Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

The things we must have January 13, 2011

Filed under: christianity,Faith,grace,hope,rambling thoughts — Mary @ 12:02 pm

I was struck this morning in Genesis as I read the account of Jacob conspiring with his mother to steal Esau’s blessing.

Isaac promised Esau the blessing he knew God had reserved for Jacob (in spite of the order of the twins’ birth) because the old man thought he had to have some of the food Esau made from the wild game he hunted. He thought he loved the food so well…and yet his wife was able to deceive him with food from an entirely different source. So while the thought of the food ran him more strongly than his desire to honor God, he couldn’t even tell the difference in a counterfeit.

Man, I’ve so been there.

I think the things we must have, unless that thing is God, often deceive us. And it makes me stop and wonder, “What’s running me right now? Am I answering to God? Or am I answering to the things I think I must have?”

Perhaps some of why this stood out so strongly to me this week was David Fandey’s excellent sermon on Hebrews 6:13-20 on Sunday. Abraham was run by his desire for a son — God had promised him one! He believed and yet, he found it hard to rest in God’s perfect timing. In an effort to speed things up a bit, he took Sarah up on her offer of her slave girl to bear a son and he sired Ishmael…but as God made clear, Ishmael was not the son of His promise. So much heart ache and hurt resulted from that “workaround” to God’s seemingly slow movement. So often that’s the case.

But God DID come through in His perfect timing, and by the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, an Jacob, he blessed all the peoples of the earth because through that line came the Messiah — the Forever King!

God is faithful and his timing and his ways are perfect.

Lord…I believe! But help my unbelief.

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Real Repentence is Hard February 26, 2010


The thing about change is that it requires you to give yourself over to God’s intent for you and forces you to let go of some things you might feel entirely entitled to otherwise.  Giving yourself over and loving like God requires, in fact, that you give up many of what society tells you are your rights. This morning when I woke up — again in a funk and with the last vestiges of anger clinging on when I rolled out of bed — I happened to run accross this article when I opened my email:  Anyway Love.

I’ll take you to the heart of it:

In Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says we shouldn’t love because. We should love anyway. If we love someone because that person is good to us, or gives back to us, or is kind to us, we’re acting no better than anyone else. In essence, Jesus is saying you don’t need the Holy Spirit to love a man who remembers every anniversary – not just the anniversary of your marriage, but the anniversary of your first date and your first kiss. Any woman could love a man like that. Or if you love a wife who lavishes you with sports gifts, who goes out of her way to make you comfortable when you get home from work and who wants sex anytime you do – well, you’re doing what any man would do. There’s no special credit in that!

But if you love a spouse who disappoints you, who can be a little self-absorbed – now you’re loving anyway. In doing that, you’re following the model of the heavenly Father, who loves the ungrateful and the wicked.

This is so true. It is perfectly right. There is no arguing it. And yet, it is so, so hard to take from your head to your heart.  And this is where I find much of my walk falls down.  Sitting and reading this article my whole being resonates with the rightness of loving as God has loved me.  As the article puts it:

Christians are called to anyway love. That’s what makes us different. That’s what gives glory to God. That’s what helps us appreciate God’s love for us, because God loves us anyway. He gives and gives and gives – and we take Him for granted. He is eager to meet with us, and we get too busy to notice Him. He is good to us, and we accuse Him mercilessly when something doesn’t go just the way we planned it.

But God loves us anyway. To love anyway is to love like God – and to learn about God’s love for us.

Every fiber of my being knows this is true. But when I stand up, when I walk through my home, past messes, through rooms that overwhelm me, and listen to requests from the people I love, I sometimes want to stop and cry or scream. Sometimes I DO stop and cry or scream. And I know in my head that this flies in the face of how I should love and how I should respond. But getting from knowing to doing is hard. Right now I feel trapped between “SO HELP ME…!” and “Oh, Jesus help me.”

