Sunday, December 7, 2014

Racism isn't Dead

I have been befuddled by the vehemence with which my White friends and family deny that racism had nothing to do with Eric Chandler's, Michael Brown's, or Trayvon Martin's deaths (among many others). It is unfathomable to me to disbelieve the hundreds of thousands of protestors who speak to experiences of prejudice and racism in America.

And then I figured it out...

At least some of it.

I don't claim to have The Answer, but I realized as I read the responses to the lack of charges in Eric Chandler's death, that many of my White friends and family think that racism goes like this:

1) George Zimmerman hates Blacks and went out "hunting" for a Black to kill... if this isn't the truth, then it isn't racism.

2) Officer Darren Wilson becomes a police officer because he thinks all Blacks deserve arrest and punishment... or even just all "those" Blacks... if this isn't how it happened, it's not racism.

3) Officer Daniel Pantaleo saw Eric Chandler's resisting of arrest as an opportunity to kill off one more Black man... and if this can't be proven, it's not racism.

But that's just wrong. Sure, there are those evil people out there who truly hate all Black people. And there's no doubt that those people are racists. And yes, there are racist Black people who hate all White people. And there are racists of every race and every culture.

But that's not the face of racism I have seen in these situations and in my life. The face of racism is couched in our expectations and the assumptions that follow.

For example, a Black man is viewed as "threatening" by our society. Therefore, a Black man resisting arrest (clearly a wrong thing to do) is perceived as a bigger danger than a White man resisting arrest (just as wrong). It's not that the arresting officer was out to "get" a Black man, it's that the officer's sense of fear is heightened by the assumption that a Black man is inherently more dangerous than a White man doing the same behaviors. This does not point a finger at that arresting officer, but at the society that has created the assumption that Black men are dangerous.

Black people are assumed to be "poor," so when my affluent Black twenty-something daughter drives her very nice car, she is stopped by police for DWB (Driving While Black). This has happened to her many times. If a young White man had been walking in Trayvon's neighborhood with a hoodie on, it's likely he would've been assumed to belong in the upper-middle-class neighborhood, not followed, not murdered. It's not that George Zimmerman was out to "get" a young Black man, it's that he was afraid and assumed a Black man didn't belong in his neighborhood.

A particularly hateful assumption that I have found in my years as an elementary teacher in two states and four districts is that Black boys need more discipline than White boys. And of course, the general assumption that boys need more discipline than girls is in effect, too. What that means is that Black boys get disciplined more strictly and harshly than Black girls, White boys, and White girls. In other words, a Black boy is taught that he is more "wrong" than everyone else. And even more importantly, the Black girls, White boys, and White girls are all taught that Black boys are naughtier (more threatening) than anyone else!

I've even seen and heard about charter schools that are based on the idea that "those kids" (typically kids of color and of poverty) need more discipline and a more rigid curriculum. Entire schools based on an erroneous image of Blackness and poverty as "more wrong."

Another opinion I hear that I disagree with vehemently is, "I'm color-blind" or "The world would be better off if it were color-blind." Perhaps the second one is true if indeed the world could be entirely color-blind, but that's not the truth now. The truth now is that the experiences of a White person from birth to death are quite different from the experiences of a Black person from birth to death. The above assumptions, coupled with overt racism (My daughter repeatedly being told to "get her N* a** off our sidewalk" of a neighbor is just one example.), provide a completely different world-experience for those kids of color who walk into our classrooms, stores, churches, etc. If you do not believe this, ask people of color what their experiences are!!! We cannot fail to know these different world-experiences and expect to treat children of color "the same as anyone." Instead, we must work to include these children, to engage these children, to teach these children from an understanding of their experiences.

Racism isn't only about being or not-being a racist (meaning a person who actively hates another group). It is about being aware of the disadvantages given by society, history, and life circumstances to a group of people and actively working against those disadvantages... if you want to be a non-racist.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In the Face of Tragedy

Tragedy has a very personal face. An impersonal tragedy doesn't exist. I know many of these faces, here in Dulce and elsewhere through my life. I have been the face of tragedy at certain points in my past.
FROG (Fully Rely On God) is 12x12 inches. $100.00

I know the faces of mothers and fathers who lost beloved children to cancer... to accidents... to drugs... to murder...

