Monday, April 7, 2014

Could You Do Something For Me? That Would Be Grreeeaaaat…

Today is a rare day.  The big kids have a full day of school on a Monday, both babies are were napping, and R is upstairs resting.  I actually get the computer all to myself!  I get a glass of water and a cup of coffee and sit down to tackle my ginormous list of things I need to do before I forget them all.  Rather than tackle that list first, I do what all modern mommies do:  lie to myself and say, 'I'm just gonna check on Facebook real quick -- I won't be on here too long.'  LIE OF THE CENTURY!  It's a time-sucking vortex!  Scientific studies have shown that there is a time-Facebook phenomenon that actually accelerates time and diminishes productivity of maternal brain matter.

OK.  Not really.  But it sure seems to happen more often than not.  Can I get a witness?

Thankfully I managed to do some clicking and catching up and avoided Candy Crush Saga.  Sort of.  At any rate, I realized that almost of my Facebook friends have:

     a)  Had a birthday
     b)  Been crazy sick
     c)  Had major "stuff" going on in their lives
     d)  Some or all of the above

I clicked over to my burgeoning inbox of messages on Facebook to see how many sweet friends have been checking in on my family and reaching out to say hello and extending well wishes and prayers.  (I won't even tell you the four-digit number that is equal to the number of unread messages in my Gmail account.)

So many loose ends dangling that I need to tend to.

I glanced to my right, looking out the window to my front flower beds.  I finished planting one side completely and got a decent start on the other side.  I glanced to my left, looking out the window to my backyard.  There is a beautiful, huge raised bed that R and I put in the backyard last week, tilled, composted, and waiting patiently for seed to be sown and growth to begin.  The table where we should've eaten lunch yesterday is still covered in unplanted plants, dirt, and tools.

And today it's rainy.  And cold.

I won't even get into all of the projects I see as my eyes scan each room of my house.  Stacks here, toys there, laundry done and folded but not put away, sticky messes waiting like booby traps set by three-foot tall agents of destruction.

So many loose ends dangling that I need to tend to.

When is the last time I got to pick up a book and read it to completion?  I can actually tell you:  August 7, 2011.  The reason I know this?  It was the night before I gave birth to our third child.  I don't have the attention span to read more than a nutrition label on a box of cereal these days.  The last time I got to pick up my Bible and read voraciously?  Just before R's surgery, as I neglected other duties to prepare my heart for battle.  The last time I bathed?  Well, that has admittedly been more recently, but not near as often as I'd like, or quite frankly deserve.

Do you see a pattern here?

I feel like I'm just barely getting by on a lick and a promise, as the saying goes.  We have all been sick non-stop since February 14.  That is almost eight straight weeks of temperatures, upset stomaches, snotty noses, coughing loud enough to wake the dead, three bottles of children's Tylenol, three bottles of children's Motrin, three packages of Mucinex, six large boxes of Kleenex, and the list just goes on.  Cancer.  Viruses.  Ear infections.  Sinus infections.  Lice -- again.  Bronchitis.  Possible pneumonia.

Totally promise I'm not complaining, although as I read back over the list…  Yeah, it's a little long.

I am weary, yet I have JOY.  Not "yipee skippee" joy, but joy in my heart that, somewhere through the fatigue and mounds of tissues, God is in the midst of this experience.  Joy that tells me to take this day at a time, or mound of laundry at a time -- sunshine does follow the rain, and rain is crucial to nourish the earth and encourages growth.  I need this valley experience whether or not I desire to be in the middle of it.  The Bible verse from the children's sermon yesterday was James 1:2-8.  I like the way The Message summarized verses two through four:

     "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

The puppet ministry taught the kids about this verse.  It didn't mean that God sits up on some fluffy cloud and throws roadblocks in our way to make us stumble and fall and learn our lesson.  It is an opportunity for us to lean on God and rely on God's strength.  We -- I -- don't possess the strength necessary to accomplish all of this on my own.  I can rest in the fact that Someone else does, and Lord knows I could use some rest right now.  Challenges in life just happen, y'all.  We gotta roll with the punches, take them on one at a time, and know that God is there in the midst of it with us, not munching on popcorn and telling us we missed a spot as we struggle along.
But if the Good Lord could just tell my kids to quit making messes faster than I can clean them up, that would be greeeaaaat

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Journey Of A Thousand Miles

Today was R's day for surgery.  Thankfully we were not dealt any surprises, and he seems to have come through the procedure well.  I had no reason to doubt that things would go according to schedule, but my mind always has the "Grief" app running in the background and draining my battery.  Thankfully, The Lord stepped in and shut that business down through the servant hands of so many dear friends and my beautiful, sweet pastor, all of whom were there for our family and have blessed us with meals, child care, prolific prayers, and great conversation.

