Monday, May 09, 2011

He Still Speaks Words of Love My relationship with God has grown over time as have many of my relationships. My relationship with Jerry grows daily – as long as he and I both put time and effort into it. With each day that goes by we seek to know each other better by listening and coming together. But sometimes it is easy to have doubts about the people in our lives – including God. I think that doubt can be a useful tool in your relationship with God if used properly. What I mean is this – doubt should be used as a type of questioning tool – a way to converse with God when He seems quiet or distant and when you don’t know where you stand. The proper way to use doubt is to first never compromise God’s faithfulness and the true essence of who He is. That requires that you know who He is first. (That is another post for another day.) Just over a year ago, driving home from church, Jerry and I had the same song in our heads. (We have never had the same word or message from God before.) The song was “When I Think of You” by Michael W. Smith. We thought it was strange that we both had that song in our heads and yet we had not heard it in awhile and it was not played at church. I felt like we needed to know more about this, so I pulled out the CD to see if there was something in the CD jacket that we needed to know. I found the reference to Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty enough to save you. He will take great delight in you. The quietness of his love will calm you down. He will sing with joy because of you." (New International Readers version - Copyright © 1996, 1998 by Biblica) At the time, I was struggling with the back to work blues. The next day I was scheduled to go back to work for the first time since Abby was born. This verse gave me great comfort. I felt like God was saying he was delighted with Jerry and me. It brought tears to my eyes! Who were we that God would speak to us in this way? What a wonderful gift! Fast forward to now. I’m finishing up One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I’m also reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I’m at this stage in my relationship with God where I’m asking myself, what does it mean to really love God? Intellectually I love him, but I don’t think it has broken into the core of my being. I’m one of those people who need to “get it” intellectually before I get it at a deeper level. Crazy Love is challenging me to not be a lukewarm Christian. The book says that to be a Christian is at its very nature loving God as much as I love myself – relentlessly. I’m so.not.there. As I’m reading One Thousand Gifts, I’m pondering how after all this time how I just don’t get it. Ann is telling the reader how she went to Paris to learn how to “make love to God.” Makes ya blush a bit, right? Me too, because I don’t really get that. Yet everywhere in the Bible it says that we are the bride of Christ. Well, to be a bride, you have to be more than friends, right? There has to be a greater level of intimacy. So as she is retelling her journey – she watches the sun rise from the airplane and she realizes that God is singing His love song to her from Zephaniah 3:17. The same Zephaniah 3:17 where he spoke to Jerry and me a year ago. I put down the book and I sob. He won’t ever stop reminding me – this flawed, speck of dust in the cosmos – that he loves me. I can’t help but ask over and over, why? I will never understand. But the bottom line is this – He loves me, He delights in me. While I don’t yet understand the level of intimacy He is inviting me into, I still go forward seeking to know more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


I’m not a big leftover fan. There’s something about food past its prime, slowly rotting in small plastic containers that just doesn’t work for me. Oh, I try. Some leftovers work out just fine. Unfortunately, most leftovers don’t make it past the 4-day-in-the-fridge rule in our house.

Yesterday was a low point for me. I picked up Kayla from school and we went home as usual and I continued working – just like any day. Something went wrong with the items I was working on and I had to shut down interacting with her for a few minutes to “put out the fire”. Once we resumed working on her homework, my stress was at an all time high.

We went to pick up Zach and Abby from daycare. Things got worse from there – Zach could not stop misbehaving, Abby kept screeching and crying and doing stiff board tantrums. My fatigue got the best of me and I went into survival mode. We ate cereal for dinner (pop tarts for dessert!). I put on a movie for the kids after dinner and I sat with them and watched it. At that moment, I realized that what my kids get on most days is “leftover mommy”. Leftover mommy has already given her best for the day.

I put it in high gear to get out the door in the morning to get Kayla to school on time and me to work. I powered through the series of meetings, interactions, conflicts, and projects that consist of a typical day at the office. I rushed to get Kayla from school and then simultaneously did one home related project (a personal goal for each day) and continued working while helping Kayla with her homework. By the time I picked up Zach and Abby – the fresh, tasty, healthy, gourmet mommy was gone. Leftover mommy was there.

Leftover mommy shows up too often in our house – even with my best efforts to keep her away. Sometimes caffeine helps, but that likely causes “high-strung yelling mommy” to come out and she is much worse.

Even though I’m not always the mom I want to be, I pray that my kids see “real mommy” most of the time. Real mommy apologizes when she yells too much, kisses hurts away, hugs and loves even when kids are mad or sad, and does her best to care for their needs and let them know how much she loves them. Real mommy tries not to let the other mommies visit too much, but the truth is, sometimes they are there.

One thing I know for sure is that “perfect mommy” is never here. But I’ve decided I don’t like her very much. She is much too obsessive and critical to live with. It’s best that she not have the key to this house.

