Five Minute Friday: Hold

“Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3)

Sometimes I just don’t know. Sometimes I’ve done my best to decipher everything, acknowledge my faults, rectify my mistakes, make things right and nothing works. Sometimes I come up against the tough reality, I’m not in control. God is. I am His to do with as He pleases.

That knowledge doesn’t change the circumstances. It changes me. It reminds me to hold fast to what I know to be the truth. It reminds me to persevere. It reminds me to breathe and trust that God isn’t going anywhere even as He sweeps me along in the heady rush of waves too powerful for me to escape of my own accord.

Sometimes I just can’t swim another stroke. Sometimes my body, heart and spirit are exhausted and it’s more than I can do just to beg God to hold my hand, hold me up, carry me along. Sometimes all I can do is hope that He will keep me faithful.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

“For Your Joy”

On her blog, Heading Home, Kate Moatung writes about the joy God prepares for us:

I reluctantly told them it was almost time to go, but promised I would wait until they had finished digging the final channel of water.

My daughter immediately said, “Well, we won’t get to enjoy it, but maybe the next people who come will be able to!”  She then proceeded to etch into the sand with her fingertips, a message at the entrance to their sand compound:

“For your joy.”

I wished I’d brought my camera.

As I looked at the sand-carved letters, it struck me right away that she didn’t write, “For your enjoyment,” but rather, “For your joy.”

And I thought about how the Lord has done the very same thing.

He has constructed an intricate, elaborate creation for our joy.

Have you ever thought about that?

And He didn’t stop there.  Not only did He create this universe for our joy, but He has prepared an even greater place, eternity itself, for the forever joy of those who love Him.

Read the rest of Kate’s post.

Five Minute Friday: Whisper

small-voice1Usually, it’s not as loud as a whisper. Yes, there have been occasions when His voice is clear and sharp, as when He told me, “You were happy once. You will be happy again.” But that’s rare. Usually, there’s a wisp of feeling, a slight tingle, a tug, a passing thought.

Often it’s like the day I felt pulled to take a different route as I walked to the supermarket. “I like this way better,” I told God and continued on my original path. Then the squirrel darted in front of me. We both stopped. I waited for it to dart back into the garden from whence it had come. It quickly turned it’s head in all directions and darted into the street where it was hit by a car and killed.

“If only I had listened,” I mournfully told God. “I wouldn’t have seen it die, wouldn’t have startled the squirrel. Maybe it would still be alive.

It’s easy to ask God for what I want. More work is required when He speaks to me. I must take Him seriously. I must accept that even when it doesn’t seem to matter, if He’s pulling me one way, it matters. I must be humble enough to give way to the small whispers and tugs and tingles. I must be trusting enough to remember that, at times, God will shield me from witnessing the death of a squirrel because He’s not out to expose me to horrors and He cares for all of His creation.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

The Luckiest Girl In The World: Another Excerpt

Georg read from my book of Struwwelpeter stories:

“So she was burnt with all her clothes,
“And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;
“Till she had nothing more to lose
“Except her little scarlet shoes;
“And nothing else but these was found
“Among her ashes on the ground.” (1)

“Paulinchin!” I crowed and bounced in my seat. “Papa reads that story to me in German!”

Carsten, Georg’s little brother, pressed close to the older boy’s side. “She burned up,” he said softly. His thumb inched into his mouth.

“She did!” I bounced again. “She played with matches and danced around the fire and burned up!” I bounced out of my chair and twirled until I fell on the floor in a dizzy heap. When the room stopped spinning, I looked up at Georg, “How do you know what those black marks on the page mean?”

“I can read,” he told me.

“How?” my voice was a long, breathless sigh.

“I learned to read in school,” he said definitively.

“When can I go to school?” I asked Marmar.

She started back a bit, creases came into her forehead, “When you’re five. I suppose…” I nodded and swaggered off to play with my wooden train.

“And how old are you?” the strange man asked me. I backed myself against Papa’s leg, my eyes opened wide.

“How old are you. Lysse?” Papa prompted.

“Five,” I held up three fingers.

“She’s three,” Papa corrected me.

I looked up at Papa’s face, “I’m five.”

Papa and the strange man exchanged glances. “She’s three,” Papa told him.

“I’m five!” I ran through the hall singing. “I’m five!”

Marmar called me into the sitting room. “Lysse, you know you’re three.”

“I’m five,” I insisted nodding my head.

“Why do you keep saying you’re five? You know you’re three,” Marmar voice was serious.

“Because,” I began. “You said I could go to school when I’m five.”

Marmar blinked, “Why do you want to go to school?”

“I want to learn to read,” I told her.

“Read?” she asked, her forehead crinkling.

