Normal is a Setting on My Dryer

Normal: There’s no such thing, dear. Says Helen Hunts movie Mom in one of our favorites, As Good As It Gets.

My “normal” as a young one was spent being raised by my grandparents, which, as I found out once I started school was not normal at all back then. So, my normal wasn’t really normal at all. (Depending on who you ask, of course.) 

My “normal” routine years ago when I had three kids in three different schools playing three different sports, one in a stroller and one in the oven looks waaaaay different than my routine does today. We are down to that one in the oven being almost done proving and baking, ready for college and a career. 

My “normal” now affords me more time to read, garden, golf, spend time with girlfriends, volunteer, write etc.  There are days when I grieve the old days of chaos and running around, pick-ups and drop-offs, potty training, sports watching, the please can I spend the night days. Most days, however, I love my quieter, new normal. 

Then life happens and here you are looking down the mouth of a new normal…like it or not. 

Here’s where I get in trouble: when I hold to tightly to normal. Normal is a shifting sand, subject to change at any given moment. Life is normal. Until it’s not.

Think about it….

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Moses was leading a chill life, hanging out in the pasture with a few of his best sheep friends when God called him to go free his people whose “normal” had gone from…

  • A group of people living prosperous and free in Egypt because of Joseph’s leadership and relationship with the Pharaoh. Being in a foreign land had become very normal for them. Business as usual, blending in, bustling about with the day to days. 

Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died…and a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6,8 NIV) 

Their normal was about to be turned upside down. This king didn’t like the people of Israel and in fact thought they would take over his kingdom if something wasn’t done about them. So, their new normal went from prosperous and free to…

  • A group of people living in bondage with slave masters oppressing them with forced labor. They were used and abused ruthlessly making bricks from straw and working in the fields. So wicked was this king that he had every boy born during this time killed so as to cut down the future population that threatened him…if only in his own mind. 

This was this generations normal. They knew of no other way of life. So much so that when Moses left the pastures to save his people, they fussed in their new found freedom and wanted to go back to the way things had once been. Back to bondage. Back to the familiar. This new, unknown normal felt very abnormal and was a scary place. 

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Jesus standing in the temple courts watching as men sold cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14 NIV)

This was a new(er) normal for them. This selling of sacrifices at the temple. It hadn’t always been this way but no one thought anything about it. It just sort of slipped right in. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover so the town had all manner of people, visitors from out of town, shops and restaurant owners open for business, trying to make a living so maybe it made sense to offer these wearied travelers the ease of buying their sacrifices at the temple gate instead of searching for themselves….the way it used to be…the “old normal.” But…

What started out as a ministry of convenience quickly became an established, lucrative business for the priests. (Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the NT p. 234)

Until Jesus uprooted their normal by turning over some tables and using his whip like a radical Indiana Jones. The business was shattered, people, sheep and coins scattered, doves flew and no one knew…what would happen to their normal? 

And I wonder…

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What if we are living in a modern-day table turning? Sometimes it takes normal being turned upside down for us to realize today’s normal wasn’t normal yesterday but has somehow slipped in unnoticed.

What if we were living as people in bondage to things that we had no clue we were so attached to until it was taken away or at the very least changed dramatically?

What if in our quest for getting back to “normal” we completely miss the lesson? 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to hug my people and not just look at them through the lens of a Zoom call. I miss connecting with real people, doing real things. I want people to see my teeth when I smile not the flowers on my mask or me trying to “smile” with my eyes. I miss walking down the aisle of a store and not feeling like I need to shout “unclean”, so people clear out of the way or worse yet, people avoid the aisle altogether because they see me coming. 

But…

What if we so long for normal that our contentment, joy, peace and comfort depend on the shifting sand of normal instead of our Rock and place of Refuge, the One who is the Giver of all things good? 

What if this is a time to wake up, look up and evaluate our “normal” time, schedules, routines, budgets, brand preference, wastefulness, dinners together, quiet times, conversations, kindness, busyness, game nights, mindfulness…the list could go on and on couldn’t it? 

What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly. Be careful chasing after “normal” or you’ll find yourself in the world’s web. 

kw 

In the Footsteps of a Queen

Yep. That’s me. In the middle. That blond-haired bouffant won me the spot of Little Miss Pumpkin Show, circa 1971. Granny made my dress, a navy blue, crushed velvet, floor length beauty with a rick rack trim of daisies wrapped around an empire waist that tied in the back with a bow whose tail length also flowed to the floor. Black patent leathers on my feet and white gloves donned my hands as my six-year-old self perfected the parade wave. 

