Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unbending the Bow


The difference between this morning and yesterday is mind-boggling.

This morning, as it is often, the house is so quiet. The only things I hear are my own typing and the rotating of the dryer drum as it dries the laundry. I do hear thunder way off—muted. But it’s coming. The sky is dark this morning. The threat of rain hovers.

And I am tired. I feel it deeply this morning. I am sitting here in my sanctuary attempting to wait on the Lord. Or, perhaps just to simply rest in him. To lay all and everything down and to rest. I’m sure it won’t last long, but I want to enjoy being immersed in it for just a few moments—regardless of how brief.

I’ve been given a release, a momentary sabbatical, from schedule, routine and fastings this morning. Just a brief time of remaining in pajamas, forgetting the dishes and the messy living spaces, the chapters to be read and the study to be pondered.

My bow has been pulled taunt for quite a while. So, this morning I’ve taken my fingers off the bowstring. And the unbending of the bow is a blessing.

May you find a momentary sabbatical in the midst of your routine today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Snarling Dogs


Come, let us return to the Lord.

He has torn us to pieces,

But he will heal us; He has injured us

But he will bind up our wounds.

Hosea 5: 1



We, a precious community of incredibly diverse women, are in the thickness of a study by Dee Brestin called Idol Lies. I found this book through Ann Voskamp.  I haven’t read any of Dee's work since she and Kathy Troccoli wrote their series together several years ago. The description of the study caught my attention. I was inwardly hoping that it surely didn’t apply to me. But I bought the book. And God has used it. My heart has been pierced—lanced.




Idols turn on us. It’s as if we have been carrying around these stone statues and their faces suddenly break into horrific animation.

At first they beckon us and promise us comfort, security and approval. They offer to supply what we crave. These idols are well disguised. We believe them to be just ordinary longings. Commonplace needs that have little to no affect. And they do supply what they advertise.

Momentarily.

For a brief period of time the food fills, the alcohol and drugs free, the social networks connect, the relationship quenches, the control offers order, the approval gives us confidence. On the surface all seems to be good.

Eventually the idols turn on us. Like a once friendly house dog, it snarls and briefly bares its fangs. At first we can soothe it with kind words. And the idol will go tame. We breathe easier because it seems under control again. But quite often the dog begins to dominate the house, and we begin to tiptoe around it. We are cautious and catch ourselves cowering when it dips its head and lowly growls.

Who then is the master?

We find ourselves chained to the wrist of a comfort we no longer recognize. This once easily controlled idol now demands more. And more. Never satisfied. Never content. What once tasted good, now lays bitter on our tongues. We wince at the acidity of what once seemed sweet.

No one tells us that our idols will turn on us.

No one explains that there could come a time when we will struggle to say no.

I know women. I am one. We look in the mirror and often detest what we see. Or we think others do. This colors our perceptions of our worlds. And the idols offer a little more. And we believe the lies: if only I had a little more control, if I did this more efficiently, if I lost weight, if I were more attractive, if I could be more intelligent, if I could go back and change that one decision. And the lies unfold by the accordion pleats. One right after another.

Seems like I have believed them all. I have soothed the snarling dog often.

But Hosea's words have caught me. Just as he once beckoned Israel, Hosea's words now beckon me. He pleads for me (us) to return to the Lord. Hosea says yes, the Lord has torn us to pieces. He has injured us. But…

In the past weeks through our Bible study we have felt like we have been torn to pieces.  That’s how we have felt as we have faced these ugly dogs that have taken up residence in our homes. We have been made aware that these once seemingly docile animals are now unpredictable.

And we have been bitten. Some of us more than once. Some of us are in serious condition.

These snarling dog idols leave us in our wounded positions unattended; they leave us bleeding and in pain. Their once full promises are now nothing more than empty words, backed by nothing more than vaporous lies.

But God…

What God has torn away he will heal. The wounds he will bind. He does not leave us unattended. He does not forsake us. His promises will be fulfilled.

As we face these ugly, snarling dogs we need to understand God is not afraid of them. He is not intimidated or halted by their territorial presence or barking bravado. He will come in and be our Bridegroom protecting and defending his bride. He will step between us and the dog if we ask him. He will open the door and toss the dogs outside, if we ask. Often we don’t ask.

Let’s ask. Please let’s ask.

