Thursday, December 29, 2011

This One is For You, Whoever You Are.

I sit here writing at shortly after 5:00 am not because I am so motivated or self-disciplined. I have been awake on and off...mostly on...since two-something with body-possessing chills and a fever. It's not ideal the ideal set-up for a delightful romp around my blog with seven followers (I will count myself in that total, thank you very much). No, it's not the best timing for a musing or a puzzling. Nor is it the best timing for God to whisper in your ear, "Arise. Get out of bed. And write." Seriously, God? But, God and I had a good long discussion and barter session about it since somewhere in the "threes". This was what I needed to do and every "I will if..." that I could invent was answered. So, you, whoever "you" are, needed to hear this right now.

You see, I've been pondering hope a lot over the past few weeks. Do you ever feel like it just isn't there? For all your willpower and exertion, it just refuses to bubble up to the surface. You feel hopeLESS. hopeDEMOLISHED. hopeSHATTERED. You're exhausted and sick. Your house is being invaded by ants and moths. Your hot water heater decides to break, along with a couple nice electronics. Your loved one suffers with chronic disease. His contract for work is about to end. And even your answers to prayer seem to be simply a cat-and-mouse game with God. He answers every little detail of a specific request you have been praying for over a period of years and then seems to say, "Oops. Never mind."

Am I forgetting something? In reality, I have really been okay with all the life set-backs...up until the game of cat-and-mouse. I honestly feel like it is impossible for me to understand that one. It was not asked "amiss" and we have patiently waited a long time.

Yet, here we go back to that idea of self-discipline and motivation, something that I struggle horribly with in nearly every aspect of my life. Isn't that the crux of things? Let me explain. First of all, is hope a feeling? I mean, yes, we feel hopeful. But why? And if it's just a feeling, what about all the people who seemingly feel it when they have absolutely no reason in the world to? Those who are completely unflappable in the face of discouragement and disappointment far worse than what I am personally facing right now? Let's look at some verses and maybe we'll uncover this "secret":

Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So we see that hope may indeed be a feeling, but that feeling is within our reach and control, with God's abiding grace, of course. It starts with a choice. It starts with the self-discipline to quit wallowing and instead grab...scratching and clawing if need be...onto the truth of God's unfailing LOVE and the belief that He is doing a good work in us, whether we understand it or not. No one feels like rejoicing over any of life's tragedies, whether they be small or enormous. But if we know that in the end they will produce not only endurance and character, but ultimately a comforting hope that surpasses human comprehension, wouldn't it be wise to choose to rejoice? And maybe it will have to start with simple acceptance and a "thank you" that feels unnatural and even wrong at times.

So, do we believe that he loves us? Do we believe that all these bumps and even gorges in the road are put there by Him for our good? And if we say we believe it, do we have the hope to back it prove what we claim?

Let's lift each other up in prayer that we will persevere in what we know so that we may experience a hope that baffles the world and can only be explained by God.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Laundry Room Talk with God

I just had an interesting conversation with God in my laundry room. Why He cares to join me in my messy laundry room while I perform boring tasks, I don't know. But He does. And the conversation went something like this...

Me: "Lord, I need to find that white shirt to make sure there's no spot left on it before I dry it. Help me to find it."

I search through mounds of wet white laundry to no avail. Where is that shirt?

Me: "Okay, Lord, I know you're in control, but I just need to find that shirt. I don't want it to be permanently stained if I dry it."

I search a little harder.

Me: "I can't find it and I really need to! I know it isn't your fault Lord, and you are in control. But please help me to find it! I'm getting frustrated here."

God: "Maybe I don't want you to find it."

Me: That can't be God talking. God wouldn't say that.

I then search piece by piece, even pulling open the sheets to see if it is entangled in one.

Me: "Now this just doesn't make sense!"

God: "Maybe it's my will that you don't find it."

Me: "But that's just silly! Why would you want me to ruin a perfectly good shirt? What a waste! I know I put it in the washer and now it's vanished! This doesn't make any sense and I can't accept something that doesn't make sense as your will."

God: "Do you hear what you just said? Listen to yourself. Don't you trust me? You know that what I do doesn't always make sense to you."


"Okay. Fine. I don't understand it at all, but there's nothing I can do anyway. I give up. . . I trust you."

I throw the armloads of stubborn laundry into the dryer, close it, and stand up. . . only to discover the mysteriously missing shirt had fallen under me and was right there on the floor. At that moment, I hear the garbage truck outside and run to take my overflowing can out to the street. I would likely not have heard the truck, had I found that shirt earlier because I was headed for the shower right after that menial task.