And I need Jesus’ help. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul talks about “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ,” which means to me that our thoughts can be disobedient to Christ when we do not work to bring them into line with what we know to be true in God’s word.  Right now my thoughts and my heart are very undisciplined.  Can you think, for any of you who are perhaps struggling in a place of resentment and anger as I am, of the last time you felt at the end of your rope?  Can you track back your thoughts and their course?  I can because I’m in them right now.  I won’t detail through them again — it’s the last thing I need.  But I can tell you the general course:  I begin to fume and fester over whatever has made me upset that time and then, like a magnet attracting metal shavings, every other resentment comes to the fore and I find myself attaching the worst intentions, the greatest wrongs, remembering old hurts and seething until the entire situation is blown completely out of proportion.

I used to think that some of Paul’s language was a bit overblown in passages like these but here, thinking and asking for God’s help in understanding, I begin to see that facing my own undisciplined thoughts really IS like facing an army arrayed against the truths of Godly love seeking to make their way from my head into my heart and out of me into the way I deal with my family and my home. I’ll be honest, if that were the only hope I had, my ability to overcome my own sinful heart and desires and actions, I’d throw up my hands in despair and I’d have no reason to hope that this will change.

But I don’t only have myself to rely on.  I have the Holy Spirit, and I have the faithfulness of my Savior to trust in.  My hope is not in my ability to get up, let it all go and move on by the power of my own strength.  Rather, I am reminded of my real hope, the hope the author of Hebrews wrote about in chapter 10:

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

He who promised is faithful.

I don’t sit here needing to find the perfect exercise on my own. Rather, by His grace, I’m reminded of God’s grace and that changes something in my heart, even now as I write this. It doesn’t mean I get to just sit. But it does mean that as I look toward some of the things I need to accomplish today, and am reminded of who it is I really serve in serving those I love, and whose love causes me to love…it all seems less onerous. And that means something has changed for me today.

The end of that passage from Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” So as I get up to make my way into my day, my responsibilities and relating with my family, I urge any of you with whom this resonates to plead with God to touch your heart and remind you of all he’s done for you. He did it while we were undeserving. He did it while we were lost in sin. He did it while we resembled nothing good, nothing worthy, nothing beautiful. Ask him to make that the starting point for your heart change.

Nothing around me looks different. But that isn’t the point. The point is Jesus. I have dishes to do.

 

There is a Time for Everything August 18, 2009


I have been struggling with this blog for awhile because I’m not posting with the same focus I had when I first started to write here.  When I first started this blog I was in a period of immediate, deep grief over the illness and then loss of my mom to cancer.  Along with that came the wonderful gift of gardening — something she had loved and I had just found — to carry me through some very, very hard days.  All of this poured into and fed the growth of my faith and a period of discovery about both myself and, more importantly, my God.

Solomon (not the Beetles) had his heart set in solid truth when he wrote Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

I think that this is part of why I’ve felt very unfocused in my writing here recently.  I have entered a new season of life.

This is not to say that grief is gone — I can’t think of a day that goes by without some thought or longing to be with my mom in heaven, worshipping our Creator.  Time has a way, though, of softening sharp edges and the Spirit has a way of using Christ’s redeeming power to take every sorrow and draw from it joy.  As this process has happened I have slowly shifted my focus to other needful things:  my marriage, my son, my home…

As a result, the gardening posts will likely be fewer (though I do have a new plot to sink my hands into at this late part of the growing season), my posts about my mother likely farther in between (though my life with her informs every part of life after her going home).  You’ll hear me talking dollars more than any girl who hates even thinking about money ought, and struggling through the fast-paced adventures of raising my little boy.  You’ll likely hear about a lot of apologies made to my husbad, though I hope those become fewer, too (out of peace, clearly, rather than a hardening of heart).  Cooking?  Well, I’ll never stop talking about that.  And my Savior?  As the old hymn tells us, “Lord I need thee every hour.”  And I do.

But yes, my focus has changed.  And having said just that, I feel more free to post the things I’m dealing with now.  I hope it’s interesting and helpful to you — because it’s interesting and helpful to me.  Indeed, there is a time for everything.

 

Holy Bodies, Renewed Minds August 16, 2009

Filed under: christianity,Faith,grace,hope,learning — Mary @ 9:50 pm

My boss recently had the opportunity to preach at my church.  He wrote a new series for us focused on Romans 12:1-2:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I love my boss and his wife anyway but these past two Sundays with him at the pulpit I was reminded how very privileged I am to work under two people who love God so passionately, believe his word so truly, and live their lives accordingly.  That is not to say they try to look perfect — they are real and therefore compassionate and insightful people as well.

