Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I've been tagged!

OK...I've never been tagged before and since I have a fondness for novelty (even if it is just novelty to me) AND the person who tagged me has a fondness for guns, I figure I better comply. goes:

7 things (I would like) to do before I die:
1. Get Married (preferably to a man bearing some resemblance to Larry the Cucumber)
2. Have children (I’ve always wanted 6…though it’s looking more and more like I might have to have a litter or two to accomplish that)
3. Pay off my student loans
4. Write something timeless for the kingdom of God.
5. See my family come to know the Lord.
6. Go on a missions trip.
7. Read everything ever written by Amy Carmichael.

7 things I can’t do:

1. Eat anything classified as a reptile…
2. Or an amphibian…
3. Or a rodent…
4. Or that I might have as a pet.
5. Tell a joke with a straight face
6. Spend more than 5 minutes with my nieces without hugging them or kissing them or telling them I love them.
7. Eat anything with tentacles.

7 things that attract me to blogging:
1. I have a compulsion to write and blogging gives me an outlet.
2. It is easier for me to type things out rather than write it out long-hand
3. I don’t have to worry about losing files on my hard drive.
4. Meeting people from all over that I would never meet otherwise.
5. Seeing the threads of the Spirits working through mine and other blogs.
6. Learning about the walks of others and reading their insights into faith and scripture.
7. Did I mention I have a compulsion to write.

7 things I say most often:
1. “Hey Kira, guess what?...I love you so much.”
2. “Poopie”
4. “Woo Hoo”
5. “Groovy”
6. “Lord, forgive/help me”
7. “Crackhead” (terrible, but true…always in jest, though and mostly in reference to my brothers)

7 books I love:
1. The Bible…seriously. I know it is like the pat answer for a Christian, but when I think about the times I’ve opened it and found what I needed, had words pierce or heal my heart, or read something that showed me that the Lord had “found” me right where I was…whew…it is overwhelming to the point of tears.
2. “A Chance to Die” by Elisabeth Elliot – I’ve been reading it over and over again for the past couple of years. In so many ways, I think I have found a kindred spirit in Amy Carmichael…from her not liking her childish name to her compulsion to write and love for the children the Lord put in her path…but most of all, her pursuit of holiness is what I admire and aspire to most.
3. “Edges of His Ways” a devotional book of Amy Carmichael Writings
4. Pretty much anything written by Jane Austen
5. “The Dangerous Duty of Delight” by John Piper
6. “Toward Jerusalem” a book of poetry by Amy Carmichael
7. “Passion & Purity” and “Quest for Love” by Elisabeth Elliot (these should be in one volume and read together in my opinion)

7 movies I watch over and over:
1. Pride & Prejudice
2. Lately, Cinderella with my 3 year old niece
Not a really big movie watcher any more…

7 people I want to join in too
1. Bayou Mama
2. LAMommyof3
3. Carebear
4. Moose
5. Whoever’s been visiting from Pennsylvania State College
6. Whoever’s been visiting from Serbia/Yugoslavia
7. Whoever’s been visiting from Franklinton/Hammond (I’m so curious to know who y’all are!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

When the Why's Come...

My brother and his family are in the process of moving out of my apartment. Most of their stuff is still here, but since Christmas Eve, they've been sleeping at my parent's house. The "broke house" as my 3-year old niece calls it. So, since then, I've been alone for the first time since we evacuated for Katrina.

I don't like it.

I miss the kids so much, it hurts...especially my precious girls.

Yesterday, they came over while the rest of the family hung sheetrock at my parent's house. They came early, in their jammies,with the remnants of breakfast still on their faces. I gave them each a bath and we played for a while...then they both went down for a nap. The baby is at a stage where she fights her sleep, so I have to hold her and sing for a while sometimes. Yesterday, I couldn't get the words out, so I just held her and cried.

Her crib sits empty next to my bed now. And her older sister's princess pillow is next to me, smelling like her...but tonight they are sleeping elsewhere. And their TiTi is crying alone as a Disney movie plays in the background (I'm not even watching it, that has just become the thing to do at bedtime).

In moments like these, I tend to think of Amy Carmichael. I think of the incredible love she had for her temple children...the mother's heart she had for the children of strangers. At times, I think perhaps, I too, have been given a mother's heart, maternal desires, not for my own children, but for those of others. Yet, it seems the Lord always answers that with a remembrance of a longing, a yearning, a knowledge of something greater, a deeper love...that as wonderful as it is being an aunt to these girls, there is something else, something more.

As my biological clock ticks loudly in my ear, I also have to wonder and am tempted to ask Why, if actual motherhood is something the Lord has for me, He still seems to tarry. I am not allowed to linger on Why very long, though. He is always faithful to remind me of His infinite goodness, providence, kindness, and ability to do what my feeble mind deems impossible.