It's hard to know exactly what to expect from here.  Obviously there will be a recovery period from surgery and further information about the degree and severity of his cancer.  Will he or won't he need to undergo radiation therapy?  How will he feel from the lack of thyroid hormones in his system?  Or will there be an overabundance of the hormones, and if so, what surprises will that bring?  How will this affect his long term health and attitude?  Will our relationship change?  Will his relationship with our children change?

One thing I know will not change, and that is the fact that I love him and never leave his side.  In fact, he probably wishes I would leave his side -- he detests being hovered over, which is one area in which I happen to specialize.  In fact, I struggle with knowing how best to support him in a way that will touch his heart.  I want to be able to take care of him and soothe him -- he wants to be left alone. He wants me to leave him at the hospital, visit once or twice, and pick him up when it's time to go home.  I cannot handle that type of laissez faire policy.  I want nothing more than to see him lean on me and let me in to what he is experiencing, and instead I feel like more of a spectator.  I don't want to whine about this or complain.  Put simply, it is difficult to find a balance between what he needs and what I feel.

We thank everyone for all of the prayers, love, and support you have shown our family.  This is just the beginning, my friends.  As I told R earlier, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  This was just the first one in that journey.  Praise God this journey has begun on a strong foot.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On The Road Again

I'm sitting in my kitchen in Virginia, feeding the baby a snack that I hope will appease the savage beastie until lunch comes out of the oven.  We are on our umpty-jillionth snow day this school year, and while I rather enjoy having my husband home from work and all of the kids home to snuggle down on days like today, it's different this time.  Watching the birds jockey for seeds at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window is usually a beautiful distraction for me, but my mind is a million miles away and my hungry stomach isn't in knots yet, but it's getting there.  I'm hoping and praying that tomorrow goes off without a hitch, but I'm skeptical and I know I need to pray about it...

We had been preparing for my husband to deploy and instead were given the news that he has papillary carcinoma -- thyroid cancer.  There --  I said it.  The dreaded "C" word.  Cancer.  I add it to "widow" in the lengthing list of adjectives and nouns that are now associated with my life story.

We got the diagnosis on 18 FEB.  Our world was so happy and plugging right along when the word "cancer" came along and kicked us in the collective face.  And what's more is that everyone keeps telling us that this is the "good cancer to have."  (Sorry for the prolific use of quotation marks today.) That the 20 year cure rate is 99%.  That R will undergo a very common, routine procedure, followed by a treatment with irradiated iodine, and that he will more or less be as good as new.  You know what?  The doctors in the ER on 29 NOV 2005 told me that T didn't have life-threatening injuries and that he would likely have a hospital stay and then come home.  Only he died the next day.

I know my tone is angry, irritable, anxious.  It's the first time I've really allowed myself to step a toe on this path.  I struggle with anxiety a lot, the truth be told.  But what I am seeing is God showing up in ways that are now, as they were when T died, nothing short of miraculous.  I am experiencing God's presence and power in ways I've never experienced them before, and we haven't even stepped foot in a surgical ward yet.  The more I pray and focus on this, the more the anxiety melts away and I see this situation for what it really is:  an opportunity.

It's an opportunity for God to receive glory.  For God to demonstrate the power and might and grace that only God possesses.  For lives to be touched.  For veils to be removed and sight to be given to the blind.  For God to pursue me in the middle of this storm, reach out a hand to me once again, and guide me down the only safe path through a field of land mines, making sure I put my feet directly into God's footprints.

So, Lord, here we are together, on the road again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Year Six

I remember so many things about T. and our family as it was six years ago so clearly, and yet there are many memories that have faded like construction paper figures in a sunny window. I get through the year with relative ease and have even found happiness and joy in Thanksgiving once again. However, this year the days have aligned to be on the same days of the week as they were the year T. died, and for some reason that has made a difference to my heart. Today I just want to pause the day so that R. and the kids will stay at school and work a little longer just to give me time to be still and quiet in the house. You would think that six years later things are easier. In some ways maybe they are. I’m starting to think that in many ways this grief journey will be woven into the path I’m on for the rest of my life.

