Thursday, February 28, 2008

Paul Washer delivered a stirring reminder to me this morning, in the midst of business, to get alone with God. I might insist I’m spending time with Him while whirling away at mindless tasks, or while begging and pleading with Him for someone else, or while crying out to Him for deliverance, but nothing takes the place of simply getting alone with Him and listening. Actually shutting up and listening. It has been far too long since I met with Him in quietness and solitude to hear Him speak. Today I found myself exempt from excuses, so I vanished into the woods. Halfway down the trail I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Yahweh, His power and His mercy, driving me to my knees with weeping. Not sorrow. Just weeping. Rising, I continued a short way before I was again brought to my knees, overwhelmed to realize that I’d been overwhelmed by so much less than Moses had seen. How do I even begin to describe the God I am privileged to serve? In Him everything holds together, in Him is the light of life, in Him is holiness, majesty, authority, perfection--everything I am not. I finally reached the clearing and stood, waiting, listening, before “take off your shoes for the place you are standing is holy ground” flowed through my mind. I laughed. “The place where I am standing is muddy ground,” I corrected, but the thought multiplied and repeated itself until I finally complied. The significance of bare feet is beyond me and I’ll readily admit that I have an overactive imagination. I could have remembered and fed the words to myself, for an emotional kick. I’m just a little girl, but as long as my imagination leads me to the feet of Yahweh, I’ll gladly give it leave to run. As soon as I’d laid aside my shoes, the life of Moses began to flood me, coming over my memory in wave upon wave, nearly visible, as if I were blessed to be a shadow to this friend of God. From the moment he stood before the burning bush, to the day God buried him on the top of a mountain in view of the promised land, this man was flesh and blood, yet spoke with God face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. He feared facing Pharaoh, he became angry and disobeyed God, yet God spoke through him and to him. On Sinai and in the tabernacle, Moses met with Yahweh, and when he returned from the presence of Yahweh, his face shown with the radiance of the glory of God. His mission from on high was to lead a stubborn and rebellious people through the wilderness, and at last he died, without ever having set foot into the land himself. I cried for his failure, his failure to finish the task God had given him, through the penalty for one mistake. In the solitude of a clearing, away from the noise of rebellious people or the heat of a wilderness the truth slid through my mind to lodge in my heart. No. Moses, who transcribed God’s law, was not under law but under grace. In grace, God took him to the true Promised Land, God buried his body, God called him friend, God talked with him face to face, God received his intercession for the people, God caused all His goodness to pass in front of him while He protected him with His own hand. Moses learned the good part. He knew God. Intimately. That’s what God is seeking—worshippers in spirit and truth. Those who want to know Him, who want to see His glory, who understand that being with God is the good part. Those who want to know Him fully, even as we have been fully known.

I realized the sun was high in the sky—almost noon—and Mom had a doctor’s appointment just after noon and needed me home. Wishing for Aaron and Hur to hold up my arms and make the sun stand still was an empty motion, so I clambered to my feet, put my shoes back on and headed back up the trail. The afterglow is beginning to fade, reminding me that I am still dust. But Yahweh…Yahweh is indescribable.

Lord, Thy servant, Moses shown
Once, with a glory not his own.
This sinner veiled within Thy glory
Typifies redemption’s story.

May my life so glow with Thee
That anyone who looks may see
The radiation of Thy grace
And long to see Thy perfect face.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Josiah is acting insanely goofy and, get this, blaming it on me. As if I could ever make anyone goofy. Besides, I’ve been gone all day. That’s right, the whole entire day. First, I had an important consultation with a BeautiControl agent, and she helped me define a hopeful path for controlling my beauty. It’s getting rather out of hand. (Beauty a.k.a. acne.) I also finally activated my debit card, after three months, and made the largest purchase yet this year: eleven whole dollars on eleven whole yards of fabric to finish my bedroom décor. And five young ladies managed to turn into veritable messes in an effort to wish Jacinderella and Lauryn happy birthdays. Those are all accomplishments, no doubt, but the greatest of all was attacking Amber’s room with her and making some headway in the clean-up process: we managed to hang stuffed animal nets, and stuff them with animals, as well as put together and make her bed. Painfully slow, it seems, at time, but I’m reminded “not to grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we will reap, if we don’t lose heart.” The Lord’s lovingkindness was overwhelming today, through every minute, every tiny detail, every single, small thing, reminding me He is a God of small things and not just of big deals. Reminding me to be faithful in the small things and trust Him to work. Reminding me that books are written in chapters, chapters in pages, pages in sentences, sentences in words and even the most perfect words are spelled out in the same, simple letters.

During a ten minute gap between errands, I pulled into a sunny byroad to read over the set of Psalms for the day and found a gem worth stowing away. “Yahweh favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.” Gabriel greeted Mary as a favored one and Daniel as a man of high esteem and Job was one in whom God boasted. Here was their secret: they feared God and waited for His lovingkindness. What a beautiful promise at a time when it seems like I’m forever waiting…and waiting…and waiting on the Lord.

Just as I’d finished writing, Mom shared that Audrey called today—specifically asking two things: if I’d teach a creative writing class for the homeschool group next fall and if I’d pray about discipling a fourteen-year-old girl she knows. Okay, Lord. Now what do You have in mind?

Lord, I seek for things so great,
But Thou gives small things while I wait
Reminding me that small things must
Be used to teach my heart to trust.

Lord, I want to see the whole,
Thy goal, Thy will, Thy plan in full.
Thou reminds my faltering heart:
Thy word was writ in little parts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I had a reality check today. At least one. Beginning with my room this morning—pretty much trashed after a weekend of company and me practically living in the living room (imagine that—living in a living room). Lydia had left clothes on the floor—the whole floor, in random spots where she’d probably flung them as she changed. Headcoverings littered the dresser, and dirty clothes spilled out of the cabinet where they should have been neatly tucked away—hidden. Just as the thoughts “what a mess! Where’d she learn this?” registered in my mind, I received my first reality check. Who has she been living with for the past, oh, eleven years? Who has been given the responsibility for most of her bringing up? Who me? Uh. Yeah.

Josiah came to me at lunch asking to use my computer. Honestly, I don’t mind him using my computer in the least, it’s just that, for him, use of my computer requires me. “How do I sign into Mom’s webmail to send this e-mail? Can you help me scan in this image to send Moriah? Where do I find the Day’s e-mail address? You don’t have it?” It seems to be a habit of his to dream up fun schemes—that include me. Like the whole host of military pictures he took and brought in to me asking to put them on my laptop. “And then what?” I asked. “I’ll need to borrow it sometime to edit them all together,” he answered. That’s because he’s seen me edit pictures together, but I know he’ll have the hardest time figuring out my editing program. These things are important to him, I know, but I really can’t justify putting the fabrication of military IDs at the top of my priority list. Reality check. My priority list? Wait a minute. Isn’t my family supposed to be at the top of my priority list? Wasn’t I supposed to be looking for ways to serve each of them? Uh. Yeah.

After lunch, Mom still didn’t have a grocery list made up for me. I’d asked her about it last night so she’d be ready early today and it wouldn’t run me into supper-fixing time. “I’m sorry,” she always says, and I always say “That’s okay” but inside I’m groaning. And I groan like that in town when she calls me because she remembered something else she needed in Wal-Mart after I’ve already climbed into the car. Or when she waits to give me her Kroger’s list until I’m driving through lunch-hour traffic. What am I doing that’s so important? Nothing. I just hate to be inconvenienced. Reality check. Inconvenienced—that means I’m looking out for my own interests, doesn’t it? That means I think I’m all important, don’t bother me, doesn’t it? Uh. Yeah.

Guess what sits right in front of my nose any time I’m at my desk. This nifty little list of the definitions of love from First Corinthians thirteen, along with practical applications of those definitions. Guess how often I read it. Uh. Not very.

