Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Unrejected

Kim at Journey to Epiphany asked me to guest post today for Painting Prose.  Here is a little offering to get you to scoot on over and link up your recent work, too.
Kelli's husband took this pic.  I'm on the right.

Sunday was the marathon and on Tuesday, I got an email from the race organizers that the race photos were up.  And so I clicked on the link…

As I perused the pictures, I focused not on the fact that countenance of my face revealed that although most of the miles proved hard, they were not impossible.  I focused not on the fact that there were thousands of people running and thousands of people cheering.  I focused not on the fact that the victory picture of me crossing the finish line showed that I not only finished, but I finished strong.

I focused on none of this.  Instead, I had a breakdown about the size and shape of my thighs.  Yes, those same legs that carried me through 26.2 miles, I now looked upon with disdain.

Not good enough.
No matter how hard I try…
Why in the world would I buy the pictures that show nothing of my hard work?

This is not the first time that instead of being grateful, I have become a babbling torrent of negativity.  Instead of being thankful that my husband has a job, I complain that he has to work late.  Instead of being grateful that I’ve sold eight pieces of art, I grumble that business doesn’t seem as busy as it used to be.  Instead of building myself up with the truth of God’s word, I let the self-inflicted, injurious barbs shred my perspective, and ultimately, my heart...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Can we have a conversation? and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

Time is short these days, yes?  But an investment of time (even a small investment), serves to build the community.  When you arrive here, would you look over the faces of those who have already pulled up their chair?  Would you ask God to point to a few people to go visit?  Sometimes, He will lead you into those spaces because He has a gift for you there.  And sometimes, He tugs at your heart because He has given you just the right words to pour into someone else's heart.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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This piece, I've called The Invitation.  Today, I would love to invite you to have a conversation with me in the comments section today.  I'm working out some scripture and I know that God really wants me to get this.  I wonder if y'all struggle with this as I do and I'd love your perspective.

Here is the background story:

On Friday, I was reading my daily bible reading (I'm reading the One Year Bible -- chronologically) and was still in the process of wading through Leviticus (oh, joy!).  In chapter 24, verse 19 caught my eye.  It talks about the whole eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth notion.  As I read, I thought, I need to look up what it says about this in the New Testament.  Alas, I was feeling lazy and didn't want to get my computer for my ever faithful concordance.  I saved it for another day.

Saturday, I get up before the rest of the house and I return to my chronological bible reading.  I'm not exactly sure that anything from my Bible set me off, but I am suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that I have not quite abandoned my scales like I had planned.  I realized that, sure, I had become better about loving with reckless abandon, but I still expected something in return.  Something big.  How am I supposed to get rid of these scales, God? I cry out.  I'm frustrated with myself and my inability to really let go.  So, I turn to the Only One who can truly make me better about such things.

I see the words Matthew 5:38 written in my mind and I think I'm being sent to the beatitudes or something like that.  So, I flick open my other bible and read this:
"You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'. But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer them the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken, offer your coat, too. If a solider demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow." Matthew 5: 38-42
So, no beatitudes, JUST THE VERY VERSE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT I HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR, on a silver platter, delivered by God in my kitchen.  So, the question that I wrestle with is this:

What is the balance between giving your all and being a doormat?

Please, fill me in.  I need some sound guidance here.

SDG Community Builder:  1)   If you are new to this group, will you put as your caption "I'm new!"  We'd love to give you some extra love this week.  2) If you are a seasoned member of this group, will you make sure to visit at least one "I'm New!" person?  Let's show them what SDG is all about.


And because I do shameless things for Starbucks gift cards, I'm posting this picture of me, taken at 6:10 am (okay, I was 10 minutes LATE).
so sorry if I've scared you people off.  you can blame Michelle.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

His Grace is Sufficient for You

photo source via Pinterest
For the mom whose child threw a fit in church,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the dad whose daughter went on her first date,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the person who still arrived late, even after leaving fifteen minutes early,
     His grace is sufficient.
For she who is tired and cannot get a full night's rest,
     His grace is sufficient.
For he who looks for a job and cannot grasp a hold of employment,
     His grace is sufficient.
For she who desires fitness, but who feels defeated before the first step,
     His grace is sufficient.
For he who struggles with addiction and fights every moment to be set free,
     His grace is sufficient.
For she who longs to sing, but whose voice is squelched to silence,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the mom who battles depression,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the dad who battles anger,
     His grace is sufficient.
Photo source via Pinterest
For the households that face scarcity,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the children who are home-schooled, private-schooled, or public-schooled,
     His grace is sufficient.
For she whose bones are brittle, but whose spirit longs to fly,
     His grace is sufficient.
For he whose heart struggles to beat, but whose faith is strong,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the hopeless, for the faithful, for the weary, and for the strong,
     His grace is sufficient.
For the ones in chains and for the ones who are free,
     His grace is sufficient.


