Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why did the chicken cross the road?

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"  the long-established riddle asks.  And amid the elaboration of creative answers, the original stands firm, that which states the obvious, "To get to the other side."

This past week, we explored yet another public playground with two of our grandchildren.  On such a hot and sunny day, an enormous tree held out its arms as a welcome refuge, shading most of the space, a prevailing breeze swirled around us, and the children ran up and down through the wooded structure, designed like a fort.

At one point, our four-year-old grandson, not more than ten feet away from us, stood on a strong beam a mere foot above the ground.  The beam was designed as a bridge of sorts, leading from one part of the structure to another, the literal way and means "to get to the other side."

With one hand on the support post, he took a few steps.  When he had to let go, he realized his vulnerability.  He was on his own.  There was nothing to hold onto.  He looked at us, not for direction, but for deliverance.

"Take one step, buddy."  And he did.  "And now, another step."  Which he also did.  He was making his way across.  One step.  And then, another.  The steps became smaller, until a single step began the smallest of shuffles.  At that point, instead of keeping his eyes on the beam or looking to us for direction, he looked down.  Big mistake.  That short hop to the ground appeared as an abyss to him.

Instead of taking another step -- which would have been the easier thing to do -- he balanced himself, bent his knees and reached down to grip the beam with his hands.  He crawled  the rest of the way.  And that was ok too.  He made it.  Steps, shuffling, and crawling, but he made it to the other side.

Oh baby, I thought, learn to trust God when you are only twelve inches off the ground and when you can see the other side five feet away.  Because not if, but someday, your lifeline will be trusting God across a literal tightrope when the outcome is not so obvious.  Someday you will be a long way up on a slender thread into unknown territory and that seems to go on forever.

Trust God on your beam in the playground.  Trust God with this.  This experience is not an end in itself, but a chronicle of His faithfulness to you... and exactly what you are going to need in your skill set in the years to come.

No matter the impossible difficulty ahead of you today, look to Jesus.  Eyes on Him, staying faithfully on His path for you, even the hard stuff, even that which may make no sense to you at all.  That's what trust is made of.  It may appear to look like devastation, but that is when His power and His grace break through. Take one step, no matter how tiny it may seem.

The first step of a long obedience in the same direction
       is simply that:
                  a first step.
God is faithful.  He will direct your path.

A couple of years ago, we were faced with some huge changes.  What do we do?  It was as if God whispered to us, "Take the one step in front of you."  And then when we did, "Do you trust me with the next?"  We were quite literally inching through the dark.  And even shuffling counts.

When we trust Him, it is not for our glory "Look at me!!!  I did it."  But for His glory,"Look at Me."  Because that is exactly how we get to the other side.

It is not necessarily that God takes us to another place.  The other side may just be a deeper intimacy with him. God enlarges our vision that we may see differently right where we are.

You gave a wide place
             for my steps under me,
and my feet have not slipped.

                         Psalm 18. 36

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not the same person

It is a story about transformation.  It is a story about new affection and new direction.  It is simply a new story for two people who desired change and who changed their desires.  For all intents and purposes, most people would say that they are not the same people, and yet, they have become even more of who they really are.

They haven't lost anything, but have gained new life.  The pictures say it all.  You can read this story of change here.

The transformation is obvious.  But it made me think about other, even more profound, changes in lives, changes in desire, changes in the trajectory of so many lives.

Lee Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, was an atheist who sought to prove God wrong.  In the end of his investigation, God changed the course of his life.  His journey is documented in Strobel's book The Case for Christ, which was recently chronicled in a movie.

But what still brings tears to my eyes are a couple of paragraphs, hidden in the last few pages in his book.  As he continued his spiritual journey, now with Christ, his life began to change before his eyes.

Strobel wrote:  "Maybe that sounds mystical to you;  I don't know.  Not so long ago it would have to me. But it's very real to me now and to those around me.  In fact, so radical was the difference in my life that a few months after I became a follower of Jesus, our five-year-old daughter Alison went up to my wife and said, "Mommy, I want God to do for me what He's done for Daddy."
    "Here was a little girl who had only known a father who was profane, angry, verbally harsh, and all too often absent.  And even though she never interviewed a scholar, never analyzed the data, never investigated historical evidence, she had seen up close the influence that Jesus can have on a person's life.  In effect, she was saying, "If this is what God does to a human being, that's what I want for me."
     "Looking back nearly two decades, I can see with clarity that the day I personally made a decision in the case for Christ was nothing less than the pivotal event in my entire life."

Nothing will ever be the same.
That would be your heart.
That would be your life.

