gimpy

SparrowI love the finches, chickadees and sparrows that visit daily. My cat, Casanova, loves them too, but in a sinister way. Several weeks ago, Jessica, my friend that lives in the suite downstairs, brought me a freshly injured sparrow, Casanova's latest victim. I felt a powerful compunction to pray for him. I probably held him for 15 minutes while praying. His leg was broken, he had a tooth puncture on his head, and one wing looked gnarly. My heart ached for him.

I was reminded that I could offer my aching heart to the Lord for the salvation of souls. And I did. I was comforted knowing Jesus cared for that sweet sparrow. As I held him and prayed, he seem to regain some strength. He couldn’t get aloft, so I put him in the forsythia, hoping and praying he would survive. I felt like power had gone out from me, a feeling I have little experience with. I was reminded of the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Jesus's garment and how he knew power had gone from him. (Mark 5:10) 

For a couple days I thought about that helpless little bird and meditated on how it hurt my heart and wondered if that might be a similar to how God feels when we are hurting.

A few days later, that little bird joined me on the patio. His tail feathers were gone and and his leg was at a 90° angle. I named him Gimpy because, of course, his tiny gimp leg. I was elated that he had survived and every day I see him, my heart swells with joy and thanksgiving. It's like he is a special gift from God to me.

On the day I prayed for Gimpy, I united the pain in my heart with Jesus's suffering, based on Paul's words in Colossians 1:24, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." God answered the prayer that the sparrow survive. It encourages me to imagine that he might have saved souls through that small suffering of mine united to his sufferings. None of our suffering need be wasted, not even an aching heart over an injured sparrow.

Gimpy still visits the patio, giving me so much joy. My joy would be off the charts if he trusted me enough to let me hold him again. Might this be how Jesus feels when I don't totally trust him or totally surrender to him? What am I withholding? I would never hurt little Gimpy or betray his trust. God would never hurt me or betray my trust.

My experience with Gimpy was the second time I felt I "had" to pray a healing prayer. The other time was nearly 20 years ago when a lady came to church for prayer after a cancer diagnosis. Way out of my comfort zone, I felt very compelled to pray for her. Just like with Gimpy, I felt like power went out from me. (Please understand that this wasn't a huge feeling, but a small sense.) Wendy's cancer did indeed go into remission and she is still with us. I took/take no credit for that, I just knew I needed to pray right then and there, just like I did for Gimpy. When Gimpy survived, I recalled the similarities in the emotions I experienced with each situation. I wondered if God might be telling me, "Remember Gimpy and Wendy the next time this feeling occurs." I write this experience to remember it. I want to be ready if God places the feeling of  "I must" pray for someone within my heart. He used me those two times. I want to be ready should I feel that again because maybe, just maybe, God will use me to bring a healing prayer to someone.


god's purpose on the job

(I will now break all cardinal rules for the internet by talking about work. I have never done this before.)

I'Gorgeous flowersm having a hard time at work. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. I strive to rise above the annoyances, abuse and negativity. Last week I failed utterly. Failure is tough when you take being an example seriously. I don't know how my work struggles will end. Sometimes I think I should get out while I still have sanity or while I can still get a good reference. On the other hand, when things are going well - which they are more than they aren't - I love my job, really love it. But it's a volatile environment governed by values I abhor.

Last week was horrible. I felt antagonized and abused and a co-worker is driving me absolutely bonkers. I snapped. I said nothing "bad," but I totally abandoned my convictions about letting stuff slide.

Years ago I had an epiphany that almost every struggle I gohad boiled down to pride, my pride. Since that revelation, I have made "let it go" a personal commandment. Last week I let nothing go. I behaved no better than my colleague and am quite ashamed of myself for being as small as she. (Work aside, I had some significant issues going on at home and that made my tolerance level pretty low. That's not an excuse, that's simply a fact. I was running on emotional fumes.)

At work, people are not appreciated or esteemed. I'm in a position of influence and think my purpose in being there is to improve the lives of those I work with. This is counter to the whole environment. It's a mission I take seriously; a mission I think God placed in my heart. I want desperately to make a difference in the lives of those I work with. When the going gets really tough, I try to remember God gave me a mission to improve the lives of my co-workers and that seems to make my resolve stronger.

Yesterday Pastor Serge spoke on God's purpose in our lives. ("David served God's purpose in his own generation." Acts 13:36) I was reminded that I have a purpose and an assigned job. Improving the lives of those I work with is a significant purpose in my life. It's far behind my relationship with God or my family, but nonetheless a God-given purpose.

Points from Pastor Serge's sermon that I will remind myself of regularly:

- When God gives a purpose, He equips us.

- God works in our desires. (My desire to better the lives of those I work with is a God-given desire.)

- He empowers me with certain skills.

- He is always with me, even when I mess up like I did last week.

- He provides development. Part of the development I see working in my life is last week's screw ups. He used that to remind me how badly I want to be better than that; how badly I want to be an example of joy, peace, patience and humility.

- It's not in vain and it will be rewarded. I may never know if I made a difference, but God knows my heart and my desires and He will reward my efforts.

