Thursday, July 30, 2009

having a Mary heart

Sometime this winter I mentioned I was reading "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver, and though I finished it months ago, I finally found some time to type out some of my favorite quotes and excerpts from it, which I am including here (did I ever mention that I collect quotes? I also collect nutcrackers, but that's a different story).

One of the best parts about this book was the one page appendix about how to plan a "half-day of prayer." Back in May our moms' Bible study arranged for kid-swapping so we could each get from 2 to 4 hours of uninterrupted time for prayer. It was amazing and I'd like to make that a regular thing. Because of my concerns for my father, I've been praying more, but it's still just a few minutes here, a few minutes there as I can spare time, and I need to make it more of a priority (there's a great quote on this too, see "the Withdrawing Room", in my excerpts below.)

And I have writing progress to report! Always feel productive and energized when I can report some progress, especially if I've managed to be productive for several days in a row. I went back to working on Chapter 16. This chapter has needed a major re-write and I tried several times this summer, actually pulling up the file, reading the first few pages, and then closing it back up again with a sigh - just looked like too much work to force myself to get started (kind of like the bathroom re-tiling project that we've been putting off for over a year now). So I've got the first part of the chapter re-written and now working on the second half. It certainly helps that I have a reviewer in the wings asking me when my next few chapters will be ready to read. Thank you Lord for fellow writers!

Okay, here are a few great excerpts, and a bunch of quotes:

The Withdrawing Room

In Robert Boyd Munger's article "My Heart Christ's Home", he tells how he showed Christ around the house of his heart, welcoming Him room by room. Together they visited the library of his mind "a very small room with very thick walls". They peered into the dining room of his appetites and desires. They spent a little time in the workshop where this talents and skills were kept, and the rumpus room of "certain associations and friendships, activities and amusements." They even poked their heads into the hall closet filled with dead, rotting things he had managed to hoard.

We walked next into the drawing room. This room was rather intimate and comfortable. It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase, sofa, and a quiet atmosphere. Jesus seemed pleased with it. "Let us come here often. IT is secluded and quiet and we can have fellowship here." He promised, "I will be here every morning early. Meet with Me here and we will start the day together." So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the drawing room and He would take a book of the Bible, open it and then we would read together. He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truths.... They were wonderful hours together. In fact, we called the drawing room the "withdrawing room."

But little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened... I began to miss a day now and then.... I would miss it two days in a row and even more. I remember when one day when I was in a hurry... as I passed the drawing room, the door was ajar. Looking in I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there.

"Blessed Master, forgive me! Have You been here all these mornings?"

"Yes," he said, "I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you."

Then I was even more ashamed. He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness. I asked His forgiveness and He readily forgave me....
Then He said: "The trouble with you is this: You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to me, too."

Some suggestions for creating a Withdrawing room: Emilie Barnes keeps a special prayer basket on hand to help with her devotions. In it she keeps a Bible, a daily devotional or other inspirational reading, a small box of tissues, a pen and paper for journaling and taking notes, and a few pretty cards in case she feels moved to write a note to someone she's praying for. For Emilie, seeing the basket is both an invitation and a reminder to spend time with the Lord, and she can take it anywhere with her. Robin Jones Gunn began lighting a candle to set apart her prayer times after a friend made her feel especially welcome by lighting a candle for their visit. "Sometimes the house is still dark and quiet when I sit down and light my candle for my devotions. Other times life is in full swing around me, but my corner becomes a quiet place for intimate conversation. When my family sees the candle lit, they know to leave mom alone."

Kent Hughes describes the intimate impact of spending time with God. "Our lives are like photographic plates, and prayer is like a time exposure to God. As we expose ourselves to God for a half hour, an hour, perhaps two hours a day, his image is imprinted more and more upon us. More and more we absorb the image of his character, his love, his wisdom, his way of dealing with life and people."

Mahatma Gandhi once said "If Christians lived according to their faith, there would be no more Hindus left in India." He was fascinated at the thought of knowing Christ, but when he met Christians, he felt let down. Unfortunately, the world is filled with people who feel the same. They are intrigued by the claims of Christ, but they shrink back because of disappointment with his offspring. "Don't look at people," we might protest. "Look at Jesus." But while that may be true, the sobering truth remains: Whether we like it or not, we're the only Jesus some will ever see. D.L. Moody put it this way: "Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; ninety-nine will read the Christian."

