The Difference is So Very Beautiful

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Within the span of about five hours yesterday, I met and talked with three people with disabilities.  Each meeting was a gift, but the first one especially so.  Whenever she and I meet "accidentally," I know that God is smiling directly on me.  Her name is Kathy* and she is a quadriplegic, this happened years ago when her son was a baby, and in that process, she went through a divorce.  Imagine: single mom, quadriplegic--overwhelming.  Kathy and I met through a local Bible study.  She is kind, warm, understanding, patient and extremely funny.  It would not be an understatement to say that I love her. And when I say she's God's gift to me, she's like this ray of sunshine.  A few months ago, I was struggling, bad.  She called me and prayed with me and that was it--100% better.

The second run-in happened in the produce section at Kroger. I reached down for the ginger, a young man immediately struck up a conversation about marathons, half-marathons and triathlons--you know, all the stuff I do regularly and know a ton about (ha), maybe he saw my running shoes?  He told me his competition line-up for the Spring, Summer and into the Fall, I was blown away, the conversation was mostly one-sided and that was just fine, I'm not a big talker, but I did notice something different, and when he said that he was the first autistic runner for this Autism Awareness organization, the puzzle came together.  He talked of traveling and competing out West, I asked him about his experience running the Boston Marathon in 2013.  It was fascinating--then Jeremy got pulled away by his job.

A few hours later, I was at my friend's art opening.   She is a photographer and this is her master's project, after that--graduation.  When the artist was younger, she was diagnosed with an astigmatism that has caused her to have worsening eyesight as she has gotten older. This last year she started spending more time at the Atlanta Center for the Visually Impaired, listening to stories, forming friendships, hearing how this community has felt marginalized, and in their words, treated less than human. She was inspired by the stories and decided to make a show dedicated to them, with the goal of bringing the sighted and visually impaired community together. 

At least half, if not more, of the attendees were blind.  My friends and I met a beautiful woman named Gloria who has been blind her whole life and who is a photographer herself.  We visited each one of the works together, I got to know her a little bit, she grew up in Arkansas, she homeschools her daughter.  She told me she didn't get out much, so a crowd like that was pretty overwhelming.  It was overwhelming for me too. She thanked us for letting her tag along; we thanked her for sharing her experience with us. 

It is amazing the beauty that God brings out of physical impairments, I can think of one example after another of the extraordinary things that God does out of physical weakness, (His strength made perfect in our weakness.)  He uses our spirit, our courage, our strength to inspire others, that no, were are not so different and God is using each one of our stories to bring Him glory. 

What an amazing God.

*Names have been changed

Ill-Fitting Clothing

Friday, March 20, 2015

2 Cor. 5:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I confessed to my sister on the phone recently that I feel too deeply sometimes, that I take the "bear one another's burdens" command too close to heart and think that their job loss, very sick child and personal health concerns and subsequent outcomes are completely dependent on my prayers for them.  She agreed that she struggles with that too.

We are sensitive souls, she and I.

I think I understand what God may be working out in each of these individual cases in a very skewed human sense.  You see, He desires that we look to the eternal, not the temporary, our trials are the groaning of our flesh.

2 Cor. 5:2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

We must be fed, we desire to be healthy, whole.  But looking at our spiritual clothing, you know, the stuff that's completely invisible to the human eye, we find freedom.  Even though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, when we check those needs at the foot of the cross, WE are, the real us are being renewed day by day, it's like getting a brand-new outfit every single day and each time it gets better and better and better. 

Right now, I'm reading a good friend's book about forming close mommy relationships and she shares in one of her chapters about her years of struggle with infertility that ended with the miscarriage of two of her babies, and her best friend at the time was pregnant with her third child.  My friend said, not even once, did she complain about her pregnancy, and we know, you guys how yucky and just blech those 9 months can be.  This friend held her friend up, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and I know you couldn't see it from the outside, but both their spirits were being renewed through this process. 