I remember I had just bought the new MercyMe Christmas album that year, and I was so moved by the last song, “Joseph’s Lullaby.” We naturally think so much about mothers during pregnancy and childbirth, and Mary definitely is the focus of plenty of contemplation. What I loved then and still love about this song is the tenderness I hear in the words of a father to his infant son. In this case, Joseph knows that the little man in his arms is no ordinary baby, but aren’t all children little miracles? As I was listening to this song today, I held Baby S. in my arms as I rocked her to sleep for a much-protested nap. Her little blue eyes sparkled up at me as she reached a plump hand toward my face to touch my chin. I remembered Li’l G and Bud being this age and how long ago it feels it was since they were so little. And my heart just broke anew.

In the song, Joseph tells Baby Jesus, “Go to sleep, my son…You’ve got a long road before You, just rest Your weary head… Does the Father guard Your heart for now so You can sleep tonight?” I think of Bud, just nine months old when T. slipped away into Glory. I’ve always felt such a heavy burden for him and Li’l G, but especially him. I remember his sweet, chubby cheeks, his adorable mischevious smile. So sweet and innocent, so happy and trusting. He has had such a long road before him ever since he was such a little guy. In many ways I feel like he was robbed of having a normal life when all this happened. How would Bud ever know the love and nurturing of a father? Who would love him and dote over him, guide him down the road of life and help mold him into a man? Who would know what a precious little boy he is and be able to love him through the times growing up when he will be hard to love? Bud lost more than he could know when T. died.

Something I overlooked until recently is how beautifully this song parallels my own life. As much heartbreak and longing I feel when I hear this song, there is promise and hope in it as well. Joseph walked into such an awkward situation with Mary and Jesus, and yet God knew what He was doing when He set this plan in motion. No other man but Joseph would love Jesus as his own. No other man but Joseph would look down on this little man and see his own son in Jesus. No other man but Joseph would have tenderness in his heart for a child he did not help conceive. And yet, the words to this song reflect the sentiments of a man who will raise Jesus as his own son, be there to father him and care for him without reservation or hesitation. And in the words of Joseph I hear the voice of R. singing over Bud.

Why, God? Why was all of this allowed to happen? I can’t imagine my life without any of the people in it who have been in it in the past and who are in it now as I daily greet my future. I cling to them all with a ferocity that burns in my heart and sends hot tears streaming down my cheeks. This confuses me, destroys me, encourages me, and uplifts me all at the same time. No matter how many years pass by since the last time I heard T.’s voice, I will still never quite recover from the trauma of having him ripped from our lives. The hole will always be there even though the edges are less frayed and jagged with time. I will always have bitter tears for my children’s loss and what this meant for them. But alongside it I will always be wrapped in the tender, doting love that R. brings to my life and the fullness of life I enjoy again as a result of God bringing him into my life. I will always hear the song of a loving father being sung from the heart of R. over Li’l G and Bud, a song that no one else but he could sing. And in the sparkling eyes of my Jeremiah 29:11 baby I will always see God’s promise to be El Roi, the God Who Sees, in my life -- the promise of never walking away, of never turning a deaf ear towards me, of counting each tear my heart has cried along the way and holding them in the palm of His hand.

So I will mark, during the hustle and bustle as well as the quiet still moments, the two days that changed me forever. I will cry, remember, smile, and finally emerge exhausted by the range of emotions I go through each time November 30 rolls around. I will treasure the memories I have, faded though some may be. They will be pasted into the collage of my life with the vibrant colors of my present and the not-yet-defined colors that await me in the future. And so will pass another year.

Monday, March 21, 2011

BTJ Weeks Seven & Eight: Before and After

It's been a little while since my last Backpacking Through Joshua post since we've had a break, and holy cats! Lots has been going on since that time. As easy as it could be to opt out of this next section of the study, I feel the need to use it as an opportunity to learn better time management and spend the time in the Word regardless of what other things I could be off doing.

