Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Uncle Tom

I read the book Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe about seven years ago, and I am still being inspired by it to this day. I think about Uncle Tom often and his consistent ability to live in the spiritual world--somewhere beyond his physical body and mind--and his ability to completely immerse himself in the person of Jesus Christ. I ask myself, "What would Uncle Tom do in this situation? How would he go beyond? He is a constant inspiration for me as I try to become ABSOLUTELY and ENTIRELY God's. An unfortunate life taught Uncle Tom the eternal value of loving Jesus and reflecting God's glory.

When Tom is sold away from his cheery little home on the plantation of a generous Master, he starts running toward his only Hope--Jesus. In one scene in the book, Uncle Tom is wrenched from his family and his kind master and is put upon a steamship headed for unknown places. Falling asleep, Tom has a dream where he hears little Eva (his former master's daughter) reading to him from the Bible. He could hear her voice: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, Thy Saviour."

A little later, Tom was writhing under the cruel lashes of his new owner. "But the blows fell only upon the outer man, and not, as before, on the heart. Tom stood submissive; and yet Legree could not hide from himself the fact that his power over his victim had gone. As Tom disappeared in his cabin, and Legree wheeled his horse suddenly round, there passed through the tyrant's mind one of those vivid flashes that often send the lightning of conscience across the dark and wicked soul. He understood full well that it was God who was standing between him and Tom, and he blasphemed Him!"

Tom knew that his only real power and hope in this world lay not in the toughness of his body but in the tenderness of his spirit--and in the strength of God's Holy Spirit within that beaten body. The Power that Tom held from within made him impervious to the blows from without.

"Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
Ephesians 6:13

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh, So Broken

My oldest sister Teri is going through a really difficult time lately and God has put a road before her that is difficult to walk--and she doesn't want to walk it, but she must. This fact grieves my soul.

Yesterday, I talked to God about His direction for her life. I told him what I thought should happen and how I thought he should have everyone act and think and respond. I told him what he should do because I was "oh, so wise". But God, in his gentle, sweet way, stopped me and said, with nothing but love in his heart, "Tori, you're not the boss."

And it made me cry. And I wrote this in my journal:

"God, I realize that I can't see the big picture. And I realize that you know what is best. But I cry and I grieve because I think I know what is best. I think I know what you would want. But, I don't know.

And I will not presume to know better than you. I am finite. You are infinite. I am broken. You are victorious. I am sad because life hurts sometimes and things that don't make sense sting deep.

Forgive me for my presumed wisdom in this situation. Forgive me for thinking that my way would be best. You are ALWAYS right and you are ALWAYS good. You are ALWAYS. I am your child and I will trust your judgment not my own.

Your will be done, not mine.

This prayer flowed from me not because I was "oh, so wise' but because I was "oh, so broken," and "oh, so prideful". I needed to pray this prayer to put me back in the place I belonged--under God's authority--not under Tori's authority.

It is so easy for us to think we can see the best path. We can only see the trail in front of us---God sees the whole map of our lives.

Let us not presume to know what is best. And let us not assume that bad things are a suprise to God. He is working out everything according to His plan--not ours.

"But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."
Psalm 131:2

Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Mirrors

As I was meeting with a friend today to study God's truths, she said something very profound (and I paraphrase because I can't remember the exact words). It was this:
"Until you have experienced God's glory, you don't know that it is worth reflecting."
The truth pouring from this statement can only be learned from experience...experience learned from living in a world that is unkind to our souls.
When our lives twist and turn and we stumble and fall, we learn that God never fails us.
When people disappoint us and we feel alone, we learn that God will never leave us.
When normality is shattered and each day brings pain, we learn that God will strengthen us.
When everything is screaming and demanding attention, we learn that God's peace will quiet us.
When we think we can't go on, but we are able to persevere, we learn that God's presence is within us.
When we see all that He is to us... and all He has done for us... and all He is doing in us, shouldn't we yearn to give him the glory He is due? And when we finally understand the immense value of that glory, why would we not reflect it to others?
I want to be a child, so enamored with becoming like my Abba, that people will say, "I can see her Father in her."
May the reflection of His Glory be seen in my life...and in my friend's life.
It is SO worth it.
Christ does not exist to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of Him.
John Piper
"...God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Colossians 1:27

Thursday, February 25, 2010


"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God"
Corrie ten Boom
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Love Beyond Reason

I have thinking a lot about God's love for us lately and remembered something that I wrote about three years ago. It is a short piece written from God's perspective and directed to us. When it first flowed from my fingertips, God said to me, "I don't think they understand how much I really love them. Write this down." And so I did.