2 Cor. 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

You see, our flesh is burdened for a heavenly now, where things are perfect, just and true.  We don't just feel the groan, we audibly emit the groaning, that, in many ways, is the sweet refrain of our souls being tuned to God's melody.

In just this last year, my daughter has lost all three of her great grandmothers, all, coincidentally at the ages of 91 and 92. Two were seriously ill for years before Jesus took them home.  It's impossible to understand why the languishing, but my daughter asked me the other day after she returned from her dad's grandmother's funeral, "Did Nan and Grandma L ever meet each other?"  Yes, they probably did at our wedding.

And we decided that right then that they very well could be meeting for a second time.

2 Cor. 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Five Ways to Restore Your Soul

Saturday, March 14, 2015

1) Buy Some Incense--Now I don't want to get all strange and granola-y on ya, but when was the last time you bought something just because it smelled good?  And I'm not talking about the chicken at Kroger's hot bar.  Seriously, why do we deprive ourselves of those things that are the most pleasing to our senses just to save a buck?  Let's face it, as a mom, you're in the trenches, you're smelling stuff that could make a gorilla sick to his stomach, I won't name all the mess, but let's just say poop and leave it at that.  So, next time you pass buy a scent that makes you say, "Ah that's nice, I almost forgot about the screaming in the cart next to me." Buy it.

2) Take a Bath--Hey, your kids get that time, right?  Time to play, decompress, give themselves soap beards and use shaving cream for various purposes, you should be doing the very same thing.  Don't feel like you have to be reading anything either to make your time "purposeful," you've already filled your day with moments like this.  Sit back and let the water take over.

3) Take a Walk--Nothing takes our focus off the stress of our circumstances or resets our mind like a nice, brisk walk.  A walk with trees and grass is ideal, but if your space isn't amenable to that, just walk anyway and focus on yes, I said it, nothing--nothing but the motion of your body.  Make it brisk, make it purposeful, i.e. I'm doing this so I don't harm my children between dinner and bath time tonight. 

4) Call a Friend and Laugh--Call this person just to unload, to kick back and tell something silly about yourself or share nothing except what book you just read.  Try to make them laugh too.

5) Take 15 Minutes for yourself every day--

Impossible, you may be thinking.  I don't care what it takes:

-locking the bathroom door
-joining a gym just so you can use their awesome shower for way too long
-plopping all the kiddos in front of the screen with massive amounts of popcorn and retreating to the bedroom or above-mentioned bathroom

Use those 15 minutes to do what relaxes you, be it yoga, prayer, reading scripture, singing at the top of your lungs.

Over and over again in Scripture, God's peace is promised:

Psalm 23: 2-3 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 14: 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid

We need to allow that time for God to do just what he has promised.

Can you thing of any other creative/tried and true methods that you've used to calm yourself and care to enlighten our reading audience?

The Best Medicine

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Somehow, through a strange twist of events, I ended up going to see Dave Barry with my friend last night.  He's on a book tour, and yes, his hour-long appearance frequently referred back to his current collection of essays, (Why else do you go on tour?) But he was really, really funny.  After it was over, I turned to my friend and said, "I needed that."  It feels good to let out those laughs that sound like someone just hit me in the stomach with a foam baseball bat.  I've been taking myself too seriously lately and it's been showing.

Also, after a hard day, it helped to talk to my parents the other night, too.  I shared my dream of living in a tiny house and we talked of property to buy on which to put it, and what they saw on DIY, you know.   My dad, knowing my dream, too, of writing a book about Joseph, reassured me with this guy's timeline.  God is never too slow, and there was, finally a time, thirteen years after he was thrown into slavery when Joseph finally got his heart's desire.  Our conversation also ended with another tidbit of advice that my dad loooves to give--on dating:

 Hang out my apartment's dumpster. 

'Cause this is how your aunt met her husband.  She was trying to drag a discarded yet still perfectly utilitarian piece of furniture out of her apartment's dumpster when an attractive stranger offered her a hand.  Whammo, a year or two later: wedding bells. 

