I know something you don’t know

In two days, my son will be getting four teeth pulled…and he doesn’t know it yet. We had this appointment scheduled a month ago,  but there was a miscommunication with the dentist, so we had to reschedule. The week leading up to that appointment was torturous for his anxiety-prone little mind. So, this time, we’re opting for telling him the day before, to eliminate stress…for all of us.

I feel as though I’m being a little bit dishonest by not telling him, but I know what he went through last time. I know that this is truly more comforting for him. He doesn’t need to lose sleep, work himself into a panic, or become as jumpy as a late summer grasshopper. He hasn’t asked, so I’m not lying…and I won’t lie to him if he does ask.

Our family is in a waiting season currently. Several transitions are looming in our future, and we’re not sure which ones will affect us in what ways. Being in this place of uncertainty has driven me deeper into Bible study and prayer, for which I am thankful. I am confident that my faith has deepened in this time.

That said, having this ‘omniscient’ perspective on Brady’s upcoming surgery has given me a new understanding of God’s timing. He doesn’t reveal his upcoming plans to us completely to protect us from overreacting, overthinking, or overdoing.

Though He was leading them out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites balked when they saw the plan God had involved the Red Sea…and they wanted to return to Egypt. (Exodus 14)

While Moses was on the mountain, receiving guidelines from God Almighty about living in peaceful community, the awaiting Israelites grew impatient…and built a fake god to worship. (Exodus 32)

The fall of Jericho wasn’t enough to convince Achan that God was in control of the future of Israel. He had to take some of the spoils of the battle as treasures, which was in direct defiance to God. (Joshua 7)

Eve couldn’t trust that God’s plan was infallible, so she chose to listen to evil guidance. (Genesis 3)

Lot’s wife wistfully looked back at the debauchery of Sodom and Gomorrah rather than following God’s gracious exit strategy. (Genesis 19)

Even the Pharisees couldn’t imagine the forest of God’s mercy for the planting of their self-righteousness. (Matthew 16)

This is not a crowd I want to hang out with. I don’t want to be listed with these of little faith. I want to learn from them, but not repeat their haste and misdirection. Knowing that God has something better ahead than what I can see now needs to give me the faith to hold on until He demonstrates his plan.

My faith, tiny and tired though it may be, is the ‘substance’, the shred, the sliver of light that directs me to the things I hope for…says Hebrews 11:1. He’s not showing me all of the plan right now because I might mess it up in haste to make it happen faster. I could greedily snatch unnecessary treasures…or sample forbidden fruit…or stroll toward unhealthy decadence… If I knew what was ahead, I might avoid it, change it, or rush it.

I am not God. I am not omniscient. And anytime I try to be, I detract and delay His good work in my life…and even for the lives of those that I love.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.                ~Psalm 5:3

Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God.

                                                            ~Psalm 38:15

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.                ~Psalm 27:13, 14

 

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“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried,                                                             but you’ve actually been planted.”                                                                                                                 ~Christine Caine

 

 

 

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Switching from offense to defense

My son has played lacrosse for over half of his little life. He received his first helmet for his fifth birthday, and for the next few years, he grew into that bobblehead Stormtrooper look like he was meant for it.  bobblehead

In lacrosse, as in many other sports, there are offensive players, defensive players, and the guys in the middle who do both when needed. He played midfield for a while, liking the constant switch of helping the defense or rushing with the offense. As he matured in the game, he wanted to become more specialized, so he focused on being an offensive player. An attackman plays right in front of the goal and uses opportunities fed from teammates to score. Brady loved playing attack. He watched experts of the game and honed his skills at placing his shots…high to low, low to high, behind the back, aiming at the goalie’s feet…so many tricks to get the ball into the goal. The rush of scoring, the adoration of teammates, the cheers from the crowd…being a hero.

On the other end of the field, the hero is the goalie. Brady has tasted of that sweetness as well, but he wasn’t fond of it. Being pummeled by hard, rubber balls at excessive speeds, repeatedly…and repeatedly feeling angry with himself…wasn’t for him. However, this season, with more maturity, he decided to try being a defenseman. And he loves it. Another noble position on the field. It’s like good vs. evil…with sticks and helmets. Modern-day gladiators.

