Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I was getting ready to play it the other day and couldn't get it tuned. I knew it probably needed new strings, and while I usually buy them and put them on myself, I decided to just go to the local music store and give them an opportunity to prove their customer service side.
I bought the Martin Marquis Light Gauge and asked the hippie behind the counter if I could get him to put them on for me. I pulled my guitar out of its case and he gasped. I am not making this up. He got wide-eyed and looked like he was about to wet his pants. Then he sort of gave this long moan and said, "That's a beautiful guitar you have there." I already knew that, so now that made two of us. His comment drew the other two employees over and while he replaced the strings, the other two oohed and ahhed and one of them whipped out some wood polish and began to polish and caress it while whispering sweet nothings in its ear.
They took turns playing it, commented on its deep, resonate sound, the still perfect action (that's guitar speak for how far the strings come away from the frets--less is better) the requisite scratches from a aggressive strumming, etc.
They asked if my husband would mind if I came back every now and then to visit my three new boyfriends. It was all loads of fun.
But the truth is, I am NOT a musician. I play because of sheer tenacity. I like to sing and have practiced enough that I can carry a tune while I strum along. But make no mistake. I am NOT a musician. Even after all these years, I play like a dyslexic third-grader trying to read. If I was going to guitar school I would still be in Kindergarten. Seriously.
G-C-D-Am is about the extent of my ability. I can't play a bar chord to save my life. Twice I have attempted lessons but have quit because I don't have the time to practice like I should. I was embarrassed to own such a beautiful instrument and play it so poorly.
But then I started thinking. That guitar is a perfect example of the kind of gifts God gives to His children. Be they physical, spiritual, practical or any other variety, God is extravagant in His giving and gives us more than we deserve, more than we can absorb, more than we can handle, more than we can give thanks for.
Think about it for a minute. Salvation is an extravagant gift, heaven will be an extravagant place, He has given us extravagant talents, callings, authority and pleasures in life.
And all of a sudden, instead of being embarrassed, I was delighted that the Lord God Almighty had allowed me to be the owner of something that barely tapped into all He wants to give me! I'm not talking material things here. I am thinking of all the spiritual knowledge, growth in grace, intimacy with the Father and love for the people created in His image which has been poured out on me that I have barely tapped in to but is mine in ever increasing abundance.
I began praising God as I drove home! I thanked Him for my guitar and for all He wanted to pour from His hands to me.
So now, instead of feeling guilty for owning it or proud for having it, every time I see it propped up in its place or pick it up to play it, it is a reminder of God's extravagant love. May you see it for yourself in whatever means God uses in your life!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
But in my own defense, I have been pretty busy. Got Jacob off to Nashville and Jessie off to the University of Hertfordshire just outside of London.
We flew to Dallas together last Friday and she left for her grand adventure while I flew to Asheville, NC to drive to Staunton, VA with my cousin Bob and his wife for my cousin Susie's 60th birthday bash.
It was incredible! The Christmas tree farm where she and her boyfriend Bill live is absolutely idyllic. It was like walking into a "Country Living" magazine. Everything was picture perfect with lots of family and friends gathering for barbecue and croquet.
Later we all sat under a giant tree with tiny white Christmas lights strung through it and listened to Robin and Linda Williams of "A Prairie Home Companion" fame entertain us with endless songs that make for swaying, foot tapping and smiles.
My cousin Bob joined in with his congo drum and someone else played their cello. Honestly, the only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been having my family there with me. But Jay had to work, Jacob couldn't get away and Jessie was flying over the ocean.
Aside from all that, I have been very busy with the edits to the book and trying to make sure the two audio recordings and seven coloring pages will be available on the web site by the time the book is released.
We (we being the folks in Mobile) are also in the process of completely revamping my web site to include the downloadable audios, as well as the coloring pages. They are putting in a shopping cart so folks can order the book directly from the site if they don't feel like making a trip to the book store, though they will be available there as well.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post. If any of you faithful readers would like to preorder a copy of "The Rhyme & Reason Series: Genesis" you can let me know and I will add you to the growing list.
The books will retail for $15.99 which, after tax, will come to a grand total of $17.35. Let me know how many you want and I will make sure to reserve a copy for you and get it to you as well. For those of you who are out of state, I'm not sure yet what the ship- ping will be, but I will let you know just as soon as I do, or you are welcome to order directly from the website. The address is the same one: www.catherinezoller.com.
The journey continues and every day is more exciting than the previous one! I thank each of you for your prayers and encouragement, your belief in me and in this project, and your confidence that God would indeed finish what He had begun!
I trust that you will share this series with your friends and they with theirs and together we will watch God accomplish His great purposes for His kingdom and glory!
Friday, August 28, 2009
He will be there for two years working with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) as, essentially, a missionary to a college campus. The fact that he is going to Belmont, which is a Christian university, should scream something about the state of Christ- ianity in America, but I will save that for another post.
There is a distinct melancholy that is drifting around my heart and threatening to settle there. But I won't let it. It has been so won- derful having him use our home as his "base" for the last 15 months since graduating from OU. From here he traveled the world and went on incredible adventures in between waiting tables at a local upscale restaurant.
Which is one of the things that makes this so hard. I got used to having him around again! And now I am going to have to get used to him being gone. And not just to Norman this time, but to Nashville, which the last time I checked my atlas, is not exactly next door. He won't be popping in for Sunday dinner!
I must say, I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for how short the season was where Jacob was caught up in severe legalism and wouldn't speak to me. It nearly broke my heart.
But I have always said God redeems everything, and He redeemed that very difficult six months by allowing him to live here for the past 15 while he got ready for the internship.
We have had so many wonderful conversations and arguments (in the truest sense of the word, not the angry sense) about the theology and doctrines of Scripture. It fed something in me for which I am deeply thirsty and I will miss that most of all.
We have encouraged one another as we were both needing God to provide financially for our needs. His need was for the internship and mine is to increase the book order. Seeing him receive his provision has bolstered me to stand in faith for mine.
So I am sad. But only for myself. Not for him. It is as it should be. This, after all, was the goal all along! To raise productive members of society and children who love and serve the Lord. By some mysterious miracle of God's grace, we have done that. I always said my job as a mother was to work myself out of a job. Mission accomplished.
After all, if he were 35 years old, still living at home, still waiting tables, and had three children by three different women, with me doing his laundry and paying for car repairs and who knows what else this would be an entirely different blog entry! (My dad used to say, "You can come back, but you can't breed and come back.")
So we are finished for the most part with the task God gave us. Still, make no mistake that that doesn't mean the satisfaction isn't tinged with some sadness.
It won't last long. He will call. We will e-mail. I'll write. He will come home to visit even though he will likely never live under our roof again. He will meet a woman and marry and add another to the puzzle pieces of our family, and even more pieces when he has children.
I'll be busy and distracted with the books.
So mostly I am thrilled for the call of God on his life, for his obedience to it and excitement in it. I am curious how this chapter is going to influence the next one and so on.
He will be home this Thanksgiving for his cousin's wedding and again for Christmas, I hope. We have Jay's flight benefits so I can see him when our schedules allow. I know all of that. It's not goodbye for the rest of this life like it was with Jordan.
But still. It's going to be different from now on. And the way life usually works is once I get used to that change, it will be different again!
Thankfully these melancholy spells don't last long. And always, God is good.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
At one point I was heavily into true crime. Ann Rule was my primary author of choice, though there were others. This particular jag was deeply distressful to my husband. He was sure I was trying to plan the perfect murder. His.
