Iron to Iron | Culture War

“In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17 (VOICE)

Iron to Iron | Culture WarIn a day and age where absolute truth is becoming an outdated idea, the notion that one could have a friend who would speak to their character seems a bit outdated. After all, if my perception is my reality –you cannot argue with my experience, and everything in life is subject to my perception. In this case how could a friend pronounce a judgment on my perception of what is happening. If I were mildly religious, I would even recite: “Jesus, came to save the world, not judge it.”

You good? Yea. I’m good. GOOD.

If I am honest, there was a time in my life when I really did not want people to get too close. It frightened me to think someone would get to know what I kept hidden in the closet of my mind. As I have sought healing and freedom in my relationship with Christ I realized I need people close to me who know the really messy, hard details of my life. I need to give them permission to speak into my circumstances and hold me accountable to the values I profess.

I have several people like this in my life today. And, thanks be to God, I have given up the desire to keep the monsters of my flesh nature hidden away pretending they do not exist. I choose to be an open book and share openly both my struggles and my values.

Which brings me to the iron to iron part of this post. In Biblical times, forming an iron sword or weapon required the blacksmith to strike the heat softened iron with an iron mallet. He pounds out the metal into a flat sheet. The iron would then be sharpened by an iron file or a stone of iron ore to create a very sharp edge. When the blade was put to use, it would grow dull and so the iron needed to be treated with iron to its edges in order to raise the edge and sharpen it again. The sharpening process would be applied over and over again to keep the weapon fit for use. It also would mean they would need to take care not to allow their weapons to be exposed to elements that could produce rust and weaken the iron.

Accountability in the context of relationship works like iron in the sharpening process of a sword. This kind of accountability doesn’t happen with just any friend in your life. So what qualifies someone to be as “iron” in your life.

proverbs 27 17

  1. Strength of Character. Iron became desirable in weapon making because its durability and strength proved valuable to the warrior. In our friendships one of the things we have to be willing to do is submit ourselves to people of integrity and allow them the opportunity to see into our way of living to reveal what tends to make us dull in our hearts and our minds.
  2. Authenticity& Access. In order for accountability to be effective we have to be transparent and authentic with our friends, and give them permission to speak into the areas of our lives that give them pause.
  3. They Know Your Weaknesses. Like rust on iron, our natural tendencies and flesh nature will create opportunities for temptation, hiding and denial. Being transparent about weakness and giving others permission to call us on the painful realities in our lives will keep us from becoming ineffective in our Christian witness and our walk.
  4. They must Value Who You Are. Do not invite people to hold you accountable who cannot be trusted with confidential information, tend to be negative and do not have an interest in helping you be everything you were created and redeemed to be. These would be people who speak to the greatness inside you and see the value in helping you avoid things that will deny that greatness at any level.

Paul had iron to iron relationships with the people he brought up in the faith. Consider Timothy and Philemon. Finding someone who will speak into your life as Paul did in his epistles. The early church Christians were subject to a vicious culture war caught between the rigidity of Jewish Tradition and the poly-theist philosophers known as Gentiles. In a day when our culture is at war with our values, we must find others who will stand arm to arm, and at times eye to eye, that we may emerge from the fire stronger, purer and sharper than we were before.

Friends who are willing to ask you hard questions and require straight answers will not be easy to find. But, as the Scriptures assure us, “there are friends who stick closer than a brother,” and “words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 18:24; 25:11) The value to you and your destiny will be immeasurable.

Press ON!

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Sharper in Real Life

 amh sharper1I remember the first time she came to my home. I was hosting a birthday party for my preschooler and her daughter was at the top of the guest list. Though I didn’t know her well, we had worshipped together regularly, and I knew we had many things in common … we had studied music in college, we were married to sports enthusiasts, and we each were currently parenting teenagers, newborns, and several in between.

We greeted loudly that Saturday morning- giggly girls hugging hello, baby sisters screeching from car carriers, the other ladies chattering happily. My house was filled with cheery decorations and a sweet aroma. Rooms were tidy and the food was fully prepared. I welcomed her in with a smile.

Once the party had begun, she pulled me aside and asked if there was somewhere she could nurse her baby privately. Hmmmm. As dread replaced cheer, I forced the continuation of my smile.