I know the faces of wives who have lost their husbands too soon... and of husbands lost without their wives...

I know the faces of grandparents who are struggling to raise grandchildren damaged by violence...

I know the faces of women who want to be called "mom" and of men who want to be called "dad" so badly that every breath hurts...

I know the faces of children who have lost parents to death or imprisonment or apathy...

I know the faces of husbands and wives who have been betrayed...

And I know that you know these faces, too. Some of you have been these faces at certain points in your life. Tragedy is personal.

So what do we do, as Christians, when we are present in the face of tragedy?? How do we respond when someone reveals their personal tragedy??

My first answer, on the morning of the latest tragedy in our congregation here, came in Austin Bridges' song, Hold On to Jesus. We hold on to Jesus, and that's true. We cling to the truths given to us by the Bible: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13); "All things are possible for one who believes." (Mark 9:23); and "...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good..." (Romans 8:28)

But what about those times when we don't have the energy to hold on to Jesus?? What about those tragedies that seem to have no possibility of good?? What about the times when our strength fails completely?
I've been there.

And I've been with some as they faced those kinds of tragedies.

What then??

I think the answer is much deeper than "hold on to Jesus," as good as that is. Because when we have no more to give, no prayers to say, no strength to share, no silver-lining to glimpse...

Jesus holds on to us.

We don't have to do anything. We are His, and He loves us. He holds us in our tragedies; he carries us through the dark valleys. Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

We don't have to have words to soothe the face of tragedy. We don't have to have answers or platitudes... or even hope. We are His. 

Jesus holds on to us.

Amen. And amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life and Death

I'm sure you've heard about Brittany Maynard, the young woman who was afflicted with a horrific brain cancer and chose to "die with dignity." It's been fairly public, and lots of opinions are flying around extolling or condemning her choice.

I've also read quite a bit lately of another young woman, Lauren Hill, also suffering from brain cancer, who achieved her goal of playing basketball at the college level. The NCAA actually moved a game up two weeks so Lauren would be more likely to be able to play. She made the first basket of this NCAA season. She is deteriorating quickly, but she is living her days.

And I'm mulling over these two situations as more than two hundred people gather at our church, just across the yard, for the funeral of a beloved sister in Christ who died unexpectedly on Friday last week. She  was praising God at a revival meeting just two days prior to her death. (It is not custom here to bring children to funerals, or I would be there, too.)

I'm sure I'll surprise some folks when they read that I am in support of Brittany Maynard's right to choose her death. I disagree with her that it is the best choice, but I am in support of her right to make that decision. I don't believe that my (or anyone else's!) religious beliefs should dictate public policy.

Because I am Christian, I believe that God has ordained my days, that I will have His work to do here on Earth until my death. I don't consider suicide or "death with dignity" a mortal sin that prohibits a person from entering heaven, but I don't consider that God would require me to stay alive by any means possible, either.

So, in this considering of life and death, I find myself hoping that I don't ever have to face a terminal brain cancer. I've seen what it can do, and I don't want to go there. But, if my God ordains that road for me, I will do as Lauren Hill has done and try to live every single day I am given. I will attempt to encourage my family and friends with my faith in God's plan. Who knows what blessing my life could provide in my last days? Only God. And I will trust Him.

I find myself hoping for a death like that of my Christian sister whose funeral was held today. Not that I seek a high number of mourners, but that my mourners will be celebrating my promised resurrection.We are still sad at our loss, but we know she is with her God.

I want to live for my Lord, Jesus Christ. And I want to die for Him, too. I pray that all people facing terminal illnesses can find their strength in Him.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sabbath Day

 It's been a busy month.

Seriously busy.

Crazy busy.

We've had the beginning of our new AWANA Ministry here in Dulce. We've had the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church's centennial celebration, including house guests and dinner for more than 150. I designed and built a stained glass window for the sanctuary. The next week, I completed a glass piece that was ordered to commemorate a young person's death. Then my parents made their first visit to New Mexico. We had a wonderful week with them, sharing our life here in Dulce.

It was a busy month. And a good month. A delight.

My parents' last day here was a Sunday. A typical Sunday for us. With a church service. Sunday school. Awana. Bible study. At the end of such a busy month, it was an extremely busy day.

And at the end of it, someone said, "You've got to be exhausted!" I was definitely tired. Then they added, "You don't even get the Sabbath Day to rest."