I know I don’t always have it together, but I’m thankful that the unconditional love shared between my children and I is strong enough to weather these different mommies. God’s mercies are new every morning.

What mommy (or daddy) are you today?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Relentless Love I’m very excited to present my first guest blogger my sister, Rachel Miller. In light of recent world events, her post cut me to the core today. I wish I could take full credit for this, but it comes from a Bible study that a coworker graciously forwards to me each morning. I can’t tell you how many times this study has spoken directly to my heart on a given day, but today it was exceptionally striking given the fresh memory of Easter and the demise of Osama bin Laden. Two Rules to Live By (taken from Our Daily Bread – click here for full post. Read: Matthew 22:34-40) Have you ever felt overwhelmed by rules and expectations? Think of how the Jewish people must have felt as they tried to keep up with more than 600 rules from the Old Testament and many more that had been imposed on them by the religious leaders of their day. And imagine their surprise when Jesus simplified the pursuit of righteousness by narrowing the list down to just two-"love the Lord your God" (Matt. 22:37) and "love your neighbor as yourself" (v.39). In essence, Jesus is telling us that the way God knows we love Him is by how we treat people. All of them. Let's face it-loving our neighbor can be a challenge. But when we do it to express our love to God, we unleash a powerful motivation that loves whether the person deserves it or not. And as we love God and our neighbor, everything else falls into place. If I love my neighbor, I won't bear false witness against him, covet his wealth or his wife, or steal from him. Loving others for God's sake even provides the grace and strength to forgive those who have heaped injustices upon us.” [emphasis added] Wow. Timely, eh? It reminds me of a similar incident in America’s history not so long ago. December 13, 2003: Operation Red Dawn resulted in the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I was in college, doing whatever it is college kids do, and I remember hearing the news of the capture on the radio. Up until this point I had not given much thought to Saddam Hussein’s salvation. If anything, I assumed he was too far gone and destined for hell. But something powerful stirred within me the moment I heard he had been captured and taken into American custody. I immediately fell to my knees and prayed for Saddam Hussein’s soul. I BEGGED God to move someone close to him to share the good news of Jesus Christ as his Savior with him. I wept as I prayed that the Holy Spirit would enter his heart, and that he would accept eternal salvation in heaven with the Father. Yes, I am telling you that I prayed that Saddam Hussein would go to heaven. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for anything in my life up until that point. On my knees. Face to the ground. Tears falling. In a word, it was weird. In a few words, it was bizzare but strangely right. After it was over I felt light as a feather, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I filed the experience away in the “someday it will be the right time to talk about this, but not today” file and went about my business. I wept again on December 30, 2006, when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been executed following his war crimes conviction. I cried because I didn’t know if my prayer was enough. There was certainly no evidence of reform during the circus that was his war crimes trial. What was the point of that prayer? Why did I feel so strongly compelled at the time to do such a seemingly useless act? Fast forward to today, May 2, 2011. After hearing about the death of Osama bin Laden and doing some research in the Bible to sort of piece together how I felt about it, the answer was revealed to me in the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17:14-20. After Jesus rebuked the demon, his disciples asked him why they were not able to drive the demon out of the boy. Jesus replied in verse 20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Some manuscripts of Matthew’s account include words similar to the end of the apostle Mark’s version of the same story (29:9): “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Call me crazy if you like, but I honestly believe that my tiny, mustard seed-sized prayer made a difference in Saddam Hussein’s eternal outcome through the grace of God. Ok, so now what? Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead, but as an American and a Christian I still have so many enemies in the world. How am I supposed to deal with that? Jesus gives the answer in His Sermon on the Mount: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). Er, right. Did I mention that these people HATE ME!? As in HATE! As in abhor, detest, loathe, can’t stand, find insufferable, can’t bear, are repulsed by, and just plain dislike me! Why should I show them love and pray for them? Where is all that good “eye for an eye” stuff when you really need it!? The answer to the second question is simple: the “eye for an eye” way of thinking is one of the 600+ rules from the Old Testament and was rendered obsolete on the cross. Leave it there. The answer to the first question is in the closing verses of Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48). Plain English: If you love only the lovable and hate your enemies, you are no better than they are. Yeah, I know you didn’t fly airplanes into buildings and kill thousands of innocent people a decade ago. But God called us to be perfect like Him. This means loving the unlovable, and praying for their salvation. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us? The bible study from this morning closes with this: “Who needs to see God's love today through you? The more unlovable the person, the greater the statement about how much you love God! Loving God is the key to loving others. Couldn’t have said it better myself. When Rachel is not working her day job wielding her red tape machete or pushing beer-leavened baked goods on the side, she is home with her two boys ages 3 and 5 months eating homemade pizza and ice cream made by her culinary gifted husband, Kal. Rachel blogs with Kal over at Special Group Alpha (