I know He is writing a story...and I know it is a wonderful one. I want to quickly turn to the last page and know how it will end, but I can't. I can know though, that the end will explain why I was made to wait...and I will be glad for it. I also know that until I can actually see and experience the unfolding of the part of the story I am often in such a hurry to get to, He will continue to do what He has done...reign me in, comfort my heart, be my strength, lead and guide effect, be my husband until He sees fit to bring me one. And if that is 10 days, 10 months, or 10 years from now...OR if that is never I can not know. What I can know is that what He has supplied - He will continue to supply. The spaces He has filled - He will continue to fill. The joy He has given - He will continue to give. No matter what changes or doesn't change, whatever comes into my life or remains elusive, whatever hopes are fulfilled or dashed, HE will remain constant.

And so must I.

Will not the End explain
The crossed endeavor, earnest purpose foiled.
The strange bewilderment of good work spoiled.
The clinging weariness, the inward strain;
Will not the End explain?

Meanwhile He comforteth
Them that are losing patience; 'tis His way.
But none can write the words they hear Him say,
For men to read; only they know He saith
Kind words and comforteth.

Not that He doth explain
The mystery that baffleth; but a sense
Husheth the quiet heart, that far, far hence
Lieth a field set thick with golden grain,
Wetted in seedling days by many a rain;
The End - it will explain. (Amy Carmichael, in Toward Jerusalem)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Thoughts

Did Mary say to Joseph tenderly,
“Such little hands, such little feet! They be

Like little shells we’ve found beside the sea,

The sea of Galilee”?

And did wise Joseph answer, “For love’s sake
Our love shall shelter Him, enclose, andhold,
As the low hills about that silver lake
Shelter it, fold on fold”?

Across the stable, like a wind – a breath –
“The wicked have enclosed me,” it saith
“Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.”
Into the dust of death.

And then did Joseph’s father-like surprise
As round his finger little fingers curled
Call smiles and tears to Mary’s mother-eyes?
He clings who’ll save the world.

And as the Child in His soft manger lay,
Did gentle oxen in their language say,
“A mangerful of our sweet-smelling hay –
Our gift this Christmas Day”?

Again that breath – an unregarded tree
Is growing somewhere, making wood to be,

One awful day, the Cross of Calvary.

The cross of

O Lord, we adore Thee!
The wicked did enclose thee;
Pierced were Thy hands and feet for us – for me
O Child of Bethlehem,
Christ our Redeemer,
We come and we adore Thee,
We come and we adore Thee,
We come and we adore Thee,
Christ our Lord!
(Amy Carmichael...quoted in Whispers of His Power)

I’ve just been somewhat overwhelmed by thoughts of all of the next steps…the follow through…continuance of the Lord. There are a great many things that have been foretold, that have been “prophesied” and promised that have never come to fruition. The best laid plans of mice and men have a way of falling short or remaining in the planning stages all together. But not so with the Lord. He promised a Savior, indeed it can be argued that He designed all of creation to foretell, prepare the way for and to see this plan to completion. The birth of the Savior was foretold…and it played out exactly as it was meant to. The child grew into a man and died. And, one could argue the story really begins there. For had His death been merely death, He would have been but one of a few remarkable men…men of whom people had great hopes, but mortality cut those hopes short. But His death was a step into life everlasting…a return to it for Him and the opening of a doorway for us. The story could have stopped with His birth…the prophesies turning out to be nothing more than fairytales. It could have stopped with His death…the promises turning out to be nothing more than the lofty ideals of either an intensely religious man or a deluded one. But the story goes on to this day. The Lord continues to follow through, to go the next step, to write the story…on the hearts of those who will believe. He continues to go beyond all reason and with great sacrifice - as if offering His Son were not enough – He pursues us though we daily offend His holiness. And, He promises to continue until the end of time…for the joy set before Him…so our joy in Him may be complete…though we seek joy elsewhere…anywhere else sometimes.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! . . . Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!—For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

He . . . did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.—“He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him.”

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!—Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (from Daily Light 12/25)

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Let them lay hold of my protection."

“Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me.”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil.”—“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.—Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins . . . so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.—If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

This is from today’s Daily Light and was such a comforting word to me today. I feel a very great need for the Lord’s protection…from a great many things. At times I feel like the ground beneath my feet is falling away…like all the work the Lord has accomplished could unravel at any moment…like I will succumb to temptation…compromise in a way that I will suffer from for the rest of my life – or worse – that would somehow separate me from the Lord and compromise my walk. These days, temptation on all fronts is very strong and I feel very, very weak. Yet the Lord says “lay hold of my protection.” He says “I know the plans I have for you...plans for wholeness and not for evil.” And, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

After reading Daily Light, I looked up the opening verse in my Bible and read the entire passage. It says:

In that day,
“A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
I, the Lord, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
Lest anyone punish it,
I keep it night and day;
I have no wrath…let them lay hold of my protection,
let them make peace with me,
let them make peace with me.” (Isaiah 27:2-5)

I love that He repeats the call at the end of the passage...

