Repost: The Prayer of the Average and Broken

I am so thankful for my children.

While I was the teacher for their early years, they are now teaching me.

fiona and cash at home (2)

From my daughter, Fiona:

It’s tempting to look at someone doing a hard thing (like foster care) or living out a hard truth (like child loss) and label them as “special”, “brave”, “extraordinary”, or “chosen by God for a big purpose”.

Read the rest here:  The Prayer of the Average and Broken

Costly Obedience

If the only place you get your food is the grocery store with overflowing shelves and more choices than any one person truly needs, then this verse won’t mean much to you.

If you’ve never depended on a homemade pantry stocked with home-canned jars for your winter supply, it’s hard to understand.

But if you’ve ever had to choose between putting that last bit of corn into the ground or into your mouth, you won’t have any trouble imagining the tears that flow as you place each kernel beneath the dirt with a prayer begging for a bumper crop.

And then you wait.

Because only the planting in faith is MY business.  The growing is God’s.

Those who walk the fields to sow, casting their seed in tears,
    will one day tread those same long rows, amazed by what’s appeared.
  Those who weep as they walk
    and plant with sighs
Will return singing with joy,
    when they bring home the harvest.

Psalm 126:5-6 VOICE

In dark and burdensome seasons of life, I am tempted to cling tightly to what I can hold in MY hand instead of clinging tightly in faith to the One Who holds me in HIS hand.

Sowing in tears is choosing to walk obediently even when obedience is costly and there is no visible evidence that it will produce a good result.

There may be a long wait-perhaps my entire lifetime-to see the harvest of choosing obedience in faith.

But there WILL be a harvest.

He guarantees it.

And then the tears will turn to JOY.

sow in tears 2

 

 

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

I love the idea of Random Acts of Kindness-it’s a beautiful way to spread love and joy in our broken world.

With a few dollars or a few minutes, I have the opportunity to make someone’s day brighter, their burden lighter and remind them that not everyone is “out to get them”.

BUT-as I’ve written before here:  Relational Acts of Kindness, it’s relatively easy to do my good deed and walk away.

When I bless a stranger, my work is done.

I feel good, they feel good-it’s all good.

I find it much harder to purpose to be kind every day to the people I actually KNOW-the one who may have said cutting things in the past, the one who consistently rubs me the wrong way, the one I feel is lazy or subversive or just holds opinions with which I disagree.

How about the one I thought would show up to help but didn’t?  Or the one who has told tales about me or my family?  The one who lets her children run wild at church? The one who makes others uncomfortable with her dress, or language, or lack of social skill?

Being kind to THAT person is hard.

I want to turn the other way.  I want to make excuses.  I want to pretend that my kindness toward strangers balances my lack of kindness to those with whom I walk daily.

It doesn’t.

I am called to be kind at precisely that place where it is most difficult.  I am called to act in love toward just that person who is most unloveable.  I am called to lay down my life where it looks most likely to be unappreciated.

ephesians-4-31-32

Denying myself is the very method by which Christ builds His kingdom.

Offering my body as a living sacrifice is the pressure He applies to mold my flesh into His likeness

washing-feet-beauty

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them and that their great ones have absolute power? But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be your slave—just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.”

Matthew 20:27-29 PHILLIPS

 

 

Willful Obedience

How many times have we seen it or experienced it ourselves?

bratty-child

 

That moment when a young child cries, WHY do I have to do it?!!!”

In reply an exasperated mama says, “Because I TOLD you to!!!”

Then the moment of truth:  either the child complies (reluctantly perhaps) or chooses willful disobedience.

When my children were little, we lived on a fairly busy road with our driveway a short distance from the edge of the pavement.  I was shepherding four young ones and could not possibly keep an eye on each one every second of every day.

So early on we established a rule:  You never step on blacktop pavement without holding the hand of an adult.

I explained that the road was dangerous.  But let’s face it, the ability of  a two year old to understand “dangerous” is limited.

Because of the faithful love they experienced in our home, my children trusted me even though they did not fully comprehend the need to obey.

And this rule was never broken as long as we lived there.

It kept them safe.

These last months I have felt like an angry, willful child-I’ve asked God, “Why do I have to affirm Your goodness? Why do I have to believe You are in control?  Why do I have to keep on keeping on when all I want to do is lie down and give up?”