Our weekends were booked solid for a year. We rode on a float in parade after parade, small town after small town, daytime, nighttime, anytime. Sometimes it was hot as blue blazes and other times we had blankets that blended in with our dresses. We smiled and waved no matter the circumstance. Frozen toes, no one would know with a smile and wave. The drip, drip, dripping of sweat down your back, would be a fact but no would know with a smile and wave. 

We were queens after all! Chosen from a sea of contestants. Handpicked by judges who scrutinized our looks, watched our actions and reactions and cast their votes on who would best represent the great Circleville Pumpkin Show. It was an honor to be chosen. There were duties to done. 

As a young Little Miss, I had no idea what all the committee had to figure out. There was float designing and making as well as figuring out who would pull it. Which parades would we participate in? What time did we have to be there? Where were we in the line-up? And then there’s the waiting. We would show up hours before, find the float, sit on said float while it was in line then ride through a 2-3-hour parade. Smile and wave. 

I do remember falling asleep in the backseat on the car ride home more often than not. I’m quite sure my crown was crooked by the time I was carried to bed. It was exhausting. 

But this Little Miss had a lot to learn about endurance and sacrifice.

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There’s another queen from long, long ago who also won a beauty show. Little did she know, she was chosen for such a time as this…

Maybe you’re familiar with the story of an orphaned Jewish girl by the name of Esther. She was handpicked long before me, not by a judge but by a king to become his queen; the Queen of Persia. 

During her reign there developed a strain between her Uncle Mordecai and a man called Haman, right hand to the king, enemy of Mordecai and hater of all Jewish people to whom Mordecai and Esther belonged. With his voice whispering in the king’s ear, Haman thought he had developed a shrewd, sure fire way to annihilate the people he grew up to hate. 

It was a bit of a sticky situation as Esther’s uncle begged her to use her position of power as queen to help her people. Esther, knowing the king had not a clue that she was Jewish, was rightfully afraid of what the king would say. Afterall, she’d not been summoned by him for quite some time. Would he side with his right-hand man or lean towards listening to his teenage beauty queen? 

Spoiler alert! Haman’s evil intentions to annihilate the Jewish people was found out because of a plan put together by the queen. Haman angered the king so much that he was hanged on the gallows he had built for his nemesis Mordecai. Speaking of Mordecai, struggling with insomnia the king ordered the book of chronicles (yawn…that should help!) where he discovered that Mordecai had thwarted an assassination attempt on his life and was never rewarded for it, so the king has him paraded on horseback by none other than hateful Haman (prior to the hanging, of course) who also had to proclaim, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” (Esther 6:11NIV

What a turn of events! 

But how does she do it? 

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This is me as the Junior Miss Soybean Queen. (Before jealousy rears its ugly head in you, I rode in parades like the Bologna Festival. Cue: My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R. My bologna has a second name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R. Oh, I love to eat it every day and if you ask me why I’ll say…I’ll let those of you who know it, finish this little ditty. For those of you who have no clue, here is the commercial link. And yes, dear readers, this was another dress my Granny made for the Prairie Days parade. Put your jelly away. All is well.)

This Junior Miss and Esther are around the same age that she became the Queen of Persia. While I was worried about periods and pimples, she was perplexed about how to save her people…and prevail. Can you imagine relying on a junior-high kid (zits and all) to save you and your people? 

What can this little miss queen of pumpkins and junior miss queen of soybeans learn from a long-ago teenage queen of Persia? 

Plenty!  

And it’s just not for queens! This lesson plan is for any of us facing the unknown, unsure what to do or how to make the next move. For those who are staring straight into the eyes of doubt about who you are and why you’re here. It’s for those of us who know we should/could do something but have no idea what that truly looks like. We have the means, but we wonder, do we have the moxie? Anybody relate? 

Here’s what this teen queen did: 

1. Prayed. After her uncle Mordecai sent a note saying, do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this. (Esther 4:13-14 NIV) Esther sent word back asking if Mordecai would join her in fasting and prayer. 

She prayed about what purpose her position privied her to so she could plan what to do. When you don’t know what to do, what’s expected of you or what your part in the purpose is, start with prayer.