Yes. I have a rocking chair in my room. That room that never got cleaned this week, that served as the staging area for most of this party’s projects and preparation. That room that currently houses no fewer than four laundry baskets filled with all the random junk we collected from around the house as we cleaned. Oh, Dear Heavens, Yes, I have a place.

I looked her in the eye and confessed. “You are welcome to use my room. But if I let you see my room today, I must tell you, like it or not, you and I are about to become VERY close friends!”

At that point in my life I lived within a binding veil of perceived perfectionism. The truth of my messes was hidden away – safely out of sight. Very few folks had been granted access into the reality of my short fallings. But on that day, God used this glorified acquaintance to barge past the boundaries of my pride to offer acceptance and grace. Turning the knob to my bedroom door opened a pathway to peace … but it was hard. Exposing the cluttered mess surrounding my unmade bed – which symbolized other, less physical, areas of my life –  also exposed my fear of being known and rejected.

But there she went. Confident and gracious. She did not gasp in disbelief. She did not recoil with disgust. She happily high-stepped over a basket of [stuff], swayed with her infant while I tossed a pile of clothes away from the rocker, then she sunk into the chair and smiled a grateful grin as I slipped out of the room. 

We are SO gonna have to be BFFS after this.

Our friendship did grow quickly and easily in the fertile soil of humor and humility, strengthened by honesty, having been sprouted by the soaking, cleansing rains of unexpected transparency.

Over the years, we have each had opportunity to extend grace toward one another. She and I have enjoyed the freedom to speak our minds. At times we misunderstood each other. We caused each other hurt and confusion, but we always continued the conversation until it landed in a peaceful place. Sometimes we were sorting through my junk, other times we were hashing through hers. Many times we simply enjoyed the deep, true comfort of a smile and a wave from someone who knows you well … and loves you anyway.

She shared parts of her most difficult journeys with me. She consistently offered me the truth of her humanity. She was honest about her struggles. She is gifted and talented and strong in so many ways, but has rarely shied away from treasuring her weaknesses in front of me.

Last January when I hit my lowest point, and had a smallish break-down, she was the person I called. I couldn’t be sure how others might react to the ugly pit in which I had lost myself. Some might gloss over my plight and downplay the severity of the crisis. Others might absolutely panic in the thick, blinding smog of my recent emotional explosion.

She neither bolted nor belittled. She listened. She prayed. She said she’d be there if I needed to talk some more. Aamh sharper2nd we journeyed onward.

I thank God for that birthday party and that breast-feeding baby. I thank God for not leaving my heart trapped behind the walls of denial and pride and fear. I am thankful for friends who courageously share who they REALLY are, and graciously allow me to be who I really am, so that as our lives rub against one another in the Light of God’s love and truth, we each walk away sharpened – better prepared to live victoriously.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Tools cannot be sharpened if they remain hidden away in their protective case.

May God continue to open our lives to the friction of discomfort so He can hone our hearts to fear only Him, and to find true comfort and protection only in His presence.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down,     one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10

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In the Comfort of Home

A Martha Heart welcomes our newest author, Cari D. Johnson.  She is inspirational, joyful, funny and watchful of God’s Hand.  You will certainly enjoy her spirit and her heart, as she challenges you to grow in your faith in Jesus.  Please welcome, my friend and sister in Christ, Cari!  {Clap! Clap! Clap!}  Holly

It was a beautiful spring day. I loaded the little ones into the stroller and headed up the road. As we topped the hill, I decided to stop and visit with a friend. We approached her front door, and I heard what seemed to be her voice cheerfully saying, “Well, hello!” I waited for the door to open … nothing.

“Well, hello!” I heard once more.

“Good morning?” I called out – making sure to be heard. “We were just walking and …”

“Praise Jesus! … O Lord, do have mercy on us. … Praise Jesus! Glory!”

At this point, I felt as though we might have come at a bad time. I wasn’t comfortable posing as some sort of peeping-tom-eaves-drip-intruder during a sister’s devotion!

Just as we were turning to leave, my elderly friend came around the outside of her house from the side yard and greeted us. I looked at her, then at the front door, and then again at her. Not knowing whether to be amazed or frightened by her seeming ability to be two places at once. My thoughts were interrupted by the voice calling out again, “Well, hello!”

My dear friend rescued me from my confusion as she giggled, “Oh, that’s my parrot. He’s saying hello.”

“It sounds exactly like your voice!” I marveled.