You can access the sermons by clicking these links:  Holy Bodies, Transformed Minds.

 

Seeing and Being Seen July 25, 2009


When she was a senior in high school, my mom was nominated for and then won the Miss Elsinore contest in the little town she grew up in.  She went on to get a runner-up slot in the Miss Riverside contest that same year.  I remember being agog at the fact that my very own, every day, utterly normal (only in a kid’s eyes!) mom was a beauty queen!  I would press her for all sorts of details and was constantly left a little disappointed because she seemed so completely uninterested in it all.  She would say things like, “Well, it wasn’t ME on that stage.  I had on 10 pounds of make-up!” and “Oh I hated that picture…but you know, I DID get to leave class one day for that photo shoot and that was pretty fun.”

The first time what she was saying to me really started to make sense was when I was a teen.  I’d brought the story up again and begged her to drag out the photos and she told me a few details of that week to make me happy.  “Mom, were you SO popular then?”  She laughed.  “Well, I had a date every day that next week!”  The thought of it made my toes positively curl with glee.  “And did any of them end up being your boyfriend?”  “Oh, love, NO.  No.  They didn’t want to go on a date with ME.  They wanted to go out on a date with Miss Elsinore.  To say they’d gone out to dinner with the local beauty queen.”

And there, plainly, was the crux of the matter.  Mom did not feel like, when she won that contest, it was based on real things.  She did not feel that she had been really seen.  She didn’t feel that it really had anything to do with who she really was at all.  Any real piece of her that had been there for judging had been slathered under pounds of stage makeup.

When I fell in love with my husband, I barely remembered how to put makeup on.  It was in 2001 at the tail end of my mother’s first bout with cancer.  It had been a grueling year and I felt stripped of artifice of any kind.  When we met I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all — I was utterly unprepared to be charming or beautiful or socially acceptable.  I was in a stage of my life where I grossed people out inadvertently by just explaining the day-to-day basics of our lives.  What we found funny at home other people in non-cancer world did not find funny.  When people asked, “How are you?” I couldn’t gracefully tell anymore whether they really wanted to know or if they were just asking because that was how conversation was supposed to go and the next line was supposed to be “Oh, fine thank you!  And you?”

I remember walking toward Ryan one night at a little dive we used to go to after coming out of the ladies room and realizing that for the first time of any that I could think of when he looked over and saw me and lit up with a smile, he was smiling at me.  All my cracks and dings and rawness were right there in front of him and he was delighted to have me coming over to slide back into the seat across from him.  As much as I loved him for so many wonderful things, I loved him for that.

There is something, I think, about being laid bare, recognized for who you are, and loved in the face of it all.

This is, in the end, what makes the love of my Savior so intoxicating and breathtaking when I stop in day-to-day business and ponder him.

Think about it:  There are stars in the sky so far away that our very strongest telescopes can only pick them out as specks of light in the vast distance.  Yet our physical beings are determined by 25,000 human genes that were not fully mapped until less than a decade ago and are contained in such microscopic detail that no human eye could ever decipher them without powerful aid.  Romans 1 declares that what can be known of God has been made plain to men and that His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in the things that have been made.  What creation tells us is that our God is unfathomable.  He is greater than we can even begin to comprehend.

With the greatest of care and imagination He knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He named us before we had names.  He knew us before we could be known by any other being and knew us more fully than we even know ourselves.  Every hidden dark place, every decision made wrong, every hatred, every cheat, every selfishness, every slight given was before his eyes when he then chose to love us with a deep, never-ending, fierce, perfect love.  He holds back nothing in that love.  Nothing at all was too great a sacrifice — not even the cross.