And here's the (probably obvious) lesson: If we can't trust Him to help us with the little things in our days, like something as insignificant as laundry, will we trust Him when the big things come? Listen when God talks to you in the laundry room. He's saying something important right there through all the routine daily monotony, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Loving Judge

I've been contemplating lately the idea of God's mercy versus his justice. We all fully embrace the concept of His mercy and love. We seem to have no philosophical issue with that. Yet, it seems as though His justice is forgotten and even defamed in our culture today. But why? None of us vacillate in demanding justice when it benefits us, when it rights those wrongs done to us. We are satisfied when the rapist is sent to jail. We are mollified when the child abuser is locked away to pay for his crimes. Would anyone argue that demanding retribution for such crimes against innocent victims is unloving or unkind?

But God? His name is treated as a curse; His holy nature and character brought to trial by those who despise Him; His children hated, tortured, and martyred. Does God deserve justice? Does the Perfect One who breathed the very life into us deserve recompense? Or do we think we are more important than God, holier than God? It is permissible for us to demand justice. We deserve it. But God is supposed to be all love to all people in all circumstances...and nothing more. He is expected to just overlook all the wrongs and offenses and turn a deaf ear to His children's cries and a blind eye to the evildoers who mock His holy name.

I don't want a one-dimensional God who is unable to impart justice when such justice is the only right course of action. I want the God who both embraces and condemns. This is the God who makes sense, the God of the Bible who loves enough to judge...and yet is always willing to extend mercy even to those who fall under His judgment. That is the God that I love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Profitability of Truth

I enjoy a good debate, not because I enjoy proving myself right, but because I love truth. I sometimes engage in debate to proclaim and champion the truth and other times to actually search for and find the truth of a matter. I don't always know for certain that I am right, but the process of proving or disproving something is a pursuit that can be very fulfilling when you are truly seeking truth...or seeking to proclaim it to others.

So, I am not intimidated by someone pointing out errors in my logic...or the fact that I'm a complete idiot on a topic! In fact, have you ever noticed that those whom the world labels as weak or foolish are usually representatives of the truth? So, call me foolish! Because truth is worth becoming foolish for. Truth is worth insult and intimidation. Truth is worth the struggle to set it free because in the end, it is The Truth that sets us free!

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Spiritual Equality of Children

As parents, we often view ourselves on a different plane than our children. And in fact, we are in some ways. There is a degree of order to the family, an authority structure. The father is the head, the mother his support and second-in-command, and the children subordinate to those authorities. There must be mutual respect between family members along with a recognition of this structure.

However, we must recognize also that in some ways we are entirely equal. We have to remember that children have the same spiritual struggles that we do, just on a different scale. They, too, are humans created from the dust of the ground. Where we may struggle with envy of someone else's house, car, etc., they struggle with coveting their friend's toys or bike. These are the same struggles, at their heart, yet we tend to either minimize those struggles in our children and treat them as though they are lesser evils, or chastise and punish them out of an arrogant, domineering spirit instead of with a humble, relating heart.

Those who minimize their children's sin may think that there is some difference between covetousness in the heart of an adult and covetousness in the heart of a child. But in reality, these minor sins of childhood represent major heart issues that if left unchallenged, will someday become even more obvious, perhaps even criminal. Is there a murderer in the world who was not first a child filled with hate for others? Is there a bank robber anywhere that was not first a little one stealing gum or candy from the store? These are major sins, also, because they magnify what is in the heart. "For out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).

Those who magnify their children's sin tend to be prideful of their spirituality and family position. They forget that they, too, struggle; that they, too, have hearts that are just as sinful. They are so focused on their children's sinfulness that they forget to look inward.

Both these attitudes -- minimizing and magnifying -- emerge when we forget that we are spiritual equals. We must remember that while we may be father and mother physically, we are spiritually brothers and sisters in Christ! We must come alongside our children in humility and help them in those same struggles that we ourselves may bear, recognizing the fact that all sin represents a heart that is out of order. And yet, we must also not take advantage of our God-ordained authority by acting in a spiritually superior manner. We need to get the "mote" out of our own eye first!

Sin is sin. We are all guilty before God and this should give us both the freedom and humility to gently lead our children "in paths of righteousness for his name's sake," just as our Heavenly Father leads us (Ps. 23:3).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blessed. So Blessed.

I am blessed. Sometimes struggling, but always blessed. I pulled out a box of old photographs tonight...the kind of box that sits under a bed, abandoned, until a "nesting" mood strikes and this box is rediscovered...and all of its brother and sister boxes, as well. The ones that eluded unpacking since moving in five, no six, years ago.

Yes, that box. The box with the pictures that make my heart sigh. My heart did a lot of sighing tonight. Remembrance, reliving, regret. Isn't it funny what a picture pulls out of the deepest core of someone? And I lost myself there on the floor, feeling those strange feelings. Those feelings the pictures yanked from within me, stretched and snapped out like a rubber band. Do you ever want to be the person in the pictures again? Do you want to relive every moment, full of promise and hope, pain and aching? A second chance to do it right? Or just to relive the very right way you did it first?

