Monday, December 23, 2013

Shut up and love.

 
"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others,
I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
1 Corinthians 13:1
 
I love social media.  I just hate what it's done to some people. 
 
It's created in us an over-inflated sense of ego that seemingly demands everyone to formulate - and consequently share - their own personalized response to every single issue under the sun.  It's morphed our newsfeeds into soapboxes....  
 
This week, my newsfeed was flooded with articles and statuses and posts regarding the famous bearded redneck from Louisiana who ignited a cultural firestorm of debate with his words.  Everyone from celebrities to theologians to politicians took to their social media to explain, complain, or proclaim their own versions of truth.
 
Admittedly, I took a small part in reposting a couple of blogs from my favorite writers, whose words focused not on who is right or wrong, but rather on the deeper truth that we, as believers, must cling to....
"I will not reinforce the notion that anyone is less than, condemned, or left out, because if that is true, then my salvation is a lie. Because I love mercy for myself, I can’t help but love it for everyone else, and I won’t cheapen it by imagining that my grace is free but someone else’s must be earned. Jesus is the best news in history." - Jen Hatmaker
 
Back in the Spring, another cultural/theological debate emerged the week of Easter, flooding the pages of social media.
 
Is it any coincidence that the prince of this world would try to distract us from the Prince of Peace?  





Is it any coincidence that these distractions of monumental proportions coincide with the exact holidays set apart to celebrate Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? 

And we - oh, especially we Christians - fall for it. 

Even at Christmas.
 
Hook.  Line.  Sinker.
 
Over and over and over again.
 
We are enticed and reeled in.  We take to our keyboards and screens.  We post and re-post, tweet and re-tweet, investing and ingesting until we fill ourselves up to the brim with the controversies of this world...
 
Oh, I've done it, too.  More times than I can count, until my heart was sick with conviction over the time wasted, words wasted...
 
love wasted.  
 
Oh, If only a fraction of our energy was spent doing the thing Jesus actually told us to do. 
 
In Mark 12, we see a heated debate taking place between Jesus and the Saducees.  Once he had rendered them speechless with His responses, the Pharisees pressed him further.  One of them, a teacher of the religious law, asked Him which commandment was the most important.
 
Now, some would say this particular guy was attempting to bait Jesus.  But, I like to think this scribe, much like us, genuinely wanted to know the answer.  He had just stood in the midst of the great cultural and religious debates and discussions regarding Resurrection and taxes.  He had witnessed Jesus astonish the religious leaders.  I believe, as some commentaries suggest, that he genuinely wanted to know how Christ would answer such a difficult question on something that would pertain to everyone...
And Jesus replied, The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord..  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these."
Did you catch that?  Jesus is saying that loving people is equally as important as loving Him with our whole hearts, souls, all of our mind and strength.  He even goes as far as to tell us how to love them.

As much as we love ourselves.
 
This Christmas, I won't allow myself to become distracted with the debates of this world.  I'm going to turn my eyes from my newsfeed and towards that baby in the manger, our God in the flesh who came that we might know God, that we might know love.  (1 John 4:8)

I'm going to use my social media feed to tell people - yes all people - the only truth that matters for eternity, which is that baby in a manger is our God in the flesh.  He knows you.  He loves you.  He came to save you.  He wants to have a relationship with you because you are His child.  His beloved, regardless of what the world says you are.   
 
I'll let the theologians and the politicians and all the other bloggers and tweeters hash out the cultural and religious wars on the pages of our news feeds.  
 
I'm going to shut up and love. 

Can I encouarage you to do the same?  Hug someone.  Buy someone a cup of coffee or a meal.  Serve someone.  Love someone. 

And for the literal love of God, show someone God loves them. 

Shut up and love.
 

"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 Timothy 2:24

Friday, December 20, 2013

In the Middle of Expectancy


 

Our not-so-baby baby boy turned eight yesterday.

Sigh.

Everyone tells you that time seemingly passes more quickly with the second child and that is so true. It’s difficult to believe that eight years and sixty pounds ago, I was preparing to give birth to this *surprise* child.

I never wanted boys, or so I thought. I had it predetermined in my mind that I would have girls. Two or three of them. I’d refer to them as such. My girls. The girls. Growing up, I always wanted a little girl with big brown eyes and brown hair. And then I had our sweet Chloe, who has always embodied everything I ever dreamed my baby girl to be… right down to the dimples and giggles.

When we found out we were expecting and that the due date would be so close to Christmas, we decided not to find out the gender... This was shocking to everyone who knew me since patience and delayed gratification are not innate traits of my character.

In hindsight, I think I secretly feared that it was a boy. I secretly feared being somehow disappointed if I found out prior to his birth. But the truth is, I already knew. I knew in my heart this child was a boy. Although admittedly, the night before we went to the hospital, I packed some girl clothes just in case.

When they announced it was a boy, I wasn’t surprised … at all. In fact, the only surprise was how unsurprised I was… and then I saw him and that became the surprise. Complete opposite of what Chloe had looked like as a newborn, there was this tiny, pink baby with rosy cheeks and just a tiny bit of light blondish hair. I’ve heard lots of mothers talk about how love at first sight doesn’t always occur with newborns, but it was immediate with Parker.

Eight years later, I often think to myself that if i ever had more children, I would secretly wish for more boys. I had always heard that there was something special about little boys and their mamas and it’s so true, in an undefinable sense. Parker is all boy in his growing affinity for all things related to football and action/adventure but he is also one of the sweetest, kindest children.

