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A Song 

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perfection

God has just sent his people into a brand new wilderness.  He has told them two very important instructions: to remember his extreme grace and mercy toward them, and to obey Him.  He has promised that if they would but listen to Him, that he is ready and waiting to make them a kingdom of priests; a holy nation; his very own treasured possession.  Talk about making a deal they can’t refuse!  Of course, they agreed.

The next step in this “process of becoming” as we will call it, it for the prophet to instruct the people on how to prepare themselves for the coming of God Himself.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” ~Exodus 19:9-15

God said that these people were to be consecrated.  The way in which God instructs this to be accomplished is that they:

1. Wash their garments.  Matthew Henry notes, “When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand.  Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God…It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.  This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshiping God.”

2. Have established limits set.  They must be told with an extreme amount of clarity that these are the lines we do not cross lest we receive the severest of consequences.  No compromises will be made past these lines.  No blind eyes will be turned when any person – even any animal!!!- crosses.  No grace whatsoever will be given if there is injustice done to these unbreakable rules.  The message God was conveying here through the work of his prophet’s line drawing?  YOU DO NOT PRESUME UPON GOD’S MERCY – EVER. You want stoned?  Shot?  If you cross these lines that’s exactly what is going to happen.  Try me.

3.  Do not go near a woman.  This was a matter of purity of mind and heart.  Henry says, “In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion, they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.”

This was how they were to prepare for the coming of God.  These were the things necessary to truly “be ready” to meet him.  Here, before the law was given, God came down on the third day.  In the future, before grace was given, God was raised on the third day.  In the former, God came down to tell us what he expects of us – absolute perfection.  In the latter, God is raised up to tell us what we can expect from Him – unmitigated grace.

You simply cannot get the magnitude of that without falling down to worship Him.  WOW!!!  There are no words to aptly describe what a beautiful God we serve!

Hey world!!!  Look at HIM!!!  How awesome!  How amazing!  How merciful!  How good and great and strong and wise!  That’s MY Dad!!!

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maylee

She searched for three days.  She pillaged through every toy, underneath every seat in the truck, and even in the garage.  Still, her iPad was nowhere in sight.  It wasn’t until three days of rain had passed, the sun emerged, and I submitted to picking up the yard in preparatory duty before mowing that the discovery was made.  Here sister had left her beloved electronic toy in the tree house.  Soaked and soundless, it was quite obvious that this gadget had given up the ghost.

Surprisingly, my seven year-old did not cry.  She didn’t pout or fight or fall on the floor flailing.  It almost seemed as though she was completely unaffected.  Puzzled, but somewhat concerned knowing that this is the same girl who, when she is physically injured holds all emotion inside until she is positively certain no one can see her, I went back out to my yard duties.

Later, when dinner was ready and Daddy entered from work, the mystery of my mini-me was solved.  As her father greeted her, she grinned from ear to ear telling the tale.  She disclosed the item she was holding behind her back, and with unwavering confidence she handed her rain-soaked iPad back to the one who gave it to her.

“Addie left my iPad outside,” she said still smiling like it was the best news in the world, “and I can never use it again!”

Bewildered as any dad might be given the situation he replied, “I guess you can’t play your games anymore then.”

Then the key to her strange behavior was revealed as her eyes moved toward the kitchen.  “But you have another one, Daddy!  You have two other ones!  Maybe I can use that one!” she said as she pointed at the unopened box that had been lying on the counter for the past two months.

Upon changing phone companies we had received a free iPad that no one was using.  She was happy when her old broken screen iPad was left in the rain because she was counting on her daddy’s incredible generosity.  She was was depending on his unbelievable grace.  She was altogether certain of her I-can-melt-your-heart-because-I-know-exactly-who-I-am place in his great big can’t-help-but-give-you-everything heart.

As if pretending that making her wait a week would fool any of us.  We all knew he would give it to her eventually.  We knew because we know him and he’s probably the most generous man we know.  That and having four little girls does not do much for the hearts of even big tough guys who try to pretend they aren’t soft.

She did whisper the occasional, “Mommy, do you think he’ll give me that iPad?”  throughout the waiting week.  I just encouraged her.  I reminded her that Daddy would most definitely do something.  “Don’t you worry.  He will not forget about you,”  I told her.

Oh, to have that kind of hope!  To be that confident and certain of my Father’s goodness!  If I could just get a glimpse of the position I hold in his heart!  Surely I would stop crying when my favorite ideas and plans are left alone and forgotten.  Surely I would stop hurting when what I long for is washed completely away by the waters of loss.  Surely I would understand my place in His heart even when I feel altogether unnecessary in this wide world.  Surely I would stop struggling to be what I already am.  Surely I would stop wondering why I have to wait so long to be used by His perfect power.  Surely I would simply whisper my fearful doubts to my brothers and sisters and trust their reassurance.

I know my heavenly Father and he knows me.  I just wish I could be like my daughter.  I wish I could stand smiling with complete confidence while I wait for glory.

Maybe I am whispering now.

Maybe I just need what Maylee needed during the long week of waiting.  Maybe I just need my brothers and sisters to encourage me.  Maybe I’m asking.  Please.

 I know Daddy is so, so good.  I know how outrageously generous He is.  I know my place in His heart.  I know he had great gifts lying on His shelf that already belong to me.  But like Maylee’s toy, I am often desperately broken.  I often feel very alone and abandoned.  I often do not feel needed or useful and I do not know why.  I feel like I am forever reaching and rarely being reach for.  Thankfully, I do not live by feelings.  I live by the Truth.  So I’m asking.

From one who is real good at looking put together when I’m falling apart, help me.  I need you.  Be my real friend.  Tell me to persevere.  Share your struggles.  Correct me.  Help me hear His voice.  Reassure me with His words.  Encourage me with your joy.  I just want to wait faithfully.

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Father of the Bride

When I was a little girl it didn’t take me too long to realize that finding the right words was extremely important.  I would always try to use the phone book and it would constantly redirect me to another word.  I would look up beauty shop and it would tell me to see “salon.”  I would look up tires and it would tell me to see “automotive.”  I guess I have become a bit of an all-around word nerd since then.  I feel that same exasperation when trying to find out how and where God is taking me, what He is saying, and how I am to say His words.

There are times in life when the stars  align just right and the heavenlies touch the earth.  Because of the rarity of such times, the level of grand amazement in these experiences is quite overwhelming and sincerely humbling.

Of course God is always speaking; always teaching; always calling.  Yet, sometimes, for reasons unknown he chooses to do so in substantially more personal, more intimate, and more direct ways.  Therefore, while I would stress the caution needed in recognizing every single seeming coincidence as God’s unmistakable, Almighty voice, I must share the absolute certainty I have in the fact that he can and does speak in all sorts of unorthodox, nontraditional ways when he has something specific to say.

Cue crazy story of incidentals told by wild-eyed little girl.

Last week I went to a new medical doctor.  To my surprise, he listened intently to my symptoms and concerns and then asked if could pray for me before further diagnosis or treatment.  He told me he has a gift given by the Holy Spirit both to sense and to heal those whom God has chosen for a particular healing.  He told me he felt that anointing come over him as soon as I walked into his office.

Um.  Oooook.  I am a textbook Christian.  As much as I would like to be able to say it, by that I do not mean I do everything by the book without error.  What I mean to say is that I adhere very closely to the Bible’s text and that, generally, I am not one to believe in faith-healers or anyone who proclaims themselves so.  When I think of faith healers, I think of heresy.  I think of a false gospel.  I think of heretics and con-artists.  I do not think of genuine Christians who seek to live out their calling faithfully within the sphere of their everyday job.  I do not think of people like, say, doctors, who pray for patients they have never met before as they offer to hold babies just because, by the way.

Still, the Bible itself does not disallow God to heal us through the earnest prayer and the laying on of hands by another fellow Christian.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  The Bible actually does teach that we are to both do and believe in these methods when afflicted.

The doctor told me he had sensed very strongly that I not only needed healing, but that God indeed wanted to heal me that very day, as well as progressively in the coming days of the near future.  Right.  Now I am thinking, “Of course I need healing.  Isn’t that why I am at the doctor?”  To believe him was somewhat difficult, even though I am a Christian who wholeheartedly believes in prayer as well as other-worldly healing, however, the authenticity of his conversation caused me much personal conflict regarding my doubts and disbelief.  I discerned that the things he was saying were both true and of God but I was afraid to believe them.

 I do need healing.  I do not always live in God’s peace.  I do have difficulty trusting God.  I stand in need of more grace for others.  There are people I continue to struggle to forgive.

All of these things he knew without me confessing.  Still, perhaps most people have these same struggles, right?  Lucky guesser?  Perhaps.

