Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lavish Love

"She put in all she had," was God's response to the widow placing her two bits into the treasury. (Mark 12:44) And God would ask me to pour out my life . . . my time, my expenses, my energy, into love of others.  Lavishly love, giving all that I have.  A love which does not require a response, a love which does not make demands or force.  A love that does not abandon those under my care when they are scattered.

I'm reminded at how fragile is my ego and how deceitful is my heart.  When I'm rattled or when things do not turn out as I think they should, discouragement sets in.  Love does not retaliate when hurt . . . but it does hurt.  However, that hurt is often because my own image was wounded rather than really caring about the welfare of others. It is such a fine line easily crossed.

I've been at the end of myself the last few days and weeks, but it is a good place to be.  The nearness of God has been the exchange, and I would not trade it for anything.  His Word has been so very active in my life, piercing deeply into my soul.  My God is not dead, but is surely alive, living on the inside. What could possibly be better than that?

As I've been studying the book of Esther I've been so encouraged, seeing some things I never saw before and perhaps most importantly, they are applicable to my life, now, today . . . the very words of God to my heart for my present situation.

Is my life going great right now?  No, in fact I've just experienced some setbacks and doubts.  I've wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits.  But life is good because my relationship with God is good..
. . .growing.

And when it comes down to it, isn't that the main thing?  All God requires of me is to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8)   How others respond, the results, they are up to God, not me because it does not depend on me.  Sometimes I think it does.  My ego would want to think that.  But God is working on hearts even if they do not fit my formula for how that should happen.  It is His business. 

You may have noticed that I didn't get my Friday post out this week.  This is the fourth post I've tried to write and I think I've finally gotten the right one.  As I pour out my life I'm reminded of the One who gave His life for me, and how many times I rejected His love before responding to Him.  If my Savior so gave, should I give any less?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sandy Feet

Seems I've been hanging out in the sand lately.  Scratchy, grainy, cactus infested sand.  When it gets in your shoes it can cause painful blistering . . . an irritating agitation every time you walk.  My niece is burying her youngest son this week, a baby of only 20 weeks gestation.  You would think it would prompt me to speak something kind, tender, or even to remain silent in sympathetic empathy.  Instead I misunderstood, assumed, and lashed out with my words like a bulldozer plowing ahead leaving prickles in my wake.  Must I always be like sandpaper in people's lives?  It is a miserable life.

Yesterday my family and I went to the desert to watch the airshow.  It's free, it's fun, and in some ways an even better seat than within the gates of the airport.  We drive out with our four wheel drive in gear and join countless others doing the same thing.  There's a sense of comradery with total strangers because we are here for one purpose . . . to watch the blue angels fly. 

Kids mess around in the dirt, dust blows when yet another vehicle arrives joining our ranks, and adults chit chat with one another.  But when those blue angels fly, all else stops while eyes look upward and outward.  Such power, precision, and wonder is rare.  Us common folk, we watch with awe . . . amazed, thrilled, and proud that these jets are on our side. 

My niece is like an eagle, flying the skies, undaunted by the gravity pulling against her.  This is not the first son she has buried.  The rest of us are hushed, thinking we would crumple under such pressure.  We know it is the presence of God within her, upholding her that gives her strength.  We watch and the sand of the desert is forgotten momentarily.  How we long to fly!  But lately I've felt it has been rather impossible.  The reality of my guilt keeps me grounded in burning sand. 

I spoke of false guilt in my last post.  This time I speak of real guilt.  I'm seeking to get it right, to have a clean slate.  I want to start over.  Maybe there is still hope that I might take to the skies.  I have to admit that last night I felt low, broken, and wondered why God keeps me on this earth if I'm only sand in the eyes of others. 

But then this morning my pastor gave an illustration about ducks.  I was reminded that it is possible to fly.  Yes, this duck can fly.  I can even be an eagle.  So what am I doing waddling through sand?  It's time to give what I have, no matter how small it might be, and God sized power will project me forward to the heights of heaven.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Doo Doo

Do you ever feel burdened by a pile of doo doo?   Do this and do that in order to be a good Christian.  Do, do, do.  The expectations never end.  I must have a clean and organized house, I must maintain a perfect body, I must look stylish, I must be the best home teacher, my children must turn out right, I must have perfect relationships with my friends, I must have friends, I must be hip with the latest technology and be adept at using it.  All a bunch of doo doo.

Oh, it doesn't end there.  Far from it!  I must fight for breast cancer, for the unborn, for the starving children, and for the widow next door. I must care for the single mom, must reach out to my neighbors, and adopt a child.  I must keep in touch with my extended families, volunteer in my child's classroom, buy Christmas presents and remember birthdays.  I must not own too much stuff, must drive the right car, recycle, and live in the right neighborhood.
Tsk, tsk
Wait...hold on a minute... is this a cage I'm in?

Could I have a little less doo doo please?  I'm feeling in need of a shovel and a bath about now.  Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for placing heavy burdens on people which they themselves could not even bear.  Burdens of guilt and expectations. Yet at the same time Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matt. 11:28,29) Ahh, take a whiff of that pure refreshing air.  I don't have to do all that stuff to be accepted by God.  He's not angry with me if I don't keep all the bases covered.

Is that to say those things are unimportant?  No, but it does mean that we share the load.  Our yoke is tailor made for us.  God knows what burdens our hearts, but we do not bear it alone.  Jesus Himself carries our burdens with us.

Yet we cannot place our tailor made yoke on someone else because it simply will not fit.  Each must follow his passion.  This is one reason we have the church.  There are so many differing facets of outreach and ways to serve that we cannot by ourselves fill every need.  But as each is drawn to a specific area the body as a whole can meet numerous needs.
Where are those green pastures and still waters?
So don't throw your doo doo over at me.  That doesn't get the barn clean.  But working beside each other certainly can 'cause God's right there with us, spray nozzle in hand, hosing the place down, every inch of it.   He's got it covered. 

(Many of these thoughts first came to me from my pastor several weeks ago, but have come home in recent days.) 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grandma Speaks

Only a few weeks ago I was at the Michigan 400 Speedway with a quarter of a million fans.  I have to say, it was an experience of a life time!
 At one point a tight group of cars meshed together, catapulting Mark Martin's car down pit lane out of control.  It was headed directly towards an opening in the guard rail exposing all the crews.  My heart rushed to my throat as it seemed immanent death awaited.  And this was all happening right in front of us!  But the car caught the corner of the guard rail just in time which prevented the loss of any lives. Whew!  It might be entertainment on TV, but in real life, unnerving.
I tell you this story because I have to admit, I've been guilty of seeking the thrill of tragedy . . . watching Nascar for the excitement of the crashes.  But it reminds me of how sensationalism so often drives us. 

I've been reading Shadow of His Hand by Wendy Lawton to my girls and feeling like a total wimp.  It is the story of a Jewish girl's struggle through the Holocaust.  All of a sudden the trials in my life seem very pampered and insignificant.   

I wonder, how did women of past generations cope with the car crashes in their lives?  They didn't have social networking, cell phones, or even neighbors close by to share daily events with.  Their difficulties were not announced to the world as a sensation.

As I think of my Grandma Shetler I'm reminded of her divorce, a scandal in those days, and the whisperings she must have suffered behind neighborhood fences.  I'm reminded of the resolute determination she displayed in raising all 11 of her children as a single mom, training them to love and fear God . . . without drawing the attention inward.

I recently received a booklet composed by my Dad's four sisters of the songs their mother sang to them as children.  I feel so privileged to receive a copy and to be reminded of my Grandmother's testimony.  Simple, but powerful.  She lived a statement I've heard from my pastor, "The world does not need more of me, they need more of God."  If the hard things in life which I suffer are put on a pedestal and dramatized the focus suddenly shifts from God to me.

Look at me, see how hard my life is, look what I must go through, so often dominates the stage of our lives.

What message am I conveying to the watching world when they see me undergo difficulties?  Do I live as a person who has no hope, who has lost perspective, and who has an aloof God spinning out of control? 

Most of the songs in my Grandma's book are lullaby's for very young children.  We often deem children this age as unimportant. . . insignificant.  Yet my four aunt's remember those lullaby's.  My Grandma didn't spill her troubles to the world, she simply did what needed to be done   . . . point her children to Jesus.  Her trial paled compared to her purpose. This is not to diminish the difficulties we experience, nor to take away the pain.  It is only to place them in their proper place, in the background rather than the foreground.
(artwork by Lois Decker)
We each have a history of experiences which make up our story.  These experiences make us real and able to relate.  And when we respond correctly to them, it can cause great growth in our lives bringing glory to God.  But it can also be wasted on resistance or self glorification.

I have experienced very little pain compared to most, so who am I to speak of it?  But one thing I know with certainty.  God is in control, He does not abandon His own, He is forever good, He will see that justice is met, and our greatest joy is yet to come . . . eternity in the very presence of God . . . without a speck of evil. 

I was a young girl when my Grandma Shetler passed away.  It was the first funeral I ever remember experiencing.  I didn't know her very well, but her legacy of faith lives on, even in me, because she kept Jesus in the spotlight.   
Thank you for Grandma's Songs for Little Ones,  Aunts Lavern, Helen, Ruth, and Lois.  I will treasure it always.  And thanks to my Dad who led me into the kingdom of heaven by lifting high the name of Jesus. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


Panic streams through my body.  My breath feels choked.  I MUST get out . . . now.  Ahead of me an entourage of young people block the exit.  Behind me, a tall hefty man is lodged between two sheer rock faces, blocking the entrance.  Turned sideways to make himself smaller, he inhales.  His chest heaves inward and upward providing just enough give to scuffle into the next pocket of space.

(My husband)
 I have been in these particular crevices before, the Escalante Canyons near the Lake Powell region.   The rock walls, high and narrow, shoot straight up, nearly fifty feet or more with only a narrow passageway between.  Once inside there are no alternate routes.  The canyons are mysterious and  gloriously wild.  When the sun hits them at just the right angle, their beauty takes your breath away.   And normally I love exploring them. 

My friend eventually made it out, but not without inhaling his way through the tight points.  Ever since the birth of my oldest daughter, the breath of life touches a chord somewhere deep inside me.  (see May Day)  Now whenever I witness a resuscitation elsewhere, such as in a movie, it causes me to choke up with emotion. 

All the urgency of the soul breaks to the surface in that one cry, "Breathe!"
The call echoes through the subconscious . . .
                           reaching . . .
                                   searching . . .
                                             pulling . . .
and then the wait . . .

the hope of connection, of drawing the dying back to the reality of earth. 

The pressure of the atmosphere against the lungs is what forces us to take our next breath.  Likewise, as the intensity of life presses down on us, God is calling, "Breathe!"   Prayer is my breath.  I pour out my heart to God and listen for His voice . . . inhale, exhale . . . praying without ceasing.  

(My two oldest children, Tyler and Heather, now in college)

My heart has been downcast as of late.  Roots and wings are a part of life, but the wing part is giving me sadness.  And in the long nights, when sleep evades, magnifying the loneliness, the empty spaces shout what once was . . . laughter, voices, theological discussions, glow of the light from their room . . . their presence.

It is then that I hear God's urgent cry, "Breathe, my child . . . pray!" 
                  God reaches . . .
                             searches . . .
                                  pulls . . .
and then waits . . .

the hope of connection with my heart,
of enfolding me into His presence.

Through the loneliness, God is trying to tell me something, but so often I am not listening.  He longs to draw near, to whisper sweet nothings in my ear as my beloved, but I will not have it.  Because I refuse to simply breathe . . . reach toward Him . . . pray.

Rocks do not give, in some ways much like my circumstances which are set to stay awhile.  When their walls engulf me and I panic with claustrophobia, it is then most crucial that I consciously turn to my Heavenly Father and simply cry out to Him in prayer.  Inhale. . . the only way I can find my way through, casting all my care upon Him for He cares for me. (1st Pet. 5:7)
Yes, Lord Jesus, I look to You.  Fill these empty spaces wandering around the house, suffocating, pressing in at the table, in the basement, at the kitchen sink, even in the laundry room.  Thank you for two children yet at home.  Don't let me be distracted from growing their roots deep and strong in You.