Here it is; God's words using my pen. It still makes me cry every time.

I WANTED YOU. I created you from the ground, and instantly I loved you…with and indescribable and fiercely protective love. You were a joy to me, and I wanted to give you everything. I gave you a helper. I gave you work to do. I gave you food. I gave you the world. You were of great, great value to me. I spent time with you and my love overflowed when I saw you.

THEN YOU TURNED AWAY. You disobeyed. You chose to break our bond, our gift, my heart. I still loved you when you walked away; more than you will ever know. Yet, you didn’t just walk, you ran. You ran and ran until you found false things that made you happier than I made you. I watched you and my heart ached. I wanted you to desire me again—your Father, your Creator. So, I decided to come and get you—though you continued to run from me.

I WOULD BECOME LIKE YOU. I would experience your world; the world that I created. I would show you what true love looked like. When I came, you still didn’t love me. But, I could not let go of you, my baby, my child. I payed your penalty-- the penalty of a Holy God. I suffered for you. I died for you. My blood removed your stains.

I LOVE YOU LIMITLESSLY AND ULTIMATELY. I am Truth. I am your Father. Won’t you run home to me? I promise to fill you with my Spirit. I promise to never leave you. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve become, you will always have a home in me. I wanted you. You are my child. I will always love you.
" Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Matthew 23:37

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Those Darn Invisible Fences

Fear is a strange thing. It creeps in and takes hold of our unconscious thoughts, then our conscious thoughts, and then it runs rampant with our minds until it controls us and makes us believe it.

Sometimes, fear is valid and empowering and real (think Grizzly bear outside your tent in Alaska), but most times, we fear things that haven’t happened or things with which we are uncomfortable. Fear often keeps us from changing into the person we would like to be. Fear imprisons us as we build invisible fences—ones that keep scary things outside and us inside. A book I am reading with Cole called Do Hard Things says this: “[When we are fearful] What we are really saying is that we don’t want to do things that don’t come easily or naturally. We don’t want to break through our fears. And by our actions, we’re also saying that God isn’t good and powerful enough to help us do what we can’t comfortably do on our own.” Fear is bondage.

Why is it that when new challenges or grandiose ideas come to us, we often resist and delay, fight and scream to stay inside our cozy little lives? We build invisible fences around ourselves and inside are all the things we have already achieved and are successful at…but outside—yikes!!! Outside we might fail. Outside we might look foolish. Outside things might be hard. Outside is FREEDOM.

Think about the times that you have gone outside of your comfort zone to do something scary. Are those moments not empowering? Is it not a thrill to realize you could be that person you want to be? Some of our greatest memories are made when we step outside our fences of fear.

So…here is my challenge for you. Do one thing that scares you every day.

Be wise with this folks. I am not saying to go skydiving (although you certainly may—I will not do this because I am convinced that after I have floated to the earth, my family would find me laying there dead on the ground killed by the shock of it all), or juggle butcher knives or twirl fire batons (you can do this if you want to, Mom). What I am saying is to find out more about the person that God designed you to be. Don’t be afraid to learn a new language or take on a big project or talk to a stranger. Show God how much you trust Him by taking some baby steps outside your fence. After you see how exhilarating that is, you might just want to jump over that fence the way that Luke jumps over hurdles—fast and furiously.

It’s your choice. Inside or out? How big is your God?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Inspired by C.S.

I found this quote in a book that I am reading with my daughter. It gave me much food for thought. I will leave it with you as I retire for the night:

"The almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions to Christ. Until you have given up your self to Him, you will not have a real self."
C.S. Lewis
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
Matthew 16:25

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Yesterday, as I listened to the radio, the host asked for people to call in and tell of a time when they felt God had really shown his love for them. Many people called in with stories of being saved from a disaster or heartache. Some told stories of encouragement from the station or from friends. But I didn't like this...the stories were inspiring, yes, but the reasoning was all wrong. Are we to think that God shows his love for us only when things go the way we want them to go? Does His love not show when bad things happen?

