Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How to train your dragon Part 1

How to train my dragon:  Identity

  Recently I have started an on-going dialog that sounds very schizophrenic in nature but truly is just a healthy dose of brain-storming (or so we tell myself) about how to train my dragons, a.k.a, my loving children.  With all of the child-focused parenting books coming out in both Christian and secular literature, I find myself wanting to hide away in my reclusive mind that screams, “What was so wrong with the 50’s?  They seemed to raise children pretty well….right?”  They didn’t wear helmets, and didn’t have car-seat wars, bottle competitions, sleeping routine relay races, formula v. breast feeding wrestling matches (may the breast one win), or spend hours a day deciding how to discipline and whether spanking would permanently damage their child’s deep inner spirit.  I mean, if you ran away when you were a child, wait for it…..wait for it……they DIDN’T come to find you!

  The mothers of old were wise enough to watch their eight-year-olds pack up luggage for life and walk out the door in an angry huff.  Then they calmly turned around and started making dinner.   These mothers knew in their infinite wisdom that dinner would call the child home like a pied piper.  Herein lies the crux of the matter (the one that can either keep you up at night biting your fingernails down to the bone or just scare you into a complete frozen state of paralysis): They raised children well……but those children still ended up running around buck naked and painting their faces with flowers and whatnots all for the sake of “love and peace.”  Fruitcakes. They raised a bunch of fruitcakes.  Great, so what went wrong?  How am I supposed to train my dragon? 

The first hurdle I want to tackle, because I believe it affects several areas in the training arena for our little dragons, is the over-emphasis and the over-indulgence our society has placed on Identity.  Identity has become an altar of worship in our culture which we build to our own little peanut-butter covered, juice-cup flinging in the minivan, tantrum throwing, loving little children.  We should build them up based on truth.  We should as parents instill a sense of healthy pride in our children.  They are wonderfully and miraculously made.  They are image bearers to the most High God!  They are  amazing gifts and amazing creations who have been created to serve the Lord with their whole hearts.  This is truth, but we seem to start with this truth and then push it so far that it becomes a self-serving lie, just like most everything in our culture.  Want a little bit of butter on your pancake?  Yes?  But wouldn’t the entire stick be even better?  Yes?  Need a new pair of shoes?  Yes?  But wouldn’t the entire fall catalog be even better?  Yes?  Need a new bumper on your car?  How about a whole new car, or a new kitchen or a new bathroom or a new face because the old one is all road-kill looking from raising your little dragons?  We start with truth and then we keep on pushing and giving and slathering and dunking and pouring it on until we have created self-serving, egocentric, demanding, ungracious little dragons who eat their young (just watch one episode of MTV Teen Mom) and believe social manners are outdated (again, have you seen the food court at the mall?). 

How do we combat this type of parenting?  How do we raise a family unit instead of focusing so much on individual children?  How do we raise servants instead of masters when we are living in a master-focused culture?  This morning I am focusing on Mark 10: 43-44.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

I think it starts with a good foundational question that we must allow to ruminate in our minds until it saturates our spirits.  How do I raise a Christ-like servant who is willing to serve at the Lord’s table all of his life?  Maybe we start here.  Maybe we teach our children to bow to the King before they stand up for themselves.  Maybe we teach them to serve with their talents before we build an altar to their talents.  Maybe we teach them that to sacrifice everything is better than to gain the whole world?  Maybe if we train our little dragons to be children of God first, then the other things will fall where they should……right into the hands of their Creator.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When the world says The.End.

The End.  It feels so final, so over, so done.  When the story concludes and the lights come on and we are left trying to collect our trash and move sluggishly towards the exit signs.  A story, a life’s work, a life’s journey or a day’s hike all wrapped up in a nice two- hour package and then presented with a bow of lights, camera, action on top to make it legit.  Two hours of entertainment and a good ending.   Maybe it is this concept of quick endings that has crept into our gauge of normalcy that has affected our view of the long road, or to be more specific, life’s journey. 

