“That’s not my crown! It’s Jesus’ crown!”

I had ordered a crown of thorns last year as a prop for a stock photography session for Lightstock and it has sat on the top shelf of our bookshelf for a year, occasionally being moved for dusting or straightening of books.

A couple times since the purchase I have heard my husband say “ow!” And when we ask what happened he’ll say “I just pricked my finger on Jesus’ crown!”

A month or so ago my son pretended to put it on his sister. The mock crown is made of real thorns. They hurt.

“Knock it off!” She yelled. “That’s not my crown! It’s Jesus’ crown!”

I knew there was a sermon, so to speak, in there somewhere but my brain is mush most days and this was one of those days so I just filed it away to think about another time.

DSC_3596

I took the crown down again a couple of days ago to photograph for stock photography again this year. The sunlight was pouring through our kitchen window perfectly and it was the first time I’d been inspired to shoot something in almost two months.

I laid the crown on my new Bible and in the center I placed a communion cup filled with grape juice and then two pieces of broken bread (incidentally, I accidentally purchased 1,000 sealed plastic communion cups. I have 999 left. Let me know if your church needs some.).

“That’s not my crown! It’s Jesus’ crown!”

Ouch.

If we as Christians truly believe Jesus lived and died and now lives again, then we must believe the full story and that is that the crown of thorns, of pain, of humiliation, was placed on his head and not ours.

And if he took our pain then he also took our sins, past, present and future. And if he took our sins onto himself then he also took our doubts, our loneliness, our health worries, our physical and emotional shortcomings, our failures and all of our questions.

He wore the crown.

He took the nails.

He carried the cross.

He entered hell so we didn’t have to.

The question is, do we really believe that?

And if we really believe that then why don’t we live like we do?

DSC_3618DSC_3683

Advertisements

Why lip gloss…why?

One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.


Why, lipgloss, why?

By Tiffany Kuhn

Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.

Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing?  Yeah, I think not.

While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.

You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.

The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?

The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.

It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.

Faithfully Thinking: More thoughts on the doubts even Christians have

Last week I wrote about feeling fake as a Christian when I find myself doubting my faith because of the suffering some people face.

I never know if anyone will read my posts when I write them but I write anyhow, I guess as a form of catharsis for myself and also in case someone else feels they are alone in the same thoughts.

I don’t often receive a response to my more melancholy posts, which is okay because I assume my friends are simply praying for me and aren’t sure how to respond. When a friend or reader does respond it is usually to thank me because they have felt the same way but never knew how to say it or even if they should.  

The private message I received from a friend in response to that post was heartfelt, deep and thought provoking.

With his permission I am sharing part of that response here today. 

“I read your blog post about sometimes we are fake. I wanted to share some thoughts on it and thank you for authenticity.

Suffering and struggle and doubt do not make us less Christian. St. Thomas doubted the ultimate hope until he was knuckle deep in the wounds of Christ. The Apostles huddled in doubt and fear and would not believe the first message of the Resurrection. Face to face with Christ in life and in glorified resurrection….they denied and doubted.

We are weak. That is not an indictment of humanity, but one of the gifts. If we were not weak, we would not need each other. We would not know we need Christ. In Scripture and the history of Saints many of those who are loved and called by Him scream at Him in rage, doubt…run….weep.

When I was ten my mother was dying. No one would say it out loud. But there I was, a little kid good at theology, pious  to a fault. Everyone said I would be a priest. I thought I would. But I asked Mom, because I could not understand…”Why are you going to die? Why are you sick?”

And she said that when God forms us it is art and sometimes it is like a painting…painless. Sometimes it is like pottery. Sometimes there is fire and there is pain. But the potter alone knows the form of the clay and what will make it the best it can be. And pottery, even with the suffering because of the suffering, is stronger than a painting.

She said if someone else had her cancer maybe they would lose faith in Him. And if that was so, she was glad to have it.

Glad to have it.

I remember even then thinking, ‘I will never be her. I will never be that much of a Christian.’

I did not understand it all.

And I asked her why God would fire her like pottery into death. And she said, “Love, my life was a painting. I’m not the one He’s forming right now.”

Through the pains and poverty of my life, that continue in many ways, I have held on to the fact that the most Christian woman I knew faced slow painful death, fading from her children, without blinking, without hate or accusations at God. And she held herself weaker than others. She, to herself, was a painting. Wonderfully made and beautiful but less hard, tested and worked than pottery. She was telling me, it will be ok to doubt, grieve, scream at the heavens. It will not make you less a Christian. It will make you a stronger member of His army.

