Friday, March 30, 2007

Putting It Away

I've been reading in Ezra the last couple of days. Mostly because that's where Pastor Dave is teaching Sunday mornings and when I'm not sure where to study, I go to where we're studying as a body. Anyway, last night and very early this morning, I finished the book and was really captivated by one particular section. At the end of the book, in chapters 9 and 10, Ezra is distraught over the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem. After the Lord worked in the hearts of a number of Babylonian rulers and kings, He brought a remnant of Israel back into the promised land to rebuild His holy temple. They had even gained the blessing and support of the Babylonian king. After laying the foundation of the temple and offering sacrifices to the Lord, it is brought to Ezra's attention that the Israelites had ignored the command of the Lord not to intermarry with the native peoples of the promised land. Grieved at their unfaithfulness, Ezra tore his robe, plucked out his own hair and beard and lay prostrate before the Lord, not knowing how to proceed. He knew that their sin was deep and that God, being holy and righteous, saw their guilt and sin.

As his grief went on, many of the Israelites joined in his lament, aware of their wrong-doing, Finally, Shecaniah approaches Ezra and says,

"So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act." Ezra 10:3-4

Ezra agreed with this suggestion and all of Israel confessed their sin before the Lord and made an oath to put away their foreign wives and children.

Whoa. That sorta took my breath away. I mean, the enormity of a vow like that. At first, I thought maybe I had misunderstood what the scripture was saying. Surely, my Father, the God who loves marriage and family, wouldn't agree that all of these families be torn apart. It didn't make any sense to me.

When my girls woke up this morning, the first thing they wanted to do was play with their Barbie collection. They have an impressive collection for a 3 and 5 year old! It's large enough that we have to store them in a large, Rubbermaid tub. Distracted by breakfast preparations, I told them to go ahead and get out the dolls. Within 15 minutes, a knock-down, drag-out struggle ensued. Sure enough, they were fighting over the dolls and shoes and clothes and story line, as they have done more times than I can count over the last few months. I separated them and then explained that a consequence of their disobedience was that the Barbies would be put away for the rest of the day. They cried. They begged. They promised not to fight anymore. I still put the Barbies away, knowing that our day would be ever so much more peaceful as a result. I made them apologize to each other and me and we all prayed. Resigned to the situation, they happily ate their breakfast and began enjoying other toys.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I realized (through the power of the Holy Spirit!) that my situation with the girls this morning was a little like Ezra and the Israelites. Just as I knew that the Barbies were interfering with my girls loving each other and respecting each other, God knew, in His perfect wisdom, that the foreign influences the Israelites had allowed into the heart of their homes would always interfere with His relationship with them. He knew that they could not be pure of heart while still living with someone who didn't also share in that fellowship. It also made me wonder if I have any "foreigners" in my own heart; things that are interfering with my fellowship with God. I also thought about Shecaniah's words to Ezra: Get up! This is your responsibility but we're behind you! Be courageous and do something! This is my responsibility but God is behind me, encouraging me to obey and do something about anything that is hindering my faithfulness to Him. It might be terribly painful to separate myself from those things, but my fellowship with the Lord is of much greater, eternal value. I might feel grief and loss over the "putting away," but my relationship with God will be more intimate and will ultimately soothe any wounds inflicted by the separation.

I'm still thinking about all this as I post today. I want to be pure of heart and in right standing with the Lord. I'm so thankful for Jesus, who makes it possible for me to have access to God and for the work of the Holy Spirit who draws my attention to areas of my life that need to be cleaned up.

