Mark 13 & 14

From Mark 14:35-37, And going a little further, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?”

Two primary things from this for me tonight. The first, that the cross was a painful thing both in reality and in anticipation. Duh, right? But I think I fall into the wrong thinking that for Jesus, this was just another super-human gig for him to accomplish during his work on earth. Turn water to wine? Check. Feed 5,000+ people with a 2nd grader’s lunch? Check. Die on the cross? Check. Easy things for the Savior? Maybe easier for him than for anyone else, but definitely still not easy.

And I find myself thinking a similar thought about so much less. I do not welcome adversity into my life and find myself wishing it away all the time, though in a much less noble way. I just beg God to remove the situations. I don’t pray, “Not my will, but thine be done.” In our housing situation right now we’ve got issues that are costing big bucks to fix. I’m weary from the worry of it all and just want it to go away. Not my will but thine. Okay, I can say that, but is it even okay for me to say that? Jesus said that about the cost of his life for all of ours. I’m saying it for a joking $6,000 worth of house repairs. The two can not even be compared. I pray that I would be more mindful of the cross on a daily basis. It is so easy for me to excuse my own sin. I am quick to point it out in my kids, but brush it aside in myself. And yet, these are the very things that had to be paid for. Paid for by death of a sinless man on a terrible cross. Not my will but thine.

No, I’m more like the sleepy guys here who couldn’t even keep their eyes open for one hour. Don’t you know that after their beloved friend was killed the next day they replayed the night before over and over and over in their minds for the rest of their lives? They were with him the night before. He asked them to pray. They fell asleep.

And what do I do? I ignore the Word of God for a game of Scrabulous. Oh, that You would become so real to me I would be haunted by my own inconsistencies and bad decisions with my time. I want to be able to keep watch and pray. Not just when I need something from you, but all the time. I still pray that you would make it so. Amen.

Kids in Transition

Appeal from Maddie and Chloe last night:

Chloe: Mom, do you think you could please do some laundry tomorrow?

Maddie: Yes, we’re totally out of socks. I’ll even help you, Mom.

Looks like real life needs to resume around here and fast.

Mark 11 & 12

I wanted to read it tonight. After posting before, we did still watch Lost tonight, but didn’t stay up as late as we have been doing, so it seemed good to pick up where I left off (again).

There’s this thing in Mark 11 about Jesus cursing a fig tree and I’ve never understood that. Why did He do that? I asked Craig, but he was half asleep when I asked and he said he’d tell me tomorrow. I need to remember to ask.

In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus answered, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

There are times I think I can say this – when it comes down to it, of course I love God. Do I love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? I’m not sure I’ve had to do this. I’m not saying I want to invite adversity into my life, but honestly, I’ve got it pretty easy. I want to learn to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength without having to. I want to love him this way because I want to.

Small steps here.

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

On Friday morning, this was the view from our front steps:

Procession of Fire Trucks

To the right and to the left and all around, fire and other emergency personnel from all over the St. Louis region (and even all over the country) used our little corner of the city as a staging area for a 5-mile funeral procession to pay respects to Ryan Hummert, the firefighter killed here on Monday. We walked up the street and around the corner to stand outside the church where the service was. The rain made it an appropriately somber morning for all.

This may seem an odd segue into a post about community, but stay with me.

We live in the city. Really: we live half-a-house away from the St. Louis city/county line (the house next to us is considered to be halfway in the city and halfway in the county – not sure how their tax-paying works, but I’m sure both entities are getting what’s theirs). Anyway, we’ve lived in this house for 12 days and have experienced neighborly community for probably the very first time.
You know what? I never expected that in the city. Growing up, the word “community” meant something set apart, outside of the bustle of normal living; a suburb, if you will, and a place to which to retreat. You’d think a family of introverts would appreciate that, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our 11 years of 8 moves, it’s that we’re not isolationists. We need people; we need to feel connected; we need to be part of others’ lives…and them to be part of ours.
The neighborhood we lived in in Colorado was nice. We had friends in the area, but our immediate neighbors? I couldn’t even tell you their names when we lived there, let alone now, three years later. We moved into that house in July; on Halloween we walked the girls door-to-door, collecting candy and introducing ourselves to these people we’d lived next to for months. They didn’t care.

