Sunday, November 29, 2009

Uncanny Coughs and Messiah Moments

There's one thing I'm sure of. As soon as the auditorium hushes, the first fiddle has sounded the note to which to tune, the conductor is applauded, and the music is about to start.....the air conditioning guy releases COUGH-inducing particles into the vents and lets 'er rip!

How else can the horrible and sudden need to cough (and cough violently) always happen (and ONLY happen) right when one is most supposed to be silent? It's uncanny.

There were actually quite a few uncanny moments at last night's Handel's Messiah. It started off with arriving at the auditorium and discovering it is part of a Mormon sect headquarters and right next to their huge temple, which is shaped like a giant slide from the steeple right down to the base--apparently Jesus is supposed to reign from there when He returns to Earth. Right there in Independence, MO. Who knew?

So we contemplated this lit-up oddity in the dark, with the full shining moon hanging up there, and prayed for the true God to bring light to these people stuck in such darkness.

The oddities didn't end there...

Two separate ushers looked at our tickets and "ushed" us, but it wasn't until we met the third, at the back row of seats, that we were told we were on the wrong level. When we did settle into our seats, and the lights were blinking and the doors were on the verge of being closed, a woman in a row in front of us ungraciously tells a group who want to get past her to their seats that they have to go back up, out the doors, and around to the other aisle, as she is not moving. Luckily, they were able to do it all before the doors actually were closed. I tried to dismiss her ungraciousness from my mind, along with my shock, and settle in to enjoy the evening. Not so fast...

Our group organizer and her daughter were a few moments late, and the doors shut them out. One of my seatmates saw them looking through the little window and, not acquainted with the etiquette of such productions, became very agitated, believing the door itself was locked and had to be opened from the inside. She figited and wiggled and wanted to get past me to the aisle to go open it for them, while I tried to explain in the nicest way possible (and the lowest possible whisper) that the ushers would let them in during a moment of applause, and that the door was not locked - she didn't need to go open it. It was a few very uncomfortable moments for me as I wondered how long I could hold her off. Meanwhile, in the background, the tenor is singing "Comfort ye my people." She is to be commended for her heartfelt concern for them, and so is the usher who - praise the Lord! - ended up bringing them in before the song was over. Whew!

So, I settle in again for a peaceful evening. Wait. Not only are the ushers bringing in random late-comers, a whole group is tenderly lowering a handicapped and blind man step by step to his seat in the 3rd row of the balcony. I watch, holding my breath as they go down each stair rise in the darkened balcony, until finally he is settled safely into his seat. This whole oratorio is about the coming of Christ, and I begin praying fervently that Jesus would soveriegnly heal this man's eyes as he listens to the scriptures ... "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Isaiah 9:2)." I start looking around the auditorium from our bird's eye view and realizing how many of these people do not know Jesus. Just as I begin praying for them all to see the Light, and a pause comes in the music so that all the auditorium is in a hushed silence, screaming cries pierce the cavernous room!

Two aisles to our left, right on level with us, repeated crys come - paniced, angry, and odd. The conductor froze. A half-dozen or so people jumped from their seats. Though I was looking right at the spot, I could not see who was in such horrible distress. Wendy, doctor-extraordinaire at my side, sat tensely, half out of her seat. But in a moment a woman came up for air, clutching her drink to her bosom. What sounded like a very verbal heart-attack turned out to be a fall down a step - and the victim had in the process somehow managed to keep her drink from spilling. Holding it close, and crying aloud "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she walked uninjured to her seat in the front row of the balcony, apparently (according to the good doctor) inebriated. That's a more hopeful conclusion than my own, which was that she might be psychotically unbalanced. I think you'd have to be either one or the other in order to repeatedly scream like that, over an extended number of seconds, while several thousand people gaped.

Satisfied that the scene was over, the conductor started things up again. But before long, another just as surprising - though not as disruptive - oddity graced the evening. The soprano. Oh, in the words of the man in the row ahead, she "hit it right on!" Not only that, but her whole body moved in sympathy with the words of scripture she sang, as she swayed and waved and jerked. Finally, as she ended with "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heav'nly Host praising God and saying," she threw her head back, inviting...and the huge choir mounted behind her broke into, "Glory to God in the highest." I could see her physically rejoice in the power of the noise of them praising God. She rejoiced as it swept against her back, in response to her song, and flowed out over the audience. She rejoiced as she stood there for a moment, swiming in the noise of the glory. She rejoiced as she took her seat and threw her head back again, like Eric Liddle as he ran, to listen to the multitude of voices praising God. It was stunning and particularly surprising in such a trained performer - especially compared to the carefully contained, stoic stance of the alto and the tenor.

That woman was a joy to watch the rest of the evening. But it broke my heart.

Her next air was spent entreating us to "rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion...behold, thy King cometh unto thee." How many times did she with great beauty and great fervency - of both body and voice - plead with these several thousand of us to "Rejoice!" Everything she had was put into this plea, this command, this entreaty. And we, oh we!, sat silently and deadened in our seats. When she had done and her last note had faded in the empty space, polite applause greeted her.

I began to imagine this song being sung on the New Earth. As she entreated, the saints would have risen to their feet - a wave of joy and dance would have spiraled among the thousands - a roar in unison would have greeted her last note... I hope she gets to sing it there, and to enjoy leading a company in the high worship of God!

I'm not even half through the evening, and as you can imagine the serendipitous events kept coming...but being more than half through this particular night, I will leave them to your imagination. If, though, you do decide to imagine, put in a cd of Handel's Messiah and imagine this -- what he wrote about, actually happening; the dear Messiah, actually returning; the trumpet sounding, the King reigning, the dead rising, and in your flesh-and-blood ... seeing HIM!

Monday, November 16, 2009

28 Days of Joy - Days into Weeks

Oh dear - deepest apologies to all my blog-reading friends, as I seem to have left you out of the second half of my 28 days of joy. On the bright side, this is partially because so many good things were happening, I didn't have time to write. Of course, it is also because I spent a little time sick, a little time overwhelmed, a little time angry, and a little time figuring out all the deep stuff God's been doing - just to be honest.

For instance, on:

Day 13-19 - I spent all my free hours hanging out with my neice and nephew and their grandmother (except for one day I did take to write...but I chucked it for Chick-Fill-A at dinnertime). These children are endlessly amusing, and extremely high energy, and in the absense of their parents it was my job to relieve their grandmother as much as possible. Yep...not much writing got done that week, and no blogging, but I have lots of writing material out of it. Such as the new knowledge, supplied by Judah, that butzes and burps sound the same. (That was his reponse to my instruction that butzes should not be heard at the table. Apparently, if it sounds the same as a burp, he thinks it's legal. When did burps at the table become legal?) We took the kids to a harvest party at a local church; one was a pirate, one was a princess, and one a ballerina. No, I'm not the pirate. He's not pictured.

Day 19 - I was given an out-of-the-blue, two-part word at Shabbat dinner... 1. I'm a worshipper/musician (God keeps trying to remind me of this), and 2.) He actually, really, fully, deeply loves me. Yum. (Yum on the challah bread, too. I want to make some soon.)