There have been moments in recent days when futility has threatened to overtake me. I have despaired of this barrage of sudden awareness (or perhaps acknowledgement) of the idol lies present in my life. Wearied, I have considered just throwing up my hands and saying I just can’t do this. There’s too many.

But the Lord has whispered. He has spoken.

Tamera, I will restore you, and you will live in my presence. And you will be satisfied. Open the door.























Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Hard Conversation


Oh, Gomer.

I have wanted to have a discussion with you. With you and with our sister Hagar, but today my conversation is with you.

I’m not sure what drove you to the life you led. I can’t see the turns you had to make. I don’t know what circumstances in life caused or led you to where you were. I’m not sure who left you, abandoned you, abused you, tricked you, coerced you or tempted you.

How many empty eyes did you look into and then away? How many nights were you left alone and lonely? How often did you cry because you were being known, but no one knew you?

Tell me, Gomer, when Hosea came was there a point when you realized just what kind of love you were being offered? Was there a moment of lucidity that allowed you to see past the place you had been and were?

When Hosea came and touched you, brushed his finger across your cheek, did you cringe because you were afraid of him or yourself? When he offered you his name did you shudder and wonder if he could handle the damage you would do to his name? Did you wince because you thought he would suddenly realize what you were? That he would wake up and recognize you and all the places you’ve visited? Or visited you?

Did you question the sanity of a man who kept bringing you back? Who kept carrying you home? Who kept loving you even when you spit in his face? Or turned your head from him? Did his love for you disclose and reveal your lack? Did it hurt you when you saw the pain on Hosea’s face? Did it concern you that you grieved him?

Did you keep returning to your old life because you didn’t feel worthy of your new one? Did you feel so much shame at being offered something so good and so right, when you knew yourself to be anything but? Did you go back to your former self because you were just sure you didn’t deserve the love you were being offered? Did you feel guilty for wanting it?

Why, Gomer? Why?

I wish I didn’t know you, Gomer. I wish I had no kinship with you. No association. But I have and sometimes I do.

I have stood naked before God. He has seen where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but like your Hosea he keeps coming after me.

Pursuing me.

Me—

His bride who sometimes hides idols under her camel’s saddle. His bride who often turns to other lovers. The adulteress.

And yet still He comes. He comes to me—knowing where I’ve been. Knowing the sins and my other lovers. He comes to me and whispers in my ear that he loves me. He doesn’t say he loves me anyway. Just that he loves me. He doesn’t come to me and point out the ugliness of my nakedness. He doesn’t come and condemn me to a stoning because I have not been faithful.

He comes and brushes my cheek and says,

I have loved you with an everlasting-love. I have drawn you with cords of kindness. I have hovered near waiting for you to turn and see me. I have stood with open and outstretched arms to welcome you back..

He lifts my chin and looks straight into my eyes and says, You are precious to me, and I love you. Though you are not faithful, I am.

Gomer, I’m sorry I said I wish I didn’t know you. I was lashing out because you turn a mirror toward me and I see myself reflected. Often I don’t look like I thought I would. I wanted to blame you for that, just as, perhaps, you wanted to blame others. But we can’t do that, Gomer.

Instead let you and I run into His arms and hide in the curve of them. Let’s press our ears against his chest and feel his heartbeat. Let’s let him love us. Let’s allow him to strip away the accessories of our prostitution. Let’s give him permission to unlock the fetters of our whoredom. Let’s ask him to send the other lovers away. Let’s have him answer the door when they knock and tell them they are no longer welcome.

And let’s tell him that more than anything we want him to make us his pure spotless bride.









Reading Materials:

Idol Lies by Dee Brestin, chapter 4


Hosea

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Morning Prayer


Heavenly Father,


Oh, the sunshine today! I bless you for the sun and its rays and that when I go outside I feel like a new person. Thank you that I can shed my winter skin. I can shed the insulation that has been accumulated during the cold and the drab. Thank you that the air smells new and green is hinting every where. Thank you for my front porch. Thank you for the red nectar in the hummingbird feeders and freshly bathed dogs who have wet noses. Thank you for little boys getting to touch the grass for the first time. Thank you for mamas who take their children to the park.

Thank you for your word. Thank you for having Paul write Ephesians. Thank you for the profoundness and the simplicity of his letter. Thank you that because of Paul’s letters from almost two thousand years ago I can know who I am and what I am to do. Thank you that you reveal your will to me in the sentences and phrases and paragraphs from his pen.

