Archive for July, 2007

Lord, we are blessed to live in a country where the mortality rate for children from birth to five is relatively low. I cannot thank you for that without also feeling  heaviness and lament that the opposite is true in many other countries.

Even without death being a looming possibility for most American children, I still want to ask Your protection for them in these vulnerable years.

I pray especially for young children who are separated from one or bothdaycare of their parents for extended amounts of time, whatever the reason–divorce, death, illness, job travel ( e.g. military) or daycare. 

I am crying for the reality and for the price that our children pay in these situations. Asking God to make a difference. Somehow. In ways I can’t imagine.  In family scenarios that are far from the way we want them to be.

I wish God would protect every young child from the pain and negative effects of  separation from one or both parents.

But God, where I do not see Your  protection, I ask and trust that You transform and redeem and make Your glory known, in the pain and through the pain, in very real ways.

I also pray for adults who are loving, caring for, bonding with little ones not their own–the daycare workers, foster parents and grandparents raising someone else’s child. I pray that believers in these positions can make a difference:
(1) no matter for how short a time they care for a child or
(2) how limited their influence seems or
(3) how many other problems a child has, which seem to drown out the love being given.
Lord, help these caregivers not give up when they don’t see results. I pray that Your light still shines through them and makes a difference, no matter how futile their efforts sometimes seem.  


Read Full Post »

It is useful,…

…people generally agree, for a wife to wake up before her husband.

And so begins the book, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, the new novel in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, written by Alexander McCall Smith.

I have a fascination with first lines of books. I even have a game, called Liebrary, based around them (although I can’t find anyone to play it with me 🙂 ) Somewhere along the way in our homeschooling experience, a friend mentioned that her kids were keeping track of the first sentences in books they were reading. I think it is a great idea, although I never consistently did it or had my children do it.

This particular first line, however, struck me as a winner.

Here are the first lines of some other books I am currently reading or have just finished:

“I simply can’t resist any longer”. from:  Out to Pasture (but not over the hill), by Effie Leland Wilder. This is the book I’m reading at the gym. I found that I could not concentrate on more serious books very well while riding an exercise bike. Plus, with serious books, I’m often compelled to underline profound things, and the underlining ends up looking  like I’m either trying to cross it out or my 4-year-old decided to scribble on the page.  This book is a very lighthearted novel set in a retirement center. 

“I wanted to find my own way, so this morning I persuaded my father to let me travel alone from his apartment in Kobe to my grandfather’s beach house in Tarumi.” from: The Samurai’s Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama. Despite the rather unassuming first line, this is a powerful story set in Japan, 1937-1938. As with the previously mentioned book on elderly people, this one ends up affirming the value and beauty of life and relationships in unexpected places and with the least likely people. In a culture where suicide can be seen as the honorable thing to do, one woman’s choice to accept her suffering and to live, stands out. I’m terrible at book reviews. How do you talk ABOUT a book that tells a story in such an amazing way? Any words describing it seem to miss the point.  So, let me tritely say, “I loved this book.”

“The impetus for this book comes from the ultimate reality of God as the supreme value in and above the universe.”  Obviously, I’m not reading THIS book at the gym 🙂 I am enjoying it, though. And I just realized I’m not going to tell you the title or author. I want to see if anybody can guess who it is, because it sounds so much like something this author would say that I think surely someone will figure it out!

Do you have some favorite first lines of books you have read? How about a book you are reading now? I’m always looking for more books, so feel free to give your recommendations in a comment below.

“…it is also a good thing for those wives whose husbands are inclined to be irritable first thing in the morning–and by all accounts there are many of them, rather too many. If the wives of such men are up and about first, the husbands can be left to be ill-tempered by themselves.”  (a few more sentences from The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Now, don’t you want to rush out and read the book for yourself?)

I’m off to order some books from Amazon with a gift certificate I received!

Read Full Post »

I struggle with burnout.  My energy is almost never equal to the task. I exist in a chronic state of having to generate energy in order to expend energy.  I know the things that recharge my energy, but the drain has been so severe for so long, that even doing the things that recharge me is like putting one syringe of gas into an empty tank.

Burnout, although it can coexist with depression is not the same thing as depression. It is not the same thing as chronic fatigue. It has, however, increased my understanding and compassion for people who battle with those.

Burnout has also caused me to rethink what it means to be in relationship with God while being truly and desperately weak all the time. Burnout is the place where I continue to experience the faithfulness of God in ways I never imagined (mainly because I had imagined that God’s faithfulness would mean I’d be able to do everything easier 🙂 ). Burnout is where I am learning what it means to bring glory to God in a place that looks anything but “victorious” from external standards.

