Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back in the day, speech judges suggested I consider a career in TV or Radio broadcasting. Humorous, since I rarely pay attention to either. Nick had a brilliant idea for a new voice mail message for his cell phone—an important news flash about an escaped maniacal penguin which interrupted his usual greeting. Most entertaining were the friends who thought my voice was an actual automated recording.

I’d been attempting to play some rag-time when Sleeper arrived, guitar in tow, hoping for a jam session. It’s been too long since I’d played with a guitar. Leaning back in his chair, his feet propped on the piano bench, he dragged inspiration out of me with misinformed statements like: “You know what you’re doing. Just play!” Just when Sleeper’d be getting the hang of my chord progression, I’d change it up or throw in some off chord, just to see what he’d do. “If I ever record a CD,” he said, shaking his head at one point, “You’re playing piano.” To hear some real piano, he should play with Bruce. What he doesn’t realize is that I’ve never played like that before in my life and likely never will again. Perhaps that maniacal penguin has rubbed off on me.

My brother is a good man. His e-mail reply this morning tied up one issue in a neat little package to put away in my china cabinet for later. Lauren finished the task with a phone call in the afternoon. I know I over evaluate, and wind up only wrestling myself—a losing situation, it seems. Conversely, God’s grace can turn it on end for a win-win. Lauren even tossed out the possibility of co-authoring a book, or even a blog, devoted to exploring issues for godly women from both sides of the fence: singleness and marriage.

“They” say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. “They” have never learned the secret of contentment—I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Today I am the Lord’s single woman, living under my father’s protection, headship and guidance. Today I re-evaluated my life in light of honoring him and discovered it severely lacking as wish after wish, goal after goal of his came to mind that I had left incomplete or marked unimportant. If I want to embrace the Lord’s will, I must embrace my father’s ministry and do what I can to further it by serving him. The temptation to simply “try to do better” was strong, but the conviction that I should confess my negligence to him won out. To mentally decide to surrender is not to lay down one’s sword. Embarrassing it is that my dad and I communicate best through e-mails—but we are both visual. Write it out for us and we’ll get it. I wrote out for him how the Lord had used his teaching Sunday to convict me and then listed the things I could think of that I’d not finished, asking for his direction in them. His reply was a gracious and kind acknowledgement. Details will follow shortly.

The rest of the day I tried to bring closure to several dragging tasks he’d asked me to do. Every step of the way I ran headlong into brick walls. Someone needed me for this. Could I do that? Phone calls wouldn’t go through, customer service certainly didn’t seem interested in helping the customer. How am I supposed to fulfill my great aspirations of serving my dad if the rest of the universe doesn’t share them? Sit still and the day is calm, but start running and you’ll feel the wind tugging against you. But at the end of the day, it’s the one who ran into the wind who sleeps the soundest.

Yahweh, Thou art great and kind,
Thou will not leave my soul behind
When Thou dost gather those Thou loves
To carry us to Thee, above.

Yahweh, teach me to rejoice
And lift an ever thankful voice
To Thee, for Thou hast heard my prayers
And hushed and stilled all of my cares.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The hair on my fingers is now gone, thanks to the leaves and trash I burned in the incinerator. I heard a sizzle in my nest of messy hair, and clapped my hand over it, fearing I’d scorched my mop right off. No such luck. A good thing, or I might have been forced to make a standard fashion from the lime green wig Lydia and Leah dolled me up in earlier.

Bidding farewell to Dathan and Bruce left us in relative quiet. “It’s hard to get away from your family,” Bruce commented, sprawled on the pew, lingering long past his planned departure time. The whole way out to his truck, he and Josiah sparred and wrestled and he threw socks at Lydia. I’d already given up on successfully stomping his feet. One would think such “love” would drive him away more quickly.

Audrey’s arrival for lunch came packaged with an interesting bit of news. Wes has accepted a job at a clinic two hours away—they’ll be moving in June. This is the Wes and Audrey who have hosted the college kids since Nathaniel’s freshman year, who prayed that we would move down here. Now they’re moving away. RussVegas won’t be the same without them. The very “things” that brought us here are slowly dwindling—just tools the Lord used to affect our move? Is our presence here only a phase?

Part of my untangling process include a lengthy e-mail to Nathaniel and Lauren. As I worked my way through my confusion, writing around in circles, the clouds of doubt and distress began to dissipate. God’s goals are not so vague as worry would have them appear. His Word proved faithful, comforting, strengthening, encouraging, exhorting and by the time I’d finished typing, my way seemed almost clear. Perhaps they, too, will have some valuable insights.

Deuteronomy wrapped up with a beautiful set of blessings from Moses, to the people of Israel, much of which was simply a reminder of God’s promises and God’s character. What a beautiful truth that God’s character, in and of itself, is a profound blessing. There is no God besides Yahweh, who puts to death and gives life, who wounds and heals, who takes hold of justice to render vengeance on those who hate Him. Ah, but the holy ones, who love Him and follow in His steps, He keeps in His hand—protected and safe. “The Eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The repetition of the concept of forever—a truth so complete, yet so completely beyond my grasp. My home is in Yahweh, Who never changes, Who is eternally the same, eternally perfect. My home is secure.

Lord, Thou art a spring of grace,
Eternal, and my dwelling place.
Within Thy hand, I take my stand
Protected from this barren land.

A single day within Thy courts
Reclaims the heart that earth distorts,
How perfect must that same heart be
That dwells with Thee eternally!

Resurrection Sunday, March 23, 2008

System overload!

Just as I was sitting down to write, AmCam showed up, and whoopdie-doo! She’s a great girl, but I was ready to wind down and call it a night. “You always make me feel so welcome,” she hugged me on her way out the door. Little Hypocrite Abigail stood by smiling, eager to dash back to the safe haven of her bedroom. But if love is action, is it wrong to hide my own desires to make someone feel welcome? Is that hypocrisy or love?

Lydia rose this morning with skin as smooth as a new born baby’s. Praise the Lord!

Our home was brimming over with activity as we got ready for our meeting this morning. In addition to Dathan and Nick, Bruce, Lauren and Nathaniel all pulled in late last night and Josh joined us after the Sunrise Service at First Baptist. As we reflected on Christ’s death and resurrection, Josh’s questions brought to light some beautiful details: how Christ’s sufferings were greater than any sinner will ever face in hell, because in those three hours on the cross he was forsaken by God, His own Holy Father; how, even God’s grace in the shining of the sun was blotted out while Jesus hung on the cross paying the penalty for the world’s sin; how death could not hold him—in three hours time He had paid for every sin ever committed or that ever would be committed and was able to commit His spirit to God; how, while His body lay in the grave, He went and preached triumph to the souls in sheol, and when he ascended back to God, He led forth those who had been waiting on the credit of faith in God for the Messiah who would free them from their sins; how we know He was heard because of His piety, in that God raised Him again! In this is our confident hope, that as Jesus conquered death and rose again to the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life, confident that we shall be raised into the likeness of His perfection one day. This is God: both just and the justifier.

From there Papa turned to teach from First Timothy chapter two—about prayer in the assembly, by the males, and the females redirection to a role in the home. It’s hard to shake ourselves loose of the cultural concept that women should be “liberated” and should be independent. When all of us learn to be truly independent individuals, society will crumble. Interdependence is what holds a family, a marriage, a community together. God’s plan for separate roles—where each person performs a special part that only they can do well. Like the spider is important to the earth’s ecosystem in her ability to build webs and trap insects like no other creature, so the woman’s importance is not in her ability to compete with men, but in her ability to bear children—something no man can do. Strange it is, that women have “liberated” themselves from the freedom of enjoying what they were created to be, and have enslaved themselves in the rat-race that is corporate life—little realizing how much that second income is actually costing them: second car/insurance/expense/wear and tear, wardrobe, daycare, eating out or pre-made food, to mention nothing of medical bills due to stress and strain at work and home. The femanazis of our day have embraced a double curse—was it not enough to have pain in child-birth, but that they also must work the ground by the sweat of their brow? How blessed I am to have been raised in a family who sought to function under God’s plan, and has reaped so many of the blessings He reserves for those who seek His ways. As we studied, I was struck by the concept that a godly woman is not an independent entity. The headship passage in First Corinthians eleven began to gel with me. God is the head. Even Jesus said He could do nothing on His own initiative—He was only an ambassador of God. Each man is an ambassador of Christ and each woman, an ambassador of her man—husband or, in my case, father. It’s not a weighty chain of command, it’s a layered umbrella of protection. The godly woman adorns herself with modesty and good works, as an ambassador of her man. I found myself slipping into a brown study, reevaluating my life, my activities, my attitudes. Am I pleasing my father? Am I seeking to further his ministry? Am I blessing him? As an expression of my love for Christ.

Lauren and Nathaniel shared with me what they've been learning from "Created to be His Helpmeet"—girls tend to think themselves spiritual because they talk on and on about how God leads them, in every little thing. Guys are carnal, of course, because they don’t have the same subjective, emotional reactions. So how does God lead? Can we look back and see His leading in the past? I’m sure, as I read back through my journals, that I can see God’s hand, see His leading. I set up Ebenezer stones, saying “Thus far has the Lord brought me”. Is that mistaken? Emotional? Shallow?

How am I ever going to sort out the scrambled mess my mind and heart have reached?

I think I’ll go to bed. In the morning I will defragment.

