Friday, January 22, 2010

Fearless--a book review

Earlier this week, I received the book Fearless by Max Lucado from Thomas Nelson Publishing. The subtitle is Imagine Your Life Without Fear. The book has about 13 chapters covering fears that individuals can feel free to lay aside. The 14th chapter covers the only truly healthy fear, that being the fear of the Lord. After the final chapter, there is a discussion guide for each chapter which would be useful for using in group studies.

This was not a profoundly deep book, but it did cover basic fears that most people struggle with at one time or another. In the first two chapters, he covers fears that haunt us in our minds such as not mattering and disappointing God. He follows this with a chapter in which he offers tips as to how to stop worries from plaguing you. In the next couple of chapters, he discusses the fears common in raising children and many fears we easily succumb to when looking at the world around us. These fears include the anxiety we can experience when facing circumstances that overwhelm us, situations that can be the worst imaginable, even the anxiety caused by violence in the world and money concerns. The last few chapters deal with a fear of death, or the uncertainty of what is yet to come in life, and doubts about God's existence. Finally, he reaches the chapter I was hoping would be included. This chapter is about the only good fear--the fear of the Lord. He tells the importance of realizing that we cannot put God into our box. He is too great to contain, too awesome to understand, too amazing to explain. When all of our fear is wrapped up in acknowledging His greatness and His control of all things then all other fears become small.

Although I was not overwhelmingly affected by this book, it did include a thorough overview of fears that we need not waste our time on.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

missing teeth and living free

He is seven tomorrow. Ethan is our fourth arrow.

Seven years ago, on this day, the doctor told us that since the little fella wasn't cooperating in the womb we might want to consider a c-section. The date was up to us. We could wait a few days or come in that afternoon. It was January 22, 2003, the thirtieth anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. We decided to mark that occasion by welcoming a little life into the world. It was obvious he would be wild by the tangled mess he was, coming out of my body, cord wrapped around the neck and under the arms, purple little guy.

But he was fine.

His name fit him from the beginning. Ethan-meaning constant, firm, a lot like his dad. He's solid, never wavering. He always knows what he wants and is satisfied with just that. He doesn't require much to make him smile. He's good natured, wild, and retains information a lot like a computer, but that's not obvious unless someone tries to explain something, gets it wrong, and he simply offers the correct info.

A child who is so different from his mom. Not sensitive, no worries, just living freely. What a relief...he missed out on my idiosyncrasies.

Occasionally, he allows tender moments like when he's tucked in at night. He wants me to pray with him. Sometimes he wants someone to come and rest with him just for the company before he falls asleep.

He likes everyone, unless they are outright mean and then he'll walk away from them and boldly proclaim (to all) their bad behavior because he assumes everyone should know this stuff. His siblings are his best friends, especially Luke. They can sit and draw together or imagine they're Jedi's or just read books. He just knows that Luke is supposed to be there with him and when Luke's gone, something's wrong. He learned early on how to affect his big sister's heart by using big brown puppy dog eyes on her. He likes his little sister dearly too, but he only puts up with with so much and when she starts to be irrational...well, when anyone starts to act irrational around him, he walks away and refuses to deal with them anymore. But it's his biggest brother that he admires so much. Sometimes when he's gotten scared of something, he quietly approaches and asks if that big brother can rest with him for a while. Big brother has poured love into this little guy so much in the form of reading to him, building Lego toys for him, and tucking him in at night, the love Ethan has for him is just the harvest after many years of sowing by Jake.

I never really cry or feel sad as they get older. I always look forward to seeing what kind of grown up they will be. I take no pride in the people they are, for I and their dad had little to do with that. There is One who made them the way they are, we just get to love them, provide for them, teach them what we can, and then watch them go out in the world and make choices. Of course, I haven't had to let any of them leave our house yet so there may be some apprehension to come when all of that starts!

As for this birthday, little guy is seven and I'm celebrating him tonight!

Monday, January 18, 2010

sometimes a hug...

Hugs are not my area of expertise. Honestly, hugging others does not come naturally for me. There are very few people who I just throw my arms around casually. There's one pastor and fewer than a handful of friends (usually ones I haven't seen in a while) who I just automatically grab and squeeze. Everyone's a very conscious effort on my part to embrace them. I wouldn't even hug that one pastor except that love from him has continually splashed all over me (in spite of how well he knows me) so now when he approaches something weird happens inside and suddenly I'm a little child throwing myself into loving arms without reserve. I always like running into him.