When my brother died at age 35, his two daughters were just younger than my sister and I were when Mom died. My sister had been so angry at God for years after mom died. So angry before dealing with it all. And our youngest niece (not knowing how her aunt had been) asked if it was ok to be mad at God. And my sister knelt to get eye to eye with her and said, “God’s big enough to handle it. He wants you to give it to Him. And if you do that by being angry with Him, doubting Him…it’s ok. He loves you.”

As Christians we walk a balance between the weakness of our humanity and the strength of being made in the Image of God.

Tolkien puts it best in this work “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” in the history of Middle Earth books.

It is a debate between the human wise woman Andreth and the Elven lord Finrod on the nature of things.

Andreth: They say that the One will himself enter into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to the end. This they say also, or they feign, is a rumour that has come down through years uncounted, even from the days of our undoing.

And earlier Finrod gives a perfect description of Christian Hope:

‘Have ye then no hope?’ said Finrod.

‘What is hope?’ she said. ‘An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.’

‘That is one thing that Men call “hope”,’ said Finrod. ’Amdir we call it, “looking up”. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is “trust”. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children’s joy. Amdir you have not, you say. Does no Estel at all abide?’

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-earth X: Morgoth’s Ring, “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth”

So our hope..is in the Resurrection we have Estel. But it is not less Christian to have failings in Amdir.

We all doubt. We all wonder why at times. We all scream it inside at time until our heart breaks. Thank you for mentioning it out loud because I do believe God wants us to – because that shows us we are not alone, we need each other in this world.

He could take all suffering in this world away. He could make reward and prosperity and joy here a point by point reward for goodness. He does not. There are many reasons Theology lists for why that is. But those reasons are flat and tasteless to a suffering heart. And that suffering heart is united to the Cross. So that alone means it can never make us less Christian. Even though we often worry about that.”

Faithfully thinking: weeding out the bad so the good can survive

My son was recovering from an illness on the couch and watching a cartoon on his laptop, my daughter was watching a cartoon on my phone and I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when it all shut off out of the blue.

For ten seconds we sat there and looked at each other bewildered. What were we supposed to do now? With all our devices dark, except the phone which continued to work off data, we were completely lost.

Suddenly I felt excited. I felt a sense of freedom and dashed outside to my garden, over run with weeds thanks to weeks of neglect, and began yanking weeds out by the handful. I felt like a giddy child let loose in a candy store. The smell of dirt and grass andnature was setting my soul on fire.

In the midst of the euphoria I was also disgusted that it had taken the electricity going out to wake me up and break the chains of apathy and digital busyness that I had let hold me down.

Logged on to Facebook I seem to think I have to read one more post, see one more photo, laugh at one more pointless video and then before I know it it’s the afternoon and I’ve accomplished nothing. I haven’t finished the dishes, cut up and put the extra zucchini in the freezer, cleaned up my room, made the beds or weeded the garden.

And I certainly haven’t nourished my soul or connected with God.

Instead I’ve only fueled anxiety that I often call “my anxiety” claiming the state as my own, as if it’s an expected mindset for me to be in.

I’ve found that scrolling past story after story, some positive but many aimed at igniting our fear – fear of cancer, of death, of loss – is damaging my emotional health and in turn my physical health.

Many say “I just ignore those negative or fear based posts” but to me it seems the continuous exposure to these types of stories often permeates our thoughts and perpetuate our fears without us even realizing it. The negative affects of today’s social media are subtle and unassuming.

I’m not saying social media doesn’t have its good points or that it can’t be used to help encourage, connect, and support. Along with the good, however, comes even more counteractive and isolating aspects.

We have never been more connected than we are today, Facebook founder mark Zuckerburg likes to tell us again and again. In some ways this is true but in reality we’ve never been more disconnected or separated.

Satan is never happier than when we are isolated, made to feel alone, and spending our days on Facebook, pretending we are actually connecting with people. When we are on our computer or staring at our phone we are not living in the present or focused on those around us. Our minds are on a digital and virtual plane, trapped in a world of fantasy, antagonistic words, pessimistic views and sometimes fake optimistic ones.

I thought about this all as I yanked the weeds out of the garden so I could plant spinach seeds, seeds of a plant to bring our family nourishment.

I found it pretty pathetic that it took the electricity going out to motivate me to weed out the bad and plant the good. Yet it often takes a power failure in our life to wake us up to the good we have been missing out on.

Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Sometimes I need to pull the plug on the busyness of life so I can focus on the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely and the admirable.