Recently, I was enjoying a great glass of wine and discussing those things in life that really matter with a person that really matters all while sitting where we could see the sun go down through tall, glass windows in beautiful Georgia.  We both shared similar stories of friends, loved ones, who had known the truth of God and then decided to somehow……walk away.  Walk. Away.  Turn completely around and declare what once was truth is no longer, what once was living water had dried up and become nothing but dust and wind.  It is a hard thing to see.  To watch as one stands in the rain where abundance flows and then turn to see the dry, arid, death of the desert and choose to walk there instead.  Because it seems more real?  Because it seems more practical to be thirsty and dry and surrounded by the buzzards of a cruel, hard world that circle you until death?  Because the truth of the hard desert, of the lonely road must be more true than the peace of God? 

I have watched this happen.  I have watched a man who loved the Lord, a man who moved the earth with prayer and song, a man with purpose and calling, starve at a table full of food because he put down his fork and knife and started to question if the food in front of him was real without eating another bite.  He sat at the table of the Lord, ate and was full, learned and changed, was healed and cleansed, and yet he still pushed his chair back after many years and walked. away. 

This is not an unexplained phenomenon to the Lord.  It is no surprise, no loop hole in the plan.  Jesus knew what fickle creatures we are.  Over and over he warned us to protect the heart, to abide in Him, to stay connected to the vine so that we do not wither and die. 

Here is where the two-hour movie approach to theology causes a problem.  Many will want to lament that my dear friend’s time at the table of the Lord was not effective enough, or didn’t really change him, or was just a season in his life but not transformation.  That his walk with the Lord is over.  I do not see this in the word.  Stories are so much longer in the Lord, so much broader and deeper than a simple two-hour movie.  Look at Israel, the prodigal son, and Moses.

Moses was born into God’s chosen people.  Born for purpose and calling, to rescue and set free.  He was born a child of God, raised in a stranger’s house with shadows and lies as gods and seemingly separated from the Lord.  He murdered a man and fled to the desert for 40 years.  In movie terms, that looks like the end of the story.  Manis  born, man grows up rich and pampered, man murders another man and runs away never to be seen again.  The. End. 

But God is not a respecter of our movie theology.  The. End. does not define him or hold him captive.  The.End. is an opportunity for the Lord to start working, to start reviving life and to break through the rules of this earth to bring what was dead to life again.  When Jesus died on the cross, many thought that was THE END.  It was actually the opposite.  It was the beginning. Where the world says it’s the end, the Lord is just beginning. 

It is not the end of the story, just because your child, your friend, your husband chooses to walk away from abundance and truth and into the desert of disbelief.  Do not believe it.  Do not claim it as truth.  Hold fast that the Lord is faithful to complete what He has begun.  He has not turned the lights on and started rolling the credits just because it seems hopeless and final to you.  That is when so often the Lord starts us on the journey to Him.   He begins the true story when the world says the story is over. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two wombs One Purpose

“ Will you read the Bible while we eat?”  Mattox turned to the bag that sits by our kitchen table full of journals, bibles, and great books that I cannot part with to take all the way to the bookshelf.  With forks in hand, we started reading the story of Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a man of the cloth, you might say, a learned man who spent his life studying the law of God.  He had heard about Jesus, the man who performed miracles and he was curious to talk with him.  So, in the dark of night he slipped through the streets of Jerusalem to find Jesus.

Jesus tells him that he must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 
“What?  How can we be born again?”  Mattox scrunched up her nose and held her corn on the cob sideways to get a better view of the picture in the story.  “That is exactly what Nicodemus asked.” 

I explained the words of Jesus, rolling them around in my head while I broke it down for my six year old.  Born again, a spiritual concept, life from two wombs: a physical one and a spiritual one.  Born again: a requirement for peace, an invitation for eternal life.  

Nicodemus and Mattox wanted to know how they were supposed to crawl back into their mother’s womb to start life again.  How can we go backwards? How can we start fresh? how can we forget the life that we have lived and the mistakes that we have made.  How can we forget and start again?  How can we change that much? It seems too hard, an impossibility, to start again. 

