Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Facing the Giants...

My heart dropped into my stomach.  Tears rushed to my eyes.  My mind went to places no football mom wants to go to.  Broken legs, concussions and torn ACL....  My baby is sitting in the far end zone with his team, waiting for his game to begin.  A rag-tag group of 11-12 year olds.   A few are taller than  me, but some of them look more like 8 year olds, with tiny spindly arms and just enough weight that wind won't blow them over.  Hyped up and ready to do what they love...  football.  When a group of players from the team they will be facing walk by and every jaw dropped from our side of the stadium.  There was no way these could be 6th and 7th graders...  They were huge and they had more swagger than P Diddy...

The "Intimidation Walk" as it was termed did exactly what it was supposed to do.  Our football players became little boys again.  They lost there heart right in that moment.  Not only were they going to lose this game, they were going to get crushed. 

Immediately I started praying.  My kid was one of the biggest on our team, but he was a baby compared to what he was going to be playing against.  Even though he was my biggest concern, the other kids that were a 1/3 of the size of these boy/men had me even more nervous.

When It was finally time for the boys to go out on the field, I watched heartsick, as they trudged to the center of the field to meet the opposing team.  There was a handshake, then confusion, and finally a delay.  In the stands we have no way of knowing what's going on... but we had been told that there were players from the previous game that were disqualified for being older and playing down.  I could only hope and pray that's what was happening down on that field, because surely those were men and not boys.  There had to be facial hair and muscles that could tell the story. 

After several minutes of the officials and coaches talking, we saw 5 or 6 of the other teams players walking off the field.  Then we heard mom's from the other side yelling about how we had some big players too and it wasn't fair to send their kids home.  Relief!  Some of the giants were disqualified.  But that still left 9-10 very impressive football players. 

The game went as expected.  The giants played a really good game of football.  They played the way I would love our boys to play, but they were huge.  They crashed through the O-line time and time again and when they reached our little quarterback they slammed him to the ground.  One time he laid there on the ground for 5 minutes and it looked like he was knocked out, but thankfully he was able to hobble over to the bench and stay there for the rest of the game.  

On that play the guy blocking our quarterback was so intimidated he just stepped aside and let our QB get crushed.  Who could blame him???  Not this mom. 

Play after play they crushed our O-line and kept us from scoring a point.  They laughed and jeered.  They talked smack, as did their parents who were making fun of our kids for getting hurt.   Even when they were up by 31 points, they kicked onside kicks and recovered the ball over and over again.  To say they demolished us would be an understatement.  It was a sound defeat and it hurt.

After the game the other team was jawing about how bad they beat us and how much we stink.  Even the parents were talking smack to our sad little team.  At one point a mom from our side said "Of  course you won...  you had 15yr olds playing against 11-12yr olds."  The mom from the other team said "No, he(her son I guess) is only 13."  Only 13 is still too old and he was one of the kids who didn't get sent home.  How old were they?

It's always tough to go home the loser, but this one really stunk.  It felt unfair, impossible even.  My son played one of the best defensive games of his life.  He loves that kind of challenge and I was so proud of him.  He knew from the beginning there was no way they could win, but that didn't stop him from playing his heart out.  He sacked, he picked, he plowed through their O-line, but he lost.  Play after play when the score board said "give up...it's no use"...  he played his position to the best of his ability to the last play of the game.  He has more heart than I do.  But, he still lost... bad. 

Sadly, we were gonna have to play this team again.  It was hard to make it through that game, much less endure another one just like it.

The next day, we received an email from our league...  The "giants" had been disqualified for integrity issues.  As suspected all that swagger couldn't belong to boys who had yet to go through puberty.  Disqualified.  It didn't count and won't be playing them again. 

Yeah all that jawing...  for nothing. 

