Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Song for Test Day

"I'm kind of worried," Katherynn confessed before her math test. "What if I don't know what to do?"

"Then you can ask me and I will help you," I explained. "I love you, Katherynn. I know you can do this or I wouldn't ask you to do it. You've worked hard in kindergarten. A test tells us what you know and what you still need to learn and practice".

Life is full of tests on our character. That prick in your heart is the guiding of the Holy Spirit as He trains you to make right choices. If we learn our lessons, we do well when we are tested. 

A cashier gives us a ten dollar bill rather than a one dollar bill. Will we admit the error?  We decide against buying the item in our grocery cart. Do we lay it on the nearest shelf or return it to the correct shelf?  Do we hit the snooze button or get up?  Our day falls apart, do we pray or yell? God says no to a request.  Do we doubt His goodness or submit to His plan for us?

One of the most frequent counseling concerns I address is the doubt of God's presence in times of hardship. Why don't I feel God's presence when I'm struggling with my sin?  Where is God when I hurt?

Heather was learning volumes in a new Bible study. "I can hardly wait for each new day because I am learning so much about God. Life has never been so exciting!" Her bubbling joy lasted for several months.

"I don't understand," Heather told me one morning. "I don't feel like God is there any more. Is He mad at me for something? I keep praying but He doesn't seem to be helping me. Are my prayers getting through?"

A test matters because it shows how much you know and what you still need to learn and practice. God is faithful.  He always hears the voice of His child. He is there, but a teacher is often silent during testing.

During the math test, Katherynn began to sing softly as she worked:  "I am special and I can do this.  Karen loves me and I can do this. This is hard but then we can have a tea party. Karen loves me and I can do this."

 A ribbon that states "Hard Worker Award" hangs in a place of honor to show that Kathernn is ready for first grade math, for lessons that will continue to challenge her to grow.

The student has taught the teacher. I plan to sing more and worry less.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dangerous Women

"Aren't you afraid to be in the prison with all those dangerous women?" my neighbor asked.  "Do you have to be around any serial killers?"

The truth is that I am safer behind prison walls than I am on the highway or walking around downtown. My movements are on security video. I carry a body alarm. My husband carries a two-way radio. Armed prison guards would immediately be available if a situation was dangerous.

It's also true that the prisoners we meet in the chapel have murder, child abuse, prostitution, rape and drug crimes in their pasts.  But they look like any other group of women, except for the way they're dressed. With hands clapping and feet dancing as they sing, they sound like any other group of women praising God. Leaning in to hear my teaching, they take notes and ask questions, diligent in their study of God's Word.

They are not dangerous women because of their crimes. They are dangerous women because they are Jesus Followers, because they are becoming women after God's own heart.  They dare to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a fallen world.

Sierra, a Jesus Follower in prison, grips my hand as she tells me her story. She will die inside the prison walls. Society has rightly sentenced her to multiple life sentences. She smiles through tears of compassion for her fellow prisoners, women who live in darkness, slaves to their sins and wrong choices.

"There is so much power in God's love! I'm much more dangerous with a Bible than I ever was with a gun. Satan should be afraid. Very, Very afraid."

And Satan is indeed afraid. He knows his time is almost up. He holds no power over the truly dangerous woman, the princess-soldier who lives courage, gives wise counsel and goes about doing good. His name is defeat and the battle belongs to the Lord.

The most dangerous women in the world write Bible verses on the hearts of children. They act out Bible stories, making it fun to be in Sunday School. Pots of vegetable soup and loaves of fresh baked bread sit on their counters ready to be taken to the sick and weary. They have time to listen, to bind up the brokenhearted, to stretch loving arms to the needy and to change the course of history with their prayers.

They wage war on selfishness, divorce, abortion and cruelty. Dangerous women send notes to young wives encouraging them to love their husbands and children.  They babysit for young moms when rest becomes long overdue. They care for the widows, the orphans, the homeless. Dangerous women counsel alongside the Holy Spirit. They love people deeply from their hearts, changing the world one step at a time.

