Friday, February 23, 2007

The girls' first trip hiking...

Don’t Let the Fire Die

This past winter our heater went out and until we got it fixed, we had to borrow space heaters and build fires in our fireplace. Now, I never was a boy scout and I’ve only been camping a few times, so I am no fire building pro. I went out early on the first cold, heater-less morning and gathered tons of leaves and tiny twigs out of the yard. I brought them in and meticulously arranged them along with a few bigger sticks. I lit the fire and got the leaves going immediately… even the twigs caught fire… I was so pumped. I watched in eager expectation as the flames spread when I added a few bigger sticks… my prayer life took a great leap forward as I added the first log, but it didn’t take long for the fire to sputter and die. It is official: I am 27 years old, have a college degree, two daughters and a mortgage, but I can’t light a fire.

For the rest of our days without a heater, my wife lit the fires and I enjoyed their heat. She got pretty good at it actually, and still enjoys a good fire even though we fixed the heater. Personally, I am better at the little box on the wall with the buttons on it that makes the house warmer…

The other day I was reading about a fire that God told his people to light. It was the fire of the whole burnt offering… Back in the days of Moses and Aaron when God’s people were headed to the Promised Land and first learning about how to relate to God, He gave them all kinds of regulations about worship, how to approach Him and what it means to know Him. They had to make a lot of different sacrifices where animals were killed and burned on the fires of an altar. Some offerings were for sin and some were for saying thanks, but one was for devotion. That was the whole burnt offering… in making it, the fire burned up the entire animal… nothing was left over. To make this offering was to say to God, I give my whole self to You. I hold nothing back for myself but consecrate my heart, my mind and really my whole life to You.

I have known and read about this offering before, but the other day I saw something I had never noticed… the fires of the burnt offering were not supposed to go out. Leviticus 6:12-13 says, “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat and fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”

After thinking about it, this made perfect sense… if we are really going to offer our whole self to the Lord, we must resolve to be continuously consumed. It needs to be a fire that starts and never flickers out. The priests had to get up early every morning, remove the ashes from the previous day and night and then add new firewood to the burnt offering. It was the first task of every day. I know the fires of my consecration have not always been continuous, but I want to keep them going and the only way to do that is to rise up every day and add fuel to the fire… to spend time with the Lord and offer my whole self everyday. That’s how we are supposed to keep it going… to rise, take out the ashes of yesterday, arrange the wood and offer ourselves to the consuming fire.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Collage of Anna...

Emotions Allowed

I was driving down the turnpike toward Wal-Mart yesterday listening to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack when calm finally washed over me and I turned around to apologize to my 13 month old daughter… I had been upset because it was my day off and I was really looking forward to a nap, but Norah wouldn’t sleep. She woke up crying every hour most of the night before this and so surely she would sleep now… I laid her down for the nap and she cried. I changed her and laid her down again and she cried. I gave her some juice and she cried some more. I gave her some time, but she just kept on crying, so I grabbed her and the short shopping list we had and huffed and puffed all the way to the car. I know it was childish and petty, but I didn’t look at her face the whole time I was getting her in the car. I was just so frustrated and upset…

I fumed and fussed under my breath as we drove and Norah was finally stone silent. I knew I was a mess and getting messier with every second, so I decided I better try and pray… but how could I? How could I go before the Lord in all His majesty and holiness with a boiling heart full of irritation directed at a tiny little baby? I don’t really know how to answer that question except to say, I just did; I just prayed to Him. And here’s the thing… He gave me peace. He calmed my stupid, aggravated heart right down. I stopped at a red light, listened as the piano played the most beautiful melody, repented of my anger and turned around to tell Norah I was sorry. I looked into those gigantic blue eyes and asked the forgiveness of a 1 year-old… She smiled at me.

I really believe that because of the amazing truths of the Gospel (what we have in light of what we deserve) we should be full of joy all the time. I believe that because we have been freely forgiven and declared righteous in the sight of God that the only emotion we have a right to is gratitude… I believe that, and yet I know that I’m not always joyful and grateful. You know, I think we sometimes feel that if we are not living up to the full potential of our new lives in Christ that He doesn’t want to have anything to do with us… we become filled with guilt for not being everything we can be, and we feel that we can’t go to Him and we can’t be who we truly are. But if we can’t bring our anger, frustration, loneliness, anguish and hurt before the Lord, where can we bring it?

Psalm 25:16-18 says, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and distress and take away all my sins.” Sure, we should be joyful all the time, but when we’re not, He still wants to know. Your emotions are welcome on His doorstep. You are allowed to be yourself in prayer. Maybe you’re not always who you should be, but you’re still His… Take your anger, take your troubles and take your sin to Him… there’s no better place to take it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Norah... happy, healthy and tons more fun for everyone!

