Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fully knowing Christ

My daughters have always challenged my notions and theories – with their ability to be fully engaged in a present moment, to become transfixed on an instant of pure emotion and of encapsulating feelings on a real and transparent level. Truly, much of that candid expression is fading, with maturity and tact, and at some point they will hesitate to share anger, pain, or maybe even sometimes – elation. As they grow, as they observe us in real and unhindered moments of life, I hope my daughters will remember to remain open and vulnerable, yet learn from their emotions. That they may develop seasoned responses, realize an offense, and offer forgiveness instead of bitterness. To live with integrity so as to not offend. So many beautiful experiences await; and as we navigate raising three precious girls, I pray we can fully know Christ and daily draw closer to truly reflecting His image. To cast aside anything encumbering us as a family, refine our ways. Much of the fear which can consume is simply based upon my inability to completely trust God with every aspect of my life. Stepping toward Him, completely emptied of my fleshly self with worldly ideals, and striving to be clothed in righteousness. Remaining in a place of real, deep calling means I recognize possible barriers, but strive forward. I can observe obstacles, but the desire and motivation toward ministry is stronger, more sustainable. The call of Christ will always supercede my other interests, rising toward the surface, awaiting awakening. Those doubts and fears may be what compel me to remain focused on Christ, a daily reminder of my constant need for His grace. As I seek the Lord’s heart and step into a goal of moment-to-moment prayer, I can trust that the circumstances of my day are intended for me to serve, to love, and to be stretched; to bring Him glory and perhaps to deliver hope to a friend along the way.

 


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God’s Deep Love For Us


When will God’s love be enough? Until we struggle through the deep issue of accepting God’s love and thriving within that realm, truly experiencing freedom and joy in the freshest way, can we provide others with any small taste, any fragrance of Christ? If we are unbelieving in our esteem being rooted in His unconditional fervor, where can we otherwise be so unassuming and completely surrendered? When I first gave my heart to Jesus, I was a small child. I did not fathom the depths my relationship with God would become…I was young, acting in pure faith. Since that time, delights and discouragements have marked my way, yet never deterring from the most basic need for obedience to Christ no matter the costly and daily discipline to strive after Him. I have learned to request that God’s heart and desires become my own. Each moment offers lessons on practicing and struggling, a lifelong plunge into developing character. Perhaps somewhere along the way I did not fully understand that relationships are fluid and my relationship with God is no exception to the changing current. I sometimes fail to realize the childlike promise (made by a young and unknowing person of faith) must be accompanied by guided risks. Even the most seasoned Christian can lose track of God’s truth and fret in the dark, quiet season of vast disappointment; wondering if the sheer heaviness of discipleship will ever ease, if that marked burden of ministry can truly transfer to God’s able and sincere frame. Can I effectively give my whole being to Him? Has “Christ-in-me” produced a spirit of thankfulness? I remain amazed by His grace and love, and seek to be wise to act upon those gifts and care for others, to illuminate God’s incredible and perfect love. For only He can bring true delight and peace to our hearts. I seek to accompany a fellow friend on her journey, sit next to her on the bench of suffering, and joyfully dance with her in God’s goodness. Most of us live with similar spiritual formational challenges and God can marvelously weave our stories into one.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Compelling Purpose

Magnificent grace = God's all-reaching, encompassing compassion. The delight He holds about me, His complete desire to fully know me. God willingly and generously sent His son Jesus be sacrificed on the cross, payment for sin. Too splendidly glorious to ever comprehend, too marvelous to repay.