If I actually read it, I’d remember that my place is right here, serving my family through love—that means putting up with other’s quirks, going out of my way to serve, thinking of other’s needs, brushing off inconveniences (am I really going to hang onto these sorts of things in eternity?) and holding out even when things get a little uncomfortable for me. “But,” whispers that mosquito-whining voice, “They should be treating me with respect, too.” Well, hush. If nobody ever annoyed me, I guess I’d never get to practice real love, would I? Besides that, I don’t do it for them—I do it for the Lord, and I don’t think I can complain about Him practicing what He preaches. What am I worried about? I know I’m doing God’s will, and isn’t that what I beg to do every morning? Uh. Yeah.

Lord, Thou demonstrated love
When Thou sent Jesus from above,
Then asked, in sacrifice to Thee,
I’d love my brother equally.

So I say three small words and then
I think my duty done, but when
He doesn’t notice, I complain,
Then turn and do, to Thee, the same.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It’s a good thing we have plenty of parking. There were plenty of cars here, today. A veritable party. From my vantage point next to her, I could see Lydia’s hands shaking with nervousness as her recital was announced over lunch. We’d only planned on family with a couple extras. Instead she played for a full house—played very well, I might add. She has so much more natural grace than her teacher. I’m the one who walks into doorways (instead of through them), trips over her own feet and throws pickles at herself (when she’s trying to eat them). She waltzed into the room with a sweeping bow and delivered an exceptional performance (for a first-time recitalist). And her audience responded kindly with a rousing round of applause. Whew. That’s over and done. We can move on to book two.

For future reference: never allow Josiah, Taylor and Kunal to play on the same Frisbee team. The teamwork between those three was inspiring. It inspired me to turn around and head for the far end of the field as soon as they began passing. I upheld my Frisbee tradition of always colliding with at least one person. Unintentionally, of course. Please recall: I am not exactly graceful. The tradition started almost exactly four years ago, in my first Frisbee game during our first visit to the Tech campus, when Papa and I met midfield and he took a nosedive. This time it was my very own, very protective big brother and team mate who knocked me down—I’d forgotten how painful it is to have the wind knocked out of me. Actually, I think I pretty much plowed right into him. I really ought to upgrade to power brakes and steering.

Meditating on the altar of incense, on which Aaron was to burn a unique fragrance before the Lord—constantly. Skipping to the end of the Word, we are told that the incense burned on the altar in heaven is the prayers of the saints. Our prayers are unique—we aren’t supposed to speak to anyone else as we speak to Yahweh. We are also to pray at all times—continually—to be in an attitude of constant communion with Him, constantly pleasing Him by sending soothing aromas before His throne. We know from Romans that it is through the mediation of Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit that these prayers can even be made acceptable, for we don’t even know how to pray as we should! Thanks to the consecration I mentioned before—the sprinkling of the atonement Lamb—we can confidently come before Him with requests, entreaties and prayers on behalf of all men, as well as praise and thanksgiving for the mighty works of our God!

I know I so often let the fire on the altar die out.

Lord, that Thou would hear my words,
And even more, that having heard,
Thou would choose to let them be
A pleasing sacrifice to Thee,

And even when I cannot pray
Thou teaches me the words to say,
Is mercy more than I can tell.
Why dost Thou love this dust so well?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm ashamed of the horrendous language that just came out of my mouth. “Mom’s reading her Bahble,” I answered an inquisitor. I stopped cold in horror. “Ah just said ‘Bahble’ didn't Ah?!”

Undoubtedly, the best part of the whole day was contained in my bowl at supper—homemade ice cream, made from our creamy “real” milk, in celebration of Nathaniel’s birthday. Somebody stop me before I go all mushy and sentimental, denying that he could be twenty-four, and recalling all the sweet things he used to do for me—like push my swing so that I’d hit the tree, or pull down my dress-up skirt in front of neighbor boys (he thought I was wearing shorts underneath), or chase me around the yard with locust skins (and stick them all over me when he caught me), or rubber band the sprayer nozzle in the kitchen when it was my turn to do dishes, or tell me stories about horrible ways he could die until I wound up crying (he was pretty proud to think I’d miss him so much). By the time he went off to pave his new road at college when I was sixteen, we were best friends, and I did miss him. A lot.

Now he gets to torture someone else. “Nathaniel!” Lauren cracked the bathroom door open and I looked up, knowing the problem immediately. “Did he take your clothes?” “Yes,” she answered, as he emerged from the guest room, snickering.

Still a bit damp from her shower, but finally dressed, Lauren joined me on the couch for some good, old heart-to-heart. As I poured out my frustrations with myself, my confusion with my priorities and my detestation of my motives and thoughts, her face filled with peaceful joy—like nothing I’ve seen before—and she took on the role of encourager, like I’d never witnessed from her before. “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” she reminded me. I’ve been saved, not just from the eternal penalty of sin, but also from guilt. From rules I can't live up to. From penalties for sins of omission. I need to quit helping the accuser beat myself up and start accepting the Lord’s grace immediately. Perfection I possess—in the person of Jesus.

Did anyone hear that? I’m considered righteous, free to walk in newness of life without the Law prodding and poking and threatening me.

All because of Jesus.

Lord, Thou snapped in two my chain,
Whence came these bonds that still remain?
Have I sought to be enslaved,
To Law, which never helps or saves?

Perfection is not found in me,
But in incarnate deity.
These are the bonds that I would choose—
Those who serve Thee, Thou dost loose.

Friday, February 22, 2008

“Hello, Princess,” Mom smiled at me as I breezed through the French doors.

“Princess?” I echoed. I certainly didn’t feel like a princess.

“You just look like a princess,” she offered, taping snowman paper around Nathaniel’s birthday present.

I glanced down at my bulky coat, muddy boots and windblown hair. I’m not sure what she was seeing, but at the moment I’d have cheerfully accepted the title “Court Jester” as long as it reminded me I belonged in the King’s family.

For the first time in many moons, the house was warm when I woke up this morning—because I’ve transferred my residence to the couch and awakened several times during the night to stoke up the fire. Now I have a thorough understanding of why Josiah has such a hard time getting up every morning.

We spent most of the day giving Grandma the grand tour of RussVegas, including lunch in the Caf. Perhaps I’m getting old before my time, but I was exhausted by the time we got home and I started a quick supper before our expected company arrived at seven. I managed to snag an opportunity to ply Papa with a question that has been plaguing me for a couple of days. When Yahweh first led the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses took the priests and seventy elders of Israel up into Mount Sinai and they all beheld Yahweh, and did not die. How could this be when Moses later pleads to see God’s glory and God tells him, “You can’t see my face and live”? Going over the description together, we noted that God is not described—it only says that under His feet the pavement was sapphire, pure like the sky. These men must not have seen His face—only what was under His feet. Later, as I ran through the woods I found myself pleading with the Lord, reminding Him how much I want to see Him. I see His handiwork all around me in the rough bark of the pines, the slender points of the needles that break down to become fine, red dirt. He said the earth is His footstool—is it the same sky I gaze up at that is under His feet? Yet, it’s not enough. I long for the intimacy which Adam forfeited, which I forfeited by following in the likeness of his sin. Praise Him! I have a confident assurance that God will mercifully restore that fellowship in full one day.

Lord, Thy glory is revealed
From faith to faith, on earth, but still
I want to see Thy face and live,
To see fulfilled that Thou forgives,

To walk with Thee, as with a friend
In glory that will know no end.
I wait in hope, for Thou art just,
And discipline my heart to trust.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quiet time found me perched on the dryer this morning. Not so much to “keep on top” of my laundry as to keep warm by virtue of the mountain I was running through that convenient machine.

My reading was cut short (which ironically, always makes me grumpy) by the entrance of Josiah and the looming importance of buying more firewood. Soon we were at our friendly, neighborhood woodcutter’s house, loading wood in the shivering drizzle, listening to his outlandish tales and watching his hyper antics and well-aimed spitting. He kept coming back to “there ain’t no girls like you around here”, etc, etc, which always leaves me feeling embarrassed and wishing to exhibit the divine attribute of invisibility. Before long it came out that his most recent relationship (not sure if they were even married) had just fallen apart and he was thinking he needed to straighten up his life (it’s pretty crooked) and start going back to church. Awkwardly, I handed him a tract with his check and we talked a bit about “religion” and Jesus and church. I knew I needed to bring it home, ask him if he considered himself a good person and launch out, but I just wanted to leave. Josiah bravely picked up the ball I dropped when I climbed in the truck and pressed him a bit harder, reminding him it’s not church that saves a man’s soul. Papa suggested we invite him out sometime and make an effort to reach out to him, especially now that he’s on his own again and expressing an interest in spiritual things. For some odd reason, the guy likes us.

