Monday, March 31, 2014

Because We All Get Knocked Down {Messy Monday}

April is soccer month here. I say it is soccer month because the season is literally contained in the month of April, with two nights a week dedicated to games.

My husband and I are soccer players. We were at least. We still try, and will continue to try until our kids are old enough to school us. Which, in my case, could be any day now. We are also coaches.

I coach the U6 boys team on which my son plays. Three years into it and I have a basic idea of how the season will begin, as well as a general idea of how it should end. So, when we got into practice the other day, I realized that the best way to keep the boys' attention was to have them learn as we played a game. 7 v. 1. I might not be all that I once was, but I can still take 7 kindergartners and preschoolers.

My fancy footwork got me through some tight spaces. 7-ish (some boys get distracted) pairs of feet chased and kicked around me. I saw an opening and struck the ball toward the space, just to clear it out of the mob.

I struck it right into a kindergarten face.

Right into it. Lit. Him. Up. It was like in one of those comedies where some kid is the victim of an adult's irresponsibility. Feet in the air, the poor kid flew.

The horrified mommy inside me gasped! I yelled his name. "Are you ok?!"

"Uh-huh." He nodded his head and was up like a rocket, on his feet chasing the ball.

I was obviously more damaged by the incident than he was. I asked his mom later if she happened to see her son take it in the face. "Yeah." She shrugged it off. Apparently he bounces back from injury quite easily.

So I have a new hero. He'll be six years old this summer.

There are times to fall prostrate, broken before the Lord.

Then there are times to jump to our feet and get back into the game.

I'll be honest. I make my injuries out to be a pretty big deal. Someone "offends" me and it really just tears me up. And when I should get on with life, I choose to sit in the grass and cry. Maybe not actual tears, maybe just words. Maybe just "venting." Yeah, more often I choose to "vent" about the problem than pray to the Only One who can actually solve it.

I didn't hear another word from his mouth about the shot. Does he remember it? I don't know. Maybe. But when something more important comes along, like helping your teammates to victory, injuries are just part of the game and nothing more.

I'm fairly certain this Monday we will encounter a blow of some sort to our egos. It's pretty much guaranteed. So I pray God turns our focus to what is really important, and gives us the legs to hop back into the game!

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2

Monday, March 24, 2014

Embarrassing Grace

We made it through the first few verses of the passage and stopped to discuss. My daughter and a third grade boy sat across the table from me. They answered the questions I asked them and we looked down at our Bibles to continue reading.

"I already know this story." It wasn't arrogant. Just an off-hand remark from my daughter who indeed knows and remembers the story well.

"I do too," I replied. "But I'm learning something new from it right now."


"You bet." 

I wasn't lying.

I asked them, "Why did Jesus wash the disciples' feet?"
"Because He loved them."
"Ok," I answered, "but why wash their feet? Couldn't He have just bought them something pretty?"
"Jesus doesn't just give pretty things to show His love."

She was right of course. We talked about how Jesus took the place of a servant, the lowest of the servants, and He looked at what made them dirty. He put the nastiness right in His face.

"I see it. I see your filth. And I'm not avoiding it. I'm not condoning it. I'm not glossing over it. I'm not giving you pretty things and ignoring the muck that has accumulated from a life of weary travel. I'm taking care of it."

I wonder how rigorous a cleansing it was. It always looks so poetic and gentle. Clear water cascading down caramel toes. How His hands must have felt.

I asked the kids what they thought went through the disciples' minds as Jesus did this.

"Uh? Okkkkkaaayyy?" I'd agree with that answer.

Peter couldn't handle it. "You shall never wash my feet." (John 13:8)

He was embarrassed. Embarrassed by His rabbi. Embarrassed that the man he followed would do something even below Peter's station. At that moment he probably would have been happier with something pretty.

And I get that. Because after reading this passage and hearing a sermon about a love that never gives up, I wonder why. I don't get it. I'm embarrassed.

Why, Lord? Why do you keep doing this? Day after day. It's the same old dirt. I can't keep it off my feet. I try and try and try. Why demean yourself to wash me when I'm just going to do it again? You are holy, so holy. Don't do this to yourself. I've tried it all already. I'll totally understand if you want to quit on me.