" let them make peace with me,
let them make peace with me."

He keeps me…He nourishes me…He protects me...And He pursues me. Not just momentarily when I FEEL weak, but night and day, because I am ALWAYS weak. I think, too, when I think I am strong I am actually at my weakest. And to that He says, “My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.”

Oh, Lord…let me lay hold of your protection and walk in your strength that I might not dishonor you. Prune me, cut away all that would hide the light of your great grace and mercy.

In one of the most recent John Piper messages I listened to, he mentioned the importance of having a "hero" of the faith, preferrably someone from another century. For me, that person has to be Amy Carmichael. This poem is yet another reason I love "Amma" so...and proof that my "choice" in personal hero was no choice at all, but ordained by the Lord.

After I posted, I went into the, um, the room that has become my quiet place since my brother and his family have moved in with me. I opened "Toward Jerusalem" and read the following:

Lord of my merry cheers,
My grey that turns to gold,
And my most private tears
And comforts manifold
'Tis wonderful to me
That I am loved by Thee!

"Tis truly wonderful to be loved by one, who even in correction responds to me in great kindness and tender love. One who, when I am wanting to slap myself around and condemn my heart, comes with comfort and healing.

'Tis wonderful, indeed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I wish Thy way, But mouth gets in the way!

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies! (Psalm 141:3-4)

I am the oldest of 5 and the only girl. I have 8 uncles, about twice that many great-uncles and 10 male first cousins. Just about every one of them has (or had) a sarcastic and/or crude sense of humor. My grandfather was chief among them and each of my maternal uncles and my brothers have followed in his footsteps. To survive in my family, I had to adapt to and adopt this type of humor and playful banter, which borders on character assassination. All of it is done in fun and is akin to giving someone a really big, hug … really and truly. Of course, I would rather have the hug, but have come to feel very comfortable giving and receiving playfully biting barbs…and also “appreciating” what can only be termed “bathroom humor.”

My brothers delight in trying to gross me out or make me blush…and though they are often successful in this, I am usually also laughing at the same time.

I laugh easily, so that is somewhat to “blame”, but so is the fact that this is the humor I grew up with and what is often most funny to me. I am not as prone to throw out off-color comments, but I am hard-pressed to think of a “funny” that does not involve sarcasm of some kind.

For the past 3 months, I have been working in close quarters with a group of men who share my family’s sense of humor. Needless to say, I have felt “right at home”…and have been equally grossed-out and prone to blush. It’s been fun…perhaps, too much fun.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I worked in a corner on the first floor, basically isolated from my other co-workers. Needless to say, these post-Katrina surroundings are much more agreeable to me. I have loved getting to really know people I only knew by name before…and I’ve never laughed so much at work since I worked at a seafood restaurant in high school!

The question I’ve been asking myself is…should I be laughing? Should I encourage or take part in the office shenanigans? What does the humor I enjoy and have my share in say about who I am…who my God is? Am I dishonoring Him in what I say and laugh at? Am I portraying a poor example of Christianity to those around me?

A couple of my cohorts claim to be believers…none of them seem to subscribe to the same brand of Christianity I aspire to…but do I really look all that different? Am I really all that different?

I would like to think that I have appropriate boundaries and that who I am in Christ shines through and beyond whatever shortcomings, failings or missteps I make. But I also don’t want to STAY in the same shortcomings, failings and missteps. If I am sinning I want to know, repent and move on to the next shortcoming, failing and misstep J…and by God’s grace, I’d like to do it without isolating my new friends. I’d like His work of reformation to be a testament to His love and grace and not just make the walk of faith look like a boring and stifled thing.

I would like what He has done and will do to be seen as:

Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain. (John Piper)

My coworkers know a bit about the road I’ve walked over the past couple of years…and have seen the physical fruit of it. They have noticed the weight loss and the self-control the Lord has instilled in me…and continues to cultivate. I have done my best to turn all of their compliments and encouragements into an opportunity to give praise to the only one to whom it is due. But do those incidental conversations speak louder than the day to day…or does the day to day say something different from those incidental conversations?

