Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Whatever You Do, Don't Stop Staring Into That Light.

This makes me chuckle. Have you ever been told that? Me neither. Pretty much the opposite, in fact. Not only do most people normally not deliberately stare into intense light, we actively avoid doing so. For example, when someone shines a flashlight into your eyes, is your instinct like mine? To squint. Shield. Turn away. Or how about closing your eyes while screwing in a new light bulb to avoid the initial burst of light that comes when the connections are made? Or, for a twist of irony - when you're at the optometrist's office getting an eye exam, the doctor shines that single beam of intense white light directly into your eye and tells you to look at it and not blink - for what must be 10 minutes straight. I can never manage to not blink. I suppose the end justifies the means for this uncomfortable practice. OK, point made. Staring into bright light for long isn't a great idea - our eyes don't handle it well. But there is a part of us that not only handles it well, it's vital. This past Christmas season, an awakening began for me related to beholding brilliance. A connecting of truth with practicality, illuminating the reality that, though our physical eyes don't tolerate long exposure to bright, intense light, our souls are made for it. Last month I did a talk at a ladies' Christmas party, and the title was "Immanuel: Hearing His Story, Changed by His Glory." I asked God to lead my preparations and sought Him for what the name of the talk should be. After a few days, this is what came. While it reads nicely in a bulletin or poster, it didn't resonate in me at first. Kinda sounded a bit cliche - all rhymey and everything. But a journey was about to happen to cause me to think otherwise; a journey through Immanuel's life. One that would lead me to conviction, amazement and worship -- nothing cliche about that. When you hear the story of Immanuel, you encounter who He is. More than the figure of Christmas carols or the babe in the manger. A King - a powerful, righteous, glorious King who left heaven and entered planet earth in complete human frailty. Who lived a life of service and love, suffered rejection, then execution on a Roman cross. A King so powerful that He conquered death and the grave and then victoriously returned to heaven. It was in the process of compiling scriptures and images that would tell the story of Immanuel's earthly life that I beheld Him anew. Hearing Immanuel's story means we see Him for who He is. God with us. And if God is with us, we will see His glory. And when we encounter His glory, we are changed. Back to not looking at the sun, I guess this warning was like many others I got as a kid. Some probably never questioned that, but others, present company included, had to experience why it's not a good idea to stare at the sun with no eye protection. So, with curiosity satisfied, I walked around for awhile with vision obscured by bright circles and realized the reason for the warning. What you keep looking at, you keep seeing. What would happen if you gazed at Immanuel and never looked away? Would you keep seeing Him, as you keep seeing bright white circles after looking at the sun? It would depend on how close you are to Him. In concrete terms, Immanuel's glory can be thought of as Light. If you'll permit me analogy, let's say Jesus is represented by a spot light and his glory is the beams that go forth from the light. Now let's say you are 50 yards from that spot light. It shines in your direction and you know it's there. No doubt -- you can see it, and though it's not intense, the rays reach you, barely. Not enough to cause you to shield your face, much less illumine your surroundings. But then you move closer - more like 20 yards from the light. Your surroundings are still dim but the light dispels some of the darkness. The light touches you - anyone watching would see you illumined in the light's rays. And then you move directly in front of the light. It is all over you. Not one part of you isn't touched by the light. You can't see anything else -- you can't even see the person holding the light for the brilliance that claims your capacity to see. Immanuel is offering His glory to us -- to get close to Him and stay there. To not look away. It's his living, real-time presence and power that is ours as we look at Him in the midst of trial, instead of looking at the trial. Whom we keep looking at, we keep seeing. And when we keep seeing Immanuel, we change. So as we take our first steps into 2015, I'll be the only one to offer this advice: whatever you do, don't stop staring into the Light.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blue Sheets

This morning I had a little brainstorm related to our sons' shared bedroom. They've shared a room since Josh was born, with the exception of a 6-month period when Isaac had his own room during a temporary living situation a couple years ago. Isaac, now a 6th grader, understandably wants to have his own room. He likes to read before bed and it disturbs Josh, age 7, who goes to sleep earlier and becomes quite adamant about turning the light off when he's ready for sleep. The tension was mounting and a solution was needed.

So my solution was a pvc-pipe frame with a cover made to fit. I was envisioning this cool tent-like thing that would not only solve the bedtime light issue but would be pretty cool in the eyes of a 12 year old. I could make the cover. The only problem was the small matter of actually building the frame. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't plunge into projects that involve measuring and power tools. Much frustration happens when I do.

I showed Paul my sketch this morning, and I wonder now if it might've been right before he was going to head over to the church to talk through his message in preparation for tomorrow. Anyway, he looked, he saw, he got quiet...walked into the boys' room and came up with another solution. Instead of spending $150 on pvc pipe and lumber, he suggested putting in a couple eye-hooks, string a wire across the room and drape a sheet or something over to divide the room. Hmmm...it didn't conjure up the same cool tent-over-the-bed image, but since beggars can't be choosers I went with it.

