Friday, January 26, 2007

Unload, Fill Up

So, what do you do when you are in the middle of a huge problem, hurt or crisis and you know that you not only have to deal with whatever that is, but you have a whole day of stuff waiting on you after you’re done with it? I don’t know if you’ve ever had a day like that… a day where you start out covered up and don’t have anywhere to go but deeper in… How do you deal with your emotions, (whether its stress, disappointment, frustration or anger) to a point where you’re not only ready to keep going, but ready to serve?

This week I read a story about Jesus that was so candid, personal and sweet that I felt indelibly connected to Him not only as my God, but as a person as well… Matthew 14 tells us about the murder of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod. When John’s disciples found out, they took the body, buried it and then went to tell Jesus. So, how would Jesus respond to the execution of his relative, friend and fellow soldier in the good fight? Jesus had said earlier that “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” In the next breath He said that from John’s time until now, “…the kingdom has been forcefully advancing.” For Jesus, this wasn’t just the death of a family member and friend… these were the dark tidings that His own time was coming soon. How would our Lord respond to such disturbing, sad and ominous news?

Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what happened, He withdrew by boat to a solitary place.” Jesus got into a boat, went out on the water, rowed to a lonesome place like some little-known cove where He could be sure of privacy and grieved. You just know it was a time of tears, prayers and songs where Jesus went from the pain of loss to the joy of knowing John would be home. It was a time for Him to reflect on the fact that He too would meet a violent death. And it was a time for Him to get ready because His day wasn’t over yet…

See, verse 14 tells us that when Jesus landed, all the crowds were waiting on Him. Matthew says that Jesus had compassion on them and spent the rest of the day healing their sick. Can you believe it? Jesus doesn’t take days to mourn… He jumps right back in because “The kingdom is forcefully advancing.” How did He do it? -He got into a boat, withdrew to a solitary place and met with the Father. Jesus unloaded His hurt, grief, sadness and fears about the future and then became filled up so that He was not only able to face the day, but to have compassion on the crowds and serve them!

That’s the kind of heart I want… the kind that knows how to get alone with the Father, give Him all my hurts and burdens so that I am free and filled up to face and fight whatever the day may bring… in short, a heart like Jesus’ heart.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Norah at the Nursery... (taken by Aunt Jodie)

Being Quiet

“The world is a very noisy place. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up.” –that is the motto of a company called LOUD, an advertising agency located in Australia. And they’re right, you know… This world is so noisy! Everywhere you go there are stereos blasting, cell phones ringing and TV’s screaming. These days, you can’t even sit down to a quiet meal in a restaurant because they are not only playing the radio at that really annoying volume right above inaudibility and right below song-recognition-level, but they may also be playing several TV’s at once that are all tuned to different stations! It seems that advances and discoveries in technology and communication are not only making our world smaller, but they are also making it a whole lot louder. At times it seems that there are no quiet places left.

That is one thing I love about Young Life camp… it’s quiet. I mean, there is music at dinner and club is really loud, but outside of that, campers and leaders are surrounded by nature and its deafening quiet. Young Life camp becomes real to me right before we get off the bus and take away all the cell phones and iPods. You should see their bewildered faces… I think most kids honestly believe that without their portable noise machines they will actually starve or something. But then they get off the bus and start to just live, talk and laugh to the soundtrack of crickets, breezes and the occasional thunderstorm. When we went to Crooked Creek Ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we hiked to the summit of an 11,000 ft peak and just sat in silence for two minutes. I think it was the first time most of those kids had ever sat in waking silence, and God was there.

Tom always says that our world is so stinkin’ noisy because Satan likes it that way… that he lives in the noise and confusion. Proverbs 9:13 says, “The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way.”

For those of us trying to keep going straight on our way, we have to learn to have a quiet heart. Wisdom is quiet, subtle, harder to hear. Folly shouts from the highest place, loud enough for everyone to hear. It’s easy to fall away and follow that bellowing voice, but over and over again the Scriptures talk about how important it is to be quiet… Peter says that a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s sight. Isaiah 30 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Chapter 32 says, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” Even our Lord woke early when it was still dark and went to lonely places to pray.

We have to learn to be still… to quiet our souls as David said in Psalm 131. And it’s not that I’ve ever heard God’s audible voice by just being quiet enough… I’m not saying or guaranteeing that by being quiet you’ll hear Him like that, but one thing I do know… when you have a quiet heart, Folly won’t be as loud in your ears.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anna is drawing faces now... the one on the left is me, can't you tell?