Sometimes I am drawn toward wonder and sometimes toward bitterness. When I consider the loss of a marvelous man like my brother Tim, and ponder all the tremendous experiences and impact that are no longer in-the-flesh, alive, current, I have a choice ahead of me: blessing, or bitterness. To stand amazed at God's miracle of the ordinary, everyday life -- and remain a mode of thanksgiving for His blessing of seven years, realizing the gift of three children and life's milestones was indeed a miracle, and marvel.
If I were to simmer in bitterness, eventually the realm of my world would become smaller, the impact of Tim's well-lived existence perhaps to seem cheapened by my inability to stay thankful, to remember. I'd forget to write of all the fantastic moments we shared. To be in a place of constant grief will inhibit my ability for ministry, hold me in a cycle of memory instead of a course of compelling purpose.
I think Tim would urge me to live in wisdom and blessing, with fervor; to be changed. To care for those who remain, many loved ones who are also seeking the Lord and serving Him in quietness and humility. Tim would encourage me toward a healthy manner of sorrow, but staying purposeful, perhaps refining my vision. I was always challenged and changed by his guidance during life conversations, and seek to remain fixed Christ, ears tuned to His call on my life; on a course of outreach and intentional love.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vintage Superheroes

Not yet seven months ago, my dear older brother Tim had a second heart surgery. His first surgery -- for an aortic dissection -- was in 2003, and during emergency open-heart surgery, Tim received a graft on the ascending aorta. He was faithful with doctor's visits and heart scans over the years to monitor his aorta, and this past spring, Tim was told he had swelling on both sides of the graft and a leaking aortic valve. Tim prepared as best he could, and had an April 28 surgery. There were complications. For several weeks we swirled through emotions ranging from hope to incredible pain at the prospect of losing him.
And on May 13, 2010, Tim went home to be with his Lord Jesus. Every day since that moment has been an overwhelming test of faith, to step forward each day. The family he loved -- a beautiful wife and three darling children -- must find a way now and continue forward. And that proves to be difficult at times.
Tim lived out a tremendous Christian faith that was evident in the way he served others, and the strength he demonstrated through his first heart surgery in 2003 and the seven years that followed. He kept a list of God's blessings that he was able to participate in because of the miracle of that first surgery. Tim lived purposefully, serving others at work, in church as he mentored others and taught classes, and alongside fantastic peers who kept him accountable. I do believe God prepares us for life events, and although we often do not want to recognize His loving hand through it, there were conversations and situations preceding Tim's surgery that gave him an opportunity for wrestling with God's plan.
In January, when the earthquake hit Haiti, Tim lost his friend David, also at an early age, and also a father, who was working for Compassion, The horrible reality was difficult to accept. Tim struggled with the prospect of David's death, and processed through grief of losing a fine man of God earlier than what was expected or envisioned -- especially when one was fully in the thick of selfless ministry to God, enmeshed in outreach that would outlive oneself, and particularly embodying the urging, "To live is Christ." (Phil 1:21). Yet the "gain in death" (Phil 1:21) was only for David (and 4 months later for Tim) -- their time to step into the pure, real hope of heaven, of the culmination of salvation, of finally realizing the purposes of time on earth now finding reward, and of partaking in blessing, from sacrificing in life to raise children and love faithfully, care for a brave a strong wife. Along with others who walked the same path, they loved Jesus, and now are whole, free, healed. Real life, for them, has truly begun. They are home.
For us who remain, we may join them in minutes or years, yet if they could, they would beckon us to live boldly and give generously, pushing past every hindrance and in acceptance with God's specific call on our lives, to proclaim Him in lifestyle and effort, quietly exhibiting faith and love. Perhaps the unanswered questions are not what will drive us toward madness. Their unfulfilled dreams and visions, their unfulfilled hopes and aspirations. We want more than solutions, to know that God remains sovereign, that He will embrace us, journey through the darkness that remains, and rescue us. That ultimate relationship, that all-encompassing, perfect love of Jesus, which softens sorrow and with gentle power, true meekness, will someday set every imbalance into the proper place; right.
These men of faith, newly taken, herald an image of a vintage super hero, serving others when taken, in their prime.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Uncommon existence

