June 7, 2014

My Country

It’s no secret that I love to sing. I like a wide variety of styles but my upbringing has limited my repertoire to mostly Christian music.  Which isn’t all bad.

It takes more than a catchy tune, snappy rhythm or a hook that will resound long after the tune is over to draw me in. I like a song with passion or purpose. True there are some fun silly songs out there. But if I were being honest, for me to desire to sing it with all I have in me, I need to be able to personalize it.

We often drive over 40 miles, passing many quality places of worship, to attend Cedar Park Church in Bothell. There are several things about CP that we enjoy but the main reason we choose to burn up the fuel? They still have a choir that sings three major productions a year: Christmas, Easter and Patriotic.  

Currently, we are preparing for Patriotic Sunday on June 29th.  I have found myself in deep thought evaluating my level of patriotism beyond being a native born American. It makes me think of the Chevrolet commercial from my childhood. I love the atmosphere of a baseball game, even a hot dog once in a while,
and of course I’m an apple pie girl. Shoot, I’d even drive a Chevy. I enjoy BBQs and fireworks on the Fourth of July, I feel a stir in my heart when I pass military cemeteries on Memorial Day, and I hold our military Vets in high esteem…but am I patriotic?

I’ve grumbled about our president. I hate to pay taxes. I'm ashamed at some of the atrocities in our nation and the hell-bent activism towards self-destruction all in the name of freedom.

I’ve recently wanted to bear arms (real guns, not my flabby bat-wings) just because I should be able to. I want every Christian child to not just BE free but to FEEL free when they pray for their food in public schools, read their Bible during their free time in class and say the name of Jesus with sincerity...not as a curse word.

In choir I have a new friend. Adrunodhaya (Aruna) is from India. As we sing songs together like This is My Country, or You’re a Grand Old Flag, it has stirred in me a fresh view of my country. Rightfully so, Aruna's heart leans towards India where her family is. Conversations indicate a twinge of awkwardness for her as we diligently learn our alto parts together. But for me it is a twinge of guilt.

The clincher in the program…for with our directors, there is always a clincher…we will be brought full circle from the fun diddy’s of Yankee Doodle, to the respected Arms Forces Medley, and focus our conclusion with great passion on excerpts like: For Thine is the Kingdom, If My People will Pray, and God Bless America.
This IS my country. Land of the free. Home of the brave.  And even though I don’t feel very free and I certainly don’t think I am particularly brave, my Mama taught me right and I do know how to obey.

Humble and pray. Heal and Bless. A familiar message of our obedience and His promises.

“If… My God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 MSG
Will you join me in obedience? Let's be activists, knee-bent towards preserving our freedom!

February 5, 2014

The Fish Bowl Effect

With freedom comes responsibility. With responsibility comes trust. Trust is earned.

These were parenting thoughts we instilled in our children as they walked through their teen years. Looking back on those child raising years I see areas where I might do things differently now. Sometimes I cringe when I think of the times I spent screaming at my kids, dumping guilt trips, or placing expectations on them simply because, as pastors, we had expectations placed on us.
 
In parsonage life this is known as The Fish Bowl Effect.


You know those times when you see people drive by your front room window? Perhaps in the evening when the lights are on, curtains open? They see what you are watching on your HD flat screen TV, where you are sitting in your living room, and heaven forbid…what you are or are not wearing in the summer heated evenings…

Yeah. The fish bowl. People staring into your “space” and knowing…or think they know who you are.

I inwardly screamed to be free of the fish bowl known to us as parsonage life, so I can only imagine how my kids must have felt as they spread their wings and left our nest. Or is that wiggled their fins and swam to new and less conspicuous waters? Whatever analogy pops into your mind works here, just keep swimming with my thought line.  Eventually I found freedom; freedom to be myself without the fish bowl or legalistic expectations and without judgmental eyes on me as a parent, wife, or ministry leader.

But with freedom comes responsibility. While the looking glass in the hands of congregational or community members’ seems to be lifted from over my head, I realize that my responsibility is still to live a life pleasing to God.

I’m not saying I’ve had epic failures in the freedom/responsibility area of my life, but I see where I have allowed myself to become selfish in my freedom. I’ve worried too much about me, me, me, and wanting all that is due to ME in MY freedoms and lost focus on being responsible for the things God has placed before me. My attitude has become one of selfish service. Simply put, like my kids in their teen years at times, I find myself obedient because I have to not because I want to.

With responsibility comes trust and trust is earned. Our kids learned that if they messed up when we trusted them, it took awhile to earn our trust back. Restraints were put on what few freedoms they did have and there seemed to be an invisible barrier below the surface of daily living. A barrier that stole the joy between parent and child.

Today I am examining the invisible barrier with my Heavenly Father. One that my selfish desire for freedom has made me shirk the responsibility to be who He called me to be. I want the joy between Him and this freedom seeking child to be restored. I want Him to trust me again. I want to be the wife, mother, grandmother…and yes…ministry leader he desires me to be.


As a reader, may I encourage you to allow ministry leaders in your life to close the curtains on their fish bowl and allow them the freedom to swim? God has called them and He trusts them to keep their hearts in tune to be responsible to that calling. They are on a journey in their faith just like anyone else.
"I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments."                                                                                                                                     ~Psalm 119:45 (NLT)

In freedom, responsibility, and trust...
Mari

January 2, 2014

The Star is Gone

Recently I entered the following short story in a Christmas contest sponsored by Journezine, the online magazine for Heart of God International Ministries. I'm excited to say that my entry won first place in their annual contest. The topic, "According to the Plan", pushed my imagination to think of the Christmas story from a totally new angle in which I let my Biblical fiction brain weave this story. Journey with me as I ponder how God's plan could not be destroyed by the evil, insecure King Herod. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THE STAR IS GONE
                At last our small village appeared to be returning to normal. The recent census had stirred up a hornet’s nest with so many people arriving in the land of their fathers to be counted. Then there were the rumors of the shepherds encounter with angels on the hillside announcing the birth of the long awaited Messiah.
                People traveled to the shepherd’s fields to see the exact location of the supposed materialization of the angelic host and hear their stories. Then they would journey into town to the place where the brilliant new star appeared to hover over a baby in a manger. Not to mention the latest unusual caravan; men in their extreme finery, asking questions about a king being born and how they had followed the vivid star right to our town.
                Father said people believed it because they needed something to hope in. That everyone was piecing together prophecies of old to fit what they wanted to be true. Mother loved to tell us girls the latest information she’d gathered after going to the market. Father, the pessimist, doubted the Messiah would ever come or that Yahweh even cared about his chosen people anymore.
                After last night’s terror, he may never believe.
***
                I bolted out of bed when I heard an ear splitting scream in the distance. I peeked out the window and saw men on horses, carrying torches and rushing through the streets, barging into homes. When our door burst open my eyes locked with the dark ones of a soldier.
                “I’m here on official business for King Herod.” His piercing gaze and gruff announcement backed me into the darkness of the far wall. “Is there a baby boy residing in this home?”
                I shook my head no. My knees quivered and I was fearful he might consider our Elias a baby, when in fact he was a toddler. Just then Elias cried out for Mother.
                “He’s not a baby!” I shouted with more bravery than I knew existed within me. Instantly my legs propelled me towards the back of our home darting in front of the soldier. My three younger sisters, Mother and Father, and our beloved only male child Elias, were stirring on the other side of the partition.
                With a shove of his meaty hand, my body flew through the air. The flash of his sword was the last thing I saw before my head hit the wall and I slumped to the floor. When I awoke, a blood smear marked where my skull had connected. I reached up and felt my head. My fingers became sticky and caught in a matted, tangled mess.  I winced in pain.
                Then I saw Mother. She lay on her bed, soaked in blood. I could see Elias’ tiny hand poking out from under her…lifeless…blue. My sisters were huddled in a corner, crimson splatters on their night clothes and faces. The more my eyes could focus the more blood I saw.
                “Where’s Father?”
                My sister’s all glanced towards the door. I stumbled to my feet and ran outside. Father knelt in the street, tearing at his clothes and his hair, throwing dirt and rocks over his head, beating his chest and crying out in anger to the heavens. 
                “Why?” He cried over the wails of several neighbor’s equally mournful shouts. “My only son! You took my only son!” He shook his fists at the dark skies.
                Four-year-old Miriam wrapped her arm around my leg and stared up at me. I scooped her into my arms and attempted to wipe the dried dots off her innocent face. I turned to go inside to protect her from the angry mournful scene in the streets.
                “They were looking for the Christ child,” she whispered. “But Rebekah… He’s gone now.”
                Her soft voice stopped me in my tracks. I stared into the distance and listened to the moans of all who appeared to be grieving their infant sons’ gruesome death at the hand of King Herod’s soldiers. “How do you know anything about the Christ child?” I asked, processing my own gleaned information from the many months of gossip.
                Light began to break in the east. The terror of the dark now gave way to the reality of our living nightmare. Father, despondent and filthy, collapsed on the floor near Mother who sat rocking the slaughtered body of our beloved Elias.
                After cleaning my sisters up and feeding them a small meal, I took them out of the house.  We crept around the inn and wandered the well worn path to the stable. Instantly I knelt at the feeding trough and wept, letting the strain of the vivid night’s events be released into the musty hay spilled on the ground around the manger. Miriam found her way into my lap while Rachel and Mary scooted in close.
               I wiped my nose on my sleeve. “Do you girls believe the Christ child was born here like the shepherds have told everyone?” My hand rested on the edge of the temporary baby bed.
                Miriam nodded emphatically but the other girls shrugged their shoulders.
                “There’s been a lot of talk about the old time prophecies that have been fulfilled when that baby was born here. The shepherds, those rich men that came through following that star we see every night and now Herod having baby boys killed…” I gulped and choked on my tears. “If that baby was the Christ child, did they kill him too?”
                “But Rebekah…” Miriam’s little face was so close to mine I could smell her breakfast on her breath. She placed her hands on my cheeks and stared me straight in the eyes. “The star…it’s gone.” She nodded as the impact of this realization hit me.  
                “We must have hope in Yahweh’s plan,” I announced to my little sisters in a motherly tone. “The Christ child...the promised Messiah…He is safe.”
 Proverbs 21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD. (NIV) 




