8.13.2014

"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."- Edward Abbey

A wilderness is a desert wasteland. At first at appears devoid of anything living, green and wet. Quiet, lonely, desolate... Until you take a closer look. Only when you do will you see the magnificent flowers blooming on the cacti. Scorpions, tortoises and birds, skittering, lumbering or flitting into their respective hidey-holes.

Israel spent forty years lost in the desert. They complain of heat, hunger, thirst; they grew weary of the seeming lack of leadership and not being settled into their own place.

Hagar spent some days in the wilderness alone with her son. Rejected by her mistress and the father of her child, she fell into despair, surrendering to the elements, and turning over her only son to the desert's harsh temperatures.

Elijah, running from a livid queen after stumping her religion's priests, hid in a cave in the wilderness. Not exactly a Hilton. He felt alone, depressed, abandoned.

Are you starting to see a theme?

Abraham lived in the wilderness. In a tent. Sarah must've been a strong woman. :)  His nephew turned his back on Abraham's faith and fell in with the wrong crowd. He was old and childless. And, to top it off, three uninvited, unannounced guests turned up at his door expecting to be served a meal!

Christ, while on earth, spent 40 consecutive days fasting in the wilderness following his baptism. He suffered hunger and severe temptation from Satan.

After reading about all the above circumstances, we can know that we aren't the only ones who've been through some tight spots. Also, in each story we see how God was faithful to these hurting people.

Jesus immediately began His three year ministry. Abraham saw his nephew rescued and his wife bear a son and entertained Christ at his table. Elijah heard the voice of God. Hagar received a promise that her son would survive this desert and become father to a great nation. Israel was given great victories and a land of their own.

Another way God proved loving and comforting in their hard times was ministering to them. Israel was miraculously provided for: bread from heaven, quails arriving on the wind (literally) and water coursing from a rock. Elijah, Hagar and Christ all were given physical sustenance and spiritual encouragement and instruction from angels.

As the desert comes to life upon reflection, so our seemingly "dry" days can fulfill us like no others can.

So don't gripe about the heat. Don't while about the pain. Don't pull a "poor me" act. God uses the wilderness to make us thirst for Him.

Like Israel, let's walk out of our wilderness claiming the victory He's already won for us. Like Hagar, let's cling to our new found hope. Like Abraham, give your all, and claim the promise offered. Like Christ, fight temptation, even when you're weak. Like Elijah, don't focus on the winds, earthquakes, tornadoes, thundering and lightning- listen for the still small voice.

And don't forget to look for the angels, for they will come. They may arrive in the form of your neighbor who drops by to see if you're okay. A church member who brings a meal. A friend who frequently lets you know that they are praying for you.

One way to keep your mind off your trials is to reach out to someone else who's hurting. "Bearing one another's burdens" and all that.

One faithless giant upon the crest of Hebron's lofty heightHas vowed that he's the one to make me flee.I'll come from out the wilderness and trust Jehovah's might.I want that mountain, it belongs to me!-I Want That Mountain

8.11.2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.-Psalm 8:2

For only being one year old, Henry sure has been through a lot of hardships. Physically speaking, his small body has taken some serious hits. Trisomy 21 alone has loads of effects. Besides hindered natural development (physical and mental), other systems affected include air passages, lungs, heart, brain, digestion, even fertility. And that doesn't scratch the surface. Just in the past 16 months, I've become well-informed of medical specialists and types of therapist that, before, I didn't know existed. Thanks to my well-read mother, our whole family has had crash courses in many of Henry's daily needs from speech therapy to checking a blood pressure and glucose numbers. Mom even taught me how to change sheets with a patient still in the bed.

Long and short, because of Addison, I've learned some important lessons. Here are a few:


  • Keep fighting when you've no fight left.
  • Love doesn't travel and easy road.
  • We are intrepid.
  • Unconditional love is a choice, and the most beautiful thing God created.
  • Sometimes a hug is all it takes to make things seem much brighter.
  • A sincere smile can make someone's day.
  • Don't waste what God has given you, whether it be time, talent or simply the ability to walk.
  • Life, even in the tough parts is a beautiful, beautiful gift.
  • Never take anything for granted.
  • Just when the storm looks bleakest, Jesus walks out to you across the waves.
  • Administering liquid medication to a child with a severe posterior tongue-tie is tortuous until God inspires a plan. (we recently discovered a great trick that reduced our "dosing" time from 30 minutes to 5 minutes or less...definitely a God-thing!)
  • Turning the ones you love over to God is a daily necessity. It isn't easy, but gives great blessings once it's done.
  • "God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3)
  • Prayer is way more powerful than any of us will ever be able to comprehend.
  • Life is too precious to not spend every single moment crammed full of living, savoring everything thrown your way, and finding the beautiful in it.
Addison, Henry, I love you my little man. Thank you.