I have a dear friend who is struggling with this now.  Too many mistakes have been made in life, hurt has changed her reality, and shaped her future.  Life has been hard at times, and left her feeling less than worthy to claim its goodness.  How is she supposed to forgive herself and forget?  How is she supposed to live this new life that Jesus is explaining?  How can she crawl back into her mother’s womb and start over? 

It seems impossible, like the Mount Everest of spiritual concepts.  It seems like that, until you start climbing.  One hand in front of the other, one foot planted solidly until the other one can find its place. 

Jesus was not giving an impossibility to a man in the middle of the night.  He was giving him hope, peace and a way out of the brokenness of this life.  He was offering him goodness that saves and restores.   To be born again.  To start fresh, to know peace for the first time in his life, to find that the hard of life, no longer consumes but stretches and causes growth, to experience a depth of understanding and love that no man alone is capable of doing, to find his purpose and to know the God of the universe. 

To be born again.  To start fresh.  To surrender and be called worthy of everlasting peace. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Lord is Willing....Are You?

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”  And Jesus  stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.  Luke 5:12-13.

The Lord is willing, but are you?

I have always been moved by the story in Luke that tells of the leper and Jesus.  This is the story where the leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can heal me, and you can make me clean.”  Jesus looks at this man, broken and hurting, and reaches out his hand of healing and says, “I am wiling, be healed.”  The man is immediately healed. 

Why did he ask Jesus if he was willing?  Why did he wonder if Jesus would be willing to heal him?  Leprosy was not a just a physical disease to the Jews; it was a physical representation of the spiritual self.  Through-out the Bible leprosy was very significant, because it symbolized the death of sin.  It was an outer picture of what sin looked like on the inside to the spirit. 

So this man would have been an out-cast from society, broken emotionally as well as physically.  In this way he comes to Jesus, utterly broken.  I believe he asked Jesus the very question that he should have been asking himself.  Jesus sees this and answers.  Yes.  Yes I am willing. 

The Lord’s answer will always be the same.  Will you heal me Lord?  Are you willing?  Yes is always the Lord’s answer.  He wants us to be complete, to be whole, to be completely whole through Him.  The question is really to us.  The man asked Jesus, “Are you willing to heal me?” but really Jesus is asking the man, “Are You willing to be healed?”   

I see this over and over in life.  Sometimes I see it in the mirror, sometimes I hear it on the phone with a close friend, sometimes I watch it over a cup of coffee with a sister.  We come to the Lord, asking for healing, asking to live whole, to live complete, but what we really want is to stay right where we are.  The Lord is willing;  it is we who are not.  We are not willing to walk upright, to use both legs, to follow the plan that we have been created for, so we stay lepers.  We stay broken, diseased, hurting and shunned.  Why?  Because healing can hurt, healing can be hard, healing can be an uphill battle and healing can be a walk into the unknown. 

We allow our affliction to become a lover that takes all and gives nothing but pain in return.  Victim becomes a more than a title.  It becomes a name we graft our identities to.  As victims, we do not have to face the hard questions, and we do not have to wash ourselves with cleansing truth.  We know no other way, so we stay broken, we stay lepers because it is easier to stay the same. 

 We complain, and hurt others, and rage against the wind, and cry out to the Lord for healing, for a better way, but we refuse the healing.  Jesus is always standing in front of us with His hand of healing outstretched, ready to touch and ready to heal.    We stand ever in front of him asking, begging, mocking him for healing, but never touching his hand.  So, We. Stay. Lepers.  His answer?  His answer is Yes, He is willing, but my question is, Are you willing to be healed?

Monday, May 13, 2013

I peed my pants in College...didnt you?

I peed my pants in college.  Yep, I’m that cool.  As a sophomore at the University of South Alabama, I decided to go on a water diet.  It was a simple plan.  Super smart plan.  This is how it went.  You drink water.  Lots and lots of water.  When you think you are going to combust all over your music theory class, you are close to achieving the highest level of greatness with this water diet, so you simply drink more water.  And I thought it was brilliant.  That is all.  True Story. 