Lord, my heart seems bruised and shattered,
Swirling winds of doubt have scattered.
Lost within the storm, I stand
Wishing I could understand.

What’s a girl to do? I wonder.
Confused by flashes, peals of thunder,
Pelted by the boiling rain—
Unite my heart to fear Thy name.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I hung up my toothbrush, wiped my hands and opened the bathroom door, at last free to sit down and just be alone. A pale, blue figure stood forlornly outside, squinting at the light. “Abigail,” came Lydia’s sleepy voice. “I think I have a bunch of chigger bites on my back. They itch. Can you do something for me?” It’s pretty early for chiggers. I pulled her into the bathroom, slid her shirt over her head and gasped. Her little back was mottled and blistered with a nasty rash. “What did you eat today?” I demanded. “What did you do outside?” The mountain ranges were crawling up her neck and arms, across her belly and down her whole backside. Half an hour, several antihistamines, a body rub of ant-itch cream and clean clothes later, I am finally sitting down in the quiet. It’s already past ten-thirty.

This in flight fueling just doesn’t seem to work for me.

Unthought thoughts seem to pile up in my arms, like a load of firewood, needing only one thing: to be laid on Yahweh’s altar as a pleasing sacrifice to Him.

I thought I could wish Him good-morning while fixing breakfast, but others trickled in, greeting, laughing, asking questions. As soon as we’d finished breakfast, I clambered outside and wrangled our poor, dilapidated weed eater to the floor, to fill it with fuel and attempt starting it. “Homelite” I read over again and again as I futily cranked it. “Simply reliable.” Reliable would not have been my word of choice, considering the polished wood string head (Josiah’s creative craftsmanship), the shuddering blade ensemble (held together by bolts and electrical tape) or the fact that I had opened up the side and pulled out the air filter so I could manually choke the engine, while spraying in starter fluid. Finally she roared to life and managed to rattle every bone in my body as we attacked the brush crowding out the back lane. Just as I finished up, ol’ Homelite gave a shudder, parted ways with her muffler and went out sounding like a motorcycle on a respirator. But I finished the job. Barely in time to snatch a quick shower and head out the door with Nathaniel and Lauren in an attempt to find Lauren some new dresses. “You’re my favorite person to shop with,” she confided. Shopping might not be my most favoritist activity in the world, but if it’s the only one in which I surpass Nathaniel, I will seek to be the best fashion consultant/shopper helper the world has ever known. Our hurried spree came to an end in time to see us arriving “fashionably late” (so Lauren said) and Donnie’s open house. Open houses are painfully awkward creatures. I arrived, I said “hi”, I joined the volleyball game, I ate, I had snatches of numerous conversations with numerous people. Listening over a dull roar is a talent I do not possess. Making small talk is another. Spiking a volleyball is a third. But the important thing is that Donnie enjoyed the event, felt special because I was there (well, me and a few others) and proved to be a master in serving volleyball.

For the fifteen miles home, my mind reached blindly for the “alone time” I was promising myself. Because my plans are so important. Because I am so important. Home arrived with a new set of demands. Make supper. Wash dishes. Clean the house. Get ready for more company. Fix food for tomorrow. My outer shell smiled as I spooned jell-o into a pan and chopped a crop of dusty pototatoes. My inner being wept. Slicing the turkey, Mom asked for prayer about several things weighing on her mind. I slammed a butterfly net over my wandering mind and put it in a jar on the counter in front of me, hoping to hold it present to listen to her. “Lord!” I plead, “I just wanted to be alone!”

“I know the feeling.”

Made in the likeness of sinful flesh. A priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Often Jesus tried to creep away with His disciples, to be alone, to pray, to talk to His father, but the clamorous multitudes hunted Him out, seeking only to eat the loaves and be filled. One day He fed five thousand, spent the night in prayer, crossed the sea on foot through a storm only to be greeted on the other side by those He’d hoped to evade. At last, those same men and women who had so eagerly sought Him before, turned against Him and demanded His death. Hardly a chance to be alone that night, as He faced the most terrible agony possible—paving the way for me to come to Him.

Now that I’m finally alone in the dark and quiet, my head droops. “I’m too tired, Lord. I’m exhausted. I just need to go to sleep.”

The disciples were too tired to watch and pray by the side of their Lord. Too tired to savor those last few moments with Him before He was betrayed. Too tired to seek their comfort, solace and strength from Him—the only strength that could save them from falling into temptation, that could strengthen their willing spirits.

Some things should never be left for tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes.

Lord, when I think sleep is better
Than to be alone with Thee,
Bind me with Thy love’s strong fetter,
That my heart, enchained will be.

I dare not sleep without first seeking
Thou, Who art my source of power.
I hear the Savior softly speaking,
“Watch and pray throughout this hour.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break: the words sound like a time of intense boredom—excuse me, relaxation. For us, it is simply a switching over of guests. Our local home-from-the-war-on-furlough-soldier, Donnie showed up for a visit. Donnie, Dathan and Josiah are a deadly combination. I spent the majority of the visit dodging them, recovering stolen shoes from the rooftop gutter, the porch rafters or other random spots of concealment. Donnie hasn’t changed one single cubic centimeter. Reading his notes from Iraq, how the bodies come in mutilated and he has to identify them and file reports, how the most comforting sound is the sound of a helicopter shooting scud missiles, simply because he knows those are friends, protecting him, how other American soldiers cheer when they see the bodies of Arabs, while he sees only the end of a life—a soul gone to judgment. He neglected to tell us today was his twenty-second birthday. Twenty-two years old, and he’s a platoon sergeant, responsible for a whole host of tasks, with death constantly staring him in the face. Twenty-two years old, and separated from his new bride by a commission and an ocean. Wars and rumors of wars, Jesus promised, until the return of the Prince of Peace.

The movie I went to such labor to procure from the Tech library was titled “Inherit the Wind.” Tonight we watched a critique of it, under the name “Inherently Wind”. Enlightening it was to see the background on the Scopes Monkey Trial—in which the state laws regarding teaching man as descended from apes was put on trial, in one of the most famous and most fake trials in history. “Ah,” said the defense. “When any one theory is taught exclusively, then is there only room for bigotry.” Less than a century later, what do we see? One theory taught: the theory that man evolved from apes. Bigotry? I could hardly agree more. Propaganda, the movie was. Hardly a hint of fact, with an overt stab at the character of Christians in general. Any movie, so inflammatory about any other “type” of people, would be banned from public schools. Instead, this one is shown in English classes, and discussed as “a great classic.”

Zach dived through the doors in time to send Dathan rolling across the floor. Everyone seems to find Dathan an irresistible rag-doll. We’ll have a full breakfast table tomorrow morning.

“Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for Yahweh, your God. You shall therefore obey Yahweh your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” So Moses began the lengthy curses from Mount Ebal, followed by the blessings from Mount Gerizim. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life in order that you may live: by loving Yahweh your God, by obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him.” Disobedience to God brings a curse. “This commandment is not too difficult,” Moses insisted, and yet, even he failed and disobeyed God, and was prevented from entering the land. How is life? By loving Yahweh, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him. Those who would choose life, Yahweh saved on credit and sent their souls to a place of refuge until the Way the Truth and the Life should come and pay their ransom and redeem them and lead them to paradise—the heavenly promised land. It is He of whom Moses spoke, “The Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” If you confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. Choose life in order that you may live.

Lord, I stand upon Mount Gerizim,
And gaze into the promised land,
Thou spoke the blessing long ago,
And led Thy people by Thy hand

But this same blessing that Thou spoke,
The Word, blessed every man in Thee.
By Thy grace, I have obeyed
And chosen life eternally.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

As soon as the man on the other end of the line picked up I started in with my Dial-a-trade spiel. A pause as I wound up, then, “Uh…Ma’am, Dial-a-trade is not on the air today.”

True, that I see deer nearly every time I’m in the woods, and often when I’m not, but the mystery and excitement of spotting wild creatures still lingers. When I saw the shape of a round rump through the trees, I turned abruptly off the path and began creeping through the underbrush, around pines, to see how close I could come. Feeling self-satisfied with my “awareness” as I came within twenty feet of my neighbor, I peered around a tree and found myself staring straight into its wide, brown eyes. With a soft snort, its white tail shot up, and from nearly a dozen thickets around me came answering snorts as a whole herd of deer dashed deeper into the woods. So much for my “awareness”.

A little local color comes fresh from our neighbors down the way. Jeff sits on the edge of his rickety porch, talking eagerly of the Lord’s return through streams of tobacco juice, while his wife, Barb, cuddles a spoiled rat terrier in her fuzzy, pink bath robe. “Have you seen that Alpine Buck?” Jeff asks, ejecting a thin, brown stream. “Alpine buck?” I echo. “Yeah, it’s huge an’ all white. Ya know?” I smile. Albino. Right. “An’ if you hear that ol’ black panther screaming, just walk slowly. Don’t run. He comes through here about March or April of every year.” Duly noted. “You seen any o’ them black bears in your woods?” I shake my head “no”, peering closely to see if he’s just trying to worry me. “Bobcat prints are the biggest I’ve seen,” I offer. He shrugs. “Don’t think they’ll hurt you. ‘Cept that panther might. But he ain’t hurt nobody yet. Just keep an eye out.” I remember how terrified we were after Mom spotted a mountain lion back home one night. Nothing ever came of it. I’ll be watching. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bear or a panther—from a little ways off.

