Announcement

I'm afraid my current style of posting from journal entries isn't working so well--I keep failing in the editing job and later finding little pieces of private information that don't belong online. I've been beginning to think that I may be indiscreet as well, sharing too much of my personal thoughts and feelings for my good or anyone else's. So I'm going to take a break from Blogger for a few days, reevaluate my current posting style and figure out what (if any) would be a better way to go about it, since I've proven that I can't be trusted to edit safely. My goal has been to glorify God by simply telling what He's doing, but I'm a weak unwise little girl, and my methods seem risky, at best. I apologize for any embarrassment or offense any of my failures may have caused. I hope I'll be back in May...or so.

In the meanwhile--if you're bored, check out some of the links I've added. They are much wiser men than I, and much more careful in what they say!

Blessings from Yahweh! May you seek His face today and always!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Papa shared his opinion on the issue of Eli’s sons. He pointed out that as those in leadership, representing Yahweh, they incurred a stricter judgment. He also reminded me that Yahweh gives those whose hearts are hard over to their sin, as in Romans chapter one, and also to the wages of sin—death.

Yahweh’s call to Samuel, and Samuel’s quick answer was encouraging. I hope I am always as quick to answer the Lord, “Speak Lord, Thy servant listens.” It must have been distressing to Samuel to hear God’s judgment on Eli and his sons. I was struck through the story with the view of God’s sovereignty. At the time, the capture of the ark and the death of the priests—all of them—must have seemed like Yahweh forsaking His people! Instead, it was judgment on the wicked priests and Eli, who allowed their wickedness, as well as a reminder to the people that the ark was not a good luck charm. Yahweh is with his people when they are obedient and seek Him. But His plan was even larger than teaching the Israelites an important lesson—still He would not allow His name to be blasphemed among the Philistines. They thought they had triumphed over Him, but soon discovered that even their god Dagon must fall on his face in worship of Yahweh. When plagues swept through their cities, they knew it was the hand of Yahweh—and His hand continued to work in guiding the cows, bellowing all the way for their calves, to carry the ark home. Who had everything under control? Yahweh. Who got the glory? Yahweh. He is worthy!

Lord, Thou over rules our plans,
To show us Thou art not a man,
And though we do not understand
Thou still maintains control.

With circumstances that appear
To harm Thy purpose, Thou makes clear
That Thou redeemest, year by year,
Both circumstance and soul.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All I really want right now is an apple. Just a simple, shiny, crunchy apple. Fuji. Or Gala. Or Pink Lady. Even Golden Delicious. I don’t really care, so long as it has a core, a peeling and is roundish.

I thought I’d been grumpy all day long. Hardly felt like myself, I was so exhausted, and weaker than the third brewing of an herbal tea bag. “Was I grumpy?” I quizzed Josiah, as I washed dishes from a jug of water. After supper the well again went on strike. “What? Grumpy?” he looked at me funny. “Just a little quiet maybe.” As queen of the roost for the day, I tried to keep all three of my charges occupied profitably. Lizzy’s not hard to entertain. I handed her “Rachel’s Tears” and zipped around the house, marking things off Mom’s list as I went. Well, actually, I tried to zip, but my feet felt as if they’d discovered a quagmire and decided to stay and search it to the bottom.

(Overheard from the dining/school room)
Lydia: Spell “famous.”
Josiah: A-B-I-G-A-I-L

They told me it was humid down here. I don’t remember who “they” were, but they were right. Chainsaw in hand, Josiah attacked the enormous tree that last lightning storm had shattered, while the rest of us tugged branches, piled logs and tried to keep out of the way of falling limbs. Soon I’d stripped my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist. In a flash, Lizzy’d followed my example. Still feeling like a head of broccoli in a pressure steamer, I rolled my sleeves up to my shoulders and glanced up to see Lizzy doing the same. “Stand back—way back!” Josiah called, walking up a huge branch that had knelt to the ground and beginning to saw. I stepped into the shade, hands on hips and noticed that Lizzy had assumed an identical posture. I crossed my arms in front of me. A second passed and she did the same. I shoved my hands in my pockets. Soon hers had found her pockets as well. I peeked at her from the corner of my eye to see if she was imitating me on purpose. To be funny. She was watching me intently, as usual, but slyness doesn’t fit her sense of humor. With a shrug, I tugged off my green leather gloves and laid them across the handle of the wheelbarrow. As if it had just occurred to her, she pulled her pink pair off and laid them next to mine. I flopped down on the ground and she flopped down next to me. And then I scratched my nose. Just to see what she’d do. She reached her hand up and scratched her own before a confused look crossed her face and she quickly dropped her hand. That’s when I looked away to hide my smile. And that’s when I missed the excitement. “Oh!” Lydia exclaimed and I turned in time to see Josiah leap off the branch bridge he’d climbed, chainsaw still in tow, and land barely out of reach of the branch that had just crashed to the ground. With his monkey feet and spider instincts, he’s never managed to wind up hurt. Yet. Maybe it’s Someone looking out for him.

Zach must be trying to redeem his “prodigal” status. “I’m too tired to go to Wes and Audrey’s,” he told us. “Can I come spend the night?” “John A’s going to be the next Martin Luther!” he exclaimed for the fiftieth time. “I’m telling you, he’ll reform the church!” Then he turned glum. “If that’s possible.” While I played piano, Zach preached about corruption in the church, in the Bible Belt and in Arkansas, where everyone names the name of Christ, but no one abstains from wickedness. It was almost like our own big tent revival. When he quoted William Booth, that prophet from the last century, he really caught my attention. “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” I wish his prediction were not so accurate. “I don’t do Christianity because there are too many hypocrites in the church,” I’ve heard countless times. Usually I mumble something about not imposing the character of “Christians” on Christ. Yesterday my heart was burning, frustrated to think that “Christians” might be keeping the world from Christ. “The hypocrites are headed to hell,” I blurted out. “Do you want to spend eternity with them?” I couldn’t believe I’d said it straight out, but relief flooded over me as I realized I’d finally told the truth. I’ve always been afraid to condemn, to point the finger, to admit that those who don’t live for Jesus don’t live in Him either. How can I even begin to speak of others when my heart is so far from staid on Him? But my fault is not in pretending Christ when I don’t love Him. My fault is not loving Him by preaching His truth—to those who are pretending. I wonder what Jesus thinks of His bride?

Lord, Thy bride is so divided,
She’s taken grace that Thou provided
Turned it into chance for lust,
Forgotten what it means to trust,

Counterfeit the way to heaven,
Mixed Thy holy bread with leaven—
She’s grown not in Thy grace, but size,
Engorged on devastating lies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apparently I’ve become part of the weekly calendar for some people. “Crazy! Is it Wednesday already?” Lauryn yawned, sitting cross-legged on her bed, with her Bible spread across her lap. “No,” I grinned. “I’m off schedule.” My desire to bring the girls a whole field of red clover resulted in only a paltry handful, presented at the door as a peace offering for showing up uninvited at eight o’clock. It’s hard to believe the Sweetest Suite will go the way of the buffalo in less than a month. Sitting on the floor of Lauryn’s room, getting in on her preparation for a Wednesday night teaching from Philippians four. Helping April pick out her outfit or distracting her from homework or getting comfy on the futon as we pray. Or even working alone in the quiet while the three of them are at class.

Ministry lunches are not tops on my menu. Large crowds of noisy students and shallow devotionals from “The Message”, but if that’s what it takes to spend time with Miss Emily, I’m sure I can handle it. Zach resembled a pouting child, waiting for Emily, April and me on the back steps of Wilson, his backpack lying neglected at his feet. “Anybody see the stick yet?” he called, waving us over. Promptly we all shifted gears and headed his direction. Funny how a habit like instant obedience becomes a burden. A million times the light has dawned, “Just because he sounds like he’s in charge doesn’t mean I have to dance to his tune.” Just as we were about to give up on Taylor, he appeared and then we were five. April always voices what I’m thinking. With her it’s not doing whatever she suggests because she suggests it, but because I already wanted to do it. “Let’s walk in the grass” or “I’m going over the top of that pile of dirt”—the things I do when I’m alone…or have a confederate. No wonder people always think we’re up to something when we grin at each other across the room.

Buckling on my spider-slaying sword, I entered Amber’s house, prepared for a severe jousting match with the arachnid who’s been terrorizing them for weeks. “See it?” Amber pointed to a corner of the ceiling. I squinted up at the tiny, grey exoskeleton dangling like a hangman on a noose. “I’ll get you a stool,” she offered and vanished from the kitchen. “Where is it?” I asked, peering again at the ceiling as she returned. “I know,” she blushed. “It’s so tiny you can hardly see it.” She bustled past me to point and then stopped. “It’s gone!” One look at my guilty face and she gave me a shove as I opened the trash can and pointed to our eradicated fiend. Ah, but such valor left me bereft of energy and I nearly drifted into dreamland as Amber talked to me. A rude heroine, indeed.

Lizzy was waiting for me outside the gymnastics building when I pulled up. This is her first “for real” visit and I’ll admit to a little nervousness. More than a little I am guilty of, but refuse to admit. I’m still not exactly sure what Eileen is hoping for or expecting. Or what Lizzy herself is expecting. She cheerfully does anything I suggest or request, doesn’t question me as I sit here, busily typing about her, and tells me funny stories in her engaging way. Most teen girls say “like” like all the time. Lizzy’s word is “all.” “Mom called me into her room and I’m all, ‘What do you need?’” We started John tonight—just after Amber and I finished this afternoon. Behold my life as a hamster: forever on the treadmill of John studies. What a great way to keep me thinking about Jesus and what He’s done—and is still doing.

