Monday, February 25, 2013

He Loves Me Like That

Today I wanted to share a blog I wrote in June of 2009. It is as relevant now as it was then. My prayer is that it will bring you hope no matter your situation. Enjoy!

In yesterday’s edition of the Pine Creek Journal, there is a picture of a little boy dressed in his baseball uniform in full swing as the ball makes contact with his bat. The look on his face is priceless. It brings back memories of my own son who once received a trophy for being the boy on his team who loved the game the most. You can guess that he was no superstar and in fact, he was just an average player with no outstanding stats one way or the other. However, as his coach pointed out when he handed Bryan the trophy – no one loved the game more than he did.

My memories shifted to the day that ten-year-old Bryan fell off a slide at the playground and broke his elbow. In trying to relay the seriousness of the injury, the orthopedic surgeon described it as "the worst kind of break a kid could have." Bryan had two metal pins, four inches of stitches, and a hard cast for a month. The day the surgeon removed the pins and the stitches, I held my son still and watched as the doctor yanked the metal pins out of my baby’s arm with pliers and then ripped the stitches out in one long drawn out agonizing tug, all without the aid of a pain killer. Bryan was screaming. I’m usually a non-aggressive person, but I’ll tell you, my blood was boiling and I nearly hauled off and punched that man in the face for hurting my son like that.

The surgeon told me that he was unsure of how much mobility Bryan would regain. The toughest conversation I ever had with my little boy was to tell him that there was a chance that he would never play baseball again. As tears welled up in his eyes, he asked me if he worked really hard at the exercises the doctor gave him, would that help him be able to play. All I could tell him was that there was a chance, if he worked very hard, he would be able to play ball again. But if he didn’t work hard, he absolutely wouldn’t be able to ever play baseball again. Not the encouraging answer I wanted to give him, or the one he wanted to hear, but it was the truth and he needed to be told.

Bryan held onto that hope of "a chance" and worked as hard as he could. His elbow had healed and stiffened at the 90-degree angle it had been casted in. One of the rehab exercises consisted of me applying pressure on his forearm to help him straighten it. I remember him pleading with me to push down harder as tears streamed down his face from the pain. It took all I had to push harder and inflict more of the healing pain he needed to recover his mobility.

The lesson of this memory is that as I loved Bryan, so God loves me and even more. As my Heavenly Father, He loves me with a fierce devotion even greater than the one I had for my son. He loves me as I am. Even if I don't stick out in the crowd, His eye is drawn to me. When I’m hurt, He hurts and rushes to comfort me. When I’m happy, He shares in the joy. There is an unbreakable bond between us that goes far beyond responsibility and emotion. He will always reveal the truth to me even if it is something I don't want to hear. He loves me so much that He will do whatever is necessary, even if it is allowing painful circumstances in my life so that I may receive all the good things he has planned for me.

As I look back over my past, I can see many times in my life where His heart must have broken over the painful circumstances that he allowed to occur in my life. I can imagine Him feeling my pain as if it were His own so that I could have what He wants most for me – a better understanding of who He is, a greater love for Him, and an ever deepening relationship with Him. And with the hope he has given me, I can say, “Push down harder, Father” through the tears and the pain in anticipation of the good things I know He wants for me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Terms of Surrender

Today's blog is the end of a very long journey as I share the last poem inspired by Psalm 119 (verses 169-176). I've been changed in my journey through this psalm that for so long I avoided because it was lengthy and seemed to be redundant at first. It makes me wonder what else in God's Word I am missing out on when I skip over parts that seem irrelevant or somehow redundant and boring. I hope you have been blessed in this journey as I have. Enjoy!

Terms of Surrender
In humility and awe I fall upon my knees and pray

Spirit of the Living God reside in me this day
Undo the sin and shame enslaving this poor soul.
Remember me in mercy—Savior make me whole.
Recreate me in Your image as I confess and
Establish within me LORD, Your holiness.
Nurture within me a servant’s willing heart
Delight in my humble offering of praise and
Empower me to seek and abide in You always.
Reflect in me Your love for all the world to see.

Achieve in me the purpose for which You spoke me into being.
Lamb of God disciple me in the Father’s Will and Way
Loose in me a yearning to listen and obey.

Infuse in me the desires of Your kind and gracious heart.

Amid my doubts, my struggles, though I may fall apart
My mind, my heart, my soul, my life, I pray will bear Your mark.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Great Adventure

This is my 200th post. What a pleasure it has been to share with you for close to four years now. This week we are almost at the end of our journey through Psalm 119 with this- my poetic response to verses 161-168. I hope you have been as blessed by reading the poetry inspired by this psalm as I have been in writing it. Next week, I will post the very last poetic response to this most inspiring psalm. In the meantime...Enjoy!

Our Great Adventure
Your holy Word,
mighty and true,
maintains my footing on
this narrow path I travel
hand in hand with You.
In faith,
by Your great power,
I traverse each valley
along the way,
climb each mountain
eager to meet
face to face
The LORD my God
one glorious day
and revel in Your grace.
Your Word of life,
of love and peace
I hold most precious of all.
Your Word of truth is
solid ground
beneath my feet
a sure and steady path
through the shifting sands
of Man's great fall
and far away from
Your righteous wrath.
Every moment is a reason
to fall upon my knees
with praises to my God
in song and verse and deed.
Your holy Word of wisdom
fulfills my every need.
How fortunate I am
to abide within Your grace
for You see me to my very core.
Someday this veil of flesh
will hinder me no more
and I will see Your promises,
my place with You restored.
Content, fulfilled, complete,
in Your embrace I'll be once more.
To hear Your commands
and obey You Lord -
that is the joy I'm living for.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Stone House Parable

In my running around today, I happened to drive past a beautiful stone house that I've admired for some time. It's not along my daily route so its been awhile since I've seen it. However, today I found myself driving by and smiling - not because of its beauty, but because of the truth that God reminded me of in seeing it.

This house is close to the community I grew up in and for decades I would go past it on my way to or from someplace. A very long time ago, when the land around it was still untouched - not surrounded by an entire neighborhood like it is now, I first noticed it when the owner tore off the siding and exposed the white weather-treated wall board underneath. And then something happened. Or more accurately, nothing happened. For the the next two decades, it remained undressed. As the years went by, I wondered what had happened. Did the owner suddenly not have enough money to finish replacing the siding? Maybe the owner went bankrupt and couldn't afford to finish the job. I often expected to see a "for sale" sign spring up in the front yard and when new owners took over, they would replace the siding. That horrible white wall board with the manufacturer's named stamped all over it was an incredible eyesore and often I would pass by and wonder indigently, "When was someone going to fix it?"

It had been sitting with its walls exposed for so long, I hadn't even noticed it anymore when one day I was driving by and there I saw the most beautiful deck extending from the back where there had been none, and the white wall board was dressed in beautiful large gray stone (the kind I always wanted on my home) and new decorative shutters and dark window boxes that were stunning against the gray stone dressed the front windows. For the better part of that first year, I would slow down as I drove past to admire the beauty of the home.

Today as I drove past, I was reminded of Jesus' words of warning to those who would follow him:

One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.
“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’
“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?
“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33, The Message)

 I feel I can say with certainty that the homeowner didn't tear off the old siding without making sure he had the ability to finish the job. For many years, I wondered why he didn't just find the cheapest siding he could and finish the job as quickly as possible. I didn't understand what he was waiting for. Now, as I admire the beauty of the finished dream, I get it. I don't know what happened to delay the project for twenty years. Perhaps there was an unexpected debilitating disease that consumed their lives for so long. Maybe, his contractor swindled him leaving him without a finished home and his money, or perhaps the contractor went bankrupt himself. Maybe the owner was a saintly man beyond my comprehension and gave the money he was going to use to someone his heart felt was in more and urgent need. I don't know what unexpected happening caused the delay. But this homeowner had a dream, a vision for his home and kept his eyes on that prize through all the years. And now every time he pulls into his driveway, he can smile knowing he didn't give in and throw on a siding that he would regret later. Every time he sits out on his deck in the cool summer evening, he can smile with satisfaction.

So what is the great spiritual truth I spoke about in the first paragraph? When choosing to follow Jesus, we are wise to "count the cost" as Jesus relates in Luke, to consider exactly what that decision will require of us for the rest of our lives. But here is the conundrum. No one can really know the cost of following Jesus until they do. You can't know what you will be asked to give up, to do, to be until it happens. No one can see the future except God and even if we could, we couldn't understand it in the way we will when it happens because we are not the people now we will be when we get to that future time. All we can do is make the decision to follow Christ fully examining the heart and mind and soul we have now and when the unexpected falls upon us...keep our eyes on the destination - on Christ. If we give in and accept a lesser, easier way, we will regret it in the end. If through the struggles of the unexpected, we keep our eyes on Jesus and our commitment to follow him, then when we are in the loving arms of Jesus, we will look back upon the years of struggle and life, and celebrate with joy - we will experience the holy contentment and satisfaction of the good and faithful servant. That is the truth I was reminded of today as I admired that little stone house.