I wasn't expecting the project to be undertaken today, but within an hour, the hooks were in and the wire was up. I found a couple of blue sheets that would work. I have to admit that inside I was thinking that it would be a tad tacky-looking -- two blue sheets, not the same color. Not really my decorating style. For a few moments I thought it would be nice to not have to divide a bedroom with a sheet. That I wished the boys could have their own rooms done up just how they'd like them. Yet at the same time I'm glad that they still share a room because I think it's healthier for the boys to share space and learn to work their stuff out.

OK, so I got the sheets up and as I was pinning them in place, Isaac walked into the room. His face just lit up. He was so happy about those crazy blue sheets and just simply said, "I have my own space!"

It warmed my heart so see his thankfulness for simplicity. There were no comments about it looking tacky or wishing he had a real room of his own. As I basted the sheets in place, he said from his bed on the other side of the curtain, "Thanks for doing this."

So. Turns out that what was really needed wasn't something expensive and elaborate as my solution would've been. Two eye hooks, wire and a couple of sheets did the job. He's happy for his privacy, and I'm happy that I've still got him close by.

P.S. The Snuggie has been worn and found to be most snug. I got a smug (not snug) look from Paul as he said, "See, I knew you'd use it." :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Philippians 2:13

Two nights ago as I was going to sleep, a verse came to mind as I was laying there thinking. "For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose." I hadn't been in Philippians - it had been awhile since I'd spent any time on that one. But it came to mind and brought with it peace as its truth blanketed my soul.

Then Sunday morning it was back - I was thankful that God helped me remember what I had been thinking about the night before in that just-before-sleep, groggy state of mind. And then it showed up again, unbeknownst to me, in my husband's message that day in church. Hmmm, God, are you telling me something here?

Today in the quiet of the morning I was back to the same verse. It's got my attention now. What stood out was that He works in us to "will" and "act" according to his good purposes. Interesting that it doesn't say to "feel" and "agree with" his good purposes. But rather, engage the will in obedience first and let the feelings follow.

God's purpose boils down to loving. Loving Him, loving others. As that marks my life more and more, I become conformed to the image of Jesus. That's expressed in lots of ways - sometimes active doing, other times restraint. But it's a hopeful thing that those of us in His body are the recipients of His steady, faithful work.

As we live out of Truth, the person of Truth Himself, His joy becomes ours and His purposes are accomplished in and through our lives.

Lord, let it be.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting Sweaty & Getting Cozy

Two things I did today that weren't planned:

1) I worked out on the Eliptical for the first time in 3 months. Laurel, Josh & I trekked over to the old gym where I got on the Eliptical and they shot hoops for awhile -- it actually made the time go quickly having them there. My foot did just fine -- no pain, no swelling. Next time, 30 minutes on a higher level.

2) Totally unrelated and I probably shouldn't admit this openly, but I'm now the proud owner of a pink Snuggie. I was minding my own business, working in my sewing room, trying to reclaim it after pretty much losing the floor amid Christmas program costumes, boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper when Paul & Isaac returned from town today and presented me with a box emblazoned with that infamous logo and picture of the cheesy looking lady. They felt I needed a Snuggie. And the after-Christmas sale made it impossible for my husband to pass up.


It's so corny I think I may just go with it and wear it. It'll be an endless source of material for my family to use "against" me -- not that a Snuggie is needed for that, but still...

So. The Snuggie is in the house and thankfully I no longer have to be deprived of that fleecy goodness.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lights & Ladders

Two days ago I had my last x-ray and dr. visit for my foot -- 2 months after my surgery date. Everything looks good and I got the doc's clearance to do what I want -- no activities excluded. So guess what I was doing yesterday afternoon.

My outside Christmas lights decided to stop working this week. They've been up for a couple of weeks, working just fine -- and then they just quit. It was about more than I could stand to concede defeat to those contrary cords. But concede I did, knowing I didn't have the doc's clearance to do any climbing yet, and having to start over with my foot's healing because of doing something dumb isn't an option.

BUT with the ladder ban officially lifted on Thursday, it was finally time! So that's how I spent Friday afternoon. Climbed the ladder, found the problem, back down the ladder, found a new cord, back up the ladder, plugged the new cord in, strung it, made sure it worked, then down the ladder. Apparently my Christmas lights are at that contrary stage in their existence. I plug them in, make sure they work, then after they're up for about 5 minutes, they stop working. This interesting little dynamic provided four rounds of this light-hanging process. But all the while I was still "plum" happy that I could be out there working on it. (eastern MT vernacular for "very" or "quite") :-)

So, as with most projects - one thing leads to another. In the middle of one of the short windows of time when the lights were all on, I found more lights. Well, if there's more lights, then they should go up! On the steepest part of the roof! So with my husband's help, I got the big dog ladder up and climbed that sucker, carefully but still happily, even though my fingers were losing feeling by this time.