Proud. You make me proud.Don't know how to say it any better.Proud. You make me proud.Win or lose, well it really doesn't matter.'Cause you step up to the plate, Swinging for the fence.You're gonna change the world around you, I'm convinced.Just look how you're changing me-Making me proud.-Proud, Steven Curtis Chapman

8.09.2014

Masquerade

"Paper faces on parade.
Masquerade!
Hide your face so the world will never find you."

God has been teaching me a lot of tough lessons in the past month, but one has come to the forefront recently. It started with a verse, which lead to a song, which made the cranial wires connect, and the light bulb turn on. Come to think of it, that's usually the pattern God uses to teach me. Step one, the verse:
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:20
Since I was very young, I've heard this verse quoted as a call to minister to our fellow-Christians. And so it is. But ministering to others is only half the command.  "One another" is a two-way street. You have to minister and be ministered to. Lots of very dear friends have ministered to our family in these past 3 weeks. Actually, in the past year, since Addison was born, our "friends in need are friends indeed" have manifested and established themselves. Some bring meals when they know Pa and Mom have to take Henry to the hospital. Some call us at random hours just to ask how we're holding up. Some email us  links to songs that are encouraging. Some text a verse that God put on their heart to share with us, or just to let us know they're praying. These may not seem like huge things, but each has not gone un-noticed by our family and is so very you'll-never-know-how-much-it-means-to-us encouraging. Because, you see, God has, without fail, lined up your "random" contact, whether a word or deed,  with exactly what we needed at the time. If I haven't thanked you personally for the encouragement you've been, I thank you now: Thank you, thank you thank you!

Yet, this is only one way to be ministered to. What about ministering on the deepest level? Where it hurts? Where a sterile spiritual "band aid" isn't going to help heal? In order to find healing there we must be open with each other.

We must be vulnerable.
So you thought you had to keep this up.All the work that you do So we think that you're good. And you can't believe it's not enough. All the walls you built up Are just glass on the outside.So let 'em fall down. There's freedom waiting in the sound. When you let your walls fall to the ground. We're here now- Afraid to let your secrets out. Everything that you hide Can come crashing through the door now. But too scared to face all your fear.So you hide but you find That the shame won't disappear. So let it fall down. There's freedom waiting in the sound When you let your walls fall to the ground. We're here now. Sparks will fly as grace collides With the dark inside of us. So please don't fight This coming light. Let this blood come cover us-His blood can cover us.This is where the healing begins, oh, This is where the healing starts.When you come to where you're broken within The light meets the dark.The light meets the dark.-Healing Begins, Tenth Avenue North

Vulnerability isn't easy. It requires us to be painfully honest, to bare the deepest part of our being to others. For me, at least, this doesn't come naturally. I've always been of the mindset if it's my problem, it's my problem, and it's for me and God to deal with, and there's no need to bother anyone else. Until just recently, when I realized the opposites of vulnerability, and they are not pretty. In fact, they're ugly, blatant words that aren't going to make me Miss Popularity.

Pride & Hypocrisy.

They're glaring, garish words, aren't they? Words that every "good" Christian avoids. Words that we attach to alleged heathens. Certainly NOT anything we'd participate in  ourselves! God forbid! We are are loyal and true, besides being the very model of humility!

Or are we? "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall."- 1Cor. 10:12
This is a fool's parade,
The way we masquerade-Trying to make everybody think it's all okay.When the truth is we're all living a story.What if we all got brave?Enough to take awayAll we're hiding behind even for just a day.And let the scars show even a little.But I know the honesty Will show us all to be-Broken.We're all broken-And we all need a Savior.Broken.We're all broken-And we all need a Savior.We don't have to pretend about it.We don't have to keep acting like we're all okay.If we lift our eyes to the crossWe'll see The reality:That we're all broken.-Broken, Steven Curtis Chapman

All of us will readily admit that we're not perfect, generally speaking. But how many are willing to let on when we are going to pieces? The first step in  fixing a problem is to admitting the problems existence. This is where our pride kicks in, putting up barricades and denying our brokenness.