If, tonight, you are needing to feel love — ponder on this for awhile.  As unlovable as you may feel you are loved beyond what you can possibly imagine.  If you are God’s and springing to the front of your mind is “Yes but you don’t know what I…” — I can tell you that no matter how you finish that sentence, no matter how dark the ending, God knows and he loves you anyway.  If you acknowledge him, if you love him, if the darkness of the things you keep tight in your heart make you understand your need for the cross and, therefore, thankful for it then I can assure you that He knows and loves you still with a love that makes all things good and new.  He sees you and He has allowed himself to be seen.

I’m just a little bit agog about all of this tonight and so I thought I’d share.  Maybe now my brain will quiet down enough for me to sleep.

 

Don’t Forget — Crazy Love for free! July 10, 2009

Filed under: grace,hope,learning,love,tips — Mary @ 9:37 am

In case anyone went right by this the first time, I want to re-post it:

Thanks to Tim Challies who reminds us every month about the free download program over at Christian Audio.  Every month there is one audio book that they allow you to have for free.  This month it is the book “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God”.

This has been on my radar for awhile and I’ve intended to take a look at it.  Now I can do one better and listen to it on my iPod.

Thanks, Tim!  And thanks Christian Audio, too!

I’ve now had a chance to listen to about half of the book and every time I get to listen to some of it I find myself overwhelmed with how perfectly amazing God is and how every time I begin to think I grasp some aspect of him, I am just only scratching the very surface.  This book is helping me grow in my love for Him and my desire and excitement to be allowed to serve Him.  What better result could I ask for?  And the book is free!  Until the end of the month, anyway.  So go go go!

 

A Monument to Joy in Loss July 7, 2009


When we knew my mom was dying — really dying and soon — family began to pour in to see her at the hospital as we waited for hospice to be set up so she could come home.  We still thought that perhaps we had a few weeks with her but there was a certain urgency in my heart to say something to her.  To say…what?  I thought a lot about the things that people say in deathbed scenes in books and movies and on TV.  So many people feel the need to plead for forgiveness for that last wrong they thought of, that last hurt that had gone buried all those years, to confess, to clear the air, to leave no potential stone of regret unturned at the end.  I felt no need for any of that with my mom at her deathbed.

Throughout the Old Testament you read about the people of Israel raising monuments as reminders to themselves and all who observed them of the glorious things God had done for them and through them.  In the beginning of the book of Joshua, after 40 years in the wilderness, the people of Israel finally were able to cross the Jordan and enter into their promised land.  The first thing they did after crossing over the Jordan was take 12 stones, one for each tribe of the people, and build a monument with them.  Joshua instructed them to do this so that when their children asked what the stones meant, the people would be reminded to tell the children of God’s mighty work of stopping up the waters of the over-filled Jordan so that his people might pass safely on dry ground.

On the one hand, it’s sort of funny to think that a people would need a monument to remember a story like that.  You know?  HOW could you forget seeing the water piled up on itself as Scripture said it was, waiting for you to cross into the new home you’d been waiting your whole life to reach?  It’s preposterous!  Well, it’s funny and preposterous until you stop and take a good look at the frailty of your own memories and how they can be changed so easily and quickly sometimes.

We’re told later on that the people fell into sin and disarray almost immediately and that it was because they did not teach their children to remember the mighty ways of what God had done to deliver them.  They did not remember themselves.

And can’t you hear it?  Imagine, say, even fifteen years later, how the story might have been twisted at first.  “Daddy, really did God stop up the water?  Did it really pile up so high while you crossed over that it was taller than your head??” “Oh son, I was so young then and so small!  Why, I was shorter than you are now.  So perhaps the water seemed very high but…”  “Oh son, it was so long ago.  But the water was very shallow.  Perhaps it had been a dry season that year and we were so releaved to cross over that it seemed as if the very hand of God stopped the water and dried out the sand…”

But no.  No that was not how the story went at all.  And the people all together that first day lay those stones and all acknowedged the supernatural greatness of what had been done by their mighty God.  They acknowledged it together so that later together they could help each other remember how it really happened and so that they could continue to praise their mighty God and teach their children to praise him as well.

And so this is the monument I want to raise — a monument to the joy I was allowed while losing my mother, because of the God she loved and served and who I love and serve as well.  I nearly lost this memory, it very nearly got changed in the telling, and so I want to preserve it here now.

