Friday, June 29, 2007

Christmas in June

Yesterday I finished up a project I've been thinking about for several weeks...setting up an "Everybody Directory" for the people who don't fit into my other directories. This one has everybody from missionaries to long-ago friends to people I may never want to contact, but...
In order to do that, I pulled out the stack of old Christmas cards, birthday greetings and unanswered letters that have been accumulating for a year or two while I knock off quick notes via email or post blogs.
It was a good time to get caught up again on other people's lives...
My friend Kay is a young widow, serving with Wycliffe. She made some really insightful observations in her Christmas letter that keep coming back to my mind. Maybe they will challenge you as they've challenged me.
She says:
  • "I've been learning about loneliness as opposed to alone-ness; how to distinguish between the two and how to work through one while growing in the midst of the other."
  • "When God is silent on a subject, He does have His reasons. My job is to keep on doing the last thing He gave me to do until He does speak."
  • "It's ok to yell for help when things get to be too much."
  • "Change is inevitable. How we react to it helps determine whether it is good or not."
  • "'Fine' isn't an acceptable answer when you really aren't."
  • "Procrastination isn't working for me and practicing it until I get really good at it probably won't, either."
  • "It pains God when I give Him my leftovers."

Are you feeling challenged, too? Let me know, so I can let Kay know how she's spoken to all of us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wildfires and Sow Thistles

This morning I worked in the sweltering sun, doing a job I’d had on a low-priority list for quite awhile. Pulling thistles is not exciting, even when the weather is cool and the mosquitoes are sleeping. It wasn’t, and they weren’t.

Every year, the border along my shed produces daffodils, hostas, wood violets, pansies, bleeding heart, hollyhock, delphinium and…sow thistles.

Where do those things come from? And how do I get rid of them? Seems the two choices are either pull or dig.

Weeding always gives me lots of time to think without interruption, so I reflected on sow thistles. I also thought about the wildfires raging right now in Alaska. So far, fire has destroyed about 90 square miles of the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

You might think that sow thistles and wildfires don’t have much in common, but I think they do. Both have the power to destroy beauty. The thistles do it an inch at a time, while the fire consumes miles in a day. Both start from a random seed that is sown. Thistle seeds are carried by the wind or the birds. The seed that started the Alaska wildfire was a mere spark that fell from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel and ignited dry grass. The Seattle Times said that Alaska’s fire season is just getting started…so is the season for sow thistles.

And both are really difficult to stop once they get started. Just when we think they have been contained, a new outbreak flares up somewhere else. You can see a new fire from a distance, but sow thistles like to hide in the hollyhocks until they get established.

A bit like sin in my life.

Sometimes sin is pretty obvious, burning merrily away so everyone can see it. Sometimes it’s camouflaged in the hollyhocks of “spirituality”. But I think it’s on the Holy Spirit’s “high priority” list to extinguish and root out before it destroys the work He is doing in me and the work He has for me to do.

Are you a gardener? What has the Lord been teaching you as you dig in His dirt?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Commitment for Life

65 years ago today, Eugene Oppeneer and Verna Augustine said "I do!"
Little did they know where those words of commitment would lead them.

Shortly after they were married, Eugene joined the US Army and spent the next four years in the South Pacific, sending Verna letters from Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Japan.
Verna waited for him back in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, working at the Kohler Company.

When WWII ended, and Eugene came back home, they moved out to his parents' farm near Hingham, where they began to raise corn and oats and hay and ... children. I am the oldest of their family of five.

Over the years, they shared joys, experienced pain and hardships, some of their dreams crashed, but they stayed the course, for better or for worse.

Crippling arthritis and debilitating health problems (Dad) and Alzheimer's and leg ulcers (Mom) have been a constant companion in their home on the farm for the past ??? years...but they have stayed the course. Dad is Mom's caregiver now, and that care is evident in everything he does.
In my early years, I saw my mother submitting herself to my father--often in difficult circumstances. In these last years, I have seen him submitting himself to her and to her needs--in very sad and difficult circumstances. Much of what God has used to shape me has come from what I have seen and am seeing in them. And I thank Him for it.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another Game of Tag

As if the blogosphere doesn't have enough to keep me from digging the garden...

