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Joy is an open door

April 20, 2014

Easter.  That is this day’s official name, and that’s what I grew up calling it.  Somewhere along the way it was hinted to me that it was more correct to call it Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday, and people who were really serious about the true meaning of Easter would separate themselves by calling it by the more correct name.

I really don’t care to compete over who is more serious about what they believe.  Too much serious becomes a enormous joy-sucker for me.  So whatever you call it is fine by me.  And whatever you think about the fact that I still usually call it Easter is fine by me, too.

Oh, and I eat Easter candy and dye eggs.  You might as well have all the info, just in case you want to tattle to heaven about me.

FYI…they are already very acquainted with my name there.  I’m sure my file is near the top of the stack.

I didn’t go to church today.  The Far-Away Sparkette woke up still very pregnant.  I woke up with my sinuses screaming at me for exposing them to northern pollens.  The GrandSparks woke up with energy to burn.  It actually wasn’t hard to let go of the idea of church this morning, even though it’s THE high holy day for Believers and all of Christianity. It wasn’t because of the inconvenience or because I wasn’t feeling my best, but simply because my heart was very content to celebrate with the One it was celebrating, and leave it at that.

It’s funny.  When I was younger I didn’t care to be alone in the quiet.  I’d turn on the television or music just for “background noise”.  I’d look for any opportunity to go somewhere, do something, maybe find a chatty friend to hang out with—anything so I didn’t have to be alone in the quiet.

Now I love it.

When I’m alone in the quiet, it’s easier to be aware of Him and listen for Him.  I’ve become far more tuned to His presence, and I love it when He just hangs out with me.  His company is the best.

He is the best.

And today I am reminded of not just what it cost Him to love me, but how joyfully He paid that price.  He knew even as He took His final torturous breath after a hellish and horrifying ordeal that transcends human comprehension, death could not win and the grave could not contain Him.

The tomb is empty.  Jesus isn’t in it.

And neither am I.

 

Time to shine

April 19, 2014

It’s mid-April, and it’s as if the trees are trying to out-compete one another for lovely color and form.  Everywhere I look there’s a tree modeling the 2014 spring fashions.  I must admit, they are glorious.

IMG_1067Ruffles and ribbons, flourishes that flirtatiously beckon bees to come hither, sweet fragrances that waft on the breeze.  The Illinois spring is a riot of colorful arms reaching to the sky.

IMG_1068There is nothing subtle about this riotous dance of color.  Spring in the south has its own glories:  mounds and mounds of azaleas in gaudy pinks and purples and corals and white.  It’s as if they are practicing a bit of pre-summer, reminding us that the heat is coming, and they’re the warm-up show occupying the stage for now.

But in the north, it’s as if spring arrives in defiance of the cool air and the threatened chilled rains.  Every proud waving branch seems to be a reminder that the cold was painful but the survivors stand.  Surely nothing will stop us now.

As I was driving through Alabama I began to notice flashes and splashes of brilliant white tucked into the hillside and sometimes leaning right next to the highway.  It stood out against the dark rich green of the pines, and also against the drab brown forest floor.

IMG_1044Dogwood.

Because the hillsides were mostly bare of vegetation, I could see straight into the forest floor where puffs of ethereal white held court with last autumn’s dried leave and a few fallen logs.

As I glanced around I realized that the forest was full of these beauties.  They were much shorter than the surrounding trees, but on this trip, their names were headlining the marquis.  There was a humility in their poses, however, an elegant quietness that spoke of their knowledge that for this moment they were the stars of the show, but that their season would be brief.  They would soon take a bow as the more majestic trees awakened.

It occurred to me that at any other time of the year, the dogwoods would be completely unnoticeable.  They would blend in with nothing spectacular to make them stand out, looking like any other tree, only shorter.  Forest dwarves hidden amongst giants.

I love that God gave them a season to shine.  While the other trees are still sleeping (save the redbud) dogwood trees wake up and get busy bringing light to the drab places.  It is their season.  It’s their time.  They aren’t by any means useless the rest of the year, but this is the only time you’re likely to notice them.  And notice them you will.  They are so brilliant one can’t help but rubberneck at all the glorious beauty.

I am reminded that people have seasons like that, too.  They may seem to blend in now, but don’t be surprised when they walk into their sweet spot and suddenly, you can’t take your eyes of their brilliance.  They were made to shine here in this tiny niche.  It’s how they are wired, how they reflect their creator.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

A change in scenery

April 19, 2014

The Sparky Nation may be suspecting by now that the “round earth” theory is a bunch of media-fueled toad bunk, because it seems highly probable that it is flat and that Sparky must have sailed off the edges into the cosmic abyss.

Seriously…what other reason could there possibly be that you haven’t heard from her?

Well, you can relax.  I’m alive, and the world is round.  I know this because the B52s sing that song that says “roam around the world” and we all know that you can’t really roam AROUND something unless it is round.

So, see?  Proof.