This was the last real conversation I had with my mom:

Sitting and holding her hand while my dear husband looked on, I was able to tell her thank you for her love and for the fact that I did not feel the need to beg forgiveness for anything.  It was not my own perfection that allowed me to feel this.  Rather, I felt no need to beg because I knew that forgiveness had been freely and openly given already and I rested in the peace of that — thankful, so very thankful that because of that forgiveness I could simply bask in her love and my own love for her.

I hurt my mother deeply through the 29 years of my life with her.  Sometimes I hurt her unintentionally and sometimes I did it very intentionally.  Sometimes I did not mean to be ugly and sometimes I was ugly just to feel the power of the effect it had on her.  I was, indeed, sometimes that kind of daughter.  And we did have wonderful, sweet times together — they far outnumbered the bad times.  But they did not make up for the bad times at all.  There was real and deep hurt there.  But Christ went deeper still.

And so sitting there wanting badly to say the right last things, the most important last things, I found that all there was in my heart was love and thanks and more love and more thanks and a whole lot of expectation for the time when, after I spend the whole rest of my earthly life missing her, I would get to see her again as we worshipped at Jesus’ throne.  And so that’s what I told her and she understood me perfectly.

You see, my mom knew herself before a perfectly righteous and just God.  She knew herself to be a sinner.  She didn’t think that, on her own merit, she would someday stand before His throne and hear “You did good, kid.  We’ll call it even.”  In fact she had a sense of her own sin that was so sincere that it seemed sometimes ridiculously out of proportion to the sweetness and the love we all knew from her.  But because she wasn’t comparing herself to the rest of the world but rather to her perfect Savior, she knew keenly that she fell short.  And that made the love and forgiveness she found at the foot of His cross so precious to her.  It was so precious, so powerful, so all-encompassing in its enormity that it changed her utterly and it made her like Him.  And because she was learning to be like Him I found in my mother love and forgiveness and tenderness and self-sacrifice all wrapped in real joy that taught me about Him, too.

And so, at the end of that confession of all that was in my heart to her, do you know what my mom said?  She didn’t deny that there were things that had had to be forgiven.  She acknowledged that all of what I’d said and known of her heart was true.  And then she told me that she was proud of me because she could see the fruit of Jesus’ love for me in my life and that other people had shared with her that they could see His work in me, too.  And she told me that she loved me.  And we cried — a lot.

It was the best deathbed confession I could have possibly come up with, only it wasn’t contrived.  It was what was in our hearts and it was real.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this now, almost a year and a half later.

Over the course of a few months this last year my memory of this time with my mom began to change a bit.  What I remembered were the parts of what I’d said to her about having no regrets to come to her with.  Somehow my memory changed and left out the parts that had to do with our mutual knowledge of God’s forgiveness in our lives.  I didn’t remember at all her response to me.  Rather, what remained in my mind became a picture of me blithely and somewhat insensitively refusing to acknowledge the full picture of our relationship together and insisting that it had been good enough for me to have no regrets.  I started to cringe at myself.  I no longer thought of that time with her at the end with peace in my heart and it started to color all of the other memories of that sweet and painful time of loss over the next few days before she went home.  Suddenly, where there had been none before, I had regret.

God is faithful where our memories are not and one day in my kitchen I paused over a counter I was scrubbing and was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to remember what she’d said to me.  WHAT had she said to me when I’d so calously informed her that I had nothing at all to be sorry for?  I paused and closed my eyes and forced myself to think through the hot shame that this partial memory brought and remember what she’d said in response to me…she said…that in me she could see the work of Jesus.

And the rest of it came flooding back.

Oh what relief to see that whole picture again!  Jesus!  He is mighty to save.  He is faithful to forgive.  He lives and pleads for me!  HE was the reason we had no regret.  HE was the reason losing her was suffused with joy.  HE was the reason, He was the topic, He is our mighty God.

When I read the story of Isreal and their monument at the Jordan I though to myself, “I must raise one of my own.”

Here it is.

God brought me over the trecherous river of my faulty memory safely and reminded me of the joy and peace only He could give.

Truly, He is my Rock and He is my salvation.

 

 
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