Monthly Archives: September 2012

In Honor of Daddy, Who Taught Me About Grace….

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I sit here in the corner of the room, I’m reminded of our boys and I’m reminded of him.

There’s a happy old man drawn midway on the wall to my right.

A little higher to the left is a worm of an orangish tint.

Closer to my arm where I sit and write there is an elephant which I think might be considered masterful art if put into the right hands.

Pencilled, marked, & scraped on my walls of Ben Moore’s “manchester tan…” these walls were once painted to perfection, but now bare the scars of a well-lived-in home.

These days, with my house much quieter, as teens come and go, I smile and even sometimes laugh out loud at these images.  Some of them, I know exactly which “rascal” penned the Picasso…others, not so sure, but the floods of memories they bring make me alive with joy.

Yes, my boys have put away their propensity for wall art, so I sit and appreciate it more than ever before.  I’m so thankful that when I first found this art I was too tired, too lazy, too mad, or possibly too wise to clean it.  Maybe too wise because of the insight of a Godly man–my Daddy.

Years ago, when we had 4 sons and I was pregnant with our 5th, I had a photography/hand-tinting business.  The business was thriving and it was all I could do to keep up with being a wife & mom, homeschooling, photographing children, printing the photos, and then painting them.  I was always happy when I finished a whole order.

One day, as my pristine photos awaited customer pick-up, our 2 year old decided to try to paint one of his own.  He took a pen to one of my finished photos.  I remember when I found it I was so discouraged because it meant I had to call the customer and tell her that her order would be delayed.  Also, I had to start all over with that one photo.

My dear father called that night.  As he patiently listened to my frustration over our ‘bad little boy’ who ruined the photo, he sympathized with me.  Then he wisely told me, “Jill, I want you to put that photo away somewhere where you will discover it in a few years.  Then, you will truly appreciate what you have.”

I found that photo the other day and just sat on the floor and wept.  That cute, little, darling, sweet, inquisitive, “artistic” 2 year old boy who wrote on the photo is now a 17 year old, deep-voiced young man, who rarely leaves me art!  But I have this.

And because of my father’s wise advice, I learned through the years not to erase their mistakes, not to perfect the imperfect, not to rush in and fix it all, but just to sit quietly and enjoy the art on my wall at my elbow, trust in God through their mistakes, even glory in their messes, and let them be who God has created them to be–mischievous and marvelous. 

After all, God does that for me through His grace….and THAT is the most incredible example and knowledge my Dad gave me.        This is in honor of him, who went home 9.17.06

Thank you, Daddy.  I still miss you.

The Bottom might just be the Beginning….

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    “Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will discover He is the rock at the bottom.”–Tony Evans

John Newton, famous hymn writer of the beautiful song, Amazing Grace, was not always known for his triumphant faith in God.  As a matter of fact, most of his early life was spent in total rebellion of God and His ways.  But, God had a plan.

For the first 7 years of John Newton’s life, he was raised in the truth of the scriptures by his Godly mother. She even prayed he would become a minister.  When she died of tuberculosis, he began to work on a merchant ship. He began to claim there was no God. He had the reputation of an unsettled, rebellious teen, finally being put in chains by the Royal Navy for his behavior.   He eventually gained work on a slave ship.  However, the slave trader who employed him mistreated him and Newton became a slave himself.  His clothes became rags, he begged for food, he was beaten.  He was at rock bottom.

Ever been there…maybe not in rags or begging, but rock bottom spiritually, physically, financially, rock bottom in resources or reputation, rock bottom relationally or in your career?  Have you ever been a slave to something…addicted to, overcome by, or even just pampered by the things of this world? John Newton was.  I have been.  And the answer, the hope is so simple we often miss it.

Newton was on the slave ship when a great storm hit.  He became terrified, because Newton, the sailor, could not swim!  He began to recall things he had been reading, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis, and a Proverb which said, “Because I have called you and you refused, I laugh at your calamity.”  He cried out to God to save “a wretch such as him,” and God saved him right there on that slave ship.  God rescued him from the storm and Newton began to live for Him.  Later, Newton began to work against the horror of slavery and he penned the words of Amazing Grace, “Just as I am, without one plea,…I come to Thee.”

When you are at rock bottom there is only one way to look…UP.  Newton simply called on Jesus.  He brought nothing to the table with which to bargain.  He just cried out to Jesus and the Friend of sinners came.  Jesus saved him and then used him powerfully.

I have found my “rock bottoms” to be painful, frightening, burdensome, wearisome, lonely and often long, but I have also found that they lead me to the Rock of Ages.  The bottom becomes the beginning of new life in me–greater faith, a  more sincere walk with Jesus, a more acute realization of God’s incredible plan and a true thankfulness that He included me!  Maybe today you are on a rocky boat in a storm–it seems Jesus does some of His best work there!!  Maybe you’re a beggar or a slave to something.  Beg of Jesus and bring your chains to Him. Come “Just As You are” and claim His promises, even though they may seem too much, overwhelming even, almost laughable, they are true in Christ.

You are the righteousness of God in Christ                     

You are hidden with Christ in God

His grace is sufficient for you

He withholds no good thing from you

You are not condemned

You are loved with an everlasting, unwavering love

Christ in you is the hope of glory

God hasn’t blinked, He is working His perfect plan in your life…

Nothingness to Note-worthy…

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“The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and heroic.  If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find Him at all.”  Richard Foster

“And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, their nets began to break…When Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’  For amazement had seized him.”  Luke 5:5-6 & 8

Over the Labor Day weekend I read some of my journals from the early years of our marriage and family.  Wow, what a different life that seems with toddlers and babies, schedules and spankings, bibs and diapers.  Today, with half of our boys out of the home, and the other half teens with plans of their own, driver’s permits and girlfriends, deep voices and facial breakouts, the challenges and joys of daily life take on a whole different hue and tone.  Throughout all the years, though, one thing I have found to be true, Jesus enters in to the grind, the nine-to-five, the days of toddlers and teens and says to us, “Let down your nets for a catch!!”

