Row, Row, Row

While on vacation this summer, my youngest son and I decided that we would try our hand at kayaking along the inter-coastal canal. I thought it would be a great mom and son bonding event, and he agreed to indulge my out- door adventure bonding fantasy.

After a bit of research we found a place to rent a kayak and headed out to enjoy an afternoon on the water.  We were both excited and anxious to see how the day would unfold, and in all honesty, just a bit nervous. Once we arrived at the rental place, a very nice lady gave us some rowing pointers and a detailed map of the canals.  All was well until she began a long lecture about alligators and mating manatee!!

Um…

Ok…

Thanks…

Once the lecture part of the afternoon was over, we slipped into our life vests and made our way to the water to claim our kayak. Much to my son’s chagrin, I felt strongly that we needed to be in a 2-man kayak.  There was just something in my momma spirit that didn’t want us to be in separate kayaks out on the water.  What if something happened to him and I couldn’t get to him?  How am I supposed to wrestle an alligator from a separate kayak if he is under attack? Full on momma worry had me declaring that it was a 2-man kayak for us so that we could stay together.  (Yes, my son is taller than I am.  Yes, my son is basically stronger than I am.  What’s your point? Don’t judge.)

Being in a kayak together meant that we needed to learn how to work together and row in tandem.  The nice alligator facts lady had informed us that the strongest rower should be in the back of the kayak, so as we headed to the water I naturally aimed for the back seat.

Would you believe that my son actually laughed OUT LOUD at the idea that I would be the stronger rower?

Whatever.  Rude.

I LET him have the backseat; no sense in destroying his teenage ego!

With that hurdle resolved we stepped into the kayak, and by some small miracle managed not to immediately dump ourselves into the water.  We were off and headed out into the canal!

This is where it gets ugly folks.

In less than one minute, just sixty hot seconds, and I knew that my vision of a beautiful afternoon gliding along the water, bonding over the shared experience of rowing along the canal, was totally NOT REALITY.

The minute our kayak inched into the canal, my usually mild mannered son became an extreme rowing dictator!

“Right”

“Left”

“More on your Right!”

“Come on Mom, not so much on your left.”

Who is this kid?

Since when is he the rowing expert?

To add to the frustration, we were at total odds about everything we were doing.  I would be rowing right and he would be rowing left. I would think we needed to head one direction and he was adamantly sure that we needed to go a different way.  With all of the cross-purpose rowing, our kayak was not exactly moving along and we quickly became exhausted with the constant pushing and pulling of working against one another.

Then there were the boats.

If you hear my son tell the story, we almost died a tragic and horrific death due to speeding boats and massive wake waves.  The truth is that all the boaters were more than conscious of the kayakers and always slowed to a crawl, sending out only minimal waves for us to negotiate.  But that is NOT how he saw them.  Every boat was an impending instrument of death, bearing down on us with malicious intent, which completely heightened his need to bark rowing orders at the back of my head.  Needless to say, things were decelerating quickly!

We are still in complete disagreement about how we ran into a DOCK, AND GOT STUCK ON A SANDBAR (both of which were totally his fault), but trust me when I tell you that neither experience added value to the afternoon!

By this point we were only about half way out to the part of the canal that we wanted to see and still had the entire return trip ahead of us. I was in complete repentance for ever having suggested that we get into a 2-man kayak and I was praying through clenched teeth for Jesus to intervene so that I didn’t personally feed the boy to the first alligator I saw.

Bless both of our hearts!

Truth be told, there WERE a FEW fleeting moments in which we would find ourselves in sync, rowing together in a quick glimmer of unity.  In these small snatches of peace I was able to look around and see how truly beautiful the water was and take in the gorgeous trees, and birds, and sunlight.  We even saw some dolphins playing and swimming just a few feet away from us.

But we could never sustain those moments, so we headed back to port, frustrated and exhausted, never having fully reached our destination.

Life is like this sometimes.

Sometimes we are in the kayak of our destiny, of our calling, but we find ourselves at cross purposes with the “stronger rower”, and we don’t really get anywhere.

