Family, Grace, Hope, Joy, Uncategorized

Why We Need to Grab at What is Good!

Genesis lay open. Thin, delicate pages spread gently across my desk. The fruit of goodness cannot be studied without studying the very things that God calls ‘good’. I sit back and force my mind to stop it’s global spinning. This is not complicated. As I read through chapter 1, I see how simple it really is. God made it. And He saw that it was good.

My family and I recently got back from a vacation to Alaska. A ‘bucket list’ achievement we really never trusted would be possible. But after a heartbreaking loss of a loved one last Thanksgiving, my husband and I sat our weary souls into the living room furniture after the kids were in bed and decided we needed to try. Maybe we could make this happen? Maybe if we looked outside the box and prayed for a place for our family to recover a bit, we could make a dream vacation possible? It took months of working, planning, and saving, but we did it. We pulled the oldest kids out of school two and a half days before the end of the year, and we raced away, headed northwest.

Alaska did not disappoint. Every photograph, painting, and book I had read about Alaska came to life! The almost 3 hour drive from Anchorage down to a friends place was filled to bursting with scenes of genuine beauty. The mountains peaked in snow. Water glistened both gray and turquoise. Pines, Hemlocks, Spruce, and Birch trees grew from jagged rock. Wildlife everywhere we looked throughout our whole trip. Eagles, arctic terns, the Blue Goose, Horned Puffins, more birds of the air than I could identify. Moose, caribou, a chilled out black bear munching on spring grass, and one porcupine shimmying up a tree. From the sway of a boat we saw Orca’s, a Humpback Whale and a couple of Finn Whales. Fur seals and a couple sea otter got added to our list and my husband caught one big ol’ Halibut that nearly yanked the fishing vessel into a spin. The kids collected countless rocks across the oceans endless edges and the salty wind filled our senses with all that God created, saw, and called good.

Genesis was the beginning of all that we saw in Alaska, and although nothing is perfect, the way it was originally intended to be, there is still so much goodness in what surrounds us every day. Standing back, staring up, nature seems perfect in color, shape, and form. But there’s more. Always more. In Genesis 1:26 it says, “Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all the life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”

Here’s where that goodness goes wild because maybe we were chosen to be “masters” because we were Trinity’s masterpiece at the end of the week? Made in THIER image. Friend, YOU are the good that God gazes on. St. Augustine wrote; “You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you.”

God planted the fruits of the Spirit in you so that you could grow and, like the trees growing seed-bearing fruit, produce the kind of good people from which you came. And, don’t miss it, you.came.from.GOD! Because He also is the same God who says in chapter 2 that it is NOT good that man should be alone. God, in His infinite wisdom, had the ability to look at and see and know what was not good. If you were anything else but good, He would not have considered you in His formative masterpiece. But you are an original, and you are a gift, new life from Him! Rise up to that!

I hear your doubting voice. You with the regretful past, with the unbelieving up-bringing, with your inability to commit. Commit to this, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV). You see, God not only created you, He saw you. He. Sees. You. And Genesis also tells us that He blessed them and told them to multiply, and they multiplied into YOU‼ Beautiful, irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, in all your goodness…..YOU!

Alaska was amazing! Some of my heart still lies there. Nature surrounds and I could see how God did not hold back. His creative abilities to design, form, and shape what He loves drew a broader perspective for me, and that’s when I saw too. Saw that I was part of that first beginning. I was made as a good and perfect gift, multiplied down from Eve.

Have courage, friend. Paul finishes out 1 Thessalonians with a few words of advice, and he makes six words accordion out into a heart stopping command. “Hold on to what is good.” And I know, I’ve been there, barely holding on. But the good he’s talking about is you, because the Hebrew word is kalos, and it means beautiful, excellent, precious! God does nothing except what is good, right, and true. Excellence is the only standard that exists in His infinite galaxy, and YOU are formed there. What you have to hold on to is that you are created, you are loved, and you are redeemed, and your savior is God’s good son, Jesus Christ! Write that down!

