Tuesday, January 21, 2014

my life, a window

When people look into your life, what do they see?

This morning I read the last reflection in Charles Ringma's profound devotional, Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen. This book has been manna for me, providing uncanny insights when I needed them most. Today is no exception.

Ringma writes, "Unless we have totally withdrawn from the world, our lives will be a window for other people. People can see what we are about. And it should hardly come as a surprise that others can usually see quite clearly what our values are."

He goes on to describe how this can make a difference for others.
"When we respond to the divine impulse to forgive and to do the greater good, our lives become a window to a new reality. This reality every human being has a desire for but seldom gains a glimpse of. Because we see the way of peace, justice, and mercy so little, we doubt not only its achievability, but also its value. But part of its value will be realized when those who live for peace and righteousness, while they may not achieve a better world, at least live as windows of the fact that such a world ought to be."
Forgiveness doesn't always work the way it should. Apologies sometimes fail to bring restoration to broken relationships. Mercy is sometimes repaid with hatred and anger. But God has larger purposes in mind. He takes the long view. And as Ringma reminds us, "While we may grieve over what we have lost, we can also rejoice in the new things that we are discovering about ourselves."

Not only that, but we can cherish glimpses of what is to come.
"Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." (Revelation 21:3–4)
May my life be a window to this unshakable reality!

Monday, January 13, 2014

a prayer for 2014

Frances Ridley Havergal
One of my favorite hymns will be 140 years old next month. Frances Havergal wrote "Take My Life and Let It Be" in 1874, five years before her untimely death.

We sang it at church this morning and as it has so many times before, it guided my heart back to the place of total surrender. I will never forget the Sunday in Charlotte, NC, when we sang this hymn. I was at a crossroads, deciding whether or not to pursue doctoral studies. Verse 4 cemented my resolve. I was to give up my intellect to God's service, for him to use as he chose. Consecration included my mind.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I did a bit of digging online to learn more about Frances Havergal. I was surprised to discover that she, too, was a scholar. She knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and had memorized the books of Psalms and Isaiah, as well as most of the New Testament. She wrote over 80 hymns. I'm grateful that her most famous hymn is still around today. It's a poignant reminder of our need to give God all we have and are.

As I near graduation, we stand at another crossroads. What does God have for us next? Only he knows. It's time once again to renew our consecration to his service. A lesser-known quote from Frances Havergal expresses this consecration in other words:

Teach us, Master, how to give
All we have and are to Thee;
Grant us, Saviour, while we live,
Wholly, only Thine to be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

dearly beloved

Whether playing games or working on my dissertation,
Ana and I make a great team!
Christmas break afforded lots of extra time with the kids. Thanks to -40 degree windchill we had a few extra days to snuggle and play together. I sure love these dear little people! Highlights from the past few weeks include gifts, games, and a marriage proposal ...

Eliana (12) took on an extra project last week: skimming my dissertation and highlighting all the abbreviations so that I could type up a complete list. She's getting taller by the day (already up to my nose!) and delights in spending time with her parents. She enjoyed all the extra game time with me this break. Our new favorite is Ticket to Ride, but Backgammon is a close second. She played 'Hand and Foot' (a card game) along with all the grown-ups this year, and looked very grown-up herself in her new Christmas dress from Grandma.

Emma reading to her cousin, Charlotte
Emma (8) has been full of holiday sparkle. She comes alive giving gifts, and the holidays give her the perfect opportunity to bless those she loves. She is so good with little ones—she bonded instantly with her Colorado cousins, Charlotte (3) and Kate (2). It was sweet to watch her reading to them, playing with them, and caring for them. She's also become quite the game player—I keep losing these days!

Easton (5) is extremely loquacious these days and lots of fun. One day he told us that the world inside his head is called "Discoveration!" I couldn't have thought of a better word myself. When Easton's not discovering something new he's making up something truly incredible. This morning he was busy caring for 77 invisible dogs and one new puppy!

Danny, waking Easton up one morning: "Hey bud, you said you would wake up on your own this morning."
Easton, sleepily: "Yah, but my dream unsmarted me."
Easton has already spent countless hours
inventing things with the Construx set
he got for Christmas.  Thanks, Uncle John!

Easton: "Mom, can you imagine when I turn 18?"
Me: "Yes, buddy. I can picture dropping you off at the dorm so you can start your degree in Engineering."
Easton, after a few moments of concentrated thought: "Mom, can I skip dissertation?"
You should have seen him dance for joy when I told him that most people never have to write a dissertation!

After playing with a friend on New Year's Eve, Easton informed me, "Mom, when we're 18, Abigail and I are going to move in together."
"Ummm.... you're not going to get married first?"
"No, because I don't like kisses."
The next morning, he announced matter-of-factly, "Mom, I changed my mind. I want to marry Abigail. She's adorable, and I'm in love with her."
Later he composed a letter to her. Emma wrote it down for him (and probably influenced the content considerably, but it does capture his heart):

Dear Abby,
I love you and I want to marry you! It would be so fun to have kids! But I might not be able to marry you because God has plans for me. Thank you for being my friend. Let's be best friends forever! :)
Love your best, best friend, 

He was delighted when Abigail did not rebuff his proposal. She wants to get married, too. It will be exciting to see what God has in store for these kiddos!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

connect spiritually with your daughter in 2014

One of my favorite bloggers, a friend from seminary, just launched a new devotional blog with her teenage daughter. Lindsay and Kate would love to have you join them this year on a spiritual adventure just for girls!

Each Sunday they'll post a devotional for moms and daughters that includes a short game or starter question, followed by something to discuss and then something to do together. The first devotional is posted here.

I'd love to know if you decide to try it out this year with your daughter. Eliana and I plan to do it, too!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best 13 Posts of 2013

Some of these posts got a lot of hits. Others didn't. These are simply my favorites:

On Family ...
Feb 9 - raising world changers - introducing your kids to heroes
June 3 - the memory we (almost) missed - embracing adventure
Sept 15 - rite of passage - Emma plans to run away from home

On Faith ...
Feb 21 - The Waiting Place - on the gifts found while waiting
Mar 13 - volunteering for the pink slip - extreme generosity
July 1 - shedding our (theological) skin - reconciling academic learning with faith
July 17 - note to self - reflections on being His
Aug 13 - something worth having - the value of hard work 
Sept 21 - divine appointment - the wonder of God's creativity
Oct 3 - saying grace - finding grace when we are weary
Nov 13 - eschatology when it matters most - the value of knowing that God wins
Nov 20 - silver linings - on the blessings that come in hard times
Dec 5 - naming the gifts - on the gifts wrapped in suffering

If a common thread connects these posts, it is that Jesus walks with us through every season of the soul. He meets us in our time of need and whispers his grace, if we have ears to hear. Difficult journeys yield breathtaking views. Difficult projects yield greater rewards. And underneath the muck and mess of life, his goodness is the bedrock on which we can build.

Thanks for journeying with me in 2013. It has not been an easy year, but I have encountered the sweetness of God's presence in life's most bitter moments. May our eyes be open in 2014 to the riches of his great love for us!