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All posts for the month June, 2013

Tired of Being Picked On

Published June 30, 2013 by Dawn

I was reminiscing with a friend today and cracking up over how we’ve changed since childhood, and boy, have I changed! Believe it or not, I was a little rough around the edges …. Well, I was more than a little rough around the edges. I was a real, bonafide “hellion,” as they call ‘em. I had a desk on reserve in the ISS room because I spent more time there than in the regular classroom. And it wasn’t for comfort’s sake. Actually, I think the ISS room in which I spent most of middle school in was a health violation. It was in the basement of the school, and it was cold all year round. And when the lady bugs got really bad, the ceiling was dripping them on us. They were everywhere. It was musty and moldy and gross. There was a one-man bathroom in the room that they actually made us use! And to top it all off, we even had to eat lunch down there too. Clearly, I did not do this for fun. I spent so much time in ISS because I couldn’t stay out of trouble. Trouble followed me like a pesty little brother. And what did I do? Well, the hellion that I was, I punched it in the face!

My most memorable “crime” from middle school was exactly that: I punched some kid in the face. Fifth grade, on the bleachers before school started, and he was one of my boyfriend’s best friends. I think fifth grade is the worst grade ever. Bodies are beginning to change and kids become really awkward, and really rude to each other as they all cope with their physical changes by poking fun at the next guy’s. Well, fifth grade was horrible for me. I didn’t grow like all my friends. I was still short and shapeless, but my hair was doing something completely ridiculous! It was curling, and not in a cute, Curley-Sue sort of way. It went from stick straight to poofy and wavy. And, the hair on my face darkened. Yep, I was that girl in fifth grade who got the moustache. And that was back when it wasn’t cool to be a girl with a ‘stache. Mine was very noticeable, and therefore, very ridiculed. I put up with it for quite a while. In retrospect, I still defend the day I put an end to all the stupid comments, because it ended a couple weeks after it started. Which was lucky for me because no girl out-’stached me until high school.

Anyway, that particular morning, I had had enough, and when the jokes started up, I took a very calm look at the boy pointing and laughing, and I moved toward him, and in one quick motion, punched him right in the face. But, one hit wasn’t enough for me, so I hit him again. In the end, I got about a dozen punches in before a teacher took notice and called me down to the gym floor. I calmly got up and walked with her up the stairs to the principal’s office, fully satisfied that I had hurt him as much as his words had hurt me.

From that day on, I had a reputation as a fighter. People just did not mess with me anymore after that. The moustache comments only happened outside my earshot after that, and any kid who dared get in my face about something didn’t ever dare to actually induce me to fight. I was mouthy and sarcastic, and great with insults and everyone in middle school saw me punch a kid in the face, so why would they want to pick on me? What none of them knew was this: I was not that fighter they perceived me as. I had a mean talk, but the truth was, my arms and legs turned to jelly when I got confrontational with people. I couldn’t have hit anyone who was actually going to engage me in a fight, because I would have been too scared to hurt them. The boldness to hit that boy that day was only there because I knew he wouldn’t ever hit me back. Back in the day, boys didn’t hit girls.

There were other times, though, when I was on the verge of a fight and thanked my lucky stars later that my mouth had saved me from getting beat up. For instance, there was this one time, I was standing in front of my locker and a girl in my grade confronted me about something. My mouth intimidated her enough to make her back down. To this day, I still remember that showdown, because I remember thinking afterward how lucky I was that we had not come to blows. Standing there with adrenaline rushing through me, knowing I didn’t have what it takes to fight her. How lucky I was that she didn’t pounce on me.

This scenario makes me think of our battle with the devil, and how in truth, we don’t have what it takes to fight him. All we have is our mouth. The Bible says to resist the devil and he will flee, and that speaking the name of Jesus in the authority of the Lord sends him running. How wonderful that is! And the better we become at waging this war, and the more we defend ourselves with the name and authority of Christ, the more wary the devil becomes of messing with us. “Resist the devil and he will flee.” In the same way that other kids were afraid to mess with me because they saw me fight once, the devil will become more afraid to mess with us once we’ve established ourselves as fighters! I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being picked on.

