Thoughts and Meditations from verses and stories through one guy's head and heart... Psalm 124:7
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Norah's teething and we're sleepy...
Do You Have Eyes?
Whoa… we’ve had some tough nights lately! Our seven-month-old Norah is teething… bad! She is usually the kind of baby that just sits around cooing until someone looks at her, at which point she smiles like crazy. She is always so happy and full of giggling energy… or at least, she was like that. For the past few days she has been taking terrible naps, screaming a ton and not eating, which leads to more bad naps, tons more screaming and less eating which leads to… well, I guess you get the point.
So, the other night Christy and I were up with Norah way after midnight trying to figure out a way to get her to calm down enough to go to sleep, and I was getting pretty frustrated as each little baby screech brought my alarm clock closer and closer to the present. Then it happened... my sweet wife (who by the way had not yet freaked out, even though I was shaking and twitching like a crack-addict) said something which changed the whole situation for me… She said, “Can you imagine trying to go to bed with a toothache?” I stopped my own whining long enough to think about it and realized that I have never really had a toothache. I don’t even know what that feels like. I can’t remember my own bouts of teething, but I’ve never really had a tooth go bad. I know from Looney Tunes that it looks pretty painful, but I don’t really know what it feels like. Norah was experiencing all kinds of pain that I knew absolutely nothing about…
I have been reading the book of Job lately and boy, I’ll tell you what, that is one frustrated brother! Of course, he did lose all his property, wealth, livestock and children in one really crappy day (you just know it was a Monday). And in defending himself, Job complained to God… a lot. In chapters nine and ten he starts to form an argument against God that basically goes like this… “I haven’t done anything wrong, and if I have, show me what it is. You sit up there picking on me and I guess you think it’s easy to live life down here, but you know what, you don’t know what it’s like! You have limitless power and resources… you don’t know what it is to be weak and tempted. You’ve never been a human and you don’t know how hard it is for us.” In Job 10:4 he says, “Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?”
The amazing thing about our God is that he answered Job… and all the rest of us. God’s answer was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger in a little suburb of Jerusalem called Bethlehem. When Jesus was born, God had eyes, just like us. God became a human baby to identify with all our weakness, endure all of our temptation, (only without sin) and then bear all of our wrong in His own death. God had to go through sleepless nights of pain and crying because He was teething. My Jesus knows how Norah feels because He has been there. He actually became one of us and He knows what it’s like down here.
My Anna is the happiest kid I know… she gets so excited about everything and runs around dancing and laughing uncontrollably most of the day. She doesn’t just like stuff… she LOVES every simple little thing! From stickers to peanuts to our shoes… she is pumped about everything! Everything; that is, except machines. She is scared to death of machines. Whether it’s the vacuum cleaner, the cake mixer or the hair dryer, if it has moving parts and makes some kind of motorized buzzing sound, she is crying for protection and comfort. The funny thing is that as scared as she is of the blender, she is not all that scared of storms… I think the first few times she heard thunder it freaked her out pretty bad, but Christy and I told her that God made the storm and since then, she is okay with storms, knowing that God is in control.
For a little while now, I’ve needed to take faith lessons from my two-year old. See, a couple of weeks ago our house got struck by lightning… no, I’m not kidding. Christy and I had just made it out of a financial crisis due to the gracious and surprising provision of our Father in heaven when she called me up at church to say, “Hey, you know that storm that’s been raging all this evening? Well, lightning just struck in our yard and knocked out our air conditioning and phones.” I have to admit that I was shocked... (no pun intended) I mean, the Lord had just gotten through saving our tails from one thing only to let us get struck by lightning! Are you kidding me?!
My buddy Joe from church told me that the board was fried on the A/C unit, so we called our heating and air guys. They came out the next day and told us that the board would cost almost $500. Great… We don’t have anywhere near five hundred bucks laying around for anything, so we just prayed. The heating and air guys figured out a way to get the thing to blow cold air until we could pay for the board, which they told us we would have to replace before winter. Check this out: Yesterday they called Christy and said, “Mrs. Younger, we need to set up a time to come replace that board.” Christy replied, “Uh… I was told we could wait to replace it until we could find the money…” The lady on the phone said, “Mrs. Younger, the payment has already been taken care of. Someone in your church loves you… So now we just need to come out and replace it.”