Two "buts" ran through my head when I heard that:

1. But, God sustains us! It's His work, after all. And He provides all the energy and strength I need to lead and follow and participate and share.

2. But we do get a Sabbath! It's not on Sunday, but we are mindful of the need for family time and rest, and we do take a day and relax. I take delight in following God in rest; resting is a delightful way to spend some time.

This is the piece I created to commemorate a young person's death. It's called "Everlasting Life," and it has many characteristics that are personally important to those mourning this person's death. It's also a fitting piece for this past month: Even after such a busy time, we are reborn to God's work through Him. He provides for us, in the midst of such busy-ness, and in the rest we can take following.

God is good.

All the time.

In every time.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Centennial Celebration

Happy Centennial, Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church! We held our Centennial Dinner tonight. Somewhere between 150 and 200 people attended. They came from as far away as New York and from as close as next door. We ate together and shared some stories.

I gave this glass piece to a representative of the church, commemorating 100 years of service in Dulce. The circle represents the Jicarilla Seal, which has both the red clan and white clan colors, a basket-woven circle with tipis, and the shape of the reservation. I incorporated the cross and the 100 for the centennial.

Two speakers tonight really spoke to my heart. The first was a representative of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. He is an elected official, and the Nation is a sovereign nation. He spoke about the role the church has had in the community's history, both good and bad. He himself is not a member of a Christian church, and he didn't shy away from that fact.

The second speaker was a white man representing the Reformed Church of America, our denomination. He also addressed the history of the church's relationship with the Jicarilla Apache people. He, too, talked about the good parts of that historical relationship and the bad parts. He specifically brought up a couple of incidents written about by a Jicarilla Christian man: Being punished for speaking Jicarilla and forcibly cutting off his braids, both happening during this man's childhood by the Reformed Church. In his book, this man asks, "Will anyone ever apologize?"

Tonight, the white man from our denomination apologized to the Jicarilla man from our community, who was present at the celebration. He apologized more generally to the Jicarilla Apache people, saying that Jesus would never have approved such actions by His church.

I pray that a healing began with that apology. I pray that the work of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church will move forward to the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord, in ways that He would approve.

Amen. And amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Heart of Marriage

This design is "Become One" and is frequently ordered as a wedding gift. I've made it in many color combinations, and I love the design. I completed this particular version yesterday and mailed it off today.

It is my practice to pray for the couple getting married as I build these panels. Even if I don't know them, I pray for them as I choose and cut glass, as I put the pieces together, and as I solder the lead together to make a whole. I pray for their marriages and their relationship with God.

I have built two "Become One" pieces in the past couple of weeks; it's a popular gift item. And in addition to praying for each of the couples, I have thought a lot about my own marriage as we near our anniversary. My husband and I met on August 5th, 2007, and got married on October 16, 2007.

Yep, really.

Yes... only ten weeks and two days.

I would do it again in a heartbeat! I have never regretted our somewhat unconventional courting-time; we are very happy together. But more than that, we are a good ministry team. And that was God's plan, not ours. I had no intention of becoming a missionary on a Native reservation; I was a teacher. I didn't feel so much that God had called me to be a teacher, but it was my life's work.

When Brad and I married, I knew he was in seminary to become a pastor. I was willing to go with him to wherever God called him. I figured I would teach in the school system. My trust was in God, that He had a plan.

And He did.
                    A good one.
                                         Just not the same one I had!

First, God placed our youngest daughter in our home unexpectedly. We didn't anticipate parenting together, but it has enriched our marriage and our lives. Second, God called me to teach, but not in the public school system. He called me to teach our daughter... at home. Homeschooling our youngest has been one of the most rewarding (and most challenging!) things I've ever done.

And third, God called us to an altogether different ministry than we expected. We are truly missionaries, even though we are in the United States. We love it here, but it truly takes both of us to minister here. And this morning I read something by Henri Nouwen (from In the Name of Jesus):

"Jesus did not send his disciples out alone to preach the word. He sent them two by two."

I've read that line multiple times today. It's so very true for us. Neither of us could do this work alone, either the parenting and homeschooling or the ministry here in the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

God provided for His ministry to our daughter and to this community when He made us husband and wife. He provides in rich fellowship, in gentle leadership, and in sweet relationship... every day, in every way.