“Yes, I know,” she replied. “He gave the delivery man fits last week. After I signed the receipt and closed the door, my bird just kept screaming, ‘Bah-bye! Bah-bye!’. That poor fella stopped every two steps to turn around and wave goodbye again!” She cackled at the memory.

We continued to chat as we made our way indoors. The kids loved seeing the enormous birdcage and hearing its very verbal tenant. “Pretty bird!” the parrot pronounced. In a playful reversal of roles, my kids squawked back, “Pretty bird!” My friend and I sipped some lemonade and caught up on all her recent gardening adventures. I soaked up her wisdom, slurped the last of my drink, and told the kids it was time to go.

We hugged our goodbyes and headed back out to the stroller. As I fastened the straps, my friend waved her weathered arm and wished, “Bah-bye!” I could already hear that silly bird with an identical voice bellowing, “Bah-bye! Bah-bye!”

We left her driveway and headed home. I kept shaking my head and smiling as I remembered my friend and her bird. What a testimony of Ephesians 4:29! “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

That bird had enthusiastic praise sputtering out of its mouth. It was merely repeating the overflow of its owner’s heart. Greetings, well-wishes, and lots of Godly praise. I am ashamed to imagine the vocabulary of a strategically placed parrot in my home. All the critique and commentary that so often spew forth from my mouth would be exploited by a mimicking pet.

I do a decent job editing for church and company … but in the comfort of my own home? Do my words and tones of voice edify others and glorify God? A lot of the time, yes. But very often, my utterances are less than exemplary. I know this, because I’ve heard my own little parrots – these children I’ve born, with whom I live and breathe and speak every day. They can be heard huffing at one another with impatience. They bicker with one another without kindness or restraint. Sadly, they probably heard it first from me. I wonder if I possess comparable power to affect their words positively.

If I concentrated on filling my heart with Truth and focusing my mind on good things, would the overflow of my heart bring healing to those around? Would my little ones emulate my attitudes of praise? In the comfort of my own home, I must work toward consistently benefitting those who listen.

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“I should be able to handle it!”

These were the tear-filled words of my friend as I sat across the table from her listening to her share her struggles to find normal after years and years of addiction.  She had just listed off her celebrations – things she did accomplish, things she had never done before because it was just too hard – she had lived a life of defeat, running to other substances when the weight of the daily responsibilities began to push her under – unable to breathe.  She had left that life – saying no, standing firm and not looking back. But as she looked forward to the next week, and the new list of responsibilities, the things that needed to be done, I saw her sink in her chair and the tears flowed from a heart overwhelmed with sorrow and stress and difficulty.  She used to run to a false “savior” to make her forget the stress, the sorrow, the difficulties, the hurt.  But that was no longer an option – she was weary of doing good and she felt stuck.

“I should be able to handle this now.  Everybody else can handle their stuff.   So I just need to handle it but I am so stressed out!”

At that moment, I realized – I am just like her.  I think I should be able to handle the stresses and difficulties of life on my own.  I see everyone else “making life work”, so what’s wrong with me that I can’t?  I should be capable.  I should be able to handle it.

But I can’t.

When life gets overwhelming, I run, just like my friend used to, to another “savior”.  It can be anything – I am quite creative.  But whatever it is, it dulls the pain and postpones the inevitable – but it doesn’t save.  In fact it draws me further away from my true Savior.  The one who calls me to Himself.  The one who enables me to persevere in even the most difficult circumstances.  The one who promised to walk with me down every path of life he calls me to. The one who said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.(Matt. 11:28-30)”

There is no other Savior as loving as Jesus.  There is no other savior as kind as Jesus.  And there is certainly no other savior as worthy as Jesus.  He has proved himself again and again, but his ultimate proof was his willing giving of himself on the cross to do that which we are completely unable to do for ourselves.

Run to him and find rest for your weary soul.  You don’t have to handle it – I don’t have to handle it. He has for us.

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Listen, My Son….

At some point in time during the journey of being a parent, we all have that moment where we throw our hands up and wonder if we are going to be able to survive parenting young children.  I was no exception.

I was blessed with two beautiful children, Sally and Adam.  While I was pregnant with Adam, my husband decided to move us from my hometown in Tennessee to his hometown in Florida.  We waited until Adam was at least 3 months old before making the move, then we packed up everything and took off for the coast and white beaches.