Day 23 - my third nephew, John-Peter Wilberforce was born. (As his mother says, he's so cute he's kinda hard to take! though he looks a little concerned in this photos.)
Day 22-25 - I spent these days playing single-mom to my niece, Glorie, while her parents were busy about the business of birthing a son. We went to the hospital a few times, to get some holds in :) You can imagine the joy involved in all that! Odd, how joy often comes accompanied by sleeplessness, pull-ups, and an unending need for discipling children. But, as I put in my facebook status, none of that seems to matter when a little girl's hand slips gently into yours during the middle of closed eyes and a whispered Lord's Prayer. I almost died of love.

Day 22 - I got the longest love letter I will ever receive in my life (seriously, I have no doubt on this front) from a man who had never met me, only read my stuff. It was ridiculous, engendered many laughs, took me at least a half-hour to read, was full of overly romantic sentiments, and came my way from a far continent. However, it did pose a problem - how is one to respond to such a thing without breaking the heart involved? The easiest way would be no response at all, but my roomate admonished me that one must be careful "not to wound a man" - and no answer would be a harsh blow to someone who has handed me their heart on a platter. No response was sent that evening, however. It was just too much.

Day 23 - A little bit of affirmation made my heart glad :) Ah, the simplest things!

Day 25 - Got some prayer at the IHOP renewal (it's still going on, by the way) about a pretty deep issue. Spent a bunch of time during the service trying to remember which Psalm had the verse the Lord whispered to me (I don't tend to memorize the numbers, just the words, which can pose problems later on :) but finally gave up, only to have my friend turn to me to pray over me, pull out that very Psalm, and read it over me. Ahhh...beautiful.

Day 26-27 - Sick AND working. Bit of a bummer, that. But the work itself...God was there!

Day 27 - News from a beautiful friend that she will soon be engaged!

Wait, you say, you've left out all the bad days. That's because most of them turned out to be good!

Oh, ok.

On Day 22 I apologized to someone and was forgiven - see? Good.
On Day 24 I was mad and frustrated that I was mad, and tried to keep from getting bitter.
On Day 25 I confronted someone and knew I'd done the right thing.
On Day 26 that someone agreed that I'd done the right thing. See, again?
On Day 27 I watched the most time-wasting of a movie because I was so tired and sick. Yuck.

And on Day 28 I stayed home from church sick (ah, you think this is starting off in the bad-day list, don't you?!) and then bam! one-two-three God lined up row of stuff for me that took me from repentance, to encounter, to faith. And it all wrapped up at small group, falling in love again with the people Jesus loves.

Well now, there is a concise and very incomplete summation of the events (though not the substance) of the missing Days of Joy. Perhaps I'll have to just keep having more Days, as these ones have been pretty eventful. Even when they weren't "happy", they were good, because my great God was all intertwined in them with me.

That is by no means the last word on the 28 days...but it's the last word for tonight, as I'm tired!

Love to all,

Monday, November 02, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 15

I know that suffering for Jesus is super-hard, but I read Acts 5:41 this evening and was immediately sobered.

"And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name."

Dear, dear, dear. My little life has so many comforts, even in the midst of the great spiritual battles. Hard they are, yes, but no one is beating me, no one is arresting me, no one is throwing me into disease-ridden cells.

Am I not counted worthy?

I am not being facetious here, or hyperbolic; and I'm not trying to make a point. When will the church in America encounter physical opposition? When we do, I'm going to take it as a good sign. Not that dedication and persecution are causally linked (I can't remember the technical term, but you know what I mean). But power and persecution often are, I think! Once we get dangerous to the enemy's bottom line, the enemy ups his attentions. I don't want his attentions, but I do want to be counted worthy to suffer shame. (I guess that shame doesn't always have to be physical.)

The Lord did comfort me a bit with the reminder that time is a wider and less algebraic thing than I usually calculate. Perhaps I am worthy; that doesn't necessarily mean the "beatings" will happen today. Just eventually...

You've probably already guessed that I was reading my new VOM tonight. The back cover, with the photos of Marzieh and Maryam made me weep. I want to be counted worthy, but I also want every Christian to be rescued and spared the persecution they're under. Especially His women. Lord, make me worthy! But Lord, rescue your daughters!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 13

I want to write.


I hate isolation. I want a heart to be right in the middle of things.

So I end up sitting alone on a "writing night" and wondering if I'm doing the right thing...conflicted and torn. This is what I told Sally yesterday on the phone. Um, says she, this might be a novel idea, but what about just asking the Lord what He wants you to do with these chunks of time? Ah, yes, duh. Then if He says to write, I won't feel like I'm being isolationist in shutting the world out. And if He says to play (or relate) I won't feel guilty over time "wasted". I'll do it.

So I lay down by the fire last night, being pressed on by a multitude of very powerful, fruitless thoughts. And find myself interceding for a family I've not seen for a year. Each of them, each of them so important to the Lord - each of them, each of them with no knowledge of this fact. And at the end, when I get up to cook the beet harvest, I suddenly know: that's what He wanted me to do tonight.

That was Your agenda!

Neither writing nor playing. Praying. And every lying voice of worthlessness and waste had been silenced.

Yes, but only silenced about that hour, that night. For in my bed, late, instead of sleep came hopeless thoughts of a bleak future. One night can be led and redeemed - but can a whole lifetime, especially if that lifetime includes none of the comforts I've always craved?

Suddenly - strengthened by Sally, by a spirit activated through the earlier hour, by the intercession Jesus is making for me - I will not stand for this! And straight up I shot, yelling in my covers, waking the neighbors. I couldn't stay in bed. Pajama-clad and alone in the house, I went to war.

It's like using a machete in thistles without muscles trained to swing. It stings to confess, repent and rebuke strange entities you've never wanted to even acknowledge. Fear of being diminished, fear of having to do it alone, fear that the movement of God depends on how faithful I've been... All this that I've been operating under - all these things violently pressed upon me - required a violence of opposition, and boy did I give it. All the while knowing that 1.) my neighbors might brand me as the crazy girl who yells at night, and 2.) my emotions were not keeping up.

But, I thought to myself, Isn't that best? This is a spiritual transaction. The emotions are secondary. How odd it seemed, even to me in the middle of it, to see myself in a physical state of war and thundering, and for the source to not be in my soul. I was not yelling because I was riled up, but because my spirit would not stand for any more.

And then, ending, confronting the biggest and most hurtful poison of all, where I thought the most violence would be needed, came the Lord's wise and knowing change of tactic. While I renounced, He drew out the thorn gently like my Dad used to draw out my splinters. Splinters were always my father's job - and he loved pulling out his little tweezers, reassuring me, urging bravery, holding my hand still, and ridding me of the source of pain and infection. He would not stand for a splinter to stay, any more than he would stand for spider bites at night. I remember mornings when we found a bite on our legs - his determined tone, his serious eyebrows, the mattresses on their ends with the sheets ripped off. No spider is going to bite "my little girl".

Pull it out, I agreed with him breathlessly, hoarse. Gentle Father, original defender of my soul and my body, wise in the healing, able willing and knowledgeable to remove thorns and draw infection to the surface... Pull it out.

And I slept to dream of looking for food for my fat white childhood cat, determined to feed her tuna if I couldn't find anything else, aware of how devastating it would be to ever be parted from her. And I woke to remember that she had been dead many years, and that her absence was not at all painful. Not at all.

We may feel soul-tied to the lies that cradled us since our birth into this fallen world, but freedom from those lies will be, truly, freedom... I will not regret them, nor long for past chains. And neither will you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 11

Day 10 didn't have a blog because I (and my roommate - I had a partner in this scandal) stayed up past day 10 (let's just put it that way) to watch one of the Lord of the Ring movies. Do you know what my very first impression was, upon popping it in?