But the truth is, I have always been fascinated by human nature, the mind, psychology and what causes things to go wrong in the heart and psyche of some people. It is assumed the deviant, murderous, sociopathic or pathalogical minds are frightening abberations of "normal" and I have always viewed them with a terrified fascination. I have often wondered if they aren't really just the extreme consequences of living in a viloently fallen and sinful world, and if each of us, given the wrong circumstances or upbringing woudn't be capable and vulnerable of becoming what is the worst of mankind.
My interest within the interest centered on serial killers. I find them morbidly and repulsively fascinating. I love the three legs of a crime story. First, the psychological make-up and motives of the killer; secondly, the painstaking work of detectives whose passion for justice is almost always equal to their suspect's passion for murder; thirdly, the preparation of the trial lawers whose job it is to see these people brought to justice and prevent added atrocities.
In that place where the nonsense of your dreams gradually give way to the first conscious thoughts of the day I often have my most enlightening moments. I always wish I could stay there longer, but those little vacations last mere moments.
One morning not long ago I had a powerful awarness of the deep depravity and consequences of sin we can never completley divorce ourselves from. I understood on a deeper level than I ever have just how far we have fallen from God's original idea of who we should be and of how truly monsterous the crowning glory of His creation can become.
There are people who beat, rape and kill their own children. Children who murder their partent. A smorgasboard of exual deviants. On a slightly less extreme but just as spiritually lethal level there are people who lie, cheat, steal, have abortions, commit adultry, are addicted to drugs and alcohol, have anger issues or are bitter and unforgiving.
How tragically far we have fallen from the plans of the God who longs to walk with us in the garden in the cool of the day; who made the vastness of creation for our pleasure; whose vast imagination and creativity are beyond comprehension.
I started thinking about all the kooks out there and the hundreds of miles I hitchhiked as a teenager. It was the only way for me to get from one place to another and at one point, from McCloud, Oklahoma, to Monore, Louisanna, where I was picked up by a country preacher driving a brown Mavrick who shared the Gospel with me and changed my life forever.
I will never know how many times God protected me from harm. I could easily have been beaten, raped or murdered. It happens to people all the time and all the more so to runaway teenagers who the depraved prey on.
I began to worship God in that semi-conscious state and thank Him profusely for His care and proteciton when I was oblivious. It occured to me that not only did He spare my life as a teenager, He spares it every day. After all, how many people die in car accidents every day? Or lose their minds to Alzheimer's or their bodies to debilitating diseases?
I stand guilty before God of many grevious sins. I live in a fallen world. I have a sin nature. But mostly, I have consciously and deliberately made wrong choices and shot an arrow into the great heart of a righteous and holy God. Some of them have had physical, emotional or psychological consequences. All of them have had spiritual consequences.
But I serve a God whose love for me is greater than the vastness of space. The plans, promises and blessings He has planned for me outnumber the stars.
He longs to fill my mind with the same creativity He expressed at creation. And the same power that brought into being everything seen and unseen and that "holds all things together by the word of His power," sets me free.
I understood that in a way I never had before and I wept myself into wakefulness.
God's word is true. It cannot fail. "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed." God wants to-longs to- set me free from the sins that so easily beset me. He wants to take the life He has preserved and the gifts He has given me and use them to be a beakon of the light of glory in the darkness that envelopes the world.
I understood Paul's cry, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." I want my life to be lived for God's purposes and pleasure, one of which is to be my best friend. I want to anticipate heaven, not as a windowledge I hope to hang onto my by fingernails, but as my true home where I will one day be in the presence of the God who dwells there and where I will live with Him in glory unimaginable. Where everything He has trained me for here will have purpose there.
I understood in a more profound manner that when the light of Christ enters a person they are truly catapulted into another kingdom. A kingdom of life, love, hope, peace and perfect communion with the living God.
We see through a glass darkly, but one day we will see face-to-face.
My heart was overwhelmed with thanksgiving and gratitude to God for who He is, what He has done, what He longs to do and for His mercies, grace and forgiveness which are new every morning and extended to me as surely as Xerxes extended the scepter to Esther.
The same power that caused Jesus to burst forth from the grave and overcome death and Hades is at work in me and for me and through me and is setting me free! My only job is to respond to all He has already done for me. To tap into it and allow Him to completely rule and reign in every thought, action and detail of my life.
The best part is that I don't have to beg and plead and cry and "try." I just need to ask and God, who is able to do "above and beyond all I could ask or think" and He will show up and do what only He is capable of doing. Which is everything!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
He had a dramatic encounter with the Lord at the age of 31 which he expressed on a piece of parchment and sewed into his coat where it was found eight years later when he died as a young man. It read:
"Year of grace 1654, Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement. From about half past ten at night to just about half an hour after midnight, fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars. Certitude. Heartfelt joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ, God of Jesus Christ, my God and your God. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy! Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, may I never be separated from him."
Later in one of his writings, he made this observation: "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war and others avoiding it is the same desire in both. This is the motive of every action of every man. Even of those who hang themselves."
Another time he wrote: "If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in Him, while if He does exist, one will lose everything by not believing."
I never really liked math. I prefer words. But I think I would have liked Blaise Pascal.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Over the years, as each of us have faced extremely difficult circumstances and we have prayed steadfastly and been each others Aaron and Hur, the Lord has knit our souls togther.
However, it is by the "washing of the water of the Word" that our spirits are nourished--even more so than through prayer--because this is what God Himself declared would nourish us.
Prayer is one of the most powerful forces in the universe and corporate prayer is that power multiplied. But it is the Word of God that changes, teaches and instructs us.
And so for anyone who is facing any kind of difficulty I would encourage you to not only lift your concerns before the Lord in prayer, but to cling to His Word and let it revive you.
Here are four of my favorite, life-giving Scriptures when facing the difficulties and trials of life:
"Consider it all joy, my brethern, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things wich are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Chirst, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." Romans 8: 15-17
"Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain wateing the earth." Hosea 6:1-3
As faithful servants of God Most High, the King and Creator of all the universe, when we encounter the difficulties and trials of life, let us soak in His Word, bask in His goodness, trust in His gentle- ness, believe in His character, and cling to His promises like a drowning man clinging to a life perserver in the tossing sea.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Perhaps the ecologic danger is no less real, but it turns out, it depends on whom you talk to. We can't seem to get a consensus on the raging debate over whether the polar ice caps are in fact melting. Not that I've been trying to pin down those in the know. Some say yes, some say no. But quite frankly I have been too distracted with trying to raise my children to be responsible and productive members of society on every level to worry too much about it. But now that the little darlings have learned to balance their checkbooks, save their tax receipts, write a sincere thank you note, respond to an rsvp, clip coupons, read a recipe, grocery shop, do their own laundry, be courteous to insipid government workers, drive a stick shift, and apply for college scholarships I will have more time to interview polar bears.
However, the fever-pitched battle cry for "sustainability" was not waiting patiently for my schedule to lighten up. It is relentless and pervasive and bombarding us from the most unlikely places. Not only is it impossible to pick up a single magazine without it touting the "green" anthem, but just the other day I was in one of those huge box stores because there is no place else to shop anymore (a diatribe for another day) when I came across these words on the air dryer in the ladies room: "24 trees will be saved during the life of this hand dryer."
I left the ladies room but I couldn't shake the thought. It haunted me as I piled paper towels, paper plates, paper napkins and toilet paper into my shopping cart. 24 trees. How did they know that? It sounded so very convincing. After all, it didn't say "approximately 24 trees." No. It was exactly 24 trees. So then I couldn't help but wonder what kind of trees? California Redwoods or volunteer saplings that spring up between mowings? Actually, as it turns out, I have a couple of scrub oaks in my yard I'd be happy to see turned into something useful...