Here, we already know the names of four different families around us. They came to us, bearing baked goods, smiles, and “Welcome to the neighborhood!” greetings. These are four families we did not know before we moved in. In addition to these four, we know four more families who were already our friends – two on our very street. We were connected before, but we’re even more so now.

One of the new families (a friendly empty-nest couple next door who love our girls) “hired” Maddie to dog-sit for 20 minutes on Friday. She was so excited – for the job, yes – but more because of the trust of the neighbors. The girls know the names of all the dogs on the street. Better yet, there are children here of all ages; we can find a match for everyone.

Thus far, we’ve been benefactors of two loaves of banana bread, one batch of brownies (which we used to soothe the frazzled nerves of the trash guys when they saw how much we put out on the street last week), one bottle of wine, one batch of gooey butter cake (or “gooey butter butt,” as Craig calls it – man, that stuff is good), and today, one amazing loaf of cinnamon swirl bread.

We’ve been here 12 days. We’ve experienced tragedy; we’ve experienced care. We’re experiencing community. It’s been hard; it’s been sweet; it’s been home.

We’re happy to be here.

Springing Up

Mark 10: 50-52, “And throwing off his cloak, he [Bartimaeus] sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way, your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”

This is what I want. I want to believe so much that I spring up and beg for sight. And having begged, believing, been made whole again.

Rabbi, let me recover my sight. Amen.

Re-entry

The fog of chaos is still hanging very thickly around our heads here. I’m seeing progress, but it’s not coming fast enough for anyone in this family. We learned a long time ago that we don’t function very well with this kind of chaos and it’s playing havoc with our moods, by which I mean we take turns swinging in and out of a moody funk.

My parents are here right now and they are serving us in amazing ways, namely by my dad doing a bunch of stuff that needs to be done (hanging window stuff, installing things, etc.) and my mom by going grocery shopping, taking the girls to the movies, and all that sort of stuff. They will be leaving soon, so tonight was the mad dash to go to Home Depot where I opened my checkbook and asked them to please, help yourself to whatever I have left. And don’t stop there, please, have some more!

Okay, so it wasn’t *that* bad. But I’ll tell you, three years of renting totally put me in homeowner denial. I forgot pretty much everything. The township we moved into did a city inspection on our house before we moved in and we discovered, to our major surprise, a list of 22 items that had to be done before occupancy. We found this out 6 days before we closed on the house, which made for a very interesting week as Craig was dealing with the city (he visited City Hall three times, moving up the chain of command for an appeal) to allow us to move into the house before the repairs were made and giving us 30 days in which to make them.

This wasn’t enough, though, he also wrote a compelling letter to the sellers of our house, who did not disclose this information to us when we made the offer, telling them that if they didn’t offer to pay for the repairs, we would be forced to walk out of the deal because we simply didn’t have that kind of cash lying around for 22 city-mandated updates to the house.

Very long story short, the sellers gave us what we asked for and the city approved our (third) appeal. We’ve been here one week now and have three to go in which to get these things done, most of which require the hiring of a contracted plumber and electrician. The other things my dad is trying to tackle.

Enter my trip to “The ‘Po” (as we like to call it) tonight. One of the things we’re going to work on tomorrow is hanging a handrail for the basement stairs (nevermind the fact that the people before us lived here 33 years and never needed a handrail). The city says we need one now and we have to put one up.

The first place we looked had something in the neighborhood of $35 and I thought that was crazy, so we went somewhere else. I found something perfect for $3.58 – ahh, that’s more like it. I had it cut to 10 feet, got the other things we needed to get, and went to check out (lest I make this trip sound blissful, let me assure you we were there about an hour and I had to physically chase down no less than 3 men in orange aprons to get the help I needed).

