SEPTEMBER MORNING

By Lisa Huddleston

September brings glorious, chilly mornings, the hint of color to come and already present in the trees, full fields ready to harvest, and the promise of change. Either a promise or a threat. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I know change is coming.

Before I couldn’t wait for change. I measured my age in half years, and anxiously anticipated every change in my own children: eating solid food, walking, potty training, learning to read, getting their driver’s licenses, going to college, getting married … each step leading them further away. But there was joy in the change.

Now change feels like fear. We have lost half our parents. The other half ages before our eyes. And I watch their faces, my mirror, and the news with anxious eyes and ears, and I want to stop the clock. Crazy men with bombs speak of fire and fury with threats that could kill us all, could stop the comforting change of the seasons that have always before promised to return. This harvest could be the last. Could always have been I suppose, and I am forced to chuckle at my dire response to beauty.

So on this early morning, I sit alone on my screened-in porch, breathing under heavy blankets and reading the morning words. God sees and knows and speaks: “The Most High God rules the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them” (Daniel 5:21). And I breathe and know what he says is true, before and now and still to come. And I hope to be caught up in the harvest. To be judged as fruit and not as chaff. To abide in him and with him through seasons, and changing times, and end of time.

And September mornings are glorious still.

FAITH IS A GIFT

By Lisa Huddleston

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I can’t really publish this as I would like to, because it’s meant to be a song, and I have rarely ever written a tune (ONCE). Therefore, I’m just going to throw these words out and see what happens.

As many of you know, I often battle against despair–I doubt God, I doubt salvation, I even doubt doubt. But, many of you also know that God never lets go of me! I attribute much of His tenacious faith to the beautiful place I live and commonly refer to as “Hudfarm.” This land has been in my husband’s family for five generations, and it is still a nourishing place in which to raise a soul. What a gift!

So … my kids all write music. Maybe one of them will feel moved. And many of my friends are also talented musicians who just may see through the simplistic words and hear the melody of my heart–I imagine it to be acoustic with a slightly, minor key. But who knows? Maybe it’s a rap or a polka or something? Okay, then. Here goes nothin:

“Faith is a Gift”

Faith is a gift, Believing is a gift   (repeat kind of chant-like)

Verse 1

When I feel the sunrise lifting

When I watch it as it sets

Then I know you’re near me

Then your gift I get

Verse 2

When the blossoms flower

And even when they dry

Your colors quench my thirsting

Your love’s the reason why that–

Bridge

Faith is a gift

Believing is a gift

Only to be given

Nothing I can buy

Faith is a gift

Believing is a gift

As needed as the raindrops

Falling from the sky

Verse 3

When wind chimes ring so softly

When thunder roars then dies

When lightning bugs just flicker

My soul lifts up a sigh

Verse 4

From springtime unto summer

In both wintertime and fall

I feel your Spirit warm me

My heart can’t help but call that–

Bridge

Faith is a gift

Believing is a gift

Only from the Spirit

Dripping from His lips

Faith is a gift

 Believing is a gift

Drowning out the hatred

With just a single sip

Faith is a gift, Believing is a gift (repeat to end)

SILENT PRAYER AND PERSEVERANCE

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By Lisa Huddleston

It was February when we decided it was time for me to seek help again. My energy was waning; my interests were fading away. For a while obsessive reading hid how bad things really were, but eventually that passion also dulled and became a chore.

It is now July–five months later–and the struggle continues. Despite a wonderful counselor and a well-respected physician, even my faith has begun to pale. I can barely pray, and I hardly ever attempt to write–my truest form of prayer. For a while my cry was, “Lord, hang on to me!” And so, I suppose, that is what He is doing now in the absence of my supplications.

As words have failed, only signs and symbols remain burned into my flesh like words once burned in my heart. To communicate that I am not well. To imitate the stripes by which we all are healed. To echo the Spirit’s moans and groans. To punish and to pray.

I fear a wasted life, but I ardently love my family and so hatred and love twist and twine to braid the rope that ties me to this place. Like God holds me here, their love is a tether for my soul. To wait for restoration. For five months or six or however long it will take.

Amen.

THE WARY WITNESS

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By Lisa Huddleston

He was hurting. I could see it in his tired face all morning long. At break we found ourselves alone in the kitchen of the Adult Learning Center, and he said he was tired of people on Facebook talking about religion. He said everyone could believe whatever they wanted to, and, yeah, he believed there was a God and everything, but he knew God didn’t answer prayers cause he prayed for his sick dad to get better and that sure didn’t happen and he wasn’t getting any sleep because his new baby was keeping him and his girlfriend up all night and his brother was mad at him for leaving his dad and he was tired.

Ugh. I tried to respond. I told him how sorry I was and said “God’s timing is not ours” and … yeah. It felt and still feels like a major fail.

I mean I knew all the appropriate responses, but as I ran through them in my head, none seemed as though it would make any difference in this young man’s life. Most sounded preachy and judgmental and so I just decided to show compassion for him and his difficult life and keep my over-educated mouth unapologetically shut. (Pun intended.)