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Not good enough?

Published June 26, 2013 by Dawn

“When the Lord first began to speak to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, ‘Go and marry a prostitute … So Hosea married Gomer …” (Hosea 1:2,3)

My favorite kind of love story is one of pursuit and passion … in which someone is running and someone is chasing. I love them. My favorite movie ever is Pride and Prejudice, because Elizabeth is such a fool for running from Mr. Darcy and he’s such a fool for running after her, but he does it because he loves her, “most ardently!” (I just melted a little thinking of him saying that to her … you can see it in his eyes, he loves her from the depths of himself.) I guess I love these stories so much because it takes a true kind of love for someone to pursue someone else who doesn’t seem in the least bit interested in being caught. Hosea’s relationship with his wife is just like that: she couldn’t stay with him to save her life and he wouldn’t let her go. She bore children in their home that he named “Unloved” and “Not Mine”. He was very much aware of her running around on him, because in chapter three, he goes out and gets her from the house of one of her lovers and buys her back to himself. He redeems their marriage with money and then takes her home and continues to love her. What kind of a man is this?

Hosea was a man obedient to God, whose own marriage illustrated the Lord’s love for his children. I’ve been thinking about this story for quite a while, because I see in myself the tendencies of Gomer: that of running away because I do not know how to receive love that is pure and true. I don’t know how many times I have knelt in my floor in repentance and said, “Ah, Lord, I am just like Gomer. How do you still love me?” I have wanted so badly to understand why I run after other lovers, why I chase after people and things that cannot fill me like God can, when I am the bride of the Almighty God and He adores me. The more I dig into my inner thoughts and feelings, the more I dissect my needs and desires, the clearer it becomes: I don’t know how to be loved like that.

The more God loves me, the more aware I am of His intense gaze and His affections toward me, the more terrified I become. And I run! How can I not? All I have ever known of my ability to love someone is that my love is not good enough. All I have received in return for my love and adoration is rejection. I have literally poured myself into loving people only to find myself empty and alone, and time after time I gave everything in me only to find out that it wasn’t enough. I can very much identify with Gomer. She ran from lover to lover, and especially from Hosea, because she didn’t know how to be still under the pressure of an enduring love. He was a father to the children of her adultery, and he pursued her when anyone else would have stoned her. He went so far as to pay a price to bring her home to him even after they were married. He was in it for the long haul and she couldn’t escape his loving embrace.

I find it so wonderful that God is like this. That no matter where we go or what we are chasing, He is still pursuing us. His desire for us trumps our sinfulness and He longs for us. So much so that He is willing at any moment to embrace us again in all of our filthiness, if we are but willing to come home again. Does He deny our disgrace? No, He names it and deals with it like a patient husband. Gomer and Hosea always had with them the evidence of Gomer’s shameful past. Every time he or she beckoned one of her kids, they were reminded of the sins of the past. But they dealt with them and life went on. In the same way, God allows us to know the disgrace of our sins, and sometimes, there are painful reminders of where we have been. But then, life goes on. Nowhere in Hosea does it suggest that Hosea used their children as a weapon against Gomer. He didn’t throw her sin up in her face, he loved her and life went on. Likewise, God does not throw our sin up on our faces. He forgives us and life goes on.

Another thing I have learned through this book is that just because others reject our love does not mean it isn’t good enough. I mean, look at Hosea. His love was obviously more than Gomer could handle. She didn’t know how to accept his love, but that didn’t mean his love was inadequate. Hosea’s love was strong and pure and enduring, and she ran because she didn’t understand the value of what he was giving to her. We have the same tendency when it comes to the Lord. We run and pursue other things because we do not understand the value of His love. More precious than silver and more costly than gold, but then, how many of us really understand the value of gold? Our running away does not nullify the gift offered to us. It only proves that we do not know what precious thing is being offered. We do not fully comprehend, like Gomer did not fully comprehend, that the thing we are running away from is the very thing we are chasing after in the first place. She was looking for a lover who would fulfill her, and all the while, her husband was waiting to do just that. Oh Lord, You are too good for me!

