Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekly Profit

I have an online accounting software for A Glimpse of Grace, the business. Every week it sends me an automated message about my activity for the week. For the past five weeks, the subject line has read: WEEKLY PROFIT: $0.00!

I disagree!!!

No, I haven't made any money in the past five weeks, but I sure have made memories, made a difference, and I have made headway in taming an angry six-year-old.

I'm sure most of us would agree that money isn't the measure of our lives. I have never sought after money as my top priority, but there have been times in my life when money was scare enough to cause concern. In those times, it is more difficult to make choices that value our relationships with God and others above the commitment to make enough money to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families.

Right now, I am blessed to be living in a time of enough, in regards to money and material things. And as I am packing up my glass studio (read more here) in anticipation of a church call, my profit is elsewhere. And that, too, is a blessing.

Making memories for my child is an amazing opportunity to affect who she will become. I deeply desire her to have a solid love for God, a solid understanding of Grace in Jesus Christ, and a confidence in herself that is solidly based on those two things. I am in no way competent at creating these results, but I can welcome her friends, create an environment of acceptance and peace, and guide the interactions that can so easily tend toward abuse toward playmates rather than love and grace.This opportunity is profit indeed!

Making a difference right now means taking care of two of our grandchildren while their dad is working. Their mom, our daughter, lives elsewhere, but the children spend the summer with their dad here in our town. Having three children around, ages 7, 6, and 4, is challenging, of course. It stretches all of us as we navigate sharing, accommodating, and including. But I wouldn't trade this opportunity to be family with them! And I'm glad we can make a difference so their dad doesn't have to worry about finding and paying for child care while he works. Profit again!

And then there is our angry six-year-old. I'm not sure why she's angry lately; possible explanations abound! I'm sure you can see the potential connection between having the extra children and our daughter's anger. Frankly, it doesn't matter much why she's angry, as long as she is safe and well (which she is). She needs to learn to tame her anger, instead of allowing it to run rampant over everyone around her. Much of her anger seems directed at me when I won't simply do something for her: a math problem, bring her a toy, etc. But there is profit indeed in teaching her how to manage her emotions as she becomes a more independent individual.

Weekly Profit: No money, but plenty of learning, growing, loving, stretching, and enjoying... I count that as awesome!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lie of Self

We enter this world entirely self-focused, which is completely normal. Infants are expected to be a bundle of needs and desires. I've been watching our youngest child go through the developmental stages, becoming more aware of others' needs and desires along the way. At six, she has a ways to go yet! That's normal, too. I was seventeen when I  awoke my mother in the middle of the night to tell her I couldn't sleep... I was shocked, and then chagrined (as I realized how selfish I was), when she said, "Why is this MY problem, Robin?"

I must admit, that through much of my life, I struggled to understand why the Bible says that I am wholly unworthy and must "put off my old self...and put on the new self." (Ephesians 4:23-24) I don't mean that I've thought I was perfect; I've always known that I'm not. But I kind of always thought I wasn't "that bad." After all, I tried to do the right thing. I was a pretty good person...Right?

Because I've grown in my trust of God and therefore know He is accurate when He says I am wholly sinful, I've examined those ideas over the past decade. First, I came to realize that because God is perfect and holy, I could never be "good enough" for Him. And perhaps it's aging and gaining perspective, or perhaps it's the developing fruits of the spirit, but I am now able to see that I am so often thinking about myself... even when I'm supposedly doing something "good."

In his book, Follow Me, David Platt says we are functioning within self-saturated Christianity. That really struck a chord with me! How much of time I spend with God is focused on me? How many times do I volunteer thinking about the benefits to me? Or how I want this thing to happen? Or how something makes me look to others?

The answer to these questions for me right now is: Not as much as it used to be. I think that's a good thing. I am working to recognize when my motivation is not Christ, but Robin. I am trying to approach God for His glory, not to meet my need. (I'm not saying we shouldn't approach God to meet our own needs, but that shouldn't be the only time we approach God.) I am trying to allow the Holy Spirit to change me from a selfish infant Christian into a maturing Christian.

I'm praying that God removes my self-focusing blinders and that I can serve Him and do His will, not mine.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What God Has Done For Me

Luke 8:39 is part of the daily scripture from the RCA Facebook page today. It is the story of the legion of demons whom Jesus removed from a man and sent into a herd of swine. The herd then rushed down a hill into a lake and drowned. The healed and redeemed man then wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus told him instead to "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."

 In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

For many Christians, this is uncomfortable stuff, myself included. Go home and declare how much God has done for me? Really? To my closest friends and family? What will they think? Make disciples of all nations? Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you? What right do I have to change other nations?

But look at the last part of the Great Commission... "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." I don't have to do this alone. This is God's work! If I take a step in faith, God will provide the words, the works, the everything to make the changes... including the necessary changes in me.

So now I need to think: What is it that God has done for me that I am supposed to declare? What evidence is there that God has been active in my life?

My cup runneth over...

I am filled with a peace which can only come from God.

I am growing in fruits of the spirit: patience, wisdom, kindness... and this is not me! I feel just as impatient, impulsive, and snarky as ever...until I pray for God's grace. Then I am flooded with patience and insight.

I have many broken relationships in my life, but the relationships I am building and keeping at this point are whole, healthy, and God-centered.

And, of course, I am assured of God's saving Grace through Jesus Christ. I am forgiven.

My desire to serve God grows and my closeness to Him increases as my days go by. I am blessed in so very many ways.

How are you blessed? What do you have to declare?

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Hold

This is the entrance to my glass studio right now. It hasn't been an ideal place to work on glass: Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. Almost never right for soldering, which works best at certain temperatures. It's also difficult to work out here because our six-year-old doesn't have much to do inside my shed, and I'm not comfortable with her in the house and me out in the shed. Oh! And the mice...can't forget the mice, who chew through my bubble wrap (why?) and make nests in my glass cases. Ugh!

I haven't done much work in the past 14 months while we have lived here. The temperatures, my broken elbow, the remoteness... all have taken their toll on my glass work. In some ways, it's been frustrating. In some ways, I've felt like my art was on hold, just like our family's future, waiting on God's call. My husband continues to interview, and we continue to wait. We've been close to a call a couple of times, but obstacles keep appearing unexpectedly.

On hold.

A couple of months ago, when it seemed a call was imminent, I started packing up my glass studio. The call didn't come, and I stopped packing for a while. I prayed about unpacking and getting started with working again, and God clearly said, "Trust me. Pack." So I kept packing my tools and my glass, all the while doubting whether I should be doing so.

But every time I pray about it, I get the same message: "Trust me. Pack." So, I'm packing. And trusting. And waiting. And enjoying playing with our wee one. And writing. But mostly, trusting God to provide, to call us to service, to hold us in His hand while we are on hold.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Glad Tidings
My dear husband and I got a surprise evening free tonight. Our six-year-old stayed for supper at a friend's, and we decided to make a quick trip to a local festival, then go to a nice restaurant to eat dinner. It was a delightful break from routine, and we are grateful to our friends who watched our daughter.

I couldn't help but have mixed feelings about the festival, though. I know, that's weird! Festivals are fun, right? Who wouldn't like food, drink, and art??!

Well, me... I guess. As we wandered through the art and food booths, I kept looking at it all from the perspective of need vs. want. Everything there was a want. Everything! There was beautiful jewelry, succulent treats, and lovely pottery... but they were all desires, not necessities.

It's not that I don't spend money on myself; I do. I even purchased a new purse today. But I don't browse-shop. I don't "go shopping," looking around for whatever-might-strike-my-fancy.

And tonight, it really hit me: There was not one thing available for purchase at this festival that would be considered a necessity.

So what? You might ask. Consuming is the American Way!

But... is it God's way???????

In Acts 2:44-45, the Bible says, "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Is there any possible way that my desire for a glitzy painted hat can compete with a Compassion International child's need for food and schooling? Is it even feasible that my hunger for fried cheese curds (before my three-course meal!) could be described as a "need"?

I don't think so. And that's what made my journey down the festival booths uncomfortable for me. There are so many deep, desperate needs in our world, needs for which my $3.00 or $12.00 could actually make a difference.

A disclaimer: I am NOT a puritan about this! I buy plenty of things I don't "need!" But I am developing a heightened awareness of the triviality of some ways in which I spend money... and of the great needs that we Christians are called to meet.