I do.

And then I think how blessed I am...from those pictures to here. From that girl to this one. I am blessed. A husband, a family (growing), a home, a church family...I am surrounded by love. And The Greatest Love. Love that will not give me "lesser things" because I am not yet who I need to be. I am thankful for the greatest things that seem the opposite of blessings. Those ironic blessings that hurt and sting. They are from God's hand, too.

I thank God for the blessings through the tears. All the blessings that bubble up and overflow, drowning out the sorrow. Jon, my dear husband, may be sick and struggling. We may not have what I think the "perfect" life should look like, but here are the blessings through the raindrops:

  • He has a good job in which he excels, even on the hardest days with the fewest hours of sleep.
  • He has never had to go on disability.
  • He is able to work from home when he needs to.
  • He is able to be flexible in the hours that he works.
  • Reading stories of others with Lyme Disease, I know it could be so much worse.
  • My children have a father who loves them.
  • I have a husband who loves me, even when I am at my worst.
  • He is still able to support us such that I am able to be home with our children every day.
  • We have everything we need and even more.
  • We have grown...I have grown. That is what really matters.
  • God has never given us more than we could handle.

Thank you, God. Thank you, Friends, for praying us over the bumps. I feel those prayers lift us up.

We are blessed. So blessed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I am struggling. Today I am struggling. Usually, it is okay. I can usually muster up enough hope, enough self-encouragement, enough strength that living with a husband with a chronic illness is fine. I can usually see the glass as half full. But today, I want to throw the glass across the room in defiance of the very question. I am tired of the glass and whatever is in it. I am just so tired of this struggle and tired of hanging onto this hope that, like some carrot on the end of a string, constantly teases and always alludes our grasp.

To give background for those who don't know, my husband has Lyme disease and has struggled with various related health issues for the majority of our marriage. And today, I am sick of it. I wish I could fully trust in God. I wish that the words, "God has a plan and we are thankful for this sickness," would always be right there on my tongue. But they are not. I am thankful for the days that they are. And deep down, I know that He does have a plan and that this patchwork-life will be beautiful in the end, but for today, I struggle with the emotions of trying to reconcile God's hidden plan with the reality of the fully-exposed ugliness of sickness. Today, it is hard to see through the ugliness.

I look at pictures of when we dated and I long to go back and cherish those times of innocent, naive hopefulness and promise. I long to relive the false "knowledge" of a perfect life...the life where my husband comes home from work, sits down to dinner...the same dinner we are all eating...and enjoys conversation with his family. I long for surprise dates and romance. I long for simple evenings of peaceful reading together and sharing thoughts and dreams. I long for weekends that include the husband/father of this family. I long for a man who has the strength to do all the things he wants to do, for a man who does not struggle just to make it through one day.

And then in all this longing, I feel the guilt of self-indulgence, the guilt of a self-focus that forgets that I am not the one suffering. And that our "suffering" is so minimal compared to what others go through. I forget about all the promises that God has kept through the struggle...that He will never leave us or forsake us. I forget about how blessed we are that Jon has never had to go on disability or missed long periods of work. I forget how blessed we are that no matter how exhausted and incoherent he is, he can always work on a computer in genius ways that astound those who work with him. I forget that he is a shining light of God's grace and provision, not just to us, but to those who most need to see that light. I forget that God shows himself faithful, even when Jon cannot do everything he would like to as a husband and father. God picks up the slack.

I know all these things. But, friends, I still struggle with the days of longing that make my heart feel empty and pained. And today is one of the hurting days that my heart could use more hope, more faith. Because, quite frankly, as much as this trial makes us long for heaven, I just want us all to experience "normal," just a taste of it, for at least a little period of our lives together here on this earth.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Work the Third Shift

(Last February, I had the privilege of writing a series of 30 devotionals based on sacrifice for my church's financial campaign. I will share them occasionally when I don't have time to write something fresh.)

Sacrifice may mean giving up sleep or rest to accomplish Kingdom work.

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him (Mark 14:35-40).

Have you ever tried to pray late into the night? It is not easy for us, with our weak human bodies, to sacrifice sleep. Most of us probably feel a real sense of compassion for the disciples in this story. They did not fully comprehend why Jesus was praying and their bodies were, meanwhile, crying out for rest. Yet, Jesus had asked them to stay awake with Him, and Peter, in particular, was called to “watch and pray” so that he would not “enter into temptation.” Despite Peter's willingness to pray, he continued to give into the weakness of his flesh. How like Peter we are!