Which brings me back to glass work...

The heart of a marriage is its anchor in Jesus Christ... in the cross... in the complete work of grace which gives us a perfect example of love. That's where marriage starts,

and that's where I start soldering when I build this piece... at the very center of the cross... it's the only way to make the piece whole and stable...
...just like a marriage.

I am so very glad that God took this twice-divorced, parenting-weary, only-slightly-committed Christian worker, and grew me into a happily-married, parenting-treasuring, and deeply committed Christian worker.

Amen. And amen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

People vs. Paint

I am painting the church. The mission group that came in June began the project and painted all the high places and the windows. That's awesome! I volunteered to finish the job by painting the stucco over the summer.

Well, summer is basically gone, and I'm still painting...

I'm making progress! I am about 2/3 done. This is a bigger project than I expected because it's pretty high... and it's stucco. I mentioned that already? Oh. Well, if you've ever painted stucco, you'll understand why I'm repeating myself.

A large part of why I'm still painting in mid-September is people. See, Jesus didn't say, "Take good care of my church buildings." He said, "Feed my sheep." and "Love one another." There have been a few times this summer that I've wished He cared about His church buildings because I'd like to finish this job before our Centennial Celebration on the weekend of October 3rd.

But instead, I've stopped painting to allow our seven-year--old and her friends to swim. Being home-schooled, she doesn't have as many chances to play with friends as most kids, so I try to facilitate having friends over when I can.

And instead, I've sat down with an intoxicated man, listened to him meander through conversation about God, and prayed with him.

I've allowed the paint to dry on the brush as I interacted with a suicidal young man. Tears flowed freely when I told him that God had plans for him; he said that no one had ever said that to him before. He wasn't sure he believed it, but he's visited again, saying he felt safe here.

And instead of finishing the paint job, I've helped coach more than 50 youngsters in soccer, a game I've never played. But two more hands on the field have lessened the load for the adults in charge.

When today, instead of painting, I was chatting with my mother (whose birthday it is!), she said, "You must be frustrated by all the interruptions," I said, "Yes, sometimes, but really, people are more important than paint. This is the work God wants from me now."

And I realized it's true. If the church building is two-toned on our Centennial Celebration weekend, some people might care, but God won't. He will be happy that His people have been tended and loved. After all, He didn't say, "Make sure the church buildings look good."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church has been in Dulce for 100 years. One hundred years on the Rez. One hundred years of serving the Jicarilla people, sometimes serving well... sometimes not so much.

We hear stories about the history of our church regularly. This was the only church on the reservation for 50 of its 100 years. Almost everyone in the Jicarilla Nation has connections to the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. We've heard about how the church maintained a sanatorium during a TB outbreak. We've also heard about how the church started the first school on the Rez.

And about how the male students were forced, sometimes physically, to have their braids shorn...

About how the youngsters were punished for speaking Jicarilla... which has led to a crisis for the tribe: almost no one under 50 can speak the language. The public schools are trying to revive the language, but it's difficult to maintain when there are so few native speakers.

And roller-skating! Almost everyone recalls roller-skating at the gym.

And about how the students were required to attend church every Sunday, marched down the hill from the residences to the church building. Some remember this rather fondly, others are still injured by the coercion.

Some members of our church recall the faith of their parents and grandparents. These are very personal reflections: memories of a father's advice, being taught to sing hymns with feeling, a sense of the sure, strong faith of parents, coming to church with a beloved grandmother...

  A year ago today, we joined the journey of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church in Dulce, NM. We pulled up to the parsonage in our 26 ft. Penske Truck and our Subaru (pulling a kayak trailer) and started making memories here.

So far, our memories are mostly pleasant, fun, and friendly. This is the place God has called us to. This is the work He has given us to do in His kingdom. His yoke is easy, and His burden light. (Matthew 11:30)
Looking back over the year, there has been much good: baptisms, mission groups, vacation Bible school, Sunday school, Bible study, Sunday worship, a couple of yard sales, Roller skating on Friday nights, a fund-raising dinner, and more.

There have been some tough times too: early deaths, suicides, struggles with alcohol and drugs in the community, orphaned children, disease, and hardship.

