Saturday, January 22, 2011
Three years ago a friend recommended Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Yes, three years ago. And I love how God works. I love how He transcends time. For whatever reason, I recently remembered my friend’s suggestion, and the pages I’m reading seem to be written especially for Christan Perona. For this point in time. I’m not sure if their depth would have resonated with me three years ago. But for my life – right now – I’m soaking it all in. Not a surprise to God, I’m sure. And I may just become a fan of classic literature.
Jane, the heroine, is a woman of intellect and poor social status. She’s an orphan. She has suffered but has also endured. And oh, the suffering has shaped her mind, her heart, the way she sees the world.
After being publicly humiliated and falsely represented by her boarding school’s administrator, a fellow classmate offered Jane these words. “Hush Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign Hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world…”
Dear ones, the sovereign Hand has created your frame. He knows your story. He knows your limits. He knows the orientations of your mind and heart. He knows your baggage. And He calls to live beyond ourselves, beyond the admiration or resources of other broken people, into the wholeness and justice that only He can offer.
Monday, January 10, 2011
“One thing I ask and I would seek
To see your beauty.” - Matt Redmond
My heart craves for the above. I long to see God’s beauty rather than the enticement of my idols. I long to see the fullness of His glory and holiness and the purity of His love, for then I might run to Him to fill the void in my heart. To heal the ache. Always. I might then be assured that what He has to offer is the very best indeed.
But instead, life is full of disguised destruction. Satan offers us brokenness and lies masked by temporary thrills and joy and fulfillment. And oh, he tempts us with curiosity! What if? What could I be, what could I do, if I grabbed what the enemy was offering?
If I could see the beauty of my Rescuer for what it truly is, I would be consumed. There would be no need to justify my sin as I often do. My prayer is to see my sin – and the brokenness Satan offers – in its ugliest form contrasted with the fullness of God’s beauty and wholeness.
“The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down...” Psalm 146:8
Thursday, January 6, 2011
And this is something I struggle to remember all year long.
I'm not sure if it's because I am by nature an independent gal--which has its upsides. I am fine being by myself. The introvert in me actually craves it from time to time. But on the downside, being alone can sometimes feel, well, lonely. And in those moments I sometimes forget that Jesus is my Immanuel.
These past few years I have lived in somewhat of a wilderness--physically and spiritually speaking. You see, our family moved from the city to the suburbs, hoping to plant down some roots so we could flourish as a family and get connected to our neighborhood and community. God had different plans, however. We chose to build a new home in a new development, and because the economy had slowed down so much, we literally have had a wilderness around us of empty lots. Where I thought would be happy homes, beautiful gardens, and a neighborhood of people, there are weeds, dirt piles, and "for sale" signs. Oh, there are other homes down the road from us filling in around the cul-de-sacs, but where our home stands seems to be on somewhat of an island, and that's how I have felt many days--on an island, in a desert, all alone. And my many grumblings have only reminded me how much I am like those Israelites wandering in the desert forgetting to be thankful for God's daily provisions and forgetting that God is with me. Thankfully, God has used these days to teach me more about Himself, to strip me of my self-serving idols, and to transform my heart and my heart’s desires.
So what does this all have to do with coaching and being a coach's wife?
Well, in the fall, my husband coaches football with an amazing staff of dedicated and talented men. And I have the great joy of hanging out with their wives and families on the sidelines, during practice, and after games. One of the blessings of the football season is the incredible community that the coach’s families have. It's grown over the years, and it doesn't always come naturally--we are a diverse group of families that are scattered throughout our city and in different stages of life. But we have been intentional over the years to connect and care for one another. It's a wonderful season of togetherness with these families.
