Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why I am going to watch the Royal Wedding!

Once upon a time in a vast land called Texas, a baby girl was born.

She grew up to call three places her home – Texas, California and finally the kingdom of Denver, Colorado. This princess found her prince later in life – she was 33. Princess Robbie and Prince John produced a royal heir when she turned 36. At 45, they adopted a royal puggle and knighted him Sir Scooby, dog of all.

Princess Robbie is a wife, mom, former teacher and current writer/speaker.

But most of all, Princess Robbie is a girl.

And even though she is nearing the half century mark, her heart is young and her dreams vivid and filled with colorful tales of everlasting love and romance.

As a girl, Princess Robbie finds substance in making a pot of coffee and getting up in the wee hours of the night in order to cozy up on the couch with a blanket and Sir Scooby and watch two people declare their love in pageantry and pomp and royal splendor.

Princess Robbie looks forward to admiring the gowns and the hats and the beauty of beauty. She anticipates the joy of watching a real live fairy tale. And even if the reality of the situation reminds her that this royal marriage may end, not in the court of Buckingham but the court of divorce, she still clings to the hope that this may actually be a love story in the making that will inspire others.

Princess Robbie owns no tiara or scepter and she’ll be in her pajamas and not a gown during the festivities.

But Robbie is a girl! And with that honor comes the delight of enjoying the possibility of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and Prince Charming come to life.

After the opulence and the grandeur, Princess Robbie will go back to real life and with Jesus as her Lord, live happily ever after!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confession of a Controlling Mother

Yesterday, Noah was sitting on a bench in our living room. He was petting Scooby and talking to John. I had one of those mom moments, staring at this beautiful gift God gave me and feeling my heart swell up two times its size like the Grinch. And then I sighed because I am both prideful and insecure and I want something for Noah that he will never, thankfully, have.

He will never be me.

I believe one of the worse mistakes a parent can make is to try to control their child. Care for, yes. Guide, yes. Discipline, you bet. Encourage, absolutely. But to try to control? No.

Control comes out in me through attempting to make Noah a little me. I’ve made much progress in this area. I have accepted that Noah is much different than me in most ways, including personality, socialization, hobbies, and the way his brain works. :0) But one area is extremely difficult for me to fully let go. It’s excruciating.

I want to control his spirituality. And I can’t.

As parents, John and I have guided Noah to know Jesus. Noah has made a decision to accept Jesus into his heart. If asked, he would tell you he loves Jesus.

But Noah doesn’t love Jesus the way I want him to.

I made a decision for Christ when I was eight years old and then I made him Lord of everything when I was fourteen. I basically grew up adoring Jesus. He was my best friend. I wrote to Him, I talked to Him. I was not perfect at all, but I really wanted to grow up to be a missionary and live for God.

Noah talks about Jesus/God when we initiate a discussion or if we are coming home from church. He’s into video games and Pokemon, soccer, drama, and all things Math-related.

Not Jesus.

I know I’m wrong to want to control him. Completely, totally, absolutely wrong. Noah is God’s boy. Noah is on loan to me and my biggest job is to love him and show him Jesus through my words and actions. Not through control freak techniques.

But it’s difficult, so I tell myself, “Robbie, just let go!” I say this a lot.

We went to the Saturday night service at our church before Easter. I enjoyed the service and got emotional simply because I love and I am in love with the Father. At one point, my eyes welled up with tears and I looked over at Noah to share the joy. He was slumped in his chair, eyes closed.

“Robbie, just let go!”

Afterward, he told me he enjoyed the speech. (The sermon) I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, well yeah-ish.”

“Robbie, let go.”

On Easter Sunday we met a former student, my brother, sis-in-law and nephew for lunch. My brother asked Noah to pray. Noah prayed three simple lines but absolutely wonderful. He thanked Jesus for sacrificing His life and rising from the dead for us. Profound.

When John and I went through our marital trouble years ago, I wanted desperately to change his spirituality. I knew that if he followed my advice, our marriage would be saved. During that time, God told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Robbie, GET OUT OF MY WAY!”

Perhaps He’s saying it again to me. He knows the plans He has for Noah. He knows the mistakes Noah will make and He knows the successes. He will continue to draw Noah unto Him with relentless love. In fact, He loves Noah more than I ever could.

That last line is difficult for me to believe, but in faith, I do.

In faith, I’ll keep letting go. And in pain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Black Dress for Me

(I was going to blog Thursday through Sunday, too, but I've decided I'm going to end my Holy Week writing with this entry - Happy Easter!)

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

When I was four, my playmate Prissy died in a car accident. One of my earliest memories is the moment my mom told me that Prissy went to be with Jesus.

I lost my beloved Granny when I was 12 and my Grandma Mamie when I was 21.

During my junior high and high school years, I lost seven friends, including a guy I dated.

I’ve lost teacher friends and students. Two of my neighbors committed suicide. Several relatives, some close and some not, have died.

And of course, my beloved parents are both deceased.

A few years ago I was teaching at a Christian high school and I shared with my students that I’ve had a lot of experience with death – two people died right in front of me. I’ve been to way too many funerals.

When I told my class this, one of my students, as only a high school girl can, looked at me in complete sincerity and asked, “Mrs. Iobst, how are you not crying all the time?”

My answer was just as sincere.

“I do cry sometimes, but I live a life of joy because I’ll never attend Jesus’ funeral.”

This Friday we take a day and remember in gratitude the mystery of unconditional love and sacrifice. We imagine the pain Jesus endured and the choice He made to die in order that you and I might truly live.

And then on Sunday we celebrate! We celebrate the One we never need to mourn. The One who lives eternally and who offers each of us the gift of eternal life. I will see many of those I’ve lost again in Heaven, because they accepted Christ’s sacrifice and chose to live for Him.

It truly is extraordinary, isn’t it? We serve a RISEN SAVIOR!

Happy Resurrection Day!

He is Risen; He is Risen Indeed!

My Favorite Holy Week Cheer!

Jesus, Jesus, He's Our Man!

If He Can't Do It...

We're All Going to Hell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Great Way to Celebrate - Obey!

“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:23-28

Jesus wasn’t a whiner. He had a troubled soul, knowing the time was coming for him to sacrifice his life. But He didn’t whine. He asked God if this was the way to go and apparently God said yes, because Jesus says here, “Father, glorify Your Name!” And in the garden He says, “Father Your will, not mine be done.”

This amazes me. Jesus provided the ultimate example of dying to self.

I am in awe of my God who sent His Son, Jesus and I am in awe of my God Jesus who died for me.

And Jesus told us, you and me, that in order to serve Him, to be a follower of Christ, we need to choose to die to ourselves. This is the most difficult choice we are asked to make daily. You way, God, not mine.

A year after I moved to Denver, my brother Phil went to Albuquerque and attended a silent auction held by Hope Christian School. He saw the painting above and he got it for me. He knew that moving from California was very difficult for me and once here, God told me in every way possible that it was time for me to start dying to myself in a big way.

The picture illustrates John 12:24 “Truly I say to you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Do you want to make a difference in the name of Jesus? Do you want to be someone who influences lives for the glory of God? Then you must die to yourself. Do you want to live a life of safety and security? Then don’t die to yourself. Do you want adventure and joy beyond what you thought was possible? Then die to yourself.

Jesus told these words to His disciples just a couple of days before He was crucified. A wonderful way to celebrate Holy Week is to take His advice and obey His wisdom. Die to yourself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Smell of Holy Week

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

I don’t think a lot about smells, until I smell something.

This morning I went into a house where muffins were just baked. Bananas and chocolate chips wafted through the air and brought comfort and sweetness.

On my street, tar is being placed to reinforce certain spots. The smell is heavy dissonance and when I’m outside, I feel I am standing in that place between spots of contentment, wishing the workers would finish soon.

Scooby, my Puggle, needs a bath and a few thousand mints. I don’t let him too close to me today, but I love him snuggling against my leg anyway.

Jesus’s last week before the cross included a few moments of a luxurious smell. Mary of Bethany came to the place he was staying and washed his feet with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

I bet He loved that scent. It came from love and adoration, pure and complete. Can you imagine him taking it in, sniffing in the dedication of a woman’s heart?

This week is a wonderful week to make our worship a sweet fragrance for Christ. Use your imagination and see the Father breathing in deeply the worship of those who adore Him. What a cool picture.

So how does that happen? For me, to create that perfume for Christ is to purposefully create moments of pure adoration every day. When I walk, I see the trees of my neighborhood and tell my Lord what a tremendous Creator He is. I ate red grapes this morning (they’re on sale at the Sunflower Market) and instead of just popping one after the other, I took a moment to taste the juiciness and the sweetness. Then I told God He really is a Master Chef. Last night I went to my nephew’s birthday party. Three families gathered to eat and play games and celebrate Hunter. I laughed so much. After, I told God that the beauty of the laughter was a gift He gave me. And it wasn’t even my birthday. :0)

In recognizing the gifts God’s given me, be it trees, grapes or laughter, I worship and it emits a sweet smell that wafts its way to the Christ’s nose. He smiles.

Let’s honor Jesus this holy week by taking our own worship and pouring it out for the Father to smell and enjoy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday - "Hosanna!" Let's Serve!

I will be blogging each day of Holy Week - Join me!

Last night I had a dream that I remember clearly. This is not always the case for me.

John and I were living in a castle with several other couples. We were there to train to be missionaries. Something John and I have never considered. The main activity in this castle was performing. We would all take turns putting on costumes that we found in an enormous costume room and perform scenes. I don’t know how many of there was of us, but we filled a small auditorium, both performing and watching. I don’t remember the training but I know that was the purpose of being at the castle.

The scene that stuck out to me in the dream was one in which I ran into a woman who said she had seen my laundry in the dryer and it had finished drying so she put the pile onto a table beside the dryer. No big deal, I told her.

I went to get our laundry and noticed that hers was finished drying, too. I took it out and folded it for her.

This is when I was overwhelmed with a truth. The same truth that hit me and stayed with me as I woke up to John getting ready for church.

Serving in humility as a normal, regular act is so much more important that performing.

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. This is a week of remembrance and gratitude and celebration. It is Resurrection Week.

It is easy for me to be a performer. It’s in my blood to act and entertain. I have a natural sense of humor my folks gave me and an emotional constitution that can create drama in a second. Just ask John. :0)

And I know God made me this way and in certain circumstances I glorify God through these talents. But “performing as a Christian” is inconsequential. “Performing as a Christian” is a talent many of us who say we love Jesus have perfected. But it is trivial and well, wrong.

To love Jesus and to truly make this week a wonderful time of remembering what Christ did about 2000 years ago is to serve. To be thankful that God sent His only Son to die for me, for you, is to serve without making it a big deal. To celebrate that Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of all mankind, rose from the grave that you and I may have life, is to serve God this week by loving others.

It can be a phone call to someone just to say they matter. It can be going the extra mile to make sure your child has a sweet, meaningful Easter. It can even be folding someone’s laundry as a normal act of love.

Today, oh so long ago, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. A donkey, not a horse. That in itself communicated humility. People lined his path with palm branches, waving them and saying, “Hosanna!”

I wonder who picked up the palm branches. Random, yes. But the kind of thing that God noticed.

Happy Holy Week, everyone!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Dandy Lion Among Us

I’ve never met Jason Ritter. But he has profoundly affected my life.

No, I’m not talking about the son of the late actor John Ritter. I’m talking about a 33-year-old teacher who died a couple of weeks ago in Parker, Colorado. He was a teacher at Legend High School. I’ve never seen a picture of him, nor met any of his family or students.

But he has affected me. Here’s how.

Last weekend my sister-in-law Lory told me about attending Jason Ritter’s memorial service the week before. He attended Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, but because of the crowd expected, the service was held at Southeast Christian Church. Lory said the church was packed, with most of Legend attending as well as many family and friends. Her son Hunter, a student at Legend, attended even though he’d never had Mr. Ritter for a teacher.

Lory said that students and friends spoke about Jason Ritter and the life he lived with tremendous affection. He loved Jesus, his wife and new child. And he loved his students. The kids told how Mr. Ritter made them laugh and think. They loved him. Lory told me that one adult summed up Mr. Ritter’s professional career when he said, “There are good teachers. There are bad teachers. And then there are difference makers. Jason Ritter was a difference maker.”