I want to say “I don’t know” but, I think the passage of scripture I read this morning answers the question for me…

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies! (Psalm 141:3-4)

Lord, help me to find a balance without compromise. Show me how to be friendly and yet refrain from things that dishonor you, without bringing undue shame on my friends. I want them to know your truth and your law, but also your grace and love. Show me my heart and help me to conform it and my mouth, that only sweet water will flow from it…for your glory and the sake of your name. Thank you for the convicting and correcting power of your spirit and for the desire to please you…stir that up that it might overcome any fear I may have of losing or changing friendships. Make this my true heart’s prayer: "I wish Thy way, But when in me myself would rise, And long for something otherwise, Then, Holy One, take sword and spear, And slay. (Amy Carmichael)”

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Birthday Kira

Today, my niece Kira turns 3. She and her family are living with me in my apartment right now, and she and her siblings are sharing my room with me, so I got to see her on her birthday morning. After I'd gotten ready for work, I went over to the bed and put her in my lap and gave her a big squeeze. Her eyes fluttered open for a second and she gave me a sweet, still sleepy smile and snuggled back down to sleep. I held her for a while and then sang:

Happy Birthday to you
May the Lo - ord bless you
Happy Birthday Dear Kira
Your TiTi loves you.

Then I squeezed her again and planted a kiss on her forehead. As I laid her back down on the bed with tears streaming down my cheeks, she gave me another sleepy smile, then snuggled into my pillow and began to snore.

On the way to work, I couldn't help but think about this precious girl and what a true gift from God she is to me...and to my entire family. I also couldn't help but think about her future and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. As the lone Christian in my family, my fear is that she will follow suit and never know Christ. That her choices will be those of compromise, sin and selfishness. That she will not know the value of purity and holiness or the comfort of the presence of God.

In response to those fears, the Lord is always faithful to remind me that He is equally sovereign over her life and mine. He is also faithful to show me flickers of His calling on her life. Many times when we are together, she asks me to sing "Jesus" or "Whole World" or "Na Na" or "Beautiful One" (she asks for this one by signing "beautiful" something she still remembers from VBS!). At night when we hunker down in bed, she will sometimes ask me to pray if I haven't already done so and whenever I mention Jesus, she is quick to take interest or ask questions.

I am well aware that the smallest desire for God is planted by Him and not natural to man, and though i can't know for certain, I am praying in faith that He would make His calling on her sure and save her. That was my prayer this morning, with tears still streaming down my face as I pulled into the Starbucks parking lot.

And, right now as I look at the many pictures of us I have on my desk, I think about her at 15...and fear grips my heart. I see the world around me. I see what 15 year olds are like now. I worry about the influences in her life and the choices she might make. But, again, I am reminded that God is sovereign...and all I can know is who she is and who I need to be for her (and for His glory) today...tomorrow is safe in His care.

Kira's tomorrow is infinitely safe in His care.

Thank you Lord for the gift of Kira...the gift of my first niece...of a precious, loving, funny, very girly girl. Thank you that you have touched her heart already and for the special relationship you have given us. Bless her and keep her until such a time as she can choose you. Protect her from what is around her, things that seek to beat the sweetness out of her, take her innocence away, and lead her to hate you. Thank you that no matter what may come, no matter what she may walk through or choose or suffer, you can and will redeem the time and restore anything the locusts destroy. More than that, you will make what is restored better than what was, and what I can imagine or hope for her. Thank you that you love her and that you gave her to us...plant in her heart a desire to know and love you that she might grow to be a godly woman who brings you glory all the days of her life.

Monday, December 19, 2005

ME-ry, ME-ry, Quite Contrary!

I am a natural blonde…but I’ve never been “blonde” enough.
I have straight hair…I’ve always wanted it curly.
I am 5’4…I’ve always wished I was taller.
I sing and write…but I’ve always wanted to be a poet and composer.
I am single…and have always wanted to be married with children.

I could go on and on…

Until fairly recently, the generality of my life was to be dissatisfied with whatever I had and wherever I found myself. The grass was perpetually greener on the other side…and if I ever found myself on the other side, I was soon certain that the perceived “green-ness” was just an optical illusion.

A few days ago, I was having a discussion about singleness with a friend of mine. She is also single and about 10 years younger than I am. She shared a sentiment that I have heard from many of my younger single friends, which is essentially: “I think I am ok with singleness now, but I don’t think I would be ok having to wait X number of years for it to happen. I don’t think I could do it.” By the way, the “x” number is usually 10, which means where I am now is exactly where they dread being.

I know that feeling well. There was a time when the thought of prolonged singleness was a “shoot me now” thought. I’d sooner be dead than a 30-something single, was my attitude. I didn’t see the point. Marriage and family was all I ever wanted, all that was important to me, all that (to my mind) equated a real and valuable life. I didn’t want a career. I didn’t find satisfaction in hobbies or clubbing and the idea of casual dating for the rest of my life was sickening to me. So, “shoot me now” was the only other alternative. This attitude led to thoughts of suicide and even tentative plans near the end of my college days.

Enter Jesus Christ.

I wish I could say that my contrary ways went away when I met Him. They didn’t. I struggled for years wanting the contentment I read about here: for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Phil 4:11), yet, I didn't want to give up my hopes, my dreams, my plans, and the pursuit of same.