Usually I'm just pretty much a popsicle, somewhat stiff and cold, not in my heart but all outward indications point to that. But sometimes a hug happens even unexpectedly, from someone you wouldn't usually hug and it's like for the moment He just put someone there for you to hold on to. Like if they weren't there to hold you up, you might collapse into a puddle of tears in the middle of the crowd of bodies. So you hang on and even have to tell the person "I'm going to have to stay here for a few minutes, I'm not ready to let go". So you stay there and maybe tears come and the person doesn't even know why you're hanging on so tightly. But they keep holding on to you with the same intensity as though that's what they're supposed to do. They have their reasons for hugging and you have your reasons for hanging on so intensely and He put it all together because He knows what we need.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

as it pertains to me

There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.

(a poem sometimes attributed to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Okay, so it doesn't totally pertain to me. I have no curl.

I hope normalcy includes struggling inwardly regularly.

Trust me, what I'm about to say is not out of boasting, but more out of confession of knowing it not to be true. People credit me with being sweet.

Compliments say more about the kindness of those offering them, than those of whom they are speaking. I suppose as we age we realize that kind words come from encouraging mouths and are often not deserved, but more of an attempt to spur one not to give up.

Kind words toward me sometimes cause me to do a little reflecting. And the reflection is less than appealing. The closer I approach the mirror to see who I really am, the more apparent my flaws.

And still somehow He lavishes His blessings on the life of this little child of His.

The older I get the more I see my faults, but the more I see His blessings.

That's amazing grace.

Friday, January 15, 2010

how He feeds the 5000 (minus 4994)

We are a group of six everyday. Dad goes to work and our little group lives together in the hours he's gone. Learning each other's ways and character, trying to learn how to tolerate one anothers quirks, how to show love, how to sacrifice for others.

We have all learned about sacrifice. When you share a small space with so many bodies, you must learn sacrifice. You must learn that you do not rule, that your way is not most important, that others matter. That you were not intended to have everything your flesh wants.

Sometimes I'm so thankful for having little material wealth. Having little provides opportunity to teach. They learn to rely on Him for what they need rather than ask Mom or Dad and it gives them opportunity to see Him answer them personally, just a child relating to his Creator. Having little offers many other lessons, too.

They also learn to share. This is huge in our group of six. Sharing is common practice around here...and He somehow manages to multiply our little fishes and loaves every time that happens.

I have splurged before on bringing home take out, but lately due to tightening of the money clip we've cut back on the take out. Today for our treat it was two foot long Subways, one small coke, two chocolate chip cookies and some chips. It fed all six of us which is odd considering the two teens usually down a foot long on their own. But they know about the "money clip", so no one complained about too little, instead there was thanks given for the treat. There was also "no, you can have it, I've had enough". They have learned to share.

Mind you, do not worry they are not starving...I oftentimes buy small treats and make them share to train them to take smaller portions and to train them to spend wisely. I want them to learn to buy groceries and make their own food instead of paying so much for someone else to do it for them. So our house is not suffering from food shortage.

Food shortage...reminds me of my Luke and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. What they learn so much of the time does not come from me or Dad. Sometimes after they have learned to talk to their true Father one on one, they come away with insight that He would give them. Luke did that today and all the food talk makes me think of it.
(This was a favorite book for me before it was a movie. Any mom who has to provide three meals a day for a few can appreciate the idea of food falling from the sky.)

He has watched the movie a couple of times and after getting out of the shower tonight, he came and told me about lessons he saw in the movie. He told me that in the movie the machine that makes food is like sin and the mayor is like the devil and Flint is like mankind. He said Flint started the mess by making the machine, but the mayor, although he doesn't like Flint, entices him to make more and more food until the machine is out of control and becomes dangerous. Luke saw a picture of man, sin, and the enemy. I see a boy bypassing his parents religion and relating to the One who loves him more than I can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

tired prayer

Help me to see the picture. My day begins to be consumed with frustration. If I can just get them through breakfast, corral them all into one section of the house, and close the door, then I can have peace. My voice reverberates with aggravation towards them. Yet they have really done no wrong. They've just been enjoying a sluggish morning, as their mother has taught them to do many times. But today it bothers me and my annoyance shows with raised voice and ugly tone.

I'm wearing my selfish glasses today. I see the world (all four walls of mine) through eyes desirous to accomplish something other than what You've put before me. I need to see the picture.

The doors have now opened three times, three different individuals entering my sacred quiet I so eagerly wanted. Now I am really aggravated and tempted to lock the doors to keep them in "their" section of the house. There are days like this one when all the years of care for them feels like it has just landed on my shoulders all at once and the load is heavy. I cannot see the picture. I am just dealing with one stubborn puzzle piece that doesn't seem to fit today.

