Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your Doorbell is Ringing!

Orange flames wobble behind ghoulish grins. 

My black ninja son has morphed into “a villain from the New Testament – you know, the ones that make the Good Samaritan necessary, Mom?” he grins mischievously, as he straps on two silver swords. 

John is heading to church with his dad. The youth group teens will work alongside the younger kids tonight, playing games and handing out candy. Four year old Daniel jumps excitedly around the living room, eager for his Awana Cubbies party to start, and tripping over his own grey warrior costume. Morgan and friends have already headed out for the evening, walking the neighborhoods together in safety. 

I flip on lights, add flames to pumpkin faces, and stock up on chocolate, eager for this chance to meet more people in our new neighborhood. Munching butterfingers, I type, play plaintive music, and wait. 

As songs flick left on my internet screen, the silence creeps higher. 

Flames flicker in the wind. Candy bars lay nestled in shiny foil. Time passes quickly for me as I read blogs, and study, but suddenly it hits me. The bell hasn’t rung once, and the chocolate sits untouched. In warmth, inside in puddles of light, I wait, with goodies to give. The door stays quiet, shut. 

Sharply, it hits me. This is like you, God. How often you say, Taste and see that the Lord is good. I have, but I want to hunger for you more and more! 

Filled with love for my God, I grab another tiny butterfinger, my cup of orange zinger tea, and my Bible. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good. He waits, in puddles of light, with food to delight the soul. He waits, and he satisfies. 

Join me, friend? Where are you reading this week? Nothing else will satisfy like Him.

Linking with the Imperfect Prose community too... 

(To join the conversations from email, simply click here.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Splashes of Joy and Strength

Sun pours in through the windows. Grainy video footage of the sixties movements march across our TV screen. My teens sprawl long-legged across the living room floor, munching lunch in history class. In the back yard outside, white rags of surrender blow from my wire raspberry fences. 

A green dinosaur scrambles up on my lap, leaning his head sleepily against me. Plush fabric dino horns brush my cheek as my four year old cuddles in. 

Throughout the afternoon, homework crises rise and fall, emails are sent, and laundry mounds high, yet the sun still pours in rich and warm.  My Bible spills open across the scratched cherry wood table, the same table my husband grew up around as a child. Stealing over in quiet moments, I grab verses here, nuggets there. 

“’I will strengthen them in the Lord and in his name they will walk,’ declares the Lord.”

Earlier in the chapter while relating stories of rescue, the writer declares: “Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.” 

The sun spills across my kitchen floor, and floods into my living room, lighting up the jade and banana palm. 

“I will strengthen them in the Lord, and in his name they will walk…” 

We can see his rescue stories written across time, with hearts that rejoice in Him. 

Linking with Shanda and Duane.

Light through the window clip art courtesy of Microsoft clip art.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sugar Cubes, Graveyards, and Secret Smiles (How to feel close in prayer?)

It was the kitchen that we snuck into to munch sugar cubes and stir up clandestine kool aid as church teens during my family’s ultra-health food phase. Surrounded by gravestones, a line of towering fir trees, and the best green apple tree you ever climbed up into with a book, the tiny blue and white country church stood beside the road for over a hundred years. In this sparkling white kitchen, six or seven of us gangly, spiked nineties-bangs-girls perched self-consciously on metal folding chairs for middle school Sunday School. Bonnie Konsor brought doughnuts or baked goods and taught us God’s word each week. 

Many of those lessons have faded away, but one thing stands vividly clear to me. Throughout the lessons, whenever Bonnie Konsor prayed, her lips turned up into mischievous smiles with the Godhead. As she took turns talking to the Creator, the smile in her voice spilled out so fiercely that I often popped open my eyes to wonder what joke I was missing. Eyes tightly shut, she grinned lovingly and listened to her God, then smiled some more and answered him back. 

I was struck with the intimacy and affection she so obviously had with her Creator, and it endeared him to me all the more. This was a God with whom one could share private jokes, exchange affectionate smiles, and laugh together in the dark. 

Now, while praying, I pause, think of his face and love for me, and grin back in silence. This God is smiling at you too. You delight him.

I love getting to know you and appreciate learning from you. What adds intimacy to your prayer life? Who has impacted your view of prayer over the years?  (If you are commenting through from email, click here.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Strong Hands & Wrestling Matches

I scrawl across torn notebook paper that I found in a camp cupboard. Five hundred teens and youth leaders race across a wooded campground, and I pause my conversations, my camp games, and my zip-lining to meet with God.

He's been calling me, and I needed to face the hard questions. Grabbing my ninth or tenth cup of coffee, I poured in creamers to make up for bulk-brewed coffee smoldering for hours over heat, and sat down at a sunny table near the fireplace.