I can’t seem to move on in First Samuel. One verse is eating at my thoughts and won’t permit me to move on until I find a satisfactory answer. Eli, the godly priest of God who raised Samuel, had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were worthless men—stealing meat from the Lord’s sacrifice, profaning the Lord’s name and committing adultery publicly. It’s not so shocking to realize that, even thousands of years ago, the title “priest” did not make a man holy or even make him a servant of Yahweh. When Eli rebuked his sons, they ignored him, which is also not surprising, since wicked men stiffen their necks and harden their hearts against truth. “But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for Yahweh desired to put them to death.” And here I stop and shake my head to clear all my preconceptions, and reread and shake my head again. Did Yahweh prevent them from listening so that He could destroy them? What about His word through Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live”? Wouldn't He desire to incline their hearts to listen to Eli? Perhaps this is a story like that of Pharaoh, where these men had hardened their own hearts and stiffened their own necks until Yahweh wouldn’t even allow them to make a wise decision in turning from folly? That Yahweh wished to destroy them because their hearts were still wicked, and didn’t allow Eli’s words to bring them to a change of action because there was no change of heart? That the continuance of their sin would render God’s judgment on their hearts righteous and show Him to be just? Had they improved their behavior, the evil in their hearts would have seemed to vanish and men would have wondered at God’s wrath. Is this Yahweh’s sovereignty, not in causing men to be evil or to do evil, but in denying them the ability to bring forth fruits in keeping with a repentance they do not possess—or even seek? And though Yahweh desired to put them to death, that their sin might not spread and defile His people, He must still have taken no pleasure in pouring out His wrath upon these two rebellious men—sons of a man He loved.

Lord, wrath is hard to comprehend;
Thou must, by nature, punish sin,
So even all the grace Thou send
Does not extend to wicked men.

For, though Thou could, by sovereignty
Demand that all should follow Thee,
Thou shows us grace and bids us choose—
Who chooses self, himself will loose.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My version of Windows Movie Maker doesn’t support MPEG2’s. That would have seemed like a random, useless fact, had I not spent the whole afternoon bent over my laptop with Jacinderella, imploring, pleading and trying to bribe it into cooperation. Even free conversion downloads proved a disappointment. While we waited for downloads, uploads, acrossloads, inloads, outloads, offloads and onloads, we behaved like the immature girls we are. Jacinderalla hates being reminded how others are scared of her. I think it’s hilarious. Scared of my Jacinderella? Whatever…Okay. Maybe I’m a little scared, too, when she gives me certain looks. “The South Beach Diet?” She suspiciously pulled the book off my desk. “Uh, yeah,” I answered. “I can explain.” The Librarian at Tech had given me a similar look and probed: “This must be for a research paper, right?” The explanation is simple: Papa asked me to start it with him because I’m the only one in the family who wouldn’t shrivel up and die on a diet. Actually, I think I might. No fruit or dairy in the first phase? Giving up bread and starches is no problem, but I exist on fruits and dairy. In a dearth of other things to talk about, I bravely showed her the language I’d written when I was fifteen. Acacian. I don’t know why it came to mind. It began simply as one of my million codes and grew until it was going to be a whole allegory, with a world of its own. I wasn’t even familiar with Lord of the Rings. Or Gaelic, both of which it resembles. Logistically, it might be pretty difficult to speak, since most of the vowels are silent, vowel sounds being part of the consonants. Or difficult, at least, to understand. But I became very proficient in writing it, back in the day, and even ensnared Josiah in note passing for a time. “This is insane. You could sell this,” Jacinderella commented. I shrugged. I was thinking I’d keep it around for kicks and maybe teach it in the catacombs should America ever become hostile to Christianity.

The new lawn mower is a manual transmission. Of sorts. No gas pedal. Just a brake/clutch and six speeds. I slid the lever into sixth, eased off on the clutch and went flying across the yard at breakneck speed. Well. Fast for a lawnmower, at least. I still can barely hold the seat down, but at least our terrain here is no where near as jostling as back in Kansas. I can’t count all the times the mower died because I zipped through a rut and bounced right off the seat.

A horrible confession escapes me tonight. I followed Lydia into our room to read Ephesians before bed and couldn’t remember the last time I’d read with her. Always some “interference” or “excuse.” We did so well through John and First John, but I’ve completely let it slide to the side of my pathway. Isn’t this just the story of my life. “You started well. Who hindered you from finishing?”

In the midst of our family study through Exodus, as we’ve listened through the details of the bloody sacrifices, I came again upon David’s understanding of God’s true desire: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Which would be comforting, except that it reminds me that I’ve come again to that place where the well has run dry. Where I realize I’m chasing everything but the Lord. Where the fire in my heart begs to be fanned. Psalm fifty-one always finds me here, disappointed in myself, pleading for a steadfast and willing spirit. Rules, schedules and liturgies turn stale without the holy passion of a heart fixed on Yahweh. Which heart I lack.

Lord, I’ve wandered from Thy feet,
The place where we were wont to meet,
Yet even here, where’er I be
I know that Thou wilt come to me.

So, Father, I implore Thee now,
To grind up every golden cow
And grant to me a heart of praise
To worship Thee through all my days.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It seems we’ve been invaded by hoards of bristly orange and black caterpillars--food for the vast array of lizards who scamper in and out around the well house. The birds have arranged themselves into a praise team to sing twenty-four-seven to Almighty God from the verdant boughs. Even the ticks were out rejoicing on a day like this. I never realized just how many of the nasty hitch hikers I picked up until today, when a pair of white pants revealed tag-alongs of all shapes and sizes.

Donnie’s younger brother, Tommy, joined us for church today. When I first met him, nearly four years ago, he was one of those people I thought I could very happily live without ever seeing again. He’s grown up a bit, matured a lot and become considerably more pleasant. And met the Lord in the interim, I’d guess, from the testimony he shared at lunch.

Papa taught from First Timothy three—the requirements for elders in the assembly. He boiled it down to four basic themes: male, mature, moral and a martyr (literally, a witness of Christ). But is this standard for leaders such an unattainable goal? Hardly. There are no restrictions for personality or spiritual gift and, most fascinating, he pointed out that nearly every command for overseers is paralleled elsewhere for all believers—excluding the call to males, of course (mercifully for those of us of the “female persuasion”). If the Lord calls us all to a standard of excellence, how much less those who would shepherd His flock!

“Here,” Zach thrust his Bible in front of me as I sat at the piano. “Verse eight.” We’ll call that a PIE attack, and it means one thing: provide immediate explanation. I glanced around hurriedly for someone to bail me out before protesting. “Who do you think I am to explain this?” “Well, duh,” he shrugged. “Lane's your father.” And there we have it, in three simple words and an apostrophe: my heritage. My amazing heritage. Because my father is wise, the poor, deluded individuals who appear on our doorstep assume the same applies to me. I only wish more of his wisdom would seed and grow in my own heart. I can attempt to regurgitate his explanations. I can pretend to walk uprightly. I can stare hard at a page of scripture and scratch my head and make semi intelligent grunts, but this child—well, this child knows nothing good. Can’t they see that? The high regard my father deserves is miles above anything I might claim. And I fall so short of the perfection of Christ. Please, Yahweh, God of my father, open my eyes, too, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy Law. Zach’s question came from Hebrews five and has been spinning around in my mind all day: “Although He (Jesus) was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal life.” For some odd reason, my head wasn’t screwed on tightly enough to think to take him to Philippians two, where Tabby and I are memorizing. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” To the best of my understanding, Jesus learning obedience doesn’t imply that He’d been disobedient before, but simply that He’d never been called to obey before. Once upon a time, He was equal with God, but when He emptied Himself, He chose to be obedient and He learned to be obedient through the suffering—even no longer being present with God at all times must have been difficult. Dragging around an body of dust must have been tiresome. And being forsaken by God and punished for the sins of the world was without doubt agonizing. All this He did for the glory of God. Hebrews says He was heard because of His piety. Philippians continues “Therefore God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…” Have this humility, I am told. Jesus was equal with the God who humbles Himself just to look at heaven and earth, yet He poured it all out on the altar of sacrifice as a pleasing aroma to God. Have this humility. Whatever I think I am. Whatever I think I have. Pour it out completely on the altar of sacrifice, knowing that I will be heard because of Jesus’ piety.

Lord, the way Thou made to heav’n
Defies our wisdom, schemes or plans
While men seek blindly to be God,
God chose to be a man.

And by Thy Son’s obedience—
And Thou rejecting Him—
Thou brought near those who disobeyed
And set them free from sin.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

“This knife sure is dull,” I complained to the pears I was slicing for breakfast. Lydia started snickering just about the same time I realized I was holding it backward—with the blade pressing against my finger. “Hmph,” I fixed the issue. “I still say it’s dull.” The jar I snagged for skimming the cream took a leap of faith from my hand and scuttled across the floor. I smiled sheeplishly at Lydia as I scooped it up and promptly sent the spatula flying through the air for an aerial routine. “Well,” my little sister observed pertly, “Someone’s a clutz today.” Her bowl of yogurt slid from her fingers to the wooden floor, where it shattered, scattering sticky, white splatters and sharp, white splinters across the kitchen. “I’m always clumsy when I’m in a hurry,” I teased. “What’s your excuse?”

I was bent over a pile of rickety boards, once a rickety shelf, now about to find a new home in the rickety incinerator—just as soon as I finished pulling the nails and screws from them. With a mighty war whoop, Josiah came hurtling over me and my hands slipped, driving a slender nail up my left palm. “Let’s not do the leap-frogging while I’m working with pointy objects,” I chided, considering the implications of nail-pierced hands. Perhaps the incident will make me more Christ-like.

Incidentally, I managed to chop half a dozen scraggly stumps out of the yard without putting the ax through my foot or my hand or my head. I’d have been at a serious disadvantage without either of the first two.

Here is the wisdom that greeted me today, in the pages of Psalms: “Man in his pomp will not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” I think of those who are rich and powerful, who seek intelligence, money or pleasure. “Even wise men die, the stupid and the senseless alike and leave their wealth to others.” Well, duh. I love the way Yahweh puts things in perspective. He brings me back to plain facts of life. The redemption of a soul is costly. Who can offer God a ransom for one? Not only am I completely helpless to save anyone else, I can’t even save myself. Why should I ever worry about money? Those rich people—who congratulate themselves, who think they’ve got it made—who are they fooling? What are they going to take with them beyond the grave? Money can’t buy eternity. It can’t buy life. It can’t buy joy. It can’t even buy health. Where is my hope? My security? My retirement plan? God will redeem my soul from the power of death—He will receive me.

Lord, all that’s sure in life’s the grave,
Unless Thou art the one who saves
For money, power and pleasure sought
Have never, once, salvation bought.

