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. 

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,