Henri Nouwen on “hope far beyond” and changing my heart

Compassion born in solitude makes us very much aware of our own historicity. We are not called to respond to generalities but to the concrete facts with which we are confronted day after day. A compassionate man can no longer look at these manifestations of evil and death as disturbing interruptions of his life plan but rather has to confront them as an opportunity for the conversion of himself and his fellow human beings. Every time in history that men and women have been able to respond to the events of their world as an occasion to change their hearts, an inexhaustible source of generosity and new life has been opened, offering hope far beyond the limits of human prediction. – Henri Nouwen

Life is Good. Worry is bad.

I live with kind and undemanding folks, which sounds like a very good thing, right? But it can cause me to get a bit selfish and too into my own thing, which never seems to satisfy my soul. So, in my recent adventures in doing less and going my own way more, I am reminded of what I should KNOW by by: There is satisfaction in sharing, satisfaction in sacrifice.

And I am reminded of my mantra: A smart girl like you oughtta be able to figure this out. Of what am I speaking? I am speaking of the lack of shared meals happening of late at House of Parker.

We all have differing schedules, dietary preferences, and priorities–one person gets up at 3:30 a.m and is home any time between noon and 5:00; another gets off work at 11:00 p.m. The easy thing is to just say, “Who cares?”

The voice plaguing me says they don’t know or appreciate what it takes to put healthy meals on the table; it takes too much time; we’re in a new season and it doesn’t matter that much anyway. “Reason” continues: If I cook what they want it’s too hard to stay low-carb; let them cook their own–they know how.

And yes, they can and often do “cook their own” with the attendant continually messy kitchen, use of ingredients meant for other things, formation of unhealthy habits, and a general state of culinary chaos.

But that isn’t “the thing” really. The thing is that we no longer have “Table Share”. When I read a beautiful quote, or hear an amazing tale which simply must be shared for the joy and edification of all parties, for the common bond created via the ensuing good conversation, the best opportunity for doing so–while enjoying a meal–is unavailable.

What then shall a smart girl do? Give up? Sigh? Call someone and gripe (true friends share joys, not gripes)? No, she changes things here and there. She calls a family meeting first of all, enticing everyone with milk and no-bakes (chocolate oatmeal cookies cooked stovetop with plenty of butter, vanilla, salt, maybe some peanut butter and almond flavoring, and a bit more salt than called for).

In this meeting it is discerned that everyone is fine with her having more time to “do whatever” she wants, and that she should just “make herself happy”. And so . . . the hope that they will tell her what to do, how to solve this issue about which she is apparently the only one who cares, fades into more of the voices: It doesn’t matter; no one cares; you’re the only one bothered by this.

I own it. I am bothered by this, and that’s reason enough to do something about it, and I will find a solution.

So here it is: Breakfast together will be in the form of a weekend brunch; we’ll have dinner together (sort of–when it’s possible) and I will have beautiful times alone, as well as lovely times with only one of my beloveds at a time per their schedules, and on those marvelous times we’re all available, it will be all the more beautiful and lovely for the rarity.

And I will relax, and live in the unforced rhythms of grace given by my Creator. Because it always comes down to this: As smart as I am, He is smarter. He cares about what I care about, and He cares about me.

So rather than losing my creative juices via fretting, I will stop. Rest. And make my darlings happy by making myself happy. I will live each and every day without a plan or a goal, except to receive what God has for me–peace and love and joy–and pass it on. If that happens to be over a meal, so much the better.

Life is good. Worry is bad.

What Would Smith Wigglesworth or a mom do?

The March 21 offering in Devotional by Smith Wigglesworth is the tale of a miracle healing, wherein before Smith came on the scene God prepared a woman’s heart to receive. This was a handy thing for me to be reading, as my son came to ask for healing prayer just after I finished. My heart was prepared to pray, and I wanted his heart prepared as well.

“First,” I answered, “Sit down and do me the honor of letting me read this to you.” Benjamin sat and I read Smith’s marvelous story, beginning with Matthew 8:17: He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.

After finishing the devotion, I took Benjamin’s right hand and wrist (where the pain was) and began praying, during which action I was impressed to remind my son that his name means “Son of the Right Hand.” There was much more, and he received more than healing. He received encouragement.

I didn’t wake up encouraged today, and I was in no mood to encourage anyone else. But then there came that miracle thing called Quiet Time, and I was encouraged by the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John; then by Paul in I Corinthians with Love words, and David speaking straight to my heart in Psalms.

In Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest I was struck by the statement, “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Pondering this, I read from Smith Wigglesworth, focusing on the fifth verse of Isaiah 53: But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

I choose to identify myself with The Healer.

The final thought in this devotion is, “One bit of unbelief against the Word is poison.”

He IS the Healer. Amen.

Control or Contentment? Success or Selfishness?