Dathan followed Papa and I home last night and has been quietly doing homework all day. He’s here for the rest of his spring break and to see Donnie, home of furlough. Once upon a time we met him in Arkansas, then he wound up at school in Kansas, and we practically adopted him into our family. Now we’re at home in Arkansas and he’s a resident Kansan. He still feels right at home every time he comes to visit, fitting back in like not a day has passed since he was last here.

The first half of Deuteronomy has detailed Moses’ words to the people before his death, as he recounted to them how the Lord had led them through the wilderness and reminded them of God’s laws. I felt like I was wading through a morass—pointless effort with little reward—until last night when I skimmed back over my own past few months, as detailed in my journal. So often Yahweh performs a miracle before my eyes, yet when the next test comes, I am whining and complaining for fresh water or rebelling against the authority He has put in my life. Each day I can only see a tiny part of His work—His plan—but when I look back on where I have come from, I can see His hand more clearly, His leading defined, His power made evident, every single day. Things that were foggy or confusing, that felt like desert wanderings, begin to take shape. Moses reminds me, “Your own eyes have seen the great work of God, which He did.” At a time like now, when I am beginning to feel parched, dry and far from my destination of perfection, it’s good to be reminded from whence I came and where I am headed and, most importantly, Who it is that leads me.

Lord, I seek Thy promised land
And, guided by Thy awesome hand,
I know that I will come at length,
To paradise, by Thy own strength.

Recount to me what Thou hast done,
Both in the person of Thy Son,
And in my soul since, every day,
That I be strengthened to obey.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I was sure the weatherman was mistaken for predicting sunshine by noon. The rain pelted me from every side and I huddled under my umbrella, sloshing through puddles and spitting windblown hair out of my mouth. Around me, campus bloomed with colorful mushrooms, milling toward classrooms and dormrooms, sporting neon rainboots or soggy tennis shoes. At the library entrance, the mushrooms were suddenly transformed into students, collapsing umbrellas and shaking off boots before entering.

Tip for the day: a smile can buy you almost any assistance. Perhaps it helps a bit to be a girl. In the past I’ve tested out the possibilities on a whole host of personalities—smile, innocent eyes, ask dumb questions with an apologetic laugh. Whether out of pity, kindness or simple inability to be cruel to a smiling face, folks will almost always cheerfully answer every stupid question. Alternately, you can pretend you know what you’re doing and ask intelligent questions—only if you run into a snag—always with a smile. I settled on the second tactic for the library. My task: check out a DVD Papa’s been wanting for months. Step one: renew my library card. After an excruciating few minutes digging up the information needed for an application, I was handed back my library card and stated my business. “The Internet said pick it up in the music lab?” I questioned. The dear librarian nodded. “You’ll only be able to check it out for four hours though, so you’ll probably just want to watch it in one of the rooms upstairs.” My satisfaction melted into discouragement and puddled up around my toes. Time for an intelligent question. “Can I get a Tech friend to check it out for me?” Affirmative. Behold my reasons for calling Nick and begging to borrow both his person and his ID. Then I dashed up the stairs to the music lab, stated my business and was received with a host of questions. “Is it for a class?” Smile. “No sir.” “I need your ID.” Oh! We check it out here, do we? Smile. “Um…actually, a friend is checking it out for me.” Interject another intelligent question. “Can you hold it for me until he gets here?” Soon Nick arrived, hunkering under his parka like a soggy leprechaun, and I presented both his person and his ID and received a green slip, a white slip and a DVD in return. “Thank you,” with another smile before we made our way downstairs and out the door. That’s when the alarm went off. Somewhere I forgot to ask the intelligent question, “Is that all we have to do?” The answer would have been negative. The green slip was meant for the folks at the front desk. Somehow I muddled my way through the intricate system of checking out a DVD at the college library and survived with movie in tow. I should feel accomplished. At least I smiled.

My parking escapade proved better results. Walk into the campus police office. Smile. Pretend I know what I’m talking about. “Can I get a temporary parking permit?” The officer and the lady at the desk exchanged glances. “Honey,” said the robust lady, “It’s raining today. I can’t give you a permit. Don’t tell anyone, but the computers don’t work when it rains.” My eyebrows conferred together in confusion. “So…um?” We won’t try to pass that off as an intelligent question. The officer chimed in. “Just park wherever you want, darlin’. Ain’t nobody gonna do anything about it today.” That’s a statement even I could understand and I left the office grinning from ear to ear and found a spot by the cafeteria, in the center of campus. Perhaps it will rain more often.

I’ve nearly decided to petition the BCM to install gender signs on the bathroom doors. Emily’s directions of “all the way back to the left” sent me walking into the men’s bathroom. And back out with as much speed as I could muster. By the time I dropped Zach and Emily back off at campus after lunch at the BCM, the weatherman had convinced the sun to peek out from behind his hidey-hole of clouds.

Amber and I tripped out of the apartment for a walk in the warming sunshine and snagged flowers off of a budding tree as we passed, recalling the days of “He loves me, he loves me not.” It’s nice to be reminded that I’ve grown-up at least a little. All afternoon my strength ebbed like the tide. “I’d better go,” I said, an hour earlier than usual, “I’ve got some things to do yet.” “Things” meant a bench at the head of Bona Dea, reading the Psalms for the day. How perfect they were! In spite of laughter, of fun, of joy, I’d been lost in a cloud of confusion, unable to be alone and sort out my thoughts. “Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me, Thou dost understand my thoughts from afar. Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.” Quiet. At last. Knowing that God understands what even I can’t fathom. Unafraid of His gentle searching, His loving scrutiny, I poured out my heart to Him and then left the empty shell in His hands, to be refilled.

Lord, Thou art my very essence--
To live is to be in Thy presence.
I lay aside all that’s confused
And sit down at Thy feet to muse.

The Lover that I seek is Thee,
Because Thou sought and first loved me.
The only truth that I possess
Is Thou, my King of Righteousness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I’ve seen a few eggs in my time. Blue eggs, green eggs, pink eggs, yellow eggs, brown eggs and white eggs, double yokers, no yokers, developing yokers, oops-it’s-a-chick yokers. We’re not talking about Easter Eggs, but the real-live-laid-by-hen eggs. I’ve never seen any so huge. “These are the small ones,” he commented. “The large ones cost fifty cents more.” I peered around the yard for a glimpse of the chickens, but was disappointed in my scrutiny. The best clue I had as to the appearance of the fine-feathered fowl who laid such monster eggs was a fine white feather, delicately clinging to the crate as I carried it out to the Suburban.

Driving through the hills and valleys on a misty, moisty morning brought my thoughts to life. Fog swirls in the valleys, causing me to slow down, watch carefully, and turn on my lights hoping to be seen. From the hills I can see over the mists to the other side—but I have no clue what might lie in the valley. Always, whether I see it or not, the sun is shining, above the clouds. In fact, the mists are caused by the sun as it sends refreshment to the land.

Here in the Bible belt, I ask someone about their spiritual beliefs and they vanish behind a church marquee. Opening up is a breeze. “I noticed you have a lot of religious books,” to the man in the Flea Market. “Do you have any spiritual beliefs?” Quickly he assures me he is Church of Christ—even preached for a few years. The ladies in the bead store explain their membership in the Assembly of God. The Librarians always cheerfully remind me that the invitation to First Baptist is always open. I’ve never had anyone actually share the gospel with me. Usually dragging from them the name Jesus and all it entails feels like wisdom tooth extractions. “You go to the Church of Christ? Really? Neat. So…who is Christ?” It was refreshing to see one man’s eyes light up, “He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.” Well. Not much else needs said. But how have we become so lost in our denominations that our spiritual beliefs boil down to “I’m Methodist” or “I’m Baptist”. No one is saved by believing in a building or claiming a title. We’re saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ! My heart aches to see how unready we are to give an account for the hope within us—if it is truly a living hope within us.

When the rain started, I hurriedly pulled on my boots and headed out to enjoy the warm shower. Disappointed by the gentleness, I trekked down to the creek instead and fell in. On purpose. The woods grow silent on a rainy day—no one speaking, no one listening. Just the restful drip of God’s fresh filtered rain, sliding from leaf to leaf to water the earth. Really, I was simply enjoying the shifting mists, polishing the woods with vibrant green and red and gold when the urge to jump the creek came on. I jumped it in narrow spots. I skipped over stones through the miniature rapids. I scrambled across fallen logs. A wide, deep pool, clear as crystal, beckoned me. “You can’t jump that,” I whispered to myself. “I know,” I giggled, and backed up for a running start. I hit the bank full speed, threw myself into the air and landed inches from the steep shore on the far side, splattering cold water up to my waist. Sometimes you have to take the risk and fall in to discover it’s no so bad. Thoroughly soggy and thoroughly satisfied, I struck out through the pine trees, headed for home.

“Indescribable, uncontainable...Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go,” crackled over the radio, just before the huge crash shook the house. Like a ball of thunder rolling across the sky and slamming into something—no echo. “Did you see that?” Josiah dashed into my room from outside. “Did you hear that?” I shrugged. “I heard thunder.” Catching his breath, Josiah explained, “This huge bolt of lightning just shot out of the sky and struck one of the trees in the woods. I watched it splinter and fall from the shop. Just when the radio played that song…you know…that one…” We stood by my French door together, staring out into the now pouring rain at the rivulets washing down our yard. Finish the song: You are amazing, Lord.

