America, America

I am afraid. 

A city is burning, and I am afraid. 

Earlier, my friend put it perfectly. If you didn’t know that those images streaming through our televisions and news-feeds were of American streets before you saw them, you might not know that they were at all. This doesn’t look like our country.  

And that just hurts. 

What are we doing to ourselves?

The earth under Nepal quaked and opened up, and cities tumbled and people DIED. Thousands of people are GONE. 

And yet, we are still here, and I can sit in the doctor’s office on a sunny, breezy afternoon and fill out a healthcare form and check “no” for every discernible disability, disease, condition and injury, because, thank you God, I can. 

We are still here and we HATE each other and we bat our eyes at the blessings that we have and we just don’t care. None of us do.

And we are destroying ourselves. 

Not just with our hands. With ours words. 

Our enemies need not raise their voices or their hands, we are sure to do it to ourselves. 

Because nobody has the right answer, only each of us thinks they have the right answer, and if only everybody would just listen to US then this world would be better, this mess would be undone. Right?

That’s the problem. Nobody ever claims to see this all coming, and they can sit in their homes, behind their walls in the days after and tell you that they know how to fix it all and pretend that they want to listen to what everyone else has to say.

But by the time people are spilling out into the streets and setting things on fire, and throwing bricks at other people and breaking glass, it’s too late. 

I went to bed last night when I could finally peel my eyes away from my phone and all of the images of things on fire and people looking angry, and I woke up this morning, I heard this voice ring out loud and clear with the rising sun,

“Dawn is here, now. Are you going to be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution.”

I know not all of you are into the whole, “christian, God thing.”

But I sat in my pew on Sunday and our pastor pounded it into us about how GOD IS NOT A BYSTANDAER WHEN WALLS FALL DOWN, AND BUILDINGS BURN AND THERE IS SUFFERING AND CHAOS. AND WE ARE NOT HELPLESS AND WE ARE NOT CALLED TO FEAR.

What followed could have been an entire sermon devoted to how we do this to ourselves and can only blame ourselves, and yet we were reminded that:

GOD IS NOT SURPRISED. 

He is active. He is ALIVE.

And we are CALLED. We are ordained. We are sent forth. 

We are not lights under a bushel, hidden from all prying eyes. We should not shield ourselves behind our walls and pretend that in the world we know, things like this don’t happen to people like us.

I might have been inclined to automatically believe that when the midwest was on fire last year, but now that it’s an hour away, it’s too real and too close to ignore any longer. 

We are to burn brightly in this world, and those are really going to be the fires that are brighter than a burning city. 

Fear and confusion and hate and anger make us wrap ourselves up into a tight, comfortable coil, where we can only see darkness. We are consumed with ourselves and BY ourselves. We are the thing that can destroy ourselves.

Hope is really the thing that breaks you and shatters you into a million pieces. Pieces that plant in the ground and grow and break through the earth into something NEW. 

We need something new.

We need hope. 

God almighty, we have hope. 

Earth has no sorrow

That heaven can’t heal. 

I know that some of you don’t do the “God thing,” and I get it. But now is assuredly the time to take our eyes off of ourselves and to place them on something greater. To look to heaven and realize that we are all together. That we are all one. 

It’s time to place our eyes on something greater, on The One who can heal all things and make beautiful things out of the dust. 

He can make beautiful things out of us. 

Martin Luther King: 

“Go out this morning. Love yourself, and that means rational and healthy self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That’s the length of life. Then follow that: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You are commanded to do that. That’s the breadth of life. And I’m going to take my seat now by letting you know that there’s a first and even greater commandment: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength.” I think the psychologist would just say with all thy personality. And when you do that, you’ve got the breadth of life.

And when you get all three of these together, you can walk and never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy. When you get all of these working together in your very life, judgement will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

When you get all the three of these together, the lamb will lie down with the lion.

When you get all three of these together, you look up and every valley will be exalted, and every hill and mountain will be made low; the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together.

When you get all three of these working together, you will do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

When you get all three of these together, you will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.

Easter – The State of Things

The egg hunt was over in minutes. 

Literally. 

Nearly half an hour of egg hiding skills on the part of all of the parents, and the hunt was over in less than five minutes. 

My son beamed at me as he showed me his spoils and waited patiently to crack open the plastic eggs back in the classroom. The wind whipped across the wide open field because even though it’s a few days in to April, spring doesn’t really show up in these here parts until about May. 