Without the fear of Yahweh’s name,
The beasts and birds are much the same.
Life repeats its serenade:
We bloom and flourish, then we fade.

Friday, April 18, 2008

“What does ‘manna’ mean?” I asked, over the breakfast table. Papa leaned back in his chair and smiled. “What is it?” Blank stares passed from one person to the next before Mom finally ventured, “Bread from heaven…?” Papa’s grin widened as he clarified. “Manna means ‘What is it?’”

Sunlight poured over my kitchen work as Mom came in and poured herself a glass of milk. “I need to be drinking more of this,” she commented and I took the opportunity to ask about all the medical tests she’s been having lately. Many of them are just routine “woman” checks, but I sensed that all is not as she might wish. “My bone density scan was pretty…pretty bad,” she admitted. “Much worse than someone my age should be. I’m not quite osteoporosis, but almost.” And she started crying. “What can you do about it?” I asked, pushing away my mixing bowl and wrapping my arms around her. Nothing. She doesn’t weigh enough to make exercising very useful. Not that she should stop, of course. It just won’t help. More milk will never do it. Medication is on the horizon, but many doctors won’t even take the medications they prescribe. “So, what does that mean? What will it do to you? Are you going to fall and break your hips?” She wiped her eyes and grinned a little lop-sided. “I don’t really know. I don’t think it’s that bad. I just don’t like getting old.” Papa’s blood pressure has been up, too. Pretty high, I guess. “It pounds in my face, turning me red, and gives me headaches,” he explained to me as we walked along the quiet road. Stress always sends his blood pressure sky-rocketing. If I could, I would heal everything instantly, but in this I see the limit to my wisdom, for what valuable lessons might be all lose were there never a care in the world? A pain. An ache. A void.

I overheard Lydia announcing a loose tooth tonight. In this are our differing characters revealed: Lydia’s patience in waiting until each tooth falls out—the last one in several pieces, it was so far gone. My controlling lack of it, in ripping every one out as soon as it gave the first sign of a tell-tale wiggle—many still had part of the root. “I hath a looth tooth!” she proudly proclaimed several years ago, after discovering her first. “Oh!” I knelt in front of her. “Let me see!” And then, “Here you go” as I handed her the pearly white. Since then she has carefully refrained from sharing her news with me, until she was good and ready to be through with the drama of the wiggling stage. Tonight was her first molar. “No!” she said, firmly, as I followed her into the bathroom, but then she relented. “Just pull it out fast.” I grinned, rolled up my sleeves with an “All righty!” and out the tooth came. I suppose Lydia’s gratefulness bubbled over, since she offered me assistance later, as I balanced on the tip of my toes attempting to reach the top shelf of the cabinet. “Oops! Skin!” she exclaimed and yanked my skirt waistband up to my ribs. I’m not ticklish, but I nearly dropped the pot on her head.

Penguins incubate their eggs by keeping them on their feet under their belly fat,” Taylor informed us. Thus began the discussion of penguins—particularly whether or not they are possessed of feathers. I’ve even seen them close up, and still always assumed they attired themselves much in the fashion of a whale or dolphin—you know, a tailored wet suit. “Don’t you remember what makes a bird a bird?” Papa remonstrated and quickly proved any doubters wrong with the nearest Encyclopaedia. That fact settled, Nathan and Taylor moved on to various other creatures and contraptions in God’s ingenious planet earth. “Those sure are some nice guys,” Mom commented, wiping crumbs from the counter after they’d left. “I wish the whole world were made up of a whole lot more guys like that. It would be a much more pleasant place.” “Yes,” I observed, sagely. “Much more quiet.”

The book of First Samuel brought me face to face with another exemplary woman—Hannah. At a time when I keep asking Yahweh for favors, gifts and notice, her multiplied prayer for a son caught my attention. “Women shall be preserved through the bearing of children,” Paul comments, hundreds of years later. What did she need? Children to care for her in her old age. A true need. But her request is laced with humility and devotion to Yahweh. “If You will indeed look upon me and remember me and not forgive me, but will give me a son, the Yahweh of hosts, I will give him back to You!” Struck dumb by her words, I kept rereading the prayer that Yahweh delighted to answer. “Please be so kind as to give me a son, that I can give him back to You!” She wanted a son to serve Yahweh. Her desire to give back to Yahweh was honored and she bore a son who became a great prophet—even anointed Israel’s first two kings. And Yahweh’s blessing was multiplied to her through the births of five more children. This humble woman’s prayer was a testimony to me of what and how I should implore Yahweh of hosts—so that I might give back to Him, recognizing that I can only give what He has already given me.

Lord, may Thy grace dwell richly in me,
May I bring forth fruits that please Thee—
Children that will serve Thee wholly,
Dedicated to Thee only.

May the work of both my hands,
Be blessed of Thee to strongly stand.
And every blessing flowing from Thee,
Be offered up to bless Thee fully.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I should have known better than to ask Josiah to help me wash the Suburban. And I certainly should have known better than to hand him the hose. I hardly need explain how cold the water was, or how he seemed unable to stop eliciting funny squeaks and complaints from me. “You never just say ‘stop’,” he defended himself. “You sound like you’re having fun.” That’s because I think it’s funny. I know I make funny noises when doused with cold water. I’m just hoping he’ll be gentleman enough to stop without me asking. The Suburban is now waxed and shiny, vacuumed inside and ready for sale. It will be something new for us not to have a vehicle that seats more than five people.

I opened my Bible to the book of Ruth and smiled. Fairytales are silliness. Romance novels are disgusting. Feminist literature is nauseating. But here, at the end of the tale of humanism, I find a woman I can admire and emulate. Not even a Jew. Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. Married to a disobedient man. Widowed at a young age. Ruth made the decision to leave her people and her country in pursuit of Yahweh and in service to her mother-in-law. Humble, faithful, industrious and hopeful, Ruth rescued her Jewish family from ruin, her mother-in-law from despair and herself from paganism at home and despising in Israel by throwing herself upon the mercy of the God of Israel. Her trust reaped bountiful rewards through a kind kinsman redeemer who recognized her character and married her, placing her in the ancestry to Christ. “Ah,” said the women of Israel, to Naomi, her mother-in-law. “Ruth is better to you than seven sons!” Ruth’s faithfulness left Naomi better provided for than her husband or sons had ever done. In this is the beauty of the story: the truth that Jesus is our kinsman redeemer, waiting for us to come to Him and say, “Can you help me?” When we throw ourselves on His mercy and kindness, we find that He will not rest until He has redeemed us, made us respectable, beautiful and finally, brought us home to be with Him forever.

Here I kneel at His feet, in awe of His kindness in noticing me, a humble maidservant, foreign to His people.

Lord, I praise Thee, precious Lord!
My purity has been restored,
My heart seems to again be one
Delighting in Thy Risen Son.

And, Oh, the thoughts that weighed me down,
Have flown, Thou art the only sound
My ears or heart can hear or heed.
At last, my Love, Thou’rt all I need.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sleep and I had a hard time communicating last night. Just when we’d get settled into a comfortable conversation, my body would wake up like a petulant child whining, “I’m not tired.” So I’d lie in bed, wondering how people actually go about counting sheep, whether they actually jump over fences (because the grass is greener on the other side?) and, most importantly, what do sleepless lambs count? Finally it dawned on me (a little before the sun did) that I could be taking this opportunity to refuel so I’d have no excuse for whining later about never getting any “alone” time. No doubt that was the most logical thought I’ve ever had at four o’clock in the morning.

“Weren’t you just at Lowe’s?” the guy called over from the gas pump next to me. I nodded, slid my credit card and started fueling. “My buddy and I couldn’t believe it when you swung that stack of—what were they?—big ol’ things under your arm and carried them in the store. I was like, ‘Dude! She’s tuff! I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.’” I glanced at the construction trailer they were towing and hid a smile. “Actually,” I explained, “Those were just Styrofoam.”

I managed to catch Jacinderella for about half an hour. “Do you want to come up here, or do you want to go somewhere else?” she asked, already expecting my answer: “I wouldn’t mind being outside in the sunshine.” Here’s the scoop: my Jacinderella has been applying to become a missionary to some South American country. Hence the ambiguous note: “Should I live down ‘neath the ‘Quarter, would you come and visit later?” At least she didn’t write it in Spanish. And. Well. I’m excited for her. But I sure will miss my Jacinderella, come May. Looking back, it’s funny. Who’s have thought the friendship would have gone here, simply through an internet prank?

I don’t know how I ever used to go a whole day without eating. After the first class period of “No Apologies” in Lake D Highschool, my stomach was raging like a rabid raccoon. “We only have about twenty minutes lunch break,” Christy announced checking her watch. “I’m not really hungry anyway.” “Me either,” Randi shrugged. “I had a Twix on the way here. A peanut butter Twix.” And the two of them went off into a discussion of the evolution of the Twix candy bar, while I sat, arms pressed across my loudly complaining stomach meditating on all the Wal-mart fresh fruit in the trunk of the Camry I’d left at the dental clinic. “You can wait,” I assured my stomach and started flipping through one of the orange folders belonging to the next class. Sixth period must have eaten Mexican jumping beans for lunch. They were wound tighter than a shelf of music boxes—all playing different tunes. I sat on the sidelines, covertly studying kid’s reactions as Christy and Randi alternated talking about making choices—and encouraged them to choose abstinence, so they would never have to face so many of the other difficult choices that might follow. A pregnant girl sat on the far side of the room, her nose glowing like Rudolf’s, her eyes on her desk. A group of Mexican boys in the middle oohed and ahhed and cuddled the rubber baby models we’d brought. Popular girls clustered next to me, whispering between themselves and occasionally tossing a shy smile my way from a crevice in their armor-like shells. The variation in a high school health class is unbelievable. The guys who giggled as they handed in surveys announcing that the best part of the class was “hot teachers” contrasted strongly with the two who came up to us afterward, commenting that they wished we could have shared more “truth.” “I know you’re not allowed to talk about Biblical stuff,” one said, tugging on his reddish beard, “but it sure would help.” It sure would. It’s hard to swallow that I can teach information about birth control, show pictures of STDs but I dare not even mention God’s word on the issue. Or even that we’ve been banned from showing the abortion video there—because a girl who’d had one became upset after seeing the pictures. Let’s take our girls to get abortions, but don’t let’s show them what happens to that baby! Teach our teens about sex? Oh, sure. Fine. But don’t you dare mention the God who created their bodies! And we whine about the rate of teen pregnancies and STDs.

