Never satisfied…always wanting more

I love my Christmas books. In putting away all the Christmas decorations (I confess that sometimes it doesn’t happen till the end of January and one year even pushed toward Valentines Day), I make sure they are the last to go into the chest of Christmas treasures. That way they are the first things to come out the following year. There are stories for children with great illustrations (always a deciding factor when purchasing), books for ladies’ tea parties , and, of course, the classics like A Christmas Carol, The Innkeeper and Two From Galilee.

But my forever favorites are two Advent books. They are getting a little shabby, underlined, highlighted and dotted with coffee spots. That makes them all the more special, sort of like the Velveteen Rabbit becoming “real” because he was so dearly and deeply loved.

The first is “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” a compilation of several well known authors through the ages, edited and compiled by Nancy Guthrie. The second is “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper.

Each day’s reading finds me wanting more than just the few pages designated for that date. I used to skip ahead and read through the entire thing because it all was so rich and beautiful. The more I read, the more I wanted. This year I have disciplined myself (mostly) to be content with the specified day’s gem…to reflect on it, to let it penetrate my soul, to reread as many times as my spirit needs. Even then, it still leaves me wanting more; more beautifully written devotions, more words that sink deep into my heart. I guess what I am really wanting is more of Jesus, experiencing the fullness of the blessing of Christ that Paul describes in Romans 3:14-19.

The introduction of Piper’s book says it best. It is truly my heart’s desire, not just for myself but for all those I love. What more could I ask than that:

“You may be FILLED with the fullness of God…you may have POWER to comprehend it all…that you would EXPERIENCE the fullness of Christ…that you would KNOW the outpouring of grace upon grace (my favorite)…that the glory of the only Son would SHINE INTO YOUR HEART…and that you would be AMAZED that Christ can be so real to you.”

Until your return, Lord, Jesus, yes, yes, yes! May it ever be.

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The Bible Simply Isn’t Relevant Today

None of it applies to life today. It’s just a bunch of stories to make people feel guilty and fit into some religious mold or something. Who needs all  those rules and the narrow-minded thinking? It’s so judgmental!

Life is really a struggle for some of us.  It’s full of challenges,  choices and confusion. We are looking for encouragement, not criticism; acceptance, not judgment. We are desperately seeking answers but  finding only empty words that have no substance., certainly no help or guidance.

So tell me, Christian, how can you say the Bible is a guidebook…and…all we need to do is just look because the answers are all there? If you think the answers are all there, then you are asking different questions.”

Oh, dear skeptic, I can only reply with “OUCH!” and ask your forgiveness for not making God’s Word real to you, for not sharing and showing what I know to be truth, that it does indeed tell us how to live, how to act, how to love, how to speak. Of course there aren’t specific answers to questions like …”Shall I take this job?”…or…”Which school should I attend?”…or…”Where did I leave my keys?” How much easier life might be if there were, right?

But the concepts of life and patience and honesty and integrity couldn’t be more clear. For instance, (and this is only one example) in one of the earliest New Testament writings – the book of James – the “life rules” are concise and all inclusive. They are exactly the same for you as they are for me. In a quick read of five short chapters, we find:

  • Count it joy when you meet trials (note that it says when, not if.  You are not singled out in this)
  • Ask God for wisdom (I must do this daily in all things, big or small)
  • Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (Yeah…I’m steadily working on this one)
  • Put away filthiness and wickedness (they have no place in the life of a believer)
  • Be doers of the Word and not hearers only (too often I have dropped the ball here)
  • Bridle the tongue (oh, dear…)
  • Show no partiality (treat the poor the same as the rich, the unlovely the same as the beautiful)
  • Humble yourself before the Lord (I cannot stand before a holy God with a haughty attitude)
  • Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, draw near to God (I cannot resist the devil unless I first submit to God)
  • Purify your hearts (not a physical act, but a mindset by thinking on things that are good and right and true and positive … confessing when we don’t)
  • Do not speak evil against one another (remember, Rosi, when one finger is pointing at another person, four are pointing back at yourself)
  • Practice patience (others certainly have to practice it with me!)
  • Establish your hearts (per Webster..’to establish means to place firmly to last a long time’…I need to establish my heart to lean Godward)
  • Do not grumble against one another (serves no purpose and God doesn’t love me any more than he does them)
  • If you are sick, pray; if you are blessed, sing praise (recognize Him as the source of your existence and therefore concerned about everything that concerns you)
  • Do not boast except in the Lord (any good that I do …or have …or am… is only because of His grace. I have nothing … am nothing… apart from Him)