Ephesians 3:17-19.... Being filled to measure with all the fullness of God will most likely require our being stretched. At the very least, it is sure to disturb our comfort. Unfortunately a lot of the time... we want enough of God to make us happy, but not enough to make us change. We'd never say it, but our attitude is just what Wilbur Rees had in mind when he wrote: "I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please."

As a result of Christ's work on the cross, Yancey says, "the three-day pattern - tragedy, darkness, triumph - became for New Testament writers a template that can be applied to all our times of testing."

The secret to happiness lies not in getting what you want, but in wanting what you have.

If we find ourselves becoming critical of other people, we should stop examining them, and start examining ourselves. - William Barclay

Fretting magnifies the problem, but prayer magnifies God. "The reasons our problems often seem overwhelming is that we allow things of time to loom larger than the things of eternity.... The tiniest of coins, when held close to the eyes, can blot out the sun." -Selwyn Hughes, Every Day Light

So much depends on perspective. If my God isn't bigger than life, than my life is bigger than God - and that's when anxiety takes over.

The Kingdom of God is a paradox. While the world applauds achievement, God desires companionship. The world clamors: "Do more! Be all that you can be!" But our Father whispers, "Be still and know that I am God."

Satan has never been terribly creative. The tools he uses today are the same tools he's always used, and no wonder, for they've been quite effective. From the Garden of Eden to Martha's kitchen in Bethany to our own everyday, Satan still plans his attacks around what I call the three deadly D': Distraction, Discouragement, and Doubt. The underlying strategy is simple: Get people's eyes off God and on their circumstances. Make them believe that their "happiness" lies in the "happenings" that surround them. Or send them good news - about somebody else. When they are thoroughly discouraged, tell them God doesn't care. Then sit back and let doubt do its work. It's really a brilliant strategy, when you think of it. Plant the Deadly Ds deep in human hearts, and sooner of late people will destroy themselves. Unless, of course, someone intervenes - which is exactly what Jesus came to do.

"Did God really say...?" Satan encouraged Eve to doubt God's word and doubt God's goodness. Humanity has questioned God's love ever since... The fact is, until we stop doubting God's goodness, we can't experience God's love. "Lord, don't you care?" Martha spoke her secret fear aloud, and we can too. But you must stick around long enough to hear the reassurance of His answer. Don't expect any explanations or apologies. After all, God is God. If righteous Job couldn't force God to give an account for his actions, then we shouldn't expect to always understand his mysterious ways.

The Bible tells us more than 350 times to "fear not"... Why is the Bible so adamant about our avoiding fear and worry? Because God knows worry short-circuits our relationship with him. It fixes our eyes on our situation rather than on our Savior.

"Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not out to realize His own idea; He was to realize God's ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God... All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

I feel as if I ought to spread these quotes out more, over several blogs perhaps, just to lengthen their impact on my days. So I have one more interesting excerpt that I am going to save for later.

Friday, July 24, 2009

fraility and faith

My cousin Jean and her husband and daughter visited us this week, which involved some fun excursions (Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo - we all loved the colt race - more on that later). But what I really need to write about now is what I saw when Mom had us all over for dinner. Notice I say Mom, not Mom and Dad. My father was there, but he barely said two sentences the entire time.

Exactly one week before dinner with my folks and Jean's family, B. and I went out to dinner with Mom and Dad for a belated anniversary celebration, and Dad was getting along pretty good. But in one week's time, he suddenly aged 10 years. He has lost more weight and is very frail looking. He can barely walk and talks very slowly now too, if he talks at all. Mom had to take him to the doctor again because he has fallen twice now and has had some hallucinations. The doctor keeps adjusting his medication for the Parkinsons' tremors, and we think that is what is causing the hallucinations and unsteadiness, maybe the slow speech too. But what about his complete lack of appetite? He is wasting away before our eyes.

This year I have blogged a lot about various things I've challenged myself to work on: a Bible read-through, memorizing verses, losing weight, discipleship. These are all very noble goals, but I'm running out of time with my father, and my mother is frantic with worry about him. I need to spend more time with them, helping them, praying for them. Sharing my faith with them. This has got to become top priority.

