Monday, July 29, 2013

Life is Like a Layover

I've been traveling some this summer and when I'm's just pure, chaotic, catch-up.  But, before I throw another load of clothes in, run to Wal-Mart, and stop by the dry cleaner...I just have a brief thought to share.

Layover. That's the thought.

Seriously, maybe that will be a future book title for me:  "Life is Like a Layover."  It so is.

I looked around the airport the other day and was struck by the fact that so much of life was represented in one place.

People elated and snapping pictures as a loved one walked off the plane.  People with teary eyes, wandering like zombies toward a gate that would lead to a ramp that would lead to a plane that would lead to a funeral.

Life is a layover. Thank God. It is temporary. The tears, the trials, the triumphs. Gone in a flash.

Be mindful of those around you in the "airport."  Humanity...happy, hurting, hopeful, hopeless. We should share the joys and the tears. Come alongside one another, no matter what the circumstances. Offer to carry that extra heavy suitcase.

I Corinthians 5:1-6:  "5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord."
Okay, maybe camping would have been a better analogy here, with the mention of tents and all. But, I think we all get it...we are in our temporary home. We are not in our true home, yet. We're experiencing a layover.
It's easy to walk through life's airports, thinking only of ourselves. We're in a hurry to catch the next "flight," escape a crisis, embrace a thrill, take a vacation. While we're running from concourse to concourse, we have to remember that it's all temporary...and the only thing we get to take on the final trip home is those around us.  

Look around the gate you're at today...who can you rejoice with? Who can you cry with? Who needs some help with their life's luggage? As long as you've got're experiencing a layover. May we all take out the headphones, get off the laptop, get out of the coffee line...and look around us.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dog Days

I sure hope Florence and her Machine know what they're talking about. Anyone else feel stagnant? Lethargic? I'm blaming it on the "dog days."

Typically, we reserve that title for the sultry, uncomfortably warm days from early July to sometime in September...well, at least in the part of the US in which I currently live. But, the term also lends itself to "a period marked by inactivity."

I'm going to go with two thoughts here today.  And trust me...they're hot.

First, I have been doggin' it this summer. Or, maybe - more appropriately -  "dodgin''" it. Allowing anything uncomfortable to often deter me from doing what I need to be doing.  From being productive. Definitely inactive. A couple of summers ago, God allowed skunks to take residence under my house to remind me of all of the things we become distracted by in life.  So, you'd think I would remember that stench...and know better.

We are so "feelings-driven."  "I don't feel like doing it." "I don't like that."  "I don't love them."  "I'm too angry to forgive."  "I'm too hurt to move on." "I'm too tired to do the laundry." (I use that last one a lot.) And tired is not just an emotion...I am aware it can absolutely be a physical state. But, still...

Darned emotions. Dirty dogs. Grrr.

Second, I hate the heat.  Physically and spiritually.  Even though I grew up and have lived in more than one geographical location where temps and humidity often soar...I hate it.  When people talk beaches...I chime in about how much I love them. But, not the kind most adore. I wistfully long for a beach on the Oregon Coast with its gray skies and cold waves crashing up against the rocks.  Me on a blanket, wearing a fleece jacket...sipping on cocoa.  I've tried to talk my husband into moving to Alaska on more than one occasion during our 26 years together.  I'm that girl.

Anyway...I also dislike spiritual heat.  I mean, we all hate the thought of hell...but, that's not what I'm referring to. I'm talking about the heat that refines us.  The heat that causes the impurities to rise to the top.

As much as it makes me want to lethargic...take a much as it makes me uncomfortable...I need the heat.  The "dog days" are the proving ground of my faith.

God uses heat - or fire - to speak to His people all throughout the Old Testament.  For real. Here's just one example:

"You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire." Deuteronomy 4:35-36.

God uses heat - or fire - to speak to His people in the New Testament. Here's just one example:

"If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward."  I Corinthians 3:12-14.

Wow.  That's like the perfect Dog Days' verse.  The "day" will bring it to light...the fire will reveal...the quality of each person's work. What I really believe. How strong my faith in Christ truly is. And survival equals reward.

And the the biggest hope in these warm days...

"But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:' Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God,'"  Isaiah 43:1-3

It gets uncomfortable at times.  A little heated.  But, He is with us.  
And if we trust that He is...when these doggish days are over...we will shine.  Who knows? Maybe others will see us shining just a little bit, right in the middle of 'em.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Christian Wart Club

You may not have heard of this organization...but, it's huge.  And at times, I'm pretty sure I've been Member-of-the-Year.  Maybe of the Century.

I worry. I confess.  I say, "No, I'm just concerned,"  or "No, I'm just being realistic."  That's what I say.  I say a lot of junk.

Thank God that I most often read His Word before I try to pass anything along to you.  This so keeps you from getting the brunt of my junk.

So, this morning...I'm praying. Well, I'm whining to God. I'm worried. I'm all, "God, if You don't show up in this situation or that situation...well, what will people think?  They won't see Your glory.  They won't see that Christians win...or are successful...or are amazing."

I don't know what your Bible weighs, but mine feels like 182 pounds when it lands up side of my head.

This is what God said to me today. Clearly.

"You worry about what people think. I worry about people."

Make that 382 pounds.

Okay, let's really put "concern" where we have "worry." We know God doesn't worry and doesn't approve of worry.  But, He is loving and compassionate and concerned.

We can either walk around being concerned about people's thoughts or actions or words...or we can walk around being concerned about people.  We can continue to be concerned about how other people can hurt, abuse, slander or use us...or we can begin to just be concerned about people.