What does life envision for an uncommon existence? Would this involve transformations on a grand level, or a series of small movements toward particular goals, to something more like specific attributes such as compassion, kindness, generosity, patience? Can these become choices, or must the change require some subconscious magnitude, which results in a subdued lifestyle alteration? So many variations and difficulties keep the heart from an outward movement. Obstacles, distractions, and lack of knowledge or ability. The mind plays convincingly against one's passion and can instantly remind one of every challenge or deferred dream, of a lack of particular talents or maybe simply a general state of absence of ambition. Perhaps these transformations result from miracles, or a moment of habit, through reality. Or maybe through a life mesmerized by what can become of ourselves in the darkest night of life's long list of unfair moments. Those most terrifying realities, that which we never supposed, the pain or bitterness of suffering that overflows, has now become the most trying of daily life. Emerging from the pain will either feel victorious or lacking in reverence. An uncommon existence may mean to thrive without that which once was. Of miring through the extremes of trials and joy without traveling companions who would generally make sense of such blows. Navigating the unforeseen, and trusting that someday God will heal our pain, where we are no longer burdened by such realities.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Changing My Heart

God is more interested in changing my heart than in changing my circumstances. Daily, I check my attitude and motives and realize that God always takes care of us, provides what we need for each moment, and has promised to walk alongside us as we face every burden in life. Faith in God is not exclusive to things like sorrowful experiences, or trusting Him to provide for our practical needs. Yet faith in Him means entirely surrendering our whole selves to Him, no matter what He gives or withholds, what God allows, or in moments He is silent. We continue to remember that He is in control of everything, and His grace and love remain. CJM

“Waiting is totally submitting to God and inviting God to move into our hearts with complete freedom. When we wait, we yield up our expectations of what God should do, our precious hoards of ritual and doctrine, our social awareness, and our self-concepts.” ~Howard Macy


Monday, November 1, 2010

Freedoms

Freedoms         
For a long while now I've observed that being married has provided me freedoms I'd never previously known: freedom to be myself totally without reserve and to realize that our union was solid and firm. This allowed me to relax and live in the arms of God's grace and acceptance, and also broke down the walls I’d sometimes put up in relationships: saying the most witty or brilliant things, even when exhausted or needing to be alone. Being married the past nine years has provided an intensely close relationship to accompany me through life and to come home at the end of a terrible day and know that we have an opportunity to encourage each other. I discovered that only God’s love is perfect and complete. When I first became a mother six years ago, the entire paradigm shifted into more of a family narrative.
 
Life as a mother has offered me an entirely new manner of vision, beginning in May 2004 when I became mother, and again in October 2006, when I had twins. We all have those moments and they encompass different meanings. In my experience, giving birth and taking care of daughters has been a and rewarding task; it's an incredible honor. Every day I'm thankful for this blessing, and when my oldest daughter was newly born, I first realized how much I cherished those ordinary, everyday tasks of feeding her or giving her a bath. Even changing a diaper provides a moment together. I feel God has given mothers instincts and ideas, great insight that is clearly from Him, and wisdom in the midst of a trying situation: a diaper rash or fussiness or a sudden, unexplained fever. While those freedoms I enjoyed the first three years of marriage are transformed now, I have newfound liberty in my role as wife and mother; a role which is constantly being redefined. The responsibility of parenting is growing as they develop; and I too, mature each day a little more.

My mothering story began with a birth, and carries beyond the first moments into parenting – the rigors and delights – into another visceral birth. Even now, into the joyous delicious feelings within my being, I hear my girls calling, “Mommy,” giggles from their beds. These darling daughters are calling to me in my dreams and while awake, my entire energy and adoration with concentration surrounded in who they are, and – with God’s help and guidance – what women we are shaping them into. My marriage has been tested and refined, and continues to find molding as well, with the challenges of finding jobs, moving four times, perusing family pain, and death, while also becoming parents three times in two years. The girls abound in newness and the fresh realities of life being discovered.  They are easily excited by a new experience and opportunities are in our future. Going to the mountains for adventurous hikes, camping during a long, sticky summer. Navigating parks with squiggly slides and smooth swings, playing games, running, dancing to zesty jazz, continually experiencing grace. I have come to appreciate how God’s unconditional love and freedom weaves into everything.  v