Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Ordinary Life

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
- Tim Kizziar

Francis Chan quoted this in his book, Crazy Love. I thought about it as I shifted laundry, dictated paragraphs, loaded the dishwasher, swept the floor.

After reading biographies like these from our homeschool curriculum, the boys and I inflame with desire to make our lives matter


George Washington Carver and William Wilberforce are both famous because during slavery, and after, it took courageous, tenacious people to move our world forward. Fame never mattered to these men. Just justice and freedom for all--freedom from slavery, and then from poverty--so that everyone could have the opportunity to lead an ordinary life.

I don't know why some are chosen for greatness, and some for the ordinary, but I'm awfully thankful for the opportunity to be ordinary. Throughout history, it wasn't always this way; it wasn't always this easy to get up in the morning and live.

War and disease ravaged lives. Injustice pierced the heart here at home, not just abroad.

I am safe, well-fed, with shelter over my head and people around who love me and need me.

Sometimes I wonder if circumstance doesn't make an ordinary person great? Would these two men be in our history books if not for slavery? Or would Harriet Tubman, another giant? Are role models few now because life is too easy, stateside?

Most of my current role models do their work in the third world, like Katie living in Uganda, parenting 13 orphaned girls as her own and starting the Amazima ministry--all before the age of 22.  She went to Uganda as a teen hoping to enjoy a summer in ministry, and she never left.

And like Maureen, who runs a Kenyan non-profit for orphaned, abused, pregnant girls, and like Kristen, who founded the ministry and handles the planning and business part, stateside.

I am ordinary. Maybe you are too.

But God.

He has plans for our hearts...and the plans are anything but ordinary. When we truly follow him, trusting tomorrow to Him, the path is life-changing and bold. Even great.

Maybe it takes God, not history, to transform an ordinary person? 

Do ordinary people maintain the status quo? They go to church and put a twenty in the plate each week, making meals when someone has a baby or a surgery? But they stay in the driver seat of life, not giving Him the key? 

No person in history is as great as Jesus Christ, our Lord. Our God.

To live a great life, a radical life, we only have to do one thing

Wake up every morning and say to the Almighty Living God, the creator and author of the universe, "What will it be today, God?"

Before we can say this and mean it, we have to decrease so He can increase. That's become cliche, I know, but is there a better way to say it? 

Lay down your life

Give up what you want.

Give up your image--your desire to look good to others, either physically or through your deeds. Be willing to forgo that image for something humbler. The more you look like the next American woman, with her salon-manicured nails, her hundred-dollar hair job, her SUV, her spa membership and her busy schedule, the less you look like a Christ follower.

Don't be like everyone else. Everyone else is chasing the ordinary, and they don't even know it. 

Everyone loves themselves, and that's part of being ordinary: to love yourself more than you love God.

To live greatly, radically, we need heart change. We can raise a family, love and serve for the rest of our lives, and appear ordinary to the outside world. The Lord evaluates our life not on our accomplishments, but on how much heart change there's been

The giants I began with, George Washington Carver and William Wilberforce? 

They loved Him radically. They loved his Word. No, not from the beginning, but they trusted him and let their hearts be changed. As the Lord worked, their hearts fell more in love with Him and their lives reflected Him more. 

As I read, it struck me. These giants were really just shrimps. They bowed down to a great God. They bowed low

The Lord shined, not these men.

On my gravestone and on yours, let that be said of us. That we were just shrimps.

Writing about radical with Ann and friends.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Blessing of Hospitality

John Frederick Lewis - Highland Hospitality, 1832
Three times after our guest left last night, and four times this morning, at least one of my children commented, "He's so nice, Mommy." 

"I can't believe how nice he is ."

And Peter offered this, "It's so nice to have a Christian visitor, isn't it Mommy?"

We have non-Christians over frequently and pray for them and try to be Christ to them, and that is nice. But nothing compares to fellowship with another Believer. When you share a love for Christ there is a special joy, a special peace, a happy energy. The time goes by so fast and when the inevitable goodbyes come, they're bittersweet.

Satan knows that alone, Christians are more vulnerable to his attacks. The Bible encourages us to fellowship and build one another up. We are strength for one another always--especially in difficult times.

In order to follow scriptural mandates for hospitality, we can't have our own agendas. He must rule our hearts and lives. We can't fill our lives with worldly fluff and still hope to have the time and resources to offer hospitality.

Oh, I know hospitality isn't easy, especially for busy moms whose children make messes on the quarter hour, daily. On my first spiritual gifts inventory, I scored lowest on hospitality and mercy and helps. My highs were knowledge, discernment, teaching, and faith.

Unbeknownst to me, God set to work on my lows and thankfully, they're climbing higher. I don't think my scores would be the same if the same test were given to me now, eleven years later.

Glory to God!

Hebrews 10:24-25 
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

1 Peter 4:9 
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Acts 2:42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

I enjoy every church fellowship, but I have my four young children to look after and conversations must be short or not at all. Little people aren't prone to sitting still long, letting Mommy and that nice lady have a lengthy conversation.

When Christians come to my home, however, the pressure of looking after the children subsides for the most part. The children are fully part of the fellowship and I love it.

I encourage you, invite Christians over.

Last night our old California friend, D, came over for four hours. He married a couple years before we moved here, but neither of us cared for the match, believing the woman wasn't a strong Christian. She had been married twice and had three kids, so we didn't have much hope for the marriage. Moreover, D suffers from severe Bipolar Disorder which wasn't well-controlled at the time, and he didn't have full-time work.