Back in April I had a wonderful dream about my parents: may this dream come true. Just this morning I was reminded it of it again, as I was doing my daily reading - right now in Jeremiah. I was reading my favorite chapter in Jeremiah, 31. It's been my favorite in the past because of Jer 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in lovingkindness." But this morning I discovered another wonderful verse in this chapter:

Jer 31:25-26 The Lord Almightys says... "I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing." At this I woke up and looked around. My sleep had been very sweet.

The Lord had been speaking to Jeremiah while he slept, telling him about Israel's future. Promising him that He will bring the Israelites back to the promised land after their exile. Also promising Jeremiah that even though his people have been faithless, that there will come a time when "Israel will embrace her God."

I felt like like God was reminding me about my own dream, back in April, that promise that He would save my parents - that there would come a day, someday, when they would embrace God. I really need to share this with them. I am hoping with all my heart that God has sent this severe illness to my father (and my mother, who is suffering with him) because He is using it to draw them to Himself. He will not let my father go until he turns to Him. Please Lord use me to share Your Word with them! Please Lord give me the courage. Please Lord, save them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

mountain lion attack

Forgive me, the title was an abbreviation of "mountain lion show" and "panic attack", two events which are (fortunately) not specifically related to each other. Stars last evening here with us, we took all the kids to the Jubilee Days carnival in downtown Laramie, and there was a new show this year with a mountain lion. She was a two year female mountain lion, not really trained yet but her handler still had us all ooohing and aaahing as he got her to leap up ten feet or higher in the air, chasing after a toy on a stick (actually he said mountain lions can leap up to twenty feet!). The handler would toss an empty cardboard box across the pen and the lion would chase after it, bat it around, and then jump inside of it and crouch down. Just like a regular size kitty playing with a box or a bag. Made you just want to go up and pet her and scatch her under chin (which her handler did a couple times, too).

B. was most impressed by the lion's tail, he has this fixation with cat tails. For instance, if our poor innocent cat, Cleo, happens to be sleeping with her tail in a vulnerable position, B. will creep up on her and then "pounce" on her tail and pin it down with his foot! (It's amazing Cleo isn't neurotic). Well once the mountain lion poked her tail out of the wire mesh of her pen while she was crouched in her box, and when B. saw that giant twitching tail, he got all twitchy himself. Ha! - I'd like to see what would happen if he'd try to stomp on that kitty tail!

So now the panic attack part. We let the twins  go on their very first ride, each with an older sister (we had to wheedle with the tickettaker to allow Blaze to go on this ride, 'cause it's supposed to be for smaller kids). The twins went around on that airplane merry-go-round with the biggest grins on their faces! So, it was their first ride. But when I got on the boat swing (which always used to be my favorite ride) with Blaze, I decided that very well might be my last ride.

For the first five minutes I was just fine, enjoying the great sweeping motion like I always had before. But then I noticed the person running the ride was fiddling with the controls. The boat started swinging even higher. More fiddling with the controls. Dear Lord, had the mechanism broken? Were were going to swing out-of-control? Or just keep on swinging until someone could get it fixed? My imagination put me into a panic attack. I kept watching the fellow fiddling with the controls and tried not to panic (or swear), until I couldn't stand it anymore and closed my eyes. But after another few minutes, since no one else around me was panicking, I decided maybe my life and my daughter's might be spared after all. Nothing terrible happened. We just kept swinging, for a VERY LONG time. Everyone else seemed psyched to be getting an extra long ride. Blaze was lovng it. Eventually the swing slowed down and I wobbled back down to firm ground. Apparently I don't have the guts for these thrill rides anymore. Another grim sign of the fast approaching 40 year mark.

Stars shared a dream with me that I just have to share, too. She told me she was dreaming of shopping in Macy's when there was a store-wide announcement that there as a fire in the building and would everyone please evacuate. Sounds like a scary dream, right? But no, this is classic Stars: shortly after the first announcement, she dreamed there was a second one. "Please feel free to take any of the merchandise with you as you are leaving the store." Grin.