Anyway, when we went to check out, I discovered the awful truth: the pole I bought wasn’t $3.58 for the pole; it was $3.58 per foot. That’s right, $35.80 for the pole.

Welcome back to home ownership. We might be in for a bumpy ride.

Have I Mentioned I’m Prone to Wander?

It doesn’t take much to derail me and the best of my intentions. Here I am, 10:51 at night, sitting here with a Bible to my left, a Bacardi Razz to my right. I’m in a funk and don’t want to now what the Bible might have to say to me. Instead I surf blogs.

I hate this about me. I use any excuse. We had a long day (true), we just moved into a new house (true), I stink in the homemaking department (true), I must not really be a Christian anyway (untrue).

I think this might be why I’m writing this on here. I need to have a space where I say this – I stink. I usually use these occurances of enlightenment to my obvious failures to just fail in everything. If I can’t do it all, why do any?

But as I said a little while ago, I really want to fight this. I need help fighting this. I’m going to open up the Bible next to me and attempt to rebuild some discipline in my heart.

Sigh.

Okay, so Mark 9. Verses 43-50 say, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Confession: I have no idea what this is really saying. I think it is allegorical and not literally saying to cut your hand off, but maybe I’m wrong. Also, what if the issue is your heart? I have a dark heart. Am I to cut it out? I wish I could give everyone I see the benefit of the doubt. Instead I automatically assume they have something twisted going on too. No, really, that’s just me.

Also, how do you make unsalty salt salty again? What’s the answer there? Can you sand off the unsalty layer and have saltiness pop up underneath? I want to be at peace with everyone.

I want to be at peace with myself.

Mark 8

Okay, so it’s 10:36 pm and I’m finally getting around to cracking open my Bible. But the good news is that I did manage to crack it open tonight.

I’m feeling compelled to give some background into my quiet time skittishness of the past 10 or so years. There was a time when I’d open my Bible (almost every day), read the Word, make application, and really think I was hearing from the Lord. When I was a freshman in college I made friends with a girl on a ski trip who, after talking for a bit asked me in a hushed but excited voice, “Do you believe in Bible promises too?”

Bible promises? Sure! I had no idea what she was talking about other than that sometimes in the Bible God made promises to people. I readily agreed with her. Turns out she was talking about something in which any random verse pops out to you and you claim it as your own personal Bible promise. I tell you, there was a time the line between hope and promise was a mighty blurry thing. I fully believed that based on some random verse in the old testament that I would one day have twin boys. I planned to name them Ezekiel and Zechariah and call them Zeke and Zach. You can see that I was right on track there with my four single-birth girls, hmmm?

Anyway, I began to be a bit troubled by what I grew to understand as contextual readings of Scripture and how verses, read in isolation, taken out of context, can really do some damage. It can make you believe things that were never yours to believe. Then, when what you so faithfully thought to be true turned out not to be, it makes you question the very core of your belief in God. I know.

The Navigators, for all the great things they do, and for all the scripture I really did memorize in college which I’m grateful for, weren’t all that helpful to me in this department. Most of the verses I memorized were singles taken out of contexts. Some of them were given appropriate “topics,” but some of them were given topics they had no business associating themselves with. I’m a company gal, though, and didn’t question it at that time.

Later, though, someone else pointed it out to me. I finally started thinking. I started thinking, “Wait a minute – you mean to tell me that this topical memory system isn’t as inspired as the verses they organize?” I then started wondering what else I’d been taught that I should maybe question.

