Oh Goodness. I'm a proud, happy blog mom. Have you read Jill's Wall of Faith post? If you haven't read it yet, you really should. Here. The comments on various facebook pages made me smile. This one got me.
"Gratitude is the best medicine on Earth, and the pit of despair is terribly deep. We must stay away from its edge."
Anyway. I'm a proud, happy, tired, crazy blog mom. Quirky Faith is officially three months old today.
I remember when my eldest turned three months old. If you have kids you probably remember that stage as well. By three months old you have survived the sleepless nights, the frustration of inexplicable crying, the worry that your baby isn't eating. You've been puked on. Pooped on. You are exhausted and emotional. By now you've figured out that while you thought you knew everything about parenting, you know absolutely nothing. You are praying deep gutteral one word prayers. Help. Please.
And then three months arrives and your baby smiles. Or holds your hand. Or does any manner of precious, talented, amazing things that most every baby on the planet does and you go from crazy messed up mom to deeply madly in love. You take a deep breath.
This is my eldest at three months. See that little grin? I love her confident kicked back attitude. This was the photo which told me we were going to be okay. I recognize that to everyone else this is probably just a photo of a baby. Nothing special. But to a mom these little milestones matter. They show growth and progress. It's a way to count the list of gratitudes one more time. What milestones did you celebrate with your kids?
The last three months with Quirky Faith have been much like that newborn stage. Exhausting. Humbling. Fun. Painful. The three month milestone is causing me to pause. To look up from the keyboard and smile. Thank you to the Wall of Faith writers. I'm grateful for your stories. Thank you to everyone for reading and sharing and commenting. You encourage me. Here is a little Saturday morning encouragement back to you. If you have a dream rolling around in the back of your head go for it. Give birth. You'll survive the newborn stage. You can do it. We will cheer you on.
Quirky Faith is three months old. She's getting some traction. Kicking back with a confident grin. Come along.
The past year and a half of my life has been very difficult. Our family has gone through troubles of epic proportions. We are just now starting to see the end. The prospect that we might have reached the other side of the valley fills us with hope, yet there is a hesitation… a fear that it’s not really over, that it might never be over. But each day dawns anew with the promise of hope, so we trudge forward one step—one breath—at a time, stretching our crumpled wings, wondering if we’ve found a safe place to roost.
Last Sunday our pastor spoke about how the spiral of sin sometimes begins with something imperfect niggling at you. And if you dwell on that something too much, you might find yourself being dragged down the spiral of sin until you’re trapped at the bottom. He suggested that gratitude can help break us free from the trap, while ingratitude—often in the form of negativity or pessimism—can keep us imprisoned.
That got me thinking. Our family did not get a voice in the midst of our troubles, and I have been deeply struggling with that in so many ways. Bitterness, anger, hurt, abandonment, betrayal… If I dwell on these injustices, even for a few seconds, it’s not so much a spiral for me but a cliff I fall off or the steepest drop of an extreme roller coaster that sweeps me from happy and content one moment to the depths of despair in one quick rush. If you’ve ever experienced pain like this, you likely understand. Suffering and grief are difficult ordeals that are not so easily overcome. And while suffering inevitably ends in time, I don’t think you ever stop grieving great losses. Instead you learn to transition to a new way of life. Our family is still learning what that looks like.
So as I was sitting in church last Sunday, listening to my pastor’s words, it occurred to me that I can’t simultaneously choose gratitude and the depths of despair. My heart is not like my hands or feet. I only have one. Sadly, I can have one foot in God’s kingdom and another in the world. Or I can hold on to joy in one hand and bitter anger in the other. Doing this is not healthy or wise, yet it’s possible. But that is not how the heart works. The heart is “all in.” It can be confused and divided, yes. The heart might not know what it wants. But when the heart dwells, it dwells fully.
