Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering May

I love the month of May.  Not too hot usually.  Not too cold usually. Flowers everywhere.  Commitments come to an end just in time for summer.  And according to my grandmother in WV, May is the best month to wash your hair!  (You think I'm joking-I'm not!  That's what she thought and she stuck with it!)

I also remember May as the month I died.  Before you start thinking Hillbilly Zombie, let me explain:

Have you ever watched a seed that’s been planted?  It really is an amazing process to watch. We’ve had this little bucket of daisy seeds sitting on our counter.  When they were first planted, my daughter put some dirt over them, watered them and put them in a sunny place.  Within a few days, the seeds split open, then these green seedlings just pop out and, with proper care, continue to grow, getting stronger and healthier….unless you’re at my house.  For the sake of illustration, play along.

Watching these seeds grow on our windowsill and it being the month of May reminds me of this passage.

John 12.24  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

To give context to this verse, Jesus is preparing for His own death.  He will soon be facing unimaginable earthly pain and suffering, physical as well as mental anguish.  He is talking to a couple of his disciples. 

John 12.23-28   And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 

Jesus is talking about a couple of things here.  Through his impending death, there will be a great salvation harvest as he in verse 32 points out  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Also there will also be a great production of fruit in the lives of those of us who follow Him.  He tells us how that will come about.

26 Whoever loves his life loses it, [Do I delight in my earthly life more than I delight in God?] and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [Do I think so little of this life and so much of God, that I’m willing to sacrifice it all for God?]  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

In the next couple of verses, Jesus is struggling.  He is suffering.  And I know many of you can relate because you have experienced or are now experiencing suffering.

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

And what shall I say?  Father save me from this hour?  When I am going through tough times, should I say Father save me from this hour?  He answers that question:  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.

I can remember the point in time that I now recognize as finally being like that grain of wheat, when I fell into the earth and died.  It was May 2005.

Sunday, May 6, marked the seventh birthday of our son Jonathan, his seventh birthday in the presence of Jesus.

Before that occurrence, I had been through some tough times and some loss and I thought I was a mature believer, and in knowledge I was.  But that is the point where I now recognize that God allowed me to be broken, fully broken, so that I had nowhere else to turn.  Former SBC president Adrian Rogers said, “Men throw broken things away, but it seems God never uses anything until he first breaks it." 

In that fully broken state, I was at the end of my self-sufficiency.  The pain was so great, the spiritual battle so extreme, that I could not handle it. That began the excruciating process of being broken.  I had to die to myself, to all that I held dear.  During that season was a full surrender.  I cannot do this God.  You and you alone are my source.  And the purpose for my life is for you and you alone.

Read v. 27 again, Jesus saying: Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? 

I know I wanted to be saved from that hour.  And we know that even Jesus later asked if it was the Father’s will for his cup to pass from him.  There was nothing I wanted more than to have my way in my situation and for all the tests and ultrasounds be wrong.  I was not yet at the point where I was delighting in God more than I was delighting in this earthly life.  I wanted more than anything to have my son.

v. 27 continues But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.

What a new perspective on our circumstances!

If you could see my face, you would see the tears and know there is still pain and there is still the daily choice of dying to myself and all that this earth holds.  But I’ve been emboldened by this purposeful life.  When He asks something of me, I will answer yes, For this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father glorify your name.

Can you look at your life so far and see the place or places where you have been like the seed and have fallen into the earth to die so that you will bear much fruit?  Have you gotten to the point where you say for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father glorify your name.

If not, maybe May can be the month that you will die too.  And if you haven't done so yet, go wash your hair.  It would make my grandma proud.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blue Ribbon Best

Remember from my previous post that I like to set some “reasonably attainable” goals for my homeschooling and for other areas of my life. But I also think that we should have other loftier goals that will challenge us to grow that are not necessarily reasonably attainable, but likely attainable only through the strength that God gives.

With that in mind, I wanted to clue you in to a few bars that need to be raised in my life, call them resolutions if you like, but they are gifts that I plan to give my family this year.

The first gift I seek to give my family this year is giving my husband and my kids my best. I want to earn my first place blue ribbon in the category of putting my family first when I'm doling out my time, my talents and other resources.

Surely none of you moms have ever been guilty of being better prepared for co-ops or church ministry opportunities than you would be for your very own household or your very own school, but that is something I am still overcoming by God’s grace.

I’m far more accountable to people outside my home sometimes. When my children were younger and I rushed them or brushed them off to complete tasks for others, I recognized {not quite} immediately that something wasn’t right. It’s been a process and a choice that I have to make over and over, day after day, year after year.