Lord, Thou art enthroned on high
As King of earth and sea and sky,
And sends as by Thy own decree
Thy storms upon the land or sea.

The power of the elements,
Can only partly represent
The power that is in Thy hand
To make or to destroy all land.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Amber told me I’m hyper. Hyper for me or hyper for Amber or just hyper in general? Hyper because I called her talking in a weird voice, and when she knew who it was, offered to hang up and try again? Hyper because I followed every comment she made with some wise crack? Hyper because I gave her an elaborate description of my day, complete with endless details on the glories of budgeting? “Together Mom and I labored over the reconciliation.” She misunderstood me. “Reconciliation? Wait. Did you and your mom fight? I don’t believe it.”

So much for the valley. Instead the Lord has been leading me alongside a rim, close enough that sometimes my feet dislodge a pebble and send it clattering to the floor far below, but He has my hand and I am safe on high. I feel as if I’ve been walking on air, gazing down into the valley, but never falling, gazing up into His face and seeing His love spelled out there in great tenderness. Every fear that rises in my heart, every worry or doubt that springs up is melted by His goodness. Each time I think I’ve lost His hold and might tumble, I’ve called His name and He’s been there, upholding me with His righteous right hand.

I finished Numbers. (“Can you count now?” Amber demanded, in her best Abigail imitation.) As He sent them into the promised land under the leadership of Moses’ prodigy, Joshua, God warned His people that if they failed to completely destroy the wicked nations living in the land and wipe out their heathen religions, He would have to rain down their punishment on the Israelites. I see that in our homes and our churches—if we embrace the idols of the world, we are likely to bear their shame and consequences with them. “Come out and be separate,” says Yahweh. “Touch no unclean thing.”

When Israel conquered a foreign kingdom, Yahweh told them how to redeem the plunder. “Pass everything that can stand fire through fire, then purify it with water, and whatever cannot stand fire, pass through the water, and it shall be purified.” Later, Yahweh spoke through the prophet Isaiah, using the same beautiful symbolism to describe how He would buy back His people from captivity. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am Yahweh, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” To me, the words ring out with hope—I have been redeemed from the world, bought by the Savior and made holy through His precious blood. When He leads through testing or trials—fire and water—He will be with me, as He leads me in the path to purification. I will never be overwhelmed. Only cleansed. Made holy. Like Yahweh.

Lord, when fiery ways I trod,
Beside me, Thou, the Son of God,
The fiery furnace Thou wilt bear
And always show me Thou art there.

And when my way lies through the water,
Thou reminds this frightened daughter,
Once Thou parted such a sea
And safely o’er Thou’ll carry me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Current events are becoming interesting. California has practically banned home education. Obama and Hillary are fighting it out at the polls, and might even run together in the general election. Nationally, we are a welfare state in a recession, worse than anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression. A man is standing trial for preaching the gospel in Salem, Mass. Who else feels the oppression, the iron curtain beginning to slide closed on our freedoms? Is persecution just around the corner?

In all my wondering, I wonder what the view is from heaven—how the Lord sees my life, day by day, worrying, anxious, fearful, praying, while He’s already given answers in His infinite timing. How often does He shake His head, whispering, “Abigail, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the earth.”

During church, Papa read a sermon by Charles Spurgeon from First Timothy chapter two: Does God really desire ALL men to be saved? Once upon a time our family read this man’s life story, his dedication to preaching the truth—whatever He found in the scriptures. His words, though quaint, were rich and uplifting, filled with the perfection of the gospel.

Josh and Josiah had just dived into First John when I joined them. We took the whole book in a sitting, watching Josh discover the tests, the commands (to believe in Jesus and love the brethren) and the beauty. “I like that,” he’d say, marking the passage with a purple twist-up crayon. “Oooh, I don’t like that,” and he’d mark it, too, knowing it was good. Again and again I am amazed to see the Lord’s hand in his life and heart, the Holy Spirit’s working, leading him into truth and obedience. After the other guys had left, we discovered Josh had been patiently waiting his turn. “Okay, Lane,” he said to my dad, after eagerly accepting an invitation for supper. “Can we have some me time? I’ve got some questions for you.”

Meanwhile, Josiah and I slipped quietly outside and out into the woods, rambling through the green briar, underbrush and falling darkness, crossing the stream on slippery stones and talking about whatever concerned us. Muddy and windblown and full of thorns, we trouped into his room and tumbled to the floor. “Do you want to pray?” I asked. Together we both answered, “For everyone.” We started, sharing back and forth, but suddenly he took off, pouring out his heart for anyone and everyone the Lord brought to his mind, pleading for salvation, asking for peace. When he said my name, a little shiver passed through my body and slipped out my toes, leaving me warm behind it. Not so long ago he was shy to pray aloud with anyone else. Tears slid from my eyes as I prayed for him—with thanksgiving.

Lord, the greatest blessings Thou dost give,
Aside from Thy own grace to live,
Are those who love to seek Thy face
And so reveal Thy matchless grace.

My heart is full of what Thou dost
In teaching sinful man to trust
In standing to receive our prayer.
Where two are gathered, Thou art there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Today was a perfect day. Because it was.

Josiah and I trooped back from sawing wood to discover the basketball goal, lying prone like Goliath himself, slain by a mischievous gale, the backboard shattered underneath. Our skills will be needing improvement to swoosh our balls without the benefit of the backboard.

Lauryn breezed in briefly, like the personification of summer herself—golden sunlight hair and a sky blue shirt to match her eyes. It’s hard to believe she’s not been out since Christmas break, but her presence was more than welcome. As always. I’ve missed the days from last semester, when we spent so much time together and spilled out everything the Lord was teaching us or every way we felt the pruning sheers.

Balaam brought home a powerful point. Not such an exemplary character, this Balaam fellow, who would have eagerly cursed the Israelites for a price, had not the Lord prevented him—through the intervention of his donkey. Instead, he blessed them and delivered beautiful promises of the future Messiah. Self-assured, self-righteous and self-confident, I imagine myself special because perhaps sometimes the Lord speaks or works through me. Well, doesn’t He? Well, didn’t He also speak through Balaam’s donkey? I sat still for several minutes (which is quite the accomplishment for me) trying to wrap my mind around the truth. God used a donkey to convince a shady character to bless His people. Who am I to boast of being a tool? Is it amazing that a shovel would be used to dig a hole? That a bucket would be used to water flowers? Do we honor the shovel or the bucket for being used? Neither does the Lord’s work in me bear any honor for me, but only more honor for the Lord, that He could stoop and find a use for such a worthless vessel as I am. But I will not always be so broken, leaky and dirty.

Once again I am reminded how frail I am and how big the Lord is. How capable He is of protecting me, upholding me and of working things out. I trust He is working out His perfect will in me. Making me perfect.

Perfect days might seem evasive, but I’m looking back on twenty years of them. Perfect in the light of God’s handiwork, His timing, His plans and what He’s been doing. Perfect because He has remained Lord over all creation.

Lord, Thou art enthroned in splendor,
Yet to this child of dust art tender.
Year by year, here’s what I see:
That Thy perfection touches me.

Thy creation: seas and woods,
Thou said all were “very good”,
But Thou hast promised, when life’s done
I’ll be perfect, like Thy Son.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Morning found Lydia and I the sole occupants of our roomy home. No doubt the quiet served her well, since she finished her math early and came to me, asking to play some games Mom had heard of on the internet. I hooked her up to the Hallmark site and settled in for my Bible study, but a few technical difficulties made me rethink. Ultimately, the game allowed her to interact with other kids in a “safe” environment, chatting with prepared comments and playing interactive games. Harmless, no? My mind flitted to those I knew who had become addicted to internet gaming, some even finding outlets through these games for worse addictions. Harmless, perhaps. Safe, possibly. But when do the grey areas turn black? Where do we learn to love that which can later lead us down paths of pain or impurity? A story from the ancient readers I slogged through in my early years rose before me: the young boy whose father gave him sugar with a drop of alcohol. Once he drank it for the sugar, later it became a habit he could not break, and he died in a drunken stupor in a gutter. I know I have an overactive imagination. I know I might be blowing things out of proportion, “But Lydia,” I said. “I don’t think I want you playing this game. I don’t think it’s a good habit to start.” Smiling cheerfully at me, she said, “Okay. Do you have any other ideas?”

Our evening group was still on the puny side, but we’d gained back Nathan. Who can pattern our conversations? Tonight we turned to childhood stories. For my part, my parents told my embarrassing events—how I’d repeatedly gotten in trouble for gorging on candy. Apparently their wisdom broke me of it. It’s a rare day that any form of candy tempts me now. What a sneaky little girl I was. I wonder, am I still so devious?

Reading of the Israelites incessant grumbling in the wilderness always prickles me. Poor Moses, saddled with the responsibility of leading such a stubborn, rebellious people. And held to such high expectations himself! I come to the Meribah with him and behold his frustration as he brings water from a solid stone, but this time he was commanded to speak to the stone. Instead, he rebuked the people and struck the stone. The water gushed forth, but the Lord was displeased. “You have not believed in Me,” he said, “to treat Me as holy in the site of Israel. You will not enter the land.” God is serious about His word. He is serious about His people’s obedience, especially that of the leaders. It’s sobering to realize that God, in His power, can still offer fresh water to others through our failings, but the consequences may still keep us from enjoying His blessings. We serve the Lord, not through making up “worship” schemes of our own, but through obedience.