God says to us, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12: 9) and sometimes it is a hard Word to take in -- when we feel persecuted, abandoned, insulted, in hardship, perhaps trapped in circumstances that seem to continually implode within our lives.  And yet, even in the hard, may we hear the softness in His voice as He whispers these words in our ears.  May we grasp hold of the freedom that He offers us -- freedom from the need to be perfect, freedom from the need to be strong, freedom from the need to have it all together, freedom from embarrassment, freedom from control, freedom from incessant planning, freedom from...whatever entraps us, ensnares us, keeps us from our Savior.  My prayer is that we would embrace His grace.  May we be sufficient only through Him.

Linking with Michelle at Graceful and Shanda for On my Heart.


The honor of your presence is requested at the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood, Monday evening through Wednesday night, at Finding Heaven.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Hebrews 10: 23-25

Friday, February 24, 2012

The wrong definition, but okay...


Funny that grit's the word of the day and I'm planning on cleaning my house today.

Mopping floors (well, at least sweeping them).
Dusting (at least the downstairs)
Vacuuming
Straightening
Putting things away (hopefully not just stuffing them in a closet)

I'm a person that really thrives in a clean house, but not such a nut that I actually dust my blinds at regular intervals.  I guess you could say, I'm comfortable with a small amount of grit, unless say, someone new is coming to my house and I feel that clean blinds would really impress them.

Then, I clean up THAT grit.

How often do I clean up my grit, spiritual and physical, for other people.  Not just for me?  Not just for my family?  Not just for my God?

Am I comfortable with a level of grit in my relationship with God?  Do I leave a layer of grime and figure, I'll just save that for another day?

"Create in my a clean heart, O God," runs through my mind.  What is that grit that I've pretended to overlook?  What is that grit that I look at say, "Everyone has that" just like I might say, "Who dusts their ceiling fans every week?"

STOP.

(Okay, half way through writing this, I pause and think, grit doesn't necessarily mean grime and dirt, it's more about abrasiveness.  Oh well, no editing allowed!  Besides, dust can be irritating, yes?)

Linking with Linking with the Gypsy Mama for 5 Minute Friday.


And with Michelle for Caffeinated Randomness.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cultivate Gratitude: A Guest Post



When Jen asked me to write a post about gratitude in unlikely places I was thrilled and nervous.  Thank you, analytical self for directing me towards the meaning and root of the word. Gratitude has so many synonyms: gratefulness, thankfulness, appreciation, acknowledgement, and credit. The words grace and gratitude share a common root, the Latin word gratus meaning, “pleasing” or “thankful”. It has been said when you are in a deep state of gratitude you will feel the presence of grace…powerful!

If you were to write a list of things you were grateful for what would that list look like? A year ago, my list consisted of happy moments such as my husband, children, family, and friends, maybe an occasional something that happened in my day.  I was deep in yoga training, reading an assigned book when it broached the subject of gratitude. It spoke about the practice of gratitude, whether the situation is positive or, let’s just say negative for lack of a better word.  It sparked something deep within me.  If I could cultivate gratitude for the happy moments, could I cultivate gratitude for the challenging moments as well?  Find the light within the shadow?  Let me clear, I am not talking about pretending something is positive when it is indeed anything but. I am talking about the lesson (light) to be learned from the challenge.  Challenge is just another road to opportunity.

My youngest child and I were at a Doctor’s appointment to check her hearing for the 3rd time.  The kind lady at the front desk handed me a bill from the last visit. Never mind I was trying not to think (who am I kidding *worry*) about the test itself but now, here was another costly bill.  Before I started my downward spiral, I made a conscious choice to practice gratitude.  Who wouldn’t be grateful for having an amazing doctor who has been with us since day one? Or for a child who sat on that exam table with a huge smile (a gift I am grateful for everyday)?  