I think our one year has been much like the past 99: a mix of good and bad, anchored in the faith that God has gifted. Our 1% of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church's history has enriched us immensely. Brad is flourishing as a pastor, and Robin has continued to work with the children of the church. Our seven-year-old frequently has guests to play after services on Sundays, in addition to playing soccer and roller-skating every Friday night at the church gym. She also has an Apache dress, sewn by one of our members, and she loves to dance the intertribal dances at pow wows.

And what of the future?

We plan to be here for nine to fourteen more years. We seek to bring hope to God's people here in the Jicarilla Nation. To serve the people here, in God's name.

God has recently called the people of our church to open the doors for a multi-church AWANA ministry to the children and youth of Dulce. The future of the Jicarilla rests on these young people finding hope in their lives. And the very best hope available is the hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us, for His church in Dulce, and for the Jicarilla Apache people. Please pray for this ministry!

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Here we are again. One year and one month after Zimmerman got away with murder, literally. More than two years since 17 year old Trayvon Martin was murdered for being Black. An armed man was "afraid" of him, so he stalked him and shot him. And got away with it.

And here we are again. 18 year old Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9th. He was shot "more than once," and some reports state his body was riddled with bullets and left in the street.

And I sometimes shake with fear that my Black son will be shot because someone was afraid of him. That's a fear I share with millions of mothers of Black sons across this nation.

And I don't blame the protesters following Michael Brown's death. I pray they will end the violence, but I share their anger at this recurring truth: Our kids are being killed, and the murderers are getting away with it.

And, somehow, for me, this pain over our dying children is connected to the humanitarian crisis in the southern part of our nation, where tens of thousands of  "illegal immigrant" children are pouring over the border. If this were taking place anywhere else in the world, these would be "refugee children." Wouldn't they? We would look at these pictures and pity the children, point a wagging finger at the country which wouldn't admit them and care for them, and call it what it is: a humanitarian crisis.
So, why do repeatedly find ourselves watching our society excuse the racism, the hatred, the classism, the demonization, the marginalization, the pretense of "all is well" that leads to murder, deportation of juveniles in need, and a lack of punishment for those who perpetrate such ills????

 Look at the anger on the faces of these protesters... 
Look at the violence of these law officials...
Why such fear??? Because that is what these pictures show: Fear on the part of those protesting "illegal immigrants." Fear on the part of the law officials and their civilian bosses. 

Fear of those immigrant children??

Fear of those unarmed Black teens??


And as I have written before, and will probably write again, the antidote to fear of groups of people is to know them. We fear what we do not know. Take a moment to think of your own connections. If you spend most of your time with people who look like you, who live like you, who think like you... well, to be blunt, you are probably part of the problem.

It is not comfortable, easy, or fun to get to know people from different races, economic classes, cultures, or places, but it is essential. You will not agree with them about everything; but if you agree with every person you talk to, listen to on TV or the internet, or read, you aren't truly thinking anyway.

If George Zimmerman had known Black teenage boys, he likely wouldn't have assumed Trayvon Martin was hostile. If the police in Ferguson, MO were in relationship with Black teens, they likely wouldn't have shot Michael Brown to death. If those protesting the immigrant children in the picture above had talked with those kids about their lives in their former homes, they would likely be more supportive of their need to start a new life.

And, since this blog is supposed to be about glass and faith...

Did Jesus hang out with people of his own race, class, culture, or place?? Did He turn away those who were different from him? Did He assume the worst about strangers? Did He tell us to hoard the gifts of this world?

We know the answers.
It's time to step out and try to know one another, so we aren't afraid of them. So there ARE no "them."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Seeking Approval

Sometimes I get a commission to create a piece for someone. It's quite a different experience than creating an artistic piece for myself. The piece on the right, for example, was made by a son for his mother. Each part represents something dear to them. It's not something I would've designed for myself, but it was perfect for them.

In the process of designing something specific for someone else, I have to get their approval. I do this before I build the piece, of course. Otherwise, I'd have wasted a lot of materials and time.

The design to the left is a new piece I'm working on. It is for the centennial celebration of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church, which takes place in October. It will hang in a window in the church building. I hope people like it, but I don't have to have anyone "approve" it because it's a gift. I have certainly taken input into the design, but the final decisions have been mine.

