4:12”

“No honey, try again. Do not MERELY listen to the word…James 1:22”

“WAAA! I can’t do it!” Frustration mingles with the tears.

“Try again.”

She pouts. She rages at her imperfections. She tries again and works until the rage melts away.

We go to Chattanooga for a visit. This will be a good test. Lauren will join her old Bible Drill class for practice. Her hands are all thumbs. She cannot find the books in ten seconds. She cannot remember where the key passages are. She cries…in class. She cries on the way home, “It’s hard Mama. I can’t do this!”

“Lauren, yes you can. We’ll focus on finding those books and key passages.”

And we do. Ruth. Leviticus. Judges. Obadiah. Day after day, drill after drill she grows faster…more confident.

The day of the church drill arrives. A few more hours of practice and Lauren will stand IN PUBLIC with twelve other kids. The competition begins. Lauren steps forward for every reference call and completion call. Each reference memorized. Each verse word perfect.

Time for the book calls and key passages. This is hard. My stomach is in knots. I know that the tears will flow if she cannot find her place. She will shut down. She may not be able to go on. I might have to take her home. I can hardly bear to watch.

The instructor calls the book that the children are to find. Lauren’s dark hair bends over her Bible. Her fingers fly to the correct place. Her brown eyes flash and twinkle. She smiles and skips forward after four or five seconds to indicate that she has completed her assignment. Again and again this scene is repeated. She is the first one over the line almost every time. Her face radiates joy and captures the attention of the whole room. (I know this because the whole room came up to tell me this when the competition was finished.)

A perfect score! Fear banished by hard work and preparation.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 This is one of the verses that Lauren needed to memorize for the competition. She did do her best! Hiding verses in your heart IS correctly handling the word of truth! She was a workman who did not need to be ashamed! She will be blessed for a lifetime by the words she has tucked into her mind this year.

Fear. Lauren bent its bars and slipped out between them. May this day be one that she can build on the next time she feels the cell door clanging shut.

Perspective

You wouldn't know we are related. We neither look nor act alike. I love soft garments in muted colors. Faith calls to mind Joseph in his coat of many colors. She wears trendy, flowing clothes...each piece a kaliedescope of brightness. The pants on her bottom half do not necessarily have to match the shirt on her top half. We don't sound alike either. I sing bits of Sara Groves or Nicole Nordeman while I work. She sings “I am going outside!” “Can I have some more carrots?” and “I finished my math” in her best operatic alto.

We do not see things from the same angle. “Faith put a coat and shoes on. It’s freezing out here!”

“Look Mama, do fairies live in the little hole in this tree?”

We work side by side in the garden. “Be careful, Mom, you are going to hit that toad with your trowel.”

“Where?”

“Right there, under that flower. I wonder what kind of toad it is? I wonder what kind of flower it is?”

Her wondering makes me wonder. We get out the Frogs, Toads, and Turtles (Take Along Guide) and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers. We learn that the toad is an American Toad identifiable by a faint yellow stripe down its back. The flower is Daisy Flea Bane.

“Why is it called Flea Bane?”

These questions open my eyes to the wild flowers lining the road on my walk the next day. “Hey kids, get your shoes on. Let’s go for a wildflower walk.”

A half hour, ten shoes and three trips to the bathroom later, we are ready. We set out carrying one pair of scissors and two plastic glasses.

“Mama, look! Let’s put that one in the vase.”

“Charlie, don’t pull up the flowers! Let Mama do the cutting.” A plant with a blue flower drags on the ground behind him…roots and all.

“Careful! There are ants’ nests all along the road. They like to build their nests right on the edge so watch your step.”

“John, look out. John! John!” Too late. A nest has been slashed open by a scooter tire. Ants work frantically to restore order. We watch mesmerized as the larvae are moved deeper into the nest. We forget that these ants bite. Soldier ants use their powers of persuasion. We move on, toes smarting.

“Claire! Stop screaming! You are nowhere near that nest. They are not going to bite you! Stop!”

A truck approaches from behind. I put a protective arm out. Faith, look out! You are going to walk in front of that truck.”

Eagle Eye Nature Girl’s small hand flies out simultaneously. “ Careful Mama! You are about to step on a turtle!”

I look down. I am about to step on a turtle… a little one, no bigger than a half-dollar. We all hunch down in the middle of the road.

“Charlie, don’t poke him in the eye with that twig!”

“Can we take him home?

“Look at those yellow lines around his eyes and on his head. I wonder what kind of turtle he is?”

“Can we take him home?”

“He might be a painted turtle.”

“Can we take him home?”

Later, research on the Internet indicates that he indeed might be a painted turtle. Painted turtles make comical and entertaining pets. OR, he might be a musk turtle. The nickname for a musk turtle is Stinkpot. As the name implies, Stinkpots are NOT ideal pets. I am glad that we let this little turtle continue his trek across the road. Faith is not.

We return home with our plastic cups full of wildflowers. One specimen of each variety. We lay them out on the table. We consult the wildflower field guide and learn that we have collected Spiderwort, Mouse-ear Hawk Weed, and Lyre Leaf Sage. There are a few species that still remain a mystery to us, as we cannot find their pictures in our guide.

I am glad that Faith and I don’t see eye to eye. Separately, we would miss valuable sights. Faith sees that a glass of milk is about to spill, the fridge door is left open or that she is about to get hit by a truck through my eyes. I see little rocks with sparkles, butterflies sipping nectar, and spiders protecting egg sacs through hers. I think we need each other.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Small Season

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 (from The Message)

I am challenged to live the Christian life by some wonderful writers with their own blogs. The idea of blogging has caught my attention as a way of sharing my thoughts with someone old enough to put their dishes in the sink and wipe the crumbs from their face without being reminded. Perhaps I too can step into cyberspace where people wonder, challenge, ponder and sharpen their thoughts with the backspace button, the keyboard and the spacebar. Jesus used small things to teach great truths. True yesterday and still true today. If I look, I can learn extraordinary things through ordinary events.

A few years ago The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkerson took the Christian community by storm. Jabez cries out to the Lord in 1 Chronicles 4:10 “…bless me and enlarge my territory...” I was not among those who prayed that prayer. God has indeed blessed me during my walk with him as a Christian but as for “enlarging my territory” …He seems more to be squeezing me these days, fencing me in…confining...removing. I think He calls it refining.

In the past year God has taken away my church family, my ministry, my friends, my town, my wordly significance. I have lost precious time with my beloved husband who is working longer hours and traveling more. A job change has moved us away from people we know and love…away from people who know and love us.

My life and influence are small. The week consists of Bible at mealtimes with the kids, a trip to the grocery store, story hour at the library, math lessons, language arts, a good read-aloud and church on Wednesdays and Sundays. A high excitement week includes treasure hunting at the thrift store. Celebrate with me! Last week we came home with a stuffed parrot and a large purple hat! (Sometimes the smallness closes in on me.)

These days when I open my Bible the small people catch my attention. Those who folded in on themselves like Tamar. Those who looked to God and were delivered like Rahab and the Woman at the Well. Even the big guys…Paul, Joseph, Moses, David... all had small seasons. Through their example, I know God does not mean for me to grow smaller in my small circumstances. He means for me to seek Him, to serve, to grow, to persevere. I may have less these days but it is for the purpose of maturity and in the end I will lack nothing.