Tuesday, March 27, 2012

January's Knitting

January's knitting is finally completed. It only took me all of January, all of February and a little of March to finish. In the meantime I made a list of every crafty project I've been contemplating. There are 13 items on the list. At an average rate of one project every two months, that's 26 months of work to keep me busy. It took me three months to come up with 13 project ideas, so in those same two years I should be inspired by, roughly, 104 ideas.


This is why I feel I never get anything accomplished. My life is a mathematical impossibility. I'm constantly perplexed making the determination of the most important things to do in life. Or rather, the most important leisure activities to fill my limited "free" time everyday. Wondering when that is? After the kids are in bed, of course.

I've already cast on the next project on my list of 13. It's a secret, can't tell. Yet.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Choking Words

"You see that a man is justified by faith and not...."

"No, no, no," I interrupt Ally.

You see we're plodding our way through James. After all these months we've memorized clear up to 2:24. No reason to boast in our memory work. And we've hit a verse we just can't get right.
"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."
We  live a grace centered life. We attend a church that preaches grace. We pray for greater grace. We teach our kids grace. Grace is the only hope for someone like me. When I come to this verse I can hardly even choke the words out: "justified by works."

I'm not planning to overthrow my theology. I read James but I also read Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:23. But I ask God, "What  do you  mean?!" I have no idea. I think James is an antidote to cheap grace. A grace that requires only belief.  No action of mine can be good enough, therefore no action of mine is required. I can't live that way if I read James. Even that short answer leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

I remind myself once, and again, and again, James is the Word of God. The holy, inspired, infallible revelation of God Himself to one who understands so little as me. And I don't see, not at all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What To Do With Two

I could have packed him up and sent him off with the others. I had planned to have the day all to myself. I had planned hours of peace and quiet and a reading and an activity schedule. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle it's easy to miss this littlest one. Even more than I needed a day to myself, he needed a day for just two. Muttering a quiet complaint, I did what I knew was right. We waved goodbye to the family, walked back inside and had the very best of days.

We did some chores. This always in motion boy a cheerful worker under mom's approving eyes.

We played Teddy Mix and Match counting out our bears by two's.

We nestled together on the sunny spot and read all the library books. We read How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World two times. It's twice as good and oh-so funny when you're six.

We ate lunch at the quiet table, side by side. We made two malted chocolate milkshakes for dessert. Two straws.

He biked and I huffed along behind him, vainly trying to catch up. We stopped to watch the muskrat in the water. We craned our necks to see the hawks overhead. He stopped to pick a boquet, grape hyacinth and common weeds growing beside the trail. A gift for the love of his life, and it's still me.

We had the very best of days, we two.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Last of the Daffodils

The last daffodils are dying on my kitchen window sill. Harbingers of cheer and hope, now spent and brown.

Inspired by afternoons at the college field, the kids play baseball in the backyard sun. The crack of the bat rings spring.

We wear our tees. Our noontime walk feels sticky warm as we pick our way over the carpet of fallen magnolia blossoms. Spring peepers sing their frog song.

Planets shine bright in an ink sky and we delight to stand in awe on such a perfect night.

I turned on the air conditioner in the van today.

And it's only March.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Old Testament Rabbit Trails

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak....Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Genesis 32:24 and 26
Perched on her loft bed, Kara read those words aloud to me before bedtime. After all of the kisses, I closed my door and opened again to Genesis. "Won't let go unless you bless me" became my prayer, even as I acknowledged how very blessed I am. Then I saw the foot note: Hosea 12:4 (and I've added verse 6).
Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us, even the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD is His name....wait for your God continually.
Though I had known, I did not know, that God repeated these words in Hosea. There is no easy seeking after God. There is wrestling and weeping. There is continual waiting for God.

Rejoicing in Hosea I continued forward. I read to chapter 14. After twice reading "take words with you," and "I will love you freely," and "from Me comes your fruit" I thought I ought to memorize the chapter. Those are the overly ambitious thoughts of late night Bible reading that may never be seen in sunbeams on my memory cards. Hosea 14:5-6 says:
I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
 At first I thought this could apply to me, "blossoming like a lily" having a certain appeal. (I know, first it applies to Israel!) Then I thought, what about Christ? Is it Him, the Shoot and Root of Isaiah 53? And next I was praying to "live in His shadow," from verse 8. (No commentary used. Please refer to your own for a Biblical reading of these verses. But just for a moment...humor me, follow the trail.)

