Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Divine Romantic Tension

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the
Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

We were not created to be earthbound. I know this but just a few minutes ago I read an essay that expanded on that truth. It really stuck with me because of the way the author described the tension of waiting to go home. I think he was trying to make some sense of why bad things happen but that wasn’t what grabbed my attention. It was the mention of waiting and wanting that got me.

My husband Otto and I watch a television show in which the two main characters have been dancing around each other for a few seasons now. We all know they’re going to end up romantically involved at some point but for now we watch as their draw close and then draw apart relationship creates a backdrop for the actual story of each episode. It’s just one example of that tension that myriad authors and scriptwriters use. What makes this one different to me, is that my hubby cares. Otto doesn’t read chick lit or watch chick flicks. Normally those background relationships are of no interest to him but for some reason, he’s invested in these two characters.

Reading this morning about how we shouldn’t get too comfy here on earth because this isn't our true home I thought about how much easier it most likely is for women to relate to that than for men. Most of us gals read chick lit, watch chick flicks and certainly get caught up in real life romance, our own and those playing out around us. We’re familiar with the pining for and waiting for, the big moment.

Otto, like most men, lives more in the moment, in the now, than in the, what happens next. As women sit around talking about maybe this and maybe that, the men around them half listen with glazed over expressions on their faces. Still seeing my husband’s interest in this one set of characters proves to me that somewhere in all of us is a yearning for the happily ever after. Some of us just yearn more heartily than others.

What is the ultimate happily ever after? I think it’s heaven. I believe that most Christians would agree. There is an unsettled quality to life here on earth, even on the very best of days. We are not home yet and we want to be home.

Do you know people who are anxious all or most of the time? I do. Some of them claim to be Christian but I wonder how that is possible. With the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life now and the promise of heaven, I, praise God, experience joy on some level, most of my days, even in some really trying times. Yet, there is an expectancy that is sometimes excitement, sometimes melancholy that lets me know that I am waiting for something exceedingly important.

One day I expect that Otto and I will see our TV characters united in romance. It’s pretty obvious that it will happen. That may signal the end of the show. Once that tension is taken away it becomes just another whodunit hour. Still it’s the stuff of romance novels, chick flicks and TV shows and it sells.

One day I believe that the tension that exists inside of me and hopefully you, will be answered as well. For us, that tension, that longing, will end when we fall, gratefully into our Father’s embrace, to begin our divine romance, our own happily ever after.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12

Does that verse make you smile? I hope you’re saying no. It does however make me smile and I can think of several more people who might smile when they hear it. That group would include my sisters and my cousins. You see, our Gram quoted it a lot. We had a few drama mamas in our family and their actions often inspired my Gram to quote Jesus, as brought to us by Matthew. I heard it used most often in reference to my sister Teresa. Let the tiniest thing happen and she would dissolve into total meltdown. There were often discussions of how to keep information from Teresa so that we could avoid the drama. Gram would then say, “No don’t tell her. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” She would say it in this phony, exaggerated voice that gave just a hint of her Irish roots. It was hysterical. I realize now that the verse is not the least bit amusing but the memory of Gram, salt of the earth, not the least bit dramatic, Gram intoning it is still pretty funny.

Earlier today I was listening to the Bible on CD while I did some baking. I heard that verse from Matthew and as it usually does it made me smile. I realized how odd it is that it does but thinking of Gram reminded me that I have a huge responsibility.

My husband Otto and I have nine grandchildren, eight of whom we see regularly. I am as big a factor for most of my grandchildren as my Gram was for me. I’ve known the verse above and several others  for as long as I can remember because Gram quoted or paraphrased them for as long as I had her here with me. The gnashing of teeth is my favorite but there was also the, “you can’t put old heads on young shoulders”, that she got from the verse about new wine and old wineskins.

Every summer I was allowed to spend a lot of time with my Gram. On Sunday we went to church, of course, but we also went every weekday at noon. Most Saturdays we went to confession. Gram was a church girl and beyond that she was a God girl. I still quote and believe many things that she said some of which, are not necessarily true. She had quite a way with a turn of phrase my Gram and she had huge, deep, abiding faith which, thank God, she shared with all of her grandchildren.

I wonder if years from now one of my grands will hold onto odd little sayings because they came from me. I hope so because it means they will carry me in their hearts. More importantly I hope they will remember certain passages of Scripture and think of me. I hope that they will remain faithful and will remember the things they heard me say about Jesus when they were little.

My Gram left me with a lot of silly ideas but her example, the simple way she incorporated her faith into her life is a model I want to continue for my grands. There is great truth in the lyric “be careful little mouth what you say.” The song says that God is watching and listening. That's true, but so are other very impressionable people and I want to leave the right impression.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Big , Giant Hand

Blessed is the man you discipline O Lord, the man you teach from your law;
you grant him relief from his days of trouble until a pit is dug or the wicked.

The other morning as I was praising God for changing an attitude that has been plaguing me for quite awhile now; God spoke to me very clearly. I prayed, “Father, you know I would love for you to take away all of my problems, hurts and challenges. I’d love for you to lift me up out of all of my messes with your big giant hand but…..”