Thank you, Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit, for lovingly showing me how to draw closer to You. I ask You to show me anything that is interfering in fellowship with You. I thank You for using something like Barbie dolls to show me Truth. I love Your sense of humor and the ways You are always reaching down to me so that I can touch You. I love You. You are amazing. Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jesus Is The Rock

Yesterday, I took all three girls for a scooter ride/walk around campus. When they got tired of scootering, we tucked the scooters into the bottom of the stroller and continued by foot. As we were walking, Emma and Ruthie spied one of the huge boulders on the lawn at Wabash. They climbed and jumped and climbed and jumped to their hearts' content. Afterwards, we started walking towards home and Ruthie said, "Mommy, Jesus is a rock, right?" Emma responded, with an air of superiority, "No, Ruthie, Jesus is THE rock." She was right, but I asked her, "Why do we call Jesus "the rock", Emma?" She thought about it and then said, "I don't know," which gave Ruthie some satisfaction that her older sister still didn't know everything. Happy, Ruthie skipped ahead to explore the path while Emma and I continued to talk.

I asked her if she had ever heard of the story Jesus taught about the wise builder and the foolish builder. She proceeded to tell me what she knew of the story, "The wise man built his house on a rock and the waves came and his house stood still. The foolish man built his house on sand and the waves crashed it down." (My heart swelled with pride at this point!) I went on to explain that Jesus was using this story as an example or a picture of what we are supposed to do with Him. We can either build our lives on Him or build our lives on something else, but Jesus is the only thing that will stand up to the waves and keep us safe.

She thought about that for a moment and was very quiet. We walked along listening to Ruthie giggling over pine cones and pebbles. Then, Emma asked, "How do we build our lives on Jesus because I for sure don't want to get crashed down by those waves?" Oh my goodness, she really just asked me this BIG question, Lord. Help me to tell her in a way that she can understand.

I explained to her that Jesus is also called "The Word" and that learning the Bible was a great way to build on Jesus. We also talked about prayer and that talking to Jesus about everything was another good way to build on Him. As we were nearing home, we started making a list of things she can do to build her life on Jesus, the Rock:

Listen to the Bible stories Mommy and Daddy read to her.
Memorize Bible verses.
Talk to Jesus every night.
Tell the kids in Dennis and Carols' orphanage that Jesus loves them.
Try really hard to always obey.
Ask God to help me to always obey.

I love it. I mean, she's only five years old and she wants to know how to build her life on Christ. I'm merely her earthly parent and I'm swooning over how tender her heart is to the Lord. I can only imagine how God is feeling about all this! And to think, when I ask God how I can build my own life on Jesus, His heart swells, too. He gets even more excited than I did! He sees me the way I see Emma--tender, innocent, open to the Lord. In fact, He sees anyone who earnestly seeks Him that way.

It was a blessed moment, one that I will not soon forget.

Thank You, Father God, for my little Emma. Thank You for letting me see the ways in which You are drawing her and calling her even now. Thank You for walking and talking with us yesterday. Thank You for showing us how we can build our lives on Jesus, The Rock. Help me to minister to Emma. Help me to be a godly example for her. Help me. I love You and I praise You. Amen

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Over the last few weeks, our family has personally witnessed a lot of heartache. We've seen a heart-of-God man go home to be with the Lord, leaving his family behind to go on without him. We've seen a sister in Christ struggle over the death of her husband who, himself, struggled with the idea of a loving, saving, God-in-the-flesh, sacrificial Christ. We know families who have lost babies. We've seen our sister lose her job. God is in all of this, we know, but it is still difficult to watch their hearts ache and break with grief and uncertainty.

Yesterday, I was watching my girls play with their friends, running and laughing--so carefree. I wondered how long that carefree world would last for them. A deep sadness came over me as I realized their childhood would most likely be snatched away well before I or they were ready. I wondered how we would handle that intrusion and how we would keep our girls focused on the glory of heaven while walking through a world that is focusing all its' energies on hell. I was afraid. Afraid for them, that they would pursue sin and its' pleasures. Afraid that Charlie and I wouldn't know how to protect them and shelter them in a way that allows them to discover the Lord and His ways. Just afraid.

We tucked them into bed, snug and safe and warm and I found myself praying the same prayer thousands of parents have prayed, "Oh, Lord, if only they could always stay safe and warm and sheltered under this roof, knowing they are loved. If only they never had to walk in this dark, dark world. Protect them, Lord. Keep them close to Your heart always. Give me strength and wisdom..."

