Monthly Archives: September 2014

Extreme Sport

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An extreme sport is a term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger. These activities often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and highly specialized gear or spectacular stunts. The list includes bungee jumping, cliff climbing and white-water kayaking-and get this: something called “Ultimate Fighting”.
And what could be a more extreme sport and spectacular stunt than what John and I have accomplished by being in our 42th year of marriage, and raising 8 kids? The very ACT of marriage calls for highly specialized gear (if you catch my meaning).
Following a two year old through the day involves a high level of physical exertion does it not? John and I have rescued our children from roof peaks, the outside of an escalator headed over a sheer drop from the third floor of Macy’s, and placed ourselves in the line of fire (vomit and diarrhea) numerous times, sometimes bribing each other with rare commodities like 2 hours of peace and quiet to take care of it this time. Okay, three hours and a cheesecake.
I’m not even gonna mention the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Which, for us consisted of short bursts (me) saying something like, “John. You don’t tell teens to ‘be home at a reasonable hour’ unless reasonable is 4 a.m.” (Which it why we called the hospitals and police the first time our oldest two went to a church youth meeting.)
Even the reasons people engage in extreme sports relate to marriage. Most said they’ve had plenty of adrenaline-pumping moments, but the real pleasure comes from mastering the rush and conquering challenges by developing skill and composure over years of experience.
In forty years we’ve rafted through greater than level 5 white water in our patched up rubber raft named “To Have and To Hold”. Why? Because we both said, “ for better for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health until death do us part”. And we held on until we figured out how to navigate the falls.
Now in the lap of calm waters, I can look back and say with satisfaction, “You DID remember to put the garbage cans out last night didn’t you?”
(And not care so much if he didn’t).
Malachi 2:14 explains why our prayers often go unanswered: “because you have broken faith with the wife of your youth.” And what goes for the goose, goes for the gander.
So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife [spouse] of your youth. Malachi 2:15

Well Well

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Well, Well
Morning sickness meant I started each day hugging the toilet. The kids would come into the bathroom, lean down near my head in the hole, pat my back and say, “ What’s for breakfast?” I hated morning sickness.
But I loved the flu. It meant staying in bed. Sadly, I have a strong immune system; but on rare occasions when I woke with fever, my husband John, eyeing six or seven hungry kids, and not knowing for sure where we kept the refrigerator, would lug a gallon of olive oil up to our room, anoint me and offer the “fervent prayer of a righteous man,” for my healing. I prayed silently with him,
“God, don’t listen to him. I wanna staying right here in bed for the next ten years.”
Jesus asked a paralyzed man in John 5:6, “Do you want to be made well?” What an odd question. I guess Jesus had seen the likes of me before. The paralytic doesn’t answer with “Yes, Lord!” Instead, he states why he can’t be well: he has no one to help him and others got in his way.
Sometimes I feel unable to walk the path God has set for me; to walk in love, to forgive, or to act upon whatever it is He calls me to do. There are perks to being unwell. I get to be the victim, I can play the blame game. Being whole costs. I’ll have to find new friends because all my supportive co-dependents won’t want to play with me anymore. They may even try to sabotage my wellness. And, I’ll need to take responsibility for myself; get a job, get a life…
“Get up…” Jesus says to the paralytic. He breezes right past excuses and tells him to act; take the first step. Then tells us to do the very next thing,
“‘Pick up your mat and walk.‘ and immediately the man was healed and he picked up his mat and walked.” Sometimes we expect voodoo, but the Lord says, “YOU do.” And then He works the miracle.
Jesus has given us everything we need for life and godliness, so -no matter what path He’s chosen for us, we can get up, make our bed, and walk.
Read John 5:6-9; 2 Peter 1:3, James 5:14-16

Potential Schmential

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“You’re making me nervous,” I said to my daughter Anna over the phone, “You’re going through your bucket list a little too quickly.”
She’d told me of recent accomplishments, adding,
“Oh and guess what? “I’m sky diving at the end of the month!”
“Can’t you move that to the end of your list? Like, ‘I’m gonna sky-dive, if it’s the last thing I do’?”
This conversation made me think of my own bucket list which is pretty short:
1. Take a nap.