That was the “easy” list. Now for the harder cultivation (practice)…I am so grateful for the money we put into savings to fix her teeth because even though its not her teeth that need our attention now, the money is available to us when we need it.  I am grateful for the stark realization that she may not be ignoring my words or not listening - she may truly not be able to hear me (insert tears for all the times I was irritated). What else have I been upset or mad about without thinking of the why (that’s a whole other post J)? At that very moment I softened to the process, to the moment, to life and what is in store for us.  She happened to be looking at a book about a clam and saw a pearl in the clam’s mouth.  She said, “Is that real?” It couldn’t have been more surreal: a piece of dirt trapped in a clam’s mouth and the clam turns an irritation into a beautiful pearl. Wow, does HE have good timing – a lesson I might not have caught had I been downward spiraling. I will admit I have an attraction to pearls and now every time I wear one, let it be a reminder.

In my opinion, it is easy to cultivate gratitude for the happy moments.  It is less easy to cultivate gratitude in the challenging moments.  To pull ourselves out of the drudgery of life and see the pearl emerge from irritation.  I have been working on celebrating my kid’s mistakes (knowing all the while this the true teacher), the times they take risks (knowing this is what helps them build confidence and humility), and the challenges they face as just another opportunity to learn and grow. It is so hard.  I have found that by practicing gratitude in challenging times and sharing my discoveries with my family it has made the experience so much more profound than if I had preached it.  ( I heard someone say once stop preaching start communicating – ummmm brilliant!)

It has been a gift to share my words and thoughts with all of you lovely and amazingly strong people.  This community is like none other in uplifting and encouraging with kind and thoughtful comments.  Here’s to abundance and opportunity and the thank you’s along the way! From the deepest place in my heart smiles and gratitude!    


In gratitude and all smiles,
Michelle
michelle@michellenorris.com
michellenorris.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

how He always tips the scale to love

I'm guest posting today over at Healthy Spirituality, continuing my thoughts about giving up the scales that have kept me in bondage for quite sometime.  Here's a little teaser...
photo source

Drawing a line in the sand wasn’t working.

And when she expected more harsh words or another “pat” on the rear, I instead scooped her up and held her, this six-year old body, in the same way you might cradle a newborn.  And I started to sing her favorite song while I carried her into my bedroom to sit in the rocking chair that was once my grandmother and my great-grandmother’s before that.

We rocked back and forth, her huddled against my chest, wrapped tight in a hand-made blanket that had come from my grandmother’s house.  We listened to the low creaking and we inhaled the scent of the loved ones since passed on, wrapped up tight in the love that has covered us many time over.

As I ran my hands, pressing flesh into the oak grains, as I curled my fingers around the chair’s arm, I imagined my grandmother’s hand upon mine.  A simple reminder those times I had drawn the line and my grandmother chose love instead of exerting power.  My grandmother, the one with the direct line to my heart, taught me the pull of unconditional love.  She taught me to see to the heart and not worry so much about demanding those things that just need time to grow.

To continue reading,  please come on over to Jean's site, Healthy Spirituality.

Linking this with Journey to Epiphany for Painting Prose and with My Daily Walk for Winsome Wednesday.

JourneyTowardsEpiphany      

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Silent Auction, Running the Race & the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

Time is short these days, yes?  But an investment of time (even a small investment), serves to build the community.  When you arrive here, would you look over the faces of those who have already pulled up their chair?  Would you ask God to point to a few people to go visit?  Sometimes, He will lead you into those spaces because He has a gift for you there.  And sometimes, He tugs at your heart because He has given you just the right words to pour into someone else's heart.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
SDG Silent Auction
click here to go to Emily's easy shop
You might recognize this beautiful style of painting with its bright bold colors because the talent behind this piece belongs to Emily Wierenga.  And this talented woman also has a heart of gold.  She has donated this 9x12 print to the cause of the Soli Deo Gloria retreat and it can be in your hot little hands with just a bid in the comments.  We are doing this silent auction-style.  If you want it (because you know you do), leave your bid in the comments section.  Keep checking back here to make sure you haven't been OUTBID, which in case, you will need to bid again, OUTBIDDING the previous bidder.  Won't this be fun?  Keep in mind, if you win, not only will you have a beautiful print from Emily in your home, but you'll also be building up the SDG community.  It is my heart to make the SDG retreat as affordable as possible and not let money be something that keeps someone who feels called to attend to come.
2012 Marathon:  Running the Race
I finished my second marathon yesterday (good thing that marathon does not tax the fingers, or else I would not be able to write this -- why hasn't anyone built a retractable toilet seat?) and it was awesome and hard and I had plenty of inner dialog, especially miles 23-26.