I will probably write more in the future about my experience of burnout. I’m still trying to figure out the “shape” of it myself. I share these things today, because they are the backdrop for the prayer I came back to this morning. I have prayed this prayer many times over the last several years. It was written by Catherine Parr (last wife of Henry VIII), and I discovered it in Near to the Heart of God: Meditations to Draw You Closer (p. 288):

Lord Jesus, help me to want what is most pleasant to you. You know what is best for me. Give what you will, when the right time comes, and in the quantity you prefer. Do with me as you please. Put me where you will. I am in your hands. I am your servant. I am ready to do whatever you command. You are the true peace of my heart and the perfect rest of my soul.

If you want me to be in light, I will praise you. If you want me to be in darkness, I will also praise you.

If you comfort me, I will bless you. If you allow me to be troubled, I will bless you.

O Lord, make possible by your grace that which is impossible by my nature.

Sometimes I think I am going to hold together, but when a little trouble comes, it tears me apart. Good Lord, you know my weakness, my frailness. Have mercy on me.

Read Full Post »

…rather than “because of” food.

I enjoy reading the website, Afrigadget. This morning I received an update on the pressure irrigation pump above, made by KickStart.

The pump “uses the stepping motion you see in a work-out gym to move water hundreds of feet to irrigate land.” How amazing is that?!  I read articles like this with a mixture of fascination and shame.

My 10-year-old got right to the heart of the shame when I showed her the above picture and explained what it did. Her one comment was, “We’re lazy–we don’t have to do that.” Ouch. I’m glad to be regularly and uncomfortably reminded that my comfortable lifestyle is not an option for lots of people. My daily concerns are pretty small compared to subsistence farmers who literally work to eat, and then hope that too many or too few rains don’t destroy that year’s total food supply. No Plan B. No backup supply of food.

I have a closet fascination with simple-life technology. But I can’t seem to break away from my addiction to doing things the easy way, except in my dreams. It’s bizarre to think how complicated adapting to simplicity seems.

I mean, it is fun to think about designing a passive solar home that works with the environment to keep itself cool or warm, to study pit latrines in detail (the science behind creating one that doesn’t stink AND can work for you is so interesting), and to have a push reel mower sitting in my Amazon wish list. But when I actually think about switching to any of these technologies, the bottom line is, I just don’t need to badly enough to justify the money or inconvenience.  That is embarrassing for me to admit. 

What an irony that I go to the gym as a luxury (to work off all that “medical chocolate” I take), when the same stepping technology is being used so that growing this year’s food can be a little easier and a little more certain for people in Africa.

Read Full Post »

I was not very young when I began to really learn my first “second” language. For all of the advantages of learning a language in a country where it is spoken, one of the frustrations was going to church in that language. I hated only being able to understand the word “God” Sunday after Sunday. Because no matter what I had learned during the week, it was a LONG time before I could listen fast enough to hear a new word in a pastoral monologue. And let’s just say that, as far as spiritual feeding and edification goes, being able to understand even three or four words in a sermon is not very helpful!

However, I will never forget the first time I understood every word in a worship song. Let me tell you, I sang and meant every word with great gusto and with tears coming down my face. (I know you don’t have to be in church to worship, but there is something about worshiping with other people, knowing you are joining together with many other people in meaning what you sing, that is very powerful.) The words were, “There is no better God, no bigger God, no God as great as our God.”

Had the song been in English, it wouldn’t have seemed so profound, but there I was able to think about God and proclaim His greatness in, not just one, but two, languages! I was agreeing in worship with people who I couldn’t even have a deep communication with because of my minimal ability in their language. But we WERE worshipping together in that language, and I was excited! I was on my way to fulfilling the wish, “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise!”

English will always be the easiest and most natural and complete language for me to worship God with. But, I love my brain having access to vocabulary and idiomatic expressions from other languages as well. Sometimes a language will say something in a more picturesque way (and being so visual I love picturing things in different ways).

Other times, well, it’s hard to put into words all the ways that language learning enhances my relationship with God.  Unlike LIngamish, I loved studying Greek.  I think I should go track down my biblical language professors and thank them for not ruining the process before it got started! 

Even though I still don’t know enough Greek or Hebrew to make a huge difference in how I study and understand the Bible (unlike Lingamish I don’t actually use biblical languages on a regular basis), the process was challenging and fun. And it did make a spiritual difference in my life. Just maybe not in the same way that it makes a spiritual difference to scholars who can and regularly do read and study the Bible in its original languages.