People! God loves ALL THE TIME! Not just when things happen the way we plan. He shows love for us when we find out we don't have cancer. And He show just as much love to the person who is diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. As I stated in my last entry, God loves us desperately ALL THE TIME. We shouldn't feel his especial love only when good things happen. We should feel his love when our loved 0nes die and when they are saved from death. We should feel his love when our kids are rebelling and when they are pursuing him wholeheartedly. Jesus was here. He knows we hurt. He hurt too --he was betrayed by close friends, mocked by authorities, and nailed to a cross unjustly. Yet, God never stopped powerfully loving him during any of those trials.

God shows his love for us ALL THE TIME. Our feelings may lie to us and tell us that God loves us more when good things happen. But he doesn't. He works all things together for good--even the bad ones. God shows his love for us everyday in everything. He is love; to be anything else would be against his character--and God cannot lie. We need to change our thinking regarding when God blesses us. We don't always know what is best for us. Let me change that: We don't often know what is best for us. God does. And he always loves. His decisions are always the best for us--even if they seem wrong to us.

As I was having this debate about God's love in my head on my way to Panera, a man called in to say that this last year had been really tough; he had lost his job, his wife and his home. "Where is God in that?", he said. Where is God in that? He is right in the front and center of that. He is in full control in that. He is showing his love IN THAT. God is there. Trust him. He knows what he is doing--keep holding on to Him. HE LOVES YOU.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

Friday, February 19, 2010

Desperate Love

Wow. I am back from Mexico--tanned and relaxed and having great difficulty adjusting to real life again. There's something to be said for sitting in a beach chair for four sunny days straight and reading, until completion, three novels while listening to the sea gulls calling and the waves gently lapping on the sand. But, now I am in Iowa. And it is cold. And it is white. And it is snowing--what a surprise. That (meaning all of that Iowa stuff) is why I am struggling.

I did learn something, though, while I was at the resort with my husband of almost 21 years. When Brent and I vacation together, just the two of us, we spend nearly all of our waking hours together. We talk and we walk and we soak up the sun side by side, and the most wonderful thing happens; I fall in love with him all over again. I am able to focus on Brent during our time away without distractions or interruptions. He is able to leave the stress of work at home and be attentive to me. We spend long, leisurely hours together and truly enjoy each other.

And then it happens. We come home. We each go our separate ways, fulfilling our individual responsibilities, and I feel like crying because I miss him desperately. Yes, that is the right word--desperate. I remember when we were dating and I felt like I might not be able to breathe, or even live, if I couldn't be with him. I felt desperate then, because I loved him so much. When we return from these trips, I feel that same desperate love for him that I felt all those years ago. Sometimes I forget how desperately I love Brent. Sometimes, I let the worries of the world and the grocery shopping distract me from my first and powerful love--desperate love. Sometimes, I forget who he is to me.

Aren't we like that with God? God desperately loves us and often calls us His bride in the Bible. And there are times that we, as believers, have an overpowering love for our Father, our Groom. We love Him desperately and want to spend time with Him and serve Him. We want to show how much we love Him by our acts of sacrifice and obedience. When do these times happen and how do we make them happen more?

I think, just as I learned on my trip to Mexico, spending time walking and talking and sitting with God, soaking up his Son, as often as possible, is the key. Relationship is all about time and attention and lack of distraction. Relationship is all about long, leisurely hours enjoying the one that your heart so desperately loves--so that you remember that you love Him--so that you remember who He is to you.

When is the last time you spent some leisurely hours (or minutes, if you are a Mom with little children) with God--just Him alone--reading His word, singing His songs, just enjoying His presence? When is the last time you longed for Him and thought you might not live if you couldn't be with Him? God loves you DESPERATELY--believe it---and fall in love with Him all over again.

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God."
Psalm 42:1

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cozumel Hiatus

I know, I know. I haven't exactly been consistent with my posts lately. But now, I have a reason to take a break. Brent and I are taking a Valentine trip to Cozumel, Mexico in exactly 10 hours. I am so excited to feel the sunshine!!! So...that means I don't have to do anything responsible for the next 5 days or so...not even write on my blog! Adios Amigos!!

"Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant."
Psalm 135:3

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writer's Block

What does one post when one has no thoughts upon which to expand or dissect? What does one write when within the mind lie idle thoughts of repose and relaxation--not of composition? What does one write when one wants not to write, but desires to warm herself by the fireplace and drink upon the thoughts that others have written on pages of long ago?