but I have a TO DO list, and when I die, it will finally get off my back. Like a mean-spirited stock analyst, it gives running commentary on my daily worth:
“Well, bully for you. You managed to get the clothes from washer to dryer before the mildew turned to mold. Way to go!”
or,
“Whoa…Did we not get our caffeine today? Well, at least we can’t be blamed for leaving a carbon footprint on the environment.”
To which I respond by ripping its head off and throwing it in the trash. Very Satisfying. And now I’m going to go take that nap.
Human Potential is so over-rated. Plus, it’s a big fat lie. There is no such thing as “reaching our full human potential”. If we excel in business, most likely we fail as parents. If we succeed as parents, we fail at reaching CEO status in the corporate world. If we love the Lord, serve Him, follow His commands, and DO succeed at some things, we don’t do it in our own strength, so there are no bragging rights. Truth is, we’re a dismal bunch of bumbling idiots. Running first to balance the scales on this end, then the other. A more reasonable TO DO list is:
1. Get Up.
2. Ask God to do something, and to use you to do it.
3. Do it. (Usually it’s the thing right at the end of your nose).
4. Thank Him and go to bed.
5. Repeat.
As simple as it is, fantastic adventures, wondrous feats, and Life abundant gush from the headwaters of one all-encompassing TO DO:
SURRENDER.
Which is not the same as resignation, by the way. The surrendered life is a freedom cry, a shedding of our old skin. No more trying to fit my extra-large ego into a small life. As ego shrinks, life expands. Whether His TO DO for us today is live or die, we are guaranteed a life never cut short; a life fully lived- not through human potential, but by God’s potential to make “beauty from ashes, joy from mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”, and even the screwiest events turn out for good. (Is. 61:3)

 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.  What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Rule Number 312

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Don’t lick the bottom of your shoes.
You can tell what age I teach by my classroom rules. I try to keep things simple, but each year I forget to mention a thing or two. In any case, once in awhile, I have a student who’s goal in life is to see just how many rules can be broken. This little guy thinks I don’t see the legos slipped into a pocket, a horn snapped off the plastic triceratops (biceratops?), or the puzzle pieces forced through the wall heater vent.
I have a special affinity for little rascals. I know what it is to be a sinner. So I try to encourage, go over rules and consequences, and give elaborate high-fives for any move in the right direction. But if they are bent on destruction, I limit their access to activities (and legos). They’re not aware of my covert removal of freedoms. They think they run with the pack.
Psalm 94 speaks of those who think God does not see. Lightening hasn’t struck, so they persist in rebellion, keeping one eye on the sky, not realizing God is engineering damage control, safeguarding the legos- and them. They are free agents in rebellion, but not in life.
To think I hide my sin from God is like dressing in drag. I may fool some of the people some of the time (though not nearly as many as I think), but I’ll never fool God. God does see. His heart is especially tender to the rascals; His eye is on the Jack Sparrow, and I know He watches me.

They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed.” …Does He who formed the eye not see? …The Lord knows the thoughts of man; He knows they are futile. …Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law, you grant him relief from days of trouble… for the Lord will not reject His people, He will never forsake His inheritance.
(Read it in complete form in Psalm 94:7-15)

Obedience Observed

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Recently I attended a family birthday celebration at a park. It was a large, busy park, with a street running through the middle. A young boy-maybe three or four years old, took off running for the swings across the street. Just as he got to the curb, his father called him back. I didn’t understand the words spoken, as this birthday party was for the Spanish-speaking side of my family, but I was impressed by the father’s kind but firm tone, and it was clear he was commanding his son to come away from the street and return to him. The little guy, with one foot off the curb, turned around and pleaded with his father, but when his father again said, “No,” the boy began to cry. Not a rebellious, throwing-a-fit cry, just a sorrowful display of tears, realizing he couldn’t have what he wanted. He trudged back, head hanging, to his father, who was sitting with a baby on his lap. The boy approached, put his arms around his father’s legs, rested his little head on Dad’s lap, and cried softly as his father stroked his hair.
Wow. So impressed, I was speechless (partly because my Spanish is so bad). Obviously, the father had spent a lot of time and effort training his son for such a time as this. He didn’t rise from his seat, march over and jerk his son by the arm, dragging him back. He was confident their relationship was established; his son would obey. What a great example of Ephesians 6:4, exhorting fathers (and mothers) not to confuse their children with spineless parenting, but to love and train their children to honor others and God:
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children but bring them up in the nurturing and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6)
It also serves as an example of our Father’s love for us, and an apt response to His love. Like the little guy at the park, we see the amusements. We simply want what others are allowed to enjoy. Our Father knows the dangers and commands us to turn back. We get frustrated, maybe even angry at God for not giving us what we really, really need- in our minds, anyway. God does not jerk us by the arm and drag us to His will, although thankfully, if he suspects I won’t obey and the dangers merits it, he’ll put up necessary obstacles. Like the dad at the park, the Lord doesn’t demand we “Stop that idiotic crying this instant!” In fact He says, “Be angry, but don’t sin,” and comforts us in the sorrow that often comes with obedience.
Because of all that Jesus has done for us, we are loved deeply, carefully, and safely, and are given the gift of loving back in return. This relationship we have with our Father. It’s a walk in the park.
“For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. “
Proverbs 3:12

