Jun 29 2012

Rights!!

My family and I are getting ready for a short term mission trip to Mexico. The last time I was getting ready for a short term mission trip to Mexico, I was in high school. Four score and seven years ago.

I will never forget the preparation for the first trip. My youth pastor sat us down at one of the meetings to watch a video. It was Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission. I was so impacted, I still remember the point of his message.

Missionaries have no rights. 

You do not have the right to a comfortable bed. You do not have the right to a warm shower or a shower of any kind for that matter. All those things that we accept as rights are more in line with what the rest of the world would call privileges. Clean bathrooms, potable water from the faucet, indoor plumbing…privileges.

Since those many trips to Mexico and other adventures, I have discovered that the relinquishing of rights is required of more than just missionaries. Anyone who would call themselves a disciple has been given that same charge.

Disciples have no rights.

Our contrived ideas that 12 men sat at the foot of the Master with legs and arms crossed taking notes are devastatingly misplaced. Jesus told them to follow Him. He told them to bury their dead, sell all they had, become as dependent and single minded as children. To relinquish their rights.

There are times when my children try to exercise their rights. Often they attempt to evoke the fifth amendment. They falsely believe that they do not have to say anything that may or may not incriminate them in an illegal or inappropriate activity. That does not get them far.

But I also will try to invoke my rights. The Declaration of Independence tells me that I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And yet…

He [Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I struggle to relinquish my rights. I find myself often ready to stage a coup against those ills and injustices done to me. I am ready to rise up and defend my position. I whine and complain. I feel entitled. I want to grab the situation with both hands and force it to yield to my vision of how it should be. To take no prisoners. To exercise my rights.

And yet…I am asked to lay down my rights. To relinquish control and to become dependent upon the Giver of Life. Like a child. Unless I change.

I have no rights.

I don’t like it. I fight this idea on a daily basis. It goes against every grain of my fiber. But that’s the point. The coup that must be staged is within my heart. My self-righteousness and pride and self-assurance must be extricated by the roots and surrendered.

How about you? If you are wondering if you hold onto certain rights, watch your attitude today. And I will do the same. May the coup begin!


Jun 21 2012

Life is like choir practice

We all take our places on the risers. 

The sopranos and altos and tenors all in their respective places. Sorted by the range of our voices. The director taps a stick on the metal music stand and announces it’s time to get started. The music is familiar though we haven’t sung it near enough to be able to get all our parts right.

I struggle to find my part. Was I supposed to be doing harmony? I can’t remember. I listen to the person next to me, hoping to hear the notes, but instead she answers her cell phone and tells her husband that she’ll grab dinner on her way home.

Oh yeah. Dinner. What am I going to feed my family tonight?

I look down to the front row just in time to see my youngest grab a pencil out of her sister’s hand and an argument ensues. My teeth clench together and my eyes narrow. I send threats telepathically until one of them looks up and sees my face. I give them the “mom” look and shake my head twice.

Meanwhile, around me, the song continues. Where was I? I listen for a moment to find my place. The melody jumps out and I grab it before it’s gone again. Maybe I can work out the harmony if I sing the melody for a bit.

I start to hear the parts and something pinches me. I look down to the front row and count heads. My three are still there. And there it is again. Ouch! I scan the other faces in the choir. Is it just me or does someone else feel that too? Who’s under the risers being a little bugger?

And then “she” starts singing. It’s unmistakable. Her voice almost takes over the whole choir. Pure and rich. Melodic and entrancing. How can I compete with that?

I question my place in the choir and wonder if I made a mistake. Maybe I should have volunteered to stuff bulletins.

Life is like choir practice. 

There are plenty of distractions and annoyances to keep my attention averted from the song. I get caught up in thinking that my part in the choir has something to do with my voice. But it isn’t about my voice. It is about my participation. But not just my participation. It’s all about my participation in the adoration.

In the midst of interference and trial I am asked, “And yet, will you praise Me?”

I joined the choir. I signed up to sing praise to the King of Kings. Currently, I find myself buried under the diversions and aggravations. I sing the notes from memory for the sake of singing. I hear myself belt out a wrong note so I stop singing altogether. I have forgotten that it’s not about my voice. It’s about my worship.

My job on earth is to learn to hear the melody of the Eternal Song and sing in adoration to the Creator.

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. 

Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matt 13:43)



Jun 14 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions

This is an actual sign in the middle of Nevada.

My husband stumbled upon this photo that he took on one of our camping trips. He suggested I write a blog post on it.

“Yeah. That’d be cool.” Feigned enthusiasm.

“You could write about choices,” he says.

“Yeah. That’d be cool.” More feigned enthusiasm. In my head, I’m thinking something else.

Choices? I don’t want to write about choices. Acknowledging choices means having to make them. And I don’t want to. (Whine and stomp added for effect.) My natural tendency is to set up camp in front of the sign. Indecision begging me not to commit. To cling to the hope that I don’t have to chose.