That reminds of another story.   You know the one where the 12 guys are following this one guy around, who claims to be the Savior of the world.  You know the one where that guy gets put  on trial for blasphemy and sentenced to death.  The one where he is beaten to the point of no longer resembling the man he once was.  The man who was mocked and his beard pulled out and spat upon.  The man who carried a roman cross on his beaten and bloodied back, with a crown  of thorns crushed into his head.  The man who was nailed to a cross for healing the blind and making the lame walk.  The one who died beside  common criminals.  Yeah it reminded me of how those guys, who had laid everything on the line and followed this guy they thought was Messiah.  Now here they are staring up at him on a cross.  Defeated.  Disillusioned.  Confused. 

The enemy is simply giddy.  He's won.  He played dirty.  He screaming from the roof tops...  It's over.  All is lost.  NOW WHAT??????

Those guys have no idea what to do now.  The guy with all the answers is gone.  It's over.  He's buried inside a tomb. 

BUT, that's NOT the end.  It's just the beginning.  Early in the morning on the 3rd day they get the call.  He's not there.  He's RISEN.  Death, lies, sin, shame, the enemy of our souls...  all DEFEATED. 

Death disqualified.  He is Risen.  Hope is restored.  Jesus conquers the enemy. 

11 men are overwhelmed and can't believe what they are hearing.... He's ALIVE.  Everything is going to be OK. 

David asked the question many times...  Why does my enemy prosper?  Sometimes it looks like the bad guy always wins...  but that's not the end of the story.

There have been so many times following Jesus and doing what he wants me to do, has put me on a field, staring across from an opponent who is stronger than me, tougher than me, he understand the game better than I do.  The other team crushes through my o-line and knocks me to the ground.  I've been know to lay right there and not get up.  I don't have the heart to try again.  I want the coach to put me on the bench and forget about me.  The other team is jawing at me with all their puberty laced testosterone and I'm shaking in my boots.  I'm not the kid who thrives off stiff competition.  I'm the kid that turns sideways and just lets the enemy run through. 

But, GOD,  help me to remember that even though I might be weak and not much of a player, even though I will lose a lot of games...  The end of the story is I'm on the winning team.  The star player has won the super bowl already.  The enemy will be defeated.  You want me to get back up again.  You want me to hold on to the TRUTH... that IF God be for me, who can be against me.  You want me to remember how much glory you get using the weak things of the world to confound the wise. 

You used a young shepherd boy to slay a 9 ft. tall giant and you can use me, no matter how impossible that might seem. 

It's hard to remember and sometimes the game "looks" so lopsided that you start to believe that it's all for nothing  and it would be better to give up...  but keep your eyes fixed on the truth that Jesus already won the game...  Just keep playing your position til it's over.  Get back up again.  Shake it off.  He's got this!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Hard to love.

I have 5 children, each one of them unique, beautiful, and challenging in their own ways... but I have this one...  don't judge me, but he is hard to love.  I don't mean the feeling of love... although there are days and times that even that is in question, but I mean hard to love in practical ways. 

The child argues with me about EVERYTHING... although I realize this is a parenting flaw for not nipping this thing  in the bud, just feel for me right now.  He would live off of junk from dawn to midnight, which he thinks is an appropriate bedtime for a child of 9.  He would try to enter college (only to play football), without even an elementary graduation, because in his mind school is pointless.  His expectation for a large portion of his day is to eat crap and sit in front of any screen.   He moves from the couch in front of the TV, to my phone, where he checks IG (not his), fantasy FB, and  the upcoming schedule of every sport know to man.  After he's had his fill of the phone, it's "mom can I play the xbox?"  No matter how long he's been in front of any of those screens, he has a conniption every time he is told to get off.  God forbid I told him no in the first place. 

Now lest I make him out to be all bad, he is the life of our house.  He is laughter and fun.  Always up for a party and making people laugh.  He's always dancing and singing.  His eyes twinkle with hidden magic and he crushes me in his hugs daily.  He's the first one of my children to say "I love you, mom."  And when he actually does like what I do or say, he is equally expressive about his excitement. 

I feel bipolar throughout the day, because when he's happy with me I'm the best mom EVER, and when he's not I'm the worst.  But the funny thing to me is it's ALWAYS what's good for him or what is best for him that he doesn't like.  All the things he's upset with me about are actually all the things that are good for him...

