Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't be afraid

The family and I were at the beach at Waldport, Oregon, this weekend. With the blue sky, relatively calm ocean waves and very little wind, we wondered if this really was the latter part of February or May. This is not winter in the Northwest to be sure.

Before we left for home on Sunday, we walked on the beach one last time. The kids ran and played and we drank in the sounds and smells of the beach before we had to head home. I had the kids close their eyes to listen to the waves. I told them to take a deep breath and smell the saltiness of the air. I asked them to remember these moments. When they are in their beds at night waiting for sleep to come, they could remember these times on the beach and retreat back to them.

The Oregon coast is one of our favorite places. We get the spectrum of emotion when visiting. We see the ocean at its angriest in early winter. In the summer, the ocean sometimes pitches a fit but it mostly behaves like a toddler frolicking, kicking around and having a good time. The ocean this weekend was a little flirtacious, teasing us but really meaning no harm.

But in a brief display of might, the teasing ocean yesterday wasn't anything one would want to mess with. It was with that background that I read a little from Mark 6: 48-51:

48He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified. "Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.' 51Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down."

While reading, I asked Murron, our seven-year-old to imagine being on a boat in the waves, being afraid, and then seeing a ghost, and being more afraid, but then realizing it was Jesus, who said to not be afraid. Watching the waves, it wasn't hard imagining what I would do in that situation.

But when God says not to be afraid, He means it. If He made the winds and the seas, then there really shouldn't be anything to fear. It's a constant lesson. But to actually obey the Lord and not fear when things appear to be out of control would be a great thing. Until then, or at least while trying, I'm still begging the Lord to get in the boat with me. I don't want to be out in the storm alone.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Accept His Love, Respond With Love

There was nothing fair about it, I can tell you that straight off! All of my 14 siblings had been married at least once already and not even once had I come close to wearing an engagement ring. Their advice to just stop looking and God would make it happen didn’t even work. Somehow I had become so very pleasing to date that any idea of a lifelong commitment was unnecessary. I made an excellent girlfriend but not a prospective wife.

So when I finally had my fill of relationships that were going nowhere I was already 30 years old. Having come from a family where practically everyone had married in their early twenties I might as well have been a retired schoolteacher enjoying my pension in a little cabin on Turtle Lake, Saskatchewan. I was also the mother of an extremely active and artistic girl. Mine wasn’t the only pregnancy out of wedlock in my family but mine was the only one that couldn't be smoothed over by a brief engagement and timely wedding ceremony. While the shame of it all no longer paralyzed my heart I had given up believing that any man - single, divorced, or widowed - would be anywhere near taken with the idea of becoming instant dad-in-a-box complete with directions and ready in five minutes.

It was May when I finally dragged my Bible and a box of Kleenex into my living room and began the ugly task of pouring it all out to God. I would have rather been sitting in a dentist’s chair getting a root canal on a back molar than sitting on that couch with all my emotions and nerves exposed like that. It was terrible and I winced at every truth that God spoke into my heart that day. I knew I wanted to serve Him without any reservation. I wanted my heart to belong to Him alone. I wanted to be His bride and live a life of purity and wholeness. I wanted to do all of that whether I was single or married, and I spoke plainly when I said I would accept either option. But I knew that opening my heart to the man God wanted me to marry would be harder later than it would be right then. I wanted to be sure that God and I understood each other on that account because I meant every word.

By then Elizabeth was in 2nd grade and ballet and I was in my third year of University studies, working at a daycare, and very actively involved in my church. I was a worship leader, pianist, vocalist, and soloist. My typical week consisted of Monday night music practice, Tuesday afternoon ballet and Young Adults evening worship and Bible study, Wednesday night Kid’s Club, Thursday evening ballet, and Sunday morning and evening services. My time was occupied enough that I couldn’t think about being single or hate being alone.

One day while I was at the University of Saskatchewan computer lab finding lyrics and chords for worship songs I found a Christian chat site where I could dialog with other worship leaders and musicians. Most of the time the conversation formed around issues such as music style or dress codes. Not once during this time did I think I would meet anyone who would consider me on a romantic level.

There was one man, however, who intrigued me above anyone else I chatted with. He was my age and he was a reporter at a newspaper in North Carolina. The first thing that interested me about him was his appreciation for the music of Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts, and Phil Keaggy. As our first conversation progressed I was increasingly aware that I was developing a connection with this man that lived 2000 miles from me. This was so unexpected that I can remember feeling anxious about how anything like this could even be of God. We talked about exchanging e-mail addresses then I asked the question that had been burning a hole in my thoughts:

“Are you for real?”

And there was a moment of stillness on the monitor screen before his answer came back:

“Yes, I am for real.”

God, how can I know? How can I trust his word? How can I verify anything he’s told me about himself?

The questions came pouring out like all those painful emotions I had poured out to God only a month earlier. I wanted to be safe. I needed to be sure. I had to feel protected while this man entered the fortress of my mind and stood before the heavily guarded gates of my heart.

As we began e-mailing each other, and later talking on the phone I became very good at tossing out selective bits of information about my life. Not only did I avoid sharing any private or personal details but I also concealed my deeper thoughts and kept vigil over my feelings. We could flirt with our words, banter wittily, and even drop casual remarks about the possible what ifs. But I would remain distant and detached because I was not going to fall in love, this time. I had experienced my own great fall in love and all the king’s horses trampled me underfoot and all the king’s men had only left me bruised and broken. Now that I was put back together I would stay clear on the other side of the wall.

Two weeks after our first phone conversation I felt that I was done with my cautious waving at the window and decided that I was going to bid my farewell to Bill. I picked out a nice looking greeting card and carefully wrote that “I think God just wants us to be friends.” I hadn’t really asked Him if He did or not but it sounded like something He might have said. What I didn’t know is that God had been having frequent conversations with Bill and that he had been told something completely different than what I had written in my card.

I was finishing up an afternoon at work when a delivery man showed up with a bouquet of three roses for me from Bill. The room was quiet and all the kids disappeared into the faded white walls and crayon drawings. I studied the roses carefully and it wasn’t long before I read the message he had written on their slender stems, their green leaves, and their dewy petals.

Roses are the most treasured of flowers and I will treasure you. Life will have thorns that we must be careful of. Our love began as friendship so let the yellow rose be a reminder of this as we journey together. Our love is deeply passionate like this red rose so know that I will move heaven and earth to be with you and stay by your side. Above all let the white rose assure you that our love is pure as it was given to us by God and will continue to flow through us as we abide in Him.

I’m not sure how I carried that bouquet home with me. By the time I walked through the door and dropped my belongings on the couch where I had poured out my heart two months earlier, I fell to my knees and begged God to tell me what to do.



Accept his love.

Just accept his love?


Respond how?

Respond with love.

It sounded so simple yet my mind could not understand nor could my heart believe what it had just heard. I stayed in that spot motionless for several minutes before I knew what that meant. I got up, found the card I had ready to send, carefully salvaged the stamp from the envelope, and destroyed the rest.

Accept and respond became my mantra during the seven months of our courtship and taught me more about marriage than anything else in my life. Perhaps that had been my problem all along but even that didn’t matter anymore. I had fallen in love and I had landed in a safe place. When we eloped February 4, 2002 I knew that and I was happy to give my heart over to this man who had made me his wife.