This morning, the Lord reminded me of scriptures He has led me to recently. I have been struggling to understand why so many tough things are going on around us; why our body in particular seems so afflicted.

(Speaking of the Passover lamb) "It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it." Exodus 12;46

"but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs...for these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, 'Not a bone of Him shall be broken.'" John 19:33, 36

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken." Psalm 34:19-20

"The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days, on the day the Lord binds up the fracture of His people and heals the bruise He has inflicted." Isaiah 30:26

"we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Our world is filled with broken things. Broken governments, broken schools, broken churches (yes, sadly, churches), broken leaders, broken marriages, broken families, broken people. They are broken in a way that we are unable to fix. They are broken because the world has been broken by sin. As believers, we are not promised to be given a life that is without hardship and trials. As the scripture above promises, "we are afflicted in every way..." and God will "heal the bruise He has inflicted." We are promised that we will indeed endure afflictions that are a result not only of the fallen world we live in, but also as a part of God's masterful design for our lives. We will endure suffering because the Lord wills it.

But, our Saviour is not broken. Never has he been broken in Spirit, in heart, in body, or in mind. He is whole and He is holy. He was set apart for my salvation; for your salvation. He was and is and always shall be without sin. He is the only balm for our brokenness. He is redemption for a broken and dying world.

I've been thinking about this all day as I've tried to gather my thoughts. Re-reading the scripture, I'm left with a sense of peace. God, in His infinite wisdom, planned for my children to be born into this time of broken things. He created them to not only live in this time but to thrive in it, for His glory. I can imagine Him choosing their quick minds and forming their strong wills to withstand the pressures of all that they will live through. He made them to live and love without fear. Each of them has a purpose that will bring glory to the name of Jesus. I am so humbled to be their mama! And, I wonder, as I sit here thinking about all these things, if part of their purpose will be to someday exhort their daddy and I to continue on in the Lord as we see the world breaking and falling around us. God is so good.

So, I thank you, Father, for who you are. You are my all-knowing Father, my Saviour, Jesus, and my Counselor. I thank you for the Word, which is a balm to me when I feel wounded. I will not be afraid of the future for my girls or myself, knowing and trusting that You have made each of us to live in this time and place to glorify You; knowing You have and will continue to equip us to do so. I am so excited to see where You are taking us; what new adventure is just over the rise. I can feel Your joy rising within me. Thank You, thank You, precious Lord for letting me know You more and more each day. Thank You for being unbroken for me. I love You...Amen.

Friday, March 9, 2007

3:00 AM

It's 3:00 AM and I'm awake. I should be sleeping but I'm not. I think my cold is keeping me awake. Sigh...
I was lying in bed thinking about my girls and the names they have given their stuffed animals and baby dolls. Here is a partial list of our "adopted" family members...

Emma: 3 different size Heffalumps, all named "Lumpy," a furry dog named "Sweet Pea," a pink and purple lamb named "Lamby-Lamb," a purple cat named "Birdbrain" (after my childhood favorite), a pink dog named "Pinky."

Ruthie: a hippopotamus named "Telly," a little white kitten named "Spooky," a pink elephant rattle toy that all three girls played with as babies named "Juicy," a furry pig named "Bun-Bun," a pony named "Nothing."

Olivia: two Winnie the Pooh bears that she calls "Poop Bear," "Elmo," and a purple care bear named "Share Bear" which she never, ever shares!

We also have a collection of baby dolls, all named after sweets: Cookie, Cupcake, Brownie, Lolly, Sugar, and Candy.

I'm tired...G'night!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Voice of Truth

After I wrote the previous post, I was in the kitchen listening to "Casting Crowns." I just bought this CD a month ago and I haven't had much chance to really listen to it. (It actually felt so indulgent to buy a new CD that didn't have cartoon characters on it!) Anyway, the third song on the CD, "Voice of Truth" really hit home for me today. I think I listened to it twice before I caught the words:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
They waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, " Girl (Boy), you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again, "Girl (Boy), you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"


But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me...

