Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 2nd: A God Beyond Time

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire[a]

and the peoples plot in vain?

2 The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together

against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break their chains

and throw off their shackles.”

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them.

5 He rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

6 “I have installed my king

on Zion, my holy mountain. ”

7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;

today I have become your father.

8 Ask me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

9 You will break them with a rod of iron[b];

you will dash them to pieces like pottery. ”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear

and celebrate his rule with trembling.

12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry

and your way will lead to your destruction,

for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

I never turn on the news. For good reason, I can't handle all the bad news. I feel like I take it with me, after the TV is off, and it just sits in my heart and starts festering all this worry. The other day it was the one year memorial to when Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden, and of course that was the one day that I happened to turn on the news and hear how now there are threats of new terrorist attacks and bombs in intestines. I spent the rest of the day trying not to think about it, and praying that whoever was flying today was safe. And naturally, I dreamt about it when I went to sleep that night and woke up in a fright. I love this Psalm because it shows me that God hears the ragings, the threats, the conflicts of the nations, and it doesn't cause Him alarm. He's not pulling His hair, trying to decide who to protect and who to forget. This Psalm says He laughs at them, and the final verse is that blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

I wonder if sometimes God isn't laughing at me either. Especially when lesser worries start strangling my mind and threatening to errupt all over. Fear of aging, recently, has really been getting me. I wonder if God chuckles at me, kind of like I have to laugh at Eden when she gets herself wrapped up in my earphone wires, and she's standing there screaming and so distressed. She doesn't realize that a couple of spins means she's free, and so she can't see the humor. Maybe God has a similar reaction when I fear things like age, which can only mean that I'm getting closer to going Home.

I have a terrible memory. Most of my life is fuzzy, with a few pictures here and there of pleasant times and places and people, but for the most part, I feel like I've lost half of my life and its wandering around somewhere in my brain waiting to be recovered. I have to call some of my friends to remember what I did in junior high, high school, and I am starting to realize college is slowly fading too. (With that said, I have been researching how to jumpstart your memory on the internet lately and may or may not be looking at a few books at the library later on the subject.) The point is, the few memories that do stand out are usually pretty monumental--- the day i single-handedly killed my sister's favorite pet birds, for example, is one I am not sure I will ever get rid of. But lately watching Eden has been jogging my memory, and bringing back pieces of my past that I'd thought were long gone.

Since about 13 months, Eden has started to mimick almost everything I do. I know I posted a picture of it on facebook the other day, but she's unalterably obsessed with lipstick. I didn't know she'd ever seen me put it on until I caught her one day with the tube, puckering up and smearing it all over herself. Chad and I recently had a big scare where we thought she'd eaten some terrible product, only to realize she had mistaken my concealer tube for the lipstick, and her mouth, chin, cheeks, were painted white. Moms who don't wear much makeup, and are naturally beautiful, probably don't deal with this. I have to go searching for my brush every stinking day because one of her new favorite tricks is hairstyling, and nearly every time I get ready I find her sitting near my drawers, wearing every single one of my clean underwear as a stack of necklaces. She walks around wearing every bag she can find on her shoulder as a purse, and naturally, she loves to pull out my leapord flats and attempt to strut her stuff in front of our tv. Which normally is featuring Sesame Street.

At first I thought it was so amazing that she picked up on so many of my habits, and that she instinctively was copying me instead of Chad. Then I progressed from feeling like it was funny to feeling slightly intimidated by it, realizing that if she watches me so closely, I'm going to have be more careful to live in a way that is worth her mirroring. And finally, I've reached a point of wishing I could sit down with her and tell her to not spend her childhood wishing she could be older. Now, I get that its totally normal and healthy and so good for her to show all of these signs of recognizing me and life and the fact that she wants to be a big girl already, and wants to do what Mommy does. But somewhere in my heart is this realization that I spent most of my life trying to get to the next phase.

