Me, trying to wake PinkGirl this morning:
“Good morning Ida.” (her character in the play she’s in rehearsals for) nothing.
“Good morning, Luna” (the character she’s dressing up as tonight) nothing.
“Good morning, PinkGirl” nothing.
PinkGirl: “JUST A MINUTE. I’m almost finished with my dream.”
I know some Christians have a problem with Halloween, but in our house it has always only been about two things: costumes and candy. Like theater, but on a sugar high.
Any personal recommendations for spice/flavor if I attempt to roast these pumpkin seeds? And, I suppose, any instructions on how to roast pumpkin seeds? I can Google, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m still dealing with jack-0-lantern guts.
kids fed dinner. check
kids dressed in Halloween costumes. check
jack-o-lanterns carved. check.
pumpkin guts cleaned up…kinda.
mini-Snickers in the freezer. check.
7:45pm: There’s a guy driving down my street in a golf cart, pulling a lighted, homemade mini-Halloween float with kids on it. #toomuchtimetoomuchmoney
The witch from Snow White, painted by MY DAD! Unfortunately, there’s something about her that says: “Don’t wait for someone to open the door, just go ahead – reach out and open it yourself! Had to lock the door between trick-or-treaters!
8:45pm: A tiny little boy pulled down the bowl of candy I was holding to look for a lollipop, which I didn’t have. PinkGirl chased him down the sidewalk to give him one from her pillowcase.
How to make sure you actually still HAVE Halloween candy by the time Halloween rolls around:
1. Buy candy you hate.
2. Have your spouse take the candy to work until Halloween.
3. Have your spouse HIDE the candy somewhere in the house.
4. Buy replacement candy after you’ve vandalized your house looking for hidden candy.
Thankfully, at the present time, I’m closer to #3 than #4.
Lord, I submit to you my heart, my soul, my mind, my time, my service and my voice, whether written, spoke or sung.
But I also submit to you the things I cling to: my pride and arrogance, my righteous indignation, my indifference and my unforgiving nature.
They don’t serve you well. And they don’t serve me well. Please take them from me today.
And please – help me to give them to you again tomorrow.
Me, to FavoriteSon: “It’s the World Series. You and your dad are supposed to keep me up to date on sports so I don’t look like a rube. I know about March Madness, I know the Superbowl is in February, I know the NBA playoffs are…
FavoriteSon, Interrupting: “Not happening this year.”
Later . . .
Me, to FirstHusband: “It’s the World Series. You and your son are supposed to keep me up to date on sports so I don’t look like a rube.
FirstHusband: “You know who Reggie Jackson is?”
FirstHusband: “Do you know what his nickname was?”
FirstHusband: “Mr. October – because he always played so great in October. That’s how I remember when the World Series is.”
Me: “Your memory trick has a dependent task.”
FirstHusband: “It’s easy.”
Me: “For you. You already know that Reggie Jackson’s nickname is Mr. October. I have to remember that before I will remember that the World Series is in October.”
Proof that song selection is NOT the only defining characteristic of “contemporary Christian music.”
I couldn’t make it through the first time – and this is the SHORT version. Just the highlights. FavoriteSon watched the entire thing, cracking up and he sucked me in.
WHY would anyone do this? why? Why? WHY?
I figure if Panera didn’t want me to monopolize booth #1, they shouldn’t have put a power outlet under my feet.
10:39am – At Panera Bread, trying to write instead of at home trying not to fall asleep or clean something. I’m supposed to be working on my book, but it seems that lyrics are sneaking out instead. We’ll see. I’ve got time to do both – PinkGirl has a 12 hour theater day.
11:39am – Crudola. Power supply at home. Battery has 2 hours and 40 minutes. Gonna try and bribe FavoritSon to bring it to me later. seriously. that’s not going to happen.
12:39pm – I’m attempting to bribe FavoriteSon with free Panera lunch. He and his dad think it’s “girl food” but I think he’ll do it anyway. The question is whether he’ll make it before my battery dies. 1 hour 42 minutes.
1:39pm – My son loves me. He just brought my laptop power supply to me at Panera Bread so I didn’t have to stop writing. And I didn’t even have to buy him lunch.
Let the monopolization of booth #1 continue.
The weather is beautiful! I made FavoriteSon go out into the backyard tonight and do NOTHING.