Sister Clandestine

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I was a rather pathetic child, kind of a loner. I hung out with a nun during recess; fondling her jumbo rosary, and turning the thick white belt of her robe, thinking how clever of her to wear a jump rope. Looking back, I remember an expression of silent irritation on her part, and a constant coaxing, “go play with the other children”.
I don’t really know what the attraction was, but I think I enjoyed being near someone identifiably holy. Even then, I knew what I wasn’t. Saddling up to a nun in habit was like being chums with The Blessed Mother herself. A good connection to have for a kid like me.
In the ’60’s things changed. Nuns rebelled and threw off their nasty habits, replacing them with- of all things!- normal clothes. Well, almost normal. Normal like polygamist attire normal: plain skirts, tights, button up blouses with Peter-Pan collars. Anyway, that was it for me. What would be the benefit of hanging out with the “sort-of” holy?
That was then, culturally and personally. Nowadays it’s hard to tell who’s holy and who’s not. Actually, the word holy means “separate” as in separating the egg yolk from the white. I’ve made a lot of meringue in my life and one thing I know for sure: egg whites won’t whip up if even a smidgeon of yolk is present. I can beat and beat, but in the end, what results is only fit for the cat.
The nuns were separated from the rest of society by their habit, but not necessarily by their habits- their behavior. I had some spiritually holy nuns as teachers, but others I knew were nun such thing. Now, they blend in with society and unless they are truly holy (separate) in the spiritual sense, they have nothing over me. Sister Mary James Augustine looks like a regular Joe (sometimes complete with mustache).
Maybe I’m Sister Clandestine- having a thin layer of faith, well hidden under bad habits. Can anyone tell that I have been separated out for the Lord- set apart for Him, or am I egg white with a bit of yolk- of little use to anyone but the cat?
I’m the town idiot when it comes to self-awareness. It’s hard to know just how much of the world is in me. My husband or kids are more likely authorities on where I’m at on the curve. But God does not grade on the curve, thankfully. That’s why I have to wake up every day and say, “Search me oh God, and know my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me…” Otherwise, I’ll be “yolked” with unbelievers.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? …As God has said, I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. So come out from among them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Do not touch their filthy things and I will welcome you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”.
2 Corinthians 6:14,16,17-18

It’s the First Day of School. Thank God.

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Today’s the first day of school where I teach four and five-year-olds. There will be lots of tears. I will console, distract, bargain, and hand out tissues. I will have to coax one or two out of hiding in the bushes during outdoor playtime. But eventually, they’ll wave good-bye to their children and leave.
I’m reminded of another mom getting her son ready for the first day of school. It was a well-known private school. A school of divinity, devotion… and dysfunction with a capital D.
It was no secret that the principal was a lousy parent. His sons were bullies- so rebellious that years later they were sentenced to death, by God Himself. And these guys ran the whole show, with no womanly input to temper the situation- or at least make them get in back in there and floss and brush.
Into this environment Hannah placed her most treasured possession, Samuel. Samuel was a boy conceived through years of prayers and tears. God answered those prayers in the temple when Eli prayed for her (after accusing her of being drunk). Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord. I don’t mean as in a baby dedication ceremony. The deal was, Hannah would bring Samuel to the temple to live the rest of his life as Eli’s aide, as soon as Samuel was weaned. We don’t know how long Hannah breastfed, but if I’d been Hannah, morning conversations would have gone like this,
“Sammy dear- did you shave this morning? Before you go out and plow the lower forty, come to Momma…”
But Hannah keeps her promise. The Bible doesn’t give a lot of emotional detail. As Sam’s first day approaches, we can only imagine his mother’s turmoil, human nature being what it is. A little verbal exchange with her husband hints at an inner struggle (1 Sam. 1:21-23), but nowhere does the Bible say she wallows in self-pity, fretfully hiding in a burning bush to observe her son’s first day. We read just the opposite. She responds to the relinquishing of her heart’s desire in the same manner she received it; with a heart of gratitude and worship.
Though it looks as though she’s feeding Sam to the wolves, she knows the Good Shepherd will protect him. She says, “For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord,” she does not say, “…Given over to Eli and his sons.”
The Bible tells older women to teach the younger, and this is what Hannah teaches me:
When we sacrificially give up something in obedience to God, He gives us the gift of praise. When we offer back to Him the gift of praise, He relieves the pain of our sacrificial obedience. What an amazing gift exchange. Read all about it in 1st Samuel 2:1-10.

“My heart rejoices in the Lord…the Lord brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave, and raises up…He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap…”