The woman wasn't altogether truthful about the past, blaming her divorces solely on her two ex-husbands. To me that indicates an unteachable heart. Every married person is a sinner and every marriage problem is the result of sin, so even if a divorce filing isn't mutual, both people must go to God separately and ask Him to search their heart. Secondly, they need to acknowledge and confess sin and ask for forgiveness.

And sometimes, they are called to live the rest of their lives alone, depending on the circumstances. This is a devastating thing and these people need our love and fellowship, not our condemnation.

During the Christmas season, hearing they moved to Ohio, I looked up their names, hoping to find an Ohio address. I wasn't surprised to see D listed alone, in an apartment, but I hoped for the best as I sent out a Christmas picture and letter. When a reply came in the form of a Christmas card, it listed only D.

On the phone, D told my husband the woman remarried for the fourth time six months after their 2009 divorce. I knew I'd heard enough.

If you know a single person especially, whatever age, invite them over for dinner, or for lunch after church? They need fellowship badly, before depression or despair have time to set in. Fellowship and love help fight those emotions off and keep a single person's eyes on God, not on themselves. God designed Christian families, I believe, to fulfill a single's need for fellowship, to a large extent.

Singles' groups are okay, but pairing off frequently occurs and the goal becomes to meet and marry someone, more than to fellowship or grow in Christ. Courtship is better than dating and when the whole group stays together, these groups are a more positive thing. Group fellowship prevents physical attraction from taking over, reducing emotional intelligence.

The Biblical version of emotional intelligence is spiritual discernment. Discernment is a spiritual gift--not something everyone readily accesses.

I wish we could have helped this couple think through their decision to marry, since my husband is pretty discerning as well, but I was at the end of a complicated pregnancy when they became engaged, confined to bedrest and trying to watch over my twenty-month-old toddler. Also, I worked part-time as a homeschooling facilitator, mostly from home. My husband split his work day as much as he could, working early morning and evening, when our toddler son was asleep. We had no family anywhere in the state.

We were overwhelmed and thought the pastor counseling them could take care of the situation. But, what does a pastor know compared to a person's friends? Our friends are placed in our lives for a reason and they know much more about the flavor of our lives and hearts, than do pastors conducting meetings in their offices.

It takes bravery to tell someone what they may not want to hear, but twice now my husband and I felt we failed some friends in this regard. Over time, our commitment to serve others with our lives has gotten stronger, and I pray we'll make better choices from now on.

One side thought here as relates to hospitality: When offering fellowship to singles, there is one caveat--the same one I'd advise in the workplace and everywhere else. Avoid being alone with a person of the opposite sex, if you are married. And keep phone conversations with them short. Emotional bonding (too much sharing) is often the beginning of adultery.

Be a true blessing to a single person by keeping the fellowship pure and lovely, and whole-family oriented. Of course, avoid tight or otherwise immodest clothing when opening your home, both to avoid wrong thoughts in a man, and to encourage single and married women to also dress modestly.

Sometimes, things don't go as planned with hospitality. The strangest thing happened last night.

For dinner I served shepherd's pie, fresh fruit, and salad. The conversation was lively and fun, then suddenly, our guest held his hand up to his mouth, as though in pain. He excused himself and went to the bathroom.

He was gone for what seemed like an eternity. We all stared at each other, wondering what on earth...? My insecurity about being a hostess took over and I feared it was the food. Was there a hair in the meal? Did my 4 year old put a small toy in the salad or something? Were the mashed potatoes in the shepherd's pie lumpy and he liked them smooth?

What was it? And how could I ever apologize enough?

I began to regret the whole hospitality thing, thinking I was the absolute worst at it. After all, we use jars for drinking glasses and our dishes don't match, neither our flatware. I don't own nice tablecloths or anything fancy or expensive.

The offerings are humble, and though I know this doesn't matter to God, it suddenly began to bother me while our guest sought relief of some kind in the bathroom.

What was it?

Thank the Lord, it had nothing to do with my hospitality.

He bit his tongue pretty badly and it bled a lot and was quite painful for an hour or so. But still, he stayed until 9:00 PM and had a nice time. We sent some chocolate cake and more dinner along home with him, since he couldn't finish due to the bleeding and pain.

When I heard he bit his tongue, I was so relieved I almost cried. Yes, I'm sympathetic that way.

I noticed that his bipolar disorder seemed well-controlled now, and later that night I thought about his twitching eyes, a tic he didn't previously have, and I wondered if the tongue and cheek biting (which he told my husband about) weren't a strange side effect of a new medicine, along with the tic? Bipolar can often occur along with Tourette's Syndrome and OCD, just like ADHD can. Perhaps he had the tics before in a different form...I don't know.

Chronic neurological disorders are heart-wrenching, to say the least. I know God placed D in our home as a guest on purpose. We live this reality on a daily basis and we understand it with our whole hearts. My Peter's ADHD is well-controlled now, but the OCD and the Tourette's tics are not, much to our dismay. The new medicine incidentally helped the ADHD, but was given to him for the OCD. Full therapeutic affect is supposed to occur by the third month.

Two months in, we pray for the best, and we're thankful on an hourly basis for the ADHD improvement.

All this to say, I suppose, that God has a perfect plan for our lives, including with whom we will fellowship?

My Lord is so faithful and so compassionate. He amazes me every day. He truly, truly loves us.

There are so many parts to His beautiful, divine puzzle. How thorough he's been in loving us, how wise in guiding us. How it behooves us to trust Him!

Giving Thanks Today:

Thank you, Lord, for...

~ a guest for Peter to share his birthday hamster with. (D happens to like hamsters, too.) No asthma from the hamster this time for Peter.

~ a Christian husband to share triumphs and hardships with.

