When Your Child Calls

Standard

“Mom…”

Whether they are 3 or 7 or 17, when you hear your name being called from another room, you move. And 9 times out of 10 you know based on the child, the tone and time of day if your name is going to be followed by a tantrum or vomit. Thankfully, I just got a request for coffee this morning.

As a parent, I can tell instantly by that “Mom…” what my darlings need: What happened? Who hurt you? Get to the toilet!

I also know what it’s like when they don’t call my name and turn to someone/something else for comfort or help. It pisses me off. Especially if what they turn to is completely inadequate to do the job.

When my son was younger he was bullied by some older boys (who also wanted to play with him… I never did understand that). One day, as I watched him get off the bus and brushed-past by these two nit-wits I saw the anger rise through his little body. He was so angry, so frustrated that he was in tears by the time he hit the door.

I was ready with my words of comfort and loving hugs and kisses but instead he came inside, dropped his back pack at my feet and fell on the dog bed next to our sleeping boxer, Belle.

“Buddy, come here and talk to me.”

“No,” he announced and snuggled up to a stinky, sleeping dog.

Damn dog.

The Apple and The Tree

How often though have I fallen on the dog (or a cupcake or an unhealthy relationship) to meet my needs instead of uttering my Father’s name? He whispers constantly, “Come here and talk to Me.” And sometimes I do but sometimes I don’t. And still, He waits for me to come to Him. He never complains that I smell of dog (or cupcakes); He just listens, guides, and helps me get cleaned up…

If my kids know that when they call, this fallible, broken human being they know as Mom will come, how much more should I know that my loving, holy, trustworthy Father will come when I call?

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:2-3

Babies & Dog Bites: Thoughts on Being Specific in Prayer

Standard
Babies & Dog Bites: Thoughts on Being Specific in Prayer

Yesterday was one of my dear friends’ birthday. Her birthday always makes me smile because, well I love her, and two it always reminds me of how specific God can be. Many years ago she called me one day and said she needed prayer. She and her husband were in the midst of adopting another child and she said she needed some confirmation that this adoption would go through well. Of all of her adoptions this one had the most uncertainties in it: we weren’t even sure if birth mom’s due date was correct… So, I prayed that God would begin to send baby things to my friend. You know, formula packets, baby magazines, diapers—all those things new or soon-to-be moms magically get in the mail as baby approaches. Our specific prayer: send baby things, Jesus.

A couple of days later, she called me. We had already talked earlier that day and it was a little late so I was a little worried when I picked up the phone. “What’s wrong?”

“We’re on our way to the hospital. She had the baby and wants us there now to sign papers and everything.”

Silence.

“Well, we prayed for baby things,” she said.

“Um, I didn’t think He’d actually send the baby…” My shock-filled statement made us both laugh.

And it was her birthday.

Once, my sister called me frantic. Her oldest son had been gone for at least 3 weeks. We had no idea where he was and she was just sick with worry and frustration (and anger, to be honest). We prayed for his safe return but I also prayed that God would do whatever it takes to bring that boy home. “Seriously, Lord, if it takes a dog bite to bring him down, do what you have to…”

My sister called me a few days later. She was at the hospital. Her son had been pursued by police and instead of stopping; he tried to escape by jumping over a fence. The officer happened to be a part of the K-9 patrol. He let his dog go and my nephew was caught and bit by the dog.

As I entered the hospital, my sister was just shaking her head at me and my nephew was screaming at the top of his lungs how this was all my fault.

Now, I share these things with you NOT to brag about how awesome I am as a prayer (because I just ask; God is the one who does the work)—I’m sharing this with you to remind you to be specific when you pray.

I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

If you have kids or have ever seen the movie A Christmas Story, you know that being specific is essential to getting what you want. When we ask our darlings what they want, they never say, “Toys” or “Games” or “Whatever” unless they are teenagers and that is a whole other blog. Anyway, kids want to give specifics and we as parents want specifics. I ache to know every detail of my kids’ desires, hurts, joys, and frustrations and I desperately want them to tell me how I can help them.