I told him he could talk to God or just listen, I didn’t care, but for FIVE minutes, I wanted him to sit outside with the wind in his face and look out over the pond behind our backyard and do NOTHING.
He came back in 10 minutes later and said:
“That just made me realize I need to mow the backyard.”
I’d REALLY like to say I don’t know where he gets it.
October 5th – Trying to put away all the books I bought at the WHALE of a Sale (78 paperbacks/kids books and 23 hardbacks).
It appears I need a new bookshelf. But I don’t have a place to put another one. So it appears I need a stud-finder and a drywall saw. But if I get that far, I’ll be in over my head. So then I’ll need a referral for a carpenter. This is starting to sound like a book (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). Good thing my husband is out of town.
October 7th – Still shifting books, trying to make room for the incoming. Someone told me I have a problem – called me “the book lady” using the same tone of voice usually reserved for calling someone “the cat lady.”
She’s just jealous.
October 13th – Can’t sleep, can’t decide who to read. Donald Miller. Keith Miller. Ortberg. Chambers. Jack (C.S. Lewis) . . .
There may be too many books in my house.
October 14th – I love Autumn. I know we (in Florida) don’t see the colors change but we feel the crispness in the air.
Nothing like a Friday night football game in October, or morning coffee and a good book on the back porch wrapped in my Old Navy fleece jacket. Like wearing a hug.
God is so good.
In my post entitled “an unextraordinary life” I wrote:
“When I’ve experienced trials in my life, sure God might have sent them, but it’s just as likely He allowed them. Either way, He’s promised that He will work it all for good. Even when, from my own perspective, it didn’t seem like it was for my good.”
A reader commented:
“I agree with you that God allows trials to happen and then brings something good out of them, but I don’t believe that he sends them. Matthew 7:11 gives the picture of God as a Father who delights in giving good gifts to his children. I can’t picture a loving father purposely bringing trials into His children’s lives.”
I spent some time in 2009 reading and learning about the seeming paradox of evil and suffering vs. a loving and all powerful God. I don’t like to think of a loving Father “sending” his child trials, but I can’t ignore some evidence.
I should probably begin with my definition of the word “trials.”
I view a trial as anything in my life that causes me pain – physical or emotional. It’s something in my life that I don’t want in my life. Something I fear or dread or suffer through.
I should clarify what I mean by my use of the words “send” and “allow” as well.
When I say I believe God “sends” some trials, I’m referring to trials God intends for us – plans for us – to experience.
When I talk about God “allowing” trials, I’m referring to the things God does NOT intend for us, but doesn’t intervene to prevent or to protect us from. Maybe these trials are consequences of our own sin, maybe they are consequences of our sinful nature and freedom of choice or maybe they are just the result of random circumstances in this life.
Make no mistake, I believe Matthew 7:11:
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
When I think about my own children, I can identify with Matthew 7:11. I want to give them “good gifts” all the time. But if I never disciplined them, I would play a starring role in turning them into Veruca Salt. Leading me to Hebrews 12:6-11:
“because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
And again, thinking about my children, my mind automatically goes to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Here’s a question for you: When God told Abraham to take his son up a mountain and sacrifice and kill him, would Abraham have used the word “trial” to describe his experience? He had waited 100 years to have a son. The feelings that overwhelmed him as he left home . . . NOT telling Sarah what God had instructed him to do . . . as the minutes dragged during the agonizing climb up that mountain . . . would “trial” not be a descriptive word for that experience?
I’m thinkin it would.
And if we can agree that was a trial for Abraham, the real question is: Did God intend for Abraham to have that experience? God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son, not as punishment for sin or to hurt him, but to test and strengthen Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s obedience – letting go of his own will for the sake of God’s will, even when it didn’t make any sense to him and wrenched his heart – was a test of faith I’m not sure I could pass.
And then there’s John 9:1-3:
“As he went along, he [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
I agree with what Matthew Henry has to say about the trial of this man:
That they [trials] are sometimes intended purely for the glory of God, and the manifesting of his works. God has a sovereignty over all his creatures and an exclusive right in them, and may make them serviceable to his glory in such a way as he thinks fit, in doing or suffering; and if God be glorified, either by us or in us, we were not made in vain. This man was born blind, and it was worth while for him to be so, and to continue thus long dark, that the works of God might be manifest in him.
