Praise

Words are walls. Sometimes i am finding myself cleaning things rather than writing. Cleaning is very difficult for me. i know that if i can get the words flowing they will eventually break free with the force of the Colorado River at the Boulder Dam.

architecture boulder building canyon

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The force is caught in a quagmire of fear. i am not at all sure what fear holds the words like gelatine that has coagulated and will not pour. i wish that i were not a pitcher filled with praise.

Penitence for the brokenness of my soul warms my nous and like a flame melts my distraction. When i appreciate that everything is a gift, i am set free to glorify God. i want to blame the world. The culture has not refrigerated my soul. i have moved away from the flame of Divine Love. i was the one who focused on the fallen leaves and the grime in the oven.

Grace is so wonderful.  i can turn my attention back on Christ and His love warms my soul. All i need is to stop and praise God.

Glory to the Almighty Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Are Children Afraid of Lullabies?

https://www.pinterest.com/cheztemp/colleen-moores-fairy-castle/

Rock-a-by-baby’s cradle from Collene Moore’s Dollhouse https://www.pinterest.com/cheztemp/colleen-moores-fairy-castle/

Rock-a-by-baby,
On the tree top,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all.

I met a woman last week who told me she would not sing, “Rock-a-by-baby” to her children lest it give them nightmares about the cradle falling. She also said that she censored fairy-tales and Bible stories that might be too frightening for children. They only heard them when they were older.
I didn’t really know what to say. My Mother loved me more than life and I was never afraid in her presence. She sang me, “Rock-a-by-baby” every night and I never once was afraid of the cradle falling.
It did cause me to wonder. How do we feel about lullabies as adults? Were you ever worried about the cradle falling? Did Little Red Ridding Hood scare you? As I look back, I was so secure in my parent’s love that I feared nothing when I was with them. If they sang the song or read the story I assumed it would all work out alright. I came to expect happy endings.
Naturally it came as a shock when I was big enough to realize that my parents couldn’t do everything. I was sad that they couldn’t make the world right and fair, but I was also grateful that they did their best.
Perhaps I was eased into the idea that my parents weren’t able to slay every foe because I knew that they relied upon God for the things that were overwhelming to them. I knew that everything did not work out. I knew that I had an older sister who only lived three days. I remember a neighbor telling my Mother that she was shocked that I had been told about that. Her reaction to my knowledge made an enough of an impression on me that I remember asking my Mother about it later.

My Mother told me that some people didn’t think children should know about tragedy. My Mother reminded me that God was the one who was ultimately in control and He was looking after my sister that I never met. We would all be together one day and then for all eternity. I was not afraid. God was loving. He was our Father.
When I was in elementary school and I came across injustices that my Daddy couldn’t fix, I comforted myself with the remembrance that God was our ultimate Father and someday everything would be made right.
I suppose, upon reflection, that all of this is the reason I still believe that the future is bright. I am all too well aware that this world contains much tragedy and inequity. My Daddy now leans on me when we go places together. My Mother is with my sister waiting for the rest of us in heaven. But my Father in Heaven is the one who is ultimately in charge. He is all good and all loving. Jesus will come back again one day. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. The lion will lie down with the lamb. All will be right.

I am confident that life has a happy ending. I face each new day with optimism. I don’t believe in fairy-tales. I believe in Jesus.

  • What do you think? Are lullabies like “Rock-a-by-baby” too scary for little children?
  • What is you opinion about fairy-tales? Some have very violent content.
  • How do video games fit into this discussion? Should they be part of this discussion?
  • What do you think of teaching stories like Noah and the Ark, or Daniel in the Lion’s Den?
  • From where do you think children derive their sense of security?

I am not asserting that I have all the answers, dear readers. I am interested in the ideas of other about these questions. I had not really pondered them before and I think they are compelling questions. I look forward to your replies.

