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Archive for March, 2013

Transition–the uncomfortable place I find myself when the latest move, deployment, or reunion requires adjustment.   As with most military families, one of the most challenging transitions for our family involved the return of my husband from his tour.  This doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it?  After all, like a young mother anticipating the birth of her child I spent months imagining what life would be like when my husband returned safely from Afghanistan.  Emotions ran the gambit—joy, relief, and anxiety—until the day finally arrived.    But, after a few weeks of renewing family relationships, the day-to-day reality of sharing life set in.  We had to adapt to togetherness as much as we did to being apart.

Rules of Engagement

Two-hundred-forty days of boots on the ground—not including training.  That number symbolizes the amount of time Dave spent in the combat zone and away from the home front.  It also defines nearly a year of our family life.  Dave slept on a narrow cot; I slept (or lay awake) between two anxious children.  He dealt with insurgents outside the wire; I installed a home security system to keep adventurous teens inside the home.  My husband ate the cold remains of what had conveniently been labeled food; I served cereal for supper.   The “normal” of each of our lives assumed a different shape. Now that he was home, how were we to re-engage?

I could temporarily vacate my parenting role; perhaps enjoy an emotional vacation while Dave re-established his position in the home.  Or, maybe I should assert my way of doing things.  Why exchange predictability for a different approach?  Unfortunately, I sometimes waver between these two extremes.  But scripture reminds all of us to “consider others better than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)  Neither approach is acceptable.  Wives and husbands—even those experiencing the interrupted lifestyle of being a military couple—provide their children with a level of stability and security when family norms are jointly agreed upon and managed.

Love and War

The distance imposed by Dave’s deployment clouded my thinking in the same way a dust storm filled the desert sky.  Was he safe?  Did he still love me?  Would he come home?  Such thoughts, constantly a part of my mental landscape, stung.  Unfortunately, remnants of the storm remained behind even after my husband’s return.  What if became my new mantra.  What if Dave isn’t happy to be home?  What if being a family man seems less appealing than it did before?  What if…

Fear and negativity, my strongest adversaries, threatened to invade the confines of our home.  If Dave expressed frustration or felt overwhelmed by the demands of four children and an unusually independent wife, I reacted defensively.  Separation required we re-examine boundaries, adjust to the climate, and expect the best of one another.

Standard Operating Procedure

Our first step toward preparing for transitional trials was to create a plan in advance of major change.  We set aside time with each other to discuss questions, concerns, and feelings.  Then, Dave and I prayed together.  After all, what better way is there to support a marriage and family?  And, thanks to technological advances, praying for one another—and our family–continued throughout training, deployments, and more.

While we expected difficulties, we didn’t invite them.  I quickly learned that when my inner monologue developed into a diatribe, I had to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 2:5) and replace it with positive thinking.

Finally, remembering the storm will end provides motivation to continue.  Eventually the dust settles and, sometimes, an oasis lies within reach.

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Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;   

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray— I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;              

My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

We are shaped by the past–not defined by it.  Beholden to our memories–yet not held captive.  Molded by our experiences–but free to become more.

Consider Moses.  Born a slave, he was raised as a prince.  Then, in a moment of rage, he earned the unsavory title of a murderer.  Fleeing from his past, Moses hid in the desert and–in the most desolate of places–discovered God. That was the moment that changed everything in Moses’ life.  Instead of being embittered by life’s twists and turns or stymied by unforgiveness, guilt, or shame Moses was transformed.

He was no longer Moses the Prince nor Moses the Murderer.  Instead, he became Moses the Delivered.  As a man whose purpose had changed from one of self-preservation to one of God’s glorification, he began living afresh–sustained by his Lord, certain of his mission, and impassioned by the freedom found in Yahweh.

We, too, can share in that purpose and freedom–regardless of our past.  Despite hurtful memories or difficult situations.  We can become More than we are today–because of His redeeming power and matchless grace.  There is freedom in Christ, dear friend.

Scripture for Reflection

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,[a]
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Luke 4:18  (www.biblegateway.com)

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He does not cast away, nor crush, nor condemn the wounded in conscience, those
who are terrified in view of their sins; the weak in faith and practice, but
watches over and cherishes them, makes them whole, and affectionately embraces them.   –Luther

Each tear that pours from her eyes fills a place in my heart that once brimmed with pain like hers.  Why?  She asks as if I can answer.  How could a loving God allow it?  But I don’t know.  There is no way to explain away the heartache.  The pain.  The desolate feeling of isolation.  I don’t know, but I understand.

Am I unlovable?  Not worth a moment’s tenderness?  Each syllable bursts from her mouth in pronounced confusion.  I hear her cries for help.  The need for mercy.  Etchings of the past press themselves on her features.  And I feel my insides twist as she shouts out fear…loss…hopelessness.  From deep within I hear His voice.  You are loved–more than you could ever know.  I am your true Father.  Your Heavenly Husband.  The Balm of Gilead. 

I know the words are meant for me, too.  Our human stories are alike–joys, sorrows, fears.  Celebrations, grief, betrayal.  Love, hate, reconciliation.  Maybe He came to live with us–and live this way–because we can relate to the All-God-All-Man who lived an everyday life .

Loved.  Hated.  Reviled. Laughing.  Crying.  Caring.

His human story is like ours.  He understands. He knows our heartache.

Now, the Healer’s hands are held out–nail marks in plain view–waiting to touch our feeble, broken places.  Those crushed, down-trodden areas we thought meant sure death.  The breath of Life kneels down and exhales–filling the thirsty places with hope.  His mercy was revealed that day on the cross when the gaping, weeping wound in His side foretold of the festering, needy places in our own souls.  Of our need for Him.

