• Some Afternoon Encouragement

    If you are feeling poor, worn out, full of grief, weak, despairing at the state of the world, hungry for change, wishing you could make things better, and you are misunderstood and rejected today, Jesus says that you’re doing it right.

    He says that the people who are sitting pretty, enjoying the rewards of a comfortable life now are already enjoying their passing rewards.

    But you will hold heaven in your hands. You will be comforted. You will rule over the earth. You will be satisfied with what you see there. It’s abundance will be yours to enjoy. Your mistakes will be long forgotten and irrelevant. People will look at you and say, “look! There’s one of God’s children! Can’t you see the family resemblance?”

    I know – trust me I know – that at the moment, Jesus’ words may feel empty and hollow. You may hear them and think, “sure, who I am going to believe? Jesus or my lying eyes?” Continue reading

  • Your Goodness Isn’t Filthy Rags

    If there’s one word which describes my experience of 2014 so far, it’s “inadequate”. I have felt utterly inadequate to the challenges of my life. Whatever good I can and have done has been wholly inadequate. In fact, this feeling has been so strong that I have frequently found myself battling a sense that anything I do or try to do is pointless.

    And into this jolly state of affairs, a few little church mice come whispering in my ear, “it’s all filthy rags. Whatever you do is no more than filthy rags.” Which just makes it all seem even more pointless. If everything I do is as worthless as a pile of dirty rags, then life is hopeless. Maybe I’ll have better luck in the afterlife.

    Except that’s just not true. Which is why this post from Derek Leman is an important corrective to the all too common notion that God regards all our efforts and good works as filth:

    Isaiah 64:6 is not a divine dismissal of the rightness of loving deeds; it is a prayer of complaint by the people about how they feel overlooked by God. . . In the voice of complaint, the believers are saying, “Where are you, God? It’s like our words and actions of love and faithfulness for you are filthy rags!”

    It turns out that this idea that our deeds are worthless, disgusting even, does not come from God. Instead, it’s the perspective of people who are worn out and tired from waiting and suffering who fear that God has rejected them. This passage isn’t a condemnation of our good works and efforts, but a very human cry many of us can relate to.

    More:

    Is this what God actually thinks of their deeds?

    Not at all. Cease to do evil; learn to do good. That is God’s counsel from Isaiah 1:16. The righteous will not labor in vain. They will be blessed by the Lord. Their prayers will be so powerful, God will answer them before they speak them (Isa 65:23-24). God does not despise the good deeds of his people. He teaches us to do them. It is good to pray, to visit the sick, to provide justice for the widow and orphan. These things God does not despise. They are not filthy rags, according to the Bible.

    And at the center of human beings is not corruption, but purity and holiness. It is the image of God. It is who we truly are. The corruption is not at the center, but is a veil of darkness refusing to let out who we really are. We are not evil beings pretending to be good, but good people fallen from our true selves finding in God and Messiah the path back to our pre-ordained glory as his sons and daughters.

    What we need to hear when life is hard isn’t the human perspective which says that what we do is pointless or worse than nothing. What we need to hear is God’s perspective which views us as beloved image bearers whose goodness is precious to him.

     

  • a5b7d8930487bd798420ced547722774698e3403776e4ea866bc5586dd5631fa

    For When You Can’t Function

    a5b7d8930487bd798420ced547722774698e3403776e4ea866bc5586dd5631fa

    Now here’s a subject I know a bit about – not being able to function. By which I mean not being able to engage in normal activities like writing or cleaning or answering emails or having conversations which require saying something other than “uh huh”, “you don’t say” and “I need to go lay down for a little bit”.

    So, my apologies for the long silence. And double apologies to those of you whose emails I haven’t answered. I’ve been too focused on enduring to figure out things to say. Sending pages and pages of uuuuuuugh and grrrrrr and uroawooonmnuuuurg didn’t seem appropriate.

    It’s always uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing to find yourself unable to do anything other than endure, but it turns out that enduring is a skill that God holds in high regard. Romans 5:3 says that endurance leads to character which leads to hope. Timothy 2:12 says that if we endure, we will reign with Christ. You look at me and see a big blob doing nothing, but God looks at me and sees me being prepared to rule the universe. Or something.

    Anyhow, my point, such as it is, is that enduring is something we have to be able to do sometimes. Life is hard. Depression’s a nasty bitch. Beds are soft and brownies are comforting.

    So, for those of you who are struggling to endure, I’d like to share this bunch of words I miraculously strung together that I use to keep myself enduring for just a little bit longer. I hope they help you as well. If they don’t, that’s totally cool. Feel free to say, “eff off, Rebecca. You have no idea . . .” Just do it in your head and not in the comments because while I totally understand, I totally don’t want to hear it.