When I fill my heart with negative emotions—with anger and bitterness and desperation to have someone step up, defend my family, and speak the truth—I am not trusting God. I am not being thankful. I’m allowing my heart to dwell on that which imprisons me. There is no room in my heart for gratitude when my heart is so filled with other things. My heart cannot be both bitter and thankful at the same time. Such emotions repel each other. So I must willfully put down my bitterness and anger and hate and frustration and sorrow in order to pick up gratitude, joy, hope, and trust. I must choose. I must act. And I can’t just make the choice once and be done with it. I have to make that choice again and again and again because habits are not formed in a day, and I have been riding that negative roller coaster a lot lately. So I must practice being grateful, hopeful, and trusting God until it becomes habit. This is no easy task. Especially when life doesn't yet feel safe. Thankfully I don’t have to do it alone. My God is with me. And while people will sometimes let me down, my God goes with me always. He will never leave or forsake me. If I find myself stuffing those negative emotions back into my heart, I can call on his name and he will help me. I can choose. Always.
My husband works his way through Philippians 4:8 by listing all the things in his life that are 1) true, 2) noble, 3) right, 4) pure, 5) lovely, 6) admirable, 7) excellent, 8) praiseworthy, and in drafting those lists in his mind, he slowly comes to dwell on being thankful. Try it sometime. It works.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” - Philippians 4:8
What is filling your heart today? Do you have any words of wisdom for breaking the hold of negative emotions? Share in the comments.
I am convinced that my daughter's 5th grade teacher may be the wisest of them all. She told her class this year that they were not going to debate the upcoming election. She said she knows that all of them probably have very strong opinions but since they can't actually vote in the election she thought she'd like them to all remain friends. Smart lady.
The book of 1st Kings begins with David's death and Solomon his son taking the throne. God tells Solomon that he will grant him whatever he requests. Solomon asks for wisdom.
"So give your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours." It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing." 1st Kings 3:9-10
One of the first actions of the new king is to build a temple. A place where the people can go to seek help. I love Solomon's prayer when they finish the building. Lord hear us!
Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven your dwelling place, hear and forgive; 1st Kings 8:30
Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name's sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and of your outstreched arm) when he comes and praye toward this house, hear in in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You in order that the peoples of the earth may know your name. Ist Kings 8:41-43
God responds with a Big IF.
As for you, if you will walkbefore Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdome forever, just as I promised to your father David ,saying, "You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel." "But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me and do not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them. Ist Kings 9 4-6
And from there the fortunes and woes of the country rise and fall with the hearts of their leaders. When the kings led under wisdom and grace then the country prospered. When the kings followed other Gods, violence ensued. Civil war broke out and the country was divided into two. Two tribes formed the country called Judah and ten tribes stayed as Israel.
Our pastor says that the biggest word in the Bible is If. Our lives hinge on the word if.
If we forgive.
If we continue on this path.
If we ignore justice.
If we start with violence.
If she wins. If he wins.
Seems like we are facing a lot of heavy ifs.
The worst leaders in the Bible had to be King Ahab and his wife, Jeszebel. They stole from the poor, practiced a religion that required child sacrifice and masacared the priests of God.
"Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him." I Kings 21:25
Elijah asks God for miracles. Economic, Physical, Spiritual. The poor are fed, children are raised, the people start to return to their covenant with God. The King is ticked.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" He said I have not troubled Israel but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. I Kings 18: 17-18
The conflict comes to a climax when Elijah and the prophets of Baal agree to a showdown. They both build an altar to their god and they wait to see who answers. The 450 prophets of Baal yell and dance and make a scene. And nothing happens. The prophet Elijah humbles himself and asks God to answer.
"Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their heart back again" 1 Kings 18: 37
God hears from heaven and responds with a great show of power.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.' 1st Kings 18:39
I do best when I start with simple. The Lord, He is God.
Naturally, King Ahab and Jezebel are furious and threaten to kill Elijah. So he runs to the wilderness to hide. God met his needs. Economic, phyiscal, spiritual. I love this section of the book. If your soul could use some encourgement in this violent world we live in go read 1st Kings 19. Know that God will meet your needs and He will do it with gentleness.
This section of the Bible reminds me violence and fear and bitterness don't win. Love casts out fear. Anger turns aside to a gentle answer. Violence can't stand up to Grace. When I am weak, He is strong. Ask for help today. He hears from heaven.