If you are wounded–like her, like me–why not turn to the One who was wounded for us?  He understands.  He loved us that much.  We are worth more than a moment’s tenderness.  We were worth the cost of His perfect and holy life.

Verse for Reflection

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.  (
Isaiah 42:3  NIV)

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Strife seems to build like a summer rainstorm in the Rockies-slowly, visibly.  Once in a while the clouds drift by merely casting threatening shadows, but other times it seems as if there is nowhere to hide.  Even the house shakes beneath the rumbles of poorly managed conflict…hurtful words…stinging accusations. In a perfect family–the family none of us has–there would be less finger-pointing and more folding of hands in humble prayer.  In a perfect family every response to perceived infractions would pass through God’s filter of loving kindness, sifted by his gentle hands.

My family isn’t perfect.

How, then, does God expect me to respond to the blustery winds of anger and discontent?  How can I encourage the healing of a damaged relationship or wounded hearts?  By responding in love–sometimes the greatest test of commitment to a personal faith in Christ and the most difficult action to take in the aftermath of dissension.

Recommended Reading

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Scripture for Reflection

So…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (MSG)

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With Words Love Faith Hope Royalty Free Stock Photo, Pictures, Images ...

 

Live with the end in mind.  As I mull over the meaning of the phrase and how it might impact my life, several questions demand consideration.

The first–Why live with the end in mind?  There is enough motherhood mayhem and workplace drama to consume just one day of living.  How can I cast my vision beyond a teenage son’s struggle with depression or the uncertainty of managing a better-than-fiction public relations issue?  One word of scripture presses through these everyday, human concerns.  Faith. 

In the midst of my average-woman-regular-living, I can place my hand just above my eyes–diminishing some of today’s distractions.  And, if I look closely enough, I can see it dimly…far off in the distance.  The promises of tomorrow exchanged for all of my todays.

Why live with the end in mind?  Because the beauty of each day is only a foretaste of something better.  Because the struggles of being human will one day be discounted as nothing more than momentary.  Because the way I live now points toward the One in whom I trust.

 

Verses for Reflection

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. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.            (Heb. 11:1-2 MSG)

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.  (Heb. 11:13-16 MSG)

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heavens gate photo: heavens gate heavensgate.jpg

With a turn of the page another month is gone and a new one takes its place.  Time continues moving ahead and I wonder, “Do I live with the end in mind?”  I’m not sure.  When I woke up this morning, I didn’t embrace the sunlight with thoughts of praise or thank God for a warm bed and restful sleep.  Instead, concerns of  the here and now pricked at the tender places in my heart.

Will my boy make it through this rough spot?  Am I guiding, helping, doing enough? 

Will this new diet help Heather’s stomach aches? 

Can we squeeze in enough tutoring to really change my little one’s struggles with dyslexia? 

Is my mother going to be alright when she moves?  How long will her dwindling savings last?

My right eye began its nervous twitching and I hadn’t even put my feet on the floor (which, unsurprisingly, needs to be vacuumed in the worst way!)

Live with the end in mind.  That was the phrase posted on a marquis outside the little church on the corner.

Am I living my life with the end in mind?  Do I live to glorify Him?  Yes–when I turn the day’s worries over to the One who is over all things.  Yes–if I give my wonderful but messy family life to the Father who tends to each need in ways only He can.  So….in this moment…and for today I am deliberately choosing to live with the end in mind.

There is more than the concern that greets me in the morning.  There is more than a sink full of dishes or bills waiting to be paid.  There is more in Christ–more joy, peace, love, and strength.  Today, I want more of that.  I’m going to live with the end in mind.

Verses for Reflection

Watch for this: The time is coming’—God’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When that time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David-Tree. He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right. That’s when Judah will be secure and Jerusalem live in safety. The motto for the city will be, “God Has Set Things Right for Us.”  (Jeremiah 33:14-16 MSG)

 

 

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Coy Mathis, Colorado Transgender Girl Not Allowed To Use School Bathroom

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Headlines across the nation read, “Family of Transgender Child Fights for Her Rights” and “Transgender Girl Can’t Use the Girl’s Restroom”.  Suddenly, a six-year-old little boy is thrust into the nation’s spotlight as the new poster child for tolerance, political correctness, and the absolutism of no absolutes.

Most articles portray the small-town school and its staff as intolerant.  Why?  Because a distinction has been drawn.  Someone has decided there is a physical difference between boys and girls…shocking as it may be.  While Coy, the precious child struggling to understand who he is, may feel like a girl he is actually a boy.

It seems the school has embraced Coy for who he is in every way–from lining up with the little girls to addressing him by as she.  Isn’t there a point when parents need to understand there are some limits?  Not limits to acceptance, friendship, or empathy–but limits based on age and understanding?  Six-year-old children are innocent.  Is it appropriate to expect the little girls in Coy’s classroom to deal with the complicated issue of sexual identity in the intimate setting of a school restroom?

Verses for Reflection

 They say good is bad and bad is good. They think light is dark and dark is light. They think sour is sweet and sweet is sour.   (Isaiah 5:20)

  Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Today’s Prayer

Lord,

I pray your people would surround Coy and his family with mercy and kindness and that they might be drawn to you.  At the same time, may your truth stand despite the efforts of  a world clamoring to be rid of right and wrong.

In the name of the everlasting Christ,

Amen.

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