For two nights I puzzled.  I made lists labeled “real” and “fake.”  I drank more than my share of wine.  I looked up scriptures.  I sat in silence looking at the stars and I wondered.  I ran many miles.  I prayed for clarity.  I sought counsel.  I doubted and feared the reality of God’s literal voice saying audible words through a person I did not know when I was least expecting.  The first thing his healing prayers did was turn my very organized, intellectual theology and systematic mind into an unsolved Rubik’s cube of chaos.  I simply could not figure out what I was supposed to make of this unusual event.  When theology becomes reality it can be quite unsettling.

My husband and I left on vacation two days later.  As I sit on a rock writing this and gazing out at a beautiful lake on a beautiful day, I struggle to find words that could possibly express how good my God is to me.  Word nerd or not, I cannot find them though they are many.  The things he has done in just three days time have proven to me beyond any doubt that he not only indeed has something serious to say, but that he wants me to listen close.

Everything the doctor told me was simple, yet profound.  Simple because I had heard it all before and knew it to be true.  Profound because I did not hear it the 3,000 times before when God and others had said it.  Like the gospel.  We hear it and hear it and hear it, but until God makes us hear it, we are utterly deaf.

He told me God wants my trust.  This is something a father figure used to tell me often.  How did he know whether I was trusting God or not?  He did not.  God knew.  He said God wants to heal me.  That He will give me more grace to be kind and gentle.  How did he know those were the two fruits of the Spirit I struggle most with?  He did not.  God knows.

The first sign I saw on our anniversary trip said, “Smile.  Pray.  Be kind.”  Of course it did.  That is what the doctor said.  Simple, yet profound.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

We were seated outside for the first meal we shared.  We heard church bells ringing loudly nearby.   They were playing the tune of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” which is my favorite hymn from childhood.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t think.  God had my attention.

I looked up the history of the meaning of church bells at noon and it was decreed by a Pope in the 15th century.  The ringing served as an encouragement to fighting soldiers at war as well as a reminder for Christians to pray for those soldiers.  God was encouraging me.  He was reminding me that he wants me to pray, always – just like the doctor said.

After we ate we bought a magazine and went out on the lake to sit in the sun.  It was “Mad Magazine.”   I have never ever bought myself a Mad Magazine.  I only picked it up because the cover was imitating adult coloring books and my oldest daughter likes those.  We thought it looked funny so we bought it.  Inside was a limited time offer for a sketch of Alfred standing in the rain with an umbrella made to look like the Morton salt girl.

When I had been waiting in the doctor’s exam room I noticed a glass with the Morton salt girl painted on it.  I sat and thought on the glass for quite a few minutes before he came in.  When is the last time you thought about the little umbrella girl on the salt?  Never?  Exactly.  Coincidence?  Not a chance.

Mad Magazine was my daddy’s favorite.  I remember him reading it when I was a little girl.  My heavenly father knew.  He was confirming what he used that doctor to tell me.

When I think of being a little girl, I think good thoughts.  That is why all the books I have written on theology are titled, “One Little Girl’s Journey Through…” Many things this weekend reminded me that I am my Father’s daughter.  I am his little salt girl.  I am the apple of his eye.  I am special to him.  All the things I struggle to believe with any amount of certainly every single day.  Here are a few…

There was a beach called “Bundy.”  Daddy loved Al Bundy in the sitcom “Married with Children.”  There was a man playing acoustic guitar outside – just like Daddy always did.  The song he sang was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”  The lyrics say the man lived on the south side of Chicago – where Daddy lived when that song was popular.  We rented a kayak and capsized twice.  We talked about what to name our new stuffed pet frog and settled on “Overboard” – Daddy’s favorite movie. When Tim was towing me back to shore, (because every time I tried to re-enter the kayak, it capsized again) I told him I was a mermaid.  The restaurant we went to after our unexpected swim had a drink called “Tiny Tim’s Mermaid Delight.”   We smelled a skunk which always makes me happy and reminds me of being a little girl.  The church we attended on Sunday was located on Saltsman Road and Station Street.  Salt, reminding me of the little salt girl and station, reminding me of the street I spent the first 20 years of my life growing up on.  The sermon referenced Luke 8:16-25 whose parallel is Matthew 5:13-16 which includes the reference that we are to be the salt of the earth.  The message’s main points were that God has obligated himself to us through unbreakable promises, that we have a father who is determined to do us good,  we must relax and entrust ourselves to him and he will give us his peace.  The woman playing the piano was the spitting image of the older Ally who played the piano in the movie “The Notebook.”  I always tell Tim he is my Noah.