The first presidential debate is today. May I recommend that you extend grace. Be gentle. Let's show some fifth grade wisdom. Let's stay friends.
Take a minute today and listen to this song. Let's ask God to hear from heaven. We could use the help.
The Bible Project did one video summarizing 1st and 2nd Kings. So you get 1st Kings now and 2nd Kings as a preview for next week. These really are a supurb way to catch the grand picture of the Bible.
Sometimes we shrug off the misdeeds of the kings in this section of the Bible. However, the level of violence and debauchary the kings displayed certainly warranted justice. Jill Williamson's new triology is a fictional tale based on the kings and the fallout to a nation who wanders so far off course. Join the adventure at www.jillwilliamson.com.
Do you feel discouraged by the hate and violence and rhetoric all around us? Sigh. Depressing. Some days I scroll the newsfeed and hang my head. Some days though I remember to pray while my head is bowed. It helps reset my soul. And clearly we need help from above. We also need each of us to square our shoulders and to do hard work of reconciliation and peacemaking. Be kind today.
The book Safely Home by Randy Alcorn is a lovely reminder of hope. I read this book a decade ago. I think about it often. Good books color your perspective and ride along with you. If you need a beautiful book to encourage your soul then this is your chance.
Safely Home follows the story of two men; one a pastor facing persecution for his faith in China and the second is a business man in America. This book was a challenge to live out my faith in openness and to pray consistently for people around the world who face tyranny. The book is full of hardship but I left at the end with great joy and encouragement. In this insane season with anger and hate and strife it's worth reading again.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
"When men know they cannot hope in a country, in a political belief, or in themselves, they become free to hope in God."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
"If you are looking for a religion centered around yourself, Ben, I must agree that Christianity is a poor choice."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
"And do you think your refusal to believe will convince God to change his nature? He is who he is no matter what you think of him. Despite what Americans believe, the universe is not a democracy. Truth is not determined by the majority."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
Randy Alcorn with Eternal Perspective Ministries gave Quirky Faith a free copy of Safely Home to give out to a lucky reader. You can visit Randy Alcorns website HERE. No purchase necessary to win. Contest starts September 23rd and a winner will be drawn randomly from all the entries on September 30th, 2016.
Five Ways to Enter (and you can enter more than once if you do more than one of the options).
Just for fun! Here are a few of my new favorites this week. If you have favorites please post them in the comments. I want to see what your kids are saying, what great photos you grabbed, what you are reading.
Best Kid Quote
My husband bought a huge pile of avocados earlier this week. My daughter wandered into the kitchen and her eyes widened at the sight. She exclaimed "OH! We have lots of Broccamoli!"
Parent win!!! My kid thinks that the only purpose for avocados is for guacamole and she thinks it's really made out of broccoli.
I was totally broken hearted when my eldest informed her they were avocados. Broccamoli is so much more fun.
Best Random Photo
This little plaque is hanging on the wall at our local Sweet Tomatoes restaurant. I love this.
Best New Music
I love the new Casting Crowns album The Very Next Thing. My favorite songs are Song that the Angels Can't Sing and For All You Are. This released on Friday and I'm pretty much listening to it round the clock. You can check it out below.
What I'm Reading
I loved this book. It's a thoughtful look at life and faith and pain and love. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes.
"Love is holy because it is like grace--the worthiness of its object is never really what matters."
“It seems to me people tend to forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness but because God their Father loves them.”
“Grace has a grand laughter in it.”
There is a reason this book won the Pulitzer in 2005. I should have read it then.
So! What's up in your world? Post in the comments your new favorites.
A Bip, A Bunny, and A Blackberry Bush
It has become a part of my morning this year for our kitty, Bip, to curl up on my lap while I drink my early morning coffee. I affectionately refer it as "coffee and kitty cuddles”.
I relish these moments as time of reflection and prayer as I soak in the stillness before the activity of my day begins. (AKA, before the sleeping four-year-old, frog-catching boy wonder emerges from his bedroom in full boyhood force.) With all that life throws at us, I greatly value these times of “being still and knowing that He is God.”