Since I chose to consolidate these two chapters, I wanted to look at these two chapters as one continuous narrative rather than separate, stand alone stories. Paraphrased and condensed, Joshua has led the Israelites on two campaigns, one in Jericho and the other in Ai. Although by and large the campaign in Jericho was considered a success, in the eyes of the LORD there was a complete breakdown in trust and obedience on the part of the people. After taking steps to renew the covenant and restore the nation in the eyes of God, Joshua leads the next campaign against Ai. Not only does Joshua wait upon the LORD for the play-by-play interpretation of how the battle should go, he ends the experience with corporate worship and instruction, a stark 180 from the end of the Jericho campaign.

One passage in particular really strikes me in Joshua 7:6-15. Basically, Joshua's scouts at Ai have been slaughtered by the enemy as a result of sin in the Israelite camp after the fall of Jericho. Joshua is bemoaning his poor, miserable self -- LORD, you don't love me anymore! What did I ever do to you? Aaagh! I hate my life! I wish I'd never left my old house and listened to you! (stomp, stomp, stomp). (Interpretation obviously mine.) To which God says -- Whoa, whoa, whoa. Excuse me?!? Are you seriously complaining here? Let's look at your actions: you didn't follow directions, you blatantly disobeyed me, and you have the audacity to not expect consequences? You'd better step back and look at yourself a little more closely. Unless you take steps to correct this situation, you will continue to endure the consequences you earned. It's your choice. (Again, my words.)

I obviously pictured this with the drama and angst of a teenager railing against a parent that they are sure is out to get them, being completely unfair and trying to ruin their lives. And perhaps that's a bit of a stretch here, but here's how I saw myself in this Scripture:

I scratch my head and walk around shell shocked every time I think I'm doing something that surely God would want me doing, especially if it's supposed to bring glory to God, right?!? I mean, what is more humble and respectful, right? Geez, God, don't you want me to be happy or something? Haven't I suffered enough in this life?

And then God, sometimes with a clap of thunder, or sometimes through deafening silence, shows me that it doesn't matter what I thought was the right idea or course of action. What matters is what God was trying to show me through the experience or situation. If I could just let go of the steering wheel (since I'm sitting in the passenger seat to begin with) and quit making us swerve all over the road, He would get me where I need to go safe and sound and without all the drama.

I think the bottom line is this: Just because we "got it right" once before doesn't always mean we will "get it right" in the future. Let me unpack this. We may go through a significant trial in our lives, need to make a pivotal decision, or some such significant life event. Hopefully we have laid it at the feet of Jesus and left it there and waited upon the LORD for clear instruction on each step we are to take on our journey through that particular wilderness. But just because we emerge from that wilderness on the yellow brick road of trust and obedience does not necessarily mean we can expect that for the next time our path disappears into the fog or another thick forest. I don't know about you, but I am human and tend to become complacent and assume that I've got things covered because I'm a Christian and I've prayed about it. Or I simply say a quick prayer and then proceed as I wanted to in the first place. Just like Joshua got the message about how he was to wait upon the LORD and obey His exact instructions, I have to treat my journeys as if I am starting over from scratch each time. I can look to experiences of the past to encourage me along the way that trusting God is the right choice to make, but I've got to start anew each time laying the problem or issue and the feet of Jesus and touching the hem of His robe, claiming again and again and again that even the dogs are given scraps from the master's table.

And when it's all said and done, regardless of the outcome, God is worthy, worthy, worthy of adoration and praise. :)

My favorite verse from this week: "Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Do not fear or be dismayed..." -- Joshua 8:1a (just after Joshua took steps to restore the covenant, and symbolic to me that God was letting Joshua know that they were "cool" and ready to take the next step -- together.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

BTJ Week Six: Trust and Obey

Being a former elementary school teacher, the first thing I do before any reading assignment is preview any questions I'm supposed to answer after reading a text. We taught our students to do that to help them be able to identify answers more easily in the text as they read. At any rate, it just helps me to get my thinking cap on.

But in light of the last couple of weeks I've had, my ability to focus on anything has been seriously undermined. First I was in an auto accident in which, thankfully, nobody was hurt. Two weeks later the issue is still unresolved, and as seemingly simple as it should be able to resolve, there is a whole undercurrent of nasty flowing here that started the second the lady stepped out of her car to survey the damage. Two weeks later the battle rages on with no resolution, and every time I think about the whole situation it just makes me upset all over again.