"Wendy, what bothers me about Frodo, the whole time, is that he has no joy!"

Seriously, by the middle of the 1st movie, aren't you starting to get sort of annoyed? And don't you kind of cringe inside every time the scenes return to the Frodo pov? It's like 2 1/2 movies of torture when it comes to Frodo. Sorrow, fear, disintegration, loss, damage...leading him to disunity with Samwise, an ear to believe lies, etc. Gee Whiz!

Frodo is NOT a type of Christians - let me just make that clear. At least, not of how the Lord Jesus designed. He came to give us life abundant, not life suffering under the great weight of the evil we have to fight.

Yes, we have to fight evil, but we can do it like a warrior glad to strap on his sword, or like Legolas happy to expend days upon days in running pursuit of saving his little friends...but not like a staggering hobbit full of constant mourning and defeat, and not like Eowyn fighting out of fear and frustration and her own personal strength.

In other great news,

I didn't burn the house down when I accidentally left the candles on all night,


I did just get to talk on the phone to my brother in Thailand, where he pulled into port! He was on his way to ride an elephant. Or an Oliphant, whichever you prefer :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 9

Somehow, a bunch of days passed me by on this blog. Sorry about that. Sum them up? Well, a few were beautiful, one involved a burst of tears that was soon conquered by a choice for joy (hooray!), and another was a complete disaster (I won't tell you about it). Here are a few photos of a trip to a pumpkin patch with my family...

Oops, that's the corn part. Actually, I think the adults had as much fun in the corn maze as the kids did.

Which brings us up to date. Today, varied as it was, has ended oddly. I received a nasty email in response to something I'd written about marriage and the church and the enemy, in which I was accused of being out of touch, selfish, full of myself, and full of pride. The writer suggested I work on myself intensely for 3 months, but warned I may never get married.

Wow. Perhaps my response would have been different if a friend had said these things; when it is a stranger it seems much easier to be gracious and circumspect. I checked through the Proverbs first to remind myself of the Lord's advice about getting into arguments, remembered Mike's principle of blessing your enemies, and wrote this person back something short and sweet. Really: sweet. I hope it knocks their bitter socks off and opens a whole new door to the love of the Lord - but I don't really expect it. (Is that jaded of me?)

I don't expect it because it became obvious by the end of the email (partly due to the irrational nature of this person's anger and bitterness) that some major demonic strongholds are involved. It's going to take more than one kind response to bring those down...that takes power, repentance, submission to and reception of truth. But perhaps the kind word can kick-start the process...?

All-told, the incident mostly seems to me to be a direct assault - a cursing - on the joy and freedom the Lord is leading me into this month. In that light, I'm very glad to report that nothing inside is rattled - especially not my belief in God's goodness, His love for me, or His plans to give me fullness of joy and abundance of life.

And may He bless the writer of that email with the same things! Amen :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 5

For the last few days I have been in awe every time I've driven outside my neighborhood. I don't know exactly how He did it, but God has been intensely coloring the leaves around here until they are in a state beyond what is reasonable for fallen human beings to be seeing.

I screamed - half cry / half yell - on my way home from the store today, turned around in a stranger's driveway, and went back to the tree of FIRE I'd driven past along the side of Red Bridge Road. I know it wasn't my tree, but I had to stand under it, had to pick a few of its leaves.

Actually, I do know how He did it. I just don't know why. I think it might be for me.

Two weeks of unusually cold weather for October is "how". Sudden cold, instead of a slow cooling, means not just the sugar maples are crystallizing into fire-ridden oranges and yellow and reds. But oh-my-goodness, if that's what the other trees are doing, just try to get your mind around the sugar maples! I've never seen anything like it. Whether the light is diffused through miles of drizzly gray clouds, or is brilliantly shooting clean rays through their forms, the leaves are vibrant life.

It's been good, these days of intentional joy, to have the added help of a riotous, rejoicing earth. You know how the "heavens declare the glory of the Lord," ... well sometimes in a crisp fall, the heavens descend and hover near the grass, pulsating this declaration until all the life above ground either drops its leaves and dies, or having become saturated with His glory, begins radiating that glory itself.

The second-coldest October on record. Is that what it takes for the full potential of beauty to burst out, actuated? These trees all have the genes to turn such colors, but very rarely does their environment facilitate it. I have the spiritual genes for great things; should I be so surprised that the environment He provides to activate those genes is stronger than feels comfortable? Instead of mild and slow, prayers for real power and truth seem often answered by circumstances strong and pressing, sudden and inclement, dangerous precipitous and wrenching.

My heart was wrenched today for people close to me, and I felt sick in body over it. I had to be yesterday in a place where I was unsure of my safety, and I became a compulsive door-locker. But isn't God, who is greater than our hearts, also greater than physical circumstances? Indeed, He is. I have a little window into it already - I have already discovered how He keeps me safe, how He answers before I even know I need help: "before they call, I will answer". But I am convinced that my joy will not increase through knowledge of the specifics of His interventions. Those interventions open to me the discovery of His character, His person. And His person, Himself, is what will begin and supply and sustain my joy. And that is why it is a joy that cannot be taken away from me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 3 -- Steady

Ever notice how constantly counterfeited real joy is? My imagination can conjure up a form of "joy", but the real thing is way harder to get a hold of.

That feeling of excitement and anticipation - whether before a big event or a little moment - masquerades as it, until that moment is gone and a sort of blank feeling comes over you. I think we've all felt that - the movie is over and the girls' night is done; Sunday evening is gone and tomorrow is work; the ice-cream in the bowl is finished; Christmas Day is past and all the family have left. Our souls grasp, repeatedly, for the elation of happiness, and are repeatedly at a loss when what had been providing it is suddenly absent - and along with it, our joy.

Or, what we thought was joy.

The thing is, if it leaves like that, it probably wasn't real to begin with. Or it was very, very weak. That's not what I want. I want an abiding joy that extends way past the day all the family leaves town, or the moment the big event is over, or the last chord of Sunday-morning worship has reverberated and faded and we all sit down. No, joy is the steady. Happiness is the intermittent, the fading-and-returning.

I'm choosing steady.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 2

Well, I know that joy is very different from happiness, and that it isn't measured by the number of things we have to be thankful for, or even produced by rehearsing those things. But still, I decided that was a very good place to start this morning. And so I tried to list stuff off in my mind, but all I could think about was how much I didn't like the task I was doing at that moment.

Ahhh... Eventually, after several minutes of this (actually, at least a half-hour) I suddenly came to myself, checked my emotional state, and discovered the opposite of joy :( A whole bunch of feeling sad and frustrated was all that was there.

Wait a minute! This is exactly what I'm drawing a line in the sand AGAINST.

And so, I chucked the list of "I'm thankful for" and began remembering that Brother Lawrence washed dirty dishes his whole life, and lived in the very presence of God; that dear brothers and sisters across the ages and in oppressed countries have labored on and on in squalid conditions, and have been full of joy.