Rachel, why have you been making this so complicated?

Who's in your corner?  Who will say, "I get it, that's stressful/You don't deserve that/I'll come punch that person in the face for you/You need chocolate, let me buy you some?"  Give them a call today.

IF:Gathering and Modern Day Revival

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nehemiah 8:1-12
All the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate.  They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding.  While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women and those who could understand.  All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.  Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform made for this purpose.  Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, ad Maaseiah stood beside him on his right; to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people, since he was elevated above everyone.  As he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and with their hands uplifted all the people said, "Amen, Amen!" Then they bowed and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the law to the people as they stood in their places.  They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.   Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all of them, "This day is holy to the Lord your God.  Do no mourn or weep."  For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.  Then he said to them, "Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those that have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold."  And the Levites quieted all the people saying, "Be still, since today is holy.  Do not grieve."  Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them."

In my Bible study on Nehemiah, it asked the question: "Do you think America is ripe for another 'great awakening'?" It went on to site those in our past: one in the mid-1700's, another in the early 1800's and a third that began just before the Civil War and continued until the end of the 19th century.

 I am not a biblical scholar and I've only been alive 36  years so I don't have a lot of context, but I will say that we are a generation (speaking for Christian women whose hearts are devoted to God)  that see through the lies.  That doesn't mean we don't get distracted, have our own worries and cares, but when we see authenticity, not only do we latch on, but we desperately thirst for it our own lives, for our children who need a compass , for family members who are in so deep to any kind of whatever, we know the only thing that can fix it is Jesus.  And after we lay all that down at the foot of the cross, we start looking beyond ourselves, our country, our walls and we peer over and we see hurt, suffering, death, persecution, famine.  And we crave, again, the words of the God who made all this, the one who conquered death. 

I sat among 100ish other ladies gathered around a round tables in a dark auditorium to view our little slice of the web space for the IF:Gathering telecast a few weekends ago.  Singing the very first song, the waterworks started.  I'm glad the music was loud, because it wasn't a pretty, God-is-so-beautiful crying it was an ugly, snotty-nose-God-is-in-this-place kind of crying that went on and on.  A dam had been released on my face.

Throughout the weekend women of God, women of my generation stood and explained Joshua 1 to us, some started at the very beginning of the story, some in the middle, others looked at what got Joshua to this period of heading in to the Promised Land.

Christine Cain spoke of dismounting dead horses.  God is the God of I AM, not was.  Move On.  God said to Joshua, "Get ready."    We MUST be ready.  How do we get ready?  Exodus 17: 8-9 Joshua was fighting while his leader was leading. 

-She said SERVICE prepares us for the battle.  We must be ready to lay down our life.  When you are ready, God will find you.  Joshua lingered in the tabernacle.

-She said the call of God is inconvenient

-She said, you need God MORE than:
1) your gift
2) your talent
3) your platform

-Only be strong and courageous proactively, being faithful, not necessarily fearless
The key to a believing life is to keep this book of the law always on our lips.  Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10: 17)

Bianca Olthoff spoke of the 133 promises in the Bible for believers.  She said that God wants our faithfulness in everything.  Results are God's responsibility, the response is ours.

Jennie Allen said the Promised Land is the souls of men.

Jen Hatmaker explored reasons why we struggle to believe God.

I came away filled, stunned, challenged, energized.  This was about the one life that I have to live for a God that created me and loves me and promises to be with me.  This is about reckless abandon for the kingdom of God.  Because, if today was my last day on earth, am I now doing the thing that My Master could say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."? God's been stirring some things up in my heart and it's just not pretty, because my heart is ugly and selfish and just plain tired sometimes (or maybe that's my body) but it also sees that God wants our devotion. I will share this one last thing: I wasn't the only one at my table of 5-6 women (the event was over 2 days, so there was some coming and going) that was moved, there was some serious stirring up.  Women were addressing issues that they had held on to for 10-15 years, the Holy Spirit was there, God was speaking and we, just like the Israelites, were hungry for His word.

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