Friday, August 29, 2008

The Demoncratic Party

"It's like a train wreck," said my husband of the televised Democratic convention this week. "I can't not listen."

Indeed, it was hard to turn our ears away from listening to the deceptions that were poured out as liberal immorality was celebrated, while conservative politics were generally insulted without any factual arguments. Among the speeches I heard early in the week, I noticed the Democrats' recurring theme of espousing America as the land of opportunity, then negating their previous statements by declaring that "we can't afford" four more years of the current policies. The Democrats clamour for "change," but what change are they looking for? As far as I can tell, it's more government control, more liberal policies, and more sugar-coated poison that will lead to our nation's downfall.

Besides being generally appalled by their proposed policies and several unfounded arguments, I was surprised to see how many of the speakers were women. They celebrated the fact that for the first time ever, more women than men were present as delegates at the convention. One woman shared how she had sued her employer when she believed he was paying her less than he was paying men (to which my husband replied that other people who do his job earn more than he does, and it's not because he is a man or because he has red hair!). They even referred to the Democratic party as the party of women. Despite their speeches that pander to single women and their policies that destroy the integrity of the family and the definition of marriage, these women seem to be believe that they are advocating for families. Consider this quote from Hillary Clinton's speech, citing some of the ideals upon which she based her Presidential campaign:

"To fight for an America defined by deep and meaningful equality - from civil rights to labor rights, from women's rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families. To help every child live up to his or her God-given potential."

Am I the only one who finds contradictions in those statements? How can you say that caring for our families is "the most important job there is" when you encourage women to leave their families and pursue careers? How can you care for families when you accept the immorality that undermines marriage and destroys children in the name of rights? How can you help every child LIVE up to his God-given potential when you give his mother the "right" to abort him before he is even born?

The essential platforms of the Democratic party are so contrary to the Bible's teachings that I am shocked when they mention "God" in their speeches. Instead of encouraging men to provide for their families (see 1 Timothy 5:8) and the church to care for the poor, the Democratic party sponsors welfare programs that can make families dependent on government aid and leave them caught in a trap where they are unable to become self-sufficient for fear of losing their financial assistance. (A side note: Our family, being lower income, has been helped by several government programs. While I am truly thankful for the assistance, I have seen how the income limits discourage wage earners from taking on extra work, and asset limits discourage families from saving their money.) Instead of supporting the right of parents to educate their children ( Proverbs 1:8, Deuteronomy 11:18-19), they want to use tax dollars to fund the public schools that teach evolution as fact and promote homosexuality as normal behavior. Instead of acknowledging that God creates every life (Psalm 139), they give mothers the "right to choose" murder, and create policies that value the life of endangered species over the life of the human species.

My title is a typo that I made no less than three times while composing the text of this post. I decided to share it because, though it may be offensive to some, it is uncannily accurate. Demons whisper lies:
  • Murder is okay - under certain circumstances at least.
  • Homosexuality is good and normal, and anyone who speaks against it is committing a hate crime.
  • Wives do not need to submit to their husbands - in fact, they don't even need husbands.
  • Divorce is acceptable and sometimes inevitable.
  • Children need not submit to their parents (nor even inform them when they choose an abortion).
The Democratic Party embraces these lies as truths, then tacks on feel-good messages of patriotism, independence, and a better world for our children. Sadly, as so many women are lured in with this bait, they become entangled in the web of lies that Satan has spun to form the foundation of our nation's liberal politics.

A woman was easily deceived in Eden. Instead of adhering to God's command not to eat from the tree, Eve was tricked into taking the fateful fruit, which she shared with her husband - and with that action, she ushered in a legacy of sin and death for all mankind.

And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. - 1 Timothy 2:14

Today, women are easily deceived in America. To use the Democrats' expression, "we cannot afford" for women to be deceived any longer. We cannot afford to let our country continue toward liberal policies of broken families controlled by government instead of God. We cannot afford the "change" that Democrats seek. The cost of our children, our morals, and our freedom is too great. My fellow women of God, I urge you to take a stand for conservative policies. Since we have been afforded the privilege of suffrage, let us use it to elect leaders who will make moral decisions for our country, instead of those who have fallen prey to the lies of demons.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prayer in the Midst of Suffering

Many of my friends have recently been blessed with new pregnancies. Of course, the initial excitement of a new life forming can often be overshadowed by the ailments of early pregnancy. One friend, who is suffering from severe nausea and dizziness, recently wrote to me wondering how she could use this miserable time for God's glory when she feels she cannot fulfill her basic roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker.