This is actually the first day I’ve felt alive since Monday.  On Monday morning I started my road trip towards southern Illinois to visit the Far-Away Sparkette and her family for the purpose of helping her bring GrandSpark 3 into the world (which we now know for sure is round).  I was six hours away from home when I felt the tiniest hints that I might not be feeling so well.  By the time I arrived at her house about 24 hours later, the personal furnace was cranked up to 102 and the Misery Factor was smacking me around.

Excellent conditions for interacting with pregnant women, toddlers, delivery rooms, and newborns.  Not.

I crawled into bed before 7pm, aching and shivering and sweating and swallowing razor blades, and didn’t emerge from that room until about 36 hours later, when I’d had enough and was desperate to find an Urgent Care facility.  I’m now on antibiotics and I feel MUCH less like roadkill, which may have something to do with the fact that I finally got a decent night’s sleep, and also that I had a lot of awesome people praying for me.

I’m here until GrandSpark 3 decides to grace the planet with his presence, and then for a little bit afterward, to help the Far-Away Sparkette get back on her feet and start figuring out how to ride herd on three feisty little boys under the age of three.

I think that’s pretty much the equivalent of trying to train three caffeine-jacked monkeys with their tails on fire to crochet doilies.

You’ll hear from me some while I’m here, but perhaps not on the daily basis to which you’ve become accustomed.  I have to help hold the yarn and the fire extinguisher, you know, and that does take some time and special ninja skilz.

So stick around, kids, because you never know what’s going to happen, and I’ll be home from my adventures a-ROUND the world before you know it.

See what I did there?

It’s only a flesh wound

April 11, 2014

I’ve got a hangnail.

I know, I know…many of you just cringed.  It’s the same cringe you get when someone mentions having a paper cut or scraping a knuckle or biting the inside of their mouth.

Teeny tiny little owies, those are.  Too bad they don’t have teeny tiny little pains to go with them.

But nope.  The nature of those sorts of owies is to annoy you with far more pain than seems reasonable for such a seemingly insignificant wound.  Not only that, but those sorts of wounds are prone to infection and re-injury.

This means you get to feel like a total whiner because you’ve got a pain you can’t stop thinking about, let alone stop accidentally bumping or re-biting.  You see folks in wheelchairs or with casts and think, man…I really have nothing to complain about.  And then you chomp down and chew off another piece of the inside of your cheek.

Well, ok…you might complain a little bit about that.  Or maybe a lot.

It seems to be our nature to judge pain by the size of the wound that produced it.  Small wound should equal small, pain, right?  A big wound justifies big pain.  But a small wound that produces big pain?  Surely someone is being overly dramatic about it.  It can’t be that bad.  After all, it’s barely visible, it’s so small.

Even the tiniest wounds can open doors for systemic infection if they don’t receive appropriate consideration and attention.

And the rules for the body are the same as the rules for the soul.

 

 

When the marathon turns uphill

April 8, 2014

It’s one of those times that before I start writing, I’ve got to get my head right.  Ever have those?  Where you know you have to find the solid ground for a moment before you go swimming out over your head?

So I’m sharing my solid ground, so you can get a firm foot too.  If you don’t usually read the bible, or don’t know much about it, what I’m about to post here is a short passage written by the Apostle Paul to the people in Philippi who believe in Jesus.  He’s encouraging himself and them at the same time.  The version I’m quoting is The Message, which is actually a paraphrase that uses modern language.  You’ll find it pretty easy to understand, I think.  I don’t read paraphrases a lot, but today I need it right where I live, and so there you have it.

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

via Philippians 3 MSG – To Know Him Personally – And that’s – Bible Gateway.

 

There.  That’s better.

So why did I need to get my head right?  Because today I’m having to dig into faith that isn’t yet sight.

Some people say that seeing is believing.  In the upside down world of the kingdom of God, believing is seeing.  I’m not talking about wishful thinking.  That’s what human-powered hope is: wishful thinking.  The best it can produce is an emotional reaction, and maybe a bit of delusional thinking.

Eh, no thanks.

I have a goal.  When I take my last earthly breath and then my first one face-to-face with Him, I want to be trailing miles and miles of people who’ve had an encounter with His goodness, mercy, and love through me.  I want sick people dancing in vitality and health.  I want broken people laughing and twirling in their wholeness.  I want found people rejoicing that they are no longer lost.  I want sisters and brothers, fellow Light Workers, beloved ragamuffins all, each with their own trail miles and miles long.

He is my prize, and those trails are my gift to Him.

Today I went to my physical therapy appointment feeling pretty apprehensive.  When asked how my knee was, I told the truth.  A week ago it was doing well with really positive signs of progress, but after a particularly aggressive therapy session (purposefully, to build up some muscles to help me go down the stairs more normally), it never really recovered well and has since deteriorated to pre-surgery stiffness and pain.  My physical therapist went right next door and talked to the PA I usually see, who was willing to work me in.   The PA whipped out his handy little numbing needle so he could then whip out his ginormous needle.  He removed 22ccs of fluid from my knee and then shot some cortisone in there.

It hurts like the dickens now, but I know from having this done last September, it will probably feel a lot better tomorrow. Cortisone is pretty amazing stuff when you need to get bossy with inflammation.

