Runaway Mine Train

When I was a little girl one of the things that my brothers and I loved to do was to play Runaway Mine Train with our daddy. The game was simple; daddy would load all three of us into the little red wagon and run all around the yard, yelling, “Runaway mine train! Watch out! Runaway mine train!”, pulling us in this direction and that direction until ultimately we were “tumped over” into the grass. This crazy game was an odd mixture of heart pounding fear, and laughter producing joy! Let’s be honest folks, I grew up in the days of metal wagons and no helmets. No smooth plastic wagons molded to cradle and protect its cargo; nope, our little red wagon was metal and rusted; and if you didn’t get in just right you were sure to skin your shin on the metal lip that ran around the edge. It was perfect! Sometimes daddy would even put our big old sheep- dog – mutt mixture of a dog into the wagon with us. If the ride got too rough, the dog would bail out one way and send us kids soaring out the other way; fur and laughter flying in the air.

We loved this game! We would sit in the wagon, clinging to the side rails and to each other with a combination of anticipatory dread and gleeful delight; never knowing what was coming next. You would think that daddy was going to zig, but he would zag! You would brace your body to be thrown out on the left, and most assuredly get “tumped over” to the right. No matter how long daddy ran us around the yard, the game wasn’t over until we got turned out into the grass in a wriggling, giggling heap of pointy elbows and sharp knees. Then before any one of us could catch our breath, including poor daddy who had been doing all the running and pulling, we would call out, “Do it again!” And just like good daddies do, he would pick us up, brush us off, and load us back in for another wild ride.

Sometimes, when daddy was at work, we would try to play this game on our own, but it was never as much fun. None of us were strong enough to work up any real speed, and most of the time we just got tired of pulling each other around and called it a day. Once there was even a feeble attempt at harnessing the dog to the wagon; but she was having none of that and just sat unmoving in the yard until we released her from the harness contraption that we had made. Nope, without daddy the game was a complete failure.

We must have played this game hundreds of times during my childhood; and never once was I truly afraid of getting hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I was overwhelmed with the unpredictability of it all. For that matter, I always tried to outguess my daddy as to what would come next…he will run left next and then right and then around the house…but I was always wrong, and I always was left reeling from trying to right myself in that little red wagon that was out of control. But no matter what, I ALWAYS knew that daddy was in control. I knew, like you do when you are certain that you are loved beyond reason, that no matter how many zigs and zags he put us through, no matter how hard we hit the ground, he would ALWAYS pick us up, brush us off and set us right back in the wagon for another ride. Even when I couldn’t determine which way we were going and had no ability to maintain my balance; daddy knew. He always knew. He was always in control.

All too often, our lives feel like a runaway mine train. How many times have I been fully prepared to zig when out of the blue a zag came along and knocked me completely off balance? So often I have found myself clinging to the sides of the life wagon, desperately trying to see what is coming up next; only to find myself “tumped out” into the grass in a place I was not expecting to be.

Divorce: Zig

Career change: Zag

Raising children: Zig-Zag- Zig

Cancer: Side-of-the-wagon -clutching-Zag

Stress and Strife: Zig

Confusion and Pain: Zag

Debt: Zig

Friends who weren’t friends after all: Zag

On and on and on…unpredictable direction changes that I was ill prepared to handle and utterly unable to predict.

There have been times in all of it where I stoically determined that I was going to take over in directing the wagon of my life. With focused resolve, I picked up the handle and set my face to a smoother more predictable route; all to no avail. I just wasn’t strong enough to work up any real speed when pulling on my own. And even if I could, the path ahead was never as clear as I thought it would be.

Zig

Zag

Zig

And yet, my heavenly daddy knew where I was going all along. He always knew. He was always in control. No matter the number of times that I found myself flung far from the path I thought I was to travel on, he was in control. When I was prepared for a zig and faced instead a life tumbling zag; he lifted me up, brushed me off and set me back in the wagon. Just like all good daddies do.

