Tongue and Cheek

Bucking, spitting the bit;

but how smooth the Spirit would be

if only the metal tamed and bridled

this furious rush.

Flames follow

burning any resolute chance in its quake.

Such is the venom which flows from a restless,

disquieted, envious, grumbling soul.

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Purple pulse’s call

A blade shakes,

light dancing on sharp, rusting metal.

Silent screams

echo endlessly

until porcelain cradles rose draped cream.

Momentary relief bows to eternal regret.

The tale’s regaled.

Hearers cloak themselves in velvet,

burying in black

a once vivid dreamer now burned to ash.

 

World’s Wanderers

*My titles are in serious need of revisions these days…

Assuage anger.

Beaten,

Chastised,

Derided.

Escape Forlorn Glory.

Hang Insipid Jest.

Kneel, Lament, Mourn.

 

Negate Opulence .

Permit Questions,

Reasoning Salvation.

Try unifying vagabonds

wagering xenial zeal.

 

Ultimate Protection

***The title could use work and I’m sure my grammar is atrocious!

Even if we wrap ourselves in padding, we can not escape the blows of life.  There is conflict, physical ailment, and emotional upheavals.  It is in these moments that we realize, no matter how hard we try to deny it or control it, we have no power to stop “bad” things from happening.

1.) The Las Vegas shooting

2.) California wildfires and the hurricanes

3.) Our children’s falls<– The one that affected me most this past weekend.

We can hover over kids, put blinders over our eyes, cover our ears, but maladies still transpire, evil still runs rampant.  We are fallen.  Sin captivates and tempts.  Until Christ returns, we will not experience a life without pain and heartache.  It is in these moments that we are tested.  Will we admit our inability to control life, that we have chosen separation from God repeatedly, and ultimately, that we need a Savior’s redemption?

Now, confessing sin, repenting, and trusting God does not mean that we will be without trouble.  Anyone promoting that gospel is packaging the truth of grace in a spoiled wrapping.  However, by pursuing Christ, we can have a blessed assurance, a peaceful hope that the circumstances in life are not without purpose.  We rest secure that there is something beyond ourselves and the constant stream of struggles.  Eternity will come and one day, we won’t have the sorrows of today.

“he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

I wish I could have protected my eldest from her fall.  She bit her tongue and it bled, a lot.  She is too little to stay still for stitches so we were given antibiotics and Tylenol to alleviate her pain, then sent on our way.  Thankfully, it is healing well.

However, that moment was a stark reminder that accidents do happen.  We can try to prevent falls, but they will still occur.  Sometimes, hovering and constant fretting can actually lead to a greater accident.  Also, it doesn’t help to blame others or yourself in the event of an accident.

Forgive the “offender” or even yourself.  There is so much relief and freedom when we forgive.  Forgiveness is contrary to our human nature, but God operates on another plane.  He calls us to the difficult and in finding our weakness, we discover his strength to persist.

Since it was purely accidental, I feel no need to blame my friend who was watching Willow at the time.  Instead, I can use the experience to remind myself that try as I might, my children belong to God and their lives are ultimately his, like all of ours are.  It is my duty to continue thanking him for the blessing to raise them, praying I’d be equipped to parent well, and that he would keep them close to him at all times.

Also, perhaps I shouldn’t be praying for safety.  Why should we be privileged to such things?  Can safety also deter us from recognizing our need from God?  Instead, I find that I should rather be praying for greater revelation of God and his power in all things.

Thank you God for preserving my daughter for yet another day.  I pray you would please prolong her days that she might worship you and that her worship would be infectious to those whom you have her influence. Thank you for the opportunity to care for this invaluable treasure.

May all our moments, joyful and hurtful bring us deeper into your fold.  Help us to recognize your power and glory in all situations.  You are completing a good work in us.  Your strength is made perfect in our weakness.  There is ultimate good for those who lay down their lives and follow you.  We do not mourn as those who have no hope.

