Merlot Mudpies

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

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.

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Shelter is Not a Place, It’s a Relationship August 16, 2009


I had not heard of Raising Five until tonight but I’m so glad I found it (HT Owlhaven).  Katherine wrote awhile back about sheltering our children vs. giving them freedom as they grow and uses her own growing up as an example.  I hope you find the article as encouraging and insightful as I did.

 

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.

 

On Losing My Religion July 15, 2009


Anyone who knows me at all probably knows that I spent a good few years of my life outside of the church — angry and resentful at God when I was even willing to admit that I thought He existed.  By God’s grace, I was shown my need for Him and the utter disaster I’d made of things when willfully pursuing my own desires and ideas about how things “should be.”

I think a lot about that period in my life — about how a girl raised in a loving Christian home by very dear parents could have gone that far astray.

I will develop this better at some point, and there are a lot of aspects to this that I’ll need to think about deeply.  But I am more and more aware of how bad theology really failed me — it could not bear the weight of what the world had to throw at it.  I had, at that point in my life when I threw up my hands and walked away, become convinced (though I likely wouldn’t have been able to put words on it at that point) that I had a hand in my own salvation.  That somehow or other I was worthy or able to add to its quality and surety by my own actions.

The reason I bring this up is because so much these days I hear things like “Deeds, not Creeds” or denigrating comments about dogma and doctrine.  But let me tell you — good theology is important.  Knowing what scripture says is really, really important.

Deeds or creeds…why do we have to choose?  It is my contention (and I know I’m not the only one) that our creeds — if they adhere faithfully to scripture — will lead us to extravagant acts of good and love out of thanks for the perfect example that was shown to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Believe it or not…this whole thought process is stemming from contemplating hospitality.  Sorry, it’s the brain I was given and it just works this way sometimes.

 

What Food Can Make Real for Us July 4, 2009


As I sat in our kitchen one day about two years ago, feeding my one-year-old son his lunch and eating my own, I began to think about food and how much I hoped that my son would grow up with a taste for foods from all over the world.  That led me to thinking that I just wanted him to know about all the different groups of people in the world, to understand what a great, diverse, and colorful place this world is. I want him to know how these things point to the greatness, creativity and glory of God, who has “measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,” and “with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens. Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,” and “weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance.”  (Isaiah 40:12)

I grew up in a home of daily devotions around the dinner table during which my father would often pull out our copy of Operation World and allow my brothers and me to pick any country we liked.  Dad would read to us about the country, we would talk about any missionaries our family knew who might live there, and then we would pray together for the people and needs there.  On our kitchen wall we had a gigantic world map which was bordered on all four sides with pictures of loved ones and missionaries for whom my family prayed throughout the years.  Pins marked on the map the location of each person or family and I spent many hours in front of them considering the faces, work, and lives represented in each one.  I wish I could say that I sat patiently through our devotions and obediently and hungrily absorbed the things Dad was trying to teach us, but I’d be lying.  However, those Operation World lessons caught my attention and something about the thought of these different lands and different cultures excited me and made a lasting connection in my mind.

Along with devotions around the table, my mother served us many delicious meals there.  Often they were the favorites served at just about any table across our country then and now, but my mom also occasionally served us foods from other countries or with biblical significance.  One that I still serve in my home now was Jacob’s Pottage.  I can’t stir those lentils and rice, pour the lemon-paprika dressing that accompanies it, or take a delicious bite without thinking about Esau coming home ravenous from hunting, and understanding just a little bit, how he could have sold his birthright to his brother for the sake of that simple meal.  Something about the food brings the story close to home for me and I still remember giggling with delight when Mom told me that this meal we were eating could be very like the one in the Bible from so long ago.  It was history on the table right in front of me!  It made the story seem real and possible, rather than like some story from the past in some far away land with no connection to me and my life here.

And so, sitting with my son as he gleefully consumed fist-fulls of broccoli and cottage cheese, I pondered how to go about making those same connections for him.  A desire I have had since the moment I knew I was pregnant with him was to impart an understanding and love for the greatness of God and the love He holds for all of His people of every shape and size, every color and hue, and from every country.  I want the connections to be strong, the lessons to be colorful and interesting, and for him to appreciate and value the importance of the work that missionaries do in the world.  I believe that this is a desire with which any believing parent can identify.

That is going to be the goal of some of my upcoming posts over the next few months:  To give children food that nourishes their bodies, hearts and minds and that creates with each meal a picture of another place in this world.  I’d like to provide some recipes and information that brings into present focus the reality of the work missionary families are doing to spread the precious word of God around the world.  It is my hope that through this learning God will be glorified as our children begin to piece together an understanding of the greatness and mighty works of the God to whom we look for all things and to whom we owe all things.

Does this sound interesting to any of you at all?

 

 
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