Thank you for prayer. Thank you that you hear me. That you bend your ear, and you bend down to feed me. That’s what your word says. Thank you that prayer is far more than many think and not at all what people think. Thank you for my calling. Make me worthy today, Father. Worthy of that calling I have received.
But this morning too, Lord, people are hurting. They are afraid, frightened, scared, wounded, bleeding, confused, perplexed and shocked. People around me are hurting in ways that I cannot even wrap my arms around. They are lonely. They are despairing. They are longing and yearning for their emptiness to be filled. And they are filling it with things that will eventually only contribute to the emptiness. These things will only dig the cavern deeper. People are fighting fierce demons and flesh appetites that are devastating.

People around us are weeping and we don’t see. We are blind or have chosen to turn our heads. And we are turning deaf ears to their loud cries. And we are putting our hands in our pockets.

Father, intervene. And yet as I ask this of you I wonder…have you asked me to do something for someone and I have ignored your proddings. Through me have you wanted to intervene into the chaos of someone’s life, but I didn’t want one more thing on my plate? Have I turned my head and pretended I didn’t hear you? Or have I given you a perplexed look as if I didn’t understand your instructions?

Father, Dave shared with us that faith is far more than what we say or think or even believe. It is what we do with those words, thoughts and beliefs. Do they remain these abstract concepts—good in theory, but not in practical every day life? Father, there must be flesh to my faith. Hurting people don’t need abstract thought, they need someone who will put their shoulder under theirs and lift them for a little while.

Father, I pray that you would help your children to allow their faith to have flesh. Teach us to be doers of your word. Teach us to love not just in word, but in deed. I don’t know exactly how you want me to do that today. But I ask that you help me pull my hands out of my pockets, help me to stop turning a blind eye and help me to be willing to hear. To listen.

I pray for fathers who have lost their sons today. I pray for mothers who are weeping for absent children. I pray for marriages that are suddenly splintered or slowly decaying. I pray for those who are battling cancer—their own bodies turned against them. I pray for the caretakers who are weary and tired and worn. I pray for those who battle addictions and are desperate. I pray for those who are looking in the mirror and hating who they see. I pray for those who are lonely, who come home to empty houses and empty beds and empty tables. I pray for those who have sent sons and daughters into harm’s way. I pray for those who are in war with depression and are clawing their way out. I pray for those who have lost their way and can’t seem to find their purpose.

Your children are hurting, Lord. We need you to move. We need you to heal. We need you to protect. We need you to provide. But we are a part of your answer; please help us to be obedient. Help us to be the messengers. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us so that we might see you, please help us to become flesh now that people might see you.



Amen and amen





Thursday, April 4, 2013

It Heals Me

When I was a young mother, a long time ago now, I used to take my four daughters to visit my maternal grandmother.


She was a character (You might enjoy two former posts Mad-e-lyn and Too Big for My Britches )



Madelyn, my grandmother and her youngest daughter, my Aunt Lana.

Granny was full of spit and vinegar. Opinionated. And believe me she thought her opinions were the gospel truth. Her point of view was the plumb line for everyone and everything around her and sometimes my choices and decisions didn’t match hers. Did I ever feel her heat then!

Granny was widowed early in life. Never married again and lived quite a bit of her widowed life alone. She maintained and ran the farm by herself—leasing land for crops and selling cattle. Granny didn’t drive, but she was fiercely independent in such an odd and unconventional manner.

Years ago I would pack the van and my girls and we would make the long and winding drive to her house. The girls often got carsick, and felt quite green by the time we reached my grandmother’s road. We would see the house before we got there: an old white farm house with black shutters and a wide, deep front porch. It sat on a low, rolling hill, and her yard was full of trees and flowers. Granny’s house was always immaculate, and of course the kitchen was the center and the hub regardless of who her company was. Perhaps that is why my own home tends to be that way now (not immaculate, mind you. I have never been able to manage that particular skill).

We all have idiosyncrasies. We have quirks and funny habits that our families tease us for and sometimes even playfully mimic. My grandmother had several. For some reason I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around her idioms and her language and what she meant by either. My girls and I would tolerate this. Much to my dismay I now realize that I encouraged the tolerance rather than set an example for acceptance and respect. But I was young too. And in reality I was convinced I knew a great deal more than my Granny.

Oh, that’s a funny thought now.

