Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Call to True Unity

--
I love words. Words are gifts and God-full and made for beauty.

But how is it that words can be so ugly?

How is it that mouths that sing words of praise and speak words of loving God can, in the next breath, be making racial jokes?

What in the world am I supposed to DO with that?

I sit, open-mouthed, heart filling with fumes and toxic smoke, and everything in me wants to get up and call to task, or storm out in a showy and conspicuous exit . . . or unhear what I've heard.

Have we made so little progress in my lifetime?  Have we moved so little from where we started?  In some ways I'm afraid we're further out than where began. It distresses me that racism is such a common theme that runs through secular places like schools (honestly in Christian schools too)--my children could tell you stories!  It infuriates me when people cry "RACISM" where there is none!  But racist talk breaks my heart when it comes from the mouths of people who are in positions of Christian leadership--I don't get it!

******************
Two days later after calling the leader in question to express my concern:

Calmer now, and thankful that prayer is perfect preparation for hard conversations. 

I'm glad I cared enough to make the call.  I'm glad I didn't just give in to thinking that what I thought wouldn't make a difference anyway.  It may or it may not, only time will tell, but I know it was right to stand against racism and to advocate for the well-being of the people who might have been hurt or offended by some admittedly irresponsible words. I am now willing to believe there was no malevolent intent behind the joking, and I am willing to forgive and carry on, hoping for the best.

My family, where skin color matters not at all!
Photo Credit to my dear friend Sara Goetz

Race is only as important as we make it.  If we see people as the Image-bearers of the Creator of the universe, their skin-color matters not at all. We can recognize and celebrate our differences, there may even be places and times where we can joke with each other about our differences, but we must always be respectful of and sensitive to the feelings of each person in the room.  That is not a call for political correctness or dishonesty, just a call to be kind and gracious, and above all, loving.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free,(B) there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28 ESV

We, fractured creatures that we are, can find so many ways to create divisions amongst ourselves, but in Christ, they all fall away into His goodness, His restoration, His hope, His unfathomable love! He is the only one who will ever bring true unity!

How do you respond when you witness racism?
Do you ever see evidence of racism in your own heart?
_______________________________

Joining Emily for 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So Shaunie, What's the Deal with the Frogs?

--
From the moment God put language in our mouths and made us people of words--created by and in the image of the pre-existent Logos, the Word--He made us people of symbols too.  For what are words but symbols?  Words represent, either audibly when spoken, or visually when written, an object, an idea or a piece of information.

We use other things as symbols too--as for me, I have a little collection of frogs I'd like you to meet!


This note I received from my parents several years ago is tacked up next to my computer monitor where I write:
When I am tempted to get discouraged, my eyes are drawn to these amazingly affirming words, symbols in ink of a love I can only begin to fathom because I am a mother of two whom I also love to encourage!  My parents' words of encouragement accompanied one of the frogs in my collection--one of a number they have sent me over the years.

I'll bet you're wondering, So Shaunie, what's the deal with the f
rogs? And frog spit????

Okay. Almost 20 years ago, when Drummer Boy's drum set was made up of every pot and pan I owned turned upside down on the kitchen floor where he sat banging on them to his heart's content, I began to write. I was very green (haha-frogs, green--sorry, no pun intended), and knew nothing about query letters or proposals, or how to get started.  Fortunately, I happily stumbled upon an internet bulletin board on Prodigy (long before the worldwide web or Google or blogging), and it was called Housewife Writers. It was something of a misnomer because they weren't all housewives, and they weren't even all writers, but I was a Housewife Writer and I wanted to know what they were about.

What I found there was the most loving, eclectic, generous, smart, experienced, nurturing and supportive group of (mostly) writers I could have asked for! They came from all over the country, held all different kinds of beliefs, but they all got along beautifully! After lurking for awhile, I finally un-lurked and timidly told them of my barely conceived dreams of being a writer.  They not only encouraged me, but they educated me and helped me get going. They cheered me on when I sent queries and commiserated and gave me perspective when I got rejections. They nearly came through the screen where their words flickered to celebrate with me when I got my first article published!

I know! I know! I'm getting to the frogs!!

