Monday, July 30, 2012

Pacific pathways

I just returned from Los Angeles. There, I

met others who actively care for struggling learners;

discovered that SoCal has mountains and cool air;

reunited with a cousin and met her black husband and biracial children;

spoke on a walk with her about her pain from her parents' banishment;

received a certificate to practice educational therapy;

had a dog pee on my bed;

was reminded each morning how much God cares for me;

had dinner and wine with California valley girls;

spoke and had dinner with visitors from South Africa;

learned new techniques on how to stimulate cognition for learning growth;

ate lots of chocolate;

became more convinced of the path and mission which I'm on;

sounded like a dinosaur with my lips covering my teeth;

received highly complimentary remarks about my writing!;

swam with my little cousin after our own personal manicure;

was told that I need to practice one of the brain rewiring methods for my own good;

got hugged to death by my teacher at the end of session;

dipped my toes in the Pacific;

watched the start of the Olympics with my cousins;

navigated the morning and evening commute on the freeway;

dreamt in phonics;

enjoyed the support from a loving husband back home;

sat by a wedding dress sales lady on the plane;

forgot where my van was parked in the 106 degree day;

drove up to home feeling happy all-around;

hugged family;

slept to wake with a start!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Haunts of violence

Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land. (Psalm 74:20 NIV)

Shakespeare couldn't have said it better. Our morning news is splashing with the same kind of language especially today as 12 were killed and 32 wounded when a shooter opened fire at an Aurora, Colorado movie of Batman (the Dark Knight) early today.

Truly, evil trails good. Evil overcomes earthly good. We have cries and cries coming up from our ruptured, ruined world.

Optimists believe that the world is our oyster; the benevolent Universe will work things out for our good.

Yet for those who bought tickets for this movie and sat in the line of fire, evil felled them, and the personified "Universe" was puzzled and passive.

David asks that God remember his covenant with the people of Israel. They are being whipped up by evil-doers who want their inheritance, who want their lives, their land. They are wicked without regard for God or for those who are oppressed. They carry evil like a backpack full of grenades, tear gas, quarrels.

In our country, "haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land" all over the place. Our human nature is capable of doing good or doing evil. Those who are planning attacks on others are planning attacks -- have given in to the dark forces inside of them which reap despair and destruction.

Father God, have regard for your covenant. Remember that you will take us if we delight in You and trust that you have a ticket for us out of the mayhem which is sometimes called this Earth. Thank you for those who follow you and do good; may we step it up in your Name and forget the little quibbles which distract us and which promote small violences. Thank you for your covenant which is true. Amen

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A David re-work

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression. (Psalm 73:2-8 NIV)

Envy of those who have.

Yes, my eyes and heart trail along.

When I look at my poor garments

My poor endowments

My stumblings up a hill as

I view others going the other direction,

Smiling on the downward slope,

Gliding well-toned in gossamer.

No one seems to be shouting "Push!"

on their side. I seem to serve an

imaginary Giant who lives to dangle

thoe who agree to be dangled.

Yet going in a lateral direction

isn't a gravitational choice.

If I turn directions to glide,

I become subject to a tripping

game from one to another. One

can't be outshone in the rivalry

of prosperity. Those moving upwards

focus on their own push and, at

times, encourage those they pass.

Intermittently, one will give in

and slip and, inexcusably, try to

knock others off the path. One

must be alert at all times.

One must ask the question too of

"What kind of Giant do I serve?

Is the effort worthwhile? Why

do they on the other side

smile with the luxury of ease?

What kind of Master will I meet?

"When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin. (Psalm 73:2-8, 16-18 NIV)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.

He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.

He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalm 72:12-14 NIV)

I sat at a table last night with other swirling mothers. I had a good cold green chili beer and a smoked salmon pasta dish in front of me. All seemed good. Yet cries of the needy reverberated in my head and spirit as I listened to the moms talk about life with their autistic child.

Sad, worried. Resolutely hopeful within hopelessness. Trouble, crisis. Loneliness. Marriage tension. Smiles, tears. Adrift, adrift, anchor casting and pulling in.