And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way because just an hour later one of the cutest children on the planet (who is not even mine) asked that very question of my husband during the children's sermon. Her three year old brain registered Christ's sacrifice, and her three year old lips questioned "why"?

"Because He loves us so much."

She took that in. "When will Jesus stop loving us?"

"Never. He will never ever stop loving us."

Her foster mother smiled. Eyes around the sanctuary glistened as the mystery of God's love was explained in the simplest of terms to the littlest of souls. Broken hearts in the room swelled with the abundant love of Christ.

That three year old heart bears the pain of abandonment. The people meant to care for her have given up on her. This morning, she was given the knowledge of a love that never ends. Never ever. It's something her mind just couldn't comprehend.

We are so used to giving up. We can't escape it. At some point in our lives someone has given up on us.

We've given up on ourselves.

So when God makes Himself low enough to put His face not into our face, into our feet, and say I will wash and wash and wash. Every day. Because love doesn't give up.

It's just too much.

And He was leading by example. "For I have given you an example that you should do just as I have done to you." His gift of love was one to be shared, never contained.

So who are you going to embarrass today? Who will find a love in you a love that never quits? Step away from the pretty things. It's time to get dirty.

I'm praying for you this week, Sweet Friends. Praying that you are overwhelmed by Christ's love. Praying that His love steps into your life in a way that inspires you to serve others. Praying that you know you will always give up on yourself before Jesus does.

Because Jesus will never stop loving you. Never ever.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Say "Amen!"

My eyes closed, I tried to muscle in a few more minutes of sleep to the din and scuffling of newly awakened small people above me. Then the phone rang.

A sick friend, a working husband. Can I watch the kids?

"Of course. Sure, no problem."

I hadn't forgotten my last words before bed last night. "I think tomorrow we're just going to take it easy. I need to catch up on my Bible reading. Maybe I'll blog."

But when a friend needs you, things change. And I thought to myself, how will I best serve the Lord and my neighbor today? Reading the Bible to myself, or helping a friend in need? Well, if I remember correctly, it was the "holy" people that passed by the left-for-dead Samaritan. No brainer. I looked at my husband and said, "This is the day the Lord has made. I didn't make it, so I'll do what He wants me to do."

Do I always have that clarity or goodwill at 6 am? Uh no. So it is here that I give some mighty praise to the Holy Spirit who has borne in me a love that surpasses all sleep deprivation. It also helps that my friend is just so cool, and her kids are sweet.

The children showed up as mine stampeded downstairs. The TV clicked on, and those two little ones got a dose of the pre-schoolday routine that we take for granted. When the three oldest made their exit, I knew I would have to be more strategic with my morning. Beginning with some quiet time. Funny, God gave that to me too. Somehow that Bible time that would have been my excuse to forsake my sister in Christ was even more of a blessing because I wasn't actually anticipating being able to get it accomplished.

And this is what I read over and over and over, "Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!'" It makes up about half of Deuteronomy 27. The Levites would recite a law of the Lord and all the people were to say, "Amen!"

I have those days where it takes all my strength to just say "Jesus."

For those other days- the ones where I am granted the clarity of mind and energy of body to follow where the Lord leads, those are the days I am just to say, "Amen!"

It is an affirmative response to the word of God.

It is the refrain of believers.

It is the chorus of the broken, whose only hope is the strong and trustworthy God who proved ultimately on the cross and in the empty tomb that He would take on death and win. He gives us the victory.

So when plans change in the dark of the morning, Amen.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive." Amen!
(Acts 20:35)

"For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Amen!
(Isaiah 43:3)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10):
"Go and do likewise." Amen!

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Amen!
(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Sometimes it is in the solemn quiet of a church sanctuary.

The weeping of the frustrated husband and wife.

The crying of the physically ailing.

The shouts of the prisoner freed from sin.

The surrender of the rundown mother.

It's the melody that claims God is God, and there is no other. Amen.

It's the symphony of the broken, handing hearts to their Healer. Amen.

It's the believer, carried by the Spirit, putting one foot in front of the other down an uncertain path because faith tells them their God is the only certain thing they have in this life.