Everything has a purpose for God’s glory and our good and may we revel in that.  There might be a dark shadow today, but in the end, sorrow is eclipsed by glory—a Savior who died but rose again and gives victory over death!  One day, when we dwell with him at the end of our days, there will be no more suffering!  Let us continue to hold onto that!

Yes, we can cry when we are sad.  I assure you I certainly did (once my daughter slept so as not to alarm her).

When we cry though, we must remember, this is not the end.   Sometimes, things could be far worse than what they were, but they are not nearly as great as what lies ahead!

 

A heavenly brew

Steam rises off muddled liquid, thick in ivory cups.

Spittle specks poke holes in frothy foam.

Comrades commiserate.

Some speaking in hushed tones and others in jovial spirits,

fellowship encircles the room-

low lit with acoustic guitars strumming in the background.

There are friends and acquaintances,

meetings and informal parties.

Every individual with their own story,

brought together by this common interest,

the idea of bonding through the energy granted

by this intoxicating bean.

 

 

Happy National Coffee Day—September 29, 2017

 

The Best Laid Plans

I announced it.  #3.  That’s right.  We are expecting baby #3.  After years of infertility struggles and a miscarriage, we are anticipating the arrival of our third child.  Five years ago, sitting in a fertility clinic, we never would have guessed this day would come.  We were shocked to even receive our Willow blessing.  Now we have Fiona and “Caramel”.

We were told that we had a five percent chance of conceiving naturally.  There are some friends and family who said we didn’t conceive because we were stressed and when we stopped worrying, it happened.  I can assure you, I was worried it would never happen after our miscarriage.  I was wrought with anxiety and stress then.  Yet, we conceived Willow during that time.  The stress argument I find debunked, especially with medical diagnoses that show we had legitimate fertility problems.

Anyways, I say this simply to state that I am amazed at God’s power and the fruitfulness he has graced us with.  My heart is overjoyed.  Sadly, I get the sense that few share the excitement sentiment.

It is true what they say “there isn’t much fanfare after #2”.  In fact, while it wasn’t an outright choice to have our kids so close together, they are.  Some people think this unwise.  They ask how we can afford them, what are we thinking, etc.  They think I’m not giving my other kids enough attention by having them so close together.  Some people think us absurd to want 4-5 (in theory) children.

[Americans don’t appreciate kids, or at least that is what I have found.  We glory in the 20-30s: a carefree, entitled, and over-worked young adult.  America prides itself on industry and individualism.  What is better than a young adult with nothing to live for but the company?  Children and the elderly interfere with that.  Anybody who chooses to have more than 1-2 children are considered irresponsible and a societal burden.  It didn’t use to be this way.  Large families were the norm.  Nowadays, the biblical idea of being fruitful and multiplying is being crushed and trampled on.

I have always been drawn to counter-cultural behavior.  Oh, what a radical rebel I am.]

We live in a 700 sq. foot house.  American mentality dictates that a family of 4 or more should live in 2000+ sq. feet.  I get asked how I am going to fit my children in my house all the time.  Do we not realize that often the space we do have beyond 200 sq. feet is excess?  How often do you spend time in every single room?  You don’t.  Typically, you spend time in your bedroom sleeping, in the kitchen cooking, and in a living room type set-up.

Honestly, most families could get by with 3 rooms maximum.  Yes, privacy is nice.  Since when did it have to be a whole room?  Can’t we carve out a bunk?  Also, instead of sedentary practices of finding alone time at home, why not go for a walk alone?  Surely there is a whole world of space you can find to yourself.  Who says it has to be home specifically? Isn’t home for my family?  Maybe I am being too nit-picky, too opinionated.

People ask what are plans are.  I realize they did this with the first.  I get criticized for wishing our daycare options operated differently.  Look, I didn’t choose this because I wanted to work.  I chose it because I HAD to work.  My plan was to stay home once I had children.  That plan didn’t work out.  Three years later, I can say that I do want to work some out of the home by choice.  However, I want to work about 10-15 hours, not 40.  Full-time employment was never my plan.