As I pondered her situation, one thought stood out in my mind: Prayer. It almost sounded too basic - just pray? Yet as I discussed in my last post, it can become all too easy in our busy days to neglect to give God the time He deserves in focused prayer. As I formulated my reply to my friend, I realized that there will certainly be times in my life when I need to take my own advice. Whether we suffer from morning sickness, hormone swings, exhaustion, chronic pain, or injury, we all face periods where it is difficult to find a way to minister to others because our own trials are so great. In sharing the following paragraphs, which are excerpted from my email reply, I hope that you will be encouraged to seek the Lord in prayer even in the midst of suffering.


I was thinking about you this morning, and I believe God gave me an answer about how you can use this time for His glory: You can pray. It sounds so simple, but prayer is an important ministry that we often overlook in our everyday busyness. You may not be able to get off the couch and use your body for His service, but you can use your mind and spirit. Pray for your health and your walk with God, for your unborn baby, and for your children to know and love the Lord. Pray for your marriage, your relationships with other family members, for fellow believers, and that your life would bear witness to all those with whom you come in contact. Pray for our country and the government that makes decisions for us, especially as we approach the November elections that will determine our leaders for the next four years. Pray for those who are persecuted, poverty-stricken, and suffering all over the world. As awful as you feel, you can have a powerful ministry of prayer right from your chair. And when others see how you are relying on Christ to strengthen you through your suffering, God will be glorified. That certainly is not a wasted life!

Try not to place too many expectations on yourself that God is not requiring of you right now. It would make me absolutely crazy not to be able to get up and clean my home and take care of my children, so I'm sure this is difficult. But do use whatever help is available to you, and don't be too hard on yourself. Can your husband pick up some movies or books on tape from the library to keep your children occupied? Or you could get out puzzles, flashcards, and other activities that they can do independently or with a little help from you while you relax on the couch. If it helps, serve meals on paper plates to make clean-up easier. Make sandwiches or something from the freezer section for dinner - or order pizza. And do not be afraid to ask others for help. It is difficult to admit a need, but that is what gives others an opportunity to serve!

Rather than feeling useless because your body is weak, rejoice in your sufferings. Commit to fervent prayer and know that you are doing an important work, even when you must put other important works aside for a time. I also want to really encourage you to fill your mind with Scripture so that there is no room for Satan's discouragement and depression to sink in. Find a verse or passage that speaks to you and meditate on it day and night. One of my favorites for these situations is, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." And be sure to focus on what is true (and right, pure, and so on). God has allowed this to happen; He will give you strength to endure.


Dear friends, I pray that when you are weak in the flesh, you would be strong in the Lord. And would you join me in lifting up those who are suffering before our Father? Whether we are sick or well, let us commit to a faithful ministry of prayer for the saints, and know that it is all for His glory.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blah Blah Blah

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:7-8

We can thank Grammy for today's title. During her visit yesterday, we munched on bagels and muffins from Dunkin Donuts while she filled me in on the latest family news. I can't remember the details of her story now, but she filled in the gaps in her reenacted dialogue with the seemingly harmless phrase, "Blah blah blah." I am amazed at how many phrases are perfectly acceptable for adults to say, but just don't sound right out of the mouths of babes. (A recent example was Donny exclaiming, "Oh man! You've gotta be kidding me!" as he unpacked groceries.) So not surprisingly, my observant three year old instantly picked up on the new word, asking what it meant. Soon Hayden joined in the conversation, and the two boys spent much of snack time chanting, "Blah blah blah!" and giggling. As funny as it was, I was thankful and a bit relieved that the new catchphrase was apparently forgotten for the rest of the day.