Christy called me at work and told me the story. She ended by saying, “Can you believe it?” To which I replied, “Yeah. I can. He’s been doing this so much lately!” My Father loves me. He sees me and He knows what I need. He hears us when we cry out to Him and He cares for us like the Dad He is. So, if you find yourself in the middle of a downpour with thunder rolling and lightning flashing, just remember what Anna always says to me… “It’s okay Daddy. God made the storm.”
Well, the field will soon be painted, the helmets will soon be striped, tickets will soon be selling and that marvel of ingenuity, ‘the hill chair’ will soon make its first appearance as the entire town shows up to cheer on the Oak Ridge Wildcats! That’s right folks, it is football season once again… I can still remember what it was like to strap on the pads, lace up the cleats and march down the stairs onto the field to the deafening cheers of thousands. It was awesome! At least, it was awesome on Friday night… Putting on pads and cleats the rest of the week for practice was a whole different story.
I hated football practice… especially in the sweltering heat. We were so hot and tired that sometimes the grass started to blur and ripple like green water. (I guess that was heat exhaustion) The coaches wanted us running everywhere we went… even for water breaks. The only word they seemed to know sometimes was “Hustle!” We invented a hundred and fifty ways to slack off and avoid detection. One of our tricks was to unbuckle our shoulder pads on the way to water breaks and push them up and down with our hands making the pads sound like we were jogging when we were only walking. And the coaches never knew…
In Nehemiah chapter 4, the Israelite workers who had been in captivity for seventy years were back in Jerusalem, rebuilding the wall around the city. It was hard work on a grand scale that probably seemed impossible some days. This problem was made worse by the fact that these workers were absolutely surrounded by discouragement! Some messed up dudes named Sanballat and Tobiah along with a bunch of hateful people slammed them with smack talk all day long every day. “You call that a wall? My kid’s tree house looks stronger than that!” If that wasn’t enough, even the men of Judah (their own people) said it was hopeless. Then the Jews from the surrounding counties came and said, “Because of you we’re going to be attacked! Thanks a lot!” The work was hard, the sun was hot, morale was low and a fight was coming…
But Nehemiah didn’t get discouraged. He told everyone to grab their weapons and get back to work. From that day on, half of the men worked while the others stood by them, swords and spears in hand. They were working and they were ready to fight. Nehemiah said that they even wore their swords and armor when they went on water breaks. In verse 14 he told them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
We are in the middle of a war that is happening all around us. We cannot see it or smell it, but we can feel its effects. And the worst possible thing we can do is to pretend we’re not in a battle. Our enemies are after our discouragement and if we rest from fighting, we will be beaten. We need to live every day and all day long knowing that a fight is coming… knowing that discouragement is right around the corner. We need to be ready to meet this foe, remembering the Lord, continuing the work, and standing beside our brothers, encouraging each other and fighting together, even when we break for water…
A couple of weeks ago Christy and I were flipping channels and found “War Games.” Do you remember that Matthew Broderick classic from the 80’s? It’s a movie set in the extreme paranoia of the Cold War in which a high school computer hacker finds his way into what he thinks is a computer game but is really a simulation program for nuclear war. The kid signs into the ‘game’ as the Soviet Union and initiates a nuclear missile strike on the U.S. What he doesn’t know is that U.S. military defense tracking systems show eight incoming Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles from Russia! This kid playing around on his computer had no idea what his hacking was setting in motion…
I think that prayer is like “War Games” for lots of us. We don’t rely on prayer… we don’t pray any where near as much as we ought because when it gets right down to it, we don’t really know what prayer is and what it does. Do you know what actually happens when you pray? David did… In Psalm 18 he said, “In my distress I called out to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.” First thing’s first… when you cry out to Him, God hears you! But look what happens next… “Smoke rose from His nostrils; consuming fire came from His mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under His feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind…” David goes on to say that God thundered form heaven blasting his enemies with lightning like arrows and then rescued him because God delighted in him. Isn’t that awesome?! Did you know all that was going on when you pray?