Now Stars is back home in Washington, and Blaze just spent the first of four nights at Bible camp up in the mountains,. Kids will grow up and go away! But after the initial slight depression of having a slightly less-full household, I am adjusted and trying to get back into my routine. For the past month, my writing progress has been non-existant, and my spiritual life has been not much better. I am a full week behind on my Bible read-through, and behind on my memorization, too. A few days ago I was re-reading some earlier posts and came across a challenge to myself following the womens' leadership event and Beth Moore event. Here's what I wrote:

I am pretty sure God was trying to teach me two things this weekend from these two events: I want you more with Me, and I want you reaching out more to other women, and that means your own daughters, too.

I had meant to try to talk with Stars (as much as she was willing) while she was here, but I'd completely forgotten about my challenge. She had just a day left at that point when I re-read the above. So I determined that I would broach the subject with something simple like "where do you feel you are spiritually, these days?" But we were so busy that last day I never got around to it. Finally after we got home from the carnival and she was doing the last of her packing I couldn't put it off any longer. I went down to her room to help her pack and to start a little conversation. But she was on the phone with a friend. "Oh can my friend come over for a little while?" she asks me. "She said she'd help me pack." "Oh, I'll help you pack!" I said. Her face fell. "But I really wanted to see Chesca one more time before I leave." I was disappointed, but it was really my fault that I'd waited until the last minute. So of course her friend came over. And I retreated to sit with my neglected Bible, much convicted and determined to not let opportunties slide again. I did end up having a good talk with Blaze the next day on Biblical attitiudes. But I need to pray more about discipling my girls and make opportunities happen, instead of just waiting for them to happen.

This morning I got up at 6:00 to go for an early morning walk (another habit that I've let slide for a couple weeks) and took along my voice recorder to practice my memory verses. It was a perfect summer morning. The fields and hills are all so very green from all the rain we've had this summer, and there was enough breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay. My heart was very full.

Here are the verses I was supposed to have memorized by the end of June:

Psalm 34: 11-13
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

And verses 14-16 that I just started this morning, which I'm supposed to have memorized by July 15th:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

fireflies and 4th of July

I never thought we could possibly cram one more living being in our mini-van, but B. insisted we bring the puppy, Remington (Remie) with us on our trip to South Dakota. Now I may say "puppy", but it's misnomer. He's about 7 months old, but in reality he is 60 pounds or more of very large dog. But he was very well-behaved on the long 9 hour drive.

Though the fourth of July was our 10th anniversary, we didn't really celebrate it. That will be for later. I'm still in the planning stage. However B. did get me flowers and a card and Stars picked out a decadent chocolate cake for us. And we did have 60 people show up for our anniversary, with fireworks (granted, most of the extended family didn't know it was our anniversary. They just showed up for the annual family beer-drinking fest).

I was delighted to see fireflies in the evenings, which always reminds me of summers on the farm in New York.

On Sunday we went boating on the Missouri River, and Blaze went tubing for the first time. She absolutely loved it! Here she is with her Uncle Rod and Aunt Josie.

Here is Stars, driving my van back from the river with B. looking slightly concerned in the passenger seat. I followed behind in Rod and Josie's car, and I didn't see her go off the road once (grin). Actually I have been letting her drive quite a bit around our subdivision. But this was her first time on a real road.

Blaze and Dreamer had a lot of fun catching toads and frogs.

My four girls in red, white and blue, taking inventory of the toad collection on Grandma's porch.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Horse shows, and a ride by moonlight

My stepdaughter (14 years old) is here for a little over a month this summer, and it has been a busy time. She had a horse show in Idaho, about half way between her home in Moses Lake, WA and ours here in Laramie, WY, so B. drove out to meet her at the show and bring her and her horse back here. Her horse, Callie (Cruise On Callie) is a Quarter Horse palomino mare with the cutest ears I ever saw, slightly curved inward so they almost point to each other. She is also a very well-trained show horse, and Stars has become an excellent rider. She has this horse trained to jog and lope as slow as a walk, and to turn, stop and back immediately with just the lightest touch of leg and rein. She is trustworthy enough to put the twins on her, bareback!