Dearest Heavenly Husband,

I long to be loved by you, but I do not really know how. Your gaze is so penetrating that I feel compelled to run from you. Because Lord, if I stayed, you would see in me that I am unworthy. And because you already know this, I understand your love even less. How do you love me as deeply as you do?

I am afraid to give you all of me because all I have ever known about myself is that I am not good enough. I cannot keep you with my futile efforts to love because I hardly even know what love is anymore.

What I do know is this: your love is enough. It’s more than enough. It’s so good to me that I find it hard to withstand your affections sometimes. Help me to endure your love, and to receive it fully. I want to so badly. Your love overwhelms me, and Lord, I long to be consumed by You. I want to know the intensity of Your gaze and to be able to withstand the pressure of your embrace. I’ve never known a love like Yours and it’s more than I can bear. But I want to. I need it. Give me strength to stay, and hold me when You know I want to run. Thank you for loving me so fiercely. Amen.

Restless

Published June 25, 2013 by Dawn

With his head bent over and his eyebrows furrowed, he colored so intently, with such purpose that you would have thought it was his grandest work … until you actually saw it. When my son finally held up his finished work at the craft station at VBS yesterday, it dawned on me what was going on: he was restless. Clearly not wanting to sit still another second, he had hastily scribbled color over every area of his artwork and then announced, “DONE!” and held up his paper as evidence. And, in truth, he was done. No amount of coaxing could have kept him in that seat a moment longer. He was restless. He had reached his sitting quota of the day, and it didn’t matter that it was only ten in the morning. He was done.

Perhaps he gets this from me. I don’t know. I mean, I can sit for hours and enjoy a good book on some days, whereas on others, I can’t hardly sit still at all. My schedule reflects this antsyness in me, and although I prefer the calm, quiet stillness in my inner being because it is refreshing to me, I find myself working ceaselessly it seems. When I’m not working for the paycheck, I’m cleaning at home, volunteering in some way, shape or form, or working to catch up on Q-time with my kids. And it all feels like work. I have recently begun to wonder, though, what am I accomplishing in all this busyness? What fruit am I producing, and what good am I for the Kingdom of God in all of this “work?”

This new restlessness has just recently come upon me. I’ve been squirmy for a while, but it reached a feverish pitch this past week in which I know it’s going to be awful difficult for me to sit still much longer. Allow me to ramble a little as I try to explain this restlessness in me:

A young woman I minister to at the local skate park came back from Oklahoma this past week and shared a video of the devastation there, and my heart broke. Hearing about it is one thing, but actually seeing it is … well, it’s devastating. There are literally piles of debris everywhere; piles of what now looks like trash, but was once beautifully constructed homes and the intimate belongings of families who are now displaced. As the hype over the tornadoes there fade out, clean-up will trickle down to a faithful few but in the end, someone still has to clean all that up so that homes can be rebuilt and life can go on.

In the same sense, I know there are people whose lives are falling apart before their very eyes, much like tornadoes have touched down in the midst of them. Young men who have turned to heavy alcohol and drug use to drown out the pain of life, and young women who sell their souls to the lowest bidder in exchange for flattery. And I have often prayed with much fervency, “God, please help them!” But all of the sudden, I am a Christian who’s sick of sitting in church talking about all the great things God can do like it’s the best kept secret in the world. Because for whatever reason, it is the best kept secret in the world, to the detriment of society at large. Do you know what Christians call “evangelism” these days? Political soapboxes and hate-filled speeches against the latest evil thing the world is doing. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not how Jesus rolled. Did he talk about sin? Absolutely. Called a spade a spade and encouraged repentance. Repentance is the core of his message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But look at the life of Christ: his approached to people was gentle and with much love. We’ve got it all wrong if we are spouting off hateful tirades. I find it interesting the things Paul has to say in his letters to Timothy regarding such things:

“…they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions.” (1 Tim. 6:4)

“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Tim. 2:14)

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Tim. 2:23)

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think God speaks well for himself, don’t you? I find that when we present the Word of God in love, it is much more effective than when we use it as a weapon. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” The purpose of evangelizing is not to condemn people for their sin, but to bring them to repentance so that they might become more like Christ and share in the inheritance of the saints. We can’t cause someone to become defensive and then demand they repent and expect them to come weeping to the foot of the cross we profess to know. We can’t strong-arm people into the kingdom of God. Christians today need to get off their soapboxes and work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, realize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and stop standing in the way of those who need Christ!