Before I could finish my thought, the “but”, which would have been, then I wouldn’t grow or learn or become more mature if Daddy kept rescuing me from my consequences, always smoothing my pothole laden path, God spoke to me.

He said, “But then you’d be (the name of a fairly young man I know who is a total mess.)” I’ll call him Little Man. Little Man’s mommy and daddy have been cleaning up for him for years. He has never paid for his own mistakes, walked through his consequences or taken responsibility for anything he’s done. It’s never his fault or if it cannot be denied that it is, in fact, his fault, then someone else pushed him to do whatever heinous thing he’s done. Consequently, he is a stunted, selfish person who cannot, literally cannot, take care of himself.

When I heard the words “but then you’d be Little Man.” I laughed out loud, not in a text speak, lol way, I truly laughed out loud. Then I very quickly sobered. With out God’s grace I would be just like that and before you judge me, let me tell you, so would you.

In their efforts to protect their child, Little Man’s parents have crippled him. Their motivations are not pure; they are selfish. What may have started out as protection has now become a means to avoid embarrassment and humiliation. They protected their child way past his childhood and on into his adulthood. Today he should be the protector of his own children but instead he is the person causing them the deepest pain, the most significant insecurities. Never allowed to fall, he has never learned to stand, not for himself or for the little ones who should be able to count on him.

God’s motivations are always pure. He allows challenges, heartaches and setbacks for good reasons. Without them we would all be stunted, selfish and ineffectual. We would become puppets, held to God by strings that would eventually choke us. We would not be connected to him out of love but rather out of need and fear. We do need God and we should fear him but in a reverent way not out of obligation.

My own experience is that when I recognize my faults and attempt to correct them grace flows in, enabling me to handle the consequences of my actions. Recognizing that the mess I’m in is mine to clean up, I pick up a proverbial broom. It feels so heavy and cumbersome at first but I soldier through. Making the apologies, admitting my fault, I begin to sweep it up as best I can and suddenly the broom feels lighter and easier to handle. It’s not as unwieldy or uncomfortable as it was or as I expected it to be. I realize I can do this thing. I may hate it but I can do it. Why? Simple, because there is another hand, a big giant hand on that broom with mine. It is the hand of my Father who loves me enough to let me hurt or sting a little so that I can grow a lot. I’m very grateful for that because while I am not who I want to be, I am also not who I used to be, thanks to the loving discipline of my Father.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two Very Special Trips

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

This morning I read a devotional message that said, “You are on your way to heaven; nothing can stop you from reaching your destination.” My initial reaction was, “woo-hoo!” I know that. I believe it. Yet seeing in print, so clearly defined, was amazing.

In thirty days I’m going on a cruise with my daughter, her boyfriend, her two daughters and my precious hubby. Nice, right? Wait, it gets so much better. This is no ordinary cruise. It is a Disney cruise. Still not the best part. Want to know why? The best part is that it is a gift from Laura and Brandon.

When Laura first told me about it I was shocked. After the initial shock and protests about the extravagance subsided, I began to get excited. That excitement was enhanced by the questions my granddaughters, Faith and Madelyn keep asking me. They are six and four and want as many details as my one prior experience can provide. Throughout the last three months they have randomly asked me questions that have reminded me, “Wow, we’re going on a cruise together.”

After reading the line about heaven this morning I began to think about the cruise. I thought about how we’ve talked and planned. It’s going to be great fun. It could however, be taken from us. Most likely it won’t be but it could.

No one, nothing, not one person or thing can take away my heavenly home. My Father in his loving kindness has reserved a spot for me. He then sent Jesus to pay my fare and further to leave me with the knowledge that he, Jesus, is getting my room ready. (John 14:2-4)

In thirty days, God willing and as long as I am still in good standing with Laura and Brandon, Otto will place our packed bags into our car. We will then meet Laura, Brandon and the girls and head out for several days of total relaxation and fun. I have a fairly good idea of what to expect but this time I get to add to that knowledge, the fact that we will have some of our dearest ones with us. I am very excited.

In an undetermined number of days, months or even years, I will take a trip, the details of which I have no knowledge. I will arrive in a place about which I know very little. I have a pretty good idea that some of the people near and dear to me will be there already or follow behind me but of that I cannot really be certain. The trip may be arduous. It may be sad. It is fairly safe to say that the journey itself will not be relaxing or fun. Still, I’m even more excited about that trip because it is my trip home. God is willing for me to take that trip. Nothing, no whim or mood, no force of nature, no person, nothing can stop me from reaching that destination. I’m much more apprehensive about that trip but also much, much more excited about the destination.

When I board that cruise ship I will board with five of my favorite people. When I take that other trip I will go alone. When I board that ship some very lovely strangers will smile brightly and welcome me aboard, by name, no less. When I reach my other destination some dearly loved ones will be waiting, so I’m told but I know for sure that one huge smile will greet me, one long awaited hug will finally occur. I will be at home where my Daddy is waiting for me and no one can stop me from getting there.