    Anyhow. Here you go:

    You are fine. And you can do this. Maybe not right this very moment, but that’s OK. You don’t have to be able to function and overcome every single moment of your life. You’ve been able to function and handle life plenty of times before and at some point, you’ll get a few moments where you’re able to do that again. And that’s enough. A few of those moments are more powerful than all the hours when sucking air takes all of your strength.

    When you sit down and find yourself unable to move again, it’s OK. You don’t have to fight it. You don’t have to feel weak or guilty. It will pass. We all get too sick to move sometimes; this is no different. Just sit and when the moment passes, you’ll get back up. No use beating yourself up in the meantime. Nothing wrong with just sitting for a spell.

    Don’t tell yourself that you can’t function any more. You can. Just not right this moment. It’s OK. You don’t have to function well all the time. There are times when you function just fine. And sometimes you may not be fully functional, but you’re also not immobilized. If you can’t move or think or function at the moment, it’s no big deal. There are other moments, moments when you don’t have to think to breath or struggle to move while the pain blanket is smothering you. And in those moments, you are downright amazing. It’s no wonder you sometimes hit a wall – being that amazing takes a lot out of a person.

    It doesn’t matter if right this moment, you can’t feel or believe it, but you are fine. Don’t fall for the guilt and condemnation. You don’t owe anyone a clean house or folded laundry or three blog posts a week or dinner at 6 or a face with make-up on it or anything at all except, so far as it is in your power, to be here tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. So just make that happen and it’s enough. The people who love you want you more than they want anything else in this world.

    Don’t tell yourself that no one loves you and that you’re not important. It doesn’t matter if you can’t feel it or receive love right now. When the wind blows against the window, you don’t say it’s not real because you can’t feel it moving against your skin. You know the wind is blowing even when you can’t feel it. It’s the same with the love people have for you.

    Not being able to feel or receive love or joy or the good of the world doesn’t means you are wrong or broken. It’s not always a sign that you need to change or do something. I’m sure a massage isn’t particularly enjoyable to someone who’s been hit by a Mack truck either. It can take a lot of time and meds and healing for the pain to get thin enough for the good to get through.

    Sometime today or tomorrow or the next, you will see someone who is joyful. A child who made a painting for you. A dog who is so happy you’re home that they can’t control the urge to jump and run. A teen who laughs until they cry at a joke about bodily functions. A spouse who’s elated at having nailed the presentation. When that happens don’t regret that you can’t feel or share their joy. Instead, take a moment to stand in awe that such joy exists. When all you can do is endure, you understand better than anyone else what a miracle and wonder it is that joy exists at all.

  • church-offering

    Throwing Pennies at God

    You know the story of the widow’s mite?  How Jesus said this widow throwing her last two pennies into the collection box was more faithful than those putting in large amounts from their wealth?  I always read the story and assumed that the widow was giving her last two pennies out of reverence.  But lately, I’ve realized that I’ve been that woman throwing her last coins into the Salvation Army bucket.  And it wasn’t often done out of reverence.  When I was younger, I might put my penny in so I wouldn’t feel bad about walking past the bucket without putting anything in.  Sometimes I did put my last coins in as a way of saying, “I know it’s not much, but it’s what I’ve got.  I’ll just trust you to provide the increase.”  A few times though, I put my last coins in as an act of protest and complaint; “You want everything?  Fine take my last pennies.  I do my best, I trust in you and I get left with nothing but a couple of pennies.”

    Research has found that poorer people give more of their money away than others.  A lot of that is because the amounts given as often so small that you weren’t going to do much with the money anyways.   It occured to me that maybe the widow wasn’t so sanguine about her life and her struggles either.  Two copper coins wasn’t worth much.   It would barely have bought food for one meal.  And then what?  Maybe that widow too had been walking this path for too long.  Maybe she was more broken than obedient and was throwing those copper pieces as a form of defiance and challenge to God?  Maybe that was exactly what Jesus saw her doing when he praised her action.  I know that if at one of those moments, God had praised those pennies I threw at him, it would have meant everything to me. Continue reading

  • Do You Treat God Like Old Aunt Myrtle?

    Do You Treat God Like Old Aunt Myrtle?

    “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Luke 18:17

    When ever I have hear this verse taught the point is pretty much the same: we should have a child like trust.  What does that even mean?  It gives me a vision of children sitting around gazing up at us with trusting goo-goo eye all day.  As if.  Obedience?  Ever known any real-live children?

    Become like little children.  Perhaps Jesus meant this comment more literally than we usually take it.  I happen to know a thing or two about children and off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of typical behaviors:

    • They bring you their boo-boos to fix
    • They follow you around chattering about any little thing they can think of, just to be with you
    • They ask questions – lots and lots of questions
    • They test boundaries
    • They look to you to show them who they are
    • They sometimes have to learn things the hard way
    • They like to make you laugh
    • They seek you out when they are lonely, bored, restless
    • They like to learn more about you and your life
    • They ask more questions Continue reading
  • cheerleader

    Sometimes You Just Have To Be Your Own Cheerleader!