2. Petitioned. Esther used her position to petition the king about her plan to carry out her purpose in saving her people. This took some hootzpah on her part. It was against the law to simply pop in and have a little chat with the king, husband or not. She hadn’t been summoned by him so in going to him without an invitation there was danger. It could mean she was thrown in jail or even killed. It was a risk she was willing to take as she told her uncle, if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16 NIV) 

We, too, can use our position to petition the King. Fear need not play a part in our path to the power we have available to us. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers when he says, so let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) No fear. Your Father is near!  

3. Persevered. Esther patiently let the petitioned plan play out. She didn’t jump ahead but instead planned out not one but two dinner parties with her man the king and Haman the hater. Her timing was spot on. Her follow through of what she needed to do was perfection. Her perseverance paid off. Haman hanged himself by harassing the queen and thus was hanged from the gallows he built for Mordecai. Had she spoken up too soon, the king may not have believed her. Had she not spoken up at all, she and her people would have perished. 

It’s so easy to get ahead of the plan, to trust your own way instead of the Father’s whom you petitioned for the plan in the first place. 

I’ve moved on. I’m no longer the Little Miss Pumpkin Show or Junior Miss Soybean Queen. I’ve traded my crowns for carpools, floats for a toilet brush, prairie day parades for aprons with stains. I have a big family that is loud with laughter and love. We’ve had our share of problems both big and small, sadness and sorrows, unspeakable joy and heartbreak. Some days I wonder and doubt. Some days I think I have it figured out. In the midst of it all, this Queen of Everything knows Queen Esther’s formula still works: Pray, Petition, Persevere with patience. Then through it all smile and wave knowing you were chosen for such a time as this!  

kw

When Something Rotten Becomes Something Good

You can tell a good recipe by the stains its card bears. Whenever I pull mine out for banana bread, I have to laugh because it is covered with…I’m not even sure what anymore…age perhaps? 

I noticed the bananas getting past their prime eating time a couple days ago and told my man that I didn’t want them to go to waste, especially when the grocery store shelves are emptying out faster than the stockers can fill them back up. Besides that, you all have read about how frugal my Granny was and while she is no longer physically with me, her words about wasting food still echo and I still listen! 

Oh, I could have peeled and frozen them for future smoothies. But there’s something soothing about doing something familiar in unfamiliar times such as these. 

So, I got out my bowls, measured out the ingredients, gave them a good stir, popped the bread pans in the oven and voila’

…from something rotten comes something good! I like to think Granny’s hanging with the great cloud of witnesses and nodding in approval as the aroma of her banana bread reaches the heavens. 

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

These are the words of Paul. A man who has done some pretty rotten things. He was zealous against the Church and all Jesus followers before becoming one himself on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with Christ and ended up with scales for eyes. (Acts 9

These are the words of a man who has had some pretty rotten things done to him as well. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, chained and put under house arrest. Many of the books he wrote in the New Testament, he did so under dire circumstances, filthy circumstances, rotten circumstances. 

And yet, his ancient assurance rings just as true for us today. This pandemic brings about some rotten stuff…loss, quarantines, uncertainty, fear, death, hysteria…and yet the same God who worked all things for the good in Paul’s day is the same God who will work all this out as well. 

Warren Wiersbe encourages us with these words concerning Romans 8:25-30: God is concerned with the trials of His people. The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trial because he knows that God is at work in the world (v28) and that He has a perfect plan (v29). God has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory. Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ! Best of all, God’s plan is going to succeed!  (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary New Testament p431)

We can trust that God’s recipe for taking something rotten and making something good is stained with what makes our hope ring eternal…the blood of Jesus, His One and Only. 

It’s why Paul could say, If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31, 35, 37 NIV)

Because of Christ. 

It’s why Paul could write about contentment, peace and joy while standing in the middle of the city’s sewer system. It’s why he could face the things he faced knowing that he served a God who can take something rotten and make something good. 

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We’ve seen it in my local community and I’m sure you have to…people sharing, caring, giving with big hearts, open hands and a strong determination to be a people who takes the stained recipe of the cross and bring the sweetest balm to those around them. 

The church being the Church. Not hoarding but helping. Not bucking but obeying. Not being fearful but faithful. Not without hope but hope full. 

We can trust that the same God to whom Paul referred, is the same God we serve today. And that cloud of witnesses that I’m sure my Granny’s hanging with these days? They are cheering us on as we fix our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 11:1-3) May the aroma of our kindness in crisis be to them as sweet as my banana bread has been to us. 