I wanted to cry, to shake, to hold, and to preach. I wanted to point out all the choices that were being made that contributed to the pain rather than eased it. I wanted to scream truth into the blatant ignorance of human sin. But I held my tongue—maybe in fear of my own inadequacies, maybe because of my own sin, maybe because my faith just wasn’t strong enough or even maybe because that was the best choice. I honestly don’t know.

But I also have a sick father and hurting friends and relationships that are difficult. In many ways, I completely understand and often even share his doubts. But I do believe—not just in the existence of a god but in the God who hears my cries for help, gathers my tears, and yes, answers my prayers even when I cannot point to proofs that will convince anyone else, especially someone whose life is in chaos and with whom I have only a peripheral relationship.

And because I believe, I pray.

Heavenly Father, reveal your heart of love to this struggling son and young father. Draw him to your side and breathe your faith into his hard, breathless life. And, if you choose to, use me as an instrument of your peace. Amen.

INVESTMENT RETURNS

Who knew I was paying it forward to myself?

Who knew I was paying it forward to myself?

By Lisa Huddleston

“On what are you basing this confidence of yours? … On whom are you depending?” (Isaiah 36:4-5)

How I wish I had the confidence I once had! Confidence that led me through faith in God to step out of the mainstream, to homeschool our three children all the way to through high school, and to always feel as though there was a next “big thing” just around the corner—new goals to conquer, new dreams to dream.

Now I have so many doubts. I have seen many long-time friends struggle, and I know the struggles I have faced. I’ve seen victories as well as failures, and I admit that my confidence has taken some heavy blows.

But recently I have felt a boost, tentative and hesitant, but still a lift. And it’s coming from the faith of my children.

I see one courageously taking a risk by leaving her full time job to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree and a new career. I see another confidently looking for a place to use his talents in a way that will empower him to make a good but unconventional living. And another working long, steady hours to support his family in every way he can. I am proud of these three, and thankful that they appear to have kept the confidence I once invested in them in safekeeping so that it is still there for me to draw from. (And I am thankful that they often remind me that it was their father and I who taught them to live this way—especially when they see me lagging.)

“On whom or what am I depending?” It’s been harder to answer this question in complete honesty over the past couple of years; however, I am passionately thankful for this surprising return on my previous investments. This “old” faith revealing itself in new ways may get me through this dry spell and be exactly what I need to move from strength to strength: a well of living water that never runs dry. Thanks, kids.

 Baruch HaShem!

A SEED OF FAITH

All the power is contained in the seed--not more not less, but all!

All the power is contained in the seed–not more not less, but all!

By Lisa Huddleston

The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”
But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.” (Luke 17:5-6, The Message)

We don’t need MORE faith, we need to act on the faith we already have! #LentChallenge

SEE, CARE, AND ACT

Frozen_lake_warning_sign_3599By Lisa Huddleston

Two teen-aged girls walked along the icy shore of the just-beginning-to-thaw Michigan lake. They probably were talking about boys they liked or other girls in their class or their families or something ordinary to their lives. They both wore long midi-coats made of plaid wool (popular in the 70’s) and furry mittens and boots and hats. And they thought it was just an ordinary day as they walked and talked.

And it really was just that until they saw the large dog struggling to climb out of the hole he had made in the icy surface of the lake. The dog was a big chow, and he bobbed up and down in the water almost lifting his body onto the ice only to break through again and sink below the surface. The panic showed in his face, and his desperation was palpable.

Without much thought, one girl left the other and foolishly ran onto the fragile ice heading straight for the tiring dog. And, of course, seconds later she found herself over her head in the freezing water, her long, heavy coat weighing her down as now both she and the dog worked together to break a pathway to the shoreline. Bouncing off the lake’s bottom up to breathe and break ice and fall under again. Flailing woolen hands and wounded paws and pounding away the ice that finally gave way to make way for both the foolish girl and the frantic dog.

The friend who had remained frozen on the shore screamed to offer moral support or to summon help or just to voice her fear. But the girl couldn’t hear anything, but her own heart and her gasps and the splashing of the dog.

Today my pastor preached a good sermon reminding us of God’s faithfulness in the past and His promise for the future. And he prayed three prayers for our congregation:

1. An attentive faith that desires to see as God sees.

2. A passionate faith that seeks to honor God.

3. A courageous faith in the utter trustworthiness of God.

And I remembered that day on the lake. I wonder if I still have the eyes to see those who are perishing? Do I still have the passion to put their rescue first? Am I still courageous (or maybe foolish) enough to trust God with whatever task is given to me despite the risk to my safety? I suppose only time will tell.