~ the cousin who fixed our slow drains.

~ four amazing children to warm my heart and home.

~ wisdom and comfort from the Word.

~ online friends.

~ Peter's improved spelling.

~ George Washington Carver, a wonderful Christian man who inspired us greatly as part of our homeschool. He was a botanist and professor who helped black farmers in the post civil-war era learn to diversify and rotate their crops, leading to successful peanut crops, cotton crops, and sweet potato crops--even in poor native soil. He helped rebuild and strengthen and revolutionize the southern farm economy, and he kept his people from starving as they sought to make it on their own after slavery. He also invented peanut butter and other things derived from peanuts and sweet potatoes. His work and research helped farmers all over the world, but most of all, his heart for God was amazing. I can't even type about him without tears. Every child should read about him, especially every Christian child--role models are few in these insanely worldly days.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

A Challenge for America

My mind grapples with a few things I've read over the last few days. The first quote came to my inbox:

Sometimes I wonder how you handle all of the problems that go along with not having enough money, having special-needs children, having migraines, etc. 

The second is a few paragraphs I read on Kristen Welsh's blog, We Are That Family. Her regular readers know that Maureen, the young director of Mercy House Kenya, is in America staying with Kristen's family in Texas while both women fulfill a few speaking commitments and work on their ministry together. Kristen writes:

How could I know seeing my life thru her lens would wreck me in a new way?
How do I explain why my country spends more on accessorizing pets in a year, than her entire country earns? She asks innocently without judgement, “Does your country know how we live in Kenya?” I don’t even have an answer. I’m just embarrassed.

Everything about my life is easy. From the laundry piles I whine about to the dinners I prepare, my life of comfort and convenience is the polar opposite to hers and millions of other. I know this. I have been to Kenya three times now and even as I prepare to go again in April, it’s startling to see my life thru her eyes.
It’s one thing to think about your life, comfort and convenience when you’re in the middle of extreme poverty. It’s hard not to. But it’s a whole different ball game when you bring someone from that background into your comfort and convenience.

She tells me more of her childhood story, so much that I can smell the sewage that ran in front of her family’s shack. I am moved with compassion at the suffering she endured. I ache for her family and her world and I long to wipe out the suffering of her people. “Don’t cry, Mom. Look how far God has brought me,” and she begins to name blessings. “Look at all I have,” she exclaims and spreads her arms out.
We are standing in my big, beautiful home and I quietly answer, tears falling now, “Look at all I have.” There is no comparison.

I see and feel and read about contrast all the time, and my mind keeps coming back to this thought: What is blessing, really?

Kristen is the privileged wife of a pharmaceutical rep with three physically- and mentally-healthy children. She pays her bills on time, lives in a big, beautiful, well-constructed house. She can afford well-made appliances and vacations and getaways. She can afford to give generously, and still live well. And God is using her.

Her life has changed considerably since her 2010 Compassion blogger trip to Kenya. She sponsors a lot more children, she gifts all the proceeds from her blog to her Mercy House ministry, and she works for free to organize and ship out Mercy House-made products that help fund their ministry, using a large trailer in her backyard as a warehouse/work place. She's had to endure the stress of running a non-profit agency without prior experience (learning all the tax laws, etc). The stress has been enormous and only God sustains her through it.

After these couple weeks with Maureen, Kristen probably wishes she could give all she has to the poor and live spiritually perfect, giving glory to God through it all.

But that's too hard. It's not in our human nature to live that sacrificially--placing oneself in a position of poverty. Human nature works to get out of poverty, not enter into it.

Maureen knows she's blessed. Americans? Do we know that? Can we know that, truly, while living privileged lives?

The question, what is true blessing, is answered by Kristen's angst right now. She feels more embarrassed than blessed. She feels the weight of inequality, more than the blessing of convenience.

She feels more than ever, I believe, the truth of this verse: Luke 12:48 From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

In March 2010, after her first Kenyan trip, Kristen wrote this:

So. This week, I got up the nerve and asked God, “Why do you allow poverty, suffering, and injustice when You could do something about it.”

And He asked me the same question.

Kristen has spent nearly three years doing something about it, and she will continue to do more. As she said, "How could I know seeing my life thru her lens would wreck me in a new way?" God will use Kristen's faithfulness, her spiritual insight, to change not only Kenya, but America. As she does, she'll continue to grapple with how much of her personal wealth to give.

A couple C.S. Lewis quotes fit in well here:

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.

If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.

And a few Bible quotes as well:

1 Timothy 6:9-11 People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life…

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

We all have to grapple with this same question. How much do we give? In America we'll always have to fight hard against the love of money, for money brings convenience, comfort, recognition, power, status, health.

God gave the world enough. There is enough to go around and he's given us the responsibility of distributing it fairly. To whom much is given, much is required. How much can we keep, and still hold money loosely, believing it comes from God, not ourselves? I believe it's our sense of entitlement that causes us to keep too much for ourselves.

Are we entitled to anything, or is everything a gift?

I go back to the question in my inbox:

Sometimes I wonder how you handle all of the problems that go along with not having enough money, having special-needs children, having migraines, etc. 

My answer will resonate much with this person; I have to choose my words carefully. God has given an opportunity in this question, and after reading and contemplating and praying over quotes and verses that have come my way in these last few days, I think I will answer with some version of this:

Are we entitled to anything, or is everything a gift? I have come to believe that everything is gift. Hardship is gift. Health problems are gift. Not enough money is gift. Whatever pulls me away from this world, and brings me closer to God, is gift.