So I come home from being in the auto accident to open a piece of mail that informs us that our mortgage will be going up by a huge chunk of change monthly. After hours of phone calls and what amounts to investigative work on my end of things, we are still left with a huge bill that will probably end up being our responsibility due to the negligence and oversight of someone who was involved in the process of preparing the settlement paperwork from when we closed on our house last spring. Do we have any choice in the matter? I still don't know. Add a couple more points onto my blood pressure here, too.

Yet one more stick pulled out of the Jenga tower of my life came yesterday. Mixed in with a stack of junk mail from last month was a piece of paper with a bill in it from the Veteran's Administration asking for their overpayment from when I should have stopped receiving benefits after remarrying. To the tune of over $15,000. Yes, folks, you read that number correctly, and we are talking US dollars. Payable immediately. In one lump sum. Now I may have some hope here, but my local VA office is closed for three weeks in February (no explanation as to why), and by the time help is available I will have two weeks to either cough up the dough, find a creative solution, or have the VA attack my credit.

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God." -- Psalm 69:1-3

And now I'm supposed to focus on Scripture and questions?!? Actually, yes.

I'll admit now: these big burdens on me are only the tip of the iceberg; just the select few I chose to share. Trust me -- there's more where that came from. When I finally sat down, albeit late, to do my reading of Joshua 6, these questions just really did not jump off the page at me. Yes, I knew I needed to put my nose in the Word, but that was about as far as I could emotionally go. What I believe God showed me through this passage might not have related directly to the questions, but I got a lot out of the reading. So I'd just like to share a few points of how Joshua 6 related to where I am right now.

1) Joshua 6:10 -- "To the people Joshua gave this command: 'You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you to shout, Then you shall shout.' "

What I learned: Timing here was everything. It was a matter of trust. The Israelites had a very prescriptive set of directions they had to follow, and I mean to the letter. If you know me very well, you know I am a real conversationalist. That's putting it nicely. I am a talker. I love to share ideas, have conversations with people, share my insights, seek those of others, and so on. I love to connect and relate with people. Can you imagine me, for one whole minute, having to restrain my mouth until the appointed time?!? A daunting task indeed. But what I took away from it was this: Timing for me is everything, too. Ecclesiastes 3:7b tells me that there is "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." Maybe right now I need to quit relating my tale of drama and woe, shut my mouth, and bare my heart to God and allow him to teach me through this experience. It is my time to silence my mouth and listen. God will let me know when it's time to step up and speak out; until then, I've done enough. In the case of the auto accident, this lady has been mean and nasty since Day One, and it sounds like not much has changed there. Rather than get wound up about it, I need to entrust it to God and wait for instruction. Exodus 14:14 tells me that, "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still." (NRSV) The NKJV says to "hold your peace." Now, this doesn't mean that God is taking sides, or that just because I am a Christian that everything will turn out the way I think it should, but I need to take myself out of this equation for now, be humbled by it, and wait and listen. Pretty simple.

2) Joshua 6:16b-17a, 18 -- " 'Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. As for you keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it.' "

Translated in my mind: OK, here are my EXACT instructions for you here. I have given you a victory in this circumstance, but there are some caveats to how you are to handle this. Do not step one toe over the line, because if you do, you will bring on your own consequences. You've been blessed and warned -- now go!

I may or may not experience what I believe would be successes or victories in any of these situations. But I do know that God's given me exact instructions on how to live my life, to desire that justice be done where everything is concerned, to be morally right and upstanding even if I'm at fault, and that to emerge from these trials knowing that I was obedient to that is the point of all this. It is really hard to trust in this situation, much less obey, but there really is no other way to handle any of this with a clear conscience and feel like right has really been done for all parties concerned.

Which leads me to the song I posted below. Don't know why, but TRUST and OBEY seemed to be two words that jumped out at me from Joshua 6. And wouldn't you know it? There's a great old hymn by the same name. I love this new version by Big Daddy Weave, but before I leave you now to enjoy the song, I want to share the lyrics to the third verse, which they did not include in their version of the song...

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay.
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey

Trust and obey,
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

Monday, February 7, 2011

BTJ Week Five: Snip, Snip

This is one of those days where I have a lot and nothing to say. Rather than spend a lot of time and energy leading up to the questions, I think I'd rather start there and see where this leads.

"Putting It Out There" Questions for Joshua 5:

1) Have you ever met someone that you could tell was a Christian by first impression? Do you think you are easily recognizable as a Christian? Why or why not?

