Monday, May 29, 2017

when I almost forget...

We had a wonderful time Friday, with our family over for bbq chicken and just a general get-together. That's one of the things I've most been looking forward to with our move to this new place. In the past, we've either been too far away or in too small a place to have everybody over, so it's a blessing to be able to invite our family out and actually have room for everybody.

All weekend, though, something was off. I couldn't quite put my finger on it; I was spending time with my family, watching my kids play with baby cousins and baby ducks. We were laughing and chatting and making plans to build a big deck on the front of the house. We have been relaxing in the beauty of the Ozarks--wandering by the creek, looking at the hills, and seeing the lightning bugs.

It wasn't until last night that I realized what it was--I was missing my brother.

It crossed my mind for a fleeting moment Friday, while I was getting food ready for everybody. I was walking through the house when I thought, "I wish you could be here this afternoon, brother." But then I got lost in the day, and didn't think it again.

And sometimes, that's what hurts the most.

Sometimes, I almost forget that my brother isn't in the middle of the laughter.

I almost forget that Memorial Day has a different meaning for my family.

I almost forget how my nieces and kids would have their uncle wrapped around their fingers.

I almost forget my brother.

That may sound dumb to say, but it's the truth that's so hard for me to admit. Sometimes, in the joy and laughter and just everyday life, my brother slips from my mind.

And then, when that realization comes rushing back, it hits so hard that it takes my breath away. It puts a lump in my throat that's hard to push down and threatens to bring tears to my eyes. The thoughts and emotions are so conflicting that it's hard to put them into words (for some reason, it's always hard for me--a word-weaver--to find the right words when it comes to talking about Michael).

So today, since I can't find the words myself, I'll give you Michael's words:

I Stand

I fail in this fight which embroils me;
I lack the strength to press on.
My spirit is crushed,
My mind full of doubts,
My body rebels,
Yet I stand.

Strength, welling not from within me,
Helps to resist this onslaught.
God lifts me up
From ashes and dust.
He is my Strength
So I stand.

Through the hail of fiery arrows,
Satan's temptations raining down,
God is my Armor,
God is my Shield,
God is my Foundation
And I Stand!

I can't win this battle alone,
But God doesn't require that.
He fights my battles;
He defeats my foes;
He asks just one thing,
That I stand!

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand!" ~Ephesians 6:13

~J. Michael Goins
2 LT, US Army
KIA 15 August 2004
Najaf, Iraq

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

whispers of rest

So, somehow it seems fitting that I got lost in the busy-ness of the day yesterday and missed posting about Bonnie Gray's new book, Whispers of Rest, on launch day. That definitely wasn't my intention; I was going to be on top of things and make sure I did just what needed to be done exactly when I needed to do it.

Because, you see, that's how I want to present myself to the world.

I want everybody to see that I have it all together, that I accomplish what I set out to do. I want to be seen as capable, dependable, and reliable. I want people to see the well-developed persona that I've put together, that one that can handle anything and everything that gets thrown my way.

As much as I want people to see me that way, I also try to show God that same mask.

I posted a while back about Bonnie's first book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace. If you haven't read it, it comes highly recommended. I read it quickly, devouring every page. I wrote in the margins, underlined passages that seemed like they were written specifically to--about--me. I'm pretty sure I finished it a couple days after I got it. My intention was to do the same with this one.

My intentions, though, had to be put on the back burner. As seems so often to be the case, my plans are giving way to what God has in mind for me. Whispers of Rest is a 40-day journey, and it would seem that God's intention is for me to take the time to take this journey.

It's as if He's telling me, "You need to make the time to rest in Me."

So this morning, I took my book and my coffee outside.

I sat in the quiet of the morning at the picnic table my Grandma gave us, and I read through Day 4 of Bonnie's book.

Right now, in the stillness between when school ended for the year and when all the farm work truly gets started, I took a few minutes to breathe.

Really, that's what Bonnie's book does--it encourages you to take the time to pause, breathe, and rest in God, the One who calls us to come to Him just as we are.

That's what I was reminded of this morning as I read Bonnie's words.

God doesn't want me to come to Him masked in my "Sunday best." He wants me to come as me--because He loves me fully. He wants me to bring all of me--the good, the bad, and the ugly--because He knows me. He doesn't want my persona. He doesn't want me to pretend to have it all together; instead, He wants me to bring Him my weariness, my brokenness, my incompleteness.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders--it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
~Matthew 11:28 & 29 (The Voice)

Friday, May 5, 2017

when the waters swell...

We just bought a farm (which will lead to a lot of posts in the future, I'm sure...), and there's a little creek that runs through it. Actually, it's a couple of creeks that come together. Normally it's shallow, with water trickling over the rocks and moving gently down the creekbed. At one point, it ducks underground and flows there for a while before it comes back out of the rock right at the gate to our driveway.

Lately, though, our beautiful little corner of the world has been pretty soggy. We got close to a foot of rain in just a few days. Water has been everywhere—the rivers have swollen out of their beds, filling fields and sweeping over bridges. We had water running through our yard, pouring down the hill, and overflowing our ponds. There were waterfalls falling where water hadn't even been flowing, rolling over rocks and around trees.

We cross 5 different low water bridges before we reach our driveway, most of which aren't really bridges at all. Instead, they are simply shallow places where you drive across he stone-slab creekbed. With all the rain lately, though, those bridges haven't been peaceful places. The water has poured through, rising above the banks, pushing logs and brush and debris. It has flipped vehicles, stranded people on high ground, and moved giant rocks. When water starts rolling, it doesn't care where it is “supposed” to stay or what it is “supposed” to do. I've been reminded time and again of the awesome power water has, both in good and bad ways.

Amos 5:24 says, “Here's what I want:Let justice thunder down like a waterfall; let righteousness flow like a mightly river that never runs dry.”

The thunder of a waterfall can drown out everything else around--
What would it be like for the thunder of justice to be so loud that you could hear nothing else?

And when a river is flowing, it covers everything in its path and can't be stopped--
What would it be like to see God's righteousness roll over everything, not stopping for anything in its path?

There's something else that's interesting about water; it doesn't have to be in the form of a flood in order to change things. A small, slow trickle can bore its way through a boulder or cut a new path. Right now, we might not have the thunder of justice or the river of righteousness drowning out all the noise of this world. Each one of us, though, can be the little stream, slowly cutting a path.

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