I wrote this blog post in bits and pieces over the last 36 hours, after hearing a message emphasizing that God blesses us with strength through anointed weakness. All the while I couldn’t help thinking of Nick Vujicic. Last night, I watched a number of Nick’s youtube videos, looking for the “right” one to include in this post. I had already seen a number of Nick’s videos over the last few months but I had never heard him talk about his decision to serve Christ in any of them. I bought his biography last week, but haven’t begun reading it yet. I knew I had found the video to include when I got the 3 minute 45 second mark. Go ahead, it’s worth the 8 minutes.
“Because I have no arms and no legs He’s using me all around the world and we’ve seen so far, approximately – and this is conservative – 200,000 souls come to Jesus Christ for the very first time in the last 6 or 7 years . . . I would rather have no arms and no legs temporarily here on earth and be be able to reach someone else for Jesus Christ – and then spend eternity with them there.”
So yes. I believe that sometimes God sends us trials.
And then, there’s Rachel Barkey. I stumbled upon Rachel’s story in 2009 when I was researching the paradox of evil and suffering vs. a loving and all powerful God. Rachel died of cancer at the age of 37, leaving behind a husband and 2 small children. But before she died, she had an opportunity to give her testimony in which she describes the trials of her last years. It’s a compelling 55 minute testimony that I’ve found myself thinking about often over the last two years. You can watch it HERE (start at the 2:10 minute mark to skip to the beginning), but here’s the quote I transcribed for inclusion in a blog post after I watched it back in June of 2009:
“I am dying.
But so are you.
Neither of us knows if we will even see tomorrow. And perhaps the reason that I am suffering now, the reason that God is waiting to bring judgment against all the evil in this world is because he is waiting for you. For you to acknowledge your sin and to turn to him for forgiveness.
Maybe you are the one we are waiting for.
Jesus suffered. God did not spare him. Why would he spare me? If my suffering would result in good for you? If my suffering is the means that God would use to bring even one person to himself, it is an honor for me to suffer.
Does that seem strange?
I suppose it does.
But really, it is the only way that all of this makes any sense at all.
A God who sees my suffering but is is unable, or worse, unwilling to spare me? A God who sees my suffering but allows it? With no greater purpose or hope? My God is able to save me and he will. But save me from what?
From a life without him.”
So yes, I believe that sometimes, God sends trials.
(thank you Jessi, for inspiring this post)
“Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.” She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.
2 Kings 4:3-6 (The Message)
When I was a little girl, I used to pray for an unextraordinary life.
I thought that blessings were limited and were balanced with tragedy – things I feared. There was this imaginary teeter-totter in my head. All the blessings were piled on one seat while challenges and troubles were precariously stacked on the other. One blessing too much would tip the balance and God would have to step in and even things up.
I figured, if nothing really great happened to me, then nothing really bad would happen to me. So I prayed for a balanced teeter-totter.
It was safe.
Kid theology at it’s finest.
I rarely asked for blessings in my life, because in my mind, a blessing would always come with some sort of down side. And the down side wouldn’t always be in my life. If I experienced a blessing, I was always looking for where God would even it up. Who would get the trial? Would it be me? One of my parents? My siblings? Friends?
And there were degrees of blessings and trials. If I got to go to Disney World, some kid out there didn’t – because they came down with strep throat. If my family won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweeptakes? Someone. might. die.
The blessings I already experienced weren’t often recognized. “Normal” life was taken for granted. I viewed blessings like prizes. Extraordinary.
Like I said. Kid theology at its finest.
It was a long time coming, but these days, I understand that God’s grace – and his blessings – are unlimited (and that teeter-totters are only good for broken tailbones or a chin full of stitches). When I’ve experienced trials in my life, sure God might have sent them, but it’s just as likely He allowed them. Either way, He’s promised that He will work it all for good. Even when, from my own perspective, it didn’t seem like it was for my good.
Looking back at my life, I can see blessings in what I once thought were just trials. Of course, I don’t see a blessing in every trial, but I still believe God worked it for good. Maybe someone else was blessed as a result of some trial God sent or allowed in my life. That doesn’t mean they got a blessing and God evened up the teeter-totter with me.