"Even if I had absolutely no reasonable hope of ever being 'happy' before I die," I told the Lord, "I would choose to rejoice in You." Much better than a list of reasons I currently have to be thankful. (Not that I shouldn't remember those things, or thank Him for them...just that I want to separate the reality of joy from the fetters of physical and emotional props.) And how many of you knew props could actually be fetters? :)

So, my heart did change somewhat. At least, I think it must have, as the succeeding blows of the day didn't feel as "blow-ish". When it turned out the chiropractor I want to see charges more than half my month's earnings; when the insurance lady who holds the fate of my little couch in her hands didn't call me back... Mind you, I'm not complaining - I'm rejoicing! These things didn't make me feel yucky. (Well, they tried initially, but I resisted.)

And then, I proceeded to write a great little scene - God's grace was on it.
And then, I was informed I would not have to do that particular task as often.
And then, I managed to follow along in dance class even though I'd missed last week.

So I ended up with some very good things (there are a few more I didn't mention) to add to the "I'm thankful" list. However, the joy didn't start there. It starts someplace very different, I think. It starts in the person of Jesus Himself.

Oh, and my housemate popped her head in and reminded me that Jesus wants our joy to be complete. Complete! Yep, that's what I want, too. COMPLETE!

Monday, October 19, 2009

28 Days of Joy

The other night I could not sleep. Pressing down on me, a massive, immobilizing weight, were all the things I had to be anxious and sad over. It has been said that the artistic temperament (which I don’t think I have) tends toward angst, but that has always been an ill-hidden and blatant strategy of the enemy’s, designed to draw people like me into deep mires of oppression and confusion. I finally turned the light back on, reached for Habakkuk and re-read the portion God had led me to the previous day.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

(Hab 3:17-19)

It was that little middle part, the one I’ve highlighted, that suddenly struck me with such clarity. I was granted, simply put, revelation. You know those moments when the Holy Spirit has (very graciously) made it all very black-and-white, very easy to understand? Something in the scripture that has been staring me in the face for decades, and that every once in a while I’ve grasped only to loose, finally stood straight up and demanded a decision.

The question is not whether I am or am not currently experiencing some sort of loss or delay. Nor is the question whether I will eventually be happy (we all know I will, when heaven comes to earth or Amy comes to heaven). The question is what will I choose today? It turns out, I have the right to choose joy. It turns out, joy is the portion promised to me. It turns out, that if I decide to reject joy, or not engage in the pursuit of joy, I will have submitted myself to a double loss, an unnecessary loss – one that could truly be called a tragedy because its opposite was fully within my grasp.

Something deep shifted, and all emotion stood far off, as I stared a simple decision in the face and told the Lord that I chose to rejoice in Him.

I immediately decided to thank Him for anything that came to mind. After a few minutes (and a bunny-trail adventure of having to squish my first cricket – because, well, it was hopping around in the bathroom at night…I apologized to the Lord first and got a very thick shoe to use so I wouldn’t feel its substance) … after getting through only about 5 items of thanks, I fell asleep.

The next day, the Lord had orchestrated that people very dear to me came to pray. There are definitely prophets among us, and these called right out that I was living under a spirit of fear and loss and sorrow, and that the fight against these things was “the fight of my life”. They are right. At the end of our time I pulled out Habakkuk (everybody loves that guy!) and we agreed that the road of joy is one rarely discerned or chosen amongst believers. A powerful time of intercession sealed the deal and dealt with a lot of the power these spirits had, but it is my job before the Lord now to consistently choose His way (of joy) instead of the old way.

And so, I have an invitation. I’m in receipt of one, I mean. To spend each day of the next four weeks fighting for joy – against fear and all its constant companions, like sorrow and loss (which make themselves seem oh-so-spiritual in our Christian circles).

I don’t know quite how it will go, but since our personal “un-restoration” (if I can coin such a term) actually affects all those around us whether we realize it or not, and so, conversely, does our restoration, I want to make these days of joy public. So I extend back to you the invitation I received. Join me in the journey of joy (oh boy…that’s just WAY too much alliteration). Let’s see what God does!

Lord, make the deception of fear utterly apparent to us, give us strength in the inner man to do the opposite of what we have spent our lives training our souls toward, and remove the pretend spirituality of sorrow, angst, isolation, introspection, and self-preoccupation. Teach us to choose the inheritance You’ve offered – joy.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Whole Story

Some of my favorite things to read are the Old Testament passages where the Lord starts off explaining the wickedness of those who have not sought Him, the destruction He will bring because of it, and then the absolute grace and mercy He will pour out on the very same people who rejected Him. Zephaniah is like this -- the whole book is just three chapters long; it begins "I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land," and by the end a "meek and humble people" are trusting in the Lord.

I love seeing the whole picture (which is why when I sit down to read the Old Testament, I'm lost to the world for a good chunk of time). And the "whole picture" usually follows the same pattern:

a.) wicked & rebellious us
b.) holy and just God
c.) unmerited favor/rescue/grace from His Hand

Oh, and then of course,

d.) happy us

Usually the fact that God is jealous comes up somewhere there in the middle. This struck me again today in Zeph 3:8. "All the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy." Immediately after starts the beautiful ending song, where He gives us a pure language, takes away our pride and shame, and brings great rejoicing. "He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

I remember hearing Oprah describe how she began her descent away from God. She was sitting in church, and the very animated preacher declared that God was a "jealous God". Offense and unbelief entered, and she turned away from Him. It is epically tragic, to the point of poetic irony, that the very phrase describing the extent of the astounding personal love God has for us should be understood by her (and so many) as the utterly opposite emotion, one of selfish violence. Good being spoken of as evil -- the predictable, and all-too-often-effective, tactic of Satan in his campaign against God.

But for such a thing - such a trick! - to lead to the unleashing of the most extensive and powerful harlot spirit in centuries, as it has with Oprah! (Where is Tolstoy when we need him?) Is that it? Can Satan manipulating semantics among people who don't read the whole story really be the tipping point on the world's journey into moral relativism, secular humanism, and the end of the age?

It was already there. The whisper, as horrible a thing as it was referring to, was yet assuring. The anger at God, the rebellion, the sin leaving one open to offense...these things are already existent in a heart that looks to observers like it was suddenly, without warning, smashed by as light a thing as a misunderstood meaning. No, none of it is the fault of semantics. At root, already there, making the heart ripe for such reaping, is demonic wisdom and human pride that have combined to build vast complexes of empty heartroom just waiting to be filled with the anti-Jesus spirit.

(Gulp of air)

Those are my Zephaniah thoughts for the day! Thanking Jesus for His mercy to even grant us humble and pliable hearts, and for promising in the end that we "shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain," I shall move on to my next task for the day -- cleaning the windows! (Those bothersome spiderwebs shall finally, thoroughly, be demolished.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A New Feeling

I met a man yesterday who dwarfed me. I am not exaggerating. I felt, for the first time, what it is like to be petite. One doesn't like to ask intrusive questions, but oh how I longed to know what his genetic heritage was... Finnish, Norwegian, Nephilim...? But I only longed for that after I'd left his house. While in this man's presence I was, well, stunned into silence.

In my long-frustrated search to find an armoire to hide the tv (no one likes to acknowledge they have a tv in the house -- best to cover it up) I've met many an interesting person. But Joe took the prize. A sorrowful sort of soul, who seemed to have five grandkids but no wife, he was not in the least disproportionate. In fact, driving up and seeing him in front of his house, he looked like a regular 6 foot-ish man. But then one got out of the car, walked closer, and his size didn't diminish but grow.

