Do I Have a Servant Heart?

I read a difficult Bible passage this past week that has been stuck in my mind. 

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10

In our culture, reading anything about slaves tends to put my hackles up. Slavery is wrong. All men are created equally. We should be kind and considerate to everyone! I find it rather offensive to think about someone owning a slave, making them work out in a field all day and then making them come inside and have no rest and continue to serve their master. Is Jesus saying I should be a slave? That I am unworthy? 

Other Bible verses come to mind.  

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15: 15-16 

Not a servant. Friends. Chosen. 1 John 3:1 says that God loves us so much that we are called sons of God. Reading these other verses I don’t feel like my status with God is that of a lowly slave. 

As I’ve thought about the passage in Luke I’ve realized that it is a good measure of how much of a servant heart I have. How firmly embedded my pride and sense of entitlement are in my very nature. 

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 43-45

Yes, we are sons of God, Friends of Jesus. Chosen. Loved. But we are called to be like Jesus, and Jesus, despite being King of Kings, God, Creator, Ruler of all, he was a servant. And we’ve been called to be like Jesus and serve others. 

The other night I came home exhausted. Right after school I had to take two of my children to a location out West, thirty minutes away, and then after being there an hour and half, had to drive to another part of town to pick up another child from sports practice. I didn’t get home till 6:30pm and I had been driving in horrible rush hour traffic for over an hour. I had expected that my other family at home would have already eaten the supper I had left prepared for them. I anticipated just grabbing a plate of food for myself and being able to relax for a couple minutes. Instead, I walked in the door and found out that everyone else was waiting for me to get home before they ate. Nothing was set out. The table was littered with homework and toys and papers. Mess. I lost it. Had a total hissy fit. Much to the horror of my poor family who were simply anticipating a family meal together whenever I got home. Later, all I could think about was the passage in Luke and how far I was from having a true servant heart. Cause I had been working hard all day, and I wanted to come home and be served. Have some rest. Get some appreciation for how hard I had been working. And yes, there is a time and a place for rest and appreciation. But sometimes, everyone in the family has been working hard, everyone is exhausted, and what the family needs is someone to come in and patiently continue to serve. 

That is the heart I want to have. And sometimes I fail miserably. But I have to realize, having a servant heart is something I need Jesus to do inside of me. It’s not something I can get on my own. I hold to the promise that says,

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I’m trusting that God will continue to soften my heart and teach me how to serve like Jesus. 

The Road to Peace and Calm

My oldest son enlisted in the army. He leaves tomorrow for basic training. Someone asked me how I felt about that. Proud. Hopeful. Scared. Worried. My list of WHAT IFS are pretty long. In the end, I have to believe that God has his hand on my son. Every once in a while though, I forget. Have a little freak out. Then take a deep breath and believe again. 

I had a birthday this week and I’ve been trying to do a little looking back at the last year. A little looking forward. Reflecting. I’m middish forties now. You know, I really had this belief that as you hit your middle years things would kind of calm down. Not pregnant and changing diapers. Not in the buying-a-home stage any more. My husband’s work and career are stable. I’m fully immersed in raising my children. We’ve been at the same church for years and years and love it. Life should be pretty smooth by now, right? 

Instead I am finding that the role of spectator to my adult children’s lives is a lot more tumultuous than I was anticipating. My husband has learned to ask me, “Do you want me to fix this or just listen?” And I find myself now, as a mom, no longer in the fix-it role for my adult kids, and just in the listen and support role. And so I stand on the sidelines and cheer and pray and try really hard not to worry. (Let me add that they are great kids, making good choices, it’s just really easy to worry.)

I will also add that taking on the role of foster mom has done nothing to make our lives peaceful. Probably the hardest part is, again, the fact that as a foster mom you don’t have a lot of control over the situation. Your job is to love and care for the child, but the child’s future is in the hands of lawyers and judges and bio-families. And you really want to fix-it: I’m going to decide what’s best and that is what we will do. But instead you are only called to support from the sidelines while others make the big decisions. 

Maybe the word I’m looking for here is Control. I think maybe I had this perception that as I got older I would have a lot more control over things. Control means no nasty surprises. It means things go the way you planned.  Calm. Smooth. 