“Georg learned to read at school. I want to know what those black marks in books are.”

Marmar pressed her lips together for a moment. Finally she said, “I’ll talk to your Papa. Go play now.” She sent me off with a pat on my bum.

“Lysse, this is Siobhan,” a young woman with curly red hair reached for my hand. She was taller than Marmar; red freckles covered her face. I kept my hands behind my back. Marmar lifted me from the floor. She spoke gently, “Siobhan has come to teach you to read.” I looked at the curly, red haired woman. Her brilliant blue eyes crinkled as she smiled. My eyes widened; the corners of my mouth lifted into a little smile.

(1) Heinrich Hoffman, Slovenly Peter or Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folks (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, n.d. (1900?), (http://germanstories.vcu.edu/struwwel/pauline_e.html)

The Luckiest Girl In The World

For weeks, I’ve struggled with writing chapter ten, the last chapter of the book. It’s important because it will help me hone the previous chapters. It’s important because, that’s where I’m heading. It’s also difficult. What do I write? How would I write it? Do I use vignettes and memories and letters to God. Do I write an essay? How do I sum up how God kept His promise: “You were happy once. You will be happy again.”?

In the midst of the madness my life has been, the answer finally came. Here’s a preview:

Beloved,

How did we get to this? How did we stop knowing what Polly knows? What Phronsie recalls without much help? That we’re Yours in a way that Z’s mice can never be his. Though Z breeds mice, they are part and parcel of the same creation as him. If Z decides to breed vicious mice, he doesn’t make the mice ex nihilo. He uses mice that You have already created and attempts to breed them so that they will be more vicious. The mice have no input either before or after Z breeds them. They have no ability to choose whether they will be vicious. And Z has only limited ability over them. Recessive genes would cause some percentage of the mice to be less vicious. But they would quickly be killed by the more vicious rodents or Z would remove them as failed experiments.

But for several years, I held the keys to the food cupboards as had Claire before me. It was a perfect opportunity to withhold food from boys who molested and beat me from five to thirteen. But I remembered being hungry, so hungry, I ate dry dog food and suffered horrible headaches. I cooked extra treats so that we’d all have snacks after school. I spent my own money to buy raisins and nuts and extra butter and flour. I cooked apples and pears from the garden and learned to make all sorts of dishes so that that two pounds of ground beef and some fresh vegetables became a delicious, filling meal. I spent my own money to feed them when we were out. It never occurred to me to starve them. There was still a hungry child inside me who remembered stealing groceries for them. No matter how much I detested them, I couldn’t let them be hungry. I could choose not to be vicious. Z’s mice can’t.

He’s angry with You. You’re not as he thinks You ought to be. You allow suffering. You also don’t respond as he thinks You ought: he was so upset that you didn’t give him even one blinding light experience. Communicating with You is difficult. It requires long, hard work.

“[I]f god [sic] is omnipotent, he is capable of making himself understood if he so chooses.” Z continued, “[T]he notion that we don’t hear due to some defect on our part is absurd. [W]e are his creation. [I]f he wants us to understand his voice, he will be understood.”

Z fails to imagine himself as one of his mice. Of course, he’d tell me, “I take good care of my mice. They’re fine.” But does he understand what the mice experience? He is focused on curing cancer. That’s fitting. Just as it’s fitting to use mice to reach his goal. But do the mice want to be stabbed? Do they want to be subjects of his experiments? Z would point out that curing cancer is more important and mice aren’t human. But he’d also agree, mice suffer. And, if he is honest, he knows when his mice are suffering. He knows by their behaviour; he’s spent years watching them. They communicate to some extent. So if Z is willing to spend the time and energy learning to communicate with rodents, why won’t he learn to communicate with You?

Suffering With Christ

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

In Dappled Things, Tonita M. Helton writes about the intersection of the Cross and her mother’s horrific death from cancer.

We are all given a cross that we are bound to carry, whether willing or unwilling. Most of us are left to offer smaller sacrifices, like headaches, stubbed toes, the occasional cut, or the frustration of traffic or a difficult job or co-worker. And many, perhaps most, of us reject even those smaller opportunities. But, for the rare and truly blessed soul, God sometimes sends acute suffering, in whatever form, along with an invitation to crawl up on the Cross with him and, in so doing, help him to save the world. For those who know – really know – what to do with this opportunity, the growth and purification they merit for their own souls and the graces that are showered upon the world as a result of their offerings are enormous.

