Thursday, October 1, 2015

This is my story...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How Parenting Feels to Me...

I have thought about parenting and what I could compare it to.  In my mind I compare it to playing on a basketball team, and I would like to explain why.  (I've never played on a basketball team & really know very little about the sport, but this is how it seems to me.)

Imagine you are a young person who has never played basketball.  You've seen the teams, and you admire their jerseys, their ability, and their talent.  You think to yourself, "Wow, playing basketball looks really amazing...  I think I should join the team!"  You imagine yourself making slam dunks and three point shots.  You see yourself as an amazing player and an asset to the team.  You're really interested, so you even try out a few little pick-up games of basketball here and there.  You feel pretty confident in your abilities, and you are sure you will only get better with real experience.  Since you're interested in basketball, you also observe games and other players.  You are able to pick out every mistake they make, and you are convinced that you will never fall into the same problems they experience because, obviously, you have a much better understanding of the game and the skills it requires.

Finally, the time is right for you to join the team.  You try out, and maybe you have to try out multiple times to make the team, but eventually you make it!  You're on the team!  You are so excited and full of expectation as to what your future will hold.  From day one though you are thrown off by how hard it is to be the team.  You didn't realize how many hours of drills and hard work this would entail.  You're exhausted and overwhelmed by all the new skills you need to learn.  You watch experienced players and try to model yourself after them.  You watch game tapes and hope to somehow figure out what you're doing and to be successful at it.  There is so much more to this than what you thought before.  You find your confidence crumbling under the realization that you are really not prepared for how hard it is to be on this team.

The team starts playing games, and instead of landing three point shots and slam dunks, as you imagined yourself, you wind up fouling out and missing shot after shot.  You're not one to give up though.  You keep trying and you keep running after the ball.  Sometimes you think you're on the way to a really great shot, when the opposing team suddenly steals the ball right out from under you and you find yourself running at the back of the pack again.  Oh, its not all misses though.  You make some great shots and hear the roar of the crowd.  You also do a lot of great assists and good defense- those things that no one really sees, but you know that they matter.

You watch other team members making great shots and scoring points, way more points than you.  It seems like those team members are connecting with the game and understanding the ins and outs of it all, and you're struggling.  Sometimes you even question why you signed up for the team at all.  What were you thinking?  You thought you could be good at this game?  How foolish! 

And sometimes you get hit, and you hit the floor, hard.  Nobody told you about that.  It hurts and your whole body radiates with the pain.  Those hits can come out of nowhere, from unexpected places, or you can see them coming a mile away, but they still hurt more than you ever thought possible.  It feels like its going to consume you, and yet you get up.  You may limp along for a while, but you keep moving and you learn to keep going in spite of the pain.

Quitting is not an option for you.  You're gonna stick this out.  Through twisted ankles, bruised body, exhaustion and frustration, no matter how wounded or tired you become, you keep showing up everyday.  You accept that you're not a star player and you will probably never make those amazing game winning shots you once dreamed of.  But you are a part of this team and you will keep running that court, and trying to make the shots, and hoping that sometimes you will hit it just right.  Sometimes you do... and sometimes you don't... but you're on this team for the long haul and you will keep getting up each day, putting on your shoes, and playing the game the best you can, with the hope that in the end you will have made more shots than you missed.

This is what parenting feels like to me.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Table of Blessing

I  have been meditating and thinking a lot on Psalms 23 lately.  For some that may be a verse that has been "over played" but I think there is still so much to glean from this Psalm.  I find comfort and encouragement in these verses.  I am going to share them with you in the Amplified Version, and my thoughts along with it.

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.

The shepherd is always with his sheep: to lead, guide, and protect them.  He knows that we would get lost without him.  Without him we wander. We get tangled in the underbrush.  But we don't have to do it without him.  He's right there- he is the good shepherd and he leads us to places of nourishment and refreshing.  I just need to follow his presence.  That is the place of rest, refreshing, and nourishing.  He is our rest.  He refreshes our souls.  
He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.

The valleys are the low places in our lives.  Those places of struggle and discouragement.  Where we feel unseen.  Those places where shadows threaten us.  Think about a shadow: it is something that appears to have form, but lacks all substance.  Your shadow may not be the shadow of death, it may be the shadow of failure.  Or rejection.  Or lack.  Or not being enough.  "Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of (failure, rejection, lack, not being enough).  I will fear or dread NO EVIL, for YOU ARE WITH ME."  God promises you, no matter where you are, he is there with you.  No matter what shadows may threaten to overtake you, you do not need to fear.  He is there.  He's got this.  His protection overshadows you, and you can take comfort in that.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.

What is happening when we are in the presence of our enemies?  We are battling.  There is war raging.  Enemies do not sit still and quiet in front of you.  They attack.  They shout & scream & threaten.  We are tired and grow weary of the fight.  We wonder about the outcome.  We search for the bravery to continue.  In the middle of all this, God says, "Stop."  In the middle of the battle, when we are weary and worn, he says, "Come."  He prepares a table.  Not of scraps, not of meager rations, but of BLESSING.  The table God prepares for you is a huge feast of ABUNDANCE.  He says, "Come.  Taste and see that I am good."  The table is filled with overflowing platters of all that you could want or need.  Overflowing amounts of peace.  Overflowing amounts of healing.  Overflowing amounts of provision.  Overflowing amounts of strength.  Overflowing amounts of wisdom.  It does not matter that the enemy is all around you, in their very presence God prepares bountiful blessings for you, and he invites you to come and receive all he has for you.  Come, and partake.  Eat to your fill.  ALL that you need.  He has provided for you and prepared for you.  He has made all the preparations for the feast and wants ALL to come in and partake.  No beggars here.  We are all royal, invited guests for the banquet of the king.
In regards to the oil mentioned in the scripture, the Amplified Bible notes this:  It is difficult for those living in a temperate climate to appreciate, but it was customary in hot climates to anoint the body with oil to protect it from excessive perspiration. When mixed with perfume, the oil imparted a delightfully refreshing and invigorating sensation. Athletes anointed their bodies as a matter of course before running a race. As the body, therefore, anointed with oil was refreshed, invigorated, and better fitted for action, so the Lord would anoint His “sheep” with the Holy Spirit, Whom oil symbolizes, to fit them to engage more freely in His service and run in the way He directs—in heavenly fellowship with Him.
Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.
Goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me.  That doesn't mean they are trailing after me, trying to catch up.  No.  Goodness, mercy and unfailing love are pursuing me.  I do not have to worry about an enemy pursuing me, because it is God's goodness, mercy and unfailing love which pursue me and defend me.  Like a shadow that does not leave, these blessings are attached to me and I cannot separate myself from them.  God is a part of me, and with him he brings his whole house- his presence- which brings with it every good thing that he is.
I hope that these thoughts from my heart have been an encouragement to you.  If you feel like you are in a valley, or you are weary from a battle, God is inviting you to come.  Come into his presence.  Be refreshed, be renewed.  Let him nourish your soul with every good thing.  Spend time in his presence and you will find that which you seek.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.
God Bless You,