I never made it back to the Camry for a piece of fruit. Papa had to head home to work with the plumber on the well-house, and Christy dropped me off at Amber’s apartment instead. Feeling guilty for not paying better attention to what she was saying, I tried to sort out my “training” into easily accessible mental files as we picked up laundry from the Laundromat, Lin N’s pictures from the developer, ice from Pilot and Lizzy from DHS before heading for home. Barely in the door, I was assaulted with the aroma of homemade pizza. Posterity need never know how many pieces I consumed before my stomach decided it could survive until morning.

Public speaking is an art—an art which boils down to the ability to educate, motivate and persuade. And it’s an art Lizzy is learning. We spent the evening embroiled in reading the sermon on the mount in search of contrasts between two great public speakers: Jesus and Hitler. Both accomplished the goal of educating, motivating and persuading. But, as in the story Jesus shared of the two men who built houses—only one structure stood. Hitler’s regime collapsed—not for lack of talent or skill on the part of the leader, but because the foundation was not the truth. We had nearly condensed this concept into a one page speech when Josiah called me to his room.

“I have something to ask you about,” he started, slowly. Then he spilled out how he didn’t think he was truly saved when he’d been baptized as a child. “I know trusting is often a process,” he continued, “but…if I wasn’t saved until a year ago, like I think, should I get baptized again?” He went on to explain how he wasn’t sure he’d ever experienced true repentance before, and he couldn’t remember the witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart. It’s embarrassing when people ask my opinion as if they expect me to have some wise answer. “If it’s the first step of obedience, and you don’t think you were obedient then, but you want to be now,” I faltered. “I don’t see what it would hurt?” So Miss Lizzy was treated to another hot-tub baptism. If it could be called a hot-tub when the water is barely seventy degrees. And it really doesn’t matter when Josiah was saved, as long as he can bear testimony to the world that he is indeed a child of God and wishes to walk in obedience to Him.

So this is me at the end of today:

Yes, I left it blank on purpose. Because I’ve hardly had time to assimilate all the data I’ve taken in and sort it into appropriate emotion crates. But it’s been a good day. Lydia’s sound asleep, tucked into my maroon bag. Lizzy’s scrambling into her pajamas.

I think I’ll try to reopen a conversation with sleep.

Lord, I strive to understand
One single moment of one day,
That Thou, before creation planned,
What then is left for me to say.

But, Lord, Thou art too wonderful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lydia didn’t realize I’d answered the phone at the same time she had. “Hello,” came the automated voice. “This is Laura (ooh, nice. Now automated voices have names?) from United Health Care. I have a few important questions for Marcia. Is this Marcia?” Lydia hesitated on the other end and finally softly answered, “No.” “What was that?” asked the intelligent robot. “Please answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” I could hear Lydia’s eyes widen through the telephone lines as she repeated “No.” “Okay. I don’t mind waiting,” the recording continued. “If Marcia is there, please ask me to ‘wait’. If she’s not there, say ‘call back later’. If she doesn’t live there at all, please say ‘wrong number’. What would you like me to do?” A muffled giggle, then Lydia answered. “Wait.” “Okay,” “Laura” responded promptly. “I’ll be happy to wait one minute.” Then the echoing sounds of Lydia relaying the message. “Mom, it’s the smartest recording ever on the phone for you. Her name is Laura.”

I’m so proud of my men folk. With a little adjusting here, and manipulating there, they had our well pump working like new. Well, not like new, but at least back up and limping along. I could finally do loads of laundry, run the dishwasher, clean my bathroom and wash my hair. They are tho thmart.

After supper Bible reading. Lydia’s spelling seems a little hooked on the letter “q”. “Why does Mo keep making the excques that he was not squilled in speech” but nothing was quite as insightful as her simple statement, “Pharaoh was bad.” Of course, so is John Piper.

Still feeling like I’d somehow missed the point of Judges, I skimmed back over the book today, begging that the Lord would somehow personalize it to me. I’m always amazed at the way Yahweh’s word comes together with life issues. Even Judges. As Tabitha and I prayed over the phone, life applications began spilling out. Things that hadn’t really occurred to me until that moment when the Holy Spirit brought them back to mind, convicting and convincing and teaching me to pray. Convicted by the Israelites unfaithfulness, as time and again they turned from Yahweh to serve idols, we begged the Lord to give us both strength to tear down the idols in our own lives and serve Yahweh, as we’ve promised to do.

Lord, even on Thy very altar
I see my flesh and heart both falter
Turning from Thy holy presence
To erect an idol.

Give me strength to tear whatever
Might my heart, from worship, sever
And return me to Thy presence
Freed from every idol.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Well, well, well. That’s the trigger word in everyone’s mouth today. “We’re out of water again!” “Would you run out to the well-house?” “How do I flip the switch?” “Is it still not pumping?” Somewhere between the sand-filter and the tap our pump seems to have given up the ghost. Each time we try to resurrect it with artificial resuscitation, it drags for a few minutes, unable to build up pressure and then drops to death levels again. We might be content to let it pass in peace, were it not that we still have need of it here in this mortal vale.

“Pull up a chair,” Josiah ordered, waving a nut driver at me. Obediently I dragged a metal folding chair underneath the florescent light fixture and climbed up. “Uh. I still can’t reach it.” As I returned with the six-foot ladder, I heard Josiah yelp. “Didn’t you turn off the breaker?” I demanded, as he ruefully screwed wire nuts back over the exposed ends. “Well, no,” he admitted. “I can’t figure out which breaker it’s on.” I snickered. This house is like some people—on the outside it looks beautiful, but inside it has some serious issues: water problems, terrible wiring, lack of insulation, leaky windows. First it needs some repairs, then it needs some maintenance. I dug out my mental file folder with Tabby’s conversation yesterday—our frustration at how we have to keep recapturing the same thoughts, the same sins, the same weaknesses to surrender to Yahweh. Well. Of course. I don’t put a log on the fire and expect to be warm forever. Or fix a leaky faucet and grow enraged if it starts dripping again. Or wash a shirt and assume it will be clean forever. Well, perhaps I do. But I shouldn’t. Do nothing to a house and it will crumble and deteriorate. Do nothing to a heart and it will do the same.

Lizzy grinned from ear to ear from the time she walked in the doorway behind Eileen and Analiese, through a soupy supper and water-deprived dishes, to the time she climbed back into the SUV for the ride home. She says she’s excited to come spend a day with me each week. Obviously, she doesn’t know me. Me? Well, I’m pretty much terrified. Not because Lizzy’s frightening. She seems like a super sweet fifteen-year-old. And Eileen is strong and opinionated, but kind. “Praise God,” stops up the flow of her conversation frequently, especially as she shared her testimony of God’s work in her life. But, well, sheesh. What in the world am I getting myself into? My eyes would have been as big as saucers by the time they left, had not my eyelids been gaining weight more quickly than a Sumo wrestler. I sit here, reminding myself, “Hush. Just take it one moment at a time. Oh yeah…and lean on Yahweh. Heavily.” But…What do Lizzy and Eileen really expect? What if they are disappointed? Well. What if the polar ice caps melt and flood the whole earth? Oh wait. Didn’t God make a promise about that? Just like everything else—God’s got it covered, under control.

Lord, Thou hung the world in space,
And charted every time and place.
Thou hast never walked away
But over all hast still held sway.

Though Thou let our passions drive us
Thou sent rainbows to remind us
Someday every heart and soul
Will know that Thou art in control.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Damaris was sitting on my feet, keeping them warm as we both listened to Papa teach the cross as the central part of the gospel. Running my fingers through her thick hair, I felt a tell-tale bump. Tell me, how does one discreetly pull a tick from a friend’s head and dispose of it in the middle of a church meeting? As Nick shared from about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, I could feel the pain slipping up from Tabitha’s toes to her heart, as she sat next to me on the pew. “I can’t do that!” Nick exclaimed for all of us, and then pointed out how even such a thought should be immediately offered to the Lord. Before the Willises headed out for Kansas, Tabitha and I zipped ourselves into matching leather coats and went for a walk. Everyone else was playing Frisbee, but we were worried Tabitha’s knee might not appreciate the mole’s extensive excavation in the backyard. We were barely out of the house before she started in, “You could tell I was upset while Nick was talking.” I nodded. She started pouring out her frustrations, worries and battles to take every thought prisoner to be tried by Christ. How is it, we both wondered aloud, that each thought we do successfully wrestle to the foot of Jesus’ throne, manages to break jail and come back to haunt us? Of all those I know, Tabitha deserves a purple heart for her warfare and her many wounds in her struggle to keep the Lord first. She also deserves a red badge of courage. Her daily choice to take up her sword and fight, through prayer, meditation and memorization will lead her to victory. Because it is the Lord’s promise.

We ate lunch two to a seat in some places. Zach brought a special guest: Jessica, one of the girls from the D-town youth group. Stuart willingly started his "Jesus story". Josh balked when Papa asked him to share his testimony with the Willises, but a few probing questions soon had him rolling. He tagged Amber to share hers next and it went on down the line from Amber to Taylor, Taylor to Zach. Sitting and listening to the stories of God’s call on each person’s life, I never realized how hard it can be to tell, how painful to relive those moments of separation, how draining to become vulnerable and weak before the eyes of others. I’ve never been asked for mine in a group before. Until today.