After four years of infertility and a miscarriage, three kids was a dream but certainly not a plan!  What are plans anyways?  Plans are human constructs that become God’s cosmic joke.  Any time I made a decision, God had a bigger, grander idea for his kingdom’s growth.

I didn’t plan to live in NJ for 10+ years.  However, I met the most incredible man here.  I married him and couldn’t be more grateful for the marriage I have.  I have the most amazing and helpful community that is found only in dreams, really.  My kids have a great life here with lots of friends and activities.

I reluctantly admit, NJ isn’t that bad and I have even toyed with the idea of staying longer.  I have become content with the idea of staying here forever (this side of heaven, of course).  Yet, I can sense a stirring in my soul that is calling me to move.  I feel that a move is coming, just when I feel bent on setting deeper roots here.  God’s will and movement is funny.

So what are my plans?  I’m not sure.  I plan on seeking community that will continue to help me stay firm in faith.  My plans are to try and be flexible with where God is leading, wherever and for however long that might be.  I’ve come to realize that my plans get foiled.  I will make them, but I have to be willing to adjust them.  Seasons change and so do our lives.

It is best we stay flexible, malleable to the Spirit’s whims and all the while, shining for God’s glory.  May this child, and all my children Lord, pursue righteousness, walking in your ways.  Equip us to parent them in that measure.

May we all who call on your name be willing to seek your plans as greater than our own.

The Response of Celebrating Holy Days

In recent conversations, it came out that my family and I were going to observe biblical feasts this year.  We were going to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.

Some people’s response: “You aren’t Jewish.”  I nod and say, “Yes, but Jesus was and to draw closer to him, to understand God better, we are decidedly observing the day.”  Then the day continues, conversations waxing and waning about miscellaneous events and details.  These encounters caused me to pause.  We don’t say this in regards to seemingly Christian holidays.  We would say it to someone who chooses to observe Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist traditions, but not traditionally recognized Christian holy days.  Why?

Atheists participate in Christmas and Easter every year without a bat of the eye from most folks.  Yet, if you state that you are partaking in a Jew’s holy observances or any other religion’s holy days, you are ultimately questioned.  This might not be universally true, but what I have personally experienced and witnessed.

I ask myself, why?  Why does reflecting on Christ’s birth and resurrection not give others pause?  Why do atheists and even individuals from other faith traditions willingly participate in celebratory practices on a Christian’s holiday and questions are not asked as to their motives and reasons?  This perplexes me.  Is it because the history is indeed pagan in nature and sadly, Christians go through motions rather than true conviction and dedication?  I have been guilty of this myself; please, understand this question is not asked in judgement but rather curiosity.

How are we awed more about the mystery of a mystical figure who gives us presents rather than a complex God who challenges us?  I’ve heard it said that it is fun to watch a child’s excitement over the magic of Santa’s surprise gifts left under a tree?  Why does materialism and greed cause us to find more joy than the birth of a radical Savior?  Shouldn’t Emmanuel stir more wonder in our hearts and soul than a jolly man who breaks and enters?  Are we only okay with Santa’s crime because he satisfies our wants with wrapped illusions of gratification?  Do we not know that St. Nicholas was a real figure who bestowed gifts to the poor IN THE NAME OF CHRIST?

Christ compels us to a higher standard.  He charges us to love our neighbors, to give even when we are inclined to hate.  This is the reason St. Nicholas gifted presents to those around him.  He didn’t do it so children would have the latest fad on their wish list.  Have we become so numb to the miracles of God that we can’t convince others the significance of observing a holy day in honor of a divine Creator as Jews have?  Their traditions are preserved for their religion typically.  Even when marketing ploys bank on purchasing practices, the Jews and other faiths still solely draw an audience that recognizes and acknowledges some authenticity to that faith alone.

I guess this is another reason why I want to look for the prophecies that foretold Emmanuel; to celebrate the holy days that dig deeper into God, his word, and ultimately the Savior.  I am searching for a richer, more authentic, more wondrous devotion to God through festivals and fellowship.  I want to be awed more by Christ than the “American dream”, or a “genie God”.