It was on our way back to class that I saw it. The same plaque that I had seen before on the hallway wall; the same face in the same picture. The same words. But today it finally registered. 

A friendly face, or a seemingly friendly face. Gone for 14 years. 

14 years. 

And my mind tried to picture a world where time had trotted ahead 14 years past whatever day will one day be the day that I draw my very last breath in this life. And I can’t even fathom it. I wonder if the person in that picture could do so either. 

I wonder what we all think this world is going to look like 14 years beyond us, when we’re dead and gone and just bones and dust in the ground. A friend, gone 5 years this past week. My grandfather, gone nearly 7 years this summer. It really happens. We really do die. 

That face has haunted me. As I looked ahead to Good Friday, the words of pastors and authors and prophets and apostles ring in my head. 

And I realize the depravity of myself. 

I can’t fathom a world without me in it. I’m the center of my own world. And I live each day like I don’t think that last day is going to come. I live each day like all of these days aren’t going to amount to anything on that last day, and on the first day in the rest of my days in the Kingdom. 

That face on the plaque brought a bit of levity to the situation for me. 

As I stand here with empty hands. 

And I realize all of the things that I am wasting and it’s like I can’t breathe. 

“Your time spent pursuing love will not be wasted. The time spent embracing your moments, reading that extra bedtime book, sitting together to dinner, loving a child in their unkindness and weakness matter. Live each moment knowing even your unseen movement toward love and away from unkindness matters.”
— Kara Tippetts, Big Love

It might sound scary. It might sound like a confrontation with a midlife crisis or mortality. The truth is that this is a confrontation. It is a confrontation with myself, with the darkest parts of me. 

More than rabid hatred for the gospel and open opposition to God, our Heavenly Father hated apathy more. Woe to those who have seen and tasted and yet do not change. 

Their hearts turn over into stone and remain unchanged and unmoved by the power of a holy God. Unmoved by His miracles. And most importantly, unmoved by His love. 

How can you not be changed? 

He says that many had seen His miracles and yet they did not change. They still at times did not believe. They were led by a pillar of light out of slavery and oppression through the bedrock of a sea and yet, they were hard-hearted. They were healed and saw the blind see and the paralyzed walk, and yet, they were hard-hearted.  

I am guilty of seeing so many prayers answered, petitions granted. And yet, what makes me hard-hearted is that I am most unmoved by His love. 

I discount that love. I don’t believe in that love. I don’t believe that I could be loved up a hill, bloodied and bruised in those footsteps to Calvary. 

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How foolish I am. That I could write off such shattering love. 

Or is it really apathy, so as much as it is fear?

Our fear is that we are loved. 

He loves us far more than we think He ever could. We think that there is no vastness or greatness in His love that enables Him to cover the things that we have done and still hold us precious.

For me? That leads me to apathy. Because it if isn’t possible to be loved as much as the word says that I am, then what’s the point? I will try and I will fail. And try again and fail again. The same circle, over and over again.

As I took communion this weekend, and I held that cup in my hands, I waited. Just for something. Before I had walked down front to get the elements, I just asked God, “where are you, Lord. Because I don’t feel it.”

I stared at the cup, waiting for something magical to happen. And the scripture was read. 

“By His stripes, we are healed.”

And He said, that is it. 

It was the cleanest I had ever felt. The weight of communion hit me like a ton of bricks. It is as great and significant, and yet as simple as that. 

By HIS wounds, I am healed. 

His wounds healed mine. 

He didn’t free us so to make us servants. He didn’t free us to make us subjects. He freed us so that we would love Him, and know that we are loved. So that we would be free from ever having to feel the pangs of a life lived unloved. 

By His love, I will be undone. His love completes me, His love will undo me. Until there is nothing left to hide. Nothing left to consider. Nothing else but He and I. 

Moms: Why What You Do IS Extraordinary

I know a lot of folks who lend no credence whatsoever to the Bible. “Written by merely impartial, mortal, old men,” they say. “Room for inconsistencies and rife with inaccuracies,” they say. 

There are a lot of things that I could point out that are quite flawed about those views, but it would probably fall on deaf ears. But when the scriptures tell us that the word of God is “living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword,” I couldn’t agree more. I think that we as believers should be listening attentively to the scriptures and I am constantly reminded that the word is as applicable today as it was before Christ was born.

Behold:

Luke 23:29

“For behold, the days are coming when they will say,

‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore,

and the breasts that never nursed.’

Spooky, isn’t it? At least I think so. Those words are unnervingly prophetic. Don’t believe me? Take a moment and look around at the current culture that we find ourselves in. The disposable mindset that we have towards the things that we used to value. A million babies in the womb are terminated each year. Recent data shows that couples are delaying child rearing or even completely opting out of becoming parents at rates higher than ever before. Motherhood isn’t something to be attained anymore, its value diminished with each passing year. And then you have articles like this. It’s pretty easy to see why the climate towards motherhood is at times chilly and unwelcoming. 

Here is just a blip from the linked up post:

“Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit.

Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

Those are literally just the first two paragraphs. You can only imagine how wonderful it gets from there on out. 

I could respond directly to this girl. But, truth be told, as much as I may vehemently disagree with her, she is entitled to her opinion. I could also point out that quite a few of the founding mothers of feminism were both pro-life and pro-family. They wanted a voice. To vote. To own property. To live in a society that wasn’t constructed against them, but instead one that valued and protected them as citizens. I can dig that. And I would stand proudly for that any day of the week.

Judging by the gloomy statistics on the subject of marriage and children, with more and more folks completely opting out of marriage and child bearing,  I would say that perhaps these two things will soon not be as commonplace as she thinks. And I mourn that fact. 

I would also say that while it might be “easy” to get married and pop out kids, what isn’t easy is doing both of those things WELL.  Sure, people get married and divorced all of the time. People have children everyday. So, while one could perhaps argue that “coming across” both of those things are somewhat easy, there is a strong difference between doing something the easy way, and attempting to do something the way it should be done. There is nothing ordinary about that.

There are those of us who believe in the credence of multiplying while also being fruitful. I could probably pop out 20 children if I so chose, but if I weren’t a diligent parent to each of them, who knows what kind of little minions they could turn out to be. I care deeply, as does my husband, about the type of people that they grow up to be. And it shapes how I treat, discipline, love and nurture them every day. There is nothing ordinary about that.

I was married at a young age (gasp!), and statistically speaking, people who enter into marriage around the age that I did are far more inclined to end up divorced. I could toss a coin and leave my marriage up to fate and argue that my husband, “not try to change who I am!” I could then continue to go about leaving my dirty socks everywhere and being a slob, and spend each day undermining his opinions and affections. I instead put a great amount of time, energy and care into my union because I care about him and our relationship.

I want to see our marriage deepen and succeed. Some days I fail at this. Boy, do I fail. But the next day, I get back in the saddle and try again. I don’t do this because I think I’m perfect, and because I think that my husband should feel lucky just to have me. I do it because I want to be a better woman on my death-bed than on the day that I said, “I do.” There is nothing ordinary about that. 

It is far from easy to be the kind of mom and wife that I want to be. There are a lot of ideals in this world and they are extremely overwhelming. No one reaches them all. The best that we can do is to care enough to do the best that we can in both ventures. And I am sure that there are plenty of other women out there who are a perfect example of wives and mothers who do both with all of their heart. There is nothing ordinary about that.  

This modern wave of feminism that some ascribe themselves to is poisonous stuff. It’s as destructive as it is pervasive. There was a point to women’s suffrage. It was not to get free birth control. It was not to feel entitled to belittle the choices of other women who choose a path that you would not choose for yourself. 

Like I already said, I could respond directly to this girl, and go and comment on her blog and say, “OMG, you’re nuts! LOLOLOL,”  but I think I would fare better if from here on out I directly addressed the moms instead. If I poured truth into the gaping wound that our world sometimes inflicts on us mothers.

I read those words last night at about 4:30 in the morning. I was up with my youngest who is battling a stomach virus that has moved rapidly through our house this weekend. It has taken no prisoners. I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I did what any normal person does at nearly 5 a.m. and logged on to Facebook. 

I don’t think my blood pressure has ever spiked as high as it did in the wee hours of this morning. The birds were starting to gently sing. The sun was beginning to peak up over the horizon and shine through my bedroom windows. And I was sitting in bed and….,let’s just say that I was not amused. At first, I was wrapped up in the very idea that someone could be so dismissive of what millions of women do every. single. day. Around the world. The nerve!

But then the Lord brought the above scripture to mind. I was reminded once again that we battle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and the prince of darkness. The prince of lies. And he has been as busy as ever. I take compassion on this girl. I hope one day her mind changes and that she can experience motherhood and the profound wonder that it is. I hope that she leads a great life.

(Let me say that I do not look down on any woman, or couple, that decides not to have children. But that I am going to spend the next few minutes regaling everyone about the amazingness that moms are. I also know that fathers are incredibly important in their children’s lives and value their role deeply. Again, I’m gonna be raising the roof about moms for the next few minutes. Please don’t take this as an affront. K?)

Let me instead take a few minutes to address you, mom. 

What you do IS extraordinary. Every. single. day. 

I could easily list a thousand reasons why, actually. For example, there are the moms who toil into the wee hours taking care of their little people who are sick or who have woken up startled from bad dreams. Moms who have sewn, painted and assembleed the vivid Halloween costumes that their children come up with during fits of fancy. Who drive their kids to their after school activities. Who do crafts with them and encourage their budding imaginations to break down new barriers and create. Moms who read the same books about dinosaurs over and over, and commit the names of those prehistoric beasts to memory so as to properly converse about them with their son. Who wipe noses, fold laundry, make sandwiches and check under the bed for monsters. 

And do you know undoubtedly why what you do is so awesome, mom? These “extraordinary women” that the author of that post talks about? Who would grow up and be inclined to go to college and trek through Asia? Who does she think RAISES them? Who does she think ENCOURAGES them to reach out and touch their dreams and to be all that they can be? Who does she think CODDLED them when they were newly born to this world, rosy-cheeked and helpless, or broken-hearted from breaking up with their first love??

Who does she think trusted their child’s instinct and fully threw their support behind them when they decided to go to college? Or join the military? When they first decided to pick up an instrument? To paint on a canvas? To lace up their running shoes? To climb on to the back of a horse? To stand in a soup kitchen line and serve the downtrodden and the homeless? To aim to join NASA? To aim to attend Johns Hopkins and be a surgeon? To aim for the olympics one day? To love others and to serve others and to care about this chaotic world?

The moms. The mothers. The Mommas. 

These extraordinary women don’t just emerge from the cabbage patch. They don’t fall from the sky and land in the yard because the stork drops them. 

Extraordinary women are the results of extraordinary work of their mothers. Of their parents. 

Sure, sometimes I wish that I had finished school before becoming a parent. But in hindsight, it matters not. And guess what? My daughter will be here to SEE me (Lord willing) walk across that stage and receive my long sought after college degree. I hope that one day I can run a marathon, take up rock climbing or work skillfully in the field of photography. And guess what? My daughter will be here to see me run, to see me climb and to see me master the art of self-discipline. 

And hopefully, she’ll know that she can do it, too. That if she wants it badly enough, if she trusts God with all that she has and is and that if she works hard for what she wishes to achieve, there is a chance that she can accomplish it. I know this to be true, my children are two of the greatest motivators in this entire world to be the best woman I can be, to serve God wholly and try to change this world, even if only in some small measure. And I try to pass that knowledge on to them at every juncture; at every chance to give up and give in.

Those without children will never know the motivation and solidarity that a child can provide. There is nothing ordinary about that.

And I wish that motivation for anyone. 

And one day, I hope that my daughter, who is already extraordinary and can balance a cracker on the bridge of her nose and jump with both feet off of the ground, will decide to have an extraordinary child of her own. That she will display the same sacrificial love that I have (hopefully) shown her, and that it will be etched in her heart forever like no other love before. Because that’s one of the strongest and most prominent pillars of motherhood: Sacrifice. 

Don’t we esteem not just those with great minds and creativity, but those who are great givers? Not just those who pontificate, but those who stand to act, and give freely of themselves? Those who put the causes, the needs of others before themselves? It’s wonderful when someone acts heroically in an instant or grows up to undertake great causes. Who was the compass that pointed those children in the right direction to grow up do those great things? Mothers. Parents. Because what is the purpose of the gift of life if we don’t aim to give it away?

What you do every. single. day. moms is EXTRAORDINARY. And if modern feminism tells us one thing that we can actually grasp on to and practice, it’s this: we can make our own choices and we don’t owe anybody an explanation. 

I don’t need to look down on anyone to esteem myself. I know that what I do matters and that it counts. I hope that the other mothers  know the same and can hold that truth close to their heart. Our role is divine. It is authored by the God of the universe.

I can hardly think of many other things that are as extraordinary as that.