I wish I could say I do not struggle this way anymore. Indeed, every day I am called upon to choose between pursuing my hopes, dreams, desires, cravings, plans and pursuing the righteousness of God, but submitting and conforming my thoughts, emotions and actions to Christ.

The more I am “in” Christ, the easier this choice is. The closer I am to Him the more I see the things of this world “grow strangely dim.”


That expression isn’t just a euphemism or a lyrical turn of phrase or even an idealistic (yet unattainable) thought. It is something that is actually possible for anyone who is in Christ. And I believe we can see a sort of “how to” for contentment in Philippians 4.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
It is difficult to be on the lookout for greener pastures when you are thankful for the one you’re in.

6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I love the last part, especially…”and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.” I know my heart and mind needs constant guarding. Left on my own, I would never leave from thinking about and plotting ways to achieve or receive all I think I deserve or need. But Praise be to God who calls us to something better…something beyond US!...something eternal and actually good! I am reminded just now of how often I discovered that the thing I couldn’t live without wasn’t all it seemed to be when I was pining for it from a distance. Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and sometimes says NO?!?!

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I am convinced…and have seen evidence of it in my own life…that when we do these things we can, like Paul, say that we have “learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” And be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, for we “can do all things through him who strengthens” us.

None of this will happen in one big leap, however. It is one small, seemingly insignificant, choice or step at a time. But one day, we will each be able to look back and see how far we have come and how much His word…His truth has changed us.

This truth doesn’t only work with cultivating goodness. It also works with getting places we never thought we could or would or would want to.

My younger single friends worry about walking the road I have without serious stumbling or compromise…a fear I know well. I am thankful that I have what I consider an encouraging testimony to share with them. I don’t sugar-coat this life or how I have walked this whole thing out. I have stumbled and been seriously tempted to compromise…and indeed have compromised in my heart, which in God’s eyes is the same thing as actually doing the thing I was too afraid to actually do. I believe I have been brought (BROUGHT) to a place where I can submit my hopes and dreams and the yearnings I have for them to the Lord, joyfully, trusting that He will answer with what is best for me. Thus far, that best has been to deny my specific requests and supplications and in return teach me what it is to know the strength of His joy and to be satisfied in Him. I can honestly tell my younger single friends that there are times when I am overwhelmed by how happy I am in this life; that there are times when I am in tears – not mourning the loss of my life plan – but in gratitude for the kindness and peace and joy of the Lord.

10 years ago I never thought I could make it to this place. I didn’t think I could live that long being denied what I wanted most in the world. But, one small, seemingly insignificant step and choice at a time, here I am …alive…and, yes, happy.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step…as does the journey to contentment. That mountain on the horizon that seems insurmountable is also conquered the same way. Those steps are made sure by the one who made the mountain and us…and we need not fear slipping and plummeting to our death because beneath us are the everlasting arms. No weapon formed against us will prosper and no obstacle will keep us from what the Lord has prepared for us. Another comfort to me is the knowledge that trials are not just happenstance, but planned and purposed to make our faith and the exercise of it stronger. Since the Lord never begins anything or calls us to something He does not intend to see through, we can say with assurance that we can indeed "do all things through Christ who strengthens” us!

Thankfully, the Lord doesn't ask us to be OK with what may happen 10 years from now. The expectation is not that we scale Everest in a single bound. It is that we trust that His grace is sufficient for us today...for the next step...and leave tomorrow where it the unknown. It is difficult for me and I think humans in general to leave the unknown, the unknown. But, we are treading in dangerous terrain when we try to illumine that which the Lord has kept in darkness. His grace is sufficient for us TODAY...His word lights our feet on the journey one step at a time...and there is great blessing and joy to be found in surrendering our desire to know or divine the future to the One who holds it in His loving (and beyond capable) hands.

Lord Help faith you as you have called us not plot our ascent when we haven't even reached the foothills yet...and to cultivate contentment in the big and small happenings of each day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No Small Life

I’ve been listening to several messages John Piper did on “Men of Whom the World was not Worthy”. Among these, he cites such Christian luminaries as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and his personal hero, Jonathan Edwards. He also speaks at length on some lesser known men who have had a profound effect on Christianity by having a profound effect on shaping other great men of the faith.

David Brainerd is one such man. I’d heard Piper mention him before in messages on Jonathan Edwards. Brainerd died of consumption in Edwards home. I believe he stayed with them a total of 19 weeks, during which time Edwards was sufficiently impressed by Brainerd’s piety and faith in God (while he was dying of consumption, mind you) that he wrote a biography of the young man after he died.

Brainerd was 29.

By this time he had studied at Yale, been expelled for voicing concerns about the piety of the Christian leadership there and then spent 4 years alone in the forest - often sick, often lost, often without food – ministering to the native peoples along the East Coast. By his own account, the work was very hard and he claimed no great success.