Finally, I picked up the Bible reading plan and opened to Exodus 15. Israel had escaped from Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea. They sang and danced and rejoiced before the Lord. Then they set out and three days later had not found water. Parched, they arrived at Marah and found the waters bitter. The people grumbled. Moses prayed.
Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
A tree tossed in bitter waters made them sweet. God has shown us a tree, which when applied to a bitter heart makes it sweet. In a flash, the Cross came to mind, made of wood, once a tree. Then I thought of Hosea. Not the Cross, the Man on the Cross. The Lord Jesus Christ, He is also the tree. Jesus Christ, applied to my bitter heart makes it sweet. Easy: purge out anger, hatred, ugly thoughts, and ungratefulness and pray in Jesus. The prayer takes a second. Hard: purging and praying. In my experience this is not without weeping, wrestling, and continual waiting. Maybe...maybe I walk away with a limp, like Jacob long ago.

The Israelites traveled from Marah and came to Elim "where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms." Won't let go until You bless me. Give favor, Lord, and lead me, limping, to Elim. Twelve springs of water, all sweet like Christ, and seventy date palms.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hearts of the Children

Bryan, Sam, and I have been watching The World at War. This series on WWII was made for TV in the 1970's. As a result the producers found many people who could tell their own stories for the cameras, both Axis and Allies. Watching episode after episode is brutal and sobering, sometimes inspiring, and certainly not for the younger set.

In an episode on Hitler's Germany there were these words:

When an opponent declares, "I will not come over to your side," I calmly say, "Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community." Adolf Hitler - Speech November 1933

 The Hitler Youth Movement had 100,000 members in 1933. The Nazi propaganda films show beautiful girls in shorts running, playing ball and tug of war. Boys swim, race and wrestle. One smiling face after another turns toward the cameras, laughing, the sun on their faces. There are shots of them sitting down to eat, served a healthy lentil stew, nourishing a strong and rugged Aryan race. Every image deceptively idyllic. By 1936 there were four million Hitler Youth members, then in 1939 attendance became mandatory and numbers soared. But those numbers don't tell the truth.

I see the smiles and bobbing blond hair over and over again. I also see the tears in the eyes of the mother who refused to let her son join the Hitler Youth. I hear of the ways he was made fun of by his friends, and punished by his teachers. I hear the fear. Yet she was steadfast; steadfast for the heart of her child, steadfast in her conviction of right.

For the youngest children, the Hitler Youth Movement wasn't outright evil, it was outdoor fun and healthy bodies and a subtle tug to capture the hearts of the children. I think about my own children and their activities. This complicates matters. The question becomes far more complex than whether one activity is morally right or wrong, it becomes a question of the heart. Who will influence their heart? And in the end who will own it? Will someone ever turn to me and say "What are you? We already have your children."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Work and Prayer

I finished reading Don't Waste Your Life by Piper this week. I finished a couple other books as well, which does not indicate I have been reading a lot. Rather, I was reading too many books at once and was almost done with several of them.

John Piper is not my favorite author. I love to hear him preach. My heart swells with the excellencies of Christ every time I download a sermon. But I find his writing hard to follow. So I would classify this as a good book but not a great book. Still I've been following thoughts down several trails since I finished, so I probably shouldn't complain about a book that has gotten me thinking.

In the chapter "Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5" (Moms...wouldn't you love "office" hours?!) Piper quotes Jonathan Edwards' Thoughts Concerning the Revival. Piper claims the "person" Edwards is alluding to is his own wife, Sarah Edwards. Her passion for Christ was stirred during that Revival. I just wish Edwards didn't find it necessary to be so discreet. Please spell it out for me: this is my own wife, I know her better than any other and I know this to be true. Forthrightness would make it easier for me, the uneducated reader. But that is an aside...the main point:
"Oh how good," said the person once, "it is to work for God in the daytime, and at night to lie down under his smiles!" High experiences and religious affections in this person have not been attended with any disposition at all to neglect the necessary business of a secular calling, to spend time in reading and prayer, and other exercises of devotion; but worldly business has been attended with great alacrity, as part of the service of God; the person declaring that it being done thus, "tis found to be as good as prayer."
In other words, Jonathan Edwards said: dinner was served in a timely manner, the eleven children were disciplined, the house was maintained, and he had a clean shirt to wear on Sunday. Sarah worked with great "alacrity" in her secular sphere, the home. Her heart burning within her, she worked all day long and lay down at night under the smile of God.

When I am overtaken by a "religious affection" alacrity is household affairs isn't usually one of the chief characteristics. In fact, somewhere else in Don't Waste Your Life Piper recommends a three day retreat with only the Bible for company. Sounds lovely, sounds godly, I want one. But I won't be going a three day retreat with my Bible. I will be here at home, praying all the while that I can learn to see how service in my sphere can be "found to be as good as prayer."