Educating him, feeding him veggies, limiting his screen time and junk food, making him do chores and all the other horrible things I force upon him, are actually the times when I'm loving him.  Love is an action.  It's doing what's best for the other person.   It's only when I'm fed up with him and not liking him very much, that I throw my hand up in the air and say, "do whatever you want to do."  It's at that point that I've stopped caring. 

After a particularly hard school day this week I escaped outside to my patio and threw my prayers up to heaven, feeling defeated and frustrated, I asked "why, what, how"  Why?  What do I do about it?  How do I turn this ship around? 

Sadly, as I sat in that chair pounding on heaven's door, feeling sorry for myself...  I heard the faint whisper...  he is just like you. 

OH MY GOSH...  He is JUST LIKE ME.  When my life is exactly the way I want it... I praise God.  He is wonderful and amazing and wise and faithful.   BUT, when I don't like what's going on in my life or he says "no" or if I have to wait or if I can't make sense of my circumstances, hell hath no fury like Angela, not pleased. 

I want everything the way I want it.  Forget the fact that I am not the all-powerful, all-knowing, commander of my own destiny...  Half the time I don't want to get out of bed and I can't function unless I've had 3 cups of coffee and sometimes the simplest things in life get me down.  Forget that I would live off diet coke and chocolate.   Forget that I would utterly destroy my life, if given half the chance.  Forget that all I want is happiness and entertainment and parties...  I still think I'm wiser than God and better able to  determine what I need in life, and if he get's in the way of what I've decided I want, I pout, cry, whine, and throw fits.  I am hard to love and I would never have recognized it, if I didn't see it in my hard to love child. 

Thankfully, my heavenly Father is NOT like me at all.  He says, "no power in  heaven or hell can separate me from his love.  Nothing I do will exasperate him so much that he throws his hands up and checks out on me.   He loves me enough to not let me have my way and for that I am undone.  As much trouble as I give him, and he keeps right on doing what's best for me, whether I like him for it or not. 

His love is beyond my understanding.  His faithfulness endures forever.  His mercy is new everyday.  His ways better than our ways.  His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  Today...  I want to believe all this and trust Him to know better than I do. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Soak in...

I have a little garden...  It's not much, because I'm not much of a gardener.  I like to watch things grow, but I'm not very good at making them grow.  I guess I'm what you could call a "lazy gardener".  I want to throw the seeds in the ground and watch as they spring to life, but there's more to producing fruit than that.  You have to prep the soil, water regularly, fertilize and prune.  You can't just ignore your garden and think it's going to produce. 

My first attempt this year ended in me pulling all my dead plants out and starting again.  Not enough water and no soil prep left me with a box full of tiny sprouts, that never matured, their growth was stunted. 

After ripping everything out and throwing the useless plants in the compost, I prepped my soil and soaked it thoroughly, buried the new seeds and waited.  The little seeds sprouted right on time and started growing beautifully.  I was so excited about my little plants and I couldn't wait to taste their fresh from the garden fruit.  Those little plants grew big pretty leaves, stretched out across the garden box and overflowed their borders, but didn't produce any fruit.

One day my brother was over and looking out across the yard, seeing all that green life overflowing the boxes he asked how my little garden was doing.  I told him it was growing, but not producing, so he went to take a closer look.  He told me I wasn't watering enough and giving more water would solve my problem. 

Because I'm a lazy gardener I had just been using our sprinkler system to water my garden.  My hose wouldn't reach across the yard where my boxes were, so I just turned on the nearest sprinklers, expecting that to be enough, but that wasn't working.  The sprinkler sprayed mist in to the air and wet the leaves, but did nothing to actually water the plants.  They were thirsty for a deep, root level soak. 

I attached another hose to the one that wouldn't reach and started giving my little plants the soak they needed, setting the hose right down by the roots, so they could soak up all the life giving water.  What do you know?  Those little babies started giving me fruit.  I  was so surprised to find full sized cucumbers hidden beneath those green leaves. 

