Monday, December 30, 2013

25 Things for Christmas and One for the New Year

This year, Arley Worley gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift:  a giant box of 25 Things to Open.  The box arrived on December 1, with a little package for each day til Christmas.


25 Things:
the most excellent potato masher
mashed potatoes=love

back scratcher

Sundance gift card!

perfect little sauce bowl

cozy throw in my fav blue

basil mint hand salts

thermal pack - make it hot or cold!

cool rolling pin

happy apron for Christmas cooking

delicious bath salts

boot socks in perfect orange/red/brown knit

W is for Worleys!

funny answers to text questions

gel booties for tired feet

Abe Lincoln boot socks!

over the knee black boot socks!

spa gift certificate!

Santa napkins

shiny silver orb


apple ornament

Q-tip dispenser with BLUE Q-tips

book shopping!

"made with love" cookie press

Arley knows that blue is my favorite color, that I can't get enough books or coffee, that mashed potatoes and massages are special treats I dole out when I really need to de-stress, that I long for everything in the Sundance catalog and I have a thing for Christmas napkins and shiny orbs, that I love aprons and cooking gadgets, that boot socks make me ridiculously happy, I like alphabet letter do-dads and funny quirky books and soaking in the tub, that my shoulders get tight when I'm tense and there is an itchy spot in the middle of my back that drives me crazy.

She remembered every one of these things.  She went out and found them and wrapped them.  That blew me away, every day.

At Christmas, I am the one who does all the shopping and wrapping and stocking-stuffing.  I'm the one who plans the surprises and treats, and this job makes me happy.  Dennis is busy planning wonderful treats for the people who will come to church at Christmas, sights and sounds and moments they will never forget.  I take care of the home front.  Because of this, I'm rarely surprised at Christmas.

That's not because DW falls down on the job, mind you.  I get every single thing my heart desires at Christmas.  Because when I am shopping for others, I have this habit of shopping for myself.  "Oh, this is awesome!  One for you, one for me."  I could show you pictures of the 25 Things I Bought for Myself, but that's not the point.  This is:  How much fun it was every day to unwrap a gift that said, "I know you, and I love to delight you."

I love the things I bought for myself (with DW's blessing), but I treasure the things I was given.  Arls gave me a much bigger gift than a Box of Things.  She gave me the lesson that it is more fun to receive than to get for yourself.

I'm thinking of this today as I'm working on the Bible study I'll be teaching January through May on Wednesdays.  Ephesians 1 tells us about the incredible identity and destiny God designed for us from the beginning of time, and how he planned with so much love to give it to us:

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Ephesians 1:4-6 The Message

I am, most days, not so different than I am at Christmas:  I'm so busy going out and getting the things, achievements, attention, affection that I think I need to create a special enough life that I miss the incredibly lavish gift-giving that God is up to.  He is bringing me a life more special that I could ever dream up or provide. He knows me, and he loves to delight me.  The question of faith is:  Do I trust God to bring me the best life I could ever have, or do I feel I need to go out and get it for myself?

This winter and spring on Wednesday mornings, we'll be learning 18 Bible stories of people who could or couldn't wait for God to bring them the life he had promised.  I hope we'll learn to answer the anxious questions, "What makes me special?"  I hope we'll learn that it is so much more fun to receive this life than it is to try to acquire it for ourselves.  Anyway, that's the challenge for me in the new year, and the lesson Arls began teaching me on December 1.

P.S.  #25 was the best gift of all:  these fantastic five, in person.  Also like God:  The best gift of all is his presence.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  - Ephesians 3:20 MSG

Happy New Year!  My wish for you and me in 2014 is that we believe the promise of Ephesians 3:20 and receive the life God brings us.  Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fear, Faith & Dreams that Kill Us

There is a scene in Jurassic Park where we learn how raptors hunt.  The raptor you see is not the one who'll eat you.  While you're standing very still, looking him in his beady eye, the others have snuck up on you from the sides and come in for the kill.

