Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Something crazy

Last night the husband and I did something crazy, and it turned out splendidly.

Being the more spontaneous one in our relationship, I told him we needed to jump in the car and the inspiration for dinner would hit us. It had been a long day.  I had a great call with a business connection that gave me insight into a project. I made and served lunch at my home to two precious women who form a writing team with me. We're involved in a God-thing, a little project that seems to possibly be going places, against all odds. Something that could allow us to join in the work we believe God so desperately wants to do in us and around us. We ate beautiful plates of chicken salad and fruit while listening to classical music.  We prayed and poured out our hearts to God. We brainstormed. And two Skype calls and one physical therapy appointment after that, it became clear that no one in our home was interested in kitchen duty.

Since we've hit all the usual dining spots in our town, we headed toward my seminary's little town and nice little place on a lake. On the way, we called some seminary friends who live in this town, and being the hospitable types who were already having one seminary guest for dinner, they generously invited us to their home, too, for a dinner which was happening 45 minutes later. Exactly the amount of time it would take us to get there. We got there right on time to enjoy a meal of steak, potatoes, corn on the cob, coleslaw, salad, fresh-cut melon, and crepes for dessert. And all we brought was the Coca-Cola and apple juice we picked up on the way. We enjoyed every minute of it!

So I got to daydreaming on the way home and thinking about how God knows our days and what we need and how to bless us. And sometimes He does stuff like this, probably to get our attention, to show us that He is our source of refreshment. And when we are weary, when we can't even make up our minds about dinner, can't decide if we're tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely, etc., He sometimes steps in to dish up just what we didn't even know we needed.

In this case, dinner with three other lovely, beautiful people with whom our bodies, minds, and souls were refreshed. Thanks Jim, Christy, and Adam. Something crazy turned out to be just . . . right.
Sweet, unexpected fellowship from generous hearts that love well. And thank you, Abba-Father, for knowing what we need and surprising and delighting us by your provision. And to think, I didn't even have to ask.

"...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Matthew 6:8

Monday, May 17, 2010

Two Sundays in a row

I suppose a lot of things happen in church two Sundays in a row. The same announcements. The same people sitting in the pew in front of you. The same _______ (you fill in the blank).

But I'm here to announce that Mark and Ed have been in church now two Sundays in a row. (Trace their story back by starting here.)

When I entered the sanctuary and saw Ed sitting up in the front row, just waiting for the service to begin, my heart soared. I walked up to him and shook his hand, as he held up the other hand to motion while saying: "Two times!"

And then, he turned, rather abruptly, to face the front, because I'm telling you, he was so eager for the service to begin. To worship with the music. To hear Pastor Chuck preach the Word. To walk up at the end and kneel in prayer.

If only all of us were so thankful to be in God's house each Sunday. Or anytime of the week, for that matter. If only our hearts soared like Ed's does at 9:15 am. If only we looked for God's presence and were not surprised when He shows up.

If only more of us had a faith that was as simple and trusting as Ed's.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Notable Quotable: Wesley

"Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this."
-John Wesley

Sunday, May 9, 2010

When Mother's Day makes you cry

"Momma said there'd be days like this; there'd be days like this, my momma said ..."  -The Shirelles

I saw two people in church this morning who literally wept. One was Ed! Yes, he and Mark were back in church, and Ed was seated in the front row. So happy to be back in church after a few months away, Ed raised his hands high during every worship song. (Ed and Mark are developmentally-different brothers whose mom/primary caretaker died a few months ago.)

What Ed probably didn't anticipate, though, was a Mother's Day service. There was a funny song about moms. There were candy bars at the doors for moms. And Pastor Carla even delivered a wonderful sermon about the women attending the resurrection, with special words for moms. And as Pastor Chuck got up to pray for our moms, it became too much to bear.

Ed wept. And ever so tenderly, Pastor came down from the podium and wrapped his arms around him. You could hear his muffled sobs through the microphone. Pastor told Ed, very gently, that God will comfort him in his loss. And we all believe that, really we do. But, ouch, ouch, ouch. It's like touching a hot iron. We wait and long for the pain to lessen.

I hugged Ed after the service, but I felt I couldn't offer him much. He needed a room to cry in. In truth, there are ways he is alone in his pain. I pray that God will give Him the strength and grace needed to walk through his grief. I am thankful for his tears--thankful that what he feels so deeply has an outlet.