Throughout the entire run, I would say to myself, "You're just out for a Sunday jog."  This was especially helpful through mile 15.  I have a tendency to go out too fast -- I feel good and I just go.  I tend to forget that I have many, many, many more miles to come and I must conserve.  Miles 15-26, I would use this phrase to trick myself that this was easy, almost over, there was no pressure, etc.  It didn't quite have the effect I was hoping for...

The last 10K (6.2 miles), I would say "surefooted as a deer."  What???  Let me explain.  The  night before the marathon, my mother-in-law called my husband to tell him that she had asked God how she might pray for  me for the marathon and He came back with Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (pretty cool since this is the book that I've been teaching from for my class).  It says:
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign LORD is my strength!  He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights."  
My translation:  Even when life really stinks, I can rejoice in Him.  It's what brought me back to center every time I felt like this race was quickly becoming an unachievable goal.  Mile 23's inner dialog went something like this:

Why did I think this was ever a good idea?
When did 3.2 miles seem so far?
I am NEVER going to do this again.
Do I really need to meet my time goal?
I could just walk the rest of the way.
I am NEVER going to do this again.

And then, someone would see the disappointment/anger/frustration on my face from the sidelines and I would hear "Come on, Jen.  You can do this!"  And my inner dialog would change:

I am surefooted as a deer.
God, thank you for enabling me to be out here today.
You have gotten me this far, you will bring me home.
Even when life stinks, You are there and You are always worthy to be praised.  
Give me strength, God!
I can do this with You, running beside me.

No matter what life gives us, we have a promise:  The Sovereign LORD is our strength!  He makes us as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.  We may have an uphill battle that taxes our every last bit of tenacity, of strength, of endurance, but when our cups are empty, He is ready to refill.  When we surrender our own ability and allow Him to pour into us, our inner dialog starts to change, we can hear the supporters calling out to us on the streets, we can fix our eyes on the prize, and we can finish the race.

It's amazing how often physical feats and issues can have such illustrative analogies for our spiritual/mental lives as well.  The whole time I was running, I was amazed by the energizing and healing powers of the encouragers on the sidelines, thousands of people who didn't know me.  People who were basically house-bound because their streets were closed due to the race didn't pout indoors, but came out on their front lawns with their dogs and kids to cheer for us (or offer cocktails for quitters - this is Austin, you know).  Sometimes you never know the power your words have to spur someone on, but that does not take away their significance.  I think about this in relation to Soli Deo Gloria.  Our community is filled with such encouragement and love...let us not hold back.  Let us follow His lead to encourage those who pull on our hearts.  Let the words He gives us flow out of our hearts with ease.  Let us love with abandon.

"And let us consider how we may spur on towards love and good deeds..."  
Hebrews 10:24

SDG Community Builder:  1)  Go.  Encourage.  Love.  Especially someone who might be new.  2)  If you are new to this group, will you put as your caption "I'm new!"  We'd love to give you some extra love this week.  3)Bid, bid, bid on the lovely Emily's piece in the comments section (let's start the bid at $20 -- bidding will end when the link closes at 11:59 CST on Wednesday).

(There was no writing on Sunday, so I'm linking this post to Michelle @ Graceful (surely this is a good application of scripture? and to Laura for Playdates (because running a marathon is a playdate, right?) and to Shanda for On My Heart.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Delight


photo source
Surprise and delight, he says.

He has gotten it.  I've just finished telling him that I've realized that I don't really know how I receive love.  I've told him that I'm through with the scales and the balancing and the living constrained.  I'm throwing caution to the wind in order to finally live a life loved.

Surprise and delight.  I carry these words in my heart and I wonder if it is really possible to live a life unrestrained, where delight is just a wink away.  It's hard to feel delighted when someone gives you a gift and you immediately start to weigh it against what you've done, what you've given, and whether you truly think you deserve it.