On February 26, 1968 during the Vietnam war, a grandmother (in law) of a soldier named Jim was awakened in the night and called by the Holy Spirit to pray. Unable to kneel because of arthritis, she prostrated herself on the floor and spent the entire night reading her Bible and crying out to the Lord for the safety of her granddaughter's husband. Towards dawn, a passage in Matthew came to her mind and she claimed the promise therein and felt a peace that God would answer her prayers to spare Jim's life. On the other side of the world, Jim had come to a point of despair that had led him to ask God to end his life. The cruelties and horrors of war had taken their toll in the years he had been there and he was ready to escape. Resigned to the seeming certainty that his death was imminent, he was not surprised when he heard a missile headed directly toward him. But, God intervened. The fuse malfunctioned and Jim's life was spared. After the close call, he pulled out his Bible and began reading in Matthew. When he came to Matthew 18:19-20, he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and believed that he would live through his ordeal. He later said, “I somehow knew things would be alright.” Years later, when visiting his grandmother, she relayed to him the story of the night she had sacrificed sleep in order to pray for him. There in her Bible, right next to Matthew 18:19-20, were the words “Jim, February 26, 1968.”

What may have happened if this grandmother had listened to her body instead of the Holy Spirit and allowed herself to continue sleeping? What may have happened if Peter had prayed for God's strength that night? What may have happened if Jesus had allowed himself more rest instead of communion with God? If Jesus, in His perfect state, was compelled to stay up all night to pray, how much more seriously should we take the call to prayer? There is some kingdom work that is so imminent it requires our immediate intercession. It is easy to make the excuse that our bodies need sleep in order to function well, but we must be willing to sacrifice even our sleep at times to pray for God's will to be accomplished. Are you willing?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

But For the Grace of God. . .

"But for the grace of God, there go I." I think most of us have an easy time saying that of the habitual liar, the occasional drunkard, the one who swears...those with the "easier" sins...the ones that God has no trouble forgiving. But what about the tough ones...the really tough ones? What about the prostitute? The abortionist? The serial killer? I think we turn our faces and put up a question mark. The statement becomes one made in disbelief: "But for the grace of God, there go I?" Really, God? I could be a prostitute? I could be an abortionist? I could be a serial killer?

I have what some would call a morbid taste in reading. I enjoy, that is not the right word...I am compelled to read, on occasion, true crime stories. Understand, it's not that I enjoy reading descriptions of heinous crimes. Nor is it that reading others' horrendous crimes makes me feel somehow superior. In fact, it does the opposite. It reminds me that "But for the grace of God, there go I." And here is why: What is most striking about all these reprehensible stories is the utter normality of the people, at least at some point in their lives. The serial killer used to be just an ordinary little boy and page by page, we see small stumblings and points where the normal path took a turn and became a little more twisted until the path was so dark and confused that the depth of depravity almost makes sense. How could one not lose oneself in the sin-sickness? Choices, small choices at times, slowly move the normal boy towards a very un-normal adulthood. It is there that I find the "But for the grace of God." It is there that I find, shockingly, myself. But for the grace of God, I could have been a prostitute. But for the grace of God, I could have become an abortionist. But for the grace of God, I could have become a serial killer. But for the grace of God, THERE GO I. Praise God for His grace!

And so, I am compelled to read on. To know why and how. Because knowing the "whys and hows" can save us from ourselves, and send us running toward that grace of God before we continue on, progressively losing ourselves in our sin, a path toward ultimate destruction.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Confessions of a Freezer Hoarder

It's safe to say that people like me should not own freezers that require periodic defrosting. It's not that I forget. On the contrary, I remember every time I open that freezer and I think to myself, "I really should defrost this sometime." But "sometime" is elusive. I've never come across some time for "sometime." So, as usual, sometime came to me as it always has in the history of my owning this needy freezer. The breaker flipped and here I am with the task of finding various ways to cook deer meat and use 50 pounds of nuts and seeds. And of course, there is the cleaning out of the five-year-old corn and mixed vegetables that I needed to stock up on...which are now solidified at the bottom of the freezer in one convenient package of ice, tapioca flour, meat guck, and some other substances of unknown origin.

For a brief deluded moment, I thought I might take a picture of the spectacle, but decided that I'd rather go ahead and write the thousand words so as to paint the picture to my liking and save myself a little dignity. Yet, my compulsion to honestly convey reality is seeming to be the undoing of that dignity I'd so love to preserve. A picture might have been a kinder messenger after all!

But it's not just the ghastly state of my frozen food artifacts that I fear would quickly sell out my dignity if memorialized in a photograph. It's the items themselves contained in my freezer. Much more than frozen food artifacts, there are some frozen artifacts of the bizarre kind. Dare I share? Let's just say, if it nourishes a baby so well for nine months, wouldn't it work wonders on a newly planted baby tree? It's the ultimate in recycling. And to my defense, my midwife recommended saving it. Too bad we never remembered the forlorn frozen something when we actually planted trees. Seven years in the freezer. Poor placenta.