And then I couldn't help but wonder what would become of the hand dryer when it's life was over. Would it go directly into a landfill? Or maybe recycled into braces to improve adolescent smiles? And then what would become of the braces once they had done their job? I broke into a cold sweat as I considered all the horrible implications and the lack of satisfying answers. I can't stay on this track...I need my sleep.
So is it just me? Or are we all feeling subtly shamed into obsessing over the irreversible damage we are doing to the ecosystem if we choose to irresponsibly dry our hands on paper towels?
We are told to buy "water sense" toilets, "formaldehyde free" insulation, compact florescent light bulbs, and on and on it goes. Suddenly SUVs are as vilifying as second-hand smoke. And though I don't smoke and drive an economical car, I just can't take one more slice from the guilt pie. Like kudzu there is simply too much of it around and no way to get rid of it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for being responsible. I don't waste food. I open the dish washer before it hits the dry cycle. I never leave the lights on when I'm not in the room. I diligently recycle. But I tend to choke on anything that is rammed down my throat.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is one thing the invisible and elusive "they" aren't telling us about being green. So allow me to let you in on a little secret: It's hard work! It's tough enough to get the small number of people in my household to sort their whites and darks, rinse dishes and load the dishwasher or put their clothes on hangers and their trash in strategically located cans. But now I am supposed to gather that trash and wash it, rinse it, sort it, drive it to the recycle center or pay to have it picked up at the curb and try to convince the rest of the world to do the same. It's like having a part-time job as a volunteer.
And all this so my conscience won't come unhinged, my children's children will rise up and call me blessed, and will be able to eat mercury free salmon and discuss the bright future of the spotted owl and bask in their environmental stewardship.
Fine. But let's just be completely honest about all the extra time, money and effort this supposedly tranquil color is demanding of us, shall we? Now instead of waste, excess, irresponsibility and the American way, we are constantly bombarded by our obligation to future generations. Who built this bandwagon, anyway? My best guess it that it's probably not the profit driven folks at Huggies or Acquifina.
And just in case you are ready to wad up your "It's Easy Being Green" non-dyed, cotton fiber, reusable grocery store tote and throw it at me, let me assure you I have been environmentally conscious since before cool people used "groovy" in everyday conversation.
Our household was its own version of Mother Earth News. We gleefully collected tons of newspapers from the neighbors for my older brother's yearly Boy Scout paper drive. Around the same time my mother read about burning tightly rolled newspaper logs in the fireplace. We didn't do this out of economic necessity, so I can only assume we were ahead of our time. They didn't burn like real logs but we felt pretty smug fanning the smoldering ashes while jealoulsy smelling the chopped wood logs (gasp!) our more boorish and less conscientious neighbors burned in their fire- places.
One summer my eccentric aunt saved all our soda pop cans and patiently cut, sculpted, painted and arranged them into giant bouquets of flowers using heavy cotton gloves, metal shears and oil paints. My mother still has one on her formal dining room table that looks as good as the day my aunt ceremoniously dropped it there in a drunken stupor, so I can only imagine all those cans would still be intact if they were in a landfill rather than on my mother's table.
When I had children of my own I trained them to save and sort aluminum cans, plastic milk jugs, glass (by color) and the requisite newspapers. We diligently sent our pop tops to the Ronald Mc Donald House in St. Louis to help offset the cost of kidney dialysis. I knew I had crossed into some sort of invisible obsessive/com- pulsive behavior when I began raiding the trash cans at my children's sporting events and grabbing cans from people in the stands before they were finished with them. But all I could think about were all those poor kids whose kidneys didn't work.
Eventually I became mentally and emotionally unhinged and on the verge of needing in-patient therapy. Certainly my children were on the verge of needing it.
Fortunately those days are behind me. The pendulum has finally swung from either side back to the middle where it has rested. I can't say the same for the rest of the country. Guilt and obsession have been replaced with hard won sanity and for me, that means balance and harmony. I am still doing my part to keep this planet spinning and will continue quietly as a responsible global citizen.
But be forewarned. Even if the entire world is on the verge of ecologic collapse, I refuse to give up my Charmin habit.
Friday, August 7, 2009
- The secret to a long marriage is...staying married.
- Hand in hand with that truth is, "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."
- For those over 40 who grew up hearing, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." The truth is, love means always saying you are sorry when it needs to be said.
- Life is not "fair." It never will be. Whatever your lot, cultivate it.
- Cliches are cliches for a reason.
- Bitterness and resentment are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.
- If it ain't workin' for ya, don't keep doing it.
- There are perfect parents in this world. I used to be one. Then I had children of my own.
- The world doesn't need a definition of Christianity as much as it needs a demonstration.
- Our words may hide our thoughts, but our actions reveal them.
- The reason a dog has so many friends is because he wags his tail instead of his tongue.
- The most terrible of lies is not that which is uttered, but that which is lived.
- The secret of being a saint, is being a saint in secret.
- You are always in the wrong key when you start singing your own praises.
- There is no greater power in the universe than prayer.
- We must learn to set our course by the light of truth, not by the light of every passing ship.
- Everything that has been forwarded to you via e-mail I have already read.
- Martin Luther said, "I have held many things in my hands and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still posses."
- There is no right way to do a wrong thing.
- Deal with faults in others as gently as you deal with them in yourself.
- Don't work so hard to make a good husband that you never quite manage to make a good wife.
- A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.
- If it were easy, anybody could do it.
- It is impossible to go forward in the strength of the Lord until we have first learned the depth of our own helpless- ness. In order to mold us, He often has to melt us.
- Trouble is like an ugly dog. It looks worse coming than going.
- Anatole France said, "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but dream; not only plan, but also believe."
- Anytime you use the expression, "Like a rat on a Cheeto," you are bound to get a laugh.
- If we fear God there is nothing else to fear.
- These are the good ol' days!
- Thomas Jefferson knew of that which he spoke when he said, "Who then can so softly bind the wounds of another as he who has felt the same wounds himself."
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Piper is known for reading the biographies of great men of God and speaking about their lives in a way that impacts our own.
What follows are the highlights from that sermon that particularly struck me. Muellers comments are in quotes, the rest is taken directly from the sermon notes.
Discovery of the all-encompassing sovereignty of God became the foundation of Mueller's confidence in God to answer his prayers for money. He gave up his regular salary. He refused to ask people directly for money. He simply prayed and published his reports about the goodness of God and the answers to his prayers.
"Work with all your might, but trust not the least in your work."
He insisted that his hope was in God alone.
He had come to know and love the absolute sovereignty of God in the context of the doctrines of grace, and therefore he cherished it mainly as sovereign goodness. This gave him a way to maintain a personal peace beyond human understanding in the face of tre- mendous stress and occasional tragedy.
"The Lord never lays more on us in the way of chastisement than our state of heart makes needful; so that whilst He smites with one hand, He supports with the other."
In the face of painful circumstances he writes, "I bow, I am satis- fied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to His holy will and to glorify Him, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me."
When he was about to lose a piece of property that he wanted for the next orphan house, he said, "If the Lord were to take this piece of land from me, it would be only for the purpose of giving me a still better one; for our Heavenly Father never takes any eartly thing from His children except He means to give them something better instead."
The sovereign goodness of God served, first and foremost, as the satisfaction of the soul. And then the satisfied soul was freed to sacrifice and live a life of simplicity and risk and self-denial and love. But everything flowed from the soul that is first satisfied in the gracious, sovereign God.
Why is this "the most important thing"? Why is daily happiness in God "of supreme and paramount importance"?
Becuase it glorifies God. It shows that God is gloriously satisfying.
"Glad self-denial" is the aroma of Mueller's life.