- The reward will be based on my faithfulness. This is more encouragement to carry through with the mission and not succumb to the pride that wants to destroy me and that God-given purpose.

- My work will be tested. And it was. Last week.

- Works are an expression of my faith. My whole life is an expression of my faith. I want the work I do, the way I act, my smile, my concern for others, my casual greetings to my co-workers, I want it all to express my faith; to express that I am different.

- God is with me to fulfill His purpose. I was renewed by this reminder. I can go back to work tomorrow with a clean slate (in my heart) ready to continue the commitment to make a difference.

- David wasn't rejected by God when he sinned. Even having sinned big time, David served God's purpose in his generation. I can too.

(Disclaimer: This post by no means indicates I will be at this job forever. There will come a time when I leave. I don't want to leave prematurely and I want to leave knowing I have served God's purpose in my being there.)


through the door

Revelation 3:20 To the church of Laodicea Jesus says, "I stand at the door and knock."

When my babies were small they would stand in their crib facing the door when their sleep was over. Sometimes they jabbered, sometimes whimpered, sometimes called Ma-Ma. What they said and did varied. But that they faced the bedroom door waiting for me never did. They waited, they expected me, they knew I would come through that door. When I opened that door and walked though a playful, happy-to-see-me smile lit their faces. That smile always brought a smile to me too.

Today I'm reminding myself that Jesus is knocking and waiting to be invited to join me. When he joins me His Spirit immediately washes over me. Like my babies when I entered their room, comfort, joy, and security are mine when He joins me.


spring is here

Spring is in the air. Flower shoots are sprouting up and nature’s early risers (I’m not talking about my kids) are singing in the tree outside my bedroom window when I wake up in the morning. I love everything about spring: warmer temperatures, longer days, green grass, even spring cleaning.

I especially love flowers! The ones that can be bought from a florist are beautiful, but the ones that grow in my own yard, I have a particular fondness for.

In early spring, I watch those flowerbeds with anticipation, just waiting for those first shoots that are like promises that say, “Yes, spring is coming.” They are little treasures to this girl who didn’t grow up in a land of such long winters.

This year as I’ve looked for specks of green shooting from the cold, brown dirt, I’ve experienced just a tiny bit of conviction. “Are you looking for treasures in My Word as diligently as you’re searching for those flower shoots? Do you get as excited about a new found truth in My Word as you do about a new found shoot?”

I am thankful for God’s reminder to me to “look longer and harder” in the Word of God to find a treasure, a shoot that could possibly become a lovely flower in my cold, dark heart.

God gives us flowers to delight us and to delight Himself. Springtime is a time to delight in the newness we have in the world around us and the newness we have as Christians. Let’s rejoice! It’s spring.
 

god's directives for troubled relationships

I have a relationship that is badly damaged. Words have been said and actions done that have hurt both of us enormously. I've wondered over and over what to do. I've asked God to bring peace to the troubled relationship, to bring healing. Until today, He hasn't. Not that today some thing tangible happened to change the situation. No, it is still the same. However I did get a directive. Since this is more than I've received thus far, I'm very excited.

As usual, in my praying I asked the oft repeated, God please heal this relationship.

My Scripture reading this morning was Luke 6. In verses 27-31, I read, "But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you."

These verses are nothing new to me, but as I read them today, they seemed to jump from the page and  I knew God was speaking, God was leading. I read and re-read it and sensed God was saying, lay aside your rights on this one. Be abused and don't retaliate, don't protect yourself. Turn the other cheek. When I'm reminded of the "slaps" I've already received, I'm tempted to run away from this relationship - hide and protect myself. But even the pagans do this as pointed out later in the same chapter. What is different about the people who follow God, is they pray for the abuser, they turn the other cheek, they give more than required of them, and when something is taken away, they don't ask for it back. When one wants to retaliate, a God-follower chooses instead to, "Do for others as you'd like them to do for you."

It won't be easy. My prayers and my actions with respect to this relationship will be more proactive now. Instead of protecting myself, I know God expects me to lay down my rights, to offer up my emotions for whatever comes. My directive is to do to others what I want done to me. In this situation, I know a number of things this means - and they all go against my natural inclination. God help me.

After some time percolating on these Scriptures this morning, I went back to read some more in the same chapter. The chapter ended with this verse. Luke 6:45, "Whatever is in your heart determines what you say." In this troubled relationship, I've got a lot a garbage in my heart.

So today, my prayer changes somewhat. I want my heart to be changed so that what comes out of my mouth will be good. I asked God to stuff my heart full with the truths from Luke 6:27-31: Love my enemies. Do good to those who hate me. Pray for the happiness of those who curse me. Pray for those who hurt me. When I'm slapped, don't run for protection. Stay engaged and willing to receive more slaps. When asked for something, give more than asked and don't try to get anything in return. And finally, the one that sums it all up succinctly, treat like I want to be treated.
 

eating habits and spiritual growth

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. - John Piper.

Romans 12:2 "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." This is my prayer in my "lifestyle change" pursuit. I'm asking God to transform me into a new person by changing the way I think with respect to food and physical activity.