It is a gift from Him alone, who deigns to dwell with us and make Himself available to carry our burdens. Amen is His invitation to let. it. go.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Linking late with a lovely lady:) Three Word Wednesday with Simply Sweet, Simply Beth.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond the Mirror

Most women I know who have sworn off cosmetics have done it for altruistic reasons- fasting from vanity and chemicals, or protesting animal testing. Not me. A couple months ago I stopped wearing makeup precisely for vanity's sake. I haven't sworn it off for good, or even for the week, but it occurred to me that I sleep on this face and the skin isn't getting any more elastic, so maybe I should save my eyelids from sagging and give up eye shadow. Not to mention the money I save on not buying the stuff. So, in reality, I'm just cheap.

But I almost didn't make it. I didn't usually wear a ton of make up, but still. Every single time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I'd groan a little. There's the woman who gave up. I had lots of friends who go sans makeup, and never once had I thought that about them, but this was my face. I'd depart the mirror only to look again later and be reminded of what my face actually looks like.

I probably sound shallow. I didn't lose sleep over it, but it is an uncomfortable thing to forget what you look like. To get used to being "just you." No frills. Plain old you.

And plain old me has been reading a lot about being uncomfortable lately. My walk through the Bible had me reading through Exodus and Leviticus recently. The last couple days especially have been heavy on the laws and the sacrifices. I'd hate to be the priest on mildew and body sore duty.

Clean, unclean. Over and over. Sacrifices. Atonement. Offerings. I couldn't read it without thinking, I'd be unclean all the time! Seriously, those were busy priests sacrificing and making offerings day in and day out for people like me who fall short. Were there standing appointments I wonder? See you this time tomorrow, Aaron! On a daily basis, God's people got a long look in the mirror at themselves. No frills. Unclean.

But the craziest part of it all was that God stayed with them. These unclean people who would just as soon return to slavery or be absorbed into pagan life- God sat in the midst of them. These rules and regulations seemed a bit much until you got a glimpse of the Most Holy God making camp with them.

For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. 
You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
Leviticus 11:45

40 years in the desert and 40 days of Lent are not just cute symbolism. These days we look in the scriptural mirror and get a good glimpse of our fallen state. No sacrifices we offer could atone for the wrongs we have done. No measures taken on our part could bring about healing and holiness in our lives.

But it goes beyond that.

It compels us to look beyond our unclean selves into the presence of the Holy God that delivered us from slavery and makes camp in our lives.

Because He chose us.

Because He loves us.

Because sacrifice must be made so we and God can live together.

And that is exactly what He did.

Praying for you, Dear Friends, as you travel in the wilderness this Lent. I pray you see beyond your shortcomings and sinfulness to the God who abides with you and within you. He is so faithful. So so faithful.

Linking up today with simply wonderful Simply Beth. Check her blog out- you'll just love her :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Just One Day {He Will Deliver}

I can't think of a more appropriate way to begin Lent than an Ash Wednesday morning meltdown.

If you are preparing to read a hilarious account of my children's impetuous hi-jinks, think again. The meltdown was mine. And when you think meltdown, think nuclear. Think Mt. Wild Woman eruption. Think oatmeal expanding in the microwave and running down the sides of the bowl. Yuck.

That was basically it. All because of my own hang ups with the quality of my housekeeping. I guess the good part is that the only one who ended up in tears was me.

"I quit. I'm a horrible mom. I'm getting a different job."

My husband held me, rubbed my back, reassured me that I was a "good mom." But my conscience told me otherwise.

We decided to come up with a plan. My husband is giving up yelling for Lent. I told him if that was the case with me, I would have blown it already. In fact, if I had given up yelling, swearing, or crying, I would have blown all of those in record time.Thankfully, I just gave up coffee.

Wait a minute... "Do you think that's why I'm acting this way?"

"Well..." I could hear the gears turning as he contemplated the best response. "Maybe that would explain it a little."

He reminded me that the company coming wouldn't care what the house looked like. Rebecca would understand. She has five kids and is so full of grace, it just sloshes right out of her every time she moves. (You like that image, Sloshy Rebecca? :) )

"I know," I said. "That's not the point. I'm just asking for one day. I'm not asking for every day. I'm not even asking for every week. I can't get my house together for one day. Just one day!"