"Self-denial is not so much an impoverishment as a postponement: we make a sacrifice of a present good for the sake of a future and greater good."
Therefore happiness in God is of "supreme importance" because it is the key to love that sacrifices and takes risks.
"Whatever be done... in the way of giving up, or self-denial, or deadness to the world, should result from the joy we have in God."
If happiness in God is "of supreme and paramount importance" because it is the spring of sacrificial love that honors God, then the crucial question becomes - how do we get it and keep it?
"This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself to us in the face of Jesus Christ. In them... we become acquainted with the character of God. Our eyes are divinely opened to see what a lovely being God is! And this good, gracious, loving, Heavenly Father is ours, our portion for time and eternity."
Knowing God is the key to being happy in God.
Therefore the most crucial means of fighting for joy in God is to immerse oneself in the Scriptures where we see God in Christ most clearly. When he was 71 years old, Mueller spoke to younger be- lievers: "Now in brotherly love and affection I would give a few hints to my younger fellow-believers as to the way in which to keep up spiritual enjoyment. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptrues be regu- larly read. These are God's appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man... Consider it, and ponder over it... Especially we should ready regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter. If we do, we remain spiritual dwarfs. I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I reagularly read through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more."
He would live another 21 years and pick up the pace so that he managed to read through the Bible at least 200 times before he died.
He never changed his strategy for satisfaction in God. When he was 76 he wrote the same thing he did when he was 60.
"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I aught to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it... What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and... not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts."
The aim of George Mueller's life was to glorify God by helping people take God at His word. To that end he saturated his soul with the Word of God. At one point he said that he reads his Bible five to ten times more than he reads any other books. His aim was to see God in Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead in order that he might maintain the happiness of his soul in God. By this deep satisfaction George Mueller was set free from the fears and lusts of the world. And in this freedom of love he chose a strategy of ministry as a style of life that put the reality and trustworthiness and beauty of God on display. (Quite interstinly to me, is why he chose to found and support orphanages. It wasn't primarily the help and care of the orphans that motivated him; rather it was looking for a means by which to allow God to work through him and bring the greatest visible glory to Himself. This is an awesome way of looking at ministry and one that, in my mind, bears much consideration. C.)
To use his own words, his life became a "visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of God."
I will let him have the closing word and plea for us to join him in the path of radical, joyful faith:
"My dear Christian reader, will you not try this way? Will you not look for yourself... the preciousness and the happiness of this way of casting all your cares and burdens and necessities upon God? This way is as open to you as it is to me... Every one is invited and commanded to trust the Lord, to trust in Him with all his heart, and to cast his burden upon Him, and to call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brethren in Christ? I long that you may do so. I desire that you may taste the sweetness of that state of heart, in which, while surrounded by the difficulties and necessities, you can yet be at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you."
I have loved music since WKY radio on the AM dial and Simon and Garfunkel introduced me to "The Sounds of Silence" as a child. I immediately went out and bought the 45 and played it until I wore out the grooves. I still have a pretty substantial album collection (even though they never get played any more I can't seem to part with them) that morphed into a cassette tape collection and now a CD collection.
But even as a kid I used to think there needed to be a way to take all my favorite songs from all my favorite albums and artists and combine them into a single album of random songs. I know they have "The best of the '60s" or "Greatest Love Songs of All Times" and that kind of thing, but I wanted a way to put my favorite songs together, not somebody elses.
And now, as a direct result of magical thinking, it is possible for everyone to do just that! You can thank me later.
A few years ago before Jacob's conscience became tender, and I was clueless, he illegally downloaded some songs and made a few CDs for me. I have played them endlessly and they were showing serious signs of wear and tear. Plus I had been making a list of other songs I wanted burned--to the tune of two note book pages filled front and back with titles and artist.
I had been asking him to put it on his list of "things to do before I leave for Nashville" to--this time legally--make some new CDs for me. Just because I thought there aught to be a way to do it in no way means I actually know how to do it myself.
So today he got out his laptop computer, gathered all my old CDs and my list of songs and is in the process of making me a new collection of all my favorite tunes.
Some of them I haven't heard for years and just a few minutes ago I was listening to the old Rod Stewart song "Leave Virginia Alone" and though it was never much of a hit for some reason, it brought back vivid memories of Jordan and me dancing to it in our kitchen.
He loved music as much as I do and it was one of many things we had in common and it contributed mightily to the tight bond between us.
I stood in my kitchen and cried as I remembered Jordan and all the music we loved and shared. But I was also crying because Jacob was served me so selflessly by doing something that means so much to me when there are a million other things I'm sure he would rather have been doing.
The memories these songs created with Jordan have created new memories with Jacob. It binds my heart to theirs in a way I can't explain, but that moves me to tears.
Either that or I'm getting ready to have one last period.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I'm sure you have all heard me refer to my children as being in "various stages of gone." And it's true and keeps getting truer!
Jordan is the most gone, of course. Gone at least from this life, from our presence, from our ability to see and hear and touch and kiss him. But alive with Chirst!
When Jessie graduated from high school and joined Jacob at OU, they were gone as well. Gone from our house, gone from our every day life, gone from our parental control, but not from our parental concern.
Now Jacob is leaving for Nashville two weeks from today and Jessie will be leaving to study abroad in England on September 20th.
I am thrilled for them, of course. Thrilled to watch them grow into young adults--after all, I always said my job as a mother was to work myself out of a job! Thrilled that they both love the Lord and follow him with all their hearts and give me absolutely no cause for concern or grief. Thrilled they are having adventures, spreading their wings, finding their place in life and society and ministry. Thrilled to think about what lies ahead for them and to watch the adventure unfold. Thrilled to have a relationship with them that is different than the one I had with them when they were children. Thrilled with all God is doing.
Having them gone and so far away will be difficult. Jay has always said, "They can live any where in the world they want to as long as it's on the same block we live on!"
I totally get that sentiment.
I wish they were mine to have and to hold and to keep forever. It was never my intention, but all I have ever done besides love God is raise kids. But at this point if it weren't for the first book in "The Rhyme and Reason Series" being ready to launch I would need to be shackeld down, locked up and have really good drugs pumped directly into my aorta.
The good news is that: GOD IS GOOD! The four of us are all starting new adventures and I will have enough going on to keep me marvelously distracted!
The better news is there is e-mail, Face Book, Twitter, cell phones, Skype, flight benefits and all kinds of modern technology to keep us all connected.
God is good! "For such a time (my time!) as this!"
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I had given my life to the Lord in a juvenile detention center in Monroe, Louisiana, a day or so after a little country preacher picked me up while I was hitchhiking to Florida and bought me a Dairy Queen hamburger which I scarfed down while he shared the gospel with me.
Pretty soon after that encounter with God my aunt and uncle came and took me to live with them which is how I got to Wilmington via Oklahoma City and the Sunbeam Home. I was never a stellar student, being more interested in getting high and shooting pool that sitting in a classroom, but I somehow managed to graduate by the skin of my dentist's daughters teeth.
At that point college was not even a consideration. The last thing I wanted was more schooling! Besides, my zeal for the Lord made me eager to follow in my friend Ellis' footsteps and head for Hammonton and missionary life.
The DTS was three months long with two to three daily sessions of lectures by various pastors, staff members, YWAM leadership and other Christian teachers. Between the staff and students, there were probably 70-75 people who lived in community on the base that first year I was there.
After the DTS came the "practical application and ministry" phase where we learned to put into practice the things we had learned in the classroom, in our "flock groups," in our private prayer times and in corporate living. To that end, we piled onto school buses and drove all the way from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to La Paz, Mexico at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula.