Or so I thought. As part of our bedtime routine, each family member gets to choose a song for us to sing together. Last night, I chose "Oh, How I Love Jesus" for my song, but when I drew a blank on the words of the second verse, I filled in with lyrics of, "I can't re-me-e-em-ber the words; I'll ha-ave to look them up." Donny interrupted my chorus to inform me, "If you don't know the words, say, 'Blah blah blah' - that's what Grammy always does."

I laughed, but somehow I don't think that singing, "Blah blah blah" to the Creator of the Universe is a good idea. In fact, I hope that there is nothing "blah" about my communication with the Lord. Donny's bedtime prayer started off being sweetly thankful for our visit with Grammy, but then he began to repeat the same jumbled phrase over and over and over (and over) until I wondered if the prayer would ever end. When he finished telling God how proud he was that Grammy got to stay and play Legos with us (and I corrected him to say glad instead of proud), I attempted a quick lesson in Prayer 102. I explained that although God always wants us to talk to Him, we don't have to keep repeating the same words within the same prayer. Surely the Lord never tires of our communication with Him, even though He knows our needs before we ask. But if we get stuck in one phrase or repetitive prayer, are we really communicating? Or are we just following the motions - singing a song, reciting a poem, chanting a prayer - without thinking of the One we are talking to?

Donny has a standard Grace, too. Before meals, he always likes to say,
"Dear God, thank you for the food and thank you for EVERYthing and thank you for the wonderful animals you made. Jesus' name, Amen."
For a three year old, I think his prayer is perfect. But for me, an adult who has been claiming the name of Christ for many years, I cannot be content with rote prayers. My Heavenly Father gives me the privilege of talking to Him through His Son. He knows my every need and desire, yet He affords me the opportunity to present my requests, rejoice in His answers, seek forgiveness, and sing His praises. I may not drone on endlessly like a pagan seeking attention, but I am afraid there are times when I throw up a few words to Heaven and miss out on the chance for the real fellowship that comes from heartfelt communication. My prayers may have the basic effect of, "Dear Lord, please help me and please bless everyone I know...blah blah blah."

My husband sometimes accuses me of not paying attention when we are talking on the phone. I am striving to be more attentive during our phone calls, and more so, I hope my God can never bring the same charge against my prayer life. Many words are not necessary, but a properly submitted spirit is required. So I pray, dear Father, may I sing Your praises even when I cannot remember the words to a song. May I pray in the Spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of requests. And may my prayers be free of babbling and blahs, and full of reverence for You, my Sovereign Lord.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Relativity of Time

Beyond his trademark theory of relativity, Albert Einstein made this insightful observation: "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

There are days when I seem to be constantly busy with few check marks on my to-do list to show for it. More often, I accomplish the regular expectations of my daily routine with little time to spare between waking and going to sleep. And then there are rare days, like today, when I have a brief moment to sit down and think, "Wow, I don't have anything I really need to do right now." When this happens, I usually assume I must be forgetting about something - and a quick check of my daily planner confirms my suspicions. Today was an unusual day in that I accomplished all I needed to do and still had time to spare.

Over the course of the day, I washed, dried, folded, and put away a load of laundry, as I do every weekday. I changed the sheets on my bed, gave the main living areas a quick once-over with the vacuum, and updated my grocery budget Excel sheet. I tended to the regular everyday tasks of devotions, baths, meals, snacks, diapers, potty breaks, toy squabbles, and cleaning up from all of the above. And on top of this, the children and I were blessed with a visit from my mom.

Since she has to drive more than an hour each way to see us, weekday visits with Grammy are treasured times of fun for the boys and me. We shared our latest news, read books, climbed on the playground equipment, played two rounds of Memory Match, and built impressive structures using large quantities of Duplo blocks (the big Lego bricks - we just call them Legos, actually). Grammy adhered to her usual custom of bringing muffins and bagels for morning snack and ordering sandwiches for lunch while the children were napping. She and I had time to eat, talk, and browse the Internet together before the boys woke up ready to play Legos, as I had promised we would after rest time. In his excitedly three year old way, Donny repeatedly told Grammy, "It's awesome that you are still here so that you can play Legos with us!" Maybe Rome was not built in a day, but the Great Wall of Lego was constructed in less than an hour.