Giving my best to my family does not mean I must give less than my best elsewhere in other activities. I still work with ministry outside the confines of my home and have obligations and responsibilities that I’ve committed to doing, but now those commitments are relegated to their rightful place in my schedule, which is after my responsibilities to my family are met. Sometimes it means getting up {far, far} earlier than I think is natural, but those whom God calls, he also equips.

Giving my family my best means I need to ask God how to structure my day to assure that my family gets the investment of the best of my time and talents that they deserve. If I’m giving my family the gift of my best, then I will devote time to organizing my calendar, my teaching, the care of my household and all other activities to His glory.

1 Cor. 10.31 So, whether you eat or drink or {encourage your husband or teach math or teach history or cook meals or do laundry}, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reasonably Attainable

I’m not much into making New Year’s Resolutions because well, you know, they’re often pretty lofty and I set myself up for failure. I don’t like failure. So I’ve come to the conclusion that any goals I set must be reasonably attainable.

For instance, I will not set a goal of running four marathons this year because that would require, oh, what’s the word…. exercise! There I said it! Quick, somebody go get me a piece of chocolate to wash my mouth out with. Just kidding. I do exercise. Sometimes. Well, it’s been a while….but that’s not the point of this post, now is it?

I want to be a joyful homeschooler so I think I do need to have some type of goals. If I aim for the stars, then I might only hit the moon, but if I aim for nothing, I’ll hit that every time. So I set some goals.

And I’ll share some of my resolutions that are reasonably attainable because they might be for you too.

For 2012, with my homeschooling, I resolve to:

1) At least once a week, I will start school later than 8.30 am.

2) At least twice a month, we will have an unplanned meal in the car while on the go.

3) On most days, I will have school in the living room or dining room instead of the designated school room.

4) Every week in 2012, my homeschooling experience will be more joyful because I will rearrange my lesson plans to accommodate the lessons we missed the prior week.

5) For a more joyful homeschooling year in 2012, I will make sure to compare, whenever possible, the progress of my children in each subject with the progress of their friends, especially if they are not homeschoolers.

Those are a few of my easily attainable goals. I promise that I’ll keep every. single. one. of them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55.8-9

But I do believe that there also should be some goals that challenge me, something that is not “reasonably” attainable but only attainable through God’s strength.

That’s why, even though Christmas and the gift-giving season are over, my commitment this year is to keep giving my kids gifts throughout the year. Check back in the next couple of days and I’ll tell you about the gifts I have up my sleeve for my family this year.

Do you have some goals for your homeschooling that will be reasonably attainable in 2012?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Extravagant Gift

Fourth grade was a long time ago for me. Forty-one years ago. But it wasn’t so long ago that I don’t remember the gift that year. The year was 1970 and Go Go Girls (not to be confused with GaGa) were all the rage with their long straight hair, miniskirts and tall white boots.

It was also the fall of that year that my dad was sent to prison. Moonshining did not carry a heavy penalty but it was a criminal act to not pay taxes on his sales, so my dad was sentenced to six months in a minimum security facility. Six months of his life meant six months away from his wife and three little girls, of which I was the oldest at the age of nine.

I’m sure my mom was more than a little anxious about how her family would survive. Our house had three rooms, no indoor plumbing, no telephone, a coal heater and was miles up a “holler” away from civilization and even an hour away from her closest relatives. Life was already hard, but now she wouldn’t have any help.

Our basic needs were met and I’m sure government assistance played a part in that. As a little girl, I had no clue the hardship because we were loved and I can’t remember ever being hungry. But it was late fall, and Christmas was on its way.

Honestly, I don’t remember too much about that event in the life of our family, but I do recall getting a huge package that year under the tree. Have you ever had a big package? I can only imagine my eyes as a nine year old, unwrapping a three foot tall very fashionable Go Go girl doll. It seemed so extravagant.

It wasn’t until I was grown that I found out where our gifts came from that year. Remember my dad was sent to prison? For him to be sent to prison, there had to be a prosecutor, someone who presented a body of evidence to prove my dad’s guilt. The prosecuting attorney compiled the evidence and convinced the judge and jury that my dad had indeed broken the law. Someone had to pay.

As an adult I was talking about remembering that extravagant gift I received that year and my mom reminded the information that had somehow escaped me as a child. The very one who ensured my dad was convicted, the prosecutor, also made sure there was a way for our family to celebrate Christmas that year.

The prosecutor’s motivation for doing that was never revealed to me. Even though I grew up and ended up working at the sheriff’s office at the courthouse (oh the irony for someone with my family background), I never got to meet him. Whatever the reason for blessing our family that year, he truly was a blessing, giving us three little girls such extravagant gifts.

And now as an adult looking back on that event, it is to me on some level a picture of what God did for us when He gave us such an extravagant gift in sending His Son Jesus to us.

