Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mortification and Words of Life

We use thousands of them a day—by some accounts up to 20, 000. Many of them empty. Powerless to deliver consolation or hope, our words fall to the ground like arrows short of their mark. 

How many times, for example, have we patted someone on the back and told them, “It will be OK,”? Even though we mean well, we have no way of knowing or influencing the outcome.  Our friend shrugs an, “I know,” but goes away as dejected and unbelieving as before.

Sometimes I read the words in my Bible like that. I hear God say them, but don’t really believe they will help or change a particular situation in my life. I don’t believe ANYTHING can help.

Last week was one of those times.  I inadvertently did something that mortified me. Even though I immediately tried to correct the situation, the deed was done. The hounds of shame, humiliation, anger, and embarrassment pounded so relentlessly that I ran away.

I ended up a lake. The beauty of the sun, the flotilla of coots in the cove, the soft slapping of ripples from passing boats assuaged some of my distress; still, I didn’t know how to get past what was done.

After a while I had the impression to read Isaiah 54. Doubting even Isaiah could help, I opened to the passage. Verse four: “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced .... “The chapter ends, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from me.”

You would think those words brought immediate relief, but comforting as there were, they didn’t touch my misery. Because I didn’t receive them.

As  I got up to leave, I saw in my mind’s eye, a piece of paper on the bench, and I heard the Lord say, so gently, “Are you going to leave this word here, like a discarded scrap on a park bench?”

But the word they heard did not profit them because it was not united by faith in those who heard”—Hebrews 4:2  

I sat down, opened to Isaiah once again. The sun danced off the ripples, the coots floated by. Living words, words of life, words of hope washed over me. 

When you received from us the word of God’s message you accepted it not as the word of men but for what it really is the word of God which also performs its work in you who believe.—1 Thessalonians 2:13

May the blessings of living words from a living God fill your heart today.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kissing the Crotchety Kin Goodbye

The word crotchety popped up while I was reflecting on the destructive power of a critical spirit this morning, The remarkable thing about this word is not only does it sound like it means (crotchety=cantankerous and contrary) but it has a whole bunch of relatives—a whole crotchety clan of adjectives—who also reflect their meanings straight up. 

Meet cousins crusty, crabby, surly, snarky, liverish, fractious, peevish, irascible, prickly and testy.

Usually, crotchety is followed by “old”—a crotchety old man. (Although when I asked my daughter to use crotchety in a sentence, she said, without hesitation mind you, “a crotchety old woman . . .” Hmm.

But as I considered this, I concluded a crotchety disposition doesn’t just show up along with the social security check one day. Granted, as we age we get more settled in habit, prefer peace to chaos, and order to disorder, the latter more likely a response to the need to find things. A bit of prickle may be in order, but a cantankerous spirit is a reflection of a lifetime of critical, annoyed, and intolerant responses.

Likewise, a generous, gracious spirit in old age is a result of a lifetime of practice in honoring others, in picking the logs out of your own eye before seeing them in others’.

I am reminded of a story I read in one of Dale Carnegie’s books about Bob Hoover, a famous pilot. He was coming back from an air show when the engines in his plane failed. He managed to land safely, although the plane suffered much damaged. Hoover immediately understood the problem: a mechanic had put jet fuel in his prop plane instead of gasoline.

This was no little annoyance. This was a you-deserve-a whoppin’  kind of mistake. A matter of life and limb.

The mechanic was understandably distraught when Hoover came to see him. But instead of berating him or dishing out his deserved punishment, Hoover told the mechanic that because he knew he would never make that mistake again, he wanted him to service his plane the next day.

Now that is an example of great character. Character that didn’t just show up one fine moment. Character, I suspect, that was developed, strengthened, and honed over a lifetime of practice.

We have a choice today what the lines on our faces will reveal tomorrow.

Time to kiss the crotchey kin goodbye.

May you recognize the grace, may you see his face in all you do today.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Heroes of another sort

Some people are heroes, not for doing great and noble acts, but for doing with grace and perseverance the ones that reek of “unfair” and “why me." Tim and Dena Stromstad, founders of Homes of Life ministries in Guatemala and Costa Rica, are this kind of hero in my eyes.

Twice, in the past four years, burglars have broken into the seven-acre compound that houses the staff and children of Hogar de Vida, a home for abandoned and abused children in Costa Rica. In 2008, thieves cut through the living fence of dense trees and cane, killed the dogs and stole Tim’s ATV.

Plans for installing expensive security cameras, guard dogs, and a concrete wall were initiated, and as donations permitted, the north side of the property was secured. Still, thousands of dollars short left three sides vulnerable.

Last fall, the lowest of lows, the people who couldn’t care less that the Stromstads were providing for neglected children or that Tim was paralyzed and dependent on his ATV quad for his “legs,” broke in again while the family was away. They stole his ATV, computers, and daughter’s jug of savings, among other things, to the tune of $10,000 worth.