I pray we can close our eyes and smell the aroma of the sweet. I pray we can open our eyes and see the good works of the One whose works are good. To Him be the glory.

kw

Handling the Manic of Panic

I caught myself doing it the other day. Allowing my mind to wander to a place it shouldn’t. That place where fear freezes any part of the brain that is logical. I told my man, I feel vulnerable. You see, I’m healing from not one but two recent surgeries, first to repair a tendon tear from which I still can’t put full weight on my right leg or move certain ways. The second was for some surgical sites that weren’t healing. That one stitched up the open wounds but made my vocal cords mad from being intubated again, so they are refusing to work above a whisper. 

As we were talking through my I feel vulnerable statement, I recognized where fear moved straight into the frontal lobe of my mind (where logic lacks sometimes) without so much as a knock on the door. He pitched his tent and set up camp like he owned the place. 

You’ll never be able to outrun this thing. And you can’t even scream for help. 

This “thing” being the coronavirus. Have you heard of it? 

This thought was a flash. A momentary blip blinking in my brain. 

Ridiculous right? 

How does one outrun something they cannot see? Even with both legs working, this was the stuff and nonsense that was making me feel defenseless. 

Now I had a choice: let it spiral me into a manic of panic or let faith be bigger than my fear. 

The writer of Hebrews says it this way: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1 The MSG)

Faith is my firm foundation. My handle on what I cannot see. 

Will I have faith? Will I fear what I cannot see? Or will I trust the One who sees what I cannot? The One who knows the number of my days (Psalm 139:16)

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What if you have let that flash of fear in your frontal lobe lob a rocket of irrational thinking with no return ticket to sanity? Let’s use the word calm as an acronym. (I know, I know. The last thing you want is for someone to tell you to calm down but it’s better than throwing a cup of cold water in your face and is what’s needed in this madness we’re experiencing.) 

Common sense. Use it. There are mandates and restrictions in place for a reason. You may not agree with all of them, but this isn’t just about you. You may be fine, but others are more vulnerable…like the elderly and immunosuppressed. 

For the love, stop hoarding like it’s the zombie apocalypse! Some folks can wipe their rears for the next century! They will be long gone and the only inheritance their children will get will be the 24 packs of Charmin divided 4 ways that will still be stored in their basement.

Be smart. Stock up but don’t hoard. 

In God’s economy, what good is prosperity if it isn’t shared? Divine vitality breeds hospitality, and hoarding is appallingly unholy. To love self without loving neighbor is to know nothing at all of the love of God. (From Chasing Vines by Beth Moore pg 221)

My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (From Saint Paul, Philippians 4:19NIV) 

Abide. In Him. Before you turn on CNN, CNBC or Fox News maybe try reading the Good News. 

It’s no coincidence that I have been reading through a Devotional Psalter each day for my morning devotion. I say each day, but I got “behind” a couple days. There is no such thing as behind in God’s timing. I read through a couple in one sitting. Hear the words of King David in Psalm 31: 

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame….be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress…But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are my God.” My times are in your hand. (vv 1-3, 14-15) 

Or how about this commentary on Psalm 33 from the author of the same book: 

The resounding note of Psalm 33 is the endless rule of God in heaven over all that happens on earth. Over all the madness and chaos of this world, all the political conflicts and military endeavors and voting booths and family dysfunctions and physical illnesses and financial meltdowns—God reigns. His sovereign supervision directs all that unfolds here in this life. 

Was I behind in my reading? I think not. I think my behind was right where it needed to be…in His word and His timing was perfect. 

Never mind the fact that I am studying Ezra for an upcoming Bible study where this same God moved the heart of King Cyrus to allow the people to be freed from exile so they could go back to their city and rebuild the temple, the walls and their worship. All at the expense of the king’s treasury…they didn’t have to pay for any of it. 

Are you listening fear? That’s the same sovereign God, my God, that rules today! Not one single thing happening in the world today is a surprise to Him. Not one. 

Light. Be it. Shine it so the darkness does not win. Let the Church rise above the pandemonium and BE the church. Love the least of these. Check in on your neighbor. Share. Care. Be there. (If you are healthy and able.)

It’s times like these that we have the opportunity to show Jesus to others and I sure don’t want others to think Jesus is a jerk because of the way I treat others during a time of crisis. You know, like, grabbing 25 cans of tuna and the last 6 packs of TP on the shelf. Or running like your life depended on it to the meat counter at Costco. 

Maybe we need to take Jesus literally when He tells Peter to feed His sheep. Maybe we need to stop talking about Jesus and show people Jesus instead. Maybe Jesus comes in the form of a jar of Jiffy.  