Furthermore, there is still this issue of the mess: who’s going to clean it up? I can sit here in my comfortable, air-conditioned house and pray over those piles of debris in Oklahoma, “Dear God, please clean up that mess over there.” Just like I walk past messes of people everyday and pray, “God please help that person.” But what am I doing? He has called us, his children, the BODY! As I have already mentioned the mouth, let me now address the hands and feet: MOVE! I’m so restless right now I can’t hardly stand myself. There is so much devastation in the world today. People are dying, physically and emotionally and spiritually, and I’m watching it happen. I see it in their eyes, and I pray, “God, please help that person.” But I have the good news! Why am I not sharing it? Why are we just talking about God in our Christian huddles? We are keeping the best thing that ever happened to us to ourselves. We are hoarding food and water while people are dying of hunger and thirst!

Father, I pray for a restlessness to come upon all the Christians in the land. I pray for holy boldness from heaven to envelope your people, and I pray that you will send the lost and dying to those who are ready to profess you to the nations, that people who are bound may find freedom and begin to live! I pray for your church, Lord, that your body may rise up and begin to take responsibility over the clean-up of your world. Help us not to stay comfortable, but to say, “Here I am, Lord send me!” I pray for the hurting, Father, that they may recognize the sustaining power of your righteous Word. And Lord, I pray that you would shut the mouths of those who profess you with their mouths when their hearts are far from you. I pray that you would protect your servants in the field, Father, and that you would sustain them as they labor for you. Lord, I pray for direction for those of us who are sick of sitting around. We have the keys to the kingdom! Help us to know how to use them. Give us guidance and lead us out into the work that you prepared for us before time began. Lord, send revival to the church so that more would become restless for you. As you know, the harvest is ready, but the laborers are few. Send out laborers, Lord, into your vineyard. You have prepared us for the work, now release us into the field. I glorify you, and pray that you may be exalted in the all the earth. In Jesus’ name I pray these things, AMEN!

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

Being a Team Player

Published June 20, 2013 by Dawn

“Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?”

Baseball is America’s favorite past time. As a nation, we drop millions annually to watch this complex game with simple equipment, in which men show off their superior skill and baseball technique. Not to mention their strength. The best part of any game is the high line-drive that makes it far out into the outfield, or better yet, over the fence, bases loaded. Four runners make it home and the team is ecstatic! Every batter wants to be that guy whose stats reflect high RBIs and homeruns. That guy’s a hero, right?!

I’ve never actually played baseball as an organized sport (I play it in a very unorganized way), but I do enjoy watching it. I have watched my kids play recreationally, and in little league, there’s not much strategizing going on. The coach goes as far as to put his best pitcher on the mound and intersperses his strongest hitters among his weaker ones, so that every inning has a few points in it, but that’s about as far as they go to figure out how to win. The chips just kinda fall where they may. But in the major leagues, where the stakes are much higher, there’s a lot of strategizing going on. Every team longs for a moment like this, and if all goes as planned, it happens and the crowd goes wild. The suspense builds and explodes in one very loud crack of the bat. It’s incredible!

What’s less incredible, I’m sure, is being the guy in the line-up whose coach looks him in the eye and says, “Just a bunt. That’s all we need from you. Bunt it and get to first. We’ll get you home.” Talk about anticlimactic! That guy practiced just as long and as hard as everyone else out there, has the same dream of being the guy hoisted above the crowd that’s chanting his name, and yet he’s asked to restrain himself and withhold his full strength in order to benefit the team in a much bigger way. He’s the guy whose going to first, who’ll lead the others who are loading the bases. He won’t be remembered as the one who championed the game. No one really understands what he gave up, and probably, not many care either. “Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?”

