HAVE I ARRIVED YET?

I remember back to a season of life when I was single and majoring in Human Services in college. I had to do a research paper on marriage and read a plethora of books on it so as to be well armed and articulate when I dazzled my professor with the profound wisdom and insight I had gained.

Move over marriage counselors, here I come!

Then I got married and all of my great knowledge instantly derailed on the train tracks of real life experience and the difficulties of melding two individual lives into one.

I soon discovered that our marriage didn’t fit every textbook and counseling manual.

There was only one him and only one me. Despite the helps of general pragmatism and spiritual advice, the uniqueness of our individuality was a coupling that hadn’t been written yet and we were ultimately at the mercy and wisdom of our God who had custom designed us both for his purposes.

As marriage journeyed along, I began to observe the couples around me who had children.

I would watch them interact with their children and think things such as, “my child will never behave like that” or “if only they would handle things this way.”

In time, I had my own children and humbly gagged on those words as they slowly slid down my dry and much parched- from- parenting- throat.

Having had five kids of my own and manning myself with all kinds of parenting books and articles, I had to acknowledge that not a one of my offspring was exactly alike and each had their own unique personality and dynamic that they brought to the family.

What worked with one child, did not work with the others.

I would have to gain wisdom from those books and advice where it applied to each child, but be ever mindful that there are no exact formulas when it comes to a people who are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’.

As well, I would go to church and observe so many of the things that I felt the older people were getting wrong with the faith.

They didn’t seem ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ like the younger generation was. Were their prayers and spiritual disciplines just going through the motions of tradition or were they sincere?

Wasn’t it time to replace the outdated with the fresh and the new?

Then I began to open my eyes to the many trials that older people deal with. The countless losses they experience with health, death and finances. Watching their hardships began to make me wonder if there might be some things in life that they could teach me about faith.

It became evident to me that as much as I thought I knew, I still had a whole lot more to learn.

With age comes wisdom and life experience teaches one much.

Fast forward to those years where I now look back and have learned from my own many trials and errors coupled with the ebb and flow of lifes circumstances.

It is easy on this end to think once again, I have arrived and have the answers. After all, have I not added some grey hair and wrinkles to the mix?

Then I hold a conversation with a person in their 20’s or 30’s, maybe a teen and I realize that lo and behold, I have learned something from them and gained some wisdom.

The biggest revelation in all of this is that whether young or old, the temptation to be wise in our owns eyes is a struggle that is real!

It is beyond easy for us to judge the generation above or below and miss the fact that every age has something to bring to the table.

I need the vibrancy, vision, fresh ideas and perspective of youth as well as the life experience of the elderly who have been tried and tested in the fire of trial.

Youth may be naive but the aged can become cyncial.

Youth may offer vision but the aged can offer experience.

Since none of us have life totally figured out yet, maybe we should continue on this path together and help each other grow.

As for myself, I still have a lot to learn.

 

 

 

 

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IF YOU SAY IT, PRAY IT!

In our age of social media and actually even before, we find ourselves grappling with life’s tragedies or trials with such flippant responses don’t we? Although we might not say something as trite as “sending happy thoughts your way” in the case of a huge catastrophe, it gets thrown out there nonetheless.

I have to wonder what on earth gets accomplished by sending happy thoughts and how would I do that anyway? It sounds very much like “beam me up Scotty” but for those of us who don’t live in a perpetual episode of Star Trek, it just rings kind of shallow.

So maybe we don’t send ‘happy thoughts’ but we announce we are praying for this or that person or situation.

Wonderful if we really truly are doing that. But are we really? Truly?

At some point in my life I became convicted that to tell someone I was praying for them and not do it was not being honest. They had a need, I gave my word to do something about it by praying for them and to not do so was to let them down.

I also had to consider that if I couldn’t take time to pray for them, maybe I didn’t believe in the power of prayer like I said I did? If I couldn’t act on my faith to pour out a heartfelt prayer for God to help this person in their time of need, did I somewhere surmise that He wouldn’t hear or help even if asked? Did I have faith in him at all?

