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 ……..you 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.