I’m acutely aware of the truth behind the idea that we are who we are because of everything we’ve been through. Today, I’m praying that God will use the challenges I’ve lived through – and learned through – to bless someone else. I’m praying that – the relentless and exasperating optimist I am – I can be a source of hope and encouragement to someone who might need it.
Today, I’m not afraid to ask God to bless me in an extraordinary way. I don’t need an abundance of jars so God’s blessing will continue to flow. I need one life, continuously open for Him to fill with blessings. Even if the blessings are sometimes disguised as trials.
“It is our faith that fails, not his promise. He gives above what we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them—enough for all, enough for each. Was not this pot of oil exhausted as long as there were any vessels to be filled from it?”
As I watched someone pour Welches grape juice into a goblet, it occurred to me – not for the first time – that I don’t get it.
What am I missing?
When the sacrament of Holy Communion begins during a church service, I begin praying. I intentionally focus my heart and mind completely on God and the examination of my life, the confession of my sins, repentance, genuine and profound thanks for the sacrifice and redeeming blood of Christ. Then an usher steps next to my pew and my focus on intimate prayer is broken. I’m supposed to get up, walk to the front of the church and eat a piece of bread and drink grape juice out of a tiny plastic cup or dip the bread into a goblet. Like an Oreo in milk.
That may sound disrespectful, but if I’m honest, that’s what I think of when I do it. God already knows that’s in my head whether I type it out loud or not.
So here’s the question: Why does the sacrament of Holy Communion feel like an interruption to that intimate prayer instead of the culmination of it?
I don’t know.
I’ve been thinking about it and this is where my mind went:
When I was in junior high (these days they call it middle school), I went through two years of confirmation classes in the Lutheran church before I was allowed to take communion for the first time. My memory tells me we went through the same curriculum twice but I’m sure I’m wrong. It just felt like it.
The best part were the snacks. Those little flower shaped butter cookies with the hole in the middle that you could stick your fingers through so you could eat your way around them in circles.
But I digress.
I remember dreading confirmation class. They used words I never understood and they didn’t explain, like “Gospel of Jesus” and sacrament and catechism and sanctification and absolution.
Okay, to be fair, it’s likely they explained some of it, but they did a poor job, because I was not the only one going through the motions waiting for snack time. Most classes, there was lecture and then they told us what words to write in the fill-in-the-blank questions in our confirmation workbooks.
Then came the day the senior pastor visited our class. He told us a detailed and moving story about twins who were born prematurely. When he got to the part about one of them dying, we were all mesmerized. He was a great storyteller. This was so much more interesting than the lectures and workbook exercises.
The pastor said that a nurse came to the parents and told them that she was able to baptize the baby before he died. The parents were so relieved. Their baby was in heaven.
I had always been cheeky, but the senior pastor had always intimidated me. So formal. Robes, suits, perfect, immovable hair, manicured fingernails. All that, combined with the fact that so many people sat in complete silence to listen to him talk every Sunday morning and waited in line to shake his hand afterward. To top it all off? His name was Pastor Abram. That was just two letters away from Abraham. He was the ultimate authority on God at that time in my young life.
Until that moment.
At that moment, he lost his credibility with me. I realized this authority figure in my life was wrong.
Out came cheeky.
I may not remember the details of 2 years of confirmation classes, but I will remember for the rest of my life what I asked him that afternoon:
“Are you saying that if the nurse hadn’t sprinkled water on the baby’s head before he died and said ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ that the baby would have gone to Hell?”
He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”
And I said, “Well, that’s stupid.”
You could have heard a pin drop. Every eye was on him.
He handled it with grace and evasiveness. He reminded me that I was young and explained that I didn’t understand. What he didn’t explain was how it wasn’t stupid. He didn’t refer me to a single Bible verse. Bibles weren’t necessary in confirmation class, just workbooks.
What was I too young to understand?
That Jesus’ death and resurrection weren’t enough to save a premature baby . . . but a nurse with tap water and the time to speak the words “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” ensured the baby would spend eternity in heaven?”
I’m older now and I DO understand. If what Pastor Abram said was true, all I needed was a nurse with a glass of water who had the ability to speak out loud, not Jesus Christ.
I didn’t learn much in confirmation class, but I learned that the ritual of baptism was meaningless compared to what Jesus did.
How does all this relate to Holy Communion?
Not sure yet. I’m still thinking about it.