Planning

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I have a complex relationship with planning. I have always been a list maker who loves her planners and creates outlines in copious detail. I confess to being one of those who will add something to the list and check it off if I accomplish something that I did not have on the list to begin with. The sense of self-worth that comes with the check mark warrants the extra seconds it takes to add the new activity. I always plan. It seems hard-wired into my personality. My sister and I are regularly at odds over the topic because she is positivity list-averse. I was really lucky today. When I handed her a copy of the grocery list she put it in her purse. She never looked at it, but she accepted the proffered paper and she has refused in the past.

The complication in the planning exists in the fact that life often refuses to cooperate with my plans. If I have an important event planed I have backup plans for my backup plans. No matter how much I plan, something will always occur that I had not expected. This past week has been a case in point. A series of health problems occurred that have left a string of cancelled appointments and missed due dates. This post was supposed to be on Wednesday but it is now Sunday night. I have lived my life buffeted by endless health problems by always believing that tomorrow will be a good day. Today may be miserable but tomorrow holds the promise of greater strength. Sometimes my hope is fulfilled, sometimes it is not.

I often think that planning is just another way we humans seek to be in control. I have a valid reason for writing everything down. I often become very faint, have blurry vision and short-term memory difficulty. After I lie down long enough to get the blood back in my brain I remember everything. However, sometimes I need to be reminded of something while I am “hazy.” The help of written notes and computer generated alert tone reminders is tremendous.  In all candor, that is not the only reason I make so many plans. I also plan to have a sense of what to expect. I plan for today, tomorrow, next week, next year hoping to achieve a certain outcome.  It would also be true to say that no matter how successful the event I plan turns out I am never fully satisfied. Nothing is ever entirely what I had envisioned.

I have trouble getting everything on my To Do list done. I found that I average seventeen tasks every day on my list. Some days I expect still more. No, I do not list things like feed the dog or make my bed, the list is based on the assumption I will do the basics. There may be some wunderkind who can accomplish seventeen tasks on average every day.  I envy them. I have recently come to the realization that I may be expecting too much from myself.

I have decided to rename the list the Opportunities list as opposed to the To Do list.

Since I have plenty of vision and ample imagination it truly is a list of opportunities for what I may be able to accomplish. I may not be able to fully realize all of these goals in one day, but they are recorded so that I may accomplish them sooner as opposed to later. I will likely add new opportunities to the list in an hour. That is just fine. I will always see room for improvement and keep trying to perfect myself. Caught inside my own human limitations I aim for that which cannot be had. There is no need to despair. Tomorrow will be a better day!

I am not in control. Ultimately, God is the only one who knows exactly what tomorrow holds. I find comfort in this thought. He who holds the future in His hand, loves us unconditionally. I release my need to be all that I dream. I allow God to be in charge. Everything actually will work out according to His divine plan in the end. That does not mean that I will stop planning. On the contrary, my lists and agendas are one of the ways that I make my best effort to live my life fully for God. Migraines may come, but I know that the agenda will help me to do everything possible given the resources I have to work with that day. Things probably won’t turn out exactly as I expected every times, but sometimes they may exceed my expectations. There are times when things appear very bleak. That does not lead to despair. God sends His children on course-corrections. These are the very times I must let go of my fear over my loss, pause and like a wondering child ask with anticipation of my Abba*, “What’s next?”

This is the tenth installment On the Writing Life: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. The online discussion group is hosted by Kate Motaung. See what everyone else is saying by clicking here.
*”Abba” is the Aramaic name that Jesus used for God our Heavenly Father in the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually the name little children use for father, probably better translated into modern English as “Daddy.”