You may think I'm being ridiculous, but I cannot emphasize this enough. I, all 5'11" of me, felt very, very small. I'm sure I've met super-tall men before, but they must have been tall and skinny, not perfectly proportional. On the way home I commented to Annie that perhaps there was a good reason the Vikings were vikings.

Very interesting. I think I now know how pretty little asian ladies feel standing beside American, milk-fed men.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Best Beans, Please

"Will the New Earth have fewer resources for human enjoyment than Eden did or than the world under the Curse offers? If you're tempted to say, 'But in Heaven our minds will be on spiritual things, not coffee,' your Christoplatonism detector should go off. It's fine if you don't like coffee, but to suggest that coffee is inherently unspiritual is...well, heresy."
-Randy Alcorn, Heaven

This made me smile. I'm loving Randy's book; sometimes he just tells the truth in spite of the hair-raised yowl it generates in our religiosity-loving souls.

No yowl this evening. I have often said that in Heaven the promises of smell will finally be fully manifest in taste. Coffee, specifically, has always been my example. Can you imagine if it were to actually taste as delightful as it smells? I've always somehow been sure that it will, without having ever definitively said to myself, "we will drink coffee in Heaven."

But Randy lays it out on the table, giving a whole little 2-page section to the question: "Will We Drink Coffee In Heaven?" He's addressing a much wider question, of course, but what me made me smile so was its appropriateness to my evening.

Yesterday I ran out of coffee and, happy with my new Costco card, gleefully bought a huge bag of replacement stuff. Dunkin Donuts. One problem - I discovered this morning. The kind I used to drink at Sally's house and loved was a different blend, a dark roast. The brew I made this morning, to my horror, I hated.

Enter Jesus. Yes, carrying coffee.

Anniebugs, who has been dilligently saving her pennies to buy the food for a bbq she was throwing her worship team tonight at my house, and who thus has NOT been buying any coffees or lunches or extras... showed up this morning to pick me up for a trip to the market WITH AN ICED COFFEE for me in hand. I guess it was celebration day :)

"So, a morning coffee from Jesus, eh?" you say, still slightly skeptical.

"Yes," I reply, "and another month's supply, too, this evening!"

Ryan and Betty, whom I'd never met until this evening, arrived for the bbq with supplies in hand for the making of iced coffee. Supplies they intended to leave, as Ryan has completely renounced coffee & caffeine (as of 5 days ago). An extra-big, unopened bag of Starbucks beans now sits on the shelf above the coffee-maker, along with a collection of intriguing individual serving packages of a Korean speciality coffee you just mix with water - milk and sugar already included. He and Tim both said it's great stuff.

Hmm... Jesus? Why do You sometimes just come out of the blue and treat something so inconsequential with such care? I know it's not about coffee itself, although it is certainly fun to have Your stamp of approval on enjoying a particular taste. (I guess if You distinguish between poor and good wines, and between regular meats and "the best of meats" Is 25:6, its outlandish for me to think You don't discern the taste difference between mediocre and excellent coffees.) But in the middle of the coffee-fun you're saying several important things:

1. Your love is not generic, but of specificity toward me, including all the ways a lover would be aware of the loved -- of her tastes, of her likes, and of how to care for her.

2. Nor is Your love passive. You don't sit back, point out to Your Father how we serve and love You, but never respond directly to us. You are such a responder -- vigorously, sincerely, joyfully -- to every little move of our heart. And sometimes You decide to make it impossible for us to miss that fact!

3. Our religous ideas get in the way of reality - Your reality. Yes, we'll have resurrection bodies. Yes, everything You made is good. Yes, the delights You designed for us are not sinful. Thus Randy accuses almost the entire Protestant population of heresy -- lightheartedly and accurately! It's the old difference between sacrifice (deciding to give You what sounds super-holy and self-sacrificing of us) and obedience (believing You enough to actually act on what YOU SAY, not on what we imagine You must want).

Oh boy...Heaven does not fall into the "sacrifice" category, but the "obedience" one -- happy souls, us, who are destined to obey the truths that emerge when the most powerful and loving Being ever, has focused His heart on loving us well!

Some unimaginable things await -- a New Earth, new waterfalls, new shorelines, [insert here, when one has a few extra eons, several 700-page volumes of all that He's designed], imperishable bodies to enjoy them with, and the real Man Jesus at whose side to explore them all. It's excessively more than I could ask or think.

(Oh, and along with it, every few days, a coffee date with God. Only the best beans, please, and some raw cream to smooth the taste!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tactic: The Slow Wean

I sat down in my morning room yesterday, Bible in lap, and discovered something I'd forgotten. When I am sick (head throbbingly sick), the usual resistances my soul seems to develop to the presence of God just sort of melt away. A.) I don't know WHY my soul would build invisible little walls against Him whom I love so much, and B.) It's odd that sickness would dismantle them, but there it is. What He had to say, simple little verses, seemed to go straight in. I love the feeling of just being able to quickly, easily, and transformingly believe the words of His mouth. Love it!

This is in stark contrast to what the enemy has been doing around here lately, though I've only just realized it today, while sitting in the same morning room chair, with the same Bible atop the ottoman in front of me. One of my dearlings has been recently telling me about her battle with a constant sense of sin. As we dismantled the feelings and actions involved, I concluded she was under a sense of condemnation, not conviction. That conversation reoccured to me when I plopped into my chair this morning and opened the Word with a feeling that I should apologize to God.


"Apologize" is a very different thing than "repent". To repent is a relieving and cleansing activity; and at the end all sense of guilt is gone, replaced with a floaty, clear, almost memory-less sort of attraction to the lap of the Father. But to apologize...

Apologies can be vague, general approaches to smoothing over some rough spot in relationship, or an ongoing personality issue that causes friction. They often come and go with no actual release from guilt. What, I asked myself, do I have this impulse to apologize over?
  • I stayed up later than I should have for the health of my body last night.
  • I don't feel I accomplished as much as I needed to @ work yesterday.
  • I'm still in my pajamas at 9 am, since I'm home sick today.
Wait a minute. None of these are sins, and they're certainly not things the Holy Spirit is actually convicting me to repent of! And yet they'd pressed on me a vague and general sense that I was bad. Condemnation, loud and clear. And yet so subersive and hidden.

It's that always-sense of not having done quite enough, of not being as devoted or systematic in prayer as one should be, of disappointing Him in multiple little things, and of having "missed the mark." I've never liked that summer-camp description of sin: "missing the mark". In one fell swoop enter elements of perfectionism and human striving, now deeply mixed in adolescent psyches with the concepts of actual sin and rebellion. No, "not being good enough" is not a sin to repent of; "not hitting the bull's eye perfectly" is not rebellion. (I know; I just tried a game of darts and failed utterly at it.)

Now, not everyone deals with huge amounts of condemnation, but I think it is more common than we normally observe. Particularly here at IHOP, where devotion and holiness are so sought after, the spirit of condmenation is one of Satan's giants, sent regularly against this camp and "entrenched" to a certain degree. I'm not soft on sin by any means, and I'm quick - sometimes disturbingly quick - to call for repentance. Undealtwith, habitual sin is a gangrene, keeping one from holiness and joy, and spreading destruction to other parts of the body. It must be mercilessly uprooted with the same right determination as a sheep farmer who shoots the wild dogs killing the lambs.

