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Archive for April, 2014

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“Did you see her behind the tree?”

“Yes.  Of course I saw her.  I wanted her to think I didn’t.”

My eight-year-old was mad at her daddy.  So mad, in fact, that she marched half-way around the lake where we were fishing and parked herself alone on a bench to cry.  She had lost her shoe in a patch of mud and her father had made her walk back through the mud to get it.  

She cleaned her shoe, cleaned her feet as best she could, and then, ran away crying.  With the help of mom’s keen eye and persuasive encouragement, Daddy realized he had better set the poles down and attempt to reel in a somewhat bigger fish.  

He walked towards her as she yelled, “Leave me alone!  I just want to be alone!”  

The closer he got, the more she cried.  Finally, she began to run again.  She ran away and hid behind a tree.  He walked past, still pretending to search for her.  He turned around and ran straight for the tree.  She took off, but knew she could not outrun her daddy.  She laid down on the ground and cried as he stood over her and began explaining and apologizing for her latest mistake.

As we got into the car she said, still sobbing, “I just want to go home!”

“Why?” 

“Because my feet are dirty.  I put my feet in that mud and now I can’t go anywhere that’s clean.”

“Daddy is sorry this happened to you.”

“No, he’s not!”

“Yes, he is.  Your feet are fine.  We’re going to play outside anyway.  Don’t worry, everyone’s feet will be dirty by the end of the day.”

She played until dark with a dozen shoe-less children outside in the yard.

I’ve always called her her father’s daughter.  That, she certainly is, but this day, perhaps, she has personified her mother most closely.

Or, maybe we all get a little frustrated when we step into places we know we ought not.  Maybe we all blame our father when he inevitably sends us back into those places to retrieve what we’ve lost.  Maybe we all run away when we’re angry and hide when we’re hurt.  Maybe we all just want to go home when we feel dirty and uninvited.  Or maybe it’s just me…and Mia.  

Either way, she taught me, once again, some profound lessons about myself and about life yesterday.

My father, God, always sees me.  He’s willing to watch me get dirty if I need to learn something important.  He won’t ever leave me alone no matter how much I yell at him to do just that.  He is sorry for all my pain and loss.  I do not have to worry about being imperfect no matter where I have to go.  Everyone I will ever meet is just as unclean as I am at the end of the end.  Daddy loves us anyway.  

So, who wants to go home when we’ve got the rest of the day to play outside?  Last one to the field is a rotten egg.

 

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After spending the past six Sundays alone, I carefully stepped over the threshold of the house of God once again.  As hesitant and unwilling as I am to do so, I am even more hesitant and unwilling to give reason for the rocks to cry out in worship in my stead.  Easter is simply not a day that a little girl looking for her Lord can let pass without loving Him.

Has the girl who used to X out days on the calendar waiting for Sunday really become a C & E Christian?  Is that just what becomes of little girls who love God when they finally grow up and get real?  

For a short moment I began to think it was so.  I believed lies by choice.  Why?  Because bailing is what crybabies do when bullies begin to badger them.  (Even if they pretend to proudly follow Pappy and be a pug.)  Besides, like Moe Brandy said, “I’ve traveled all around this country.  In my time I thought I’d seen it all.”  Every place is the same.  I just don’t belong.

I had not seen it all, though.  I’ve known a pastor for the better part of the last ten years.  He has been a trusted friend and help in time of need.  So, like Moe, “today I took a detour down a back road.”  I visited his church and I was serendipitously greeted by “Joy.”  I was welcomed by “Joy.”  I was given a place of honor by “Joy.”  I did not look for Joy.  I did not know her.  Joy found me.  I guess that was her job.  

Who could have guessed that the elderly lady serving as a greeting host would show me His glory on Easter Sunday?  This, after a long, dark day of death.  She is the one God used.  

“Suddenly I realized what I’d too long forgotten.”  

Joy is not a choice; it is a gift.  Anyone who faults you for not having such misunderstands how it is supplanted.  Joy cannot be mustered by the guilt of its absence any more than chasing personal happiness will lead you to it.  Joy comes when I step with obedience into the places where God leads me – dark, difficult and dumbfounding as they may be.  Because God always uses those whom he chooses.  And those who seek to please him must believe that he is a rewarder.  

As the pastor spoke on of the need for us to live and share the truth wherever we are, I thought of how absolute my most recent failures have been.  I thought of how grieved I am for the way I’ve allowed ungodly men to dictate my ability to serve God faithfully.  I am wholly ashamed of the way I’ve misrepresented Christ.  I thought of how much grace I’ve been shown and how little I’ve offered.  Mostly, though, I thought only of the condition of the souls of those I’ve failed to prove Christ’s authority over autonomy to.  I wondered how God can ever right all of these woeful wrongs.  Then, after a long, sin-filled, unbelieving hiatus, I prayed.  

I prayed.  

Prayer is hope.  Prayer is faith.  Prayer, for little girls who refuse to talk about what’s bothering them, is repentance.  

 I imagine my Father in heaven loves to hear my prayers just about as much as my daddy loved to hear Moe Brandy sing about the old country.  

Regardless of what others do to harm or destroy me; regardless of how grossly I fail, joy may just greet the likes of me despite all odds.  Someone told me it’s a gift, not a skill.  So, I’ll keep holdin’ to the dream.  Christ is still what living means to me.  Arise, my love.