In Place

Anna loves the moon… I know I’ve mentioned that before, but considering her level of affection for the ever-hanging, waxing and waning silvery orb, it’s worth another mention. Whenever we drive at night, she is on a constant search for the moon out of her window and when she finds it, she goes nuts. You know those mornings where you can still see the moon even though the sun is shining brightly? Well, she loves those mornings! When the sun starts to go down at the end of the day, Anna almost always says, “Oh! It’s getting dark outside… I bet that I can go see the moon!”

The other night Anna was all ready to go to bed, but she really wanted to go outside for just a few minutes and see the moon one last time, so I picked her up and we headed out the front door. I put her on my shoulders and we walked up and down the middle of the street pointing out stars and looking for the moon. It was a fairly clear night and we saw tons of stars, but the moon was nowhere to be seen… Anna looked all over the place with no success and finally said, “Hey Dad, I don’t see the moon… maybe it went night-night, just like I’m going night-night.”

It was dark when I left the house the next morning, and when I walked outside, I looked up in the sky and there it was… a huge, bright moon staring down on our little house. It turns out that it was there all along, it had just been hiding behind the few clouds that were in the sky earlier in the night. And the moon always is there, night after night, right where God placed it. Psalm 8 says, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

I guess I have always thought that those verses were referring to the vastness of the cosmos and that the Psalmist was saying, “When I think of all the huge and immeasurable things You created, it amazes me that You care about a little ‘ole dust creature like me.” But that doesn’t really make a ton of sense, because God cares about all kinds of tiny things too, or else He wouldn’t have made 300,000 species of beetles. And what about the fact that every creature is made up of billions of cells which are made up of even tinier things like proteins, acids and on down to molecules, atoms and electrons… We might be small and we might be made of dust, but isn’t the moon just a big huge clump of dust anyway?

See, I don’t think the Psalmist is amazed by God’s attention and affection toward humans because of size… He says, “When I think of… the moon and stars which You have set in place…” See, the moon was set in place and it does exactly what it was made to do… It shines in the darkness when it is told to and perfectly travels the path God has laid out for it. In fact, everything in God’s creation stays in place… except us. People are the exception. And yet He is mindful of us… even when we aren’t mindful of Him. He cares for us and through His Son has redeemed us and crowned us with glory and honor. We’re the only ones who step out of place, and He loves us still… now that’s amazing!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Norah's 1st Birthday... There used to be cake on this plate!

Born of God

Tuesday was Norah’s first birthday… it’s pretty hard to believe that it’s been a year since the amazing night at the end of that marathon labor when she finally arrived! It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year of diapers and long nights, sweet smiles and slobbery kisses. I don’t think I’ll ever forget watching Norah being born. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed… seen… experienced… whatever part I played, I was there and I won’t forget it. And you’ll never hear me say that there is anything in this world my wife can’t do, because after that… whoa.

When we got pregnant with Anna, it was a total surprise. We weren’t planning on having kids yet, but God had other plans (and much better plans) than we did. But with Norah, we thought about it, talked about it, prayed about it and finally decided it was time to try for another baby. Of course, even then we didn’t get pregnant right away. People would always ask us, “Are you trying for a boy this time?” ...Umm, let’s see… I don’t really understand that question because we don’t actually have very much control over that… When people asked me that question, I would always say, “We’re trying for a baby… a human baby. That’s all I know.” We couldn’t control when she arrived, who she would be or what she would look like. We decided it was time to try, but God didn’t even wait for us to do that the first time around!

Sometimes when I think about being a child of God, it feels heavy. Like some sort of test I can never pass or standard I can never live up to… What about those dreary, sullen days where my heart feels puny and my soul feels downcast? What about those days where my faith is weak and I’m just not holding onto Him very tightly? This morning I was reading about what it means to become a child of God. John says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. –Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

When I read that, I remembered what Tom told our friend June one time: “It’s not you who’s holding onto Him, He’s holding onto you…” This relationship with God didn’t start with my desire for Him and it isn’t dependent on my goodness or faithfulness. I was born not of natural, but of supernatural descent. I was born not of human, but of Divine decision. I was born not of a husband’s will but by the Father’s will. I was born of God. He’s the one doing this. He decided this. He’s bringing me about and passing things down. All I do is believe… believe that for some reason, God loves me, and I’m His kid.

Cluster Map