But the freezer is now clean again. Ready for another seven or so years of accumulating ice and oddities. And with another baby on the way, who knows...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Artists are Funny Specimens of Humanity and Children Need to Not Slam Doors

We artists are funny specimens of humanity. We are "irony." In all our (I am being generous here with the use of "our," as I probably don't fit this stereotype) strivings to be unique, we become typical, usual in our uniqueness, common in our uncommonness.

[I interrupt myself a moment to interject a real "ponderance" that parents have undoubtedly pondered since time's beginning...or rather since the beginning of doors. Why can children not seem to close them quietly? Why must they be slammed, no matter the amount of pleading and shushing to shut them properly? This slice of reality brought to you in part by my door-slamming children.]

But back to artists and conformity masquerading as non-conformity. I looked at a picture of a group of artists and was struck by the oddly-red hair, the various Flat Caps (or Scally Caps or Salmon Hats or Smack Hats or whichever other name you should choose of the approximately 30 options for this type of cap), the poodle with similarly frizzy-fur-haired owner, and realized something. I didn't need to be told what profession these colorful (sometimes literally) aberrations belonged to. They were artists, naturally. Perhaps, then, an artist would do well to achieve uniqueness-success by being distinctly and decidedly normal...if the end-goal is simply the high rank of uniqueness, that is.

For me, the end goal is not uniqueness. Maybe I am unique and maybe I am yawningly mass-produced humanity. All I know is that I do what I do because I am who I am in Christ. If I'm a little odd or off, that is just the God-created me. If I'm not...well, that is just another part of me...the comfortingly normal part.

And that's all the musings and puzzlings I have about we this moment in time, while I await another slamming door, alerting me to hungry children ready for their dinner.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cease from Strife

Proverbs 20:3 "It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling."

The Strong's Concordance defines the word "strife" as it's used in this verse several ways: "Chiding," "contention", and "pleading." But the most interesting definition, to me, is "contest." The word "meddling," likewise, is defined as "obstinate." Often, when those closest to us, such as our spouses, make instigative remarks, the first thing we want to do is fight back. We see the impending argument as a contest that we are determined to win and we quickly become obstinate in our position. We may feel that we have a right to respond, especially when we perceive the remark as completely untrue. It's so easy to retaliate when someone hurts us or makes us angry, isn't it? How often do we respond in a godly manner and instead choose to turn the other cheek or bridle our tongues?

When we stand before the Lord in Heaven, He will not judge us on the actions of others, but He will judge us on our own responses. Do we "cease from strife" or are we "meddling"? Do we keep quiet and let the argument go or do we dig in our heels and try to prove ourselves right? God doesn't care who's right! He will not ask us who or what caused us to say harsh words. He will ask us why we responded in like manner. Take a moment to consider. Are you and honorable person, or a fool?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ Is Risen!

Three words. The number of completion. Christ is Risen! The thought so overwhelmed me that I needed to share it. I needed to tell someone! I told the people in the trailer park. I told the man in the car with his windows down. I told all of God's creation! I rolled my windows down, turned up my stereo, and "told" whoever happened to be within range of my car, my mobile church-of-sorts. And it felt strangely thrilling to be an anonymous messenger of the Truth on this day of victory. "Come awake, come awake!" Do you know what this day is about, children playing in the dirt? Do you know what this day is about, man with your arm out the window? Do you know what this day is about, birds, trees, rocks? Yes, rocks, you know. You will cry it out if I don't! (Luke 19:40)

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven's will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer's crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead
He's alive! He's alive!

Does your heart leap at these thoughts, like it's going to burst out of you? Does the thought of what Christ did for you thrill you? He conquered death with death! The beautiful eternal irony. We live because He died. He sees us as perfect because He saw His Son as sinful. He loved us. We hated him. We die in order to live...die to self to live for Him. The irony of the cross.

Do you know the beautiful irony?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Konur's Testimony

Today we have a guest writer! :) My son, Konur, dictated this testimony to me at age 6 and our pastor read it at his baptism. I know I'm partial, but I think it's pretty moving.

When I was 5 years old, I became a Christian. I thought that everything I was doing was wicked. I heard about Jesus at church and I thought I needed to be a Christian but I didn't become a Christian right after church. I wanted to talk to my mom first. Then after a while, I thought it was time. So, that night after everything was over and my mom had tucked me in for bed, I thought, It would be nicer to be a Christian than to have to die in hell and die in pain. So then I thought, So I should be a Christian. So then I got out of bed and knelt down on the floor and prayed, “Dear Lord, I would like to be a Christian because I do not want to die in all kinds of horrible pain wishing that I had prayed to go to heaven. So, please help me to do better in what I do and to follow Your Word. Please take away my sins.” And then I got up from praying and got in bed and before I went to sleep I thought about how wonderful heaven might be if someday I died. And then I thought some more about how wonderful heaven would be and about one day seeing Jesus. I thought about what would be in heaven. Then I fell asleep dreaming more about heaven and how heaven would look someday when I died and I dreamed about one day seeing Jesus.