I’m hearing lots about eliminating “toxic” people from my life–those who don’t contribute to my “success”–about walking away. I really like this idea, but does God?* In listening to and reading motivational “success” gurus I know I’ve gotta get up at 5:00 a.m. if I’m going to “be somebody.” But God says I am somebody. People always want to know what I “do” and the temptation is to say, “I’m a writer,” as this, unlike homemaking, is an approved occupation. But God approves of me. Just because.

Still, the messages are so compelling, as are the ideas of writing bestsellers and achieving other lauded goals, having an actually heeded day planner, and checking off my to-do lists each day. And the facts that vision boards don’t work for me, and my plans almost always are superceded by “life” doesn’t faze me. It can’t be that all those people are missing something–after all, they’re “successful”–I MUST TRY HARDER. FASTER, FASTER, WORK, WORK!

As I ponder all these things, and wonder why Christian motivational speakers consider non-Christians “successful” simply because they’re famous, I suddenly remember something I once heard, and now I am listening: If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry, a hen. Ah, now that sounds like success to me. My daughter recently roasted a fat chicken in the Hobbit way – bacon, butter, herbs, and those things under as well as atop the skin. The chicken was first rinsed and then patted dry, to be cooked on high heat, and all in pursuit of a very crispy and delicious skin. Roasted along this dear bird were root vegetables, and all hearts were made glad.

When Rebekah asked what I wanted done with the chicken I could have told her my plan. Rather, I asked for her suggestions and out came An Unexpected Cookbook–The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery. Not my plan, but better than. I’m liking the sound of that: Not my plan, but better than. My daughter is happy, my family enjoys an excellent meal, and I don’t have to cook. Success!

* In Andrew Murray’s classic book, Humility, he writes: “Look upon every fellow man who tries or vexes you as a means of grace to humble you.”

What Can I Create?

With this evening’s attitude, not much. Once I start thinking about what’s not perfect, I’m on the way to griping about it, and here it comes–the Biblical “spirit of heaviness.” And who needs more of that?

Well, no matter how many times I try sad, I never like it. It never works for me. And it’s always rooted in choosing doldrums over delight. As someone who, over 40 years ago, chose to join the revolution started 2000 years ago by a really great guy named Jesus, I simply have no business thinking it’s about me.

I know (this I’ve tried as often as I’ve tried sad) that when I start doing the selfish it’s not going to end well. Ah, but when I read the beautiful Word of Life, when I pray, when I repent of my disobedient self-absorption, the very atmosphere of my life begins to change. What a difference a moment makes.

What a difference a bit of good preaching (this evening it was Creflo Dollar talking about the “sin” of selfishness, the miserable life therein); last week it was Bill Johnson saying, “When at war, create.”

Create. I’d no sooner finished listening to Creflo, than John asked me to watch and listen to the story of a businessman turning Central Park into something marvelous for New Yorkers. Create. We’re all born for it, created for it.

Just in putting out the maple syrup and making plans for homemade waffles, scrambled eggs, brats, peaches and tea for a late breakfast tomorrow, I have begun creating something marvelous in the sight of my beloveds.

In writing my evening pages (I scribble my thoughts morning and night to see what’s in my brain) I create a list for tomorrow–assuring that it will begin as it should–first with thanks for the Author of all Beauty and Creativity, and then with the getting to it.

What can we create tomorrow? Why don’t we let it begin with smiling at ourselves in the mirror and remembering we’re created in the image of the The Creator. Who knows what we’ll get up to (I might start a book, or at least another blog post, do a YouTube thing. I might even clean the junk drawer!). Or maybe I’ll just create joy by giving smiles and good words to all.

Thanks for letting me share with you!

P.S. You can still get The Maker’s Marriage (on Amazon) before Christmas–if not for Christmas, by New Year’s Night.

Did I Say Enough About Respect?

I’m wondering if I said enough about respect in The Maker’s Marriage. And did I say enough about the personal blindness engendered when we look at others’ (our husbands’) faults? Most of all, did I get across the bottom line: It’s not about me, you, our mates–it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Do we respect the Lord of all good and glorious gifts? Or, do we disrespect Him, and thereby assure that our marriages are not good or glorious or gifts at all?

Apart from Him (which is where I live when I choose my own stupidly selfish way) I not only can do nothing worthwhile, I have nothing worthwhile, and can therefore give nothing worthwhile.

This Christmas, why not give the gift of respect.? I mean to, for sure and for certain. Amen.

The Magic Homeschool Bus?

I’m doing a homeschooling article for American Essence magazine, and it’s developing into something about making homeschooling marvelous, enchanting, enthralling, exciting, even magical. Can you help? I have such great experiences and resources, but I’d like thoughts from currently homeschooling parents who realize that it’s really about so much more than academics, and that a facsimile of the traditional/public school classroom is not optimal, to put it mildly.

If you would like to add your thoughts, or know of someone who might, can you let me know?

Here’s my number, if you’d like to call: 970-556-2785.

Thanks!