And somehow I still had a moment between my mom's departure and dinnertime to sit down with no pressing obligations looming overhead. The peace has continued into the evening; now that the children are sleeping, I am blogging, and there seems to be a good chance I will even get to sleep myself before midnight. Relatively speaking, this has been a very pleasant and productive day.

Based on my recent observations, my updated Theory of Relativity for Moms would read something like this:

"Wait for a toddler to finish using the toilet, or for a preschooler to put his shoes on when you are late for an appointment, or for dinner to warm up when your hungry family is waiting, and a few minutes seem like an hour. Engage yourself in your work at home and in enjoying your family, and an hour seems like a few minutes. And reflect back on the time that has passed since you brought home your firstborn, and thousands of days seem like less than a year. THAT'S relativity."

And where is God in all this? He is outside of time. Peter reminds us:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
2 Peter 3:8

I find it fascinating that God is not bound by the constraints we know as minutes and hours and days. But while we are in the world, He gives us our lives one day at a time. Each day is a new chance to grow in grace and knowledge, a fresh opportunity to submit to His perfect will, a blank slate of twenty-four hours to use for His glory. I must ever be conscious that time, however relative, is limited. Whether it flies or crawls or passes pleasantly in the company of loved ones, I can offer each moment of my day as a sacrifice to the Lord. When I see Him face to face, the quantity of time I spent on earth will not matter. He will simply count whether I lived each day being rightly related to Jesus Christ. Now THAT'S relativity.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wordle The Word

I discovered Wordle after seeing an image on a friend's blog that appealed to my inner word lover. When you enter a blog address, the web program scans the page and generates a randomly arranged cloud of words with the most frequently used words appearing larger. I had lots of fun experimenting with different fonts, layouts, and colors for my Lambs In His Arms Wordle. (You can click the images to enlarge.)

If you don't have a blog, you can type in any text to create an original Wordle. To make this one, I pasted the lyrics of my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

You could also use a poem, verse, or passage of Scripture. What better words to dwell on than the Word of God! Can you guess what text I used for the Wordle below?

Update August 21: Unfortunately you cannot save a Wordle to your computer through the website, but I downloaded free software called Screenshot Pilot to capture the images. I like that these are much easier to see than the thumbnail links I had before.

Happy Wordling!

May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
Psalm 119:172

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Darn Socks

I love wearing socks. While others may look forward to donning sandals or going barefoot in the summertime, I prefer to keep the air conditioner blowing just enough to justify keeping my toes comfortably covered. This summer I have even occasionally sported the oh-so-stylish socks and sandals look while walking to the mailbox. When cooler weather comes, my indoor wardrobe includes black slippers over my white ankle length athletic socks. But this week, three of my favorite socks have suddenly developed holes. Apparently the heels of my most recent package of Hanes Her Way are all wearing out at the same time. And while I'm not one to ignore or repair my damaged socks, I do make use of them by turning them inside out and adding them to my rag collection - which at this point may actually be larger than the pile in my sock drawer.

So what Scripture could I possibly think of to discuss my holey socks? Believe it or not, I didn't have to think of one; the Lord provided one in my reading this morning:

He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." - Hebrews 1:10-12

How true that is! We live in a disposable world where everything wears out or breaks. Just last weekend, I cleaned out the laundry room closet, (it is literally a closet with a washer and dryer and shelves, but somehow the management at our apartment complex gets away with calling it a "laundry room") which is actually where I store my ever-expanding assortment of sock rags. On one of the cluttered shelves, I had stashed some damaged items, waiting for the day when I would figure out what to do with them. I decided to throw away the ripped tool bag as well as the rolled up bath mat that had somehow fused to itself, rendering it unusable. I wasn't sure what to do with the colorful children's CD player, complete with karaoke microphone, which worked consistently for only a month or two after we bought it. It seems too nice and new to throw away, but who wants a CD player that is already halfway broken? The junk collection also included a battery-operated bubble blower that stopped blowing bubbles several months ago, and it was impossible to overlook the oversize stuffed penguin who was thoroughly rubbed with Vick's Vapor Rub one day when Donny was supposed to be napping. I gave the penguin a long overdue bath and he was nearly as good as new, but I still filled a garbage bag with items destined for the dumpster. I also have a bag of outgrown and well-worn clothing waiting to be dropped off at the thrift store. We have been blessed with so much, but even the highest quality of earthly possessions cannot last forever. The foundations of the earth itself are destined to perish, and with them everything the world contains.