Lots of churches are joining together to collect food for the kids who rely on school breakfasts and lunches now that all schools in Ohio are closed for 3 weeks. This is my church being the church.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and our clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40 NIV) 

Mind. Manage it. There’s much we can’t control so we need to control those things we can. Watch what you take in. Be informed but limit your exposure to the mayhem. It’s so easy to get caught up in the media’s magic of mind control. 

Read a book. Learn a new language. Put a puzzle together. Listen to your favorite music. Memorize scripture. Go outside. Get some sun on your face. Put your hands in the dirt. Meditate. Go to coffee with a friend and talk about anything BUT scary things. Pray. Do something kind for someone. Smile. Start a gratitude journal. Light a candle. Play a board game with your family. Exercise. Clean. Laugh. Love. 

I have a daily choice. I can let fear win. Or I can let my faith be greater. I will leave you with this: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Here is a link to 25 verses to help ease your anxiety. I pray it helps you like it helps me. 

kw

Let Nothing Be Wasted

My Granny was a frugal woman. We would recycle our Cocoa Cola bottles, carefully placing them back in the carton for their return trip to the store. Once there, we would put them in the big basket to the left as you walked in and let the cashier know as she rang up our purchases how many cartons we brought back. We got a little credit towards our grocery bill. Granny recycled out of necessity, not to be green but because we needed the green. 

She would do things like rinse out our sandwich bags and reuse them in our lunches. She sewed most of my clothes, saving the scraps to make what was called “rag rugs.” She grew a huge garden and canned most of our food, so we were always “clean-platers” because she worked hard for what was on the table. 

She would keep the slivers of soap and put them all together so at some point you had a “new” bar of soap to use. That made for an interesting bath time. There would be a bouquet of feeling Zestfully clean with an underlying hint of Irish Spring, the real beauty that Dove promised with an occasional grit of exfoliation from a sliver of Lava that surfaced to the top. 

We lived on my Gramps’ one income, a blue-collar factory working man with an eighth-grade education who didn’t really bring in a lot of dough. But Granny could take that dough and make some really good stuff out of it! Nothing was wasted when I was a little girl. 

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I was listening to a talk by Jo Saxton from the 2019 IF conference recently. Her message was on a story as familiar as “the quiet old lady who was whispering hush” in the book Good Night Moon. 

We find ourselves on a mountainside with 5000 or so of our closest friends, hiking our hardest after an acclaimed Miracle Maker, wanting to see what the hubbub is all about. We aren’t disappointed as lunch is served, bellies are filled and not one person goes hungry all because one boy’s Momma remembers to pack his lunch box with some fish and bread. 

And Jesus gives thanks for what He has.  

There’s no discounting the freakish amount of folks fed with such frugal findings nor the fact that the twelve disciples gathered twelve baskets so they, too, could have full bellies. It’s this line that Jesus says that’s got me thinking: 

Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. (John 6:12NIV)

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Gather the pieces…

The pieces, that which is broken, gathered was the bread, something the Jewish culture considered to be a gift from God. It was required that scraps that fell on the ground during a meal be picked up. Think about their time in the dessert when manna, bread like wafers, fell from heaven as a provision when food was a luxury. I can imagine every morsel melting in their mouths, not in the mud.

Broken pieces. On the ground. Squandered away? No.

They were gathered up, put into baskets, enough to feed others. 

The leftovers. The left behinds. The last of the least. 

Gathered up and used to feed. 

What if God can take our broken pieces and use them? What if He can take those parts that feel torn off like the crust that no one wants, the cast down, thrown away, torn apart, and useless and use them to feed those around us? What if we could have the courage to see those things that God breaks in us and around us as gifts from Him? Trusting Him, that He will, like He did so long ago, gather the pieces, and feed those that need fed from the basket of our own stories.

Let nothing be wasted. 

Wasted, in the original language, is to be lost to the owner, anything that perishes. 

What if we trusted that Jesus means what He says? He will let nothing be wasted. Not one single thing. 

Not one tear shed.

Not one pain felt. 

Not one loss grieved. 

Not one diagnosis given.

Not one dream dashed.

Not one (more) diaper changed. 

Not one career move made.

Not one failure flop.

Not one guilt trip taken. 

Not one misery met.

Not one stormy season. 

Not one prodigal person.

Not one dry dessert.

Not one single thing is lost to the Owner of us who claim Christ as our Savior. 

