Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Bush in the Desert

A bush in the desert. A man living in stony wastes. A land of salt without inhabitant.

This is how Jeremiah describes those who trust in mankind. A man who makes flesh his strength. A man who turns from the LORD.

There is an austere beauty in the Arizona desert, in the forests of cacti. It is not like the deserts of the Bible: deserted places without bushes, or even weeds, to give beauty. The eye seeks and finds only dirt, stones, and barren hills. A wasteland. So is the man who trusts in human flesh. Whether I look for satisfaction in government, in the influence of men, in family, a friend, or my husband, all are sure to leave me empty. Or if I place my confidence in self, my heart would be a land of salt.

In ancient times after the victorious army sacked a city, tore down the walls, and burned the houses, as the final insult they would sow the ground with salt. Ground, sown with salt, cannot sustain crops. In the days before refrigerated trucking, to sow the fields around a city with salt was the final death blow (at least in theory, in actuality it didn't always work). If a city could not grow food, it could not rebuild; their name and memory could be extinguished. Think of the Dead Sea, nothing survives there.

In chapter 17:7-8 Jeremiah goes on describe the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD, using words echoing Psalm 1.

He will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green, 
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.

Trust in the LORD is the way out of the desert. The LORD plants us, that He may be glorified, by streams of living water. Living water draws down our roots, and trees with deep roots are drought tolerant trees. Though the summer should be hot and dry, though the rain doesn't fall from heaven, though it is a time of fear, the planting of the Lord is green and bears fruit.

I have left behind the desert wastes. He has transplanted my heart from dry, rocky soil and set me down beside streams of life. I pray the conquering King would go back and sow salt in the soil of my flesh. Tear down the walls of self-confidence and leave an uninhabitable wasteland, so that my hope, my confidence, my joy and my satisfaction, are in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him alone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No Tricks, No Easy Ways

I was organizing the papers and books beside my bed. The tower of books is still dangerously high, threatening to topple when I add the seventh or eighth book to the top. There is still a little pile of notes on bits of paper. I still have work to do. One small scrap caught my eye. The very words I wanted to inspire me in the midst of this season of life. I carried it downstairs and left it lying around, first in the dining room then on the kitchen counter. I have been reading it once or twice a day, saying it aloud to the kids, saying it aloud to myself as I tackle the next little task. If the quote becomes my ethic, my habit, then success (as a wife, and a mama, and a homemaker, and a disciple, and a teacher, and a student ~ monetary success being far from my thoughts here) may follow, though the paper was long since crumpled and thrown in the trash can.

Success travels in the company of very hard work.
There is no trick, no easy way.
John Wooden

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

God Has Begun to Speak Peace

Do you want peace and inward quietude of soul? Whensoever the Lord then does begin to speak the least peace to your heart, take heed that you do not refuse it, but rather improve it (put it to good use), and stir up yourselves then in a way of believing. Praise God for every smile, and rejoice in the least. If a bowed (bent) sixpence, as it were, be sent you from heaven, lay it up, even every love token. Peace is a tender thing. Does the Lord speak peace to any of your souls? now stir up yourselves in a way of believing and Christ will give you more.      ~ William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, 1649

I don't mean to be a perfectionist. Still, I am. God has promised peace, joy, love, fruits of the Spirit, Christlikeness. Why not now? In my flesh I say: let's skip daily death, frequent repentance, constant reliance, Spirit conviction. I would skip ahead and be done. Holy living, have it now.

I find holy living elusive. Sure, I avoid the big sins (by the grace of God). But there are plenty of little sins that make their way out every day. There are plenty of dark corners in my heart. I get discouraged.

Has God given me any peace? Well, certainly, lots of peace. Then I want to qualify, but not perfect peace. However peace is not an all or nothing proposition. Has He begun to speak peace? Put it to good use. Make the most of it. This is only the beginning. Rejoice in every gift from heaven, no matter how small. Hide His love tokens in the secret places of the heart and cherish them. Believe and Christ will give more.

I've been carrying these words in my head since I read them. God promises faithfulness that is new every morning. God promises good gifts tomorrow. What use will I make of them?

Thursday, July 12, 2012


It used to be that my favorite place to do school with the kids was the couch. Not for speed drills, math lessons and copywork, oh no. But any other excuse to snuggle on the couch was enough to lure me. History, memory work, poetry or read alouds were learned best side-by-side. That's the way it used to be, before they grew up.