As I watched him in his games this past weekend, I couldn’t help but connect his actions with life beyond the field. Sometimes we have to switch our positions from offense to defense. We can wait around for opportunities to do good, and then we can be successful in those attempts and rejoice. But there are other times, when we have to have a more defensive stance in our daily lives. “Not today, Satan.”

I hope I will always remember the ferocity I saw in my son as he fought to defend his territory this weekend. Eyes searching around him, directing his teammates to watch out for incoming dangers, stick ready to disarm his enemy, feet always pacing in protection of the goal. He was on guard and prepared to fight.

I want to guard my mind that ferociously. Anxiety creeps in and hangs around for so long that I can forget that it’s ‘playing for the other team’. It stays in my periphery and then settles in so well that I lose track of its presence. Then worries seem like facts, fears seem like realities. And my mind has become home to an enemy. What happened to my defense?

In 2nd Corinthians 10, Paul describes the defensive fight we need to wage.  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Paul was encouraging his brothers and sisters in ministry to get beyond the outward appearances of their neighbors to focus on widening the spread of God’s love. He warned them that their thoughts were the problem.

“Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Like the early church, we often need to defend our spirits from negativity and worry. We need to capture the thoughts before they get too ingrained in our brains. We need to push out the thoughts that don’t belong, like a defending player protects his goal. The goal of our lives is to spread the love of God, and if our goal is inhibited by fear, anxiety, busyness, or other preoccupying distractions, then we will not accomplish our goal. We will be overcome and defeated by those thoughts.

The New Testament church had plenty of opposition, from within and without, but repeatedly, they kept returning to defensive hope, peace, love, and power.

Romans 8:6– For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

2nd Timothy 1:7 –For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Colossians 3:2 — Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

1st Peter 1:13 — Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

1st Peter 5:8–  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

There are times to be active, pursuant, assertively making good happen, driving toward the goal of Godliness. But we should also be daily defensive of our minds and hearts. Successful offense relies on dependable defense.

Ephesians 6:10- 13Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. 13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.

 

To the boys who stop…

To the boys who know that “Stop” means ‘stop’, thank you.

To the hormone-crazed, adolescent male who understands that “No” means ‘no’, thank you.

To the guys who are tempted to push and manipulate but don’t, thank you.

You deserve some recognition.

Someone has taught you a vital societal skill: respect.

Maybe it was your dad, who wanted you to be an upstanding citizen. But maybe it was your mom who was respected by your dad. Or maybe it was your single mom, who wasn’t respected. Maybe it was an older, wise friend…maybe it was a family member who didn’t want you to screw up your life and someone else’s as well. Whoever taught you, thank them. And thank you, sir, for listening…and heeding.

It is so tempting, when you’re with someone you care about deeply, to seal the bond with more than a kiss.

The moments get heated, the mood is ripe with feeling…but she says “No”…and you listen.

Mentally, you’re face-palming, lip-biting, eye-rolling, screaming with desire…but you stop. You’re listening to her. And you’re respecting her.

And that respect means everything. EVERYTHING. EVERY. THING.

It matters to her now. And forever.  It matters to you now…and it will matter to you later as well. When you don’t have to hide what happened. When you don’t have unexpected complications for your actions. When you don’t have a criminal record. When you can look at your wife without regrets. When you can talk to your son about respecting women, without being a hypocrite yourself. When your daughter asks you for advice about dating…and you know what to tell her because you’ve been the right kind of guy.

Stopping means everything. And you, sir, know how to do it.

Tell your friends. It matters.

When they tell their tawdry stories, ask them if they respected her.

When they imply what they’re going to try, ask them what is their plan if she says ‘No’.

Make them think about it…because it’s not just about them. It’s about her, too. Which you know already.

Influence them with your self-control and confidence that you know you’re doing the right thing. 

It matters. Now and in the future.

Thank you, for stopping. Spread the word.

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts? - Confucius

 

Embrace

As a teacher-mom, this thought has often occurred to me: the ones we most want to throttle are the ones who most need a hug. Students, offspring…husbands. When they are at their worst, whether intentionally or not, they just really need our love. Maybe it’s acting out or maybe it’s need of boundary reinforcement, the fact still remains, love is needed.

Hold that thought in your mind for a minute, and hop over to this next one.

