Following and Abiding

… because He said to

Stay

start

There were once 7 of us here.

Now there is 1.

Just little ol’ me out of a family of 7 that has stayed in my hometown.

First 1 moved away to college.

Then 5 left in one fell swoop a year after John and I got married.

And I’m still here. I love that I’m still here. I love that I could probably drive down our main streets with my eyes closed (no kids in the car.) I ride on my bike past our old house, talk to people who knew me when I wore leg warmers, pick my boys up from my old high school.

It makes me feel grounded and safe, but  I think I could leave if He told me it was time. Until that happens, I stay.

stop

 

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Christmas and Consumerism

Every year, the day or so after Christmas, I give myself this little pep talk,

“Next year I’m going to tone down the gifts, spend less money, and concentrate on family.”

Umm… yeah. I’m really not so very different from this little lady:

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

Why is that? One reason is that advertisers are incredibly good and I am not above their tactics. A Target ad convinces me I need shiny home decor, my table should be overflowing with food on which to over-indulge, my kids will glow and love me when they open their eye-popping presents.

Can I blame it on the ads though? No. I make the choice. 

My parents used to take us on a drive to look at everyone’s Christmas lights and we absolutely loved it. I don’t remember thinking, “I need to have a yard display like that.” Maybe I don’t give my kids enough credit. Maybe I’m projecting my own consumer-driven decisions onto them.

I read an article recently by Tony Compolo where he said this,

“The American economic system could not continue to exist without keeping us constantly dissatisfied and somewhat unhappy.  Consider the fact that if you are happy with your life; if you enjoy spending time with your children, playing with them and talking with them; if you like nature; if you enjoy sitting on your front steps; if your sexual life is relatively happy; and if you have a peaceful sense of who you are and are stabilized in your relationships; if you like solitude, enjoy praying and just like talking to people—spending time in conversation with them; if you enjoy living simply; if you have no need to compete with your friends or neighbors; you haven’t spent a nickel.” (Read the article in its entirety here.)

I’m thinking about how I can incorporate these things into my consumer-obsessed holiday season.

Slavery In the Scripture

There is an argument that I’m seeing pop up a lot these days. It’s like the understudy in the theatric production of any moral issue debate that uses biblical scripture for reference…. keeping it’s fingers crossed that the lead actor will come down with a last minute flu.  I heard it sneak a few days ago from a caller on one of my favorite radio shows over the matter of a one-world government. I read it most recently in an online discussion about gay marriage.

It goes something like this, though the actual lines vary from act to act,

“You say the bible says (fill in the blank) is wrong, but slavery was allowed in biblical times and we all know that is wrong.”

First of all, why do so many people think that if something took place in the bible that God is ok with it? The scripture is not an instruction manual on how to live your best life, it’s a commentary of actual events. Did slavery occur? Yes. Was it God’s original design? No.

Our definition of slavery and the biblical definition of slavery are different. If you’re like me the image you get in your head as soon as you hear the word ‘slave’ is close to this:

But biblical slavery doesn’t fit the definition of modern slavery because it was voluntary servitude.

In the Old Testament. God actually prohibited forced slavery. (and assume that references to God commanding the slaughter of entire nations will have to be an entirely different article.) “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. Exodus 21:16 With the acception of some extreme cases (ie. the entire nation of Isreal being enslaved) a man or woman generally became a slave voluntarily. It was a method for paying off a debt or providing for a destitute family. It was not to last more than 6 years (released on the 7th year… The Year of Jubilee, whoo hoo! Another different discussion, but I wonder what our world’s economy would be if we cancelled all debts every 6 years? Ok, back on topic…)

Examples:

  • A man who is poor Lev. 25:47
  • A man could sell his daughter as a servant Ex. 21:7
  • If a thief could not pay back what he stole he could sell himself Ex. 22:3

It was not a mandatory institution, but a solution to some sticky situations, and the Hebrew word for ‘slave’ in the Old Testament is frequently misinterpreted and should be ‘servant.’

Hebrew slaves/servants were fiercely protected by God. They could not be harmed or sold, and if they were mistreated they were granted freedom. Masters never had freedom to abuse their servants.

I don’t see quite as much about slavery in the New Testament. There’s that odd little book of Philemon that I would’ve never studied had it not been an assignment in school. Onesimus is a slave who runs away and the Apostle Paul pleads with his master to let him return not as a slave, but as a ‘beloved brother.’ Obviously, Paul opposes such servitude.

As do I.

I believe our intolerance of slavery stems from our very Creator who sent his Son for our freedom. I think Jesus gave the best inaugural speech ever…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

They keep piling up

#145 picture day hairstyles & clothes

#148 going to bed early

#175 giggling

#184 falling asleep to Little House

#209 Melody chopping vegetables

#213 discipline & love

#227 doodles in Johnny’s biology notes

#234 John staying home from work

#270 belting out Spin Doctors with Eden & Maddie

#276 the capacity to love

Scripture and a Snapshot

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. 

Psalm 118:5

By setting me free.

Any scripture that reminds me of all that Christ has set me free from stops me in my tracks. I see the printed words, and I can go no further.

He set me free.

I sit back and I look up at the ceiling and I breathe out, “Thank you for setting me free.” Although he knows every beat of my heart, I have to say the words out loud. I want to make sure he can hear me. Is that a little silly? I don’t think so. He loves the sound of my voice.