I have an ongoing conviction, that generally speaking, I squash and repress trying desperately to ignore. Despite my grand efforts, it still pricks me. It's overeating and being overweight. Overeating and being overweight reveals a great deal about me.

1) I don't believe (or at least I don't live like I believe) that Jesus is enough. When I'm lonely, bored, depressed, or anxious, I don't go to God for comfort and peace. I go to food.

2) I'm not all that "green" after all. All my thoughts on materialism, consumerism, and consumption are really worthless since I don't practice them in something as rudimentary as my eating habits.

3) My concern for the hungry and poor is not as sincere as I like to think it is. I keep overeating, never mind that 15,000 starve to death every day.

Once again I tell God I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not caring for the hungry; for not caring about the earth enough to slow down my own consumption; for the messages I send my kids. But mostly, I'm sorry for living in a way that says He isn't enough to meet the needs of my frail emotions and physical cravings. I'm sorry for going to food when I ought to got to God.

My prayer today is that God would transform me by changing the way I think. I need him to help me deny myself the lesser good (food) for the greater good (intimacy with Him).

My food addiction is Satan's tool to distance me from God. He accomplishes this by seducing me to food to meet my needs rather than God. God offers to really sate my longings. Food is a counterfeit.

As sure as food addiction is Satan's tool, God can use it as a purifier. As I go to God when I'm weak and craving cookies, He will strengthen my weak resolve, satisfying me with something much grander than five minutes of chocolate ecstasy. He will use my weakness to show Himself strong.

This food addiction could actually be the means which God purifies my faith and draws me into deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.

Having thought about it, I think it's true. I always "preach" that trials are opportunities for spiritual growth. This is my invitation for growth and deeper communion with God.

2 Corinthians 1:9, "We learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God." If there's one thing I know, it's that I will fail in my own strength. Temptation will come and I'll bake a cake. But God!!! I will go to God.

John Piper writes that God's desire for us is "more contentment in God and less satisfaction in self and the world." I want that contentment that He gives and I want to quit going to food for contentment and satisfaction.

God help me.
 

a torn curtain

Exodus 26:33 "When the inner curtain is in place, put the Ark of the Covenant behind it. This curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place."

Matthew 27:51 At the moment of Jesus's death, "The curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom."

Hebrews 4:16 "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it."

At Jesus' death, the curtain separating mortals from a Holy God was torn from top to bottom. In that moment, I was given complete, unobstructed access to God. Never again would a priest be needed to petition God on the behalf of his followers, and that includes me.

So with that, I go to Him boldly because he is my gracious God. There I receive His mercy and find His grace which I so badly need.

These thoughts are on my mind this morning. As I reflect on them, I smile. What an amazing privilege to petition the Maker of the universe boldly.
 

my imprisonment, his mercy

John MacArthur teaches reading the same passage in the Bible for one month to allow it to really sink into the spirit. I've been reading the book of Romans for over a year. I know Romans is packed with good theology, yet most of it goes over my head. It seems the more I read it, the less I understand. I love verses that are clear and don't take so much thought to grasp: "Be kind," "Help the poor," and so forth. Clear directives are so much easier for me than the book of Romans.

God promises to bless me as I read Romans and even though it seems so out of my reach, I know it is going into my spirit and making a difference. It's one of those spiritual laws that I cannot understand. God's word always yields an increase.

Thankfully there are verses scattered through Romans that speak to me. This morning I read one such verse. Romans 11:32 "For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone." What it spoke to me is his strength shows in my weakness. Because of my sin, I need a Savior. Because of my sickness, I need a Healer. Because of my great need, I need a Provider. Because of my spiritual need, I need an All-Sufficient One. Because of my weakness I need a Strong One. Because of ME, everything about me, I need Him. He is everything I need.

Without all my faults and weaknesses, could I understand his grace and mercy? No. Jesus said in the gospels that he didn't come to save the healthy. Only the sick need a doctor. Because I am sick - spiritually diseased - I need a great Physician.

Because of his great mercy, one day all the chains of my bondage and imprisonment will permanently be broken. Until that day, I join the prophet Jeremiah who said in Lamentations, "Because of the Lord's great love I am not consumed. His mercies are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness."

 

response to a pagan

I work with a lady who is "pagan." By pagan, she means that she worships nature, woods, and the like. I've been wondering how to share my own beliefs in a way that would make sense to her and be of some value. This morning I was reading Philippians 2:1 and it seemed as though the light came on and I knew to approach the subject by talking experientially.

"Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic?" These are the questions from Philippians 2:1. The answer in my case is a resounding YES!

Encouragement, comfort, fellowship and friendship with the Spirit, heart changes that have made me more tender and sympathetic; these are some of the fruits of belonging to Christ. These things have made an enormous difference in my life.

I can hardly imagine life void of heavenly encouragement and comfort. When I read the paper and feel the hopeless evil that prevails in our world, I am comforted knowing this life isn't where it ends. I am comforted knowing God loves my kids more than I am capable; comfort knowing God is in control and nothing is bigger than him.

Fellowship - the friendship - of belonging to God is more valuable to me than anything. Being able to pour my heart out - the good, the bad and the ugly - isn't that what everyone wants in a friend? But he's not a fickle, ever-changing friend. He is the best friend; always helpful, loving, and faithful. He never rejects me. He has changed me, softened my heart, filled me with compassion and tenderness where there wasn't any.

