The Home Place, Finally, John 17:24

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Can’t wait to see the beautiful windows of my home church on Sunday. After two vacation weeks, we rolled into our driveway late Monday evening, exhausted but refreshed. My husband built our log home to welcome me as his new bride about 15 years ago and I have relished its rustic beauty. It has been my second home…but I never forget that heaven is my first.

So where does that leave those lovely stained glass windows? Some Sunday mornings I  enjoy the dappled colors lighting my husband’s face as he listens intently. On those mornings I’m reminded that we are not home yet and can only “…see through the glass darkly.” as the Apostle Paul said. When shall we see clearly? When we are in our first home.  Some weekday afternoons I seek those windows. I can pray in many places besides the church, as we all can, but the ancient walls mute outside sounds and those windows blur movement leaving an environment rich for meditation. I speak to Him in many places but I often hear His answer here. But still it isn’t home. A gathering place, yes, a worship place, oh, yes, but home? No.

I am the grandmother of seven. Only one lives at home. Consider this last paragraph as the caption to this picture taken on the only day he visited us here in our second home.
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“Hello, Baby Wyatt. I’m Mamaw Tracy and I’ve been waiting so long to hold you. But you already knew that because you have been fighting so hard to get here. Mommy felt you kicking all the time. We are so proud of you. Between you and me, darling, that’s why I’m smiling. I am so proud of you. I’m so happy to welcome you to this place. Look at all these people: Mamaws, Papaws, aunts, uncles, friends and cousins, neighbors and even your pastor! We want you feel our love and our gratitude for coming to let us hold you. And I’m smiling because I know if you don’t stay here you are going home.  Jesus asked his Father to let him have his own (that’s you and me, sweetheart!) to be with Him where he is so we could see His glory. Glory! Wyatt, you may see that glory before I even see the sun today. I’m smiling because you are so close to that glory. You would never see anything like it here.

Oh, Wyatt, one reason we are all waiting to go there because it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be down here. It’s hard Like now, I know your temperature isn’t getting up where your nurse wants it to be…well, it’s like that here on earth. Sometimes it’s just awfully, awfully cold, even when people who love you hold you close. Even when you have a sister who made you your own very handsome quilt. Even when you have a Mommy and Daddy and Sissy who love you enough to make every day of your life here as good as it could be. Knowing they might lose you, knowing this minute that you may not see the light of day, they love you so much. They rejoiced over every sonogram picture, watching you develop. They framed those pictures because you were, are and always will be a part of our family. They gave your life the joy, music and laughter they know as a family. They allowed us to be your family here.

So, sweetest one, I’m giving you back to Mommy now. I have a feeling you will always be my perfect, favorite grandchild. I am still smiling because I know she has done everything right by you and that she would never let you go from your family here unless she knew you were going to your heavenly family. We will miss you every day. We will live our lives in such as way as to see you again, in your new home place, finally.”

LOL with Sarah and Abraham

LOL with Sarah and Abraham

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Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Gen. 21:1   Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who heard about this will laugh with me.” Gen. 21:6

Remember that Sarah laughed when she heard God’s promise that she would bear Isaac. (Gen. 18:12) Why did Sarah laugh when God told her she would have a child?

More to the point, why do we continue to believe our lives are bound by earthly things when the King of Heaven promises He will bless us?

At the time of God’s promise to Abraham, God had already:

  • given Abraham a wife of legendary beauty.(Gen. 11-16)
  • called them out of their homeland and promised them that all peoples on earth would be blessed through them. (Gen. 12:2-3)
  • allowed them to escape a powerful Egyptian ruler’s wrath although Abraham had been deceitful in his dealings with Pharoah.(Gen. 12:20)
  • acquired great wealth. (Gen. 13:2)
  • given Abraham the men and means to rescue Lot when he was kidnapped. (Gen. 14;14-16)
  • appeared to Abraham in visions. (Gen. 12: 1-3;15:1-23; 17:1-22)

What has God done for you so far? If He promises you more, dare you laugh? Or will you laugh with joy as Sarah did when Isaac was born?

The Bible is filled with God’s promises to us. From his promise to Noah that He would never again destroy all earthly life in Gen. 9:8-17 to his promise in 1 John 2:25 that He will give His children eternal life, God is promising unbelievable, inexplicable, unfathomable things. Laugh at that!