One writes that she desires to be faithful to the goal which she has set before herself--the goal of productivity, and not procrastination. She expounds upon the idea that it does one's soul good to do that which is difficult and to force oneself, if necessary, into action. And it is necessary, at this time, as she sits, and she contemplates, and mulls, and forms, those thoughts--which are not yet thoughts--into a lovely bit of sculpture, or a fragrant yellow flower--a little bit of beauty to show to those who look.

She desires to create a masterpiece, or at least a grand bouquet, to advertise her expertise and her ardent effort. But as she sits, and she writes, the elusive muse of creativity stays sleeping soundly.

And she waits another day to wake him from his rest.

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him..."
Psalm 37:7

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's (A.K.A. Hy-Vee)

Have I ever told you how much I love having teenagers? I am not being facetious. I love hanging out here at the house with my (almost) four lovely teens. Or actually, I should say "young adults". The word "teenager" was not even a word, until the term was coined in a Reader's Digest article in 1941. Before then, you were either a child or you were an adult.
When our kids were just kids, we expected them to act like children, but as they grow toward adulthood, we are trying to train them to be independent, reponsible members of society and contributing members in the Body of Christ. This is no small task. One thing we have started to do during this "training" time is that we have started to date our high school kids. Every other Saturday morning, Brent and I take Luke and Tess to Hy-Vee for breakfast. On the first Saturday, I meet with Tess and the second, Luke (or vice-verse) and Brent does the same. That way each kid gets time with both Mom and Dad throughout the month.
I absolutely love these intimate times with my kids! We have discussed books we have read together, heart issues that we struggle with and just general adolescent concerns and silliness. I cherish developing this open relationship with each one of them and I anxiously await dating my other two when they enter their high school years. When we have these bi-monthly dates together, I feel God's stamp of approval and sense his smile.
So...that's it. I have lots of joy when I think of my kids lately, and I wanted to share it. God is good.
" Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck."
Proverbs 1:8-9

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Lesson from Screwtape

In the book, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S.Lewis, Screwtape (the devil) writes to his agent, Wormwood, and shares this ominous observation. He says, “ Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestone, without signposts. “

O.K., now that’s a little scary. What does it mean?

It means it’s the little everyday compromises--or even just lack of focus, the often uncaptured thought, the mindless habit, the “innocent” flirtation--even the seemingly harmless distraction--if not checked--will lead us down a road of apathy and coldness to God. It doesn’t take huge sins to distract us, as Screwtape puts it, “Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.” Anything that that distracts us and takes our focus off of God is enough to pull us into the enemy’s camp. And the distractions are often very innocuous-even boring. Screwtape puts it like this: (said to Wormwood)“ As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo …you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do…You can make him do nothing at all for long periods.”

Are we, as Christ-followers, being followers in name only or are we as my hero, O.C. says, making “God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever?” I must focus my life on God alone and let nothing distract me into apathy. This is a choice I must make, because the road away from God is a gradual, easy path downhill. May I never be satisfied with mediocrity.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blessed Monotony

Today I read a story about a young pastor in Texas that has a brain tumor. This tumor will most likely kill him. The story was gut-wrenching, but inspiring and authentic, spoken from a man gaining wisdom a mile a minute in the face of sorrow. I also read the blog of a young family preparing for the impending birth of their first child, but here's the heartbreaker...their child has only a brain stem--no brain--and will die within hours of birth--if he survives the pregnancy. They will say hello and goodbye to their only son in the same day.

Both of these stories tore at my emotions today and tears stained the desk where I sat. Life is scary. And unpredictable. And unfair. But God is Good. Why does He allow these things to happen to people who love Him so much? I don't fully understand the answer to that question, but I do know that we run to Him in sorrow far faster than we run to Him in plenty. I know that we yearn for His grace much more when fall down than when we walk tall. And He changes us from the inside out during these times. He changes us to be like Him. We are a stubborn people and as my hero, Oswald Chambers says, "Sometimes God needs to wreck a life to save it."

I know that knowing these things doesn't make suffering any easier. But the fact that God is in control, for some reason, always comforts me. The fact that nothing takes Him by surprise gives me peace--even when really rotten things happen.

We will all suffer. That is a given. Today, as I read these sad, sad stories, I was so thankful for normality--normal, everyday monotony. Same old, same old is just fine with me--new normals are hard, sometimes very hard, and for today I'll just stick "wit' what I got." Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

"O, LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.'
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head."
Psalm 3:1-3