“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way.” (Genesis 1:31a)

In pure goodness,

~kathy b

Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo) “The Confessions”. Clark, 1876.

Joy, Uncategorized

The Fruit of Joy

It was just he and I in the elevator. He must have been more than twice my age. A navy blue hat rested atop his head with the words, “Korean War Veteran” stitched in gold across his brow. He was going up and I was going down and I’m not sure which of us got on the wrong elevator, but it only took me a second, when his voice carpeted the metal space around us, that I knew it didn’t matter, because what he said next would have velcroed me to the spot anyway. He told me, in as few words as could fit into a 2 floor ascent, that his wife of over 60 years was here in the hospital because her heart had stopped. Twice. But how she was doing good. How she was too spunky to go down for long. And then he reached into his pocket at the same time the elevator jolted to a stop and pulled out something small. The doors hummed their slow open yawn and he reached across our safe stranger space and pressed the thing in my hand and as his foot propelled his small, age-framed shape forward, he said, “God is taking care of us.”

At that moment, I did not have enough breath in me to respond. Later, I think I remember nodding? Maybe I gave him a half smile in agreement? I chastised myself for not at least thanking him for his service. And yet, when the second hand of life’s moments ticked three or four more times while that elevator closed and my shoulder bones hiccuped upward because of the downward pull, I opened my gifted hand. There, pressed in, was a black leather keychain with the words, “Jesus Cares” 1 Peter 5:6,7. A yellow cross painted in the middle.

“He touched me,

Oh, He touched me,

And oh the joy that floods my soul.

Something happened and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.”

I was flooded. They were the Gaither’s words, but it was the Lord’s joy that flooded me then as I shimmied my own diseased body up onto the radiation table. Was he just a stranger, or was there something more holy going on than I knew about right then? I don’t know the answer to that, but here’s what I do know. Joy. I know what joy feels like even in the drudgery of this sin filled world. Friend, I can tell you, my heart beat hard against my chest wall for the next half hour at least! First of all, I thought of all the ways this man had loved his wife for all those many years and through all the changing of their experiences and circumstances. Was it always joy? He went through a WAR! I can almost certainly say, no. But when her heart stopped it’s rhythmic pulsing, he had called for help. He had watched staff in scrubs hustle to restart her life. Twice. And in all that crazy, he had kept his perspective. “God is taking care of us”.

The Greek word for joy is ‘CHARA’. It is defined as, ‘the joy received from you’, or ‘the cause or occasion of joy. Of person’s who are ones joy’. Nothing ties joy to love like Jesus does in John 15:9-17. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” And then He goes on commanding us to love each other the way He loves us. Read those lines again, because the flooding of joy comes from how much the Father loves us when we obey him, and we are to do the same for others. One another. Our husbands, our kids, our parents, in-laws, church members, even the stranger in the elevator. I wonder if broken hearts would even be a thing if we loved one another and spread that kind of joy around us? Even on our hard days? Because that is the obedience that God cares about.

It isn’t as if you needed one more story of joy lost, not after the recent news feed, but remember Kind David? The story is different than our modern day war cries, but it’s the same story of disobedience. You know the story, of a handsome king with everything he could want, including God’s blessing, and the beautiful wife of Uriah, one of his commanders, listed as one of his mightiest men. 1 Kings chronicles it as David’s one great sin. It WAS David’s disobedience. And the result? Everything that is obvious to us…death, heartbreak, deceit, loss, grief. But there’s one more thing, David’s loss of JOY! He writes about it in Psalm 51:8, after Nathan the prophet came to him, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice.”

It’s true, isn’t it? A broken soul cannot feel joy overflowing until the heart reaches towards the love only a Savior can give. And the only reason to look back is to remember the cause of our joy, defined by the person who brings us joy.

So let me leave you with this, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. That’s another act of obedience, friend. Choosing to see what will come! And when you see it, it will flow from YOU! This is the fruit you are capable of. This is the fruit of working together so that you will be full of joy. Standing in a faith that says, “God is taking care of me.”