Now, remember, God isn’t a genie in a bottle or a mall Santa whose purpose is to give you everything your fickle human heart desires. This is about communicating in a relationship. When we are specific to the ones we love it shows confidence in our relationship; it tells them they are “worthy” to know our thoughts/desires/needs and that we trust them to guard or keep or do what we ask.

Do you know why I shared the examples above? My friend and my sister now have stories of how much God is in the details of their lives simply because I prayed specifically and He in His goodness moved. And I have a reminder that God listens to me.

Today, be specific with God. Yes, He knows what you need and want but like any parent, He desires to hear about it from you. To talk you through what’s going on—because sometimes we want things that will shoot our eye out. Too, ask Him to be specific with you. He has things He’d like to entrust to you, too, you know. Do you know that? People He wants you to love, adventures He wants to take you on… You are always on His mind, beloved. Talk to Him.

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!…Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139: 17-18, 23-24

Don’t you know who I am?

Standard
Don’t you know who I am?

I am the 4th of 5 kids. I’m the youngest girl. And the age difference between the youngest of the 3 older ones and I is about 8 years. I am an odd cross between spoiled youngest and bossy eldest (my “little brother” is 4 years younger than me). It’s awesome and it made me a bit….precocious as a child. (Shocker, I know).

My older brother and sisters were in high school when I was in grade school and when I was bullied (which happened often with one boy in particular) I’d always pull the “don’t you know who I am?” card. My siblings were popular and well-loved by their high school counterparts. And many of my classmates had siblings who knew (or knew of) my brother and sisters.

And then one day I got caught running my mouth off to the Mean Boy that my brother would “teach you a lesson” and my brother said (in front of the Mean Boy who was bullying me), “No. I’m not going to fight your fight.” I was totally abandoned. Two things happened that day–my bully and I would quickly come to odds (blows) because he knew I was unprotected and I never trusted my big brother would “be there” for me if I needed him. Ever. Again.

Now, there are those that would say I learned a valuable lesson that day: not to run my mouth (if you’ve met me, you know that lesson didn’t stick) and to fight my own battles. What I learned was not to trust.

Then I moved in with my dad. And tough little me met my tough (tender-hearted) protector. My dad ALWAYS kept me safe. I knew that he would never abandon me (even if I deserved it) and I knew that there wasn’t anyone who could defeat him. He commanded the presence of a room by just walking into it.

Knowing these 2 sides of trust has really helped me in my spiritual life. I am strong-willed and tend to want to do things on my own but when I walk in the truth that “…we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) I realize I need my Defender.

God reminds us constantly throughout scripture who He is because He does not want us fighting our own battles! God expects me, one, to know who my Father is and what He is capable of, and, two, to look at the Enemy of My Soul and say, Oh yeah, don’t you know who my Dad is? I have no power in my flesh to defeat him, but God’s already won these battles. The devil just needs to be reminded.

If you are facing a fight or a situation that is leaving you feeling weak and defeated, please KNOW that your God loves you and is strong enough to fight your battle and loving enough to bind your wounds. He is your Armor; trust Him.

Easter from Peter’s Point of View

Standard

Walking into Holy Week means a lot (or a little) to each of us individually. I will be honest, I have never done a deep meditation during this week—I read the accounts and I pray but for some reason Easter has a tendency to creep up on me (Christmas does this too). When I finally realize it’s time to prepare, it’s already Maundy Thursday and I find myself more concerned about finding a ham than contemplating the passion of the Christ.

However, I am in good company. Easter snuck up on Peter, too.

We actually don’t meet Peter right away. His journey with Jesus actually begins with his brother, Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist. JB says to two of his disciples that Jesus is the way, the True Teacher and Lamb of God.  So, Andrew spends the day with Jesus and at the end of it, the first thing he does is find his brother, Simon (Peter), and tell him that he has found the Christ. Now in my mind, I see Peter give his brother a raised eyebrow of “uh huh” over the fishing nets he’s putting away. But, Peter goes and checks out Jesus for himself. And Simon encounters the Christ and is renamed Peter; he is among the first to recognize and openly declare that Jesus is the Christ.

