Sunday, August 26, 2012

Of Kitchen Floors and Dirty Hearts

I love my wood floor in the kitchen. It suits me well. It can be mighty dirty, but with a quick once over or just a swipe here and there—it disguises a lot of crud.
But, there comes a day when I just have to get up close—on hands and knees—and give it a good scrub.
Today was that day.
Two thoughts always run through my mind when I’m knelt here—
1.     This floor is a lot dirtier than I thought.
2.     I really should have done this sooner.
I guess this old floor really isn’t much different from the spiritual floor of my heart. When I’m just a foot or so from the floor, instead of the typical 5-foot distance, I can clearly see and feel the grease caked around the corners—the nicks and dings this old floor has taken by being the most used room in the house.
Perhaps, that’s when we need to tend to the dirt in our heart most—when we’ve been walked upon by dirty feet, smeared with sticky hands— Having been banged and dented, it’s good to be washed right down to the shine.

But, it’s sometimes hard to kneel.
No matter how good we look from a distance, we all could use a thorough scrubbing. And I wonder if when I think myself best, I’m really most dirty. Then sometimes, I know I’m dirty; I just don’t do anything about it.
And I know that I cannot clean myself anymore than this kitchen floor could wash itself.
I need the Word and the Holy Spirit to pour fresh water over me.
Today’s a good day to get cleaned.
And, I sure do love walking barefoot across a clean wood floor.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maggie and Me: Part 1

Maggie and I are a team; at least we’re supposed to be. Maggie’s the sharp little smart board that was installed in my classroom this summer. I would have preferred a sighted and mobile model, but I don’t think they’ve invented those yet for regular classroom use.  (When I suggested that to the AP class, they just said, “That would be creepy.”)
Maggie wasn’t cooperating at first this morning. I would click on a button; she would do nothing. When I wrote, she put the words some place else. At one point I looked at the class and said, “I don’t think Maggie’s a Christian.” To which one girl responded, “I think you just need to calibrate her.”
Calibrating is easy. It’s kind of like waving a wane and then hitting the center of 5 crosses that seemingly magically appear across the board. God probably wishes it were as easy to calibrate me as it is for me to calibrate Maggie.
Oh, Maggie, I think I’ll have other stories to tell about you this year.
When I left today, I noticed her wires were dangling down below her screen. She looked rather unkempt, kind of like being out of dress code. But, after all, it was only her first day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Remember That?

Three-year-old Elliott is in a “Remember that?” phase. She’ll tell you a story of an event in her little short life, tilt her head, and then say in her wee high-pitched voice, “Remember that?”
This summer with the cousins, she was often the third girl out. The older girls played and played, and sometimes Ellie was kind of left on her own.
But if she was feeling lonely, she knew all she had to do was find this Granny. On one exhausting day, we both fell fast asleep in a chair. One of the girls posted it on facebook. (Three-year-olds curled up asleep in a Granny’s lap look cute; a 58 year old woman with head fallen back, asleep in a chair looks—well, not cute.)
Of all the events that Elliott likes to remind me of, falling asleep together in the chair is one of the most common. One thing I’ve noticed about Elliott’s memories that she reminds us of is that they are almost always happy things, and they are always relational—something she experienced with someone else.

It’s easy to get caught up into the exhaustion of the world, the frustration of people. What do you do when it seems like nothing is going right? When it seems like the people you are supposed to love best, frustrate you the most?
Somewhere, way back years ago, I remember hearing that a wife should focus on the positive things about her husband. (Not bad advice for the other spouse as well.)
But when things get rough, it’s so easy to only ponder the things we don’t like at that moment. It’s so easy to forget—to forget the good times and the reasons we fell in love to begin with.
Sometimes we need to be reminded to remember—to remember the happy, the good, the blessing.

I recently read an article that stated that most people who said that they were unhappy in their marriage yet did not leave their spouse responded that they were happy five years later.
At times focusing on the positive has been an act of discipline. It’s true for all lasting relationships.
Do you feel like giving up today? Tossing in the towel and walking right out?
Find the good, even if you have to go back years to find it. Replace the angry and hurtful thoughts with the good, even if it’s just one thing.  Remember that?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Feeling Like a Wreck

Have you ever felt like a wreck? 

School starts tomorrow. So often during the school year, I feel like a wreck. It’s a feeling I dread, even now.
The back roads between Silverton and Ouray are some of the most hair raising and majestic jeep roads in Colorado—roads built for strong men who subdued the mountains for their treasures and where often the mountain subdued the men—history spewed over them in decay.