I always refer to myself as the little girl.  God wants me to be the little salt girl, though.  Even in the rain, she will be the salt of the earth.  He is my Father.  The whole weekend He was saying, “Here’s Daddy.  Here’s Daddy.  Here’s Daddy.  I love you.  You are loved.  I know you.  I love you.”

I thought my anniversary was just about my earthly marriage.  I came to find out that it is just as much about my heavenly one.  I am so amazed.

God spoke clearly so many time directly to me over the past three days.  Everything was absolutely perfect.  How could I not trust him?  How can I deny his love for me?  How can I not extend kindness and gentleness and grace when I have been given so much of each?

I cannot.  I am smitten.  So in love.  Thank you, Lord for renewing, restoring, and redeeming me, our marriage, and my faith.  Amen.

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God’s Words

IMG_3213

Once upon a time a man told me I did not know God.  He said I had no love.  I looked like a bad tree as far as he could tell and telling was just what he thought he ought to do to the likes of me.  He didn’t stop with telling me the terrible tale of who he thought I was.  He believed it so much he told everyone he knew about the danger of a stained sinner such as I.

That man was right that I am a sinner, but he was wrong about me.  I am not Satan’s spawn.  I am my Father’s daughter.  I was bought with blood, buried, and born again by a Savior who knows far worse things of me than he.

Still, the wolf’s voice echoes and antagonizes me.  Today his accusations seek me once again.  I cry out to God.

I walk to the mailbox and find a letter.  “Contents mailed from a correctional facility” read the outer envelope.  My heart warmed as I thought of how very often God uses the foolish to shame the wise.  Inside I found flowers drawn with a poem instructing me to count my blessings.  Also, a letter which read this way:

My child…

I know everything about you.  I know when you sit down and when you rise up.  I am familiar with all your ways.  Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.  For you were made in my image.  In me you live and move and have your being.  For you are my offspring.  I knew you even before you were conceived.  I chose you when I planned creation.  You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.  I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I knit you together in  you’re mother’s womb.   And brought you forth on the day you were born.  I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me.  I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.  And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.  Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.  I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.  For I am perfect and I meet all your needs.  My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.  Because I love you with an everlasting love.  My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.  And I rejoice over you with singing.  I will never stop doing good to you.  For you are my treasured possession.  I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.  And I want to show you great and marvelous things.  If you seek me with all  your heart, you will find me.  Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.  For it is I who gave you those desires.  I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.  For I am your greatest encourager.  I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.  When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.  As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.  One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  All I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.  I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.  For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.  He is the exact representation of my being.  He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.  And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.  Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.  His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.  I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.  Nothing will ever separate you from my love again.  I have always been Father, and I will always be Father.

Love,

Your Dad

Almighty God

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfn79vSR2ak

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bowl

She steps out of her shoes and into rare form.  It’s people time.  My megaphone mouthed mini me begins to melt down.

Maylee wants to bowl.  She loves bowling.  But her bowling shoes bring with them a big bawl – and I don’t mean the kind you roll.  Just like with the way too heavy bowling ball, her five year-old strength is scarcely equipped to be thrown down the alley alone.

My soon to be six year-old is an introvert.  She gets nervous around new people, unfamiliar places, and unexpected experiences.  This is a girl who, by age three, decided that opening her Christmas presents was far less important than having to hide her reaction to them.  She clams up.  She falls out.  And when all else fails, she lets her fear and fury fly the only way a normal non-social knows how.  The equation for all you analyticals like me goes something like this: mommy + volume = safety.

Yesterday was daddy’s turn, though.  As expected, despite her superhero cape, her turn came up and her countenance fell down.  All I can say is, I’m glad bowling alleys are used to a high number of decibels.

Stripping off her borrowed shoes in self-protective defiance, she began to wail.  He scooped her up swiftly and began the universal daddy fix – fast hand motion on and off the crying mouth.  After obtaining the desired mouth in front of a fan noise, the crying turned to laughter.  She lay in his lap and I watched her change.  More than a few moments mounted before the shoes went back on and the first turn was taken.  Meanwhile, I studied.  I learned.  I saw my need and I saw the solution plain as the tears running down both of our faces.

Despite the fact that I do prefer books over people any time prior to eight a. m., I am not an introvert.  Nerd, yes.  Instrospective, yes.  Introvert, not so much.  But the truth is that I have lived my entire life guarded.  I am extremely self-protective.  Where Maylee avoids social interaction, I try to control it.  I hide myself until the game is over.  Maybe everyone does to a certain extent.  I mean, we learn this.  Pain is a powerful teacher.  We swear after the first time we are rejected for being who we are that it will be the last.  We become someone else more pleasing, less pleasing, or altogether absent.  One way or another, we hide.