Ash Wednesday, A Glimpse of Spring

Today’s bright sky is just a tease.  On the East Coast, people are digging out of a deep snow storm. Here, the temps will only reach freezing today and tomorrow’s high will be in the forties. To  my thin southern California blood, that has never felt warm.  More to the point, there are going to be many more cold winter days before new growth begins. Around Easter, that’s when I’ll be taking a clear sky and a windless day as a promise of spring.

So it is with Ash Wednesday. Our church sanctuary will be cozy for the 7 PM service, thanks to a new furnace, but we will know the truth of the cold, cold season when we step back outside. We can enter that place to celebrate the promise of Easter Sunday. But as Christ experienced the bitter chill of desertion and betrayal as well as the heady smell of triumph, we will surely experience days of bitter chill as well as warm perfumed breezes before spring rises triumphant.

One flame burns truer than our new heating unit: Our Risen Savior, once cheating death and once again to cheat time when He returns forever. Allelulia now, in winter, and again in spring. Allelulia!

Humility or Hype

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

When we were married my husband and I chose silver wedding bands with a slightly stylized cross as our symbols of our love for one another and our determination that Christ would be at the center of our marriage. When we built our house, one of our children gave us a plaque featuring the  Serenity Prayer,  another gave us a copy of the 23rd Psalm engraved on a mirror and one has given us a sculpted cross. My husband took a chainsaw to a tree stump one fall afternoon and at the end of the day a rough-hewn 5-foot cross stood on a gentle slope overlooking our backyard.

If Christian decoration were the way to heaven we’d be good to go.

But we know we are the people called by his name and that God didn’t call us to advertise or promote a multi-level marketing plan based on our faith. He didn’t call us to shop and seek more Christian stores and turn from here to there in search of new ways to advertise our relationship with Jesus.

No, he called us to humble ourselves, to pray and seek His face. The promise that follows that command is too wonderful to imagine. Even if He had not promised to heal our land, would we not be blessed beyond measure just to lay our egos and our agendas and our wants and desires before Him? How like our God to ask us to do these things that might be difficult initially, but, when completed, bring us such joy and peace.

I love the wedding band my husband never takes off. He replaced mine as an anniversary gift with a jeweled band but I wear the cross, too. Not as hype but as a private reminder to me of who I am and who we are. Humbly, His.

(Thanks to our adult Christian Education class who kicked this issue around for an session a few Sundays ago and gave me the idea to write this.)

If You Love Me, Obey Me

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Sam. 15:22b (NIV)

I can tell you what the old me thought of that bit of dialogue between the prophet Samuel and King Saul. You’ve got to be kidding, Sam. God prefers simple obedience? Wait till He hears what I’m gonna do for Him!

I of course took the immediate meaning of the phrase out of context. To me, to obey anyone meant to give in, give up or give out, none of which I have ever been prone to do gracefully.  So what does it mean to say obedience is better than sacrifice?  In my winner-take-all playbook, “to obey” was already a huge sacrifice. How, therefore could it be better than a well-prepared, juicy, choice cut of … oh, wait a minute. Maybe I do have an idea why God would prefer the obedience of our actions to anything we can cook up to distract Him.

My parents had gotten a well-deserved weekend away from their kids. I was about eight, my sister five and my brother a newborn and I honestly don’t remember who they suckered into coming to our house to care for us that weekend. It wasn’t our regular babysitter; I couldn’t have gotten away with it if he’d been there.

Whoever it was, they didn’t know that the most of the trees in our Florida subdivision lot were soft woods. Many were fruit trees. My father, a transplant himself from the majestic forests of Oregon, called the laurels overgrown bushes.  And he also called them absolutely off limits for climbing. He maintained that we had a swing set, a sturdy elm and each other to climb on.  Sixty pounds of trunk shimmying tomboy did not bode well for the health of the kumquat tree. He had made that clear to me but it was never mentioned to the babysitter. Certainly not by me.

Not only did I climb the kumquat tree, the orange trees, the grapefruit trees and the laurels repeatedly throughout the two days our parents were gone, I attempted to build a fort in the limbs of the almost-majestic cedar in the front yard. A painful experience since the needles were sharp and the bark rough and also my carpentry skills weren’t up to the task. And I fell. Hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to tell the babysitter.

