Tuesday, June 28, 2016

She Gets It




It was one of those phone calls that every Jesus-loving Mama wants to get from their child - a happy and rambling to almost babbling tumble of words because she’s so excited to tell you what just happened. 

“Mom! 
We got to meet a bunch of people from different Student Organizations tonight and I talked to 4 churches!”
(That’s great honey...…wait, what?)

“I was trying to get information from them so I just asked the people at each booth what the Gospel meant to them. I mean, I know what it means to me and I wanted to see if their answers were Biblical before I even bothered to ask anything else.”

Sweet Lord…she really has been paying attention all these years. 

I have to come clean - I almost dropped the phone. 
Oh my word, it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise at ALL, but it SO did. 
Because even after all the years spent in our home church and all the time discipling her and taking her along on the journey to help plant a church, I never quite knew that she really ‘got it’
Because it’s impossible to truly know the heart of another - even your own child.


Please tell me I’m not alone in this, my Mama friends. 
I know you’ve felt it too; wondered too - if the day in, day out ebb and flow of everyday faith, everyday trust and a common hope punctuated by every possible church service because it’s just. what. you. DO. really has any lasting effect on these little 'curious georges' we’ve been trusted to raise.

And I KNOW you wonder - because I have done - what do they understand about this faith of ours. 
What do they see? Really see?

They witness all the meals cooked and delivered; 
hospital rooms visited; 
prayers prayed in desperation for others and tears shed on bended knee with clasped hands; Bible pages folded, quoted and highlighted and marked; 
people gathered around the kitchen table time after time, piled up together on floor cushions and deck chairs and indian style as stories and laughter and weeping and loss and grief and joy upon joy upon joy are shared and moments are treasured among kindred hearts - all are experienced by those questioning eyes and seeking minds. 

Always watching us. 

And seeing us at our worst sometimes - anything but grace-filled or mercy-giving - but forgiven just the same. 
Thank you God for that mountainous miracle over and over again

They see the times we are barely holding on to our own faith by a thread - angry and weeping and broken and confused because WE don’t understand - how could they possibly?
They feel the shockwave of us losing our sanity over the endless legos and polly pockets and cd’s and hair clips and ice skates and video games left in the middle of the floor once again and just as quick as they take their next breath, they feel us wrap our arms around them with love and I’m sorrys and sweet kisses on their hair.

And they decide that their Mama is crazy, but Jesus loves her anyway and if He does then they should too - and again, Thank you God for the miracle of that love

And sometimes, we get to see them decide that this Jesus who loves their crazy Mama must love them too - so VERY much - and they choose to love him back and try to follow him with the special faith and beautiful trust that comes from knowing He is the essence of love. 
And we think they ‘get it’.
For a while. 

We are forced to watch them stumble and fall and pick themselves back up again and trip and stumble and fall again in a gut-wrenching cycle of stretching the rope, being jerked back and stretching it out again. 
We watch them doubt and question and struggle and fear and lose their ever lovin’ minds and thumb their nose at the truth they know…. 
and we pray - 

Oh, how we pray…..

We trust. We hope. We pray some more.


And then, in what seems like a blink of an eye, we’re driving them to college orientation and sitting in our hotel room and get the phone call that reminds us that Jesus has had them all along. 

“Mom, one of them is a church plant, like us! And they believe like we do. They’re sharing Jesus, and I could serve there - isn't that awesome?” 

It sure is baby girl. 

It sure is. 


(Photo Credit - Bethanne Runyan Photography)

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Time to Listen

(This is a repost of an essay I posted on my Facebook Page.)


On my heart tonight - 
We as a nation have been dealing with a lot of bad news lately. In just the past week, our country has had a front row seat to some awful tragedies.
The murder of a young, popular singer outside her concert venue. The evil terror attack on an LGBT nightclub that left 49 innocent people dead and many more wounded. Then the unfathomable death of a toddler at ‘the happiest place on earth’. 
Like most of you, I suspect, I watched the images and stories on our tv and read about them online and the words “Not again…” crossed my mind over and over again. Once more I felt the all too familiar grief grip my heart as our human community experienced the sadness of senseless loss of life.
Everyone’s hearts are broken in some way by tragedy.
And for a time, it binds us together.
Until we begin to ‘share’ our views. 
I watch the television news each day - primarily for the weather - but at times to get a glimpse of what others are seeing and hearing. For a while now, I’ve chosen to get my national and local news online, from a variety of sources because I want to always attempt to understand differing viewpoints. I’ve always believed that the first steps to understanding the heart and mind of another is to consider their words and actions in context of their culture.
Where they come from.
Their community, their people.
Their family.
Their beliefs, values and traditions.
The events that have shaped them.
And you have to WANT to understand them.
It’s impossible to know these things about others when you only talk at someone, not with them.
When you base your opinion of others on a what you think you know without truly understanding their heart, without caring about their cultural viewpoint, you allow misunderstanding, miscommunication and distrust to fester and grow.
I don’t always agree with these different viewpoints - truth be told, it’s not often I’m swayed from what I believe to be true.
But I’d be the worst kind of fool to not listen and try to understand. 
If you pay attention to ANY media source, there is no way you can avoid the typical armchair analysis of your social media ‘friends’ and the expert pontificating of the paid tv ‘pundits’. Everyone has an opinion and they’re not shy about sharing it. And we, probably most of us, often read or hear some things you agree with, some that you don’t. Some ideas reverberate within you and some bounce off your own teflon opinions. 
This happens every time we as a nation or a community experience tragedy.
And as much as I hate when we collectively experience tragic events, it has in the past, provided us as Americans - as humans - an opportunity for discourse.
Much needed discourse if we are to continue to understand the heart motivations of our friends and neighbors.
Unfortunately, it’s not always civil discourse and it’s here I stop in my tracks to ask where it’s all leading. 
Because lately, it feels so different. All semblance of civility has seemingly disappeared.
Words are being slung around like arrows simply to wound in the name of speaking a perceived ‘truth’.
Deliberate words.
Desperate words.
Cynical words.
Disillusioned words.
Personal words.
We’ve become so accustomed to arguing our point, angry that we’re not being ‘heard’ that we’ve stepped away from the shouting match into an all out street fight.
Pushing, shoving, spitting, pinching, biting, kicking, punching….
It’s an escalation scale I don’t even want to consider that’s now looming on our collective horizon. 
And to what end?
At what point do we stop throwing stones at each other?
When do we stop shouting at each other long enough to recognize that our chosen opponents are our friends, our neighbors, our family? We’ve become a people so obsessed with getting our own way that we have lost all sense of the humanity of others.
And in doing so we are losing ours. 
Those who know me - even peripherally - know that I’m a Christ-follower. Which, among other things, means I am called to LOVE others. It’s impossible to love others if we aren’t willing to set aside our pride and opinions and bullying tactics long enough to understand them.
To show love and kindness.
And don’t you want the same in return?
You don’t have to be a Christ-follower to show love to others or even to appreciate these words:
“Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable,
and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.”
Yes, that’s from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to be exact.
But even if you don’t believe the Bible, how can you argue with living a life that exudes these qualities? Because the further down the degradation scale we fall, the further we get from basic human decency, respect and kindness that we all deserve. 
Hear my heart on this - we are choosing to live this way - and we can just as easily choose to not.
You don’t have to respond to anger and bitterness and insults and accusations with more of the same.
You can choose to respond out of a heart that wants to see a change, to make a difference for good.
But here’s the thing - you have to make that choice and follow through.
Saying the words, resolving to be different, determining to make a change is meaningless until you put that resolve into action.
Love in action.
Kindness in action.
Jesus gave us two commandments - superseding all others.
He said we are to Love God with all our hearts.
And He said we are to Love others in the same way we love ourselves. 
We begin to love others when we drop our fists and stones and arrows and words in order to listen.
It really is that simple.
With a Courageous Heart,
Robin

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

True Rest - Learning the Lesson

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”” - Matthew 11:28-30 


Like just about everyone else I know, my family and I are struggling with some pretty heavy stuff these days; some life altering decisions. 
And that’s no exaggeration. 
To say that we are all a little on edge, burdened down and anxious is kind of an understatement. 

So, when my friend Shannon posted her monthly Scripture Writing Plan for May (click HERE to download it) the fact that she was feeling impressed to focus on verses that deal with anxiety and fear was a light bulb moment for me. 
Really, it shouldn’t have been, isn’t the answer always found in the directions? The instruction manual? My light bulb should be a big flashing neon sign pointing straight to my Bible…. 
Anyway, bottom line is that it’s time for me to get my act together and really lean in to scripture once again. It's hard to hear from God if I’m not reading his word. Or talking to him. And you can't either.

The verses I shared at the beginning of this post are ones I’ve read more times than I can count over the years I’ve been walking with Jesus. So much so, that in my first reading today, I was like, “Ok, yeah, know that, get that, you take my burdens, you give me rest, blah, blah, blah.” 
Sigh. Nothing new to see here….or was there? 

When I began to actually write the verses on the page of my journal (it’s a scripture WRITING plan for a reason), I changed the phrasing, and copied them down like this: 

Then Jesus said, 
“Come to me, 
      all of you who are weary 
      and carry heavy burdens, 
      and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you. 
      Let me teach you, 
      because I am humble 
      and gentle at heart, 
      and you will find rest 
      for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy to bear, 
      and the burden I give you 
      is light.” 

I love that the physical act of writing out scripture causes you to SLOW DOWN and really SEE it, to soak it in. Because honestly, if I hadn’t, I would have missed the most important words in these verses. 

“Let me teach you…” 


Jesus knows all about a crazy, stress-filled life. He knows about life altering decisions and he knows about our trust issues. 
Boy, does he ever know about our trust issues….. 

He knows because he’s walked this earth, he lived life among us and even though it was a long time ago, do you really think the people of his day were any less stressed and complicated than we are? 
I think no……they may not have had smart phones and Facebook, but they had their own problems that make me thankful for running water and the miracle of a flushing toilet….just sayin’. 

Anyway, point is, he gets it. Gets US. 
And what he knows about us is that we don’t often have a teachable attitude, a heart that wants to learn and live what really matters in this life. What it’s truly all about. 

What we are is prideful. And stubborn. And unteachable at times because of it. 
Because well, we are. Admit it.
We run and run and run and go and go and go and push and push and push and work and work and work and we. get. weary. 
And we carry. heavy. burdens. 
We worship the busy and idolize the work and look for satisfaction in the accomplishments. 
And because it’s not Jesus we are worshipping, it makes us tired to the bone. 

Then we read these verses and think 
“Ok, Jesus, I get it. Take this burden from me, give me rest, trade my yoke for yours (whatever a yoke is), give me the light one. So I can recover and do it all over again.” 
Yeah. We do. 
Because we forget once again that it’s not all about us. 
It’s about him. 
We as Christ-followers are supposed to be learning to be more like Christ, to reflect his character instead of our own. 
And he is “humble and gentle at heart”. 
In him we “will find rest for *our souls”. 

Jesus loves us SO MUCH! 
And he wants to teach us to breathe - to walk in humility; to reflect a gentle spirit, a kind heart; to receive true rest for our self-complicated lives. 
But we have to LET HIM. 
The true rest for our souls that he promises is found when we lay aside our pride and willfulness and the idol of our busy life and let him be our God again. 
Because if anything or anyone other than Jesus is sitting on the throne of your life, you will never find rest. 
Or peace. 
Or light. 

And don't be confused - He doesn’t want us to stop using our gifts and talents. 
He doesn’t want us to stop doing work we love or caring for people we love or even doing the work of living. 
But he does call us to put HIM first. 
To let him teach us that when we do - everything else will fall into it’s proper place. 

And our burdens won’t be burdens at all - they will be joy. 
And our souls won’t be weary - they will be at rest.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Place to Belong


I visited the Farmer's Market in Old Town this morning. 
My senses breathed in the fresh colors of Spring,  and I couldn't help but feel the newness around me, an awakening, a promise in the air. 


My hometown was coming to life and the sound of it filled my ears with a tune born of sameness and comfort. 



Home. 
Ever the same, ever changing. 
Seasons and Years come and they go...and as much as this place I love is as familiar as the well-worn Nikes on my feet, it's also growing and blooming and reinventing itself. 
Always full of things to discover. 
Even if its as simple as finding the beauty in the purple redbud tree against the red of a vintage train caboose. 


Spring, as always, never fails to delight my eyes.

I made my few purchases of baby leaf lettuce, some wildflower honey and a loaf of fresh cheddar bread and found my way over to the gazebo to sit and finish my coffee and enjoy the sights and sounds of a new day. 


The tidal wave of nostalgia washed over me unexpectedly, forcefully, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. 
Silly me, I should have seen it coming. My heart was already full to bursting this morning. 
God knows that these past weeks have been full of head-on collision, knock me off my feet moments. Every time I turn around there's another 'last' to contend with, another reminder that this 18 year chapter in our family book is about to close.

We've come to another pivot point in our lives. 
One that reorders the days and hours of our routine (such as it is...). 
One that provides fresh challenge and purpose for my husband.

One that will carry our girl 11 hours away. 


Away to a new state, a new city, a new place to call home for the next 4 years... 
And sitting there with my thoughts and my warm cup of comfort, I couldn't help but wonder if it will give her the same sense of place, of belonging, of home that she's known her whole life thus far. 


I can't relate to a change like that. 
In a world where people change places all the time, I've never lived further than 15 miles from this place I was born and raised. The concept is foreign to me, the idea of leaving a place that's as much a part of me as the breath in my lungs. 
And truthfully, I pray that I never have to learn it. 

In talking with my sweet girl, who admittedly is sometimes unrecognizable in her overnight maturity, I know that she feels it. Feels the strain of her roots pulling on her heart as she knows she has to leave this place to pursue her passion, her dream. 



She said to me "Mom, if I could take everything about where I'm going and move it all here, I'd have everything I want. But I can't do that and I know I have to go."
I blinked and she grew up. Just like that. 
No way I was that mature at 18. 

But she is a different girl and she knows who she is and what she wants and accepts what she has to do to attain it. With a grace and a resignation that's far beyond my understanding. 


And the difference between us at 18, is that she has placed her trust and hope and future into the hands that made her. 
I could regret that I didn't do the same at her age, but I'll choose to be grateful instead. 
Grateful to our God, who in his abundant grace, taught me what I needed to learn in order to guide her. To direct her towards Him.

Our world will shift and change all the time. 
Sometimes it keeps you in a 15 mile radius. 
Sometimes it sends you 623 miles away. 

But when God is our life, He is our home.
Our place to belong.

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." - Colossians 2:6-7


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

They Are My Tribe

"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." - Proverbs 15:1


I've been struggling lately with what to write, what to share. 
Some days, there is so much in my head and on my heart, I truly don't know where to begin - so I don't. 
Other days, well, there's nothing. 
At least, it seems that way. 
A few months ago, my daughter told me to just write about what's going on in our life - in the wisdom of her 18 years, she figures that someone out there can relate. 
So today, I figure, why not? 

To be honest, things have been pretty volatile in our home lately. 
We're all on edge quite a bit, and conversations take on the appearance of soldiers avoiding land mines.
It shows itself in the simplest, most benign times - like packing a lunch for school or making breakfast or folding laundry or _______________. (Fill in the blank. I'm sure you've got some too.)

Maybe it's the stress of an almost ready to graduate senior in high school - and all that comes with it, good and bad. 
Maybe it's the stress of a Husband ready to retire, looking for his next career, finding the right fit, the cycle of resume and hope. 
Maybe it's the stress of a Mom seeing her main job of the past 18 years about to change dramatically, leaving her wondering where her place is gonna be in this world now. 

I'm pretty sure it's the combination of all of the above and then some. 
Throw in a little 'outside influence' and some 'whoa, I didn't see that coming' and it's the perfect storm of crazy and hurt feelings and disappointment. 

I really don't have the ultimate answers and I don't know very much, but what I do know is this: 

On the days that I don't like my family very much (or myself for that matter), 
I LOVE them fiercely. 
They are my tribe, my mess, my pain in the rear, my attitude adjustment and my greatest treasure. 

And I know that without question, God has a plan and a purpose in all of this mess. 
All of this change, all of this pulling away and pushing back, all of this crazy deadline-filled emotionally charged stress is shaping us for what's to come - and He's right there with us. 

So on the days - like today - that I want to scream and hold on to my anger and be the queen of passive-aggressive, I remember that God's got us and I run to him. 
My Abba-Father loves me and holds me and whispers in my ear that it's all gonna be ok - just trust him. 
And I do.
Can you relate?


Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Power of Our Pride

"Pride leads to conflict..." - Proverbs 13:10a

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." - James 1:19-20


I was reminded recently of how quickly a conversation can turn. 
One wrong word, one misinterpreted phrase, one negative assumption - all combine with lightning speed to create the perfect storm of anger and indignation. 

It comes out of nowhere - one minute you’re smiling and laughing and enjoying the moment with your loved one and the next - BOOM! You’re feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut, laid out on the floor, wounded and bleeding, because of one thing interpreted the wrong way. 

That’s the power of the tongue. 
But that’s also the power of our pride. 

And while I think the potential for a wounded heart is great when we consider how powerful our words can be - the Book of James has a lot to say about this - oftentimes, it’s our pride that causes the greatest hurt. 

And why is that? 

Maybe it’s because we spend too much time wrapped up in our own ideas of who we think we should be and not enough time resting in the truth of who God has created us to be. 

A heart that’s easily wounded by a poorly phrased statement from a loved one, is a heart that’s not fully trusting in the reality that they are greatly loved by the Creator of the universe. 

That’s huge. 

And it’s exactly what the Enemy wants us to believe. 
He’s a master at driving a wedge right through the heart of our relationships. The Enemy knows that if he can cause us to doubt the love of those we hold dear, he can cause us to doubt the unconditional love of the Father for us. 
For those of us whose identity is in Christ, that doubt chips away at our very foundation. The rock solid truth of the One in whom we’ve placed our faith. 

When we doubt our faith, when we don’t trust His love for us, we are completely ineffective in sharing that love with others. 
Which plays right into the Enemy’s hands. 

So, what can we do to guard against the sneak attacks of our pride? 
Well, a couple of things actually: 

  1. We can remember to always give the benefit of the doubt. To trust that if you’re hearing from someone who loves you, that you have a relationship with, that their intent is to be loving - even if their words ring awkwardly wrong to our ears. 
  2. We can read truth from God’s word. The Bible is full of reassurances that we are precious and greatly loved by God. The more we soak in those truths, the more we find our confidence in his love for us and we depend less and less on the opinions of the world. Resting our hearts in his truth helps us not misinterpret the words of others.
  3. We can pray. Actually, this is the BEST thing we can do. Before we spin out of control, before we get carried away by our harrumphs and our pride, we can ask God to step in and direct our thoughts, our hearts and our words. Because in truth, when God directs our conversations, we are most effective at living out his purpose and plan for us. To love him, and to love others. It’s that simple. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Don't Touch and It Won't Break



“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” - 2 Corinthians 4:7

When my daughter was around 4 years old, she knocked a clay pot off a shelf in a craft store, shattering it in a hundred little pieces. She was mortified - well, as mortified as a 4 year old can be. The deer in the headlights look on her face told that story.

I remember that she didn’t quite understand what was going on when we had her tell the store clerk what happened and offer to pay for the broken pot. But she remember that moment even now, 14 years later. She remembers how upset and embarrassed she was, the fear of being punished, that she had to help clean up the pieces. 
It wasn’t a priceless heirloom, so it was a little easier to use it as an object lesson for her -  ‘don’t touch and it won’t break’. 

And isn’t that true of us every day?
Don’t touch and it won’t break.

2 Corinthians 4:7 makes it clear that we are like “fragile clay jars”. And inside of us we have the “great treasure” of God’s love, his “light shining in our hearts”. 
But the light can’t shine for others until our hearts are broken for them. 

There is so much brokenness in our world today. And it’s so easy to close ourselves off from it, to turn away from what we see of the pain and suffering of others - but as Christ followers especially, aren’t we supposed to see that? To be moved by it?
To let it break our hearts?   

Instead, so many times, we don’t let it touch us - we turn off the tv because the story is too sad - and in our 24 hour news cycle, it’s too much. And it invades our illusion of our safe little bubble. 
We close our hearts to the pain of others because it requires so much of us to absorb it; to feel it and be broken by it. 

Don’t touch and it won’t break.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s how Christ wants us to live - to keep his light and love locked up in our fragile clay hearts. Protected by the bubble wrap of our safe lives. 
We are called to touch others with his love, his hope, his grace, kindness and mercy. 
With his story of redemption and forgiveness. 
Our purpose here is to let our hearts break for the ones he himself was broken (and bled and died) for. 

You may not be called to a far away place to share his love, but there’s someone in your own backyard who is desperate for it today. 
Maybe it’s time to touch…and break…and shine the light of Christ into their dark place.