It wasn't total misery and "opportunities for growth." We stopped along the way we ministered in various churches and stayed in people's homes for a night or two until it was time to hit the road again armed with Spanish Bibles and the Spanish scripture choruses we had diligently learned to sing and strum on our guitars.
We set up camp and pitched tents just outside of La Paz, but seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and began various forms of ministry to the poverty stricken region.
There was a single concrete building where we held the evening worship and teaching sessions and which, along with your flash- light, was the only source of artificial light after dark.
I went for a walk by myself one night and followed a dirt path that led to a large concrete slab. I have no idea what purpose it served, but for some reason I decided to stop and have a seat and as I did, I tilted my head back and looked up into the ebony sky.
The weather was perfect and the night was as black as the velvet on sidewalk Elvis painting. Stars littered the heavens from one horizon to the other. The longer I looked the more my eyes adjusted and the more sparkling flecks of blue and white I could see.
My heart began to overflow with a deep sense of the awesome majesty of the great and mighty God of the universe, the King and Creator of all things. At that moment, my heart was so filled with a deep and fierce need to know God and to know He knew me that I jumped up, ran back to my tent, grabbed my Bible, bolted for the concrete building and with tears spilling down my cheeks, begged God to speak to me.
I was young, only 18, and I had only been a Christian about three years. I hadn't yet experienced God speaking directly to me through His word. But I was overcome by some unseen, inner compulsion for Him to do just that. I also was not very familiar with the Bible and had no idea where to start reading.
I flipped the book open and my eyes fell on this verse in Isaiah 40:26, "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing."
It is impossible to describe the profoundness of that moment. The great "I AM" the Ancient of Days, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, had just spoken to me as surely as if He were sitting right next to me in the flesh.
I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, by His incredible love for me, by His omniscience, by the beauty of His living word and with His very presence.
I went out again to be by myself and bask in the richness of it all. His presence was such a deluge that I could only absorb it. I couldn't even respond with worship and praise though I longed to be able to. But all attempts seemed so puny and shallow in the face of such great love that I simply let my heart express the inexpres- sible praises that flowed from it in wave after wave of adoration and thanksgiving and awe.
To this day that remains one of my favorite memories and one of my favorite verses in Scripture. Because it stamped on my heart an assurance of the deeply profound and intimate love God has for all of His created beings, and for me personally.
"To God be the glory, great things He has done!" For you. For me. For the world.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I can still clearly recall the sleepless night in our Sherman, Texas, apartment when I was looking at a full moon that hung like a Chineese lantern outside the bay window in our bedroom. For some reason I held my hands up in the moonlight and said, "Lord, what do you want to do with these hands?" Mind you, I was plenty busy being a wife and mother to three small children, but there was a deep restlessness in my spirit and a conviction the Lord had even more in mind for me to do.
Most of you know the story. The instant the words left my mouth the Lord spoke five words that would set the trajectory of my life. He said, simply and clearly, "I want you to write."
Now I had read enough of the Bible at this point to know that God rarely fulfills His purposes quickly! The promises to Abraham, Moses and David spring immediatley to mind as being prime examples of folks who had been given a great and specific promise and then faced years of adversity before the word spoken to them had been fulfilled.
I have no idea why I thought it would be any different with me, but I guess I did because I jumped out of bed and grabbed my legal pad and the ridiculous rapidiograph pen I used to write with and ran downstairs to wait for God to tell me exactly what it was I was supposed to write.
We're so cute when we are sincere, aren't we?
As I sat waiting for inspiraiton to strike, I thought of a couple of things I needed at the grocery store and flipped the page to jot them down. Then flipped back to the first page and waited. I did this a few more times until finally the sun began to come up. The first page was blank, but I had written a grocery list.
But I never forgot those five words.
About ten years later, which was about ten years ago, my mother-in-law invited me to Bible Study Fellowship, a large Bible study she attended. I went and stayed for eight years until I finished all the studies they had to offer. The last day of class is called "Sharing Day," and it's a time when anyone who wants to can share--in three minutes or less--what impacted them during the course of the study.
The year we stidied Genesis I was laying awake on yet another sleepless night thinking of what I wanted to say to the women. Suddenly a rhyming couplet sprang to mind and it went like this, "This is the true story of how it all began, God was talking to Himself and came up with a plan." I kept running over and over in my mind and I couldn't get it to stop so I got up, went to the kitchen, got a piece of notebook paper, wrote it down and went back to bed.
Another line came, "In six short days when He shouted the command, up popped the stars, the trees, the seas and land." Again, I got up, walked to the kitchen, wrote it down under the other lines and went back to bed.
No sooner had I laid down when, "Now don't think He's finished with all that He has done, 'cause next come the people and the fun has just begun!"
Finally, I decided I'd just go ahead and write everything that came to me so I could try and get some sleep. But this time when the sun came up, I had summarized the entire book of Genesis in rhyme! Truth be told, I was pretty nervous about reading it because I was afraid people would think I was showing off and I was certain I would go over the three minute limit!
Anyway, I sped read it with trembling hands and an amazing thing happened. As soon as I finished the entire room full of over 300 women burst into spontaneous applause! I was both shocked and delighted. Afterward, dozens of them came up to me and asked if they could have a copy. This was in the dark days before e-mail, so I took their names and addresses, typed it up, made copies and sent it to everyone who had asked.
One of the women said, "Have you ever thought of making that into a children's book?" I just laughed and said I hadn't thought of any of it until three o'clock that morning!
But it planted a seed and I began to entertain the idea. And one day while I was praying, I heard the Lord say, "Why not write them all?"
I immediatley dismissed the idea as absurd and impossible. Why, from just a strictly practical standpoint I wouldn't live long enough to do a nine month Bible study on every one of its 66 books!
Still, I opened up my Bible to the table of contents and counted the books I thought might lend themselves to that format, even though I knew it was a ridiculous idea. Psalms and Proverbs were out, so was Song of Solomon and most of the epistles. Still, I counted 25-30 that I thought I might be able to do. Maybe. Possibly. Praobaby not. At least that was my attitude before I learned that when God has an idea, He also knows the way to make it happen.
I joined another Bible study and was going to two at a time. At the end of each year, I would put the book we studied to rhyme. I have seven of them done now, and three others I started before I got discouraged by the nearly impossible task of getting published.
I joined a writer's group and a critque group. I learned what a querry letter was and a "Christian Writer's Market" and sent thirty- five querry letters along with a copy of Genesis to every publisher I thought might possibly be interested.
I learned what a rejection letter was. Thirty- five times.
The search for an artist was one lost hope after another until I finally gave up and quit looking. I told God it looked like my kids were the ones who would fulfill the dream and I let go of it and tried to think of what else I was supposed to be doing for the Kingdom.
And then suddenly, everything began to fall into place!
I found the perfect prayed for artist right down the street in Broken Arrow! He did some pencil sketches and I had him make a mock-up of the book.
It's funny, because when I showed everyone the mock-up they would get all excited and ask me if I was excited. I wasn't. Because it didn't mean anything, really.
But the Lord had spoken to me at the first of this year and told me when He began to move, I'd better put on my seat belt! He was right. And I found out it's a good thing I have a shoulder strap too, because things are busting loose!
Here are just a few of the things that are going on:
- Kerry, my publicist with Evergreen Press has a commitment from American Family Radio to interview me and is in the process of getting several other radio and television interviews arranged and set up.
- The Daily Oklahoman and The Tulsa World both want to do a feature article right when the books come out in mid-October.
- Last week I met with the pastor of the church I have been attending since the beginning of the year. The church is completly revamping their children's program and he wants to show Genesis and Matthew to the pastors over that department and see if they want to use the books in their curriculum.