Of course, probably not a lot of personal growth when you control everything. Looking back this past year, I can see a lot of pain. But I also see a lot of change and healing. Growth. I was put in a lot of places I didn’t want to be. As a result, I learned a lot more about forgiveness. Patience. Kindness. Grace. Self Control.

So here I am, middish forties. My son is going off to be a soldier. I have no control over this situation at all. But I’m going to learn a lot more about faith and prayer. Fostering. I can’t control the outcome, but I’m learning a lot more about how to love hurt people. Raising children. You want everything to work out perfectly for them, and it doesn’t. But you learn to trust that God loves them even more than you do and he has a plan. 

I want control because that seems like the path to peace and calm. But really, the path to peace and calm is faith in Jesus. My middle years are full of craziness, but I can also testify that my inner life is a lot more peaceful than when I was in my twenties. My faith is stronger. And I guess that’s the kind of peace and calm that I need. 

A God Who Weeps

I heard a recent discussion asking the question of how we can come across as less judgemental and more accepting of people. How do we communicate to people that we accept them as they are and their past sins and mistakes do nothing to make us love or like them less? This is a really important question for the church as we have developed a reputation for judgement and disapproval. 

This morning in church we sang “Son of Suffering” by Bethel Music. There’s a line of the song that says, “There’s a God who weeps”. As I was singing the song this morning all I could see was the retreat I had attended the week before. It was a story retreat where a group of women gathered to share key stories from their past that shaped their beliefs and who they became. And hopefully, as the story was discussed in a safe setting, found freedom from lies, and healing from old wounds. (Think really intense group therapy.)

If I had to point at the most meaningful moment of the retreat it was when I cried and all the women in my group cried with me. And I think of that line again. “There’s a God who weeps”. 

I spent a weekend with a group of women that were almost all total strangers to me. And we shared things that revealed our true hearts and who we really were. And I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel unsafe. I didn’t feel the need to hide my wounds and mistakes. The reason I didn’t feel that way was there were rules laid out from the very beginning to keep it a safe space. The stories we discussed stayed in the group time and didn’t leave that space. I didn’t have to worry about someone coming up to me and starting a conversation I didn’t want. No fixing or unsolicited advice allowed. And, I knew that each of these women were coming out of a genuine need and desire to be there and we all had the same mission, do this story work in a safe space. We were all dedicated to this. And as we did the work, God moved in and mighty things happened, in the form of tears and nonjudgemental love being poured out. And when I left, I knew I had been on Holy Ground and I had no fear of these women betraying my trust. 

And I think about the church and all that it has the potential to be. All that Christ wants it to be. Why is it not a safe space? Why do we have to worry about gossip? Why do we have to worry about someone looking down on us if they truly knew everything we had done or what we were really like? Are we not all sinners? Don’t we all have hidden things we would rather not come to light? 

I can think of a couple things that are missing that give our churches a judgemental, unsafe status. Gossip is the first thing that comes to mind. If your favorite activity is to talk about other people and everything that is happening in their lives then you need to realize that you are not a safe person. There are so many things to talk about. Your own life. The news. The weather. The latest book/movie/tictoc/reel/show that you have seen or read. If you can’t think of anything to talk about except other people, then perhaps it’s time to start some new hobbies and expand your interests. If I know that what I tell you is going to be passed on to someone else, then I’m going to be very guarded about what I tell you. 

Another thing that comes to mind is Judging Talk. That’s where you sit around and talk about all the big sins that are out in the world and how you would never participate in such horrible things. Let’s think anything LGBTQ, abortion, being a democrat (if you live in the south), anything controversal like vaccinations, to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, the presidency. Basically any topic where you are setting up a GOOD GUYS vs BAD GUYS scenario. You have no idea what the other person’s history is or their personal thoughts on all these subjects. And when you decide to lay down the line on these subjects you are instantly putting up a wall that will separate you from anyone who thinks differently than you. Is there a right and a wrong? Yes. I believe the Bible is pretty clear on a lot of subjects. And not so clear on a lot of subjects too. As a Christian our job is to introduce people to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to convict people of sin and lead them to repentance. Not mine. My job is to love people and follow God’s word as best as I am able and let my life be an example to people who are younger in the faith. 