So it was last week that all my focus was on Matt, on getting him on that plane to Cape Town.  On doing it with grace and faith and joy, leaping with no fear.  So for a minute I forgot that I gave birth to two other sons, and I didn't see it coming, the thought that ate me alive, that came out of left field and tore me to shreds :

What if my other boys move away?

Other people's kids have done it.  Dennis and I did it.  Apparently you can survive it.  But for a few days last week, fear told me, "You can't."

In "Life Together", Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about the danger of "wish dreams."  He is writing about life in the community of believers, but it speaks loudly to me about life in a family:

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse.
Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.
He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily.

I realize that I have a wish dream of my own, a vision of my family.  And I am at the center of it.  My wish dream is to have them all here, all doing things together, all coming in and out of the house, all satellites around us.  In my vision, this is a full life.  This is enough.

My wish dream could wreck my family, if I cling to it.  And make me miserable in the process.  Which is why God, in his grace, must shatter my illusion.  She who loves her dream most does not love her children enough.  Worse, does not love her God enough.

You don't have to be a Mom to have this fear.  You might be clinging to a wish dream about your job, or your church, or what kind of house you live in.  I'm not the only one going through this, and I know it from the conversations I'm having.  In my Wednesday morning Bible study yesterday, we talked about faith & fear, and we shook in our boots as we read these words from Hebrews 10:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
38 And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Faith, Hebrews 11 goes on to tell us, is what the ancients were commended for.  In the list of those commended for their faith, there are wish-dreamers and schemers.  If you go back and read their stories, God had to say to every one of them, "Do not fear."  Numerous times.  Their wish dreams ended in devastating consequences.  Their schemes failed them.  Their God never did.  They aren't commended for how perfectly they followed Him, but for the fact that they did.  They chose following over fear.  

You cannot stay where you are and go with God. 
- Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God: Knowing & Doing the Will of God

Ok.  Let's go.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Big Adventure

Wednesday night before last I sat in a storytelling training session with IMB missionary Stephen Stringer.  We learned to tell the story of the rich young ruler.  We chose that story because it speaks to our affinity group, middle class wealthy achievers in Williamson County.  

Jesus says to the young man, "Sell everything you have, take the money and give it to the poor."  And the young man walked away sad, because he was not willing to.

Those were powerfully ringing in my heart last weekend as I watched Matt sell everything he has, and as we unloaded our closets and cabinets, along with friends and family, to have a huge garage sale for him.  It was not sad to part with any of that stuff, because  of what we were working toward.  But it was convicting to watch strangers show up in the dark with trailers to buy all that stuff and haul it home.  Such a contrast: they were acquiring, loading, hoarding, as we were all divesting, unloading, giving away.

I looked in Matt's room last Tuesday and there was all he has left:  two crates with t-shirts, pants, shoes, socks, books all rolled up and packed, a back pack, a computer, a guitar.  Nothing else.  He was camped out here in the room he grew up as a boy, and this weekend he was sleeping on an air mattress in London at Matt & Jamie Hoppe's.  Tomorrow, when he arrives in Cape Town, he'll be camping out in a room at the Team House until he finds a home of his own.  And he's perfectly happy.

I came across these words in Luke 9:

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

Matt was lying on the floor of my study the day before he left and I read him that Luke passage.  Then I told him the rich young ruler story.  But I stopped at vs.  27, where Jesus says it is impossible to do eternal things without God, but with God all things are possible.  Matt took my Bible from me and read verses 28-30:

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sistersmothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

"Those are my motivational verses," he said. 

We are not looking back.  We are not sad.  We are ready for his adventure to begin.   Matt is so ready to go.  He is all in.

As I watch what God is doing in my son, I know He is beginning something in me.  He is teaching me how to live the next part of my adventure, which includes two other sons who are having adventures of their own.  There will be more giving up, letting go, stepping out.  There will be more change, every one a challenge to trust and follow into the future God has for all of us, a future we can never dare to ask or imagine.  I could beg to stay right here, but I would miss it all.  

Thank you, Matt, for blazing a trail of faith.  As you follow Jesus into your adventure, I am coming right behind.

Follow Matt on his big adventure and read his story about how it began.  And pray for us!