Like my socks and my children's broken toys, this world will be worn out and eventually discarded. It is so comforting to know that while everything else is passing away, our God remains unchanged forever. Why do I fret about anything that in the end will pass away? The only One who matters will never wear out, run out, break up, or break down. Whatever we find beneath our feet, we can know that He remains the same!

As I type this, I am noticing that the heel of my left sock is wearing thin. I guess I will need to buy a new package soon, or resign myself to wearing my second favorite brand. And maybe I should make some sock puppets for the children - we certainly have the supplies.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sleeping Arrangements II

The week after vacation was difficult. I stayed up way too late catching up on what I would otherwise have done the week we were gone. The boys had some trouble adjusting back to our normal routine, and my lack of sleep left me impatient and easily irritated with them. Now that I am feeling more rested, I thought that those of you who have been following my blog - if you even exist - might enjoy an update on the sleeping arrangements here.

Not much has changed with Donny; he rarely, if ever, sleeps on his bed. He prefers to nap and fall asleep for the night on the body pillow that we placed next to his mattress (thinking that it would cushion his fall if he rolled out of bed, not that it would BE the mattress). When he wakes up in the middle of the night, he moves to some blankets on the floor next to our bed, and by morning he is snuggled up next to Don. Since Donny is not using his twin size mattress, I usually put Hayden down there, leaving the crib mattress-turned-toddler bed untouched. When Donny gets up in the night, he leaves his bedroom door open, which allows Hayden the freedom to stagger into our room in the wee hours of the morning. I often find him curled up at the foot of our bed like a tired puppy. I stopped turning the baby monitor on now that there are no babies left to monitor, just big boys who can come find Mumma and Daddy themselves.

One night, just as I had gotten into bed myself, I heard a small, half-asleep voice calling "Mum-ma! Mum-ma!" as it wandered over to the side of my bed in search of me. My little Linus was dragging a blue blanket along behind him, calling it "sheet" - a term he learned because Donny sleeps with only a sheet over himself and then drags it throughout our home when he wakes up. Hayden was quite pleased when I reluctantly gave him permission to climb up into our bed, though he somehow managed to drop his "sheet" and spent a few bewildered moments wondering what had happened to it. When I retrieved it off the floor for him, he happily tucked it up to his chin and snuggled down next to me. As much as I would have liked to have my pillow to myself, it was hard to resist that pathetically adorable performance.

Last night was another example of Hayden's late-night charm. He was still awake at 10:00pm, which is nothing incredibly unusual; since birth he has been my night owl, often staying awake for several hours after his older brother goes to sleep. After my failed attempts, Don finally put him to bed, but it wasn't long before he came toddling out of his room. He found me typing on my laptop and munching popcorn as he climbed into my lap. As if being awake at this late hour and ignoring all commands to go to sleep were not crimes enough, he then reached across me and stuck his hand into my popcorn bowl. "I don't think so!" I said, unwilling to share my late evening munchies with the stubbornly awake child, especially since popcorn is a choking hazard for toddlers. But instead of sneaking a handful of the forbidden snack for himself, he picked up a single kernel in his chubby little hand and held it up to my mouth. After I ate it, he took another piece and then another, feeding them to me with a huge smile on his own face. He even made sure to rub each kernel in the salt at the bottom of the bowl, just like I do. When he had helped me finish the last of my bedtime snack, he declared, "All gone!" And eventually, thanks to help from Daddy and sheer exhaustion, he fell asleep in his own room.

Not long thereafter, Don and I decided to head to bed too, and maybe have the room to ourselves for a little while. As you can imagine, things did not quite work out that way. I heard a strange hissing noise and looked up just in time to see the tail of Donny's sheet sweeping past as he made a beeline for our bedroom floor. Don and I laughed about it a bit and soon proceeded to get ready for bed ourselves. Donny hadn't stirred since he relocated, so I assumed he was asleep. While I laid down under the covers, Don finished brushing his teeth and turned off the bathroom light, quietly heading towards his side of the bed.