So today is the day after and I guess I can only say Thank God.

I wrote about Lent last year. About how its turbulence shakes us out of the inevitable settling in our souls for the comforts of this world. It's about returning to the Lord. Looking to the stone that the builders rejected.

I'll give it to you straight, yesterday was a day where dawn to dusk I had to lean on Jesus to get me through.

And that is a gift.

I was reminded of that it in my desperately needed quiet time this week too. In Genesis 12, God promises to give Abram's offspring the land at Shechem. So Abram builds an altar and worships God there.

The land hadn't been delivered to them yet. It was just at God's word that Abram found reason to worship. There was no "show me the money" attitude that we so often require today when it comes to worshiping God.

Just one day. That's all I was asking. God promises to deliver. Only He will give me days without end. One day my act will get put back together. The tears, the yelling, the poison words- those will be done. There will be no more begging for help, because my Helper will be there.

In the meantime, until that land is mine, I will believe His promise and I will worship. The altar may be a coffee-stained counter, or a laundry-covered basement, or a tear-stained pillow. But He makes beautiful things out of dust.

Linking late with the always fabulous, Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday <3

Monday, March 3, 2014

When God Fills the Empty Spaces {Messy Monday}

I have a strict "whatever" policy about matching socks. Maybe I'll match them. Maybe I won't. Whatever.

As I rummaged through the single sock laundry basket the other day, I snatched up the No Nonsense pair I'd folded earlier, and thought of Angie. The giver of the socks. And appropriately enough "no nonsense" is a phrase she clothes her personality in quite often.

She showed up at my door with two packages of white, sturdy, No Nonsense brand socks. 

"You want these?"

Someone had given them to her, but they weren't a style she liked. Too long.

My response? "Free socks? Uh.. YEAH!"

And just like that, I was the proud owner of about a dozen pairs of brand-spanking-new socks.

That was years ago and I still wear them. Sometimes I get to feeling domestic and even darn them. These things are quality.

I didn't get it. Free socks? Who would turn down free socks?

I don't know. Who would turn down free salvation?

Socks take up serious real estate in our drawers. Honestly, I've turned down tons of free stuff because it just takes up space. Things that would be nice to have, but that I don't really need. 

I guess even free stuff can be too expensive when we're talking about the space of our lives.

I see it with the Gospel all the time. America is one of the hardest mission fields simply because we have so much stuff to drown out our need for Jesus. Even the kids that sit in our church once a week struggle with this. The church says I need Jesus. But my mom and dad seem to be doing just fine without Him. Who is right?

I'm not talking just about unchurched families either. I'm including myself in this one. 

There is a daily struggle with pride, with the desire to get things done. And what kills me is that even though I get burned over and over again, I still play with the fires of spiritual multitasking.

Jesus offers me this: Time. Time to sit with Him. Time to remember my redemption in Him. Time to ponder who He is. And what is the one thing I always feel like I'm lacking? Time. The Giver of time is giving me the thing I need- Time. And I'm too busy to just stop and take it.

I could blame motherhood, or even church. But the truth is the blame rests in this distracted and hungry heart.

This heart that realizes its void and reaches for what is convenient, instead of what is right. Like my toddler recognizing the empty space in the 3/4 full milk jug and filling it with tortillas, refried beans, and a Nutri-grain bar wrapper, I shove things into the empty spaces that have no business being there.

So when my neighbors obviously need Jesus, but instead consume alcohol and possessions and all manners of worldly trinkets, maybe I shouldn't be so perplexed. Maybe I should try on some compassion.

Because I have been there too. And while I am free from death and sin, that devil will try anything to direct my heart to everything except God.

There is hope. Hope for me. Hope for them. Hope for you. Hope for all of us. Compassion and hope are the truths that clothe believers, because believers need them too. 

More important that getting the socks matched, or the supper made, is showing my kids and neighbors that this empty jar can only really be filled by God alone.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God 
and not to us. 
2 Corinthians 4:7

Afflicted, perplexed, persecuted. All of the above. But God has power that surpasses them all. And that is what we carry, Christ's death and resurrection. Filled to the brim with His grace because we so desperately need it. May He take up more and more space in us, until people cannot look into our lives without seeing an emptiness filled by God Himself.