MORNING JOY

By Lisa Huddleston

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

I went to bed expecting to have a lost dog at my house in the morning. Sarah and John, my daughter and her husband, had found a chihuahua while walking their dog, Hiltie, and the little guy had followed them home to their apartment. Sarah wanted to bring him to me right then knowing it could be a rough night, but I didn’t make the offer since I knew the same thing. Instead, I told her to bring him to me in the morning and that I’d keep him while they worked. We would see what happened from there. I already have one rescued dog and four abandoned cats so we both knew chances of him staying with us were pretty good–if we couldn’t find his home.

Diesel and John enjoying their time--worry free!

Diesel and John enjoying their time–worry free!

I went to sleep planning to welcome Sarah and the dog early in the morning before she headed to work so, of course, I worried all night long. How would the other animals feel about his arrival? Would Pippin, our biggest and bossiest cat, attack him? Would Dottie have her doggy feelings hurt? Would he try to mark his territory in my house? (I never have had a male dog so that really worried me.) And mainly, would Chuck freak out over the possibility of a dog scratching the furniture? Yeah, I woke up a lot during the night and pondered all these “what ifs” as I tossed and turned.

As luck would have it, and is usually the case, my worrying was all for nothing. Sarah learned about a Lost & Found Pets of Wilson County, TN, page on Facebook, and before she even left her apartment this morning, Diesel had found his mom! They had a tearful reunion at the pavilion on the Watertown square, and everyone went on about their days. Crisis averted!

While I am relieved to know that our family won’t have to add another pet, I have to admit to being a little bit disappointment. Diesel (what a name for a chihuahua!) was a really cute and friendly little guy who I was already thinking of new names for. (No–don’t call me with any lost animals, but there is a great place on Facebook that will give you a hand.)

Anyway, this story had a happy ending with a well-worn moral: Worry is always a waste of time. Whether your worries come to pass or not, you’ve lost good hours you can never replace–like my lost sleep–and you’ve shown how tiny your faith can be. (Luckily, just a mustard seed sized faith can still move mountains.) I’m glad Diesel’s mom didn’t give up, and I’m even more glad he went home with her!

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matt. 6:34)

CRABBY

WARNING: If you are struggling with doubt today, this is NOT the post for you!

Horseshoe crabs.

Horseshoe crabs.

By Lisa Huddleston

Although we usually visit the same beach every summer, it is never the same beach. Some years erosion has reshaped the brown sandy ribbon that lines the island’s coast. Some years there are lots of shells and jellyfish. Some years it is crowded with sunbathers and others not so much. Anyway, this was the year of the horseshoe crab. This year each time the tide receded, a whole population of copulation was left behind! It was uncomfortable and just a little distressing. I was fine with the activity of the crabs–that was between the two or three or more (!) of them–but what disturbed me was that so many crabs died in the hot, dry sun between high tides. Since I am not a marine biologist, this may not have been the case, but I did observe a lot of dead crabs. Well, they looked dead to me.

Because I am a caring soul, on the first couple of days of vacation, I spent a lot of time gingerly picking up the enormous crabs by their long pointy tails and scurrying on tip-toe to the water’s edge to let them escape back into the sea. Ugh–I shuddered and squealed the whole time I held them! But as the week progressed I saw the futility in my efforts and began not to care. The stupid crabs just got stranded over and over again (if not the same crabs, then their brothers and sisters.) It was hopeless.

Oddly enough this image came back to me this week as I talked with a friend about her experience helping with a Vacation Bible School at a local campground where many of the campers actually live in their tents on a full-time basis. She expressed her distress over the residents’ living conditions, and she and the rest of the team attempted to help as they could. But she realized that there was really little long-lasting help that could be given. She and I agreed that it was terribly frustrating to try to help those who cannot or will not help themselves, and together we sighed in resignation.

But for me it is more than simple resignation (I don’t want to speak for her.) It really makes me angry, and eventually that anger leads to despair. And not anger at those who are stuck in such terrible situations. Many are mentally ill, addicted, or poverty stricken. They are no more able to change than were my sex-starved horseshoe crabs. But God can change it all–if he is God (and I hope he is). He could pick up every dying crab and fling it back to sea. He could right every diseased mind and ease every longing and place every homeless soul in a family of love. But he doesn’t. In his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, he chooses to let us continue on. Crabs scurrying around other crabs until we dry up in the hot sun. (I know–we aren’t crabs, but human beings with minds and souls. It’s just an illustration.)

I don’t understand why. Not for a second. I know that Jesus came to save us all (i.e. to fling us back to the sea), but all are not saved. And I know that Jesus commissioned his followers to keep up his work of salvation in the power of the Holy Spirit. But still many (most?) are not saved. Some will point their fingers at me, accusing me of not being “missionary minded” enough, and I’m sure they are right. But I need convincing. And how can I convince others of what I am still so frequently in doubt?

And so I keep on. Scurrying through the days with the rest of the crabs. Helping those I can with what I can. And longing and seeking to know more than I do.

Oh Lord, help my unbelief so that I can truly help others, and please, protect me from the slings and arrows of my fellow pilgrims. Amen.

(I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.)