I'm not claiming that all Christians should avoid festivals, or festival-purchases! I simply think that we, as Christians, should think about how we spend our money. We should ask ourselves, "Is this how God would direct us to spend our money (or our time, for that matter!)?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Shedding Weight

Detail from Northern Grace
I'm a walker by preference, ability, and need. My bone density has been a health issue for me for decades. I've written about my walking "program" before, but I've entered a new phase today: I got rid of my weighted vest.

When I saw the medical folks a couple of years ago, both the doctor and the therapist told me to quit wearing my weighted vest, that it was aggravating my spinal issues. I compromised by lowering the amount of weight I carried from 18 pounds to 12 pounds. And now even that amount is causing me problems...

                                                         so I'm ditching the weighted vest.

Believe it or not, I'm truly not writing today about my health complaints! I am writing about getting rid of things. Things we love. Things we "need." Things we have considered essential. And not even just things! How about getting rid of habits we love? Or behaviors we have considered essential?

We are getting rid of a lot of "stuff" lately, in preparation for God's call to pastor a church. No, we still don't have The Call, but we continue to trust Him and prepare for a call. And I've come up with a variation on a conflict resolution strategy to decide if something is worth keeping: Will I miss it in a day? A month? A year? That's worked pretty well when I'm dithering about keeping something or passing something along.

Then this question came to mind: Will I miss it in eternity? Truly, that's the essential stuff. Because it's all about God. Our purpose before Him is to worship Him, to bring Him glory. So all the rest is extra!

Lightening the load is good for the soul, I've discovered. Thinking about what is important, what can be parted with, is good preparation for living... no, it IS good living. I'm loosening my grip on stuff and even on expectations (like maintaining my bone density for the rest of my life). And I'm finding myself growing closer to what's truly vital: Loving God and loving people.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Long Way Home

We are in His hands, no matter what. I believe that. I know that God loves us, and that He is with us through the steepest mountains and deepest valleys. But my heart still breaks when I learn that my friend who is fighting cancer is facing rotten odds. I want to scream at God: Her five kids need her!

The song, "Long Way Home," by Steven Curtis Chapman reminds me that God is with us. If you don't know the song, take a moment to listen to it! And believe me, Steven Curtis Chapman knows steep mountains and deep valleys. His five year old daughter was accidentally killed by a vehicle....driven by his teenage son. Talk about pain!

In Romans 8:14-15, we hear, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" (TNIV)

We who know Christ are the children of God. We can turn to Him in all things. All things. In our failures. In our miseries. In our joys. In our waiting for a church call. In our cancer. In our blessings. In our anguish so deep we know no words.

So now I turn to You, oh Lord! I cry out to you: Father! Be so-very-present to us in this day, whatever it brings, that we can lean into You in all things. Strengthen us for this day's trials and forgive us for this day's failings. Continue to work in us for Your glory.

And Amen.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Spring Flowers and Cloudy Days

I started my Sunday out today with a lovely morning walk along the river. It was sunny when I started out, and I reveled in God's glory revealed in all the spring flowers. There were lilies of the valley, sweet william, honeysuckle, and a few scattered late bluebells.

As I walked, I noticed that several gorgeous patches of flowers had a backdrop of broken trees from our late snowstorm in May. The juxtaposition of brokenness with beauty struck me as an apt metaphor for my recent struggles to understand how human suffering can coexist with God's deep love and mighty power.

Today, I was really struck by God's omnipotence in both the destruction and the beauty. God's power is displayed in nature's storms and rebirth. He is in control of all things. Yes, even that. Even those things which make us cringe in pain to consider! Even those things in life which frustrate us to no end! They are in His hands.

In Psalm 31, the writer (presumed to be David) speaks of grief, distress, and terror. To all of that, this same Psalmist responds (vv. 14-15a), "But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, 'You are my God!' My future is in your hands."

And what a future He promises! In Revelation 21:3b-4, God promises that He, "God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

In all things God is sovereign. And there will come a day when human suffering will end. When we are in anguish, we can hold on to that. When we question, "Where is God?!!" the answer is: He's with us. He loves us. And we can trust Him in His glory and His power. In our joy and in our pain. In storm-broken trees and sun-kissed flowers.