Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Today was a great outdoors day. We harvested many things from our garden including some great looking carrots. As my hubby was removing the leaves and cleaning them up for dinner, he found a special treat--a caterpillar. We of course went right to work making a home for it so our girls could enjoy discovering the many changes that would occur through the next several months. Shortly after completing the home, we went a-Googling to see just whom we had found: a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar.

After the excitement died down tonight, I went to work, learning more about caterpillars, cocoons, butterflies and the journey these miracles take to get from one form to the other. Oh, WOW. I  happened upon a 13 minute film of the life cycle of a Cecropia Moth. It was a BEAUTIFUL moth, not like those pesky ones that flit about above your dining room table, trying desperately to be absorbed by the light fixture just above. This one was spectacular with its colorings, shapes, and fullness of form. It was something to behold!

The thing is, the process and timeline of this beautiful creature's life was extremely interesting and somewhat sad. Allow me to expound...

A caterpillar goes through up to 5 different phases, called "instars," where it will shed its skin and take on a new look--coloring and all. I never knew this. After all of these phases, it then of course spins itself a cocoon, where it actually spends most of its life. This particular type of moth I was watching only lives a few days as a beautiful winged creature, to lays its eggs and then die.

Something sparked in my brain and spirit when I was watching this short film. Many people--myself included--have eluded to how a person's spiritual conversion is much like a caterpillar coming out of its cocoon, transformed into this amazing and beautiful entity... but now I see that this view is a bit naive. It is the view of what a child believes happens when his mom gives birth to a baby brother or sister. He has no clue as to all of the development that has taken place over the last nine months--he just knows that his mommy went to the hospital and they took out a baby, plain and simple.

The life stages of a born-again believer in Jesus Christ are much like that of the caterpillar. Every so often, we must shed our old self--maybe a way we think, act, or believe about certain things. What I do know is this: in order for the full metamorphosis to take place, there must be many instars, or sheddings, of our former selves. This is how we grow. It is meant to be this way.

This is not to refute the fact that when one is born again, they are a new creation. This is truth. It is biblical. The problem is that we are still living as human flesh in this sin-tainted world. We tend to hold on to what we "know" and traditions of old, even if they prove to be more harmful than good. This is where the shedding must occur. We must continue to take off our former selves--our ways of thinking, acting, even feeling--and assume our new identities in Christ Jesus. This happens over and over until we reach the point of physical death. It is then that we can become truly what the Lord had intended for us to be all along: that beautiful, uninhibited butterfly, soaring through the fields with glorious abandon to the earth and its troubles below.

Now obviously, this idea, this writing, has many loopholes that I would love to work on... however I am not trying to write a book on this subject at the moment... My prayer is that you would simply take what is here and ponder on your own just a bit about what your next instar will be. What will you shed next? How will you look during and after this breakthrough? Remember that these transitions are all part of our wonderful journey and not only do we get to live them, but we also will surely influence those around us as we move through each stage...

...more to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/11 ponderings

On Saturday, we will be remembering the most tragic of events on American soil ever to take place: 9/11. I remember it like it was yesterday. Nine years ago, I was very pregnant, a Christian School Chaplain, and had an out-of-work husband. I remember walking back to my office when a student came running to me, claiming there were planes crashing into buildings in New York... How we set up rabbit ears with the VCR in the church sanctuary (where the school had its weekly chapel services), and we sat, as a school, and watched on the big projection screen as the second tower spilled down into the city below... I remember hearing how the Pentagon was also targeted, and thought about how only a few short days before this attack, my own father--and hundreds of other local politicians from around the country--were walking the halls of that “fortress”... I remember the counseling that took place... The lives forever changed... How hard it was for my husband to find a job... The list goes on.
So now there is talk of a Mosque being built near Ground Zero. Of course, where there is talk of this nature, there is exponentially more controversy, swarming like an angry legion of hornets. I don’t--nor will I ever--claim to be an authority on most things political. I don’t claim to be someone who is fit to comment or advise on anything government-related. What I do proclaim, though, is that I am born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and can only testify to these things which I know to be true. Many will question my statement, saying, how do I know these things to be true? Well, my response can only be answered with a question. How do you know you are breathing air with an appropriate amount of oxygen? Well, for one thing, you’re not dying. You’re not gasping for breath.  You are, in fact, very much alive, and feel right. “How I know” is something that is a gift. Like the air we breathe. When someone receives the gift of faith, that person is forever changed. Okay, back to the topic...
Many people who have weighed in on this controversy have done so very boldly, opposing anything having to do with Muslims. People are acting out of pain and fear: pain they still feel from this near decade-long injury, and fear that it--or worse--may happen again. We, as Americans, have been injured. 