Another friend cried, too, because of the loss of her mom. And how much she misses her and wishes she were here to celebrate Mother's Day. All of these emotions come flying up to the surface on days like this, and it makes me cringe a bit, grit my teeth a bit, and remind myself it will all be over in 24 hours. Not exactly the feeling you hope for when you enter God's house, but there it is.

It seems everyone feels things more deeply on Mother's Day . . . and Father's Day, for that matter.

Since I long to be a mom myself, it would have been easier to skip church today. (And I have resorted to this option before.) But in a tangible way, I knew I needed my church body today more than ever. Even though I knew I would feel excluded in a way, I didn't want to miss out on my family time. I wanted to stare this Mother's Day thing in the face and be OK with it.

And surprisingly, I mostly am OK. Yes, a kid tried to give me a candy bar until I told him I wasn't a mom. But in my heart I knew the truth: I am an ezer (Genesis 2:18) -- a strong helper, warrior, and rescuer -- and a life-giver. Even though I haven't physically had a child, I give life to people and projects each day. That won't change, no matter what comes.

So, I guess the bottom line is, it's OK to cry today. It's OK to tell your mom how wonderful she is--and my mom definitely fits the bill. But if there's one thing I would like you to take note of, this is it:

I believe that if Jesus were here today, physically standing by me or you, He would affirm all the life-givers (mothers or not) in His presence, and He would be the one to comfort those who hurt. He would be the one wiping away your Mother's Day tears, no matter the reason they were shed. But first, I am willing to bet He would feel your pain and cry with you. And in the end, He will . . .

" . . . take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17b

My heart believes this, owns it even--and I hope, friend, that yours does, too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two years of marriage . . . and counting

"That married couples can live together day after day is a miracle the Vatican has overlooked."
-Bill Cosby

Two years ago on April 26, I said "I do" to David. And it felt like jumping off a cliff. Just as exhilarating, too. As you read this, we are celebrating our anniversary in the Poconos.

For the entire first year of marital union, I would wake up in the morning and have to remind myself that I was no longer single. Who David was. That I had moved to be with him. And that this was a permanent arrangement!

Now it feels like I've had a husband for ages. Funny how time changes things. And how it doesn't. Despite all the odds and statistics, this is how David and I do marriage:

  • Pre-marriage. Before we tied the knot, or even got engaged, we counseled with the pastor, asked deep and important questions, and purposed to save sex for marriage. Counter-cultural? Absolutely. Absolutely, hands-down, a wonderful way to prepare for a brilliant marriage.
  • We honor each other. Yes, I belong to the facebook group "My husband still opens my car door." That is not a joke! I take care of my husband's dishes while he is lying on the couch, napping. Often, he cooks me dinner. I plan his meals and do the grocery shopping. We have each other's backs. 
  • We yield. Some people like to call this submission, but I like the word yielding. Because yielding is all about being less self-addicted and giving in the name of Jesus to another person, even when you don't feel like it. And a yield sign does not mean that you don't eventually go somewhere--it means you yield your right to go first to someone else because you want to serve them. 
  • We mop up the mess. When we don't do our best to love or respect well we say we are sorry, even if we didn't mean to hurt the other person. We expect that marriage is not perfect and that this will happen often. We address it, mop up the mess, make amends, and move on, knowing that neither of us is perfect while trusting that the other person is for us.
  • We give space. We do a lot together, but at the end of the day, I answer to my Maker first, not my husband. And so we give each other the latitude to be the person God has created us to be, to pursue separate interests, to love in different ways as God has built us differently, and to think or pray through an issue before coming together again.
  • We value gifts in the other. David is a generous behind-the-scenes servant; I tend to take on leadership and teaching roles. David thinks very logically and plans well, while I tend to be more expressive, a writer, and a lover of people. We belong to a mutual admiration society.
  • We delight in each other. This goes far beyond a beautiful sex life to simply noticing our different reactions to things, laughing about this together, and complimenting each other on how we use our gifts and talents for our Maker.
I believe our closest relationships in life have the potential to damage or heal us the most. Marriage may have a bad rap, but when you enter marriage expecting that you will be called to serve like Jesus did, it can turn your marriage right-side up. That's all we'd like you to know. That Christian marriage can exceed your expectations. Do you agree or disagree? Please post comments.