Across the table from that guy.

beautiful christmas table setting
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Today I thought about heaven again. Most of the time when I dream of heaven I dream of a perfectly temperate place full of perfect flora and fauna perfumed with lilac and the occasional whiff of apple pie. I’ve never imagined inheriting a mansion. A cozy cottage happily situated in a wood is more my speed.

But today as I dreamed of the peace place promised to me, I imagined a banquet table loaded with delights like the world has never seen.  Those seated at the table surprised me, and I questioned my thought as one often questions how much grace God can offer sinners who don’t sin exactly like you do. I laughed at my own imagination.  Seated around the feast were the warring politicians of today all smiling and peaceful passing potatoes and the like. Right, Lord. Like those two would be at the same place enjoying each other’s company, here, in heaven. Right. Surely they are stopping that guy at the gate.

As I looked around the table I noted how each guest was a scoundrel while on earth; not one pure heart was represented among the lot.

Then I realized that I was sitting right there with them sharing turkey with the villains.

As I focused in on another face, it was someone who had deeply wounded me in the past. I’ve struggled to forgive this person. Forgiveness is work for some of us. Grudges are easy. But there he was, my adversary, enjoying the ambrosial banquet.

My adversary in heaven was stripped of his failures. His mistakes were no longer visible to my eyes. He was there, as was I, in perfect form whittled down to whom the Savior intended us to be, all love, all joy. And I loved him. And I knew God loved him. And I was humbled.

Back here on earth we have our separate corners. We have our own parties, our own people, our colors, our flags, our precious opinions and hills we die upon. But in the great beyond, there are no corners. There is one shared table, one shared Savior. Will we sit down with those who we’ve hated? Will we share dinner rolls with our murderers? I believe that is more our choice today than theirs.

In heaven, a perfectly normal scene could be an abortionist seated with the man who blew up the clinic.

In heaven, a Nazi sits comfortably with a Jew.

In heaven, your party is nothing. Your Savior is everything.

In heaven, the abusers and the abused share in the same divine helping of grace and a heaping dollop of mercy.

In heaven, forgiveness melts what tore us apart. Oh, how I wish we could share in that banquet now, where all is peace and joy and love. And I suppose if we cannot come to terms to eating with the villains and the saints, then we have another choice altogether.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14

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Head verses Heart

All day I’ve been mulling over the contrast between the head and the heart in disputable matters of the church and life in general. It seems the popular and more comfortable choice today is to say that love surpasses all and that the heart should be our sole motivation citing 1 Corinthians 13. Yet, Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is deceitful above all things. So love must be the solution, but not necessarily the emotional fuzzy squishy comfortable love.

Love stops a toddler from running into a busy street. Love grabs a child’s hand before they touch an iron. Love grounds a teenager from the Xbox. Love in its nature sets boundaries. One could say love employs justice. This tells me that love also uses the head in decision-making.

But a head without a heart would never take a moment to consider the plight of a stranger. A head without the heart would probably rely on past experience or simply the functionality in decision-making. A head may lack hope if the heart is not engaged.

Perhaps, this is why Jesus calls us to love God with everything we’ve got: our heart, our soul, our strength, and our mind. Not making one more important than the other, but expecting each to work together to love completely.

Stories worth reading

I visited a tiny, one room library that was more than one hundred years old today. And while one hundred years isn’t really old compared to libraries in other parts of the world, it struck me while I breathed in musty air and admired the artistry that often embellishes antique books, how many ideas and stories are housed in that tiny place now silenced waiting for the yellowed pages to be carefully turned again. I recognized a few authors, but most I didn’t. I opened several, read a few lines, and tried to connect my limited memory of American History with the copyright dates.

A century is more than enough time for a country to radically change. Within a century families see great, great grandchildren born and with them ideas, theories, doctrines all aptly developed and soon considered old fashioned after what seems just a few moments.

My grandparents were born more than a hundred years ago, and I wish I could sit and understand them more now as I witness how quickly our life pages yellow with age.

Truly, the ideas, dreams, and stories found within mankind don’t really change at all. Sure technology advances and architecture ebbs and flows like fashion, but love is the same, justice is still required, family is still paramount to the health of a community, and the value of a person to those who love them is still immeasurable.

Our lives are merely a vapor, and it is our duty to live them well. Not for our own selfish pleasures, but lived so that when all that remains of us is a yellowed memory on a shelf, the pages of our life still speak in truths understood to the readers hundreds of years later. Did we love? Did we speak for justice? Did we live a story worth reading?

Mediocrity and the Bearing of Souls

pexels-photo-265702.jpegCall it a mid-life crisis. I’m not coveting fast cars or plastic surgery. I haven’t bought anything expensive or colored my hair, nor do I really want to. Instead, I woke up one morning with this unwavering realization that my life has excelled in one thing and that is mediocrity.

I’ve lived a conservative life. After college graduation, I stepped right into the role of suburban mom of three. I never knew I wanted to be a stay-home mom until I tried to leave two big blue eyes at home with a sitter. Now I’ve been home with my kids for the majority of their lives. I went to work outside the home three years ago and quickly learned that for a youth ministering lifestyle, both parents absent through the summer isn’t easy.  When one of my children began to struggle with depression and anxiety, I quickly walked away from a steady paycheck, a good job, and good people. I don’t regret it though my wallet does at times.

I recognize now as I’ve fallen even further behind the mass of Generation X moms who work, that I most assuredly will never professionally recover from a life spent momming. My ego flares up regularly in conversations as I posture to boast about my education, as if who I am without my education is not enough for the world. See how I even worked it into a blog. Geez. Who am I trying to impress exactly?

So, I’m a 41 year old mom. I haven’t done much to brag about. No one really knows my name. I wear leggings, and I load the dishwasher every day. I drive people places and fight teenagers regularly. My name isn’t in lights or on the cover of a book. I haven’t held together companies, and truthfully, I’m not sure that staying home will be worth it long term. I can’t afford college for my kids. They wear hand-me-downs regularly. I wish I could tell you that I have this mom thing down and that I’ve raised stellar children. But most days my singular agenda is to keep them all out of an institution. I have lofty goals for my kids: 1. Love Jesus. 2. Don’t kill each other.

I’ve watched other moms. I’ve coveted their perfect hair and nails. I’ve been amazed at their important jobs and shiny cars. I’ve glamorized the working mom. All the while, I’m just hoping my middle child doesn’t play another round of “is it flammable?” in the house. This is my life: leggings and hiding matches.

Twenty-five years ago I thought this life thing would feel more exciting. I had big dreams and thought a lot more of myself. In the throws of adolescence, I thought people were watching me and sincerely cared what I wore every day. None of that was completely true then and it is definitely not true now. Frankly, I don’t like people who care what I wear. Those people are horrible people. Avoid them.

Some of this life I intentionally chose. Some of this life was handed to me. And though days come when I feel less significant than others, those feelings all come from a place of narcissism and malcontent not from God. Life and growing up is mostly about accepting what is and doing your best with what you have to give. So, I mom. I mom like crazy. I mom to the best of my ability… and write a little when I have the time.

What I’ve learned is this: womankind looks at the outside. Women examine hair and nails. We study each other’s exterior and compare it to our own when we walk by mirrors. We wish for each other’s bodies and jobs and noses. We comment on crazy makeup trends with a quick follow up of “bless her heart” just in case someone accuses us of snobbery. We wish for different life circumstances and bigger paychecks. We are rarely content with what we have. And when we are content with who we are, then we pick on our spouses or kids or friends and make them projects rather than relationships.

Most women I know are fixers. Most of us read loads of books on the topic of fixing ourselves or fixing our kids or fixing our marriages. We spend a lot of time trying to fix things. Keeping up the appearance of having it all fixed becomes a full-time profession for some of us. And somehow during all this fixing, we forget that we are all doing this same thing…trying to appear significant and trying to be more than mediocre and trying to hide where we are all completely messed up.

But, if I’m mediocre and so is everyone else, then I’m not alone in that. We are all normal together. I only feel insignificant because I look into someone else’s life and covet it. I wear mediocrity like a badge of shame rather than living a life of gratitude and joy. I can’t change all the circumstances of my life, but my attitude is my choice.

Through it all I have great peace that while I may live out this life only being famous to my three precious kids and while their inheritance exists solely in the form of my sense of humor or their dad’s passion for the church, to my Creator I am someone quite unique and special. Every hair on my head was created with purpose. Every word I write was planned. Every moment and breath I take on this earth has great significance to Him.  If that is mediocrity, then that is enough.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. -Psalm 139:13-16

 

 

 

Just a little yeast…

I heard from God today.  I’m often so entrenched in my own selfish bubble that I miss some really sweet messages of comfort. Today I got it. I hear you, Lord. Thank you. And, man, did I need it! Right on time, as usual.

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It goes without saying that raising children in the faith today feels impossible. From every direction my kids’ heads are turned away from the path of the cross. For the most part, Hollywood mocks morality as well as the authority of parenthood. Unfortunately, my kids witness Hollywood on every screen in their life from their pockets to the theater. Politicians cheapen Jesus using him a vote manipulator. Churches struggle with entertaining or emoting my kids into belief. Our school teachers, while I know they believe, are limited in everything they say and do. My children’s best friends in school are not believers. From every angle, a walk in faith for my children is often lonely and confusing.

I am burdened by this. My heart aches thinking about it, primarily because I know that the two people at the helm of this family ship are so very faulty. Dave and I try hard to be good examples for the kids, but we fail. Daily, we fail.

My kids sit in a front row seat at my sin showcase.

Time is so precious, and I have so little of it. Getting in bedtime prayers and attempting spiritual conversations at our twice a week family dinner are generally our biggest opportunities for spiritual connection with the kids. The older they get the more difficult it is to find the time to ask them probing questions and get into faith discussions. And every year that has gone by has stolen one more family meal time. Instead, we shuttle people to rehearsals, practices, lessons, and meetings and talk in the car.  The car is a great chance to try to get into their heads, but it too, is so minimal. Time never stops, but we refuse to let time steal every opportunity from us.

God knows that my heart is heavy with the burden of sharing my faith with my children and today I saw this…

“He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a little leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” ~Matthew 13:33

I have three children.  I recognize that biblical translations of this particular verse vary in the interpretation of the “three measures of flour”. And I’m not going to attempt a huge theological exposition on this tiny parable. Nevertheless, for me and my heart, what I read in these few words was the encouragement that my best efforts to work the word of Christ into the hearts of my three children won’t be all in vain. Small dividends will pay off. What God spoke to my heart today is that regardless of limited time and my giant glaring inadequacies, Christ uses my efforts to reveal Himself to my children. My limited and fallible attempts at sharing Jesus will result in growth. Thanks be to God!
Be comforted, parents. There is hope in Christ.  Our attempts to share Jesus with our kids can pay off big, not because of us; rather, in spite of us.

And He Hears.

And I cry.

and try to convince myself that I am not alone.
Yet, I listen to the voice pull me further from my home.

I see my reflection and wish a shattered mirror.
I listen to my failures and focus on my error.

I try to hear Him in the wind and the rain;
turn my aching ear to hear His voice again.

I sing the songs, and I know the steps.
I’ve heard the sermons, my boxes are all checked.

But I’m empty and I hear no calming voice
I cover my ears to shut out my noise.

And He hears.

I heard your prayers. I see your tears.
You’ve never once danced alone.
I walked those paths, felt the rocky soil
of that place that you call home.

I’ve been alone, without a friend,
not one to heal my wounds.
I felt the sting of goodbye, the ache of hate,
the glares from across the room.

But, the only difference between you and I,
that piece that blinds your scope,
is the empty tomb I left behind;
the assurance of your eternal hope.

I hold those hands you lift in prayer
while I hold the sky above.
I’m in the wind and storms you feel.
I’m the ever present love.

You’ll never fit within that space.
That world is not your home.
My gift for you is on the path of grace
My Spirit won’t leave you alone.

I ache to show you your home above,
a home meant just for you.
I left this place of perfect love
to offer everyone another view.

I took on pain and guilt,
and carried all the shame.
My heart breaks alongside yours
as I think of every name.

But, I know it hurts.
and I know you’re tired.
I see you try and try.
I won’t walk away, won’t give up, won’t ever say goodbye.

So, lift your head to see the end.
Find your joy along the path.
Pain will come along your way,
but there’s purpose in each task.

I’m with you on your journey.
I’m with you on this road.
I’m in the dance you dance each day,
and I lighten every load.

Your journey doesn’t end there.
Focus on what’s to come.
Your journey ends right here with me,
where the sun never met a horizon.

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I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.  ~2 Kings 20:5

 

He Won’t

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When friends betray, He won’t.
When the bottle poisons, He won’t.
When parents fail, He won’t.
When chocolate loses its sweetness, He won’t.
When doctors run out of options, He won’t.
When your body gives out, He won’t.
When your spouse leaves you lonely, He won’t.
When children neglect you, He won’t.
When you mess up, He won’t.
When you’ve given up on yourself, He won’t.

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” -Psalms 55:22

-cb