Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Giving thanks with a full heart...

Counting gifts after a weekend which saw my home filled to overflowing with wonderful, crazy, delightful teenage girls! Sitting here now, in the so-so-quiet, it's hard to believe it was just a few days ago! We hosted eight girls (six teens and two college-age leaders) as part of a Discipleship Now weekend, and it was wonderful. We've also been planting corn and enjoying the absolutely gorgeous sights of spring...so here's my list for recent days...

...anticipating a houseful of girls...

...girl stuff all over my house...

...getting ready for a trip to the nursing home...precious cards, handmade, with hearts poured into each word...

...sweet girls praying for others...

...a visit to a beautiful garden, tended with love...

...True beauty...Braiden's wisdom and kindness...Amber's loving, joyful spirit...Faith's wide-open heart...Anna Grace, quiet, sweet...Makayla's faithful heart...Kristin's compassionate heart...Tessa's love for Him...Carley's tender heart...

...and more beauty in the every day...freshly planted fields...

Cory's first crop...

A neighbor's beautiful wheat field...

...a catch-up visit with closest friends...diet cherry limeade...honest, searching prayer...a tractor ride with Jesse...cold water...a new, light-footed tractor, easing over wet farmland...giggles on my stairs...


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Holding fast...

New memory verse for the second half of March:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

In these uncertain days, when we are bombarded with images of brokenness; things and lives swept away, I am comforted by the picture of holding "unswervingly" - steady, constant, unshakable, resolute. And not holding onto something flimsy or unsubstantial, but to the hope we profess.

I love the Amplified Bible's translation of this verse:

"So let us seize and hold fast
and retain without wavering
hope we cherish and confess
and our acknowledgment of it,
for He Who promised is reliable (sure)
and faithful to His word."

This hope is not a vague, fuzzy, wishful feeling, but a firm belief, an expectation based on the reliable, sure and faithful God. What is that "hope" - that expectation?

He is God.
He is always good.
And we are always loved.

Praying that in these dark days, God's presence will be made manifest in the lives of those hurting in Japan. (If you're looking for a way to give, here's a wonderful group that is already on the ground and providing relief in the hardest hit areas.)

Holding fast, unswervingly, on this day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thankful...on this gray day...

...on this gray, rainy day, I am thankful.

I am also heartbroken with every picture and devastating bit of news from Japan. How can I reconcile these terrible pictures with my safe, comfortable world? Although I am not promised tomorrow, on this day, my children are safe, my home secure. There is no swift, horrible current bearing down on us, ripping our lives to shreds. Two things come to mind:

• The song we practiced in choir practice last night, one of my favorites --
Blessed Be Your Name, by Matt Redman. Here's the second verse: "Blessed be Your name, when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be, blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name."
And the chorus (or is it the bridge?) gets me every time:
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say,
"Lord, blessed be Your name."
(Job 1:21)

• Also, a devotional quoted by Ann Voskamp in 1000 Gifts:
"Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?"

There is a fatalistic streak in me that can't help but wonder why I have been spared when others are suffering. And yet, I know this to be true - I must give thanks in everything. To withhold thanks for the everyday graces does not lessen the suffering of others. If I can find the gift, give thanks, receive the grace, the joy, the gift will pass from me to others. That is the small - and huge - thing we are called to do: receive God's blessings...and pass them on.

So, determinedly, feeling oh-so-small on this day, I am thankful...

...for Lent...for remembering
...a new baby, perfect
...new parents, nervous, happy
...new grandparents, ecstatic
...a spontaneous road trip with my daughter
...conversation, meaningful
...mama's kitchen...and her table
...a hug from Matthew
...friends who know me...and still love
...a difficult phone call, made
...the planting that is completed
...the green shoots, just-emerging
...women, gathered to study, to share life
...quiet time in a quiet house with my quiet husband...
...believing He holds everything...He always loves...He is always good...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Incline my heart...

It's March 1 (who can believe it?), which means it's time to start memorizing a new Scripture.

(Quick confession: I'm kind of behind. I keep choosing Scriptures and moving forward, but I haven't nailed down the last couple. Just keeping it real. I plan to knuckle down and get after it!)

Anyway, the verses I've chosen for the next two weeks were inspired by the new Bible study we're doing at FBC Wisner - Jonah - Navigating a Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer. In the video for Session 2, Priscilla was talking about our "want-to," our feelings, and how we let them keep us from obedience when God "interrupts" our lives. Jonah just plain didn't want to go to Ninevah. He was probably looking around at the other prophets and wondering why their call seemed easier. He was comfortable where he was. (Ouch!) And he flat out ran away. Even though we don't always physically run, we sometimes delay obedience (also known as "disobedience") or grudgingly go through the motions while our hearts and minds have boarded a ship bound for Tarshish.

One of the Scriptures Priscilla used was Psalm 119:36-37:

Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Priscilla said David turned his "want-to" over to God. Knowing full well the inclination of his own heart, he ask God to turn it...to incline it toward Him and away from selfishness. I love that we don't have to fake a "want-to," a desire to do what is right. God knows the inclination of our heart. We can ask Him to shape it, to turn it, to make it right. When we lack the will to "turn our eyes away from worthless things," we can ask God to do it. Hmmm.

"Preserve my life" is translated in other versions as "revive me in your ways" and "restore to me vigorous life and health in your ways" and "give me life in your ways." I want that. Right now.

And I love how many times (in Psalm 119 especially) David asked God to do something "according to your word" or "according to your promise" and "according to your steadfast love." Knowing God's word, knowing how well we are loved, can give us peace and assurance when we ask Him for anything "according to His word."

I'd love to know what you're learning in God's Word this week, or what you're memorizing and why!