The converted tribesmen of those areas would beg to differ, I am sure.

He was “just” a missionary for a short period of time nearly 300 years ago. Had it not been for Jonathan Edwards, he would have likely slipped into obscurity. Yet, all these years later, countless missionaries credit the story of his life and ministry as an inspiration. One of these was another contemporary “nobody”…Jim Elliot. In his lifetime, he was just a guy, following the Lord’s lead and doing his best to live the crucified life. Like Brainerd who lived during the “Great Awakening”, Elliot was a missionary during a time when missionary work was much more prevalent and “the norm” than it is now...yet at the same time, each of them faced opposition to their "radical" brand of Christianity. To Elliot (and Brainerd, i am sure), however, this was the life he had been called to and he determined to give it his all. Also like Brainerd, he wrote no great works, was not a celebrated Pastor or speaker and knew the realities of hardship and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. Each also left behind journals and each gained the love and respect of one key person which would document their life and bring them out of obscurity into the immortal.

The point is…there is no such thing as a small, insignificant life. These men did not accomplish what we might call “great things” in their life. They did not have large bodies of written works like Spurgeon or Owen or Luther. They weren’t even involved in ministry all that long and both died very young. Certainly, neither of them were seeking fame and recognition…they were simply living the life appointed them with one aim…the glory of God.

One can only speculate as to why these men’s lives stick out as opposed to other “obscure” yet sold-out missionaries of their day. Perhaps it is because of their early deaths. Perhaps it is merely the “chance” and providence of their connections. Brainerd crossed Edwards path…Elliot was married to Elisabeth Elliot. Both were writers and both achieved/have achieved notoriety during their respective lifetimes. Perhaps, though, it is something more…something far less circumstantial and far more profound. Perhaps, it was the deliberate and purposeful hand of God…the same hand that led them to their biographers, which took their lives, and which gave each of them a dose of piety and faithfulness and selflessness each of us can only pray for the grace to even aspire to, much less emulate. Perhaps, they had to die that we might see what a crucified life looks like...that countless missionaries might be moved to set about that work…and even more “average Christians” might be challenged to go a step further, climb higher, dig down deeper into the Christian life…whether they regard it small or not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Traditions...Fires...and Things of First Importance

Last year, I started a new tradition for myself. I decided to celebrate Advent – which is basically a weekly (or for some - daily) remembrance/celebration/looking forward to Christmas. Though it was my first go at it, I decided to give the Daily schedule a try. I got on-line and read Noel Piper’s book on Traditions (she is John Piper’s wife) and then went to our local craft store and bought the supplies I needed to make my very own and first ever Advent Wreath. I have to say, it was beautiful. Given the story that follows (and because it was the beginning of something I hope will be a part of my life from here on out) I wish I’d taken a picture of it…but I didn’t.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Each evening in December, I’d come home from work, light a candle (or candles), read portions of scripture related to the coming of Christ and His birth, then pray and blow out the candle. Because of my schedule, this was often done late at night and just before bed. One evening (a Monday to be exact) our small group meeting went typically late and I was very tired. I had to wash dishes, but wanted to do my Advent thing first. So I went through the routine, and remember it being especially meaningful for me, then I got up, washed the dishes and collapsed into bed.

Somewhere around 3 am, I woke to the smell of burning plastic. I got up to investigate and saw flames coming from the wreath in the middle of my kitchen table. They were bright orange and nearly licking the ceiling. In my half-asleep stupor, I ran to the sink and got a glass of water and poured it on the wreath. This served only to splatter wax on the floor. Finally, now a little more alert, I grabbed a blanket and threw it on top of the wreath. I then ran out the back door as smoke and soot filled the room. Had I been a bit more alert, I would have used the blanket to grab the extinguished wreath and bring it outside. Since I was not so alert, the smoke and soot soon spread throughout my apartment and covered every surface.

So, it’s 3am, I am outside (in my nightgown) watching the smoke continue to billow and pour out of my opened back door and I realize I have to go in and rescue my cockatiel and open all of my windows. I had to do these tasks in shifts…and grab a phone to call in to work…as I couldn’t be in there for too long without choking. Once the smoke cleared enough for me to be inside for a few minutes, I put some clothes on and ran to Wal-mart (which was open 24 hrs pre-Katrina…ah…those were the days!) to get cleaning supplies, face masks, gloves and new filters for my air conditioner.

When I got back, the sun had come up and I was thoroughly overwhelmed by what had to be done. I didn’t even know where to begin. Everything was covered in tiny black flecks and there was a soot stain on the ceiling over my, now charred, kitchen table.

But, I got to work (with the help of a few friends) and, unbelievably, my home was cleaned and ready for a visitor that evening.

