Josh gets here tomorrow. (Yes!) And I am trying to prepare our construction site to accommodate him. I have shut down the workers coming and going, and am cleaning the master bedroom as it exists today (drywalled and painted but with no carpet, no vanity in the master bathroom, no furniture, and no closet doors or fixtures . . .) and borrowed an area rug and some mattresses. And Steven plans to buy the TV and mounting hardware and get Josh to mount and use the new TV for that bedroom.

The friend that loaned me the the area rug had a garage as full as my off-site storage site is becoming. As I commented, I realized that part of our living area isn't that far off (stacked furniture, boxes, and piles of stuff that I didn't want to pack away because we need frequent access) and that I really need to move it all off-site and prepare for more months of this inconvenient style of living. So I am giving myself these next 2 weeks while Josh is here to pack and move it all out. Funny . . . I thought I'd already done that! And then we pulled everything out of the bedrooms and master bathroom . . .

Following Jesus means living the life He calls us to live -- right here and right now, but also in our plans for the future. And I need to have a home that people can come into freely and daily to experience His love through us. Frankly, that means making this my home now . . . not my husband's home that I happen to co-own and that we financed primarily with my income when we bought it 4 years ago. Sorting through things and cleaning out things needs to mean a moving out of old coping mechanisms, and a moving in of my own personality and passions and style. I need to take physical ownership in a way that I have never been able to take ownership -- that I never was willing to take ownership. Am I now?

Whether we are conscious of it or not, all of us live in pursuit of the things we have a vision to pursue, and ignoring the things that we just don't see. I have a vision of a home where Jesus is at the center, and all the stuff of the home -- the decorations, routines, and organization -- reflects His ownership. The home should be a tool to foster my own daily obedience and daily intimacy and to point everyone who enters it toward their own pursuit of the REAL ONE.

Part of the reason I have abdicated my real responsibility to bring that vision about is that it contradicts my husband's visions and purposes. He has expressed that I would be making his home a place that is inhospitable to him. But it is already a home that I am in many many more waking hours than he is, and a verbal discussion of what my vision is must certainly fail to create an accurate vision of that in his mind. He can't see it unless I do it, and then I will accommodate his reactions to the real thing so that the home is as hospitable to him as Jesus wants it to be.

So today I embrace that vision I have for the future of the home I live in. It is a vision primarily about people living here, and friends in and out regularly . . . and bible studies and social times and just extra kids hanging out here with my boys. From the chaos of today's displaced furniture and plaster dust I want to move quickly toward that home . . . in the home's new appearance and also in the daily living that goes on here.

Male and female, our real character and the core of our ministry must take place in the privacy of our homes . . . and it is only as we open those private doors to others that we let others in to the real substance of our worship and faith. And it is only there that we can be the effective tools in God's hands that He desires each of us to be.

The buildings of our church are not on the little campus that we call "St. Andrews." The buildings of our church are scattered all over Orange County. We will never be the people God wants us to be -- individually or together -- as long as we spend more time together in the buildings at 600 St. Andrews Road than we do in each other's homes. And the newcomers who want to be part of our church will never feel a part until they are in and out of the homes of others.

We can put on acts in our public sphere, but maintaining those acts in our private homes is impossible. Real hospitality must break down all those facades and expose us for who we really are . . . and then and there, the Holy Spirit will be set free among us to bring the real "right here and right now" abundant life that real salvation is. That's worth pursuing!


"I have learned"

My weeks have been so busy, and I am getting further behind in my commitments, instead of getting closer to my goals. So it is time to adjust . . . and not make new commitments until the old ones are completed or expired. My whole being -- body, mind, will -- requires more balance. Sleep, exercise, prayer, solitude . . . without all in proper measure, my relating and doing become distorted and take me the wrong directions. At least I have tasted enough of what it is to walk with God closely (and enough of what it is to not) that I don't delude myself any longer that my own drives are going to satisfy me!

A friend asked me today why I'm not in school yet. She knows how driven I am toward that, and toward certain career goals that will follow. But I can't sacrifice the daily stuff of life and my close relationships to get there . . . nor can I sacrifice my ability to obey daily in my contact with strangers in the marketplace. The command to love others takes time, because it is not a command to warm emotion, but rather to the action of real time and attention when required.

But just think how much Jesus accomplished in three years of public ministry! And think about all the others since then! The power is not ours, but His working through us . . . and so any preparation for ministry and so any giftedness for ministry pale in importance to the simple daily obedience that allows His power to flow through His followers. Ministry really isn't anything other than allowing God to use you as His tool in the lives of others.

And so I can no longer say "I have learned" as though I know TRUTH and possess it. I have tasted TRUTH enough to pursue it and to practice it . . . and the moment I stop pursuing it and practicing it, I stop knowing it. I'm starting to understand that Paul's illustration of power in clay jars is apt, and that transformation doesn't turn my jar of clay into anything stronger, but rather trains me in staying full of His power and His presence by clinging to Him every moment.