I knew as soon as I realized it would be Zach’s turn to pick a person that he would demand mine. I dragged my embarrassment, kicking and screaming, and stuffed it away in an old trunk in the attic of my mind. Separating my testimony from my life story is next to impossible—my whole life is simply a process by which the Lord has worked. Neither is particularly dramatic. I hardly know what I said, or why. I told a lot more than I’d meant to. Instead I found myself preaching to myself, reminding myself how out of control I became when I sought to control my life, how freeing it was to finally seek my parent’s accountability—to be vulnerable to them. Control. Truth broke through to me like sunlight breaking through a dark storm. Each plan I’d built for my life had slipped from my fingers, empty. Each goal I’d made or project I’d tackled had found me helpless to complete it. Deciding I’d never marry, simply to prove I could say “no” was a control issue. When I hoped to control the eating disorder, it had haunted me, a devouring ghost, stealing my health and joy. Only when I had confided in my parents did I find complete release. Even my demands to know and understand what Yahweh is doing reveal a heart that still clings to control. I couldn’t believe how completely empty I felt as I finished. Realizing I’d completely forgotten about everyone else in the room and what they were expecting or hoping to hear, I blurted out something about the Lord and my parents. “I really admire my dad,” and my eyes filled with tears. And I trust him. I do. Even those last words held another sermon to myself.

The rest of the day I wanted to talk to Papa. So did everyone else in the world, it seemed, and I finally gave up as he headed to his room for the night. I knelt by my bed, feeling completely helpless, completely unable to control or even manipulate anything, and cried. I can't even make myself stop crying.

Lord, give me the strength to loose
The bonds that I so often choose,
And leave to Thee the perfect plan
Drawn slowly by Thy gracious hand.

Teach me to take every moment
As Thy Spirit’s wise bestowment
To take captive for Thy use
That I’d fulfill all Thou dost choose.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My hands and arms still tingle and my throat is prickling like a porcupine with his coat on inside out from fiberglass insulation in the attic. Old age comes quickly for those who spend hours under houses. Or in the attic. Tabitha and I crawled out of our sleeping bags this morning barely able to turn our necks from side to side and stiffly dressed to sit on the front porch and talk and pray while the rest of the house slumbered on.

Miss Lin N, fourth grade teacher, arrived in time to finish off the last two breakfast muffins. Looking fresh and springy in a green dress, she was toting her cap and gown and a huge smile for her senior pictures. It’s been a while since I’ve shot professionally and I’ll readily admit to lacking creativity. Hopefully her charm will make up for whatever falls short in me.

We finally finished insulating the attic and patching the hole in the ceiling where Ezra fell through in time to vanish into the woods for a tramp across the property. “It’s gorgeous,” the Willis kids all gushed. Before we’d thought much farther than enjoying the sunshine, we were down at the creek, pulling off shoes and socks and wading knee-deep into the icy water. Even with the laughter, the splashing and the joking, the peacefulness of the creek is undisturbed. I wish I could tuck my favorite woodland haunts into a leather wallet to keep safely in my pocket for the rest of my life. Then, sometime down the road, when stress or sorrow or trouble find me in the world of men, I could whip one out, climb into the serene scene and be quiet with God and His creation.

Last in line to shower tonight, the water gave out as I waited (patiently, of course) my turn. Laughter at Josiah’s crazy antics floated into my bedroom, as I sat, bathrobe clad, my facial wash drying on my skin. They didn’t seem to be missing me too terribly and the Lord reminded me that He was. Would to God I were like Daniel, who in spite of the affairs of a kingdom and the threats of a king, set his heart to please Yahweh and sought his room three times a day to pray to Yahweh. Lord, it’s been a busy day. My mind is full, my energy level is empty. You know all my thoughts. You know what dreams bind me, what thoughts capture me, what worries trouble me. You know what sins distract me, what devils plague me, what desires delude me. Capture my mind and bring it into obedience to You, disciplined to serve You, to delight in You, to worship You.

Lord, Thou hast called my soul Thy own,
And promised me a royal home,
Call my heart Thy own, as well
And teach my lips Thy praise to tell.

Capture my will with Thy own,
That I may bow before Thy throne,
Delighted as Thy humble slave
Since Thou, my soul and heart, doth save.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Try cooking for an army of guests over the weekend while pretending nothing unusual is happening. It’s not terribly unusual for us to have a few extras, but we don’t really plan for them. “What’s with all the baking?” Josiah demanded. “I’m just in a baking mood,” Mom answered, shrugging. I smirked, unable to recall her ever being in a baking mood that left the whole kitchen covered in layers of flour, sugar and eggs and included monster casseroles. When the white minivan finally pulled up outside Thursday afternoon and the Willises spilled out, only Lydia was flabbergasted.

Four sleeping bags sprawling out across my bedroom floor, various and sundry pillows scattered abroad, soggy towels and wash cloths hanging limply in the bathroom, piles of clothing, books, Bibles and what-not spilling out of backpacks and shoes lying neglected at every doorway sent my pulse sky-rocketing. Messes don’t bother me terribly, as long as I’m busy, but the laundry room was torn apart, preventing me from fulfilling my Friday duty, supper was already thawing on the kitchen counter and I’d already vacuumed the house—what of it wasn’t occupied. I hardly felt like I deserved a “break” when Josiah proposed a rollicking game of military tactics. Besides, how am I supposed to enjoy playing when there are messes tripping me up every time I sneak in or out a house door? I completely missed the fact that the worst mess of the day was my attitude.

I finally found my purpose in life, after lunch, playing the mole for Miss Master Electrician Tabitha as she wired in a two-forty breaker for the convection oven/electric stove we brought from Kansas. “It’s actually pretty roomy underneath your house,” she informed me through the crackling walkie-talkies as I crawled through the entrance to the brief world underneath the house. As long as I kept my head between the floor joists, I could actually sit upright to push the thick wire through the hole she’d drilled. I heard her crinkling along the shreds of plastic as she came to check my work and switched off my flashlight, scrambling to lie across her pathway. “Abigail?” she called out through the darkness, her voice hesitant. “I need some light.” She continued at a slower pace. Hoping she’d crawl across me and scream, I held my breath and kept my head low. She must have lost her bearings and gone off crooked. “Abigail, where are you?” she demanded and bumped right into a cinderblock house support. Were I given to exaggeration, I’d insist the whole house shook. From the other side of the blocks, I started giggling and apologizing and flicked on my flashlight to see her rubbing her head and snickering. “I’ll thrash you later.” Willowy as she is, I’ve no doubt she can.

Shuttling a dozen people through showers left the poor well tired and confused and in need of rejuvenation several times. At last we all gathered, with the Tech students who’d come, for some singing and fellowship. At least, we tried to sing through our itchy-with-insulation or sawdust or catacomb grime voices. Inspired by one of the scripture songs, the guys dug out doxologies from scripture—praise for Yahweh and His glory.

In every moment, in every tiny piece of creation, Yahweh reveals Himself and part of His character. As I sat alone in the dark, listening to Tabitha drilling holes above my head, the beam from my LED illuminated dozens of dust particles and set them glowing like tiny stars. Fascinated, I watched them dance and flicker, moving through the darkness as beacons—not so different from the stars Yahweh flung abroad in the expanse above the earth, made of dust, yet glowing with His light. And not so different from me and the believers around me, from dust we came and to dust we will return. Yet Yahweh has shown His light abroad, illuminating us, making us beautiful through His glory, to reflect the light of His Son.

Lord, Thou art the light that shines,
Illuminating hearts and minds,
Teaches us to sing the praise
Of God, the Ancient One of days,

That gives to flesh a heart of trust,
Lends light and beauty e’en to dust
And calls a fallen man Thy friend.
To Thee alone be praise. Amen!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Between dusk and dawn my spirit quieted, like a dove settling into its nest, and I woke this morning knowing again, all will be well. All day long I felt humbled by Yahweh’s goodness, in spite of my fear, doubt and faithlessness. Sometimes I want to crawl out of my own skin and flutter into the air like an invisible butterfly, watching from a distance what God will do next. Emily and I escaped the noisy cafeteria to get some one-on-one in her room and she reminded me how, late one night, shortly after our move, we had made some specific requests to our Lord, how He’d clearly begun an answer the next night and now, looking back over the months, my breath was knocked away by how beautifully He’s been answering that same prayer since. Emily is a faithful prayer warrior, swift to bring everything to her Father’s throne and faithful to remember and recount each answer. I arrived at Amber’s on a Jesus high. “How much sugar have you had today?” she demanded, shaking her head. While she took an important phone call, I filled her camera with hideous faces. I have a decided talent for making hideous faces. I just get tired of trying to be beautiful, and figure I might as well do something I’m actually good at. Silky-coated Baby, who normally vanishes with the arrival of visitors, slinked in to see me, purring slyly to show that she’s accepted me into the family. I threatened Judy with a roll of contact paper and was rather pleased with my ability to inspire fear. “I didn’t do it!” she exclaimed, throwing up her hands. “Honest I didn’t! I thought about it, but I didn’t!”

Josh escorted me through the inner maze of DHS to meet Eileen, Lizzy’s mom. I slipped on my best undaunted mask as I sat down across a big desk from her and tried to find a good place to put my hands. First they crept under my crossed legs, but that lasted only as long as the crossed legs. How nice. Here’s the little girl, ma’am, that you’ve never met but wants to steal your daughter for a day every week. She’s a bit odd, ma’am. Wears dresses over her jeans, pulls her hair back in two tails at the back of her neck, refuses to date and she’s short. Oh, excuse me. She’s about your height, ma’am. As she talked with me about her goals for Lizzy, my heart warmed. “We’re not doing the dating thing,” she added. “In fact, there’s not even going to be any of this ‘alone together’ with a guy stuff.” Well. So that’s that. I’d thought she was unsure about the idea. Apparently we’re on. Now I just need to meet Lizzy. Daunting.

Gone excavating in my ancient journals, in search of a missing link for something else, I discovered something which had completely vanished from my current memory system: the draft for a letter—the only letter I’ve ever written a guy. At sweet sixteen. Aw. Not. This one was hard core, all rough edges, blunt phrases and no nonsense. The gist of it was “You need to know that you are a flirt and that’s not a fair way to treat your sisters in Christ.” I cringed as I read it, half embarrassed, half amused, half in awe of the fiery little prophetess of yore. “If this letter ruins our friendship, well, I’m sorry,” it finished with a flourish. “But that will tell me something about your heart.” Oh, but the post script. We mustn’t forget the post script. “Don’t bother writing back. I read all my letters to the family, and I’d rather you didn’t anyway.” To his credit, we’re still friends. I’d like to imagine I’ve picked up a little seasonable grace since then.