He will gather up our pieces, just like He did on that mountainside so many years ago and feed the people from our baskets of broken if we’re brave enough to let Him. If we’ll trust Him with the story we’re walking right now. If we’re still enough to be allow Him to work through us and use us as only He can do. 

He sees us. You and me. Waiting to be gathered. Feeling like the crust no one wants. Waiting to see how He’ll use this season we’re in. Will you trust Him to do what He says He will do? 

That one line: Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. 

May it be so. 

I am undone.  

kw

Dear Jane,

What started as a letter to a man named John has now taken somewhat of a turn. I had all this stuff I wanted to say to him as if he has any idea who I am. There are many things that have already been shared. Thoughts on a drum that’s already been beaten. I sat down twice to write it and deleted it each time.

I went outside for some fresh air and sunshine. There’s something therapeutic about working in the garden. It’s mostly been put to sleep, as it is now the end of October. I had saved the Christmas lima beans for last for they have taken over the fence nearby, climbing up and through the nooks and crannies. They weren’t big producers of fruit but sure had a lot of fluff. 

Lady Lima got out of control! 🙂

That’s when it hit me. This box of beans got so out of hand that it was hard to get in the garden gate but once you did there was a ton of goodness on the other side. The limas got a lot of attention simply because they stood out loud and proud. 

You see, Jane, while I don’t agree with his tone or the manner to which he told Beth Moore to “go home” amidst the cackles and snickering of his compadres, nor do I wish to “hock jewelry” or be devalued by his buddies. I really don’t want to give him more attention. His type of argument and arrogance will be around long after I am not. 

By giving him an ounce more consideration, I only perpetuate the fanning of his fame. No. That’s not what I want to do at all. 

As I was tearing down that loud lima, our Dad reminded me that dear John is not the keeper of the gate and we don’t get our value and worth from the words and commands of a patriarchal group of grouchy men. But rather from a Book He wrote long ago as a reminder of who we are and Whose we are. 

Our gifts are determined by Him, a Father who loves us dearly. How we use them (or not) is determined by us. With that said, dear sister, as Paul did for Timothy, I want to use mine to fan into flame, yours! 

Where do we begin? What’s the best way to fight back? It’s not by flinging insult for insult. I’d like us to walk through scripture together one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time. I can’t explain it but our Dad’s words give encouragement and hope, courage and grace, instruction and discipline. The more the world roars, the more we need the whisper of His word. 

There is something sacred about keeping it simple. With an expectant heart and mind and ears leaned into listen, pen and paper at the ready, won’t you join me as we walk through the Bible together. 

Let me know if you want to join the private Facebook group I started called, Take a Walk With Me. It’s imperative we read a little bit of scripture each and every day. It won’t be hard but it will be beneficial. The invitation is always open! The start date is November 1st but you can join us at any time!

Stay faithful! To His word and your calling!

kw 

What About Martha? (Sheology Part 4)

My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.

We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step. 

I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer. 

Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection. 

Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking? 

***

The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.

Babes ready to be born. New life is coming!

Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)

Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.

Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Only one thing is needed.

Jesus wasn’t drawing lines or categorizing women by personality type and interests, He was defining priorities for all of us, and more important, drawing Martha into a deeper relationship with himself.  (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James pg 223)

Choose the better thing. 

I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.

***

Babes are here! Needing care, feeding, teaching.

The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV) 

Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns. 

We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)

Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine. 

***

The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us, 

Martha served. (John 12:1-11 NIV)

Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important. 

She’s learning and so am I. 

Empty nest means these babes have been nurtured and can fly on their own.

I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman. 

Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings. 

I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both. 

Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology. 

kw

Worship is Never Wasteful (Sheology Part 3: Loving)

The babies have grown and flown….just like they’re suppose to. 🙂

I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom? 

But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.

After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!

So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on. 

I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards. 

But sometimes you just have to be bold. 

***

The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it. 

I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming. 

The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings. 

Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV) 

This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll) 

The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her. 

***

Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before. 

We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender. 

It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)

Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.

She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.

She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted. 

Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…

What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…

kw

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Whirly Birds, Wheat Fields and a Wise Woman (Sheology Part 1 Learning)

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16)

I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend. 

They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in. 

The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.

I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included. 

***

I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night. 

Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us. 

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)

I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.

So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus. 

For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways. 

Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been. 

***

Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet. 

Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself. 

So she sat at his feet, listened and learned. 

This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day. 

Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything. 

***

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.

I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher. 

Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get. 

Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.

Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up. 

There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see. 

kw