Here is what I know to be true; this life will always be a crazy combination of heart pounding fear and laughter producing joy. We will never be able to predict the zigs and zags, or keep our balance when the ride gets crazy rough. But if we will just trust that our daddy who loves us beyond reason is in control, if we truly learn to walk by faith and not by sight, we will be able to trade our fear and dread for unfettered delight! We may even find ourselves in joyful laughter at being “tumped out” into the grass, gasping out a gleeful plea to do it all again!

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In my Father’s Arms

My husband is a conundrum.

Standing at six feet six inches tall, with broad shoulders and a no- nonsense-I-am-not-amused countenance, he has more than once caused folks to think twice before approaching him. Perfect when you want some young buck that wants to date your daughter to take a moment of pause, but not so great when trying to meet new people in a social situation.  “No, my husband isn’t upset…that IS his happy face!”  The conundrum is that he is also a KID MAGNET!  Seriously, kids love this guy! Toddlers especially gravitate to him and delight in the big teddy bear that they seemed to instinctively know is behind that big, scary frame.

One of the things that kids love best about my husband is that he is happy to pick them up and hold them.  All that any wobbly- legged toddler has to do is lift chubby little arms in my husband’s direction and he will scoop them into his arms and lift them up, up, up into a snugly embrace.  Yep, my husband has a gooey nugget center that is exposed by the babble of a toddler, or the smile of a child.

Our own children found in him an immediate play-mate and silliness partner in crime; and someone who always had space in his arms for them.  In one form or another he has been holding his children for many years.  He has given countless piggy back rides and pick-me-up snuggles. He has taken a thousand steps through malls, and theme parks, and vacation strolls with a child who was too tired to walk one more step balanced on his shoulders.  He also comes in very handy in the event that we are stuck behind a crowd at a parade.  From the high and secure perch of his shoulders our children have always been given an unobstructed view of all that was going on around them.

Just recently I was reminded again of how kids are drawn to my husband and how he delights in them.  My daughter was having a graduation party and during the midst of the celebrations I saw my husband with an armload of kids.  A sweet brother and sister had scaled up his body and were firmly nestled into his arms; babbling away and planting sticky wet kisses on his face.  And what was my husband doing during all of this?  SMILING!  I have never seen him, not once, refuse to pick up any child that approached him with uplifted arms and a look of pleading on their faces.  He has never, not once, told a child that was pulling on his leg trying to reach the nest of his arms to get down or go away.  He has never, not once, told a child that they were too heavy or a bother.  He ALWAYS opens his arms and enfolds them in his strong and tender embrace.

I know another father that is like this.

God, our Abba Father, delights in holding his children.

On first glance, you may see God as an imposing figure.  He is after all, King of all creation…and slightly bigger than six feet six inches!  Look closer.  In your awe of his mighty presence can you also see his father’s heart?  Like any good father, he cannot resist his children with uplifted arms and a need to be held.

We can lift our arms in worship and praise.  We can lift our arms in desperation and pain.  We can lift our arms in gratitude and humility.  We can lift our arms in rejoicing and thanksgiving.  No matter the reason, when we lift our arms to our Father he NEVER fails to respond.  He has never, not once,  refused to pick up his children.  He has never, not once, looked at us as we pull on his leg and plead to be held, and told us to get down, or leave him alone.  He has never, not once, told any of his children that we are too heavy or too much of a burden to carry.  He simply lifts us into the safety and comfort of his embrace.

Are you tired of walking alone?  Do you feel like you can’t take not one more step.  Lift your arms to your father.  Let him hold you close and then boost you up onto his strong, solid shoulders.  Let him show you the world over the heads of the crowd, over the hustle and bustle of it all. Let him remind you of your preciousness as he tucks you in close and let him fill your spirit with joy as he gallops you through highest mountains and lowest valleys.  Oh how it delights him when we snuggle in and shower him with our love and praise, babbling on and covering his face with wet, sticky kisses.

How lucky we are to have such a wonderful and loving father!

 

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What’s in a name?

On Mother’s Day I got the most wonderful gift; my oldest son and his wife shared with us that they are expecting a baby!  Our first grandbaby!! We are excited beyond words about becoming grandparents.  Seriously, if we had tails we would be wagging them like a puppy waiting for a treat!  Can’t wait to welcome the newest member into this crazy family! (Bless his or her little heart!)

As you can imagine, with this wonderful news came many discussions of all things baby!  Ok, maybe it was just me who went into overdrive with questions, but one of the questions we all wanted to know was, what are you going to name the baby? For that matter, and maybe more importantly, what will the baby call us? What will our “grandparent” names be?  Let’s be clear from the start, I staunchly refuse to be called Granny or Grandmother. It is certainly not that I mind that I am going to be a grandmother (see the first paragraph), but those names just do not work for me. Maybe we will go with something like Nana, or GiGi, or MiMi, or anything fun and repetitive so the baby can say it soon… and often! It’s a work in progress.

All of this talking about names has me thinking about the fact that the names we use for people demonstrate the relationship that we have with them.  Let me explain what I mean.

On any given day I can hear any of these names:

Mrs. Burnette

Ms. B.

Ashleigh

Ash

Baby Ash

Mom

Momma

Momma B

Aunt Ashleigh

And the list goes on. (I am sure there are other names that people use for me, but that is another blog entirely!) The point is this, the name that someone uses for me directly shows the relationship that they have with me.  My colleagues call me Mrs. Burnette, while my friends call me Ashleigh, and my husband calls me Ash.  My kids call me momma, my kid’s friends call me Momma B and my students call me Ms. B.  And my daddy, for my entire life and for as long as I live, calls me Baby Ash.

Names.  They demonstrate relationship.

Maybe this is why there are so many names for Jesus.

Maybe all the names we have for him show our desperate need for relationship with him; and more importantly his innate and perfect ability to fulfill every relationship need that we have.

Jesus, the name above all names!

Yet, he is so much more than one name can define. In all of his majesty and glory we have had to apply numerous names to his holiness, just to edify ALL that he is.

His disciples called him Mari, which is an Aramaic term developed to demonstrate the relationship that Jesus had with his followers.  Mari translates to more than just teacher, more than just Rabbi; deeper, closer, truer…Mari.

To us he is:

Lord and Savior.

Prince of Peace

Emmanuel

Christ

Messiah

Master

Son of God

Lion of Judah

Lamb of God

Light of the World

The Alpha and The Omega

Jehovah Jirah – our sacrifice

Jehovah Rapha – our healer

Jehovah Shammah – our present Lord

Jehovah Shalom – our Prince of Peace

Jehovah Nissi- our banner, our power

Jehovah Raah – our Shepherd

And one of my personal favorites, Friend.

 

What relationship do you need today?

Do you need a healer?

A savior?

A provider?

A protector?

Do you need a light in the darkness?

A banner to go before you, or a strong tower to run into?

Do you need a lion to roar of his love for you, or a sacrificial lamb to show you how precious and valuable you are?

Do you need the assurance of the one that has been there from the beginning and who firmly holds the end of the story in his nail scared hands?

Do you need one that will be closer than a brother, closer than the truest friend?

There is not a relationship that we need, not a single one, that cannot be defined and delivered through the precious, powerful, and perfect name of Jesus.

As I await the birth of our first grandchild, I anticipate the day that they will look at me, and with knowledge of who I am, call my name.  I believe that Jesus stands in the throne room of heaven, listening intently; just waiting for his children to recognize him for who he is, for all that he is, for all he wants to be in our lives and to simply call his name.

His beautiful, wonderful, powerful name.

 

 

 

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THIS is NOT a gift!

Only 246 shopping days until Christmas!

Oh sweet glory, even the thought of having to do Christmas shopping right now gives me a hairy ache between my shoulder blades!    Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those bah humbug folks; I really do love the Christmas season!   The minute the turkey is off the Thanksgiving table I am decking the halls and singing Christmas carols! (Ok, so maybe the Christmas music really starts in October!  Don’t judge!)  There is however, one part of the Christmas season that gives me rampant anxiety: selecting just the right gifts for people. I adore GIVING gifts, but I AGONIZE over every purchase.  What if they don’t like this?  Is this her color?  Would he be able to use this?  Do they have one of these already? 

Maybe it is because of this gift-giving-anxiety of mine that I drummed into my children from the earliest ages, no matter what the gift is, when you open it you will smile and thank the person who gave it to you.  And I am not talking about some fake- looking, strained smile; I want to see teeth! 

Sadly, this expectation has not always been followed.  Take for example the Christmas that Aidan was five years old.  There we were, all gathered around the tree.  Gifts were being exchanged, good will and glad tidings were in abundance, and all gifts were being received with great excitement.  You should know, we are THAT family that takes turns opening gifts one at a time.  All eyes are on the person opening the gift and once opened, a minimum of five minutes will be spent exclaiming over the gift, talking about the gift, showing off the gift, and hugging all around.  It takes us ALL DAY to open gifts!  It was finally Aidan’s turn to open a gift and he tore into the wrappings with gusto and pulled out… a gift card.  He turned it over once or twice, looked back through the wrapping paper as if he were missing something and then looked straight into the eyes of his uncle (who had purchased said gift card) and proclaimed, “THIS is NOT a gift!”

My mortification was swift and complete!  What happened to graciousness?  What happened to smile and say thank you?  Come swiftly, Lord Jesus!

Fortunately, Aidan was cute, and his Uncle loves him beyond reason and thought the entire exchange was hilarious! It has actually become a running joke, continuing to this day, that whenever anyone in our family receives a gift card as a gift they loudly profess, “THIS is NOT a gift!”

You know, we do this a lot to God.

We do.

We open a gift that he has given us and we look at it in confusion, or we search for something MORE in the wrapping.  THIS is NOT a gift!

How it must hurt our Father’s heart for him to witness our lack of gratitude.  Where is the smile?  Where is the Thank You?

Now before you begin to tell yourself that you don’t ever do this, let me point out the splinter in your eye while adjusting the enormously large log in my own.  WE. DO. THIS. EVERY. DAY!  Every single day our heavenly Father pours gifts out on our heads, and we accept them with the demeanor of a toddler in need of a nap…IF we even notice them at all!

Good morning!  Here is your gift of another day to worship me and to live your life to the fullest.

Ugh.  It’s morning.

I am sending you rain today because the ground is parched and my flowers need tending.

It is RAINING!  Seriously!  RAIN!  I have too much to do to deal with rain!

I have provided a job for you. 

I hate my job.  The people here are the worst.

Your car will run this morning and get you to where you need to be.

Did you see his new car!  Must be nice.

I have provided you with health, food, shelter; provisions in abundance.

I am not thin enough. My house is too small.  I don’t have the things I want.

I have gifted you with the ability to teach.

I wish I could sing!  Why couldn’t God give me the talent to sing?

I have given you a testimony of my faithfulness and love.

I couldn’t tell people what God has done for me.  No one wants to hear it anyway.

I created you in my very image.  I have loved you before I even formed you.

I am a failure.  I am not enough.  I will never matter to anyone.

I sent my son as a sacrifice for your sin.  I do not want you to be separated from me.  I love you so.

God couldn’t possibly love me.  He couldn’t possibly forgive me.

On and on and on.  Every. Single. Day.

But here is the good news!   We can start seeing our lives as the gift they really are! We can begin to see our lives through the lens of love and purpose that God created them to be. We can begin to count it all joy! We can begin to believe that God’s plan for our lives is perfect, and that his dream for us is more than we can fathom!  We can begin to see his gifts for what they truly are!  Each and every perfect gift!

Thank you Father.  Thank you for the gifts that are so abundant in my life.  Forgive me when I question your intent, or ignore your gifts all together. Help me to recognize how carefully you have selected and given gifts that are exactly right for me.  Let me learn to say, “Thank you Father, THIS is a GREAT gift!

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Super Glue and Kinstugi!

My family should really own stock in Superglue! We go through bottles of this stuff every month.  We have found a zillion uses for this potent nectar of cohesiveness, but the main thing that we use it for is to repair all of the things we break!  It’s a special gift that we have; the ability to knock over, drop or break things on almost a daily basis!  On any given day you could walk into my house and see me hunched over a broken item trying to line up the jagged edges; painstakingly attempting to apply super glue in exactly the right spot. Don’t even get me started on the fact that I ALWAYS end up supergluing my fingers together, or dripping superglue onto everything EXCEPT FOR THE ITEM I AM TRYING TO FIX!  Somehow, even with my ineptness at wielding a superglue bottle, I end up getting the broken item glued back together.  And if I get really lucky, and all of the broken- edges-super- glue- application -stars align just right, once the broken item is repaired, you can’t even see where it was damaged in the first place. (But just in case we always try to turn the broken piece to the back where it can’t be seen!)  The only problem is that when we knock over or drop this item again (and we ALWAYS do it again!) it tends to break right where it was glued together.  Seems like that spot isn’t as strong as it should be anymore.  Even if I use great big globs of super glue…it just isn’t ever really the same.

A perfect example of this is the sweet ceramic angel that sits on my mom and dad’s kitchen counter. That poor angel has been knocked into the floor a zillion times by overzealous grand kids, or slipped out of soapy dishwater hands only to smash into the granite counter.  Every time it falls a wing breaks off. Those poor angel wings have been glued on again and again and again.  But each time we knock it over, it breaks in the very same place.  Really, even when you fix the broken wing with the strongest of super glues, it never looks exactly right, and it is never really the same.

 In direct contrast to my pitiful super glue repair program, in Japan they have a centuries-old method of fixing broken things (usually pottery) called Kintsugi. Kinstugi is the process by which broken pottery is fixed using a special lacquer that contains powdered gold, silver, or platinum.  The end result is a beautiful mosaic; seams of gold that glint in the repaired cracks of the pottery, often making the piece much more beautiful than it was originally.  The Japanese have a philosophy called wabi-sabi which calls for finding beauty in things which are flawed or imperfect.  Instead of trying to cover up the imperfections and broken areas, they emphasize these areas and embrace the unique history that each of these imperfections represent.

Fixing broken places.

My life has had many broken places. Places that I have frantically and diligently tried to “glue” back together so that no one would notice where it had been broken. Places that too often have failed again in the very same spot, because even after I “repaired” it; it just wasn’t the same.  I spent a great deal of time during my teenage years and early adulthood thinking that I had to hide all of these imperfections from the world.

Surely I shouldn’t let you see the places that I have so foolishly broken in my life. Maybe, just maybe, if I hurry up and get the glue on fast…if I line up the jagged edges just right…maybe, just maybe you won’t see the brokenness.  Maybe I won’t have to explain to you how I struggled, and how I failed. Maybe you will never see how many times I have broken the same area in my life; time and time again.  Maybe I can hide it from you. Maybe I can even hide it from God!

 How many times have I inspected the brokenness of my life and added guilt and shame to the imperfection, only to make the wound larger and all the more difficult to repair? How many times have I cried over damage done by myself and others; some that I orchestrated and some that I had no control over?  How many times have I looked at my life and seen my failed attempts to put it all back together again, just to realize how obvious the jagged edges really were?  How many times have I hidden my brokenness for fear that others would see the glaring imperfections?  How many times have I despaired when realizing that in all my attempt to “fix” things; nothing is ever really fixed; never really the same?

Oh sweet friends, gather close! I have such good news for us!  Jesus is NOT the master of superglue. He is the Master of Kinstugi! When we come to him in our brokenness, when we present him with a useless vessel full of flaws and imperfections, he doesn’t just cover up the brokenness and try to hide the flaws. He examines the imperfection, the ruin of our lives, and then he meticulously fills the flaw with his amazing mercy and grace!  Jesus takes the misery and brokenness of our lives and creates a masterpiece of beauty!

And once Jesus has repaired our brokenness, it is FIXED. It is FINAL.  It is COMPLETE…and it will never be exactly the same.  Now, through his intervention the perfected imperfection becomes a TESTIMENT to God’s unfailing love and the powerful cleansing blood of Jesus.  Now, what once was broken is a TESTIMENT to renewed lives and mercy unending.  Now, what was inflicted by evil to cause harm is a TESTIMENT to that which God intended for your good. Now, that which represented ugliness and sin is a TESTIMENT to the beautiful mosaic that God creates in our lives through forgiveness and grace.

PUT THE SUPER GLUE DOWN!

We do not have to strive to line up jagged edges and hide imperfections. We can accept the healing of our Father and stand amazed as our wounds are filled with beauty unimagined.  Then, without shame we can embrace the history that each of these perfected areas of imperfections represent with the sure knowledge that our story is one of salvation and victory.

So, the next time you see me; look closely. Ask me about the places that have been broken and repaired, and I will tell you about my Jesus; the master of Kinstugi!

 

 

 

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Storms

The very first house that Chris and I bought was an adorable little basic ranch style house, green tin roof and all, nestled on five acres of beautiful land in Livingston, Tennessee.  We loved that little house! We loved the life we were building for ourselves and our son.  We were blessed and happy.

One week after moving into that house a Tornado tore through our area; completely decimating many areas of our county and an adjoining county as well.  Homes, lives and communities  were ripped from their moorings and torn apart. A path of destruction left gaping wounds and miles and miles of area with no discernible landmarks as to what once had been a town.

The night of the storm we were unpacking boxes…so many boxes!  We had the radio playing in the background giving just a passing thought to listening to the information that was being given about the weather. We were busy. So much to do!  No real time to pay attention to what was happening around us.  As the night went on, the storm outside grew louder and the power began to flicker.  My mother in law called us about every ten minutes with an update about what the news was saying; and none of it was good. At this point I began to grumble about not having time to deal with the power going out when I was trying to get my house unpacked.  I was TOTALLY PUT OUT with the idea that we would have a storm when I had so much to do.  Gee Whiz folks, the storm will just have to deal with itself because the boxes are not going to unpack themselves!  We just moved in! Seriously God, you know how hard Chris and I worked to get this house; are we really going to have a Tornado?! UGH! Let’s just say I was not my best self as I tore into boxes, yanked out items and stomped around grumbling under my breath like a cranky toddler in need of a nap.

Fast forward to a few hours later, the storm has intensified and the power is completely out.  To say that I was annoyed is a total understatement.  Heaven help!  What part of I don’t have time for this nonsense do we not understand here? I had yet to really let it sink in that we were in danger…nope…I was just irritated as a wet hen that I wasn’t getting the tasks accomplished that I had set for myself.  The rain lashed and railed outside…and I lashed and railed inside.

Then it happened, a bolt of lightning tore through the sky and struck the ground rattling our little house and shaking a bit of sense into my angry brain.  When had the rain become so violent?  Had the wind been whipping with such a fury all along?  The cacophony of sound seemed intensified suddenly, but in truth it had been this bad for a while; I just hadn’t been paying attention.

Finally, I realized that this storm was not just going to pass us by. With our power out, we had no connection to the outside world.  Remember this was back in the day before cell phones, so no  power meant no phone either. What had my mom in law said the last time she called?  How close was the storm? Where would we go if this got worse?  We don’t have a basement and the bathrooms have windows; maybe the inside hallway.  Should we get in the hall?  Should we get Zach out of bed? I  was FINALLY clued in to the storm!  Within minutes Chris and I were huddled in the hallway with our sleepy toddler nestled in my lap and a bed mattress pulled over us. The reality of our situation was taking hold and it was not pretty. We didn’t want Zach to be afraid or upset, so we began singing to him.  I would love to tell you that we sang songs about Jesus and love, but the truth is we sang countless verses of the Itzy Bitzy Spider; hand motions and all!  Anything to distract Zach and ourselves from the screaming wind that was tearing all around us.  Over and over again we sang in that high sing -song voice that you save for small children and animals when they are hurt or afraid.  Even now, knowing that the storm was bearing down hard on our little house and my little family, I still was more irritated by the inconvenience of it all than really afraid.  (Yes, stubbornness is one of my many talents!)

Suddenly the wind and the noise stopped.  IT-JUST-STOPPED. There was complete and utter stillness.  This wasn’t however a calm stillness.  Somehow this silence was heavy, deafening, and the most frightening thing I have ever experienced in my life.  It was as if all of the air, all of the life, had been sucked out from around us and there was nothing left but a dense void; a heavy, crushing emptiness.  Have you ever stood in the ocean and felt the tug of the tide as it rushes back out?  Magnify this by a zillion and you can almost feel the pull of that debilitating silence that had enveloped us.  It lasted only for a few seconds, but in those seconds there was COMPLETE CLARITY. Chris and I looked at each other and we knew…just knew with finality the condition that we were in; helpless and vulnerable. And on the very next breath the world around us exploded.  The storm tore at our little house with absolute vengeance.  The wind raged and the rain pounded down on our tin roof with the furry of a run away locomotive; a horrific distortion of sound that enveloped us in terror, shook our very bones, and tore prayer from our mouths.  There was no more concern about boxes and unpacking.  No more concern about my house.  No more grumblings and protestations. Just prayers and pleading; calling out to God for mercy, for the lives of my child and my husband.

Storms.  They pop into our lives at unexpected times.  Often we have the warning signs that something is coming, but we are too busy to notice. Sometimes we do not.  They are unpredictable and unrelenting, and often they seem destined to bring destruction and devastation to our lives. In every storm there is a moment …a singular crushing moment when you come face to face with the reality of your predicament. The truth of your complete inability to weather the storm alone is made undeniably clear.  I fully believe that God uses these moments to magnify our need for him in our lives. It is here, in the clarity of the moment that we are reminded of our helplessness, but more importantly the strength and unfailing love of God are revealed to us once again! God never promised us a life free of storms.  He did however promise not to forsake us.  Not to leave us, but to join us in the turmoil; pouring his peace and mercy into the unrelenting torrent of confusion and hurt in our lives.

I wish I could tell you why some people face more storms, more trial, than others.  I can’t.  I wish I could explain why some storms don’t end with “a happy ending.” I can’t.  I can however tell you that it is IN the storms of life that God draws near to his children.     He is never failing in this.  He is there.  In the uncertainty and pain. He is there.  In the lashing of the wind and rain. He is there.  In the diagnosis of illness.  He is there. In the death of a loved one. He is there. In the moments when all the world seems aligned for our ruin. He is there.  We are not always delivered from the storm, but we are never left to face the torrent alone.

The tornado didn’t hit our house that night.  In the light of morning we saw the evidence of a storm that had traveled along our fence line and then “jumped” our house, landing behind our property and laying waste to everything in its path.  I do not know why we were spared.  I do not know why our house was left standing when so many others weren’t. What I do know is that in this, and every other storm I have faced (And there have been some doozies!) God has always been present.  The testimony of my life isn’t that God delivered me FROM the storms (even though he most certainly has time and time again), but rather that God was palpably present DURING the storms.  And in the storm I am reminded once again how strong my anchor is.  God is my refuge and strength.  He is my strong tower. He is not taken off guard by the storm and he is not blown off course.  His love is steadfast and true.

Storms will always be a part of our lives.  They do not mean that God doesn’t love us or that he has turned his face away from us.  For that matter, when the storm is over, in the light of day, we may just realize that the storm has driven us back to the arms of our Father.  And it is there, in his loving embrace that we find peace.

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Lysol and Bubble Wrap

For the last two months my family has been passing around a persistent and nasty viral plague.  It started with my daughter, then jumped to my husband, then back to my daughter and now my youngest son has it. (We also managed to infect BOTH of my parents AND my brother when they were here at Christmas.) I have used gallons of Lysol, spraying any all and surfaces where germs may linger; keeping my house in an almost constant haze of disinfectant spray.  (I will not confirm nor deny if the dog actually got a bit of a Lysol mist down during one furious pass with the Lysol can.) My kids have been plied with Vitamin C, Sudafed, Mucinex, Tylenol and Motrin… anything and everything that might possibly treat their symptoms.  Then there are the ceaseless trips to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy (how many Z-packs and rounds of Augmentin can one family go through?), and endless loads of laundry as I wash every sheet and pillowcase that their snotty noses and croupy coughs infect. And STILL we seem to be caught in an endless vicious cycle of infection and re-infection!

I love these folks, but I swear on a stack of Grandma’s bibles that I may have to move to another state if they don’t get over all of this soon.  Ya’ll my babies and my husband become sniveling, whiney, shells of their normal selves when they are sick.  Somehow a clogged nose and some body aches mean a complete inability to even press a cup of water to their own parched lips.  I have logged about a zillion steps between the kitchen and the bedrooms and the couch on which all the ill lay in repose.  I have scratched backs until my hands are tired and given hugs and lovin’ while dodging phlegmy coughs and explosive violent sneezes.  The word “MOM”(which is repeated continuously day and night) is forced out past sore throats and drug out in a million long syllables that indicate a swiftly encroaching death if I don’t answer the call…immediately!  I am tempted at times to act like I have been struck by sudden deafness; but in the end my heart hurts to see them sick, so I fetch more Ginger-Ale and sing one more verse of Soft Kitty. I promise on all that is holy, if I EVER get them all well again I am going to wrap them in Lysol dipped bubble wrap before sending them back out into the world.  (Just zip your coat up over that bubble wrap baby and go on out and play.  No one will notice…I promise!  You look great!)

While pondering how to “cure” my family once and for all from this never-ending plague, I began to think about how sin is just like a nasty virus. It has a way of continuously infecting and re-infecting our lives. Do you think that God ever just looks at us and shakes his head thinking; again?  You are infected again?  Fortunately God provided us with the ultimate vaccine when he sent his son to die for us, but even with that our lives are often inundated with the virulent virus of sin. How many times have we found ourselves riddle with the consequences of sin in our lives and cried out to God to help us?  As our Abba Father that loves us beyond reason, his heart must be broken to see us in such a state.  I believe that God wants to see us whole and well; but we continually re-infect ourselves with the sin of the world.  It is easy to do.  Those nasty sin viruses are everywhere!

The worst part about it all is that I KNOW those things that will re-infect my soul and still, all too often, I expose myself to them.  Are you that way too?  If so, maybe we should look together at the prescription that God has already written for us.

  • Seek help from the professionals.

Recognize when you are “infected” with sin and seek out the Great Physician.                          Romans3:23              Psalms 51:10

  • Increase your fluids.

Drink long and deep from the well of living water that is Jesus Christ.                                          John 4:14

  • Get plenty of rest.

Lay your burdens down.  Find rest in the Lord.                                                                                         Matthew  11:28

  • Wash your hands.                                                                                                                           Wash your hands of sin.                                                                                                               James 4: 7 – 8
  • Take your medicine as prescribed.

Take the medicine of prayer to fight against reinfection.                                                                    Matthew 26:41

 

Following this prescription isn’t hard.  It is easier than swallowing a spoonful of yellow Triaminic.  (If you don’t know what I am talking about, bless your heart, you missed out on one of the vilest medicines in the history of ever!) The best part of it all is this; when we are sick with the sin that has infected our lives and we crawl helpless into the lap of our father, calling out his name through parched lips and aching throats, he wraps his mercy, love and forgiveness around us.  He does not turn a deaf ear to our pain.  He sees us through the blood of his son and the love of his heart and cleanses us once again.  Praise God! His forgiveness and mercy are effective and complete 100 percent of the time. And that my friends is much better than a can of Lysol and bubble wrap!

Posted in Encouragement, Faith, God's word | Tagged , , | 2 Comments