When we started to gain height over the first trail, Helen questioned, “Is this safe?!” Jay assured her it was and then pointed out a wrecked car far down the side of the mountain.
Helen, not having experienced years of traveling with him, wasn’t convinced. When I turned to check on her, she twisted a strain of her hair, put it in her mouth, and closed her eyes—tight.
But, trusting the driver, my eyes penetrated the gorge and lifted then to the heights above. These Rocky Mountains are so big—sentinels to their Creator—formidable against a blue sky. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’d go on forever and ever.

Are they dangerous? They can be—life often is.
Are they beautiful? Absolutely—on a bright summer’s day, but these roads are closed during winter.

During winter, as I go about my busyness, I don’t want to feel like a wreck. Instead, I desire exhilaration. Maybe I can find it by trusting the Driver and the beauty He has created—if I look for it.
By day’s end, Helen was pointing out fields of mountain flowers and shouting, “I like the bumpy roads best!”
Helen is learning to trust. 
I hope that when life gets bumpy, I can focus on the beauty—that I can trust the sovereign Lord of all the world, including my own.

Monday, August 6, 2012

All that Glitters

“All that glitters is not gold…”
Tolkien wrote it in regard to the one ring—the ring that appeared to hold the ultimate promise of peace and happiness, but it was not so.
It’s so easy to get caught up into the shiny temptations of this world—even things that appear justified, but aren’t. It’s true that this world—this life—is beautiful. We should appreciate it. We should be grateful each morning that we open our eyes to behold it.
But, it’s easy to forget that evil also lurks within. Gaze into the mirror and beauty can turn to vanity, and pride is tucked into the humblest heart. It’s so hard to resist the glitter before us.         
—and we desire it—it becomes…precious.
The warnings of how we should and should not live are in Scripture. We know them. We ignore them. Instead of being about our Father’s business, we’re far too often about our own
—building our treasure right here.
Wide-eyed, Helen sat on the bed, opening the boxes of costume jewelry as quickly as her 5 year old hands could lift off the lids. “Oohh!” she exclaimed. Each box contained a new and exciting necklace, earrings, or bracelet. She held them up, examining them. “This is very, vey beautiful!” she proclaimed as she raked her fingers through the shiny plastic.

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thes. 5:21).
The trinkets of this world, alluring as they are, will not bring lasting peace. Our deep- rooted satisfaction comes only from our relationship with God. Our promise of joy is not here, but in a world beyond—a land of joy unceasing, without pain, without sorrow.
How tempting it is to reach for the costume jewelry. It sparkles, but it is not lasting. It looks good to the eyes but, as Eve learned--the aftertaste is bitter.
Last summer Helen and I leaned over a rail, gazing on the crown jewels of Great Britain. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around what we were seeing—the gold, the diamonds, the gems
—sparkle that was real.

We error when we seek ultimate happiness here. Joy is not found in things or people or accomplishments. Joy is only found in Jesus. We need to spend more time in the Word, seeking true treasure in a relationship with Him.
Helen is still a child. We are not. 
What a pity if we should be taken in by the glitter of mere costume jewelry.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Writing in Red

I have two blue pens in my bag—and have I managed to lose them both? All I have are these red ones from my school bag. I don’t like to journal in red—It doesn’t last.
Jay’s grandmother had written out the story of her life years ago. She wrote it in red and the ink faded, and by the time we typed it on a computer file—that’s now probably obsolete—you could hardly make out the words.
So, I don’t like to write in red.
I think, some year my daughters will take these journals they’ve given me for Christmas over the years—they will take them to again hear my voice.
But, they will learn more about me than the words on the page—They’ll see all the mistakes I’ve made—both in writing and in searching—wondering, doubting. And maybe that’s the part I want them to hear after all—
That you can stumble and get back up—that no one is perfect, even those we love best—that sometimes bad turns good—We just have to wait for it—that for me waiting has always been the hardest.
I don’t like to write in red.
I look for my blue pen—Because blue lasts—
It’s like the Colorado blue sky over the mountaintops that I see from the condo we’re staying in. 

Sometimes that blue sky gets overshadowed by clouds, but you always know that brilliant blue is right behind them—that it’ll be back—that it’s always there.
Blue lasts. Blue reminds me of a daughter’s love.

“Peace is not the absence of the dark…Peace is the assurance of God’s presence in the dark.”
“I forget peace is a Person, not a place.”

And these Ann Voskamp quotes were the reason I was searching for a pen in the first place.