At some point before I found my way to the Housewife Writers, one of their number (so the story goes) had an unusual encounter with a frog on the golf course.  Said frog hopped up to her golf ball, slobbered on it, and hopped away.  When our bemused Housewife Golfer hit that ball, she made the shot of her life, and frog spit has been the stuff of Housewife Writer lore from then on!  We have flung proverbial frog spit far and wide for any and every conceivable need, dream, enterprise, book proposal, doctor visit and Housewife Writer escapade ever since. It was HW-speak for, "I'm with you! I'm praying for you! I want the best for you! I believe in your dreams! I believe in you!"  Thus began my love of frogs and the habit my friends and family have of adding to my collection as their way of flinging frog spit on all my dreams, of the writing kind and otherwise.

The whimsical ceramic one with the purple flowers was a gift from Hero Husband--crazy about that guy!
Also, meet the MAKE THE LEAP twins who are pretty sure they hold the keys to success =)
Oh, and the polished green rock in the foreground--just try and convince me there isn't a magic frog frozen inside by an evil enchanter--the same evil enchanter who locks my ideas up in writer's block!
These guys are as much fun as tiddly winks--a rowdy and colorful bunch!
The one on the left glows in the dark and sticks to smooth surfaces--very handy when I'm fumbling around in the dim recesses of my own mind!
A couple of plush (and huggable) frogs here
with my frog pen who will happily give me the old 1-2 punch, if I start procrastinating.
On the far left is one of my favorites. My mom fixed her up as a pregnant froggie and put the little tag on it saying
"Frog Spit For Pregnant Days"--I received her when I was extremely pregnant with She So Sweet!
Got this one after She So Sweet was born!  If I had to pick an absolute favorite, this is it!

So Shaunie, is this really just about frogs and your frog collection? Great question! No, it really isn't. I'm not writing to promote frogs or the wonders of frog spit.  Outside the world of the Housewife Writers, frogs are ordinary and frog spit is just messy, so there's no use in flinging it out here.  I really wanted to write down my gratitude to God for all the people He has put in my life who have encouraged, and who continue to encourage me along the way.  Many of you are among those encouragers, so THANK YOU!!

Lest you think I'm dancing dangerously close to worshipping my frogs or ascribing power to them, rest assured that is NOT the case!  While God clearly forbade the worship of idols, He was a master of the use of symbols to remind us of truth and to keep His principles and His ways fresh in our minds--

The Ark of the Covenant
the Golden Lamp Stand
the Bronze Serpent in the desert, and of course, 
the Cross of Christ.
These are all images that represent some of the biggest themes in the Bible--
the place where the Presence of God offers mercy
Jesus, the Light of the World
God's provision of a remedy for the plague of sin
the place where Jesus died to make that remedy available.

We have so much to be thankful for . . . so much to be mindful of as we walk through this life and move toward fulfilling the potential God poured into us.  Our good God was so gracious to provide not only His Word, and the truth it communicates, but He gave us the use of symbols to help us remember and to inspire us as we go!
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (emphasis mine) 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV 

Do you have symbols or tangible reminders that inspire you?
What is your favorite symbol in the Bible?
_____________________________________

My deep and heartfelt thanks to the Housewife Writers who graciously gave me the green light (there I go again) to tell you about the reason for my frog collection!  They are dear to me beyond description!
_____________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#386-400
386. An unexpected chance to check something off my list
387. Rain accumulating on my sun roof
388. Peet's Dark Chocolate Mocha Freddo (Decaf, nonfat, extra cocoa, no whip!)
389. Better late than never
390. Reconnecting with friends from HW and FCA!  Them connecting back!!
391. Silly, zany, laughing fun with Drummer Boy
392. She So Sweet, talking to me because she wants to
393. An "I don't have to go anywhere" day!
394. Great time on the phone with Mom & Daddy
395. Clicking the "Submit to Accountant" button on the online tax planner--done--I hope!
396. My frog collection . . . and symbols
397. March 26th, 2011--Our 23rd Wedding Anniversary!
398. A delicious dinner-for-two to celebrate and beautiful cards from Hero Husband, Drummer Boy and She So Sweet (aka "The Wordsmith")
399. Getting to watch She So Sweet playing bass for worship and her enthusiasm!
400. Continuing conversation with a curious-about-my-faith friend

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Prayer for the Wondering

--
I hear them murmuring against You Lord.

They wonder why You let it happen . . . why You let the plates of earth grind and scrape in their underwater hiding place, changing the very face of the earth, changing the angle of earth's tilt on her axis.