But that is for sin! This general feeling of not being full-force enough, not aromatic enough for God, is condemnation, not sin, and is designed to slowly wean us from the presence of God. The dearling I mentioned before could not rest in God through an entire two hours in the prayer room because she was constantly wondering if she was walking in some sort of rebellion and if that would then keep God from meeting with her there or honoring her seeking of Him...

Let our ruthless war against sin also be a war against condemnation; and may the Lord Jesus win both!

(Disclaimer...I'm not sure of the policy on using photos from the internet. The one above is linked from its original spot, and I think that's legal. If not...apologies - and compliments - to the photographer! It reminds me of how it feels to talk with God after a real bout of repentance. It's a very different feeling than lingering condemnation. If you don't feel like this photo after you've repented of a sin, it's time to go to war against condemnation! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


At Jim and Anna's yesterday before lunch I blatantly admitted my plan to my hostess as I walked toward her back door. "I'm going to indulge in some garden jealousy." Problem was, when I got outside and actually beheld the garden, my joke turned into reality. Perfect, weedless rows. Plants that would tower over mine... I bent down to pick the needed cilantro and began singing my favorite song, just the chorus, which goes like this: "I repent. Open the eyes of my heart. I repent..."

I have a little bit of blog envy going on too. (I repent.) Annie-bug's blog constantly stays nicely updated. It seems one has the most to say when the most is happening, but that is when the least time is available to say it in. And so, during the last few weeks, my blog has been utterly silent exactly because I have so much to say. Counter-intuitive, eh?

Here's one of the things I have to say: I'm going to let $75 settle down into the dust, and I refuse to pursue its resurrection. Today was another lesson in dividing the heart from the things of this world. And at the end of it all, I decided to do what, for me, is opposite my natural instincts.

I spent $3.30 on an iced coffee to celebrate a $500 blow to my bank account. Wait--I can explain!

It's car-registration time in Missouri, which also happens to be the land of "personal property tax", a yearly tax assessed on depreciable items like cars. Crazy to begin with. I braced for the ordeal in the morning, then headed out to get my car inspected (who knows what hundreds of dollars the mechanics might find in "needed" repairs) and a property tax paper stating I didn't owe any tax, before going to actually get the new plates.

I prayed for favor, followed Lance's advice to "dress nice", and discovered the only things wrong with my car were a bad brake light bulb and a wiggly wiperblade. All told, the "repairs" only cost me $11.00 in parts, since the mechanic smiled, held a "shh" finger to his lips, and charged me nothing for the labor. First hurdle jumped (although I did wonder what he expected from me...and began to pray that the Lord would let me someday see a man be super-kind to an ugly woman--now that would be beautiful. does anyone know? what do men expect when they do something nice like that? they know they're never going to see the girl again, don't they?).

Anyway, on to the personal property tax people, where I was stridently informed that because I had never registered my car in another state, even when I moved away from Missouri, I owed taxes as if I had been living in state. On top of that, though a tax bill had never been sent to me, I owed penalties and interest for being late! I have no problem with paying the taxes...if that's the law, that's the law (as I said to lady behind the counter, "render unto Caesar..." I don't think she recognized the reference). But to pay late penalties on a bill they admit they never issued me, now that seems a bit outrageous.

Outrageous or not, by the time I got home I was $490 dollars poorer. And so I celebrated. Again -- I can explain. There is a caveat to this story:

Several months ago the Federal government had sent me a letter saying "we think we owe you more money on your tax return...please fill out this form." Shocked and fully believing they were 100% misguided, I filled it out and sent it back in. Then several weeks ago, I got a check in the mail for $450. It wasn't until a day later (and multiple conversations with Wendy in which I declared that I'd already been given my tax return and that I had to call the IRS because this money obviously belonged to a different Amy Peterson) that I remembered that little form I had filled out. Wow. At about the same time, the car-registration notice arrived in the mail and a little feeling began to form in my gut...

God had given me money ahead of time to pay the taxes I would probably owe.

Wendy insisted it was for me to buy a digital camera (at least one of my blog-readers has noticed the dearth of photos herein), but something told me otherwise...a "something" which was proved right today.

Remember how, along with telling people to "render until Caesar that which is Caesar and unto God that which is God's," Jesus also sent Peter off to find a particular little fish that was swimming about with gold-coin-provision in its mouth? He did that for me today! I guess the money was Caesar's, but God provided it for me (and from another Caesar, to boot)! Hooray! ... Well, at least some of it was Caesar's. I could really take issue with that $75 worth of penalties, and I have the address where I'm supposed to go to plead the case with the higher-ups. But being tired in general, I'm tired of such things. I'm tired of fighting my own fights. Let God fight them. I'm tired of wanting my own way. Let God choose circumstances. I'm tired of thinking I know the best way for it all to come together. Let God make His plans. And even (gasp) when it comes to injustices, I have lost the need for them to be righted here on the unredeemed earth. They will all be righted, and righted in a much better way than I could currently bring about in this world. I'm ok with waiting a bit for that "righting". So, go down to the dust, seventy-five dollars! I don't want you! I want a heart that longs for Jesus Himself instead of for my own rights, and for His heart to beat inside of me instead of for my own self to stay alive. Money-shmoney, as my sister would say.

So, I did what is foreign to me (the spending of any money at all is generally foreign to me, as my family and friends will attest), and celebrated God's ahead-of-time-goodness by splurging on an iced coffee at Higher Grounds today with Annie and Glorie (MissBe got strawberry milk, of course). Because I've noticed something else -- God's celebrations in the scriptures always seem to involve feasting. And what better way for me to feast than by pounding the final nail into the coffin containing the idolization of money?

I'm sorry there are still no photos in this blog, but I trust you'll agree with me, the gold was for Caesar. (Now if I can only remember to actually screw the new plates on the car before the old ones expire... :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sovereign Tar and a Photo Update

Sometimes I wish I was Flo B., who seems to understand the significance of every serendipitous circumstance. For instance, I had an errand today in Westport –

[ASIDE: Fun to have an errand in Westport on a sunny day, eh? Though, I did have the embarrassment of lugging 4 boxes of CDs in and out of two used-CD stores, having most of them rejected because they were “Christian” bands that wouldn’t really sell. Oh, and one of the guys told me I should try “White Light” bookstore, as it was Christian and everyone walking in there would be a ready customer for such CDs. – They were all very nice about it. Only in retrospect did I realized they were all probably shaking their heads as I walked out, still lugging the boxes, saying, “poor pretty Christian girl.” – So I called Anniebugs to do a quick google for me, just for the phone number of White Light, and she says, “Uh, uh…um it says ‘White Light New Age Books and Crystals and Astrology in Kansas City.’ Uh…” Nix on that idea. But that guy was perfectly sincere. He thought Christian and “spiritual” were one and the same! Annie did find two actual Christian stores for me to call, neither of which could help, but that were so nice that when I hung up and started the car going, I sang a little ditty to God about how much I liked His people. His people are nice!]

So, back to the Errand. Oh, we’ve already covered that. Back to the circumstances that need Flo’s interpretation. I left the last CD store to drive home, and along the nicely sculpted stretch between Westport and the Plaza I hear, “thump! thump! thump!” Exactly the sound and feel of a flat tire. So I put on the hazards, pull to the NO-PARKING side, and investigate. My first thought was, “Can this really happen to a wheel?” for it one-fifth of it was an exploded mass of gooey black rubber. (It’s hot here now, but not that hot.) My second thought was that I had just bought those tires. My third, based on the incredulity the second thought had brought, was that perhaps it wasn’t my tire after all, but a mass of tar ON my tire. I snapped a dead branch off a tree, started poking around, and lo-and-behold, thought number three won the day!

Meanwhile (and here’s a glimpse for you into the way females think) I was wondering if someone cute was going to stop and help. After all, my hazards were on, and I was in a nice part of town, wearing cute Capris, sparkly earrings, and stylish sunglasses perched on the crown of my head. And then I was wondering if this all was a plan that God had up His sleeve. And if someday I would laugh with Him over the fortuitous (providential) mass of tar that had glommed onto my wheel on just that day in just that spot. Then, a weird man wearing his helmet on his motorbike rattled past me on the sidewalk and I jumped from surprise (the tar, combined with my thoughts, was rather engrossing) and immediately rebuked myself for trying to read eternal significance into circumstance. (By the way, he had the gall to look at me as if I was the weird one. I guess it was a no-parking zone, Mister Motorbike-on-the-Sidewalk.)

After some work I pulled the mass of tar off with the dead branch, wiped my fingers on the grass, and got on my way once again. At the end of the road I pulled into the left-hand-turn lane as the light changed to red. My eyes wandered. A middle-aged man in white suddenly jumped into action, waving wildly at a taxi cab and running into the street to catch it. As he did, the badge attached to his shirt pocket flew to the ground. I’m not sure what conversation was had with that driver, who stopped – probably directions. Anyway, as the man returned to his little family group I could see he had not noticed the fallen ID.

I stuck my arm out of my window and yelled: “Your name badge!”

He looked surprisedly in my direction. Who was the girl in the car yelling at? Wasn’t this nice Kansas City, MO?

“Your name badge,” I yelled louder, pointing toward the gutter with my whole arm. “It fell.”

Well, the man retrieved it, a police car came screaming through the intersection (2nd of the day) and… well… I wish I could tell you that I’d somehow saved his life by being in that place at that time and keeping him from crossing in front of the police car or something. But I didn’t.

(Here is where my thought turned to Flo.) Perhaps, later today, he will desperately need that name badge. He’ll be late to work, and he works in a top secret laboratory, and he’ll need to get information to the governor asap, but if he didn’t have his ID he wouldn’t be able to access it (KC is a little behind the times and doesn’t have retinal IDs yet).

Sigh. Probably not. But perhaps at the end of the day, God will have spared him 10 moments of aggravation and a $5 fee for replacing his work ID. I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was worth being delayed by a mass of tar, I’m sure.

In other news…

The peonies have bent under their weight of glory

The foundation of the house has turned into a bower

The lettuces are as tall as kings (well, two inches is a lot compared to how they used to look)

The beets need to be thinned

The snow peas are exploding toward the sky

And Wendy and I drove OJ’s truck towing the biggest UHaul trailer money can rent, and brought my furniture down from Chicago.

I’ve officially moved to KC!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"She's Fighting Back"

I’m writing. I meant to clean the kitchen for this hour before bed, but something just happened … and I forcefully changed my mind.

It’s my way of walking in the opposite spirit.

Oddly, I have realized over a number of years that the enemy attacks my fingers and hands when I am writing. Even, sometimes, when I’m just thinking about writing. I guess he doesn’t like what happens when I write (which I find slightly encouraging, actually). It happens too often for me to remember all the instances. But it has become unmistakable.

A new friend asked me an hour ago what projects I was currently working on. I told her a little bit, and my heart began yearning to write, to write.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when, turning to run down the stairs, I whacked my hand against the point of the banister, right on top of the very spot I had hit it on Saturday and had developed a bruise.

I knew immediately what was going on. I should have directly rebuked the activity of the enemy, but this time I sat down on the step and cried—partially because it hurt so much, but mostly because being physically harassed is not a pleasant experience. (Now understand, I am not saying that every little cut or bruise we receive is a direct product of demonic activity. Please don’t imagine that!) It’s fine to express some emotion in a few tears, but that can’t be the end of the story. It certainly wasn’t going to be the end of tonight’s story!

So, though I have no specific soapbox to get on tonight, I decided to write this little blog. Just to thwart and frustrate that attempt at silencing me, that anger at my vocalizing of God’s works. I will not pull back from doing the things of God because it hurts or puts me at risk. That’s what I mean by walking in the opposite spirit. So what if I’m harassed, so what if I’m attacked? May it spur me on even further, rather than cause me to falter!

I write with ice on my hand and a decided bump underneath the ice. But I write happily. God wins! My roommate just summed it up nicely: "She's fighting back!"

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Torturing Her Puppy

I'm starting to write a weekly blog for Exodus Cry, an organization based at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and focused on raising up a prayer movement to abolish human trafficking. As they say, we can raise all the awareness we want, but unless angels and demons move, nothing will change. This means prayer is the first and most important ingredient of action.

Check out my new post, Torturing Her Puppy.

You can commit on the site to pray, fast and give toward ending slavery in a nation God puts on your heart.

Monday, April 27, 2009


You have to read my sister's blog on population decline and the purposes of God. She has dug and dug, and finally grasped the splinter with the tweezers and pulled it to the surface for us to see. This issue isn't the size of a splinter, but finding out the truth of it is like that searching dig, as the enemy has done his very best to keep it buried and hidden.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Cleaning the house almost pushes me to socialism. Almost. I quickly revert to the safer, saner waters of capitalism. Neither, however, seem to be God’s solution.

It’s just, why does each house have the same stuff, which all must be bought, and then which all must be cleaned…over and over and over? Ten sets of pots are being washed up and down our street every day, not to mention ten floors vacuumed and ten bathrooms scrubbed and so forth…

Then sanity brings to mind a picture of what it would be like if there was only one set of pots, and one kitchen, for all the ten households-worth of people on said street. Awful. Multiply that by tens of thousands of awfulnesses and you get gray places like the former USSR, North Korea, etc.

But the reason socialism (the full expression of which is communism) is so wrong actually isn’t the poverty, corruption, and oppression it breeds. It’s the collectiveness of persons, a collectiveness which strips individuality and the human dignity of having been created in the image of God – created as, yes, a person. God, actually, is a far more individual God than most religious folks imagine. As my father began to say during my growing-up years, “Love is person-to-person.” He was referring to God, to God’s love for us, and therefore our love for each other. True love is not a blanket feeling for a large, faceless group. It is a specific feeling for a particular person or people.

A person-to-person relationship enjoys each individual as such – an individual. It expresses itself in appreciating, gaining from, and celebrating that individual’s facets … most of which are very different from the person next to them.

This is why we love each other dearly, but we live as neighbors and not collectives. It’s because God loves us person-to-person. He loves our tastes, which are vastly different from each other, especially when it comes to food and home d├ęcor. He loves our personalities – mine is quieter than my sisters’. He loves our shapes, our heights, the sounds of our laughs, the turning of our hearts. What moves me is slightly different than what moves you, and He loves those nuances. It’s not that He loves differences, as some mistakenly put it; it’s that He loves us each separately.