Then, out of the darkness, an unexpected little voice chimed, "Time to slee-eep!" So much for that alone time.

But in spite of the interruption, we actually did get a few minutes of child-free interaction. My sweet husband rose to the occasion and gave a half-asleep Donny his first lesson on the importance of Mumma-Daddy alone time, for which I was thankful. At the end of a long day, it's nice to reconnect and remember what I love about the father of these little blessings. And it's nice to know that at the end of the day, I may be tired, but I am never lonely; I have three precious men to snuggle and love.

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127:2

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rainbow Reminder

We finally came home today. Although I really enjoyed our vacation, I was happy to finally relax in the comfort of my own familiar space. And look what God gave us to celebrate our homecoming:

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."
Genesis 9:12-16

Rainbows are always a beautiful reminder of God's promise and faithfulness, but today, the rainbow inspired me to think more about the story of Noah, and even to feel like I could identify with him in some small way. Noah saw the rainbow after he left the ark, and we saw the rainbow after leaving our compact sedan, which was arguably nearly as crowded as Noah's floating zoo. In fact, as Don unpacked the abundance of bags and suitcases he had magically crammed into our small trunk, the pile on the living room floor bore a vague resemblance to Mount Ararat itself. Now, four hours later, I finally have the washer, dryer, and dishwasher running (a luxury that I can appreciate more after a week without one!). The floor and counters are clear, and the children are tucked into their own beds...well, they are at least in beds in their own home, since technically Hayden is on Donny's bed and Donny has moved to the floor. It is good to be home again.

As for Noah, can you imagine what the flood experience must have been like for his family? I can hardly fathom how they must have longed for their home, their friends, the sight of anything familiar, the sight of land itself! Here I am, grateful to see my own dishes in the cupboards, while Noah waited months just for the sight of an olive branch. I have so much to be thankful for, so many comforts that I enjoy daily. At any time, they could all be swept away. Yet I need not fear, for I know my Creator will watch over me and provide for my needs. He has set His rainbow in the clouds, and I am reminded that He is and will always be faithful.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
Ezekiel 36:25

So far, I have mentioned some of the highlights of our vacation: the beautiful scenery of the Lakes Region, the fun times with family, the peacefulness of communing with nature. Yet in the midst of this, I have also been challenged by my own clandestine fear of dirtiness. Honestly, this week has been the closest to camping that I ever want to get. On one hand, I was deeply thankful that the house has laundry facilities; our towels may have grown mold without the aid of the electric dryer. I felt comfortable bathing the boys in the bathtub that did not seem gross, and I certainly appreciated that there was hot running water for showers, though in limited quantity. I even enjoyed the woodsy charm of the cabin's knotty pine walls and ceilings. On the other hand, my inner dirtophobe went into a state of alert over the sandy floors, the stairs that smelled like wet dog, the potential germs in someone else’s bathroom, the leaky toilet, the questionably clean dishes in the musty cupboards, the damp sheets, and the ants crawling across the kitchen table. I survived for the week, but it is difficult for me to imagine living like this all the time; I have been counting down the days until I get home to my own bed, shower, and kitchen in our newer, cleaner, drier apartment.

I have to say, I love being clean. If I were to compose a song about my favorite things, the chorus would certainly mention warm showers, clean sheets, freshly vacuumed rugs, and orderly closets. My love of the the clean, the tidy, and the organized is helpful to my homemaking career, and I do believe that our Lord is a God of order, not of chaos. But sometimes my fondness for all things neat and clean threatens to turn into a bizarre sort of idol worship, where my peace is destroyed until I achieve the comfortable level of cleanliness I seek. Don’t get me wrong; my home is far from spotless. I don’t follow guests around with a Dustbuster, nor do I carry Lysol spray in my pocketbook. Really, my issues are not so much about my actions, but more about the inward struggle I go through when I feel like I or my surroundings are dirty, unsanitary, or overly messy.