Sometimes, in service to God, we are asked the same question. There are many times in life we are asked to become less than we see ourselves as capable of, to restrain ourselves for the Glory of God. It’s not a very popular truth, but it’s truth nonetheless. And sometimes, we share in the glory of the victory and sometimes we do not. Some never tasted the fruits of their labor in this life. They submitted in obedience, gave up their will in order to do God’s will, and were never praised for their work. No one chanted their names. Look at Moses. Gave up the Egyptian throne to lead cranky millions through the wilderness for forty years. It was a thankless job wrought with inner suffering and physical discomfort. And in the end, he didn’t even get to lead them into the land he’d been looking forward to for forty years. His reward was only in heaven. Another couple men: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and many other prophets. They were completely unpopular with men and instead of living in luxury because of their service to God, they lived in mud pits and ate dung. Yep, men called by God who did not have the luxury of a nice, quiet life in the suburbs. They were fools for Him. Everyone hated them because of their service to God, and their reward? Only in heaven.

If that’s not enough, let Jesus be the example. Jesus was the promised one, and everyone could sense it. Talk about anticlimactic, though! He was God’s son, and the equivalent of a vagabond. “The son of God has no place to lay his head.” He paid his taxes with money he found in a fish’s mouth. He didn’t have a savings account and Florida was not his summer getaway. His calling did not include a good-sized house with a maid and in-ground pool. God’s will for Jesus was not physical comfort. It wasn’t even praise and adoration. The same people who chanted his name one day killed him a few later. Some people loved him, some hated him and some who loved him still didn’t fully commit to him. He was not famous. If anything, he was infamous in the eyes of most. He said things that were foolish, like, “You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And he didn’t qualify that, he commanded that those who had ears to hear be able to understand. He left the Holy Spirit to do the work assigned to him, and sometimes, this put Jesus in a place of vulnerability among the crowd. How uncomfortable! And just when Peter thought Jesus was going to rise up and take his rightful place as King, Jesus said he was getting ready to be killed! Jesus couldn’t even live up to his full potential in the eyes of his followers! They were disillusioned and disappointed. But Jesus was still completely within the will of God. And the will of God hurt him. But it was a temporary agony, though it may have seemed endless at the time. “Are you willing to give up something so that the whole team can win?” Jesus said yes, and gave up his life. Gave up a momentary, fickle sort of glory so that he could be obedient unto death on the cross. And in that one selfless act, secured a victory for us all. He gave up his life so that the whole team could win!

I wonder, though, what this question means for us today? What is the will of God for my life and what will it require of me? Will it require my comfort? My servitude? My submission? My own idea of success? The admiration of others? Are these things that God will allow me to have, or ask me to give up in obedience to His strategies that guarantee that the whole team will win? Lord, help me to submit to You in whatever you ask me to do. Help me to put You first and myself last. Help me to be the kind of team player that You need me to be so that You can redeem many others back to you. Thanks for allowing me to be on Your team! Amen!

Pulled in by Deception

Published June 17, 2013 by Dawn

Phone on rice. Fish smell gone. Dirty, wet clothes in laundry room. Life lesson learned.

My son and I went out to my favorite river this afternoon because we needed something special to do in lieu of Father’s Day plans. So I decided, what’s more special than letting him into a part of my world that hardly anyone knows about: my rock. You see, out in the middle of my favorite river is my favorite rock. Sounds silly, I know, but this particular rock is where I go when I desperately need to hear from God. Today, I just wanted to share with him the joy of this river, the beauty of it. I wanted him to share my awe of the Father’s work.

We walked down the man-made path, striking off into the woods only where there was an obviously beaten down path. Growing up in the woods has given me a reverence for nature. I remember being lost in the twelve acres behind my house one day, all by myself, as I explored the woods aimlessly, and right before I freaked out, I saw my neighbor’s spring box and gained the direction I needed to get home. I was about to gain a similar reverence for the river, an unexpected lesson I will not soon forget.