So, dear disappointed one, I pray that you will reconsider your belief that the Bible is not relevant to your life and your world. I pray, also, with the apostle Paul, that “the eyes of your heart will be enlightened and that you will know the good and perfect will of God,” and with Timothy who confirms that “all scripture is given by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

It can be no more relevant than that.

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A new twist on Mothers Day…

Mothers Day 2016 is only a few days away. Hallmark will claim record-breaking sales and florists will hire extra delivery staff to make sure that the roses and daisies make their way to the doorsteps of moms old and young, new and seasoned.

I recently sat for hours going through my own Mothers Day cards…or as my youngest used to say, “polishing and tumbling the memory agates,” alternately smiling and weeping. Smiling over the stories and weeping over the ever dear and precious words in cards, notes and letters over five decades. Joybox after joybox. Words of encouragement, words of gratitude, tender words of love and appreciation for being an example in hard times…for pointing them to Jesus…for loving them unconditionally.

I was glad to be sitting alone as I felt undeserving and embarrassed by all the accolades and the praise. We are a family of bibliophiles / wordsmiths, so my ‘treasure’ collection is unique, sincere, powerful and priceless. The words go deep and spread a soothing balm over this mother’s heart.

Who my daughters are and who they have become amazes me. It isn’t because of their parents, but in spite of us; in spite of our sinful selves. That isn’t self-deprecating talk, but merely scriptural truth. Without Christ, we are a wretched people with no hope. With him, we have the luxury of grace, but will always struggle as long as we are this side of heaven, ever learning, always growing, hopefully improving.

I am so proud of who they are…kind, loving, beautiful, extremely generous women who love the Lord and are serving Him along with their families. We are mother and daughters, but more importantly, sisters in Christ, walking each other home on this journey called life.

So on this Mothers Day, I am taking the opportunity to do a marketing reversal …to honor my children…to thank God for them…for answering the prayers of this young mommy…prayers that sounded something like this.

Oh, God of mine, are you sure you have entrusted these little souls to the right mommy? Allowing an imperfect heart to shepherd and shape their innocent ones? This is the most important thing I will do in this life and there are no do-overs. There will be times when I will fail them, times when I will be unkind or unlovely and, sadly, unChristlike. Take over, I pray. They are yours and only on loan to us. Grow us together until we see you face to face.”

So Melissa, Kristina, Karrie and Emma (who waits for us with Jesus) thank you for you are and who you are helping me to become. You are wonderful mothers, sisters and friends who are leaving your own legacy and I am blessed to be your mom, mommy, Mother Dearest, Mammachka….my cup runneth over. Happy Mothers Day to me!

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Fence post theology

Awesome. A little two-syllable word that, to my way of thinking, is overused and misused. We use it so flippantly. The pizza was awesome. The concert was awesome. The date was awesome. The haircut is awesome.

But for me, only God and the things of God are truly awesome. That’s because I have been ‘awe’-struck by Him; thus it takes on new meaning when I sing ‘I stand in awe of you…’ and ‘Our God is an awesome God…’ or read that ‘they were all filled with awe and wonder…’ (Acts 2:42).

