Kristen
We live in a world of artificial day. 24 hour WalMart, street lamps, office buildings lit up until dawn. We have gone to incredible lengths to push back the dark.


Our family lives at a remote Bible camp. When night falls, it is dark. And this week my son is a camper. At our house we have a battery system that gives us some light in the middle of the night. In the cabins, when the generator turns off, the power is gone. His counselor has had to comfort him several times when he woke up in the absolute dark of a lightless night. We are not used to the dark.


But without the dark, we miss something.


In the dead of night, when cougar and bear quietly traverse the shadows, all of a sudden we realize that even with our six figure jobs, SUV's, and cell phones...we are still prey. Feeling that sinking sensation of standing in the vast forest at night reveals something that is often lost in our culture. It brings back the deep primal fear of being killed and eaten by some awesome predator. It brings back that ancient struggle to survive. It brings me a glimpse at a difficult truth.


Without the light of God, Satan is free to draw us from our cozy dens and consume us at his leisure. We do have cougar and bear in our small mountain forest and they have never given us any trouble at all. But they are there, and just bumping into such a fierce and awesome creature makes the hair on your neck rise and your heart race.


But the real revelation for me is that so many times modern Americans forget that we are small and alone in the darkness without God. We are soft tender creatures wandering a vast forest in the dead of night. We are the helpless and we are the hunted. We are blind without the hope of finding our way and we are the favorite prey of the greatest predator of all time. Satan the enemy of God.


But God has offered us light and hope and Himself. Why do we wander in the black of night when life and love can be ours?


John 1:4-5--"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."


Kristen
I am the Mom of three young boys, ages 6, 8, and 10. This summer I am caring for five boys, my three, a boy I am "nannying" for, plus his cousin who just likes to hang out. I set out this summer with the goal of being completely fair with all five boys. I would treat them each as my own, same rules, same story time, same summer school work, and hugs all around.


It isn't working.


The boy I am "officially" caring for is a worthy opponent. Fierce and determined to take over the world. His grandma and I had a quick meeting this morning. Both of us came to the same conclusion within 24 hours of each other.


Being fair is not working.


This little guy needs something different. No more calm and firm chats about behavior. We are moving forward with immediate consequences for any and every disturbance. And as I go forth in solid and steady unfairness, I realized something.


God is not fair with His children.


He knows me and He knows you. He knows whether I need a "no" or a "yes" to that prayer. He knows if the people around me or the world in general needs a "no" or a "yes" to that prayer. He knows. And God acts accordingly. God is my loving father, caring for me in ways that only He can truly comprehend. And only now am I starting to appreciate that careful and thoughtful unfairness.


 Hebrews 12:7--"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?"


Thank you Lord that you love me enough to be unfair.
Kristen

This week was my middle boy’s much anticipated Momma Movie Night. In the summer my husband is pretty much always working and to help the boys through these hot busy days, I try to do something special with each of them. I woke my little blond up at 3:30am with Boysenberry ice cream sodas and a conglomeration of melted candy that we made together the day before. Then I brought out a new movie I’d bought just for him and we snuggled up on the couch with a quilt and our treats to watch. This year his movie was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader based on the book by C.S. Lewis. It was a fun and special time with my little guy, but also reminded me of my favorite dragon scene of all time.

The way the movie interpreted this moment was good for cinema, but when I really want to experience the full impact, I turn to the book. Up to this point Eustice Scrub has been a terrible character. Whiney, selfish, suspicious, and vindictive. He makes life miserable for anyone and everyone who is unfortunate enough to live in close proximity. Then he gathers up some treasures from a dragon’s hoard and is turned into a dragon himself.

Nothing can be found to turn him back and Eustice faces a lifetime without human contact as the ship must sail and there is no way to haul him along. He lies weeping in the sand, a broken boy without a chance to change or a hope for the future. Then Aslan comes. The great lion sees Eustice trying to scratch off his terrible dragon skin and tells him that he must tear deeper.  More and more scaly skin falls away, but there is always another layer to replace it. Finally Eustice gives up. Aslan steps forward and says that He can do it. Eustice agrees and the great lion sinks his claws deep into the boys dragon flesh and rips. Eustice is certain that he will die from the pain of it, but when the agony fades he is free of the dragon skin and steps into the pool at the lions feet to be healed.

This scene always makes me weep.

For I am Eustice and so are you. It makes me remember all that I cannot become and all that my Lord has transformed me into as he tears the sin from my heart and makes me new.

2 Corinthians 5:17--"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!"
Kristen


I drove over to my mom’s this weekend to help her unpack. She moved into a new house and is living out of boxes. You know how unsettled that feels. So I wrangled my three boys into the car and drove for a couple of hours, munching down snacks and squinting through the slanting rain of a Westside storm. I didn’t want the boys to think that we had only come to play with Grandma’s dog and wreak havoc, so I gave them a little lecture. We were going to Grandma’s to work hard, to unpack boxes, and to make her life easier. Arguing and complaining would not accomplish our task.
 

So we finally arrived, well after dinner, well after bedtime, grumpy and hungry and tired. As soon as we walked in the door my six-year-old started tearing open a box in the hall.

“What are you doing?” I…um…snapped.

“I’m unpacking for Grandma Judy.” He informed me.
We then ate dinner. Immediately after dinner my youngest tore into another box. Yep, he was unpacking for Grandma Judy, ready to get to work and help her out.

Oh, wow my lecture had taken root after all. We can learn so many things from the people around us. And in that moment my little guy was shouting out Philippians 2:14. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” So amazing.

Of course he shouted many things that weekend, one of which was: “I don’t have to obey you, you’re not my mother!” But besides noting that I clearly recall giving birth to him, I think I’m going to jump right over that and dwell on the good stuff.

Service, my youngest taught me about service and love in that beautiful moment in the hall as he was tearing into Grandma’s boxes with wild abandon. Thank you Lord for my boys and the chance to love and to learn and to live.

 
Kristen



There are very few things that are more frustrating than Heavenly Silence.
We pray and we want answers. At least a well reasoned “no” so that we aren’t left wondering if God even noticed. On Sunday I was listening to the sermon and got distracted by something in one of the Bible passages. It mentioned John the Baptist and how he preached in the spirit and power of Elijah. When was that prophecy I wondered.
A thought was niggling along the edges of my brain. I looked it up. Malachi. The last chapter of Malachi contains the prophecy about how Elijah would come and prepare the way. This is the last book of the Old Testament and the last prophetic word to come to the Jews until New Testament times.
That is 400 years folks. 400 years between prophets. 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist. What a terribly long silence.
But then I realized something. That very silence was shouting out something into the void. The last O.T. prophet predicts the coming of John the Baptist and the next time a prophet speaks to the people of Israel…it is that very prophet that was foretold. John the Baptist who came in the spirit and Power of Elijah. The silence itself was speaking. Wait, wait, wait…and when the silence is broken, it is by John himself. Just as firmly as the words of Malachi, the silence identifies John.
Perhaps we do not value silence from Heaven as much as we should. With God, even silence declares His glory.
Kristen
I'm reading The Amber Room by T Davis Bunn. This is a book about the hunt for one of the most fabulous treasures in Russia, stolen by the Nazis, and lost for half a century. But amongst all of these grand goals is a spiritual thread that is just as impressive.


There is a moment when the main character is asking why he can't hear God's voice. A grizzled old man from Poland tells him that perhaps he is only listening for a certain kind of message from God. Is he only listening for explosions and earthquakes? What if God wants to speak to him through a rose blooming in the garden or the laugh of a small child when she gets up after a fall? Would he ignore the voice of God if it came softly?


Elijah had just such a moment with God. Standing in the cave, listening to the great wind tear the mountains apart, feeling the earthquake shake apart the foundations of the world, watching as the mighty fire roared past with all the heat and fury of Hell itself. But Elijah remained hidden until the gentle whisper called. Then he stepped from the cavern and ventured forth to face his God.


Like Elijah and the protagonist of The Amber Room, we too shall come to such a moment. When God speaks to us, when He comes near, will we only be listening if He comes in all the bold tradition of Grand old Russia? Will we only notice if He comes in glory like the Amber Room with its 6 tons of amber in over 300 different shades, carved to perfection by artisans whose like we will never see again? But what if God comes in the beauty of a single blossom growing from a crack in an old cement sidewalk, daring to reach for the sun though its roots must press through concrete and stone? Will we listen then?


I Kings 19:11-13--"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"
Kristen
My husband recently attended a southern revival service while visiting friends. It was different than what he is used to and he enjoyed many aspects of the revival, but something bothered him. There was great emphasis placed upon a passionate demonstrative style of worship. So much so, that the visiting minister expressed doubt about the faith of the more reserved believers attending. My husband walked away from a dark and angry life as a 21-year-old college student and has never looked back. He walks the road of faith and trusts his God. These things are blaringly evident to those who know him. It was startling to see someone doubt his love of God.


We just lost our beloved Newfoudland dog and I am puppy shopping. I came across this classic article that many Newf breeders put on their websites to dissuade folks from getting a Newf who don't know what they are getting into. This includes things like hair and slobber and training, but there is also a section on personality.

"A Newf becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he doesn't "wear his heart on his sleeve."...few adults are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their affections. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just "keeping you company." They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer
it, but they are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention...
The relationship can be one of great mellows, depth and subtlety...Newfs tend to be sober and thoughtful, rather than giddy clowns or sycophants."


Newfs are not Golden Retrievers. But these very qualities are some of the things we loved most about Shamu. I could always find my husband, because all I had to do was walk over to camp and look for our dog laying in his customary shady spot. Then I would look and see what direction Shamu's nose was pointing. His nose was always pointing at the building that my husband was inside. He would plop himself under a bush and watch the boys play cars. He would scramble into the car and camp out there until we took him with us. He would heave himself off his spot on the porch so that he could come and snuffle the boys as they poured out of the car after school. Shamu would struggle and wheeze up our stairs, just so he could snore in a corner of the living room and be near his family. Shamu's devotion was clear to those who knew him best.


Some people like Golden Retrievers. They enjoy the crazy exuberance and how their dog will put its head under their hand again and again to force them to pet it. They like how they bound around you in circles and are always begging for the least little scrap of attention. Some people think that Golden Retrievers love their owners more. They are wrong.


My husband and I are not hyper teenagers anymore, we have been Christian's for a long time. But those who know us, know that we love Jesus. We might not slobber all over God, wagging and leaping and barking. But we are devoted to our Lord. Our relationship is one of Deep Mellows. Like Shamu's. Although, to be fair Shamu did slobber. It was just a slower kind of slobbering than a Golden Retriever. I am thankful to our old dog for showing us that we need not fear that God is upset. Just like those who knew Shamu saw his love for us clearly, our God knows us. He knows who we are and how we love. If our love is true, He accepts it. Rowdy and wild or deep and mellow, such love is a fragrant offering to him.


Hebrews 13:15-16--"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."



The dog part is taken from DON'T BUY A NEWFOUNDLAND from http://www.newfclubseattle.org/don'tbuyanewf.pdf which has been adapted from: DON'T BUY A BOUVIER! by Pam Green (c.1992)