This morning my mind wanders back to when Mark and I were first married. We lived in North Bonneville, Wa and at that time Mark was working in Camas. Bip was in an animal hospital in Camas, being treated for a life threatening health issue. Yet, once again, as this has happened twice before and after, he pulls through like a real trooper. I have no doubt that this kitty has exceeded his nine-live limit. It was Mark’s plan to pick Bip up from the pet clinic and the both of them were to ride home on the bus. Simple enough, right? …. Ahem, well…
I was at home preparing dinner and anticipating the arrival of my newlywed hubby and our recovered kitty. Then, I get the call: “Honey, can you come down here? Bip got out of the carrier and is stuck in a blackberry bush. I can’t get to him and the last bus just left.” My thoughts race as I jump into the car. (For our law enforcement friends I will not disclose my speed of travel.)
This kitty was extra special. He had provided so much comfort for my daughter and me over the years, toughed out a cross-country plane ride, outwitted death already a couple of times, and provided a consistent pet for my new step-children. We often call him a “little person in a kitty suit” because he has this knack of understanding how much we need him and for meowing in dialogue with us.
As I arrive, I see Mark poking around a massive mound of a blackberry bush. The spiked branches are so tightly woven it is next to impossible for a human to get in. We can’t see Bip at all, but as we call out to him his pitiful meow responds from the thorny depths.
“How on earth did he manage to get out of the carrier?” I ask.
“I unzipped it just enough to reach my hand in to pet him.” Mark responds. “The traffic and everything was making him nervous so I was trying to comfort him. As soon as I unzipped the carrier, a bunny caught Bip’s eye and he jumped past my hand and chased the bunny into the blackberry bush.”
As upsetting as the situation was, I must admit the whole scenario was not only cute, but also kind of comical. I’m thinking, ‘What an adorable title for a child’s storybook.’ A Bip, A Bunny, and a Blackeberry bush.’
As it is starting to get late, Mark finally decides to just go for it. He finds a small path and plows into the mound. I see nothing but hear the loud rustling of branches, Mark’s calling gently to Bip to come to him, and Bip meowing in response.
Soon Mark clears the scratchy mound with Bip in hand. Both have fragments of branches in their hair and fur and Mark’s arms and legs reveal bloodied scratch marks.
We place Bip safely into his carrier and bring him to the peace and safety of our apartment. Home! All is well. And now to tend to Mark’s scratched up arms and legs.
After this memory finishes it’s flooding of my mind, I realize how much this situation is like us. We become prickly and thorny, lacking in compassion and transparency when we allow a mound to grow around our own hearts and lives. Thorny mounds that form before we realize as a shield of protection from the pain of our own choices and experiences, or from the pain inflicted upon us due to the choices of others. To be transparent or compassionate towards others means the risk of being hurt yet once again, so we respond in prickly or guarded ways.
Like Mark plowing through the thick thorny branches to rescue Bip, Jesus took on a thorny crown and prickly spear to rescue us. With whiplashed stripes on His arms and legs and entire body, He plows past our thick mound to heal our heart, He places us into the “carrier” of His never-ending love and grace and brings us into the peace and safety of His sweet Heavenly home for us. We experience the freedom of no longer having this mound suffocating us and once again are free to be true to ourselves and to others and to love others freely.
Does it mean we are immune to hurt and pain ever again? I’m sorry to say emphatically, No! Not while we live on an earth with broken people. It does mean, however, that we have the peace of knowing that regardless of what others think or do or the mistakes we make, we can rest assured that we are loved beyond measure at all times and we have the healing salve of our Great Physician and Wonderful Counselor to rescue us, lift us up, comfort us, and carry us through to Home.
I tried writing this post several times yesterday. I sat in my chair, fingers on the keyboard and set my brain to write. I looked up and saw a pair of blue eyes. Questioning eyes. Little girl fingers wrapped around crayons and blocks. I shut the laptop. We lay on the floor and colored in a giant poster of the outline of my baby. She has green legs and a pink dress.