I had previously planned to have a friend over for coffee and dessert that evening…and come she did…to a home that (according to her) didn’t look or smell like anything had happened.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Three Hebrew Boys who emerged from the fiery furnace without even the smell of smoke on them.

Come bedtime, I was exhausted yet fully aware of the awesome grace of God throughout this whole ordeal. I didn’t have to wake up…the fire didn’t have to be contained to the table…the damage could have been more than could be cleaned up in a day…I didn’t have to have a “spare” kitchen table in my storage room. I could hardly think about the grace and providence of the Lord without tearing up…for days afterward.

I was sad about losing my wreath though.

My advent tradition had become the highlight of my day and the Lord had shown up in such a powerful and unexpected way…and all I was doing was being a bit more purposeful, a lot more expectant and lighting candles.

The purposefulness and expectancy of celebrating Advent was what attracted me and part of my prayer during my evening times of worship was that I wouldn’t have to have a wreath and candles to be of that mind in my “normal” times with the Lord.

It was my first Christmas, perhaps since my first Christmas as a believer, that I felt like I really got and appreciated the intention behind setting aside a day and a season to remember our Savior’s birth.

Growing up, Christmas was about presents and parties and decorating. It wasn’t until I was school age that Jesus was even introduced and by then (to my way of thinking…and again with the benefit of hindsight) the damage was already done. Christmas in and Christmas out, as an unbeliever and as a believer, my thoughts typically center on and naturally gravitate to how am I going to decorate, what I am going to buy for whom and what I would like to cook. To follow me around and see my thoughts leading up to Christmas, one would think family celebrations are the “Reason for the Season.”

I am not dissing Family Celebrations or the American Traditions associated with Christmas…I am only saying that as a believer, I know that the intention of the season is supposed to be remembering, reflecting on and celebrating the birth of Christ and thus, the beginning of the road leading to Calvary…and my own personal salvation and fellowship with the Lord.

Last year, I tried to be purposeful in centering my thoughts on the Lord, and purposing to reflect Christ and celebrate Him with whatever I chose to decorate, purchase or cook and in my times with family. The whole year, really, was about making Christ of first importance…but I think I was just more aware of it and active in it at Christmas.

Christmas morning, I got up early and went to my “new” kitchen table, lit all 5 candles on my replacement Advent Wreath and read Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. I then prayed for my family, thanked Him for the gifts He gives each day and especially for the Gift of Salvation…then set out for a day filled with family traditions, gifts and food, ever mindful of the great gift I had received…and how desperately I wanted my family to receive. I was also filled with gratitude for how the Lord had protected me and provided me from my tradition gone awry.

As if all that weren’t enough, just after we finished eating dinner it began to snow…in New Orleans!

“though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”

“pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap… Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”

Lord, during this season, let us…let me…make you of FIRST importance and the true reason, motivation and cause for joy in all I do and take part in. As Moses prayed, Lord if you do no go before me…let me not even desire to go. Expose my heart, and help me to be purposeful and expectant during this season…today…every day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

“My grace is sufficient for thee,”

“My grace is sufficient for thee,” You say
Tomorrow and Yesterday and Today
“My goodness, like a chain
Will hold you to close me.”

This morning, I listened to two message John Piper did on the Sovereign Grace of God (1 & 2). At the end of the first message, the announcer had a discussion with Piper and said something like “I don’t know what it is like to be near suicide, but I know many people consider it. Could you pray for them.”

As Piper prayed, I thought about my own struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide – which seems like remembering events in someone else’s life now, but they were mine and were an integral part of leading me to the Lord.

I don’t remember when it began…probably somewhere around puberty…or why, really. I could venture a guess, but hindsight makes it difficult to distinguish what came first, the depression or the weight. One would assume the weight (and all the resultant social/emotional side-effects), but I am tempted to think the depression came first and the weight was a side-effect. Again, I don’t know and at this point it doesn’t matter…what does is that for a looong time, I was a very sad, fat girl. I then turned into a very sad, fat, nearly woman being treated for chronic depression. In my senior year in high school, my parents sent me to a psychiatrist who put me on Prozac and had me talk about my dreams for an hour each week. After a couple of months of that, I took myself off the meds and tried to talk about other things with him. He wanted no part of that…so I said, “See Ya!”

I then went back to life as usual, which consisted of sitting around moping and eating, basically. These habits grew and evolved and I added other self-indulgent hobbies to my repertoire. Yet, no amount of self-indulgence did the trick…nothing snapped me out of it. In fact, I only got sadder…and bigger.

By the time college rolled around, though I’d come out of my shell quiet a bit and did less sitting and moping, I had had enough. I began planning to die. I had a plan and thought about it often. Yet, each morning I woke up thinking, “Today might be better” and went out to find out.

“My grace is sufficient for thee,” You say
Tomorrow and Yesterday and Today
“My goodness, like a chain
Will hold you to close me.”