I realize I don't have to fight as hard as Kristen, and that's one of the reasons I admire her. God slowly took away money and convenience from me and added hardship, in order to bring me to a place of thankfulness. He took away my sense of entitlement, little by little. I look at the last five to seven years as a form of discipline. I was a Christian with access to the Bible and to Truth, but I wasn't getting it. I needed a huge nudge, and I'm forever grateful God didn't give up on me, but choose to work with me.

But from Kristen he hasn't taken anything away--except her ignorance about abject poverty--and she still understands. She is still thankful. She holds the things of this world loosely.

This is the commitment Kristen and Maureen have made together, and it's what Kristen challenges us all to do:
I want to live my life with one hand open to receive from God above and the other hand open to give it to others. I want to be a conduit, not holding anything too tightly, ready to open my hands to others, to give to those who can never give back.
 This is our commitment. This one thing will change your life. I dare you to try it.
 “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” -John Bunyan
Read her whole post here.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Father of Mercies, God of all Comfort

Revelation 21:4and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Today, January 24, is the birthday of precious Jonathan, Tesha's baby boy, stillborn one year ago. Late term losses are often discovered during routine exams, in which the parents are told, "I'm sorry, but there's no heartbeat." 

Inductions usually occur at the hospital labor ward, forcing the grieving mother to listen to loud baby monitors advertising healthy heartbeats. First cries and congratulations are also heard. Torture doesn't begin to describe the experience. My worst memories, the ones that bring tears immediately, thirteen years later, come from that hospital experience.

Today, many similar memories will flood Tesha's mind. Please pray for her? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Answer for the Overwhelmed Mother

Sometimes the responsibilities of motherhood completely overwhelm me and I feel buried and distressed. Wednesday is perhaps my worst day for this. Beth goes to physical therapy for her arthritic joints every Wednesday, and she has speech twice a month, following her physical therapy session. 

Now, Paul and Mary join in for speech. The speech therapist takes both girls together, and then Paul for just ten minutes. Afterwards I'm given homework to do with all three of them, in addition to exercises to address Beth's diseased joints.

Add to this our regular school and the pressure of trying to get Peter's fine-motor delay improved enough for him to write on college-ruled paper. He's in fifth grade and still needs a 2nd grade writing tablet with wide lines and a dotted line in the middle. Occupational therapy is probably necessary, especially for cursive, but I'm trying to avoid another monthly or bi-monthly appointment at the Children's Hospital.

A disheveled house greets us upon arrival back home. This Momma can't seem to get four children and herself ready to go while also keeping up with five-minute clean-ups. The rush to prepare for church on Sunday mornings leaves our house similarly disheveled, making our return trip bittersweet.

Today, Beth, either overwhelmed or tired or just ornery, crawled under the table during speech therapy and Miss Shelly had to gently threaten to take away her sticker if she didn't finish her words. Beth is sensitive, like so many girls, and this broke her heart--that dear Miss Shelly seemed less than happy with her. Miss Shelly, whom she loves so much and usually wants to please.

Miss Shelly felt bad returning a tearful child to me, but I told her she'd done the right thing, and sensitive or not, Beth definitely requires regular discipline--as much as any 4 year old. Fortunately for me, Beth has a conscience and did finish her work, but she was too brokenhearted to accept a sticker afterwards.

May I just say, girls and boys bear little resemblance to each other when it comes to discipline? Boys, despite their rambunctiousness and incessant wrestling, are easier to discipline. Stubbornness rarely rears its ugly head, unlike with my girls.

I pray so much harder for my girls' sustained commitment to the Lord because their stubbornness frightens me. Will they submit to the Lord without question? Will their hearts remain soft as the Holy Spirit points out their transgressions? Will they display willfulness toward their husbands some day? Am I modeling headstrong behavior around here? Oh, Lord, cleanse me for the sake of my children if this be so.

On every overwhelmed Wednesday, I go to Psalms for help

Jesus did the same. Psalm 22:1-15 is widely thought to be what Christ uttered on the cross in his brokenhearted, suffering state.

My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why art Thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou answerest not; And in the night season, and am not silent. But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in Thee: They trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: They trusted in thee, and were not put to shame. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, [saying], Commit thyself unto the Lord; Let him deliver him: Let him rescue him, seeing he delighteth in him. But Thou art He that took me out of the womb; Thou didst make me trust [when I was] upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art my God since my mother bare me. Be not far from me; For trouble is near; For there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me; Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gape upon me with their mouth, [As] a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; And Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

Isaiah 26:3 says: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed (anchored) on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.

Regular readers see this next assertion often: 

Peace is a person. If we could just remember this, yes? Life will overwhelm. Entering into His presence is the answer every time.

Psalm 100 is considered the gateway to prayer.

1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 
2 Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before His presence with singing. 
3 Know ye that the Lord, He is God: It is He that hath made us, and we are His; We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise: Give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness [endureth] for ever, And His faithfulness unto all generations.

Yes, this is a perfect beginning to prayer. Know ye that the Lord, He is God. Isn't that why we pray? To remember that the Lord, he is God? That we don't have solutions, but he does? That we are not worthy, but his lovingkindness endureth forever? To remember that we are his people, the sheep of his pasture?

We can't recite this and not feel its truth and power. 

And the reward for going to the Throne of Grace, rather than wallowing in the heaviness of life?

Isaiah 26:3: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed (anchored) on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.

Oh, Lord, how we love you! How you sustain your sheep so lovingly. Thank you for your Holy Word, your awesome power, your everlasting love. May we enter your courts with praise and give thanks unto thee. May we bless your name!

Thank you, Heavenly Father....

~ for hot chocolate to warm my hands in this bitterly cold, below-zero wind chill.