Several years ago, I was at a retreat for Christian singles in the mountains outside Pueblo, Colorado. Our devotion time in the morning was to be alone with God. My chosen spot was on a fence post with my back against the barn. I have never felt God’s nearness more than I did that day, heart overflowing and overcome by His gift of nature. It’s as real today as if I were right there on the fence post still wet with dew, sun peeking through giant pines to frame a snow-capped mountain peak. God’s fingerprints were everywhere. The only noise was that of crystal clear water caressing the rocks and the rustling of critters who needed a drink. A beaver on one side, a fawn on the other. The sun glistened on the leaves in shades unmatched by man’s limited color palette.

I sat for what seemed like hours just trying to absorb it all. The beauty was so intense, I could hardly breathe and, for one of the few times in my life, I had no words, just a sense that I might explode any second as God wished me a happy good morning. It was in that moment of sensory overload that I understood the words awe and awesome.

As I sat in stillness surrounded by pristine beauty, I wondered what I could ever give back to God. It wasn’t really a question as much as it was just pondering. In less than three minutes, he answered by giving me the words and tune to a simple little song. Because I didn’t think anyone was around, I sang as the words came to mind rather than writing them down. Because of the echo, I imagined the words and notes floating straight up to him.

I see you in the mountaintops, I see you through the trees.
I hear your voice in the babbling brook, I feel you through the breeze.
I stand in awe of all you give, what can I give to you?
A grateful heart, a willing heart that longs to be like you.

Chorus:
Here am I here am I, your servant I will be.
Here am I, here am I, Lord shine your light through me.
Here am I, here am I, Lord teach me what you will.
I’m willing Lord, so use me, Lord, according to your will.

I feel your presence everywhere, there’s safety in your arms;
Your tender mercies freely shared; in peace there is no harm;
With all the wonders that you give, what can I give to you?
A grateful heart, a willing heart that longs to be like you
.

Chorus

Those who know me best have heard me say that I don’t believe in coincidence, but rather in Divine design. Here is but one example.

When the bell rang for chapel, I headed back around the barn, humbled and excited by my time with God. There stood a friend who had been on the other side. As I started to tell her about my visit, she said, “I know. I heard you, but didn’t know it was you.  I was feeling the same thing, but I didn’t know how to express it. Your song was my answer.”

This little grouping of words and notes will never be a #1 hit; nor will they likely even be read by my great-grandchildren. But the blessing of knowing that God met me there on the fence post is far greater than any earthly accolade.

Still reeling from the experience, sitting in silence and waiting for Chapel service to start,  I opened my Bible to the Psalms. How uniquely God that my eyes fell upon this verse. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped. My heart exults and (are you ready for this, reader?)...WITH MY SONG I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7

Awesome.

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He’s still workin’ on me…..

One of my favorite movies ever is Fiddler on The Roof; and a favorite line is when Tevye (the Papa) is addressing his daughter on the futility of marrying outside the faith, having no spiritual common ground. “A bird may love a fish,” he says, “but where would they make their home?”

As a brand-new Christian, a baby in Christ and a foreigner to the Word, I was thrown headlong into a culture that seemed equally challenging. The worlds collided, as they say.

The only time I had read the Bible was for a Confirmation class and even then, only selected passages. And here I was, an Illinois transplant with little, if any, spiritual background following her Minnesota boy to the prairie and people who spoke openly about God and Jesus and scripture and….get this…prayed before a meal…out loud! On my first visit, engaged and nervous about meeting the family (the very large extended family), I clearly remember an auntie asking us all to join hands for prayer and a hymn before we ate. What?? Because all eyes were on the new girlfriend, there was no hiding the rolling of the eyes that said, “These people are so weird. What have I gotten myself into?”

I had grown up in a Methodist church where the only mention of Jesus was at Christmas and Easter. There was no talk of a personal relationship with Him and certainly nothing about being born in sin and needing to be saved from it.

But here I was, hundreds of miles from home and all things familiar. But I was here to stay. I don’t know if maybe God gave the fish wings or the birds gills, but gradually I began not only to understand, but to crave and desire more teaching, more truth, more of this Jesus – what He wanted for me and expected of me.