Afternoon yielded an unexpected visit from Amber and her mom. They’d not been out since Judy slipped down our outside stairs and landed rather painfully on the soggy ground over Christmas break. Slowly and steadily the relationship is growing and I am coming to love and appreciate them both more and more.

Nathaniel and Lauren arrived in the early evening, carefully delivering an exuberant Grandma Lois as well as a bicycle for Lydia. I’ve not seen Grandma so upbeat in years. She laughed and talked and gushed like a completely different person. She’s been so excited about this trip she’d planned, packed and even had her car loaded days in advance. I’m so glad it worked out for her to come. Lauren brought me a couple of boxes of apple dishes—which I will be forced to store indefinitely until I either marry and need them or find someone else who is married and needs them. Why should I complain? She bought them for me, in hope, several years ago and has been patiently storing them since. Now she’s married and doesn’t need them.

As I read through the decorating of the tabernacle I was reminded of some thoughts I’d had on the topic in the past, relating to modesty. As our bodies are temples of God, and His temple was covered in hangings of linen, blue, purple and scarlet, so we should be covered—nicely, tastefully, neatly. I also found myself intrigued by the consecration of the priests: through washings, sacrifice and clothing. As a kingdom of priests, we’ve also been sanctified and set apart through similar symbols: washed of our sins through the sacrifice of God’s Son and clothed in His righteousness! Another item of note: the priests ate of the sacrifices—even as we partake of Jesus through communion in remembering His death. “This is my body—take and eat.” I’m curled up on the couch, swathed in military blankets, the lamp burning dimly as I finish up before tucking in to sleep. My heart is singing, “Behold, bless ye the Lord! All ye servants of Yahweh who serve by night in the house of Yahweh. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless Yahweh!”

Lord, how can I bless Thy name
When ‘tis Thy name that blesses me?
I raise my hands. I raise my voice.
I bubble over. I rejoice!

If I tell to everyone
The wondrous things which Thou has done,
And how Thy grace has so blessed me,
The telling is what blesses Thee.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

There must be some sort of ducts underneath parts of the floor at the dental clinic. A few of the tiles sounded hollow as I walked across them. /End random observation.

I waded through the halls of a public school today for the first time in my life. Not that I’ve never been in one. I have—a measly couple of times—but never very deep, never into a classroom, never during a class period, and certainly never as a guest speaker before. As one troupe of kids filed in I overheard an enthusiastic black boy demand, “Do we have a new student and a guest speaker?” “Actually,” the coach corrected, “We have two guest speakers.” Technically, we had a guest speaker and a guest speaker in training present at the Junior High, presenting a video on abortion and the choices involved—starting from the ground up with relationships. The kids soaked it up, asking tons of questions and paying careful attention. Except for during the movie when many of the boys covered their heads and couldn’t bear to look at the pictures of dismembered infants. Honestly, I never expected it to affect them so strongly. Don’t they all watch violent movies, play violent video games and make crude jokes? “That’s terrible,” one jockish looking boy choked, “Killing babies! That’s murder! Why don’t they go to jail for that?” Why don’t they? Because judges play God, insisting they have the right to decide who may live and who may not. Oh, by the way, though, it’s terrible, terrible to inflict the death penalty on convicted serial murderers. Forget prosecuting abortionists. Besides, removing those who inconvenience us is hardly considered murder anymore. I mean, really. Life’s not sacred because, sheesh, humanity was all a big accident anyway. But just show a few pictures to a classroom of fourteen-year-olds and they’re demanding justice. “The idiots!” several exclaimed. “As if anyone can’t tell that’s killing babies.”

The head coach who’d invited us had excitedly told us how she could see it’s already helping. “I know of five babies born this year, “ she said, “where the girls said they couldn’t abort after watching that movie. Those are just the ones who specifically told me!” Great, I pasted on a smile. Five babies? At least? In a Junior High? For starters, I made a mental note of the marker-board hanging on the wall of the health classroom we were using. “This week’s goal” it read: “Identify and describe all the parts of the male reproductive system.” And after sitting through a student advisory, my faith had turned to sight. If I’d be reporting to a superintendent, I’d have scribbled: completely out of control. I wanted to knock half a dozen boys’ heads together and then give the teacher a thorough talking-to on the topics of consistency and maintaining order. I thought the pictures of paper airplanes flying, notes passing, kids sitting on desks giggling were caricatures. Paste the word “naïve” on my forehead and send me to the wolves. Shai Linne’s song “School Daze” could hardly be labeled an exaggeration.

During the past several weeks of self-absorption and whining I neglected to mention several blessings, one being the restoration of our dishwasher, due to Papa’s cleverness and previous experience as an appliance repair man. “Hmm,” he said, lifting the float. Bingo! Perhaps even I could learn to fix dishwashers.

After much prayer and deliberation (really, more like a little prayer and much delaying) I’ve decided I need to fall back and regroup in my Bible reading. Somewhere toward the end of Exodus I lost focus, lost perspective, lost clarity. I know the five books of the law are profitable for me in some way, and I am determined to open my heart and mind to the Holy Spirit. David said, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from Thy law!” This afternoon I read again about the building of the tabernacle, God’s abode among men, and the filling of the ark of the testimony. Shortly after the death of Jesus, the temple was destroyed and the ark has been missing since—in fact, it wasn’t even present at the time of Christ’s death, if I’m not mistaken. Under the new covenant, we are God’s tabernacle—His dwelling on earth. Literally, the ark of the testimony means simply that it was a container to hold testimonies of God. As I pondered this, pieces began to come together in an interesting pattern. We are to be witnesses of God’s glory and where can we store this testimony but in our hearts? “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Not only that, but Hebrews speaks of having our hearts sprinkled by the blood of Jesus, just as the priest used to sprinkled the mercy seat over the ark of the covenant. In every heart where Jesus, the great high priest, has sprinkled His blood, God is pleased to meet us in mercy. Inside our ark of testimony we have several interesting objects: the two tablets containing God’s law, a jar of manna and Aaron’s staff that budded. What more fitting? “I have hidden Thy word in my heart.” God’s law is summed up, Jesus said in two commandments: Love Yahweh with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself. The jar of manna? Jesus said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will never die.” Aaron’s staff was a sign to the people of Israel that God had chosen him to serve in the temple as priest—he and his descendents forever. We are a royal priesthood! A people chosen to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light! What is the testimony that I should store in my heart as evidence of God’s presence in my temple? Jesus, the bread of life; God’s law, His word of truth; and my undeniable ability to approach Almighty God, through the way made clear by Jesus His Son, and offer myself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable and perfect. Jesus, His word and worship.

Lord, Thou filled my ark with precious things
And Thou hast made Thy people priests and kings!
Thou fills us with life-giving bread,
Writes a law that leaves sin dead,

And places all beneath Thy mercy seat,
Sprinkled through Thy sacrifice complete.
Once, through a flood, an ark brought man and wife--
This ark holds my security through life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I have nothing meritorious of my whining today. Well, besides the charming burn blistering my arm, courtesy of the leaky iron in the Sweetest Suite. Even my time with Amber was outstanding as we worked our way through the whole epistle of First John.

My word for the day is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous they way my emotions have turned into a world-class roller-coaster ride. If I keep this up, I’m going to make myself motion sick. Up, down, up, down. Whoops! There’s a loop-da-loop! Don’t lose your soup! I must know: Am I floundering because I am losing focus, or because I am being attacked? Am I being attacked because I am weak…or because I am becoming strong? Or because I am losing focus? Is the intensity with which I feel everything, shall we say, healthy? Natural? Pleasing to the Lord? If not, how in the world can I gain control of my unwieldy feelings? How do I claim the victory and conquer through Christ the minute the temptation strikes?

People talk to me. Maybe because I walk around grinning like the Cheshire Cat, completely oblivious to wise precautions about who to avoiding eye-contact. The sun was shining, the day was warm, yesterday is over, past, gone, done, fine’, kaput and God is good. Ladies in thrifts shops stopped me to ask for fashion advice, an old guy in Wal-mart thought I was talking to myself until I showed him my blue-tooth, a little Japanese girl in the Tech library shuffled over to where I worked, shyly asking for help. “Do you know how I can log into the internet?” She handed me her miniature laptop and I blinked at the desktop. A confusing network of black lines stared at me, interspersed with the few familiar icons with which I managed to successfully pick my way over the dangerous morass of a Japanese computer.

Every single chance I missed today. The farthest I managed with the lady in the thrift shop was some lame comment about God making a gorgeous day. The old guy in Wal-mart, well, he probably went to church somewhere anyway. The Japanese girl? Eee. I have such a hard time talking to them! I can barely understand anyone who doesn’t speak perfect English—meaning, my version of English. Worst of all, this morning I got down on my knees and prayed that the Lord would send me opportunities. Even in the moment, I knew He was answering my prayer. Why did I disobey? If I lived in the wild, wild west they’d brand me a yellow-bellied coward. I can talk about wanting to see those mansions filled, but what am I actually doing?

I’m such a wimp. Excuse me while I go beat myself up.

Lord, how patient You must be.
You answer each specific plea
Tied up in paper, with a bow
And I pretend I didn’t know.

I push aside Your giving hand
Insisting, “You don’t understand!”
I scorn the gift You’ve heaven sent.
Please spank me, so I will repent.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Today was supposed to be wonderful—beautiful. Lauryn’s recital is tonight. The sun is shining. Everything is beautiful. I am at peace, in love with the Lord, seeing His working, enjoying His power. Until the most horrible thing I can imagine happened. Precious Savior, what kind of tricks are you playing on me? I’m clinging to what I know, trying to convince myself of the truth: You don’t play tricks. If this is what You need to do to break me, to make me perfect in Your image, I must accept it. You’ll have to handle the gladly part of that, because it’s not coming for me.

Lord, could there be an agony
Greater than what faces me?
My heart and soul have turned to stone,
Yet I am still Thy precious own

Bought through an agony so great
Thou spilled Thy drops of blood as sweat.
Beside Thy grief, my own is weak.
I am Thy own. That’s all I seek.


They left me home alone. I sobbed all morning, curled up tight, sheltering my head with my arms. Then I dashed out of the house and down the trail, running like the wind. Finally, worn out and determined to stop crying, to forget it, to let it go, since I can’t change it, I showered, washed my face and made up a to-do list for the day. But just when I think I can get busy and distract myself with a project, my distraction meets a dead-end. I’ve prayed through my prayer chain, I’ve played through several hymns on trusting and sung praises at the top of my lungs. Anything to keep me focused on something else. Anything to drive my assailants away. I’m left clinging to my only hope: Jesus. He loves me. He cares for me. He purchased me with His blood. He is refining me. This is a part of His vast, eternal plan for my perfection, for my sanctification. All things work for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. He’ll buy back even the most horrible day and make it beautiful in His time and His way.

Lord, my heart can only cling
To Thee, it seems that everything
Will yield against the storms like this;
Betray my soul with one small kiss.

So stand and raise Thine arms on high,
Wake my Savior, lest I die!
Calm the winds and calm the waves.
Thou art God who makes and saves.


I’ve been through the gamut of emotions now and have at last settled into a deadly calm. I just came in from a walk (yes, another). It’s a startlingly beautiful day, so I stood in the meadow, praying first, then absorbing, meditating and finally praising. Warm wind caressing my face and toying with my hair sent little shivers of peace down my spine. This is just an awkward bump in the road to becoming a gracious woman, and will teach me so much more patience and humility with others. No? Fifty years from now I’ll look back and laugh. In eternity, it won’t even matter. Learn from it, I must. Be knocked down by it? Never.

Not while Jesus holds my hand.

Already He has been by my side. I’ve spent the entire day humbled before Him, in communion with Him, singing to Him and praying to Him. Isn’t this the result I beg for? Who am I to question the route? If it takes days like this to drive me close to Him, I must learn to welcome them joyfully, to embrace them whole-heartedly and to live in them knowing He is at work in me both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Lord, I stand before Thee now.
I humbly and contritely bow
Since that is what Thou seeks of me,
I come to Thee on bended knee.

I worship and adore my Lord--
Thou deserves to be adored--
Forgetting worry, fear and shame
In wonder at Thy matchless name.


Lauryn’s recital was fun, beautiful and brilliant—just like her. Watching her on stage, I felt so small, childish and second-rate. She’s a beautiful, mature woman. I’m just a little girl, but right now it’s okay to be small and childish if I can climb up in my heavenly Father’s lap and lay my head against His chest. Which I’m doing, and I’m gaining strength, gaining momentum, gaining confidence in Him and His work. Nothing He does is less than perfect—once finished. I am no exception.

Lord, I’ve built my life on Thee
And need not fear the raging sea.
Those around me scorn and talk
But I am safe upon Thy rock.

Solid through the storms of time,
For Thou art greater, more sublime
Than ageless time, much less this breath
I call my life—until my death.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tabitha shared an interesting tidbit with me tonight, as we quoted from Revelation twenty-one. In the New Jerusalem, if only twenty-five percent of the Holy City were used for dwellings, there would be adequate room for twenty billion people. What a completely new aspect to “in My Father’s house are many mansions.”

I want to see those mansions full.

I want the world to see Yahweh working, changing lives, breaking hearts, healing souls, every day like He did tonight. I found a friend weeping on his face before the Lord, praising God for the breaking, for the answer to his prayers. “Praise God with me,” he whispered. “I knew God answered prayer, but not mine. I’d prayed and prayed for this. Tonight it came. God answers prayers. God answers my prayers.” In a moment crystalline with God’s powerful grace, what have I to say or do? Simply this: witness. Witness and write.

Lord! My spirit’s overwhelmed
With Thee.
I have not words to praise
Thy majesty.

To compare Thy attributes
To things I see or touch
Would fall so short.
Thou art too much.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some people sing in the shower. I’m likely the only weirdo who writes songs in the shower…and then watches helplessly as they slip down the drain, lost in the sewer of thoughts gone by. In a desperate attempt to salvage my melting muse, I threw on my bath robe, wrapped a towel around my soggy hair and dashed out to my desk and the drawer full of blank paper pads. I wound up appearing late for supper, but discovered tolerance through my embarrassed excuse: “A song showed up to talk and just wouldn’t go away.” I suppose that’s better than past meals, where I’d leap from the table, knocking over my chair, and dash to my desk for a mad scribble before the lines had marched by and vanished into the distance. Were I to sit down at my desk, faced with a blank page, an empty hour and the command to compose, I could come up with absolutely nothing. Capricious is this writing urge. Unpredictable. Untamable. Unstoppable. And I have yet to grasp the eternal purpose.

Once upon a time, men who loved the Lord scribbled madly in response to His Holy Spirit, and we now hold the most precious mirror in the world—better than any “mirror, mirror on the wall.” In these writings we see God’s eternal purpose of bringing glory to His name by creating and then redeeming fallen man, and we see ourselves reflected back in truth. Fallen. Sinful. Helpless. Enemies of God. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, I am purchased, raised, made righteous, a friend of God. These loyal scribes stood by, recording God’s words, His deeds, His power, His love. That’s what I want to be: faithful to record God’s work, God’s moving, God’s presence.

Savior, sing the precious love song
Spelling out eternity
That I might somehow catch the strains
And sing it back to Thee.

I’ve nothing new to write in praise
For Thou the Ancient King of Days
Has taught my lips and schooled my tongue
To praise Thy everlasting Son.

Spirit, capture every effort
That I make to magnify
Work Thy will to make it holy,
Pleasing to my God on High.

Where might I look to offer ought
But what Thy precious blood has bought?
Once Thou formed my inward parts
Again, Thou purchased back my heart.

God Almighty, Abba, Father
Hear and answer this my plea:
Thou sent Thy Final Word to earth,
May He speak through even me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tonight I accomplished something of rare and immense proportions. I choked on a yawn. I spluttered helplessly for agonizing minutes before recovering and the best offer of help I received from my amused audience was a resounding thump on the back from Josiah.

With an energetic plop, Josh seated himself at the piano, demanding that I teach him to play “something beautiful.” Such a demand is quite beyond me, though I determined to give it my best. He’s a natural. With a little explanation I had him building chords and picking out scales. If I’m not mistaken I promised him regular lessons. One of these days my enthusiastic nature is going to get me in over my head. Oh wait. It already has. Most embarrassing is the fact that I must be one of the worst pianists out there. How am I supposed to teach what nobody ever taught me? My version of music theory is this: play whatever sounds good. If it doesn’t sound good, just keep trying until you find something that does. This is a perfect explanation for why all my songs sound the same: I found something that sounded good. Once.

Forward. Move forward. I’ve developed a mantra, as I climb back out of the valley into the heights. If I were asked, “How do you know God exists,” my jaw would drop to keep my feet company and my shock could power a factory. Those whom the Lord has carried can never doubt Him. At least not doubt His existence. I find I am still all to inclined to doubt His wisdom. Why’d He ever write the book of Numbers and place it in the Holy Canon, anyway? Why am I here, now, doing this? Move forward. Move forward. But right now, in my rush to be doing things, is it possible I’m missing something? Jesus bid His disciples watch and pray in the garden. They should have been savoring those last moments with Him. They should have been pouring out their hearts and souls to God to strengthen them for the hour to come, even as Jesus was doing. I’m in a terrible hurry to get on to the next thing. God knows best. I need the present to prepare me for the future.

Lord, Thy ways are always best
So if Thou bids me feed and rest
Then I will feed and rest and pray:
Enjoy Thy presence now—today.

Who knows what troubles may increase,
Or when again I’ll know such peace?
I’ll sit and listen at Thy feet,
And of this bread of life I’ll eat.

Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14, 2008

I never know what sort of opportunities will be offered me. Holly, our contact with the BibleLeague just called me to see if I’d be interested in an internship with their Africa department. Nobody has to tell me anymore that Papa can’t bear to part with me—especially not to vanish across the world, even in a cause as good as this one, but I suggested she e-mail me the information and I’d pass it on.

My very special Valentine date showed up in time to help me finish the cheesecakes for supper. She wore a pink shirt, her amazing curls were gelled to perfection and over her shoulder was slung a teacher’s bag with concept cards and children’s books. Miss Emily and I have an interesting habit of reading children’s books together. What can you expect? One is a teacher. The other is a children’s writer.

Emily for supper is the best thing about Valentine’s Day. My feelings regarding this hoax of a holiday typically run something along the lines of cynical amusement. Shall we profess our love with cheap paper hearts, melting chocolate and sugared candy? "My little children, stop just saying you love one another. Prove it!" God demonstrated His love toward us by pouring out the blood of His only begotten Son. “Be mine?” we ask, offering flowers that will fade and die. “Be mine?” He offers us the unfading crown of glory, eternal life with Him. Our version of love at this time of year has faded to a worthless charade. When will we wake up and recognize that God is love? That love is sacrifice--of ourselves.

Lord, Thou art the perfect love
Who casts out worry, doubt and fear
And tears the temple curtain down
And beckons helpless souls draw near.

Love, as Thou hast shown this world
Is rarely pretty, never cheap.
The law of love is carved in blood:
The shepherd dies for wandering sheep.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I’ve discovered the best way to get through Lowe’s in a timely manner. The only way, probably. I call this new game plan: Find Zach. I picked up Miss Emily for a companion in running Mom’s errands. Arrived at Lowe’s we were greeted by none other than Welchy himself, who made sure we found the person we needed, the caulking we needed and even opened another register just to check us out. “Young lady, I need to see your ID,” he quipped as I slid Mom’s debit card. “Are you Lane or Marcia?”

The Lord’s lovingkindness was new and overwhelming today. It would seem strange and unbelievable that always, when I come to the end of my rope and cry out to Him, He answers--almost immediately—if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been told to expect that. Jacinda and I were conversing as I pulled up to Amber’s. “I’ve been praying for you,” she told me. “Really? Thanks! Mind praying a bit more? I’m here.” After knocking, I made a characteristic dash behind the stairwell. It’s tradition now, that I knock and then hide. Amber would be disappointed if she ever opened the door and found me standing there like any normal person. By the time I left the house I was floating and clouds of puffy whiteness and strumming a harp while singing God's praises. At lunch Jacinda asked me how it went. “Great!” was my fervent response. A grin broke out across her face. “I was praying for you,” she said. “First I was praying that God would just let you get through it, and that it didn’t have to be the best time ever, but just better than last week. Then I stopped myself. What was I thinking? I started praying that He would be present and that it would be an amazing time of encouragement. I figured I ought to pray for what I really hoped.” Lauryn and April joined us for lunch, and I found myself reveling at last in some “girl time”.

“You probably don’t remember us,” Jim and Gloria made excuses for me, after arriving at our house tonight. We knew them from the days of my infancy—the Gospel Chapel in Hutchinson, Kansas. “Yes, I do,” I defended myself, and began describing to them the breathing treatments they’d give Rachel, James’ piano playing, their dog Muffin and the house they lived in, right down to the wood flooring in the upstairs where we played hide-and-seek. I easily grasp and recall images—faces, moments in time, outfits, scenes—like snapshots in an interminable mental album. Oh, but those little tasks my Papa gives me slip through the cracks and fall neglected in my memory.

As a final touch to the day, Nathaniel called to chat with me on his way home from Kansas. A chat is defined as a two-hour conversation on every topic in the books—with a definite focus on recording and music. Soon I was caught up in pleasant memories of the days before his marriage, even the night before he arrived in Texas when I talked to him until the wee hours of the morning to keep him awake as he drove, having sent his sickly bride on to bed. Sometimes six months feels as if it were six years. And sometimes I get overwhelmed with sentimentality. Sometimes being defined as very occasionally.

If I were a truly talented writer, I’d be able to sum the whole day up in one word. As a talented-writer-wannabe, I’ll make an attempt: encouraging. Uplifting. Amazing! That was three. I guess I’ll never be a truly talented writer. But I’m something better. I’m alive with the joy of the Lord.

Lord, I often hesitate
To batter down Thy temple gate
With praise and worship for Thy deeds,
Yet this is what my spirit needs.

Today, I’ll take Thy court by storm,
And magnify Thy perfect form
Thy mighty works, Thy priceless words.
Today Thy praises will be heard!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Lord is merciful indeed. At this moment I feel calm, at peace and rested, like a weaned child leaning against her mother. Torrents of tears subsided, confusion wiped away, struggles laid down at the feet of the all-powerful, all-knowing God. He hands me my broken heart, now mended with His mercy, and I place it back in His hands for safe-keeping, praying only that there it will remain until eternity.

I buckled on my armor this morning, determined to fight my way through the throngs of enemy to the sanctuary of praise and the mercy seat of Almighty God. A heroic attempt, perhaps, though rather misguided. I flung out, swinging wildly, madly and without much direction, stumbling, blinded by tears and constantly beaten down. Each step of the way the enemy pounded me with accusations, distractions, discouragements and lies, and under every blow I crumbled and wept. Every tear was captured in God’s bottle, to be wiped from my heart some day when I stand before Him.

My heart sank to the floor when Papa called me to say that Taylor was coming over for supper and to get some Bible questions answered. I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice. I tried to echo it. Inside I wanted to curl up and cover my head and give up without reaching God’s temple. The last thing I wanted tonight was company—especially not a guy—especially not Taylor, steady Taylor, one of the few guys I actually admire, one of the only guys I’m honestly half scared of.

Papa invited any of us to join their discussion, but I sought refuge in Josiah’s room, playing his drums. I felt weaker than stone soup, used up emotionally, and it wasn’t long before I quit, bravely trekked through the dining room where they still discoursed and made it safely to my own haven, where I knelt under the merciless attack of the enemy. How long I cowered, arms protecting my head, tears cutting canyons down my face, I don’t know. As I cried out to my Savior He came, cutting assailants left and right with the Word of His mouth, shattering fears, doubts and worries, sending light and warmth into the darkness of my heart. As He gathered me in His arms and carried me back toward His sanctuary of praise, He hushed me, and I leaned my head against Him. “I’ve got you,” He whispered, and the truth dawned on me, bright and pure. He’s got me. I’m His. I’m safe. The enemy can’t touch me. How could the enemy bring an accusation? My judge is my justifier. How could the enemy distract me? He is in all things and in Him all things hold together. How could the enemy discourage me? I don’t hope in myself—I hope in the Lord, who is the lifter up of my countenance. How could the enemy convince me of lies? I know the Truth.

Why did I embark on my battle alone? Determined to make my way to God. My Savior is the way. When I cry to Him, He is there. I am His temple. Wherever I am, I can seek Him and find that He is always on His mercy seat, extending to me the golden scepter of life.

Lord, I sought Thee and I found
That accusations can’t confound
When I am safe within Thy arms.
Free from doubt and sin’s alarms

I stand before Thee and I know
My enemy Thou overthrows
Today, just as Thou triumphed when
Thou rose and conquered death and sin.

Monday, February 11, 2008

“Well, hello,” Miss J mimicked my phone answering, informing me I sound exactly like a Cinderella doll her girls have. I haven’t yet decided how I feel about this resemblance.

I’m a wimp. It’s embarrassing, disappointing and true. I started out this morning on a liquid fast, complete with good intentions to spend the day on my knees seeking breakthrough. I prayed. A little. After fixing quiche I wimped out and ate supper. Mostly because I didn’t want to try to explain myself. I wasn’t even hungry.

The passage Tabitha and I quoted tonight hit home, with comfort and hope. As Jesus revealed the New Jerusalem to the disciple whom He loved, He said, “These words are faithful and true: Behold! I make all things new!” Then He continued, describing the Holy City—there God will be among His people and He will wipe the tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more pain. Those things will have passed away. Future perfect tense, because the future will be perfect. My thoughts strayed to the Psalms where David pleaded for the Lord to take account of his wanderings. “Put my tears in Your bottle,” he pleaded, then continued with confidence, “Aren’t all my tears written in Your book?” The Lord is as eager for the day when all is new as are we. He is as eager to pour out His mercy on us, to wipe our tears away. He is waiting patiently, not willing that any should perish, for the day when we will be in His presence and know fullness of joy.

Lord, my tears have filled Thy jar
And Thy return cannot be far
Then Thou shalt wipe all weeping eyes
And bring us laughter from our sighs

For in that day, from death we’re free!
And greater, Lord, we’ll gaze on Thee
And lift our hearts and raise our voice.
In Thy presence, we rejoice.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I can’t remember the last time I found myself on a tennis court facing Josiah across a low-slung net. Returning Nick to campus offered Josiah and I an excuse to try out the new sports complex, complete with row after row of tennis courts, which we did with great enjoyment before being thrown out. Apparently we really weren’t supposed to be there. So instead of slamming bright green balls at each other over a dropping net, we tailed Tim around campus and at last landed in Nathan’s room, where I felt as out of place--the only female--as a tuna fish in a school of sharks.

A rather dismal cloud drifted over an otherwise beautiful afternoon, when we received a phone call from the church back home, informing us that eight-month-old Emily Roberts had passed out of this world this morning. I never had the chance to meet her. How can I, just passed from girlhood to womanhood, begin to mourn the passing to eternity which skipped so many stages? How can I ever comprehend the reasons of an all-knowing God for calling her away from her family so early? Only this can I offer: They loved her. He loves her more.

Lord, questions fall unuttered,
Complaints and bitterness unmuttered
When I stop and gaze at Thee.
Eternal purpose, there, I see.

Not purpose that explains the past
Or builds up rules of hard and fast
But when I stop and gaze at Thee
I see Thou lovest more than me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sunbathing might seem to require exposed skin, but today was just beautiful enough to allow for soaking up vitamin D—through a layer of cotton. Sadly, that was the most notable occurrence of the entire twenty-four hours we affectionately term “Saturday”. The rest of the day was spent rather uneventfully in laboring over chainsaws that lazily refused to work, and organizing the dusty barn.

At long last I found words and music to express some thoughts spinning through my mind the past few days as I try to reconcile the simplicity of the gospel with the necessity of holy living. As Paul tells us in Romans, the grace of the Lord is not our license to sin and David confirms that no man can by any means redeem his brother. We must claim God’s unmerited favor for ourselves, and when we have grasped it, we will walk in newness of life.

The grace of the Lord must be your own.
You’re not saved through the faith that another has shown,
But if you should wander so far from home
The grace of the Lord can still find you.

So seek the Lord while He may be found.
Call His name while He might be near.
The humble sinner who falls to the ground
Will find that the Lord of grace will hear.

Grace is greater than all our sin.
Grace will teach us to enter in
To the way of faith that the humble have trod.
God’s grace will lead us to God.

So if you have chosen to humbly implore
God’s grace and His mercy to open the door
That you may enter His rest ever more,
May the grace of our Lord be with you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Empty nest syndrome is technically supposed to be limited to homing pigeons, right? Call me bird-brained, if you like, but I’m feeling rather lonely without many of the regulars. Zach seems to have vanished up the flue like a reverse Santa, and when Taylor called this evening to say that he and Nathan were going to dinner with Tim, who is back for a visit, I knew we’d be alone tonight, with no one to give Nick a ride out. We whipped up a sort of jam session regardless, and I contented myself with bongos since my voice has gone the way of the buffalo. On the heels of our attempted singing, we cracked open Pilgrim’s Progress and continued our own progress alongside Christian and Faithful as they met up with Talkative and bandied words with him a while.

Through the haze of distant English and confusing conversation, Bunyan made a fascinating point regarding the laws of clean and unclean. “Animals that both chew cud and split the hoof.” It’s not enough, he held, to chew cud, to talk of God and the work and word of God, of salvation, of holiness and of the walk. The hoof must also be cloven, the pathway walked, in order to be clean and a fit sacrifice for God.

Lord, I chew upon Thy word
But has my heart both heard and heard?
Or has the power of Thy text
Been lost upon my intellect?

Teach me to seek out Thy truth,
Not as a psychologic proof
But, that I would both chew and eat
And, reading, motivate my feet.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Above the perfect line of floral wallpaper border, the clear, blue sky gaped in at me, as I stood, pouring hot coffee for a tornado refugee. I can still hardly believe the terrible damages I saw and heard. Fatalities, something very rare back in Tornado Alley, where I was born and grew up. Incidentally, we’d all had basements or storm shelters. Here a woman showed me her tiny, windowless bathroom, the only room still intact, and the blessed haven of seven bodies through the tornadoes that swept away so many homes Tuesday. I rejoiced to discover that she also had a more secure haven for her soul.

I’d barely finished running Mom’s errands when I answered a phone call from Audrey, asking if I could come help with Salvation Army relief out in the tornado zone. A short time later we were also joined by Mom, Josiah and Lydia and trooped out to the disaster area, laden with soup, cinnamon rolls and hot coffee and chocolate. If I’d known before-hand I’d have come decked out in worker-girl clothes and dived in to help clean-up. Instead I shuffled down debris crusted streets, offering food and drinks to refugees and workers alike. Since I don’t work for the Salvation Army, I feel at liberty to confide that I would have much rather walked in as a nobody and gotten dirty helping, than in an enormous logo-encrusted polo shirt, dancing around for publicity shots and trying to toss in that phrase “Salvation Army” so folks would know who their Good Samaritan was while toting luke-warm coffee and hot chocolate to folks who’ve already had lunch. And I found myself shying away from the half a dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters who were there only for the story. Caleb, one of my gradeschool-age accomplices was snagged by KARK 4 for a live interview. “Hold up your donuts like you’re proud of them!” the exuberant reporter instructed him. Then he wiped the enthusiasm from his face, replacing it with a feigned sympathy for the poor, poor people who had lost so much. He’d even duded himself up in waders for the occasion—didn’t he just look the part? What a lot of good was hampered by those rat-sniffing media moguls and competing charities. That’s right: competing charities. Well-meaning charities who help people so that people would see what they’re doing and give them more money so they can go help more people. We’ve fallen so short of the left hand unaware of the right hand’s doing.

Lord, teach me to serve and give,
To take my life and truly live
In sacrifice before Thy throne
That Thou might claim my deeds Thine own.

Teach my lips to speak, my eyes
To shed the tears Thy Spirit cries.
Thou loved the world through Thy Son.
Love through me, O Holy One.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I crawled out of bed to get ready for a day in town, but when I opened my mouth to ask my reflection how it felt, my voice came rattling out like a rusted chariot. The bit of a cold I contracted after ranging about in the sleet last Thursday seems to have compounded with the thorough soaking I received at the hands of the elements last night and both have conspired to make me sound much worse than I actually feel. I opted for crawling back into bed again.

After a call from Justus Penka, our favorite milkman, Josiah bundled up and loaded his chainsaw to help out some folks with tornado damage near Atkins. Before it was all over, we wound up inviting the Penkas to stay for homemade pizza at the end of a long day. As I packed up my necessary items for a trip into town tomorrow, I eavesdropped on Papa’s conversation with Justus as he asked about Olga—how was it different here for her than it had been in Russia? Justus shared the plight of the Russian people, boxed into cities with no life, no freedom and therefore an overabundance of alcohol. As he talked, I glanced at my desk where I’d tossed a BibleLeague letter, pleading for funds for those seeking Christ in Russia. My heart is drawn toward this land—hearing the stories from Olga, Don and Taylor. Foolishly they drew the iron curtain closed in an attempt to block the light of the Son. Now they live in darkness, despair and desolation.

But those who walked in darkness have seen a great light…

Lord, Thou art the light of life
Thou shines on darkness, pain and strife
And bids those lost within their walls
To seek Thy name and humbly call.

The maze of sin which swallows man
Lies open, bare, before Thy hand.
Thy light, which is the world’s life
Can safely lead through pain and strife.

Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Other states planned caucuses this year. Arkansas is stuck with the primary pattern—today was Super Tuesday. My first presidential primary. During highschool years I became a frequent visitor to the political website of Representative Ron Paul, from Texas, in search of the perfect evidence for the perfect case. When the campaigning first started I said, “If he’d run, I’d vote for him.” Imagine my delight when he announced his campaign. A Christian should be in subjection to the governing authorities, and the United States constitution is the highest law in the land. Dr. Paul has always taken seriously his vow to uphold and defend the constitution. In spite of gainsayers who insisted that, though the best man, he didn’t have a chance (imagine how different our outcomes might be, should everyone vote principle) I put in my plug for the “best man”. Now, I know I’m no voting veteran, but I do remember tailing Mom into the voting booths in Topeka—behind curtains—and helping pull the lever on the huge, old metal machines. And at the last Kansas election, nearly two years ago I secluded myself behind a small curtained area in the courthouse basement to use the electronic devices which caused the veteran voters to stare suspiciously. This year I sloshed through the rain into a tiny rural fire station, presented my ID and was handed a ballot and directed to a banquet table a couple of feet away. Several other voters soon joined me as we quickly filled in the circle of our choice and slid our ballots through the slot of the counting machine. Privacy? Who needs privacy? This is Arkansas.

Josiah and I headed out in search of the elusive perfect lawnmower, to end our mowing woes. Actually, we found it, in the midst of a torrential downpour that soaked us to the skin. Backing the pick-up into the ditch we drove the new Murray up the tailgate and strapped it in place before handing the previous owner a rather soggy check. Layers of clothing avail very little against a determined wetting, but I’ve never melted yet and hope I never will.

Everyone’s full of the news tonight: bad tornadoes in Atkins, three fatalities, cars strewn across I-40. Is it just me or is there an increasing number of natural disasters? On top of the regular fighting between selfish human beings. Combine this with the likelihood that we could end up with either a Communist woman or a Muslim man in national office—or both—and I’m praying for the Lord’s speedy return. The time seems ripe. Of course, Jesus might remind me that my time is always opportune.

Lord, Thy time is drawing near
I find it offers me no fear
But only rushing, eager longing.
Tarry not while I am calling!

I know it is Thy mercy, Lord,
In longing that men be restored
That makes Thee tarry yet today.
But, Come Lord Jesus, this I pray.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The sounds of military aircraft barely scraping the trees in one’s backyard are not overly comforting at 10 o’clock at night. On the heels of a bout of loneliness because everyone else had homework or other catch-up work claiming their attention, I found myself sitting down to write.

I will find the good in today, because it belonged to the Lord. Why should I be so discouraged these days? Why should I feel forgotten and alone? Why am I allowing the enemy to pursue and overtake me and beat me down? The Lord is my strength and song and He has become my victory!

In search of a much-needed break from Leviticus, that book of Law and Order, I spent several hours creating a “prayer chain”—scraps of colored cardstock clipped to a keychain and containing the folks I need to be praying faithfully for, as well as a ring of amazing verses about prayer, praise, promised blessings, holy living and the gospel, to keep with me and work on hiding in my heart for future reference. Already my "prayer chain" has several important, specific prayer requests. I need to e-mail Hannah, but I don't know what to say. And I need to call Amber, but I didn’t feel like talking. I heard Mom’s slippers pad-padding into my room and looked up to see a strange look on her face. “Aunt Helen and Paul were in a bad car wreck,” she said. They weren’t hurt, but it sure could have been nasty. Someone is looking out for them. Someone is giving me another chance to obey and share the gospel again. I need to e-mail Aunt Helen. It never slows down. It never stops. It’s a battle to the death—my death.

There is no more strength in my body, soul or spirit.

Lord, Thou must hear and heed
It is Thy power, Thy strength I need!
To do Thy work, to do Thy willing
I need Thy Holy Spirit’s filling

And convicting and His leading,
Hear my weakened spirit’s pleading
Be Thou mine as I am Thine
And turn my water into wine.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I’ve been wandering in a spiritual desert for days now, lost in Leviticus and floundering through my emotions. My emotions have been teetering on the edge of utter destruction since Thursday, assaulted by every possible discouragement. I feel stuck in a rut, lost here, not sure what I’m supposed to be doing while “at home”, wondering if anything I’m doing is more than wood, hay or stubble and will survive the fire of time. Wondering what the Lord has for me next and why He hasn’t brought it yet. Is it because I’ve not finished something or learned something or I’m not ready yet? If so, how do I prepare? What in the world am I supposed to be doing? Also looking around at everything I own, detesting my possessions, beginning to think that I should again empty my savings on the altar at the Lord’s feet. Didn’t He provide so that both my cameras now work splendidly? Aren’t those the cameras He generously provided? Why do I think I need a “better” one? Especially when a missionary could live for two years on the amount I’m hoping to spend on a camera.

I also found out yesterday that a good friend had made a foolish, God-dishonoring decision. Surprise could not be tagged onto my list of emotions, but I’d clung tenaciously to the hope that she would choose better than that. She stole a car and ran away in the middle of the night to stay who-knows-where in town before finally flying out today. Now I think of all the times the Spirit pricked me to challenge her salvation even, as well as her behavior and attitudes: the past year or two clearly demonstrates an attitude of selfishness. I can think of many times my mind and heart rebelled and I thought of ways I could throw off the chains that bind me to this household (so the Deceiver tells me). Ultimately my heart is softened and I am brought to repentance because I can’t bear to drag my Savior’s name through the dirt. By His mercy I pray I never give the enemy cause to blaspheme—by speedy repentance when I sin, even in thoughts. Watching her actions I whisper to myself, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” But still, deep inside bubbles a well of anger. How am I to sort out if it is righteous indignation or fleshly wrath? One is pure, the other sin.

This is not the way I want to live my life, defeated, discouraged, confused by other's actions and circumstances I can't control.

Discontentment. Restlessness. Discouragement. Unhappiness.

Boil it down into one word: selfishness.

I must cling to Jesus. Worship Jesus. Adore Jesus. Serve Jesus. Praise Jesus. Love Jesus. Speak of Jesus. Sing of Jesus. Think of Jesus. Dream of Jesus. Be consumed by Jesus so that there is no room for anything else.