He set me free from my obsession with death… released me from those beastly claws that were sunk so deep.

He set me free from impulse to harm myself… invited me to place my fingers where the nails pierced his hands.

He says, “I can carry it all.”

He lets me fall against His chest at the end of a hard day, bury my weary face into the folds of his robe, feel his chin resting on my head.

I call him Abba.

 

 

New 1000 Gifts Challenge

So while reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts I started my own list of ‘gifts’ (things I’m thankful for.) It has been slow going, but enjoyable. On Monday’s I would add my little link to her Multitudes on Monday blog posts with my post of the gifts I’ve added to my journal throughout the week, usually about 8 things. I’m re-taking one of my favorite classes through Redeemer Ministry School this year that is led by my worship-leader-slash-friend, Holly Benner (who first introduced me to A.V.’s book), and one of her assignments is to keep a thanks journal which needs to be finished by December… and must contain 1000 items.

Hmm… I’ve been working on mine since June and I’m only in the 40’s. (Yes, I asked if I could use transfer those things to my 1000 list. Yes, she said no. Is she, like, TRYING to challenge me or something?) Mathematically speaking, this would be 13 thanks a day, which sounds do-able until I fall a few days behind. Or sit there absolutely stumped because I can’t think of something to go after #126 and then I feel like an ungrateful shmuck. It’s easy to sit outside on a summer morning with my bible and coffee and birds and trees and jot down a gift in my journal as I’m inspired by something beautiful. It’s a totally different thing to sit down at the end of the day when I’ve dealt with moody teenagers and dog mud  and grocery shopping and blah blah blah. In this adventure, however, I’m already being transformed. Already finding a calmness in my spirit as I look ahead to my list of do-do’s and find myself in the middle of two 14 year old’s fighting over a can of Pepsi.

Yes, Pepsi. This is big stuff, people.

I really don’t feel like posting about 100 gifts/thanks each week on my puny, rarely-read blog so I took some snapshots of my what I’ve got going on so far and will probably list or expand upon a couple of my favorites.

One of my most favorite thanks themes right now is walking Eden (my ten-year-old) to and from school. She talks non-stop and I love it. It’s just she and I and it’s quiet and sweet and she’s such a cute fashionista that I want to squeeze her regularly. Right now the leaves are changing into this remarkable red color. I mean, red like I’ve never seen. She confidently prances  into the building with her book bag bouncing on her back and Nike shoes paired with a lace skirt and I want to point her out to everyone and say, “That one belongs to me. I’m sorry your kids aren’t as amazing.”

Hands down the most challenging was the day one of the dogs ate a whole movie theater box of Nerds and pooped it out all over the boys bedroom carpet. I mean ALL OVER.

This is not a beautiful thing to blog about, but it’s real.

So I’m scrubbing the carpet at 6:00 am before I’ve even had my coffee and talking out loud to myself, “How in the world could I ever be thankful for this?” When I’m on my knees wiping up dog poop talking to myself is the least embarrassing thing I can do. I finally came up with this… I’m thankful for carpet. I really am! I haven’t had carpet in 10 years. Hard wood floors are over-rated. You can’t curl up on a hard, cold floor and play Barbies and puppets. Thousands upon thousands of mom’s are raising their kids on dirt floors and I’m cleaning my soft, ivory carpet.

Oh yeah, poor me.

I’m currently about 40 thanks behind so I spent my last 1/2 hour of consciousness last night curled up in my flannel sheets and recalling the many, many gifts I’ve been given. Could there be any better way to spend the end of my day?

Grasp

Start.

I’m almost 35. I’m almost too old to join the military (is that right?) I’m getting a little more grounded everyday into the ‘older but wiser’ club, but there is so little I can grasp.

I’ve been a great mommy, but I am coming up short when it comes to parenting teenagers.

I’ve always known my daughter inside and out, but 3 weeks into public school and there are suddenly places of her that I can’t reach.

I’ve always known the love of the Father, but I wonder if I can call him Daddy?

Sometimes I think I know something so well only to realize I can barely grasp the concept of it. This is unsettling, scary… and ok. I recognize that when there are things that I do  NOT understand, there must be a source that/who DOES understand. I like being teachable.

Stop.

1000 Gifts

#34 Redeemer Fellowship Church

#35 phone conversations on the deck

#36 the mysterious way trees give the wind sound

#37 dreams

#38 the pleading look in a dog’s eyes

#39 a cool, humid morning

#40 the distant sound of a train’s whistle

#41 glimmering spiderwebs

 

The presence and the absence

1000 Gifts
#32 kid’s swimsuits flopped over the deck rail

Every time I see the kid’s suits like this I get a lump in my throat. The evidence of reckless play, of tanned bodies splashing and calling out over and over, “Watch me!” , playing Marco Polo and getting water up their noses and swimming around and around to make a whirlpool. Sitting this morning before an array of colored towels and deflating rafts my eyes mist and I think, “God, you are too good to me. Please let it last for a long, long time.”

Someday the little suits will be missing. Someday, sooner than I’d like, when I step outside in the morning for my quiet time I won’t find pool toys scattered on the deck and goggles heaped on the table.

I can’t bear the thought.

I’m finding it easy to be thankful for these things, but wondering how I will ever be able to say I’m thankful for their absence.

1000 Gifts

#27 morning coffee

#28 the color pink

#29 Hanna Withycombe

#30 bird songs

#31 green leaves

#32 long drives alone

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