Basically, I came home disappointed…and thus the “plan” looked better and better.

Enter BayouMaMa (though she wasn't a mama then).

She was a tee-ninsy girl with HUGE hair from a town I’d never heard of who “just happened” to be in my English Lit. class. One day, following a discussion of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (during which I very vocally shared my anti-Christian beliefs), she pulled me aside and invited me to lunch. That lunch lasted approximately 3 hours - which, for your reference, is about average for a conversation with Kala ;). During the course of that conversation, Kala shared the gospel with me. In turn, I argued with her. Not necessarily because what she shared wasn’t appealing or made no sense, but because to concede any of her points would be to question my beliefs and I wasn’t ready to do that. She pointed me toward the Bible and gave me some info to read and we went each our own way.

We met up again in a significant way a summer later, living and working in the same dorm. Our shifts seemed to always coincide and it wasn’t very long before we started talking about God again, and that summer I surrendered my life to Christ.

“My grace is sufficient for thee,” You say
Tomorrow and Yesterday and Today
“My goodness, like a chain
Will hold you to close me.”

After I came to know the Lord, I still struggled with depression and gluttony. To my great dismay, all of my sin issues didn’t just “poof” and go away!

As I walked, I learned about sanctification…I was a slooooow learner.

Finally, the Lord again intervened in a dramatic way and pulled me out of basically all I knew and was comfortable with, coupled that with a series of painful losses and heavy dose of solid theological teaching.

Looking back over the last…wow, 11 years (and prior to that, too)…I can see so many evidences of His hand of grace, of His keeping me close, protecting me, leading me in the way I should go.

Things haven’t all worked out the way I wanted them to, and sadly, sin is still a part of my life (though I hope less frequently), I wouldn’t change a step.

I can honestly say that to change one thing would be to change the road I have walked with the Lord, to make it less than it was, and would likely put me somewhere that is not “here” and “now” and I wouldn’t want that. Where I am is so precious. It isn’t personal perfection or my fantasy “ideal” but it is what the Lord has called “good” for me right now and I am something I never thought I’d be…well, two things I never thought I’d be:
A believer in Christ in fellowship with the One True God
and Happy!

I was driving into work the other day, thinking about things, landmarks along the road to here and just how dog gone happy I am right now (despite the struggles and trials and fears) and was just overcome. Never did I think “this” would be possible outside of marriage and family…outside of someone else coming in and saying “You are beautiful…You are wonderful…I love you…I want to love you forever…How ‘bout a kiss…and some babies.”

Someone did come in, but He didn’t say all of that. He said:

“My grace is sufficient for thee,” You say
Tomorrow and Yesterday and Today
“My goodness, like a chain
Will hold you to close me.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Too good for me to add anything to...

This is some of what I read this morning during my time with the this instance, via Amy Carmichael...

Pause is the word in the Greek translation of the Bible uses for selah. I like to mediate upon the way it occurs for the first time in the Psalms.

...many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.


But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:2-3)

We have all been subjected to the wearing voices which flood the very atmosphere around us, complaining “There is no help…”

These voices murmur and mutter the same words, no matter what the challenge or difficulty may be. “There is no help…”

But because you and I are in God we need not listen:
"There is no help…" They repeat.
"But you, O Lord, are my helper!”

No matter to us what he voices say. Their words bring only weariness – but with His word comes peace and strength and courage to go on.

This is true, not only whith the difficult outward circumstances of our lives, but with inward temptations too. We are tempted and at once we recall past failures in this same area. This causes us to feel weak and state to fall. The voices within are saying, "There is no help…”

Even these inner struggles may be turned to peace. How? Instead of trying to answer the many voices of the enemy or arguing with them (we can never win this type of argument), we must do something else.

We pause

We look away from self, away from the enemy. We look up!

"There is no help…"

"But you o lord…!"

Some believe that selah also signifies a sudden pealing forth of musical instruments.

The pause, then, was for praise.

Then let us fill all of our pauses with praise!

Let us give all that lies within us not to the voices of the enemy, but to pure praise, to pure loving adoration, and to worship from a grateful heart – a heart that is trainted to look up. (Amy Carmichael, Thou Givest, They Gather)


Have you ever felt at the end of the day that you had nothing to offer but “broken pieces" of things? I have been finding new comfort in the two words which are used by each of the four Evangelists in telling the end of the story of the feeding of the five thousand. They speak of "broken pieces” and the same words are used by two in telling of the later miracle. There was nothing left over but broken pieces and yet of those fragments our Lord said “gather them up that nothing be lost.” Even so, our dear Lord cares for the broken pieces of our lives, the fragments of all we meant to do, the little that we have to gather up and offer, and He will use even these fragments. He will not let even the least of our little broken things be lost…(Amy Carmichael, Edges of His Ways)