    Dearest Rebecca,

    Hi! I’ve heard that you’ve been having a hard time lately so I thought you could use some encouragement. I know that between being sick and hating housework and wishing you could have just one full child free day and night every couple of years, you feel like you’re drowning and can’t hold things together. Heck, I hear that you even lost your purse last week after leaving it on the top of the car. What a bummer! But, you know, shit happens. Shake it off. No use crying over spilt milk and all that. I mean look at all the things you’re juggling. You’ve got 5 kids. Everyday you make sure people are wearing clean clothes and sleeping on clean sheets and some days your own clothes are even clean. You check backpacks and harass errant students and sometimes even remember girl scout meetings before they start. Continue reading

  • The Right Way to Stone Those You Love

    Missy Piggy Tattoo by Jamie Sapp. Inspired by my career making performance, no doubt.

    I’m not sure exactly what came over me, but one afternoon in the music room in junior high I was so charged up from a long day of doing anything I could think of to keep myself amused that I stood up and belted out the words “Look at moi! I’m as helpless as a piglet in a trough! . . . I get hungry just holding your hand!” like a 12 year old soprano Ethel Merman.  That afternoon, I remember standing by my mom’s bed where she was folding laundry and telling her a little sheepishly that I was going to be Miss Piggy in the school play.  It was kind of a big deal for me, but the thought of my family seeing me behave so outrageously was pretty mortifying.  And not only that, but I was going to be singing and dancing with a boy in my class.  In front of everyone!  A kind of cute boy even.  (Not that he could hold a candle to Justin Belt who was not only the hottest 12 year old ever, but inexplicably, spoke with an english accent of some sort.  I think I would have lost control of myself in some way if I had to dance with Justin Belt in front of everyone.)

    I, of course, stole the show.  Or maybe not.  I don’t really remember.  But what I do remember is something my mom told me after the show.  Some woman who I vaguely knew existed had sought out my mom and told her that I had “a voice like a beautiful bell.”  Now, I do love singing – always have.  But for many years, I had a huge hang-up about singing in front of people.  So, I really had to push past my comfort zone to make a big ham out of myself in front of my classmates and whoever else was there.  This woman’s compliment was my reward. 

    I now only have a medium sized hang-up about singing in front of people.  Continue reading

  • Thinking Makes It So

    “There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare

    I picked up this quote back in my senior year in high school while reading Hamlet for class.  When I got to college, I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall above my bed.  It’s on my facebook page right now.  

    This quote has always spoken to me about the importance of perspective, responsibility and choice.  It says to me that the way I see something – the emotions I associate with it, my analysis of what is going on, the assumptions I make about motivations – is a choice.  If one of my kids says something which is unintentionally rude, I can chose to laugh or be offended.  Sometimes I might have a good reason to be offended, but if I can, I’m going to laugh.  It’s a choice.  And that extends from the biggest things to the smallest things.  I can choose how to view things rather than just go with random gut reactions. Continue reading

  • A New Year’s Resolution for the Overwhelmed, Forgetful and Easily Distracted

    I hate New Year’s resolutions.  Hate them.  The worst part of New Year’s day for me was always when the qxh (quasi-ex-husband) would pull out a piece of paper and write “Trotter Family Resolutions” across the top.  So we could “pull them out at the end of the year and see how we did”.  Great, another completely unrealistic standard to feel bad about not meeting.  Just what I need! 

    The other day I read an article which advised that the key to keeping this year’s resolutions was to set up specific targets.  Like “I will exercise 3 times a week and lose 25 lbs by April 1.”  Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha!  Seriously.  That’s what it said.  Like the two are related.  Continue reading

  • Be a candle

    Loneliness can be a deep, vast sea to those who have no one waiting for them on shore. Open your heart to someone you know is floating in a sea of despair, their head barely above the waterline. Stop in for a visit, jot them an email, or give them a call. The fact that someone cares might be enough to give them the fortitude they need to start paddling. ~ by Sandra Kring

    Dear Abby

    My parents have always kept a subscription to the Chicago Tribune.  So from the age of about 11 on, I was an avid daily reader of Dear Abby and Ann Landers.  Over the years, I was always a bit amazed that the same complaints appeared over and over again; intrusive questions about fertility, noisy chewers, comments about children with disabilities.   Ann and Abby had already answered these questions many times before, people!  Weren’t you paying attention?  Even my friends at school read Ann and Abby most days.  In an argument, Ann or Abby’s opinion was a trump card – they had that kind of authority.  Continue reading