A precious and segacious mentor led me along in baby steps over the years, answering endless questions and feeding me spiritual gems to memorize and treasure in my heart. Of all the advice she gave and the time she invested in me, one thing stands out above all else. “Ask God for two things: first, a love for His Word and ears to hear when He speaks to you; secondly, for something He wants to change in your life. Then do it. If reading the Word doesn’t change you, then it is nothing more than reading the words.”

Sorting through some of my journals recently, I came across one where I would write down a particular verse and reference, followed by a one- or two-line response. It was like finding an old friend! At the top I had written “God’s promises and instructions for Rosi.” As I skimmed the pages, I was struck anew with the joy of God “speaking” to me through the scriptures and then claiming it through my avenue of truth…my pen.

I share a few of them here as a reminder of His strength in my weakness, His faithfulness in my doubts, His comfort in my pain, His light in my darkness.

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil; plans for a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

RESPONSE: It doesn’t matter that I feel no direction or see a purpose in the way things are happening. I need to trust His plan in growing me and His hand in guiding me.

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I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you. – Psalm 32:8

RESPONSE: God knows what I need and when I need it. I need to wait for the prompting of the Spirit. I need to wait for instruction. If I jump ahead, I will not only miss the target, but the blessing of the journey as well. Learn to wait, Rosi.

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But do not follow foolish stories that disagree with God’s truth, but train yourself to serve God. – I Timothy 4:17

RESPONSE: We train for everything – sports, debates, careers, marathons – because we want to be the best. Why would we do any less with our spiritual disciplines? We must practice obedience. It doesn’t come naturally and it doesn’t come easily. We will fall because we are fallen; but that isn’t a good enough reason not to do it.

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“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. – Psalm 119:105

RESPONSE: How can I expect to find my way when I don’t ‘turn on the light’ first rather than stumbling around and then finally going to the Word as a last resort?

I have come a long way from the girl with culture shock, but there is so much more I want and need to hear and learn and know in order to abide and to grow. Time for a new journal; He has lots more work to do; and as long as I have breath, may I never lose my  desire for Him to do it.

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Peace by any other name…

 

French german dictionary Stock Photography

Peace…a short, one-syllable word. It even sounds soft as it rolls off the tongue. Yet to my mind, its meaning is elusive. At least it was before writing this piece.

As a writer, I always have my Merriam-Webster dictionary close at hand and, over the years, I have accepted and oft-quoted its definitions as unquestionable truth. Until now.

Per Webster: peace (n) 1. state in which there is no war or fighting 2. harmony in personal relations and 3. the lack of hostility. After a long list of similar definitions, there are sentence examples for students learning the English language. Two of them were closer to how I define peace. One referred to a state of tranquility and the other as seeking inner peace.

No matter the meaning, we don’t just desire it – we crave it. Resorts offer it…spas promise it…artists try to capture it. But what is “it?” Certainly more than a calm feeling or the absence of chaos and conflict.

Antique Holy Bible Old Testament Sacred Book Title Royalty Free Stock Photography Still not satisfied, still seeking the depth and dimension of this little word, I turned to another Book to see what God-inspired writers had to say about it. I was not only informed, but inspired and surprised by its multiple and varied references. I learned, for instance, that…

There is a peace WITH God. (Romans 5:1) “…therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is a peace OF God. (I Corinthians 14:23)
God is not a God of disorder, but a God of peace.” Also, from Philippians 4:17, “…and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is a peace that IS God. (Ephesians 2:14)
“…for He Himself is our peace.” (note not the spa or the beach or that next new purchase.)

There is a peace that He GIVES. (II Thessalonians 3:16)
“… May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”

There is a peace that He GRANTS for our comfort – a heart balm if you will. (Isaiah 26:3) “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”

There is a peace that is a POSITIVE END RESULT OF DISCIPLINE. (Hebrews 12:11)
“…no discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (I don’t much care for this one, gaining by being disciplined. But then, we don’t get to choose the path.)