I recently read about a stress study that demonstrated how living in uncertainty is actually more wearing on the body than receiving negative news. The “not-knowing” is harder than the knowing. (Study details: http://time.com/4274201/uncertainty-stress/ and https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10996 ) Consider how you feel at the eye doctor when you wait for the air puff to blast your eyeball…or how a child feels waiting for that finger prick…or your response when the boss calls you in for an unexpected meeting…or a newborn unable to articulate his desire for another meal. The waiting is beyond nerve-wracking. And now science has proven that it truly is the worst. Our bodies are physiologically primed for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but ‘maybe’ incites panic.

The past 18 months of my life have been the most panic-inciting of all IMG_9698

of them.  So many unexpecteds and changes. So much time spent weighing possibilities and examining choices. Pros/cons. Nows/laters. What ifs/ doesn’t matters. Family, church, friends, home, finances, jobs, health….all of it. The fence-riding has given me blisters…the see-sawing has made me nauseated. As it has gone on (and on), I’ve finally begun to gravitate to one word: embrace.

Remember that thought from the first paragraph…the ones who need the hugs? My life is the child who is ‘acting out’. I can’t fix any of it easily, but I can embrace it for what it is, and stop fighting it. Instead of waking up each day with thoughts swirling in my head, I can wake up and say ‘Yep, it’s a mess, but it’s a temporary mess. I will do what I can today, and then try more tomorrow.’

 

 

Name it. Call it what it is. Stop wavering about it. Embrace it for what it is. 

Unexpected bills. Well, poop. Okay, here’s your hug. Let’s sit down and deal with you.

Pre-adolescent drama. Hello. I’ll be glad when you’re gone, but here’s your hug while you’re here.

Betrayal. You suck. I will not be like you. Here’s your hug. Good-bye.

Messy house. Ugh. You’re the prize I get for being a working mom. Accept my meager cleaning as it comes. Here’s your hug.

Aging & illness. I can’t control you, nor will you control me. I accept you in my life, but you will not get the best of me. Imma gonna hug you and teach you a lesson.

Ignorance. I hate you. I will educate myself to not be like you. You need a hug because you’re pathetic. Good-bye.

I’m not thrilled with my current place in life. But after years of bliss, I guess it was time to have things shaken up a bit so I can mature to the next stage in life. I don’t have to be miserable here, though. If I can recognize the student who needs a hug and a redirect, then I can recognize when my own concerns need hugs and boundaries. And I can hug them, and put them where they belong.

The struggle is in the fighting. If I stop fighting, then I can think clearly. And clear thinking leads to brighter vision for the future. 

Name it. Embrace it. Move forward. 

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Read James 1. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 

 

 

 

I know enough…

At this point in life, I know enough to know

That I don’t know enough.

I’ve seen enough to know that

I wish I hadn’t seen what I’ve seen…

And I wish that I had seen what I haven’t seen.

I’ve heard enough of what I didn’t want to hear…

And not heard enough of what I did want to hear.

I’ve gotten what I wished for…

and realized I wished for the wrong thing.

Too many people, not enough help.

Too many needs, not enough hands

Too much sorrow, not enough love.

I’ve ached enough for two lifetimes,

and I’m only halfway through with this one.

I want to know more…and feel less…

But feel more…and know less.

I think I understand how God views the world…

that this is so very much not what he intended.

I long for the Garden of Eden…

for restoration and healing.

This world is not my home…

And yet it is.

I want so much more than this.

And I want so much less of this.

Intervene, Heavenly Father.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Speak comfort, Holy Spirit.

I can’t do this without you.

ugly cry

 

 

 

This year, she wanted to be a shepherd

 

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We are celebrating Christmas at a new church this year, and that’s okay. After my kids and I found our place in the ministry here, I was asked to direct the children’s Christmas program.

My son was a narrator, reading the scriptural transitions from Mary to Gabriel to Joseph and on to Bethlehem, where the next narrator took over. My daughter, I assumed, would be an angel again. She’s not quite old enough to have a lengthy speaking part, and not quite veteran enough at this church to take on a primary role. She understood those criteria, but she didn’t want to be an angel.

“I’m tired of being an angel, Mom. I’ve been one every year. Can’t I be something else?”

 

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She had the valid yet unfortunate point that many children in the annual pageants make…I’ve been that role for ____ years. I’ve worn my bathrobe for 3 years. I’ve worn the itchy, glittery white costume with lop-sided wings for 4 years. I’ve had animal ears for 2 years. Can’t I be something else?