Aussie John and Tony Sisk both tagged me today with the latest blog tag--5 Things I Dig About Jesus.

The plan is to identify five of the things that I appreciate, or dig, about the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, holy, righteous, pure, perfectly just, perfectly loving, creative, sovereign, invisible, incarnate, empowering, God of Everything. What can I say? "Dig" seems kind of puny next to all that, but here goes...

1. Jesus is both God and Sacrifice
2. Jesus is the Beginning and the End
3. Jesus isn’t afraid to get His hands dirty
4. Jesus loves me!!!!
5. Jesus IS (and how can I ever wrap my mind around that!)

Guess I'll have a lot more to think about as I go out to dig in the dirt.

My picks for bloggers to tag are:
Alice Carpenter
Steve Grose
Deb at Life: The Journey
Rose at Rose's Reasonings

Please leave me a comment with your "digs" and tag someone else!

Treasures & Trials

Lately I’ve been listening a lot to an album by Keith and Kristyn Getty, entitled “In Christ Alone”. Great contemporary hymns with lots of meat on their bones, and I’m sure that many people are familiar with the title song. One of my favorites, though, is “Jesus, Draw Me Nearer”. The lyrics are by Margaret Becker. One phrase in the chorus is: “Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go…”

I’ve been thinking about that all week…the treasures of the trial…

How often do I think of those hard times and trials as containing treasure? Suffering and pain are not just pointless, and they are not just part of the curse of sin. Nor do they just produce treasure at the end…they are bound up in the treasure itself. Just as they were in Job’s life and trial, they are actual road signs that point us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and His love for me. Without them, I might miss some of His deepest blessings.

“Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne”

“…form within me as I go…” Those are pregnant words, aren’t they? God is actively involved in both my treasure and my trial, just as He was in Job’s trial. Just as He was in Mary’s trial when she allowed Him to inhabit her body for 9 months, forming a Body for Himself. She certainly endured trial, ongoing trial, for the sake of that treasure.

“…at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne.”

Mary left her son, God’s Son, at the throne of His Cross, but the things she “treasured in her heart” went with her all the way to Heaven. Was her trial worth it? Can you feel the treasure forming? Can you appreciate it, even now, during the trial? My family and I are living in the midst of a number of personal trials right now, but I can see the treasure forming. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day

During the early years of my growing up, I did not appreciate my father. He was often an angry, impatient and unpredictable person…not especially sensitive to his wife or children. The stresses of trying to make a 40-acre farm provide for a family of 7 did not help the situation, either, and although I desperately sought his approval, I never felt I measured up to his expectations.
My parents made sure that we children attended Sunday School, and we often attended our local church. There, I acquired a different view of fatherhood. I saw God as a Father…the father I was missing at home…and I desperately sought His approval, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have that, either.
Then, during the middle years of my growing up, that all changed. At the age of 24, married with a little daughter of my own, I finally met my Heavenly Father when I read that I was “accepted in the Beloved”…His own Son, who died for me! He forgave me and loved me in spite of all I had done to Him.
That changed my perspective on my own father…and the ways I had failed to respect and obey him. One of the hardest things I have ever done was to go to him and ask his forgiveness for my failure as a daughter.
Fast forward to the most recent years of my growing up…
Over the past 10? or 15? years, my Dad has been growing, too. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…Dad has had hip replacements and major back surgery, his own health is precarious…and something wonderful has happened. He has met his Father, too, and I can see the resemblance more and more every day.
The impatient, unpredictable man I called “Dad” is now my mother’s chief caregiver. He cooks for her, helps her dress, monitors her medications, changes the dressings on the ulcers on her legs. He is patient, kind and gentle. He is committed to caring for her to the best of his ability. Tomorrow when our family celebrates Father’s Day, we will also celebrate my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary…and I will thank my Father in Heaven for giving me just the right father here on earth.