Over the next three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter would walk on water with Jesus, see his mother in law healed and saved from death. He would be rebuked for the stupid things he said and did and praised for his great faith. He would witness countless miracles of healing and be considered one Jesus’ closest friends.

At their final dinner together, Jesus washes all of the disciples’ feet—the job of a slave. Peter protests at this “unworthy” act and when Jesus points out this act of service would make Peter clean, Peter (as was his nature) swings to the opposite side and says, “Not just my feet, but all of me, too…” Jesus gently says all he needs is feet washed. Later at dinner, Jesus announces that He is to be betrayed by one of them. And (wisely?) they all ask, “Is it me?” But Peter also proclaims, “Even if I it causes me my death, I will never betray you!” And Jesus gently tells him that before the night is over, Peter will deny Him not once, but three different times.

And then Peter finds himself in a garden…

Peter has just watched (and fallen asleep while) the Savior prays, begs, for the burden of the cross to pass from Him—but Jesus says, “Not my will but Yours” and yields to the Father’s plan for man’s reconciliation back to Him.

Then, things get bad. Roman soldiers in the charge of religious leaders following a former friend turned betrayer come to take Jesus away. Peter, again as is nature, over-reacts, grabs a sword and cuts off a dude’s ear. And as is HIS nature, Jesus, rebukes Peter in truth (He had told them repeatedly this would happen) and heals the servant’s ear.

The disciples scatter. Jesus is left alone. And Peter, he lurks in shadows watching Him be lead to His torture and death.

And then things get really bad.  Peter, the rock Jesus said He would build His church on, crumbles under the questioning of such powerful people as a bunch of strangers and a slave girl.

I don't know this man

He denies Jesus three times and as a cock crows, everything he knows about himself, all that he gave up and sacrificed over the last three years…all that he wanted his faith life to be about was crushed. So he ran away.

This Easter I’m reminded of the times I have run away because the truth of God—who He is, how He does things, His plan that I don’t fully understand—sneaks up on me. And I shouldn’t be surprised; like the disciples, I often get warned about what’s coming. I just don’t listen.

Now we know how it all ends but Peter didn’t. He was in the midst of a massive crisis. This comforts me. I don’t know the end of my story either but watching Peter’s failure (and restoration) reminds me that nothing separates us from Him. Nothing. Jesus is triumphant in all things. It may not come in the way I want but it does come.

This Easter, regardless of what your past says remember what God’s word says:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-40

And this is my prayer for all of us:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21

Greek Yogurt and Discipline

Standard

I have decided to revamp my diet. Two reasons: I’m finding that certain foods are starting to trigger migraines and an upset stomach in me that didn’t before and I really should eat better. Oh, and my butt isn’t fitting into my summer clothes. So, three reasons.

Now, what I am getting rid of is mainly aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG). I never realized how much aspartame and MSG is in everything! I even had to change the yogurt I was eating. Everyone was talking about how uber fab Greek yogurt was: lots of protein, no preservatives, no aspartame… so I thought, sign me up!

You are what you eat

When you have to stretch your neck to get a food down, it’s not a good sign.

Enter Discipline

I know my over-sweetened taste buds need to be re-educated and Greek yogurt is good for me and I should be eating it—not Cap’n Crunch cereal, which is what I really want. I also know that making these changes takes time and a “walking it out” mentality. Any practice worth doing takes practice.

And additional fruit.

My human nature loves the easy fix. I want things to just happen or change—when I’m ready and in my time. I don’t want there to be process or practice or pain. That’s sucky. But that’s life and that’s how true change happens.