- My good friend Paula Carter and her husband serve on a board with James Dobson and she is going to send him copies of both books!
- She is also hosting a dinner for me and inviting folks who give generously to The Scott Carter Foundation to see if any of them would be interested in contributing to "Rhyme and Reason Ministries International" and help to "get these books in people's hands, so people's hands will pick up the Book."
- I completed an interview with Shirley Mears of "The Gospel Stations Network" which she broke into four 3-minute segments that are slated to air the third week in August. (If you are interested in listening to them, go to: www.thegospelstation.com and click on the Ministry Interview tab.)
- There will be a downloadable read-aloud version of the book available on my website for a small fee and we are going to the studio to record in August. The woman who is doing it is fabulous and the background music she chose is the perfect touch!
- My other publicist, Cyndy, is busy trying to promote both my speaking schedule and the books.
I hope all of you reading this can draw courage and strength for whatever you have been waiting and hoping and praying for the Lord to do in you, for you and through you.
Just remember, He's never in a hurry, but He always comes through!
Friday, July 24, 2009
This is the same group of retirees my father-in-law gathers with every morning (and I do mean every morning) to cuss and discuss current events, relive past memories, give each other a hard time and, I suppose, on a deeper level, satisfy the deep and basic need every human being has for fellowship.
Jay's father told him that over half the people who attended this man's funeral were from the donut shop and mentioned that he was buried in his Daylight Donuts Shop ballcap. My father-in-law thought that was "nice." Jay found it sad. I thought was it darn near tragic.
Moments after I read that e-mail I opened up the morning paper and read of another death, that of Juanita Hardgrave at the age of 89, "who was honored as an Oklahoma Community Senior Citizen of the year in 2006 by Govenor Henry for her work with people in crisis."
Now let me make it perfectly clear that I never met either of these two people and don't know anything more about them than the facts just stated.
However, as I let my imagination speculate about these two very different individuals who lived almost the same number of years, I couldn't help but wonder how one had died with accolades and the other with a donut shop ball cap.
Regardless, it reinforced my detmination to beseech God to let my life count, and not for just anything, but to count for the Kingdom of God.
I was reminded of a semon by John Piper that Jacob had his father and me listen to where he rails against the tragedy and the mis- taken American notion of "retirement." As I recall, he actually says something about how God did not intend for us to spend our gold- en years playing golf and looking for shells on a beach.
Nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, of couse, but they are not to become our next vocation after we've retired from our first.
We are called to serve God and our fellow man until the day we draw our last breath. I'm sure we have all heard it said that the word "retirement" is not found anywhere in the Bible, regardless of the translation.
That should give us pause. Or at least have us ask what's found in the Bible regarding what God tells us we should be doing in our golden years.
My Bible says, "Go and make disciples of all nations." (Mt. 28:19) There is not a single footnote, cross reference or qualifying verse that says, "Until you are between the ages of 62 and 65, or unless you opt for My early retirement package."
My Bible says, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest." (Jn. 4:35) And then laments "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." (Mt. 9:37)
Here's a random thought: What if all the able bodied Christians who have retired from the daily grind decided to make the Kingdom of God their focus rather than their leisure activities? What if they laid aside their golf clubs and knitting needles for a sickle?
And what if all those who weren't as able bodied, even the bedrid- den, understood what a powerful, eternal, Kingdom thing it would be to pray for those who were going and doing?
Can anyone but God calculate the impact on His Kingdom?
Just like all of you, no doubt, I long to hear my Lord and Savior say to me, "Well done good and faithful servant!"
Because I doubt very seriously anyone will hear Him say, "Hey! Nice shell collection!"
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The weather has been so unbelievably cool for July, especially in the mornings that I have been having my prayer times outside. Naturally I take the dogs with me. This means I have to walk around and pray in order to keep track of them at all times and see where they are breaching the wall, so to speak. It is a huge distraction to my prayers and I feel like I have to keep putting God on hold while I make sure I know where they are.
Here's what boggles the mind. They are obsessed with getting out! Hobbes particularly runs the entire perimeter of the yard looking, poking, pawing, trying to climb over or push his way under whatever is blocking his exit. At one point he almost climbed over the chicken wire we have stretched over the iron fence so I had to go get some of those plastic thingys that you thread through an eye and ratchet closed.
I immediately thought of the talk I give where I recount what the Lord says in the book of Proverbs about the state of the human heart. It is described in various verses as being, "wicked, cunning, perverse, deceitful, evil, unwashed, disloyal, straying, stubborn, dull, foolish, proud, crooked, raging, envious, destructive, heavy, hard and as a heart of madness."
Yikes! These are the words the King of all Creation uses to describe the crowning glory of His creation. If a medical doctor used similar terms to describe our physical hearts, it would, no doubt, be during an autopsy!
Now I don't want to take the dog analogy too far, because I know they aren't moral beings, and our dogs in particular aren't all that bright. (I figure you can't expect too much from anything with the brain the size of a walnut.) But still, it shocks me that they are so determined to leave the suitable confines of safety to venture into places of unknown dangers that could easily end in their painful and untimely demise.
So I was thinking about that this morning, but remember, I was praying too and I have been praying a lot about the additional provision I need to place a larger book order. And I started wondering where the devil began to create the idea in people's minds that instead of being our gracious heavenly Father who wants to meet every need, God is some angry old man with a club in one hand and a rule book in the other.
So I started thinking about who God says He is. He is a Spirit (John 4:24); who dwells in unapproachable light (1Tim. 6:16); who alone possesses immortality (same verse); whose throne is a chariot ablaze with flames, it's wheels burning fire (Dan.7:9) and around which proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder (Rev. 4:5); who has named all the stars (Isa. 40:26) yet sees every sparrow who falls (Matt. 10:29); who IS love (1 Jn. 4:8).
I thought about the angels who, right at this very moment, are declaring the holiness of God (Isa 6:3, Rev. 4:8). About how they never take a smoke break or ask for a vacation or sigh and look at their watches wondering when they can go home for the night. No! They have spent eons singing God's praise and they delight in the privilege of continually declaring His uniqueness and unending goodness! It's inconceivable!
That made me start thinking about how He redeemed us when He could have, and should have, annihilated us, and the many times He implores us over and over to trust Him, to believe Him, to rely on Him, to ask Him for all that we need.
I realized afresh how much He longs to prove Himself faithful, to pour out His love and power and provision and deliverance if we would simply look to Him and ask Him for it.
And then I laughed out loud at how stupid and ridiculous unbelief is! The evil one has blinded us to the truth!
God, our God, the great and mighty God of the universe who radiates shekinah glory, longs for us to ask Him for what we need.
Salvation? Done. Forgiveness? Sure. Provision? Coming. Protection? There. Understanding? No problem. Revelation? Listen. Wisdom? Ask. Emotional healing? Of course. Deliverance? Lay hands. Comfort? In abundance.
What does He say? "Ask and it shall be given to you." (Matt. 7:7, Jn. 14:13-14, Jn. 15:7 and 16).
I know, I hear you and I see you wagging your finger saying, "But remember, we have to ask according to His will..."
Right. I know that. Which of those things listed above are not His will?
God is taking me to new places of faith and trust in Him and it is an exciting journey. But I want you to join me because it is always more fun to go places with friends!
So let's change our thinking and begin to believe God for all the good things He longs to give to us, His precious children!
What are you waiting for? ASK!!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
All of you want to know what happened and have begged me to tell you the rest of the story. Well, beg no more. But the truth is, when that posted, I didn't yet know the rest of the story.