Lord, Thou art the breath that fills me
Would that Thou in mercy kills me
E’er I might in folly wander
From the presence of Thy splendor.

Why does simply living tempt me
From the paths in which Thou leads me?
I beg the comfort of Thy rod—
Discipline Thy child, O God.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

If I hadn’t promised Amber I’d come into R-ville today, I’d have stayed at home and cuddled up in my bed to read. Chilly rain held out the promise of sleet and snow, so I bundled up right down to a stocking cap and boots. The snow waited until tonight to fall, and I know we’ll be waking up to a beautiful blanket of sparkling white and a sugar dusting on the pine trees.

I spent the morning shopping until I detested every single store in town. No one seemed available on campus, and when my phone rang it was Amber sounding like a choking frog on the other end. “I’m sick,” she informed me. “You better not come over.” I ran by Choices, planning to take my application in. Their hours claimed they were open, but clearly the hour-board was mistaken. Perhaps the electricity loss had put them out of business for the time being.

Campus finally greeted me, cold and lonely, in midafternoon as I headed to the library to deliver something from Lydia to Jacinda. I’d love an explanation for why everyone was having a hard week. Jacinda was wilting under a load of frustrations. Lauryn’s grandpa had a heart attack and her parents were gone. Shoko was simply stressed. April was super busy. Emily was lonely with Lindsey and Becki both gone. Somehow we’re all missing something, and I wasn’t feeling overly joyful myself to offer it to others.

What is the secret of rejoicing in all things? Perspective. But it’s so much easier to preach than practice. Feeling down? Remember all the blessings the Lord has poured out on us, both spiritual and temporal. The temporal may shift and change, the spiritual and carved in stone—white stones.

Lord, Thou bids me to rejoice
And lift to Thee a praise-filled voice,
But sometimes I find my voice to break
And then Thy praises I forsake.

Teach me to abide in Thee
A holy, living entity
That takes my sustenance from Thee
Rejoicing in eternity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Skipping a day in my journal is a phenomenon that usually indicates extraordinary circumstances. Yesterday was no exception. Late morning found me dumping all my photography equipment in a pile on my bed for sorting and inventory. “You have three cameras?” Lydia marveled. Actually, I had three almost cameras. All gifts. One only for parts. One given to me because the flash hot-shoe didn’t work. My favorite, precious Canon AE-1 refuses to respond to a cable release, and I feared it had kicked the bucket since it no longer would wind or fire—until I changed the battery. Mr. electrical whiz Josiah fixed the connections on the hot-shoe of the other and I know have two very good cameras. Loading the Canon, I headed outside for a long overdue shoot and was nearly swept off my feet by the rather gusty enthusiasm of Mr. Wind. Returning some time later I discovered the house dark and silent—not because it was deserted, but because the electricity was out—and remained out until after lunch today. Sixty-mile-per-hour winds we heard reported. With our electricity out and unable to write, play piano or work on the budget I decided to wash up the dishes only to discover naught but a trickle of water. It never crossed my mind that the well-pump runs on volts and amps as well.

Angela had made plans to come here for supper and to borrow my “movie making expertise” on a video she’s working on for a missions banquet. I’ll be an award-winning director yet. Sadly, since my real dream is simply to write children’s books. Devoid of both light and water, I called her up and asked if we could bring supper over to The Loft and work our movie magic there, to which she assented, unaware that she also was without electricity. Supper was compiled completely in the dark. In the middle of preparation, amid giggles (what else can you expect from three 20-something girls in the dark?) a moan of deepest agony escaped Mom. “No, no, no!” she wailed, to which we worriedly chorused, “What?” “I brought the container of corn instead of chicken!” We rushed over to the stove where the light from a scented candle bounced off of the hand mirror lodged in a toaster, casting a ring of faint golden light around the mystery dish. Issues aside, dinner was delicious, entertaining and romantically lit by about a half-million tea-lights.

Arrived home shortly after nine I became aware of another sad fact—my electric blanket also lacked the energy to keep me warm. I rummaged through my china cabinet/hope chest and the linen closet in my bathroom and slathered my bed with every blanket I could find. I slept warmly enough that getting up this morning seemed far more than unpleasant. “You looked like you could eat my head off at breakfast this morning,” Lydia confided later. “You looked that grumpy.” I hadn’t intended to look grumpy. Actually, I was more on the side of miserable—cold, sleepy, tired of the dark—than grumpy.

That’s my excuse for not writing last night. We all spent the rest of today “catching up” from yesterday and last night.

I’m behind in my Bible reading and losing momentum.

Lord, Thou conquered darkest night
And turned our darkness into light
That we could follow without fear
And now, through seeing, Thou art near.

And as we seek Thy righteousness
We find Thee waiting by to bless
Our path shines brighter than the dawn
And we can see how far we’ve gone.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Checking my e-mail revealed what was on Papa’s mind. The same Person Who laid it on my mind must have been at work in his heart as well. About the Choices program (which I had yet to bring up again) he wrote, “I think this would be a good outreach to the community, with you as the ambassador for our family. We’ll talk some more. Love, Papa.” I just finished scribbling in my best answers to the questions on the volunteer application. I’ll call Christy tomorrow for training. The rest will be in the Lord’s hands. I’m excited. I get to go to public school!

So often my heart cries out with Moses, “Lord, show me Thy glory! I want to see Thy face!” and the Lord answers, “You cannot see my face and live.” I know I’ll see Him in all His splendor someday—and then I will live to the fullness of my existence. As God sheltered Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand, He passed before Him proclaiming His name and character—His glory. “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquities, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” This is the God I worship. This is the glory of His name.

Lord, Thy name holds so much more,
It holds out hope forevermore,
For in Thy name, Thou promised me
That Thou forgives iniquity.

And in Thy name I see Thy plans,
For now Thou covers with Thy hand
Lest I should see Thy face and die,
Yet someday Thy face will grant life.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

“Dude! Cecil got saved!” is replaying over and over in my head. It helps of course that Papa is striding around the house repeating it as well. The enthusiasm is contagious. So is the language. We visited First Baptist in D-town with Zach (or he with us, to be technical) and got to hear the testimonies of a group of teens in whom the Lord is working—including Cecil, who is one week old in Jesus. The glory is all the Lord’s. In the words of Cecil himself, “God is just great!” Over and over again. Which actually is pretty Biblical. The guys are all part of Zach’s Bible study, which Josiah’s joined a few times, and the girls are gearing up for some time in the Word with Lindsey. As each of the teens stood up and shared what God had done in their lives and how He is at work in the school (“Even the locker room has changed,” said John. “Now we all just talk about Jesus.”), my mind kept coming back to Choices PRC and the abstinence program question that still dangles unanswered before me. Once I found myself resisting it, then slowly relenting as I suspected this might be something the Lord had for me. Tonight I saw that the Lord is alive and moves even in public schools. I met kids who I know will be allies from the audience. For the first time since Papa mentioned it to me last fall, I want to do this thing for the glory of God.

I need to broach the subject again with Papa and see what he’s thinking.

Papa’s decided to teach through Galatians on Sundays and started out with an overview from Acts of the history of the Galatian churches. He assigned us the task over overviewing the book itself for the purpose and theme of the letter. I’ll wager a guess based on the best of my memory abilities: The theme is the gospel is salvation through faith not through the works of the law, and the purpose is to awaken a group of believers who have become enamored with law-keeping—especially circumcision. As believers we are freed from the Mosaic law to keep the law of liberty—not to gain salvation, but as a result of it.

On the topic of Mosaic Law, I found myself immersed in it as I waded through the middle of Exodus. Somehow the rules and regulations there had always breezed by me. Quite simply they boil down to one word: responsibility. If we want to learn something from the Mosaic Law, that’s the first step: God wants us to take responsibility for our actions. Of course, it’s also the predecessor for the important truth that we can’t remedy some actions and are hopeless lost before God—without His merciful Son. It all comes back to God’s worthiness because He alone is both just and justifier.

Lord, Thy law can’t take my hand
And lead me to Thy promised land,
But it can drive my soul to Thee
And Thou leads to eternity.

And so I see Thy law, while good,
So often is misunderstood
And though it never is erased
It cannot substitute for grace.