Monthly Archives: March 2017

Not Your Garden-Variety

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Bishop Nursery had a half-price sale on “wintered-over” pansies. Not knowing what that meant exactly, I walked over to educate myself. The poor things looked like survivors of the Donnor Party; half-dead, frost-bitten, and huddled together against the cold. So naturally, I bought them. 

The saleswoman wouldn’t even look them in the eye. But like a sympathetic nurse, she instructed me to prune, feed, and tuck them into bed. I did, and now they play in my yard, alive and well. 

 It wasn’t just a bargain that drew me to buy them. It was that whole redemption thing. While we were yet half-dead and “wintered over”, Christ bought us and brought us to life. He paid full-price for a bunch of pansies. And we got a really good deal. 

Great Balls of Fire!

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Maybe the saying “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” was coined by Adam when he tried to give his dog heart-worm medicine for the first time; before the revelation of pills in hamburger balls.The Lord uses this tactic often- like in 2nd Samuel. Addressing two separate issues, those confronting David of his sins are instructed to begin by rolling the grave truth in “hamburger” i.e. stories- one involving a little lamb (lamburger ball), the other a poor widow; appealing to King David’s experience as a shepherd, and his strong sense of justice. 

In the end, David receives both the stories and the truths they contain, confesses, and his heartworm of sin is cleansed. 

Into every life, a bitter pill must fall. In those times when we are called upon to be the one to serve it up, let’s first ask God to provide the hamburger -a palatable way to present unpalatable truth. 

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Get rid of all…harsh words… Eph. 4:31

And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan… Eph. 6:19
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? Hebrews 12:5
…Gracious words are pure in His sight. Pro. 15:26
The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. Pro. 16:21
Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. Ecc.5:2
Read 2nd Samuel 12 & 14 for the scoop on David’s bitter pill.

…And a Child Shall Lead Them

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 All week the little ones in my class have been listening to the story of Mary, Martha, and Jesus. Yesterday, they performed a dramatized version, choosing whatever props they wanted. Gus, who looks exactly like Ralphy the kid from that Christmas movie about bb guns, played Jesus. 

  “Yes! He said, when I assigned him the part, “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be God!”  

I’ve read that story many times, but I learned a new lesson from my mini-theologians. 
Martha, using a broom to stir a pot (hmmm…who DOES that?): “Jesus, why do I have to do all the work around here? Tell my sister Mary to help me!”

 Jesus: “Martha, you worry way too much. Mary made a good choice.”

So here’s a new take on an old lesson:  If I don’t take time to sit with Jesus in prayer and His Word, I’ll worry and work myself into a witchy brew. It’s my choice. Even a kid knows that. 

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Luke 10:41,42 “Martha, Martha,” The Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Isaiah 30:15 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing.

Mental (St)illness

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With the high cost of therapy, who can afford to go crazy? What did people do with their anger, addictions, and angsts before psychology and psychiatry, before syndromes and labels? I really don’t know, but I suspect taking a bite from THAT fruit has resulted in knowledge both good and evil. I get depressed,obsessed, and possessed when life’s terra-firma shifts; when what’s solid becomes liquid and then vapor; when what is, is no more. I know nothing of serious mental illness, or maybe I’ve honed the art of denial, but I do know when I am beside myself, I mean REALLY beside myself, curled on the floor too weak to move, I cry out to the Lord. Not so much a cry as a whimper. I whimper His name, “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…” 

It’s not pretty, but it’s real, and He who dwells in what’s Real and True, finds me.

Like a mother hearing the cry of her child wrestling a nightmare, Jesus quietly soothes, “I am here, I am here, ‘I AM…'”and holds me in His very buff “Everlasting Arms”.
When I fall into the well of despair, the Well-ness and Hole-ness Specialist is at the bottom to catch me. And if I’ll listen and learn, He’ll makes me well and whole. 
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When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6 

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“And He shall be called, Wonderful Counselor…”

Isaiah 9:6

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“He makes me lie down…He restores my soul…” Psalm 23

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I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD. 

Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. Psalm 40:1-4

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(Read all of Psalm 40)

Confessions of a Wimpy Christian

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Being raised Catholic, I memorized prayers for every occasion. The Hail Mary, which, contrary to the beliefs of some of my sports-minded friends, has nothing to do with football, but does have something to do with underwear: “…and blessed is the Fruit of the Loom, Jesus…” Or at least it did- until I was corrected, “Ohhhhh, It’s ‘…fruit of thy WOMB, Jesus’.” I didn’t even know Jesus had a womb. And then at age seven I learned, “The Act of Contrition”, which begins with “OMG I am hardly sorry for having offended Thee…” The phrase is actually, “I am HEARTILY sorry….” but I think my version more aptly described my own wicked little heart at that age. Now, as an adult, I’ve “put away childish things,” but I do have a time-worn liturgical prayer I use often. I realize we are not to rely on rote religious recitations (Matthew 6:7) but I have found this is a prayer God always answers. It goes like this: “Help, help, helphelphelphelphelp…” This word is used 117 times in the Bible, not all at once, of course, but David used it a lot. Psalm 31:22 “In panic I cried out, ‘I am cut off from the LORD!’ But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.” Thank you Lord, for hearing the simple cry of this child.
“My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2

A Grief Observed

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Inner space is the region between earth and outer space. Or, in my case, the region between what life was, and now is, because someone I love relocated to heaven leaving a black hole, and me, in this twilight zone. I feel unfastened, mechanical, muddled- and also, irregular because I can’t seem to stop eating toast. And butter. Sometimes I put the butter on the toast. 
 I’m not sad; I feel normal. Uber normal. My inner cheerleader pompoms through her usual routine, a bit too brightly; her hard candy shell keeping all the melty parts contained, or tries to… I can’t tell…because I’m observing all this from outer space, or inner space or general spaciness.  

I do recall having one clear thought this morning:  

 When I don’t know what to do, I should do what I do know to do. 

But I forget what all that is, so I have to rely on muscle memory, which as it turns out, is a lot like faith.

I get up and read the Bible, though I find myself saying a lot, “What? What did I just read?” I pray for people who are hurting, because so many are, and it takes little effort on my part to hold their broken hands. I do the laundry and dishes in slow-mo. My son Tim comes to the dishes’ rescue, and mine, to cook with me. We talk, sip chai and stare at recipes and make Singapore stew and bread; and taco soup with extra beef, and chicken tikka masala, and inhale the spices. I sit in the sun with a magazine and thank Jesus. I visit my daughter Grace, at her house, just to watch her live and take some cues; I invite the kids and grandkids for a barbecue, I go to church to hug and be hugged. And, of course, there is John the Baptist- my John, baptizing me in his love. 

And I lean- not on my own understanding- but on the Everlasting Arms of my Confident Confidant; the smiling Lover of my Soul. Who, when I ask, “Everything will be okay, right?” Answers, “More than okay. Exceedingly, abundantly, more than okay.”   

 Muscle memory is “the act of completing a particular physical or mental task with such repetition that your body learns to complete the task more efficiently, using less brain power.” When we habitually rely on the Lord, we build muscle memory, to help us when the guiles of life and the trials of death fog our vision. We seek and call on Him now, that we may see and recall Him then, and remember how to live.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
Written in honor of my dear friend, Debbie Boggess, graduated to heaven in 2015.

Body Heat

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Feeling chilled and achy this morning, I held my hands over the stove. The warmth was such a comfort, I sort of wanted to roll my whole body over the burner, but the image of that came to mind and I thought better of it. I did thank God for the luxury of heat, though, as I lingered there.  I had nothing to do with the warmth. I merely went to the source. So it is with all consolations. There is no good thing in me-it is Christ alone. I do not need to “muster up” comfort, I need to go to the Source. Then, when I’ve been warmed, I can place my hands on another, and comfort them. I often assume that is enough, but the comfort I bring is temporary-my hands will lose their warmth, unless I am a conduit of The Eternal Source of Comfort, Christ Alone.  

  Lord, may I not be content merely to be comforted, but to take the hand of another and together hold Yours. 

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Cor. 1:3,4