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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Water On Road, Turn Around! Don't Drown!

"If Water On Road, Turn Around! Don't Drown!" replaced for a season the lit signs above the freeways that flashed, "Stage Three Drought." And where ice sheeted pavement till schools shut, the sun beats out heat while I beat eggs because I'm going to fry them on the hood of my car. I once heard of a woman who baked cookies on a cookie sheet she placed on the seat in her car. Yeah, this is summer fun in the south. No wonder fried food is the hottest competition going at the Texas State Fair each year. I didn't know what a chicken fried steak was till I moved here. I learned years ago in North Dakota that there's no such thing as a jackalope, though the gas stations sell jackalope postcards; and I've learned that there's no such thing as a chickasteer. And fried Dr. Pepper? Yeah, there's such a thing.

There's a question the psalmist asks about God in Psalm 147; "Who can stand before His cold?" I read it now and wonder the flip side, "Who can stand before His heat?" Seems to me real answers are needed lest we freeze stiff, or fry crisp; drown in water, or dry up for lack of it.

"Who?" The question is there in black and white on pages thinning yellow but bearing the weight of the glorious words written on them.

"Who?" The question would be asked by the likes of me because this skin of mine is thinning, too. It happens kind of crinkley with age and I don't notice till I look at a brand new Bible, or daughters' hands and necks and the delicate supple skin just under their eyes.

I would ask Him, but the answer is given in the preceeding verses before the question is asked.

Who? Seems it's those who know the thin and the stiff; those who've been shut out in the cold and given ice to warm themselves, and those who've been in the frying pan beneath the sun hotter than summer in Texas because they are those who know what it is to be outcasts of Israel, brokenhearted, wounded, uncounted, un-named, humbled. When these can sing praises to God with thanksgiving, then the answer is, "Praise the Lord! The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy" (Psalm 147:1, 11).

So I haven't needed to ask the "Who" question; but I have needed to ask, "How?"

"How? Lord, really, just how?" I've asked on my own behalf till I knew His answer by heart; and in heart, and then saw the answer just blaring in those bright yellow lit-up freeway signs, "If Water On Road,Turn Around! Don't Drown!" Isn't that pretty close to another way of saying,"Repent"?

Freeway Sign

I practice how. And turning around is what I do when life merges into the fast lane and comes at me like a flash flood on the freeway. I've prayed, "Lord, give me a sign telling me to turn around before I'm forced around."

He did; and when I sped past this flashing sign, I couldn't help praising God, "Hallelujah! I'm turned around!"

I used to get swept under and gasp for air, but then I guess I got turned around so many times that I lost myself to repentant life.

Now I ask the "How to stand" question because I need an answer for those who know my story and are reading my Pisteuo! books, and stopping me in the grocery store to ask me, "How?"

It happened like this yesterday between the bread and sport's drink isles. "I know your story. I don't know how to do this. I'm told to trust God more, and it'll go away. But it's not. There's more to it than that, isn't there," She smiled the plea. "Oh, I know there is, but I don't know what." She and I would have abandoned our shopping carts and gone to straight to the coffee shop where the real beans are spilled and the bitter is sweetened. But we couldn't. Not just then.

It's hard work. And the energy needed doesn't come from Muscle Milk or Gatorade or carbs in the bread isle, but only from this Bread that we remember daily and from the cup we remember to drink from because He ran the race and praised God every step of faith; and He endured for the joy of what He hoped for. He was shunned, fried, dried, cut up, un-named, and uncounted.

And He knows how to stand because He's done it.

Sometimes we know how to do it, only by doing it.

Maybe part of the answer to the question, "Who can stand before the hard cold that God has given, scattered, and cast out," is on this open page of Bible before me. Maybe those who can stand are those who learned how to stand, before God rebuilt them. Before. Because that's when a heart's prone to get a little tough proud. Before any rebuilding by God, we may begin to reason that since it seems God isn't making it go away, then we will. Somehow.

Maybe those who've learned how to stand are the same who've learned how to be humble; before God put them together, healed them, and counted them because they counted His humility worthy.

And could the other part of the answer be that the God who sends the hard that freezes the blood in our veins is the same God who sends out His word and just melts the hard till it pools and flows away?

But when we stand in a grocery store isle just hoping to get home before we fall to pieces, that's when we ask the how with a contrition that realizes there's more to this than pat answers; and too much of this for any help less than supernatural.

The answer is on this aging page of scripture and it's not "Trust more," as if our trust initiates His work. No. Seems the answer is that He sends out His cold, and who can stand it?

And that He sends out His word and melts the cold.

I wish I had this to share yesterday. I'd say something like, "His mercies are tender in the tough, and tough to make us tender."