People get burglarized all the time and missionaries are no exception, in fact, they are often the target. If anyone has a “right” to complain to God about how unfair it is to have this happen when all they are trying to do is serve Him, they would.

But they don’t.  Entitlement isn’t a word in their life vocabulary. Although at times hurt, discouraged, and confounded, they don’t blame God, government, or parents for failing them. They are who Dr. Henry Cloud calls the mature people. “They meet the demands of life” as opposed to the immature who “ask that life meet their demands.”

Recently I received a Christmas letter from Tim and Dena. It was full of news of children and blessings—daughter Maria’s long-awaited citizenship, the boys’ well-being at college, family stuff. No mention of trials or difficulties or sacrifice.

That stopped me. Reminded me that these uncomplaining workers are the ones who really need others to come alongside.To help shoulder the task assigned.

Too easily I fall into the “when I’m not near the one I love, I love the one I’m near,” mentality, or I forget about the ones who are quietly working without complaint. 

 But today, I remember and salute these generous people and make mention of them to you for prayer, or support, or a visit….

In Tim’s words:

Sometimes I feel like Nehemiah who had an urgent need to build a wall. He had a good bunch of guys who worked with a trowel in one hand (cooperation) and a sword in the other (protection and unity.) Our wall is a major project for us, too. We need your prayers, for finalizing the plans and for the financial resources to complete it. If the Lord leads, we would welcome generous contributions designated to Costa Rica Security

My prayer today is for someone in another country, far from friends and family. I ask the Lord to encourage with a surprise visit from someone bearing good news, a gift of God's love and awareness. You are not forgotten. 

Photo credit: Kozzi,225,157#

Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting Wrecked: Part II

Greetings from the fourth floor of the Hampton Inn and Suites overlooking the Reedy River in Greenville. My husband gave me a three-day stay here so I could write/pray/play or whatever I needed to do to welcome the New Year.

I felt a great deal of pressure the first day to use the time well and produce some spectacular product of divine inspiration, which has yet to take form. 

But today, as I released the striving and watched the sunrise, the word SPLENDOR swelled in my spirit: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples . . . Splendor and majesty are before him. —Psalm 96.

Amen and Amen!

I am pleased to introduce someone who puts these words into action: Jeff Goins, blogger, storyteller, and stirrer of visions. He is the author of Wrecked, a book he describes as “a guide to growing up and learning to live in the tension between the next adventure and our daily commitments.”

Taking the call to action from his book to heart, Jeff is co-leading a mission trip in February to Guatemala, a country near and dear to my own heart, in February.  

Following is a continuation of an interview which you can see in the previous post. 

Jeff, how can people who are willing to do the hard things, get messy, and move into someone else’s pain, be at peace with their own comforts, lazy afternoons in the pool, or delights in beauty? Is there a place, a way of looking at the pain and still seeing beauty? 

Great question. I wish I could answer it. :) Most of us want to find a way to balance everything — our families, jobs, passions, etc. — but living a wrecked life isn't about balance. It's about managing tension.

Life is full of tension, warring desires and conflicts that pull at us from every angle. Sometimes, when both are good (like rest and action, for example), the answer is to live somewhere in the middle. To embrace the tension.Balance is about control. Tension is about faith. 

Can you care deeply about the pain of the world and still enjoy a day off? Of course. Should you? Probably. Do you need to have the exact ratio figured out? Not at all. Learn to live in the tension. The place to not live is on one extreme or the other; that doesn't seem very healthy or sustainable. 

Although assuaged by your quote from C.S. Lewis about not pursuing the thrill of an experience—letting it go and moving “through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow," I wonder if someone who has been undone at some time in their life by another’s pain, can ever let go of the longing, the incessant nagging to do more?

You're right, Marcia. You can't. It stays with you, haunts you. And that's what it means to be wrecked — you can't go back to who you were. 
The trick is to keep going, to let those experiences inform and shape your future without trying to relive them. 

You have had much experience and contact with missions, yet you are better known in cyberworld for your writing/social media expertise. Do you feel that writing a book like Wrecked is an unexpected departure for your followers?

I thought it might be, but honestly, few people struggled with it. This underscores a belief that I've held for awhile: we follow writers not just for their genres and topics, but for their voices and worldviews. That seems to be true in my case. 

Has having a child affected how you think about a wrecking experience?

Absolutely. I alluded to this at the end of the book, but since the birth of our son, those ideas of commitment and doing the hard thing have only been underscored.
Getting wrecked is about stepping into uncomfortable situations and realizing life is not about you. So far, parenthood has been the best way to learn this lesson for me.


Thank you, Jeff, and thank you friends for stopping here. May you dare to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God and see what He will do.