God, who is holy and perfect, presents the Standard to which none of us could measure up. Evidence of our sin and guilt is apparent when held up to the light of His holiness and righteousness. We have no righteousness in front of Him. Because of our sin and guilt, a sentence has to be served. Someone had to pay for the wrongs that we have done.

Just as the prosecuting attorney sealed my dad’s conviction, then made a way for the little girls to have gifts, so God, whose very existence and character have convicted us, has given a gift that we celebrate each Christmas season. And it truly is an extravagant gift. A precious son who was born to take on the all the sin of all of us in the world - crushing, painful sin that separated Him for a period of time from His father.

As with all human analogies, this one breaks down pretty quickly, so I don’t know if I would even call it an analogy, maybe just a few parallels. It’s just that the generosity of the prosecutor was an act that reminded me how much more God has done that for us.

And if that’s not clear to you, let me continue. Because He is holy and righteous and because we are not, we need an extravagant gift of grace to be able to have relationship with God. Each Christmas those of us who are Christians celebrate the arrival of that package, that extravagant gift. I’m sure you all know that Jesus’ birth is the reason for celebrating Christmas. But what was the reason for His birth?

The reason for His birth was to bridge that gap between God’s holiness and our sinfulness. The payment came in the form of Jesus, not simply by his birth, but decades later from His sacrificial death on a wooden cross to shed blood that would pay for our sins. All sins that have been committed, are now being committed and will be committed. He paid for it already.

And that payment, that extravagant gift, leaves us with a glaring decision. We need to decide what to do with that extravagant gift. I’m sure when I received that 3 foot tall Go Go doll that I didn’t ignore it and I certainly didn’t ask to return it. I’m sure my eyes were wide and that I accepted that gift. I used that gift as it was intended.

I’ve done the same and accepted the extravagant gift that God has offered. A verse that will be familiar to many of you and that many of us learned growing up speaks of this gift. Probably even many of your children know it. It’s one of the things we used to whisper to our kids when we tucked them into bed.

John 3.16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

What a gift! And also what a decision you must make as you celebrate this season. You must decide if you will accept this gift of being rescued. Will you choose to believe that He’s given His life and choose to accept that gift so that you can spend eternity with God?

I pray that is your choice. And I pray that if you have already accepted this wondrous gift that you will join me in telling others of this extravagant gift. Because the gift of Jesus is far more precious than any other gift you could give your children, your relatives, your neighbors or your friends, and it is for sure more precious than any Go Go doll could ever be, no matter if she is 3 ft tall!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Upon Every Remembrance

In no particular order: My wedding day. The births and adoption of my children. My dad. My son, Jonathan. My mom becoming a Christian when I was eleven, thus the family being introduced to church. Walking from our previous house in Youngsville across the street to Hillridge Farms pulling my (then preschooler, now adult) little girls in a red wagon. Being a soccer mom/drama class mom/volleyball mom/basketball mom/football mom.

“One Thousand Gifts” is author Ann Voskamp’s designation for “counting your blessings.” In her book of the same title, Ann tells of finding herself in circumstances where she must choose to be grateful when gratitude might be the furthest thought from her mind. Making this choice leads her to reflect daily on the gifts for which she is thankful. From the everyday 513. Boys jiggling blue Jell-O to the extraordinary 783. Forgiveness of a sister, she lists the gifts one by one.

Of course, reading this wondrous prose that Ann has penned prompts me to reflect (not nearly as much as I should) on the gifts that have permeated my life. One of the most precious blessings that increases in value as I increase in age (remember I’m fifty now) is that of sweet memories.

Just as Paul writes to the Roman colony of Philippi in Philippians 1.3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” so do I have many people and events who have permanent reservations in my memory. Well, as permanent as anything can be in a temporary earthly home. I know someday those memories I cherish will fade, but now they are vivid. And for that I am very thankful.

Remembering Sunday afternoon hikes in the mountains of West Virginia with my dad puts a smile on my face. He passed away when I was twenty-two. Just hearing the name Jonathan causes a grin to grace my face, but also a tear to well up in my eye. I remember my son who would have been giving me six-year old hugs today had he lived. I thank my God upon every remembrance.

Making (savory and delicious) mudpies with my sisters up the holler when we were little. My husband, Michael, putting his arm around my waist for the first time when we were at the mall, making me blush. My mom stitching every seam in my wedding dress, then nearly being late for my wedding because she decided at the last minute to make herself a skirt to wear. Meeting my in-laws for the first time and simultaneously being teased but immediately welcomed. Upon every remembrance, I thank God.

If gratitude has been an elusive pattern in your life, then have I got good news for you. November is a month in which our entire nation is reminded to enter into Thanksgiving, so you’ll have many reminders. And may I suggest that you start your own list of One Thousand Gifts and maybe you can begin that list by recalling sweet moments thanking God upon every remembrance.