Last night, sitting out back on my patio, looking at my garden, I pondered this truth.  A sprinkle doesn't do much for the soul.  A sprinkle may be enough to keep a soul alive, but it's a deep root level soak that makes a soul thrive. 

The last few years I have been in a dry wasteland of loneliness.  Surrounding by people, but alone none the less.  I've been angry with God and blaming him for my loneliness.  Feeling like I was invisible and unworthy of being seen, I lashed out at the only One, who could really see me.  I denied him my love and affection.  I refused the offer of His presence, because I wanted flesh and blood.  I wanted a person to see me and know me, to understand and desire me.  My deepest longing for companionship was an idol to me.  Wanting people became the alter I laid my life on.

If my truest longing is intimacy (to be known and to know), then people are like my water sprinkler...  they can offer me just enough to keep me alive.  My Creator is the water flowing from my hose, close to the roots of the plant, giving us the ability to thrive and produce life. 

The last few years the whisper of God to my soul has been... I see you, I know you, I love you, I want you.  In the book of Hosea, the Word paints a picture of an adulterous bride seeking love in all the wrong places and a husband who leads her into the wilderness alone, so that he can woo her.  He desires to show her His love is superior to all others.  He disentangles her from every other distraction, until He has her complete and undivided attention and then He lavishes her with his extravagant love. 

It's a beautiful story that I go back to repeatedly...  Hosea 2:20 is the whole Bible wrapped up in one verse...  "I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness and YOU WILL KNOW THE LORD." 

You will KNOW the Lord is repeated throughout scripture.  That word KNOW means intimacy. To know and be known.  We were created for this purpose, to KNOW the Creator.  He made us for Him.  Col 1:16 "...were created by Him AND FOR HIM." 

When God created Adam and Eve it was for a relationship.  We see the evidence of that in Genesis when it says he came to walk with them in the cool of the day.  When sin destroyed that possibility God set a plan in motion to restore that relationship, through His son Jesus Christ.  The Father of Heaven is ever about restoring intimacy with His children.  He will go to any length to do that. 

Soaking in this truth down deep in my soul is doing something in my heart.  Where there was longing and ache and need there is peace.  Where there is brokenness and loneliness, His truth is healing.  When I yearn to be known and loved and understood and desired, He speaks softly to my soul that My Creator sees me, knows me, loves me.  He gets me.  He knows who I am and He loves me. 

When God was promising a savior He called him "Immanuel", which means God with us.  Jesus came down to be with us.  He came to show us who God is.  He came to rid of us of this idea that we are puppets set to perform for this far away deity, who can't be known or understood. 

God wanted to be known, just like I do.  God wanted to be understood, just like I do.  God wanted to restore what was lost and broken... our relationship with our Creator. 

Last night, as I sat looking at my garden...  I felt a little lonely.  I wanted to reach out to a human, but I realized that really wasn't what my soul needed.  That little need was really a symptom of being disconnected from my life line.  So, I turned to him and poured my ache out on Him and He poured that life giving water down deep to my roots.  As I soaked in His love, my ache receded. 

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her heart." Hosea 2:14

I'm not going to lie to you.  I wish that I wouldn't have to experience this.  I would prefer to be surrounded by people and I might be perfectly content to never truly know God, but He will not allow me to continue to try to satisfy myself that way. 

Even though the road has been painful I'm learning to be thankful for the ache... It is the only thing that can draw me closer to the lover of my soul.  It is my greatest gift. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Legit Needs.

Two million people wandering around in the desert...  men, women, young and old, children and babies.  Leaving Egypt behind, taking only what they could carry on their backs.  The Lord had told them to be ready to leave fast.  They were to prepare the Passover meal and eat it standing up, shoes on their feet in expectation for their coming deliverance. 

I know what it takes to feed my family. Four growing boys never stop eating.  Just thinking about leaving everything you've known and setting out on a journey through the wilderness, with just what I could carry and my seven member family would be an act of faith that I would miserably fail.  It gives me hives just thinking about it. 