Just how dangerous are you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Grace Splashed My Skirt

Hurrying to accomplish much this morning, I grabbed the wrong spray bottle to treat a spot on my favorite skirt. 

Moments earlier, a soft voice had whispered through my fatigue: Storing Clorox Bleach Kitchen Spray next to the Spray and Wash Stain Removal for clothes is foolish. I thanked God for the reminder and planned to finish the laundry then rearrange my shelves more wisely.

As I realized my error, I burst into frustrated tears and instant begging that God would make this awful disappointment go away. How could I have failed to listen to His warning and immediately obey?  How could I be so careless with something so precious to me? Why did I never learn my lessons to slow down?

As my skirt hangs on the drying rack God has once again somehow cleared away my disappointment.Oh, the skirt may be ruined. I won't know until it dries. 

But God cleared away my disappointment by reminding me to slow down and live my life awake to His presence even in the frazzles of daily life.  Maybe He has removed the problem and my skirt is not ruined. Maybe He will provide a different skirt that is in my new smaller size, a skirt that fits me and is as versatile, cute and comfortable.

Either outcome, the good news is that my Father loves me with personal everlasting love.  My times are in His hands, every ordinary day of my extraordinary life.  Grace like rain splashes all around me.  All I have to do is open my eyes and see.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Johnathan and the Walker's High

"Stop worrying about how much you're accomplishing," my friend Karen told me thirty years ago.  "You'll get done what you get done."

Good advice from one new mother to another. Three decades later, I still pray daily: "Lord, keep me awake to my moments. Teach me to number my days right that I may become wise. Teach me to see with Your eyes."

It's called a "runner's high", but like many runners, I find the "walker's high" to be much less illusive.  The end of a run often leaves me feeling depleted, exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. It takes whole body sacrifice to finish with a personal best excellence. Walking the same distance leaves me refreshed, weary but strong. I am renewed, bubbling with creativity, goals and new insights...a "walker's high".

Johnathan tugs on my finger pulling me from my water bottle back toward the street. I have finished my housework and clocked a six mile run this morning, but he is only beginning his day..I am wearing a slow tired smile.  He is bursting with the pure joy of being awake. Four small steps and he drops my finger to study a zinnia. He notices the neighbor, pats a tree encouraging it to grow, talks to the sun, stops to hug me. He sees the pond, pulls me onward, intrigued by each new sight on the way. One wonder at a time, he shows me life through his eyes.

Suddenly he stops splashing his hand in a water puddle.  Big blue eyes widen and he shrieks with laughter.  The sky music he has enjoyed all his life is coming from these delightful creatures called birds! For several minutes he stands with hands swinging in pure joy at such wonder-filled accomplishment. God has made a bird that sings!

Noise and fray dwell where we run our life journey. Distractions await us around every corner. Exhaustion overwhelms us mentally, physically and emotionally when we take our eyes off the goal. Disappointment slides into discouragement. We consider easier trails and can be tempted to give up. We fail to notice a neighbor, to talk to the Son or encourage a young sapling tree trying to grow in difficult soil.

Walking with Jesus is training me to live awake in each moment, to see the world through His eyes, one wonder at a time. There is a difference between what I want to accomplish and what God wants to accomplish in me and through me.

As I am writing this post, Johnathan stops running to and fro testing his limits and exploring the world around him. He crawls onto my lap, snuggles into a comfortable spot to sit awhile, watching closely to see what I am doing.

He leans back against my heart and with a pudgy little hand quietly pats my arm. I change the structure of a sentence by deleting with one touch of a button. Part of this post is erased, gone in a flash of bright blue.

Laughing with amazement at what I have accomplished, he points to my creation and says, "OH! Oh, WOW!"

As I kiss his precious weary head and cuddle him close, I know exactly what I want to accomplish in my life journey..