And, most surprising of all for this reader/writer, there is a peace that we must SEEK AND PURSUE. (I Peter 3:11)
Let him turn away from evil and do good; he must seek after peace and pursue it.” (It doesn’t just happen automatically?)

These are but a few of the scripture verses about peace and its – for lack of a better word –  purposes. Are they one and the same? Are they dependent on the need or maybe the situation?

Regardless of what the dictionary says about peace, it is abundantly clear that God is the originator of it and He doesn’t care if we call it a noun, a verb, or an adjective. He IS it! It is His very essence. He is the One who owns it and gives it. The so-called peace of this world is fleeting and phony and shallow. It has no lasting power. No joy.

Just today I heard someone say, “I am desperate for God’s peace. Sometimes I feel like He has forgotten my address because He is so silent.” Pity the heart that knows this desperation.

It is doubtful that I could define this little five-letter word to Webster’s liking, but I now know this simple truth. In all of us, the longing for peace is merely a God-shaped hole in our heart. And because He made us, He is the only One who can fill it.

You won’t find that in the dictionary.

 

Copyright 2015

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The rudeness of grief…

I created this blog – From My Heart to Yours – a couple of years ago as a tool of self-expression and to get the myriad of words out of my head and onto paper – or keyboard as the case may be. I  have never hesitated on the topic or regretted posting any of them. It’s doubtful that I offend anyone since I direct any and all criticism, growth, mishaps or challenges at myself. Always. I choose truth in transparency, seeking always to bring glory to God in the midst. His strength in my weakness and failures.

So I’m not certain what the difference is in this one. Why the hesitation. Maybe because it’s so intensely personal…like you are reading my journal… like I am exposed. Maybe because it isn’t uplifting or has no real ‘take-away’…but it is real and transparent. About grief. I read it to a handful of  ‘safe’ folks who are on their own grief journey…and they encouraged me to share it. So, here you have it.

The rudeness of grief…

Grief is rude. Period.  It is no respecter of persons, timing, or convenience. It is stubborn and firm in its resolve to invade. It does not back away and will not be ignored. Like a cold or the flu, it must be allowed to run its course, leaving you still alive but in a weakened state. It does not exit quickly; nor does it promise to stay away. On the contrary, you can count on it returning, maybe not soon and maybe not with the same vengeance… but it will definitely rear its ugly head again.

And you have no option but to allow it and maybe – over time – learn to embrace it as another step in the healing process…a little more scar tissue over the gaping, bleeding wound. The wound that threatens to consume you … the one that is only quiet for a few seconds a day…in those wee hours of the morning when you aren’t fully awake. When the birds are just beginning to sing and the sun is peeking through the curtains. And then you realize that it wasn’t just a bad dream after all. That you really did just bury your daughter and that you really aren’t going to see her again this side of heaven. And that you aren’t going to kiss her freckled cheeks or hear her ask, “What can I get you, Mama? More tea?”

And you feel the sucker punch to your gut once more and you cry…or not. Maybe you just feel sick. Maybe you don’t feel anything. Maybe you just do the next thing…the next right thing, whatever that is. Make the bed. Make a pie. Make an apology.

And you say with a sigh that life is hard and sometimes we cry, but that tears aren’t terminal. You have learned that. You’ve also learned that finding your feet on the floor each morning means that you survived another day. And you look at the calendar and somehow weeks and months have passed without your permission and sometimes, even your awareness. And you realize that the valleys aren’t quite as deep or as close together. And for this day, you don’t have to remind yourself to breathe. And looking at photos isn’t quite as painful. And happy conversations with silly memories flow a little more easily.

And you realize that death is a part of life. And that… some day, all will be well. And that no matter what….God is still good. Period.

 

Copyright 2015

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