Purely seeking joy,

~kathy b

Family, Joy

The Fruit of Love

It was that kind of day. The one filled with homeowner nightmares. Where adulting went way beyond exhausting and we felt driven to the point of being overwhelmed. A classic writers line might be ‘a comedy of error’s’, only I wasn’t laughing anymore and neither was he. How we both kept it together, I have no idea. Every new mess of the day, and I heard him sigh heavy. I only got quieter, just trying to process information so we could make the best move to get around the chaos and keep moving through the day. I’ll save you the disheveled details, but it ended with getting the car jumped so we could haul 3 kids to his office where we could all take a hot shower and eat dinner on paper plates. My bed felt like the kindest thing in my life that night and I drifted asleep in no time.

The next day I still had to work around the ‘broken’ parts of my life, but I had a plan and prayed for no more piling of pulverized things. I pushed through the hoops all morning, eager to reach that afternoon time that I had intentionally set aside for myself to write nearly a month before. So the moment I hit play on my Pandora pick, I peeled an orange and waited for the pinched pain between my shoulders to unwind a little. But the writing wouldn’t come. So I ate an apple and flipped through some favorite books and authors and I prayed, “Lord, I don’t even have a loaf or a fish today, but there are mouths to feed…” And here’s how He answered that, with a tap on the door my husband walked in with a grin on his face and a small box in his hand. Not a word was necessary, he simply opened the mouth of cardboard and a mechanical part of which I do not even know the name of, but I knew it’s purpose and necessity, was lying there in it’s own kind bed of bubble wrap. The long and the short? He’d called all across the nation for this one part (because the company had gone out of business) and found one, I repeat ONE, in Massachusetts, and he’d had it overnighted. He stepped into my writing space with the simple words, “I just wanted to bring you some happiness”.

Suddenly grace and peace rushed over me. You see, it wasn’t just an answer to our hot water problems, it was the small, intentional gift from my Father, God, saying “I love you. I’ve got this”. I could have wept.

At that moment, my spinning world felt steadied, and I knew love had a whole lot to do with it. My high school sweetheart of 20 years had left all of his emails, phone calls, cabinet orders, basically, his entire career, to “bring me happiness”. Love. Who does that? Who stops progress to package up happiness?

Frederick Buechner wrote, “By believing against all odds and loving against all odds, that is how we are to let Jesus show in the world and to transform the world.” Funny how a mechanical part in the mail on a Wednesday could transform a love affair from barely getting through the day to heart pounding joy.

Friend, Jesus loves like that. The moment you’re pretty sure you can’t take another chip out of your soul, the Savior knocks on your door just to bring you happiness. It’s a real thing. He didn’t leave a career, He MADE a career out of showing you all the ways He loves you. He left everything, a manger, a carpentry shop, His family. He left HEAVEN, BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU‼!

That day of blotched belongings left me feeling like the beaten up Jewish man. And verse 34 of Luke 10 cups raw wounds in the kind of kindness that love is. It reads, “Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them.” (NLT).

Friend, I want to talk about the first of the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s love. Plain and simple…and yet complex and life transforming. Author Ann Voskamp says, “Every small gift of grace creates a love quake that has no logical end.”

Christ is like that. He loves without logic, because He creates people. And people are His art. And He breathes His very breath into your lungs. And real, genuine love cannot be stopped by broken pieces, it cannot be held back with regretful words, it cannot believe anything else except that you might love back. He loves you so boldly that He made a commandment out of it. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” (Luke 10:27 NLT). He simply wants to meet you on the other side of the door so he can bring you happiness. He wants to be the guy soothing your wounds, binding up your broken parts, carrying you to cover. Love does that.