I tell myself I want something else as well as this life of guiding arrows, but I know inside the extra "I wants" would be as fulfilling as cotton candy in my mouth. There for an instant, leaving a false sense of satisfaction before disappearing and leaving me empty. I want the fullness You offer, but I am tired of the day to day. Help me to see the picture.

If I cannot be given a glimpse of it, then let me see the past, for that is completed. Let me see from where I was so many years ago to the completed picture to this point. Let me see the progress that was made by the day to day for all those years. Remind me how far into the completed picture I've already been brought. Bring me back to my beginning, let me see what You did through all those years when I maintained Your way and clung to You in the "desperate to do more" moments, let me see the void I started with and the fulfillment You have bestowed to this day. Let me see that picture.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

enamored by history and not so much

I have delved into history quite a lot lately. I have always found it interesting...people make choices, commit acts, and there it is...history, whether we want to make it or not doesn't matter. It's simply a recalling of events and events happen by our choices.

What is startling to me is my own history and the one I'm making daily.

Part of my history was determined by the choices of others. Now my choices are determining the history others will carry.

The startling part of that is I have never fully appreciated the history that was handed to me until recently. It has been a struggle to accept it as ordered by Him, Him putting me right where He wanted me. Now, however, looking back and seeing the pieces fit, I'm often amazed by how He laid the plans out and consummated them. I can see the jigsaw starting to form an actual picture.

The other startling part is, of course, my own history making...or simply my choices I make that affect everyone around me. This startles me in a much less exciting way, for the other history that was bestowed on me I had no say in, but this one is all about what I will do. Mind you, I am a terribly imperfect person who struggles constantly. That is where my concern lies. In me. I am capable of creating messes so having such power to affect others' lives leaves me feeling a little I would prefer He just made me robotic so all would be safe and I would simply follow protocol. But no He created me this way (all of us, of course, but I'm the one I have to worry about!)...this thinking, struggling, battling, choosing, sometimes not-so-determined person. I hope my faith in Him is stronger than my concern in me for that is my only rescue.

The simplest of faith in Him brings even the weakest person through difficulties. Faith being the "substance of things hoped for" and "the evidence of things not seen" will determine the choices made, the action taken...the history of a person.

Deuteronomy 30:19--"...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

tonight's score 32-63, victory can be found in loss

When talent is sidelined maybe it's because character needs to be the focal point.

It's painful to watch him sit on the bench especially as he watches the huge gap developing between their scores and I know what he's thinking. He knows he's powerless to make it change. Yet he stays there saying encouraging words to the other players, handing out tips on strategies, cheering them on.

His physical abilities on the court were disabled in his first game. Running down the court, full speed, total control, ball in hand...just as he closed in on the basket, he fell to the court, on his back, writhing in pain, groping for his knee, he actually cried. He's seventeen, over six foot two and, yes, he cried. I've heard a dislocated knee could make a grown man cry, so when I saw him down, I knew it had to have happened.

The hope has been that the knee will heal and he'll be playing again soon, but it's been a few weeks already and tonight in his first game back, that knee popped out again. As I sat watching him on the sideline, I realized maybe this is the plan. There may be something wrong with the knee, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the plan.

Sometimes when we excel in something, there's greater victory when we have to sit quietly out of it, allowing others to participate while we play a supportive role. Sometimes He is seen best in us when we aren't the spotlight, but our faith and steadfast hope showcases character that encourages others.

When we're willing to not be noticed, not seek appreciation, not glory in our victories, but be steadfast in the position He places us in, then He has a useful piece of clay that's ready to be molded into exactly the design He chooses. Maybe that's what people need to see, not us at our best-talented and shining, but us without our "glory" and how we handle it...can we handle it? If we pass through that valley willing to not only let others have the spotlight, but also encouraging them loudly, we are saying to the world that our faith does not rest in our talents. Our faith is firmly placed in Him.

"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it."--Jeremiah 18:4

As we got in the truck tonight after the game, I hadn't shared my thoughts with him, but he looked at me and said, "I kind of wonder if God didn't just put me on the team, not to play, but maybe just to encourage the others"...victory

Redefining Beautiful--Book Review

My most recent book I received from Thomas Nelson Publishing is Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado. This book geared for young girls through their teens strives to help them understand beauty, not the worlds version, but natural beauty outside and most importantly inside.