I suspect that my struggles are fueled by our ultra-sanitary American culture. I need to remember that people throughout history have lived happy and Godly lives without the luxuries of disposable plastic wrappers or self-flushing toilets. Before vacuum cleaners and indoor plumbing, women kept home with dirt floors and dirty feet. Bugs and rodents were everyday occurrences. Today, we react over a large insect the way pioneer women must have reacted to an angry grizzly outside the cabin door. People bathed once a week and wore the same clothes every day to do physical labor, yet I insist on washing shirts that the children have worn for just a few hours. My mental standards of cleanliness seem almost ridiculous in comparison.

Yes, times have changed since pioneer days. But what if someday God calls me to a third world country, and I have to live in a place where even clean drinking water is scarce? Thinking less extreme, what if I have to live in a home that smells musty or looks dirty or is (I shudder as I type this) infested with pests? Can I truly be a joyful keeper of my home if I am ever faced with such challenges? In the midst of the shabby, the old, and the unwashed, could I truly boast contentment in Christ alone, or would my longing for something better cast a shadow over my home?

Just to be clear about the intent of this post, I am not in any way trying to denounce personal hygiene, cleanliness, or sanitary conditions. However, I am denouncing the false god who tempts me by setting up cleanliness as an idol to be worshipped. Absolutely, I will continue to strive for a clean home; I will continue to wash my floors, dishes, clothing, and children with faithful regularity. But I will also pray for an attitude of love that sees past dirty floors and dirty feet. If I am really to love others, I must be willing to get dirty – even if I can’t wash my hands right away, even if I don’t have my favorite pink dishwashing gloves to protect my delicate skin. Lord, may I pour out at your feet my obsession with a germ-free, dirt-free life. May I rise above whatever muck and mire and dust and dirt I find myself in, to look in your face and know that You are the only one who can truly make me clean.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Castle In The Clouds

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:1-3 NKJV

Today Don and I visited Castle in the Clouds, one of the many tourist attractions in New Hampshire's Lakes Region. While we enjoyed our outing, we were a bit disappointed to discover that the "castle" is actually just an expensive home built in 1914 by a self-made millionaire who lost all of his money before he died. I had not realized that we could have saved ourselves the ten dollar admission by opting instead to take the virtual tour of the mansion which, while very extravagant and technologically advanced for its time, failed to fill us with the admiration I had anticipated. In fact, many brand new luxury homes are similar in size; modern builders simply replace the servant's quarters with children's bedrooms and an office, the pipe organ with surround sound wiring, and the once-progressive "needle shower" with a jetted jacuzzi tub.

The most outstanding feature of this historical attraction is certainly the view. Built on the summit of a mountain that overlooks the surrounding lakes, the home would be worth the multi-million dollar price tag just to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Don and I felt like we were cheating a bit when we stopped the car to take this picture instead of having to hike up a mountain to see it. I always feel a bit closer to God when I'm looking down on a vastly beautiful view of His Creation, and realizing that what seems like so much to my eyes is but a tiny fraction of the world He made. It almost looks like you could step right into the clouds, doesn't it?

On the way back to our rented lake house, our conversation turned toward finances, jobs, and the possibility of buying a home. Would we be able to manage a house payment on our current income? What if Don gets a second job? Should we wait for him to get a raise at work, or until we have saved up a 20 percent down payment, before we start seriously looking? Or should we buy whatever we can afford right now, while market prices and interest rates are so low? We were recently preapproved for a mortgage, but bank approval does not necessarily mean heavenly approval. No matter how much we dream, research, and plan, we cannot walk through the doors of our own home until God Himself opens them.

When I spend too long dwelling on such thoughts, the Holy Spirit is quick to remind me of the songs Don and I sing to our children about the mansions waiting for us in Heaven. A tune from Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart CD keeps John 14:2 repeating in my head. Even if we never own a home on this earth, we have treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy. Someday, we will go home to the arms of our loving Savior, who will show us the rooms He has prepared just for us. What then will it matter whether I lived in an apartment or condo or cabin or palace? Yes, I am looking forward to the day when Don and I will have a place of our own, where we can paint the walls any color we like and maybe even have a yard where our children can play. But that day cannot begin to compare with the blessed day when I will go to my true home to spend eternity in my Father's house.

A castle in the clouds? You could call it that, but don't expect a stale collection of antiques with a gift shop outside the door. This castle is a mansion fit for a King, and there is a special place there just for me.