Delight comes without strings.
Delight comes in those peels of unrestrained laughter, often heard coming up from the bellies of small children.
Delight comes with rejoicing.
Delight comes with swooning.
Delight comes wrapped up in amazing packages, packages not filled with material things, but packages packed full of the important gestures of the heart.
Delight comes in the overflow.

Surprise and delight.  Doesn't that sound scrumptious?

Last night on the couch, we make a list.  We make a list of how we would feel loved and how we aim to love each other.  Tangible things here.  And now, we are on a mission, this husband of mine and I.  A mission to fill each other's cups at random moments within the day, within the months, within the year.

Surprise and delight is just a wink away.

Linking with the Gypsy Mama for 5 Minute Friday.

And with Michelle for Caffeinated Randomness.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cultivate: Resolve

God clearly does not want me to forget my word for 2012 -- He has structured my entire Monday morning bible studies that I teach at my church around this word!  Since I've been writing about the theme of cultivation on Thursdays, I thought I would give you some of my teaching points that I used in my class.  After viewing the vlog, take a look at some of the reflection/sharing questions that we used during class).  Would love to hear your thoughts on what you would write on your rock in the comments.



Materials needed:  smooth river rock that is big enough to write a few words on, silver or black sharpie (depending on the color of your rock)

Journal Reflection:

Think back over the course of your life.  Think about the times you remember God showing up for you, preparing a way, fulfilling a promise, granting a miracle, etc.  Write about the event and then choose one or two words to write on the river rock that will remind you of His faithfulness.

Linking for the first time with Tracy for Winsome Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the brutally honest post about love


Katharine at Just a Thought asked me to write a guest post, filling in this sentence:

When I live loved, I am ________________. 

This is how I filled in the blank:

When I live loved, I am free.
photo source via pinterest
But often, I am not free.  It isn’t the fault of those who love me.  It’s the fault of these scales that continuously rattle around in my brain, weighing motives, weighing worthy, weighing enough, weighing me down in these chains.

I don’t trust well and I don’t want to owe anybody anything.  I’d rather stock favors than use them.  I’d rather people need me than me need anyone.  But, I’m growing tired of the constant weigh-ins.  I’m through with the complicated spreadsheets that troll my brain. 

Did I watch her kids for her after she watched mine?
Did I do enough work to merit reading my book?
Did I ask her enough questions or do I need to probe more before I tell her about me?
If I do this, will he love me in this way?

The truth is, I’ve come to realize that I wrestle with a very basic question:  What does it look like to be loved?  What does it feel like to be free?

To continue reading my painfully honest thoughts, please click here.





JourneyTowardsEpiphany

Monday, February 13, 2012

braiding cornsilk & the Soli Deo Gloria Party


It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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my fingers interlace her hair
and i am struck by the colors of the strands,
the light against the darker
and as i wrap the band
securing the braid,
it looks like cornsilk,
contrasting colors,
woven together
into beauty.

photo source via Pinterest
can you take someone like me
and weave it with someone like her
and will it come out in
beautiful bands of color?
sometimes i feel so dark
and dull
and i'm afraid i'm squelching
her vibrancy
and i feel that this role of motherhood,
i'm tainting somehow.
and i wonder if i was ever cut out for this job anyway,
this job of braiding cornsilk.

the knots ensnare me
and the pulling causes pain
and what if
she sees me as a harsh detangler?
my heart is to comb gently, you know,
but there is this impatience in me.





i want her to know that i love braiding
her cornsilk hair.
i want her to know that i love weaving life
with her and her sister.
i want her to know that our contrasts have the
power to behold beauty.
but i'm prone to tangles, too.

and i'm just praying that she remembers
the smooth hands
and the careful entwining,
and the banding together,
three cords strong.
and i'm just praying she remembers
the interlacing fingers,
the hands that pray,
the hands that hold.
and i'm just praying that despite my tangles
we weave together trust,
that we are banded in love,
three cords strong.
i'm just praying...

SDG Community Builder:  If you happen upon a post this week outside of our SDG group, would you extend an invitation into this space?

(oh, and funny story:  Last week one of our sweet sisters emailed me, asking me "where is the link so I can pull up my chair?"  I had forgotten to set up the linky before I went out of town.  Love that even though we are virtual, this group feels so tangible.)