God, of course, is capable of this person-to-person love for each one in the universe. As a human, I am not. But I sure am able to recognize a good thing when I see it (or when it is directed at me). So when I step back from scrubbing the kitchen counter and take a moment to consider then reject a socialistic/communistic approach to living life, it brings a sudden joy to know that I am one of those who He loves and appreciates individually, and to whom He has therefore given the desire and ability to creatively express myself in such realms as home and family and career. Hooray for God! Hooray for love!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I walked into my sister’s house today and saw a big box, wrapped in Williams Sonoma paper, complete with the little pineapple on top. Two days ago I’d discovered an item from their store that I really liked, and had posted it on my birthday “wishlist”. Ahhh…cake plate with dome, that turns into a punchbowl when needed. Hooray! I smiled happily to myself and promised to make nary a comment. I would pretend to be blind…

I slipped to a seat at the table where Judah, happily scarfing mac and cheese, extended his 2 ½ year-old-arm, fork clutched, and waved generally in the direction of the box.

“That’s your present because it’s your birthday coming,” he said. “But you can’t have it until then. Because, it’s the plate for a cake. For your birthday. But, because you can’t have it until then.”

“She’s not supposed to know what it is,” piped Ariel from beside me.

“Ok. You can’t know it – that it’s the plate for a cake. For your birthday,” he clarified.

“Ok, I won’t know what it is,” I agreed, joining the toddler world where all one has to do to make something real, is say it. What a delightful world! I remember it, and how shattered it seemed if something said didn’t solidify.

I’ve been tense for a few days – have woken up in the middle of the night, and have felt the tightness in the morning of having clenched the muscles in my jaw all night long. It is very unrestful. But it wasn’t until today in prayer I asked the Lord why. Why am I tense? It was a surprise to me to think to ask Him, and it was a surprise how clearly I felt I heard the answer – one which He illustrated to me with this recent imagery:

I’d planted a garden a while ago, and yesterday when I went out to put a few more seeds in, I searched for a sprout – any sprout – in the ground. Spinach? Not one. Chives? Scallions? No. Snow peas? None. I went back into the house and pulled out the packets I’d used, searching for the instructions.

“Germination time: 5-10 days.”

I stepped to the calendar and counted the days from planting. TEN. Oh no!

It felt like the bottom had dropped out from under me – like the roller coaster ride where suddenly a downward motion happens at high speeds and you feel there is no stomach, no body, no carriage, no track, and no earth beneath you. Just emptiness. Screaming, black, earth-disappearing emptiness.

My little seeds! Are they all dead? Will they not come up? I did everything for them I knew to do. I double-dug the ground, down a foot. I fertilized it. I put fresh, ready topsoil over it all. I planted on the right date. I covered the beds with leaves and black plastic when it snowed (and in the process finally understood why being wet and cold makes you die so much faster than just being cold). I’ve never planted my own garden before; my mother always did it when we were young. Greenery magically sprouted under her touch. But I suddenly began questioning the reliability of the entire process, of the whole system. Why did I think those ugly, tiny bits of flotsam would turn into green, living, edible plants? Perhaps they wouldn’t – perhaps for me, when it comes to my efforts, that little part of the universe is broken.

I seriously did doubt whether it’s really going to work. After all, I’ve seen others do it, but this being my first time, have never actually experienced it before myself. And today, today is day ELEVEN, but still no sprouts. I used organic, heirloom seeds, which means they haven’t been treated with chemicals and don’t say “guaranteed to grow” on the seed packet.

Lord, nothing might come of all this.

This is what you’re tense about. This is your life right now. You’ve voluntarily (and sometimes involuntarily) given up thing after thing, desire after desire. You’ve let every seed I’ve given you die and enter the ground. You’ve spent a life, now, consistently and willingly enduring loss. Suddenly, with only My promises to go on but no prior experience to assure you, you notice nothing has germinated yet, and the bottom drops from your stomach and you wonder – is it broken for me? I’ve done everything I could, but maybe it won’t work for me. Maybe it will all stay this way – dead, brown dirt. Lord, what if I have no happy ending?

There is only one life. Reincarnation is ridiculous; no one gets to have a trial run and then come back and do it again. Which means, not one of us gets to know for sure, from past experience, that things will really work the way God says they will. We have to take it on faith, and do all the hard things – put in all the hours of back-breaking work, let the deepest hopes die, give up all the things we could grasp in our own strength, and just believe that fruit will come – just believe that the end will be worth the horrible beginning. I know we’ve seen other, older saints do it – or at least have read about them. But somehow that doesn’t translate fully into real faith when it comes to our own little plot and seeds that seem to be taking an awful lot longer to poke their heads through than they should.

I grew up in a huge city where the streetlights were always on. When, in my young twenties, I first drove through winding, mountainous roads on a two-lane highway in the pitch black of night, I discovered the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. My head knew road engineers don’t just stop when they feel like it. My head knew the road I was on wouldn’t suddenly end over the edge of a cliff. But my heart couldn’t see farther than my eyes and the 10 feet in front of me the headlights were illuminating. Beyond that -- utter blackness. The unknown. The potentially roadless unknown. My hands shaking, my blood pounding, I finally had to pull over and let my friend from the country drive.

In the incident-by-incident sense, we are seeing God keep His promises, and our faith is built. But in the entire-direction-of-a-life sense, it only happens once. There’s not going to be a “first time” that gives us more courage for the second time. That once is now.

So, He was right; and the reason I’ve been tense?… I wasn’t believing Him. I’m turning 34 in a few days and it’s the first time I’ve had difficulty with a birthday. There seem to be so many things I’ve spent my life losing and giving up, and not even a sprout to show for it all yet.

(Well, if I was being entirely circumspect and reasonable, there actually are some sprouts, and a few half-grown plants as well. But I’m not being entirely circumspect and reasonable, obviously.)

Why did I tell you about Judah? (Hopin’ Suz doesn’t read this blog until after my birthday!) Because Jesus is a lot like Judah. He has a big boxed-up gift, but He just can’t keep the secret. He has all the fruit and harvest and happy endings right there, ready and wrapped, and He’s dancing around us with clear, honest eyes and blurting it all out ahead of time:

But as it is written, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard," nor has it entered into the heart of man, "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

[Don’t stop there. Have you always stopped there?! This is the next sentence: ]

But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit…

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

What’s coming is TRUE. Whether or not I’ve driven the road before (or can even see the road), it does continue until it reaches the destination. God’s ways are not breakable, and if the seed falls into the ground and dies, it will produce fruit.

How can we be sure? Because the end results are not dependent on us. We happen to be breakable, and fallible, and unfaithful, and too weak to do our tilling and our sowing and our weeding and our harvesting 100% perfectly. But the scripture doesn’t say the growth comes from any of those things. It says this:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,

but only God who gives the growth. 1Co 3:7-8

We certainly can be sure that the growth will happen, precisely because it’s not up to us. I have yet to see whether my heirloom seeds will germinate their sweet little heads above that soil, but I’m resisting the fear that they won’t. After all, God's been doing this for centuries. And I have yet to see the full resurrection of all the life I've laid down, but I’m believing God that I will. King David knew all about this. He said he would have lost hope unless he had believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord while he was in the land of the living (Ps 27:13).

God's birthday box for us contains more than Judah's does, much as I'm going to enjoy the "plate for the cake". It contains joys and fruit to be experienced in this Old Earth, and exponentially more joys and fruit to be experienced on the New Earth. Whichever Earth I receive them in, I'm super, super grateful. And how freeing to know that while sweat and prep and sowing and watering is part of my job, the germination and growth of it all is up to Jesus. That's why its
His box, and will be given to us in His time.