If I don’t cut off the power sometimes, or let God flip the switch for me, then the negativity, fear, pessimism and anxious thoughts will grow in my life like the weeds in my garden. The weeds are choking out my healthy plants, stopping them from growing. I’m nowhere near a master gardener and I know I have a lot to learn if I want a bountiful harvest in the future.

There are days I feel the weeds of life all around me, trying to steal my joy, my hope, my fervor for life. I put my hands up to push them back, but without the help of the one who is our Master Gardener, I’ll never find victory.

I need Him to help me keep the weeds in check and to remind me they need to be pulled so I can breathe and grow. 

Less is more – why minimalism is a great idea for an over thinker

Less is more.

Less is more.

These words have popped up in my head a lot lately, maybe because of blog posts like this one from Rachael at Our Beautiful Adventure.

To quote Rachael “This gave me serious pause for thought. How can it be that those classed as rich don’t feel rich, but I, classed as poor, do feel rich? To be frank it is because it is just that, a feeling. Not a fact. To be rich you only need to feel it.”

And maybe it isn’t only the blog posts I’ve been reading but because some weeks finances are tough to balance and having less forces me to remember that having more isn’t always better.

Minimalism. 

Having less to see you have more. Having less so children imagine and appreciate more.

It’s a concept I love.

So this week I’ve concocted a plan to rid our life of clutter and “too much” stuff.

Go ahead and laugh.

It’s ok.

I’ve been laughing too. Doubting myself and doubting I can even do it.

Still I’m soldiering on with plans to declutter in many ways – physically, emotionally, and mentally and from materialism.

Emotionally will be, of course, the most difficult.

Physically I will be opening closets and hauling out anything and everything we haven’t touched in months and preparing it for a yard sale or goodwill.

As for the mental decluttering I have reduced my social media and internet usage this week to try to unclog my mind. I have added morning devotions, though I’m not batting 100 percent on that front. I’m also trying hard to carve out a few moments a day to myself, but this is difficult being a stay at home mom whose husband has a full time and part time job and does yard work in some of his spare time. There are days I can sneak away for a break but a clingy 2-year old adds to that challenge too. The more her attachment moves from mama and to daddy, the easier finding a break will be.

I’d love to say that my mind is already clearer because of the Facebook fast but in reality I’m finding my thoughts bouncing all around my insides because I no longer have the mind numbing distraction of scrolling through the newsfeed. Instead my mind is racing through what I can do, what needs to be done, what I want to do, and what hasn’t been done. 

Now the task at hand is to slow my thoughts down, stop them from fluttering from subject to subject. In many ways the mental buzz social media creates with all its various subjects scrolling by brings harm to an over thinker like me. Not only does it create thoughts at a thousand miles per hour, interrupting sleep and daily tasks, but when it is turned off the brain is still left racing through all the subjects that were just read. 

Now, though, the brain has to focus on all those things it could avoid while sucked into the social media drama or brainless distraction, whichever void the newsfeed filled on a particular day.

With social media placed on hiatus my mind slides to what I’d imagine God knows I need to focus on and some He wishes I wouldn’t dwell on: the reoccurring theme of rejection in my life; health anxiety; financial concerns; personal loss; past betrayals; broken family relationships; lost dreams; hope for new dreams; worries about the children; an overwhelming desire to cook more but the fear I’ll fail like I’ve failed at so much else. 

Slowing down the incessant mental chatter in the over thinker is definitely a challenge. For me yoga, editing photographs, listening to sermons, watching cooking or traveling shows, reading, journaling and taking photographs are some ways I achieve this. It’s in the dark of night when the chatter grows louder so I often fall asleep listening to a comedian or a hopeful pastor like Joseph Prince. If the subject matter is too heavy or deep it will spin my thoughts off into other directions and I could lay awake in bed for hours, jumping from deep thought to deep thought.

My one hope is that by physically decluttering our living space we will also declutter our thoughts in some way. It’s like having hundreds of cable channels. When you have so much to choose from you become overwhelmed and don’t know what to choose. Sometimes you have to turn the TV off because it is simply too overwhelming. 

The same is true when your house is full of material items you don’t need. There is so much to focus on you don’t stop to focus on what is important. When you have less dishes to clean you have more time to spend with your children. When there are less clothes to choose from your mind can focus on what activity you can do together as a family instead of what shirt matches which skirt. When your children have less toys they can focus on developing their imagination with the toys they do have or with other objects in the world around them. 

Mentally decluttering is a supernatural process that I believe only God can accomplish.

By focusing on His word and His promises it is often easier to slow thoughts down and rest in his care. 