Perhaps the difficulty we have with this teaching is that the connection is hidden from us this side of the grave. It was sometimes hard for me to see why God, if he really loved my mother, couldn’t just give her a break every now and then, and protect her from the chemical burn, or the mutant bacteria, or the wretched nausea, or the month-long bout of constipation, or the edema, or the pancreatic malfunction, or the gallbladder pain and surgery, or the cancer itself, or at least the nightmares she had of demons attacking her. You see, there is often no clear line drawn for us between this particular suffering and that particular soul. Even so, there remains a bright line drawn across the ages and it reminds us boldly that Christ did not suffer in vain and it is his revolutionary mandate that neither must we. It remains our destiny to suffer because mankind fell into sin, but even that suffering can and should be redeemed by uniting it with his

Participation in Christ’s suffering is immense honour and joy. It’s hard to see, hard to accept. But once seen, we discover the immense grace He has bestowed upon us.

Don’t get me wrong. We ought not pursue suffering. Neither ought we wallow in it. But when it comes, and it will, just as the Cross was powerful, our suffering can be as well if we will suffer with Christ.

Five Minute Friday: Reach

reaching-handsMy spiritual director once said, in response to my queries about how to respond to a roommate who was taking advantage of me, “Remember, you are both reaching for the same salvation.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind. We’re all reaching for the same salvation. Even those without faith reach for what they don’t know.

My heart breaks for atheists and anti-theists in a way it doesn’t for anyone else. Of course, I hate the divisions in the Church. Those too are heartbreaking. But to be without the experience of God’s faithfulness, the hope of the fulfillment of His promises, the joy of knowing to Whom we belong — that must be emptiness. An emptiness I can’t imagine.

My life has been full of suffering. It has also been overflowing with gifts and joy. When I snapped on that day, faith was already loaded. God was more real to me that the dimly seen figures through the screen door. They were the cotton balls from my dreams that knocked me about, the ones God used to slow my descent and keep me alive. I had to learn to accept that they too were people reaching for the same salvation as I. I am very, very fortunate that He has always reached down to me and my hands have never stopped reaching to Him. What I need and want the more than anything else is to continue reaching up to my Heavenly Father and remain safely in His arms.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Does God Want His Children To Suffer?

Lazurus come forth rembrandtSometimes I think God decided to teach me about suffering. Then I realize I must require an extremely extensive course because I’m still learning. I wish suffering was easy. Easy to do. Easy to explain. In Loved As If, I use memories, vignettes, and letters to/conversations with God precisely because stories express the truth in a way that our hearts understand, just as we understand that it is fitting for the wicked queen to be punished after her many attempts to kill Snow White. Our hearts then inform our minds. (I used to think it worked the other way. In matters of faith, it’s usually heart first, then mind.)

Certainly our minds have a place in understanding suffering. Suffering must be reasonable. And it is, once we understand there’s so much more going on than we imagine. Recently, I’ve discovered Matt Chandler and The Village Church. From what I’ve read thus far, they’re not afraid to read the entire Bible and plumb the depths of God’s revelation. They are especially adept at plumbing the depths of suffering:

John 11:1-44 is an interesting passage to observe in relation to this truth. John recounts the death of Lazarus and the response of Jesus. I am always struck by the complex beauty of the first word of verse six, “so” or “therefore.” As verse five states, Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus and “so/therefore” He delayed. What was the result of this delay? Lazarus’ death. That sounds unloving on the surface. We think the text should read, “Jesus loved them, so He hurried to them,” but instead of hastening to help, He waited. Jesus delayed, and Lazarus died because He loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. His delay does not disprove His love; instead, it demonstrates greater depths of it.

Even more startling are the words of Christ in verse 15. After confirming that Lazarus died, He stated, “I am glad I was not there.” The phrase “I am glad” is a translation of the Greek word χαίρω (chairo), which is elsewhere rendered rejoice, delight or take pleasure in. Christ is saying, “I rejoice that I was not there” or “I am pleased that I was not there.” Christ delighted in a delay that allowed a death and brought about such distress? He did this because He loved the one who died and those who wept?

A short and simple answer simply won’t cut it here. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, His disciples and Lazarus so much that He delayed, allowing Lazarus to die. He then rejoiced in the fact that He was not there to prevent it. Did Jesus then want Lazarus to die? In some sense, we have to say yes to take the text seriously. Jesus wanted Lazarus to die and Mary and Martha to experience great sorrow.

I highly recommend the entire article.

A Place Called Home

Ribbons of colour, patches of light, notes of a once sung song

Traces of old days hover outside my view

I’m always reaching, it’s not very far, but it never comes into my grasp

There is a place I know, called home

I wrote those words before I knew how to long for what God has for me: the ability to live in this world and, ultimately, a place called home. It’s not necessary to suffer horrors in order to learn how to long for what God offers. Kate Moatung’s post at  perfectly captures the reason we all are, or ought to be, homesick.

Stop CISPA
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