Monday, August 22, 2011

An Ode to My King

In this sin filled world, is there any hope?
It seems I am only one wrong move away from a downward slope.

The enemy, ready to attack and pounce, crouches at my door,
so I put my face and knees to the floor.

I do the only thing I can do,
and place my life in You.

I lift my eyes up to the Only One
because He and He alone is where life is begun.

Get behind me little and big insecurity.
Lord, only You can set me free.

With You, these chains cannot hold me down.
Instead You've given me a gaze upon your righteous crown.

I praise you for making and loving me.
so very lovingly and tenderly.

No longer will I mope and fear,
even as they laugh and jeer.

Instead, my hope is You, My King.
a new song I will forever sing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Arise My Love

Can you guess whose eyes these are?

This past Saturday, my Valleydale family lost a member of one of our own, Rob Murray.  I could not find it within myself to write about his passing immediately after finding out.  I found out after dinner on Saturday, and we were shocked.  I'm not sure his official title, but he was our staff recreational director, and Daniel worked with him for Upward Basketball every year.  I simply could not sleep the night after finding out.  I tossed and turned.  Rob died at the age of 56 of a massive heart attack.  My own dad died of a massive heart attack two weeks shy of his 56th birthday.  I felt the sting of Rob's loss and the remembrance of my own loss.

Every one had something great to say about Rob. He was known as the face of Valleydale. Many tributes have been written to and about Rob already (see links at the bottom of this post), and I will not do that any justice. I did not know Rob like they did. What I do know is that he served our church tremendously; he was funny, happy, smiling face that greeted people on their way into the church. It was evident that he loved God and loved people.  Normally I would share some thoughts of comfort and encouragement, but that's not how I feel led today.

What I believe is that any time someone dies it is a wake up call to the living dead.  It seems as though there has been a lot of loss at Valleydale recently.  And I believe God is calling us as a church to wake up from the dead and rise.  His voice has gently been calling us, and at times we've been hitting the snooze button.  We keep sleep walking as though we haven't heard the alarm.  In the future the alarm may not be as gentle, so we need not ignore the alarm and go back to sleep.

Nikol and I are writing the material for the women's retreat at Valleydale in January.  The call we sensed is a call to wake up. {Can I just say how thrilling it is to watch God work?}.  It is a call to Arise, My Love, Arise: Awake, Aware, Alive!  He looks at us tenderly as He did Lazarus and He weeps.  He longs to bring us back to life, to heal us, to restore us, and set us free.  I believe He has a special plan and purpose for Valleydale, but it cannot be achieved until we wake up.  Maybe He is calling you to wake up as you read this.

What He wants from us are hearts hungry and thirsty for all of Him, not just a drop of Him, but all of Him.  He wants us to long for Him so that He can fill us up to capacity and overflow out of each of us.  He will wake us up.  He will work through us.  Our part is simply desiring Him, wanting Him, wanting to experience Him, and obediently giving ourselves as He asks, not because we can or we should, but because He is good, and He has graciously brought us back to life.  What He does not want is to heal us as He did the 10 lepers and have only one come back to praise and thank Him (Luke 17:11-19); He wants us seeking Him wholeheartedly to overflowing to service and His work.

Will you respond to God's call and honor Rob and the saints who have passed on before by waking up?  Or will you sit back and hit the snooze button?  And if you arise, will you honor the One who set you free with all your praise and thanksgiving?  This my friends is how we will fill in the gap (see Rhett's tribute).

Arise, My Love, Arise.

Tributes to Rob:
Shelby County Reporter
Rhett Barnett
David Dollar
Nikol Whitten
Valleydale Blog
and many more facebook statuses and perhaps many others I have not seen - feel free to post a link in the comments section.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When Letting Go feels like Goodbye

Today is the day before she goes off to the big world.  At least that's how it feels to me.  We've been to meet her teacher, her daddy and I and she.  I was perfectly fine until I looked around that little classroom filled to the brim with fun things to do.  At first I could not see the teacher, the one who will provide a tremendous amount of care for my baby.  But then I saw her.  And then when everyone had come into the room, she turned the lights out, and began speaking very softly.  So softly the children were curious to hear what she would say.  They went to the reading corner where she read about gingerbread men and going to school, and we waited.  Then she talked to the grown-ups.  She explained the way it would all go down, and I was prepared for all that, but so very unprepared for the feelings.  How do you prepare to say goodbye?  To let go?  Not to cry when all you feel like doing is crying a steady stream?

The three of us walked around the room, met the teacher, and said our hellos and then goodbyes.  We walked around the school to the lunch building and to the area where she would enter the building each day.  Then we went to lunch and celebrated our new normal.

At home, I cared not about the mess, and instead we played hide and seek, and Candyland, and I tried to imprint memories in my mind of this day.  Princess excitedly awaiting her big tomorrow said she would miss me just now, that I was her sweet mommy.


Today, my oldest baby goes to Kindergarten.  She will be up an hour earlier than usual.  She will get dressed, eat something yummy for breakfast, and we will pray for her day together.  She will ride the bus, and hopefully she will get on the bus and wave goodbye and the ride will be uneventful, yet fun for her.  I will hug her, introduce her to the bus driver, and away she will go.  She will walk into her classroom for the first time on her own, and she will say hello to new classmates and make new friends.  She will have a new teacher, and she will  learn her way around a new yet somewhat-giant-in-comparison-to-her-preschool school.  She will get a lunch tray for the first time, and she will punch in a code to pay for it.  Someone will help her learn the code and one day she will do it by herself.  She will go to P. E. for the first time.