I don’t want a God who blesses me with my desires.  We need a God who transforms us to his image, not our greed.  Our passions are fickle and self-centered.  God demands being other-centered and devoted to him.  His ways are NOT our ways and I want that because his ways, albeit difficult, have always resulted in a more satisfying peace.

I want to hunger and thirst for righteousness, praying my family will do the same.  This isn’t about legalism.  We don’t coerce or force others to follow us.  We can share the good news and our excitement in finding ways for applicable, tangible ways of experiencing it, but in the end, the Spirit calls, convicts, and converts.  After all, God saves and transforms us.  Our good deeds do not.  That is another facet of these observations I like.  Rosh Hashanah, as with other biblical feasts, center on the reading of Scripture, prayers, and recognizing God as holier than humanity.  To that end, I praise him and pray that these pursuits are more for his glory than mine.

A New Year: Hebrew Style

Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the New Year.  It isn’t a sleep deprived party into the wee hours of the morning.  Rather, it is a feast that incorporates music and fellowship.

A friend of mine from college set up a Biblical Feasts group a while back.  While I am not wanting to wade waters of legalism and become ensnared by those waves, I do want a more Christ-centered, devotion-oriented life.  I want to be intentional.

Christmas and Easter are actually pagan in root.  I still observe them but try to teach my kids about Christ rather than Santa, a bunny, and gifts galore.  However, I still feel the season lacking.  It is as if American consumerism has eclipsed the joy I am supposed to feel during the season.  Try as I might, I get swept up in that whirlwind too.

Jewish holidays are not exempt from the hallmarks of marketing, but they do have years of history, all of it linking back to God, YWHW, not Roman and Greek gods.  Hoping to reignite my faith’s passion, which I have sensed an urgency to do even more since the beginning of the Julian calendar when my friend Dominic died, aged 17, I decided to start incorporating these feast observances into mine and my family’s routine.

[Aside: I am pretty sure I perplex my husband dearly.  I am much more charismatic and festival oriented than he is.  He knew this, in part, prior to our union.  I am sure he spends most of the day shaking his head though.  He loves me, but I completely baffle him as well.  I think he deserves a shout-out and moment of gratitude for me insisting on these manners.  I can only hope and pray that he is growing closer to the Lord as I do through these rituals.  Liturgy always encouraged and lifted my spirit more than it has for him though.]

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated through feasting, prayers, and a blowing of a shofar.  I know my daughters will enjoy the shofar immensly.  My gracious husband agreed that we could buy some kid shofars.  I can’t contain my excitement enough!

As we prepare for this feast, and invite friends into our home to join us, please pray for us.  Pray we would meditate and reflect on our sin of this past year, repent, and that we might press into Christ deeper and more abundantly this next year.

We breathe because he first breathed into us.  May every sigh that breaks our lips be a song of praise to him.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ps. 139:24

Autumn’s Salvation

A splash of red dotted the tree lines this morning.

The air was cool, morning mist drying with the rising sun.

Cinnamon aromas fill coffee shops.  Apple orchards blossom with plump, juicy fruit.  Pumpkin spice dashes across dishes with autumnal flair.

Cider bubbles in cups by a fire or on moonlit patios, benches with a blanket spread.

Soon it will come, branches will shake and the leaves will tumble,

crunching beneath boots and thrown into peels of children’s laughter.

 

 

Even with the Fall there is a redemption.

Conflict Resolution

I’m almost certain I have discussed this topic before, but lately I have fallen into the sin of gossip again.  I need to repent and I need accountability.  Sometimes, I use blogging for personal accountability and hopefully, my audience will act as another buffer against perpetual sin.

“If another member of the church sins against you,  go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.  But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:15-20 NRSV).

Lately I have been feeding a social media addiction.  I’m not quite sure why it brewed again, but it has.  Sadly, whenever the hours drone on and I scroll, the unnecessary anger boils.  I read biased, uneducated opinions being thrashed out, questioning the validity of other people’s opinions.  I see pride puff up egos, even that of fellow Christian brethren.  These posts rile me into defense.  Why?  What am I defending?  Am I so afraid that their pride is a reflection of my own sin I need to confront?