The dogs had been missing since 9:00 that morning. Jay and I had both driven around looking for them. Jay canvassed the neighbor- hood on foot, talking to many of our neighbors, including one old fart with whiskey on his breath who said, "Yeah, I see the little shits all the time. They are always getting out and getting into my yard. I went up to your house a couple of weeks ago and took my dog so your wife wouldn't think I was a pervert and told her they were getting out."
I remembered that encounter with the pervert and thought I'd found where they were escaping and secured the yard.
When it started getting dark and there was still no sign of them we drove around again. There was no sign of them anywhere and I told Jay to take me home. It was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Both of us were pretty frantic by this point.
We got ready for bed and Jay decided to look on Craigslist under the lost and found section. Sure enough, some woman had a post up saying she had seen two dogs of Callie and Hobbes' description on I-44! She and another woman had stopped to try and get them off the road. They got Hobbes, but they couldn't get Callie. No surprise there since the only person she will come to is me, and only then if I am sitting or laying down. Earlier in the day Jay kept saying he just knew they had gone into someones home, but I knew there was no way, since Callie won't even come into our home if she can see you near the door.
Jay called the woman and she told him the whole story about seeing them and stopping and trying to get them off the road. She said she'd taken Hobbes to the pound. So at least we knew he was safe, but this bit of news made me even more worried about Callie. I was sure she would be lost and frightened without Hobbes, wasn't sure she could find her way home, and was afraid she'd end up a slick spot on the highway.
I left the back door open a crack "just in case" and went to bed and cried and prayed for the Lord to keep her safe and help her find her way home.
It's just amazing to me how attached we humans get to our little pets. And I knew Hobbes would be heartbroken if he lost his little wife and the thought of that made me cry even harder. There was no way we could explain things to him!
Then, unbelievably, about 3:00 in the morning, Callie jumped into the bed with me! I couldn't believe it! I grabbed her and hugged her so hard she yipped and woke Jay up to tell him she was home, her feet wet, but none the worse for the ordeal. He couldn't believe it! "Oh, Praise God!" was all he could say.
The pound opened at noon and we left in time to be there when they unlocked the place. We took pictures of Hobbes, his outdated shot record and his collar. The drone at the front desk told us to sign in then go on "the dog side" and see if we could find him. I was shocked at how many pens there were. We separated and went up and down all the isles looking for Hobbes and calling his name. I finally spotted him and called to Jay.
Needless to say, Hobbes was beside himself and was yipping and jumping, wedging his nose through the fence and trying to stick his head through the space under the gate.
Jay told me to stay with the dog and he'd go pay his bail. It took forever, but he finally came back and asked for the checkbook.
I noticed that Hobbes' pen didn't have a padlock on it like the rest of them, so I lifted the latch and reached in and grabbed him then stood by the pen and waited for Jay.
A bit later one of the workers came by, looked at me, looked at Hobbes, looked at the gate tag, looked at the paperwork in his hand and said, "How did you get that dog out?" I explained that it didn't have a lock on it and I got him out so I could hold him. "That dog belongs to somebody," he blurted. "I know," I said, "He belongs to me!" I explained that it was my husband who was up at the front trying to do whatever needed to be done.
Finally, one rabies shot later, we were headed home.
"How much did it cost?" I asked.
"You aren't going to believe this! I got ready to write the check and the guy said, $275!"
Of course, twenty-seven years of marriage has convinced me there is NO WAY Jay would pay that kind of money to spring Hobbes. Heck, he probably wouldn't spend that kind of money to spring me!
I nearly drove off the road. "What on earth for?" I shouted.
"$150 fine for not having him neutered, $75 fine for being loose and $50 for a rabies shot. I tried to reason with the guy but he kept saying his hands were tied. I finally said, 'He's not neutered because we are trying to breed him.'"
Barney Fife didn't skip a beat. "There's no provision for that in the city."
Poor Jay! He was getting really exasperated yet trying to be respectful. Then, a revelation. He yelped, "He's sterile!"
Barney: "Can you prove it?"
"Look," Jay said, smiling through clenched teeth, no doubt. "We bought a female who we know can get pregnant because she'd had a litter before we bought her. She's been through four heat cycles and despite Hobbes' best efforts, he hasn't been able to impregnate her." (And we can all thank God in heaven for that, this blogger adds.)
Barney said he'd have to talk to his supervisor. He took three steps and peeked into a doorway. Out comes the supervisor and Jay repeats his sad tale of woe.
The guy says, "They're really cracking down on us. For all I know you work for the Mayor's office." Jay managed to stay in his skin and says, "Oh my gosh! You're kidding me! I work for American Airlines! I can prove it."
So, thinking he had the trump card, Jay said, "Fine, I'll just wait three days and come back and adopt him."
"Probably not," Barney chimed in, "You'd be second on the list."
(Okay, stop right here for a minute. Who could have possibly decided they wanted to "adopt" him between Friday evening and us getting there when the door opened on Saturday? Hmmm? Sound a little fishy to you too?)
Then, right before Jay reached his tipping point, he said, "Look, all I knew was that my dogs were playing in our yard, we couldn't find them and I checked Craigslist and some woman had posted that she'd found our dog and brought him to the pound."
This seemed to change everything. "We didn't pick him up?" the supervisor asked?
"No, some woman brought him in."
At that point, compassion raised its lovely head, the guy tore up the paperwork and redid it, only charging us the outrageous sum of $50 for the rabies shot, though by that time it looked to be a bargain.
On the way home Jay said, "It will be interesting to see what kind of impression this had on him." I can tell you exactly what kind of an impression it had on him.
The minute we put him in the yard he made a bee-line for the spot where he'd been getting out and tried to nudge the chicken wire up so he could slip out again. We looked at each other and shook our heads. Then we secured the fence.
It made me think again of what I'd said in the previous blog. We have a nice, safe yard, full of all kinds of bushes and tress--just right for peeing on; all kinds of rabbits and squirrels and birds to chase; even the occasional turtle or possum to bark at; a mailman and UPS guy they alert us about; fresh water; all the dog food they need; the occasional treat, etc. and all Hobbes does is whine and skulk around like a P.O.W.
I want to explain to him the dangers of 31st street one block to our north and of I-44 and the logical outcome of a collision between a one ton steel car and a six pound dog.
I want him to understand how much we love him and how heartbroken we would be if anything happened to him.
I want to tell him he owes us $50, and he's darn lucky he doesn't owe us $275, not to mention all new carpets and a more than a few pairs of shoes and jeans and underwear, but that I knew there was no way he could pay us so we'd will gladly let him off the hook. I want to beg him to just stay in our nice, safe yard where we can meet all of his needs and we can laugh at his antics and enjoy watching him and Callie run and play and tussle together.
And, of course, all I can think about is all the times I've left God's yard of protection and provision and wandered into unknown dangers. Of all the times He's rescued me from my own rebellion and stupidity. Of all that I owe Him that I will never be able to repay. Of all the times I've resisted His kindness, rejected His help, ignored His voice and His pleas to obey.
But I'll tell you one thing. I GET IT NOW in a way I didn't fully appreciate before. And it breaks my heart and floods me with overwhelming gratitude to our great and compassionate God all at the same time.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
I have a serious love/hate relationship with our two Chihuahuas.
We bought Hobbes for Jessie as a Christmas present the year Jordan died and Jacob went off to college. She needed the company of something living and breathing, but I didn’t want to do it.
Before you jump to the conclusion that I am simply hard-hearted, you have to know that we had pretty much worked our way through an entire menagerie: fish, gerbils, hamsters, hedgehogs, rabbits, miniature pinchers, bull dogs, alley cats and Bengal cats.
I was done with a capital D. Or so I thought.