This morning I was reading Nehemiah 2 about the exiled Israelites who got to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall surrounding the city. Well, before they got to go back, they had to get permission from their captors. It just so happened that King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer was Nehemiah who had been praying that the exiles would get a chance to go back… He showed up at work one day holding the King’s cup but looking long in the face because he was thinking about Jerusalem and how it was in ruins… The King looked at Nehemiah and said, “Hey Mr. Grumpy Gils! What’s your problem today?” Nehemiah told him about Jerusalem and how its destruction tore him up so much. Then the King said, “What is it you want?” Chapter 2, verse 4 says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…”
Did you catch that? He had about 2 nano-seconds to shoot up a little pistol prayer to heaven and then he had to tell the King what he wanted, and God heard him! He thundered down from heaven, riding angels and clouds like a couple of water skis and gave Nehemiah the answer he wanted! He got to go home and rebuild the city he loved. It doesn’t matter if you pray for days on end or just two seconds… He hears you, and He busts open the sky to come down and rescue you right when you need Him. Cry out to Him, He’s waiting…
Christy and I celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday and whoa… I sorta can’t believe it’s been five years. It’s gone so stinkin’ fast! Now here we are, with two little kids and us more in love than ever, laughing more than ever after five trips around the sun. The other day I was thinking about our wedding and how much everyone danced afterwards… I was pretty much tearing up the dance floor, having a blast and feeling totally free. Now, these facts are pretty amazing considering that most of my life I have been drastically afraid of dancing… especially in front of onlookers. But I wasn’t scared that night, and do you want to know why? I had spent the previous semester in college taking a course called ‘ballroom dance.’ That’s right… I learned to swing, tango, cha cha, rumba and waltz, and I wasn’t too bad either.
All her life Christy has wanted dancing after her wedding. She wanted to be swept around the dance floor in her beautiful gown by the love of her life on her wedding day. Before proposing to Christy, I have to admit that I had never really given any thought to what my wedding would be like, but I soon learned that I would be dancing. That was pretty much the most intimidating thing in the world to me! I was scared to death, but I wanted everything to be perfect for her. I wanted to give myself completely to her. So, what did I do? I learned the steps. I learned how to dance so that I wouldn’t be scared to do what she wanted most from me… so that I knew how to move and wouldn’t feel like an idiot in front of everyone there. On that night, I knew the steps and though I was nervous, I just started moving, and pretty soon, I wasn’t thinking about it… I was just dancing with my bride.
Way back when God’s people were going to the temple or the tabernacle to worship God by offering sacrifices over an altar of fire, there were many different kinds of offerings. The book of Leviticus tells us about all of those different offerings and the very first one it describes is called the whole burnt offering. This was an offering of consecration in which the whole animal was completely burned up… nothing was left. It was a way for people to say to God, “I am yours completely. Take all of me, I hold nothing back. Burn up all of my plans, desires and will and fill me with Your will.” In 2 Chronicles 29:27-28 when King Hezekiah gave the order for the whole burnt offering to be sacrificed, he also ordered the temple players and singers to bring the praise! It says, “The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.”
I think the idea of the whole burnt offering is so intimidating… are we ever really ready to offer God all of ourselves? Are we ready to say to Him, “Take all of me?” Yet, this is what He most wants from us… to give Him all. And this is why we need praise in our everyday lives. Singing praise songs teaches us the dance steps of consecration. As we sing the words of some great worship song, we teach our spirit step by step how to let go. Sing the words of some great old hymn like, To Christ the Lord by Samuel Stennett… “Since from His bounty I receive such proofs of love divine, had I a thousand hearts to give, Lord they should all be Thine…” and before long, you won’t be merely singing, but actually offering yourself completely to Him. You may forget your steps and yourself and just find yourself dancing.