I think this verse is my directive on what to share with my "pagan" friend. It may be of no consequence to her, but I think it will be good for me to express these things out loud to someone, and a "pagan" seems like as good a person as any.
 

bursting light

For a year I've been reading the Bible in the New Living Translation and enjoying it. Yesterday I read Psalm 112. Verse 4 reads, "When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in."

That's a beautiful word picture.

philippians and thanksgiving holiday

Philippians 1:3 "Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God."

I recently returned from visiting my family in Arkansas. My heart is tender and warm thinking about my time with these special people.

Michael and Lawana got the ball rolling getting me down there. When Michael learned that Stacie would be in Arkansas for the holidays, he phoned my dad and my mom to see if they'd join him in paying my way down. Each of them bought a ticket, allowing Rachael, Hannah and me to go. Not only did Michael and Lawana buy a ticket, they also carried most of the work and financial burden of the Thanksgiving meal. Michael made a turkey, ham, pork loin and a brisket. Lawana made vegetables, dressing, and desserts. On different days they took us out for supper. They treated us like royalty while we were there. Truly I was very touched by their kindness and generosity, over and over and over.

Stacie and her family joined us in Arkansas. They were only there for a couple days, but our time together was good. Stacie and Jimmy have four great kids and they are such joy to be around. They're helpful, gentle and kind. Stacie is a best friend and always great fun to be around.

Diane is another best friend. She gave me lots to laugh about and we enjoyed hours of great  conversation.

Christopher. I didn't have any alone time with him, but once the festivities were passed and the crowds started thinning, I saw Christopher's tender, gentle side again. How his gentleness blesses me.

Stephanie. Pretty as always, it was good to see how marriage and pregnancy are agreeing with her. She's about seven weeks along and still feeling pretty well.

Misty, my niece. A bundle of energy and captivating personality, she entertained me for hours, making me laugh over and over.

Jeff, my nephew, gave me plenty to laugh about.

CJ, another nephew. I love his affection and am happy I got to see him, as I didn't see him my last visit down.

Mindi, my niece that is most like me, always warms my heart and gives me plenty to laugh about. A few days away from delivering Baby #3, she was physically lethargic, but her great personality was alive and well.

Amy another niece. Nothing about Amy ever reminded me of myself until this visit. A new mom, I saw clearly how motherhood had changed her. Baby Jocelyn altered her life much the same that Stephanie's altered mine. I loved watching her and Salomon so connected to each other and to Baby Jocelyn. I was pleased to see how motherhood and wife-hood fit her so well.

Daddy. I was very blessed by his contribution to getting us down there. Thanksgiving Day was clearly a blessing to him and I loved seeing him excited and happy.

Mom and Pabob. Unfortunately they got stuck with picking us up and delivering us back to DFW Airport. I know that was a hassle of enormous proportion, so I'm thankful they rose to the occasion. (And I promise to never fly into DFW again.) Mama worked hard cooking for our Thanksgiving meal too and it was her idea to rent the community hall. And did that ever improve the day.

On my last day there, Mama, Memaw and I were involved in a car accident. It was one of those that easily could have been much worse. I'm thankful for getting off as easily as we did. Poor Mama got the worse deal, a broken foot that has to have surgery next week. I'm sorry about her foot, but thankful to God that she and Memaw are alive.

As I read Philippians 1:3 this morning, I thought of all the above people and how they blessed us last week. I sincerely thank God for all of them and for the joy they gave me in Arkansas and give me in life just by knowing they exist.

Philippians 1:7,8 "It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart... God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus." My thoughts precisely!

happy canadian thanksgiving

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. - Jacques Maritain

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. People ask me often if my countries celebrate Thanksgiving the same way. Yes, they do, but it's a bigger deal in the US.

In my ideal world, our family celebrates both. Admittedly though, it's unusual for Gordon to have both days off, making it near impossible to celebrate both. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and because of that, I do make a bit of effort to pull off two celebrations.

One of our traditions, and one that I look forward to from year to year, is our prayer of thanks before we eat. We go around the table thanking God for the things that mean the most to us. It's simple, but very meaningful.

Every Thanksgiving, I set aside some time to write out things I'm most thankful for. I could write for hours about those things, but I only want to write about one, and it will cover a lot of ground.

I am thankful I'm a child of God. Because I'm a child of God, I cannot lose. Everything that has happened, is happening, will happen, is for my good. With each passing day this mantra becomes more solidified in my heart: All things are working for my good. (Romans 8:28) If I really believe this, which I do, how could I be anything less than grateful? It's a spiritual principle that never ceases to awe me.

I'm thankful for all the redemption I've experienced in my life. Again and again I've seen God use the horrible messes in my life to bring me into greater truth and deeper faith. And in many of my personal tragedies I can see clearly that God was protecting me from me. Just to name a few:

- Pregnant before marriage at 18. It was to that point the most devastating thing in my life. Now I look back and think "Thank You God," because I realize many things I was probably spared. I was on a dangerous path. Through pregnancy, God barricaded that path and I'm so thankful He did. (Bonus, I got Stephanie). But it was one of the darkest, hardest times of my life.