The next logical discipline to come under my critical scrutiny was the hallowed quiet time. Up to that point I was reading the word, pulling out verses, making them apply to me in whatever way I could. I began to wonder if that wasn’t the way to go, but I didn’t know what the opposite of that was. Eventually in our long, sordid history of joining the church (at that time it was, “pick a church, any church!”), we found ourselves in the reformed tradition. Grace became more than a girl’s name or something said over dinner. It was an open door for me to step through. Two things happened: 1) I relaxed a lot in my works-based understanding of “working out my salvation” and 2) I relaxed too much in my understanding of my role in pursuing holiness.

In short, I leaned too heavily on my grace crutch to excuse a life not devoted to prayer and the Word.

I think the thing I struggle with is that I miss the sweetness of the days in which perhaps zeal meant more to me than knowledge. Maybe I was wrong to pull random verses out of the Bible and twist them until they fit my particular circumstance. What I know now, though, is that the opposite of that, which in my case is doing nothing, is more wrong.

I feel lost most of the time. I don’t “feel” God like I used to. I’m not asking for a pentecostal experience here, but I do want to remember the discipline that carried a delight along with the duty.

I remember it and I want it again.

So I read Mark 8 tonight. Two verses in particular struck me, 6-7, “…This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

I have been stamped with the Pharisee sticker. I see this in me so clearly. I make my kids go to church. I make me go to church. I talk all about God, but rarely do I talk to God.

Forgive me, Lord, for how far my tendency to wander has taken me off course. I do not want to have an in-words-only relationship with you. I know in my head that I’m Yours. I want to know it in my heart too. Please, please, please. Let this be the time this sticks.

Amen.

Prone to Wander, Lord I Feel It

The infamous quiet time, my life long nemesis. I don’t write about my spiritual life that much. The reason why hurts – I don’t have much to write about. I go through periodic bouts of doubts where I really wonder if I’m a believer. Craig tells me that my struggle is a sign. I’m not sure I’ve believed him before.

I don’t remember much about the sermon this morning. This is normal for me. I do remember this phrase, “prone to wander” sung in a hymn. I’ve sung that hymn hundreds of times in my lifetime. I don’t think I’ve understood it before today. I am prone to wander. I’ve always expected that I’ve needed to clean up my act before I can really be a good mom, a good Sunday School teacher, a good church member, a good Bible study leader, a good budget keeper, a good ___________. I can’t and just maybe that’s the point.

I’m prone to wander. I always have been. I maybe always will be.

The difference today, though, is that I don’t want to give into my tendencies. I want to struggle with them, I want to fight them. I want to love God the way I thought I did in 7th grade when it was bold and daring to wear a powder blue t-shirt to school with “Jesus Really Does Love You” written across the front in white script. I want to love Him the way I thought I did when my friend  Cynthia and I would call each other at 6:30 in the mornings to see if we were up and reading our Bibles yet. I want to love Him the way I think I do when I’m singing along with Keith Green.

I’m prone to wander. Somewhere along the way, my passion for Christ got tossed out along with my Bill Gothard teachings. I lumped legalism in with love and learning and left them on the curb for someone else to pick up, or worse, to just sit there unwanted.

I need a place to process some of this. I don’t preach and I barely even read the word on my own anymore. My life is messy. It’s complicated. It’s prone toward wandering. But I see the path now. It’s just up ahead and I think if I keep walking I just might make it there. I’m going to start here and see.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
~Robert Robinson, 1758

We’re Back

We’ve actually been online for a couple of days, but I figured everyone is tired of me talking about moving and packing and now moving and unpacking. Basically we’re all tired and edgy. Okay, I’m tired and edgy. I can be honest.

I signed up for a Classical Conversations parent practicum for this week some time ago, way before we planned to move and way before I realized our closing date would be the day before the conference. I needed the training, so I still had to go, but it’s messed with me this week in a crazy way.

I usually have a pretty high chaos threshold, but this week I realized that my chaos threshold only includes my own controlled chaos. The chaos around me right now has been out of my control, and as I left the house by 8:15 every day and didn’t get home until about 5, things were just more than nuts around here. They still are.

That’s life in transition, I guess. I’m ready for a life of stability again. Bring it!