I used to say, "I wish I could reach inside you and just turn your heart right around." I'd say it to a flushed little face on the dark green couch because, well, maybe he got frustrated with older brother, and maybe he threw a lego at him and it might have hit him.

He did; and it did.

And the boys would be reminded of alternatives to throwing legos.

Somehow the conversations with hot and sweaty little boys, faces all flushed with tears, didn't change much. Somehow the details of who did what to whom just never required a different speech. Truth was truth on that dark green couch, and the details never changed that. Oh, the details would be heard. The, "He did, and he said," had to be heard so that the response could be given. Again.

The truth was always, " I can't reach inside you and turn your heart around; only God can do that." Seems the truth always has something to do with turning around. With repentance.

The little offenders' chins would tremble in my cupped hand. I would hold their eyes with mine and somehow the truth is never rejected by contrite hearts.

The boys would listen like that, then lower their eyelids because maybe they felt like I could see into their hearts just by looking into their eyes. So they'd lower their eyelids. But I'd tilt my chin down and tilt theirs up, and our eyes would meet in the middle and hold just there.

"What your brother did," I'd say, "belongs to him. What you do, belongs to you." I'd pause and watch the stiff shoulders soften a little. Isn't that what happens when we stop carrying the offenses of others on our shoulders? They lower a notch?

"Now," I'd continue, "what did you do?"

"I," and the confession would tremble out.

"Do you remember," I'd prompt, "what you can do differently?" Seems we're prone to forget options when emotions run rough shod. Seems we need rehearsals till we know the script by heart.

"Come to you," he'd remember.

"Why?" I'd ask because it's important to know why. And to remember it's not to tattle.

"So that I won't throw legos at him?"

"Exactly." And I'd think to myself about the legos I've thrown. The words. The attitudes. The "if looks could kill" glances. They're all legos.

Only God can melt the hard with a single word, and only His Spirit can blow as warm wind till the waters flow down the cheeks of a lego thrower with good aim. I happen to know, as a repentant lego thrower myself, and as the mother of a couple of repentant lego throwers, that there's usually a wee bit o' smugness when the aim's right on; but also a smidgen of guilt when the target cries out because legos sting like hail when they hit tender skin. 


"He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly," I read what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 147:15.

"What is Your command?" I ask Him because His answer will further define for me just who He is. "Is it this? That You give snow, and scatter frost, and cast hail stones?"

"I give, scatter, and cast the cold that you can't stand before." He gives no excuse.

"You give it?" I want clarification, because many don't agree with that. Many say that He allows it. It's supposed to be comforting to those who are in the hard cold that's as stinky as wet wool, and as ashes that remind us of a time when we were glowing happy warm by the fire, and as  ice-ball morsels to eat.

"I give it." I hear Him respond somewhere between the isles of  "The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him," and "He takes pleasure in those who hope in His mercy." I'm reminded of yesterday when I stood between the bread isle and the sport's drink isle because bread, after all, is first threshed. And the likes of the kernel of wheat that I am fears the thresher. And I know a young man who used to throw legos, grew to drink the hope Muscle Milk offers, and now he hopes in the strength of God's mercy.

No one can stand before His cold. Is that why He sends it? So that someone would would fear Him for real as the One who does more than allow the hard, but as the One who commands it? So that someone would feel reason to hope in His mercy? And isn't this kind of language learned by those who repent before His cold? Who turn around before His cold because they know they can't stand before it?

I don't have to ask Him where the comfort is in this, because it's written in the very next sentence. "He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow," Psalm 147:19-20). And when it flows, I best have turned around when I had the reason smack in front of me all uncomfortable.

We make the choices when the hard and the cold are in front of  us. And the choices we make will determine if we turn, run in fear, and continue lobbing legos; or if we turn because we fear the same God from whom we also hope for mercy.

Sometimes the fast lane happens in a roar of revved up emotions and legos fly. But I read a plaque recently that said, "Repentance means-'to turn away from sin and start to follow God completely.'"

The boys and I learned this script of truth by heart, and in heart, by way of throwing legos and then by finding the off-ramp to repentance. The by-ways are the in-roads, and "Turn Around!" flashes above the off-ramp while legos speed by.

"I want to wake up every day at the foot of my bed." He knows what I mean and I remember as a little girl waking just that way. Only I woke lost at the foot of my ginormous Coleman green plaid flannel-lined sleeping bag.

"You want to wake up  turned around!" He and I have our own humor.

"Yeah, I do."

I want to wake up repentant.

That's a good place to loose myself.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Sunday, June 7, 2015

When Storms Spin Life Into Potato Puree

I wrote on a scrap piece of paper, "I won't say what shook me big and hurt me deep. I won't. It's not worth remembering. It's just detail, really. But, 'What, Lord, to do with this detail?'"