Many years ago we had dear friends who experienced an incredible loss in the murder of a beloved sister. Not only was the sister killed but it was at the hands of her own husband. I don’t know if I have ever been with a family in a time of such deep anguish and grief that we were concerned for their very health.

We could do nothing to relieve their desperate heartache except to fall on our faces before our God and cry out to him for comfort and relief. It was so overwhelming there were just no words to express other than “dear Lord Jesus please, please bring the comfort of your presence into this situation.”

In all honesty, there were practical ways that people could help them but in the depths of their need, they were in a level of soul pain that only the Savior could reach and we literally all had to carry them in prayer.

God heard our prayers and He was faithful to comfort them in the way only He could.

Prayer is an amazing and powerful tool in the hands of a faith filled people and in the calloused knees of a battle weary warrior.

It puts feet to our help and wisdom for the needs at hand. It moves the heart of a sovereign God in a way nothing else can if it is honest, sincere and bathed in humility.

Prayer provides comfort, peace and hope.

So, if you say it! Pray it!

You are offering a tangible gift to someone in their time of need.

“But truly God has listened;
  he has attended to the voice of my prayer” Psalm 66:19

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOD IS NOT A PUPPETEER AND YOU WOULDN’T WANT HIM TO BE

So another senseless attack on human lives has occurred and we try to grasp and understand the many questions that come to mind.

We wonder where God was and why didn’t he stop this carnage? If he is so loving why did he not just ride in on a white horse and save the day? In fact, why didn’t  he instead, prevent the whole thing since he is an all knowing God?

Why do some people come out with miraculous survival stories and others land in the hospital or at a funeral service or enter eternity when all they had planned was an evening concert with some good friends, and their favorite music?

Part of this free will that God gives us, allows all of us the freedom to choose whether we will live for evil or live for good.

That choice that He gives us boils down to the fact that he isn’t a puppeteer who makes us dance and speak at his will.

He is a relational God who calls us to himself. As someone once said, “God is not a cosmic rapist.” God is sovereign, God is good, God is love but we can choose to yield or reject him and if it is the latter, one may find himself on the slippery slope of a point of no return.

Those who seek him will find him when they search for him with all their hearts.  (Jeremiah 29:13)

The God who pursues us wants us to pursue him.  He knows that to seek him with all of our hearts is the way to know what goodness and love truly are.

To know it at the deepest level is an opportunity to live it to the fullest extent.

Times like these do not negate God’s goodness but shed a light on man’s depravity and our desperate need to know our creator, Jesus his son and to walk in his light.

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

He has left footprints for us to follow.

If only we will.

NOT EVERYTHING IS AS IT APPEARS

If you have ever judged a situation before you had all of the facts, then you are in good company.

I know I have been guilty of that very thing!

When hubby, Rick and I lived in Dallas, he was working a job at a very large church as the switchboard operator. This was perfect for a seminary student because he could study and answer phones at the same time.

One evening while Rick was working, a woman walked in with a gift and announced that it was something special for the pastor.

About that time, the lead pastor walked into the room, took one look at the woman and told her that under no uncertain terms was she welcome in the church and to take her gift and never return.

Rick was shocked at the pastor’s behavior and when he arrived at home and relayed the incident to me, I was as well!

We could not believe that this pastor would behave this way and we weren’t sure what we should do about it so we decided that Rick would write him a letter explaining how this had bothered him.

After receiving the letter, the pastor called Rick into his office and explained the circumstances that preceded this particular encounter.

Evidently, when the pastor was working at a church in Florida, this woman was a single mother attending the church with her son.

Since the boy had no father actively involved in his life, the pastor decided to invest time in coming alongside him and filling in some of the gaps.

Unbeknownst to the pastor, the mother of the boy was unfortunately, extremely mentally unstable and she developed a strong attraction to the pastor.

She began to stalk him at his office with gifts and peek in his windows at home. He could not escape her until finally he was able to secure this next pastorate in Dallas.