In the middle of feeling small, overwhelmed and hating Judges, I found myself shamed by the beautiful lessons the Lord had for Gideon. Hiding in a wine press to beat out wheat, Gideon hardly resembled the “Valiant Warrior” Yahweh’s messenger greeted him as. In fact, the title fit him worse than Saul’s armor fit the young David. “I’m a nobody,” Gideon protested Yahweh’s plan for him to save Israel from Midian. “Not only is my family low on the social ladder, but I’m the baby as well!” Afraid of others’ opinions, he followed the Lord’s instructions to destroy the altars to Baal—at night. But Yahweh wasn’t through teaching Gideon that little is more than enough. Obedience is all Yahweh needs for victory. Sometimes I picture Yahweh shrugging. Or shaking His head nonchalantly, as if to say, “I really am bigger than you think.” After Gideon had gathered an army 32,000 strong, Yahweh told him, “You have too many men.” Wave after wave of men were dismissed until only three hundred remained. Three hundred. To fight a battle as odd as any ever fought. The secret to Gideon’s success lay in the message the angel had given him while he beat out the wheat in secret. “Yahweh is with you, O Valiant Warrior.” Not that Yahweh was with him because of his valor, but that he would be valiant because Yahweh was with him. Striking down public idols might have seemed frightening. Driving out the Midianites might have seemed daunting.. Waving torches and shouting might have seemed ridiculous. Don’t you get it, Abigail? That’s the point. Being vulnerable might seem frightening. Discipling a girl I’ve never even met might seem daunting. Living Yahweh’s way certainly seems ridiculous at times. Yahweh is with me. How about that, little nobody? Why don’t you try “Valiant Warrior” on for size?

Lord, the torch Thou gave me smolders,
Thou hast bid me to be bolder!
Thou hast bid me smash my vase
That I might light up Thy face.

Thou art big enough to raise me,
Naught on earth should daunt or phase me.
Thou puts the powers of dark to flight—
Ignite in me Thy holy light.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I whisked soggy leaves up and into the wheelbarrow, watching the heavy storm clouds rolling in. The job was far from done when warm raindrops began splashing into my hair and down my face, and peals of thunder rumbled closer, like wild horses fleeing lightening bolt lassos. Nasty and Taska, the neighbor’s long-haired German Shepherds, appeared as we hung up tools and took shelter under the garage roof. Looking like wolves, but behaving like lambs, the two dogs pressed close, afraid of the thunder and lightening. With Travis and Mary gone, they’d escaped their pen, seeking comfort, and wound up spending the day curled up on our sagging front porch. When Papa and I headed out for a walk this evening, they decided they had better tag along for our protection, but their tails were drooping with weariness by the time we arrived home.

Flipping through loose papers in my clipboard, past silly poetry, finish the quote and “If I…I would” games, I discovered lyrics I’d scribbled at least a year ago. Embarrassed to show it to anyone for fear of having to explain why I’d written something I couldn’t possibly relate to, I’d buried it away among my “Works in Progress.” As I reread them, I became acutely aware of the meter and timing—perfect for the new piano piece that had been haunting me since Thursday night. I just wish I could sing.

I pulled up in front of the Dover Supermarket next to a pickup full of rowdy boys. Immediately I wished I’d parked somewhere else. Their radars picked up “girl” as I kept my face averted, hoping they’d go ahead and pull out. A couple of minutes passed with no such luck, so I finally opened my door and stepped out, pointedly looking away. “Hey there, cutie,” one of the boys called through the open window. Ignoring him I turned my back, shouldered my purse and marched past and into the store. As the door swung closed behind me, I overheard the hooting and teasing, "She showed you!" I’m so sick of this foolishness. I never asked to be a part of this enduring rat-race, this constant head-splitting clamor for attention. Stuffing fresh spinach, lettuce and tomatoes into grocery bags, I fought back tears—tears because I just want to belong to Jesus, I want to be devoted to Him, to be in love with Him, but I’m battling rude boys on the outside and a divided heart on the inside. Lydia and Josiah greeted me with hyper silliness when I arrived home. I freed myself as politely as I could and vanished into my room where I stayed most of the evening, sorting through something that’s been troubling me...it feels like forever. Confused because I'm not finding the resolution I hoped for, frustrated because I can't just let it go and let God. I’ve come to a place I never planned to see.

Lord, my heart weighs much tonight.
I feel I’ve given up the fight
And sat down in the rain to cry,
Subjected to the devil’s lies.

But Lord, Thou art the truth that frees us
By Thy name, the name of Jesus,
Thou wilt lift my heart and face,
And bring the vict’ry through Thy grace.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Some things are simply not to be. Apparently my internet connection is one of those things. Following its mysterious death on Friday, I called AT&T today and, wonder of all wonders, got the same technical assistant. With the warranty still good until November, we have a new one on the way. In the mean time, I’m wirelessless again.

I was almost embarrassed when Amber discovered my blog, along with the post about her. “It was a God thing,” she told me over the phone. “It was so encouraging.” Now she’s joined me with a blog of her own, posting notes from her late night Bible study.

Sated with yummy squash casserole, the family dragged out new spiral-bound notebooks and folded them back for the first night listening to our new Bible of MP3. Our task is to listen each night, for half an hour, make notes, scribble questions, comments or thoughts and discuss them the next morning at breakfast. At the rate we’re going, we just might run right over me in my personal study. I’d argue that I’ve search high and low, far and near for some alone time to keep moving through Judges, but since I haven’t found it, I’m forced to conclude I haven’t searched hard enough. Priorities, my dear self. Priorities. I open my Bible, flip to the Psalms and read, then turn to Judges and stare blankly until the words on the page jumble together and slide off into my lap. I hate Judges. I hate relativity. Moral demise. I hate the way my heart turns from fire to ashes as I read, seeing the same apathy in myself and my country as I see in Israel. Which of the Judges can I look to as a hero? Barak was a coward. Gideon couldn’t believe the plain command of the Lord. Jephthah was rash. Samson was a philanderer. Let’s not talk about what I am. But I’m missing the point. The point is not the failed people. People fail. Past, present and future. The point is Yahweh: His faithfulness to the covenant, both to punish and to deliver. The point is the battles He fought, the deeds He did, the miracles He worked—in spite of people.

Lord, Thou art the judge of all!
Hear and answer when I call,
When I beg Thy favor, Lord,
That Thy name might be adored.

Everything Thou dost is good,
Though often I misunderstood,
The world, nor I am not the theme.
Thou art the hero, King of Kings!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Oddly, I don’t think we have any more weddings until December. Last year they were stacked up like a plate of flapjacks—with syrup oozing over the edges. Jonathan and Chloe’s had to be the most unique wedding I’ve attended yet. Ushered into a candle lit building, all seats facing toward a canopy in the center, we waited while the event unfolded—almost like watching a movie. Devoid of Nathaniel, who was enjoying a front row seat as an “honored guest”, Lauren whispered to me, “I want the soundtrack to their wedding!” The ceremony was everything that describes Jonathan and Chloe—poetic, creative, romantic and focused on Yahweh. But the reception that followed was made quite lively with the addition of outdoor games—arm-wrestling, shot-putting and a piƱata. Lauren and I went arm to arm and proved ourselves, once again, pretty evenly matched. It’s a pity the bystanders didn’t have the benefit of seeing her without her jacket, and watching those softball sized biceps at work. Catching up with everyone felt like an impossible task. Caleb, who silently shadowed me at every speech tournament, now towers over me, still mostly silent with the same innocent, half awkward smile. I think I met at least three of the guy’s girl-friends—all named Anna. As I talked with Cory’s mom, I realized she didn’t recognize Josiah, standing behind me. Well, of course not. He’s sprouted from the upstart little boy proud of outgrowing his sister into a young man with facial hair and a shoulder span. Grabbing his hand I pulled him forward and introduced him: “I want you to meet my boyfriend.” Her face glossed over with polite surprise. “Josiah Scott.” She extended her hand, completely missing the name. Grinning I added, “You remember my little brother, Josiah?” Finally her face relaxed and she laughed, “I sure didn’t think there was going to be any of this boyfriend stuff.” As Melissa told stories on Chloe during the reception, she began to describe how, several years ago Chloe and Hannah had insisted I’d be married with kids in a couple of years and they’d be old maids. The reason? I knew so many guys and they knew none. I shrugged, told them not to worry: “Whatever. It only takes one.” Three years later Chloe is now married, Hannah is not only married, but ten weeks pregnant, and guess who’s still single! I couldn’t contain my laughter when it suddenly occurred to me that I’d even known both of their husbands at that time, before they did. I’m beginning to feel accomplished in proving folks wrong.

I can’t remember how long it’s been singe I worshipped in a large church building. Blue Springs Christian Church has moved on with the times—casual clothing, theatrical feel, with a foyer that feels like an airport: hot coffee and donuts served! The thinly disguised marketing pitch delivered by the pastor in a goal to convince congregants to give toward the three and a half million dollar youth building saddened me. Deception, I thought. Not that the pastor was trying to deceive, but that the pastor, himself, was deceived. Do we really believe that three million dollar buildings or large praise bands will help us to “evangelize” the youth of America? Do we really believe that supplying them with video games, entertainment and food will bring them to salvation? Show me the expensive buildings, the technology, the theatrics of the church in China or Indonesia or Ghana. Our brothers and sisters across the globe are worshipping in basements, under the stars on inside thatched-roof huts and their numbers are growing phenomenally. In our search to please American consumers, we’ve missed the purpose that should really drive the church. We’ve spelled ourselves right into a run on sentence—it doesn’t end. We’ll always have to pump more money and time into keeping up with the entertainment industry, since we fill our churches with those seeking an “experience” instead of those seeking Yahweh.

Josiah and I left our bags to be unpacked after dark, buckled on helmets and mounted our bicycles to work out dangerous levels of energy. It’s not a surprising sight to round a bend and see a pack of dogs loping to meet us, howling yipping and barking. Lanky hounds, rolly-polly terriers, square boxers and a spindly legged—excuse me, is that a deer? Sure enough, a soft-eyed fawn bounded up to the fence and sniffed my offered hand before retreating back a few steps to watch the rest of the “dogs” wiggle, waggle and beg to be scratched.