 

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With strong warnings and great opposition from many Christian reviews, I managed to survive viewing the movie “Noah” this past weekend without losing my faith completely.  If I have lost my faith completely, it certainly has nothing to do with this movie – or any other movie for that matter.  My lack of faith exhibited in wrong actions is never due to outside forces or evil influence, says my one and only trusted friend – the Bible.  No.  My sin comes from the inside out.  It comes from within.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” ~James 1:14

Now.  I have a love for right doctrine.  I have a keen and powerful kind of conscience.  I hate falsehood and, most days, I love the truth.  But, if we’re being honest, my days have been quite dark lately.  My conscience has been quiet.  My Bible has been closed.  There’s really not much worse than being profusely angry at your Creator.

I started boxing because I am mad.   No surprise there, huh?  I imagine that’s what most fighters do.  I mean, no one wakes up one day and says, “Wouldn’t it be relaxing and enjoyable to hit people?”  Right.

Because I generally always spar with guys much taller and far stronger than I am, I have trouble landing any punches at all.  I’m simply too far away.  The best way to hit them is to get inside their range.  I don’t get close enough because I’m afraid.  Closer means I’m in an even more compromised and vulnerable position if I falter.  And I don’t have enough skill to not falter.

So the movie.  The outcast – the leader of the rebellious enemies of God on earth – speaks to God at one point.  He calls out asking, “Why don’t you answer me?  Why are you silent?”   I thought of how many times I’ve called out those same words, desperate to hear him; desperate to know his mind; desperate to understand him and his doings.  But he would not speak.

That rebellious leader was fighting outside.  Perhaps I’ve been fighting outside, too.  Maybe we cannot reach God from this position.  Maybe one has to get a little closer.

Noah.  Noah knew how to fight inside.  He knew he heard God.  He didn’t renege no matter how ridiculous and incomprehensible his instructions were.  Noah wasn’t afraid to be afraid.  Noah trusted God more than he feared fear.  Rebels like me are cowards.  We’d rather throw a hundred punches at the air than get inside on that giant and land one – or, in Noah’s case, get inside that boat and wait until God does the honors.

Some think Noah was a righteous man.  Some know him as a drunk.  I believe he was both.  I imagine one would have to drink a bit knowing the whole world was going to be annihilated and then having to watch them all die.  But Noah loved God.  He loved truth.  His only righteousness came from the same place our only righteousness comes from – Jesus Christ.  God chose him because God loved him – not because he obeyed better than other people.  If he did obey better than other people it was because God gave him that spirit.

God chooses us.  So often though, we chose gods.  Gods that don’t save.  Idols.  People, material things, pleasure, status – just to name a few.  We chose gods in place of the one true God.  We fight outside, mad as hell when they fail to save us from the devastating blows of the Enemy.  But God chooses us despite all that.  He chooses us because he loves us.   He wants us to get inside.  He is the ark.  He is the shelter.  He is the protection, the provision, and the place where we will land our greatest punch at the prince of this world.  Well, he will.  I mean, he did.  So we don’t have to.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough rain.  Let’s go inside.

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“Look! They’re flying!”

“There’s strings.”

“Look! There’s a ghost in our cart!”

“It’s just lights.”

“Look at the jellyfish!”

“It’s made out of feathers.”

“Look at those monsters!”

“They’re just humans in monster clothes.”

After five days in Disney, I have to say that my just-turned-five-years-old-this-week daughter kind of busted my bubble.  I was wowed by the excellence of the entertainment but she didn’t miss a trick.  Every time I got excited at the extremely well done wonder of the shows or the characters Maylee very matter-of-factly informed me what was behind the scenes.  I guess I should have known better than to believe even the best of the best would be able to successfully put one over on the likes of her.  

This is a girl who, by age two, refused to open her own Christmas and birthday presents.  She so dislikes surprises.  She hates being told what to think, what to feel, or, God knows, what to do – even if its for her own good.  She hates being singled out or doted upon for any reason.  She is extremely shy, extremely smart, and by golly, extremely sure of herself.  Maylee prefers to be incognito and undercover.  She is my little mastermind, complete with a no-nonsense, let-me-do-it-myself-or-I-can’t-enjoy-it attitude.  

Nevertheless, every so often throughout our vacation, Maylee would tug my shirt and inform me, “Mommy, I wanna live here.”

It got me to thinking about how different people really are.  Maylee experienced Disney world in an entirely different way than the rest of the family did.  She felt different.  She thought different.  She remembers different.  But the differences don’t mean she loved it less.  The differences just mean she is able to teach us something about how to discover the world in a completely different way; how to love her unique personality more; how to see through the eyes of another perspective and learn even more about our vast, variety-loving God.

When we can only see the differences in others as negatives, we miss out on what they have to offer us.  We overlook the gifts they bring into our world.  We refuse the exchange of ideas meant to challenge and sharpen us as well-rounded, open-minded, life-appreciating individuals.  

As a deep thinker and, admittedly, a kind of unusual human being, I understand what it is to be quite dissimilar in most circles.  What I’m just now beginning to realize is that I like myself.  I love who I am.  I like being exactly who God created me to be.  And I do not need anyone else’s approval to do so.  I don’t ever want to conform to the status quo.  I don’t care who disagrees.  And I will not be told for one more second what to feel, what to think, or what to do by any person who refuses to accept me for who I am.  Popeye had it right: “I am what I am and that’s all I am.”  From now on, when I tug on my Father’s shirt I will be telling him that this is where I wanna live.

I know that I know that I am who the Great I Am made me. He did not fail or flounder.  It is only his grace that changes me, not man’s disgust and disdain which is so often cast upon me under the guise of his name.  I trust God alone to finish that which he began – not by might, nor by power, but by his Spirit.  Amen.

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. ~1 Corinthians 15:9-10

 

 

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