They were looking so nice, all icicle-y...and then the whole lot of them went out. ugh. Felt a little frustrated, but still mostly happy and energized by the fact that I could be on a ladder, but more by the vision of the glow that would soon light up our section of the street. I would've made a good Griswold.

I had to go back to where I started and after awhile had to concede again. There wouldn't be extra lights up but I'd finished what I meant to do initially. I fixed the problem on the front side of the house and went inside quite satisfied.

Then I looked out closer to bedtime and only one strand was lit. grrr.
So today it continues. There's a nice blue sky, some snow on the ground -- can't think of anything I'd rather do on December 23 than bundle up and spend the rest of the morning on a ladder.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Pumpkin Trifle Has a Salvage Title

Pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting is making me happy these days. Probably a little too happy. I had a new friend over to bake on Friday and together we produced 3 loaves of chocolate/pumpkin bread (she gave it a thumbs down, but I just can't leave it alone!), 3 loaves of regular pumpkin bread, one pumpkin roll and a pumpkin trifle.

I shouldn't admit this, but the pumpkin trifle was my friend's genius as she watched as what was supposed to be the second pumpkin roll completely fall apart as I attempted to remove it from the pan. I'd made these rolls several times before, but this was an utter flop. There was no amount of frosting that could bridge those chasms. It looked more like a pumpkin mountain range...not a smooth, even plain ready for a flood of cream cheese frosting.

But thanks to my friend, the mountain range was broken into pieces and when layered with pumpkin pudding and cool whip in a pretty trifle bowl, it worked and it tasted good. I'm glad Jodi was there to suggest the salvage operation...otherwise the whole thing would've ended up in the trash.

Salvaging. Seeing beyond a messed up appearance to what can be. The person I know who is best at this is my mother-in-law, Connie. She has a mechanically-wired brain, so she knows how to fix a lot of stuff. She's a veritable sewing machine whisperer -- takes them apart piece by piece, cleaning and fixing as she goes, then puts them all back together, sometimes into a newly refurbished cabinet to boot.

My sewing machine was giving me fits recently, so I sent the contrary machine her way and she had it working in no time (of course, it helps to have the bobbin inserted in the right direction if you expect your machine to be happy). She's also great at getting stains out of stuff that others would give up on. It has greatly reduced the amount of money I've spent on clothes over the years! Connie just sees value and life in stuff that's a little beaten up and knows how to get it there. I tend to think that kind of stuff has just had its day and needs a merciful, quick death by way of the garbage dumpster. I like the wisdom of Connie's way and while I don't aspire to dismantle and repair sewing machines, I know there's much more to learn from her.

Funny...all this because of a pumpkin trifle. Who knew that layered deliciousness would prompt anything beyond a "Hmmm, that's pretty good"?
Granted, this may all be for my benefit alone. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, it's a simple but good reminder to choose to see what is good in what looks dismal or maybe downright hopeless. Nothing new there but I know I need that reminder today.

There's stuff in my life that disappoints me. Stuff I wish were different. But when I mentally camp out on those things, I'm not at peace and not fun to be around. But when I discipline myself to articulate what is good in life and cultivate gratefulness, peace comes and I'm free to enjoy what is.

Hope you enjoy a peace-filled Thanksgiving and may each bite of pumpkin pie (or trifle) remind you of the sweetness that can come when we look for the good that lies just beyond the mess.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hello Again, Guitar

Today I got my guitar out after not having touched it since last winter. The months just came and went, but there was no spark inside me to want to keep trying.

But this morning had some tough moments, and the thought just kept coming to grab my guitar (despite the fact that I only know like 5 chords) and go to the church sanctuary to be alone with God. It took a few minutes, but pretty soon I was slowly finding my way through the songs I had half-way learned. Your Blood Speaks a Better Word, How Deep the Father's Love for Us, Be Still My Soul, Jesus - Be the Center. I felt frustrated that I couldn't play the way I want to, but it felt good to at least try and produce a marginally recognizable progression of chords. To just be bare and safe before God -- offering Him what I had, knowing that He's after a pure heart, not a perfect performance.

My son Josh (age 7) was just clearing the table. He stopped and smiled as he said, "Mom, I feel like God is smiling down on me." I smiled back and said, "Oh yes. He is. Because He loves you." That was it. But it was a sweet moment. One that touched me on his behalf but also because I needed it for me, too.

You know that song that has the lyrics, "You dance over me while I am unaware. You sing all around, but I never hear the sound. Lord, I'm amazed by you, how you love me." If the loving, reassuring voice of my Father is the one I'm tuned into, I'm free.

Well, that same boy is now at my elbow reminding me that I said he could practice his SpongeBob typing at 7:15. And 7:15 it is, so off I go. Funny - he's reading what I'm writing. A funny thing, this new era.