Once upon a time I eagerly read any book I could get my hands on. Now I find myself tossing books down in disgust after a few pages. The novel I picked up yesterday ranks high on my list of horrible books. Veiled by the backdrop of an oriental supermodel heading home for a mission trip, the plot turned my stomach with mistaken perceptions of finding God’s will and making godly decisions. Snares laid by misunderstanding, and ready to entangle the feet of many a believer. Let’s throw in how we “prayed about something”, but how’d we get our answer? “I prayed about it,” someone tells me, by way of expressing the authority for their actions when contrary to scripture or sound judgment. God’s not a mystical eight ball that we put questions to and then sit, waiting for a gut feeling to guide us. Ah, but prayer is an important part of every decision, every day, every moment, and I know without a doubt I let it slide. In scripture, I see a pattern of seeking things that appear in accordance with God’s goals, accompanied by prayers of thanksgiving and pleas for wisdom and godly counsel. David said God’s word is the light that guides us, not our feelings, our senses of peace or unrest, or even the thoughts that pop into our heads while praying. At the end of the day, startled back to an awareness of time by the click by which my lamp bids me good-night, I know the reminder to seek Yahweh in spirit and truth was timely.

Lord, Thy wisdom from above,
Thy timeless gift bestowed in love,
Is what I lack, and so I pray
That Thou would give Thy power today,

That I might be a pleasing child
To walk before Thee, undefiled,
That Thou would keep me from each snare
That where Thou art, I would be there.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mom and Grandma Sandy asked me to join them in a game of “Old Maid.” It might be appropriate, but I’m not finding the invitation very tempting tonight. I’ve perfected the art of the shrug. It’s a necessity, considering the fact that I’m the only unmarried and eligible grandchild on both sides of the family. But my extended family has such short-sighted goals. Don’t they realize that if I get married any time in the next few years, they’ll be out someone to pester? Both grandmas are on the verge of losing a wager with Josiah—something about me being either married or engaged by age twenty-one. At T-minus two months and one day, Josiah’s triumph is nearly secure. Considering that both of them were barely eighteen when they married, I probably am beginning to seem like an old maid. *Shrug*

Today the trip to the Sunflower State took us a little farther north than our old stomping grounds—for a friend’s wedding and to visit Mom’s side of the family. Six hours is a long time to sit still, crowded into the back seat of the Camry with Josiah and Lydia. I shifted from proper car-sitting form to cross-legged, to Indian style, to my knees, and invented a few new positions of my own. When the first sign for Kansas City announced 174 miles, I thought I’d explode with impatience. Finally arrived at Grandma’s apartment, Josiah and I escaped on a lengthy tromp through housing developments and apartment complexes. Mentally, I was measuring the lawns, figuring the best patterns for mowing and trimming the edges. Who’d have thought I’d be so anxious to get back to yardwork?

Aunt Janny, Uncle Ed and I crowded into the back side of the dinner table and swapped smart-alec comments as we ate. Correction, Uncle Ed and I swapped comments. Aunt Janny attempted to converse in an intelligent manner. Grandma tossed in a few wise-cracks of her own from across the table, while Josiah and Papa interspersed witticisms from both ends. Lydia silently ate three platefuls and went back for seconds on dessert. I remember the days when I could out eat any three healthy adults and still run laps afterwards. Grown old enough to suffer from a much slower metabolism, I learned that the dinner table must also contain conversation to give us something less fattening to chew on. As the evening progressed, Papa got Uncle Ed talking about his experiences in Vietnam. Once he was dropped into the jungle on a scouting mission to find a Vietnamese supply trail. He found it and lost his squad. Holed up in a cave, he didn’t even dare use his radio as he watched the “ingenious little soldiers” wheel supplies by on bicycles all night long. The next night when he was able to make it back to the regular pick-up spot, he discovered he’d been chalked down as Missing In Action.

Busyness is smothering me—not that I don’t enjoy being busy, but my spirit is wilting and withering, thirsting for Yahweh. And my thoughts are so full and my body so tired, that when I have a chance to be with Him, I turn away and whisper, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll find time to be with You.” That’s the sum total of my selfish part in this relationship. He never says the same to me.

Lord, Thy faithfulness is firmly planted,
Thou art He for whom I’ve panted,
Thirsting for Thy living water,
Here I stand, Thy wand’ring daughter.

Take me in Thy arms and teach me,
Where distractions cannot reach me.
Make me steadfast, as Thou art,
Bound to Thee in mind and heart.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

“I tiped here! Oijtn; egldkjg ljgrgg lkgjeit lkrjtle eoitlekg lekrjyo kg”

Behold the mystic words I discovered in my journal after a quick bathroom break. So far, I’ve been unable to find an online translator that could interpret the meaning. I’m going to guess it’s Lydia language for “you should be more careful leaving your journal open.”

Six months ago today we unloaded the U-haul through the back patio doors. Why I make note of that, I’m not sure. Dates and times stand out starkly in my memory. Actually, most things stand out starkly in my memory. It’s part of my chemical make-up, I suppose. A quick check of my lovely electronic journal, began when we moved, revealed a word count of 125,000. In six months I’ve written my life up longer than most novels.

When Amber called tonight, she was bubbling over with excitement—good news on every count. She thanked me profusely for the notes on prayer from John 17, as well as the website for tracts and started pouring out a million other thanksgivings. A few minutes later Jacinderella called. “Did she tell you about Bible study last night?” she quizzed. “Uh…” I answered, unsure. Soon Jacinderella was spilling how encouraging Amber had been, offering valuable insights into others’ questions and even accidentally stealing Wes’ thunder. As those two had talked earlier, Jacinderella had reminded Amber, “You don’t have to live in defeat. The Lord is our redeemer and our Savior!”

Her words harkened back to the story of Deborah and Barak. A woman judge of Israel, as God had said, “When you forsake me, women and children will lead you.” In the dearth of real men, Deborah stepped forward. Even Barak, for whom she had a special message from Yahweh to save His people, shivered and begged her to accompany him. But Yahweh would not allow His people to live in defeat. In an epic battle, Yahweh routed Sisera and his huge army before Barak and won the victory. In the book of Judges I see God’s war on humanism. In the midst of a crumbling society, God raised up weak, frightened person after person to bring about His victories. I find myself raising Ebenezers along the pathway of my life. Tonight I’m looking back on six months of life in Arkansas, wondering what I’ve really accomplished, feeling like I spent the day spinning my wheels, running in circles, dragging my feet. Am I weak and frightened? Well, good. So much the more usable to bring about God’s glory. The story is not about what I’ve accomplished in six months. The story is about what Yahweh has done.

And He has done great things.

Lord, Thou leads not in retreat,
Thy trumpet never sounds defeat,
For Thou hast every battle won.
The serpent might, once, bruise Thy Son,

But Thou hast turned His steps instead
To tread upon the serpent’s head.
When Jesus Christ was crucified,
Satan’s power bled and died.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Usually when Josiah comes into my room, lugging his math book and an air of frustration, I can expect a trip to the upper attic of my intellect, where I’ve stowed away all I learned in Algebra, Trigonometry and PreCal. I know I’ve safely packed it up there, but sometimes I can’t ever find it. Today he flipped open his book and pointed to several calculator functions. “It comes out right when I do this one, but in this problem when I plug in thirty-five point forty-five…” “Ahem,” I cleared my throat. “You mean fifty-four?,” I offered. He did a double take and then mumbled, “Uh. Yeah. That helps.”

That was one brief success in a day of multitasking. No wonder Mom is always frustrated that she didn’t finish her to-do list by the end of the day. Trade secret for a productive day: make a short to-do list. She left me with a list long enough to wipe all the windows of the Empire State Building. I should be thankful, since that’s considerably shorter than a mile. In between baking enough food to satisfy a tapeworm, raking and burning piles of soggy leaves, mending, ironing, folding drawers full of drawers, vacuuming, sweeping and cleaning up after myself, I supervised Lydia and Josiah’s schoolwork. Overheard in the dining room as Josiah gave Lydia her spelling words:

Josiah: Spell “pull”.
Lydia: As in “pole” or “pull”?
Josiah: As in P-U-L-L.

Those who doubt that homemaking is a full-time job have never passed beyond a house to a home.

The heading in my Bible said it all: Idolatry Leads to Servitude. No doubt intended as a summary of the facts, but in reality, a rule of life. Forsake Yahweh, pursue other “gods” and the results are always the same: slavery to our own desires and passions. The choice to serve myself always leaves me enslaved to the most cruel mistress. But still, just like the Israelites, I enjoy rest for a time, but soon find I am back to bowing before the Baals, offering my allegiance to the lies and deceit of “self”. Only the Truth can set me free. This morning at breakfast we read of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest and trial and how he stood before Pilate and offered truth. Blinded by the chains of wealth, power and tyranny, Pilate demanded “What is truth?” but never waited for an answer. “I could release you,” Pilate offered, but he had it backwards. It was he who needed to be freed.

Lord, I press my ear against the door
And plead to serve Thee, evermore.
For I know well that as Thy slave,
I’ll find Thy freeing power to save.

When Thou art not my only master
Then my soul is in disaster:
When I love aught but Thee, I find
That loving aught but Thee will bind.

April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2008

“Did you hear our big news?” I asked, allowing for a little build-up. “We’re moving back to Kansas.” Each time I told it, I was greeted with profound silence and looks of utter horror. Lauryn and April were dumbfounded. Zach was struck speechless. Amber and her mom were on the verge of tears. Only Taylor and Emily suspected the truth—an April Fool’s prank. I honestly hadn’t really expected anyone to believe me and almost felt guilty when they did. “Make sure you get your dad,” Gene insisted as Papa retrieved his backpack from the back of the lab. “Oh no!” I exclaimed as we reached the car. “I forgot to go to Wal-mart. Mom had a huge grocery list for me.” I expected and deserved at least a reproachful look. Instead, Papa smiled patiently and answered, “okay” then opened the trunk where half a dozen Wal-mart bags already lurked. “Uh, April Fool’s.” I grinned sheepishly. “Gene told me to.” I hadn’t expected him to believe me, either. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m a good liar.