And welcome to why I need to get my head right:  I can’t even count the number of injured/painful knees I’ve laid hands on and prayed over and saw healed on the spot.  God is in the business of healing, and He lets me participate, which never ceases to amaze me or get me seriously jazzed.  And yet, here I am, limping and climbing stairs like a toddler, one thumping step at a time.  This knee has been prayed over many times by myself, friends, and ministers who operate in a powerful anointing for healing.  I’ve hoped, I’ve believed, I stepped out in faith…

…but my knee still hurts.

Let me tell you what I don’t believe.  I don’t believe that my condition is God’s will.  I don’t believe that He is withholding healing from me.  I don’t believe that He inflicted this on me, and I especially don’t believe He inflicted this one me to teach me some sort of lesson.  I don’t believe that the work of the devil is stronger than Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  I don’t believe that I haven’t seen the healing because I don’t have faith.

So why is my knee still like this?  I don’t know.

It is highly possible that in the near future I’ll once again lay hands on someone’s hurting knee and see them healed while mine still hurts.   If I that happens I will wholeheartedly rejoice with them.  I told Him long ago that I would be about His business if He would be about mine.  I have to leave it there and trust Him.  And I can’t entertain that hissing voice that says that I am disqualified for praying for the healing and wholeness of others if my own is compromised.  Shoot, I wasn’t the One who qualified me in the first place.

But sometimes I do have to remind myself that there is a goal, and I’m running with purpose.

And even if I run with a limp for a while, the prize is worth it.

 

I see, said the blind man

April 8, 2014

I was in the fourth grade when I got my first pair of glasses.  I probably needed them for a long time before that, because once I put them on, I was shocked to find out just how much of the world I’d been missing.

The neighbor’s work van had writing on it.  Big letters, actually.

There were wires stretching from one telephone pole to another.

The trees had individual leaves.  Like…all of them!

I really had no idea.  How could I?  Until I had corrected vision with which to compare my old compromised vision, how would I know?  Poor vision was my normal.  I had found ways to cope so that it wasn’t obvious to others that I couldn’t see, but eventually the demands of my life—seeing the chalkboard in school, for instance—made my predicament very apparent.

And here is the kicker:  since my normal was my normal and I had never experienced vision more clear than my normal, I would have been hard-pressed to believe that anyone else could see more clearly than I could.  Not because I was only a 4th grader, or because I was stubborn.  And not because I didn’t trust the word of those around me.

I simply had no frame of reference for it, and you telling me all about your vision wouldn’t have done a thing to change mine.  I might have found your claim interesting, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that my eyes could not focus in a way that my brain could turn into sharp, comprehensible images.  I had a hardware problem, not a software problem.

Once I got a pair of eyeglasses, that all changed.  I suddenly had an experience that shifted my normal.  I could put my glasses on and see, and take them off and see how much I couldn’t see.  My standard for clear vision got an immediate upgrade because I received some serious revelation!

It occurs to me that when we talk to people with whom we have differences of belief and opinion, we often attempt to talk them into our point of view.  We may believe that we see more clearly, that our standards are higher or more moral or ethical, and perhaps they are.  But when we’re butting up against another person’s normal, we’re asking them to see clearly without the corrective lenses of revelation and experience.

Revelation is not the same as information.

When someone expresses a belief or opinion that differs from yours, do you stop to really listen without arguing and trying to convince them of your own position?  What are they saying?  Why do they believe what they do?  What is the basis for their belief?  Don’t listen through your own lens and judge them according to what you believe they are saying or your beliefs of why they believe what they do.  Ask them.  Be respectful enough to listen to the answers…and compassionate if they suddenly discover they don’t have any.  Not every blank hole in the universe is waiting to be filled with your opinion, no matter how confident you are in the correctness of it.  God leaves room for tension and waiting and desire.

We’d do well to do the same.

 

We thought…you was…a TOAD…

April 6, 2014

Three nights ago they were a loud, high-pitched, cacophonous chorus emanating from the creek that runs behind my house.  It’s rather remarkable that something as tiny a spring peeper could make that much noise.  Then again, it’s always rather surprising just how loud any frog of any size can be.  God made ‘em noisy.

The next night, two nights ago, the amphibious choir disappeared.  It was quiet, save the occasional guttural thunk! bellowed out by an older frog.

Tonight it is silent in the creek.  No peeping, no thunking, no trilling, nothing.  I wonder where they went?

I wonder this every year, usually several times a year.  Spring peepers aren’t just for the spring in the south, I’ve noticed.

I’m glad humans mature faster than frogs.  I’m also glad we skip the weird tadpole stage.  I’m not sure how one would diaper that.

When my kids were small someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short.  I can’t begin to express how true this is.  Tonight I looked across the table at the Sparkette, the last of the Spark-lings, and thought wow…she’s so beautiful.  When did that fiery little spunk of a redhead become such a smart and lovely teenager?  A young woman, really.

Of course, in spring peeper terms she’s probably about four days old.

 

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