I was afraid of leaving home.  My family was just a few miles from me at the time and I relied on them as my support system.  In Florida and later Alabama, I would have no one.  During those “terrible two” years that Adam seemed to stretch into about 6 years, I was constantly calling my mother and seeking her advice on how to handle this wild child.  He was one of those that “pitched a fit” with hair pulling, throwing things, and all out assault on anyone or anything in his path.  These “fits” lasted well into the year that Adam was in the first grade.  I remember that year as having lots of tears, for all of us.

The phone calls to my mother were pretty regular, with the same question…”how do we survive this?” I knew she was the expert because she had raised two fine young men.  I offered to make a deal with her, she could raise Adam and I would take him back once he was through that season of his childhood.  (I was only half joking when I suggested that.  We had just left Wal-Mart, where Adam had attempted to jump out of the buggy, was pulling everything off the shelves, hitting at me, screaming bloody murder…simply because he wanted to look at the toys before we got groceries.  We left without anything that day and somewhere there is a surveillance video that could possibly win us $10,000 on some TV show.)

The other fear I had in raising a son was how to raise him as a godly man.  Not to belittle my husband in any way, but to speak a truth that many women find themselves in….my husband left the spiritual training of our children to me.  Over the years, he has taught Adam many things, how to shoot a gun, work on a vehicle, how to build things…you know, guy stuff.  However he’s never spoken to him about spiritual matters.  So as we traveled into the season of time when Adam was most formidable and acceptable of spiritual matters, I worried and prayed.  My greatest fear was how to show honor to my husband, and yet teach my son to do things he didn’t see his dad doing.

Adam was just starting middle school when God answered my prayer and placed in my husband a desire to move us again….back to my hometown, back to my family.  When I asked him why he wanted to move, his words were always the same.  He wanted for our children what I had growing up, life on the farm, with family all around.

My mother reminded me about my comment years before regarding having her raise Adam.  She never took me up on the offer, but she knew that now I could get the help I needed….but not from her….from my dad.  I don’t know if it is a proven fact or not, but it has been my experience that mothers raise daughters and dads raise the sons.  My son needed a godly dad to raise him and my dad stepped up to the plate.

Adam will graduate from high school in May.  I was at a recent community event and several mothers came to me to speak praise over the man they saw my son becoming.  They talked about something they saw different in him than in most kids his age.  His dad had taught him lessons that will take him through life, I will not discredit those lessons.  But as I have watched over the past few years, it is Adam’s grandfather that I see having the most godly influence on him.  Those lessons added to what his dad has taught him are making him not only a good boy, but a godly man.

I know that there are other women in the same situation as I was in, either with a spiritually absent husband or raising their children on their own completely.  If you have boys, I fully believe that they need a godly male influence in their lives.  I’ve watched something happen in my son, a maturity that comes, not just from years of physical  and mental growth.  I’ve seen him talking over life with a man that has learned that no matter how much money you make or what your professional title is, success in life depends on spending time with the Lord, seeking His guidance in decisions, following His will for your life.

Adam doesn’t tell me what he and his Papa talk about when they are working on the tractors together or in the hay field together, or working the cows.  But my dad tells me he never misses an opportunity to speak godly wisdom over him.

That’s what a boy needs in his life, a man willing to talk God with him.

I snapped these two pictures of my son and my dad.  The first one was when Adam was 3.  We were on a short nature walk in Colorado and Adam had just “thrown a fit” and refused to go another step.  My dad encouraged Adam to walk with him.  Daddy never let go of Adam’s hand and helped him over fallen trees, small creeks, and through the woods.  The other photo was taken this spring on another nature walk in Gatlinburg.  I see this scene played out over and over, and I am so thankful for how God answered some prayers of a worried mother and He sent a godly influence into my son’s life.











Listen, my sons, to a father’s discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding…..Listen my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years. I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, when you run, you will not stumble.

Proverbs 4:1, 10-12 HCSB

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The Care and Feeding of High Maintenance Friends

A few weeks ago, I got a phone message from an acquaintance with a question about real estate. Fair enough, I am a real estate agent, after all. However, I was not in a location where I had access to a computer or the internet. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to her with an answer to her question until the next day. Also, I really wasn’t able to return her call right away to tell her, which I would normally do out of courtesy for anyone who left me a message with a question that would require me some time to get back to them.

