Friday, June 23, 2006

a four-legged angel

I think it may have been C.S.Lewis who loved his dog so much that he believed he'd see his canine again in heaven. Anyway, I have never, ever imagined how one could feel that way about a dog until this past week.

I have been anti-pet and especially anti-dog FOREVER! But with the kids getting older and my unwillingness to produce-on-command a baby brother or sister for them, the clamoring for a dog had increased. At Christmas Brian and I had come close enough to purchasing one that we had selected a couple from shelter websites. At the last minute we got decided we didn't have enough money to do it. The whole process of the-perfect-canine selection was led by Brian's memory of his beloved childhood mutt, Duke. Every dog we looked at had to pass that test.

This past weekend, by pure 'coincedence' our neighbor friend who had moved away came back for a visit with his cute, little, well-behaved jack russell terrier and asked us if we wanted her. I reluctantly said, "Yes, we'll make this week a trial run while you are in town and see if everything you say about her stellar character and proper hygiene habits is actually true." (I didn't really say all of that, but it's what I was thinking!)

Within one evening, we were all in love with her. I'm not kidding. I mean I have this warm affection when I think about her and I'm planning a 7x7 photo album dedicated to photos of her. I even found myself comparing her cute ears with a friend's dog. Crazy, huh??

I absolutely believe that God dropped this little, well-behaved creature into our laps 'cuz He loves us AND 'cuz (if I haven't mentioned) this summer may be one of the hardest ever in our lives. Brian has just a crazy number of important initiatives at work that are both physically AND emotionally challenging. I love that he can come home and sit on the couch with this dog who is so like his childhood pet.

Did I mention the new pup's name?? Duchess.
(is that an ironic God or what??)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jesus' porcupine words in Matthew 7

I'm really rolling now ... I've made it all the way to Matthew 7:6!

I know that I have often wondered what in the world this verse means. On a few occasions I would be in the middle of a super-frustrating conversation or conflict with someone and this verse would pop into my head. The translation for me became something like, "Oh, what's the use? This person is hopeless! I'm not going to throw my pearls down in front of this pig anymore!" : ) I'm not entirely sure that is the translation Jesus intended, but it might be closer than I imagined.

I am strangely encouraged by the thoughts that Eugene Kennedy offers about this verse: (pp 69,70)
"Perhaps...these words describe -- the strange, often muddled and uncertain background for even our deepest experiences. There are differences in our human transactions and we cannot blink them away, there are moments that are right and others that are wrong, there are shifts subtle as the turn of the wind, in the persons, places, and times of our lives. The world people count on rumbles and may split open even for lovers. Risk attends our best moments -- one of the cruelest of truths -- and there is no easy balance for anyone who would take life and other persons seriously.

It is almost too easy to lose one's balance, to do or say the thing that is out of place, to offend when one wishes to soothe, to miss the moment for reaching another and to purchase estrangement instead of joy. Yes, the human situation is filled with good things trampled underfoot, with our souls torn to shreds by misunderstandings that should never have occurred, with the pearls of the spirit scattered beneath the blind and unknowing scavengers of existence. Life can be filled with out-of-place things, with events hurting and separating people in an almost random way.

We are the bearers of this desolating power, the agents of indifference that is not intended, of forgetfulness that is not willed, speakers of the careless, rocklike words that smash the windows of others' souls. It is power to be pondered, and it is well symbolized in a scripture verse that cannot be quite toned down or talked away. "

I am currently in a sitution of hurt that results from risk taken in relationship. God is showing me what I own in the misunderstandings that have grown almost rampant in this relationship. The Holy Spirit also seems insistent -- in a loving, but challenging way -- that I face the wounds and face the other party in the relationship and take away the secrecy of the hurts that have been both given and received between us. It is a new journey for me and I am scared, but somehow know that this is integral in me becoming more like Christ -- and in turn, more like myself.

In my opinion, using Kennedy's words, the 'blind and unknowing scavengers of existence' are the persistent enemies of my soul -- the world, the flesh and the devil. By pressing into reconciliation it appears that I am disarming those enemies -- or, in Jesus' words, retrieving my pearls from the stomping hooves of my enemy.

God, help me.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

worship and the world cup

i was reading the column "Life of Reilly" in my husband's S.I. magazine and wished i could write a similar column about worship.

here's what Rick Reilly had to say:
"Once, at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, I was amazed at the way thousands of Swedish fans roared one chant again and again in perfect unison. I went up to a Swede and asked, "What is it you're yelling?...And this young, blond guy goes...'this cheer says, 'We are from Sweden, we have traveled very far, and we are drunk!' Since then, I've always gotten the translation. At another international event, upon seeing Slovakian fans jumping up and down and ringing bells, I asked one of them what their cheer meant. And she said, "This is to say, 'He who is not jumping is not Slovak!"

i think maybe our worship leaders need to have a similar chant to yell out when people are standing with zombie-like expressions on their faces watching the worship team singing their hearts out. you'd think that at least a smile would be in order when singing lyrics like "Hallelujah, your love makes me sing!", am i right??

Can anyone translate, 'He who is not smiling is not getting it' into Slovak for me??

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

something i love about jesus

"Jesus does not manipulate us. He speaks with powerful simplicity to the basic human experience of men and women. Perhaps that is why we have not been able to see him clearly. He is looking so directly at us that we find it hard to look directly back at him."

"...we may wish to turn away, preferring sentimental versions of Jesus looking like a moonstruck shepherd or of an historical Jesus sealed off in a dry recess of time long gone. Jesus is a strong but not harsh presence who knows what he sees as he looks into our eyes. It is not a moment to tremble or to throw ourselves on the ground, pawing the earth for mercy. This is a very different kind of experience because we are invited through it to place ourselves in relationship to Jesus, who demands that we find more of life by going more deeply into it."
-- Eugene Kennedy, The Choice To Be Human: Jesus Alive in the Gospel of Matthew

there are many, many days that i wish i could actually SEE the physical eyes of the physical Jesus -- would they be bright and sparkly, dark and brooding, intensely focused, dreamy??? (i doubt dreamy!) i try to imagine through His WORD the sensation of His eyes looking straight into mine. it's hard to breathe in and then back out again while i am thinking thoughts like this.

one day when i was asking God why he couldn't show me the literal face of Jesus, i felt like he told me to think about the faces -- the eyes -- of His children -- the ones whom I love and who love me -- and picture Jesus through them. that worked at that i am feeling more and more like it's too hard to see Jesus through any human being because we're all so messed up and selfish. the look of Jesus through my brother is clouded.

i am reminded of a Psalm that I love that talks about God setting me right and giving me the ability to look Him straight in the eye. i long -- and i truly mean long in the sense of a physical ache -- for that moment -- the moment in time when i am able to stand before my Creator and look him straight in the face and rest my head on his shoulder.

until then, i imagine that he wishes to make me right with my brother and give me the courage and 'eternal' kind of love that allows me to look him straight in the eye.

'Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth grow strangely dim...."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

getting wrecked in Matthew 5

Yes, i am still in Matthew 5! (http://;&version=65) Who knows how many times I've read this chapter -- in whole or in part -- or heard it taught on, preached on, devotionalized, but i feel like this is the first time i've seen these words strung together in a way that i can grasp them!

Just listen.... (today in verses 17-26)
(commentary from Eugene Kennedy in The Choice to be Human...)

*regarding the way Christ links the law of the OT to His Word in the NT:

"And Jesus' words strike home forcefully; what indeed does it mean to be modern, either religiously or in any other way? Is the past just an attic we visit once in a while to discover its antiques, a panorama purged of its pain by the softening lens of nostalgia? For many, being modern means being separated from every root and anchor of time, committing themselves to everything that is novel in order to brak free from the long shadows of times gone by?" (p. 40)

"The old law is not all to be crossed out or regretted; it is a journey to be completed in and through the life of Jesus." (p. 40)

"What, then, is he talking about when he exalts the law? Jesus is clearing our heads [i love that phrase!] of easy religious visions, shattering in his time the crystal maze of regulations constructed by the scribes as God's wishes for the lives of men and women. These laws [the ones he got in trouble with the Pharisees for breaking like plucking corn or curing the sick on the Sabbath] are not the Law, Jesus says, and they can only mislead you. The law is lessened by those who believe that it can be spun into a glistening web of details [another phrase i love!]; God's will for us does not lead us into a delicate structure through which we must pass on tiptoe, holding our breath lest it collapse and engulf us. [just pause a moment and think about that one!]
Jesus gives a sign, a strong and masculine symbol, in breaking these regulations himself. He is one with His words as he tells us that the law abides but that it has nothing to do with the tiny details of living; the living law is richer and deeper and reaches into a person's heart. That is the Law of which Jesus is the fulfillment, and in it living expectations it asks far more of us than the multiplied regulations drawn with a fine stylus by the squinting and cramped-spirited scribes. [can't you just picture them?!?]

Jesus invites people to live rather than to try to trap a life in a master plan of regulations. The latter is as perennial a temptation as the human race has ever known and it returns in every generation to offer us its spurious promises of security [so take that, post-modern thinker!]
There is no end of preachers with detailed plans for our salvation, blind guides making us blind to both the wonder and the challenge of a life based on the utterly simple law of love. This is the power that Jesus proclaims, the power of the Spirit that does not grow old, the power of love that fuses the ages into one because it is strong enough to defy both time and death. (p.41)

Jesus is not raising an army of dreamers or romantics to follow him; he is not raising an army at all. [ouch...that one was convicting!] ...Life proceeds from the inside out, it is the discovery and the prize of those who commit themselves to the special discipline of responding with respect and reverence to God's universe and people. (pp. 41,42)

"...salvation belongs not to bookkeepers of the Spirit but to those who love by the power of the Spirit. We break the bonds of time when we break the bonds of the dead regulations that kill rather than enlarge life. We do not find ourselves when we try desperately to save ourselves by pointing to how good we are, but rather when we forget ourselves in the kind of loving that opens us to eternal life." (p. 42)

YIKES! My prayer is that I will be open to that kind of eternal life loving ... i am in desperate need to internalize that. I am desperate to see the true WORD in the man Jesus and to live as He did -- with His mind and His heart and His behavior.


(more from Matthew 5 later)

Monday, June 12, 2006

a day off..

Fell asleep at approximately 6pm yesterday and got up at approximately 7am today. Talk about a good night's sleep!

I confess that I have been dealing with a good amount of discouragement and disillusionment as of late. God was good to meet with me this morning in the book of Matthew and in prayer and a hearty journal chat. He provided enough peace for me to go back to sleep until 11:15 am!! (all of you moms of toddlers...this can be you someday!)

Brian has Mondays off and it was too chilly for our weekly golf date (he golfs and I read in the cart) We opted for the Regal Cinema, a tub of popcorn and the DaVinci Code to see what all the fuss is about. In a nutshell, I think the church has once again made "much ado about nothing". I realize that i'm able to say this from the comfort of my own simple faith. I am also one who has been blessed by solid feeding on the Word since before I had teeth. Anyway, the movie is convincingly fiction and only slightly compelling.

I agree that someone who is eager to be offended by religion and, thus, offended with God could be confused by the constant throwing-around of dates and religious sects and important religious names, but -- in the end -- it was easy for me to see this as just another attempt to blur truth to be 'whatever you wish to believe". Why is Dan Brown really any different than Disney or WB's Seventh Heaven??

The rest of the day off is spent with a quick chat with my neighbor at the mailbox to make sure we are 'OK' since a recent fight between our children and some leftover Olive Garden, stuffed chicken marsala and a glass of wine. I have "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and the Elizabethtown soundtrack awaiting me for an evening in the family room.

I'm thankful for days off....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

art by eric hurtgen

I found a new artist's website that I enjoy. I love this use of makes me feel restful. This is the canvas I am currently using on my desktop. Enjoy!

ps. when you browse through his site, you will find some very-well written commentary on some of his commercial and street art

Monday, June 05, 2006

is God like a greased watermelon?

I sent this comment in response to a friend's post today. Now I can't stop thinking about it....

Did you ever read Waking the Dead by John Eldredge? In his first chapter he compares our ability to see God and really "get it" spiritually on this earth like a pilot trying to fly in the fog. He talks about the fact that while we are on this earth it is most days that we are unable to get a clear visual -- we are more often flying in the fog than we are in the clear. But -- the moments that we do experience, where we 'get it' (it feels like we can almost literally see God's face and can hear him speaking to us about who we are and what our life holds) keep us energized for all of the rest of the foggy days. It keeps us hungry to follow Him and to be hopeful for eternity with him.

I have personally found that I struggle with making an idol out of those moments. When I experience them, I usually behave like Peter when Jesus took him and James and John up on the Mount and allowed them to see him full of glory and talking with Moses and Elijah. It's hard not to do that, but it is not growth and quickly turns into idolatry. Boy, it is tough, though.

It strikes me that God loves our pursuit of Him so much that He sometimes seems to playfully hide from us (picture peek-a-boo or hide 'n seek with your kids and all of the giggling that goes along with it and the joy of being found by them) in order to keep us moving forward and unable to make ourselves God because we figured him out (picture Eve wanting to eat the fruit in the garden so she could have the same knowledge as God).

It seems that God chooses to be more like a greased watermelon than a bird with clipped wings in a cage. Even those this often leaves me feeling frustrated, I wouldn't want to serve a God who could be caught-- by me or anyone else.

Would love to hear your thoughts...

Friday, June 02, 2006

The blessed are theys...

My mom sent me a great gift in the mail recently... An old book!! (could there be any better gift...Maybe, sometimes a new book...)
She and I had both been working our way through Brennan Manning's suggested titles and she found this title, "The Choice to be Human: Jesus Alive in the Gospel of Matthew" by Eugene Kennedy. Great, great insights into the book of Matthew, passage by passage.

I've been stuck on the Beatitudes the last couple of days (read the Message paraphrase;&version=65 )

I admit that this has never been what I would call a favorite passage of mine. I think that might be for the reason that for most of my life I lived with the default understanding that this was just another list of things I had to accomplish. Even though I've been freed from that kind of legalistic thinking and I've come to know the Character of God in a fresher, sweeter way I am still (and probably will forever be) reprogramming my mind to see the word of Christ in that same way.

Kennedy offers this thought about the blessings Christ doles out in Matthew 5: (pp. 27,28)

"And yet what can we now make of it, this message that promises so much to our longing hearts? It gives no sign, points to no wonder, gives us nothing, not a scrap of ritual, to carry out. What price must we pay for the self-possession of this blessedness? How do we lay hold of this mount on which we stand. We are already in the place of pilgrimage; the journey is done for those who can look deeply within themselves. Our blessedness is not to be found outside of our experience; joy is ours when we embrace rather than attempt to escape our lives.

Happiness is a word that reveals itself in its structure; hap, its root, comes from the word for by chance or by accident. Joy does not arrive through luck; the blessedness that Jesus speaks of is not the outcome of a cruel lottery that delivers prizes to some while it denies them to others. This joy is available to all, to the lame and the blind, the oppressed and the luckless, to the poor and, miracle beyond telling, to the rich as well. It depends on opening ourselves to life rather than closing ourselves off.

And now the words that sweep down the years like a wind that sometimes grinds the soul with the teeth of winter and at other times heals it with the scented oils of spring. A paradox and more than that. Discovering our poverty we find that we are already rich, in letting go of everything we get the best of it all back, heaped up and overflowing, the staggering bounty that is the inheritance of the true believer. The lock on the Christian treasure is here and the key is in it. How do we grasp and turn this key so that the treasure may fall open?

The most dizzying paradox of the gospel is connected with this, for we must open it ourselves. Nor is it as difficult as some alchemists of the Spirit make the secrets of religion seem. We can open it only if we give up complications and the air-scratching rituals of magic. That is the whole point of what Jesus teaches. It is as simple as saying, "Follow me," and as hard as breaking our hearts open to life all around us."

My identity as a follower of Christ -- one who has chosen to be crucified with Him, raised with Him and seated with Him at the right hand of the Father -- allows me to receive the blessings of the Beatitudes every day. Because I have the mind of Christ and am able to actually "let this mind be in me" I am able to participate in that death, burial and resurrection every day.

Sweet rest is found in this truth.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

gettin' real!

Wow...I had a milestone moment yesterday afternoon!

A friend and I have been exchanging comments on her blog and it had appeared that we were in disagreement with each other on a pretty sensitive subject. Kudos to her diving in and asking, "So, are we OK?"

Then, miracle of miracles, we entered a conversation that I was able to say how I felt (in real-life vs. super-spiritual life) and what I was afraid of and what my back story was that fed that fear and what I was apologizing for and she did the same and...and we walked away OK. (thank you, you know who you are)

Whew, relational freedom and victory and authenticity seems it may be possible for me in my lifetime. God is a good, rescuing God.

Now, today, to just put my right foot in front of my left and repeat....
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