When will it End?

The other night I looked at the clock right before I finally dozed off… it was 11:27. Then I heard it… one of the kids was throwing up... then came the crying. I opened my eyes again and the clock was the first thing I saw. It was 11:30, I had been asleep for three minutes and this was going to be an awesome night…

Norah was sick with some sort of stomach virus. She spent most of that night pale and shaking with a wild look in her eyes in between bouts of getting sick and crying. I think we went through enough sheets, towels and outfits to make more than two loads of laundry. It was one of those nights as a parent where you are dead tired and your body is begging for sleep, but your mind is spinning because you’re constantly second guessing every move you make to better this situation that has your heart crushed for your confused little hurting baby who has no idea what’s going on and is looking at you with those big blue eyes as if to say, “Do something!”

In the middle of the stomach flu, there is only one question going through my mind: When is this going to end? In the thick of it, you don’t think that you’ll ever feel normal again… it’s hard to remember a time when you weren’t surrounded by sickness and it’s impossible to imagine a time when it won’t be this way. I think life can get that way at times… When you’re neck deep in problems, hurts, frustrations and stresses it’s easy to feel that nothing will ever change. When will it end? Is there a finish line to all of these temptations, struggles and pains?

The great news is that if you know Jesus, there is a finish line! There is coming a day when we will all rest from our labors. There is coming a day of joy and victory where all problems and pains will be swallowed by infinite praise, gladness and laughter. My friend Christi used to always say that no matter how bad it gets, “We’ll be in heaven someday!” That is our hope and trust… that one day both the sad and hard will be swallowed up whole by love… but when? How much more of this will we have to take before that day happens? In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

No one knows… except the Father! Isn’t it great to know that someone knows… that He knows? Isn’t it a comforting thought to know that although we have no idea when the end is coming, our Father does? He knows the exact day and hour when all our worries, struggles, pains and problems will come crashing down with the glorious sight of the Son of Man… we don’t know when, but at least He does! He knows exactly why He has you in every hard situation you’re in… why He has surrounded you with the people you find yourself with… He knows exactly how long this will all last and He knows exactly when to step on stage. So we can trust Him, we can keep going and we can make it… because we will make it… right up to that moment, the day and the hour only He knows.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A five star shot from the first and possibly semi-annual 'Triple C' pictorial scavenger hunt...
Light of Dawn

When I wake up in the morning, I’m always really careful and quiet, trying not to make any noise in the pitch dark so as not to wake up the babies, but I almost always wind up making a huge racket anyway! And the worst part is, I do the same exact thing almost every day… I shut off my alarm and creep slowly and silently into the bathroom where I slam my little toe into the corner of this stepping stool Anna uses so that she can reach the sink. After crushing my toe, I usually keel over and knock something loud and ceramic into the sink while I wordlessly agonize over the pain pulsating through my most insignificant appendage. You might think that after almost two years of that little stool sitting right there in front of our bathroom sink, I would remember it in the morning and not injure myself on it, but no, I never remember it... I just can’t see the thing.

Proverbs 4:18-19 says, “The path of righteousness is like the first gleam of dawn, shining even brighter till the full light of day. But the way of wickedness is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” When we are walking outside of what the Lord wants for our life, we are in the dark. I know that in my life, when I have been traveling on the ‘way of wickedness’ I stumble and fall over and over again into the same things… You would think that after a while we would learn where the pitfalls are even if we are in the dark, but we don’t. You see, the way of wickedness never changes. There’s no light, you can’t see where you’re going and so you just keep stumbling over the same things again and again.

The great thing about walking in obedience is that it is dynamic… you are changing and growing. Unlike the darkness where nothing ever changes, righteousness gets easier and easier. I was a freshman in college when I first heard a sermon about this idea. I had always thought (and always heard) that life would ever be the same as it always was… a fight where I mostly lost and wasn’t really fighting. Then I heard that holiness builds on its self and you get better at it as you go along on the path of righteousness. The fight gets harder and more fierce as your life goes along, but the more you walk with Him, the better you get at fighting it.

It’s like the first light of dawn… as you start to walk in righteousness, it’s still mostly dark, but you can see silhouettes of shapes you didn’t know were there. As you avoid those, the light gets a little brighter and you can see colors and shadows. As you keep walking, the day comes on stronger with more and more light. Walking in disobedience never changes… it doesn’t even get harder. It just has you beaten. But walking with the Lord gets both harder and easier as you go along throughout your life… it gets brighter and clearer as you get older and better at walking and fighting.

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