Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Day of Promise




When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that I would be closing down my day with such an abundance of gratitude in my heart.

I woke up earlier than I would have liked on an overcast Saturday morning. Today is the first official day of Christmas vacation. Not only do the kids and I get a break from homeschooling, but Daddy (who is a teacher) is home with us too.

I tried to burrow back into the covers, but my brain would not shut off with all the things I wanted to get done today. So, I put on a cute outfit yoga pants and a sweatshirt and enthusiastically cleaned the bathroom fired up the coffee pot, and got my day started.

Since I was up and I could see the feral hungry look in the cats' eyes (and heard the bellowing from the goats, cackles from the chickens and shenanigans from the dogs), I decided to let my family sleep and do their chores.

I walked outside and literally gasped aloud. In front of me was the most gorgeous double rainbow spanning the sky. I ran back in for my deluxe camera iPhone and started snapping photos.



I wish that the bottom two lined up for the perfect rainbow look, but you get the idea. I had a moment of taking it all in and enjoying the fact that there were no other houses or buildings in the way. The rainbow looked like it started inside a tree and ended in an orange grove. I love everything about that.

As I was taking photos, it started to sprinkle and I rejoiced in the good soaking that our thirsty land and state would be getting. I quickly finished the feeding chores and made it back inside before it started to rain harder.

Back inside, it was lovely to sit by our propane stove and read my morning Bible reading and reflect on the goodness of God.

I thought by now, 17 months after moving out here to the farm, that I would have become immune to many of the charms of our farmhouse, but today (and really...this entire month) that was just not the case.



I am reveling in the fact that I have a mantle -- a real mantle in my house! I've always wanted to have a fireplace and mantle to hang our stockings and to decorate seasonally.

A few months ago, I persuaded my hubby that it was time to take down the Gothic candelabra that graced the fireplace and change out the 80's sconces. Not only did this bring our farmhouse back into the 1900's and beyond, it gave me space to do some decorating.



As you can see, last year I didn't try too hard. (You can barely make out the two Christmas trees kissing the bottom of the dungeon candelabra.) Granted, I was still trying to recover from the Big Move and this felt as about as much as I could do.

I'm sure you see the improvement. If not, I have a lovely candelabra and 80's sconces to sell you.

I also got to admire the second year I have hung twine from our wainscoting to showcase the Christmas cards we received. I love it even more this year.




From there, Hubby ventured out from the warm cocoon of our bed and was suckered persuaded that it would be a great day to install our new-to-us appliance stands.




This is one of those frivolous purchases that are hard for me to justify. However, they were much desired to bring up the height of our washer and dryer to cover some old plumbing, and allow for an eventual counter top that I would like to place over both units that will also keep socks and random laundry from falling down the gap in the back.

Being able to get them secondhand from another fellow country dweller (who lives on our same street but 20 miles the opposite direction) for a great price helped seal the deal. An unforeseen benefit is not having to bend over so much doing the laundry. And yes, now that I am above 40, these things matter.

It also only took us an hour, which is good for us. And we were able to do it with mostly joking around and with minimal strongly suggesting helpful hints.

Our scheduled event for the day was postponed due to the weather, so at that point, I gave up on some of the cleaning and hustling to prepare I had started to do and just relaxed into the day.

And it got even better...

Later that afternoon, I decided that the cold, damp weather was a perfect chance to literally fire up our indoor wood-burning stove in our farmhouse kitchen. We have always thought it was super cool to have, but for some reason, we have never actually taken the time to try it out. So, today was the day and it was fabulous.




But before we did, I had to set the stage. The lovely brass wood holder and fireplace tool set were actually in the other room for looks by the propane stove. It was so fulfilling to go and get them and place them by the wood-burning stove.

And then...




...magic! 

There is something about actual flames that a blue-tinted propane stove can't touch.  And even better, Miss Hadley was able to use another item that I bought pre-move, a hand bellows. 




She was in heaven being able to use it for its actual purpose and I was happy she wasn't blowing it in her brother's face or up her sister's nose.

And...well, I was just happy. There were many things that I was able to use for their intended purpose instead of just decor or for wishing. And I hope it doesn't seem shallow because ultimately, they are just things.

However, they all represent the comfort and sense of peace I have as I walk through my farmhouse and get to literally touch and marvel over the still amazing fulfillment of this amazing dream.

It was a good fabulous day.

It started with a rainbow and in a way, it ended with one. A promise of the Ephesians 3:20 variety:

"God can do anything, you know -- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!"

-- 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We're All Refugees





I know you are horrified by the recent attacks in Paris.

I'm horrified too.

I know you are fearful of something similar happening in your country (and maybe not for the first time).

I have that fear too.

I know that many people are experiencing the gut-reaction of being emotionally kicked in the stomach. You want to curl into a ball and ward off the pain. You want to hold out your hands in protest to make it stop. To cease. To go back to the way things were.

I know that feeling too.

And yes, I have seen the posts and blogs and "news reports" that are angry, up-in-arms, full of national kick-butt-ary: "heck no, you can't come here and no one wants you so just go back to your own country and get what you deserve for being born into your cultural group."

In the natural, I have felt that way too.

But I'm not called to live in the natural. I'm called to live out of the nature of Christ.


And I feel this rising up in that supernatural realm of a profound compassion for the sad and sorry state of this world of ours. There is so much brokenness -- for the victims and families of this horrific attack, in the heart-muscle-memory of those of us who have experienced terrorist attacks in our own countries, and yes, even for those who are operating out of misguided theology and belief systems.

Yes, I have a sense of compassion even for them. Because I believe Jesus is full of compassion for all of us in this crazy, tangled web of sin and sorrow.

But my heart is grieved by the venom and vitrol that I see being spewed out all over social media against the refugees of Syria and other countries whose people are still fleeing persecution and for their very lives. And so much of it is coming from fellow Christians.

The petitions that are circulating to keep countries and states and neighborhood from accepting these people are a means for us to control things and to feel safe and to keep terror from invading our shores on a massive scale.

I get it.

But I don't believe in it.

Because at the heart of it all, our attempts at control fail. Sin gets in. Terror seems to be having free reign.


A signed piece of legislation and closing our borders will not change that. Because this is a spiritual issue.


Do I believe that some radicals have slipped in with some of the refugees arriving in Lesbos over the past few months?

Undoubtedly.

Do I believe that papers have been forged and plans have been made to deceive, kill and destroy?

Absolutely.

Do I believe that an entire group of persecuted people should be shoved from shorelines, tossed some provisions and sent back across the sea?

Photo Credit: United Nations

I don't.

And this is why....because we're all refugees.

For the majority of us, our "people" came from somewhere else at some point in time. For some, it's been hundreds of years, for others, only a handful of months.

The trouble comes when we feel like we have earned our place in the country we call home. That it is our divine right and we deserve to be here because...well, we are here.


The truth is that we are very, very blessed to live in countries that are virtual safe havens in comparison to the rest of the world. We haven't earned it. I'm not even sure we deserve it. But yet, here we are.

And in being here, do we then have the right to deny what we have been so richly given to someone else because we are fearful that they might be a terrorist inside the Trojan Horse of a refugee?

I was struck today by a short video that shows a reporter documenting an exchange between a father and young son about the Paris attacks.



The young boy is fearful and trying to understand how to protect against such brutality. What is the most striking is the ethnicity of these two and the fluency of the French language they are speaking. France is their home. They are obviously not native frenchman, but they are frenchmen nonetheless.

What would have happened if they would have been denied entry into France due to fear? The world would have missed out on this poignant moment and reminder that love and compassion conquers brutality and that we are all foreigners and aliens.

---

Do we honestly believe that all of those families arriving soaking wet and cold in rubber boats on rocky shores -- holding crying babies, terrorized toddlers and bleary-eyed children -- are just waiting to settle in so they can blow up the western world?

And yes...I realize it's not that simple.

But the world we live in is not a simple place.

Fighting the urge to slam the gates shut, bar the doors, and stand with weapons drawn may be our toughest fight yet.


Because it still gets in. Sin gets in. Terrorists terrorize. No safety measure, screening or naturalization process can be 100% effective. I understand that.

But what about the terror within our own borders? What about the disenfranchized teens that burst into schools and slaughter classmates? What about deranged middle-aged men who set off bombs in crowded Olympic villages? What about theology-warped preachers who brainwash their flocks, lock them into a building and pass around the poison?

It's not about country, culture, religion, the color of your skin, or even ISIS.

It's about sin -- plain and simple.

What if instead of building moats and trebuchets, we got down on our knees and asked God to intervene and build bridges through His Son?


What if we did the unnatural thing of remaining open and watchful, but asked and then expected God to supernaturally change hearts and minds of those bent on destruction?

What if we all rose up and picked up our spiritual armor and weapons and then went out into the world bringing His truth, deliverance, redemption, healing and transformative power?

Do we truly believe that a terrorist could come face to face with the Son of God and be redeemed and instead of blowing up buildings, he would begin to blow up the plans of the Enemy?

What if we launched a cleverly-devised, Holy Spirit-inspired battle campaign of our own?

What if we completely turned this thing on its proverbial head and instead of fearing invaders, we welcomed them because we know we possess the only thing that could neutralize their evil plots and plans?

What if we could be agents of Jesus Christ -- turning terrorists into testimonies?


I believe it's possible. And I believe it's the very heart of our Father God.

But is is probable?

I believe even now we as believers have a choice to make -- whether we are going to partner with fear and hopelessness and shut the doors of our hearts, homes and countries, or whether we are going to wedge the doors of our hearts open with the knowledge of the amazing grace in our own lives and the understanding of who we are in Him and the power that we can and should operate out of.

The Church needs to rise up. We have been commanded not to fear -- over and over again in the scriptures. And if the world has ever needed the recently battered, mocked, and all-too-often complacent Church, it's for a time such as this.

Because we have what our bruised, bleeding and confused world needs.

Hope.

Power.

Authority.

Miracles.

Faith.

Grace.

Confidence in a mighty God who is not blind and hears the cries of the oppressed of this world.

May we not become oppressors in our attempts to guard and protect our own way of life.


May we choose to remember the heart-breaking image of the toddler face down in the sandy shore of a broken dream of escaping to a better life, rather than the images from the carnage of recent days.

Because honestly, we are all refugees. We long to flee this crumbling, dying world for an enternal home in Heaven with no more tears and no more suffering. This world is not our home. Our homes and our countries are only a temporary camp as we wait for the eternal.

This one beautiful life is ours to either be activated agents of His grace and power, or merely security guards desperately trying to protect against invaders.

Which do you choose?


Photo credit: www.forbes.com