When I see the above verses, I can't imagine being God. Just think about all the cries of the needy. I had one table; God has a whole world. Yet the claim that "precious is their blood in his sight" attests to His especial care for the needy, for these stricken with autism, for those who fight for dignity in every corner of their lives. God gives them dignity and love. But a wall is up between this fact and recognition.

I lift up my table of swirling mothers, Lord, of the children they represent, help us all to know without a doubt your true character and interest, that we can rest in your care and loving regard. Please help all practical needs. Please rescue. Please stabilize. Please, please, take pity. Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Daily bears

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19 NIV)

I wonder how selfish our burdens are, at times. I know, I at times become desirous of creature comforts and that wrong-focus can become my burdens. Yet God can help me escape from them as he bears my burdens. I need to think of that when I become rolled up into a coil of barbed wire.

In other thoughts, I have been watching news documentaries on near-death experiences. Those affected mostly have such a peaceful encounter. The stories make me lean forward in anticipation of death, although I want to stay on earth as long as possible.

Most of the people who experience them return regretfully back to earth. They know it wasn't a dream or their brain's last dying contractions. They know that the experience is more real than anything experienced -- a "sensory explosion" one man called it. One man said that it made him doubt the reality of this earthly life since that one was supra-real. Comforting. Narnian. Grateful.

Well, today, I must tend to my flower bed and then a friend and I are playing music at a local square dance. I must also stop worrying about what my son does after high school. I must also be pleasant to be around (burden!:). I must also do some training pieces for my educational therapist designation. Much life to be lived before true life.

Thank you Lord for daily bearing our burdens and turning them into joy. Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The crickets are too much with us, late and soon

Right now, as I sit on my outside bench, the crickets are much louder than the birds. Has it come to this that the lowly insects take over the morning song of the bird?

In my spirit, I feel many insects taking over a more lovely sound of assurance. Back in June, I petitioned my school board regarding serving students with learning struggles. One woman in particular, an attorney, interrupted my presentation, asked questions, couldn't see how the school could possibly offer this without lawsuits, was more interested in how the school could serve the gifted. My perceptual hearing there, of course.

Today, I'm discouraged. I've been waiting on God to bear good fruit, to prompt someone to take up the cause of the student who gets denied or discharged because of needs that they have. I'm waiting on someone to connect Jesus' ministry to the oppressed to educating and loving on Christian school students of many different ability levels. I'm waiting on someone to eschew the Greek model of excellence in exchange for the Christian/the Jesus view of excellence as compassion, love in action. But, all I hear are insects and nothing else.

I'm waiting in a hard place, and I'm impatient. And, I'm mad.

I see all kinds of outrage on Facebook right now regarding Obamacare. I see phrases of "my money!" "money!" "money!" One Christian cousin, right after she posted a lovely Bible verse, posted a photo which said to "run the bastards out of office!"

I'm sick of the insects this morning. Sick of the focus being on the dollar, the anger. I am angry. I'm sick of people evading the question of how best to take care of others. What are our responsibilities? The poor will always be with us. There is a responsible approach, but there's also an irresponsible approach and focus. I feel like too many wrong questions are being answered with outrage.

"The world is too much with us" writes William Wordsworth, and all I hear are the stupid drone of the insects, living a short life, and trying to reproduce more insects for the future. I could be one of them trying to make my whine a song. Jesus, help us all to transcend the angry racket and hear one of your simple melodies we can imitate.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unnamed birds

The wind is coolish, pleasant on the deck this early morning. A couple of birds are cawing, chortling -- but they're not crows. I wish I knew the names of birds like I do plants. But, unfortunately, I am an ignoramus to who they are! I thank them, though, for making my backyard more alive, along with the leaves rustling, chasing away the bowl of record heat which has been here in the Midwest for about a month.

I wonder what my Compassion International kids are hearing around them in nature, in school. One of my kids, a 15 year old from Hondorus, just became my Facebook friend, which is probably against policy. She seems like a fairly typical teen, instead of one of those starving children on the World Vision commercials. But, showcasing can be truth and manipulation -- it is that bad in select places. But in others, a typical teen struggles with poverty and opening her heart to Jesus first, despite the boys, despite the home life, despite, despite, so I pray for her on that. And, I hope she prays for me. One of our children, a boy from Rwanda, wrote and told me he has my picture taped on his bed so that he can remember to pray for me. I'm grateful! It goes both ways, from Africa to the United States and vice versa, in all of our poverties. The bird sings on.

