Thoughts and Meditations from verses and stories through one guy's head and heart... Psalm 124:7
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Note to the weary reader: This will (hopefully) be my last post about our house and the trees that fell and the ensuing construction...
The very first time we ever saw our house was on a rainy, gray and dreary day. We were driving around with our realtor to go check out some promising listings in our price range and started with this house that we didn’t like. The thing about this house was that it matched the day. What I mean to say is, it looked droopy. The color of the house was a cold, blue/gray that perfectly matched the grumpy sky above. The ground was mushy from the constant rain and the house just seemed to sigh... like Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh.” We pulled up, stopped the car and sighed along with the house, thinking, “So this is our price range. Okay.”
Then we went inside and were blown away... it was beautiful. Almost everything about this house had been updated or redone with really good taste. It was open, spacious and had lots of natural light, which was sort of a deal-breaker for us. We saw a few more houses that day, but couldn’t stop thinking about that very first one we saw... the Eeyore house. Long story short, we got it. We prayed a ton and got that house! We thankfully and joyously moved in and have loved it ever since. Now, we knew the house wasn’t perfect... I mean, home ownership is one of those things that never stops, as in there’s always something else to do. We knew this house was going to need a new roof at some point, the gutters were not so great, it wasn’t very energy efficient, and we wanted to do lots of painting. Our thinking was that we would try to paint a room at a time over the course of years as we could afford to do it, and hopefully save up for gutters, roof and exterior paint. The only problem being... no savings. Honestly, it looked like some of our ideas and dreams for this house were impossible.
Then two trees fell on the house... a mighty wind blew those trunks out of the ground and onto the house, crushing the roof and one of the rooms. It has been a confusing and difficult time with moving a bunch and dealing with tons of different people and companies, but now it’s all finished and we move back home today!! Not only that, but check this out: without saving up any money, we are moving back into the house we love except that now it has a brand new roof, brand new insulation, brand new gutters, a brand new bonus room in every way and a custom paint job on every square inch of the house, inside and out! WHAT!? Professionals have been working around the clock for weeks to make our home such an awesome place to come home to. After a short, but difficult month and a half of confusion, frustration and inconvenience, we are going home... and to an even better home than we could have hoped for.
This week I was reading 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul says, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Our lives can be difficult and confusing and full of struggles and hardship, but hey, they’re also going to be pretty short! And then, we get to go home. Whatever we have to endure while we’re here, it’s only for a little while and then we get to go home... home to a place that is more amazing than we could ever imagine where we’ll get to be with Jesus always... mmm. Can’t wait till that day!
Those are the words I heard coming out of my phone today. Christy and the kids were up at church for Women’s Bible Study and as they were getting ready to leave, I was there, at the driver’s side window talking to Christy. We were saying our goodbyes as the window rolled up and the van backed out, but apparently I missed something big. Norah was in her car seat, way in the back of the van and the whole time I was talking to Christy, she was telling me she loved me. I didn’t hear her.
I smiled and waved as the van pulled out and rolled away. In about twenty minutes my phone rang. It was Christy. We had a couple more things to talk about; plans to iron out for the rest of the day, so I was glad she called. Shortly before we got off the phone; however, I learned that the real reason for this call was that Norah was very upset. She thought I didn’t love her. As the van pulled away from the church, she started to cry because I didn’t tell her I loved her... she was saying it to me! Why hadn’t I said it back? Christy filled me in on all this and said, “Is it okay if Norah talks to you?” I felt so bad! I hadn’t even heard her in the van!
I heard the phone trade hands and then heard a creaky, little voice say, “Daddy, you don’t love me.” As sweetly and fervently as I could, I told her, “Norah, I love you! I love you tons! I’m gonna love you forever, and ever, no matter what!” The phone was silent for a second, but then the creaky voice spoke again... this time with a question: “You love me? Really?” “Girl! I love you! I’m crazy about you!” Robust giggles filled my ear as Norah started belly laughing into the phone... “Dad, you love me!”
Do you ever wonder? Do you ever feel like maybe God is over you? Do you ever feel like you’ve gone too far or pushed Him too much? Ever feel like you’ve been too bad or been bad too often? Ever feel nothing... just nothing at all? Here’s my question for you: what do you want to do about it?! Norah asked Christy to call me. She had to find out! She had to know whether or not I loved her... are you willing to do that?
This is why I get up early in the morning. It’s why I get away, by myself in a place that’s totally quiet. I want to know. I want God to tell me that He loves me. One day this week in that quiet and solitary place I read Psalm 107. It’s all about different people at different times who were in trouble and called out on the Lord to help them. Four times in this Psalm after telling some awesome story of God’s heroic care, the Psalmist says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men.” He loves me. I went to Him and He told me four times. the very last verse of Psalm 107 says, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.” If you need to hear it, He’s ready to say it! Go find Him!