The world says you are stuck
    and that you can never really change.
But God says to the contrary,
    God shows to the contrary.
God specializes in changed lives.

if any one is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has passed away,
behold, the new has come.

                2 Corinthians 5. 17

Sunday, May 14, 2017

All the grand blunders of being a mom

All the great blunders I have made as a mom through the years,
the enormous shortcomings,
the large selection of "what was I thinking?"
the "I was not going to make that mistake again,"
the regrets,
the "I should have's"
     and what I did instead,
the D minus days,
an insensitive heart
        and that would be all mine,
the "I had no idea,"
my myopic vision,
the nonreturnable words
     -- final sale, no exchanges--
my downright sins,
the justifiable selfishness
     which is never justifiable,
all these blunders,
          gaping potholes of my own making,
      are just a reminder
that God is God
            and I am not.

I need God.
He is faithful,
    even when I am not.
O LORD, have mercy.
And when I offer up to Him my life
       -- even my mom guilt--
God redeems.

Even that.
Even now.

And as God's Word says 62 times 
           in the book of Ezekiel:

"...and you shall know
          that I am the LORD."

I cannot rewind the past,
but I don't have to dwell
      in the miry bog of deep regrets.
I can repent.
And God can redeem.

I can't do anything about the past,
    but God gives me today.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Love you Mom

Every year in mid-May, I would stand in front of the racks of Mother's Day cards, pulling out one card and then another, none appearing to be a good fit.  My mom was a different kind of mom -- even more so than I could realize at the time.  I just wanted a card to say, "I love you, mom."

Last week, I stood in the store, buying a card for my precious mother-in-law as well as our two oldest daughters who are both now incredible moms-of-four.

As we checked out, my husband looked at me and said, "What's the matter?  Did we need anything else?"

"I wanted to get a card for my mom too," I replied.  He nodded and gave me a hug.  "I can understand that," he said.  She has been gone for twelve long years in the redeeming place on the other side of life.  I rejoice because someday, I will see her again.  I do not grieve as one who has no hope (1 Thessalonians 4. 13), but I still miss her.

What I wouldn't give to have a cup of coffee with her, to catch up, to listen a little deeper than I ever did before.

What I wouldn't give to be able get her a card for Mother's Day to let her know how much I love her, how much I still love her, how much I always will. 

The ten commandments really boil down to only two:  love God and love people.  The first five commandments address our relationship with God.  The second five are headlined by our relationship with our parents.

Honor your father and your mother,
that your days may be long in the land
which the LORD your God gives you.

                           Exodus 20. 12

What if we really took God up on that promise?

Because how I treat my mom
                           sets the pace.
How I speak of her even now that she is gone,
      those indelible marks of grace and forgiveness
              impact everyone around me
              and even the children yet unborn.

Honoring one's mom
has nothing to do
with her performance as a mom,
                       but grace.
My relationship with my mom
is Exhibit #1 of God's redeeming.
It is what love looks like
        in ordinary ways
        on the most ordinary days.

Mother's Day is designed not to remind your mom
                that you love her,
but to remind you.
The rest of the year is designed
                            to show her how much.

And even deeper than a mother's love is this:
      the LORD loves you even more.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion
               on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
              yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have graven you
   on the palms of my hands...

                             Isaiah 49. 15-16

We may not all be moms,
        but we all have one.
   If yours is still available,
                         call her for me.
Make her day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pack your bags

My husband is an avid cyclist.  Even as I write this blog, he is watching on his computer the famed Giro d'Italia bike race, today in its seventh stage.

As the British journalist reported on the event today, the words served more than a description of the riders, but spoke to my own heart.  These cyclists are pushing themselves to the limit in a race.  And we, each and every one of us, struggle with something, sometimes an entree that changes by the day.

"84 km to go and the break are starting to dig deep into their suitcases of courage.  I hope they brought more than just carry-ons.  They'll need the full allowance of 20 kg per person.  And then, of course, you have to pay extra if you bring too much courage and go over the said limit.  "Did you pack this courage yourself, sir?"

Digging deep into their suitcases of courage. I love that.  Because that is exactly what it feels like in a race when you don't feel like you can go another step.

What have I packed? 

What have I been training for?  Life itself.

The cycling news resonated with Psalm 108 that I read earlier this morning:

With God we shall do valiantly;
it is He who will tread down our foes.

                       Psalm 108. 13

God does not promise that we will win,
                       but that He is with us.
The outcome itself
    may not be the triumph,
success may not be the point at all,
but His strength in the journey there.

Dig deep into His strength, my friend.

John Wayne once said, "Courage is being afraid,
and saddling up anyway."

God says, "Don't be afraid.  Trust Me."