Even after crossing the Red Sea on dry land the Israelites struggle to understand this God they have newly entered into a relationship with.  He promises His presence with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He has performed countless miracles on their behalf and yet...

It's been three days since they saw the water split in two and they walked on the DRY sea floor.  Three days since they saw the water topple back down, onto Pharaoh's army and drown their enemy.  Three days since they sang and danced and rejoiced and praised the power of the One True God. 

Three days that they have travelled with over 2 million people and not seen a drop of water.  That is a legit need.  People can't live without water.  They finally find a spot called "Marah", but the water was too bitter to drink.  So, they do what they do best...  cry, complain, whine.  They turn to Moses and say, "What are we going to drink?" 

I totally get it.  That's my first reaction to any little inconvenience in my life... so I know I would have been one of the complainers.  I would have been right at the front of the line blaming Moses and this invisible God for bringing me out here in the desert to die.  I would have been the one to forget all the times I had seen things that were impossible.  I would have been the one to say, "Look, God can't even provide drinking water." 

I say I believe that He created the Universe, but at the first hint of trouble in my life, my words and actions reveal what my heart truly believes...  That God can't or won't meet my needs.   I say I believe that He is powerful, able to do the impossible, that He knows me and sees my situation.  I say I believe that He is my Heavenly Father and He will take care of me, but my actions and my mouth reveal my lack of trust and faith. 

BUT Moses cried out to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree.  When Moses threw the tree in the water, the water became drinkable.  OKAY WHAT???? 

Here is the difference between me and Moses...  I would be like "God, this is such a bad plan.  I mean this is so not going to work."  But Moses just does what God told him to do.  Moses believed that God was able.  He believed that God would and that God could and because he believed, he asked.  Moses knew this situation WAS NOT proof that God didn't care or that God wasn't paying attention or that God had forgotten their needs.  Moses saw this situation as a chance to see what God would do.  He knew his needs were the very place that God wanted to reveal himself, his character and his nature.  So, Moses took his needs to God and God answered with the impossible. 

Moses didn't question God's crazy plan.  He didn't try to come up with a plan that would make more sense.  He KNEW he didn't have the answers and he depended on God. 

Every step of the way Yahweh was trying to teach them about Himself.  Every new obstacle was an opportunity to learn more about Him.  Every trial was a test of what they really believed.  Every miracle, proof that He is able, powerful, good, and faithful. 

Yahweh was revealing His character through His actions... and He is doing the same thing in my life. 

Jesus said, "Your Father in Heaven knows that you have needs (food, drink, clothing).  But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matt 6:33

Your needs are legit, but they are not proof that God doesn't care...  they are the places where we are drawn closer to Him and able to see how awesome He truly is.  Our needs are the catalyst for our relationship with God.  Relationship FIRST.  Like any earthly parent wants to meet their children's needs, He longs to meet ours and draw us closer to Him in the process. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wasted Worry.

"But mommy I need you to stay with me, I'm scared."  Followed by a long list of "what ifs"...  What if someone comes in my room, what if ghosts are real, what if I have a bad dream, what if I can't find you.  All of these concerns coming from a three old with eyelids too heavy to stay open.  So, last night I stayed by his bed, until he was all the way asleep.   And guess what???  None of that happened.  He fell asleep and slept peacefully through the night, waking up to the sun shining through his window.   All that worry, over nothing. 

Easy for me to call his childish fears silly, but what about mine?  I just spent the last few weeks worrying about VBS and how it was going to fit in my life.  How would I have time to decorate and how could I accomplish what I wanted to do without help?  What would I do with my little guys so they wouldn't be in my way?  What about this, what about that.  And every step of the way God met me there with help he already provided.  

Yesterday was the first day of VBS and I worried that my room was still not done and that I had left a mess the day before to clean up, but I was running a little late and so I started to panic that I wouldn't have time to get it done...  when we finally got through traffic and made it to the church I rushed upstairs to my room and found it perfectly in order.  Two little angels had cleaned it all up for me.  Worry wasted.