- Bipolar Disorder. Oh how I hate depression, but it's been another unlikely tool God has used in my life to transform me. My weakness and fragility keeps me from taking on too much, which in turn keeps me totally engaged in being a wife, mother, and homemaker. This combination has made for a rich home life. (To those for whom that was news, medication keeps me on the level).

- Financial problems. From them spawned my immense gratitude for what we have and the recognition that I could have much less and still have way more than needed. Through financial problems I came to see my own materialistic way of thinking and how that mindset is so opposed to gratitude.

(Stephanie, Christopher, me and Booper 1992)
Scan20076 
- Losing custody of Stephanie and Christopher takes the prize for the most horrific time in my life. I still cannot understand, much less articulate, what all happened in the spirit world through that whole process, nor what continues to happen. But again, I see I was protected from myself and Stephanie and Christopher were too. Through that wilderness journey, I lost all control of my life and learned a new dependence on God.

Years ago at a Billy Graham Crusade, pointing to her wheelchair, quadriplegic Joni Erickson Tada, told the crowd, "This is the prison that set me free." That so resonates with me. Losing Stephanie and Christopher, by far the hardest thing ever in my life, was the prison that set me free. God totally broke me and remade me a new person.

- Through all of the above trials, my ugly propensity of pride and arrogance have been weakened. I've learned a humble life is much easier than a proud one.

So today, I again recognize how thankful I am for everything I've listed above. They were all used to teach me another element of who God is and how much He loves me. He will stop at nothing to bring me closer to Him. Rich Mullins said, "It's the reckless raging fury, that they call the love of God." His love can indeed look like a reckless raging fury. But it's love nonetheless.

the boll weevil

In 1915 the Mexican boll weevil invaded Alabama destroying 60% of the cotton crop of southeast Alabama. Farmers faced financial ruin and the community economy was at stake.

Desperate for a crop that would withstand the boll weevil, farmers turned to peanuts and were rewarded with unexpected prosperity.

The citizens recognized what at first appeared as tragedy, the destruction of their cotton crops, was instead the best thing possible for their economy. In gratitude they erected a monument to the boll weevil. In Enterprise, Alabama the monument still stands and its inscription reads: "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity..."

When I read the story of the boll weevil monument, I was reminded of two things. 1) All things are working together for my good, and 2) what is intended to harm me, God will use for good. (Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20)

"We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

"God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." William Cowper

"God works in a mischievous way, our blunders to reform!" David Seamands' father

David Seamands says that out of our biggest tragedies come the brightest triumphs! I believe it and I love it.

comforting imaginings

Jocelyn and frodo -- our last picture of frodo(The last photo of Frodo, taken a week before his death, with Deborah's friend Jocelyn.)
We had a tough weekend, mostly Hannah and me. Every time I sliced cheese I looked down at my feet expecting to see little Frodo waiting patiently for his treat, his tail swishing excitedly on the floor. He had such a gentlemanly way of waiting for his treats.

When I walked through the back door, I was painfully jarred with reality when he wasn't there to greet me with his two-step forward, two-step-backward gig.
 
He hadn't yet outgrown dribbling when excited. It was a source of annoyance to me. But yesterday I saw a dribble stain on the sofa throw and I smiled. I called Hannah to show her and we said in unison, "That's so sweet."
 
My comfort is imagining Frodo in heaven. I've even been rationalizing my thoughts: The wolf and the lamb live in peace, but where do these animals come from? Did God make "heavenly animals" and "earthly animals"? Are they, the animals in heaven, animals that have lived on earth?

I know that animals don't have souls, but I think of heaven as a place for animals too. I don't equate animals with humans, but I think animals will be there.

I imagine Frodo running secure and carefree through heavenly meadows, looking over his shoulders seeing if his playmates are gaining on him - just like he played with Lucy.

I also imagined arriving in heaven and embracing all the special people there; family, friends, people who played a spiritual role in my life, people who may have been influenced by me. I pictured myself making my way through a throng of people and when I hugged the last person, looking down and seeing my Frodo doing his bashful two-step forward, two-step-backward gig. I smile, comforted, even as I write this.

For now, I'll just keep imaging our little guy having the time of his life romping with Booper, Bumpie, Dakota, Buford, and every other dog I've loved.

rachael

(My Rachael and me, 1995)

Mommy and r 3mth "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy that I might sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." Psalm 30:11-12

These are my "Rachael verses" and I've been thinking about them the past couple days as my sweet Rachael is at Outdoor School about three hours from here. I'm happy that she has this opportunity, but I miss her tremendously. Everywhere I look I see reminders of her and get a bit melancholy and sentimental. She is such a joy and I miss her.First time to bat








(7 years old; Rachael hated her softball days)

After I lost custody of Stephanie and Christopher, I went into a mournful sadness that I thought I'd never pull out of. We were not planning a baby, but God saw otherwise and Rachael was conceived. The week I found out I was pregnant with her, I read these verses and knew they were for me. I knew God was telling me I wouldn't mourn forever (at least not to that degree).