And, honestly, the only answer I’ve gotten is, “Because I told you to.”

He has not given me special revelation nor has He whispered unique comfort to my heart.

No answer as to why MY son was taken.

No insight into how these circumstances play into His greater plan and purpose for my life or for anyone else’s life.

So I face a moment of truth:  will I choose obedience?  Will I choose to continue to follow my Savior and trust my Heavenly Father?. 

Will I rest in the faithful love He has showered on me all my days and hold tighter to the hope I have in Christ?

Or will I walk away because I don’t get what I want and I don’t understand?

The apostles faced a similar test many times.  One which speaks to my heart occurred just after Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand.

When Jesus taught that He was the Bread of Life, many turned away because they found the words offensive and hard to believe.

bread-of-life

The crowd had readily accepted physical blessing from His hand, but hesitated when the blessing wasn’t something they could touch or comprehend.

They were unprepared to follow Him if they didn’t understand.

Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?”

From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”

John 6: 60-61, 66-69

Simon Peter chose to follow because he believed and accepted a core truth:  Jesus IS the Holy One of God.  He IS the Bread of Heaven.  He IS the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Like the crowd, I cry out, “This teaching (of Your sovereignty, of Your goodness, of Your love for me) is hard! Who can accept it (in light of my experience)?

But as an act of will, even in the midst of so many unanswered questions, I will choose to follow and obey because only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
― C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

Set it Aside

Good is something you do, not something you talk about.
Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.
Gino Bartali

Set aside the tweets and the memes

Set aside the scores and the football predictions

Set aside the latest greatest whatever.

Move it off the table of your heart 

And create space for the truly important:

The drowning people fleeing war torn countries where children are starving or being buried alive in bombed out rubble;

The families displaced-many forever-from homes that were nowhere near a flood plain and who never imagined they would watch a lifetime of memories float downstream;

The frightened ones trafficked for men’s pleasure-praying that someone, anyone, notices and steps in to save them;

The lonely teen unsure of where to turn until his thoughts become so unendurable that only one way out seems reasonable;

The old man or old woman, forgotten and alone, breathing stale air in a home that isn’t home-no one speaking his name, her name-as if they had already passed from this life to the next.

You think it doesn’t matter much.

You think someone else will take care of it

Until it’s you

Waiting for light in the darkness

Looking for hope to hold onto

Begging for help as you’re drowning in despair.

As it is, you boast in your proud intentions.  All such boasting is evil. Therefore whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin.

James 4:17 The Berean Study Bible

 

 

 

 

 

My Cup Overflows

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my heart-and I whispered, “surely my cup overflows!”

Surely, God’s hand is in this, is on our lives-He has brought us to this place of blessing.

And that’s how I used to always think of that verse-the cup overflowing with goodness and blessing.

But what about when the cup overflows with sorrow?  

With pain?

With tragedy, trials and temptations?

jesus in the garden

Jesus knew about that cup.  That’s the cup He begged the Father to take from Him.

The cup that was bitter and hard to swallow.

He prayed three times, He sweat blood and He battled His flesh so that His spirit could conform to the Father’s will.

And in the end, He submitted Himself to the Father’s plan.

He was obedient, even to death, even to death that He did not deserve, did not HAVE to suffer, did not WANT to suffer.

I have buried a son.

And it is the most painful thing I have ever had to bear.

It’s a burden I never anticipated and it’s a burden of which I will not be free until I join him in Heaven.

There are some parents who have suffered the loss of multiple children. Or who have suffered child loss and other difficult life circumstances.

If my cup is full and overflowing, theirs is overflowing still more.

Where to take that full cup?

Where to find the strength to carry it, to drink it to the dregs?

When my heart screams, “No more!” and my body cries, “I can’t do this!”, I look to my Savior for the model of how to carry on.

Only in Christ, Who Himself bore the cup and Who drank its bitter fullness can I hope for strength and redemption.

The One Who knows my pain can carry my pain.

The One Who lives again will breathe life into my heart.  

The One Who redeems what the enemy has stolen will turn my mourning to dancing.  

cup of blessing

This cup will not always overflow with sorrow.  Around the banquet table at the wedding supper of the Lamb, it will once again be full of joy.

You make me know the path of life; in your presence is unbounded joy, in your right hand eternal delight.

Psalm 16:11 CJB