Yesterday, I had coffee with a mother who has two children with chronic life conditions. Her 14 year old son has brain bleeding and, thus, strokes -- he's wheelchair confined at the moment, recovering, recovering from another bout which has been a life plague. Her eight year old is a nonverbal autistic child. We talked, laughed, commisserated for a couple of hours even though we were strangers at first. We're both trying to figure out and accept the spiritual layer of suffering; she has been hurt at the hands of Christians; she's often at limbo in trust. It was good to share the complexities of the eternal questions of "Why?" "Where?" and the realities of the shake-fisting, apologies, repenting, releasing, tiring, rejuvenating cycle of the spiritual life. We can't shake Jesus because he won't shake us (sang a knowledgeable songwriter I heard recently). I saw the true warrior in her. I pray she keeps marching, stumbling, leaping toward eternal hope and glory.

Regarding good works mentioned in yesterday's writing, here's an excellent quote which puts the topic in better perspective, taking it from self to the transcendent:

Self-realization only leads to the glorification of good works, whereas a saint of God glorifies Jesus Christ through his good works. Whatever we may be doing— even eating, drinking, or washing disciples’ feet— we have to take the initiative of realizing and recognizing Jesus Christ in it. Oswald Chambers

Perhaps in doing so, we can name the Singer of the chorus that takes us outside of ourselves as the all-source for companionship and love which we can sing for the benefit of others.  The unnamed is named and identified. The good bird sings on, and we know His tune. Amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lazy scaredy-cats and such

I really shouldn't post an entire "My Utmost for His Highest" devotion from the morning's reading. However, today's entry has so much meat, bite, describes the passive stance we take -- I can take -- much of the time.

Chambers speaks about the tension between being and doing. Lately, I've been thinking that the phrase "good works" as a byproduct of faith has taken a back seat in the evangelical world. The Catholics and the Jewish faith still hold these responsibilities high (for those who follow). But, in my church, it seems that "good works" have been canceled by grace. "You can't earn your way to heaven! 'It's not by works but by faith/grace.'" True, yet we are definitely called upon to be active.

I'm guilty of being passive and too active both. My codependent tendencies want to save the world, and say yes to everything without good discernment. My selfish tendencies want to walk the safe path, disregarding controversy and weirdness or giving-with-draining. I think it's imperative to be active, though, with good guidance and listening to what God wants of us. Yet at times, when this seems silent, we need to strike out and just prove to others that he has earthly arms, hands, feet, love. And, so I re-post just to record this excellent reminder:

 In The Spiritually Lazy Saint Jul102012

Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . . —Hebrews 10:24-25

We are all capable of being spiritually lazy saints. We want to stay off the rough roads of life, and our primary objective is to secure a peaceful retreat from the world. The ideas put forth in these verses from Hebrews 10 are those of stirring up one another and of keeping ourselves together. Both of these require initiative— our willingness to take the first step toward Christ-realization, not the initiative toward self-realization. To live a distant, withdrawn, and secluded life is diametrically opposed to spirituality as Jesus Christ taught it. The true test of our spirituality occurs when we come up against injustice, degradation, ingratitude, and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritually lazy. While being tested, we want to use prayer and Bible reading for the purpose of finding a quiet retreat. We use God only for the sake of getting peace and joy. We seek only our enjoyment of Jesus Christ, not a true realization of Him. This is the first step in the wrong direction. All these things we are seeking are simply effects, and yet we try to make them causes. “Yes, I think it is right,” Peter said, “. . . to stir you up by reminding you . . .” (2 Peter 1:13). It is a most disturbing thing to be hit squarely in the stomach by someone being used of God to stir us up— someone who is full of spiritual activity. Simple active work and spiritual activity are not the same thing. Active work can actually be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The real danger in spiritual laziness is that we do not want to be stirred up— all we want to hear about is a spiritual retirement from the world. Yet Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement— He says, “Go and tell My brethren . . .” (Matthew 28:10).l \=\

Monday, July 09, 2012

One hand

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. (Psalm 55:16-18 NIV)

Last night I watched a Barbara Walters news show in which the idea (or reality) of heaven was investigated. Most Americans actually believe in heaven (9 out of 10). A collective hope and recognition truly seems to me to make the intangible understood. Barbara, of course, covered the wide varieties of heaven belief.