An unbroken heart is dark. No light can infiltrate its dank, musty interior. Nasty growths form in the the damp darkness. However, if we allow our dark, rock-hard hearts to be cracked open, Light floods in, killing the mildew lining it's walls. Darkness is expelled, for "what communion hath light with darkness"? (2 Cor. 6:14)

It could be compared to scraping the grime off an authentic stained glass window. It takes serious elbow grease to rub away the dirt, and you'll probably be a bit sore from meticulously laboring to clean out the crevices. But when you are finished, the light shines through the window, lighting the inside, and illuminating the message of Jesus. Of course, you'll also see how badly the other windows need the same, but that's another topic for another day.

Most my life I’ve been doing my best to
Try and hide Anything less than perfect.
I covered up all my scars.
I gotta make them think I’ve got it together.
Make believe Nobody ever
Has to see What I keep in the dark.
Truth is, I was wrong.
That’s the part that You
Have wanted all along.
Coast is clear We got nothing to hide.
All are welcome here-Step into the light!
Where there’s no more fear Can you hear
The freedom song our souls are singing:
Come just as you are-
Take those walls around you
And tear ‘em all apart!
We are the weak, the wrong,
The too far gone
We are the outcasts, yeah,
But today we belong.
We are the lost, the found,
The been knocked down,
But we got back up
And now we are the city on a hill
Is filled with stained glass hearts,
But we come as we are
We come as we are
And we shine like stars, shine like stars
We come as we are and we shine like stars.
We are, we are, we are the broken.
But we are, we are, we are the chosen.
So come on shine, shine, shine
Your beautiful light
Through the cracks inside our hearts tonight.
‘Cause we are, we are, we are the broken.
-We are the Broken, Matthew West

As for the hypocrisy's role in this, well, just answer these questions:

1. What is it called when we deny or cover truth? (hint: hypocrisy)
2. What is it called when we talk one way and act another? (hint: hypocrisy)

The answers could both be hypocrisy, right? (hint: yes.)

Now we've laid out the crime (a closed heart) method (hypocrisy) and the motive (pride).

Scary things to have on your spiritual resume.

*When looking up the word "vulnerable", I came across a definition from the game of bridge that was enlightening:  "liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge" courtesy of Merriam-Webster dictionary . Just a side note.*

I want to know who you are,Even if you're falling apart.Reach in and touch your scarsAnd all the shame you've kept in your heart.
'Cause it's not enoughIt's not enoughJust to say that you're okay.I need your hurt. I need your pain.It's not love any other way.
Let's not pretend.Stop your parade,Trying to convince meThat you're alright and everything's okay.Yet, do you even know Me?
'Cause I already know who you are-And all things that kept us apart.So reach in and touch My scars,And know the price I paid for your heart.
'Cause it's not enoughIt's not enoughJust to say that you're okayI need your hurt. I need your pain.It's not love any other way.-Any Other Way, Tenth Avenue North

The good news? It doesn't have to stay that way. At the end of a masquerade ball, everyone removes their mask. So stop dancing, and pull off your papier m√Ęche veil and let others see who you truly are. It's the next step in being real, authentic, true, the next step in being more like Christ.

Is there anyone that fails?Is there anyone that falls?Am I the only one in church today,Feeling so small?When I take a look around,Everybody seems so strong.I know they'll soon discoverThat I don't belong.So with a painted grin,I play the part again-Hoping that they'll see meThe way that I see them. Is there anyone who's been there? Are there any hands raised?Am I the only one who's tradedIn the Altar for a Stage?The performance is convincing.We know every line by heart.Only when no one is watchingCan we really fall apart.Would it set me freeIf I dared to let you seeThe truth behind the personYou imagine me to be?Would your arms be openWould you walk away? Or would the love of JesusBe enough to make you stay?Are we happy plastic peopleUnder shiny plastic steeples-With walls around our weakness,Smiles that hide our pain?When the invitations openedTo every heart that has been broken, Maybe then we'll close the curtainOn our stained glass masquerade.-Stained Glass Masquerade, Casting Crowns