However, upon embarking on this blogging journey, I committed to embracing it. I chose to write on life, faith and writing. And since I didn’t specify whose life, that leaves my life by default. Blah.

So fine. Choices it is.

“This way” or “that way?”

It didn’t take long for me to recognize what choice I am currently facing. In a nutshell, I am forced to chose what I will do while I am waiting. My agent recently submitted a proposal for a novel I wrote. And I’m waiting. I’d like to think I’m waiting for a book deal. Then reality sets in and I realize I’m probably waiting for numerous rejection letters.

When I’m waiting for my children while they are at piano lessons, I read a book. When I am waiting at the grocery store, I pretend not to read the magazine bylines. When I am waiting for the lasagna to cook, I check Facebook. But this waiting, this is different. I’m not waiting for an hour. I could be waiting for months. Life must continue in that interim.

What will I chose to do while I wait? And the two choices appear like a neon sign in the arid dessert.

This way or that way.

On the one hand, or this way, I can choose to be content. I can chose to live in the moment. To lay down the outcome and trust. To recognize, book deal or no book deal, all I have is today. Or I can go that way. I can chose to wrestle for control of the future. To attempt to hold the unknown in my hands and mold it into something of substance. Like holding water in my hands and squeezing it until it becomes ice. Not improbable so much as downright impossible.

Perhaps both paths lead to the same outcome. Perhaps, next week (that’s called optimism), my agent will call and say a book deal is on the table. Perhaps the choice isn’t where I end up, but who I have become by the time I get there.

But either way, this way or that way, I get to choose.


Jun 8 2012

L.E.G.S.

 

Marriage is like a horse.

 

The potential strength and power of the relationship are dependent on limbs that are easily damaged. In my last blog, I posed a challenge.

What names would you give the four supports of marriage?

In presenting that question, I gave myself a great deal to think about. How do I quantify the essence of marriage in four distinct categories? What if there are five? Then marriage cannot be like a horse. Or, if it is, then it has to be like a five legged horse and I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s incredibly rare. But marriage isn’t rare. It’s common. As common as a four legged horse…It’s dizzying at times to be inside my head.

I’m not an expert on horses and neither am I an expert on marriage. This is just my opinion. But maybe, it isn’t about getting the list right. Maybe it’s about putting forth the energy and effort to recognize the investment required.

So, here’s my list. Set to the acronym “LEGS” for fairly obvious reasons. And, see? Four things!

 

Listening. Yup, got that one. Let’s move on…Wait, I mean really listening. I’m talking about more than just hearing. “I see your lips moving but all I hear is blah, blah, blah.” That’s not listening. Listening is an exercise in discovering what the other person isn’t saying.

 

Empathy. (Hey, I didn’t promise this to be a fun list.) What might it feel like to be the other person? What hurts and wounds do they carry that cause them to react the way they do? Put their shoes on for a day. If you catch their althete’s foot, you won’t complain about spending money on Lotrimin again.

 

“Great” expectations. Horses are strong. They can carry a great deal of weight. They cannot however, carry a dozen suitcases, ill packed and ranging in size. Don’t expect your spouse to be able to cart around all your baggage either. If the horse is struggling, maybe it’s time to start addressing the load it’s under.

 

Service and maintenance. A horse not exercised regularly cannot perform in an endurance situation. A marriage not maintained properly cannot keep going either. Spend time together. Do things that married couples do. Regularly. And if you see an opportunity to serve the other person. Do that too.

 

May you care regularly for the fragile legs of your marriage and may they, in turn, support you until it’s time for the glue factory in the sky. (Death do you part and all that.)


Jun 4 2012

Marriage is like a Horse

Versace, the greatest! photo by Jaymie Noland

 

Marriage is like a horse.

Some days, marriage is like a horse’s rear end.

But let’s focus on the big picture.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been enthralled with the giant creatures. They are powerful and graceful. Fast and stately. Their ability to move their bulk with speed and elegance is breathtaking. And, throughout the course of history, we have used them to accomplish tasks we could not do on our own.

Marriage is like a horse.

It has the capacity to be strong and graceful. Stately and enduring. With it, we have the potential to accomplish what we could not do on our own. The combination of strength and stability has been the bedrock of civilizations for thousands of years. A marvelous creation.

And yet, like the horse, it is supported by four delicate limbs.

It is fragile. A slight break in the fetlock leaves the imposing strength of the beast ineffectual. A disruption of trust or compassion renders the relationship inoperative. A horse without the use of all four legs is glue fodder. A marriage without the full use of it’s undergirding is fractured and frail.

Marriage is like a horse.

The mighty creation rests upon fragile and vulnerable legs. I could surmise what those four legs might be labeled (and I will later) but I am soooo curious to hear what you would call them.

What are the four vulnerable pillars of marriage? Would you claim trust or tenacity on the list? Or tenderness and devotion?

Oh wait, here is a word that you cannot use.

                                  LOVE       

(Sorry but that’s way too vague. You all can do way better than that!)

So, name four things that every healthy marriage must have in order to survive and thrive.

Let’s hear ‘em!!