This did not stop her and she moved to Dallas and began to follow him there as well.

Steps had to be taken to get a restraining order against this woman, which is unfortunate but necessary for him, his family and the church.

Of course, Rick and I had been offended and he had written the letter without knowing the rest of the story. This information certainly cleared things up!

It is a sad commentary on human nature that we are too often too quick to weigh in on matters which we lack sufficient facts to earn the right to give input.

It would have been much wiser to handle our situation with a different approach. Rather than expressing shock towards the pastor’s behavior, Rick could have made an appointment and asked the pastor for a defense of his actions.

We learned from this that listening and asking questions is a far better approach than making a hasty judgment.

How often are we as people guilty of jumping to conclusions about individuals or situations of which we know very little about?

I see much of this on social media. Everyone seems to have opinions on tidbits of information without researching and informing themselves on what the issues really are. We love to be the advocate, the crusader and feel quite justified and proud of our proclamations.

It may seem innocent enough but our words and actions can result in making us look foolish or can create huger issues that may cost someone their job or reputation.

If we are wise, we will always learn that there is more than one side to a story and there is always more than one opinion on any given issue.

If we are observant, we will consider the source.

If we are an honest person, we will want truth and not hype. We will be humble to admit that though we would love the gossip to down our foe, or some morsel to support our opinion, it may be that we are the one to be addressed.

Proverbs is full of admonitions to be wise and honest, such as:

Proverbs 15:2 “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”

And these in chapter 10:

14 “Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.”

18″ He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

21″ The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.”

If we seek truth, we will find it.  If we desire wisdom it can be obtained.

The honest question we must ask ourselves is whether that is what we really want or would we rather play the fool?

 

 

I REMEMBER! A Tribute to Rick on our 35th Anniversary

Funny the things you remember when you look back and reflect on years gone by.

I remember a guy who was a great friend, fellow intern on a street ministry and passionate Christ follower. I remember admiring that he had such a big heart for people. If someone needed a listening ear, he was usually sought out.

I remember long conversations about our faith, our families, our hopes and where we were heading in life.

I remember him asking me to a dinner where he played chef, waiter and date to win me over, which absolutely sealed the deal!

I remember a proposal and making plans. I remember him standing in line during a recession to get a job sacking groceries so he could save for our future.

I remember him moving to Dallas to find us an apartment while he worked for a church, looked for jobs for me and began to get ready for our wedding. I remember that since we would be moving to Texas we decided playfully to call each other ‘Darlin’!

I remember him coming back the day before our wedding and after the rehearsal declaring that we must run to Town West to pick up my wedding gift he had purchased. What a beautiful gold heart locket with our wedding date engraved on it!

I remember the rehearsal dinner and the beautiful song that he wrote and sang for me on the guitar.

I remember 35 years ago walking down the aisle to a handsome young man waiting for me at the front of the church. He was so nervous I could hardly make him smile.

I remember moving to Dallas in a U-Haul a week after our wedding, anticipating starting jobs, seminary and a new life in the big city with hand me down furniture, new gifts and hopes full of all that God had in store for us.

I remember that first cock roach infested apartment that resounded with my screams every time I opened a cupboard! I remember how grateful we were to be able to leave there to move into seminary housing!

I remember trying to find a store in Dallas to buy supplies to clean our new apartment only to get a speeding ticket in a school zone for deaf children. After arriving back to our apartment declaring to him that I had just received a $200 ticket (need I mention that we probably had less than $1,000 to our name?) he just said, “it will be o.k.”

I remember fixing a spinach/mozzarella pie with the anticipation of starting our marriage out with healthy cooking. I remember how he gagged it down and thanked me for the ‘good’ meal!

I remember on our limited budget buying an outfit at Target and bringing it home wondering if he would think that I should not have purchased it. I remember him smiling and saying, “that looks great!”

I remember what was probably our first argument because he wanted to hang a railroad crossing sign in our apartment living room! What?!

