Monday, September 30, 2013


But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
Life has been a whirlwind of cross country meets, orthodontic appointments, replying to Craigslist adds and home school lessons. The impending threat of cold weather on the horizon has us living in limbo between hoping that we might actually be able to get the house moved and enjoy a lake view before snow flies, or being content to settle in for another long winter at the farm. That wouldn't be so bad either as this old farmhouse is well insulated and has a wood stove to boot. Compared to a the new/old farmhouse we're looking at, with probably next to no insulation, we might appreciate being here come January.
But our hearts are already at the new place, stolen by the peace that envelops us every time we visit. Alexis reminds me that it probably has more to do with not having a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes rather than the place itself fulfilling us. Yes, my wise young lady, probably so. All we have to do at the new property is to lounge on the discarded lawn chairs and gaze at the lake view.
We've never had to wake up there to the realization that has become our life for the past two and a half years. The battle has not had to be conquered yet on that soil to call God's ways right and perfect, to call death a lie, to force truth to reign over emotions. The enemy has not prowled there, seeking to destroy with the thousand-and-one reminders of a son whom we long to be where he used to be. The woods hold no memories that cause a flood of tears, no overgrown trails that are too painful to walk. There is no dining room table to recall where salvation took place, no empty desk full of school books that were intended to be finished, no empty wall where a near-teen-age boy used to lie in his bed waiting for a kiss good night.
I allow the thoughts to twist with their torturous pain, ripping through my heart. Wallowing in them. Knowing the hurt on an intimate level. Knowing there is nowhere to escape it. It consumes as it threatens to choke out any hope.
"But you are a chosen people," Peter wrote so long ago. "A royal priesthood, belonging to God, to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (From 1 Peter 2:9-10)
My mind wrestles with the chosen part. Going back to the beginning of First Peter, the apostle says that we are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. A God whose ways are higher than mine, higher than the heavens are from the earth.
Chosen, then, to suffer. Chosen to endure grief. Chosen to extol the glory of God through a trial I cannot endure on my own. Chosen to be refined by the fire. Chosen to sort where my affections really lie. Chosen to have my eyes pointed heavenward. Chosen to lose all in this life for the hope of the next. Chosen to be poured out. Chosen to reveal absolute weakness for Christ's incomparable strength to shine through. Chosen to know a taste of God's agony, to know what it is to give up a son. Chosen by a God who is faithful and true.
Chosen, so that above all, I would be granted the power to be able to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Daring to Draw Near


Again on our home school schedule, right at the top, is the daily requirement of Bible and prayer. It has been there as long as there has been a school schedule in our unscheduled lives. But this year I have chosen to torture the children and really require that they pray. Not just crossing it off the list, or quick praying before we eat, or passing the prayer basket, but to dive deep into conversations with the Almighty. To make it worse, they have to do it sitting next to their brothers and sisters. And, harder yet, most of them aren't saved.

The pull came out of a personal desire, a need for an accounting in my own prayer life which has leaned more towards the Jonah side: fleeing from God rather than drawing near. Numbness is easier than the constant tears, so I've chosen that route rather than bowing before my Creator; traded wooden floors and humbleness for a comfortable recliner and cup of coffee. Mornings are hard enough. Conquering the flesh, getting to gratitude for a son in Heaven before my feet hit the old wooden floor has been something that I've too easily passed over. And, because of that choice, find myself heading straight towards apathy. Holding God at arm's length rather than daring to draw near.

Personal prayer with God alone is powerful, but as Scripture says, where two or more are gathered Christ is there as well (Matthew 18:20). Corporate prayer breaks down walls that we easily hide behind when our eyes are wide open, and especially when we live together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with no escape from each other than the occasional cross country practice. Our battle weapons get dull when we don't refuel with honesty and by drawing deep from God's well. My greatest desire is to see God glorified through my children, and that will only happen when my children are truly satisfied in Him, so I have set off on a determined effort to train them up and give them the daily habit of authenticity before their maker.

Have you been there? Real, raw, spiritually naked before God?

Lately I find myself not even needing to tell God my heart, not faking the hurt, because He knows. The searcher of hearts knows. My sister reminds me that I am right where He wants me. Right now I don't like where He wants me and He knows it, so there is no point of denying it. Not in anger pointed at God, but honest, lay it all out on the alter, sort it out, hash it out for the ten-thousandth time until joy in God's plans becomes my honest joy. But the majority of that starts with prayer. And prayer is hard work.

After the giggles around the kitchen island, God lead the kids and I to begin our prayer session with acknowledgement of who He is. As children who have been raised in church events their whole lives my kiddos know how to start and end prayer. "Thank you God for this, and heal so-and-so, amen." How pathetic. They know they're not saved and God knows that they're not saved. We think we fool Him. We think those piddly prayers honor Him. But He says that He hears the prayers of the righteous, that honesty is what He desires, that only those with faith please Him (James 5:16; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 17:11).