Little wonder!  It is a fearful thing to be vulnerable; exposed; honest about who we really are.  Rejection often gives way to isolation, anonymity, and a general superficiality with everyone all the time.

This is a problem for everyone, but it is particularly a problem for deep, analytical thinkers.  We need our schematics to connect.  Our world is very complex.  Superficiality has no place.  Our circuits must close and open properly, lest we get shocked, start a fire, or stay in the dark alone.

What we often fail to realize is that rest in Daddy’s arms is the only place true peace is found.  Even if it all made sense; even if life’s math all worked out; even if I wasn’t afraid or anxious or hurt or lonely – the only place closure and connection could truly be found would still be lying in Daddy’s lap allowing him to know me; learning to know him.

I read a blog about an old study about scientifically trying to make people fall in love recently printed in the New York Times.  (Apparently it doesn’t work for people who are already in love.  My husband and I tried it and ended up arguing.)  Anyway, the writer did get one thing right.  She said, “…the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.” ~Mandy Len Carton

Only my heavenly father can give me the confidence it takes to get my borrowed shoes on and throw the balls I can barely lift down life’s alley.  Because at the end of the day, that’s all our time and space in this world is – borrowed.  The things that belong to us are better.

My dad was electrical engineer.  Maybe that’s why I’m often a resistor in this circuit we call life.  I believe it’s who my heavenly father made me, though.  Without resistors, current won’t flow.  It’s not about who does or doesn’t like resistors or what we have to say.  It’s about the grand schematic and the glory to come with it.

Regardless of who he has created us to be or what our vices or voices are, the solution is always found resting in our father’s arms.  When we do so, his name is hallowed.

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Daughter Up

daddy

He has me in a headlock.  Not an I’m-about-to-kill-you chokehold.  It’s more like an I-just-beat-you-at-freeze-tag-and-now-I’m-gonna-drag-you-by-the-head-before-giving-you-a-dutch-rub headlock.  Yes, it’s an I’m-about-to-tackle-you-and-tickle-you-unless-you-say-uncle-and-tell-everyone-who’s-boss.  It’s that moment right after a knock-down, drag-out play-boxing fight where I either tap out or I’m toast.  My white flag is waving and my release is downright dependant upon Daddy’s mercy.

Take note, family members.  If you are related, rest assured that your turn is coming, too.  Daddy plays rough inside this house.  It’s a rite of passage around here.

Sometimes I don’t want to play, though.  I’m just a little girl, after all.  Dutch rubs mess up my hair and too much tickling makes me tinkle.  Play boxing leaves real bruises and the white flag finds me flat on my face eating the humble pie.  Playing with Daddy is fun, but it is outrageously fierce.

Sometimes he has to drag me head first ’cause that’s the only way I’m goin’ with him.  Sometimes I’d rather just sit in the dark with my fisted hands over my as-tight-as-I-can-shut-them eyes wrapped in my homemade fig leaf jammies.

Daddy doesn’t leave, though.  He will not.

Perhaps the most profound miracle of all is that, after all I’ve done to shut out the light, quit the game, and pretend he isn’t there, I can still see him.  I can still see him.  He stands waiting like a father in front of the imaginary monster magnetized closet door waiting for his fear-filled, wet behind the ears whippersnapper to fall asleep.

With crossed arms and pouty lips she pretends to want him to leave when she most desperately needs him to stay.  He will not leave until she trusts him enough to rest.  Peace.  He waits for her.  Patience.  Father may be as fierce as he is wild, but he is also insanely patient.  When she finally lets go, he lets go.  He releases her from his humble-making headlock and he holds onto to her hand instead.  She is finally free.  Despite all her fear, he names her “Valiant.”

I hear her voice in my children.

“Let’s play ‘Joker’ Daddy!”

He turns out the lights and attacks.  Laughing…then crying.  “I hurt, Daddy.”

He scoops her up and wraps her in his arms apologetically.  He knows her wholly.  She trusts him fully.  At the end of the day, he stands in front of the scary door and he makes her secure.
She falls asleep again.

In my Father’s house, he often plays rough.  If you come in, do not close your eyes.  Uncross your arms.  Unhand your fear and expect to learn how to trust Him alone.  You will be attacked.  You will be bruised, branded, and abased.  But you can bet the bad guys that you will be better.  You will be broken.  These are the effects of being loved.

Daughter up.

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