Being in the girl’s room first thing in the morning is always an encouragement. Even though Shoko was too busy to come home with me tonight, we still enjoyed a good chat catching up in the laundry room while she was supposed to be studying. She always asks what the Lord is teaching me, her eyes eager, smiling. Today I simply shared the story of Joshua and the Lord’s command for courage. I couldn’t have chosen something more appropriate had I studied for years. She is such a delight to talk with, the way she soaks it up and then opens up to share what the Lord’s been teaching her.

In the middle of lunch conversation with Lauryn, a random guy walked up, sat down, introduced himself as “Alan” and began talking to us. To avoid more personal questions we turned to talking about my brother (the very big, very protective one I always bring up), then to spiritual things and finally Lauryn announced, “My food is getting cold. I’m going to go zap it.” Unable to fabricate a good excuse for affecting my own escape, I flung looks of deep hurt and betrayal after her retreating form. Suddenly Zach appeared like a knight in shining armor—shining armor being defined as a Tech Football shirt—and Lauryn’s real plan was revealed. I’ve never been quite so delighted to see him. As others began joining us, our new friend was kind enough to move on.

Jacinda and I had lapped campus in several series of figure eights before she finally commented, “My legs are getting really tired.” “Really?” I chirped. “I could walk forever.” “I know,” came her dry retort. “That’s why I finally said something.”

Out for an evening walk, Papa, Josiah and I met Travis’ wife, Mary, purring up the driveway in her red convertible. “Jump up and down and wave your arms,” Papa told us, so we did. Until I slipped right off the edge and fell down the hill. Grace is Lydia’s middle name, not mine.

Watching the spiritual decline of Israel in the book of Judges causes me to shake my head. Following Joshua’s death, “that generation died and was gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know Yahweh.” Immediately they are doing evil and serving idols and grieving Yahweh—each man doing what was right in his own eyes, just as Yahweh had warned against. God is not a moral relativist. “Whatever floats your boat” is not acceptable before Him. But how did this happen? How could such a victorious generation have given way to children who provoked Yahweh’s anger? In the midst of the victories, the fathers forgot something—they forgot to teach their children Yahweh’s ways, to demonstrate to their sons what it means to walk with Yahweh, even after Yahweh had warned over and over again the necessity of raising children who fear Him. What a sad testimony to the world—and yet one that is often retold throughout scripture and throughout modern Christianity. Spiritual giants giving birth to miscreants. Here I tremble. If even those who so devotedly loved the Lord as to hear his voice as audibly as did Samuel, so failed in teaching their children the fear of the Lord, who am I to ever hope to raise straight arrows? And even now, with the command for discipleship, how do I impart to others an understanding of the work of God, when I barely can grasp it myself?

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is at work in me both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Only by the grace of Yahweh, who shows Himself great when I fail to describe Him.

Just another evidence that all good is His work, even as all His work is good.

Lord, I plead that I may be
A faithful servant unto Thee,
And following my father’s steps
Would show Thee to my children.

That generations yet to come
Would know the glory of Thy Son,
And following their father’s steps
Would show Thee to their children.

Monday, March 31, 2008

“I have something for you,” Papa dug in his pocket and produced a handful of limp dandelions. “From Sarah and John Paul.” For the umpteenth time, I miss those little ones.

“Will you blow this up for me?” Lydia handed me a foot long, narrow, blue balloon. “I’ll try,” I joked, “But it will probably make me faint.” There’s nothing like being your own prophet of doom. I huffed and I puffed and I tumbled right down. Next thing Lydia was helping me up from my bedroom floor. “Well,” she said, “you sure pass out easy.”

Papa returned Nick to campus this morning on his way to work, signaling the official end of spring break. The house seemed empty until Josh called while I was fixing supper, asking if he could join us for the evening with questions about church membership. “It don’t seem right,” he complained over a plateful of deer curry and rice. “Membership is Biblical,” Papa quietly said, hiding a smile as he watched Josh’s jaw drop. Not a sign on the dotted line sort of membership, of course, but a Romans twelve and First Corinthians twelve sort: with God placing each member into the body, just as He desired. The goal being that we should be attached to a body in order to be alive in Christ. After Lydia and I worked over a piece she’s writing, Josh showed up with a song he and Josiah had written, “The Happy Song”, which he wanted me to put to music. My favorite line, “Praise Him on the mountain top, Praise Him ‘till your eardrums pop!...And stuff.” I must admit, it made me happy. And seeing Josh try to work through hand motions for it made me laugh even harder. Apparently he missed us.

We missed a pretty powerful electric storm Saturday night. Last night we discovered that our gas was off. This morning we realized it was due to blown breakers. A blown switch in the well-house left us without water until this afternoon. All our fancy telephones received a shock that left them inoperable. We now have one old faithful corded phone plugged into the living room. Josiah reported broken light bulbs in the garage and well house. Even the local cell phone tower must’ve been taken out, since no one’s cell phones have any reception out here. The internet hook-up still hasn’t arrived, so if anyone wants to know how we’re doing, they’d better wade through the current toad-strangler and find out face to face. A monstrous tree standing sentinel between Travis’ yard and ours was lightening-stripped of his bark and left exposed for all to see—until just a few minutes ago, when he shivered, shook and splintered into several pieces. Travis had wisely moved all his equipment from underneath.

I clambered onto the dryer to pray about a whole host of things. Several reasons for my choice: First, it’s warm. Second, it’s private. Third, it has a loud buzzer to wake me up when I fall asleep. Times I am alert and passionate while praying seem few and far between—only when I’m so distressed I can’t even imagine being able to sleep. “Watch and pray,” Jesus told His disciples, “that you may not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once upon a time, sleep was a commodity of which I needed very little. Now it seems I could sleep anywhere any time. Closing my eyes and sitting still is simply encouraging the urge. But if I go outside and run, concentration eludes me like flitting butterflies—almost within grasp, but scattering everywhere when I can almost claim them. Even when I pray aloud my words trail off into halting silence. Perhaps I need to revisit the days when I filled countless journals by simply scribbling my prayers, hoping to at least confine my wandering heart to the page. There are so many needing prayer besides myself—even in my immediate family—and I lack the discipline to kneel before my Redeemer and beg His favor on them.

Lord, I kneel upon the floor
With much to ask, more to implore.
Distractions calling out to me
Tempt my heart to turn from Thee.

Once Thou knelt and bled and wept,
Thy heart was breaking while I slept.
This flesh I bear has made mine weak.
Break it tonight. Be all I seek.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

“It’s just like nothing ever happened,” Tabitha beamed at me, as we sat in church, listening to Papa teach from First Corinthians eleven. “Like you’ve never been away.” I returned her smile, but I could hardly echo her sentiments. I haven’t slimmed up like Caleb or shot up like Ezra or filled out like Lydia, but something’s different. Sitting next to her on cold, grew folding chairs in the Longan’s living room, singing harmonies at the top of our lungs, pointing out scriptures that come to mind as the men teach doesn’t erase the past months. My heart says it’s not like I’ve never been away. It’s like I’ve been away for years. Bethany clung to me and the rest of the children crowded around, eager to touch me, to ask me questions, to show me new things. It’s been so long since I was overwhelmed by children. In a whirlwind, we flash through pictures, watch silly military videos, give a million hugs and bustle back into the suburban for the long trip home. Home, as in, Arkansas.

Arkansas is not my home.

Neither is Kansas.

The Israelites, on the other hand, reached their home. Parceled out and detailed, the inheritance of the sons of Israel was delivered, as Yahweh had promised. Not one of the good promises which Yahweh had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. The book of Joshua is a vastly triumphant book—a book of overcoming through Yahweh’s power. As an old man, Joshua calls together the twelve tribes and reminds them of God’s working in their history, from the day He called Abram out of his “home” and promised the land to his descendants forever. “Look at what God has done for you,” Joshua said, waving his hand over fields, vineyards, cities and olive groves. “This is what God has given you. If it’s disagreeable in your eyes to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves whom you will serve. You can serve the gods of the people Yahweh drove out before you. But as for me and my house, we’re going to serve Yahweh.” Collectively, the people answered, “We’ll serve Yahweh!” “Ah,” Joshua reminded them. “Yahweh is jealous. Remember, He’s hard to serve—if you forsake Him He will have to discipline you.” Again the people responded, “We will serve Yahweh!” Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves. You have chosen Yahweh! Therefore cast away your idols and turn your hearts toward Yahweh.” A third time the people affirmed Yahweh their God. And they did, all the days of Yahweh, and all the days of the elders who survived him. Joshua knew the importance of spelling out the choice—Yahweh and blessing or the idols who cannot save. He knew the importance of seeking a public commitment. And he knew the value of setting up a visible witness, a pile of stones, to remind them every time they saw it, of the commitment they had made to Yahweh, to serve Him only. It’s easy for me to think in my heart, “I will serve the Lord.” But to open my mouth, to acknowledge that I understand how hard it may be, that I understand that Yahweh is jealous for my attention, which He deserves, that I intend to seek Him first and His righteousness confirms to me and to the world, that I have chosen Yahweh. It reminds me where my home is.

When Mr. T asked me today if I was settled in, I hesitated. Settled in to what? A new groove that I’ve built to hedge me into monotony? Sometimes I become too settled, too complacent, too comfortable. Safe. Afraid to take down camp and move, stretch my boundaries, do something new. Afraid that change might be looming at me like a dark thunderhead on the horizon—but is that cloud rain, or sleet or locusts? Why should I avoid change? Each new change the Lord has brought my way has only given me more room to grow, more reason to stretch down my roots for the living water. It seems the Lord has had change on my mind lately, perhaps as I see what Yahweh has done so far, and I look ahead to things that are already changing, wondering what comes next. Fearing what comes next, as if my Lord would lead me into a way He does not also tread.

Lord! Prevent me from ever resisting change, from ever becoming so comfortable in my own way that I lie stagnant and quit growing. Prune me that I grow stronger, taller and bear more fruit!

Never let me feel entirely “at home”—until I am with You.

Lord, this world is not my home,
So I may be content to roam,
Without belonging here or there
As long as I may have Thee near.

May all my interest always be
Invested in eternity
That when I climb up Jacob’s stair
I’ll find the mansion Thou prepared.