(oh, and one more thing -- a fellow SDG sister and my friend from my youth group days is starting her own photography business.  She's having a giveaway -- will you check out her site or like her on FB?  It's called Anchor & Key.)

linking also with Laura and Shanda

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Offense or Defense?

photo source
 "He (Moses) said to Aaron, 'What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?'  'Do not be angry, my lord,' Aaron answered. 'You know how prone these people are to evil.  They said to me, Make us gods who will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.  So I told them, Whoever has any god jewelry, take it off.  Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.'"  Exodus 32: 21-24
I read this section of the Old Testament this morning as part of my chronological reading of the bible in one year.  I started chuckling at Aaron's response to  Moses question.  Chuckling in a I-cannot-believe-you-just-said-that kind of way.  It was one of those moments, though when I've started to look down upon Aaron and then God looks me in the eyes and says, "You mean you can't identify?"  And I say, "What?" and He says, "Hmmmm."  And then I look away and think a moment and I repent because perhaps I have been guilty of shifting the blame...a time or two.

via Pinterest
And that's what's happening here.  Aaron desperately seeks to shift any blame for this traitorous worship onto the "people prone to evil." The line I love the most, though, is the one where he says he just threw in the gold and the calf just magically materialized.  Must have been a pretty smart fire or some talented gold there.  And then I also wonder how Moses must have felt being called "this fellow" as if the people, as if his brother, had no investment in their relationship.  As if he was some random person that had only been living among them for a short while.  I wonder if Moses took this personally.  I would have.

How have I played in the role of Aaron?  How often do I shift blame to cover up my sins at the expense of exposing someone else to hurt?  How often does someone come to me, telling me how I have hurt them, and my first response is not repentance but of defense?  And what better defense than deflection or marginalization or feigned innocence?

And how often, when I feel marginalized or unimportant, I rattle off all my accomplishments, all my sacrifices, all my...whatever?  How many times have I taken personally that were never meant to enter into my heart?

I have a lot to learn from Moses in this instance.  He doesn't take any of this and bury it in his heart.  He realizes that it has nothing to do with him.  His response to Aaron?

"Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." (verse 26)

Moses knows his job.  He is a servant and a mouthpiece for God.  And this shapes his entire perspective.  When Aaron's words come hurtling toward Him, Moses does not defend himself, but He fights for God.  He doesn't listen to the lies, but presses on toward the truth.

Who do you identify with most in this story?  What helps you be more like Moses?  What factors influence you in the times you react like Aaron?

Linking with Michelle at Graceful (Monday) and Jennifer at Getting Down with Jesus (Wednesday).

Would love for you to join us Monday evening through Wednesday  night for the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood party!  Click here for more details.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cultivate: A Guest Post by Jean





Meet Jean.  She is a lovely, lovely soul.  She writes with a clear conviction of why she writes and the Lord's grace flows through her words and into my soul.  She is giving, caring, loving and all of these things are ours for the taking when you read her blog.  Here is how she relates to the word "cultivate."




I live in rural northwest Ohio. Yes this city gal ended up in the middle of farmland. Since we moved here thirty years ago I have learned more than I ever thought I would about soybeans, winter wheat, and corn.

Before the farmer can harvest, before the plants grow, before the seeds are planted – the soil must be cultivated. Each year I watch the farmers get the ground prepared by using their tractors with their heavy plows to dig deep into the dirt, turning up rich dark soil. 

photo source
I watch one farmer create a huge pile of rocks that also emerge in the process. Another works all day long to remove deeply embedded tree roots.

Many fields in our area reserved as CRP land or unused fields. Those acres are untilled for one and maybe more years. This is called fallow ground – ground that in unchanged, unproducing, and uncultivated. The surface is hard and full of weeds.

Harvest never comes without the plow first of all breaking up the hard, crusty soil.

When I ponder the word cultivate, I visualize the plow digging deep within the soil to mix things up. I see the soil becoming loose, open, and receptive – changed.

Reminds me of the verse in Hosea 10:12: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Cultivate my heart, Lord. Break up its hardness and plant your harvest of love within me.

The word cultivate scares me too. It tells me I can't just cultivate the surface to be transformed - I have got to go deep and that may hurt a little. I am not sure what will happen if God enters my heart’s darkest places.   

Change me, Lord and farm my soul. Remove those embedded dead roots and cold hard stones. I know Your process may take time and may hurt but I trust You, my Gardener.

Yield – another interesting farm term. A yield is the harvest, what the ground produces once it is cultivated and changed.