Maybe it's because I had an older sister who was doing the "next" thing all the time that I wanted to be where she was. I always knew what the road ahead looked like, roughly, at least. I can remember being so sad when it was week days because it meant Lindsay was in school, and I'd be sitting on our steps waiting for her to get home from elementary so I wouldn't be lonely anymore. And watching her play sports in junior high and wishing I were old enough to be on a sports team, and watching her go to prom and be part of FCA in high school and wishing I could be part of that when I was in junior high, and then when I was finally in high school visiting her at Baylor and realizing high school had nothing on college. And then when I was in college she was married and I realized how great it seemed to have the huge question of life resolved, "who will I love?" Somehow, in a strange twist, I ended up have a baby first. But that's about the only thing I've ever done before she's done it.

The point is, I wish I could go back and tell myself to just calm down. Just enjoy being too little to go to school. Enjoy the chalk and the barbies and the glasses of whole milk--cuz the good Lord knows I don't get to drink that anymore. And enjoy junior high and the lack of freedom and the protective wing of my parents. Enjoy high school and the non-seriousness of life, the pulse of going from school event to school event and just learning as much as I can. To enjoy college, its apparent freedoms, its failures, its pretend grown-up life that really is nothing like a real grown-up life. Life's not worth rushing.

Side note: One of my biggest pet peeves is when people talk about a certain season of life (I'm guilty of this, I'm sure) like it was the pinnacle of their entire career as a human. Like people who graduate college but keep talking about their glory days, wishing they could be back inside of the dorm, or the frat house, or at the tailgate or the function or whatever it is. People who spend all of their time telling everyone else to enjoy college because they wish they could go back to it. Before Chad and I graduated, I told him I never wanted us to pine for college. It was great. It was a season of life that I so loved and appreciated and met so many AMAZING people in. But it's over now. And I still love those people and that place and the season. But we're all on to new things.

Lately that anticipation of the future has suddenly shifted to a desire to put on the brakes. To avoid birthdays. To stop the clock. I don't want to turn 25. I don't want to think about getting closer to 30. I have had this profound sympathy for Jack Sparrow looking for the fountain of youth. I understand. If he finds it, I want to know. And I don't like this new fear any better than I liked the old rushing around eagerness. I think both grieve God's heart.

I keep thinking of that verse in 2 Corinthians 3:18: " but we all with unveiled faces beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into that same image, from glory to glory." Aren't I supposed to be going from glory to glory? And Proverbs 31, talking about the virtuous woman, and how she laughs at the days to come; her description is missing any cues about botox, age-defying creams, etc.

I love that the Lord IS. He was, of this we have TONS of evidence. He will be, of this we have equally as convincing evidence. But the fact that He IS, is what affects me most today. When I was 12 wishing I could be 17 so I could sing that song with Tim McGraw, He was sitting next to me wishing I would look at Him and learn about who He made me to be in that very season. When I was 17 wondering how my heart would heal after losing someone I'd cared about and wondering if I'd ever find a man equal to the image in my mind, He was walking with me trying to teach me about the beauty of a heart 'stayed on Jehovah'. When I turned 21 and wanted so badly to rush the next 11 months so I could finally be Mrs. Chad Freije, He was urging me to draw even closer in the last few days and weeks I had as single woman. It makes me so sad to think of all the time I spent longing for the future, and it also sheds new light on the fact that it's so terrible to sit here and dread the process of getting older. It's inevitable. It's going to happen. And I'd rather do it gracefully and with peace than irritably and with anxiety. And the secret to the future is that God will be there too. He will still be faithful. And the point is, He is right here. I don't need to look out there because He is right with me in this present moment.

I have a yoga video where the instructor says at one point, "Your power is in this present moment." Now, alot of the stuff she says is kind of bizarre. But this one phrase caught my attention. I stopped down-ward facing dogging and sat up and looked at Mandy Ingber and said, "Good word." My grace, my hope, my joy, isn't somewhere lodged in the memories of Bluebird Lane or Sky Ranch or Baylor or Tyler, Texas...and it isn't in the years when I'm past the child-raising age and I get to rediscover my passions that exist besides being a parent...its right now. God's right here, right now, and this moment is the one of to sieze and live and squeeze all of the proverbial juice out of.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day Devotional: The Word and The Tree

I thought for the month of May, tentatively, I'd maybe do a little bit of a daily devotional. More for my own practice of expression, and also to invite whoever wants to join me, to do so. Every day in May, I'll be reading the Psalm that correlates with the date. I'd love if you did it with me, and if you left some yummy thoughts at the bottom for me to meditate on, and that way we can have a little interchange that will hopefully be encouraging and somewhat consistent. So, feel free to follow every day. Or just one day. Or decide this sounds terrible. Whatever floats your boat.