The God of the universe is the Mighty Maker of the Matter of Fact, the Christ of the Customary, the Only One over the Ordinary, the Son of God who uses the Simple, the Eternal of the Everyday…Jesus came and used bread and wine, water and wells, children and chores to amaze us in the common.  He did not ignore the boat, the tackle, the oars, the nets, or the fishermen; He took them and by His power He proved that a whole night of the fisherman’s efforts without Him amounted to “nothing,” but with Him, the nets would break with the fullness of fish, the bounty of blessing.

The overflowing blessings of Jesus are right there, at your kitchen sink, the changing table, your desk, in the van, on the field, in the conversation with your troubled teen, at the sickbed, in the  laundry room and behind the lawn mower.  Don’t miss it.  Don’t reason it out and say, “but we worked hard all night….”   Don’t ignore the intimacy with the Infinite in the routine.  Right there, where you are, He is there. By the grace of God as you walk along the dusty road of the daily and set out on sea of the simple, “let out your nets” and let amazement seize you.  Marvel at the Magnificent in the Mundane.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good work.”  2 Cor. 9:8

A great little book on this concept is, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  You can order it here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Practice-Presence-Brother-Lawrence/dp/1475289812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346935808&sr=8-1&keywords=practice+the+presence+of+god

Heroes of the Faith….

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                         This Week’s Heroes- –  written by my sweet friend, Jackie Brown                             

One sister feels so alone that she indulges the flesh just enough to provide a thrill of companionship.  It leaves her with aching wounds.

Another sister drops a careless word to connect with one but is overheard and divided from another.  Her sincerest apology falls on deaf ears who only want to believe the worst.  It leaves a trench of regret.

The third sister lives in a dessert where love and appreciation are lacking.  She’s there on purpose to bring light yet finds the darkness suffocating her own heart.  It leaves her weary and alone.

Another, overwhelmed with responsibility, cares for an aging in law, applying her love with tenderness to the harsh treatment of cancer.  She longs for a pause in the juggling, and it leaves her deflated, pounded in the head by the falling balls dropped every now and again.

Another cries in the dark.  Her addiction and her façade crush her with the threat of exposure.  It leaves a mantle of fear she can no longer bear.

The sixth sister, stunned by the unexpected diagnosis, faces heart surgery when she only wants to read Good Night Moon and bear another child.  It has been a long year, burying both her dad and her husband’s.  “Another mountain to climb so soon?”  It leaves her numb and confused, too weak to feel any more.

And there is little time to mention the ones who parent painstakingly to special needs, whose marriage disappoints, whose finances near bankruptcy, who . . .

Me?  My name could be written by most of their struggles.  But this week?  I lash out in anger, sounding more like a wolf than a shepherd to three little lambs.  Trying to control perfection can only produce rage.  Ice cold or red hot, it fuels a rage one way or another. I’m left with defeat – again.

Alone, each sister slogs on in our own broken, fallen world.    They are my heroes who inspire me to get up and walk on, women who cling to hope, cry out to Love, admit their need and dare to believe.  Their refusal to give up and give in to bitterness carries them one more day where they know more struggles await.  The only righteousness they wear is not their own.  They see the unseen – the invisible new mercies that give the grace to love, the strength to forgive and the courage to trust.  A hardened heart they refuse.  Though raw, aching and weary, their beauty glows softly in the dark.  “The world is not worthy of them.”  And this is the life of faith, not the get rich, live easy pseudo-spiritual religiosity paraded on TV.  It’s the road of Calvary, the way of the cross.  The cross, that horrifically beautiful moment when all reality is exposed in the God-man, reigns high in their minds, and they expect nothing more or less of their own lives.  Sure we know the beauty of life, the moments that take our breath away with a smile on our face.  But we are warriors, women warriors in the war of wars, awaiting the final victory when these battles will be won, the world be made new and we will rest in the sight – the SIGHT of the face of the One who loved us all along.  A woman who wages war to wait for the one who loves her is a rare splendor.  It’d be far easier to turn aside to other lovers; their alluring offers call out to us all along the way.  But this one, she forges on through briers and brambles, thorns bigger than her which tear her to bleeding and through mud so deep it bogs her down. She presses on to embrace the One who called her name.  Some say by longing for heaven, we deny the beauty of this life.  But we say the beauty of this life beckons us like a trail of crumbs through dense mine-filled forests toward the great feast we know lies on the other side.  We feel alone scattered to the corners of the earth, often hidden by the thick brush.  Yet we are cheered by knowing that our other sister-warriors are battling too in this same war toward the same promise.  “Life is a battle through enemy territory headed toward our heavenly home” where we know our Lover meets us.   The great promise – the reality of what is but not yet.  So today we choose the battle, to both rest and wait, to seek and fight.  We dig into His word for food to sustain us; He left it there knowing we’d need the words of life in the battle against death.  And we choose to struggle wanting one thing, the one thing to see HIS face.

(Ps 27:4, 1 Peter  1:3-9, John 16:33, 2 Tim 1:12, 2:1-8, Heb 11;35-40, Matt 5:3-16, Heb 3:12-15, James 5:7-16)