And yet the ground had to yield first in order to produce.

Help me yield my entire being to You, Lord. Your harvest will flourish under Your care.

The whole concept of cultivation and change reminded me of the story about Eustace Scrubb in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Eustace was a whiny boy. His greed leads him to put on a golden bracelet that he has found. The next morning he is shocked to discover he has turned into a dragon.

One night a lion leads Eustace into the woods to a beautiful pond. Eustace wants to get into the water to relived the itchiness of his skins but the lion tells him first to undress – to get out of his dragoness.

Eustace scratches and digs at his skin and the scales begin to slip off. At first it looks like it will work but soon he discovers another layer of dragon skin beneath the first one. He peels away the second skin only to find a third. Then the lion speaks,” 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 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 … 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 thicker, 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 … I’d turned into a boy again.” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p.91)

Cultivate. Change. Conversion.

My lesson about cultivation is that true conversion only happens when I realize I can’t change my skin or cultivate my heart on my own – only God can. He will go as deep as needed and deeper than I can do on my own - to turn over the hardness within me so new life can emerge. All I have to do is trust the Gardner. 

Want to read more of Jean?  Oh, yes.  Yes, you do, friend.  You can find her at Healthy Spirituality.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

when your daughter gives you art lessons...

Hannah's masterpiece

Hannah woke up under the weather, so instead of heading to church, we spent the day at home, her giving me some art lessons.

Mommy's Masterpiece
What has your child taught you lately?

Linking with the newest linky party on the block, Painting Prose at Journey to Epiphany.
JourneyTowardsEpiphany

oh -- and I wanted you to know...I'm guest posting over at Jennifer Lutiweiler's about why I run.  Want to read?  Click here.  Here's a little teaser:

I started running because my dad did. Watching him run, I was continually amazed by his strength and the ease of which he could put one foot in front of the other. It seemed like a feat that the likes of me could never master. When my dad worked at the University of Texas, he and a bunch of guys would go out at lunchtime under the grueling Texas sun and get about six miles under their belts at least three times a week.

Growing up, each summer we went to the beach to visit my grandmother. And almost every afternoon, my dad would go out and run on the beach. When I got in middle school or high school, sometimes I would ask to go with him, even though we both knew I couldn’t keep up. At that point in my life, I was overweight and had never had much in the way of athletic tendencies. And yet, he always said “yes” and would slow to my turtle-like pace for however long I could endure.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let Your Yes Be a Whole Yes, a Resounding Yes & Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.

To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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SDG Retreat Update:  We have a winner!

Virtual Friends, Real Sisters.  Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. 

is our tagline for the group and t-shirt.  In the next few weeks, I hope to have the shirt designed and online for purchase.  This shirt is not retreat specific, so even if you aren't able to come to the retreat, the t-shirt still totally applies to YOU.  (Oh, and Nancy Franson was the genius behind this tagline -- Nancy, I'll contact you when the t-shirt is designed so you can order your free one!)
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Now, allow me to introduce to you our Saturday morning speaker at our retreat, Mrs. Jennifer Luitweiler! Here is her introductory post to you, so you can begin to get to know her a bit better.  Here she is:
photo source
So I'm feeling kind of tough these days. I mean, I'm kind of a big deal: I homeschool these three kids, our first year, and they don't hate me. I am training for a marathon, my first, without fear or indecision. And I'm beginning to ask these really uncomfortable questions about justice and the church, and instead of hiding my head and pretending God is not talking to little old me, I find that my spine is straight and I'm ready to bust a move.

Some people, including me, think homeschooling three children, a teen, a tween and a primary schooler, is nuts. "How do you do it?" they ask. Some days, I say, "Not very well." And other days, I just cry. Of course, there are days, many more than I realize, that delight all of us.

Other people say, "you're nuts," when I proclaim my registration for a half marathon and a marathon a week apart in the spring. Yes. Yes I am. This is crazy. Right? You know, because, that's like...a lot of miles, and stuff. Yes. I know.

I tell myself I'm crazy for wanting to determine the ways we are and are not, as a church, resisting injustice, right here, in our little city. I think I am just one tiny voice, without any power. Just a little old mom, doing her thing. But her thing might be gigantic to the disenfranchised.