I can’t articulate all of how language learning enhances my relationship with God. But I stumbled on this quote  which gets at one aspect of it:

It sounds like work, but really it’s just a big, fun puzzle. I love languages. I love writing systems. I love that I will have time to learn more. To see how languages work is beautiful. To understand the order (and chaos) is like appreciating a symphony. If Eric Liddell could say “When I run I feel [God’s] pleasure” then I say “When I study languages I am worshiping.” I am embracing the creative process of a God who communicates with us. Sure, I get some grief for wanting to learn Ugaritic. No one thinks it is practical. “What will you use it for?” I think it is a great misfortune when we believe that only that which is pragmatic is worth studying. Sure, I want to learn Greek and Hebrew to better understand the Bible, to read the OT and NT in their original languages and appreciate the fullness of what is being communicated. But I also want to just savor the language for itself. The language itself, not only what it communicates, reveals to me more of the character of God. And that’s worth all the flashcards and study time I can muster.

I love thinking about how different personalities reflect different external facets of the image of God. The core meaning of being made in the image of God, I believe is the same, but the external expressions of that are so beautifully varied. I have three books which make an effort at exploring this subject (They are: The Love Languages of God, by Gary Chapman; Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas and Soultypes: Matching Your Personality and Spiritual Path by Sandra Krebs Hirsh).  None of these books was a totally satisfying read, although I’m not quite sure  WHY they all felt lacking. Still, I’m glad I read them (or at least skimmed them), as they do keep my mind going on this topic.

I know worship and connecting to God is not all about me. But, still, when your whole life is about your relationship to God, and you find yourself engrossed in an activity that seems to engage most of the joy-experiencing neurons in your brain, communing with God in that place and time is wonderful. When I’m most spontaneously and creatively being myself, it seems like that is when I’m freest and most spontaneous in my worship of and connection with God. Language study is one of those places (Don’t ask me to figure out how something as structured as the type of language learning I enjoy can feel so spontaneous and creative to me!)

What are some surprising ways and places that you find yourself worshipping God?

Read Full Post »

Spectatrix, in a post titled The Need to Read, describes reading in a way that resonated with me.

“There is something so comforting to me about diving into a good book; it gives me a distraction from my sometimes wearying thoughts without draining my energy as spending time with others has a tendency to do.

“While reading is always a favorite activity, I do have periods when I’m not so much in need of the written word. I’m content to dip into and out of various books, magazines, and Web sites, without suspending other activities. But at other times, the need to read feels almost like a physical necessity, and long periods of devouring a good book the only antidote.”

It got me wondering, what would my life have been like if I had grown up speaking a language which was not written? If I didn’t even have the concept of reading? When I try to imagine being an introvert in a world without books, all I come up with is a big, black hole. I can’t  come up with anything else that I enjoy in similar ways or that comes close to doing the same things for me that reading does.

There are other pleasures, delights, satisfactions in my life. But they don’t meet the same needs or bring the same type of pleasure in the same way. As a matter of fact, almost every other thing I really enjoy doing takes energy. Which is not always a big deal, but sometimes (like now when I’m struggling to recover from severe burnout) it is huge. Even before burnout was an issue, reading was the pleasure I could come back to to recharge after other things in life (pleasures or not) had drained me.

I so understand the times when “the need to read feels almost like a physical necessity” that I wonder what that need would be replaced with if reading wasn’t even a blip on my radar screen.

Maybe the need for this kind of “losing myself in a book” is a luxury of living in a world where thinking can count as  work. Probably the distraction from my wearying thoughts wouldn’t be an issue if I was preoccupied (both physically and mentally) with the day-to-day necessity and hard labor of getting food and water.  (My extravert friends would certainly agree. It is incomprehensible to some of them that I don’t get up and DO something to recharge my energy instead of sitting around reading when I’m worn out.)

What would you do if you couldn’t read or didn’t even know reading was an option?

I’m not trying to be patronizing here with an attitude of “Oh, those poor people who can’t read.” There is a richness to oral cultures that I know I can’t fully comprehend.  Philosophically or politically, I’m not making any kind of statement about how everyone needs to be able to read or how literacy is the answer to the world’s problems.  As much as I love to read and see many benefits of literacy , I have problems with blanket solutions, even if they involve reading.

My thoughts on this topic today are way less deep than those issues–I really am just wondering what a person like me would look like in a very different setting, with books out of the picture.