I’m not sure how far I’ll get in my physical minimalism goals but I intend to work daily on the mental minimalism effort because that is definitely one of my most difficult tasks. 

 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

The Garden

Rain fell steady just like the weather app said it would and I felt a twinge of disappointment. I knew it would mean a couple more days of waiting to plant the garden my son and I have wanted for a couple of years now.

I had always dismissed the idea of a garden because we live in town on a busy, noisy street and somehow, for this country girl, gardens are meant for quiet, out of the way yards where they can be admired on a warm summer evening in golden hour light. 

I had wanted to wait until we actually moved to the country to create a garden but since that doesn’t seem to be remotely close to reality at the moment, we started planning what we wanted to plant and where, early in the spring.

Pumpkins, squash and various herbs for him.

Cucumbers, carrots, green beans, peas, and potatoes for me.

Strawberries and watermelon for her.

What makes this year different is that for the first time in 13 years we don’t have a dog to consider and worry about digging up the plants. This lack of a puppy has me fairly heartbroken and I sat next to the garden space one day this week and cried from the grief of missing our Copper.

My dad brought his rototiller up to “the big city” and made the space for our garden. My son helped to break up the dirt and smooth it out and his sister worked next to him, most likely negating all the work he had already done.

Dad was only supposed to drop the rototiller off but instead he broke the ground for us. He then gave advice on what to plant and where.

There are days that living in town has its advantages, like when an old friend is driving to her daughter’s band concert at the school across the street and sees you standing outside. The friend, who I have barely seen in several years walked across the lawn with a sun-infused smile (or some might say Son-infused), her hair as blond now at 39 as I remember it at 19. Looking at her has always made me think of the “got milk” commercials, partly because of her sparkling white teeth and smooth skin but also because her family are diary farmers about ten miles from us.

Standing out with the sun pouring across the lawn and the kids, and Dad and potential, catching up on our families made a busy week seem less busy and more manageable. 

It was dark by the time the garden was done and Dad reminded my son that when the dirt crumbles in your hand it’s the best time to plant.

The kids had dirt in their finger nails like I had at their age. My legs and arms were bit up by mosquitoes because apparently they love my blood. My head was full of ideas but also of thoughts the Father, Son and Holy Spirit after Dad brought me a file of thoughts he had gathered about healing, Christ, and souls on fire.

He stood there as the sun set and pondered people who have prophetic dreams and people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, but don’t understand it. Pondering God and  how He works and why He works the way he does is something he’s done all my life. Though not a big reader of fiction, he’d often sit at his desk (now his computer) and pour over books on theology, blessing, curses, and God’s role in our lives.

I called Mom when he pulled out, a tradition, and told her he was on his way home, since he often is out late helping others, or if not, wandering aimlessly in Lowe’s admiring planks of wood and nuts and bolts to add to his collection, and forgets to update her on where he is.

Baths were late.

Bedtime was late.

But lungs were filled with fresh air, bonding time was spent, hard work was done, and deep, well earned slumber followed.

Who is your pilot today? | Guest blog post

Thank you to Michelle Delp from Pasture-ized for sharing this guest blog post with us today!

 

A pilot relies on the person in the tower to navigate him to safety.

He can’t see that air traffic controller. He can’t always see the dangers around him, but he trusts that when he gets the message to alter his course, it’s for his own good.

What would happen if the pilot decided to turn off his communication, and just “do his own thing”?
He might be successful for the short term, avoiding tragedy by inches here or there, but at some point he’s going to crash and burn.

We aren’t designed to navigate life alone.

Sometimes God asks us to bank to the left for a reason.

Maybe you’re feeling a little air sick from all the circles life is taking you in, and you look out the window and you can’t even pinpoint where you are any more.

Turn the two-way back on.

Proverbs 3: 5,6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
 

Exploring the ‘cricks’ of New York

I took the kids to a local park last week and we were disappointed when we got there to see the waterfall was only trickling, which is how it usually looks when we visit there. I’ve heard water actually pours from it at other times, but I’ve only seen that once in the 14 years I’ve lived in the area. Apparently I just have horrible timing.

Because there was hardly any water in the waterfall, this also meant there was almost no water in the creek, or as I call it, for some reason, “the crick.”

No matter how “creek”  is said, the children enjoyed playing in the little bit of water that was in the creek bed, looking for minnows, throwing rocks, throwing and digging in dirt and looking at fossils of creatures that had been left in the rocks. They loved simply getting dirty and playing the same way I did as a child – exploring nature without direction and more importantly, without technology.