Monday, November 19, 2012

Bend a Little

"Do we have any sour cream?" Scott asks as he opens the fridge.
"Yes," I say. He stands there waiting for it to step forward, I guess, or do a little dance for him so that he can see it. But I just buy the regular kind, not the dancing kind. He can't see it.
"It's on the bottom shelf, in the back." No response. I know it's there. I just saw it yesterday, while looking for something else. I remember years ago, talking to a friend about how the folks in this family just can't find anything. They're bad lookers, I say. She told me what her mom always used to say when she was growing up, "Sometimes you have to bend!" And I have adopted that phrase as my own. It's kind of an abbreviated version of saying I know it's there, I just saw it. It means, please don't make me stop what I'm doing to come and find whatever you're looking for. You can do it. It's there. And I use this phrase with everyone in the family. It just so happens I most recently used it on Scott. I throw it out to him, still waiting for the sour cream to appear. He bends, and sure enough!
"Ah yes, here it is!" Success.

We're studying James in my Bible Study group, and that bending idea came up in the latest lesson. James 1:22-25 says, "But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.(NLT) We learned that the original Greek word for the phrase at the end to "look carefully" or "look intently" means "to stoop down, or looking by bending over." Wow!

In these last months, I have known that I need to be in the Word, need to be going to God as I struggle with grief. And how many times have I sat with my Bible and asked the Lord, "Do you have anything for me?" I've been hoping that it will step forward, and do a dance, so I can see it. But I haven't really tried bending. Time for me to really dig in.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


It's been almost 7 months since my dad passed away. I want so much to be on the other side of the grieving. I am still so tender, so sad. The Holidays are coming and sadness comes over me in waves like nausea. It feels like it's always simmering just under the surface and I keep breathing and try to hold it in. Or I succumb, and cry out.

I want to be able to share the things I've learned, the ways I've grown, the ways God has provided for our family, and how God has used this terribly sad thing to draw me closer to Him. But that just isn't where I am yet. I have faith, though. Thank God! It says in Hebrews, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1 NLT)

I'm holding onto that hope, unable to see all the good in this sadness just yet, but believing that it will happen. It takes time, I've been told a million times. I've never been good at waiting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

At the Milwaukee airport, once you've made it through security you are greeted by a big sign that reads, "Recombobulation Area". There are benches so you can sit down and put your shoes back on, and put your self back together after spilling everything out into the gray bins. Every airport has one of these areas after security, but sweet Milwaukee airport is kind enough to give it signage. Something about that sign makes one feel like they acknowledge that they've just disorganized you and torn all of your belongings apart; it almost feels like an apology.

My father passed away almost a month ago now, after 69 days of intensive care in a hospital three hours away from my home. In the grand scheme of things, that wasn't such a long time to fight illness. Many have battled for years. But for me, those days were difficult because there was urgency each day, and it felt like 69 days of crisis. I was running back and forth between there and home. It's hard to sustain that life-or-death kind of intensity over two and a half months, while also trying to keep things as normal as possible at home. I learned first hand what it means to be able to do things through Christ, who gave me strength. And I learned what a failure I could be when I tried to manage things without His help. He provided for me and my family throughout those days.

And now I feel like I need a sign hanging over our home, and maybe a traveling one to hang over my head wherever I go... "Recombobulation Area!" I'm trying to put things back together, one day at a time. I am sad, I miss my Dad, and I don't understand everything perfectly. I know I need to just sit with that a while, and while I do, I'm slowly trying to put the pieces back together.

Still learning about doing things through Christ, rather than relying on my own flimsy tool box. But here's what I know. God has a plan. That sounds like a nice platitude, but it is so much more. He does have a plan, and He told us what it is; He wants to draw everyone to Him. He wants all to come to know Him. Here's how Paul said it in one of my favorite verses (in the Message translation here) "Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near." So He will use my Dad's death, and my coming apart and recombobulating to bring me and others closer to Him. Thank You, LORD, and help me to cooperate with Your plan.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Those Who Wait Upon the LORD...