"Oh Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!," for Rachael.

mother teresa and tom fox

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~~ Mother Teresa

Mother Theresa is my modern-day hero. I love a number of things Mother Teresa said. This particular quote I read today for the first time. It reminds me of how wonderful she was.
 
The body of a peace-loving American activist was found in Iraq. Tom Fox died for what he believed was right. I admire that and want to be that committed. He wrote a paper before he went to Iraq saying: "But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it, to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan."

Fox's friend, John Surr, said Fox felt his calling in Iraq was worth the potential risk. "He was willing to go in there at all costs."

"At all cost." I want to be that committed. May God help me.

pictures

Anniversary 052 I'm in my living room as I write this. It's peaceful and quiet, very welcoming. This room, along with the kitchen, is the hub of the house. Many a pleasant memory was made here. Laughter, hugs, tears, nursing babies, bedtime stories, reading, and many prayers.

On the piano are pictures of the most important people in the world to me. Gordon and I share a frame and then the children stretch out in framed splendor. The pictures of the kids are not in any particular order, at least not to an onlooker. But there is an order to me.

Presently, Hannah's picture is closest to mine. Hannah is getting an extra dose of prayers these days. She's closest to my heart at this time, so I moved her picture next to mine. Several weeks ago, Christopher had the #1 spot and leading up to her wedding, Stephanie did. The order of the pictures is constantly revolving.

I read a poem once about a mother being asked if she had a favorite child. She replied, "of course I do." She went on to say something to the affect that her favorite child is the one who is sick, until he was well; the one who is away, until he returns home safely; the one who is hurting, until the hurt subsides. Although I can't recall the exact words, the idea has stayed with me.

Every morning when I sit down in this dim living room, I look to the pictures on the piano and I pray. I have many good reasons for praying, but those six pictures represent my greatest.

the sea

"Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choice-less as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I read that a few days ago and I've been thinking about it. Just as I can't tell the sea what sea shell to bring me, I can't tell the day what to give me. I can't dictate sunshine and a warm breeze. I can't demand only good things come in the mail. I can't legislate that only pleasant things come my way today. But I can be receptive and open to whatever washes up on my beach of life. I can even view whatever washes up as a gift. I can greet each day with the attitude of expectation.

I want to become more open to the gifts from the sea of life.

2005's blessings

January!, the time of year where we look back and think, "Wow, where did all the time go?" It's a reflective time and, hopefully, a time where we can see the hand of God in some of the circumstances and events of the previous year. Yesterday during community prayer at church, a lady prayed something like "Our God in heaven who dances and laughs over the good things in our lives." I don't remember her exact words, but it was a beautiful picture in my mind.

I like to imagine that God laughed and danced many times in 2005 because of good things in my family. My 2005 highlights are these:

- Stephanie's wedding. Stephanie married a kind man who, along with her, is striving to be a follower of Jesus. John Mark comes from a good family and has watched his mom and dad interact lovingly all his life. I believe God prepared them for each other their whole lives and I know God has good things in mind for them. Their wedding and reception were beautiful and I think they'll have great memories for years to come.

- Trip to Arkansas. Gordon and I got away without children for the first time ever. I would have loved to take the girls to Arkansas for the wedding, but as some observant person once said, "Money doesn't grow on trees." Anyway, Gordon and I had a wonderful time, just the two of us. I buy a new Christmas ornament every year that captures something special regarding our year. 2005's special ornament is two moose in bed together. It's symbolic of our trip away together without any little moose tagging along.

- I don't actually recall if it happened in 2004 or 2005, but I've reconnected with my dear aunt (Jill) via Instant Messenger. She gives me lots to think about, is a wonderful sounding board, and makes me laugh hysterically.

0005 (Frodo and me working a Sudoku, 2005)
- Frodo. Frodo, Hannah's new puppy, brings a new element of joy to us. I have shown the girls several times Revelation 3:11, "For His pleasure all things were created." Our dogs make me smile often and it's special for me to think that God smiles (laughs and dances?) with us at the dogs' antics. After all, He created them for His pleasure.

- Pier 1. In October, I celebrated ("celebrated" is WAY too strong) my first year anniversary at Pier 1. I haven't worked in years, but when Deborah started school, I took this part-time job. My job doesn't pay much, but the hours are amazingly tailored to me. I'm thankful for that.

- Christopher's visit in the summer. Christopher gave me loads of laughter in the summer. I enjoyed him immensely. He was wonderful company and an awesome addition to the family while he was here.- My Hysterectomy. Suffice it to say, I am happy to have it all behind me. I'm thankful for modern medicine.

2005 was a good year and I say thank you to God for that.

i must tell jesus

In so many of our churches, the battle rages: hymns or choruses. I personally love both. Does that make me a well-balanced person? I grew up with hymns and personally appreciate the good theology many of them proclaim, although I went through years of hating them. I have come full circle and now commonly experience the need to sing hymns, or even think hymns, as a form of prayer and intercession.

I play the piano sort of like I sew, minimally. If it can be played in the key of C, I can make a stab at it. When my heart is heavy, I often play this song over and over. God knows my heart and it seems playing this hymn over and over is a type of prayer. Sometimes I can't pray. At times like those, I often find myself at the piano playing "I Must Tell Jesus."