So we started at the beginning: Who is God?

We all thought we knew. But when our answers are only based on what Scripture says about who God is, it starts to put things into perspective. Eyes closed, five voices getting solemner by the moment, claiming the claims of Jesus Himself. Rather than starting prayer with "thank you" we started with acknowledgement. How hard that proved to be, to break our own rote prayer style that has been acceptable to our lazy selves for so long.

That prayer session revealed much- our doubts as well as our own self righteousness. Pride boiled near the top, but sweet voices longing for eternity were mingled in as well. Prayers spanning between an eight year old boy to a forty year old tired mother revealed where our hearts really are.

Day two brought the discovery of a book on the shelf of our home library by John White called Daring to Draw Near. It is full of insights on prayers that are recorded in Scripture and how God is revealed through them. Not a how-to-pray book, but a peek-at-God-through-prayer book. What an amazing concept: to turn prayer into being about God rather than about us!

If my children can get past the torture concept, past the giggles, and God chooses to reveal Himself to them as they dare to draw near His throne I will give them all A's. And God, Lord willing, will have created a few more powerful warriors for His kingdom.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When Hope Survives

CreateSpace has been my friend this summer. They have this wonderful feature where you can get a proof copy of your un-finished manuscript printed for about $5.00, cheaper and easier to handle than printing nearly two hundred pages on my archaic printer. I have been plugging along on my devotional, When Hope Survives, grappling with concepts like this revelational thought that popped into my most recent pity party:

We look here for temporary substitutes to replace God
which ultimately only bring discontent, depression and despair.
The pitiful things that I replace Jesus with condemn me in themselves.
Real joy is found only in God.
The key to joy, then, is to look to Him alone.

Not exactly what I've been doing lately. Hence the reason why writing the theological parts for the book might be a bit of a struggle right about now. The cloud of discontent, worry and grief have overruled lately.

The recent triggers: a little brown leather ball and a different seventh grade boy in a white and purple jersey. Another home school year with only four names on the schedule again. Those baying dogs in their boxes in the back of the old beat-up hunting trucks that continue to pass by on our quiet road. The next fifty years of my life to look forward to with everyday beginning with the thought that my son is not here to enjoy them with and battling to sing the praises of God for that. Fighting my flesh to call this good, seeking God's ways rather than mine, reminding myself to rejoice in the blessing of suffering.

Some days I honestly can rejoice. I am able to keep my focus on eternity, realizing the gift of having my eyes opened to it. Looking around watching so many people living carnal lives, only desiring the next recreational excursion or new toy rather than looking forward to Christ's return when we will marvel at Him, when His glory will be revealed, when our souls will be fulfilled in His presence, when the accounting of our lives will be reckoned and the grace of God will be shown for how it carried us. The gift of suffering becomes clearer, then, as I realize that it brings with it the desire to focus on eternity.

The book is still a long way off from being worthy of publishing, even self publishing. I pray for the words to write, but fear writing them at the same time. To attempt to permanently describe God, a black and white representation of the Almighty... it's a scary thing. I tread upon the responsibility with great respect and patience.

But then at the same time I feel the need for it to be finished. Now. I see the desperate need for a reminder of hope. I see grieving mothers, friends, and people I've never met (besides myself) needing to be redirected back to the promises of Scripture, back to Jesus, back to the gospel, back to the source of joy. Not just for those grieving a child, but those walking any road of suffering. Trials consume a person. Blinders need to be removed so that hope can shine forth. The truths of God penetrate the darkness.

So I continue to pick up the proof copy, continue to edit, edit, edit and wait for the perfect words to flow when it's God's time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Bit of Advice

There is probably a good reason behind the old adage about those who are grieving, the ever popular response of, "I don't know what to say, so I won't say anything." Even as a grieving mother I stand guilty as charged. Too often I have kept my mouth shut, too, because there really aren't any right words to say. But to all the Christians out there, let me offer my advice on what truly not to say:

*Don't turn the grief back to personal emotions, instead turn it to Christ.

*Don't wallow with said mother in the now, but rather, change her focus towards the glory to come.

*Don't discredit the feelings, but point out that they are feelings; point out the truth of Scripture, the truth of eternity, the truth of Jesus.

*Feel free to give that poor, unsuspecting, grieving mother in the midst of her pity party a good, swift kick in the behinder. I have a sister who is very good at this, and very unafraid to do it. Wham! "Get over it! Open your eyes! Heaven is a far better place to be. Jesus saved your son, He even showed you that He saved your son. Get out there and fight for more souls."

*Then let that poor blithering mother melt into a pile on the floor right before your very eyes until her tears stop. And next week, do it all over again.

To all those who have been brave enough to point me back to Christ in this trial,
my unending thanks