Today, most powerfully, I know the Lord is good and does good.

Lord, Thou art good and doeth good,
Whate’er my mind misunderstood.
The plans Thou hast are made to last
And guard the future as the past.

Since Thou hast saved my soul from hell
Thou will withhold no good, as well.
I trust Thou knowest what is best,
And in Thy promise find my rest.

March 13, 2008

Not only am I absent-minded enough to close one hand in a door and another in the dishwasher, but I also completely forgot about it until I stood in the garden spot, shovel in hand, wondering why in the world my hands were complaining about the work. Ah, but life gets better. Five o’clock rolled around and Lydia poked her head in to ask why I hadn’t started supper yet. Completely forgetting I’d traded days with Mom, I was sorting through papers in my desk, because nothing else needed cleaned. With a mad dash to the freezer, I produced the very thing: an extra meal I’d frozen for just such an accident and whisked supper on barely ten minutes late. Thank You, Lord! That was after managing to close my skirt in the refrigerator. I sat down to supper and my ponytail tangled with the fancy back of my chair. I think the kitchen has conspired against me.

The woods are even worse. On the warning of a jaybird, I glanced around to see several camouflaged spies, covertly watching me from the tangled shadows of underbrush. As soon as they’d detected that they’d been detected they bounded away, waving white tails as they ran. I chose to accept that as surrender and held off on pursuit.

Even my own family is secretly planning my downfall. What business is it of anyone else’s if I only sit on the very edge of my desk chair? Josiah took the situation in at a glance, decided I was on poor terms with the chair and chose to help out by separating the two of us--rather quickly. I scolded him roundly, insisting he’d hurt my elbow in a way I wouldn’t forget for the next five minutes, but he heard me giggle on his way out the door. “I knew it!” he exclaimed in triumph. “You thought it was funny!” Well, of course I thought it was funny, but as long as he knows that he’ll keep doing it. I didn’t find it funny enough to ask for an instant replay.

Perhaps the fact that I’ve spent half the day on the phone will account for my odd mood. I enjoyed pleasant conversations with several different automated voices on the Sears line. Unfortunately, computers don’t get my wisecracks. “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?” Finally transferred to the proper store, I was politely informed that the office was closed. Dial-a-trade gets old quickly, too, so I entertain myself by trying different tones and accents when I call in. Sadly, many of my “important” calls hardly allowed for such games. The phone is hardly my favorite household appliance. I do what I can to make encounters with this beast slightly more pleasant.

Every year I try to convince Mom that planting a garden in charity to the starving insects of the world is hardly her calling in life, but every year she bravely sets out to feed our six-legged neighbors. Every year I help her dig up the ground and weed and water and pick. It’s one of those traditions that simply can’t be broken. If I ever suggested planting a garden, she’d think I’d lost my senses, and if she ever decided to let it lie fallow, I’d be checking her temperature. Today as I shoveled, chopped and did other various sorts of tilling—without the aid of a tiller—the verses about breaking up the fallow ground started buzzing through my mind like mosquitoes. Thus says Yahweh, “Break up your fallow ground and don’t sow among thorns…” Put away your idols, dedicate your hearts to Me and speak truth. Searching my heart, seeking out the idols that sit on dusty shelves in hidden places, rooting out the seeds of deceit and begging the Lord to wash my heart from all evil—breaking up the fallow ground in my heart, I hope I may bear fruit in keeping with righteousness. What a project He has taken on!

Lord, this heart is hard and dry,
Filled with roots of bitter pride.
Yoked with Thee, I pray Thou lead;
To plow this heart is what I need.

Idols ashes Thou must scatter
Soil of selfish rocks, please shatter
Send Thyself, as springtime’s rain
To sprout in me Thy Spirit’s grain.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

“It must be Wednesday,” Jacinderella always sings when she sees my number on her phone. Muffins comprised my special delivery for her today, much to her amusement. Muffins from Josiah. I’d promised Emily I would wait and eat with her and Jacinderella, devoid of class for the day, lingered with us. She refused to believe my pudding was more than edible. “Whenever anyone says something in the Caf is good, I’m always spectacle.” Too much Spanish has mixed up her English vocabulary. I’ve yet to see Jacinderella make much of a spectacle—unless we’re counting that one. Roving over campus in the tingling sunshine, after lunch, sent us all into waves of nostalgia, remembering how different it was last year in the Spring when I assumed I’d never be back. Now Jacinda’s the one leaving. In two months.

Amber’s house turned out to be a hubbub of activity. When I arrived, the maintenance men were putting in a new outlet. Or trying to. My mind raced back to all the outlets I’d wired in, under Tabitha’s careful supervision, trying to remember which wire matched with each connection. Hopeless, I’m afraid. When an older preacher-man and his wife arrived, I was embarrassed to suddenly become the center of attention when Amber began explaining why I carry such a huge purse. I suppose refusing to be without my Bible, headcovering or knife marks me as peculiar, as does not dating, homeschooling and meeting at home, which she added as a bonus. But gracious Dave had no intention of challenging or disdaining and turned out to be an encouraging man of God. I dragged Amber outside to the picnic table to read and pray. John eleven—in which Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus so much that He stayed away instead of coming and healing Lazarus. Why? Because He wanted to reveal to them the glory of God—if they believed. When God seems to tarry in His actions, perhaps it is for a similar purpose—out of love He would reveal to me the glory of God, if I believe.

“Now the man Moses was very humble, more humble than any man who was on the face of the earth.” I think I just lost my identifying connection with Moses. It was this humility that prompted him to say, completely devoid of jealousy, “Would that all Yahweh’s people were prophets that Yahweh would put His Spirit upon them!” The same humility prevented him from offering resistance when his brother and sister complained that God had also spoken through them—what was so special about him? In his silence, God defended him. “Prophets,” Yahweh said, “I speak to them in dreams and visions. My servant Moses, I speak with mouth to mouth.” Forgiving and merciful, Moses pleaded with Yahweh to heal Miriam’s leprosy and reminded the Lord that wiping out the nation of Israel would bring a reproach on His Holy name. Moses thought not of himself—but only of Yahweh. It was all about God.

Lord, when I feel lost and dazed,
Remind me it is Thou Who saves.
When my quill falls from my hand
'Tis Thou who fillest my inkstand.

When I want to run and hide
Remind me of Thy power inside.
Remind me Thou art ever near:
Thy perfect love casts out my fear.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our backyard resembles a topographical map. In an effort to refrain from exaggeration, I’ve given the ranges such appropriate names as the Himalayan and Andes Mole Hills. Either our neighborly rodents have become archeologists or they should cut down on the caffeine.

Winter must have finally given in and curled up for hibernation. While raking leaves from the front of the house, I kept popping into the house to gulp some water—some golden water, I might add. The ground is still soggy enough to leave our well-water slightly colorful, even after draining through our Burkey filter. Hauling logs over rivulets that danced through the woods brought on the first tingle of being hot.

It seems to my vivid imagination that somehow Papa is holding my hand tighter and even lingering over it during meal-time prayers and his blue eyes shine with a greater tenderness. Has something about me changed? Or is it him? Our relationship has come full circle, through toil and tears, awkwardness and confusion, back to the trust I had when I was my father’s source of joy.

When Rib-eye and Hamburger, excuse me, Lin N and Emily, read Lydia’s testimony they decided on immediate action. A short time later they burst into our house laden with roses, smiles and congratulations. Lindsey hasn’t been here since before Christmas break, due to teacherly studies, but it was just like old times, watching them write an elaborate story in the guestbook, while they giggled and whispered behind their hands. Something about Emily brings out the giggles in everyone I know. Including me.

Becoming irritated with the Israelite’s grumbling invariably guides me into repentance for my own grumbling. “Give us meat to eat!” they whined, “All we have is this bread…this heavenly food. We’re tired of it.” Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven, but I often whine to the Lord, “Look at all the entertainment I had back in Egypt, now it’s just Your word. And these books of Moses, Lord, they’re boring!” Only boring because the eyes of my heart lack depth-perception. Again the Lord revealed His power and His faithfulness when he gave them meat to eat. “Where will you find food for all these people?” Moses demanded, much like the disciples did when Jesus broke the loaves and fish. Yahweh’s answer: “Is My power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true or not.” He provided so abundantly that the people ate greedily and many died from a plague.

Today the Lord led me through green pastures and quiet waters, bidding me lie down and wait in peace, sending abundant promises on the wings of hope. I’d rather be up running around in circles, tripping in mole-hills, dancing in the sunshine—anything rather than sitting still. I run to the woods and keep running, when I should stop, drop and pray. He put my life back in perspective as I sped along, reminding me of those without hope, those in other countries where every day merely living is a hazard, and then of His Son, who suffered more in anticipation in the garden than I could ever fear suffering. Why am I afraid? Why do I insist, “I can’t handle this!” when the Lord is faithful to keep all His promises? “All things work together for good to those who love God.” Do I love God? As purely as a broken and confused little girl can. I’ll enjoy the moments of quiet refreshing now, reflecting on the Lord’s faithfulness to those before me, instead of allowing myself to dread all those future things I don’t understand.

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful.

Lord, I will rejoice in Thee
For Thou wilt not abandon me!
An orphan I shall never be—
Thou wills to me, Thyself.

So, when Thou heard my mournful cry
Thou sent Thy only heir to die
To execute Thy will, and I
Inherited Thyself.