They wonder why You let the waters of the Pacific leave their boundaries to march like an army of black dread over the face of northern Japan, stripping away whole lifetimes, whole worlds, our hearts with them.

They wonder why You let the danger pile higher and higher on these already beleaguered people with the looming threat of nuclear disaster.

When they pry their horrified eyes away from the trials of the nation of Japan, 24/7 news takes them to the Middle East, where violence is boiling like a witch's cauldron in some kind of twisted fairy tale where evil always wins in the end.  They wonder why despots live so long.  They wonder why it's so easy to spark the wrath of the mob.  They wonder if there is any hope for a peaceful solution in a land so quick to shed blood.

They wonder if it's the end of the world.

They think You aren't powerful.
They think You don't care.
They think You're cold and cruel and distant.
They think You must not be there.

Here on the other side of the world, the other side of those ill-behaved Pacific waters, sunsets are still beautiful . . .


. . . and flowers still bloom in a riot of gold and intoxicating perfume . . . should I feel guilty for enjoying them when the world is in such violent and devastating travail?


All I know is how You love.
All I know is that You are near.
All I know is that You are full of compassion.

In countless ways every day You cry out to the people of earth,
"Listen to Me, listen to Me, listen to Me!"
You speak in the tragedies and
You speak in the displays of beauty.  
You show us how vulnerable we are and
You proved once and for all how valuable we are.

Father, it's easy to pray for the innocent afflicted of Japan, and well we should pray, and help in ways we are able.  Remind us to pray for our enemies too.

There is no one on earth who isn't just as vulnerable as the people in Japan that unimaginable day!
There is no one on earth who isn't subject to the juggernaut of death in one form or another.
There is no one on earth who is immune to the ravages of sin.
There is no one on this wracked blue marble in space who doesn't desperately need
to call upon the Name of the Lord!

"I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
   “O LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
   our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the simplehearted;
   when I was in great need, he saved me."
Psalm 166:3b-6 NIV1984


Father, please open the eyes and ears and minds and hearts of this wondering, murmuring world.
Turn the hearts of Your enemies.
Awaken the hearts of Your friends!
May we all call upon Your Name like never before!

Do you find yourself wondering the hard questions?
Do you notice Him in everything and call His name when you do?
_______________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#371-385

371. News of a brand new family member in the process of being "fearfully and wonderfully made"
372. Wonderful phone visits from both brothers in two days!
374. Walking on air because the epiphany changes everything
375. Restoration of privileges when a goal has been reached
376. Paper clips
377. Saving a fortune in orange juice because my tree is so heavy-laden
378. An almost-argument between friends, averted!  Grace!!
379. Watching a good movie with Hero Husband
380. El Shaddai,  Warrior King who flashes His sword and rumbles strong in lightning and thunder!
381. The world scoured clean by an overnight storm
382. Microscopic fragrant mist as I harvest the zest from an orange
383. The seat-warmer in my car that I once scoffed at as unnecessary in this part of California--I still think it's unnecessary, but it sure feels good on a sore back!
384. Being able to listen to my college pastor's sermons online
385. A look back at God's provision over the past year (tax time is good for something after all!)

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kick Loose and Ride for the Win

--
After decades of not getting it, (I mean completely obtuse, dumb-as-a-post not getting it), finally the combination is entered, the tumblers have rotated into alignment and the lock is open!!

Welcome to my epiphany!

I have been asking God for most of my adult life to give me a way to understand trials and suffering in the lives of His children that would allow me to really, actually, truthfully, from-the-inside-out, see them in a positive light.  I just could never get all the way there. I always believed that God brings good out of things the enemy intends for evil, but I NEVER EVER could FEEL anything but dread and sadness and fear when it came to facing trials.  Worry and  fear of what God might allow in order to teach me something have been my long-standing battle. I have learned and wrestled with the truth and I have chosen trust instead of fear, but it has been hard every time.  What I longed for was the kind of understanding that is so integrated into my thinking that it reaches through my mind and my will all the way to saturating my emotions.

Oh the gracious faithfulness of God, my Father! May He grant me the added grace to present my epiphany in a way that will touch you the way it has touched me!

I have never been on the back of a bull and never will,
but I now consider myself
a bull rider
nonetheless!

CURIOUS??