And so while it may appear crazy, each of things on their own or combined, they are what I am doing. They are where I am. And I can not complain. Not because I don't want to, because, dangit, parenting is hard, yo. And running those long miles takes So. Much. Time. And it makes me tired. And hungry. And remember, there are these children who need their teacher to sort of be somewhat alert.

I can't complain because these are the things I CHOSE to do, not without a little spiritual prompting, I'm sure. But listen. When I chose to do each of these things, to set my sights on these goals, I chose with all of me. My heart, my head, my body all bought into the idea. Homeschool would mean a certain kind of effort, the marathon another and the  injustice, well, that's a whole different kind of strength. I can not use any other voice or body or heart than my own, and that's a story for a different day, all the ways we can try to be someone we are not.

I CHOSE to homeschool and so I will homeschool so hard. I chose to run a marathon and so I will train the snot out of myself. I chose to ask women about their hurts and so I will listen with every part of me.

When we are called to do something, we do it. What other choice is there?

Are you being called out into something scary or big or risky? 



Jennifer Luitwieler is the author of "Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo," released September 2011 with Civitas Press. She writes on crafts, sports and all manner of nonsense at jenniferluitwieler.com. A Pittsburgh transplant to Tulsa, OK, she homeschools 3 great kids and tolerates a confluence of soccer gear from her very cute husband. Find her on twitter at http://twitter.com/jenluit and on http://facebook.com/jenluitwieler But watch out, because she likes to talk. You might not get rid of her. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

5 Minute Friday and Swag to Win

**Please read to the end of the post for a great giveaway!**
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:
::
Real…
I'm posting this so late because, ahem, real life got in the way.  The real life of getting children to leave their comfortable beds and trade the covers for cold jeans and cold cereal.  The real life of pining away for the husband who is out of town, not just because an extra pair of hands would really be helpful, but because I miss his presence, his life, his laugh.  The real life of wanting a break from it all, but realizing that there are preparations to be made, for Craig's grandfather died last night.  The real life of trying to keep it all together, to not lose my cool when the organic strawberries that cost $5.98 get left uneaten.  The real life of loving, even when it seems to take the ounce of reserve energy that somehow got left in the tank.
But real are the friends who offer support and real is the God who loves me, even when I feel unloved.  Real is the guilt I feel for not being able to respond to all the comments on my blog, but real is the truth that says, You can't do it all.  Real is the love that I have for writing and His written Word.  Real is the fact that even when I miss a moment with Him, grace remains. Real is the ability to allow my fingers to flow across the keyboard and to welcome the likes of you.
STOP.

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GIVEAWAY -- Do you want some swag?

Just a few days ago, I received this email in my inbox:

Did you know that in Africa, a child dies every 45 seconds from Malaria? As a mother, you know that no child should have to live in fear every single day of their lives.  I'm contacting you today n behalf of ING Activewear,Touch the World, and some of the most innovative fashion designers of today to ask for your support in an inspiring project that will help millions live a fuller life without fear.

Fact: There are more than 225 million cases of Malaria reported each year worldwide.  This life-threatening disease is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through bites of infected mosquitoes, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  ING Activewear created MOSKEETO ARMOR™, a fabric that is mosquito repellent and certified for up to 50 washes! ING Activewear and Touch the World have teamed up with fashion designers Guy Wood of 5001 FLAVORS, Lawrence Pizzi, and D. Barak Stribling to launch this product internationally through theCode Purple Event. This life changing technology has initiated an international campaign against Malaria and is centered on MOSKEETO ARMOR™. MOSKEETO ARMOR™ holds the potential to save millions of lives across the world. Thanks to Touch The World (TTW), ING Activewear has been able to help distribute the MOSKEETO ARMOR™ to those in need in Africa. 

February 16th marks the launch of the Code Purple Event during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.The event will spread awareness and raise funds to distribute this product to every soul living in an environment where Malaria is a risk factor. The fundraising event will feature unique collections from the aforementioned designers, as well as special musical guest performances, a live auction, raffles, and giveaways. 

Learn more about the initiative by watching “Pam’s Story”: www.youtu.be/i1whMTQ5hWs

How can YOU help?  You can tweet/FB about this post, write about the Code Purple event on your blog,  like the Code Purple event on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/codepurpleevent), or follow Code Purple on Twitter (www.twitter.com/codepurpleevent).  Just leave me a note in the comments about which one you did and you can enter to win a swag bag directly from Code Purple.  I'll pick a random commenter on Saturday pm!