I remember asking a friend I respect "How could I have done that!" in agony as I remembered parts of my story, and seriously wanting a response that would help me understand and go forward. I received empathy but no satisfying answer . . . but just gave the core of the answer I have discovered to be true. I will not stop being a sinner until the grave and resurrection, and yet sometimes it is easy to be so full of the Spirit that I imagine I have lost the ability to walk away into my own filth. The truth is that none of us ever lose that ability on this side of the grave. So we shouldn't be surprised by our own sin or the sin of others that we would like to believe are above acting "like that".

The power of the Spirit and the words of TRUTH and LIFE that the Spirit brings forth from good preachers and teachers and writers, and the wonderful evidence of the other gifts of the Spirit that we see in every other Christian who is filled with His power . . . they are from His power, not ours. We truly are just jars of clay, and never stop being the same sinners that needed a Savior that we were when He rescued us . . . not until the grave and our new resurrected bodies.

But the power of the Spirit is just as real as my sin, and it tastes a whole lot better . . . and so, even though I cannot say "I have learned", I can say that I am pursuing and practicing the Spirit-filled life, and every time I slip back into old habits that don't fit His purposes, He pursues me and turns me back to pursuing Him.

And I am a member of a network of others just like me: screwed up sinners who don't really want me to see how screwed up they are, but who are also pursued by Him and learning to keep pursuing Him. And He is at work in our relationships as well as in all of us as individuals, and He uses us to strengthen and encourage each other. And I need you in your giftedness and unique perspective on reality, and you need me, and we need all the others . . .

A lot of resting in Jesus tonight is possible because of your role in my life. I need you. And you need me too. We are joined by Him, and can't go our own directions without injury to each of us as well as to the whole.

Good thing He said the main way we are supposed to obey Him and show that we are His is by loving each other!


Learning to swim . . .

I remember beginning swimming lessons at Offutt air force base in Omaha. I was between kindergarten and first grade. I was scared to death! Little did I know that swimming would become one of the things I like best to do.

I have been realizing how many people in my life have been just as big a deal as learning to swim was for me. I experience a new person as that kind of strange environment that water is to one who is used to air and land . . . and learning to navigate in the new environment is a challenge, as is learning to feel safe and comfortable, and even to eventually enjoy the strange new environment. A person who is very different from me is one of God's best tools to pull me out of my own boxes and expose me to the bigger world that He wants me to learn and enjoy.

My favorite book that I read this year was a book called The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life by David F. Ford. He talks about how God shapes us by all the "overwhelmings" of life, and that being overwhelmed by a new friend or a vocation or all of the other things that we feel powerless to resist is what living is all about. It is there that we find joy and purpose and God and even ourselves.

So I am at the second half of my process with one friend these days . . . getting past the fear and frustration and discomfort of otherness and even learning to swim in it. Eventually I will become as comfortable with the different world that I experience in this friend as I am now in water. And, just like in water, flailing around and looking for the familiar supports from most of my life was the first step, which failed miserably! No wonder my strong desire for a while was just to stay away . . . but God has other plans than to let any of us live "safe" lives that protect us from being overwhelmed by His otherness as we can only experience it through the people that He calls us to know and love.

So I am getting to anticipate the end of this "beginning to swim" class and look forward to something that will be enjoyable forever, but also understand that this is life. God brings us to the edge of a new world that we don't have any tools to deal with, and lets us flail around in the safety of His love and His instruction until we finally attain basic skill and then mastery and then enjoyment . . . only to go on to the next new world. He calls us to keep exploring and keep growing and keep loving, in fresh ways and in the old ways too.

And the constant that I am learning to trust in it all is . . . HIM!


Tolerance and Respect

Our culture is built on the idea that there are many ways to do the same thing, and that there are many plausible ideas about "how it all works" and about ethics and about spirituality. We are called to be tolerant of each other, and to show respect for ideas and beliefs that differ from our own, and even respect another's right to act in ways that we think are wrong if those actions are not ones that our legal system has imposed penalties upon. And, even then, with few exceptions, we are to respect another's right to violate the law as long as they are willing to pay the price.

Christians are notorious for violating these ethics (tolerance and respect of others with differing beliefs), and because of that we lose the right to be heard when we present our position. We seem to think the problem is the wishy-washy view of truth (relativism) that is the common philosophy, but my experience these days tells me otherwise. I think that people are willing to consider the possibility of absolute truth, but not willing to be made to feel stupid or inferior while we hold up our beliefs as right and theirs as wrong.