I slept until 7:00 and I felt better than I had ever felt. I usually had to stretch, but that day I didn't have to stretch. I felt so much better to know that I just became a Christian. The rest of the day was the best day I've had in my life. I think being a Christian changed my life so much that I am very glad I prayed that night to Jesus. One of the changes is being nicer to my sister. I think I have been really nice to my sister these days and I really think I have been getting closer to Jesus each day because I prayed. And I think that I should give more stuff to poor people because they don't have much stuff and we do. Every day since the day I became a Christian turns out very well and I think it's all because I became a Christian and I love the Lord so much. I want to thank the Lord for hearing my prayer and for letting me be a Christian.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Refutation of “Motherhood Bliss!”

Few things will stir up a woman's heart like the topic of mothering. So it must be handled with a liberal dose of grace and love, as well as truth. That is why an article that uses emotional language such as “abandon” and “hardening the heart” in reference to any method of parenting is sure to cause offense. Add Scripture, pulled out of context and used inaccurately, and you have a recipe for real controversy and a legitimate reason for the feelings of offense.

Recently, I read an article by Amie Gray on the Above Rubies website entitled “Motherhood Bliss!” that followed this recipe ingredient by ingredient. It offended me on three levels: my spirit, my intellect, and my heart. Had it been a simple offense of my intellect or heart, I could overlook it as a mere misguided view of one person, a response not necessarily being warranted. However, because it offended my spirit. . . that is, it was spiritually misguided and used Scripture out of context to support this perspective. . . and because it was posted on a fairly prominent Christian website, I felt I must respond. When Scripture is used wrongly to support any viewpoint, I believe it must be corrected lest anyone feel a sense of misplaced guilt or judgment.

First, I feel the need to explain my own “qualifications”, due to the nature of the article and the fact that I am refuting it. I am a mother, very similar to the author. I likely share many of her views. I am a Christian. I homeschool. I home birth. I home just-about-everything! I love my role as mother and keeper of my home (cleaning excepted, perhaps). And of course, I love my children, as much as the author clearly loves her own. However, the point where I do disagree with the author is the point where this article seems to imply that I don't, in fact, love my children because of the method of parenting I choose for my children during their babyhood.

I have never been a big “labeler”. Often, labels seem to confuse and distort rather than clarify. They may be a convenient convention when trying to communicate without
long explanation, but they are invariably weighted down with assumptions and prejudices. What is meant by one person's use of a label can be interpreted completely differently by another. The terms “attachment parenting” (AP) and the “Babywise” method or “parent-directed feeding” (PDF) are no different. Mention your
adherence to either method, and you may be in for a verbal brawl! Ultimately, however, we should be neither child-directed nor parent-directed. We should be God-directed! And, quite frankly, I know many in both the AP and PDF camps that are just that. They take principles from the method and let God direct them with how to apply those principles in their own families. I also see parents who subscribe to AP who allow their babies to direct the entire family, which is held hostage to his or her wants. And I see parents who subscribe to PDF who selfishly dictate schedules, ignoring their baby's needs. And I see some who are at varying points on both sides of the scale.

The point I am making is this: A label cannot tell us everything we need to know, either about the method or about those using it. It has inherent limitations. Therefore, to make harsh judgments against one method or the other is to paint all
parents using that particular method in a less-than-flattering light, based on assumptions. To further bring in Scripture to support one's judgment is to prescribe a heavy dose of guilt to one who may be completely free of that particular sin-sickness.

So, now that the foundation has been laid, let's take a look at the article and discuss the problems, bearing these thoughts in mind, as I, too, am limited by the labels and by my own interpretation of how Gray is using them.

The article opens with a beautiful
background story of the author's life experiences and her coming to know the Lord as her savior. She clearly loves motherhood! And for that tender heart, I have great respect. Then, at the end of the following paragraph, the first mental red flag goes up:

In the same way God designed our bodies to give birth naturally, He designed us to mother naturally. I felt like I had stumbled upon some ancient mystery, and I knew the reason behind all those happy babies and children at the LLL meetings. Whether their parents knew God or not, they were raising their babies according to His design and received the blessings for following His plan! (emphasis mine).

Statements like this always make me nervous. Any time one makes the claim that a
certain practice, method, or action is “according to God's design”, we should stop and ask if this is a true claim. In this paragraph, Gray is stating that the methods of La Leche League are God-ordained. This seems a weighty and dangerous claim and needs to be rightly supported with Scripture. We go on to examine whether or not she will accomplish this.

On the tail of this claim, Gray quotes the following verses:

Isaiah 66:11-13 says, “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what the LORD says: ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.’”