~ for my husband's arms and understanding eyes.

~ for faith that though food prices rise before my eyes, you will provide.

~ for the help of Miss Shelly.

~ for Psalm 100, and Psalm 22, and Isaiah 26:3.

~ for the power of your Word to break down stress and restore peace.

~ for this study, which helped me find the gateway to prayer.

~ for children who do twenty-minute pick-ups on Wednesday afternoons.

A prayer request? L's mother--age about mid-thirties--fought with her father on Sunday, apparently over L's mother wanting to go on a trip with her no-good boyfriend. L ran over here to get away from it, and an hour later two police cars arrived at the grandparent's home. I don't know who called them, but perhaps the grandmother or L's mother. Shortly after, L was picked up here by her mother, in the boyfriend's car. There did not appear to be any arrests, but I don't know. We haven't seen L since and tonight is AWANA. Her mother doesn't own a car so it's up to the boyfriend to either bring L to our house on Wednesday evenings, or to the AWANA church itself, so she can continue to attend. We don't know if they will move in with the boyfriend again for good, or reconcile with L's grandparents (her mother's parents). Please pray that we'll be able to continue to disciple L? Thank you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Purposeful Mothering Lessons

Jamie Martin, of Steady Mom and Simple Homeschool, wrote an insightful article about Marmee from Little Women.  Marmee, you probably remember now, is mom to Meg, Beth, Amy, and Jo, the March sisters.

Jamie Martin fondly remembers her childhood impressions of the March sisters, but rereading the book now, as a 36-year-old, 21st-century mother, she was most inspired and impressed by Marmee.

I loved the article.

Jamie explains 3 ways Marmee inspires:

1. Nuture by nature, seeing each child as an individual.

 2. Allow the gift of childhood, avoiding overscheduling.

3. Model the qualities we hope to cultivate.

The following is an excerpt from Jamie's article. I encourage you to go here to read her whole lovely piece

Begin Martin Excerpt:

Even as teenagers Marmee encouraged their play. There was no shuffling them out to lessons multiple times a week, no hyperscheduling involved.
How can we translate this into our modern lives? We apply it to the boundaries we develop–around screen time, extracurriculars, and our general pace as a family.

“I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo; but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
Marmee refrained from too much lecturing. She chose her words and her timing well, and she modeled how she wanted her girls to live. Though their own family struggled financially, Marmee served her community and provided opportunities for her daughters to do the same.
She shared her flaws–confiding in impetuous Jo about her own flares of temper that she’d learned to control through discipline, help from her husband, and prayer.
To encourage their love for and study of Scripture, Marmee inspired her girls with the gift of a beautiful Bible on their pillows Christmas morning. Love, not fear, made her daughters want to follow in their mother’s footsteps.
The March household centered around the relationships within it, tight-knit bonds woven by a woman constantly checking the pulse of the atmosphere within her home. She began this culture when they were little, and her girls enjoyed it enough to keep it as they got older.
Marmee reaped exactly what she sowed, and so will we.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we planting and nurturing the seeds that will lead to the harvest we hope for?
“Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch out her arms, as if to gather children and grandchildren to herself, and say, with face and voice full of motherly love, gratitude, and humility, – ‘O, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!’”
End Martin excerpt

Around here we spend a lot of time at home. The longer I parent, the more I realize the blessedness of home. Nothing is more important than cultivating relationships within our walls, and with the Lord. 

The confines of home are a gift, not a hindrance. A safe haven, not a prison. A place to become selfless, not self-indulgent. Even for the adventurer and the dreamer, the home can be a haven; boredom is a precursor to creativity.

The nuclear family fits together like pieces of a puzzle...a puzzle designed by God. We polish and sharpen each others' hearts for Him, in stunningly relevant ways.

When we run to multiple optional activities, trying to "please" all our children in the same season, we weaken the family dynamics. The more we're away from each other, the less our nuclear family strengthens us. We can't possibly fill our family members' love cups, and hold them accountable, for just a few hours a day.

It's important to relish home when we can. A time may come (dare I say will come?), such as a crises, that finds us running to the hospital often and breaking up the family frequently. It will be a stretch but our previous praying together, worshiping together, and knitting ourselves together at home will carry us through till life slows once again.

Each day has enough trouble of its own, yes? Let's relish each other at home, bonding, blessing, bracing each other for life.

When it's time for our little birds to fly away, their fondest memories will be of home. I doubt their soccer friends or their chess-club buddies, or the leotard-clad girls from gymnastics, will rank up there at all. We can make new experiences our goal, or homespun loveliness our goal, but not both.

The buddies we encounter here and there are more an avenue to shine His Light, than an avenue for entertainment or enrichment.

Like Jamie, I think this quote is a worthy ending to the sentiment of home:

“Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch out her arms, as if to gather children and grandchildren to herself, and say, with face and voice full of motherly love, gratitude, and humility, – ‘O, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!’”

Something tells me our little birds are more likely to come back often, if home was the centerpiece of their growing-up years?

Forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive - Colossians 3:13

And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. - Deuteronomy 11:19

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. - Exodus 20:12

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. - Romans 12:10

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. - Colossians 3:13

Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. - Proverbs 4:1

My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. - Proverbs 6:20
A wise child accepts a parent's discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction. - Proverbs 13:1

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. - Romans 14:19

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. - Thessalonians 5:11

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. - Proverbs 31: 15-17

verses here, image here

Monday, January 21, 2013

Multitude Monday: Claiming Christ

My Mary, a kindergartner, gained ground these last few weeks in reading fluency. In her mind life will really change into something glorious, "when she's bigger and can read."

I explained, "Why, Honey, you're already reading."

But this tedious sounding out, this dragging on of the text? It doesn't feel like reading to her. Reading is what Mommy does with a picture book or a chapter book. It's what the boys do in their easy chairs for a few hours a day, silently.

Reading is effortless. That's the view from her perspective.

So imagine her surprise when a sentence rolled off her tongue this week, fluently, for once. The words seemed familiar and the sounds mingled without effort.

She turned that determined head toward me, smiling hesitantly as though asking, "Um...what just happened there?"

It's like that with faith, too.

Our neighborhood friend L, whom I've written about since last spring, walked into our lives one balmy April day. She rode by on her bike, staring at my girls in the yard. Mary waved at her and L turned around and rode right into the driveway, introducing herself.

A few minutes later she came to the door, seeing me there, and invited herself right in, asking for a pretzel rod, and then another and another. Right away she reminded me of Pippi Longstocking. Despite myself, I fell in love with her strangely hilarious ways.

These months flew by. I admit there were times I rolled my eyes when she'd saunter into the yard. Her presence doesn't come without stress and at times I wanted to take that scripture, "Go and make disciples" and shove it.

But God is faithful and He didn't let me shove it. Now, even though her life is still in shambles, with police still coming to break up domestic violence, L's soul is awake. The Holy Spirit is there, inside her heart.

Like that fluent sentence Mary read this week, it's miraculous.

In Romans 10:17, Paul says, ‘Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ’ 

Reflecting on these many months with L--the drives to AWANA, the pretzel rods that disappeared, the whopper lies she tortured us with, the love that grew in my heart, the turmoil she survived--I'm reminded that the miraculous doesn't come without effort, just like that first fluent sentence didn't come without practice. 

Hours of it. 

We had to share the Word with L and put ourselves out there. We couldn't just sit back and expect her to notice something different about our family, and eventually ask about Jesus. 

As much as we'd like it to be that easy, it's not. We have to risk something. We have to claim Jesus.

Have you noticed that most people don't mind the word God, but Jesus incites riots in the heart? To claim Jesus comes with a price. We claimed Him when we passed Jesus Storybook Bibles around the neighborhood, and some don't come to our Children's Bible Study. A couple washed their hands of us, at least for now.

Only a remnant will believe and every soul matters to God. "Go and make disciples" is uncomfortable. It's isolating, even.

Why does any Christian do it? It isn't a requirement to get to heaven, after all.

We do it to give thanks to God. Having been filled up so graciously, to overflowing, we have something to give. 

Claiming Christ is an obedience and an act of thanksgiving, both. When God's grace floods a heart and the change radiates lovely, it feels miraculous. So go, hand out pretzel rods. Listen to those whoppers. In the end the little things we do, though brave, pale against the all-powerful, transforming work of Grace that is God's alone.

It's a mystery why we must go and make disciples when it's His grace that saves. Sometimes claiming Christ seems futile and too costly. But when the seed takes root and the fruit appears in spring, the glory of God floods the whole picture. I don't understand any of it and why one receives His grace and another walks away, remains a mystery.

Don't wait to understand it, just share in it.

Giving thanks today:

~ a husband who shares in it with me.

~ providing a safe haven for L during a fight at home, between her mother and grandfather. The grandparents have their hands full dealing with the on-going irresponsibility of their adult daughter, L's mother. Their choices are grim. Either kick their daughter out and stop enabling her dysfunction, and hope she leaves the children behind, or continue to deal with her so they can also provide a safe home for her children. They all need Christ and hopefully L's faith will break bonds of hate and dysfunction  Mental illness is there in the mix, but Christ is bigger than that; He has overcome that. Thank you for praying for L and her family!

~ my Lord to cling to and Scripture to wash me clean.

~ the furnace working well again. Another mystery of grace.

~ pumpkin pie on a bitterly cold, windy day.

~ dedicated authors who live humbly and work for next to nothing, writing transforming tales for my children and me to devour.

~ children who sleep in till 8:30 AM, most days.

~ the curriculum that comes with the Jesus Storybook Bible. I'm a hard sell when it comes to any curriculum, but this is awesome to use.

~ two precious girls to counter the testosterone around here.

~ this picture of Amy's new baby. (Amy from Raising Arrows)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Would You Rather...?

Recently we had the lovely privilege of going to the ENT to have Paul's ear wax sucked into oblivion, uncovering eardrums that actually work. My other three children find the suction tube captivating and ignore their poor brother's plight, as he lies on a bed writhing in misery.

Did I tell you? I highly suspect they lost Paul's early-December speech evaluation paperwork and don't want to admit it to me. I suspect this because the speech teacher--Beth's speech teacher--who will work with Paul, never got the paperwork and I never got the typed-up official speech diagnosis in the mail, as I had done a week after Beth's evaluation.

Instead of redoing it or admitting that it's lost under a pile of paperwork on someone's desk, the speech teacher decided to listen to Paul's conversation and decide what errors he's making so we can get started. There are two minor speech errors he knows how to correct himself with reminders, and also a challenging r problem. He substitutes a w for r and the first step is to say many r words a day while smiling. Speech teachers first get rid of the bad habits--the substitutions or improper mouth position--and next they work with the child on forming the sound correctly. If Paul smiles while he says r words, he can't possibly substitute a w.

My dear husband brainstormed a long list of r words to torture Paul with. Yes, parenting is fun that way.

I have to offer chocolate chips to get through the whole list. 20 for Paul and 80 for me. 

Just kidding.

What's really fun is that now Paul can hear! He isn't shouting or doing that piercing laugh in my ear anymore, and I bet playing the piano is much sweeter now. And when we put on the Audio Adrenaline CD (Christian band), he doesn't turn it up quite so high. The children climb the walls and enter a high-energy ecstasy when we listen to Audio Adrenalin. Last night, my husband explained why. "Honey, it's called audio adrenaline. Get it? Adrenaline that's audio?"

Oh...yeah! The lights went on.

When your oldest child turns 11 years old, music enters your life in a big way. Good thing I happen to enjoy several Audio Adrenaline songs. My husband also has Stryper and Super Tones and Petra CD's, most of which I dislike, and thankfully, several News' Boys CDs, which we all love.

But yucky wax going up a suction tube and adrenaline that's audio wasn't what I wanted to share today.

Really, it wasn't.

John Burningham is one of my favorite children's authors and his genius is what I wanted to share today.

John Burningham Would you rather . . .

While we sat in the waiting room at Paul's appointment, I pulled out some library books, including Would you rather... by John Burningham. Not only were my children captivated, but all the other waiting-room children and adults were too. Even the ladies working the computers enjoyed it!

An excerpt:

Would you rather...your house were surrounded by water, snow, or jungle? 

Would you rather...en elephant drank your bathwater, an eagle stole your dinner, a pig tried on your clothes, or a hippo slept in your bed?

Would you covered in jam, soaked with water, or pulled through the mud by a dog?

I don't need to tell you that most children in the room wanted to be pulled through the mud?

Think how much fun you and your children can have rewriting such a book with your own preposterous suggestions? Doing this project would cover many aspects of your curriculum--writing, art, grammar and punctuation, and maybe even a little history and science and math, if you work hard at your brainstorming.

Have fun and Happy Friday!

P. S. Would you rather...have your ear wax sucked out...listen to your tween's alternative Christian rock n' roll...or go grocery shopping with four children, two of whom are tired?

More books by Mr. Burningham:

John Burningham  source here 

April 27, 1936 in Farnham, Surrey, The United Kingdom



About this author

Married to Helen Oxenbury They have one son and two daughters.

John Burningham was born in 1936 in Farnham, Surrey, and attended the alternative school, Summerhill. In 1954 he spent two years travelling through Italy, Yugoslavia and Israel, working at a variety of jobs.

From 1956-1959, he studied at the Central School of Art, after which he designed posters for London Transport and the British Transport Commission. He also spent a year on an animated puppet film in the Middle East. He then became a writer and illustrator of children's books, his first book, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers (1963) winning the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1963, an achievement he repeated with Mr Gumpy's Outing (1970).

Since then, he has written and illustrated many children's books. He is also a freelance designer of murals, exhibitions models, magazine illustrations and advertisements.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pink Lines: A Piece of Heaven

Note to Terra: I read your comment about Chelsea and Peter and Beth. Thank you!. I'm having trouble getting into and replying to e-mails on both my accounts, but especially on the one attached to the blog. I think these computers are just too old now.

I remember the bursting joy at the pink line. I remember the tears and the gratitude and the wonder. In my mind nothing compares, other than birth itself, to that explosion of goodness.

I remember losing Isaac at 21 weeks and the grief that swallowed me afterwards. Only Peter's pregnancy confirmed five months later saved me. Waiting those months felt like an eternity and when I finally let go of my obsessive desire and let God have his way, it happened.

Another pink line, this time welcomed with different tears. Tears that spilled gratitude and grief woven together in a tight braid of saving grace.

Yes, I lost two babies (at ages 34 and 39,) and had two surprise babies at ages 40 and 42. When Beth's pregnancy was confirmed I didn't immediately let myself bathe in the joy because at age 42, I listened to the world. I felt too old and wrinkled and everyone around me did not feel a new pregnancy was a blessing. My pregnancies were always high risk, for one thing.

But as I leaned into Him I knew and experienced the miracle and the blessing. If it were not for my husband's vasectomy I would have kept going beyond age 42, trusting Him with my family size. The more babes I had in my arms the more I knew: this is the most sanctifying existence a woman can hope for. And the more you have to stretch, the more sanctifying it is. Infertility is equally as sanctifying--perhaps even more so.

Having two babies I didn't expect did soften the wounds from two miscarriages. Not erase, but significantly soften and for that I'm forever grateful. My friend Tesha lost precious Jonathan last January 24th, at 20 weeks gestation. May I ask for prayer that God will bless them with more babies? So few hearts are willing to keep loving and sacrificing and being inconvenienced. This family has so much love to give and my heart wants many more for them, especially to soften the pain from Jonathan's passing. Of course Jonathan can never be replaced, but a sibling to receive Momma's love right now would be so beautiful and healing.  They are ready to accept God's will for their fertility; they're brave and faithful. Endometriosis has been confirmed and treatment will probably be necessary, so hope is on hold for a time.

Please pray, for this is so hard for Jonathan's Momma? No matter that she already has five children she's raising. Each loss is still felt in the depths of the soul, no matter how many children run around the house. We can't ever say, "At least you have five others" and expect that to be understood by the grieving Momma. A baby lost is hands-on-love on hold and the hurt is unspeakably deep.

One of the AWANA teachers we know, a young mom of four, is sixteen weeks along with her fifth child. To me that was the happiest of news. I expressed congratulations and joy for her. Her husband is a pastor without a pastoral job right now, though he's looking for another. He's supporting his family working at Rubbermaid and dreams linger in the air. Finances are probably tight as well, but this family? They trust Him. Their faith is grander than their bank account and the economic forecast. Grander than cold and flu season and sleepless nights with many littles. Their faith is grander than kiddy chaos and messy floors and no time to themselves. Grander than wrinkled mommy tummies and varicose veins and breasts that fall and hips that widen.

Love and embrace that new body, as you thank the Lord who graciously blessed you.

When we trust him with our family size we're confirming for the world: God is good. Whatever grief each pink-line journey brings, God is good. If Down Syndrome surprises on birth day, God is still good.

As more and more Down Syndrome babies are aborted (it's about 90%), these special children will disappear and the loss will be felt in our world. Each baby, each life, has value and something to teach and God is always good. Always wise.

Another teacher, hearing the pink-line news, said hesitantly, "And is that good news?" It wouldn't have been good news to her and she said so. She wanted to ask first before congratulating this expectant mother. That just saddened me, and I don't really know why because I know motherhood is different for everyone. I can't expect everyone to feel exceeding joy and the Lord can be served in a myriad of ways, not only through motherhood.

But when I meet a woman who gets it, I want to hug her and tell her: "Thank you for understanding God's heart as concerns babies and children. Thank you for being a vessel of faith for His will. Thank you for seeing each life as a miracle and a blessing."

Thank you for shouting to the world through the power of your womb and your loving arms

God is good.

Note: If anyone out there is hoping for a pink line and waiting and waiting, please ask for prayer? I will be faithful to keep asking Him for you. You can leave a comment that won't be published.

Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 139:13-16
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Malachi 2:15
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

3 John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Psalm 100:1-4
A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

1 Timothy 2:15
Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

David's Sin With Bathsheba: A Broken, Contrite Spirit, Part 4

We've been studying David's sin with Bathsheba and while I've written it, God's taken me on a journey, as he so often does when I sit down to write about the Word. I've changed the title to better reflect that journey.

My first words in this series were typed with a heavy heart. I'd received a hurtful e-mail from a family member, toward whom I could not allow my heart to harden. More than anything I want this person saved.

Outside of prayer for God to perform a miraculous work of grace in her life, I only have loving kindness to offer toward her salvation. I can't save her, but I can let Jesus shine through me and I can hope. I can pray with faith.

God's voice was clear in what I had to do. "Do not harden your heart."

My response was a weary whine: "But how, God, when she keeps hurting me? I'm so weary of the hurt I'm ready to walk away."

When God directed me to study David and Bathsheba, I puzzled.

"Why that story?"

Even after three posts on this, I still wasn't sure how to tie it all together, but I knew that David's Psalm of repentance (Psalm 51) was key. What am I supposed to take away from that Psalm? Why did God have David write it?

Immediately in the story, after David confessed that he'd sinned against God, we read that God forgave him.

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” 2 Samuel 12:13a

And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” 2 Samuel 12:13b

It's worth noting here that while God did forgive David, there were still dire consequences to David's sin, carried out by God. The newborn son born to Bathsheba died, shaming the couple (a baby son's death was considered a punishment from the Lord), and the sword never left David's house. David had a myriad of problems controlling his children later on, and one of his sons ended up killing his brother.

However, David and Bathsheba enjoyed a mutually good, close marriage. Bathsheba had every reason to hate David forever. Uriah was a good, faithful, honorable husband to Bathsheba and she loved him. Uriah wouldn't have brought shame on her the way David had done. If there was ever a hopeless marriage, this was it, but God redeemed it. Beauty from ashes. Bathsheba was David's favorite wife and God honored their union later on with the birth of Solomon.

Let's unpack some of this Psalm, which is shown in blue.

Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 

David knew God's promise from Exodus 34:6-7

Exodus 34:6–7: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”

David knew that some would be forgiven, and others would not. He could only throw himself on the mercy of God, begging for his life. We have knowledge David didn't have. Christ on the cross, dying in our place. Cleansing us. But even though we know we'll be forgiven, we need to throw ourselves in humility at the foot of the cross, acknowledging sin, and asking for forgiveness and cleansing. This is the spirit God wants from us. A broken one, going to Him in desperation, knowing we cannot save ourselves.

Here's where the lesson gets personal for me, in regards to my pain over the hurtful e-mail. I need the cross as much as my relative does. Every day I need the cross, not just the first time I embraced it. I'm no better than an unsaved person and to allow my heart to harden at someone else's sin? That's ugly pride, not a broken and contrite spirit. I deserve death, as David did. 

But Christ.

We can avoid a hardened heart when we understand the magnitude of what we've been given. We deserve to be one of those in eternal hell, but God saved us.

This whole Psalm is beautiful because David doesn't take God's mercy for granted, as we New Testament Christians can easily do. 

Psalm 51, cont.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 

All sin is against God, first and foremost. Sin is a belittling attack on God.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (emphasis mine)

We know from the bold blue verses that David understands this: God has broken him. Broken his spirit. Made him poor in spirit, in fact, as we read in the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

God loves the poor in spirit. We read it here, too: Isaiah 66:2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

And here too: Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (emphasis mine)
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

I want to close this study with some words from John Piper:

Being a Christian means being broken and contrite. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you get beyond this in this life. It marks the life of God’s happy children till they die. We are broken and contrite all the way home—unless sin gets the proud upper hand. Being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It’s the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness.

A broken and contrite spirit should be the flavor of our lives, then. When we grasp this, when we live this Psalm everyday, we begin to resemble the unstained bride God wants for His church.

 Ephesians 5:27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

This is foundational: The Lord does all the work to make us holy and blameless. We are desperate at the foot of the cross, unable to save or better ourselves. We are sinful, vile, spiritually dead, but he forgives us, fills us, and remakes us. Wow!

Let's not lose our awe, our thankfulness, or our tears over his mercy and grace toward us.