Monday, March 10, 2008

“Hello, this is an important message from – Financial regarding your unsecured debt. We can help…” I hung up the phone. It might be an important message if we actually had any debt.

Mom accused me of making her bed again, this morning, but I just shrugged. I hadn’t even been in her room, yet, but a high-watered corner suggested the culprits—Lydia and Lydia. As I cleaned my bathroom, I listened in on Lydia’s dramatic reading from John, rendered perfectly from the Laundry room through the air ducts in the ceiling. Perhaps that’s not quite how I imagine Jesus’ voice, but the Pharisees nasally complaints were right on target. It’s been a bit difficult to feel as though I’m stuck in a broken record—still going through John with Amber, now into it with Lydia, and the family just started in for breakfast the other day. It must be good for me, who likes to finish. Poor Lydia discovered the meaning of anti-climactic after Renee’ and Lydia’s departure this afternoon.

My entertainment for the evening consisted of supervising Josiah’s muffin creation, while fixing supper. No one in my acquaintance uses a spatula quite to the same effect as he. “Look at how soupy it is!” he complained. “Should I add more flour?” I grimaced. “I’d recommend following the recipe.” Josiah’s spatula clattered to the counter. “Since when?” he demanded. Well, I do. Recommend following recipes. For other people.

My way has been level for some time now, and I find my prayers growing cold and stale, along with my heart. Reading the Word is easy. Relatively. Studying it is hardly difficult. But prayer is painful. Deserts always find me in the level places. My mind keeps slipping away to do other things, to busyness, to distractions and leaves me kneeling and vacant on the floor of my bedroom. Other’s words play through my mind: “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold”, “I struggle for tears when I pray…but You sweat blood.” Passion meets me in the peaks and valleys, but in the level places—in the deserts—I grumble against the Lord and whine for meat to eat. “Lord,” I cried today, “Just keep me focused on You! Whatever it takes!” In the very next step a pebble broke loose under my feet and went rolling—down.

Perhaps this is the very valley which I have been dreading.

Lord, the mountains give me views,
And yet, the fogs of height confuse
Sometimes it seems my way more clear,
My heart more pure, Thy hand more dear
When I am in the valley.

If this descent is where Thou lead
I’ll follow Thee with joyful tread.
Thou makes my feet like those of hinds
And proves Thyself to be more kind
When I am in the valley.

Lead me to the valley.

Daylight Savings! Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nobody told us to Spring forward. My ever-intelligent computer was my first source for the news. Nine o’clock, it boldly announced. Unless my memory fails me (which is completely possible), I’ve never slept ‘till nine in my life! The fact was soon confirmed by Nick’s arrival. “You’re an hour early,” I heard Mom greet him. “Actually,” Nick said in his matter-of-fact tone, “I’m right on time, it’s just that the clocks are all an hour early now.”

“The college guys are nice,” Lydia confided this morning, “but I sure would like to see another, you know, little girl.” Her wish was granted, to her delighted surprise, by the evening arrival of Renee’ and Lydia on a visit from Kansas. I did say Lydia. Two Lydias in the house make for mild confusion and many giggles.

Aside from Josiah’s high-hat cymbal giving out and my distinct inability to clearly strum even simple chords, the day proved very encouraging. Zach has bounced back, and Josh has simply bounced. He ought to be too old to have as much energy as he’s been displaying of late. When he joined us for basketball, late in the afternoon, he decided to bully Taylor, hounding him, fouling him and throwing all kinds of ridiculous belittling comments in his general direction. “You ain’t all this, Big Son!” (swipe, swipe, grab, bear-hug, etc.) Without a word, Taylor dribbled around, underneath, over, upon, beside, between and whatever other prepositions apply, with whatever hands or feet were available to ultimately “lose” the game. Because the first rule in any game is that Josh always wins. By nine o’clock he’d calmed down to nearly adult behavior and he and Josiah and I sat on the floor of Josiah’s room and talked—about what the Lord is doing in each of our lives, how each of us have our defenses up in certain areas, how we can see each other growing. I look at Josh and think, “Wow! Look what God’s doing in him!” Can it be possible that he looks at me and sees growth in me, too? Am I really growing? I see it in others. How encouraging to hear it of myself.

I overheard Papa questioning the guys whether they thought in words or pictures. Following the assumption that thinking takes place, I might as well be a camera. As Papa led us through the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the imagery of shipwrecked faith caught my imagination. He reminded us that Paul had been through shipwrecks, barely surviving with the skin on his back. Josiah chimed in with correlations of how important parts of our faith in the Lord could be “thrown overboard” as we battle the storms of life or are tossed on every wind of doctrine. Do we try to “lighten our load” by tossing out God’s Word, fellowship, prayer, praise, accountability and most importantly, our confident expectation through Jesus Christ—our anchor? I know there are plenty of things in my life that I could cast off and sail more smoothly, but Paul encouraged those on board with him to eat!

Lord, the winds and waves are Thine,
I needn’t match the wind and whine.
Thy hand can calm the raging sea.
‘Tis Thou who made the waves—and me.

The storms, Thou sends, that with each gust
I’d prove Thee faithful and entrust
My soul to Thee, Who holds all time.
Firm Thou remains, and keeps what’s Thine.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I am exhibiting all the symptoms of genius--restlessness, overabundance of creativity, lack of focus, anti-social behavior, loss of appetite—without the results. “Come jam with me,” Josiah begged after hotwiring his drum-pad for the umpteenth time. “I’d love to,” I responded, “If only I could play something…amazing.” Instead I limped through several odd chord progressions and pounded out boring baselines until my wrists ached. Count your blessings, says the wise hymn, so today I’m thankful no one heard us.

Lydia has always been affectionate—physically, verbally, visually. Now she’s almost smothering. She catches up my hand after we pray at night and kisses is fervently. She clings to me constantly, wanting to cuddle. I have come so far since the time, a few years ago, when I could barely stand to be hugged, but I feel sometimes as if I’m drowning in the depth of her affection. Does love and patience really include being willing to be touched—all the time?

After missing out on our “date” Thursday, Amber’s request to come visit was more than welcome. I hauled my poor friend on a brisk walk, which she cheerfully insisted would help counteract the brownies she’d made.

Calculating the book of Numbers left me skimming along at high speeds, until my progress was arrested by the final tally of the sons of Israel—just the fighting men, disregarding the priestly tribe of Levi: 603, 550. From 70 persons who entered Egypt with Jacob. From one childless, old man, who believed the promise of God, that his descendants would be as great a multitude as the stars in heaven or the sand on the seashore. Four hundred and thirty years later, the child of promise had become a people several thousand strong. Thirty-five hundred years have passed since that time, and the children of Israel have continued to increase. Even more beautiful to me, the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham—and his seed—has been fulfilled as well. Jesus, the Messiah, seed of Abraham, has come. In Him all the nations of the earth have been blessed, with Abraham the believer. In Him, Abraham’s offspring grew to include all those who believe God and His promises. In Him, Jew and gentile were made into one, and I can claim the godly heritage of my father Abraham. Left breathless for the moment, my mind flew to countless promises. Is He whom Sarah counted faithful to create in her Abraham’s heir, any less able to keep His promises to me?

Lord, Thy promise cannot fail,
Thy Word can and will prevail!
I see Thy faithfulness revealed
From faith to faith, in those Thou sealed.

Thou hast promised I shall be
At last, made to resemble Thee!
What Thou hast promised, Thou wilt do
Because the word Thou speaks is true!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I never denied being a messy cook, as my sweatshirt certainly attested. Beating chicken breasts into humble submission is hardly the cleanest task, but the results were well worth the effort. As soon as I’d finished creating some sort of spinach/cheese/chicken wraps, I escaped the house to run through the woods. Melting snow slid off of pine branches, schlopping and plopping around me at every turn, providing greater amusement in dodging the cold missiles. But two snow days in one week seems a little extravagant. It’s like having three Saturdays spread throughout the week—which might sound nice in theory, but in practicality leaves me feeling inside out and disoriented.

Apparently our popularity is dwindling. Taylor was the lone occupant of our eight-foot pew. Of late he’d seemed lost and weighed down in a cloud of thought, but the cloud must have dissipated, leaving him at his ease tonight. If people are books, Taylor is hard to read past the title page and rarely gives the chance for study. As Zach says, “Dude! I never know what the guy is thinking.” Zach wears his heart on his sleeve. Josh is transparent. Nick comes with a commentary, by the author himself. And the girls—well, even Jacinderella simply lays it out to me in modern English. But Taylor is an enigma--quiet enough to study everyone else at his leisure.

Papa shared some insights to answer a question I’d come across in Psalm sixty-six yesterday—on the topic of Yahweh’s enemies feigning obedience. He took us through several passages about the millennial reign of Jesus, when all the earth will be subject to Him as the divine ruler, for a thousand years, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. Fascinating is the reminder that obedience is only for real when it springs from the heart. During this time, there will be those who can see the Lord, who know Him from a distance, but do not know Him intimately. How anyone could rebel against the Creator escapes my understanding, but even greater, how they could rebel against the perfect judge, while He reigns on earth. Some day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. I’m delighted I’ve been privileged to worship Him now. How awesome are His works!