Here are a few things a bull rider knows:
  1. A bull rider is most fired up to ride when he has a chance to get on a really "rank" bull.  A rank bull is one that bucks harder, kicks higher and spins faster than the rest.  The rider knows that the best way to a winning score is to ride the toughest bull in the pen.
  2. A bull rider knows that pain is part of the game and considers it a non-factor in his ability to ride.  "Cowboy Up" is his mantra and his mindset--come hell or highwater, pulled muscles or broken bones, cowboys RIDE.
  3. A bull rider knows that he isn't strong enough to overpower a 1500 pound animal.  He knows that great bull riding is about making the moves that counter the bull's actions, which actually takes power away from the bull.  A ride like this is a thing of beauty!
  4. A bull rider knows that he has to stay on for the full 8 seconds. 7.99 seconds gets a NO SCORE. This game requires endurance even though the time is fleeting.  As the cowboys say, "Don't let go until your head hits the ground!"
  5. A bull rider knows (a good one, anyway) that it doesn't work to just "c lamp down" and try not to fall off.  You have to keep repositioning your feet, keep hustling to ride that bull jump for jump.  You have to kick loose to stay in the middle and keep holding on.
  6. Finally, a bull rider would never get on a bull without the bullfighters there to protect him.  He knows he may not always be able to land on his feet and the bull may have a mean streak.  He knows the danger isn't over until he is out of the arena.
So what does bull riding have to do with it, you're wondering.

I'll try to sum it all up:
  1. Each trial is like a rank bull I GET to ride which gives me an opportunity to WIN!
  2. Pain is part of life on fallen earth and is a non-factor in my call to RIDE for the WIN! Cowgirl UP!
  3. I am not strong enough to overpower my trial or the enemy who moves against me!  I have to meet his moves with the counter move of Scripture which takes all the power away from him! I want my ride to be a thing of beauty!
  4. Time in the trial feels endless and requires endurance, but in the light of eternity, it's only an 8-second ride--I'm going to RIDE until my head hits the ground or until I hear a trumpet sound!
  5. If I tighten up and just try not to fall off, I'm likely to be thrown sky-high.  But if I kick loose, stay relaxed and flexible, hustle to make the jump-for-jump adjustments, I'll be tossing my HAT sky high in a victory celebration when the ride is over!
  6. Finally, I'll never try to ride without my Bullfighter's protection!  The Holy Spirit knows the bull, He's my biggest cheerleader, and will put Himself between me and the bull if I'm in harm's way. He'll make sure I get safely "out of the arena."
I don't know--this may seem silly to everyone but me, and if it does, you have my heartfelt apologies. I pray though, that if you've had trouble with seeing trials as anything but negative, you'll find hope in my bull riding analogy!


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . .
 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."  James 1:2, 12 NIV

Will you join me in becoming a "bull rider?"
How do you think about trials without getting negative?
_____________________________________________

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Love in the Wild Wind . . . and Living Water

--
Hero Husband and I have something of a City Mouse-Country Mouse dynamic to our relationship and because of the difference in our backgrounds, we have learned to give each other room for our differing needs and preferences. Several years ago on a trip to Lake Tahoe, what my city boy most needed was quiet relaxation in the hotel, and what I desperately needed was mountain air and unhurried time with my camera. Selfless love enabled us each to give the other what they needed--I happily wished him a good time as he rested and relaxed in the hotel, and he gave me the freedom to go to the mountains for the day. I know he wasn't completely thrilled with the idea of me out traipsing around in the wilderness by myself, but he understood my deep need to replenish my reserves of serenity that can get so depleted by living in the city (well, the suburbs, but it feels like city by comparison to where I grew up).

I took my camera and left early, excited to explore some nearby trails and waterfalls I had read about. It was a heady feeling, knowing I had the whole day to do exactly as I pleased without wondering whether I was testing the limits of my sweet and supportive family with all my stops to take pictures. I didn't have to hurry, or consider anything whatsoever but where I wanted to go and whether I had gotten the shot I was after.

It just may have been a perfect day!

In the golden-warm morning sun, Mt. Tallac towered in majestic glory above the shadowed blue of Cascade Lake at its feet.


Over my other shoulder, Lake Tahoe stretched in the morning quiet, impossibly blue, dotted with white-caps, deep and cold, so like my beloved Okanagan Lake back home.


Home.