In the spring, though, it will be different. My husband also coaches track in the spring, and it's interesting how the sport seasons differ, especially for the kids and I. You see, I won't have any other coach's wives or coach's families near the starting blocks to hang out with and share this season. Instead, we'll be surrounded by athletes and their families--which is great, but different. While during the fall season I have a support system that understands the ups and downs of a coach's family, during the spring season I'm on my own. And I have to admit that at times, that can feel very lonely. Sometimes this is a good loneliness as it encourages me to engage more with the track families and athletes during meets. But other times I forget, once again, that Jesus is my Immanuel, and it is too easy to fall into self-pity and self-preservation just to make it through another sports season. You see, as much as I love my husband, I'm not naturally wired to love sports, so each coaching season provides new opportunities to serve and love my husband by loving what he does and loves. And sometimes this happens naturally (and gets easier as our children get older) but other times, it is a sacrifice of love and can feel like a lonely wilderness if I let it get the best of me.
One of my all-time favorite authors and missionaries is Elizabeth Elliot. I have always been captivated by her life story and her writings. One of my favorites is titled The Path of Loneliness, and it has a great subtitle: "It may seem like a wilderness, but it can lead you to God." She writes so personally how our huge unfulfilled desires are a means of knowing Christ. Our loneliness, she reminds us, can be a gift and an offering.
"The whole of life becomes a continual offering up for His praise. Can we give up all for the love of God? When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry. We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is. In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve. We ask how much of our fun does He intend to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated. If we had the least notion of His lovingkindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for his poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how carefully He is preparing a place for us, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good--if we had any inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of our smashed dandelions or whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?" (pg.102-103)
Elliot’s writing causes me to dream. What would my life look like if I surrendered my plans, which are like smashed dandelions, for His plans, which are like a radiant rose garden or a field of fragrant lilies? What would it look like if I stopped living life some days in fear and desire for control? What would it look like if I loved sacrificially and served with a grateful heart, even when I don't have a passion for the sport my husband is coaching? What would it look like if I truly experienced Jesus as my Immanuel during the craziness of the football season and the (sometimes) loneliness of the track season? What would my life look like if I truly believed Jesus is my Forever Immanuel all 365 days of the year, and not just at Christmas?
I think it would be more peaceful. More trusting. More joyful. More courageous. I think the wilderness around me would be transformed into an oasis of God's love as I patiently trust Him, believe that He is good, wait for His timing, and rely on His presence in my life. I would see more of our life as a coach's family as a meaningful ministry rather than just my husband's job that I wouldn't have naturally chosen, but am learning to love more and more with each passing season. I think I would be more focused on God's promises and my future Promised Land, rather than grumbling in the desert of my discontent.
So this is my prayer for this New Year 2011. To daily surrender to God's bigger, better plan.
On a sidenote, God gave us one of the best Christmas gifts EVER this year....the real possibility of new neighbors who will be building their home right next door to us! We've waited for over four years, and now we can hardly believe that not only has God led a sweet family to our small neighborhood, but it is a family that goes to our same church! God truly does more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. We are rejoicing in this hope, praying that it does indeed become a reality, and thanking God that He has used this time in our lives to teach us that He will always and most importantly be our Immanuel.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
We recently took our kids to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader… their first 3D movie!
My son and I have read through the whole series of seven books, and we awaited this third Narnia movie with great anticipation. While we thoroughly enjoyed it and were challenged by its messages of overcoming temptation and being rescued, Hollywood unfortunately skimmed over a most powerful scene with rapid fashion. So, I’ve recorded it below.
For those of you who saw the movie but have never read the book, may your heart be touched more deeply.
For those of you who have read the book and were also disappointed by the revised version, enjoy C.S. Lewis’ pure words.
And for those of who have experienced neither, a brief interpretation: Eustace – the most unlikeable boy - has turned into a dragon. In his misery, he eventually meets a lion who painfully restores him. In the excerpt below, Eustace relays his experience to his cousin, Edmund. The lion is our Redeemer. The scales are our sin and brokenness. And Eustace, well, he’s all of us.
CS Lewis writes… “I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it – if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells – like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.
“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“Then the lion said – but I don’t know it it spoke - ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thinker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me.”
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don’t know exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream”
“No. It wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund.
"Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been – well, un-draggoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.
Dear ones, may you see your Redeemer today as the One capable of making you new rather than your resolutions. May you have hope that your heart will be renewed - rather than your body or your organizational skills or your circumstances. It is your heart, indeed, that is promised restoration by His sometimes painful grace.