We went to a show down in Greeley, CO and Stars and her horse Callie won almost everything in sight, coming back with SIX trophies, high point in the English classes and Western classes, and that meant she also won high point overall for her age class (14-17 yrs). She said, however, that there wasn't the same level of competition at that show that she is used to, she was only competing against 3 to 4 other girls. Last weekend we went to another show in Cheyenne, and she did almost as well, winning high point in the Western classes.

This girl is very serious about showing, with more horse gear than you could possibly imagine for just one horse! Three saddles, three bridles, three blankets and a "sleezy" (that's a covering for head and neck), dozens of tail bags, a show halter, dust covers for everything, myriad boots and spurs and hats, beautiful sequined show outfits, and some doohickies I don't even know what they are used for! When I showed, way back when, I certainly didn't have all this fancy stuff!

I am familiar with all the English show classes, but it has been an education learning about the Western ones - "showmanship", "western pleasure" "western equitation", and "trail". Most of these require very precise movements while executing patterns. The trail class is most complex of all, with opening/closing gates from horseback, stepping over and backing through rails, crossing a bridge, retrieving items from mailboxes, and other things. I'll post a video of the trail class here soon.

Since Stars rides almost everyday to keep Callie fine-tuned, it has been great motivation for me to ride more and work with Blaze and Dreamer with their riding, too. I am taking turns riding all our horses to figure out which one will work best for Blaze to show. She is interested in barrel racing, too! I'm also really tempted to get back into showing, especially jumping. Though we have six horses right now, none have been trained for barrel racing or jumping. A couple are just barely ridable yet at all. It's going to be a lot of work, but we have to get them trained anyway because we can't afford to keep all six - B.'s plan all along was to sell a couple after getting them trained.

A couple nights ago Stars asked me if we could go for a ride at night. I used to do this on full-moon nights once in a while, just for the thrill, but I haven't done it since moving to Wyoming 15 years ago. At first I was a little dubious, since there was only a half moon. But there was plenty of light - enough even for moon-shadows. And since there are a lot less than trees than in woods in New York where I used to ride, it wasn't quite as scary, even when we trotted. Still there were a few moments that made me catch my breath - when we startled an antelope alongside the road and it in turn startled the horses when it took off running. Thank goodness I was riding my old pal Rebel, who doesn't spook easily. But thrills aside, there is nothing like getting out on a warm summer night under a starry sky. We went up to the end of our subdivision road, toward the foothills, high enough that on our way back we had a glorious view of the city lights twinkling below us.

Besides riding, Stars has been spending time with a couple friends and also with her Granny here in town and her aunt's family in Cheyenne. She is a voracious reader, like me, so during one of our Cheyenne trips we visited the fancy new library there. The library had a great play area for the twins, so I could browse through the shelves to my heart's content without having to keep chasing after them. I was only going to pick out two books, but it was just too tempting. I came home with 5! Between all the riding, and now these books, my writing progress has dwindled to nothing. Ah well, there will be time again after Stars heads back home.

My stepdaughter really likes to pick outfits and dress the twins up, and then fix their hair up fancy with curls or braids or flips. She said I really needed to get more outfits for Serious and Starlet, though. Well, money being pretty tight around here, buying new clothes wasn't an option, but when I told her that I can trade out-grown clothes in at a store in Cheyenne in exchange for other clothes, she said "let's go!". So after our library trip we went to the "Once Upon a Child" store. I got a $9 credit for clothes I traded in, and we lucked out that they had a bunch of clothes on clearance for $1, so I let Stars pick out 9 shirts, dresses and shirt/short combos for the twins. She had a blast. Now today she is on mission to go through all the toys in the house and organize them. Blaze and Dreamer are gone for a week (at Grandma and Grandpa's in South Dakota) so it is a good opportunity to sort through everything and box some stuff up. We definitely have way too many toys and the girls don't play with even half of them. I have been meaning to get a system for "rotating" toys but just never seem to get around to it... so I am happy, and amused, that Stars wants to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

Stars with Dreamer and Starlet (right before Starlet got her cast taken off)

Dreamer's fancy hairdo - she loves to have her big sis fix up her hair!

The twins just love to crawl up on the fence and pet the horses. Starlet trying to reach Ally, and Serious trying to reach Jewel.

Folly looks a little uncertain about having both twins trying to pet her!

Blaze and Dreamer riding Callie with only a halter and lead rope!