I feel like we have forgotten that the Church belongs to Jesus. It’s his. He wants to do his work in our gatherings. His agenda. We need to get rid of a lot of cultural baggage, stick to the word and let the Holy Spirit move as He wants to move. We get in the way of the mission of the church when we gossip, when we judge, when we put our political agendas first. 

I serve a God who weeps. A God who enters into my pain and who cares about the burdens I am carrying around. He is a God who brings me to a safe place, surrounds me with love, and pours healing on my wounds. I know that the experience I had on my retreat is not really replicable in a larger church setting.  I also know that church could be a lot more like that if we all had the same mindset and determination to make our churches a safe place where broken people can come and be loved without fear of judgement. 

Failing? Still Loved.

Last night I had one of my music major nightmares, leftover from many years past. In the dream here was a big concert hall, full of people. A large stage, all lit up. A grand piano sitting empty, waiting. And my music teacher from college was standing in the wings, ushering me forward to go and perform my piece. Except I couldn’t remember what piece I was supposed to play and even when I looked at the program and saw the name, I had no memory of ever learning this piece. I was going to be made to perform and I was going to fail. 

This seems to be a theme that haunts me all the time. 

I have really been struggling with depression. All motivation seems to be gone. I do the necessary things that have to be done, but nothing extra. This weekend was really hard. I hit Saturday and just getting myself to eat some breakfast and get dressed felt like a major ordeal. I texted my husband to tell him that my ability to accomplish any tasks seemed to have left me. He suggested I take the day off and just not do anything. Which sounded great. Except it was Easter weekend and I had to get everything ready. Does everyone have an outfit to wear? Easter goodies. Easter dinner. Get the house cleaned up, family are coming. Try to get everyone’s schedules lined up. 

Just a lot to do. 

I ended up going to the store with three children in tow and I managed to get everything on the list, but the trip was really stressful. One kid wandered off and I spent ten minutes looking for him. Another kid was being impossible to please. I went through the self checkout  and then in the middle of all that had my blood sugar bottom out on me, which hasn’t happened in a long time. So I was quickly trying to finish checking out and pay so I could rip open some of the food packages that I had bought and eat something and get my blood sugar back under control. By the time I got home I felt like a failure. Bad attitude. Disorganized. The whole trip felt like a disaster. And my brain was just repeating that word over and over again. Failure. Failure. 

I’m not usually that mean to myself and so I made an effort to fight back. You know what, I went to the store. I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to sit in my chair and do nothing. But I went. And it was really hard, but I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. 

Not a failure. 

And telling myself that I’m not a failure feels like a victory in itself. Yay self-esteem! Yay positive thinking!  But I had an interesting thing happen last week that felt like it took this lesson a little deeper. 

I mentioned in my last blog that Child Services showed up to my house last week. I had done nothing wrong. The Social worker said I did nothing wrong. Case closed. She left. I was shaking, I was so upset. Self-righteous anger running through me. Praying out loud. Jesus, you know I’ve done nothing wrong. And it was true. In this scenario I was innocent. But suddenly I had a flashback of other times I’ve really blown it as a parent. My oldest kids saw me make a lot of mistakes. Not so innocent. And I felt like I heard Jesus whispering, even if you were guilty of anything and everything, I still love you the same. My love doesn’t change based on what you do. 

And that’s the lesson I am trying to grasp. Failure. Not a failure. It doesn’t matter. I am still loved. 

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you have had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. 

I woke up early this morning so I could lay out our traditional Easter Breakfast before the kids came downstairs. We don’t do Easter baskets, but I usually buy a little treat and some Easter candy and put it by everyone’s plates to find when they come down for breakfast. 

We had the normal whirlwind of making sure each child was dressed, had their shoes on, had brushed their hair. And then serving a special breakfast and getting everyone to the table at the same time. Finally everyone was sitting and I handed my husband the Bible so he could read the accounting of Jesus rising up from the dead. I make him read because I get all choked up every time and can’t finish. 

He is Risen. Just like he said. Death is conquered. We have been rescued. 

I looked around the table at my children while my husband read. Some of them were listening. The youngest were barely listening. If they were listening at all. Some were focused on what was being said and others looked like they were tuned out a bit. I wasn’t too worried about that. They are young. I am discovering that each year Easter means more to me than the year before. You stack that up over a lifetime and of course my kids aren’t going to react to this story the same way their 40s mom is going to react. But I find that encouraging. It makes me wonder how Easter will affect me even farther down the road. It is a wonderful thing to be in a relationship with Jesus that simply grows deeper and deeper every year. 