However, this nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me, “You’d better call her back sooner than later. You know she’ll get her feelings hurt if you don’t call her. She’ll think you’re mad at her and then she’ll get mad at you and think that you’ve been avoiding her.”

The entire situation frustrated me and got me thinking, “Why can’t this person ever extend grace and just give people the benefit of the doubt? Why does she take things so personally? Does she really want me calling her because I’m afraid she’ll be hurt and get mad if I wait until tomorrow? Wouldn’t she rather me call because I WANT to, not because I feel like I HAVE to? Why is she so sensitive and high maintenance?

I’m sure we all can think of someone we know who is over-sensitive. We walk on egg shells around them because we never know when something we say innocently is going to cause a problem. They seem to have a vortex of drama constantly swirling around them and if we’re not careful, we get sucked in before we know it. Perhaps she is a friend or relative.

Or perhaps that person is the one we see when we look in the mirror. Ouch!

I believe there are several reasons a person might be high maintenance. One might be insecurity or low self-esteem. They need to get their validation from others, so when a phone call is returned “too late” or someone pokes a little fun, they internalize it and feel rejection, rather than consider the other possibilities of why a phone call may not be returned right away or laugh at something that might really be funny, not hurtful.

Another possibility is self-centeredness. Perhaps they feel that the world really should revolve around them. When they say jump, the rest of us better respond with how high? They don’t take into consideration the fact that someone else might be having a bad day, or previous plans that kept them from jumping at that moment.

Closely tied with self-centeredness may be control issues. They like to control their world and when others don’t cooperate with their plan, someone is going to pay.

I have to admit, when I was younger, I was much more sensitive than I am now.  My poor husband can vouch for that! The main thing that helped me “get over myself” was God’s Word and what He had to say about what He thinks of me.

So what do we do when we find ourselves feeling slighted, hurt, and insecure more often than we’d care to?

John Maxwell says, “When we are 20, we worry all the time what people think of us; when we are 40, we don’t care what people think of us; and when we are 60, we realize that people don’t really think of us that much anyway.”

I think he hit the nail on the head. We need to stop worrying what other people think of us and focus on the only One who can and should define us – Jesus.

So what does Jesus think about us?

He loves us. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” Eph. 3:17b-19a

Nothing can make Him love us less. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Romans 8:38-40

He saves us. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”. Romans 10:9-10

I could go on and on about all Jesus has done for us and how much He loves us. I challenge you to search out verses on your own and study and ask God to impress on your heart how much you are loved.

When we begin to grasp the love of Christ for us and realize that He is enough, what other people think of us suddenly becomes much less important. Yes, people can and will still hurt our feelings, but it’s easier to just let the petty things go when we understand that the Creator of the universe is madly in love with us.

So what do we do with the high maintenance people in our lives?

Again, the answer is love.

Proverbs 19:22 says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.”

Not too long after I received the phone call from my acquaintance, I got the opportunity to spend some time with her. It was the first time in a long time that I got to catch up with her and find out about what’s going on in her life. I got to encourage her and understand her better and I felt convicted for my initial frustration at my perceptions of her demands on me. Once I got the chance to “love on her” a bit, I realized that even though she still had “high maintenance” tendencies, she wasn’t trying to control me. What she really wanted was to know that she was loved.

Which is all any of us really wants.

While we can’t be all things to all people, we can be “Jesus with skin on” to those around us, showing His love and pointing others to the One whose love makes all the difference.

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The Treasure Box

Something that this new generation is missing is a bundle of letters tied up, hidden away in a bottom drawer or in a shoe box on the top shelf of the closet.  No one writes letters anymore.  We stay in touch by emails and text messaging.

You can’t bundle emails or text messages with a red ribbon, re-read them until they tear at the creases, start to brown from exposure and smear because of your tears.  Oh, you can lock them so they aren’t erased, file them away on your computer….but there is just something about pulling those old letters out from under the bed and re-reading them when your heart is broken or you are missing the one that wrote them.

When I was going through my mother’s things after her death, I found a box in her closet.  I had seen it before, but it was her closet and I had tried really hard not to snoop, but this time, I needed to look inside.  It was a beautiful, satin covered box held together with a ribbon.  I pulled it down just days after her funeral and found treasures.  I sat down in the closet and gently lifted the lid.

It was full of letters, tied with a ribbon.