The picture of a mother's love is certainly a beautiful comparison of God's love for
Israel. But a support for attachment parenting? A refutation of parent-directed-feeding? I don't believe so.

Gray goes on to examine the lives of two biblical mothers: Eve and Mary. The problem is, she does not use Scripture in this examination, but rather her own visualization of their lives. For example, of Eve she states, “I can envision her carrying her baby throughout the day, and the new family sleeping all curled up together at night, just as God intended. A beautiful picture of simplicity and love.” (emphasis mine). Granted, we do have historical information that helps us in an understanding of the culture in ancient times. However, where the Bible is not clear, should we be building a philosophy off of our own interpretations? Should we assume that Mary followed the culture exactly? And assuming she did, can we take that as a mandate to our lives today? (WWMD?) She may have been a good model in many ways but, Mary, too, was human. She and Joseph scolded Jesus for remaining
behind in the temple during a trip to Jerusalem when He was a boy when in fact, Jesus was simply about His Father's business, doing His will. Further, there is nothing in the Bible admonishing us to follow the culture of its time. We are not commanded to greet our brothers with a “holy kiss”. We are not admonished to eat reclined around our tables. And we are not required to wash our feet before entering
a home. Learning from past cultures and gleaning wisdom from them is fine. Being bound by ancient practices in order to attain some sort of spirituality is legalism.

Further, the author states that Mary “had no clocks for feeding schedules, no bottles, no separate sleeping room for her baby, and no 'experts' writing books claiming to have a better way to raise her baby.” Do
we know this as fact? I think if I were Mary, I would have been using that sundial! And Jesus' first bed was a crib of the most humble makings, not a “family hay-pile”. I also suspect that there were just as many “experts” in Mary's day as we have today. Solomon wisely states that “there is nothing new under the sun.” If there are opinions on mothering, they have been already been seen in this world. Gray does, however, make an important point in the paragraph when she goes on to say, “They listened to the one true Expert, our Lord Himself! I believe both mothers did what came naturally, following their God-given instincts and mothers’ hearts.” Yes! That is the key! None of us should be enslaved to any method or expert opinion. We should all be subject to the one true Expert parent...our Father God...and the Holy Spirit that He has placed within us!

However, Gray's writing unfortunately betrays this sentiment. The next line states of the mothers in Mary's culture, “They did not harden their hearts to their babies’ cries,” implying that PDF parenting relies on a mother hardening her heart. To this, many who espouse the parent-directed approach under the direction of the Holy Spirit (this author included) would take offense. And she further goes on,
The Bible talks about the peacock who is deprived of wisdom and understanding because she is 'hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers.' (Job 36:13-17)”
Again, I would kindly challenge Gray's use of Scripture to refute PDF. Scheduling feedings is not inherently a choice to harden one's heart against her baby! This is another instance where assumptions are made about the methodology and those using it.

Gray addresses the issue of putting others' needs above our own:

Then there is Jesus Himself. In Luke 6:31 He tells us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Matthew 18:33, He said, “Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow servant,
even as I had pity on thee?” Jesus wants us to put other’s needs above our own.

course we agree on this point! But, again, are these biblical references an indictment against PDF? There is a difference between putting the baby's needs above our own and making the baby the director of the home. Let me give an example. If my young child eats lunch at 12:00 and then asks for a snack at 1:00, am I putting my needs above his if I gently say, “No, Sweetie, I think you need to wait a little longer because you have just eaten”? Or am I, conversely, training my child to eat at regular intervals so that our family life can run more smoothly and he or she will learn to eat more at meals? Certainly, this gets tricker with a baby, but babies need to also learn such lessons. They need to be taught that they are not the center of the family, and they are quite capable of learning this! The difference is, we do our baby-training with a heavy dose of grace, knowing that babies are fragile and cannot communicate in words. That is where the “motherly instinct”, as Gray refers to it, comes in. Or to say it in another way, that is where we should be
God-directedand listen to His voice!

goes on:

In Matthew 25:35-45, He says, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing... And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these, my
brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

Who is the “least of these” more than a helpless baby or child? When He said to give a drink to the thirsty, certainly He includes our own baby, when he/she cries out for it.

this verse is being misused to pass guilt on those who do not necessarily deserve to have such guilt heaped upon them. There is a difference between a mother's flat refusal to feed her hungry child and a mother's gentle training in scheduling. On the whole, a PDF mother does not simply refuse to feed her child. As the verses Gray
quotes even state, no normal mother can do that! It is contrary to the loving nature of a mother. She simply “tells” that child that he or she must learn to wait. We need to put others' needs in front of our own, while
teaching our children from the earliest age that they are to do the same! Here is where we must seek wisdom in attaining that difficult balance.