Last week Christy and I went to see a great movie. Now, maybe no one but me will tell you it was a great movie. In fact, if you ask the critics, they’ll tell you it was a C+ at best. If you hop on over to Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll find out that it only got a 21% on the Tomato Meter. Sure it was a chick flick, and yes, there were some cheesy one-liners, and of course you could smell the plot coming from about a mile away, but guess what? It was still a great movie... Why? Because, we laughed, we had fun and we were entertained and uplifted. I mean, movies are supposed to be entertaining, right? Our great date movie got panned by the critics because it was cute and predictable. It got panned because it wasn’t dark or heavy and didn’t deal with any ‘important issues’ but we loved it and smiled all the way home.
These days, in order for a movie to be considered good or worthwhile, it has to be good art... but who decides what’s good art? I mean, have you seen a painting by Jackson Pollack?! That guy’s stuff looks like a box of crayons got the stomach flu... gross. In the last ten years or so, movies that win awards and get good grades are more often than not base, dark, sad, violent, cruel and even depressing. Who decided that vile equals good? Who decided that sin equals daring and important art? Movies are supposed to be entertaining. I already know how backwards and messed up this world is. I don’t need to pay nine bucks to get depressed. But hey, that’s just the way this world is... and this treatise on movies is just my little ‘ole opinion, but it does remind me of something:
It seems like a lot of Christians are in love with sadness lately. I have been reading a lot of people that I totally love and respect who are really pumped about spiritualizing sadness. They say that sadness is honest, and that ‘the dark night of the soul’ is just about as holy as you can get. They say Jesus didn’t come to secure our happiness and that happiness is such a trite and fleeting emotion anyway that has little to do with true Godliness. This confuses me, because it seems like they like it; as in, they like being sad... Now, I’m not going to sit here on some kind of pedestal and pretend that I’ve got it all together or that I’m Mr. Joybells all the time, because I have dark days just like the next guy, but here’s the thing: I don’t like those days. I don’t like the way it feels to be sad. I don’t think the Holy Spirit lives in me to perpetuate despondency because sadness is somehow a good thing.
In John 15, Jesus said that He wanted His joy to be in me and He wanted my joy to be complete. In Philippians 4 Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” In chapter 1 he said that the only reason he was still on this earth was for their progress and joy in the faith, that their joy in Christ Jesus might overflow! Sometimes Christians say that joy and happiness are two different things... as in, they are totally sad, but they have the joy of the Holy Spirit somewhere down inside there... I don’t think this makes much sense, and I don’t think they can find a verse for it. 1 Peter 1 says that because we believe in Jesus, we are filled with an “inexpressible and glorious joy.” That doesn’t sound very sad to me!
In Philippians 4, after telling us to rejoice in the Lord always, Paul says this: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” You see, joy is a choice, and so much of it comes down to what you think about. Sadness isn’t holy, it’s sad, and when heaven is ushered in, it will be done away with finally and totally. Jesus has died for us to take away our sins, give us a place in heaven and in His heart forever and ever... as the old Christmas song, The Sussex Carol says, “Then why should men on earth be so sad, since our Redeemer made us glad?”
So, last night Christy was getting dinner ready while I was holding Jack and we were all dancing to the music playing in the kitchen. The girls were quietly playing with their toys when something happened that changed everything... All of a sudden Anna shouted, “Oh No! Lizzie’s throwing up!” Norah gasped and Christy ran out of the kitchen into the girls’ bedroom after answering back, “Oh No!” Within the space of two seconds, I was left standing in the kitchen bewildered and asking Jack, “Who is Lizzie?”
Lizzie, it turns out, is a Lizard... not a real lizard, but a toy. You see, for Christmas this year, Anna wanted these things called “Littlest Petshop” which are tiny, plastic, bobble-headed animals with humongous eyeballs. She has a bunch of them now, which means that everyday after school we have an NFL Draft in our living room as Anna and Norah decide how they are going to divvy up the animals. Then all the Littlest Petshops spend the rest of the afternoon doing very un-NFL types of things like going to fake dinner parties and Ballet classes. Christy, of course knew exactly who Lizzie was, and helped the girls nurse the giant-headed lizard back to perfect health just in time to head out to the fake park for a fake walk.
I love how the girls name all of their toys. Sometimes the names are obvious, like Lizzie the Lizard and sometimes they are random, like Norah’s baby doll named “Bottle.” Sometimes the names are really girly and then sometimes they are just really cool names. But, there’s something in the naming that changes the game. Calling that green piece of plastic a name ups the ante and makes it more real. It changes the way you look at it, to call it something.
Praise is like that. An attitude of praise for the Lord can change everything about the way you see your day. Psalm 92 says, “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”
I love how he talks about proclaiming God’s love and faithfulness over the two extreme ends of the day. It’s like a determination to praise all day long. What if you did that as an experiment? Wake up one day and say out loud, “I am proclaiming right now that everything that will happen to me for the rest of this day is coming straight from God’s hand because He’s in control of everything and He loves me. I am calling everything for the rest of this day, love... in all that happens today, He is loving me.” Then, when you’re about to go to bed at night, lay your head down on your pillow and reflect by saying out loud, “He was faithful! He did it! I was right! All day long God loved me. Everything He did was part of His faithful love.”
What if you did that? What if you praised on purpose, calling your days examples of His love and faithfulness? I am willing to bet that it could revolutionize your days and change the way you see everything! As the Psalmist said, “It is good to praise the LORD.”