Now they require quiet and concentration. They require a hard surface for algebra problems. They require space to spread out their science book and study guides. Except one, she requires freedom; she requires the illusion of being one day away from fully grown, that way she doesn't feel small on the couch. And so they all asked for desks.

After two days of reorganizing and re-purposing, measuring all the spare corners and several little fights, we had them settled. Kara at the Ikea desk (with plastic drawers from Walmart - the wood shelf is in use elsewhere). Sam at the desk that was Bryan's when he was a boy. Ally at the table that used to be in the raccoon's house (meaning only the raccoons live there, and as raccoons are rarely so civilized as to pull up a chair, I considered the table free for the taking). The table is all sanded, ready for a coat of paint. It will be much improved. The other two require a few special touches on their desks, things to make the space their own. We'll dream for a bit, make sure this works, then see what we can create.

Arden is the only one who still does school snuggled on the couch. Not to be left out he set up a desk in the front hall, made of plastic bins that hold the Duplos, the car tracks, the train tracks. Two boxes for a desk, one for a chair. Thankfully his studious endeavors there lasted only one day. We put away the toy boxes and outraged he cried, "My desk!" Next morning, without complaint, there he was sounding out phonemes on the couch.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Longing of a Parched Land

My soul longs for Thee, as a parched land.
Psalm 143:6

Two months without rain. Skies of brass, blistering heat, golden lawns and leaves of brown falling from above. I wake each morning, open the bedroom curtains: I see only sunshine and pray for rain.

My friend writes, "The drought makes me thirsty for His presence." She longs and these days I feel only tired, parched. I pray for rain.

I come each day to the wells of salvation and read the words of life, as I know I must. But I feel like the dust that swirls around my son's ankles when he hits the grass with a stick. The Word swirls the dust of my heart, but what is called for is a cleansing shower. Pray for rain.

In Isaiah 2: 30 God warns faithless Israel, "For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away, or as a garden that has no water." Without His presence my soul is a parched land. Pray.

Call on the Lord and wait for the comfort and salvation of God. Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). When I am dry, I draw water from the springs again and again and await the joy. 

Last night it rained. Our plants are still wilted, bronze and copper, in the morning light. When the land is parched and scorched just one rainfall isn't enough. I wait with longing for more. And I wait with confidence because the streams of God never fail.

And the Lord will continually guide you, 
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones; 
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:11

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Festive Fourth

It has been a hot and dry summer. So hot and dry that the fire danger has soared. The fun quotient of food and gunpowder was halved by state wide burn bans. The municipal fireworks show was canceled. We had friends to dinner on Tuesday. We were left to our own devices on Wednesday. We felt sorry for ourselves and joked about just watching fireworks on TV. Except, wait, we don't have TV.

Four kids, eager for some kind of holiday fun, waiting while two parents whisper, brainstorm, in the kitchen. We took them swimming. We played a board game. We ate dessert then hopped in the car.

We ordered milkshakes from Sonic and someone had the audacity to complain about having dessert twice. Is that a problem? We parked out by the soccer field, spread out our blankets and waited for it to get dark.  The kids ran around with their glow sticks, battling it out in the summer heat. We watched the stars come out.

Then...then...with the help of two planispheres and a night sky app on the phone we found the stars. We found Saturn and Mars. We found Altair, Deneb, Polaris, and more utterly foreign names glittering in and beyond the Milky Way. We traced the imaginations of ancient men: Draco, Ursa Major and Aquila. The six year old danced with joy when the moon finally appeared in the sky. The moon! The moon!

All my life I've been able to name three stars in the night sky: those three in Orion's belt. I could never even find the Big Dipper. The success has gone to our heads. We plan to go out again in two weeks when the moon wanes, though we will probably skip Sonic.

After all, the Fourth only comes around once a year.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Session

We started school today. Our goal is to fit in four weeks this summer, thereby earning ourselves time off next spring.

These long summer days have bored us to tears. Too hot to go outside - at 108 it's too warm inside as well, days too quiet - all our activities are in the evening: we were bored.

I've never seen my kids so positively giddy to start school. There was a great deal of reorganizing, quick last minute planning, and we began with joy. And one said over and over, "I can't wait to do school again tomorrow."

Too bad this enthusiasm can't last until February.