After just skimming the book, I hesitated to think there would be anything of depth simply because I found catch words like "self esteem" and began to think it may just be a book aiming to build one's self image. However, afterwards, I read it through and found that although it did include some of that, it also goes above and beyond to draw young girls to seeing the LORD as the One who loves them more than any other can and points them to remembering that He created them uniquely and for a purpose.

Throughout the book, the author gives much practical advice on growing as a girl. It includes information about makeup, hair, clothing styles, boys, but it also counteracts all of that with paying attention to some heart matters also. That is what keeps it from being a fluff book that centers attention only on the outward appearance as many secular teen books do.

This would actually be a good book for a young girl who may tend to give ear to the world's version of beautiful. It could certainly help put her on the right track as far as how consumed she gets with the outward appearance. She would see how perfectly imperfect and original He made us all and how that is to be celebrated. She would also learn not to measure herself by the worlds standards and learn a much better and more thorough definition of the word beautiful.

Monday, January 4, 2010

going on a tangent from a book review

My latest book review has me pondering some things. The comparison of Solomon and Christ was being made in this book. The author, basically, made the point that wisdom alone does not ensure a life lived right as Solomon certainly had the wisdom, yet failed in his devotion to the LORD. Christ, however, had all wisdom and also lived the perfect life regardless of the temptations.

Sometimes I wonder which one I aim for--having wisdom or living it.

The last couple of years, I have felt so defiant towards religion, in the sense of mankind's rules of how to live a Christian life based on the outward appearance. I have gotten aggravated with the concept of limiting worship to church attendance, paying tithes, and volunteering when needed. The idea that many see Christians as those who insist on people following rules angered me. I can't say that I blame those who mock Christianity when sometimes what they are shown as examples of believers is contrary to how Christ Himself ever lived. Besides those who mock are the lost, the blind, they're the ones who can't see clearly to begin with and then the picture is blurred all the more by many wearing Christ's name, but not displaying His character.

This last year, He has brought me to the lower depths of my own judgements though. While I riled inside against legalism, He allowed circumstances that would open my eyes to my own religious dependencies and brought me to a place of confrontation. Confronting two choices, one of which must be chosen if I was to abandon legalism, the choices being walk away from Him or live for Him in spirit and in truth.

Suddenly the Scripture in Ezekiel became hard to bear personally...the passage about the hole in the wall, chapter 8 verse 12 "...hast thou seen what the in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say 'The LORD seeth us not'..." My choice could not include me leaving Him for I know Him to be Truth, but the option of shedding all religion and pride of that religion and replacing it with opening up every crevice of my heart, my thoughts, my desires and forsaking them, realizing they are not mine but He gets even them, that option has been most difficult for me.

My mind never stops so I constantly find myself going to places that show evidence of me not truly trusting Him. My heart is pretty weak so it can often be pulled in a polar direction from Him. My will has stayed the course, but this has been a most difficult challenge. This is why I understand that having wisdom and living it are totally different.

There is a reason for the writing. Write words. It prompts the mind to ponder what is deep in the heart that we're unaware needs to surface. It's the surfacing that's painful. Acknowledgement of what is really inside of the sometimes ugliness that we are really capable of, sinfulness that lives behind the wall, that is not hidden from Him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stand---Book Review

I received the book Stand-Unleashing the Wisdom of God, a discovery of Proverbs from Tyndale House Publishers a while back. It's a Focus on the Family Resource written by Alex McFarland.

This book is a brief overview of the book of Proverbs. I actually gave it to my son as part of his reading for devotions. It's appropriate for teenagers and up. It's a rather compact book, but the information covering this Bible book is thorough.

The Introduction explains a little about Solomon, who is credited with the book of Proverbs. The author describes who Solomon was, what he did, etc., but best of all is the comparison of Solomon and Jesus. He points out that although Solomon's wisdom was great, his choices in life didn't line up with what he said. However, Jesus not only preached wisdom, but He also lived it.

In the first chapter, there is valuable background information on the book of Proverbs. Information that explains facts about Proverbs, the importance of God's words, terminology used in the Proverbs, and why Proverbs is included in the Bible. From there we enter the Proverbs themselves, starting with the explanation of wisdom and moving through the chapters of the book. For parents offering this to their teens, they should be aware that there is a chapter dedicated to the topic of sex. It is very straight forward with the information presented in this chapter and although it is biblical, parents should read this beforehand to make sure they are ready to pass this to their teens so they can discuss this together.

Overall, this book impressed me with its content. There is no wasted space, just a valuable brief overview that will help anyone reading through Proverbs.