I remember going to visit a church and someone asking me, “how long have you been married?” I heard myself say: “Three weeks”.  For some reason that stuck in my brain and I thought to myself that I would never forget when I had only been married three weeks!

I remember baby #1 arriving on the scene and how enamored we were with her but how he bonded to her and carried her around on a front pack when he would clean apartments so that I could rest.

I remember how he adored being a dad to each child that arrived and he never once has griped that I or they were a financial burden to him.  What a great provider he has been for me and all of them! Even when our finances are tight, he can’t help but hand some bucks to his kids. When his schedule is hectic, he always take their phone calls. I knew he would be a great dad and I have not been disappointed!

I remember feeling spoiled and blessed because he worked hard so that I could be a stay at home mom. I remember his sacrifices for us, over and over.

I remember a Christmas that he gave me a gift and a note for 12 days representing the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. Each gift represented something that reminded him of me!

I remember a time that he was in great internal struggle and he was absolutely broken before God and I witnessed the genuine heart of a humble man who wanted more than anything to be a man after God’s own heart. I remember that I have always respected him for that.

I remember the hours of prayer we have spent together and his love and concern for the people God has entrusted to him.   I remember that I have married a man I can be on mission with.

I remember that he has seen me at my best but also at my worst. I remember that my secrets are safe with him. I remember that he has proven faithful to his vows and I have never been jealous or concerned that he would leave me for someone else.

So, I remember the times that he has asked me, “are you ever sorry you married me?”

Remember my answer today and for all the years to come: “Never and not ever. Not in 35 years or a thousand.”

Love always,  Your ‘Darlin’!

 

 

EVERYTHING I KNOW SO FAR AFTER 35 YEARS OF MARRIAGE WHICH IS WHY THIS BLOG WILL BE VERY SHORT! ;)

If you have ever watched the old television show, “Hogan’s Heroes”, you will remember Sargent Schwartz often declaring in his thick German accent: “I know nothing! Absolutely nothing!”

Sometimes, I can identify with him in that statement, especially in regards to marriage!

Just when I think I have all the answers for me, my hub and our marriage perfectly figured out, I am humbled to realize that I don’t. I am in a life long process of learning.

I think often of Ephesians chapter 5 and the mystery of marriage. I do believe that it is a union that is an unending journey of exploring and uncovering unchartered territory.

Although I would agree that many have paved the way, there are no two marriages that are exactly the same because there are no two people who are. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14).

So here are a few things that I do know and I believe are the most important lessons I have learned about marriage.

Some friends recently stated that the verse that has carried their marriage through is “Love covers a multitude of sins”.  1 Peter 4:8 What a thought!

This doesn’t mean that we can deliberately go around sinning against each other and expect our spouse to look the other way. Obviously, we need to deal with our sins against each other.

However, because we are not perfect but struggle with sin, I can testify that daily, I am sinning against my spouse to one degree or the other and him against me.

Imagine then, if I dug them all up, keeping a constant list going. “He said that he would dump the trash before he left and he forgot. Wretched liar he is!” “He didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning. He is not loving”, etc. etc.

We can find many faults throughout the day if we choose to look for them.

By all means, if one’s spouse is abusive, unfaithful or any of these huge issues, then these hard things need confronted and help must be sought out! However, there are so many little things here and there that just do not matter.

A couple of scriptures come to mind but one is the simple golden rule:

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12.

I certainly would not want my husband to be keeping score of all the little things I do to wrong him throughout the day or week! I cannot imagine how exhausting that would be.

Despite the overplay and weariness of  hearing this song from the movie “Frozen”, Elsa singing “Let it go, let it go”, is not such a bad melody to keep in mind, is it?

As far as keeping lists goes, I would be totally amiss to not point out that 1 Corinthians 13, explicitly spells out that love does not keep a ‘record of wrongs.’ (vs. 5). We wouldn’t have enough paper for all of those little things anyway, would we?