2) Modern Christianity tends to value "blending in" more than standing out -- agree or disagree? Why or why not?

And here's what I have to say about that!

1) The best answer I have to give here is actually about a fellow Red Group member, Angela R. She is someone who is awash in the light and love of Christ. And I specifically mean "awash". Her eyes sparkle, her skin glows, she has a hearty laugh and a soothing voice, and to be around her makes you feel like you've spent time with Jesus' cool sister. People literally flock to be around her because of how she allows God to shine forth from within her. I know she will turn 25 shades of red when she reads this because of her humble heart, which only makes my point even stronger. Regardless of the fact that I met my friend at a Bible study for women, Angela is this way 24/7 -- at church, at home, at the commissary, or like when we used to take my kids and her dog Esther for walks. I have met countless numbers of really great people, both men and women, who were Christians of varying walks and levels of maturity in the faith, but I have never seen the light of Christ beam forth so true from another human being. And while I know I can never be another Angela, or try to do or say all of the amazing things she does, she is a great example of how to be light and salt to the world. She will always be one of my role models in the faith.

2) Wow -- when I read this question, I immediately thought DISAGREE. From what I observe in American culture today, there is a slice of our country that is voraciously outspoken about Christianity, how it is to be expressed if you really love Jesus, how it should carry over into how you vote, how you should educate your children, etc. I have never seen a time in our nation's history since it's very founding when Christianity felt so up-in-your-face.

It seems to me that people these days are all about taking a stand for Jesus or something -- how can you be a Christian if you allow your children to read, 'Harry Potter'?" "Well, we chose to homeschool our children so they can receive a Christian education." "We go to XYZ church. It's non-denominational, so anyone is welcome! You really should come! We're having a GNO/Couples Night/etc...." "We should lambast and riot over removing the words 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance and 'In God We Trust' from our money!" "I will only vote for a Christian for whatever political office." "We only listen to the Christian channel on the radio."

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying any of those statements are patently bad. I'm just saying they are anything but trying to blend in. I just think that it borders on pride and braggish behavior when these loaded statements are tossed around in public, and in some cases and places, they have become the American right-wing status quo. How many times have you heard someone committing the offense of backing this behavior with Scripture? "Oh, Jesus said that we would be persecuted just like He was !" (ref. John 15:20 and Matthew 5:10)

Let's look at one of the word studies for this week: "circumcision"; "muwl" in Hebrew or "peritemno" in Greek.

It's defined on the Blue Letter Bible website as meaning, "circumcise, destroy, cut down, cut in pieces." When I ran the search through the NKJV Bible to see where else this word was used, I saw seven other instances of "circumcise" in the Bible, three of which specifically referred to removing or circumcising the foreskin of one's heart. POW!

I, better than some folks perhaps, can respect someone who decides, "Here I stand; I can do no other!" when it comes to the trappings of pop culture and what the Joneses are doing these days. As a wise friend Shawna said, "Prevalence does not mean permission!" However, when making a lifestyle choice because you feel convicted over it becomes your judgmental battle cry, it's hard for me to see Jesus in that. I see Jesus as an humble lamb, led blameless to the slaughter. When I read about how Joshua and the Israelites physically mutilated their bodies to restore this relationship with God, I was a little blown away by it. A) You can't tell me that didn't hurt. A lot; and B) What a powerful, tangible way to be reminded of something so intangible! To circumcise one's heart is to rip and shred its very fibers until what you have left is vulnerable, unprotected by any behavioral foreskin or verbal sheathing. As I'm sure this group of sore men could tell you, being circumcised is probably an extremely humbling experience. How does an in-your-face, I'm-a-Christian-taking-my-stand attitude exhibit a circumcised heart? Well, there's a time and a place for it, but I trust the Holy Spirit to let me know when to turn that fire hose on the crowd. Until then, I pray for strength to be like Jesus -- and my friend, Angela -- humble, slow to anger, putting others first, merciful, kind.

My Favorite Verse Of The Week: "The mann ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year." -- Joshua 5:12*

*I know this verse is unrelated to my blog post; however, I loved it for its symbolism of how God continued to provide for them. God may have discontinued one form of support, but support was still there, just in a different form. It spoke to me in terms of how God has provided for me and supported me through so many times and trials and how that has evolved over time.