 
Birthdays are the moments you want to live in. But there is tension if you linger too long. you look at a photograph that you took a few hours ago and you can already envision yourself ten years from now looking at the same photograph weeping over how young they were… or how old you are now… or both.

Lingering too long brings about that painful awareness of how fleeting our time is, how fast our children are growing, how fast we are aging. And perhaps, most painful, how powerless we are to stop any of it, or even slow it.

A few weeks ago, Parker put his hand on my stomach and said sweetly, “Mommy, I wish you were pregnant.”

I laughed, but I also realized that as my “baby” reaches the brink of his tween years, it brings about another bittersweet milestone of knowing I will never carry another child inside of me.

I tell him [only half-joking] that I’m too old to start all over.

But I also tell him something else, something the Lord placed in my heart many years ago.

It was late 2009. My life was completely unraveled. I was a divorced, single mom who had just surrendered my life to the Lord. I had just made a public profession of faith through baptism and had just re-enrolled in college to finish my degree. David Platt was in the midst of a series on James and it was rocking my world and wrecking my heart. I was just learning what it meant to live within this real relationship with the Lord when He pressed foster care and adoption on my heart indelibly. I knew that it would someday become a part of our story, but I didn’t know how or when.

In the years between then and now, God began mending the broken and reweaving the unraveled. I can see so clearly now those seasons of heartache and despair as preparation for what would come, a broken family that He would make whole again.

My heart is overwhelmed when I think about the impossibles He has made possible… and the impossibilities that He will make possible in the years to come. As we celebrate this season of Advent – this expectation and awaiting of our Savior, we become filled with another kind of expectancy. I tell Parker that I won’t carry another child in my tummy, but that maybe – just maybe – God is preparing us to open our hearts and our home for another child someday. One who needs a family for a night – or maybe a lifetime. One who needs a brother just like him and a sister just like Chloe. One who God has planned to be with us from the very beginning, and will bring to us in His perfect timing.

I still don’t know how or when. 
  
But I am expectant.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” ~ James 1:27

original post: http://middleplaces.com/2013/12/20/in-the-middle-of-expectancy/

Friday, December 13, 2013

a thousand words

photo by Sweet Julep Photograpy
 
They say a photograph is worth a thousand words - and if that is true, I may not have to write again for at least a year. 
 
It was in the first year after our divorce in 2008 that I wrote Psalm 71:20 on the matted frame of this photograph.  I couldn't have known then that it would someday become a part of this photograph, a perfect portrait of restoration. 
 
I had ran into someone who had given me hope through his story.  I came home and wrote this blog and scribbled the verse on the picture frame to remind me of that hope - that promise.
 
In the years that followed, I put the framed photograph away and pulled it back out more times than I can count.  Some chided it as an idol of sorts; others desperately tried to convince me that it was all a faraway dream of which I couldn't let go.  Some concluded that I couldn't forgive myself of my past.  
 
It was a tumultous path, paved with darkness and doubt and inconsistencies.  There were moments of clinging to the promise of His word, and other moments struggling to discern whether or not I'd really heard from Him.  Had I made it all up?  Had the desire of my heart misconstrued the word of God or had God Himself conformed the desire of my heart to His perfect and sovereign will? 

Beleiving Him for the seemingly impossible, at times, actually felt impossible.  Even my own father, always full of pragmatic logic, urged me to let go.  In fact, he went as far as to imply that I might "need to get my head checked" if I geniuinely believed reconcilation was a possibility. 

He urged me to move on with my life. 
 
And so, I tried. Desperately.   
 
And failed. Miserably.
 
But God.  Oh, thank God.  He alone has the final word on His word. 
 
Ultimately, He used all the brokenness in my life to bring me to wholeness in Him.  All the while revealing to me that there was nothing I could do to undo His promise. 
 
In His own timing, He mended and moved the broken pieces of my life, of our marriage, and of our family into one.    


original post: http://middleplaces.com/2013/12/13/a-thousand-words/

Friday, December 6, 2013

Beauty for Ashes: Burning divorce papers.

 

"He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair."
Isaiah 61:3
 
Combining two households after seven years of separation and five years of divorce is a rather monumental task. In the past few months, we have filled a storage unit with furniture and lined the garage with boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

There is still so much to sort through, discard, donate and store.

Of course, all of that pales in comparison to having our family of four residing under one roof again. They say that divorce is like a thousand little good-byes and it’s true. But it’s also true that reconciliation is like a thousand little hellos – to all the things you deeply missed and never thought you’d experience again like family dinners and good night kisses and bedtime prayers.

In some ways, it’s all so new again and yet, the most amazing thing about redemption is that in so many ways, it feels like we were never really apart.

As the weather began to turn colder last week, the thought occured to me that we needed to build a fire in the fireplace. This is a rare occurence since our house is small and after having experienced the convenience of gas logs, real fires seem a bit cumbersome and messy.

But it was Thanksgiving week and the first holiday that we spent together as a family living in the same house… in eight years.

Well, all that and… we had something we needed to burn.

Even in the midst of all the boxes, I knew exactly where they were. Filed away in an unlabeled manilla folder with all of the other important documents that one collects and keeps throughout adulthood. I pulled them out and looked at the date. The judge had signed our ”Final Judgment of Divorce” on November 26, 2008. Five years to the day.

I thought about those days – thousands of them – that had passed in between. Even when I couldn’t see it, God was “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

“In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” Isaiah 63:9

I’m so thankful that final judgment of divorce was not the final word for us.