Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Race

The big race had just begun. The runners were all lined up heading in the same direction. This would be a race of a life time. The runners were excited as they anticipated all that lay before them. Chatting happily as they ran through the wooded areas and wide open fields. Sometimes the rocks would make certain runners trip but there were friends along the way that were always right there to pick up the fallen or offer a drink to the thirsty. Throughout the race new runners would join. The other runners would all cheer as their new friends chose to run the race. 
This was a race that was not intended to be competitive but rather one where each athlete  was to receive a prize at the end  of their own journey, which was yet to be determined for each individual. But sometimes people forgot this, especially if they felt superior to another runner who ran next to them. Or inferior to one in front of them.

Sometimes the runners got tired and heard there was a short cut down paths that were wider and easier to travel. But most times those runners never made it back to the less traveled road where the other runners journeyed. 
Sometimes when a runner would fall down some behind him would race right past. Some would offer words of encouragement and even sit right down with the runner. But Others would stop to stare. They would whisper to each other... "He's fallen, I think this is grounds for disqualification from the race." Forgetting that they themselves had fallen several miles back. And all kinds of questions arose as to what to do with this disqualified one. Some of the runners stopped running altogether to form a committee figuring out how to handle this runner. Some runners cried, "Have Mercy". Others said, "We know he has fallen but we can't judge". All the while, the runner just lay there in his shame and falleness. Realizing he probably would never run again.
 And then the rain came. And it got muddy and people started yelling louder at each other and throwing mud. Sometimes the clumps of mud would hit others around and finally there was a whole host of runners who were just laying there on the ground holding their wounded arms and legs and hearts.
The runner wanted to get up but he knew these people he had been running with would never let him run freely again. As he slowly got up and started to walk again he limped. But he believed those words that he would never run again. He was disqualified for sure. This was one of those unacceptable falls that no one would ever forget or forgive him for. 
And the worst part?
 He would never be able to forgive himself. He loathed himself for what he had become. 
And there he stayed over to the side of the pack, wondering how to ever run again.

This morning I woke up with the word Disqualified on my mind.
 What makes one feel disqualified from running?
I have been there. Sometimes it's because of falls of our own choices. Sometimes because of pits others throw us in. We no longer hold the perfect runner award someone had placed above our head, but instead the biggest loser who didn't measure up. And we feel disqualified from ministry. Or life in general.  Maybe you feel disqualified from running with those you had run before.

The bottom line is this... We all trip. We all are guilty of mudslingin' and falling. But there is good news for you today if you have been struggling in the race.
We have a forerunner who came and ran a perfect race. 
No stumbles. No falls. No Failures.
 He was judged by those around him.
He's the one who will be the final official when the race is over.
Those around you can say whatever they want to, but he's the one who decides in the end.

And the best part?
 He paid the price so you don't have to. He gave his life for you. And although you may have really been as bad as everyone says, He tells you that he still loves you and  wants you to confess your wrong and move forward.
He wants you to get up and run hard. And while we run the race to please him, and  nothing we do is hid from his gaze, It's not our perfection but His that makes the difference for us in the end.
 Run Fast.
 Run with your head up because HE has not Disqualified you.
You are in this race to win.
You are his child. And you can do all things through his strength.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,~Hebrews 12:1

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I am learning

For I have learned Whatever state I am in to be content. ~ Paul

These past months have  ranked in the top of my most difficult season of life.  And Although I don't typically make a formal New Year's Commitment... Because I know I will fail, and forget and beat myself up relentlessly for the 11 months left in the year, I typically decline from making such proclamations. This year a theme started reoccurring in my brain. I think it may have had to do with a restlessness that I found to be in my Spirit. 

The Theme has continued to pop up over and over. In my heart. In the Word. In conversations. Posts.. Etc...
Only the very Mature have learned how to be content with whatever life deals them. Only the most advanced in their faith know how to have joy in the middle of constant suffering. I have a friend like this. He's not going to live many more years, unless God heals him miraculously. And yet he is positive and  joyful and encouraging every time I see him. He doesn't even want people to know of his condition. Because he doesn't want to be defined by his terminal illness.
He blesses me.
He's content.
And I know I want to be that person one day.
When the Scripture says... "I have learned" it means one has accomplished it. Like I have learned the alphabet. To say I have learned implies I am consistently in a state of contentedness. 
 But me? No, I'm  just learning how to be content.

So instead of just deciding that this is the year I'm going to  be content, I have been processing how to be content. What does contentment look like?
It's a battle in this world of "me first" and "more" to live with what we've been given with joyful hearts.
It's so easy to look across the fence and see something we perceive will finally make us fulfilled. So we compare our dull non eventful and maybe even painful life with the highlights of our neighbor or face book friend, family member or maybe even best friend.

It's easy to spot someone who lacks contentment but harder to see  in ourselves.

This is my plan. Not a Resolution of a year long plan but a life long one.

1. Live more Gratefully. To do this I really must pause and recount the gifts I have been given. The people in my life. The job I have. The things I have been entrusted with.

2. Remembering... Life. Is. A. Gift. I have witnessed this first hand this winter. Life is not guaranteed. Every breath I take is a gift. What will I do with today?  What if it's my last?

3. I am given the family, the talent, and the place I am in right now, at this season, for a reason. I will give an account for this. I must be intentional about honoring these gifts.

4. I will choose to see the positive side of adverse circumstances.. that doesn't mean I don't acknowledge pain, it means I will determine to dwell on what God can do in the middle of whatever I face.

5. I will not let fear overtake me. In a world of conflict and horrible news stories I will fall on the one who has promised to be with me and take me one day to the place I call home.

6. I will not let the weather give me an excuse to be ugly and unkind. I will also remember to thank God for the seasons as he brings them to pass.

7. I will determine to always rejoice with others when they are rejoicing, even if I do not ever get the very thing they are rejoicing over.

8. I will be more intentional with how and why I'm spending money. Is it because of lack of something deeper  that drives me to fill  that hole with a desire to obtain more? What is the motive of having more...even if it's a good buy?

9. I will learn from people around the world who have much less than I do. I will give out of what I have been given.

10. I will learn to be patient in affliction. Because honestly, it grows us up faster and deeper than anything else. Affliction, when it comes, can be profitable for teaching contentment. If I choose to allow God to work in my heart in those seasons, Instead of complaining and falling into a trap of self pity, I will begin to  learn the secrets of contentment in all things.

I am on a journey.
To live life like a follower of the one who gives ultimate joy, to a world who desperately needs encouragement. 
Let it begin with me.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me ~ Philippians 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One month without you here

How could we have known a year ago at Easter that it would be your last one on Earth?
How could we have known that you wouldn't finish out your first year of high school?
 Or ever learn to drive?
How could we have known all the lasts?
Our hearts are torn as we try to learn how to live with the pain that your absence brings. It's one day of tears and the next of reasonable toleration of the grief. But it's always close to the surface ready to spring forth at one word mentioned that brings you back to our mind. We laugh at the memories of the good ole days. We cry knowing we don't get to make anymore.
It's out of order. Kids don't die. Not usually.. We hoped and prayed for a different outcome. But it was not meant to be. We know in our heads we were made for another place but in the parting there is such a ripping. A tearing out of hearts. Today I grieve our loss! I grieve your  departure again. I cry for my sister my brother in law their sons and mine. I mourn for a grandma and grandpa for cousins and friends who miss you.
 Today 1 month later we weep.
We know you are where we all want to be. We were made for eternity.
But tonight my tears fall for me not you. I know you are just fine. But I'm not going to be for a long time!

I found this song tonight. It brought me comfort.
(If you click on The reason for the world, it will take you there.)

The reason for the world

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A little Kentucky Education

For Spring Break we took a few days and headed to Lexington, Kentucky. We had often passed through the city but never really checked it out up close. This is really unacceptable since we lived in the neighboring city of Louisville. Malaina was a toddler and Jalen was born while we lived there. We have very great memories of our time there. But never did we attend a horse race. Of Course Louisville is the big Derby city but we were not all that interested at the time in seeing a race. But today we thought it may be fun to just run down to the track and see a race.

And we got quite an education. As tourist we were dressed in comfy clothes enjoying our tour around the countryside.
But as we pulled into the park we realized we were ridiculously under-dressed. So when we eventually found a spot to park we piled out and tried to figure out what to do next. Micah said... "okay family, let's all just agree to talk in Australian accents." Good idea let's just pretend to be foreigners. Several started repeating the phrase we had just picked up at our college visit. "We refuse to accept embarrassment" The meaning behind this phrase is that embarrassment always looks for a place to land and if we don't accept it someone else may get embarrassed for us. :)
Me? I decided to just dig out the dress I had worn the night before and throw on some heels.
 After weaving through crowds of people we found a pretty good spot to watch the race.  We confessed to a the usher that we were Yankee's and he so kindly told us what was going on. He gave the kids little trinkets and allowed the girls to take pictures with the owners umbrella's.
We refused to accept the embarrassment.

There were lots of good opportunities to witness how we don't want to conduct ourselves at the race track. I'm just glad we didn't get trampled with the masses of people. Do you know how claustrophobic it is to be my size and be in a sea of people? I'm not a fan. 

We were glad to have wide open spaces again. The walk back to the car got a little long so big brother offered a lift. 
It was a day we won't forget soon.
Everyone seemed grateful to head back to the city to get some chocolate from the Kentucky Chocolate Company. 

And even more grateful to get home to our own beds. 
It's always good to go....
But even better to come home!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Can we come too?

It was a smell that took me to another day. The musty Odor lingered as I strolled through the aged building. Remembering another day when it was me, yes I was the one just beginning a new chapter of life.

Some 20 years ago I was making a visit to the Bible College I would attend. I remember the smell because for me smell seems to be very closely related to most every memory I have. I was sitting there in the lobby and in strolled this very confident looking bearded man in a trench coat. I instantly followed him with my eyes. I had decided in the 3 quick minutes that 1. He was handsome. 2 He knew how to make an entrance. 3. I should probably meet him. 4.  I hoped the date he was leaving on wouldn't work out. (confession)
  It took us awhile to figure out how to relate but when we finally did we knew we couldn't make it apart.

That year  was a good year for me.  The spiritual cocoon that I was wrapped in was comforting and stretching all at the same time. I built many friendships that I still cherish today. The memories of piling in cars and heading to the nearest pizza joint will never leave my memory. I have fond memories of The classes, the Teachers,The overall sense of learning to live without mom and dad and making more decisions on my own, becoming independent and growing up.

As I spent some time reflecting over the past to my daughter I had a sense of excitement about this day. The day when she too would be visiting a college she has chosen as top of her list of potentials. We would go tour today and be one step closer to spreading her wings.

I expected I would be teary as I usually am when I think of her leaving. But today I just felt excited. Excited that my daughter would get to have those experiences soon. That she too would be able to know how fun a community of friends who live together and experience a whole new life can be.
If she were a math  or science major or something else that would not  be my language I may still be excited for her. But with her choice of  Journalism or Public Relations I am as interested in sitting in classes with her as she is. I had to refrain from getting out my notebook and jotting down some tips. But I shouldn't because I'm the mom. I kept telling myself. I'm the mom,with the prospective college student. Weird feeling.

Every now and then we would tease her and say, "we should all just move here." Which made her laugh and say "No dad you can't live on campus with me". The other kids decided they should all just come here and then we wouldn't have to do anymore visits.

The Communications center was state of the art with amazing artifacts  all throughout the building.
I'm so glad for her to have found something that she really likes.
We haven't made a final decision but it's a strong candidate. With our pastor's STRONG endorsement as a former student of the college and the seminary we felt a sense of "coming home". Even though it was a new campus to us. The professors and students we talked with emphasized the strong stance the college has on the whole and inspiration of scripture which tops off our most important question when picking a college that will be shaping our precious for at least 4 years.

In the hotel room last night I turned over to sleep and there she was in the next bed facing me.I watched her as she slept reliving the years that have slipped by. Thinking about what a young lady she has become. I was so proud of her as she asked the intelligent questions she had written down in her note book. I Know she will be just fine. It's me that will have the growing pains. Her presence in our family on a daily basis will be missed. So the question that never really got answered remains...
Can We just come too?

Monday, April 1, 2013

How one life changed Easter

A day of Memories.
Of past and present pulled into thoughts and emotions. 
A day we remembered the sacrifice and the empty tomb. 

The empty tomb has become more cherished  as we bid our loved one goodbye and  called after him..."see you on the other side". 

How one life changed this day forever. For all who would trust. For all who believe. For all who could accept the free gift. 

He made it possible for me and for you to live a life not free of pain here on this earth but free to live with the knowledge that he has taken our guilt and has freed us from the curse of death. 

He is not here because he has gone to prepare the big house for all who choose him as the Only Way, the Truth, the life. 

For in Christ the old is gone and the new has come. He has washed away the guilt of the ugly filthy stains. 

I will live my life to honor the sacrifice.
I will follow not out of a religious duty but out of love for his blood and the empty grave and a hope of a life beyond this pain and sorrow. 

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,Philippians 3:12,13

Pressing forward on. 
And further in. 
To know him more fully. To be so surrounded by him that I no longer look to the side or behind but only to him. 

One obedient life changed the forecast of my future.  

It is humbling to think that he has left it up to his followers to be The salt. The light. The Fragrance. The hands and the Feet. The Forgiven ones who forgive others. The lovers of their enemies. The ones who live in his power and not their own. The merciful. The lowly in spirit. 

In obedience  bearing his light  so he can be seen as the one who still lives and loves through his people. 

We do Not obey to be seen and receive the accolades  of man but that all men may come to know the one  who changed this day forever.