Unlike my son, (bless his sweet, skinny, hide), God really does know how to steer the ship.  We just have to let him.

Too often we think that if we are IN the kayak, IN his will for us, that this should be enough.  We say that we will be obedient to the call of God in our lives (getting in the kayak), but then we spend all of our time at cross-purposes with the direction he is leading us in; only exhausting ourselves, without ever making any progress.

The saddest part of all is that we often have moments where we glimpse how smoothly things could go if we were in tandem with God’s working and in agreement with his route.  We look up and see the beauty he has surrounded us with and we are in awe of his goodness and love.  But all too soon we pick up our oar of independence and fight against the current of his plan.  Rowing right when he has clearly told us left.

I wonder if God ever gets tired of shouting directions at the back of our stubborn heads?!

It’s all just exhausting!

But what if today we stopped rowing so hard against the will of our Father?  What if we realized that God has the map and knows exactly how to get us to our destination?  What if we gave up the strongest-rower-back-seat and recognized HIS strength and HIS might?  What if we began to believe that he is truly capable of getting us where we need to be?

Listen…

Can you hear him?

Right

Left

Right

Left

Lean in.  Trust his strength.  Believe in his perfect plan.

It is going to be a beautiful ride.+

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Jump In!

For the past two weeks I have been on vacation in Florida.  Family, food, ocean waves, sand and sun.  It was relaxing and wonderful; and if I am being perfectly honest, I am completely pouty about having to come home!

My parents, whom we were visiting, live in a gorgeous community with swimming pools, lakes, trails along the inter-coastal canals, and graceful trees arching over the streets.  It is a little slice of heaven which we gravitate to each year the minute the calendar turns to July!

One of the daily habits that we developed while on vacation, other than eating too much, was going to the swimming pool. As the pool is near my parents’ house, we would load up our bikes with towels, rafts, coolers, and all sorts of pool-day supplies, and peddle our way to an afternoon of fun.  I am sure we looked like a strange parade of crazy coming down the street with our bikes loaded up like a band of Gypsies, but hey, that’s how we roll!  Once at the pool, we would build a nest of beach chairs, slather ourselves in sunscreen and gleefully present ourselves as a burnt offering to the hot July Sun. Adding to the bliss, the little café located conveniently on the pool patio makes the world’s best French Fries and they will deliver them right to your pool side chair! Gluttony and sunshine!

BEST DAYS EVER!

While noshing on fries and pre-paying for my dermatologist’s vacation home, I engaged in one of my favorite activities; people watching.  As it was about a zillion degrees, it didn’t take long to work up a serious sweat, but he pool offered a cold oasis from the blazing sun, so traffic between beach chairs and pool water was a steady stream all day long.  This gave me a lot of opportunity to observe human behavior, and I must say that I was amused by all the different techniques folks employed in the simple task of getting into the pool on a hot day.

First, there were the toe-dippers.  These folks dip a few toes, maybe an entire foot if feeling brave, into the water and then make a hasty retreat back to their chair. Nothing above the ankles ever makes it into the water!

Then there are the inch-worms. Inch-worms actually fall into two categories: slow worms and fast worms.  The fast worms hit the pool stairs and quickly submerge themselves a few inches at a time.  Feet, then legs, then waist, then chest, until they are fully underwater.  Their counter-partners are the slow worms.  Slow worms will settle on a pool step and then S-L-O-W-L-Y inch their way into the water with painfully long pauses as they acclimatize to the cool pool water.  (I freely admit that I am a slow worm type of gal!)

Next there are the striders.  To be a strider you must confidently rise from your chair, walk directly to the pool stairs, enter the pool quickly and focused, without any dilly-dally or delay.  This must be accomplished without even the smallest change to facial expression; sending the message to all other pool goers that the temperature of the water and the steam rising off of your body doesn’t faze you in the least.

One of my favorite groups to watch are the cannon-ballers.  As you can imagine, these folks just plunge themselves into the water with abandoned bliss. The majority of the people in this group were children who would emerge from their underwater plummet with a giggle and a squeal of delight. They made me smile with their unrestrained joy!

The last group I observed can only be called the “it burns” group.  Much like the wicked witch of the west, these people had a complete aversion to getting any water on them AT ALL.  It was as if the water would burn their skin if even a droplet landed on them.  There they would be, miserable and suffering in the hot sun, but they would never, I repeat NEVER, allow themselves the assuaging benefit of the cool water.  Nope, they just sat there and roasted while relief was less than two feet away.

While watching all of these groups and their interesting approaches to the water, I began to think about how God has built each of us our very own pool of purpose.  Right in the middle of our struggles and strife, in the midst of the broiling heat of our uncertainty, he has developed an oasis of his perfect plan for us, where we can fully submerge ourselves into his love and blessings.

In this pool we find relief and peace.

In this pool we find redemption and grace.

In this pool we can quench our thirsty spirits with the living water that restores our souls and gives focus to our lives.

But, we gotta GET IN!

We can’t sit on the sides and think that by just looking at the pool we can reap the refreshment of the Spirit.

Now is not the time to slowly inch our way in; questioning the temperature and “getting used to” the idea that God has a calling on our lives.

Nor is this the time to stride into the waters, but remain unfazed to the blessings that have been prepared for us.

No, this is the time to jump in with abandonment; bursting through the living water with a squeal of delight and a gasp as the realization of perfect purpose takes our breath away.

Oh, the joy of splashing about in the love of God and immersing ourselves in his unique and wonderful plan for our lives!

Come on dear ones!

Grab your towels and meet me at the pool!

The water is perfect!

The water is purposeful!

The water is living and prepared just for you!

Jump on in!

 

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Evidence

I must confess, I love a good true crime mystery! Seriously, give me a riveting 60 Minutes “Criminal Minds” broadcast or a Dateline “who-done-it” and I am totally engrossed. There is a certain thrill in watching the evidence unfold and knowing that the answers to the puzzle are just in front of you; if you only know where to look. I am forever trying to outguess the police and the detectives on these shows. Sometimes I can’t believe that they have all this evidence right in front of them and they can’t see the answer! Come on! Can’t you see that the husband’s best friend’s step-brother’s ex-girlfriend’s sister did it?! Geesh! It is soooo obvious! My husband, who has spent the majority of his life in law enforcement of one kind or the other, is not overly impressed with my figure-out-who-done-it prowess. He seems to think that I have an advantage of seeing the story unfold chronologically and in total, while the real detectives must piece it all together in a painstaking process of evidence gathering and minutia. Whatever! I think he is just jealous of my Sherlock Holmes-like intelligence!

One of the things that always amazes me is how a murder mystery can be blown open by a tiny, seemingly insignificant piece of evidence. A microscopic fiber, a droplet of blood, a slight indention where there shouldn’t be one; small pieces of evidence that pull all the other evidence into clear focus. Detectives know that a case without convincing evidence is no case at all and they will turn over every stone to find the link that will convince a jury of the truth!

Evidence.

Webster’s defines evidence as, that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.

It seems that we are always searching for the evidence of truth in our lives. We want evidence that we are loved by our spouses, evidence that our children are growing appropriately, evidence that we are valued in our work, evidence that our friends are loyal, evidence that donuts are not a health food. (Ok, so maybe that last one is just me.) We are constantly seeking proof, seeking evidence to build a foundation for our belief about ourselves and the world around us.

I believe that God knew that we would be creatures who craved proof. I believe that God created a restless spirit in each of us to seek, to search, to look for the evidence that brings his amazing love for us into clear focus.

Knowing this, he gave us an abundance of evidence!

Do you see it?

Do you see the evidence all around you? God has created a grandiose display; shouting to the universe his power, his might, and his intense love for you!

Do you see it?

The roaring ocean tides, the planets in motion, the dormancy of winter that sprouts new every spring! The breath in your lungs, the DNA that knits you perfectly and uniquely, the cry of a baby, the laughter of a child. The babe in the manger, the messiah touching lives, the savior on the cross, the defeat of death and sin, the empty tomb! Oh Hallelujah! The evidence is overwhelming! Incompressible! Undeniable! Clear, defining, proof! The solid ground for our belief!

How lucky we are to have the benefit of seeing all the evidence unfolded before us. How fortunate for us that we already know the answer to the mystery of our lives. It is all there; right there. God, who does not need us, loves us. God who hears the adulation of all creation, singularly delights in the praise of his children. God, who communes with the universe, wants to be in fellowship with us. God who gave us life, wants to give us eternity. God, the very author of love, wants to write a story of victory in our lives.

It is no mystery.

There is no “who-done-it” confusion.

There is certainty.

There is proof.

There is evidence.

There is God.

 

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Cloudy Days!

This Spring had been characterized by ridiculously confusing weather. March roared in with the only significant snow we had seen all winter, and was followed almost immediately by late-July-type -record-breaking-heat. Then we were back to cold and rainy, then hot and rainy, then frigid mornings and stifling afternoons. I honestly have had zero idea how to dress myself or my children. (Sure baby, shorts and a sweatshirt with flip flops and a ski hat look great together!)

The ONLY consistency in the weather has been a ludicrous amount of grey, gloomy days. I’m not talking about days that are simply cloudy, I am talking about heavy, grey clouds that blanket the horizon from end to end like thick, wet flannel, smothering any possible ray of light from the sky. The type of clouds that sit unmoving, stifling and weighty like a load on your shoulders. The type of clouds that make you seriously concerned that the sun may never shine again. I just can’t understand how an oppressive sheet of clouds can obliterate the light from the sun that blazes at 57 million degrees Fahrenheit, but it does…and it is awful!

One or two of these dreadful grey days are frustrating, three or four of these days are mind numbing, but weeks of dark, dreary days are completely soul crushing. My poor husband is completely baffled by my somewhat “extra” reaction to endlessly grey days. Bless his heart, he has no idea how to handle a wife who turns into a gremlin in the absence of sunlight. He just doesn’t understand, I NEED the sun! It’s not just that I like the sun, it is as if there is something deep in my spirit, down in my very bones that NEEDS THE SUN! Maybe I am part plant and have chlorophyll in my veins. Whatever it is, my spirit feels depleted when there is a constant absence of the sun.

So, what do we do when our lives begin to mirror the gloom of these densely cloudy days? When burdens, worries, and difficulties wrap us in sadness, strangling any ray of hope that may try to break through the gloom. When days of shadow turn to wretched weeks where we scan the horizon in hopeful desperation, but we just can’t see the SON.

How do we continue to believe that He is there, when we can’t see him behind the clouds in our lives? How do we find HIS light in our personal darkness?

The answer is that we wait. We wait in expectation. We wait in belief. We cling to the knowledge that HE is working on our behalf even when we can’t see him, even when we can’t feel him. We declare that just as the sun is not run from the sky by malicious clouds, the SON is not run from our lives by the savagery of our misery. We wrap ourselves in his word and cry out to his heart; and we wait. We fill our hearts with anticipation for that joyous moment when a single ray of light will burst through the despair to bathe our lifted faces in the warmth of his love and grace.

Dear ones, we were never promised endless days of sunshine, but we can stand in faith on the promise that he will never forsake us. That even in the dark, HE is still the light.

Oh, how we need the SON!

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Scars!

As I was getting ready this morning, I couldn’t help but notice once again the scar that is so prominently imprinted on my chest from the port I had placed for chemotherapy. It got me to thinking about the scars on my body and how each one of them represents something I chose to do!

For example, the scar on my right elbow is there because I chose to see if my 10-speed Schwinn would make it across the homemade ramp my brother had built. The bike didn’t soar, but I sure did!

The scar on my upper thigh is there because, come to find out, shorts aren’t much protection against road rash when you and a go-kart part ways on a hair-pin turn!

Then there are the stretchmarks that spread like spiders from carrying my children, and the slashing scars from surgery to rid my body of cancer.

Scars seem to crisscross my body like a strange roadmap of decisions I have made; each bearing witness to the choices in my life. The good and the bad.

Do you have scars that bear the truth of choices you have made?

Jesus does!

Jesus carries scars.

Scars deeply etched into his side.

Scars cruelly bludgeoned into his hands and his feet.

Scars that are constant reminders of the choice he made when he went to Calvary for you. When he went to Calvary for me.

He had a choice. He could have chosen to call a legion of angels to his side and become the warrior Savior that so many wanted him to be. He could have denied his Father’s will and turned his back on the sins of the world. But long before he came to the earth as a baby in a manger, he made the choice to lay his life down for each of us.

He chose to be judged, so that we might be found blameless.

He chose to carry the staggering weight of that rugged cross, on shoulders bloodied and gorged, so that we can lay our burdens down.

He chose to stretch out his arms and open his hands to the horrifying blows of the hammer and the vicious biting of the nails, so that we would be reminded that his arms are open to us.

He chose to die. To die an excruciating death that he had not earned and that he did not deserve, so that we could have victorious life.

Jesus’ scars.

Scars that are forever engraved on his body as a resounding message of love, grace, and mercy for each of us.

One day I will see them. One day I will place my hand in his nail-scarred hand and see the remnants of the savagery he endured for me.

One day I will see his scars and know that my Savior, my Jesus, made the choice to love a sinner like me.

Thank you, Jesus for choosing the cross.

Thank you, Jesus for choosing the death that was meant for me.

Hallelujah to the lamb that was slain!

Hallelujah to the King that rose again!

 

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Good morning? Good morning!

Mornings in my house are nothing short of ridiculous.  From the moment the alarm rudely jars me awake, the breakneck race towards the day begins.  If there is ever a time that Murphy’s Law is at its strongest in my home, it is in the mornings.  If it can go wrong, it usually does.  Spilled coffee, missing shoes, the cat escaping when we let the dog out, make up mishaps, grouchy children, and even grouchier parents.  Where is your back pack? Where are your shoes? Did anyone feed the dog? What do you mean you need poster board and Styrofoam balls for a project at school TODAY? Let’s go! Hurry up! Don’t look at me with that tone of voice, just move it!  Get in the car…get in the car…GET-IN-THE-CAR!

After the miracle of making it out of the house in a reasonable amount of time, there is the reoccurring nightmare of Northern Virginia traffic.   A continuous snarl of cars, frantically jockeying for position.  Anxiety poured over the streets in the stops and starts, the push and pull, the white-knuckle steering to avoid the ever-present hazard of ego maniacal drivers who navigate as if they are the only ones on the road.  Its enough to make the muscles in my neck bunch up, the breath catch in my lungs, and my head   pound to the rhythm of frustration.

Mornings. Are. Tough.

 

But not this morning…

This morning, my son needed to be at church by zero dark thirty.  (Bless the hearts of all Tech Team and Praise Team members that arrive before even God has had coffee on Sunday mornings!)  I drew the short straw and had to pull my carcass out of bed at a totally unreasonable hour just to get him there on time, only to race home again to ready myself and make the return trip to church.  After the typical early morning mom makeover of sweat pants, a swipe of the hairbrush, and a to-go cup of coffee, I drug myself to the car to make the way-too-early-in-the-morning drive.  My son, ever the conversationalist, stuck his earphones in his ears, retreating into his own world, leaving me to my thoughts in the silence.  As the sun had not even considered the possibility of peeking over the horizon, the darkness encased everything in stillness.  Morning fog lay heavy on the tops of the road and cocooned our trip in peace.  It was if the entire world was taking a collective expectant breath before the break of day, and the continued dizzy spin on its axis.

There was peace.

There was quiet.

There was stillness.

And I was reminded once again that God’s mercy flows in the mornings!  Here was a flawless day on which I could write any story I choose.  A new day to try again.  A new day to pursue peace.  A new day to speak love.  A new day to sing praises and seek HIS face.  It all lay before me in tranquil newness and silent expectation.

What an amazing gift from God; the chance to begin again.  In his wisdom he knew we would need to renew ourselves each day.  He knew that we would need to lay down the frenzied hours of our lives, restore our bodies with sleep, and raise our spirits to the new dawn over and over again.  Long before I filled my mornings with busyness and hectic routines, God planned it as a purposeful time of renewal.

So, this morning my first breath will not be held in frustration, but released on a song of praise.  This morning, the weight of yesterday does not have to be carried any further, but is covered in undeserved mercy.  This morning I will open my heart and attune my ears to the one who offers me JOY in the mornings.  This morning I will thank God for the grace that covers me once again.  This morning, I will rise and say, as planned by my Father all along…

Good Morning!

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Temporary Fan

This past weekend was the Super Bowl. As my team, the Dallas Cowboys, cannot seem to figure out how to get themselves together in the post-season, I didn’t have a dog in the fight in this contest between the Eagles and the Patriots. Even though I had planned to watch the spectacle simply for the commercials and the half-time show, I felt compelled to become a TEMPORARY fan of one team or the other.

I took a very scientific approach in determining which team to temporarily support and developed a short list of questions to guide my decision making.

  1. Was this the first trip to the Super Bowl for either team? (I do love an underdog.)
  2. Had either team never won a Super Bowl before? (Again, that underdog thing.)
  3. Which team has the best “stories”? (Like a quarterback who almost quit 2 years ago and now stands poised to lead his team into the Super Bowl.)
  4. And last, but certainly never least, which team has the better-looking uniforms? (Fashion is ALWAYS important!)

Using these specific calculations, I determined that for one night, and one night only, I would become a temporary fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.

As a good fan, I committed to cheering on my team; celebrating amazing plays and venting my frustration at missed opportunities. I argued with the officials about calls that went against my team and talked about the smart play calling of our coach. I urged them on with every first down and agonized at every heart stopping fourth down. I chewed my nails as I watched the time fairly fly off the clock as we painstakingly inched the ball towards the end zone in the fourth quarter, and then lamented the eons of time that we left on the clock for the Patriots. I cheered, I clapped, I gave high- fives to other fans around me, and rolled my eyes and threw serious shade at the Patriots fans in the room.

I was all in…

Sort of.

For that one game I had given it all I had, but in the light of Monday morning, my commitment to the Eagles was hardly more than lip-service about the highlights from the game around the water cooler. I certainly was not running out to buy Eagles merchandise, or converting my basement into a team shrine to the pride of Philly. Even though I had been all in for the big game, it was just for a moment.

It was temporary.

Did you know that God is a fan of YOURS? Not a temporary fan. Not a tepid fan. Not an “only for the big events” fan. A true, dedicated, sold-out, season after season fan! I mean if God wore novelty shirts he would have one with your face on it; and a big foam finger to help him celebrate that you-are-number-one!

I believe that God proudly points out “his team” to the angels and reviews the “great plays” of our day with all the hosts of heaven. I know that he is entirely delighted by our victories and deeply burdened by our defeats. I can almost see him standing on the edge of heaven cheering us on play after play; often shaking his head in exasperation as we miss clear opportunities to score. But no matter what, win, lose, or draw, he is our truest fan.

But I wonder…

I wonder if God ever feels like WE are just TEMPORARY fans of his? I wonder if he sees us show up for the big game on Sunday mornings; giving it our all in praise and worship, only to be tepid at best on Monday? I wonder if God feels like we are only temporary fans when we praise him in the light, but fail to speak his name into the dark? Does he wonder at our commitment when we only seem to “root” for him when all is well, and it is easy to do?

God wants us to be all in. He wants us to be super fans, totally focused on his awesome grace and all-consuming power. He wants us to buy the jersey and convert the room! He wants nothing less than complete devotion and praise with each breath of our lives. He is after all, the most winning coach of all time.

So, let’s be all in!

Let’s keep the fervor of God’s victories alive in our thoughts and actions each day.

Let’s cheer loudly from the bleachers, not only on Sundays, but every day of the week.

Let’s share with everyone around us all about our amazing team and recruit as many new fans to the winning side as we can.

Let’s remember that God is worthy of our Praise. Worthy of our devotion. Worthy of our worship. Steadfast in his love and devoted in his grace.

We have so much to celebrate.

Let’s not be TEMPORARY fans.

 

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