I worried that my 3 year old would have a hard time going to his class and staying there for 3 hours, even though his sister was one of the helpers.  I imagined him crying his way through the week.  I imagined trying to teach my class with him hanging on my hip.  I imagined  him refusing to go and then having to worry about what to do with him all week.  He's having a great time even though he hasn't left my side in church ever without crying the whole time.  Wasted worry.

I worry about money, I worry about my kids and their future, I worry about screwing them up and sending them to counseling, I worry about food, I worry about the people I love dying, I worry about what people think about me, I just worry.   So much of the time my worry is completely wasted. 

When I'm reading Exodus and I see God leading his people out of Egypt, I see me.  They panic EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. they face an obstacle.  They have just witnessed God destroy the greatest nation on the face of the earth with 10 severe plagues, all while being supernaturally protected, and Egypt's mighty Pharaoh beg them to leave, as his people throw gold and jewelry and other valuables at them and Oh, how they praise the Lord.  Until they are standing at the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army breathing down their neck...  and then it's all "Moses, why did you bring us out here?   Are we just gonna die in the wilderness?  Why didn't we just stay as slaves in the Egypt where it WAS BETTER FOR US?"  

OK WHAT???  You just prayed for 400 years to be freed from slavery.  What???  God just demonstrated HIS awesome power on your behalf and the greatest king on Earth was humbled so completely that he just set a nation of slaves FREE.   Why are you freaking out?  

We know the story...  Moses prays the water splits, they walk through ON DRY LAND, the army follows and the waves crash down on them drowning Pharaoh's army.   NOW WHAT?  Surely, Israel, you will never doubt again?  Nope!  Time after time they freak out and Moses prays and God provides. 

Even though I read through Exodus shaking my head, I can't judge the Israelites.  I do the same thing.  I've seen God do stuff only He could do.  I've prayed and He's answered.  There has never been a time when I have prayed, taking my worry to the Lord, that He did not provide an answer.   There have been lots of times that I have worried about stuff that never happened.  There have been many times I worried and fretted and tried to figure out things on my own, making my situation worse.  BUT, there has never been a time that I prayed and God didn't answer. 

I look back on the last few weeks I wasted worrying and I wish I could take all that back.  I wish I would have rested in knowing that my God is good and He's got all this.  I wish I would have remembered all the times He has moved mountains for me, but I didn't.  VBS was just my little worry, I had some much bigger worries and He worked those out too, leaving me awestruck once again that the God who created all that I see, knows my name and sees my situation and He is working on my behalf. 

In Paul's letters to the church, he begins by saying, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father."  That word grace means "unmerited favor" but it can also have the idea of God's "stored up help" for his people in times of trouble.   The word peace also can refer to many forms of peace, and one of those being "tranquility of mind that frees the Christian from fear and anxiety."   Paul wanted to remind his audience that the All powerful  Creator was their Father and they had no reason to fear or be anxious. 

Psalms 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very (abundantly available) present help in trouble."

vs 10 "Be still and know that I am God." 

The same God who parted the Red Sea and humbled an Egyptian Pharaoh is the same God, who wants to help you.  I say wants to help you, because it's up to you!  Do you want help?  Ask... Jesus said you have to ask believing...  sometimes I ask, but I struggle to believe.  Confess that unbelief.  I prayed this last week for a BIG miracle and I didn't see any way that my prayer could be answered, but My Father in heaven already had the answer...  He was just waiting for me to pray! 

"Be anxious for NOTHING; but in everything BY PRAYER and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the PEACE OF GOD, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:6-7

The whole Bible is one long story of humans having a problem (sin) and without hope and God sending the answer through Jesus Christ, his son, to fix our problem...  IF God would go to such lengths to help his people overcome their eternal problem, why would He withhold his help in our little problems? 

What are you wasting worry on this week?  Take it the your Helper, He's already working it out!