Still thinking about transformation. Last time I wrote, I was struck by the "working" component of transformation. Today, it's the waiting component that's on my mind. My dad is still recovering from his heart surgery, and actually had a major setback; an infection attacked his whole body. During this time we are waiting. We're waiting to see how things are going to go, waiting for his body to heal, waiting to see what God's plan is, waiting to see the butterfly! Not so fast....

During the waiting, I find there's nothing I can do but pray. I'm not implying that prayer is less powerful or meaningful than other action steps might be, just saying that prayer is the only action step for me to take right now. So, I'm thinking about how I'm praying, and what the purpose of my prayer is. I remember a scene from the movie Shadowlands, about C.S. Lewis, where he discusses what prayer is all about with a friend. I don't have the words exactly, but the friend implies that if one prays hard enough, maybe it will move God. C.S. Lewis replies that the idea of prayer is not to move God, but to move us. I think he's onto something there.

I feel a little silly sometimes, listing off to God what my dad's needs are, or anyone else's for that matter. God knows. He knows better than I what everyone else really needs, because He can see so much more than I can. So then I think, "well Lord, I ask that Your will be done in this or that situation." But that seems silly too, because He doesn't need me to ask for His will. Truly, He doesn't need me to ask for anything. Like C.S. Lewis said, it's not for Him, it's for me, it's about molding me. I guess what I want to do, (and what I think maybe the whole purpose of prayer is) is to align MY will with His. So the action step of praying is to realign the posture of my heart, to get myself and my desires lined up with His.

Maybe this is what Paul was saying when he wrote Romans 12:2....
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Through the waiting, and being prayerful, He will transform me, and change my will to His. Oh, that I will be cooperative!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Change is Hard

My dad recently had open-heart surgery; he had 6 bypasses and an aortic valve replacement. Pretty major stuff, and there are so many amazing word pictures regarding the heart.... like, what it means to "open" your heart, and allow the "restoration" of your heart. His recovery has been slow and difficult for all of us around him. As he is now finally coming out of the grog of a 10-hour surgery and 18 different drugs dripping into his veins, he will begin the hard work of recovery, which will be slow and difficult for him.

He is quite literally in the middle of a transformational process. Before his surgery, he was a man whose heart was failing. He was getting weaker, struggling to breathe. He was unable to complete simple tasks that previously, he'd done without thinking, like filling the car up with gas or going to get the mail at the end of the driveway. As he recovers, he will get stronger, and each day he'll do more than he'd been able to do the day before.

There's a huge spiritual component as well. Before, he was a man who found his identity in his own physical strength. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, a strapping fella, always proud of his brawn. Of course, this is not the full picture of his identity, but it was a big part of who he was. Now, he has found the place where there is no physical strength, he's at the end of himself. He will have to fully rely on Christ who strengthens him, inside and out. He's being transformed into a man who finds his identity not in what he can do, but in what Christ has done and is doing in him.

Transformation is exciting! It gets me all aflutter. And who doesn't love the picture of the caterpillar being transformed in a butterfly? But I was thinking this morning about what hard work it is. The hard work is the part we forget, or gloss over, but is so important. That caterpillar doesn't go into his cocoon and take a nice long nap until one day, Poof! Transformation is complete and now he's beautiful and flying free. There's all kinds of work going on in that cocoon. And, once he is a butterfly, it's a lot of work to get out of the cocoon. Growing wings is slow and strenuous. It is work he must do alone. If someone comes along and helps him out, it actually harms the butterfly.

As nice as it would be to skip the work of transformation, we can't. The transformation is real and lasting when we do the work. God actually does a lot of the work, and He created the design and plan for just what kind of a butterfly we'll be. But there's business that we have to attend to, as well. Dear LORD, help me pay attention to the work you've given me, and get it done, so I can fly--beautiful and free!