I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior,
One who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,
He all my cares and sorrows will share.

O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.

It's been a piano playing kind of day.

the light

I sit in silence
The ticking of the clock is the only distraction
The fir tree in the corner lights the darkness with delicate intrusion

"He is your light," they say
"He lights the way"
"His light drives the darkness away."

His light is His gift to me.
My gift to Him? Receive His light.
Let Him light my dark path.

He is in my darkness.
Only in darkness can I experience
the the dawning of a new day.

Only by dying can I be resurrected.

fingernails

In keeping with my latest theme of church and of writing thoughts down so as to figure out what I think, I will share another unclear thought.

I have paper thin nails and usually cut them once a week to keep from tearing them and living with pain from a too short nail. For Stephanie's wedding, I pampered my nails with strengthener and grew them longer. For me, they were long. I got somewhat obsessed with them because the strengthener peels off so cool-like. I love to tear it off trying to get it all off in one peel. Very entertaining. During this time of digit pampering, I've become quite acquainted with my nails.

I noted an interesting thing. Every single nail has an indention in it straight across, right in the middle. Because I'm easily amused with the simple things in life, I showed it to Gordon and we discussed when I might have had a change in my diet or something like that to create this indention.

I decided it was the hysterectomy and see a wonderful parable in this. My hands and fingernails were not directly involved in my hysterectomy, yet because they are part of my body, they were affected. They suffered trauma through my surgery and now that trauma is visible.

I thought of the passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians; if one part of the body of Christ suffers, every part suffers. Through my fingernail, I understood this teaching better.

Whether I notice or not I am bearing the markings of pain of my brothers and sisters. And likewise, they are bearing the marks of my sufferings.

There is a lesson for me in my fingernails.

church according to little house on the prairie

William Faulkner said something to the effect that he couldn't know his own thoughts clearly until he had written them. I can identify with that thought. Therefore I shall try to work through some of my thoughts, in writing.

My church is going through a difficult time. Our pastor (and good friend) resigned under less-than-ideal circumstances. Over the past couple years a number of wonderful people have left. What I use to consider a vibrant, alive church now seems dry, and even lonely.The spirit of love and concern for each other is very strong. I love these people. We are like a family. However, my own excitement for going to church is gone.

When I was in Arkansas, I saw little churches dotting the countryside. They were simple, white, old church buildings. They reminded me of my grandmother's church when I was growing up. I was impressed by their simplicity and wondered what their services were like.

I thought of the church services on Little House on the Prairie. By our standards today, church on Little House on the Prairie was dry and stale. But the essentials were there; praise, prayer, teaching/exhortation, and love and care for one another. There were no programs.

As I drove past these country churches, I knew they each one had their problems, but wondered if they were closer to the target than our more polished churches. (Certainly they are closer to the Little House on the Prairie model.) Perhaps we've complicated things with our programs and our technology.

This morning before others arrived, I sat in my church sanctuary praying. I felt discouraged and lonely. So many friends no longer attend church with us. Our music can be pretty rugged, whereas it used to be full and alive. There are few programs left that my family can participate in. As I thought about these things, I recalled again how they did church on Little House on the Prairie. I remembered the commitment of the people to be there; I remembered their participation in un-glamorous song; I remembered the sermons by the un-dynamic pastor.

Two times now, the Little House on the Prairie model has come to mind. Could it be that God was speaking to me? Henry Blackaby said that any encounter with truth is an encounter with God. Could God be leading me in these Little House on the Prairie memories?

This morning after my thoughts on Little House on the Prairie, I lowered my standard and tried to emulate the congregants on Little House on the Prairie. It helped. I prayed, I sang.

thanks

(Our family in 2001. The little guy Stephanie is holding was our foster child, Markie Boy.)
Scan20135
Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."

--Gordon, I'm thankful for Gordon, my husband. We don't always see eye to eye, and sometimes we fight, and sometimes I wish he'd not treat me like a child, ...... But I'm still thankful for him. He is a "family man" and since it's my family, I find that very attractive. He is intelligent, honest, hard-working, an excellent daddy, a good provider, committed and faithful.

--My Children, I'm thankful for my children. I have 5. Stephanie and Christopher are my first litter and Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah are my second.

Stephanie is 20. Her life turned me to God and I will never get over the impact she had on me. I didn't know it was possible to love so much and so deeply. In 1 Corinthians there is a man mentioned whose name was Stephanus. Stephanus "refreshes my spirit" Paul wrote. Well, my Stephanie refreshes my spirit. She is sensitive, funny, Godly, idealistic, good and pure. She is quick to see the good in others. Now that she is a woman, I find her an absolute blast to hang out with. She is a lot like me, but a ton wiser than I was at her age. I'm thankful for her and for her wisdom.