We examined the options, and she decided to be a shepherd. “I’ll be their costumes are more comfortable anyway,” my blond-haired, blue-eyed angelic tomboy smiled with relief.

And so, she took on the role of a shepherd. IMG_9017

The evening of our dress rehearsal, the night before the performance, I asked her, “Do you feel okay being a shepherd?”

“Sure,” she replied with utmost confidence. “I mean, they’re basically the same as angels.”

“Really?” I asked, wondering if her line of thinking had more to do with the play’s roles or something more theological.

“Well, yeah…they were both messengers. Angels were messengers in the sky, from heaven. And then after they did their job, the shepherds were messengers on earth.”

Well, yes, yes they were. And there it was, my 2017 Christmas revelation.

The angels had a job, a critical role…to tell the humans the heavenly  news. But then, the angels were done with their job. They went back to heaven. They didn’t come back night after night, year after year, reminding the shepherds of the good news of great joy.

Remember what Luke chapter 2 says…

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

The angels did their job and returned to heaven to their mysterious celestial tasks. But the shepherds’ work was just beginning. They talked to each other (“Did that really just happen?” “Did you see what I just saw?” “I’m pretty sure there’s a prophecy for that.” “I think I drank too much goat milk tonight.” “Well, this is what we’ve been waiting for…” “Come on, y’all…let’s go!”)Then, they ran to find the holy family and celebrated with them.

No doubt, their disturbance in the streets awakened visitors in those over-crowded inns…and they shared with them what had happened.

And then “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” They kept walking and talking. They kept sharing the news….for the rest of their lives. In temple. At the market. At family gatherings. In the fields. On the dusty roads they traveled with other shepherds while they were doing their job. 

That’s it…they were just doing their job. But their job had a different appearance now.

Wander the hills with other shepherds. Share the Messiah.

Lead the sheep to water. Pour out the news of a promised fulfilled.

Head back into town. Greet travelers with the good news.

The shepherds continued their leg-work after the angels were gone. The angels were back in heaven, preparing and praising. But the shepherds stayed on earth, mingling, walking and talking,  passing on the Gospel for generations.

I love the idea that my daughter’s role changed this year. And I love her new role as a shepherd. I hope that Christmas’s good news will be the news she shares throughout her blessed life.

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

                                                                                                                               (Isaiah 9: 6,7)

 

 

‘I don’t know how to play this game’

Recently, my son had a friend over for the afternoon. After several hours at the pool, the two boys settled down to play a video game while I prepared dinner. They started with something they both knew, but then my son invited his friend to try a new game.

‘I don’t know how to play this game. I’ll watch you for a few minutes.’

I overheard those wise words and was astounded at the humility of our eleven-year old neighbor. A total admission of ignorance to a peer…and a willingnes76552_449036944583_6570936_ns to learn from him.

Where was the bravado? Where were the false claims of high scores past? No puffed-up chest and big talk? No testosterone-encited braggadocio?  WHAT????

I loved it! The simple truth.

I don’t know how to do this thing. I want to know how to do it, but I’m ignorant at this time. Please show me how, and then I can participate with you.’

Now, I realize THAT’S way to lengthy and philosophical for these  controller-wielding preteens, but I’ve been around longer. I know where that priceless humility leads.

It leads to honest friendships and worthwhile relationships. It leads to being a target for manipulators, true, but oh, the depth of trustworthiness that humility displays to the rest of the population.

Being honest about faults and ignorance is the antithesis of original sin. Lucifer wanted to be equal, if not better, than God. Eve and Adam thought they knew their own limitations better than God, so they tried the forbidden fruit.. Pride…damned pride. Thinking we know better than the one who created us. We are fools.

To present ourselves to others as desirous of knowledge on a new topic, craving relationship and connection…that’s what God really wanted at the beginning of this whole existence thing. He wanted us to be open to learn, wide-eyed with wonder, reaching out to gain from experience with others, Himself foremost.

I don’t know how to do a lot of things that I want to know how to do. I want to demonstrate more love to my husband. I want to raise children who love God and others. I want to use my money more wisely. I want to find ways to help those who don’t have as much as I do. I want to bridge relational gaps.

Can you help me play this game? I will watch you and learn how to do it. Then, we can enjoy doing it together.

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James 1:2-6

My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. If any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone and doesn’t find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt. That’s because a person who doubts is like a wave of the sea. The wind blows and tosses them around.