If I'm really all about my spreading the Good News of the cool hope one can have in Christ...I probably should stop being such a wart. Who wants those? What purpose do they serve?  And, side note, they're gross.

If I am concerned about the things God is concerned about...I will stop worrying altogether.  I will see everything in an opportunity to somehow love people and reconcile them to the Father.

I'm cutting up my CWC card right now.

Who's with me?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Finding Mighty in the Messy

Here are two of my boy-men cleaning through some of their junk a month or so ago. It was my belated Mother's Day gift.

When they were growing up, all I ever asked for on Mother's Day was "no fighting." Now that they're grown up, all I ask for is that they retrieve the "treasures" that are too valuable to throw away...but, not quite valuable enough for them to lovingly store or display in their own abodes.

For those of you about to weep at the thought of me holding a trash bag and yelling at my offspring to pitch their first pair of baby shoes...relax.  I've got the shoes, locks of hair and tiny little "home from the hospital" outfits tucked away in the cedar chest. I think...

Anyway, we're not talking baby shoes.  We're talking size 13 shoe.  Track shoe, to be exact...and ONE, at that. And, no offense, but it's not like the kid wore it in the Olympics. And, possible offense, son, go buy an Odor Eater (you'll only need one) reeks.

So, I trudge upstairs and this is what I find.  Two men, lingering over an array of camp pictures from 2003. And the occasional Lego head. That they've been looking for since 2003.

I couldn't get mad at their progress...or lack thereof.  You see, in the middle of that room, in the middle of that floor, in the middle of that laughing, men-children were sharing mighty moments.

Epiphany. I'm not going to get all "life is like a box of chocolates." I wish. Chocolates - even the ones with the disgusting coconut filling - would be a lot better than what life is really like.  I'm going to get all "life is like a junk drawer."  Probably won't get stitched on a pillow or framed on the wall of a Brookstone.

But, it's true.  Life is full of junk.  Man made it that way. It's so not God's fault.  But, what is God's doing is the mighty things we find in the holder of so much messy.

If you have been journeying with me for even just a little know I serve the same God I've always served...but, have definitely changed my thinking about how He works.  And it's been a very, very good thing.

Asking Him in to control my life has not - and while I live as a human - never will give me a perfect life.  I just get a mighty, perfect God at the helm of a mighty, messy existence.

Guess what?  The junk drawer those two were supposed to be eliminating is still looking pretty iffy.  But, when I open it now - in their absence - I see the mighty.

Mementos...reminders...testimonies of messy lives invaded by a mighty God.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When in the Den

I'm not talking scout troop. Den mother. That sort of thing.

I'm talking those dens we all find ourselves in from time to time.  As parents, as couples, as families, as friends, as humans.  "Places" we are thrown into...that may just be inhabited not so "friendlies."

I love this picture.  I have a series of them, with each of my three boys playing the part of Daniel in the famous Bible story.  The one set in a den of starving, raging lions. Not know for their gracious hospitality.

The older boys really nailed it.  On their knees, sincerely appearing to be in prayer.

The baby. Not so much. Daniel probably didn't have a cute, mischievous grin on his face.

Or, did he?

I came across this stray photo in the middle of a five-day period in which I've been reading Daniel, chapters 3 & 6, each and every day.  Not because I want to...but, because I desperately need to.

I used to think that being a great Christian would eventually mean my life would not only get easier...but, better looking.  That's why other people would want to know Christ...because if I was fabulous, when people noticed my fabulousness, I would obviously point to Heaven and then...THEN, everyone around me would want what I had. Jesus and fabulousness. Boom.

The only thing I'm finding as I get dog, human and Christian that life gets messier, but God gets mightier.

Sometimes, I get thrown in a pit, like Joseph.  Or a prison, like Paul. Or a cave, like David. And sometimes it's a consequence for some stupidity on my part. But, most times, it's from just living in a messy world. It rains on the just and the unjust down here on earth. The just and the unjust can both wind up in dens.

Now that we're all depressed...the good stuff is coming!

Here's me:  "God!! Seriously?! Don't let that spineless king throw me in a den of beasts! You can make that not happen. You're God! Come on! No lion's den! I'll give You the glory! Promise!"

Oh, here's another one from me:  "Lord!! If You're allowing me to be thrown in a den, then at least send the lions away! Get rid of them! I can camp out in an empty den for a day or two.  It might even be like a nice, little prayer retreat for the two of us. Just You and me. No lions."

Here's God:  "Oh, girl! If I save you from being thrown in at can take the credit. 'Wasn't the king so merciful?' I might not get the glory."

And:  "Child! If I make the lions disappear...again, man can reason a 'why.' Man can say, 'The lions heard something in the distance and were spooked.' 'That pride just got back from a big hunt.  They weren't hungry.'  I might not get the glory."

Here it comes. "But, if I allow you to be thrown in with starving, raging lions...who see you as a fine meal...and I shut their mouths? Reason that one away. Man can't get the glory. Glory to Me. Boom."

I don't know if God says, "boom," but if Anyone has the right's Him.

I still wish there were no dens, pits, prisons or caves.  I still wish I was just fabulous...all of the time.

But, I don't wish those things more than I wish to see the undeniable, unflappable, unstoppable, irrefutable, miraculous wonders of God.  The kind that make a fellow earth dweller, facing his or her own messes, stop and say, "Look at her.  She was in a den. With lions. She didn't look too good while being thrown in, either.  But, I remember her saying something about trusting God to help her...and look, she's survived the lions. I want that."

For those of you feeling led into an unknown you may or may not have chosen...remember, it is only unknown to you.

He is ahead of you, and He's got the lions under control.

So, maybe Daniel was grinning, after all.