I found myself seeking a different kind of approval this past week; I had a sharp disagreement with some people I care very much about. As in most conflicts, there was blame on both sides, current and past blame.

I grew up a "people pleaser" for many reasons; I remember my brother telling me to take a stand before I was ten years old. He said, "You can't make other people happy. Just do what you think is right." I tried, but oh, I struggled to trust my own judgment. I still do sometimes.

So when I got in this conflict recently, I started seeking approval for my decisions. I talked with a close friend and a family member, trying to make sure I was "right" in how I handled it. Then it struck me: It really didn't matter what they thought. It didn't even matter what the people I was in conflict with thought. Or what I thought. What mattered is what God thought.

I reconsidered my actions and my speech. There were parts which did not honor God, and there were parts which did honor God. And that's the only judgment that matters at all. I would love to totally give up being a "people pleaser" to become a "God pleaser." I'm not there yet. But this realization is setting me on the right path.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cookies in the Yard

It's easy to show God's love to most of our neighbors. Like today, I finished up painting a fence for one of our elder church members. The mission group had started the project, but ran out of time. I volunteered to complete the job.

It was fun to spend time with this woman; she's funny and interesting. She sat on her porch and chatted with me while I painted. We shared some stories and talked about serving God. I brought her some muffins I had made, and she appreciated them. I know she'll mention the fence to me on Sunday, with a thank-you for finishing the job.

She's easy to serve; it's easy to express God's love to her. I'll be back later in the summer to work on painting her porch, which looks like it needs it, now that the fence is freshly painted. Easy peasy.

Not so much "easy peasy" when a man wandered through our yard this afternoon, obviously intoxicated. My husband greeted this man, and he sat down at our patio table to chat. I don't know what they talked about, I was getting supper ready, but I know they chatted for a while.

I stopped by a couple of times to say hello. I was introduced to the man, and he tried to engage me in a conversation about basketball (I think). After listening for a bit, I excused myself to continue supper preparations.

In cleaning up the counter, I realized I had fresh-baked cookies... so I stacked a bunch on a paper plate and took them out to the guys. Just a little thing, but God has called us to serve all of the Jicarilla Apache people here in Dulce... not just the easy-peasy ones. Maybe even especially the difficult ones. The messy ones. The drunk ones. The lost ones.

I am blessed to serve God's will in the Jicarilla Apache Nation. I am His, not my own. May He work through me in every circumstance.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I've always loved hands. I remember my grandmother's hands: warm, solid, and loving. I remember the first time I saw that my mother's hands were aging; the fear that filled my heart at the thought of losing her someday. My first hand-holding... his hands were cool in mine.

Hands playing flutes... trumpets... drums...

And oh! The beautiful mommy hands touching and holding our newest granddaughter, who was born three months early... and her own tiny, miracle hands!

And my hands, working in glass, bring me great pleasure. I love the feel of glass, the snap of cutting and breaking glass, the texture of glazing, the pressure of grinding...

And then there are the hands that were here in Dulce last week.

 Approximately thirty people from the Denver (Colorado, not Iowa!) area loaded their cars, trucks, and a small bus, and came down to Dulce to help at our church.

They ran a fabulous VBS for the children of Dulce;

They cleaned...

                       They served,
                                 they raked,
                                        they painted,
                                                  they lifted...

  They drank coffee together,

They fed.....
            they hugged....
                       they built and rebuilt steps and ramps.

It was amazing and wonderful to be on the receiving end of such giving in the name of Jesus.

 The blessing of these hands in this place is gratefully accepted.

We pray that these lovely people were as blessed to be here as we were blessed to have them.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Caught in the Rain

Rain in a drought-weary land! What a blessing! I should be doing a happy-dance, at the very least, right?

Except I had to unload groceries.
In the rain.
In the mud of our driveway.


Glazing is like mud...
I was dreading it, to say the least. Load after load of wet mud tracked into the porch and kitchen. Soaking wet hair and clothes. Muddy shoes. Wet groceries.

Did I mention the mud??

So I was dreading unloading the groceries, despite the fact that the rain was a blessing from above! How wrong was that? It struck me as really, really wrong. My own comfort is not more important than the life-giving rain that will sustain the cattle, the horses, the people in this land.