So one day I am downing unnatural amounts of water during my music theory class.  I look like I am doing my own sort of weirdo Chinese water torture and others are starting to notice.  I smile and tell them how I am on this super smart water diet.  I am brilliant (Did I already say that?).  If you are right now imagining all the crazies running around telling you that they eat just like the cave men during the Paleolithic period, claiming that people who never got over four feet tall and probably had no teeth past the age of ten and died by the age of twenty-five had the best nutrients …… are doing a great job at imagining my kind of crazy.    

Class dismisses and I pick up my over-sized water jug and my purse and start out the door.  I have to make it across several fields to my statistics class in ten minutes.  I am wearing my normal uniform.  Sophie shorts, a Chi-Omega t-shirt, brown rainbow flip-flops and nothing more.  So I start to run . . .walk . . .run . . .as fast as I can because I have been late to stats more times than I can count.  Half-way across the first field it hits me.  Not like a little message that is whispered to my brain.  My bladder screams in its most angry dragon voice, “I HAVE TO PEE NOWWWWWWWWWW!”    I panic.  There is no where to go.  Literally.  There is no where “TO GO.” 

So I spot the nearest building.  The administration building where the Dean of Students and the President of the University hang out.  I make a mad dash in my flip-flops for the front door.  I make it in the building and I am running up the stairs to find the women’s bathroom that is for some reason NOT on the first floor where it would TOTALLY make sense for it to be. No,no, it is on the third floor.  As I am running up the stairs, someone up above slams the hallway door and it scares me.  I don’t think you get it.  IT. SCARES. ME.  I jump and it all comes running down my leg.  I stand frozen as the waterfall flows down the stairs.  There is no going back.

 So I sit.  I sit down on those cold, lonely stairs and contemplate the fact that my Sophie shorts are now so wet they are sticking to my thighs.  And then it hits me. “What does one do when one is eighteen and pees her pants in public?”  I reassure myself that I am not truly “in public.”  That would mean someone was around.  I peed my pants by myself. I feel much better about that.  Just when I am feeling better by my li’l pep-talk, the door opens and down comes a group of students.  They see me.  They see the water still dripping down the steps and their lips curl up and they can’t stop staring.  They really were overly nosey and should have controlled their surprised faces.  Come on people, it’s just a little pee…on the stairs….of a public building……in college……  The moment of silence could not go on any longer and they were clearly rude enough not to talk first, so I smiled and said in my most classy voice, “Yep, I just wet my pants.”  They could see that, and they were a little grossed out, but it happens.  “Yes, this happens…all the time…well not with me…but with others…I mean…..”  I had nothing more to say to them. 

After a while I decided I was not going to make it to statistics.  Another miss.  So I made my way to the girls’ bathroom where I dried my shorts on with the hand-dryer until I could sneak out unnoticed.  I got into my car and drove home.  No more class for that day.

That night I picked up Jeremy Gibbs for a date.  He would later become my husband, and I’m pretty sure it was this date that sealed the deal.  You see, when he got into the car, he kept crinkling his nose up.  He finally looked at me and said, “It smells funny in here.”  I laughed and threw back my beautiful hair and with tons of southern belle charm I said, “Oh don’t worry about that honey.  I peed my pants today and got in my car with wet pants….that’s the smell.”  I smiled my million-dollar smile at him.  Then he knew it was true love. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Growing a Zacchaeus Tree

Growing a Zacchaeus Tree

“And he was seeking to see who Jesus was….” Luke 19:3

We have become gardeners.  Nothing special, we just have red gloves with green turtles on them, a spade, and a little rake.  Every morning we go to the back yard and water our garden.  We must wear our gloves, because that makes it official garden business.  Eight feet stand around the raised garden while eight hands dig, pull weeds (sometimes two of those little baby hands pull up my cucumbers. . . arrrrrrrgggghhhh….), and water.  We talk about the day, talk about what we are going to cook with our vegetables, talk about who loves red pa-ta-toes (tomatoes) and who loves squishy squash.  Then, when we feel like we have covered all of the official gardening duties for the day, we take our gloves off and stand in a circle beside the garden.  After deciding who will go first and who will go last, we bow our heads and pray.  This is the best part of being gardeners.  I stand and watch as their little faces pray with the morning sun beaming on their cheeks.  They ask Jesus to grow their garden deep and BIG!  They ask for big red pa-ta-toes and for seeds that will grow.  They giggle and squirm and swing from side to side as they pray like they are playing red rover.  I pray, too. I pray while I watch their little lives grow in faith. 