God wants us to love our children the same way He loves us, and not forsake them in their time of helplessness. Listen to what the Bible says in Isaiah 49:15, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” I will have to answer to God someday about how I cared for the “least of these” in my own home when they were in need. I want to be sure I did my best for Him.

We live in a modern world, but this neither changes God’s design nor alters God’s best. God never changes. By mothering this way, I teach my children about God. I show them every moment how God is always available for us, how He does not abandon us when we need Him.

the implications of the preceding paragraphs are fairly unkind towards PDF. Gray seems to say that if I use a parent-directed approach to feeding, I am “forsaking them in their time of helplessness” and teaching my children that I might abandon them.One should be extremely cautious about painting a method with such broad strokes of judgment.

brings the article to a close by telling more of her own motherhood experiences
. . . how she loves sleeping with her baby and husband and carrying her baby close to her throughout the day. If this works for Gray and her family, then that is wonderful for them! Personally, I would find the intimacy of my relationship with my husband greatly affected. As wives, we are to put our husbands first after God and I believe children need to understand this family order from the earliest age so that there is never any doubt or insecurity. In our home, we constantly remind our children that they are third to Daddy's heart. I am second after God. From the beginning, they need to understand their place in the family structure. The way in which we teach them this is an individual decision for the parents. But I would be hesitant to have my baby in my marriage bed with me, as I believe it would be too easy for my children to become a greater focus than would be healthy to my marriage.

Finally, I would address the author's comment about her baby never crying in the four months of his life, due to her attachment style of parenting. Beyond the fact that one baby cannot be used as evidence to support an entire philosophy (could this not be a simple correlation?), I would address the negative view of crying. While I think that parents should not be hardened toward their children, they should also not be upset by or fearful of a crying baby. Tears are a part of this life. Pain is a part of this life. Even God allows it in the lives of His children. He does not keep us in some kind of “padded” world to avoid all of life's bumps and bruises. He knows that with pain comes growth. He knows that we need stretching at times so that we may learn to lean on Him and be better equipped for
whatever else may come to us. As an example, we have at times warned our children of an impending accident and then, if unheeded, allowed them to fall and get hurt. These are the lessons best learned because of the pain they associated with it.

We as parents are the “God-figures” in the lives of our children. We do not purposefully put them through the kind of pain that would damage them or erode their trust, but we must help them learn to stretch and grow by sometimes allowing discomfort. We must care not just for their physical bodies, but for their spiritual ones, as well.
By scheduling my baby and allowing him or her to sometimes be in a bit of discomfort, I am teaching him or her that there are times of “discomfort” in life (more often, true pain!) and that we must yield to them. I am laying the foundation for their trust in God. Teaching gently from birth helps the child learn this in a gradual manner rather than abruptly when he or she is older and has already been inadvertently taught that life is never a bit uncomfortable and that whatever he or she wants is there for immediate disposal.

closes with this statement:

God’s way is about the heart, the connectedness between moms and babies, rather than rules, so-called experts, and schedules.

Yes, we can agree that God's way is about the heart. And, while I disagree with much of her article, I believe Gray has a beautiful mother's heart and I commend her for that. But I'm simply not willing to agree with the article's implication that there is no place for rules and schedules (and even some carefully chosen “experts”. . . i.e., older women in the church as in Titus 2:3-4), as long as the focus remains on the heart! And I believe God substantiates this all throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament laws, to the Ten Commandments, to the Beatitudes. He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and show us the way. He showed us how to abide by the rules, while focusing on the heart. The heart is of primary importance, but rules and schedules are still there to help guide us. Whether a proponent of attachment parenting or parent-directed feeding, the focus should always be ultimately on the heart and on what is best for the family as a whole, keeping the God-ordained order of subjection in place (God, husband, wife, children). And we
must not judge another mother based on a mere label, which will nearly always be an inadequate characterization and never a good substitution for a full conversation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If one reads my "About Me", they may wonder about that. Friend-in-Training? Why not just say "Friend"? But it seems an entirely appropriate moniker. To bestow upon myself the title of "Friend" feels presumptuous to me. Jesus calls Himself our "Friend". Do I live up to that? I think not! I have much to learn about being a Friend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And Thus Begins My Blog.

My blog! Irony is the fact that I have not yet had one. I feel the need to pour out words on paper like...(well, the word picture that instantly popped into my head is not too flattering to my skills. Let's find something better.) don't know. And the irony continues.

But here's a funny bit of information for you. While I was looking for a URL (thinking I might go with the hosting company I already use for other sites), I had a few humorous automatically-generated suggestions from the domain name service. was, unfortunately and not surprisingly, taken. However, if I act fast, I can be the proud owner of "". Flip it around and you're onto something: "". Now who wouldn't want a piece of mind-cake! I'll take one! Maybe then I could think of some clever little word picture to slip into the beginning of this somewhat useless post.

At any rate, welcome to my strange and eclectic world. Tell your friends.