[“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5 NRSV).]

Sometimes the anger is justified because arrogance has no space in the body of Christ.  Yet, when we don’t approach the individual with whom we have issue with, are we not also acting in arrogance?  Are we bold enough to ask ourselves if our perception is off?  If we are being too sensitive?  The friend who I have become increasingly frustrated with over seemingly arrogant gym posts would probably think so.  He is inclined to think that I take offense too easily.  At times I can.  Other times, he just needs to pause long enough to hear me.  However, unless I address him, the vicious cycle of perceived offense and anger won’t stop.

Confronting individuals who wound our sensitivities is difficult.  I don’t like it.  I never have.  See, I struggle with this little sin called approval addiction.  [Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10 NRSV).]  I want God’s approval.  Gaining God’s approval results from a devoted, faithful commitment to Christ.  Following Christ isn’t easy and anyone who teaches differently is selling a false gospel.  

“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NRSV).  Let’s read that again.  “While we still were sinners Christ died for us.”  Christ didn’t wait until we were the way he wanted us in order to redeem us.  That type of love is incredibly radical.  We can show devoted and faithful commitment to Christ when we demonstrate such radical love to those with whom we disagree, especially with those whom we might even be tempted to hate!  Christ told us to love our enemies because even pagans love those who agree with them.  True love radiates when it seems impossible.  The world will know we are Christians by our love, a love that defies human rationality.

When we are tempted to be defensive, we need to remember “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1 NRSV).  We are to answer gently because we should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3 NRSV).  Perhaps when we try to reposition perspective and seek to understand, rather than be understood, we will find the ability to remain calm and collected, answering politely rather than cruelly and defensively.

When we seek out others to vent, we run the risk of gossip.  Gossip asserts that we are somehow superior to the offender.  In reality, we become that which we speak of. It is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45 NRSV).  If we speak vile words about another, we become vile ourselves.  Scripture commands that we “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29 NRSV).  That means we should only speak well of another person when others are listening.  If we are inclined to speak maliciously, we need to assess our own condition.  Through prayer, the Holy Spirit will guide the words we need to speak to those we are in conflict with.  If we are heard, then we praise God for reconciliation.  If we are not, then at least we know we tried and we can let the matter drop, or bring others into the conversation in the presence of the offender.  

While this structure is difficult, it does seem to wind up with the most fruitful results.  It isn’t surprising that this method seems to work best, even if it is hard.  After all, God instituted this design for conflict resolution.  Unfortunately, humanity is becoming increasingly inclined to use social media as a platform for asserting how we have been offended.  

It seems everyone is offended these days rather than trying to understand another person’s position.  Sometimes people will deliver their intended message in a seemingly hurtful manner.  I know the friend with whom I’ve been inclined to vent about really just wants to encourage others. He has seen his dedication pay dividends for himself.  His delivery of this message appears arrogant, but that isn’t his intent.  When I realize this, I am able to extend the grace and mercy I didn’t think it possible to grant him.  

Writing out these reminders is less of a rebuke for you, my readers.  Rather, it is a journal tool I am using to process my emotions.  I have to remind myself to think logically and biblically.  Human emotions are fickle and change too quickly.  Thankfully, as I digitally transcribe events, Scripture verses, and teaching, I am able to reorient my thinking and transform by behaviors.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 NRSV).  God’s will is for everyone to live peaceably as it depends on them.  (Rom. 12:18 NRSV).

We will begin to live peaceably in so far as it depends on us when we express true love (agape).  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NRSV).  Christ’s mercies are new each morning and by his example, we can extend new mercies to “enemies” every day.  

Let us begin today.  “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NRSV).  

May I remember to do perform God’s method of conflict resolution before I divert to social media, blogging, or even another friend in person.  I need to address concerns with the person with whom I have “issue” with prior to these other outlets.