We started the garden to have vegetables, but it has become so much more.  It has become a very tangible way for my children to see the Lord’s work.  They are watching as seeds are planted in good soil and grow into seedlings that eventually produce the food (fruit) for which they were created.. 

I also watch my very own garden grow.  These children that were brought forth from good soil are being watered with the word of God each morning at our kitchen table, fertilized with the Holy Spirit during each prayer time, stretched by faith and understanding, and raised to produce the fruit for which they were each created in the Kingdom of God.  I pray that the Lord will water them, stretch them, shine upon them, and prepare them to be worthy of the calling. 

Yesterday we stood at our garden, holding hands and smiling at a job well done.  Mattox turned to me and said, “We are growing a Zacchaeus tree!”  I laughed and asked her why she thought that.  “Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he couldn’t, so the tree helped him.  He climbed it and it helped him see Jesus.  That’s our garden. It’s helping us to see Jesus just like the Zacchaeus tree!”  I held her hand a little tighter and smiled big.  Yes, we are growing a Zacchaues tree, and it is helping us to see Jesus. 

Mommies, remember that everything we do should be pointing those little feet to the path that will lead them to Jesus.  Grow a Zacchaeus tree every day in every way for your children.  Plant the seed early, grow deep roots, and pray that the Lord will make it grow reaaaaalllllly BIG and Strong! 

“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he (Zacchaeus) is also a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to SAVE the lost.”  Luke 19:9.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Riding with a Soldier

A little over a year ago I was traveling from Germany (home), to Alabama (Mimi’s house), with my circus children to visit my family.  After a 5:30 wake-up call, hours standing in line holding my 2.5-year-old on my right hip while holding the hand of my 6-year-old, an 11-hour fun-filled trip of pull-ups, spilled drinks, Disney movies, color crayons, lost sippy cups, pull-up nightmares, plane-toilet drama, and tears of “joy,” we finally landed in Atlanta, Georgia.  We all sighed a deep breath of relief when we made our connection flight to Pensacola, FL.  LAST LEG OF THE TRIP!  Can I get an Amen and Hallelujah? 

We got on the plane and started to get settled.  At this point of the trip, I have stopped making eye contact with any other humans in my vicinity besides the ones who came from my loins.  People, we have been traveling for hours at this point and it is close to like 2 a.m. for us who are still on Germany time and we look and smell like road kill.  So we get the DVD player out, the blankies, the toys, the kitchen sink. . .(you get the picture) and try to love each other through one more flight.  After the flight attendant explains the emergency exits and I day dream about us all sliding down the big yellow slide that comes out of the side of the plane, the pilot comes on the speakers with a special announcement. 
“We are honored to be riding with SGT ______, on his final journey home to Pensacola from Afghanistan.”

Mattox immediately pipes up, “Afghanistan!??  That is where my daddy lived!  He was there a loooonnnggg time!”  I reassure her that yes, it is the same place and we talk about the amazing memory of the day Jeremy came to us after his final journey home from Afghanistan.  There is nothing like that moment.  The moment you have dreamed about, prayed for, played out in your mind a million different times over an entire year of separation, that moment when you are at last together again.  I remember well making signs to hold up for him to read.  Mattox was about 3.5 years old and she drew a family portrait for Daddy.  We looked like hotdogs with worms growing out of our heads, but it was priceless because it showed us holding hands with Jeremy.  We hadn’t held those hands in so long………..just the drawing made me tear up.  And we waited in this hot gym’ we waited and waited for him to come marching in.  “They” tell you to come at a certain time, but “they” are never sure what time that C17 will actually come rolling down the tarmac.  But then it happens. People start to stir, excitement rolls through the air and people start to straighten their clothes and their hair……THEY are coming!  Our boys are home! 

He came in first, calling the soldiers to attention and standing with pride and exhaustion ten feet in front of me.  Jeremy was in front of me, standing at attention.  The soldiers try so hard to keep their faces still and stoic, but they can hear their babies calling, “DADDYYYYYY” and you see their resolve break.  Some have tears coming down their cheeks. Some are smiling. Some are biting the insides of their cheeks. Some are staring at their newborn babies whom they have yet to hold.  Then the Colonel says they are released and the sea of people engulfs the heroes.  

That memory is playing through my head while we fly across the sky to Pensacola that day.  It was a short flight, only 45 minutes and then the landing gear was coming down.  As we landed, the pilot made one more announcement.  The plane came to a stop and he said,

 “Please allow us to let SGT ______, off the plane first.  His family has waited for their soldier to come home.  Please remain seated until he is safely off the plane.” 

And then,  No. One. Moved.  No soldier stood up.  No man in green came forward.  No. One. Moved.  The kids were looking back and forth to see the guy who dressed like daddy.  But no one moved.  I was sitting by the window during this flight and I noticed a commotion by the side of the plane.  That’s when I saw him.  The brown box with an American Flag draped over it.  It was slowly but surely exiting the plane first.  I saw as a woman come from the shadows of the building and draped her body across the casket.  I saw her lie on that flag and embrace her soldier and my heart stopped.  The soldiers stood around the casket at attention as she lay with her soldier.  No one asked her to hurry up or to move; no one ushered her to the side or spoke to her.  The soldiers stood beside her, at attention, waiting and watching over her. 

“Mommy, where’s the soldier?  Where is he?”  Mattox and Bubba snapped me back from the deep grief and pain striking my heart.  I look at her, my six-year-old little girl, and pointed out the window while tears streamed down my face and pain held onto my heart.  She looked and saw the brown box, the American Flag, the back of a woman broken over the casket, a woman dressed in black.  Is that how Daddy came home?  Did he come home in a box?”  No words.  Just a broken moment that stood still between her little face of pure curiosity and me.  No, Daddy gave a year of his life, he worked hard and sacrificed much, but this soldier gave it all.  He sacrificed everything for our freedom.  So now we can thank him, we can be quiet and think about how much he gave for us, for all of us.” 

Slowly I gathered our bags, I hugged my children tight, and I took one more glance out the window to a sister I will never meet. A woman who has slept alone and cried alone, who has fed her children meal after meal praying for her soldier to come home soon, who has lost herself to that song on the radio that reminds her of him, who has sat at the red light praying for his safety even when it turns green, who has dreamt of him coming home, and lived for the calendar to pass by.  A woman who knows my life as a military wife, who has waited anxiously by the phone for the calls to hear his voice, and the dreaded call she hoped to never receive.  I will not forget her, dressed in black, lying on her soldier, crying onto the American Flag and I hope my daughter will not either.  She is a part of us; she is a part of this life that we live.  This Army of One.  We, the wives, husbands, and children that make up this military life, we are one.  We are the families of soldiers. We are the strong, the proud and the brave…..serving from home until our soldiers come home to us at night.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Picture to Drown In

But when he saw the wind…….he began to sink
Matthew 14:30

A Picture to Drown IN?

Recently, I read the story of Charles Templeton.  Templeton was a close companion and teaching partner with Billy Graham in the 1940s.  He was even thought by some to have the potential to eclipse Graham as an evangelist (The Case for Faith pg 8).  After a night of hard drinking, Templeton found himself answering a call from his Savior on his knees in his hotel room.  Up all night and exhausted, he found peace in Christ.  A few fishermen once had a very similar early morning experience when they had been up all night fishing and heard the call of their Savior.  Like Peter James and John, Templeton was called to more than simply living life for himself.   He was called to bring others into the peace of Christ. Templeton quit the newspaper where he worked as a sports journalist and started a church which quickly had more than 1,200 seats filled each Sunday.  God was working powerfully through Templeton.  He was a pastor of a huge church in Toronto, Canada, where he hosted a Christian TV show on CBS once a week, and was traveling with Billy Graham on crusades across England, Scotland, and Europe.  But then, in the midst of the boat ride, Templeton saw the wind, and he began to sink.