Sometimes this is the question when we're in the blender, and the detail not worth remembering is how the "blend" button was pushed and who pushed it. The date on the piece of paper was a month ago today and strangely I can't remember the details. I guess what isn't repeated isn't remembered.

Divine forgetfulness; it's a mercy and a grace. What's worth remembering is the conversation with the Lord after the question, "What do I do with this fact that the button's been pushed and the blender's
I read my own handwriting asking for wisdom in furious scrawl. Then I read, "I turn my heart toward Yours." The letters forming the scripted cry are just unsteady blend of long and short hand.

Potatoes are boiling. Texan beef sausage is frying in the cast iron skillet and leeks are diced and heaped green on the bamboo cutting board with the non-skid rubber at the corners that every cutting board should have.

The potatoes are soft and the leeks sauteed. The sausage is cooked crisp; and is there anything that smells better than leek sautee and crisp sausage?

I ladle leeks, potatoes, and hot potato water into the  blender and, I confess, I always get nervous before blending boiling hot in a glass blender with a rubber lid that has a removable stopper because what if the glass brakes? Or what if the stopper pops off?

Steam is a powerful force and I can see a weather pattern beginning to form inside the blender. It's hot and humid in there and that's storm popping weather in these parts. And in my kitchen. It's happened before. My kitchen's been taken by storm before. It's been splattered by hot, leek-potato blend all green before. The stopper's popped off my blender before.

I like storms as long as I'm not under the illusion that I can control them. I like them outside. I can't press them down, put a lid on them and keep the stopper stopped. I know I can't, so I trust God in the big ones that cover the sky and rattle the windows. But in my blender? I get a little anxious about that. And in my life? Well, sometimes storms churn life into a puree and just blend me up till I can empathize with this soup in the blender.

I don't like storms that splatter puree onto kitchen cupboard, counter, and floor; and I don't like storms that churn me into a puree and pour me out like blended leeks and potatos into the soup pot.
I don't like feeling as blended green soup; even less, looking like it and winning a few askance glances. But sometimes I'm in the soup pot. I just am.

I spoon leeks and ladle potatoes and potato water into the blender. The kitchen towel hangs on a hook by the sink. I reach for it, wad it up, and press it between the stopper and my hand. Just in case. A hot potato storm's about to rotate at the speed of a tornado just blending everything into a puree.

"Be anxious for nothing" goes through my head as I step back as far as my arm is long, press the blend button and potatoes boiled soft and leeks sauteed limp churn green so violent fast that they are soup in less than ten seconds.

I pour it into the soup pot. A green puree. And just like that the three ingredients are blended into one and forever changed. I think I know what that feels like.

Blender with Potatoes and Leeks

Thing is, when we go through the blender, we come out changed. We look different and our lives take on a different spin and shade. And the questions we ask change. Go through the blender and somehow the "why" and "who" questions don't matter much anymore. What matters when we're reeling and maybe feeling a little green is, "Do I believe that God pressed the blend button? And what matters are, "How sovereign is sovereign?" And, "What does God's love really look like? What does His love do to me?" The questions are asked frantic when "Watch out! I'm about to blow!" is churned out dizzy nervous because the starch of life and everything living all leeky green is as spinning funnel and the the eye is blurry just, "Where is the center of the universe anyway?"

I turn back to my scrap piece of paper where I've written, "God is the center of the universe. He is the eye of the storm."

It's true. He is the center. I can live as if He's not. I can live like that even when I feel like I've been spooned into the blender; but that doesn't make it less true. I can cry out as if I am the center of the universe, and people who love me more than they love God will move everything in their power to rescue me and for all their kindness, "Thanks, but no thanks." I don't need the reinforcement of my self-centered nature. Honestly, I don't want to be self-centered, but God-centered; and I need fewer rescues by those who love me more than they love God; who trust their rescue of me more than they trust the strange sight of God's love for me.

Then there are those people who claim to love me, but they don't. Not really. They flatter themselves, saying, "I love her enough to be tough." It's this thing called "tough love" and is this much different in the end than those who flatter me with their rescuing version of love? Both versions end up displacing God. Both versions forget the fact that God says He is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that no one and nothing, neither angel nor demon, neither man nor woman nor circumstance can thwart His purposes.

God has reasons for pressing the blend button and maybe one reason is to let centrifugal force spin me away from the center of my life. May I be pushed to the outer edge, and may God be the center of my life. May He be the eye and may I begin to see Him through His eye, not mine. See God through His eye and begin to see everything differently.

See like this and love differently.

Tough love. I don't think He'd define it the way most do. I google, "What is tough love?" I want to know what this term is supposed to mean, and find that it's meant to "encougarge self-help by restricting benefits" (North American Web). Is this right?