This past week was really rough. Children’s Services showed up on my doorstep because someone had called in a complaint about me. The social worker was apologetic. The claim was frivolous and did not merit any attention, but they had to do their job and investigate. They spoke to the child in question and found a happy child who had no complaints. They said I had done nothing wrong, apologized for having to bother me. This was all tied up with our foster child and was over and done with very quickly. Small hiccup. Except that the whole encounter left me shaking for several hours and emotionally numb for several days. Some emails and texts were exchanged with the person who initiated all this and we ended the week on peaceful terms once again. Though I’m still feeling bruised and battered by the whole thing. 

Life is hard. This feels like a cliche and I tell it to my kids all the time. And they shrug and ignore it. But it really is hard. Really Really Hard. And I don’t want to convey to them just how true that saying is because I don’t want to scare them or overwhelm them. I want them to feel hopeful and excited about the future. But it’s hard. 

And what I really need them to know is this life is downright impossible or maybe just pointless without Jesus. I cannot fathom trying to handle everything that has come my way without Jesus by my side giving me strength, peace, wisdom, safety, hope, joy. Without a future with him to look forward to, I would be bogged down with despair. He is a daily, constant presence in my life. My confidante. My best friend who understands everything I go through and knows how to correct and encourage as needed. 

Easter is the best day of the year. The day we celebrate not only Jesus coming back to life, but opening the door to bring us back to life as well. 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins and made a way for us to be with him forever. And today we celebrate that. 

My prayer is that each year this day will mean a little bit more to my children as they go farther and farther on this journey called life with Jesus by their side. And they learn for themselves about his faithfulness and great love for them. 

Happy Easter everybody! 

Book Reviews, Existentialism, and the Meaning of Life

I got a book at the library this week and it’s kind of gotten under my skin. I finished it yesterday and it’s one of the few times where I felt like writing to the author, not to praise him, but to say, Hey, Mister, You forgot to write the ending to your book, would you mind finishing this??? 

The book is The Tourist by Robert Dickinson. I just randomly grabbed it off the library shelf and read the little blurb about the storyline. It was very tame. Tourist group goes out, they come back and one of the tourists is missing. I’m thinking, some kind of mystery. But at the very bottom of the blurb, in smaller print, it says, “…orignal conspiracy thriller…” and that sounded intriguing. So I took the book home, started reading and immediately got annoyed because the book is written in First Person, Present Tense. And was thinking, there is no way this entire novel can be written in this style. It’s going to drive me crazy. But then as I read more I realized this is a time travel book, and if you’re writing time travel, you really have to write Present Tense. And the First Person thing just seemed to be this author’s Pet Quirk. 

By the last chapter I was flying through the pages, could not wait to see how he was going to solve the mystery and tie all these loose ends together. I was pretty excited. The story was interesting, complicated, and I had all kinds of ideas in my mind of how he might end it. And then, the book just kind of dribbled to a stop. Mystery was left unsolved. I was left, still not sure how all these pieces fit together, and very upset. I think at the very end he was trying to be artistic or something and I guess I was supposed to be moved. But I wasn’t. I was annoyed. 

I have read a lot of bad books. I have stopped in the middle of a lot of bad books and just walked away. I have plowed through mediocre books. And then I have been gripped and awed by masterpieces. I think what is so aggravating was that this book had potential to be Good. Not a masterpiece, but definitely a page turner where you walked away satisfied and ready to recommend it to everyone you know. And it felt like he got lost in his story, didn’t know what to do, so he just hastily wrote a couple more paragraphs and then pasted on THE END. (Ok, I’m being harsh, maybe with more thought and analysis, I might understand how his ending is good, just not seeing it right now.)

I’m going to dive a bit into the story though, because it’s got me thinking. On the front of the cover it says “The Future is Already Written”. And that’s really a key point to the story. All these people live in a dystopian society where time travel is a regular part of life. And they have records of their own lives from the future so there are no surprises. They know when they’re going to die. They know all the major events that will happen. If something goes wrong, people already know about it and have made provisions to fix the mistakes or at least deal with the outcomes. And then at the very end (SPOILER ALERT) everything goes off script. Near death experiences, failed rescues. And it’s at this point that one of the main characters feels alive for the first time. When he’s no longer walking out his predestined life and suddenly everything is up in the air and anything could happen. 

