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.