I was reading a blog by Rick Warren (I know, what’s happening to me. I’m embracing the “popular Christian” and it’s actually speaking to me… Blame God.) Warren points out that people who are self-disciplined:

  • Master their moods (Proverbs 25:28)
  • Watch their words (Proverbs 13:3)
  • Restrain their reactions (Proverbs 19:11)
  • Stick to a schedule (Ephesians 5:15-16)
  • Manage their money ((Proverbs 21:20)
  • Maintain their health (1 Thessalonians 4:4)

ALL things I need to do better, by the way. But how do I cultivate self-discipline? (Did that sound whiny? Yeah, it was). I can master my will by yielding it to Christ’s. Now that may seem counter intuitive—shouldn’t discipline come by sucking it up and getting it done? Don’t I need to dig deep, act like I got a pair and just do it?  No, because that hasn’t worked for me for the last 40 years maybe I should change my game plan for the next 40.

Galatians 5 talks about living in freedom through the Spirit and His power.  Verse 16 sums it up: Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Today I yield. It may seem silly but I need to consciously choose the Holy Spirit. To wake up each day and say, I am Yours. Guide my desires. And break my will if need be.

So hand me a spoon (and some strawberries), I have yogurt to eat.

I’m not that brave…

Standard

Most of you know that I love WonderWoman.

She’s my alter ego.

And when I think of myself spiritually, I pretty much see this:

How I see my spiritual self

How I see my spiritual self

But this last week, I was wondering (realizing?) that maybe I actually look this:

How I really am spiritually

This week, while reading one of my devotionals, I read about a demonized man in Galilee. Brother was running amuck, naked and homeless, “living” among the tombs of Gerasenes. And the truth dawned on me: I would never seek this kind of person out. Oh, I’d talk about it and I’d encourage you to do it but I’m pretty sure I’d sit that one out.

Well, that’s a pisser. One minute I’m WonderWoman of the Faith and the next Wimpy McWimperson. Awesome. I was frustrated, sad, and repentant throughout the week but I still KNEW that I’d never be that brave like Jesus was—I’m all talk.

Come Sunday

One of my favorite people spoke. Maggie Mraz is the pastor of the Bull City Vineyard (BCV) and I adore her. She is real, she loves Jesus and she loves people. As is God’s way, He had something for me: Maggie preached on the demonized man of Gerasenes and also talked about her journey planting a church in downtown Durham.

I encourage you to listen to her because it is damn good God stuff: Extreme Nature of the Power of God to Change the Life of a Person.

What I walked away with was this: God doesn’t want nor need me to be brave, He desires me to be obedient.

During her talk, Maggie asked how a white suburban housewife starts a black church in downtown Durham, North Carolina. She doesn’t. She didn’t seek that out—she heard the call to plant a church in Durham. That’s it. She obeyed and God decided who to bring.

Maggie describes her “friends” (what she affectionately calls those who attend BCV) as the addicted, the uneducated, the felon, the homeless, the poor, the broken and for the most part, black. In fact, one of her friends (Johnny) even said, “God must be doin’ somethin’ because, Pastor, you’re a white woman.” And Johnny’s right–that’s still a big deal in South where we live. (I think it’s a big deal regardless of where you live but anyway…)

And the key to her success isn’t a great church model or administration skills; it isn’t all the support she’s gotten because to be honest, she hasn’t gotten a ton. And it isn’t her bravery. She is simply obedient.

She prays. She listens. She obeys. And Jesus moves.

I need to stop wanting to be the ass-kicker of God and desire to be the obedient child of God because it is only in that place that I can truly achieve the Kingdom things I desire.

To do this, I will need to walk in obedience, not bravery. It is here that lives are changed by His presence (not mine); where others are loved well and deeply and right where they are (even if it makes me uncomfortable); where our enemy is defeated and cast out from His presence (because He is awesome, not because I am so tough and brave).

Right now my obedience comes from trusting but soon it will grow and I will obey because I have built the discipline to do so. But discipline takes time. So if anyone needs me, I will be at the place where it is found: His feet.