September 28, 2013

Bike or Hike?

This week we are enjoying our new Thousand Trails membership in Newport, WA. I’ve thought about the commercials where a middle aged lady is whining about her son’s adventurous lifestyle via “the boat, the boat, the boat”, or his motorcycle escapades, or the kid’s honeymoon spent camping. How unromantic is that?

Her husband quietly munches on snacks as they sit side-by-side in their recliners, going nowhere, doing nothing, living in fear that an adventure might be the death of them and I’m pretty sure not experiencing anything remotely romantic.

Embarking on an adventure seems…well…adventurous. One of my favorite movies is UP. The quote “Adventure is out there!” strikes excitement in the child-mind at the beginning of the movie but later we notice that the adventure has a sense of peril, danger or mishaps. Every good adventure holds a bit of those elements, don’t you think?

This week Les and I headed out exploring the campground on our bikes. (BTW, Explore is one of those precursor words to an adventure).  We cruised on the paved portion of the campground for a couple  of miles, pressing up a long, arduous hill and sailing back down once it was conquered.  

I soon took the lead and headed down a dirt road towards the “lake” (aka: Mallard Marsh). Les said he knew from looking at a map earlier that there was a trail all the way around the lake. We stopped and assessed the fact we didn’t bring water or snacks but it looked pretty doable in a reasonable amount of time.

“Let’s go for it!” I shouted. I’m always up for a good nature romp AND I had my camera.

We noticed there was a sign on the entrance of the path that had a symbol of a single footprint. The kind of footprint you make when you wear waffle stomper boots. What’s that mean? Foot traffic only? Oh well, it’s off season in the campground and our bike ride exploring won’t be bothering any pedestrians. Onward!

Our cruiser bikes were doing rather well in this mountain bike environment, even if we had to get off and push them up a steep hill. I thought to myself…Maybe this is why it’s pedestrians only?  We crested the hill and discovered a lookout platform; a perfect place to rest and listen to life on the marsh. After a bit we judged our location at almost the half-way point so we chose to press on and walk our bikes down the other side of the steep hill.

Immediately, huge boulders and fallen trees became an embedded part of the trail. Remember those adventure words? Peril, danger, mishaps? And so our adventure really began.  For about a half mile we wrestled, pushed, lifted, and carried our bikes on what clearly was now a moderate to difficult steep hiking trail, befitting waffle stompers not tennis shoes or cruiser bikes!

Les would call back to me making sure I was alright when he couldn’t see or hear me through the brush. I hated to admit to him I was stopped taking pictures so I’d tuck my camera away and hustle to catch up, banging myself with the bike, lifting it over obstacles, or stumbling into boulders, yet laughing the whole time.  I was enjoying myself 100%.

Finally we pushed through into a wide clearing where some recent logging had taken place. We explored the open area, then we were able to actually ride our bikes. As we sped along the logging road, Les’ bike caught a large stick between the fender and the tire, but with a great deal of effort, he yanked that sucker right out of there and we were able to ride remainder of the way back to our campsite.

Our bikes are a bit banged up and so are my legs, but we survived. Should we have taken our bikes on that trail? Probably not, but I am so very glad we did.

Adventure is out there.  And who doesn’t love an adventure? Probably people who prefer to stay warm and safe… and bored.

Enjoy the slide show of our Marshy adventure.
~Psalm 77:6 "I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart,and my spirit makes diligent search."

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"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
~Maya Angelou

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