Read Full Post »

Your words are what sustain me. They bring me joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty! (Jeremiah 15:16, NLT)


This photo represents the information overload we experience in the United States. Just what is available in my relatively small (by American standards) library is enough to keep me reading and learning for a very long time. And that is only the beginning. Going out from the library, I am repeatedly drawn to acquiring more information and learning more–on the radio, television and internet.

My heart’s prayer focus for the United States this week is that we would be drawn to the simplicity and complexity of the Word of God. The Living Word of God. The book and the person.

My heart is heavy for those around the world who do not even have the option of reading the Bible in their language (because they can’t read or it’s not in their language). That reality, however, does not make me less concerned for the famine for hearing the Word of the Lord in my own country. Even in my own life.

MY PRAYER: Sometimes I have such a smorgasbord of words and information at my fingertips that Scripture seems boring and unappealing. In comparison to the riches of Your Word, I fill up and am satisfied with intellectual, spiritual and emotional junk food. Forgive me, Lord, and draw me back to the delights of Your Word. 

I cannot defend the Word of God to skeptics. I do not understand how it is living and active. I cannot explain the courage and joy and comfort and peace and fear and challenge and discomfort I receive from this book. And it seems silly to pray for that the Bible would do those things for people here in the U.S. Those things are already there for readers of Your Word to receive.

I guess what I’m saying is, “Lord, bring people to Your book, so they can know You. Even though there are so many books and others sources of information to distract us, help individual people and groups of people discover and rediscover the Bible.”


Read Full Post »

That’s a book written by C.S. Lewis (You can read an excerpt here). But today it struck me as an incredibly beautiful phrase.

Funny how beauty pops up in the most interesting places and ways. Words communicating beauty are one of my favorite types of beauty.

You don’t have to go to a museum to see them. They don’t cost anything. And it’s even more amazing, because there are so many words everywhere that I get used to them and start to take them for granted.

I do  love ordinary words because they help connect me to you. But then when a word or phrase goes above the ordinary, it’s like this great and wonderful surprise on top of the pleasant, nice ordinariness of words.   

I think it’s a bit like having my own personal collection of beauty inside my head.  The phrase “A Grief Observed” is the latest addition.

Read Full Post »

I am currently searching for the lyrics of a song by Michael Card. In the process, I came across an interview titled  The Wounded Worshiper.

In my post, My Mentors in Lament, I mentioned Michael Card’s, The Hidden Face of God, which is one of my favorite CDs.  As I read the interview, I was touched by glimpses of personal biography behind the music on this CD.

This quote seems almost like a picture of my life over the last few years:

God is most intent on giving us himself, not giving us things. At the end of the book of Job, he doesn’t get his things back. Job gets God back. It’s a whole reorientation in our relationship with God to see him not as a provider who gives us things, but to see him as intent on giving himself to us.

The whole concept of worshiping God with our wounds (the theme of the first song on this CD) is still mind boggling to me. But, oh how thankful I am that I can!

Read Full Post »

My experience is that the Word of God is there in a human spiritual director for those who have the patience and humility to wait. God speaks his perfect word to us through human vessels. If we can learn to be humble and patient under spiritual direction through imperfect elders, then we can gain the nugget of the Word that is in this human package. Fr. Martin can make me a little crazy at times, but he has been without question the instrument of the very Word of God for me in many more times of crisis and trial.

I typed this quote from John Michael Talbot several months ago. I wish I had written down where I found it.

In the middle of some intense and sharp irritation and frustration I felt recently as a result of a conversation with a dear friend, God “filled in the gaps” with deep gratitude and even worship.

It’s not that I was immediately less frustrated with my friend, just that God didn’t allow the frustration to exist in isolation from the beautiful reality of how He uses friendships in the body of Christ (and this friendship specifically)
to speak to me,
to help me see Him,
to grow intimacy with Him. (I keep trying to come up with a less cheesy, better way to say the feeling that is behind this last phrase. The words just aren’t coming, and the feeling is still there, so this phrase, insufficient as it is, will have to do.)

He does all those things  through my very real, imperfect, human friends who put words and skin and bones to the Word of God.

Walking through the intense “grrrrrr” I have been experiencing, I’m ending up more in awe than ever before at how we do reflect the image of God to each other. More specifically, I am amazed at how my friend, in relationship with me, has reflected the image of God to me and helped me see and cling to God when I couldn’t or wouldn’t have, had I been living isolated from relationship. 

Today’s frustration cannot erase the beauty in that or the gratefulness (to God and to my friend) for that.

And so, once again, my friend has helped bring me back to a place of worship.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »