Thursday, April 19, 2007

by Marti McCraw

Yours to draw
Pulling from my dreams
Drawing from my sorrow
Blending from my yesterdays
Creation Day
Blessed by breathing in and out
Blessed by eyes wide open
Heart pumping
Neurons snapping
To walk, to breathe,
To sing God's glory like the rising sun.
Hold me fast in your creation day
Merciful and mighty
March through my stubborn ways
with faith trumpets
and shouts of triumph
Crumbling walls forged with inferior material.
Stones rolled away
Reveal resurrection brilliance
in faithful obedient acts
Woven patiently
Through summer storms

and frosty frozen darkness
Never-ending, patient grace
Knowing today will shine
Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Partial Birth Abortion

It is good to stop and praise God. It is good to remember how good he is and that he is powerful and listening. It is good to remember that Satan is only renting the apartment and God is the landlord of this earth we live on. I am amazed at God's patience and mercy with our grotesque and cruel acts of murder and denial that He is God alone.

Lord here is victory. Here your name is glorified. Here the world recognizes something significant has happened. Thank you for protecting your little ones. Help us not grow weary. Help your servants rise up in multiplying numbers to honor you, honor your creations, honor your truth and goodness.

Thank you Lord for this decision. Thank you Lord for every person's prayer, every leader's action, every lawyer's voice, every letter, every email, every late night, every effort called forth by you to give these babies life.

Forgive us Oh God for the death we watch, the life we fail to fight for, the deaths of those who fall at our own hands, our own ignorance, our own denial. Thank you God for your mercy on the cross--as we butchered the Author of Life--"Forgive them for they know not what they do."

And then..."take up your own cross"...."what they have done to me they will do to you." Rise up in us OH God to be your faithful obedient servants of love and life. Give us your compassion for our sin--and your wrath at evil--and your softness and gentleness to woo each of us unto yourself. Not banners and trumpets and marches of anger--but glasses of water and meals of healing. Bless us Oh God with your prayers, with your insightful questions. Bless the media as your mouthpiece to the world. Push aside the evil on the loudspeaker, and speak out with your authority established since the beginning of time. Blow your trumpets and sound your horns against the opposition that would destroy and rot. Rise up in us Oh God as resurrection power in our lives to be your faithful representatives, ambassadors that shine forth the love, glory, and power of God Almighty. In Jesus name, Amen. and Amen.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Recently, the story of Lazarus has come to mean a great deal to me. I was journaling one day about disappointments. Prayer disappointments. I had needed help. I had prayed for help, and nothing happened. Nothing was still happening...and I wrote this:

I am an exasperated Martha—Lord if you had been HERE Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Lord if you had been HERE, Ron would be walking better, feeling better, and driving better.
If you had been HERE, Kelsey would have straight legs and a straight back with no seizures. Yes, I believe in the EVENTUAL resurrection of their bodies—and mine...someday...but I really need help now.

Those thoughts of Martha and the story of Lazarus spurred me to get out my Bible and read the story of Lazarus from The Message. I walked through that story with those frustrations going on in me.

Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” Yep. That’s me. Jesus, if you had been here, Kelsey would not have broken her legs. Ron would be healthy.

Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Lord, sometimes you tell me things that are hard to believe. This seems like a theological comment.

Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” Oh Martha, I know you so well. Aren’t you the good Sunday school student? You know all of the answers don’t you? You know all the should’s and ought to’s. Yet your knowing all the rules didn’t save Lazarus. You probably prayed to God for help. “Jesus is not here—so I will have to do everything I can.” Yep, that’s me. Giving the right answers, but working my tail off to force or nudge God’s hand for life.

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am , right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. OK. Don’t get this one. Help me here Lord. I don’t have to wait for the End. You are right now, Resurrection and Life. Help me Lord to be the one who believes in you, even though I am blind, even though my ways are ways of death. Even if Ron dies. Even if Kelsey dies. Even though I am dead in my false god ways. Help me Lord in my unbelief.

And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Lord I confess that like Martha, when no one including you seems to be helping—then I’m going to do it. I’m going to try to be God. I abandon you because your ways are not fitting into what I think you should be doing. Lord that is incredibly arrogant and sinful of me. It is the way of death. Show me how to believe in you. Do you believe this? Show me how. Help me Lord to make the shift to belief. I am like Martha—still standing here exasperated that you didn’t do something!

“Yes Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.” Ah, the good Sunday School Student stays stubborn to the end. And yet, she must have had some hint of hope—because in the next line she told her sister that Jesus was asking for her.

After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” Martha doesn’t understand what Jesus is trying to tell her—but maybe Mary would—and she knows Mary would come to him, especially if he was asking for her. Did he ask for Mary? Did she make that up? Maybe she was thinking—“Oh, I’m just not getting it. Mary understands things better than me. She gets things that Jesus teaches. I’m stupid here. I’ll have Mary go and listen and she will get it. She will know what he is talking about.”

The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb…..Mary came to where Jesus was waiting—[Jesus was waiting…Jesus was waiting] and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus, what were you waiting for? Were you waiting for Mary? Why didn’t you keep walking? Why did you want Mary to come all the way to you? How long did it take? She ran crying all the way. Wailing all the way. Wailing to Jesus. He didn’t shorten her trip—he waited until she got to him.

When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, A DEEP ANGER WELLED UP WITHIN HIM. He said, “WHERE DID YOU PUT HIM?”

“Master, come and see,” they said. Mary did not answer. Was she hysterical? Was she too overcome by grief to talk? Was her heart so broken that even Jesus’ presence did not help? Now Jesus wept. Crying with Mary? Crying because of Mary’s broken heart? “Oh Mary, it pains me to see you in such terrible grief. I hurt with you over this heart-wrenching loss. I love you Mary. I love Lazarus. I am crying with you over this overwhelming loss.”

The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him”

Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.” Was Martha thinking this too? Good ole practical Martha. She knew the formula. Bring Jesus and everything will be OK. But she tried to tell Jesus—she sent a messenger and he didn’t come! “If you love Mary so much, if you love Lazarus so much—why didn’t you come? I tried to get you here!”

Then Jesus, THE ANGER AGAIN WELLING UP WITHIN HIM, arrived at the tomb. Lord, are you angry with me? I have advertised my unbelief and my disappointment in you. I have advertised that I think I know your plan and I am accusing you of not following it. Forgive me Lord; I don’t even realize what I am saying. This way within me does not even come close to your ways. I am leaning on my own understanding of who you are and how you work. My heart and mind don’t even get it still. Cover me Lord with your grace—because I stand ignorant, unworthy, and full of arrogance and self-righteousness.” It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “REMOVE THE STONE.”

The sister of the dead man, Martha said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. HE’S BEEN DEAD FOUR DAYS!” You go Martha! You tell him. He has messed everything up so far—let him know he doesn’t know what he is doing. He doesn’t realize it’s stinky in there. Boy does he need your help! "Master, there is a stench. He is dead. You don’t want to do this." Lord, do you hear Martha? I am that woman.

Jesus looked her in the eye, [mad I think] “DIDN’T I TELL YOU THAT IF YOU BELIEVED YOU WOULD SEE THE GLORY OF GOD?” Uh…oopsie....never mind. There it is Lord, that’s what I need to hear. I want to see the glory of God. Help me. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Help me to be quiet AND LISTEN. What are you telling me? Help me believe you words Holy Jesus.

Then to the others, “Go ahead, TAKE AWAY THE STONE.” Were you disappointed in me? Were you exasperated? Had you gotten tired of me not believing that you are from God? That you are the way, the truth and the life? That YOU are the resurrection? Teach me Oh God, I am an ignorant self-righteous disciple that just doesn’t get it.

They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I am grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” Paraphrasing, maybe Jesus is saying something like this, "Father, we know what we are doing—and you always listen to me, but I’m praying out loud here so that Martha and Mary and this crowd might believe that I am here because you sent me. They don’t get it that I am following your instructions and that you are listening to me. They don’t get it how much we are united. They still think I am a very religious man. So Father, we know that raising Lazarus is no big deal and that a single word dictated by you brings immediate life. But Father, you gave me these babies. Let’s show them Father what we mean when I tell them you sent me.”

Then he shouted, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Was Martha amazed? Was she still wondering about the stench? Was she so entranced by Lazarus coming out that she stood there dumb? Was this so far outside her realm of thought that even joy was not yet possible? Was she afraid?

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.” I’m thinking that Martha still was not convinced everything was OK until Lazarus was unwrapped. I wonder if she was expecting to see a Lazarus that was shriveled and rotting. Lord, unwrap your resurrection in my life so I can see it. Help me to see that my brother is alive.

This is how I let scripture wrap itself around my frustrations and questions about life. I believe it was the Holy Spirit leading me to that story as I was journaling my discouragement and lack of hope. It is as if Jesus sat down with me and taught me, reminded me about this story and who he is and why he came. He reminded me who is God and who is not. Very powerful. Very humbling. Very helpful.

John 14:26
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

My purpose

There was a day Lord, long ago when I was but a swirl of thoughts in your mind. I was but a twinkle in your eye. The day came when you secluded yourself off from all other angelic beings, you turned off the TV and you traveled by yourself to the womb of the earth. Secluded in the darkness—just like you were once secluded in the darkness before the earth was formed you said, “Let there be Marti.” And there I was—Your thought taking form in your hands. Your thought joining one cell from my daddy and one cell from my mama. You loved your creations so much, you didn’t want to just start all over again. You took from my daddy and mama the life that you had already formed, and breathed your life into those two united cells.

“Here Marti, these are your chromosomes. From these is the blueprint for your body, your mind, and your spirit to form. It is time. The people of earth need this little creation. Hello Marti. Hello Marti cells doubling and tripling. Very nice. Very nice. Obey me now to form heart and spine and brain. Good morning heart. Good morning spine. Good morning brain. I have great and wonderful plans for you. And now arm buds and legs. Now Marti, these are the little buds from which will grow your fingers. With these fingers you will play the piano, type, paint, draw, and take tests. These little fingers will be extensions of your heart. Extensions of your mind. These little hands will fix dinners, stroke foreheads, dig tunnels in the dirt, grasp branches to climb trees, and hold a needle to sew clothes. These arms will be used to pick up an armful of autumn leaves and throw them in the air. They will hug your mom and dad and cuddle your babies.

“What do you think little Marti. What do you think about my plans?

“Oh Lord—how majestic is your name in all the world. Your plans are beyond my imagination. I love your plans. This earth I will walk on…can I play in the dirt?

“Oh yes, you can play in the dirt and add water to make mud. You can cook your imaginary pancakes or pat out your imaginary hamburgers. You can walk in it. Sit in it. Cover yourself in it. The earth I have made is your playground.

“So what about these legs that are growing longer and strong? What about these feet that have little toes? What are you planning for these legs?

“Well, let me make some suggestions. See what sounds good for you. There’s walking on the earth—walking to and from your house, your school, the market, your friends. There’s walking in the parks, on the beach. How would you like to use them for walking?”

“Walking sounds wonderful. Yes let’s walk. Can I walk with you?”

“Walking is with me wherever you go. Walking in the sunshine, walking on the grass, walking to your grandma’s house from the car. There I am. But sometimes little one—it will be just you and I—walking among the trees, among my grand creation. I will whisper to you in the breeze and wave to you from the leaves in the trees. I will walk with you on the sand in the beach and step with you into the ocean.”

“And what about this heart Oh Lord? It beats strong and steady. What are your plans for my heart?”

“Your heart little one is the drum beat of life that keeps beating while we dance on earth. Your heartbeat is your signal every moment that I have created you for a divine purpose. Your heart is your alarm clock to tell you “Wake up!” You’re alive! Your heart is the rhythm of your dance on this earth. Your dance partners will change; first your mom and dad, then your sisters and brother, friends and teachers and finally with your husband Ron. Your heart is my mouthpiece. It is the drumbeat that sets the pace of your life:

Ba doom, Ba doom, Ba doom. Here Marti Here. Now Marti Now. Wait Marti Wait. Sit Marti Sit. Move Marti Move. Listen Marti Listen. Sing Marti Sing. Dance Marti Dance. Ba doom, Ba doom, Ba doom.”

“Sometimes your heart will ache. Sometimes you will have deep pain in your heart.”

“Why Oh Lord? Why would you want that for me?”

“Because you are my child—because your heart is my heart. And when you see something very wrong or hurtful to others—you will feel pain in your heart like I do.”

“What is your plan for me Lord? What are we going to be doing here on this earth?”

“My plan for you is to walk and breathe and dance and listen and talk…with me. But I will let you walk and breathe and dance without me if you want.”

“Why would I ever want that? Why would I ever want to leave your side?”

“My dearest Marti—choice is my gift to you. My angels do my bidding because that is how I built them. But you—you will do my bidding because you choose me. My love for you is real and always. Your love for me develops just like your fingers and toes—one spiritual cell at a time. My last gift to you before you are born is my spirit and image of life and love placed within every cell of your body. This spirit hungers and thirsts after me. You will get distracted and sometimes forget.”

“Oh Lord I will never forget!”

“But don’t worry. My mercy and patience are immense. I will woo you back to the closeness we have right now. I will call you and you will hear. When you are lost—call and I will come and find you. I am with you always.”

This blog was inspired by Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Monday, April 02, 2007

When I Was Eight

When I was eight I had a 2nd grade teacher I did not like, Mrs. Enbom. This was particularly hard since my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Barrett had been wonderful. I had a hard time learning to tell time, and Mrs. Enbom was no help. I remember I made a painting on my BIG art folder that looked just like Abraham Lincoln. I was proud of that picture.

I will always remember my 8th birthday--because it was so fun. My parents had string criss-crossed all over the house and outside. I was to follow the string to my birthday present. I found it behind the couch in the living room--my first two-wheeled bike with training wheels--orange. It took awhile for me to learn, and I remember my dad behind me, holding onto the bike (training wheels were off) to help it stay up, and giving it a little push. Very exciting to finally ride a bicycle on my own. It felt like quite an accomplishment.

Did I start ballet when I was 8? I think so. I remember a wood floor, mirrors on the wall, and bars to hold on to. I remember pliés and tour jetés and spotting while I turned. I remember lining up with the girls to dance a step or turn across the room, one girl at a time. I LOVED IT! and I didn't have to practice every day (unlike piano).

I also remember piano. I HATED practicing! I hated it mostly because I just didn't want to stop doing other things to go sit at the piano and work. I think I only practiced when my mother made me. Piano lessons were usually embarrassing--in fact, embarrassment is the word I most associate with playing the piano. Embarrassed I hadn't practiced. Embarrassed every time I made a mistake. Embarrassed I looked bad. It was so important to me to look good and get approval. Piano was a constant reminder that I was failing and not living up to my potential. I had enough skill that my mom and piano teacher thought I could do really good. My sister Julie just refused to practice I think. She got to quit piano and take horse-back lessons--mostly to motivate her to stop sucking her thumb.

I would have LOVED horseback lessons. I would have done anything to take horseback lessons--maybe even practice my piano. (probably not). HORSES--I drew horses and ballerinas relentlessly through grade school I think. I remember the horse face because I had a drawing book that showed me how. I memorized the drawing and practiced it over and over again. And I drew ballerinas, over and over again, hands above the head with pink tutus and pointed toes. I loved ballerinas. I still love horses. I read every horse book in the library. When I finished all the horsebooks, I read all the dog books. When I finished all the dog books I read science fiction (Jr. High) and Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes.

If I were to write a letter to my eight-year-old self, it might be like this:

Dear Martha
  1. If you really don't like something and it causes you regular distress, speak up and get out of it!
  2. What people think isn't so important. It is not the end of the world to disappoint someone you love.
  3. Let people know your dreams. People that can, will help. It doesn't hurt to share what it is you really want.
  4. There will always be something in your life to remind you that you are failing. If there is no choice and you can't get out of it:
    1. Look squarely at the problem.
    2. Ask for help that FITS YOUR PERSONALITY.
    3. Be real. Negotiate. Arrange a schedule that feels better like only practicing twice a week.
    4. Get over it. Failing is a part of being alive--being human. Failure is wonderful, because failing reminds you that you are not God and that you need him.
  5. Find what you love and do it. Pursue it and enjoy it.