In the book of Matthew we read the story of Peter walking on water towards Jesus.  The disciples are in the boat trying to cross the Sea of Galilee to get to where Jesus has instructed them to go.  On the fourth watch of the night, somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m, he disciples see a ghost walking towards their boat.  They are terrified until they realize it’s Jesus walking on water towards their boat.  I imagine they are then rubbing their eyes and afraid in a new sense of awe.  Jesus immediately gives them peace, saying, “Take heart, It’s me.  Don’t be afraid.”  Peter, asks a bold question.  “If it is really you, tell me to come to you and let me walk on water with you.” Peter steps out of that boat slowly, but surely.  He keeps his eyes on Jesus as his feet defy all of his rational thought, and walks firmly on water.  The Bible says that Peter came to Jesus, but then something happens that changes everything.  He sees the wind. 

Peter has walked on water, he has WALKED on water, but even more than that, he has “walked on the water and has come to JESUS”.  But then, he sees the wind.   Everything that has just happened is blown from his mind, and consumed by the wind. The wind, a natural force of the world that he has known his entire life, that he has felt with his hands, that has blown his fishing boat through the waters, that has ruffled his hair and refreshed his skin on a hot day.  The wind, which is what his world would call reality, comes crashing in and awakes his rational thought again.  We can almost hear how his mind might work, when he feels the wind and remembers a reality of nature, “I can’t walk on water.   This is impossible…….all of my life I have known you cannot  walk on water….what am I doing…why did I believe that I could walk on water?”   Once he saw the wind, he began to sink.  

Charles Templeton also saw the wind.  The Lord was doing mighty things through Templeton.  Templeton was on the spiritual Sea of Galilee and the Lord had called him out to walk with him, to come with him and defy the rational thought of the world.  He said that one day he was looking in Time Magazine and saw a picture of an African woman holding her dead baby in her hands.  The baby died because of a terrible drought that was causing massive famine in Africa.  Templeton said he looked at that picture and he thought, “Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?” (The Case for Faith)  That  picture was his wind.  Templeton started sinking. He felt the wind of doubt and never reached out for the hand of Christ to pull him back up and into the boat. 

It sounds sadly simple.  Doubt.  Doubt that blows in and changes our direction.  It distracts, destroys, and drowns us.  How did one picture drown a man?   Because the enemy knew exactly what doubt Templeton carried deep within him. 

We all carry some kind of doubt.  Recently, a friend of mine lost her young son to a brain tumor.  So many people had been praying that this child would be healed.  I had spent many mornings asking the Lord to hear our cries and heal this innocent, sweet child.  But he went to sleep four days ago, and never woke up.   I was amazed and in complete awe at his mother’s response.  On the day her sweet baby boy left this world and went to be with the Lord, Julie posted on FB,

Today was a good day, truly it was, in all ways. Sad, yes, but still good. After the fierce storm that raged yesterday, today was glorious. Though weeping and mourning may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. Come to Me, you weary ones and I will give you”

When the wind of this world was like a “fierce storm that raged,” this mother kept her eyes on Jesus and walked through the fire on water and did not sink.  I have to admit that after I read that Caleb had passed away, I thought, “Why didn’t the Lord heal him?  Do I really believe that the Lord hears our prayers?”  It was a moment of doubt.  I felt the wind and I was tempted to look at it, but the Lord is gracious and kept me steady.  He kept my eyes focused on Him. 

When Peter starts to sink, Jesus says something that breaks my heart to read.  I can hear the pain of his heart when he says, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  I don’t here a rebuke, I hear His honest pain coming from his heart.  Jesus has been with Peter, teaching him, protecting him, providing for him, strengthening him, and will soon die for him, but Peter still doesn’t trust HIM.  But what does Jesus do?  He immediately reached out his hand and took HOLD of him”.  Jesus reached out when Peter’s faith failed him, and took hold of him, until Peter was strong enough to walk on water again.    

Doubt will come into your life.  It comes into mine.  Don’t hide it; don’t bury it down inside of you.  Bring it to Christ.  Even though you feel the wind of doubt on your cheek, ruffling your hair, keep your eyes on Jesus.  He will take HOLD of you, and return you safely to the boat. 

Once Peter got to the boat, the Bible says something amazing happened.  The wind STOPPED.  Doubt does not have to drown you.  Give it to the Lord, honestly tell him of the wind you are feeling. The wind of this world, that can bear down, burn your face and make it hard to stand up straight as you walk on water.   Allow him to take hold of you and then the wind will stop.  The choice is here in these two men, either sink and ultimately drown, because the doubt consumes you like it did for Templeton.  Or like Peter, grab hold of the Savior who stands willing and waiting to pull you up from the depths of your doubts that wash over you like waves.  But be prepared for the miraculous because that is why He has called us! 

Do not drown in the doubt, but walk on the water with His truth and peace. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Trusting God with my Babies

Yesterday I had a conversation with a good friend that I completely, “got”.  She was talking about the fear of taking her oldest child to start school outside of their home.  She has been homeschooling and is really torn about continuing at home, or letting her son start school.  Once we got down to it, her fear is not what you think of when you weigh the pro’s and con’s of homeschooling vs public/private schools.  The issue at hand is trust.  Trusting that the Lord will protect her son when he is out of her hands.  Not what you thought?  Me neither.  But I sooo get this struggle.  I have my personal corner table in this struggle room. 

When I had children I started to really wrastle with the Lord (yes, Im southern so we wrastle down here) with this very question.  He kept asking me, “Do you trust me with them?”  I skirted around this issue, answered some really nice Sunday school answer and moved on.  But, as my family continued to grow and more children were added I heard the question more and more frequently, “Do you trust Me?”  I finally had to answer.  Good thing I was answering in the privacy of my very own Jesus/Julia coffee shop that we have created at my kitchen table because if I had been anywhere else I might have answered it much, much nicer.  There it was, the thing that I had kept in my heart, the truthful, ugly, yuckiness that is me. 

“No.  I don’t trust that Your good is the same as my good for my children.  I don’t trust that You will keep them from harm, from hurting, from suffering.  I don’t trust that you will not allow bad things to happen for Your ultimate will.  So, my answer is No, no, no”.

He did not throw my coffee cup at my head, or walk away with his hands up in the air muttering frustration underneath his breath, he didn’t even give a look of shock and surprise at my overly blunt and ugly answer.   He spoke these simple words. 

 “Whoever preserves his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it”.  Luke 17:33

There it was.  The answer that I had feared so much, the whole reason I did not want to have this conversation in the first place.  I feared the truth that I knew would come.  But when He showed this verse to me, in his scripture it did not bring the fear that I had anticipated, it brought peace.  Peace because the answer is so simple and yet empoweringly fierce with the reality of truth. 

He will not promise me that my children will never hurt, never suffer, never lack for food or water, never face the hard reality that this world is a broken, shell of what it was meant to be in the beginning of time.  My children will walk this hard road because we are not home yet, we are not at the end of the race, we are in the dead-heat of running with perseverance of allowing suffering to produce endurance and endurance character and character hope.  And it is in the race, that they will find life.  I cannot preserve them from this world, I cannot lay my body over them and protect them from the world (oh how I would if I could), but I can trust that losing this life, handing it over to the Lord will preserve it.  How much more do I want them to know the Lord than I want them to be just….safe.  Safe.  It no longer holds the same value it once did.  

Hannah could not keep Samuel safe, she had to trust that the Lord would raise him.  Jochebed could not protect Moses with her own two hands, Elizabeth could not protect John the Baptist from death, Mary could not hang on the cross for her son either.  Jesus had to walk it and Mary had to let him. 

We have to allow our children to walk with the Lord, and trust that He has an ultimate plan for good not to harm for our children.  If we don’t allow them to walk and fall with Him, then we are standing in the way of their relationship with the Lord. 

So I give my children back to Him, because they have always been His….I just got overly possessive.  Knowing that they will have to lose their lives in order to preserve them.