2nd Samuel tells the story of the second half of David's life. There are heartbreaking chapters of self inflicted consequences. David did well when he watched his relationships and he entered destruction when he quit. When David ignored his family he ended up facing civil war.
The book opens as David learns of the death of Saul. When David hears the news that the king has been killed he does not rejoice. David asks the messanger who was boasting of the murder a question that shows David understood the value of God given authority. Right relationship.
"Then David said to him, "How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?" 2 Samuel 1: 14
The book then follows the political maneuverings to establish David as King.
"Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually." 2 Samuel 3:1
As you read through this section you can watch David ask God for direction, he listens to the prophet Nathan's counsel and he proceeds forward. Right relationship with God breeds success.
Then David inquired of the Lord, saying "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?" And the Lord said to David, "Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand." 2 Samuel 5:19
The high point in David's story is when God promises to create an everlasting kingdom from David's reign. (Hint: The long promised Savior is a direct descendent of David.) Right relationship with God brings hope for the future and healing to those around you.
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7: 13
Yesterday after we finished coloring, I headed back to my chair with my neglected laptop. Another set of big blues silently called me away to practice piano, to review her school folder and to help with the last step of constructing a two foot tall cardboard skeleton. It took us a while to figure out we had the collarbone on backwards. This ten year old will need my help less with each passing day. Frequently I don't look actively for ways to connect and to speak into her life. Thankfully yesterday I got it right.
My favorite story in 2nd Samuel is when David actively searches for a way to bring blessing.
Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" 2 Samuel 9:1
David finds out that Jonathan's crippled son is still alive and is destitute. So the king restores to this grandson of his enemy the entire family fortune and saves him a permanent seat at the royal banquet table. This story makes me so happy.
I see myself in Mephibosheth.
I was lost and I was the enemy. I was redeemed and restored. I'm invited to dinner. We all are. God restores his enemies and makes them guests at the royal table. When we look for people to bless and for ways to make peace we are at the core of right relationship.
In my house yesterday the last set of big blue eyes weren't pursuing me. They were patiently otherwise occupied in another room. I again put down my laptop and wandered in to remind myself what my spouse's irises look like. You see, everytime yesterday I got ready to write about 2nd Samuel I felt convicted. How could I write about avoiding wrecking your family while ignoring mine?
The next section of 2nd Samuel is sad. It pivots because David neglects his responsibility. He off loads his duty. He breaks faith with his team. Sin frequently happens when we get lazy, don't go, stay home, quit.
Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11: 1
David sees Bathsheeba bathing. He sends for her. Commits adultery. Gets her pregnant. Kills her husband. David has completely abandoned the humility and wisdom and prudence that kept his heart right with God and right with those around him. And the consequences begin. A child dies. David ignores his other children. It gets ugly. Jealousy and bitterness and rape and revenge ensue. A battle for the throne. War. Painful consequences for everyone.
At one point David is confronted about his sin with Bathsheeba by the prophet Nathan. David's response is the one bright spot.
"Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die." 2 Samuel 12:13
The best move in David's life was admitting he was wrong. He still had to deal with the crisises he'd created. However, David is remembered as a man after God's own heart because he repented. He got his soul set right.
Last evening as big sister and I were wrestling with the cardboard skeleton the little one was listening to us discuss the structure of our body. She poked at the vertebrae and the intestines and shook a bony arm. Then she asked a question which made me so grateful I'd put down the laptop and took the time to play. "Mama? What's in your heart?"
Oh my baby. What a question. Let's talk.
The lesson of 2nd Samuel? None of us will have any impact in sharing the mundane details of a harried life. Nothing we write or create or earn will matter if we forget to write on our childrens' hearts. Watch your relationships. Learn from David. Ask the question. What's in your heart? I don't want a civil war in my house.
The Bible Project's Read Scripture of 2nd Samuel again delivers a useful big picture view. Spend ten minutes. It'll make you think.
Handy Infographic from NewSpring church. Save for for a quick reminder.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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