Worry

Worry is one of the most fundamental human emotions. From the beginning of time people have  resorted to worry about what we cannot control. Too much of human history has been damaged by the ugly culprit of worry. If we were not worried about our neighbors or enemies we would never go to war. I believe worry is one of the most effective tools in the enemy’s arsenal. Jesus repeatedly cautions His followers to avoid worry. 
In the Sermon on the Mount, His most famous sermon, Jesus specifically warns us not to worry. The New Testament Greek word used is merimnao. This is translated as worry, anxious or take no thought of in English.  
Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

I read this passage and I am very convicted. I worry. Frequently. Daily. I worry about things like: what can I make for dinner, what do I wear tomorrow, how do I regain some of my lost stamina? Jesus said to seek first His kingdom. There have been more mornings where I began with my To Do list and followed it with prayer that God would bless my endeavors. I recognize that this is backward, just as so much of what He taught is counter-intuitive. First I pray. Second I prioritize while considering the Gospels as my filter. For years I have felt the need to triage my agenda, as I learned that I can never accomplish all I wished. Jesus gives us the primary focus in this passage. Seek His kingdom. First serve the needy, the left-out, the lowly. Feed them food and the Word. Love His people. Do not worry about yourself. Trust God to care for you. Do I trust God to care for me? Or, do I seek first to maintain control myself? If I trust God I can take no thought for myself. If I really trust Him I am free to serve. He doesn’t tell me that I will have no trouble. Jesus tells me repeatedly that I will have trouble. Everyday I will have trouble. Trust is bigger than trouble.
Merimnao is used nineteen times in the New Testament. In Matthew’s gospel it is used again in 10:19 when Jesus instructs His disciples not to worry about what they will say when they are brought up on charges before the authorities. “Don’t worry, friends. You will be arrested.” Luke uses this word when Jesus tells Martha that she is distracted by merimnao/worrry about many things, while her sister, Mary has chosen the better part in sitting and listening to Him. Paul uses this word several times in his letters. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We are called to love and listen. Trust in God’s goodness to triumph in all situations. We all suffer, but worry need not cause us pain. Jesus said that there is enough trouble and pain in each day without our adding to the difficulty. The fact that something so logical and simple is so profoundly complex and difficult is I believe directly tied to our extraordinary difficulty in letting God be God. Human beings instinctively try to maintain control over our own circumstances. Life is a long process of learning to let go of control. If God, who is all goodness, is really in control of my life then I have nothing to worry about. Though trials assail me, He is for me. I do not fear, because He is near. This is why the peace of God is so elusive and hard to maintain. Peace only comes from letting go of control.
Do you struggle with worry? Do you think that worry is a waste of time? If you released control of your life and let God be in charge do you think you would find more peace? What have you learned about letting God be God? How have  you grown in your spiritual life by putting God first? Share what you have learned with us, as we all struggle to grow-up  into the people God created us to be, people of faith-people of peace.

Putting to Death What Really Hinders Us

Since the beginning satan has been telling us lies about our not being or having enough. He told Eve that she needed to know what the forbidden tree would give her. She was not enough. Humanity was thrown out of the garden and we’ve all borne the pain ever since. In John 11:45-57 we read about what happened right after Jesus restored Lazarus to life. If you didn’t know better you might expect a party. No, it is a plan for an execution.image

The worldly leaders, in this case they were the Pharisees, were afraid of the Roman authorities. They were an occupied nation. The chief priest and leaders feared that the Romans would take away the source of their power, the Temple. The Pharisees had local authority as long as they kept the peace and made sure the Romans received their tax reverence on time. Their concern was that if Jesus continued to do astounding things like raise the dead, they people would think He was the Messiah and rise up against the Roman over-lords.

Fear is at the heart of it all. The Pharisees feared loosing control of the people. Keeping the peace sounded like a worthy cause. The end result was crucifying the Savior of the World.

We like to think we are different. If we had lived when Jesus walked the earth we would have followed Him faithfully. The reality is that in Gethsemane His closest friends ran off and Peter followed, but denied knowing Him, three times. People haven’t really changed. I have been sick all week. I had a busy work load. These posts are not going up on time. I decided to quit. I thought I’d buy my worried mind some peace by quitting. Quitting a series in no way compares with murder, but I was read to kill a series because I was not enough.

I had all the arguments worked out. My logic was faultless. I stated on a whim, finding out only two days before the series was scheduled to start. I wanted peace, but peace at what cost? Quitting would only reaffirm my insufficiency. I figured I would delete the whole 31 days original post and links and forget I ever started this series.