The third time I listened to it, I fell down to the ground, crying and worshipping the Lord for His complete faithfulness to me. As the song ended and I opened my eyes, I found two of my daughters, Ruthie and Olivia, on the floor, too, arms spread to heaven, smiling and praising the Lord. Thank your, Lord, for Your witness in our lives. Amen

My Brother, Peter

We still have sickness at our house. It seems unending at times. Ruthie finally succumbed to the flu last Wednesday and has had the worst symptoms of us all. Sometimes she coughs for more than an hour at night before falling back asleep. It's heart-breaking to see your kids suffering. Charlie and I agree, though, that this has led us to a more intimate prayer life.

Friday, I felt like I had really blown it with the Lord. Monday was such a triumphant day for me. I really felt as if I was battling with and for the Lord. We prayed: Olivia was healed. I rested: the Lord attended my every need. I bathed myself in the Word: life seemed new and fresh despite our sicknesses. But, as each day went on, I found myself more and more tired physically. I wasn't getting much rest at night and the days were filled with endless piles of laundry and dishes and Kleenexes and trips to the pharmacy and doctor's office. I was still praying and still in the Word but a subtle change occurred. Instead of focusing on what the Lord was doing, I started focusing on what I couldn't. Friday night was the breaking point. Ruthie started running a fever again and developed a nasty cough. I quick call to the pediatrician (after hours of course!) had me packing Ruthie into the van and headed to the ER. On the way, I could sense the Lord trying to talk to me but, fatigue and anger were winning that argument. After an hour and a half at the ER, Ruthie and I came home with instructions to rest and drink fluids. She was basically fine except for the lingering effects of the flu.

I tried to sleep that night but I felt so out of touch with the Lord. I mean, wasn't I doing all the right things? Why was it so hard to pray? Why wasn't the Word giving me the same comfort I'd had just days before? What was wrong? As I was starting to fall asleep--and my mind wasn't racing anymore--that still small voice that had wanted to speak to me earlier, came back, "Faith is about what I can do, not what you cannot. You aren't trusting me. Come walk on the water with Me."

The weekend was busy taking care of everyone but I asked God to help me. I wasn't even sure what I needed help with but I knew I couldn't do anything in my own strength. He, of course, was faithful and allowed me to care for my family and home. I knew God had something more for me in the Word, something to help build my faith. I just waited for Him to reveal it to me.

This morning, as I sat in the early morning light, I turned to Joshua, where I have been studying. Instead, the Lord took me to the Gospels. I read in Matthew how Jesus called Peter out onto the water:

"And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:28-31

Peter wasn't sure it was Jesus on the water. His proof came in asking the Lord to allow him to walk on water, too. But, when Peter realized what he was doing and how agitated the water was, he became afraid. His focus shifted from what the Lord could do to what he, Peter, could do. He knew that the Lord could walk on water but, he also knew that he could not. When his focus changed, his faith lessened.

I can relate to Peter. When the Lord asked us to give something up for Lent, I was excited to see what blessings would come of that sacrifice. When our family first started getting sick, I knew it was a test and an attack. I knelt before the Lord Almighty and asked for mercy and healing, knowing He would sustain us. But, when I started taking note of my own physical condition and started thinking about how long I could endure sleepless nights and endless days, my faith lessened dramatically. My faith in the Lord went from an intimate, heart-felt knowledge to a distant, head-knowledge. Things felt dreary and empty and less hopeful.

"Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

That is my all-day prayer today. And, I know the Lord to be faithful when I ask for something that He wants me to have. He wants me to have a clean heart and a steadfast spirit. I know He is working that in and through me even as I write this.

I praise You, Lord, and You alone, for Your ultimate example of faithfulness. Be near to me today. Give me the chance to place my faith in You alone. In Jesus' name, Amen.