The book has a depressing ending. But it seems to me that it’s because the story plays out perfectly the worldview that we are simply organic beings crawling around on the surface of the planet and then one day we die. The end. That is a depressing world view. I’ve read a couple other novels lately and they all seem to hold that same perspective. Our lives have no real meaning. Get as much pleasure as you can while you still exist and then die and cease to exist. (Except of couse, for the euphemism that says, you live on your loved ones’ hearts. Which I guess means, when no one remembers you anymore, then you are truly dead.) 

Interestingly enough, yesterday, my second grader was telling me this inspirational chant they do every morning to start off the day at school. One of the lines was “I have a reason for being here!” My mind instantly went existential. The meaning of life. I asked her what she thought that meant. What’s your meaning for being here? She’s very literal and said it meant that she was at school to learn things. Ah yes. Ok. And then I told her (just in case she didn’t know) that our reason for being alive (here!) was because God created us and he loves us. 

Unlike the poor characters in The Tourist, our lives do have purpose and meaning. Love God. And obey his command to Love your Neighbor.

“What is the chief end of man? To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Westminster Catechism

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

And unlike the characters in the book who just faded away to nothing, we are eternal beings. 

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Our death here on earth is simply the next birth that ushers us into an eternity with Jesus. 

While I didn’t expect the book to have a Christian theme, I was hoping that the character’s story arc would lead them to discover at least one or two of the important themes. Like the value of human life. The richness of serving other people. The goodness of the earth. The absolute complexity and awesomeness of the universe that we live in. But instead the book was a window to how meaningless life is when you remove God from everything. 

In the end I have a sense of relief. Thank you Lord that my life has meaning. And sadness. Lord, what about all those people who truly believe their life is meaningless and death is the end? And I feel an urgency to tell people, there’s more. Dig deeper. Search for the truth. Life lived the way it’s meant to be, following Jesus, is exciting, purposeful, full of love and joy. 

Hurry, you’re running out of time!

I’ve been reading through the Bible in a year, backwards. It’s been a pretty good experience so far. I have probably only read through the prophets in the Old Testament once or twice before when I was very young and I have no memory of them. I have heard sermons on various sections over the years, have read different chapters occasionally, but I don’t have a good understanding of them. So it’s been good to read through them again. 

 I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah. I have to admit it was pretty heavy going in many chapters. I kind of felt like I had to wade through the doom and gloom before I could move on and read my Psalm and Proverb and chapter from the New Testament. But as I reached the end of the book I noticed a theme that got me thinking. And pondering. And praising. 

Throughout the whole book God is having his prophet tell his people that judgement is coming. And he lists all the reasons that they deserve judgement. They have turned from their God. They have embraced idols and all the sin that goes along with the worship of idols, including sacrificing their children in the fires. They have continually refused to listen to God’s prophets. The wealthy and ruling peoples treat the poor unfairly and harshly. They have been given multiple opportunities to repent and return to God, and they won’t. So finally, judgement is coming. 

God tells them what the judgement is going to be, but even as he berates them and tells them why they’re about to be judged, he keeps calling for them to repent. If you will just turn from these wicked ways, come back to me, I will forgive you. And they don’t. And the judgement gets closer and closer and God keeps telling them, you’re running out of time, judgement is coming. Repent. And they don’t. 

And then the judgement arrives in the form of a conquering nation and even then God says, look, turn yourselves over to your enemies and then at least you will live and one day I will restore you. And some people listen, but many don’t. And the conquering nation is there and they are trying to fight back and God keeps giving them one more chance. Just turn yourselves over and you’ll escape with your life. And they still don’t listen. 

When I first started reading it felt like a book about judgement. Punishment. Harshness. Anger. But as I finished it I walked away feeling like I had just read about everlasting mercy. Enduring love. God saying, ok, the consequences for your actions are finally coming on you. But look, there’s still hope. I can still fix this. Come back to me and I can help you make it right. 