I pulled out the Lectionary reading to see what I had missed and as I read them I felt like a Pharisee. I was doing away with a series because I didn’t have time this week. The series is titled 31 Days. I did not give it 31 days and then declare myself a failure. So here I am. I don’t know how many posts will go up. But I am going to do my humble best to share reflections on the Word of God.

Dear Jesus, when I listen to the lies about my own unworthiness help me remember that You willingly went to the cross to pay the price for my failures. You did sacrifice Yourself for the world, including me. I thank You and fall in worship before You. All You ask is that I keep trying to serve You. Help me to follow-You-through. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

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Nothing

WW1 foxholesIt just occurred to me again that this July 28th is the one-hundredth anniversary of the start of World War 1. The “Great War” or “War to End All Wars” was a dark period in history, so much suffering, so much destruction. How much have we learned as a society? For many people in Europe World War 1 was a war that left them with nothing. Their way of life was annihilated. For others life itself was gone and their families and communities could never be the same.

What am I afraid of loosing? What possessions, family, friends, habits, physical abilities, pleasures am I counting as necessary for life? So much of what society took for granted as basic was unraveled in the guns and poison gas of the “Great War”. What am I building my life upon?

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 My life as a Christian should be built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. Civilization did not actually end after the smoke cleared on the western front in France. Nothing can really stop God’s love for humanity. Jesus said it on the cross, “It is finished”. Death is defeated. No longer can the devil do his worst to us,because of Easter. Victory belongs to Christ in the end.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. There really isn’t anything that can destroy my peace if it is really built on Jesus Christ. So much of what I fear, is not really going to destroy me. I can face the future with more hope knowing what the past has taught us. No matter how cataclysmic the circumstance nothing can prevent us from living fully in the love of Christ!

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Dancing With the Line

This past week the (in)Courage writing group prompt was based on chapter seven of The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. We were asked what holds us back from taking more risks in our writing. Fear is the simple yet complex answer to that question. Fear restrains me in every arena of life. The doubt that I am good enough stops me in my tracks repeatedly. I advance and then halt. Annie Dillard states that the stunt pilot Rahm told her that he found a rhythm and kept operating with it. I am devoid of a good rhythm because I worry about the mistakes I have made in the past.
I take my focus off Jesus. Peter demonstrated my rhythm when he walked on the water. ” He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Matthew 14:29-30. As soon as I look behind I begin to sink. The only noble action I take when writing is to try again. I never entirely stop, but I am forever pausing.
Annie Dillard wrote about a ride with the stunt pilot that, “If he had noticed how he felt, he could not have done the work.” Writing is without a doubt very hard work. Anything deeply worthwhile includes a measure of self-sacrifice. It doesn’t feel good at the time you are engaged in the activity. Sometimes writing is terrifying. If the stunt pilot had dwelt upon the feeling of taking all those g-forces he would not have done those stunts, certainly not as well.
If Jesus had focused His attention on how it would feel to be betrayed by one of His closest friends He might have paused. This betrayal was followed by mockery, injustice, bullying, torture, the denial of one of His very best friends, even brutal death. John 13:21 tells us that Jesus was deeply moved in His spirit. He was distressed, troubled, terrified or disturbed before He shared the Last Supper. Despite knowing how it felt He went though with it all anyway. How it felt was not the focus of His attention. He seems to have kept His focus on saving you and me.
Fear may trip me up, but if I keep reaffirming my focus on the real reason for writing, bringing glory to God, then I too may be able to dance with “the line.” I trip and flip and keep right on dancing to the music that comes from the love of God.

Dancing to the rhythm of God
The song of praise in my heart
Pounding joyous and free
Not hindered with me.
Too much thought for myself
Leads to a halting,
Awkward dance.
Tripping,
Falling,
Downward,
Sinking, then
Bounding up
With Hope and love,
Jumping glorious,
Heart at peace,
Words made free
To twirl and breathe
With God.
Indeed!