Jason had been fighting cancer for months. He often told his students as they visited and prayed for him, “Expect a miracle.”

Before he died he told a friend, “I’m worried about the kids. They’ve been expecting a miracle and I don’t think they’re going to get it.”

When Lory told us this, our friend Char said, “Those kids are the miracle.”

I agree with Char. I also think pieces of that miracle are those moments when a few of those kids decide to become teachers, difference makers, simply because Mr. Ritter made a difference in them. Part of the miracle is that teenager, and I am SURE there is at least one, who watched Mr. Ritter love Jesus even as a public school teacher and then decided to give Jesus a chance himself. Part of the miracle is the countless conversations that have happened in the last two weeks that inspire people to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Jason Ritter is now in heaven, hanging out with Jesus. That’s a miracle, too. Jason Ritter’s widow, who I’m sure is going through unimaginable grief, will experience God’s comfort. She will. And that’s a miracle.

When we discover that among us, near us, is someone who finds a way to live above the bondage of self and pour his life into others, we are inspired. We see that the extraordinary is possible. In each of us. Not just Jason Ritter.

I picture a dandelion, that little white weed that kids are enthralled with. It is a part of childhood joy to take one of those dandelions and blow on it and watch the tiny little white seeds scatter through the wind, falling randomly. At the same time, a parent says, “Don’t do that, child. Everywhere those seeds fall, a new dandelion grows.”

Could it be that our God can turn the tragedy of such a young death into a miracle? I say yes. I say that the little seeds of Jason Ritter’s love are scattering through the wind right now and landing and inspiring others to grow up to be difference makers.

He’s influenced me and I never met him. Thank you, Jason Ritter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Looking for the Light

March 22nd was a difficult day for me. A couple of days before, my computer crashed. I lost all my files – writing, pictures, all of it. I am still hopeful it can be recovered, but I don’t know. The next day my phone quit working. It was an old phone, so I think it died of natural causes. On March 22nd, our car was diagnosed with an illness that could be cured but only for a whole lot of money. And finally, my son woke up sick.

Not a good day.

John and I have been praying and we’ve made a decision to do something that is exciting and scary in the realm of ministry. We knew all this happening at once was an attack from the enemy. It hurt but we told each other to keep our heads up, praying.

On Facebook, I asked for prayer and Diane Shaw, a wonderful writer and friend, commented that she had written a blog about the times when we feel darkness surrounding us. Her blog is titled "Light in the Darkness." One line from that article hit me: “When it appears that darkness is total, open your eyes, observe the pin pricks of light that God has sent your way.”

I determined to look for those “pin pricks.” Once I began looking, I found myself awash in the light of the Lord. His hope and encouragement bathed me in the sunshine of my friends.

Here’s some of what happened:

  • After my prayer request on Facebook, I was given lots of encouraging words through Facebook comments and emails.
  • My friend Kay called me and made me laugh. A joyful light came over me through the phone.
  • I checked my email and found two acceptances to little stories I’d written from a local magazine/newspaper. God knew I needed this.
  • His Word talked to me. I read Nehemiah 1:11 and saw that Nehemiah unashamedly asked for favor from God. This prompted me to have a wonderful time of pouring my heart out to God.
  • A Facebook buddy of mine, Darryl, asked me about my car and gave me advice about it. So kind and a generous offering of God’s light.
  • In the afternoon, I was watching TV and looked through the Guide and saw that “The Waltons” was back on Hallmark. This may be silly to you, but to me it was a gift from Jesus. I LOVE that show and watching it made me happy.
  • John and I have some friends, the Vineyards, who are wonderful. Michelle called me and then she and Aaron came over that night, bringing us dinner from Olive Garden and praying for us. Their sweet ministering overwhelmed me with His light.

The “pin pricks” Diane wrote about became so real to me. Each of those little lights gave John and me courage. We weren’t in despair – no one was in the hospital and we weren’t in the middle of a tsunami. But we were attacked and it hurt.

What a gift Diane gave me through her words and advice to look for God’s light. I did and I almost got sunburned with friendship. If you are having a bad day or a horrible day, look for the pin pricks of light that God is waiting to shine on your darkness.