Over and over again God sent Jeremiah to warn his people. Stop! Don’t you see death is on the horizon! Come back to me while you still can! And Jeremiah became very unpopular. People got tired of hearing the same gloomy message. They had other prophets, false prophets, who were telling them all kinds of happy things, like God loves you and he’s going to make your nation prosper! Forget about the fact that you are no longer following any of God’s laws and mandates. Forget about the fact that you have adopted all kinds of other gods. God still loves you! He wants you to be happy! Those were much nicer prophecies than what Jeremiah was giving them. 

But God loves his people, and he gave them a way back to him all the way up to the very end. His mercy is everlasting. 

It gives me hope. I read the book of Revelation and it feels scary. Judgement. Chaos. Punishment. But God never changes. I believe he will be offering his love and his salvation all the way to the bitter end. Because he doesn’t want us to die. He wants us to come to him. Judgement is a result of our sin, a consequence. It is inevitable. But he sent Jesus to take that punishment for us. And if we turn to him, we will be saved. But we have to turn. We have to stop listening to the false prophets who tell us God would never punish anyone. Hell isn’t real. God just wants everyone to be happy. And instead listen to his very urgent message. You have sinned. Your sin will be punished. Soon. Quick. Repent of your sin, turn to me, and I will save you. 

Hurry. You’re running out of time. 

Lost Puppy Blog

We have lost our puppy. She went missing on Tuesday afternoon from our yard. She is actually my oldest son’s puppy and I watch her every day at our house while he is at work. Which means, I lost my son’s puppy. A case of too many people, each one thinking someone else was in charge of the puppy at that moment in time. 

I feel like I was standing there, battle-weary from all that life has been throwing at me, and then a giant warrior just ran up to me and kicked me in the stomach. And I’m still laying on the ground, gasping for breath. I wake up in the night, heart pounding, knowing something is wrong, and then I think, the puppy, we’ve got to find the puppy. And that has been the constant state of my nerves, just a frantic feeling of needing to do something to fix this and make it right.

My biggest struggle has been to keep my heart right. When bad things happen, it feels like punishment. It feels like a lack of love. It feels like maybe God isn’t good. The line from the song has been going through my head, “You’re a good, good Father, that’s who you are, that’s who you are, and I am loved by you, that’s who I am, that’s who I am…” And I admit there has been a battle in my mind. God you said in your parable, what father gives his son a snake when he asks for a fish? If human fathers know how to give good gifts, how much more so does God give good gifts?? And I sit here saying, please, we need our puppy back. And I think, surely a good Father would make this happen? 

And I am determined to not sin with my thoughts. God, you are sovereign. You know more than me. I will trust you. And I am clinging to that. I will trust God. And I am reminded that the presence or absence of this puppy does not equal “loved” or “not loved”. That question was already decided on the cross.  I believe this. But, Lord, I need this horrible feeling of desperation to go away. My heart is breaking for ourselves and for my son, and for this little puppy that we all love so much. 

We have checked with the shelter and will continue to do so. We have put her picture out on all kinds of community groups and Facebook groups. We’ve made flyers and walked around the area, leaving them in key places and talking to people who are out walking. The mailman is on the lookout. There is a homeless lady who owns a cat who I see often in the park. I gave her a flyer and she said she’d be looking. There’s a man I see every morning walking his dog all around the area. I stopped him and asked him to keep an eye out. Actually, I’ve asked several different dog walkers who I see regularly. I keep driving the area where she was last seen Tuesday night. Petco has a database for lost pets that I’ve been checking. I don’t know what else to do. 

I know several of my readers live in the same area as me, so I’m going to put a picture on here. Please keep us in your prayers. 

Paradise

I was about to start supper this evening and went to my stove and it was covered in some thick, clear, sticky stuff. I have no idea what it was or how it got there. I was kind of mumbling to myself as I got a rag and started scrubbing on it. And then, while I was scrubbing away, I suddenly thought about the moms in the Ukraine. And I thought, I bet they wish the only thing they had to do right now was clean their stove and make a meal. And I remembered again how, when we are in a stressful/dangerous/hopeless situation, all we want is normal. I just wish I could have a normal day. I wish I could just hang around with my family doing ordinary things. And once again I realize that this ordinary life that I often grumble about, is actually paradise. Living the dream. My family is around me. I have food to eat. A home to live in. A complacency that each day is going to unfold in a familiar fashion. 