I found the Muslim belief to be the strangest, with the waiting virgins, which is not only a terrorist-martyr's claim, but a scholarly and non-extremist Muslim acceptance too. Of course, the virgins could be male or female depending upon our own gender. For myself, I really don't want countless male virgins! I think one man, like my husband, is way enough anyway. Why would sex be catapulted into the more-the-merrier realm in heaven? Bizarre (unless the belief was written by a lustful, young man . . . ). The Hindu belief too of reincarnation, the ascension into higher human form or lower into animal form, was strange as well. I love animals, and am imaginative and compassionate enough to think of them as "human-like" but I can't really see them as "bad" or "good" based upon their past lives. It's our duty to treat them with respect, though, for being living creatures. (I must confess to helping stranded worms get off drying sidewalks as if truly does matter to save them. Guilt grabs me if I walk by without helping them when I could have. Shouldn't I apply that to humans moreso?)

While the  religious representatives above were a bit grim, the Dalai Lama of Buddhism was an engaging person who seemed to embody sweet and attractive qualities, like compassion and humility and a giggle which delighted. Yet the philosophy was strange, and I wondered about the leaps of faith this belief requires. Many leaps, many hoops. Of course, I'm a western Christian without much understanding or training.

When Barbara interviewed the Christian representatives, I noticed a difference in their affect. They had light in their eyes -- grace, truth, fervor, hope. A devoted Christian's eyes are quite different. Yes, Joel Olsteen looked like a crazed-out vacuum salesman, but he had the light going too. The light validates the story, enflames it as other-worldly reality.

In the above verses, I can see David solely focused upon God, upon a relationship with an Entity who "saves," "hears," "rescues." The Personal is a trademark of Judaic Christian faith. When death occurs, the individual meets the individual Father, the Groom, the Friend, the Comforter, the Judge, the Word, the Redeemer, the Shepherd. Many words designating a One.

Much is based upon what David models: in this life, one hand can hold another, one voice can be heard by one outside our consciousness, one can relax into the battles the one Lord will fight for us . . . until we are reconciled in Heaven one day to meet the One who has been designated for each one of us. And, why not?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Flourishing fullness

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8 NIV)

A fresh, yet still wind, blows upon my deck where I'm sitting. Somewhere, somewhere it is raining on parched corn fields, on spotty grass grazing pastures, on pines ready to burst. I have confirmation of this from farmer parents, from Facebook posters. Ah, precious water falling; you have been on retreat for too long. Come into the steaming, parched world now and minister to the thirsty!

(A little poetic apostrophe there for you:)

I copied the above verse which caught my heart. Much resonates in it. Last night, as we attended the wedding reception of my husband's high school friend, he heard about everyone's successful children. The men measured themselves against one another in this area or jobs or even physical fitness.

One daughter is a doctor. Many fathers are coaches for their athletic children. Scholarships have been offered. Talents and smoother roads abound.

But, we are especially chosen parents, I told him. We know new dimensions of courage, individuality, challenge, suffering, joy that other parents are unaware. We are blessed, and my husband knew it to be true. We love our son tremendously; we sometimes just grieve for him and are not comforted by those things that other children can hold onto as normal rites of passage. Yet everyone has their pain, their path to hoe, their droughts amidst hot winds.

I like that we can all be "an olive tree flourishing" because of "God's unfailing love." We don't have to succeed like the world says to succeed, or my private Christian school, or a group of parents who do not have second sight due to experience-lived. We can all be a flourishing olive tree, full of fruits, full of favor.

With the parenting of my son, I feel full of favor. I pray that he will also feel this fullness in his life, knowing that he has been infinitely blessed by being who he is. Please God help him find purpose and, especially, your unfailing love. I pray for every reader's child too that they can be kind, compassionate, and also one which waves in the wind, well-watered, bearing fruit, and praising your name in all they do. Amen.