Lord, Thou blesses all with light,
And understanding wrong and right,
Thou blesses all alike with rain.
But I have heard Thee call my name

And hearing, have been blessed to bow
And worship at Thy throne room now.
I wait the day when all will join me
Praising Thee, on bended knee.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who started it, I’m not sure, but each member of the family has picked up the tune and the words to “I’m a little teapot”. Lydia is still whistling it as she folds her laundry. Perhaps we all identify a little too closely with the “short and stout” part.

I thought Spring was here, but apparently my thoughts have yet to become scientific laws. As I scurried in and out of stores, running errands for Mom and Papa and finally managed to meet Lauryn for lunch, the dreary weather turned first to a drizzle, from a drizzle to a sleet and from a sleet to a blustery snow. Jacinda escorted me back to my car with an umbrella.

Spying a drum set in the window of the Valley Piano store, I popped in to see if I might sneak a play, only to discover they were hardly set up for playing. Instead, I swapped piano pieces with the store owner and soon found myself asking if he knew the Lord. Having managed to gear up for a good conversation, I found myself in for a rare treat sharing and hearing what the Lord was doing in a brother’s life. Amazing the bond of encouragement found throughout the body of the Lord.

I was melting with impatience behind a huge traffic jam when Papa called, asking me to come back to the clinic. Weather conditions were getting nasty and the clinic was closing up as quickly as possible. Managing to slip between traffic and get into a side road, I skirted the issue—a pretty nasty looking wreck in a main intersection.

Having wrapped up Leviticus, I find myself looking back on it through the perspective of Romans—the Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ. “You are to be holy as I am holy,” Yahweh says, over and over again. But who can be holy like the Lord? The foreshadowing is beautiful—in a painful sort of way. Bloody sacrifices offered year by year, animals without defect, to cover over the sins of omission and commission, reminder of how short we fall from the standard of the Living God. Hebrews offered perfect parallels (imagine that) as I read through the Law of sin and death. Now, Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has been slain. His blood is sufficient to cleanse every sin ever committed or that ever will be committed. Once again I am reminded how, in His death, He tore the curtain that separated us from the Holy of Holies and opened up the mercy seat of God, to all who enter having been sprinkled with His pure blood.

It sounds grotesque, perhaps. The life is in the blood, God’s law said, forbidding the eating of blood. Truly, the life is in the blood—the blood of Jesus.

Lord! Only Thy blood can suffice
To cleanse me of both guilt and vice.
The sacrifices Thou dost seek
Are in a soul and heart shown weak

Through gazing at Thy holy law.
And falling on my face in awe,
I recognize I am unworthy--
Yet Thou hast made me pure and holy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I was delighted to discover I’d finally managed to evade a certain grocery store worker, but my satisfaction was short-lived. The new carry-out, a strapping highschool-age guy, peered over the cashier’s shoulder as she looked over my selected apples. “They’re Jonogolds,” I offered, helpfully. “Huh,” my carry-out said, shaking his head. “I coulda sworn they was apples.” I caught my smile as it exploded across my face and tucked it into my pocket for later before explaining: “Jonogolds are a type of apple.” He grinned, sheepishly, and tossed his longish hair out of his eyes. “Well, I guess I feel pretty stupid about now.” Then he elaborately pushed the cart out of his way and gathered all of my sacks into one hand. Oh, I was very impressed, I assure you. Almost as impressed as when random guys I’ve never seen before and never will see again spin their tires or rev their engines. The suburban seemed to impress him. “Well, that’s quite a lot of car for such a little, bitty thang like yourself.” Yuck! Get it off me! Thang? I mumbled something about big families needing plenty of room and shoved my hands in my pockets hoping he’d jump to all kinds of interesting assumptions. For years I’ve scurried around corners, dived down aisles, side-stepped comments and coated my whole person with as much oblivion as I can muster. In situations like these, I still haven’t figured out what’s the right thang to do.

The whole amazing past week came rushing past as I tried to update Tabitha during our weekly phone call/scripture quotation. Everyone should have a Tabitha in their life. Daily she prays scripture over me: that the eyes of my heart would be enlightened so that I might know what is the hope of my calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward me. And on and on and on and on. Just knowing that she is fighting beside me, even from so far away, lends strength to my step and determination to my heart. I offer thanks every time I pray for her. Even more importantly, I should be a Tabitha, as well, faithfully praying for all those I know.

In the whole excitement of the past several days, I’ve neglected to be taking special note of my Leviticus readings. Several items that have caught my attention: spelled out on the turban worn by the priests were the words “Holy to the Lord”. Revelation speaks of those with the seal of God on their foreheads—the new priesthood of believers? Why the words plastered across the forehead? Visibility! There was no doubt in anyone’s mind to who those priests belonged. As a member of the new priesthood, believers, sanctified and set apart by God to serve Him, I should live my life so radically that I might as well have the words “Holy to the Lord” plastered across my forehead. I also found the laws for lepers fascinating. It was the priest’s responsibility to pronounce a person “clean” or “unclean” based on the infection. When Jesus came as our Great High Priest, he reached out, touched and unclean leper and pronounced him clean—and by virtue of the fact that Jesus couldn’t be made unclean, the leper was healed! Of course, in the midst of the various and sundry laws, we find a very comforting verse. “The man who loses his hair on the top or sides of his head is bald. He is clean.” Never fear, our balding brothers. Yahweh holds it not against you.

Lord, Thy priests are labeled “holy”:
Sanctified both by and for Thee
Set apart so all may see
They serve a living Deity.

Once Thy priests need offer daily
Sacrifice of blood, to please Thee.
Now they draw near through the curtain,
Acceptance, through Thy Son, made certain.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Walking through the dining room just before six this morning on my way to fix breakfast, I stopped in my tracks and stared outside at a layer of snow. Not a measly Arkansas powdered sugar dusting, either, but a serious birthday cake layer of pure, white, cold, wet snow. Eleven inches, the news channels all insisted, though I don’t believe I saw more than half that amount. With a little friendly persuasion from Zach, we all abandoned our regular activities to tromp through this winter wonderland in search of Narnia or the North Pole. Josiah and I got the bright idea to deck ourselves in summer outfits and discard our shoes for a “white” themed picture. By the time we made the mad dash back to the house, I couldn’t even feel my toes, but a few minutes inside soon left them burning with the heat of returning circulation.

Mom delivered the phone to me and I mouthed, “Who is it?” She shrugged. “Maybe a Japanese girl?” Quickly I greeted the caller. A familiar voice, but I couldn’t quite seem to place it. Finally I said, “I have no clue who you are,” and she alleviated my confusion with her name: Sarahlita. That certainly put a different spin on matters and soon we were chatting away again like the childhood bosom companions that we are. Funny how it is: no matter how long we’ve been apart, we always come back together able to pick up where we left off and always finding that the Lord is teaching us the same things. Even though she’s married now with a six-month-old son. As we talked, she kept probing, “So…nothing else you need to tell me?...Anything else big going on?...What exciting things are happening with you?...Anything specific you need prayer for?” and finally wrapping up with, “Well, if anything important does happen, do call me, or e-mail—or even if there’s something important you need me to pray about.” I enjoyed a giggling spell after we hung up without even a hint of guilt. There’s honestly nothing to tell.

“Tonight is going to be fun,” Lydia informed me, as she tucked her Bible onto her bookshelf. I raised my eyebrows. “What’s happening tonight?” She grinned. “I just finished John chapter two and I have tons of questions for you!”

At the supper table, I nudged her and whisper-asked if she was ready to tell Mom and Papa. She reached under the table and held my hand so tightly that my ring left indents on the insides of my fingers before she finally nodded. We launched out together on the story and watched our parent’s delighted faces. When Josiah came in a few minutes later, Lydia had to go through the retelling—by herself this time. The rest of the evening we all gushed, she called Nathaniel and Lauren, both grandmas and Josh Potts (since his testimony Sunday had driven her to want salvation for sure). Then the family met outside while Papa baptized her in the hot tub. I must admit, a hot tub does make the perfect baptismal on a snowy evening.

Every single day seems to get sweeter and better, and I know the Lord’s lovingkindnesses are new every day, for His compassions never cease. But I’m bracing myself—every mountaintop overlooks a valley. Soon I will have to make the treacherous descent. I find myself clinging to every single second, each one seeming a precious blessing, especially those with my family. I want to have each moment treasured in my heart for the day when a sword may pierce my soul. I want to cling to what God is doing now for the day when darkness and discouragement become too friendly, or when change looms up as a frightening obstacle.

I want to store up the seven fat years for the years of famine that are as sure to come as the spring rain.

Lord, Thy blessings always prove
The vast unmeasured of Thy love,
But teach my heart to yet discern
The mountain world-view I should learn.

For though some days are filled with pleasure,
Thou alone are my true treasure.
Happenstance may turn appalling
Still Thou art Love—my Love--enthralling.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Every day He outdoes Himself. I can’t even imagine what tomorrow might hold.

When I sat down to write, it seemed as if it had been a rough day—nearly heartbreaking. Overwhelmed with to-dos and a noisy household, I found myself abbreviating my time with the Lord. Then I dove right into all the hard e-mails I’d needed to write for the last several weeks. Tough love, some call it. Isn’t all love tough? I’d barely finished when the mail produced a wedding invitation—from a friend to whom I’d already written explaining why I couldn’t support her marriage. I staggered, recoiling from this slap in the face. Then the Lord began to lift me back up, starting with a phone call to Amber, who proved very encouraging.