I knew instantly what they were because when I was a teenager and did snoop, I found them in her hope chest…letters written by both my parents, when they were dating.  They talked about how much they loved each other and the plans they were making for their future.  There were terms of endearments that I had not heard them share in public and I felt like I was intruding on their intimate thoughts.

I left the letters as I had found them and took the box to my dad.  He held the box and with tears in his eyes, said that he would read them on his own.  He told me later that he wanted me to read them; he wanted me to share in his memories.  I’ll read them one day, but for now, I’ll leave them in the box.

I thought of my own letters, not in a box, but stuffed in a journal.  Memories come back so quickly when I read the letters written to me from my true love, full of details of how he was preparing for the day we would marry and he would bring me to our new home.  I read those letters when I feel a distance growing between us (that sometimes happens after 25 years of marriage) and I need to remember our first love.

As I thought about that box of treasures, I was reminded of what I’ve always taught children in regards to the Bible.

The Bible is a collection of letters, love letters so to speak, written from the One that understands and loves us better than anyone.  It’s full of the plans the Groom has for His bride.

I’ve started reading the Bible as if it was written directly to me…only me…from my first love.  I’ve rewritten verses, adding my name, to make it more personal.  If you were to pick up my treasure box, my Bible, you might be embarrassed as the intimacy between my Love and me.  You might even be a little jealous that I have such a relationship.  The thing is….my Beloved wrote you the same letters.

Where are your letters?  Are they on a shelf, collecting dust, in a drawer, stuffed under the bed?  Maybe it’s time to pull them back out and remember your First Love.

I wanted to share just a peek with you one of my letters.  It means a great deal to me.

My Darling Deborah,

This is God.  I wanted you to know that I created the heavens and the earth just for you, it was the beginning of the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, Deborah, all good things, nothing to hurt you.  I put things in motion that day so that today you would have what you needed to not only survive and but thrive.  I know that you have been in a dark place lately; you’ve felt much like the earth was that day…formless and empty; the darkness seems to run deep in you right now.  But, Deborah, I want you to know that my Spirit is hovering over you, just waiting for my Word, so that a new creation will begin in you.  I’m going to bring light and order into your world, I promise and, my dearest Deborah, you know that I always keep my promises.  

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Hello friend!  Pull up a chair, we have so much to catch up on. Would you like a cherry lemonade slush? Amy’s recipe is the best.  We added some ginger ale for fizziness. Mmmm, refreshing!  Especially after the heat we have experienced this summer, hasn’t it been hot?

Can you believe school starts in just 23 days? No, I haven’t gotten school supplies, yet. My Chris was telling me the other day that the average family spends over $600 per child for back to school.  Can you believe that? Yeah, we pull that average way down for sure.

This summer, we have had so many plans to go new places and create new things–like Grand Canyon, a back deck and Kylie’s backpack.

Yes, the material is cut and ready to be sewn.  All the pieces are placed on the dining room table.  And the instructions? …laying there, making about 20% sense to me. I am hoping Chris can decipher them and help us.  I think engineers like to read instructions. Me, now? I would rather look at it and figure it out–and hope it works out. My way doesn’t always turn out so well.

Don’t you wish life came with instructions? Oh, yeah, I know…the Bible is our instruction manual and all.  But I guess the place I struggle with most is how to apply the crazy life and find the appropriate instruction IN the Bible for such life. I also was never very good at the matching tests of questions and answers. Sometimes, I feel like closing my eyes and picking at random.

My good-ness it has been a year I have been fully unprepared for, my friend.  What do you do when…

your dear friend has a major stroke?

the jobs you hoped for didn’t come through, but there are still bills to pay?

your health takes a turn for the worse and you realize you need to get to the bottom of it before you have a major incident?

your summer plans take a sudden u-turn and get cancelled?

you get hurt, feel rejected, forgotten and thrown away like so much manure?

Yes, I guess you are right, manure does help things to grow. So spread it around, huh? Yes, that is what I’ve been doing. Taking the fertilizer that has been my life and spreading it around, asking Jesus to make good things grow from it.

You know, you’re right, I have much to be thankful for…family, friends, life. And I am.  I am thankful.  Thankful is what makes me get out of bed every morning.  As my friend, recovering from her major stroke said the other day, “Sometimes the hardest decision every day is just getting up.” She’s right, you know.

As for instructions, I am thankful for the Engineer that is the Holy Spirit, who not only reads my heart but can apply His apt Word to it. Sometimes the solutions don’t seem to add up or make sense, not now anyway. But someday, they will. There is no reason to try and explain it all away and tie it up in a neat package with a bow.

Sometimes people forget your phone number, your birthday and hate your very life. Sometimes people fail to tell you the whole story and you meet with them over coffee and you try to prayerfully play the matching game–without all the choices and details–and you lose a friendship. Sometimes every single thing that seems like it oughta work out and save the day, it doesn’t. Sometimes a baby dies before she even has a chance to be born. Sometimes we experience the loss of abilities that we used to have and wonder what life will be like now. Sometimes it seems like those who said they’d be there, aren’t. It’s just plain disappointing and painful.

Where are the instructions for those kind of things? I feel, once again, like as I read my Bible, I can decipher only about 20% when it comes to all this heavy life. I need the interpreter and the engineer…

Oh, it is worth it though. Sometimes, I have seen God work in a way that never would work in everyday life. He takes His extraordinary measures and applies them to my ordinary. Sometimes, we do the hard work and actually take back some ground that was stolen. Sometimes, we are given the gift of one very good friend, who understands you. Oh, and if there are TWO? Well now, that is a blessing. Sometimes, being silent and making something beautiful is like a salve to the wounds. Sometimes, pouring it all out in angry speech to God just clears the air.  He knows anyway. Might as well just pour it all forth…get it out on the table, like the pieces of material for Kylie’s backpack.

Then we read through the instructions with the Engineer and He shows us the way to piece it all together. He is very good at showing us a piece at a time. And He’s all about making things new, making a way in the desert, giving hope to the hopeless.

Yes. Sometimes the hardest thing we do is get up every day. But we do. And we learn to love. We choose to show up. We choose to get in the yoke with Jesus. We learn how He works. It’s about as refreshing as this lemonade. I find that it makes me glad. Glad of heart and glad of soul.

Oh friend, thank you for stopping by today. Thank you for listening. Sometimes…well, you know, sometimes…sometimes we’ve gotta know we aren’t alone. I am glad to know you are here. God has bound our hearts together. For that, I am glad.

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A Sanctification Dream

About a month ago, I had a dream.  A vivid dream, the kind that makes you ask while you are in it, “Is this a dream?”

My husband and I had just bought a house and were entering it the first time.  As we entered, we entered into a place of refuse, trash, garbage of all sorts, as well as tons and tons of junk that wouldn’t even be bought at a garage sale.  As I stared in horror, mice scurried about the floor, even over my feet.  My husband turned to me and said, “Looks like the previous owners left all their trash.”

I was stunned, but then realized something had to be done with it. I turned back to my husband and said, “Well, I guess we better get to work.”

As I began gathering bits of the trash and junk, I realized that we were not alone – and not only were we not alone, but there were many, many people in the house with us, all gathering up the trash and junk and taking it out of our house.  There were my kids, and my mother, my brother, niece and nephew; there were friends from my campus ministry in college where I first began to grow as a Christian, former pastors and wives under whom we had been discipled and mentored, there were some of our own former students from our campus ministry in Texas whom we had discipled and mentored; friends from our church in Texas, our fellow missionary friends from our time in Peru, some of our Peruvian brothers and sisters, and our church family here in Calgary–people from all across the world, from all across time, from all across my life.

I watched all of these people working to carry the junk out of my house.  And then I woke up.

I was disoriented by the vividness of the dream as well as the emotions stirred up from seeing so many people from my life at one time working together for me.  I thought, “What was that?”  And just as I was telling myself, it was just a dream, one clear thought came to my mind.

“That was you – you are the house and all that trash and junk is the stuff you have brought with you from your former life, your before-Christ life – you are the ‘previous owner.’ Now you belong to Christ, and His Spirit is at work to make you more like Him, but it is an ongoing process, of dealing with the junk that is in your heart – left there by your former self, which is still with you this side of Heaven. You wage battle with that self- everyday, fighting for holiness. And God uses His Spirit, His Word, and yes, His people to help you do that work. You cannot do it alone, you must be in the community of God’s people. God uses them to encourage you, teach you, correct you, rebuke you, counsel you through His Spirit, and through His Word.  It’s the way He made it, for your good and for His glory.”

“Yes, yes, amen,” I thought, and fell back into a sweet sleep.

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