But isn't that what we humans do all the time, when we beg for God to make our lives how we want them... when we despair that our lives are ruined by our circumstances... when we demand that God correct some "injury" to our expectations... when we doubt God's existence, goodness, or power because something is "wrong" with our lives?

God really does have all things under His control. He is the Lord God Almighty! (Hosea 12:5) 1 Chronicles 29:11 says, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all."

He is Almighty God; how can we doubt that He has the bigger, better picture in mind, even when we go through difficulties? Not only is He all-powerful, he loves us. He knows us and he loves us. John 10:14 assures us that Jesus is "the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--"

So, the next time it rains in my life's circumstances, I'll probably still dread the situation. Unloading groceries in the rain is no fun. Facing serious illness or the loss of a loved one is not what we enjoy. But I can fully depend on God's power, His love, and His knowledge. He works all things for good. (Romans 8:28) I can trust that this (whatever this is), too, will be Good in the end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not My Own

On our recent road trip back to the Midwest, someone asked our 7-year-old if she knew who her "real" parents were. At some points in my life, I might've been offended, or at least have corrected the person's language to "birth parents". Our daughter took it absolutely in stride and said, "Well, duh. Yes." And then she named her birth parents. And she's right; they are really her parents, and so are my husband and I. There is no threat to me or to my relationship with our wee one in acknowledging that we are not her only parents!

Again on our trip, I was asked if I minded not having "my own house" anymore. We live in a parsonage, owned by the Jicarilla Apache Nation. It has been allotted to the church for 100 years, and the current allotment has about 46 more years to go. If we have a maintenance problem, Tribal Maintenance will come and fix it. Seems like a good set-up to me!

We don't have much of our own furniture. We only have one car that is ours. We don't own a lawnmower, snowblower, or weedeater anymore. We have shared money with missionaries, family members, and others in need. 

None of this is mine! The Bible tells us not to lay up treasures here on Earth, but to lay up treasures in heaven. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

It's so easy to get caught up in what's mine. It's easy to close our hearts to abundance and live in fear. But we don't have to. The entire chapter of Matthew 6 lays out God's promises to provide for us. And He asks us to give to others, to be His hands and feet in providing for them. (Matthew 19:21, Luke 19:8, Mark 10:21)

I was pondering all this lately. And then I heard this song by Matt Redman. The first lines of the song say, "When I stand before your throne, dressed in glory not my own..." And, oh! How true.

More than anything else, glory is not mine. I am the opposite of glorious on my own. But Christ has dressed me in glory! God the Father sees me as holy and perfect.


Yes, me.

And you, dressed in Christ's grace and glory.

Definitely not my own. Better than my own!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rez Dogs

Foundation  $60.00
There are lots of dogs around Dulce. I guess that's fairly common on reservations. Some are tied up or kept inside, but many are loose and run around town in packs of a couple of dogs up to ten or so. Many people are afraid of the dogs, and I have to admit that I am wary of them. When I am walking, I see many of the same dogs each day; that's nice because they get used to me. They might bark, but they don't usually chase after me anymore.

I was bitten once, not long after we arrived here. I rearranged my walking route to avoid that street! I occasionally pick up a stick when I see an unfamiliar dog.  Once I was followed on the high school track; six dogs were trailing me in this fenced area. I planned my escape onto a retaining wall, figuring I could kick them off the narrow ledge one by one. As it turned out, I growled at them and stomped my feet; they dispersed into the neighboring area pretty easily.

This past week, though, I noticed something curious. I was walking by two dogs that were chained up when a loose dog came tearing through their yard. The chained dogs strained at their chains, barking madly, while the loose dog almost pranced just out of their reach. He dashed off down the road after he passed the chained dogs.

At first glance, it's easy to feel sorry for the chained dogs. After all, the other guy got to go wherever he wanted, right? But as the loose dog raced off, I caught a glimpse of how skinny he was... and his fur was matted and ragged.

I looked over at the chained dogs. Each had a doghouse, a water bowl, a food bowl, shade, and a long chain. Neither was skinny... or matted...

And I thought about how God's Ways... Like in Psalm 18:21: "For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil." And in Isaiah 55:9: "For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways..."