No living thing takes to injury very well. Think about a dog who maybe has his foot caught in a trap. When a compassionate soul happens upon such a situation, that typically kind-natured animal will lash out, trying to attack its would-be savior. Most often the victim is so inwardly focused that anything external seems threatening. Snapping violently at the hand that could help is a natural tendency. And natural as it may be, what it truly is is selfish. This is not to say that “selfish” is a nasty term; sometimes the pain is so excruciating there is no seeing past it by ourselves. This means looking only at your pain and doing everything in your power to at the very least, maintain the status quo. It means not looking out to anyone or anything for help. It means festering. It ultimately means loss.
While there is something to be said about pain and suffering, there is also much to be said about peace and love--God’s love. As someone who is striving daily to inherit the love that is God while still here on this earth, I had a revelation today. I would like to share it now, as an illustration of the bigger picture, whether that is in response to a proposed Mosque in New York, a homeless person in a small town no one has ever heard of, or within your own family. 
I was driving through my city today, running various errands that took me through some of the more colorful, or interesting areas that I don’t normally see. I began looking at the many people out and about on this windiest of days. I watched: a young man rushing across a street to the nearest liquor store--his long hair whipping across most of his face; an old woman with missing teeth, extremely outdated glasses and a filthy jacket standing idly while waiting for a city bus; a long line of school children processing from the museum downtown; the librarian, watching an obviously drunken man checking out a book; a family taking a walk along Lake Michigan.
While driving, I was listening to a sampler CD playing Kim Walker’s “How He Loves Us,” and two other songs. As the time ticked by, the CD kept rotating these three songs, and the words became overwhelming to me. I am a singer. I sing in the car, like many people do, I admit it. But today, as I was singing, I realized something. I was singing this song with the greatest passion for all of these people.  As I sang the words over them, this tremendous love for each of them exploded from my heart. I realized that most of the time when I have talked or sung about God’s love, I have been thinking of His love as for only those of us who call ourselves Christians. (As I write this, I can’t get past what I have just declared. I am floored.) 
“Oh, how He loves us, oh, oh, how He loves us, how He loves us, oh.” 
God looks down on every individual here on this life-sustaining planet and calls out, 
“I... LOVE... YOU!” 
It is for this reason that we, as born again believers are here, in this place, to reach out and send that love in the most tangible of ways to the ones who have not yet received this gift. Oh, how He loves US ALL. 
So regardless of brick and mortar and what it could stand for, what we do in response to anything should be this: love. Micah 6:8 says it best: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
We must remember that this is not God’s heaven. This is sin-infested earth. It was tainted by the fall, and will not reach perfection until Jesus brings it about. And whether a Mosque is built close to Ground Zero or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of eternity. Is it insensitive? Yes, I believe so. Will many people lash out, like the wounded creature that they are? Yes again. But how will we, as those called by Christ, act at that point? Will we stand beside them, shaking our fists in the air, and perpetuating hate, or will be be the ones standing there, not ashamed to say, “Look, I know the pain you’re in, but I know a GREAT Physician,” move in boldly, and remove the paw from the trap.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A New Day

A school day, to be precise. Day two of my two eldest daughters' school year. And the tension was high today. Let me preface today's entry with this: We have been homeschooling now for 3 years, and this year, we decided that it was time to get out into regular school. I never intended on becoming one of those "lifers" in the homeschool world, so we knew this day would come. There simply was a season for it, and now that season is over... but I digress.

My Miriam. Young--could be the youngest in her class, as her birthday falls one tiny day before the state cutoff. Bold. Daring. Excited. Ready. She has been quite the trailblazer thus far, but let's face it--every kid in that class is the same thing: new. They are all embracing this fresh thing called school with the same naivety, the same enthusiasm, the same wide-eyed wonder. Their teacher is expectant of first-day jitters, embarrassing accidents, even the occasional teary-eyed trooper who just can't seem to fit in. 

Then there's my Abigail. My first love, maternally speaking. Abigail will forever hold that place--where my very first motherly instincts rose up from deep within the confines of my selfish heart, broadening its horizons to include other little souls who's lives would fully be dependent upon my actions. She forever will be the one who engaged my heart in one of humankind's greatest journeys: motherhood. This is why today--our second day of school--was worse than yesterday.

You see, Abigail is entering a new school, too. The difference here is that most every other fourth grader has been at this school now for three or four years. Here is what they know: Each other. Teachers. Rules. Building layout. Pretty much everything that matters, they know. And if they don't, they know just how to fake it. Her teacher is wonderful. I can already see this, and for that I am thankful. However, I understand that he probably hasn't dealt with the "new" factor much in his career, like the Kindergarten teachers who face a different batch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbies each year.

Today was the day she felt the nerves rising up inside that slender stomach of hers. She felt sick. Literally. Identifying the problem doesn't make it go away. I knew that it wouldn't, but I had to reassure her that everything would be fine. Second-day jitters, I fear, are worse than their more well-known counterpart: the first-day jitters. With the first day, there is a delightful aspect we keep right on the horizon. We know that the first day is just that. A day. There is a beginning, and a few hours later, an ending. With day two, there is not such hope. Day two is simply a day, and will most assuredly be followed by another, and another, and so on. There is no real short-term end in sight and therefore can be gravely foreboding to any novice.

So today's pondering is a hard truth that we all must deal with at some time or another. In life, sometimes we are forced into situations where we feel completely alone and afraid. Sometimes the excitement wears off and we are left with a bundle of frenzied nerves where our stomachs once were. And if there is one piece of advice or wisdom I may lay at the feet of the trembling, it is this: 

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:3-5

Be at peace friends. Tomorrow is another day to wake up and face it all again. I pray that through all the sufferings, our character is built up and full of love and moxie. And the main vehicle that takes us there, my friends, is perseverance.