I do believe there is absolute truth. I also believe that we are all very limited in our perspective on reality -- me just as much as you, Christians just as much as agnostics or atheists. I believe that there is a way to communicate the real respect we should possess for anyone who attempts to figure out a world-view that matches his or her experience and understanding of reality, while at the same time respecting our own ability and responsibility to determine as best as we can what is true and right. If we walk in that kind of respect and responsibility, we will be the kind of people who others are willing to discuss things with, and even respect. If we fail to possess a real respect for them and for ourselves -- but just put on an act -- we will show up as we really are eventually, and lose the right to be heard.

When someone who is not a Christian -- and even some who are Christians -- read my blog, they may react against how foreign my whole perspective is, and assume that I am like the other Christians they have known or heard of, and assume that I would show them a lack of respect for their own heritage and beliefs. How else could I be so convinced that I had found "the way"? The truth is that I have a respect for all the aspects of my own spiritual journey, and a respect for them in theirs as well, and a respect for the God Who is seeking all of us.

I am asking readers who come from different place in their lives and world-views and systems of belief to respect my ability to push forward toward truth, and to assume that I respect them in that endeavor as well! Then, perhaps, we can learn from each other, and both be taught by God or by TRUTH or by reality (whatever words work best for you!) about how best to live and how best to push forward toward what is healthier and truer and more effective and satisfying.

I am not smarter or better than you. If I act like I think I am, then I am violating my own values and belief-system. Please don't paint all Christians with that ugly self-righteousness that too often we display!

And, to my fellow followers of Jesus: We can be faithful to what we know as TRUTH and also have a real respect for those who either are not there yet or who have gone a different direction and never will believe what we believe to be TRUE . . . and if we do not respect them and their beliefs, it says that we are more invested in the ideology of Christianity than in just following Christ Himself. The only ones He ever showed disrespect were the self-righteous religious people!

We can at least follow His example by refusing to be those self-righteous religious people! Please?!


Daily Prayer

As I have written in earlier posts, my mother and grandmother and aunt trained me to pray at bedtime as a little girl, and my mother kept teaching me over a lifetime what a life of prayer was all about. She also modeled the priorities I possess: she made daily prayer a priority. She tells the story of being alone in her house with little children during my dad's medical training, and having a visitor stop by unexpectedly. She was sitting with her Bible and prayer journal on the sofa, with the morning mess still in it's place and the three of us playing quietly. She says the visitor looked at her like she was nuts! But that to me was a picture of my mother at her most sane and centered, and I am grateful for her!

So in the midst of the workers and displaced stuff that is my home right now, I have found it possible to continue that habit of sitting down with my God in the middle of the mess and chaos, and receiving from Him His love and peace and direction. As I wrote earlier today and earlier this week, I'm still far from being the person I want to be with other people -- but alone with Him I feel His forgiveness and acceptance and words of truth.

And out of the centering of my life and my agenda on Him -- so that I receive from Him His life and His agenda for the day -- I am turned toward others in prayer. Someone important said "the work of the church is prayer" and "prayer is the work of the church" . . . and that has to mean the work of individuals. We are called to pray for each other and for God's purposes in all our lives and in the world around us! And, for some strange reason, our Triune God not only acts in response to our prayers but apparently also often restrains Himself from action when there has been no request from His people for action. He calls us to intercessory prayer!

Yet we prioritize other things, don't we? We must make enough money to sustain a basic life (basic in our eyes, but not in the eyes of the rest of the world!), and we must be fit and attractive and well-groomed, and we must have kids who are not only good in school subjects but also excel at a variety of things like ballet, gymnastics, tae kwon do, baseball, soccer, violin, etc . . .
And we must have what I am today working at: a nicely-decorated, well-organized, immaculately cleaned home. Prayer just doesn't figure in there as something that should consume more than a few minutes, does it?

I know many in our church who love the Lord and do have prayer lives that occupy hours a week. I know many who love corporate prayer as well, and are part of the prayer meetings we hold. I also know many who appear to give lip-service to the idea, but that I strongly suspect prioritize other things that crowd out actual time in God's presence . . . and I know those who openly admit that struggle.

Most of the things worth doing in life have their own intrinsic reward -- eventually. Delayed gratification is necessary, but not endless self-denial. It feels good to be clean and well-groomed. It feels good to be strong and healthy and not too plump. It feels good to have a clean, pretty, organized environment in which to function. It feels good to be competent at a career and to make a good contribution to the production of a team. Prayer is no different.

When we spend time first sharing our own life and needs with our God, and then interceding on behalf of others, we receive clear answers to our prayers over time, and we also receive an increasingly intimate knowledge of God and relationship with Him, and we receive ourselves -- whole and free and focused on what really matters, finally!

Our world calls us to busyness incessantly. Today I felt overwhelmed with that call, as my home was invaded by outsiders moving us closer to the American Dream. Most of my life I have marched to that drum of trying to accomplish more and possess more . . . and more . . . and more.

He says "Stop." "Come to Me, you who have taken on heavy burdens . . . lay them down at my feet . . . and take up the burden I give you for others! My burden is light, and I will give you rest for your souls!"

A big part of giving up the wrong burden is to come to Him and take up the right burden! He calls us to prayer and to obedience in loving others . . . and much of loving others will be done through prayer. Just watch Him!

I have a friend who should get all this, but who keeps thanking me for my prayers! Anyone who lived a life of intercessory prayer for the church-in-the-world and for the world and for our own community of followers and for all the people significant in the life of the pray-er would never offer thanks to another for their prayers as though they came out of a desire to do something for the one I pray for! Anyone who walks deeply with God and intercedes for His purposes in the lives of those He loves would get it . . .

It's all about Jesus . . . driven by Him, done for Him, rewarded by Him.

And the rewards are amazing. You don't know what you're missing! This isn't giving up a nice body and good health because you don't feel like working out or eating right! This is giving up something else . . .

If you are not meeting Him each day and spending as much time with Him as He calls you to spend in His presence, you are missing life. This is real life.

The Roof When the Sun Came Out

We took pictures of the roof at the beginning of last week -- after the storm that damaged our home, and before the roof repairs. I'll post a couple here:

The completely gutted master bedroom isn't too thrilling, but I should at least take some pictures tonight! The little boys were amazed.

Chaos reveals the truth . . .

Well, we gave up on the idea of staying in a hotel for the duration of the master-bedroom repair/remodel when I overheard Brooks say to Noah on Friday night "This hotel thing just isn't working for me!" Since it wasn't working well for me, either, we checked out of the hotel yesterday morning and I spent the day clearing out the middle bedroom and getting it set with a queen-size mattress set, a bookshelf, and a laundry hamper. It is now home to Steven and I until the master bedroom is livable again. The little boys are sleeping in Joshua's room, and by the time Josh is home for his winter break we should be able to give up the middle bedroom to him. (Then, when he leaves, on to the rest of this place!)

The master bedroom has been completely gutted -- no ceiling, no closet, no carpet -- down to the underside of the roof and the slab and the pipes sticking out of the wall where our vanity and sink used to be. Tomorrow they start rebuilding it. The roof is mostly done too -- just a few boards under the eave to be painted, I think, although I haven't inspected today. It was repaired to stand the rain before last Friday, and more work done yesterday and today.

And my day ended after midnight last night -- as I scrambled to make things livable here. Then my day started early early today, as I tried to be ready for the master bedroom to be gutted and for the rest of life (like kids getting to school) to run normally. So I am not exhibiting normal behavior!

I know something is very wrong with me when I sit down to have my morning quiet time and find myself doing housework instead of praying . . . time after time. (The normal Maria Anderson has absolutely no problem ignoring dishes or laundry or picking up if she decides that prayer and meditation and reading are called for first!) I also know something is very wrong when I am praying that today's needs be met, and I find that I am not praying for wisdom or motivation or discernment of His priorities, but am instead praying for peace and safety and a tiny bit of solitude.

But it is just 1:45 p.m., and all the workers have left me in peace; so I can take the time and solitude I need right now . . . all the way until I get my boys at 3 p.m. And then I'll work to bring order to the chaos of our house some more when they are here with me.

It is in the times that take us out of our normal routines and surroundings that we get to see what the Holy Spirit has actually accomplished toward transformation. Boy does He still have work to do in me!

But He will. Praise to Jesus Christ our Lord!


Dependence, Independence, and Inter-Dependence

In my post on obedience I wrote a lot about our dependence upon God and about the goals of independence from me and of inter-dependence with others that I have for my sons when they are adults . . .

And so I have been thinking a lot about that dance in each of our lives and each of our relationships. When we have uncomfortable relationships we either detach a bit from the relationship or communicate the changes we need in order to be more comfortable, or both. When we have very comfortable and satisfying relationships there is the tendency to move from a healthy inter-dependence toward a dependency that isn't healthy for one or both. And our culture holds up the ideal of independence as the measure of maturity and success . . .

And I believe that Jesus' teachings on agape love are all about this dance! We are to learn increasing dependence upon Him, and an increasing ability to move intuitively into healthy inter-dependent relationships that allow you to be the tool God wants you to be in my life and me to be the tool God wants me to be in your life and that resist the temptation toward full detachment and independence from each other and that also resist the temptation to allow an unhealthy dependence on either side. Such relationships also point us back to Him as the One that we should each be fully dependent upon -- or we will not have the ability to be used by Him or to have Him meet our needs through whomever He chooses to use to do that.

He is our Source. And He points us toward loving each other in truth . . . and the stranger and our enemy.

This dance is one of the great joys in this life! This is relationship -- right here and right now! May we relish each step!


"Choose Joy" Now?

I've had lots of time to be alone in my house sorting stuff and cleaning and planning and dealing with contractors and workers . . .

So I listened to Jim Birchfield's Thanksgiving Service Meditation a couple of times, despite finding it somewhat annoying in the middle of all that I am not happy about to be told to just "choose joy" and to look for the blessing in the trial. I liked his message -- as I like most of what he does in preaching and teaching -- but something didn't sit right, and so I listened and sorted out what that was as I sorted physical stuff into boxes.

What I concluded was this: that I had a problem being told to "chin up" or "have a good attitude" or "keep the eternal perspective", but that I had no problem remembering that God is the writer of my story, and that my role is just to follow His instructions about what I do next and to trust Him that He is indeed in control of all the stuff I'm not in control of.

I have been through way too much over my life to buy the "put on a happy face if you're a good Christian" kind of line . . . and I don't think that Jim would sell that line, either! What we are called to do is just feel what we feel -- anger, depression, despair, grief, frustration, exhaustion, apathy, hope, peace, joy, love -- and still act in obedience, trusting that God does care about how we feel and has joy and abundant life as His goal for us. BUT -- it is real joy and real abundant life, not the "put on a happy face and pretend" kind of joy and abundant life.

So, what do we choose? Well, we choose to "trust and obey", just like the words of the wonderful song. And we tell Him honestly how we feel and what we want, but then we listen to His command in the midst of it and receive His comfort in the midst of it, and we become who He wants us to become and we do what He wants us to do -- in reality, right here and right now.

And by choosing to trust Him and do what He says -- about telling Him and ourselves the truth about how we really feel in it all, and about loving the people around us fully -- we find that we have chosen authentic joy and authentic abundant life. We find that we can see the blessing in the hard situations of life, because we can see Him and come to know Him well enough that we do indeed trust Him based on a lifetime of experiences that teach us that our trust is founded.

So choosing joy and choosing to see the blessing in the hard situations is not an act, and cannot really be accomplished by just "choosing joy" or "choosing to have the right attitude". Authentic joy and authentic abundant life get thrown away if we put on that act that isn't based on what's actually the condition of our hearts.

The way to real joy and to real abundant life is through the "vale of tears" that scripture and hymn-writers talk about. We don't have to display the tears and anger and frustration indiscriminately, but we do need to feel them and to share them openly with the Triune God in prayer and with anyone else that He directs us to open up to. There is no way to real joy and peace without wading through that river of anger or despair or depression when it is there in front of us. God doesn't fly us over the river just because we "choose joy". But He will walk us through the river with a tight grip on us when He calls us to go there, and He will share our negative emotions fully. (He can fully empathize, you know, because He has truly been there as a human just like you and me, and even now has a real human body, although it is the perfected resurrected body that we do not yet possess.)

We can "choose joy"! We can "see the blessing in the trial"! When we choose to affirm our trust in the Triune God and submit to the reality of the life He gives each of us -- in honest confession of what we love about it and what we hate about it and what we want Him to change right now and what we are angry at Him for doing or for not doing -- and obey in His leading toward action where He gives us something to do and obey in His leading to wait when He calls us to wait . . . that is choosing joy and will give us eyes to really truly see the blessings of our lives even when they are not what we would have chosen.

But let's not ever believe that God calls us to "put on a happy face" and pretend for the world that things are what we know they are not if we are honest with ourselves. Living in the light of the TRUTH Himself allows us to own all the pain of life without fear of being discovered to be people who need a Savior. We do need a Savior, and we have One, and He is working so that our joy is complete and our life is full and abundant, and so that all creation will testify to His transforming power in bringing that about.

So . . . "Choose Joy" now by whatever "right here, right now" kingdom living requires. Just know that it never requires you to lie to yourself or to God, and it will not -- on this side of the grave -- result in a life without pain, tears, and anger. But know also that all of that is part of what He is using to bring His Kingdom in all its fullness as He fulfills our request that His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as fully as it is in heaven.

Thank you, Jesus, for your gift of real abundant life! Don't let any of my readers settle for pretend abundant life when your real version is available to them . . . right here and right now!



If it wasn't for other people, I could look at myself and think I'm doing really really well as far as following Jesus and walking in His righteousness . . .

Couldn't you?

But then there's the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, and your employee who stresses you, and your spouse who thinks that intimacy is a permit to be inconsiderate, and your kids who just won't do what you need them to do . . .

And all those people in my life reveal -- at least to them, if not to me -- that I am a long way from being the person that I would be if following Jesus was really "working".

But then, what is Jesus after in the process of discipleship in each of our lives? What would it look like if following Jesus was "working"? Would I glow with evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit and His agape love each moment? Would I never have any conflict with anyone, and never have any negative emotions? Would I walk through every crisis and pain with that "good attitude" that a friend recently complemented me on as I go through this situation with my house?

I don't think so. I think that Jesus is after that growing intimacy and growing dependence upon Him that I wrote about in my last post, and that the results of that growing intimacy and dependence will be a change of values and a change of perspective and a change of character, which are all shown in how I interact with all the people in my life and how I respond in all situations . . .

But I don't think Jesus is judging us that way we judge ourselves or the way we judge each other. I think He so fully understands the cause and effect of abiding in Him and righteousness in the rest of our lives that He is very focused on the cause side, just as a good hitting coach in baseball knows that the mechanics of a swing produce the hits, and works on developing the cause side, knowing that the result will be a higher batting average. (There is a difference here, though! Scripture seems to indicate that God is truly invested in the intimacy and dependence we develop with Him, and that the resulting change to our lives and actions -- although highly valued by Him -- are not as much the point as the relationship is. It is the relationship with Him that He created each one of us for.)

So this week, as I manage a new employee and deal with new contractors and subcontractors and live out of a hotel and manage a family that is totally out of sorts as they deal with being displaced from our home . . . I can watch the evidences emerge daily and hourly that I still need a Savior, and that I'm way far off from really looking like a follower of Jesus should look in all the details of my reactions and relationships . . . and I can turn back to Him, and accept His healing and forgiveness and love and reassurance, and His coaching for better results in my next 5 minutes. I do have the promise that over time and eternity, He will bring full reconciliation and full transformation to my character and my life! And, meanwhile, I can rejoice that the way He sees me today is the way He will see me then, because He knows that He is the One Who must bring that change, and that I am doing my part by just showing up for the relationship and hiding my face against His chest when it is all too much for me.

May you know that place of refuge and that word of total forgiveness and acceptance yourself, moment to moment.


Obedience and Intimacy

There is a major difference between the obedience we want for our kids and the obedience God wants for us. I've posted several times on this theme over the last 2 years. God wants increasing intimacy and dependence, and the resulting character and power that that increasing intimacy and dependence by us with and on Him will produce in us. That's not a parent's goal for their children, if the parent is truly loving and healthy.

I don't want my 23-y-o to call me every morning and talk over what he needs to get done today and the best ways to do that -- but if he did, we could still work with it and move toward something healthier. But if my 30-y-o married son were doing that, I would have shown that my parenting goals had been all about me and my needs, rather than about his health and happiness. I want my boys to be capable of negotiating life without me, because I will not always be here, and because I am not the source of all wisdom and comfort. God is, and He wants them to depend upon Him and to grow in many interdependent relationships of many types. The relationship with Mom moves toward decreasing intimacy. The relationships with a wife and with children and with all they myriad relationships of a full life will build a balanced and happy adult life.

God, on the other hand, is our Source of wisdom and protection and comfort. He doesn't want to teach us how to do it all without Him, and have us move on toward independence. Jesus tells us in John 14 and 15 that the only way to do this life successfully is by abiding in Him -- living in ever-increasing intimacy and dependence, which will not result in the kind of sick shrivelled personality that dependence upon any other person would, but which will result in power and character and wisdom.

I am typing in a hotel room this morning, and cannot take the time to fill in all the scriptural links that I will polish this off with later . . . but I'll publish now, because those of you who know scripture already get the links here, and those of you who don't will see this concept anywhere you open that Book and start reading.

God doesn't want you to figure out how to do this life on your own. He is moving you toward a maturity that is fully dependant and fully intimate . . . on Him and with Him. And out of that intimacy, you will become strong and beautiful, and you will love and know those around you in all the ways He intends for you and them. He will meet some of your needs through them, and some of their need through you . . . but He will be the Source of all met needs.

May today move me . . . may today move you . . . toward that intimacy and maturity.



A question from one of my friends in my story about Brooks in my last post: "How did you punish him for disobeying you?"

Well . . .

The direct answer in this situation is: I didn't.

The long drawn-out explanation of why I didn't -- and of what I believe obedience is -- are the subject for this post.

Normally, I think we use the natural consequences of something to teach obedience, so in this situation I would normally have Brooks help me clean up the mess. However, I was running late to meet someone, and my own need to manage time and do the clean-up before any damage was done to the leather upholstery over-rode any need to make Brooks help. But there was more to it than that, too. The "more to it" is my whole idea of obedience and what I want to teach my kids.

Brooks does have an idea of obedience. Jim Birchfield did the children's message at church the week he preached the annual "stewardship" sermon on tithing, and the children's message was about a friend giving another friend 10 apples, but with the instructions that one of the apples couldn't be eaten but must be given back. The story then went on to explain why it would be difficult to give that 10th apple back, and asked what the friend would think if it wasn't given back. Jim couldn't hear Brooks among all the other noises, but I heard Brooks respond that if the apple wasn't given back "You would be being disobedient."

And I think that gives a good over-view of what Brooks thinks obedience is. To him, obedience is the result of a relationship and the requests of the other party in the relationship. Disobedience is to owe a certain response because of the requirements of the relationship or because of an implicit or explicit promise one has made to that other person, and then to fail to do it.

My friend would tell me that obedience is a lot simpler than that. Obedience is doing what someone in authority tells you to do, when they tell you to do it.

Okay, is that really what we want to teach our kids to do? And is that really what God wants to teach us to do?

That is not what I want to teach my kids to do. I want my kids -- both now and when they are adults working for a boss -- to understand the world and understand relationships and understand their own commitments and responsibilities, and be people of wisdom and integrity. Simple obedience -- to do what a boss tells them to do and when he tells them to do it -- may actually lack that wisdom and integrity. If they are truly aligned with their boss's goals and priorities, they will sometimes suggest a better way, and will often go way beyond what they have been directly instructed to do. They will be people that can be given an area of responsibility and execute it well without needing to be micro-managed. And they will definitely not be people that will say, when something goes wrong: "What?! I did what you told me to do! It's not my fault!" Or, "But you didn't tell me to do that!" when something that obviously needed to be done was neglected because they saw it and the boss didn't.

And there is good evidence from Scripture and from life that God did not have an idea of of our obedience to Him that could be accomplished by "doing what He told us to do and when He told us to do it", or as I envisioned it back when I was 7, by "doing the do's and not doing the don'ts". He could have created us as puppets or robots who had no ability to do anything other than what He programmed us to do, but He didn't. And, at the point of salvation and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, He could choose to put us on "auto-pilot" and take over to get us to that abundant life without all the mess that we bring to the party. But He didn't and doesn't.

From Scripture and from life, I think God's intent is obvious. He is making real people. He is making people of character as shown in the list of virtues in Paul's list to the Galatians of the "fruit of the Spirit." He is making people of wisdom and people of spiritual strength, as -- unlike Moses -- the glory of the Lord does not fade from our faces but grows stronger as we move "from glory to glory". And -- as I repeat over and over again in my words to friends and in this blog --when Jesus said that we'd obey Him if we loved Him and were His, He always followed that immediately with an explanation that obedience of Him meant loving our brothers and the stranger and our enemy. That's not simple "do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it" kind of obedience! It requires a relationship, and requires growth in wisdom and growth in character.

So, I do want to teach my kids to obey me, and those in authority, and to obey God! But I want that obedience to be real, full obedience, that has assimilated God's values as their own, and is growing in an understanding of the world around them and their role in that world and their responsibility in any situation. I do not want kids that simply "do what they are told." I want men who are the amazing creatures God envisioned when He started the process of creation.

So Brooks gained what he needed to gain from his experiment with shaking a bottle of soda and then opening it, and he will be more likely to listen to me in the future when he is in the middle of an experiment and I say "don't do that!" And that accomplishes my goal for the situation and for the child, and I would be teaching him something I don't want to teach him if I impose an unrelated punishment after the fact. It is more important that he trust me and love me than that he never does something I'm telling him not to do. Then, when he is 17 and past following my direct instructions in every moment, he may understand that he shouldn't try drugs NOT because it would anger me or disappoint me or because I'd punish him if I caught him, but because it wouldn't work out well for him even if he didn't get "caught"! Things have their own consequences, and life works the way it works . . . and obedience moves us forward toward real peace and satisfaction. Escape from an unrelated punishment is just not the point!

I think our world would be far closer to the Kingdom of Heaven right now if all parents and all churches changed their definition of "obedience" to match the one we see in the story of Scripture and in Jesus' words to His disciples, as well as in the first church council's words to the church-in-the-world in Acts and in Paul's words to the church in Corinth and Galatia and Colossi.

What is your definition of obedience?


My Little Scientists

I was driving to a friend's on Thursday afternoon with the boys in their seats in the back of my van, and I heard a shaking sound that could not be anything other than the bottle of Coke -- that Brooks (my 6-y-o son) had in his hand when he climbed into the van -- being vigorously shaken. Oh, no!

"Brooks, don't you dare open that bottle now! Don't shake soda!"

. . . shake, shake, shake . . .

"Mom, it's not a can, it's a bottle!"

. . . shake, shake, shake . . .

"I know, Brooks! Don't you dare open it now! Bottles and cans of soda are no different if you shake them!"

. . . loud hissing sound . . .

"Oh! You're right, Mom, they're not!"

"Oh, Brooks! Did you get it on your electronic games? It will ruin your DS and GameBoy!"

"No, Mom, just on the seat and on the floor. It's not even on me. Just a little bit."

"Oh, Brooks!" (Exasperated sigh.)

But that is just so much me! I know exactly what it is to have a theory (bottles of soda are different than cans) and need to test it out. That is why I've been a mom who laughed at my 3-y-o Josh throwing eggs at the wall in my apartment 19 years ago. That is why I've been a mom who laughed (and took the matches) when my 11-y-o Mike told me (in a voice with great disdain) "Mom, I know what I'm doing!" as he tried to light a small fire on the wooden deck between our house and detached garage 12 years ago. And that is why I infuriated my Dad as I just sat and watched my 12-month-old Noah pull all the Kleenex out of a small box of Kleenex 7 years ago (despite "all that wasted money!")

I value their "learning experiences" more than I value my time in cleaning up or the money spent on a box of Kleenex (but not more than I value my house and deck and garage if threatened with fire by an 11-y-o genius.) I think God is just like that with us. He values our growth and wisdom more than He values what some people think He should value . . . but not more than He values the lives of others. But, if you look at what we can blame God for . . . He certainly does seem to value one person's growth in wisdom and character over another person's comfort very frequently . . . perhaps because a sacrifice in my comfort is also a valuable learning experience to me about what really matters.

My boys matter. My van doesn't. My boys matter. My possessions and time and energy are to serve God's interests in bringing them to maturity.

How often do we make the people in our lives secondary to the things in our lives that are really only there to serve the people we love?

God, today use me to help each of the people I love to grow stronger and wiser and more joyful!

My House

Well, I got through more cleaning and sorting and moving today, and considered posting pictures. I thought better of it. Imagine the mess you have when you are packing all the stuff from one house to move to another, and then imagine much of that stuff wet with black water and/or covered with white plaster dust. Now, if I asked you to spread all your stuff all over your house and send me pictures of your possessions all dirty and out of place and all your furniture in the wrong rooms and in the middle of what should be open spaces, would that be the image you wanted me to have of your home? No? Me neither.

At least today I got a lot more of the dust and dirt and pebbles and mud out, and it's starting to look almost inhabitable again. Tomorrow the contractor who's doing some structural work should arrive to plan that out.

We started this all in April of 2004 -- so we're 3 and a half years into living in a mess-in-progress. This project has taken so long because of so many false starts and stops. We started with a plan to actually add a second story, and worked on that plan with a contractor. We decided the yard had to be done first, and so set about that, and ended up putting years and lots of dollars into the landscape and exterior of the house, and it looks like new construction now. Outside we went through many contractors and subcontractors. Inside, we have had lots and lots of starts and stops and been through many contractors and different plans. It has been a learning experience that I would just as soon have missed out on! But now we're committed, I guess, and so it is my goal to blast through it now with all we have learned under our belt and get it done.

Those of you who know me well enough to have been subjected to hearing about it for so long are invited to stop by during this time of muddy chaos and see what I've been forced to do this weekend, and then to keep stopping by as we go through the next few months. But no public display of our muddy "garage sale" today through pictures posted for the world to see, thank you! (I will email pictures upon request, however.)


Resting in Him

I re-read my post from Wednesday as I posted about Friday. All I can think today is: "Lord, You have a funny idea of rest! My shoulder hurts. My back hurts. And my whole body itches!"

But He is in control. And I have all the time, all the health, and all the soap I need. Praise Him!

A Collapsed Ceiling -- with a few pictures now

I don't have time for a long post, but imagine this:

Imagine you were remodeling the inside of your house, and you had workers working on 2 bedrooms and a hall, so you moved a lot of the stuff from those rooms into your master bedroom and also out into the rest of the house. Imagine plaster dust and plastic and the kind of mess you have when you're moving.

Imagine workers and machines and noise and lack of privacy. Imagine moving into the master bedroom, closing the door, and sitting down in the middle of the bed with your laptop computer, to figure out what has to be done today, and what the plan is. The kids are at school. You haven't showered, haven't eaten, haven't gotten a latte from Starbucks -- but you have done homework with your kids, fed them, bathed them, dressed them, taken them to school, come home and switched laundry around and cleared stuff from the path of the workers who arrived as you were leaving with the kids.

Imagine hearing water dripping, and looking up, and seeing rows of drips criss-crossing your ceiling. Then imagine making phone calls to get help to cover the roof, moving beds, moving boxes, moving belongings, asking the workers to cover the roof with plastic since you were waiting on the tarp and men you'd already arranged . . .

And imagine standing with an armful of books at the edge of your bed just as the ceiling opens and water and mud pours and water-soaked sheets of insulation fall and all the ceiling falls -- with you in the center of the waterfall, soaking the armful of books you were trying to save.

Imagine the flurry of workers and work and cleaning and moving and insurance calls and standing or walking for hours straight, never eating or drinking anything or showering . . .

And finally, imagine your house that was already a wreck covered with all the dirty wet articles from the master bedroom, spread over every floor and surface to dry, and all the furniture from 3 bedrooms also spread in odd places throughout the house.

You have just imagined my day on Friday, and my home at the end of that day.

Now, for few pictures from half-way through the clean-up of just that room -- with the mattress and box-springs and all the strips of insulation out, but the contents of furniture and closet littered there as we work to get it all out:

I'll try to post pictures of the roof and of some of the rest of the house . . . and of that room now that it is bare . . . tomorrow?