Once we walked down the path to the lookout, I felt comfortable getting off the path. I’ve done it so many times before, because you have to, to get to my rock. So, with our eyes peeled for snakes, we climbed down the side of the hill, one boulder at a time, and made our way to the left of the lookout, walking in the direction of my rock. I couldn’t help but notice that things didn’t quite look the same as they normally do. I couldn’t figure out why until we got to the huge rock I have lovingly claimed as my own and realized that today, we could get to it without ever touching water. The last time I climbed it, I had to first wade through thigh-high water and then slowly and methodically pull myself up the side of the rock, being careful not to trust my feet to hold me up since they were creating a very slippery slope on the side of the rock. Usually, at this point, I’m barefoot because I hate wet shoes. Naked feet on slippery rock is not a good combination. But since the water was way down and the path to the rock was completely dry, we confidently walked across rocks I have never seen before and climbed the side of my rock to the very top. The first time I went up there, I felt like I had conquered the world. Without the danger and adventure of the water surrounding the rock, my world felt a little smaller today. My climb was a lot less adventurous, and left something to be desired.

Since my son wanted to at least get his feet wet, we walked down the other side of the rock where the water flows around the base of the rock, took our shoes off and dangled our feet in the water. I pointed the current out to him and told him about the deception of currents, and about undertows. I pointed out rocks that were under the water and we discussed how, because the water was so clear, you really couldn’t gauge the depth of it by looking down into it. And I used all of these things to discuss the deception of temptation and sin. How the devil deceives us into believing that we can flirt with sin and not really get caught up in it, and how sin, like a strong current, can drag us off solid ground and pull us along paths we don’t really want to be on. And how once we’re out there, we are at the mercy of the current and our surroundings, and all we can do is pray to be rescued. I told him that once sin pulls you out there, you also have to worry about the undertows in life, that pull you under and keep you there until you drown. Quite terrifying analogy, if I do say so myself. And then, something happened to punctuate the lesson.

You see, while we were discussing all these things, we were exploring different currents with our feet, to feel the strength of the river. We ended up on the bottom edge of the rock near the swiftest part of the current. He was sitting precariously on the edge feeling the swaying algae and I told him to get back in such a voice that he shared my alarm and moved quickly. I then ventured to stick my foot in the algae just to see if I could handle the feel of it (normally, not something I would touch but I was feeding off his curiosity). It was so soft and although it was really slippery, it felt like there was an abrasiveness to it that I could trust to hold my feet firm. Deceptive. I planted my feet further into the soft bed of algae and shifted my weight just a little to move closer to the edge of the rock, and before I knew what happened, the current had dragged me into the river.

In moments like these, incredible peace descends on me and the Lord begins to prompt me into actions that preserve my life. I know that’s what happened because without thinking, I flipped myself over onto my stomach and planted my hands on two rocks and pulled my body as much out of the water as I could to where I was just skimming the service of the current. I can’t explain this to you. If it doesn’t seem possible, there’s your proof that angels do exist. Mine were magnificent today. I looked at the terror-stricken face of my son as he edged himself toward me and firmly told him to get back. He obeyed but squeaked, “Mom, what do I do?” I very calmly said, “Start to pray.” Then I looked at the rocks to my left and my right and quickly decided how best to get out of the water. I had to climb out on the smaller rock opposite my son. When I was finally out, I looked over at him, and he asked, “How do I get over there?” I said, “Well, you don’t. Let me figure this out a minute.” After much inner debate, I decided to follow the rocks down to a shallower part of the river (not very far at all, and at this point, my son was sitting pensively in one spot just waiting for me). I walked across the shallow part of the river and hopped slippery rocks back to where he was. I then pulled my phone and my ipod out of my pockets and whined a little over the cost of possibly having to replace them.

After all was said and done, I had learned a reverence for the river, and we both had learned a valuable lesson about sin: temptations are subtle and often times deceptive. Sin takes you further than you want to go and costs far more than you are willing to pay. Sin also separates you from both God and the people that you love and need.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to learn this lesson in such a way that we will neither forget it, and thank you for keeping us both safe in the midst of it. How lucky I am that my life is in your hands. Thank you for delivering me from the deception and treachery of sin, and preserving my life. You are wonderful to me.