I could feel my spirit expanding with the sense of at-home-ness pouring into me as I took it all in.

Home. Him. He is here!

He was everywhere I looked!  I could smell Him in the pungent pine.  I could feel Him in the air that whispered of coming snow.


He was the light that turned the stone castle above me to glittering gold!


I climbed and climbed, up above the small Upper Eagle Falls on Eagle Creek until I stood at this spot, on a wide gunmetal table of granite.  Again I stopped to drink in the beauty in front of me, the sapphire water of Lake Tahoe far outdoing the answering blue of the sky.  All was quiet in that high country, mountain sort of way until a sudden gust of wind blew so hard at my back, for a moment I thought it just might pick me up and sweep me off the rock where I stood.  It was at once both terrifying and exhilarating but the thrill of it far outweighed my fear.  With my breath stolen by the wind, I stood firm, leaning into it to steady myself, smiling wildly, trusting the One of whom David said,

". . . He soared on the wings of the wind." Psalm 18:10b NIV

My heart soared too!  I turned to look above and behind and I saw the source of the invigorating wind that had begun to swirl around me--


--a squall brewing up behind that imposing, foreboding wall of worn rock.  Have you ever seen such a ROCK?!  My mind instantly thrust forward this beloved verse in the face of the enormous object lesson:

"From the ends of the earth I call to you,
   I call as my heart grows faint;
   lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

It was higher than I alright!! And He was higher than that.

Reluctantly I headed down toward where I had left my car, hoping I'd still have time for more exploring before the storm arrived in earnest. Lower Eagle Falls was my next destination, and I followed the signs at the trailhead down below the road. I soon found myself standing on a spot that in the spring would be white with rushing water.  I was standing literally on top of Eagle Falls!


I watched as the creek plunged headlong and carefree over the edge and could hear the water crashing and splashing to the rocks below. Him again!

"His voice was like the roar of rushing waters,
and the land was radiant with his glory."

It most certainly was!!  And His rushing-water-voice was music to my delighted ears!

The photographer in me wanted to lean over the edge to see where the water was rushing to and snap shutter after shutter to capture it, but the wife and momma in me wasn't willing to take quite that much of a risk, no matter how tempting the view.  Again I was reluctant to go, but I wanted to get a full view of the falls, so I moved on around to a different vantage point.


I looked back at the spot where I'd just stood longing to see over the edge. What a different perspective this was! In a stunning cascade, the tumbling creek veiled the rugged rocks in white foamy spray, leaving the stones glossy with clear, clean, life-giving water.  It was "living water" to me that day, filling me up as the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and ears, all my senses to God Almighty who had written His Name everywhere for me. He had written His most lavish love to me in every glorious, glistening, bright and beautiful sight and sound and sensation of my day in His Presence!

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen."

The rain was beginning to fall and the clouds created an early twilight that told me it was time for the Country Mouse to return to civilization.  I went with a deep sigh, but full to the brim with what I'd come for . . . Him!  I returned to my life feeling anew how big and wild and awesome and free His heart of love really is!

In the city or in the country,
in dire straits or in times of plenty,
in blue sky or with grey clouds,
His glory calls out His wild and overwhelming love!


Where do you go when you need to connect with God?
_______________________________

Creation is as beautiful as my perfect day, and as dangerous as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this week. We hurt for those affected by these cataclysmic events and want people to know that God deeply cares about them. World Vision is one organization in a position to do great good there in His name--would you like to help?

Joining Ann Voskamp for her Multitude Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#356-370

356. Red-winged blackbirds
357. Fresh oranges off our tree
358. Listening over the internet to Riley's basketball game in the state tournament from a state away
359. A double overtime win and cheering in the middle of Starbuck's where I was listening!
360. The funny looks I got and explaining what I had to cheer about!
361. Finding my needle in the haystack!
362. Deep questions from a dear friend
363. Having an answer when asked about the hope within me
364. Sustained progress on my BIG project
365. For terra firma under my feet . . . today and every day it stays that way
366. The heaviness of heart that compels fervent prayer for the dear people of Japan, and a desire to reach out with some small bit of help in the face of such suffering.
367. Sweet Paula, at our insurance office, who is the "spoonful of sugar" that helps the awful medicine go down 
368. The jukebox inside my computer
369. Warm sun and cool air
370. That the loss of one hour on the clock makes me appreciate each hour I'm given


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