"What's keeping you from total all-out radical obedience here, Jen?" God whispers, and I scratch across white and blue lines, daring to put into words what I have been afraid to speak aloud. In print, they are just as scary, but it helps somehow.

Three pages later, I am face to face with the Creator, and he still asks the hard questions. I answer honestly, and fold the papers up small, slipping them in my back denim pocket.

Three days later, in a tinkling Italian eatery over artichoke pizza and a salad sampler, I breathe deeply for courage and bare my soul to two close friends from college. With flaming face and staring at the table, I draw boxes with my finger on the black smudged table top, as I talk and cry.

They listen, ask gentle questions, affirm their love, pray for me, and urge me to obey the Holy Spirit's obvious promptings.

In the ancient book of Zechariah, there is a section that has grabbed my attention this weekend. Apparently, the Hebrew translation of the word "encourage" is "let your hands be strong" or "to strengthen the hands."

I love that when God talks to his people in this section, he tells them to not be afraid and to let their hands be strong. "Let your hands be strong," God says, as he asks his refugeed people to work on the temple/church there.

"Let your hands be strong and don't be afraid," he tells me today as I wrestle with obeying God in every part of my life, even the agonizing hard parts.  

I love that he tells us to encourage, or to strengthen the hands of, friends who need us. As we encourage, we help them have strong hands for the jobs set before them also.

Thankful for friends who do that to me, and for friends whom I have the honor of helping to strengthen their hands as well... I link with Ann, Duane, Shanda, and Imperfect Prose.

What are you learning this week, friend?

Photos courtesy of Microsoft Clip art

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Mediterranean Brush Off

Apricot bits pair with creamy yellow couscous pearls, tumbling off Daniel’s spoon and speckling his chin. Mediterranean food rains down on his wooden chair and the linoleum floor below. 

“As soon as you’re done, we’ll play outside,” Morgan urges.

“Mom, I done!” he asserts. 

“No, eat a few more bites,” I tell him. He bounces anxious shoulders, squirming in his chair, afraid his sister will recant the offer or leave without him. Understanding his worry, I head to his side of the table, helping him scoop a few more sweet bites into his mouth.  

“Okay, you can go now!” I swipe couscous crumbs from his face, off the table, and across my hands. Daniel races downstairs, calling his sister’s name, a streak of blue-striped pajamas. 

Last night in the youth group worship time, a young teen welcomes me excitedly. “Will you sit with me, Mrs. Dougan?” She knows she can call me Jen, but she chooses Mrs. Dougan. “Sure, Alisha*.”

We smile and whisper in the darkened room as the music starts, and then turn to sing. As I sing, her shoulders sway and bump into me at each measure. I grin quietly and step gently to the right. Singing loudly beside me, she steps closer again, swaying into my shoulder every two beats. Knowing this, I smile, wait a few minutes and subtly step right again. Brunette girl sings and follows me into the aisle. In quiet laughter, I stay there, singing, smiling, and bumping shoulders. 

Brushing shoulders in constant rhythm distracts me until it turns my attention to Jesus. 

In a crowd of bustling people, the long-haired man walked. Jostled by the usual Middle Eastern market crowds, today’s walk had an added dimension though. People were here to watch him, to see what he would do, and to ask for help. Lame men and women with oozing sores or encrusted stumps, frazzled parents with coughing children, and hollow-eyed people followed him hungrily. One woman, smelling of human waste and blood, accustomed to recoil and rejection, didn’t even try to start a conversation with him. Reaching through the crowd, she snaked her hand to his free-flowing robe.

“If I can just brush his robe, then I’ll be healed,” she thought, a victim of a life-long disease. “If I can just brush against him, life will be different. This will be taken care of. I will be well again,” she knew. 

Brushing shoulders or clothing-hems with the Godhead will transform lives, heal wounds, bring life. And she was right! Her grip started a conversation, ending with a healed body and a reconciled relationship with God. 

Grinning in a darkened worship center, my shoulders being rocked into every two beats, I suddenly see things differently. I can be Jesus here to her, my sweet teen. 

I can see Jesus in her too. And this brushing of shoulders in a crowd of people is a good way to re-see Jesus, and to worship. 

Outside now, Daniel and Morgan fly down the slide in a tumble of striped blue pajamas, red flannel jackets, and laughter. The couscous is all brushed off for now, but the Mediterranean fragrances still linger sweetly in my home, and remind me to brush shoulders with the Mediterranean Walker more often. 

Photo credit, although this was not the recipe we used, nor did ours have olives in it.