I ask because it's been tried and doesn't seem to work. I ask because it didn't work when I tried it, and because I've been in rooms full of others who've tried it and it hasn't worked for them, either. I ask because doesn't Christ encourage us toward helping others? Isn't it by seeking to aid others that we find aid for ourselves? And isn't the help that we all need, but can't get for ourselves, the help that Christ gave not by restricting benefits but by benefiting us through the restrictions He put on Himself?

I press the puree button on my blender. Potatoes boiled soft and leeks sauteed limp spin so fast that in ten seconds they are soup, and I marvel at the Savior who left Heaven's peace. He left the holy still power and came to this spinning blender called human life on earth where a mother fears for her daughter; a wife fears for her husband; friends fear for friends; parents fear for their son because these need help and everything tried just isn't working. They aren't seeking the help they need and the restrictions care-takers offer seem to benefit no one; not even themselves.

I press the stop button.

Maybe it could be said, "Tough love doesn't work; but Trust Love does."

Trust Love.

It was said long ago; "Lean not on your own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Proverbs 3:5).  Is this Trust Love?

Earth Spin

Jesus stepped onto this rotating earth that spins at one-thousand miles per hour and where great wheels of ocean streams and air currents churn in circles by the very energy of his spinning orb that's seventy-one percent water. I think it to myself as I lift the blender from the base and, "You placed Yourself into this blender" is the whisper of a marvelous thought.

I pour the soup into the soup pot, place a second batch of soft and sauteed into the blender, and before I can press the start button I hear Him speak to me; "I created this blender with my Father and our Holy Spirit." He's talking about the very beginning when God said, "Let there be light" and the earth began to spin.
"The spin started before the sin started," I stare at the green puree in the blender and just let this thought churn, because there's something spiritual here. It churns out, "You started the spin and then said, 'Peace. Be still and know that I am God.'"

It's scary to watch loved ones fall down so many times that they can't think straight enough to walk straight no matter how much they want to. It's scary to wait , just wait because of Trust Love, while God's patience begins to seems like negligence.

Tough to trust Love while a life hangs in the balance. The friends of Jesus, and Jesus' mother knew about that as He shouldered the sins of the world in the hang.

Tough to trust Love to revive and resurrect.

Tough to trust the generous kind benefits of Love who offers birth before death and life instead of it.

I practice Trust Love.

The blender may puree a loved one till my insides turn to soup and everything in my understanding wants to lean hard on the "stop" button, but I practice Trust Love because God's proved faithful to press the "stop" button and when He does, I see that God understands with a patience I don't possess outside of trusting Him.

The kitchen is quiet. A holy pause. Just the blender, God, and me.

He whispers and I hear Him; "I stepped into the blender with you and your loved ones. I mixed with you so that you may be one in Me as I am one in the Father. I pray that you may be one in Us. I pray that the love with which the Father loves Me may be in you, and Me in you." I recognize His words from the Book of John, chapter seventeen.

We stand side by side, staring at the blender on the counter. More silence. Then I dare the whisper, "I step into Your love. Your love is the true blender."

I dare the speech because what I mean is that I long with a heart turned soft because I've soaked in the Living Water; I long to be blended, no, pureed, till all of Him is in all of me and I'm made into soup meant to be ladled into the empty bowls held out in cupped hands of the poor who hunger enough to line up at the soup kitchen on this spinning earth. Yeah, that's what I mean.

I press the start button. The blender whirs out the last batch of potato-leek soup; and Love confesses, "I pressed the start button. I pressed it in the beginning, and I pressed it when my mother Mary pressed Me into Joseph's hands and they held the Love that would put them through the blender and shred their hearts because that's just part of Love's sacrifice for the sins of the world. And I pressed it when the thorny crown was pressed onto My head, but the blood that soaked the earth at the foot of the cross soaked the thorns of the crown first. They meant to mock, but love won't be mocked because it's tougher than thorns."

Trust Love endures for the sake of the offender's freedom.

Trust Love wears the thorns, but His blood soaks them.

Trust Love bears the shame, but doesn't own it.

Trust Love is misunderstood and maligned, but will never displace God.

Trust Love is tough enough to press the blend button and then speak, "faith, hope, love; these three abide; and love is the greatest" over the whir of the blender.

I add the crisped sausage to the soup pot. As an after-thought, I slice up fruit for a side dish because love is a fruit of the Spirit and tonight that's what I'm serving.

Potato-Leek Soup with sausage because my husband's a meat and potatoes German who's lived in Texas cattle country for twenty of his fifty years.

The side dish? Well, I didn't plan on slicing fruit, but I do it real quick because love is a fruit of the Spirit.

And that's what this meal's all about.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig