The other day my son asks to download a new game on my phone. I cringe a bit, because it is my phone and they are always asking to play on it. But, I give in.
Delighted, he downloads a new game called, Tiny Monsters, and runs off to play.
But, the tiny monster that he becomes over the next few days surprises me.
A cycle of obsession erupts out of nowhere that distracts my son beyond what I think he even expects.
The very next morning, I awaken to… tap, tap, tap… “mom, can I check something on your phone?”
After breakfast… “mom, can I check something on your phone?”
In the middle of math… “mom, can I check something on your phone?”
And it continues on and on throughout the day and starts all over again the very next.
But, this time by breakfast I am done.
By math time, he is so out of sorts and distracted, but before he gets a chance to ask I ground him from the game for the rest of the day.
And the tears burst forth. And the desperate pleas begin.
I explain to him that when something in his life distracts him from what is most important, like his education, than it is not a good thing. If this game is all you can think about and nothing else than it has become an unhealthy obsession… perhaps an idol.
We discuss our bible lesson, from just the week before, about the Israelites and their idols. I remind him that idols today are very different. They come in many forms, many distractions and if they take the place of what God says is most important in our lives than we are actually in sin.
With that, my son, bursts into tears again and says… “mom, delete the game, it’s all I can think about and I can’t control it, so just get rid of it now!”
He surprises me again.
And there I sit… in awe at the way he flees from the wrong and how he hugs me with such force, clinging tightly to the right.
My own obsessions and distractions come quickly to mind… how hard it is to flee immediately from the wrong and cling so desperately to the right.
Oh, how I do desire to be so fully consumed by God that nothing else dares to penetrate. That obsessions and idols would come dawning red warning flags with the clear sign to run and run now!
Father, thank you that my son is learning so early the lesson of self-control and how to turn-away from sin. Thank you that you so wisely use my children to teach me lessons that I so desperately need myself. Give me wisdom and strength to run from the distractions in my own life and hide in the safety of your presence and love.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Linking up with Tracy for Winsome Wednesday…
I have been acutely aware of this concept lately, as I watch my 1-year-old son, Zachary, learn to walk. He often has every intention of reaching his goal, but somehow, somewhere along the way, that little body of his fails him and he ends up on the ground, stunned at what just happened to him! I often wonder if he wonders to himself, “Why won’t my body move like those big people? Why do I always fall and they walk and run with ease!”
But what does it mean to be in spiritual balance? And what makes me stumble?
In pondering this, I wonder if the equation for attaining spiritual balance is different from the typical, most often-cited ideas of balance. In the world of accounting, balance is defined as “to be equal or proportionate to” and “to settle what remains by paying what is due on an account”.
Just as my little toddler Zachary stumbles as he learns to walk, I sometimes stumble as I learn to walk with the Lord in my spiritual walk. And it hurts to fall down. And I wonder, why do I stumble?
I wonder if I stumble because I try, in my humanness, to tip the scales to be equal parts me and equal parts God.
And I wonder if therein lies the problem! A balanced spiritual walk with God really requires God being closer to 100% and me being closer to 0%.
Jesus has told us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. I stumble when my focus is anything less than 100% on my Savior and His will for my life. God is never the stumbling block! It is always me! “Great peace have those who love your law, nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).
I am learning I can’t have 50% of my focus on things of this world and 50% of my focus on Godly things and be in balance. It is more all-or-nothing in terms of whether I stand or whether I stumble. God doesn’t require 100% obedience for His outpouring of love and mercy and grace, but I need to be clear that stumbling is caused by my lack of focus, not God’s lack of power!
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119: 33-37)
A couple of days ago my friend Bobbie Sue, a woman who struggles to feed her four children, to keep a roof over their head came to me desperate. They were evicted from their home, because for the fourth time in four months she had been unable to pay their rent. As I looked at the children all under the age of seven, wild eyes, filthy clothes, and hungry stomachs I will admit I judged her. The dead bolt squeezed the knob as if to say, “Don’t come back!” and I judged her. We’ve been providing the family with food, clothing, and money for a while now. Why were they still wallowing in this place?
But as she breathed the words, “If you hadn’t come; if I didn’t know Jesus, I would really be a mess right now,” my judgment turned to sorrow.
Jesus meets us right where we are, right there in parking lots filled with noise and trash. He meets us in between dead bolt locks, starving bellies, and eviction notices and asks us to touch his nail scarred hands. Like with Thomas dulled by doubt, Jesus takes our hand and traces it over pierced places, so we know it’s really Him. He reassures me and her that it’s okay if we have scars too because they will always draw us back to Him.
I can speak from a mess of my own. I am no stranger to crawling from the dump, the mud, and mire into the arms of a Savior. I’m a woman who falls to her knees grabbing for His feet, reaching for a touch of His cloak, and thankful for the wash of His cleansing flood.
I don’t always understand eviction notices and hungry children. If it were up to me there would be no such things. But I’m not God, and I don’t hold everyone’s individual plans in my hands. What I do understand is that I can crawl into the Master’s lap, myopic views and all, for as long as it takes ~ until the understanding comes.
Suddenly fog lifts.
I look over black top and see only redemption. I see Jesus making wine out of water. I see Him making thorn bushes into juniper trees (see Is. 55:13). I see Him filling cracks and fissures with His blood. I see traumatized people that struggle but have unexplainable peace. I see once-spiritually-starved people growing in a merciful, healing Father. I see lives changed and eternities re-written. I see His abundance in souls that lack.
I don’t know why He chose me to witness all of this. Maybe it’s so I’ll know Him as the lifter of my head and the satisfier of my soul~ so earth never becomes everything I need.
My Father’s voice is almost audible, “I have entrusted you with much and I have demanded of you much. But only with me will your life bear much.
So keep living sent…
Just like a letter…
Penned by my hand…
Soaked with my message and…
Stamped “saved” by my grace.”
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever,” (Isaiah 55:12-13).
Today my soul is full, not lacking for anything. I feel blessedly alive, my affection pouring out like unbroken worship. God has called my two girls on a new path to sing for Him unashamed, out loud and in harmony with His voice. “I surrender to Jesus and want to be baptized,” they say. And so they were, today.
I stand on shaky legs. I rub clammy palms against my dress. I watch as they fold into the water, as they intentionally hand the reigns over to God. What will He do with them? How will He use them? The questions flood my mind.
Suddenly, they hop from the waters with new, shiny hope. Then they scurry into the dressing room drenched. As they change, I bend to clean the pools of water. I bend twirling a towel over tile to absorb the damp.
Suddenly, God breezes into the moment with a message.
I think to myself, “I usually live bent low.” Like this.
I bend to pick up cheerios the kids threw like confetti; I bend to tie unruly shoelaces; I bend to pull a finger out of a nose; I bend over math books and history quizzes. And at the end of the day, I bend next to my bed with a small request ~ that I could bend more, bend lower tomorrow. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant, to bend low for the sake of others. And bent down here is where I see His face, rely on His strength, and trust in His Word.
Jesus bent low to wipe away the mess, the tears, and the sin with His robe. He absorbed it all, becoming messy himself. Which am I? Clean? Dirty? Have my hands and heart been selfish? Will I bend low myself on behalf of those in front of me?
The truth is … my heart is only clean when I’m near to Jesus Christ. My heart feels cleanest when I climb into the ditch with people the world has labeled dirty. I find myself face to face with Jesus in the dirt and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller life gets.
And sure all this bending wears a mama out, but the joy is unmatched when the day is done and those who didn’t believe now do. Because bent down low is where we find people thirsty for Jesus. And in this place is where we find life, life to the fullest… right where God wants us to be.
My prayer is that my girls will bend for those God puts in front of them, today and every day. I pray they will be reassured that even though bending low isn’t always easy, they’ll be in good company ~ because He will always meet them there.
My children, all giggles, run off to the yard with plastic bags in hand. And then before I know it they return, bags full with nuts and leaves and all kinds of things that represent fall.
Things broken, fallen and faded from their once vibrant, colorful life.
It reminds me how quickly “things” change around here. Here in this place. I wonder if He meant for the seasons to do that… to remind us that nothing here is permanent?
And, how He is the only thing that stands completely unmoved, untouched and unchanged in every way.
The only One we can really trust.
Yet, despite knowing this truth well, we still so often cling to “things” that will simply wither and fade away.
We do this… and we meet up with such disappointment. Act so surprised. When He’s clearly told us just how it will go.
And, He responds… always in the same way… with sweet reminders in such patience. With such comfort. With such Love.
He is so good.
I’m praying that as we observe the withering and fading away of fall… that we cling a little less to the “things” in this life and a lot more to the King of our future.
It’s Monday morning –midnight-ish.
I can’t seem to rest… I’m rest-less… thinking.
I’m thinking… a little of how sleep will haunt me in the early hours when they rise… six feet pounding hardwood floors… following their tummies to my bedside. Pushing me up and on with our day. Relentless. Into the instruction… teaching them all things… and chasing fast after charcoal marks with my red.
I’m thinking… a lot more of the day before. Sunday. The sermon where tears press their way over seeking eyes. Eyes needing more of Jesus on Sunday… everyday… but on this Sunday intense expectation searches harder after Him… for His voice.
I see the communion plates… neatly stacked silver… shining, waiting to pass on to fingers and needy lips that crave a taste… to remember.
This is the first Lord’s Supper in the new church, but the same still.
I pinch the bread delicately, but tightly holding on for dear life… to the life He gave up for me.
Breathing in. Remembering.
In those pre-partaking moments of quiet I pray for… not the same… but more. A deeper, fuller impression of what it means… His body broken for me.
And I eat. I remember. I feel His overwhelming broken bodied love for me.
Then the cup is passed. The blood. His blood. Spilled out because of sin… because of and for me.
Breathing in. Remembering.
Eyes close tight… searching for… not the same… but more. A stolen touch of nail-torn hands… a true sense of real blood, pouring warm, out and over, staining skin in deep crimson… for me.
And I drink. I remember. I grasp at the blood spilled out love for me.
I’m thinking… how He forcibly reaches right in and through… to the heart of me… and pulls me in deeper.
In for more. More of Him.
And I can’t help thinking… about how He does this…. how He increases my already wild need for Him. And then by it increases my Faith in Him.
And how He suddenly turns restless into rest-full… with eyes wide open.
Just the peace I need… to sleep.
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