Jessie had her heart set on a tea-cup Chihuahua. I wasn’t about to give in. No way. But every time I prayed about what to get her for Christmas the Lord would say, “Get her the dog.”
Of course I soundly and loudly rebuked the devil nine times over and had a foot-stompin’ fit every time the thought entered my mind.
Why, it was ridiculous! Not only would she be leaving for college the next year, but I was DONE with animals, remember? I was not about to have her dog responsibilities become my dog responsibilities!
Still, every single time I prayed about what to do for Jessie for that awful Christmas the Lord would say, “Get her the dog.”
I finally gave in and shouted, “Fine! I’ll get her the damn dog!”
And so the search began. She wanted a fawn colored dog, but the minute we walked into the vet’s office in Chandler, Oklahoma, and I saw his teeny little one pound white self with black ears and two “wing” shaped spots on his upper back, I knew he was ours.
We left him with the vet until the day before Christmas, drove to Chandler to pick him up and I slept (or didn’t sleep) with his tiny, shivering body tucked in beside me in the bed. We put him in a box with the lid folded over, stuck a bow on top and walked down the hall to the living room so Jessie could “open” her present.
She squealed with delight, of course, and for a fleeting moment I felt like we had done the good and noble and right thing.
Then he refused to be house broken.
He ruined every carpet in the house.
And he chewed his way through countless pairs of jeans and underwear and shoes and…well…other things…
I hated him! But then he’d jump in my lap, wag his skinny tail, and look up at me like no human being ever has and I’d turn to pulp.
We bought Callie right before I left to spend a month in Thailand.
I knew enough about dogs to know they are pack animals and I didn’t want to leave Hobbes all day, every day, for a month and have to come home and put him on Prosac.
So the second great dog search began.
Of course if Jay was going to lay out any kind of money, he wanted to see a return on it, so we were looking for a female with the intent of providing the world with more Chihuahuas. You can thank me later.
Jay saw an ad a few days before I was scheduled to leave and we drove out to the doggie farm. They had two females, one black and white like Hobbes, who promptly started hissing at him like a menopausal cat, and a tiny fawn colored one who was scared to death of her own shadow.
“That’s just her ‘submissive’ posture” the woman who took our money told us.
It sounded reasonable. And besides, what the heck did we know about dog’s temperaments?
So we bought the darn thing at a discount and learned why she was such a bargain later. Her “submissive” posture is her constant posture.
She won’t come to anyone except me and only then when I am sitting or laying down. Three years later, she’s still the most skittish dog you have ever seen in your life. But you know what? I lover her! And so does Hobbes!
They romp and chase and play together so beautifully it makes me laugh out loud! They groom each other, sleep curled up together and look over one another like they are playing out Song of Solomon. It’s the sweetest thing I have ever seen!
When Callie can’t be found, Hobbes whines around the house like a rejected lover. It’s pitiful and I feel obligated to stop everything I am doing, find where she might be and relieve his distress.
So….imagine my distress when they both went missing for most of the day during the hottest part of the day!
It’s 104 degrees in the shade around here and they are wearing fur coats.
I jumped in my car and drove slowly around the neighborhood so many times I’m positive everyone thought I was casing their houses.
There was absolutely no sign anywhere of the little darlings and I started to get really upset (even while realizing I could take down all the kiddie-gates I had put up to keep them from peeing in various rooms in the house).
I knew they didn’t understand about 31st street and how busy it is or about cars. And they had no understanding of leash laws or the dog catcher, and I knew they would be terrified if they were picked up and taken to the pound and I wouldn’t be there to pat and comfort them and bring them home.
I worried that they wouldn’t be able to find their way back to the house and that they were probably hot and tired and thirsty and miserable and there was nothing I could do about it as long as they were away from me.
And then I realized just how much it paralleled our situation with God.
He has given us a lovely “fenced yard” to play in with everything in it that we need and has promised to meet every need we have. But there are parameters we are asked to comply with for our own good. There are things about our design we might not have complete understanding about so we need to simply take God’s word about how He tells us to live and operate. And there are forces in the universe that are too strong for us to withstand if we get hit by them, that God wants to protect us from.
But in our ignorance and rebellion and foolishness, we wander outside those boundaries and no matter how much power and provision and protection is available to us from our heavenly Father within them, we will not be able to partake of any of it if we aren’t where we should be.
Fortunately God is more than a pet owner and He can find and heal and restore us so that we are able to see the benefits of the yard and learn that it’s better not to wander off. He instructs us and reminds us that being next to Him and depending on Him is the greatest, safest place we can be.
Now if I could just get Hobbes and Callie to understand the same thing about us!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
"A New Hampshire man says he swiped his debit card at a gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes and was charged over 23 quadrillion dollars. (If ever there was motivation to "kick the habit" this would have to be it.)
Joseph Muszynski said he checked his account on-line a few hours later (good thing) and saw the 17 digit number--$23,148,855,308,184,500--twenty three quadrillion, one hundred forty-eight trillion, eight hundred fifty-five billion, three hundred eight million, one hundred eighty four thousand, five hundred dollars. (How is this even possible? The federal government hasn't even figured out how to do that yet!)
Muszynski says he spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to sort out the string of numbers (but here's the best part) and the $15 overdraft fee. (!!) The bank corrected the error."
There. I said it.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can sell every single copy between the mid-October release date and Christmas.
Still, twenty thousand dollars seems like a lot of money. Probably because it is a lot of money.
So in my prayer time this morning I was sitting outside in the cool morning air, courtesy of a thunderstorm last night and having a conversation with the Lord about it. Reminding Him, as if I were negotiating with Him, that this whole thing was His idea to begin with, that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and if our son asked us for bread would we give him a stone and how much greater does He love us, and all that faith-building gyrations I periodically put myself through thinking it will help when my faith needs a little boost.
Then an interesting thing happened. I quit blabbering and casually looked around. I heard the Lord ask me how many different varieties of trees and plants and flowers I thought there might be in just my yard. I counted well over fifty before I quit.
I heard a bird in a tree near me, saw a squirrel on the telephone line above me and watched a rabbit dart along the back fence and laughed as our two little chihuhuas gave futile chase and I heard the Lord ask me how many varietis of animals I though there might be on the planet.
That made me think of the first time we ever went snorkeling in Hawaii and when I put my face into the water, an entirely different and glorious world appeared before my startled eyes and I saw all kinds of vibrantly colored fish and coral and I heard the Lord ask me how many different kinds of sea life I thought there might be in all the oceans of the world.
I looked up and saw the dim outline of the moon in the morning sky and I remembered Psalm 147:7 and Isaiah 40:26 where God declares that He has named all the stars and I heard Him ask me if I could even fathom the number of stars in the galaxies and beyond.
I felt an itch on my arm and looked down to brush a bug off and then back up at the moon and I heard the Lord ask me how long I thought it took him to design an eye that could focus clearly and instantly on a bug close up and a moon thousands of miles away then to the raindrops on the leaves that were rustling in the breeze just above my head.
I was reminded of the astonishing photography one man took of snow flakes and I couldn't get over the infinite design, order and beauty of each and every one and it made me marvel that the Lord makes zillions of snow flakes in every snow fall and that no two are alike and then they are gone forever when the sun melts them away.
I remembered reading somewhere that there are over a thousand varieties just in the lily family and I heard the Lord ask me if I had any idea how many varieties of flowers He had made and how He had picked the colors they would come in.
And suddenly, I just knew. I knew the money would come. I didn't have to "manufacture" faith, the Lord just filled me with divine assurance as I reflected on the extravagance and beauty of His creation and basked in His presence and I understood all over again the truth of Hebrews 11:1. "Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen." And it made me laugh out loud at the silliness of ever fretting or being anxious about anything!