She'll be away from me for only an hour shorter than her daddy goes to work.  She will know that she is taking a new journey, but she will not know how big a journey she is really taking or how big a journey her stay at home mother takes as she goes.  She will be busy, and I wonder if she will ponder the best friend she'll leave behind at home, her brother.

I will learn to trust her to tell me stories of school.  She's not much of a talker compared to many kids her age.  I've told her instead of telling me that she doesn't know what happened that it is her job to come home with stories.  That's what she and I do together at night before bed, we tell stories.  So I will hope to hear stories.  I will cling to stories.

Her brother will watch her get on the bus, and he will be curious and maybe sad.  He will be wondering all day when does sister come home?  He has already said he too wants to go to big school and ride the bus, and perhaps next year, he will.  Together he and I will play Wii Lego Star Wars and learn how to be just me and him with baby sister again.  We'll laugh and we'll probably cry, but mostly we'll play and busy ourselves.

For the first time, I will trust someone else to spend more hours with my baby than she has with me.  When I first had her, I thought she was a piece of me, not really a separate person.  She grew in my belly, and then I nursed her.  But it was hard for me to at first understand that although I was to influence her, I could not make her into who she is meant to be.  She was created with a personality and she is her self.  She is not me; she is indeed separate.  She has gone to preschool and had endeavors without me, but now, she will truly have her own little life.  BUT, and this is a big BUT, I am not simply trusting her to go into the hands of public school and teachers and people I do not know.  If I did, it would be much harder to trust.  Instead, I am releasing my hold on her, letting my grip a little looser, and entrusting her more into God's hands where she's always been.  I am trusting Him with her education and her adventure to big school, and this TRUST keeps me needing Him to help me let go of not her but of me and my agenda each day, knowing that whatever happens, He's good and He's God.  He guides and He is in control even when it feels like He's not there.

So today I say not goodbye, but I learn again how to trust as I let go of my plans for His.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Like Bread

 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?  2 Cor 2:14-16
In a few days, my daughter is going to Kindergarten. Being somewhat selfish with my time with her, I decided to take the kids to the library today. Going outside and feeling that it was actually a decent temperature and overcast skies, I quickly decided that we would go to Railroad Park first. Odd as it may be, I love this park - the feel of the wide open green space combined with my love of the city life and its hustling and bustling noises are a few of the reasons I love it so. We arrived and I opened the car door. I knew my little daughter needed a diaper change, but as soon as I opened the door I was hit in the face with a delightful aroma. My nose was overwhelmed with the pleasant smell of freshly baked bread. The smell was so strong I could not even smell the messy diaper as I changed it. The park is located near a Merita bread factory, and as I located it, I realized that I was indeed smelling wonderful yumilicious bread. Perhaps, my nose was extra sensitive to the smell because I am low carbing it until I eat birthday cake. Yes, last night it was time for the annual hubby cake making session for his birthday.

We walked down to the area of the park for the children to play, and I thought about the bread, that Jesus is the bread of life, and communion with God, feasting on His presence. I had been downwind of the bread factory and now we had arrived at the play area.  The oldest two children ran ahead and were climbing.  My youngest and I strolled along as I finished a phone call.  I walked into the park, sat down, said goodbye, and got my baby out of her stroller.  She and I began walking around and that's when I saw it.  A kid had just tossed his cookies before we'd arrived.  I walked around it and made sure Doodle did not step in it.  We walked for a few minutes downwind of the upchuck, and I could no longer smell the bread.  Instead, I smelled the pungent aroma of partially digested food.  A few minutes later, not long, I rallied the kids together and we walked to another part of the park where the kids could play, and we could not see or smell the foulness.

We played in an area close to the bread factory, and slowly made our way around the park close where we had parked when we decided to go over to the third play area.  I wondered as we circled away from the first area if the vomit had been cleaned since they had called for park personnel to clean it up.  But I dared not go see.  We arrived at the third area.  The kids climbed and once again, I could no longer smell bread, but the putrid scent of regurgitated food.  We were now downwind of it once again, and the smell was more powerful than the beautiful life-giving bread.

I thought of myself as having one of the two aromas: fragrant or stinky. 

A fragrant life giving aroma when I've been with Him.

Or a smell of decay because I have been with Him, but the smeller with me rejects my smell as the life giving scent of Christ.

Or a foul smelling stench of a person when I've given into sin.  My body not meant to digest the sin but the beautiful piece of bread that is Him.

Or the foul stench that comes with ingesting the bread and only halfheartedly taking it in only to become sick off of it, like what happens if a child eats too fast and then doesn't allow the body to digest as it should, by playing hard, fast, and furious.  Trying to explain a spiritual principle I've never really thought about for example would produce a stench.

What I've learned through grace is that God accepts me as I am.  He calls me fragrant and has washed the stench away.  I don't have to make myself smell fragrant, or like bread, or life giving.  When I start making my own self smelly, I'm creating malodor to be sure. 

The requirement:  I trust Him to make me fragrant and good, to make me holy.  That I want Him more than I want anything else offered me. 

It is my knowing Him that gives me fragrance of Him.  He sets me free from the stench of my sin to smell like heavenly life giving bread.

How do you smell today?

If you've found this post encouraging, please consider sharing it or leaving a comment as a way to encourage me today. 


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