Christopher is 16. Over the past two years, I've watched him become more and more manly. Subsiding are the fantasies of being a super-hero, and surfacing is a man. For a number of years I thought Christopher was "off." I worried that he was a few fries short of a happy meal. He was the sweetest and gentlest child I ever knew. I called him my "Little Gentle Man." But I worried that he just "didn't get it." He went a number of years thinking he was invincible. He thought he could fly, beat up anyone, fight any bear in the woods and win, and that everyone trembled when they saw his brute strength. One summer we forbade him to play his superhero roll. He wept and wailed, "but I'm not playing, I really AM a superhero." Yep, I imagined sitting in the psychiatrist's office with him as we learned more about delusional behavior. But fortunately Christopher now has a grip on reality. He is a good worker, he is thoughtful and kind, sensitive and good. He too is committed to God, and I'm thankful for all he is and all he is becoming.

Girls in canola Rachael is my Dykstra child. She is the most like my husband's side of the family. She knows more than a typical 9 year old. (Read between the lines, she's a know it all.) She is full of life. I love how her eyes sparkle, they smile every bit as much as her mouth does. She loves to read and loves physical activity. She is well rounded. She laughs easily at my corny jokes. She is a very good worker; she's the one I count on to help me most. Rachael is beginning to read the Bible regularly and I'm thankful for her and her love for knowledge. I am thankful for Rachael.

Hannah is 8. She reminds me of me when I was little. She is thoughtful and sensitive. When she was three we were in the van when we encountered in the lane coming toward us a motorcycle parade. A policeman on a motorcycle was on the side of the road, stopping traffic for this parade. I was so touched by Hannah's 3-year-old sensitivity when she said, "Oh that is so sad. They won't let him in." That is Hannah! She is artsy, tender and loves lady type things. (Presently she claims to be a tom-boy, but believe me, she may be active and tough, but a tomboy she's not.) I am thankful for Hannah.

Deborah is the baby of the family (in more ways than one). She is 5. She's stout and tall. I think she may end up the biggest of the girls. She looks like me, I think. She is very social, loves people, has lots of friends. She is polite. She still sucks her thumb and makes little effort to give it up. "It tastes so good," she says. She has just learned to read and we are all excited about that. She still loves to be held and cuddled lots. I am thankful for Deborah.

--I am thankful for my church, my pastor and his wife, and all our friends there. Our church is going through a hard time. A lot of people have left and maybe more will be going. But I know my church is Christ centered and that comforts me.

--I'm thankful for God's gifts to me in the form of the Bible and prayer. These are our road maps in these troubled and confusing times. I'm thankful for the guidance.

--I'm thankful for the freedom and beauty of my country.

--I'm thankful that our needs are met and that my children's needs are met. Not long ago I read about a man visiting Brazil. At a red light a little girl about 4 years old came out to wash his headlights. This was a modification on the windshield washer's job. She wasn't big enough to reach the windshield, so she washed the headlights instead. He gave her some money and drove on. He cried out to God, "God why don't you do something about that?" He sensed God respond with, "I am. I created you." The story was a heart-wrenching story and I have yet to get it out of my mind. It could have been my children in the streets washing headlights for a quarter. I'm thankful for our met needs. (I wish I could reconcile in my mind why we have so much and others so little. Nonetheless, I'm thankful for my children's needs being met.)

--I'm thankful for the experiences and revelations I've had over the years that have shaped me and brought me closer to God.

--I'm thankful that God continues to take me deeper in my relationship with him.

Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."

nature and the present

(My humble little garden, 2005. When I accepted that I'd probably never get a little farm, I adopted Bessie, my cow. As far as cows go, she's pretty low maintenance.)
Garden 
In 1875 John Muir asked "what is the human's part in the mountain's destiny?" I read that question last night and took a little bit of time to think about it. I remembered what Wordsworth said, "Let nature be your teacher," and Psalm 19, "The heavens tell of the glory of God." I suppose everyone could have a different answer for John Muir's question, but for me, the answer is simple. Nature can teach me about and point me to the glory of God. I very much desire to be a good student in God's classroom of nature.

Annie Dillard wrote, "I have experienced the present purely through my senses." The "present" has much to offer. Right now, I'm at my picnic table enjoying the birds, the sunshine, the trees. This is my favorite way to begin a day. My trusty coffee mug, Bible, notebook, and most of all, an attitude of quiet and stillness to capture the present. My greatest enemy during my morning quiet time is getting caught up thinking about the work that needs to be done out here; the garage needs paint, the garden has weeds, the grass needs mowing, the feeders need bird seed. It is a constant mind battle to train myself to refocus when I start thinking about those things instead of what God wants to show me in His creation.

I'm nearly 40. I so regret that I didn't learn to appreciate nature with all my senses 20-30 years ago. But unfortunately this lesson is a relatively new one to me.

Everything I love about nature, I realize now, is grace. Anything "grace" is undeserved, unearned, and unmerited. Grace is "bonus." All the birds have a different song. That's grace. God could have easily given them no song or made them all have the same song. I'm thankful for the gift of grace in the songs of the birds.

In bloom in my garden right now are yellow day lilies, purple cornflower, white irises, deep pink peonies. God chose to give us multiple colors to enjoy. That's grace.

Psalms 66:4 "Everything on earth will worship you: they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs." What is my part in the mountain's destiny? or the birds', trees', flowers' destiny? My part is to follow their lead and worship the Creator with them.