For some people, following God's Ways seems to be a restriction... a tying up.  Being "free" for them often means pursuing the pleasures of the flesh... to the point of the destruction of relationships, health, and even life itself. The ways of the world appear to promise fun and excitement.... but they do not offer Joy. Not the kind of joy I have in knowing that I am resting in the care of the Almighty. I am given the kind of Joy and Rest that only God can offer, only Jesus can redeem, only the Holy Spirit can lead me to.

I used to spend much of my attention on what others thought, on how I was perceived, and on how much fun I could claim as my own. Now I am at peace with my place in the world. I don't seek attention; in fact, I prefer to serve quietly. And the fun I find in my life overflows every day: playing with our daughter and her friends; teaching our wee one; taking kids out into the wilderness of this beautiful place; creating glass to glorify my Lord. I am more at peace than I ever dreamed was possible. I am freer to love and serve than I ever imagined I could be.

Foundation  $60.00
I was called a "rez girl" for the first time recently; I am happy here! I am growing, and I am serving. And I am tied to God's Ways, anchored in His love. My life is overflowing with Grace, and I don't mind being His and not my own.

Happy to be "tied up" with God.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Take for Granite

 I recently read a delightful post on Facebook that used the phrase "take for granite." Now, obviously, the person was really talking about taking something for "granted," not "granite," but as I read the post, I realized that there are some things I take for granite!

Granite is a rock-solid substance. It is a good thing to build on. Stable. Non-shifting. Secure. Firm.

So....things I take for granite:
 1. God's Grace. All of the sins I have committed (or will commit) are forgiven in the finished work on Jesus Christ on the cross. Amazing Grace.

2. God's Love. I am God's precious child. So are you. And you. And you! Yep, even you.

3. God's Call. My life is not my own to spend in serving myself. I am God's for His purposes. He has called me to fulfill His will.
4. God's Gifts. I am surrounded by abundant gifts: Loving and supportive nuclear and extended families. Friends. Time, sweet time. Prayerful support from many for the mission of our church. Prayerful support for our family from the members of our church. Enough food, clothes, money, shelter... actually, more than enough. Abundance.

These are the bedrock of my life. What is the bedrock of yours? What do you take for granite?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Love and Logic

Mother's Day #1
There was a time in my life when I walked far away from Jesus. I lost His way for many years. The precipitating factor was (ironically) an "Intro to Religion" class in my freshman year of college. Faith was so "illogical"; I had many new friends who were good people, but not Christian. I followed my "rational" thinking into non-faith.

I lived much of my life during that time in fear. Fear that I wasn't good enough. Fear that people would leave me. Fear that I would be left alone.

God slowly called me back to His fold. It happened moment by moment. Love conquered "logic." The first time I took communion following my lost years, I was positive that I wasn't "Christian enough" to partake. God disagreed; he clearly called me to participate. He said in my heart, "Just take it. I love you. I will complete your return to faith."

And He did. My faith has blossomed into the definition of my life. I seek God's Truths, Jesus' Grace, and the Holy Spirit's guidance in all I do. Not perfectly, by a long shot! But this is my constant prayer: That I might be closer to God today than I was yesterday. That I might do His will today.

But Satan knows my penchant for logic. This is how he attacks me as I draw closer to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He uses my intellect against me, putting "logical" thoughts into my head. Like, "Every human civilization has manufactured a 'god,' yours is no different!" And, "What about all those good people you know? How can you think they won't go to heaven?"

These insidious thoughts occasionally creep into my days, and I doubt. Sometimes I have asked God why these thoughts keep coming back when I have Jesus in my heart. A few times, I've even doubted if I had Jesus in my heart... If I did, why would doubts come in???

Mother's Day #2
Recently, I was having these kinds of thoughts. I asked God to show me where my sin was, where these doubts were coming from. I asked Jesus to come into my heart, and He said, "I'm already here."


It wasn't a voice aloud for my ears; it was a voice for my heart. But it was real.

I must've forgotten His answer, though, because I asked again a few days later, "Jesus, please fill my heart with your presence." And again I got the answer, "I'm already here." This time I listened. And I asked God to help my unbelief.

And He did. Through Scripture and song, my faith has been bolstered, and I have become convicted that this "logical" voice in my head is Satan working to destroy my faith. After all, the Bible says, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom." (1 Corinthians 1:25)

I am certain of God's victory. Jesus has already paid the price. And I am equipped with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), which enables me to stand against the schemes of the devil. My life is built on the firm foundation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.