Your Heavenly Father wants to give you good gifts. Love is, maybe, the strongest one of all. I want to explore more of them with you. I plan to write about the Fruits of the Spirit throughout this year, because the planet has a bitter taste to it right now, and I want to remind you that the news is always going to be bad, but God is always going to be good, and He’s going to love you. The evil of the world hisses with the demons of corruption and those demons are armed with quivers full of fears. They aren’t afraid to use them. My prayer is to read, write, and pray through some of the gifts God’s perfect love holds for us. I pray it will become armor for you. To give you tools that aren’t so mechanical, but genuine means to ward off lies swirling around each of us. I hope you’ll join me?

In pure love with Christ,

~kathy b

Joy, Uncategorized

Wind And Joy

Her hair is flying behind her, thin hands grip the handle of a too tall rake.  She’s seven and can’t wait another day to pull a pile of leaves together for autumn play.  Winds are whipping at 45 mph and her red sweater is clinging to her shoulders but useless at holding her shirt down.  Bare skin is exposed but young biceps are still moving back…and forth…and back…and forth.  Red, brown, orange, and gold.  Leaves depleted of their chlorophyll for the year and drug from their grassy resting place are scraped to the top of a small pile with zero promise.

Odds are stacked against her. Very few leaves have fallen, two young dogs wrestle sticks in circles around her, and the WIND.  There really is no chance of pile plunging this evening.

I shout to her.  Hands cupped around my mouth, hoping the wind steps aside for a second.  She looks my direction through long brunette hair striped across her face and nods.

There’s a decisive human need to try to control things that were never meant to be controlled.

I fault this too many times with the disease of perfectionism.  The days of feeling heavy and downright closet bound.  All the things I want better, smoother, or just plain….more.  When doubt doesn’t just creep in, it boldly shows up sitting on the edge of the bed in the morning.

I fight the WHIRLWIND of this life called motherhood.  Instead of laid out tasks, my desk space is piled and spread like the local dump.  Instead of clothes in drawers, they dam up in a blue basket until tides are too high and they run right over the edge and onto the floor.  Instead of sitting space there are forts of green cushions, brown chairs, and yellow pillows.  And I long for an eating space to feed us three times a day, but instead my arm acts as a push broom, pushing back space to place plates, spoons, and a glass of water.  The list grows and I groan and God tells me there’s JOY here?

I watch her.  Raking. Raking.  Raking too make her own space.  Searching for her own joy in a footstool pile of leaves.

Lists of mine lie somewhere in all those desk piles.  I left them days ago, my body seemed to drag under the weight of them.  They seemed to only grow longer, not shorter, and my journey to joy seemed to go down with them.

It’s then I hear him say it.  King David, praying, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” (Psalm 51:8).

I had forgotten, all these bones placed together to only give praise.  Nothing more.

And she’s out there undeterred by outside forces because inside her is the need to rejoice.  To sit in a small pile of joy and feel the fall.  The fall of a Creator who designs the finite and delights in the spectacular.

I felt Him, walking me back to a place of calling.  Seeing these great piles of undone, and hearing Him say, “My will be done”.  His purpose laid out months ago in unmistakable light, and my soul finding the joy wrapped in obedience.

Most days I find comfort in this small life, but still other days scream from walls and spaces lost in groaning.  My own pity party has brought me nothing but ugly reflections in smeared glass and posture that sags under the weight of self-loathing and I feel the curse of the slither.  Bones that were meant to stand tall and hands that can lift to the sky protrude straight out, one finger pointing blame.

The refining fire gets hot.  Nowhere does it say being transformed is easy.  The image Maker has got to be in control or designs may get lost.

She leans the rake handle ever so gently against a tree as if there were a chance of bruising, and all ten fingers reach for hair blown wild.  She swirls in and breathes deep.  Nose is rosy and her grin….ear to ear.  Her moment of joy was in the moment of standing in that out-of-control space, her bones leaning strong into the wind Maker, her gladness flying straight up her shirt.

And the four year old brother pounds it out loud, “It’s like God stuck His finger in a cloud and swirled it all around.”

And I notice in that moment….they look like Him.