Psalm 1: Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Sometimes when I go to read the Bible I get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it. It seems like the New Testament oftentimes is just filled with these terribly long sentences with all of these divine mysteries and my brain is just too small to think about it. I can't handle even one verse in Ephesians. I feel this way about the Psalms too, and I guess that's the part that I love about it. David was a man who poured out his heart like water before the Lord. So there's a lot to be poured out. I tend to do this, and I can appreciate his lack of brevity sometimes.

Psalm 1 has a special place in my heart. I can remember my mom trying to get me to memorize it from when I was really little and I was discouraged then, even at the age of 7, that I might not be able to meditate on God's law day and night. It seems like such a daunting task. But reading it this morning got me thinking that maybe its just that David means he would wake up thinking about God's word. That encourages me because I do that sometimes. Like last night, when I could have sworn I heard voices right outside of our window, and I woke up in one of those paralyzed frights, and so I tried to pray my way out of the fear and back to sleep. I called up every verse I knew about the Lord being a shield about me, and me not having to fear the terror at night. After about five minutes of that, I am pretty sure I konked back out. So, robbers, have your way if you're out there. At least I've been edified in my brain with the Word of God.

Sometimes I forget too, that the Word of God, the law that this Psalm calls me to meditate on, comes in the flesh in John 1. That the Word of God is no longer just the physical, written words, but the Person. The One who gave Himself up for me and lives to make intercession for me, and the One who is my advocate in Heaven. The past week, I've had skimpy quiet times. I've not felt 100%, so I've laid in bed instead of getting up to read. Which usually means I'm half-sleeping through some of it. And that leaves me feeling shamed the rest of the day. It's so funny how if I don't do what I consider my part in trying to sit down and listen for the Lord, I assume He's angry and hurt, and He won't talk with me the rest of the day. So I spend the next 12 hours limping around, trying to seem good and act good and speak good, but all the while my heart is testifying against me that I feel guilty. I forget that the work was finished on the cross, and that the work of abiding is multi-faceted, all day long experience, and not just left to a morning quiet time.

I forget that the Word of God isn't just on my Bible app or in the leaves of my New Testament. The Word of God is also the Spirit within me, the one who testifies that I am a child of God, and a coheir with Christ. And that even if I've not spent the alotted time I wanted to at seven, I can still meet with Him while I'm fixing Eden's chocolate milk or on a run, or in the shower, or while I get ready. He still wants to talk. He's not the muteness-of-God-unless-you-have-your-Bible. He 's the Living Word of God. And He is that sharp, double-edged sword that can pierce and divide bone and marrow with just one word in my heart. He knows me.

I love how this Psalm talks about how the man who meditates on the Word of God will be like a tree planted by streams of water, and that this tree is amazingly fruitful, verdant, un-withering, and that in all things, prosperous. I don't always feel prosperous, I don't always feel like what I'm doing will produce results. When I'm trying to rub out the stains on Eden's white shirt for the 90th time this month, I feel a little bit less than productive. But if I'm doing it and talking with the Word of God, then in everything I do, I prosper. I gain. I grow.

If I go back over my life, I see that the Word of God as in the Bible and the Word of God as in the impressions and encouragements on my heart have both spoken to me in equal proportions. I've had radical encounters, at just the moment I've needed it, with both the Bible, and with just the words I hear Him speak to my heart. Of course, that spontaneous word to my heart is always tested and tried with the Bible, and if it's not consistent with it then I can count on my hearing wrong. But that spontaneous Word of God that comes from the Person of the Holy Spirit contains the same amount of healing, promise and hope that the physical Word of God does.

Someone at church on Sunday compared the written word of God to water for our souls, and the spoken "power" word to our spirits as the light of God. If we only have the written word without listening for the Person speaking to our hearts, we get water-logged. If we only have our ears pinned to heaven and don't open the Bible, we get dried up from trying to look just at the light. But if we marry the two, and value the two, the written Word and the heart-Word, then we find two elements that are intrinsic to the growth of ourself as that tree planted by the streams of water.