I read an interesting article the other day that stated the number one destroyer of marriages is ‘hardness of heart.’

I had to think about that because I know people who loved their spouse but spouse had an affair, was abusive etc. However, yes, the spouse having an affair or being abusive, somewhere along the way hardened their heart to loving their spouse and it ended the marriage.

But even without the big issues, we can begin little by little to harden the heart towards one another. We begin with sighs, moving on to rolling our eyes, sarcastic remarks, little digs and then….boom! There we are with a hardened heart. Respect is gone, love is waning and without checking ourselves, we can find the heart of flesh has turned to a heart of stone.

What happened to that light hearted day when we chose to commit our lives to each other amidst friends, family and great hopes for the future? When did we exchange it for this heavy heap of baggage that we haul around too big for us to carry?

When I stood there on that covenant making day before God and man to recite vows, I needed to keep in mind that indeed one of us was God and two of us were human!

My husband and marriage fill many empty places in my life but neither one is a replacement for my own personal relationship with my Savior. Rick cannot fill them all, nor should he. Neither can I fill all of his empty places. We are life partners here, but my husband is not the life giver.

In being his partner, I am on mission with him to become all that our God has called us to be. Our marriage is not to be a constant enmeshment of romance with each other but is to be an outward giving of ourselves to others as well.

My desires and wishes as a wife do not automatically trump the needs of others. If I think that our marriage means my husband is to serve me above all others at all times or I him, I have missed that we are accountable to other relationships as well.

As a pastor, if there is a death in our congregation or a crisis, he needs to be there whether he and I have a date night scheduled or not.  In May, we had a family gathering scheduled with our kids but his father needed heart surgery and fun with our kids could not be a priority over being with his parents during this time. As well, He has often foregone time with me or even finances when he has seen that I needed to be elsewhere to help a kid, a parent or a friend.

We work together in prioritizing marriage, family, others in light of living out the gospel.

Marriage does not automatically insure that we see life the same way. I have learned that if two people are exactly alike then one of them is not needed, so this is a good thing.

I do not always agree with my husband, nor he I on many different issues. We can decide whether this will divide us or make us more balanced.

The fact however, that we don’t always agree does not undermine that we have each other’s back and we are safe with each other. I know my husbands greatest weaknesses and he knows mine. We will not use that knowledge to harm each other nor to share it with those who would use it as ammunition for their arsenal or any other attempt to tear one of us down.

We strive to work through our obstacles and problems on our knees and with clear communication. At times when we have been stuck on resolving an issue, we share with those trustworthy ones who know us the best and love us the most. Every married couple needs those sort of friends and we could not go through life without their support, prayers and wisdom.

As spouses we can get very controlling of one another because marriage is so intimate and personal. It is exceedingly freeing for me to know that I will stand alone before God and give an account for my life and not my husbands! I will answer for how I treated him and he will answer for how he treated me, yet I am not responsible for his actions nor is he for mine. (Romans 14:12)

I learned long ago that if people had a complaint about my husband that I didn’t have to own it but rather have them take it up with him. Whether this be family, friends or church, I am not his God, his conscience or his mother.  I am his helper and covenant partner not the one responsible to mediate all of the issues.

At times, we may need to mediate, especially with our children, depending on the situation but only as a helper and not a fixer.

To forget this can lead us to be like the speaker in the humorous video “The Cinderella Syndrome”. In it, the wife stated that when she got married and her husband was standing at the front by the altar, she walked towards him thinking smugly to herself, “I’ll alter you!”

It is truly a mystery that marriage makes us one, yet I am not him and he is not me. We are a reflection of Christ and the church and oh heavens, I have not the depth of understanding to even grasp all of what that means but I will encourage you to take a stab at studying it for yourself if you like!

Anyway, I have learned more than I thought, but less than I would like, and I continue on growing and learning with each new anniversary.

All I can say is that as the years have gone by, I know him more, know myself more and the love gets richer, deeper and more of a gift than I could ever have imagined.

And I guess, for now, that is all I need to know.