I have to admit though, the last couple days my heart rate has been going up as Russia talks about raising their nuclear status. What does that even mean? When someone starts talking nuclear weapons we leave the arena of regional politics and it becomes something that affects our entire planet. And suddenly it feels like my ordinary is being threatened. 

Today my kids had Drill Day at school. They had fire drills and tornado drills and drills where they had to learn how to be silent so a shooter wouldn’t find them and kill them. And my 2nd grader calmly told me how they had to practice because they didn’t want to be shot. And in my head I was yelling NO!! Why are they telling my 2nd grader this??? THIS IS INSANE! But at the same time, I could imagine a frantic teacher trying to protect a room full of children and somehow having to convince these kids that they had to be silent. And I don’t want this to be part of our ordinary. But it is.

The last couple years our ordinary has turned upside down several times. Pandemics, riots, protests, crazy elections, more pandemic. Afghanistan. Now Ukraine. We are all feeling on edge as life just continually refuses to go back to normal. Yes, we have our daily routines that keep on going, but they keep getting shaken up. 

I’ve been reading through the Bible backwards this year (starting at the end of the Old Testament reading through the last book, then the next to last book etc, and the same for the New Testament). Cause I never seem to make it through the Bible when I start at the beginning. This means that I am smack in the middle of all the prophets in the Old Testament. I do not pretend to understand the books of the prophets. At all. But what I do understand from reading them is that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. World events do not surprise him. His faithfulness extends before, during, and after crisis. He is trustworthy in the ordinary, in the extraordinary, in the tragedies, in times of prosperity and times of great loss. 

I am beginning to feel that my life and my children’s lives might not ever have that wonderful thing called ordinary life. But what we can have is Jesus. In us, working through us, surrounding us with his peace and joy. And that is true Paradise. 

Daily Battles

“Are we holding on to, or are we held? Are we approaching or are we inside? Is it finished or in process?

I am talking about our position in Christ, because what we believe makes all the difference right now.” 

Sarah Howe

I read these words the other day on a friend’s Facebook. And I found myself almost arguing out loud. Yes. My brain knows that I am held, I am on the inside, the work is finished. I know this with my brain. But, my heart, it still struggles. My emotions still struggle. My sense of security still struggles. 

This morning I was dropping my son off at school. I got a text right as we pulled into the parking lot. I was concerned about answering it, so when I pulled to a stop I quickly grabbed my phone, sent a rushed response, hit send, then looked up. My son had already exited the car and was walking away, it was time to pull out of the parking lot. I forgot to say “Goodbye, I love you, Have a good day!” And I drove away feeling like a failure. Not a good enough mom. 

It also didn’t help that I started off the day with an unpleasant surprise which then made me snap at my husband and start his day off on the wrong foot. Failure. Not a good enough wife. Can’t start the day cheerfully and help everyone else start the day cheerfully. 

And then it just avalanched. Everything I did was put under the filter of Not-Good-Enough and I ended up just sitting here, feeling like a complete failure. There’s no way that God loves me. Or anyone else for that matter. Unworthy. 

It occurs to me again that life is a battle. And I am my own worst enemy. My flesh. The part of me that says, I’d rather just sit here and eat snacks than get up and exercise. The part of me that says, I’m in a bad mood so I have a right to be harsh and snappy with people. The part of me that feels affronted when I have to deal with any kind of hardship or inconvenience, and then I take that out on everyone else with complaining and acting like everyone owes me something. And then, the part of me that feels less-than, unwanted, unworthy. 

As I sit here, wallowing, I remember Paul’s exhortation, 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

The rest of of that chapter talks about the different parts of the armor of God. I think about the belt of truth buckled around my waist. God is on his throne. Jesus came to save us. I have been chosen by God. I am loved. I think about the breastplate of righteousness. It’s not my goodness that saves me, it’s Jesus’ work on the cross. His righteousness, his goodness, covers me. I think about the helmet of salvation. I am saved! Nothing can separate me from God’s love. I pick up the sword of the spirit, read God’s word. I pick up the shield of faith, I believe what I have read. I strap on the Gospel of peace to my feet, ready to tell the world again, that my God is good, my God saves, he is Love. 

And once again, the day’s battle is won. My brain reminds my heart, my emotions: You are held. You are inside. The work is finished. Go in peace. 

I hit the refresh button on the day. And I start again.