Back to obedience. Samuel told Saul obedience was better. Better for whom? It would have been better for Saul. God doesn’t ask us to do things just to make Himself feel good. Does he ask for a tithe because He needs your money? No, he wants your heart and your heart in the hand of God is better for you. Did he want Saul’s complete obedience in the matter before him because he wanted a bunch of  His enemies to die? No, God will accomplish his purposes–here it was to purge the land of a people committing heinous crimes–He wanted Saul to be obedient for the sake of Saul’s own good.

Here’s what happened in our house in 1963, and how I learned that obedience would have been much more acceptable that any sacrifice.  Mom and Dad came home to a good report from the babysitter, who still had no clue that my tree climbing was a full frontal school girl rebellion carried out under her nose for two days. After the sitter left, we settled in for the ritual Walt Disney Theater Sunday night show, and, after a rapt half hour in front of the television, all my little muscles, tendons and ligaments refused to move. I was so sore I could barely move. As Mom massaged my thighs, calves and biceps, I could not tell a lie.  No, I had not chopped down the cherry tree, but I had surely climbed the kumquat tree, as well as all its citrus cousins. As I experienced my first post-workout soreness Daddy told me the real reason he hadn’t wanted us in those trees. Their limbs couldn’t safely support us; Mom couldn’t climb up after us to help us for the same reason; the dumb laurels could have actually toppled over from our weight, throwing us into the street. And yes, the trees themselves were property that should be respected, but that was secondary.

As was God’s desire to rid the earth of the Amalekites. Without Saul’s compliance to the letter of God’s command to him, their contemptible practices went on for centuries after Saul’s reign. But that was secondary. God loved Saul and wanted his obedience. More than the sweetest fragrance of sacrifice, more than his explanations and excuses for why he didn’t do God’s will, God just wanted Saul’s obedience. And ours. For our own good.

Hope Wanted – Inquire Within

The three of us have suffered a lot of separation anxiety over the last months though I think one of us would not admit to it. My daughter, my only biological contribution to the gene pool, left home for college two and a half years ago. Now she leaves from our small all-American town to Copenhagen for a semester of study abroad. We will drive her to the airport Saturday and we won’t see her again for 17 weeks.

She would not call it separation anxiety, but heaven knows she is wound up tight as my top guitar string. She’s long past ready to go and thinks if she had to go back to school here in Indiana this semester, she’d drop out. (Fat chance; she’s a fabulous student and loves campus life.) I believe her real point is that she is ready for a change. Very ready. But it doesn’t change the fact that she’s nervous. Not afraid, but nervous.

And so we’re having little spats. Last week, my husband was in China on business, leaving the college student and the mommy to share one kitchen and too much time. Yeah, a few flareups there. His jet lag upon returning caused him to be under-slept and over-wired; again, a few harsh words left everyone sulking for an otherwise delightful dinner out. Aaargh. If I am to be the emotional thermostat in our home, I have to say things are running a little hot around here.

We want her to walk those foreign avenues, drink up those exotic sights and smells, feel the texture of a culture so different from her own. But we are more aware of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dangers of  being away from home, simply because we are older and we’ve each walked on foreign soil ourselves. We’re glad she’ll be with a host family but we don’t know them. We’re glad she’s an independent person in so many ways but we are afraid she might not recognize when and how she needs to depend on someone else.

So we’re inquiring within: Within our church family for prayer and support, within our prayer groups for a place to compare parenting notes, within our friendships for a hand to hold, a shoulder to squeeze. We’ll inquire of each other within the sanctuary of our marriage. Are you okay? Did you talk to her? Should we Skype her tonight? Do you need to see her face? These are the ways we can answer the call to be “…joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:11-13, NIV).

We will inquire at every moment with our daily walk. We may not know what to pray for her at any given moment, but we will pray. We may not know what challenges, losses and opportunities she is facing but we will ask God for his blessing on her young life and know that His is able and faithful.

Our hope rests in that same God who saved the Hewbrew nation from Pharoah, rescued Daniel from the lion’s den, saved us from our own sins and gives us hope that we’ll all go home one day.  “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. On him we have set our  that he will continue to deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:9-11

Having inquired, we will hope.

Ready, Set, Pray

ARE YOU LOST FOR WORDS, BEYOND CONFUSION, DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU NEED? GOD KNOWS. SEND HIM AN ARROW PRAYER. HE HEARS – EXPECT AN ANSWER.

                                 

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