I’d just begun to reminisce on the day when Lydia emerged from the shower, steamed and cleaned and I looked up. “Don’t look at me like that,” she giggled. “It feels like you can look right through me.” Playing back, I began to explain how I could see through her to the wall beyond. “I meant that sometimes I think you can see right into my heart,” she said, softly.

Silence. “What is in there that I might see?”

“A lot of things.”

“Good or bad?.”

She turned her face away from me. “Some of both.”

“Is Jesus in there?” I asked, the Lord reminding me how I’d been wanting to talk to her for a while, to probe her spiritually.

She hesitated. “Um, yes.” Then she sat down at the foot of the bed. I began to question her about the gospel, salvation and herself. Jesus died on a cross for her sins, she told me. “Because I am wicked and unworthy.” How did that help her? It should have been her, she affirmed. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” she quoted the verse, with a little prompting and John three sixteen followed. Then we both grew quiet.

“Go over to her,” the Holy Spirit whispered to my spirit, and for one of the few times in my entire life of mistakes, I obeyed. I slithered down onto the floor beside her and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. Immediately she buried her head in my lap. Amid muffled sobs she whispered, “Abigail, I don’t think I’m saved, but I don’t know how to be. I’ve been wanting to ask you about this for a long time, but I was too afraid.”

How do you tell your precious little sister how to believe?

Slowly, feeling lost and dazed, I went back over the gospel with her. She was broken over her sinfulness—I didn’t even need to convict. “I’ve done so many bad things,” she admitted, easily.

“The Bible says you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died in your place so you could be with Him forever. Is that something you want to do?”

Still hiding in my lap, she answered “yes.”

Where could I go from there? She held the key. She stood before the gate. Helplessly, I began to pray that the Lord would open her heart. I poured out to Him how she was standing at His gate, pleading admittance. “Please reach down Your hand and open the way to her.” I only remember those words, because when I finished, she lifted her head and whispered, “When you said those words, ‘Reach down Your hand and open the way,’ He did. I know He did it.”

We sat still again for a while. “Do you want to thank Him?” I prompted and she nodded her head. What made her seem so small and fragile, helpless and weak?

Then she began to pray. “Dear Lord, thank You for being good. Thank You for sending Jesus to die. Thank you for all the people You’ve saved—especially me. I love you.” She looked up at me through her tears. “Why are you crying?”

I snorted. “Because I’m happy.”

We sat quietly for a while before she asked, all in a rush. “What should I read?”

Eleven years she’s lived in a home, inundated by the Word, but suddenly she wants to know it herself. I could read hunger in her eyes as I answered, “John. About Jesus. Want me to read it with you?”

“Please,” she answered. “I started reading it the other day and am a couple of chapters in. But I’d like to start over.”

So we made a date. Eight fifteen every night, we’ll read together and she can ask all the questions she wants. She’s full of them. Eight fifteen because she said, “I want it in my head so I can sleep over it all night.” All evening her hands were shaking and she seemed nervous until we vanished into our room to read and pray. So fragile. Trembling. Eager. Like a newborn baby.

Once upon a time, when I was younger than she is now, I prayed for a baby sister, and the Lord heard my prayer and was pleased to answer—far above all that I could ask or think.

Lord, I come before Thy altar,
Words, aloud and thought, both falter.
Once I asked, and Thou once gave,
Now I begged that Thou wouldst save.

And Lord, I trust Thou wilt complete.
I linger at Thy mercy seat,
To offer worship, prayer and praise
To Thee, Thou Ancient One of Days.

The Lord’s Day, March 2, 2008

I’m completely exhausted, but I can’t imagine how I’ll ever go to sleep tonight. I can only pray that Yahweh will open eyes across the world to see Him working as I’ve been blessed to witness today.

Glenn and his boys arrived from Illinois last night, to begin looking for houses in this area, so our meeting this morning was packed with wisdom and insight from John, First John and First Timothy. The men were still going strong, encouraging, exhorting and discussing, when our lunch-time extras began to trickle in. Papa asked Glenn for his testimony, and from there, our guests began to share how the Lord had brought each of them to His mercy seat, repentant and believing that He had the power to save them. After listening to the others, Josh slowly opened up and began to pour out his story: how, as a boy of seven, he’d walked the aisle and made a profession of faith—and meant it. Really. But he’d never been given much truth to believe, simply told that Christians live a certain lifestyle, which he followed until his sister’s tragic death when he was twenty. “I hated God,” he earnestly insisted. “I was told that God protected Christians and nothing would hurt them. God had lied to me.” From there he turned his back on the Lord and lived in rebellion for seven years, spiraling deeper and deeper into depravity and death, enslaved to sin, forever trying to cover it over with momentary highs. “I got to the point where I looked at my addictions and said, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore! I don’t have to do this anymore!’ and they laughed in my face and said ‘Yes, you do.’” Terrified, Josh was determined to find the truth—but he wasn’t going to be any easy sell. When he started going to Wes and Audrey’s Bible study, he had no intention of letting anyone pull the wool over his eyes. Slowly, the sincerity of the believers drew him closer until he couldn’t stay away. It was a frightening weekend when he realized he’d overdosed on Meth and called Nathaniel and Bruce. Immediately they came to be with him, talking with him, forcing him to flush the rest of the drugs down the toilet, and quoting scripture to him. “I could have killed them,” he confided, “when they got between me and the door. They just kept saying scripture to me. I couldn’t flush the stuff. Then they made me say ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ and I dropped it in. Nathaniel flushed the toilet. Then Bruce started walking me to make me sweat. I didn’t die.” The next week, he was high again and Nathaniel simply told him he was coming over to spend the night. Josh just kept repeating, “I was terrified. I was on the edge of a cliff. All the things I’d been using to stay alive—I needed to let them go to God, but I was terrified that if I did, I’d fall over the cliff and He wouldn’t be real to save me after all.” In this depth of despair, he realized that he had two choices, die and be lost, or cast Himself on Jesus as the only possible hope. “I jumped off that cliff.” He and Nathaniel studied through half of the book of Romans as Josh came down of that dangerous high. Just about exactly a year ago. He’s been clean ever since. Doctor’s say it’s impossible to kick Meth. Can anyone echo “nothing is impossible with God”? I’ve known Josh about exactly a year. The change in him is miraculous—literally. “I should be dead,” he said over and over again. “I about died.” His words are no exaggeration. He should be dead. Instead, he has passed from death to life, through the divine intervention, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and the power of His resurrection. To those searching for answers to the question of religion, the issue of God and the concept of eternity, God has offered proof in the metamorphosis of those at enmity with Him into those who love Him and serve Him because of the His hand in their life. I wish I could spell out Josh’s story, exactly as it poured from his heart and brought tears to our eyes. Later he felt foolish for sharing it. Well? Hasn’t God chosen the foolish of the world to shame the wise? The weak and despised things, the things that are nothing that He might make nothing the things that are? Only Yahweh can accomplish what has been done in Josh's life. As he's begun to say, "It's all about Jesus, isn't it?"

I couldn’t focus on anything the rest of the day.

Tonight, my heart is too full to even sort it out into four lines by four lines which could never even touch the beauty or magnitude of God’s power and His working in our lives. Tonight I fall silent and let His own Word speak for Himself—He does it so eloquently.

Not to us, O Yahweh, not to us,
but to Thy name give glory
Because of Thy lovingknindness, because of Thy truth.
Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”
But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases…
You who fear Yahweh, trust in Yahweh;
He is their help and their shield.
Yahweh has been mindful of us; He will bless us;
He will bless those who reverence Yahweh,
The small together with the great.
The heavens are the heavens of Yahweh
But the earth He has given to the sons of men.
The dead do not praise Yahweh,
Nor do any who go down into silence.
But as for us, we will bless Yahweh
From this time forth and forever!
Praise Yahweh!

--From Psalm 115

Leap Year! Friday, February 29, 2008

I’d barely gone to sleep last night when the phone rang. Twice. A harsher sound, I can hardly imagine. Soon I discovered that, while I was refocusing and refueling with the Creator of the Universe, He was handling some important business I’d left undone elsewhere—perfectly. As always. What an amazing multi-tasker He is. He wrapped up the rest of the issue today with beauty, precision and the ease of One Who knows what He is about.

Random observation for the day: I rediscovered why I never use recipes anymore. Mom left me with a pile of new recipes to use for weekend preparation and, to my deepest distress, the process cost me at least twice as much time.

Our “profitable discourse” (as John Bunyan would have it) tonight brought us to the question of eternity and rewards. I could barely keep from wriggling with delight, since Amber had just plied me with questions about eternity, rewards and punishments for believers a few days ago. But my joy quickly turned to horror and sorrow as we turned to Jesus’ words about practicing righteousness before men, to be seen by them—and the praise of men that is the only reward for such actions. Precious Master, I convince myself that I desire only Your praise, only Your delight, and yet I “serve” You with my head turned over my should to know if anyone saw. “Did anyone notice that wonderful thing I did?” or “The Lord allowed me to share with so-and-so today,” I confide, secretly wondering if my listener can see the halo above my head. Perhaps they also see the craft wire holding up my fa├žade.

Wretched girl that I am, how can I be free to serve the Lord, not in pretense, but in truth?

Lord, within my heart dwells pride
Which I try desperately to hide,
But Thou who searchest heart and mind
This wicked guest will always find.

I beg Thee, Lord, to search my soul
And anywhere Thou finds a hole
By which his entrance he might make,
I beg Thee, Lord, that place to break.