When we would arrive she would throw her arms and hands up in the air and a smile would break out on her face. And she would exclaim, “Lord! Lord, have mercy. My children. My children. Oh, my children.” And then she would grab each one of us and squeeze and pat really hard, almost as if she couldn’t contain herself. My girls would smile politely and endure the whole greeting episode because, of course this was Mom’s eastern Kentucky grandmother.

But there was one thing she said and did that has remained with me all these years. Granny would pull us to herself and press her cheek against ours and her voice would lower, almost to a whisper, and she would say,

“Oh, it heals me. It heals me.”

I didn’t understand. I wasn’t exactly sure what or whom she was addressing. And my girls were even more confused than I was.

This would happen several times in the course of our visit. Random times. Then we would leave; we would say our goodbyes and she would stand on the cement back porch and then follow us to the end of the sidewalk. Always as I backed the van out of the driveway there would be tears in her eyes and she waved until we were far down the road.

Through the years that phrase has haunted me. Yes, that is the correct word. At random times, in unexpected places I have remembered my grandmother’s words and tone and gestures. And instead of tolerance I now remember them with a deep fondness.

God tends to bring all things full circle.

I am no longer a young mother. I am a grandmother now. I am called Noni (long o). I have two grandsons: Elijah and Judah. They are the beautiful sons of my two oldest daughters. They were born in September thirteen days apart. They are at wonderfully delightful ages. I see them at least once a week, and I often get to keep them overnight.


Elijah, on left. Judah, on right.

They reach for people now. They take your face in their hands and give open mouth cheek-plant kisses. They talk and gurgle and coo. They laugh and smile. They play peek-a-boo and high-five and pull hair and climb up your body when you hold them. They are alive, warm and real.

Several weeks ago my grandmother’s words came back to me. I spent time with both boys during the week snuggling and cuddling with them. Both boys pressed their little faces up against mine and then put their heads down on my shoulder and fell asleep—heavy, warm and solid in my arms.

Oh my. I am blessed.







The feeling that flooded over and through me in those moments was startling in its clarity. Pure and deep. All the pressures and worries and concerns of the day just melted away. These little boys, who look and feel so much like my daughters, brought healing to all the rough and uneven places in me. All the ruffled feathers, all the whipping waves, all the untidy places in me were momentarily smoothed over.

And I understood my grandmother’s words. Or at least I gained a more profound comprehension of the idea of them. I am not sure she could have explained exactly what she meant. But that day I experienced with the boys the feeling she must have had when we came to see her and for a few brief moments she pressed her cheek against ours.

We brought her hope. And hope heals.

I even said it aloud to Elijah and Judah. I whispered it to my grandsons. I pressed the boys to my cheek and spoke my grandmother’s words—it heals me. It heals me. Finally, I understood. I thought I would be embarrassed. Briefly it crossed my mind that my girls would think their mama had reached way too deep into her roots. But they didn’t, or at least they had the grace not to comment aloud. I realized it didn’t matter if they did.

God offers hope and healing in the most unexpected and unorthodox ways.

In Elijah and Judah I feel the movement and expansion of our family. A new generation—full of promise, potential and purity. And this hope often brings a healing balm to the rough and wounded places in a family’s DNA.

All things encompassed in these compact little boys cries hope. Their birth and growth signals that the family is beginning yet again. They offer another chance. Another beginning.

Another time to get more right. Another time to be more intentional. Another time to make more time. Another time to be patient. Another time to offer grace. Another time to laugh. Another time to forgive. Another time to set chores aside. Another time to enjoy. Another time to choose. Another time to love.

And all these other times lend to healing.

God is so good. I bless him for bringing idiosyncrasies full circle.

Lord! Lord, have mercy. My children. My children.

Someday, I am quite sure, Elijah and Judah will tolerate their Noni’s idiosyncrasies. They will just shake their heads and whisper to each other, Here she comes. She’s going to hug us and not let go. She’s going to say things that seem like a different language. She’s going to do that funny little dance.

And I am going to laugh because God will bring it all full circle.

Granny would have loved these little boys—her great, great grandsons. She probably would have squeezed too hard and too long, but it would have been deeply rooted in love. The boys would have wiggled and tried to get away, but my grandmother would have had her momentary healing.

I certainly have.






**Photos of Elijah and Judah taken by Rae Rector Photography. The photographer and owner of this company is my daughter, Katherine. She is Elijah's mama.