Saturday, February 12, 2011

Big Love

The water ran down my face and neck, making tracks in my makeup and dropping swiftly onto the carpet below.  The pastor said, "Christi Carter, I baptize you in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit."  Then he baptized my brothers with my parents at our sides.  A common element used everyday, for many necessities:  water.

The bread is passed after the pastor says, "On the night He was betrayed, He took bread, gave thanks, and when He broke it said, 'This is My body, broken for you.  Take and eat; do this in remembrance of Me.'"  Then the pastor lifts the chalice and says, "In the same way, after supper, He took the cup and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, whenever you drink of it, in remembrance of Me.'"  Everyday elements.  Bread.  Fruit of the vine.  Whenever you eat and drink of it.  Remember Me.  (I Cor. 11:23-26)

Brilliant!  We use water for many uses everyday.  We eat bread and quench our thirst everyday.  He used the most basic and normal elements that He consumed and we consume everyday to remind us each meal and in between to remember His covenant to us.  Christ didn't leave us with just teachings, and prophesies, and thoughts to remember.  He gave us tangible, normal, everyday objects, used for many things, and tells us, whenever we use them, to "do this in remembrance of Him."  His covenant unwraps itself and makes its home with us and in us and around us.  He knew we needed these reminders midweek when not in the sanctuary of Sunday morning.

In the same way, God, rich in mercy and Big Love, gave us other very tangible ways of learning His love.  Though my age was documented as 20-something, I was still preteen emotionally; needy of affirmation, needy of connection; needy of contentment and peace; needy of direction; needy of pure love.  Just before I was married, the Holy Spirit spoke to me while reading His word, during a quiet time, showing me He was going to mature me emotionally, that He was lifting me off of the stump I had been sitting on since I was 12 and walking me down the path toward Big Love.  He was going to teach me to open my fists that had been clinched, ready to protect myself from the onslaught of intimate pain, and receive His Love.  I had no idea how this would manifest, but I trusted.

When the Shepherd, my dear husband, married a teenager, emotionally, he married a girl who was untrusting, broken, quickly provoked, and a bottomless pit of graceless venom.  He patiently washed me, pursued me, caressed and comforted me, smoothed oil on my wounds, and waited for me to receive that which was all around me - Love.  The love of the Shepherd was the Big Love of God the Father all around me everyday.  That untrusting girl needed the Big Love of the Creator, filling the bottomless pit with His Grace.  God used the most common person in my everyday life, the one who shares my blankets, my food, my movies and books, my daily routine to usher His Big Love into my sagging heart.  

Fast forward five years and in walks another person of His grace into my heart, teaching me about being a child in God's house.  This little person was in constant need of nourishment physically and emotionally, constant need of attention and elements necessary for growth.  Still in constant need of correction and patience, hugs, assistance, affirmation, direction, guidance, comfort, and love, love, love.  He and his little brother desperately need their Heavenly Father's Big Love to fill their sin-stained holes.  God has not only given me to them as a means for them to experience the Father's character, but He has given them to me for me to experience the Big Love of a perfect Father as I love them with all my heart in my finite imperfection.  Matt. 7:11, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"

Our God is a God of Big Love.  His Big Love is shown in the everyday, seemingly mundane elements and imperfect, even unloving, people who grace us with their presence on a daily even momentary basis, making each moment a sacred gift of His grace.  Teaching the truths we read in His word, hear from the pulpit, sing with the throng, and taste in the sacramentsMay I slow down enough to savor the moments and see with a pure lens the Big Love that surrounds my heart with constant holiness in the daily drudgery and liturgies of life.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Being Available (A follow up to "Kingdoms Made of Sand")

Good vs. Better and Good vs. Best


Faced with so many wonderful, fun, career-growth, etc., choices in life, how do I reach for the best, when this potentially good thing is being dropped in my lap?  Having spent 35 years of my life on the career path, I have been making the same choices out of pure habit for years.  Saying NO to a stepping stone toward the next tier is still unthinkable!    How do I decline a great opportunity handed to me on a silver platter, no less?  

I thought, well, I'll take time to pray about it.  Pray about what?  Aren't the answers all around me?  It's like saying, I'm going to eat a bowl of Cheetos and pray that they'll turn into carrots on the way down.  Well, that's just lack of self-discipline--not making right choices because I want immediate gratification for my fleshly lusts without consequence.   I wanted to take time to pray to lust after it a little longer and hold it and keep turning it over and taking it in, until I couldn't part with it and HAD to have it.

However, the answers truly were all around me.  What has God been speaking to me for five years, even 10 and 30 years, preparing me for the job I'm already doing?  I'm watching small fast-moving legs walking back and forth from room to room collecting objects and listening to high-pitched voices, as they ceasingly work to build their imaginative world out of odds and ends and toy objects.  This is the job I'm doing--being available.

I counseled with my musical/homeschooling/teaching/singing soul sister who said that when her kids were young, she turned down countless opportunities simply to be available.  


To eat wooden food cut with a little wooden knife by tiny hands, to point out middle C, to listen to a new reader who wants to keep reading Psalm after Psalm after Psalm, because it's fun to read out of his new Bible.  To wipe eye-crusties, to watch a toy lion balance unnaturally on two legs, and play Uno Moo for the 40th time today.  To look into my husband's eyes and soak in the smoky blue and write to you and take a phone call from a friend.  To research curricula and encourage friends "thinking" of homeschooling.  To....etc., etc., etc.  Endless list.

I did indeed decline, Happily/Sadly, this wonderful opportunity in order that I may be available.  I prayed, hoping the answers around me would change, but God just pointed me again to the feast around me of His mercies and grace in my own messy home and all that He's given my hand to do during this season.  I can indeed fit more in.  I can indeed do the potential new career job one day a week with my eyes half closed, but I need to be available.

Thank You, Lord for showing me, again, the obvious and the great joy that is mine right now, without needing more.  

It was a Kingdom Made Of Sand
But You've Blown it all Away
I Can't Believe That I Can Say
That I'm Glad.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kingdoms Made of Sand

Once I held it in my hand, 
it was a kingdom made of sand,

but now You've blown it all away, I can't believe that I can say:

that I'm glad.

This lyric, from the old Amy Grant song "So Glad," was the first song I ever accompanied myself with for an audience.  I had no idea it would become so significant in my life.  Kingdoms made of sand....How am I like the foolish man, building his house on the sand?  

I think back to growing up going to the beach, on my knees at the water's edge, surf tickling my feet, sand inside my onepiece suit, sun edging into my exposed back, digging the mote around our castle.  Placing shells of protection around the perimeter, lest pirates pillage inside.  Only, nothing can protect my castle from the onslaught of a coming wave. A wave of destruction, gathering up the castle and returning it to sea, leaving no trace of its former existence.  A safe distance from the tide, but it only takes one.  "All Your waves and billows have rolled over me." (Psm. 42:7)

I think of Jesus' parable about the Wise and Foolish builders in regards to the foundations they built upon--Christ being the Rock and our fallen understanding being the Sand.  One was clearly wiser to build his house upon a foundation, and one clearly had never been to the beach to see what the tide does, especially in a storm, to structures with no foundation.  

However, what about the materials we use to build ON Christ our Rock?  Didn't Paul talk about our works being tested with fire?  I Cor. 3:11-13 says, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work."  So, that which I lay on top of my given foundation can be fruitless.  I have a choice.

I am at a crossroads, looking at what I am currently building, that doesn't look like much except endless chores and unresults.  Yet, with great peace I pursue these activities, with a song in my heart and lots of kisses to cheeks and bellies and sniffs of glimmering crowns of sandy brown.  As I consider an additional choice handed to me, drawn in by it's sparkly exterior and whispers of rich rewards, it fills my nights with restless images and my days with a slight gnawing.  The answer seems so simple!  Why do I keep going back to tempt myself with it's attractive shell?  Is it the lusts of my heart or God giving me a unique opportunity?

Am I a different person now at 40 and can handle an extra responsibility?  I'd like to think I don't get so caught up in a project mentally and emotionally that my affections become misplaced.  I'd like to think I'm mature enough to segment my, hay, straw, or gold and silver?  I don't know.  May God lead me into all peace, to keep digging for the gold and silver with which to build fruitfully....How does one know what is under a beautiful exterior until one takes it apart--either gold or wood?  Silver or straw?  Anyone else struggle with choices?  Good vs. better?   I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Seasons....seasons of our female existence.  There is a time for everything.

And I'm so glad, 
glad to find the reason that I'm
Happy sad, that You've blown it all away, and I'm
So glad
Though it hurts to know I'm leavin'
everything I ever thought that I would be....

Once I held it in my hand
but now You've blown it all away
I can't believe that I can say--

That I'm glad......