Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sheep Bites

It was a rough day. I was less than a stellar mom. Took things too personally and got my feelings hurt. I crawled into bed that night drained and exhausted. Could barely raise my eyes up to my heavenly Father as I mumbled goodnight and told him I was sorry for my poor parenting. Into my mind shot a picture of sheep.

Now sheep aren’t normally an animal that I spend much time contemplating. Though I realize that sheep and sleep tend to go together in some people’s minds, they don’t pair up in mine.

I grew up in the country and have been around plenty of animals. Sheep are generally placid creatures, gently rubbing shoulders as they graze ever so peacefully in the sun or huddle in clumps through the rain.

But the sheep I saw in my mind were quite different from any I’d grown up around. These sheep were distressed. The slam-your-finger-in-the-car-door kind of distressed. But not from any kind of physical pain that I could see. It was as if they were dealing with emotional pain (okay, sheep and emotions didn't gel in my mind either, so bear with me).

As the scene came into focus, I could see something the sheep couldn’t. Hidden from them, though clear to me, was a wolf. A wolf out to destroy the sheep—through each other. A deceiver who poked and prodded, digging into emotional wounds and letting the blame fall on each other.

Hence the sheep bites.

How often I come away from human interactions with sheep bites on my soul (not to mention the incisor marks I've left on others). How easy it is to see the people around us as the problem and forget about the adversary who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. If he can zing one well placed arrow to the right spot, he can often take two of us out at once.

As I watched the sheep in my mind lash out at each other from their confusion and pain, I felt the Father’s heart for each of us. Compassion and understanding consumed Him for these sheep that he loves so much.

Too often I view my behavior through shame-tinted lens and then try to hide from the Father as Adam and Eve did in the garden. It’s only in his arms that we find the comfort and forgiveness we need.

Run to the Good Shepherd and let him heal your sheep bites.

(Sheep pictures by Brielle 9 yrs and Kaden 6 yrs)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Banquet Table

Life’s been hectic. Sick kids. Late nights. Too tired to get up for my daily quiet time with the Lord. Now I’m in my prayer closet on my knees, desperate for the Father’s touch. Life’s been so hard and I feel malnourished. Those still moments I steal away with my Father each morning feed my soul. They stock me full for the daily onslaught of bickering children, attitudes gone side-ways, and hiccups in my well ordered day.

Without those quiet times, I begin to feel like a refugee begging for a crumb from her Father’s plate. But what I don’t see, can’t fully grasp in those impoverished moments is the banquet table he places before me.

There are platters piled high with grace, tureens of his bountiful love, trenchers overflowing with mercy and loaf upon loaf of forgiveness. His goodness and peace spill off the table he has set for me. There is no end to the bounty.

But when my eyes are too focused on my daily problems, and though I still crave his touch and long to taste the sweetness of his love, I forget that that table is so near.

Instead I seek solace from other sources. Hoping that a friend will offer the right words of comfort, or perhaps a shopping spree will clear my mind and perk me up. The “maybe-this-will-make-me-feel-better” list is endless.

But if I turn just so, and the light is right, I catch a glimpse of the table He’s set for me. I run to it and eat hungrily, basking in his glory, his love, and his goodness that spills into my life and out to others. Life becomes amazingly wonderful once again and I feel safe-guarded in the minefield of life.

It’s a table I need to visit daily. A Father I need to sit still before daily. A table that meets all my needs and satisfies all my desires.

It’s a table and a Father waiting for you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Overloaded Handbags

I pray about things. All the time, in fact. Well, mostly. When I'm not racing through life and traffic (unless it's to pray for a string of green lights--thank you God!)

I try to go to my Father with the big things and the little things, and the big things that seem little—like loving my kids when they are pushing my patience to new limits or how to serve my husband when my own laziness and selfishness want to root me to the couch.

But the other day as I was praying about a big thing, I had an urch moment. You know, those moments when you’re full speed ahead, but something catches your attention, so you hit the brakes and uuuuuuuuurrrchhhh to a stop?

As I’m sitting there tires smoking around me (think figuratively, here), I realize that I rush into the throne room, dump my problems into God’s lap, and dash back out. But as I give him a quick hug and thank you, I grab those problems back up and carry them around like an over weighted purse. I may set it down for a moment here and there. But I tend to take it with me wherever I go—worrying and problem-solving as I rummage through the contents, twisting and turning them, trying to work things out. And of course, keeping one ear tuned toward heaven, in case God drops the answer down when I’m not looking.

As the smoke started to settle I had a radical thought. What if I gave God my problems and actually left them with him? I wasn’t sure. Were we supposed to do that? Shouldn’t I help with the process? It felt irresponsible to walk into God’s presence bearing a load of burdens, drop them off, and then saunter out without a care in the world. Didn’t my agonizing and reasoning alongside him show my investment to the issues and demonstrate that I’m clearly not irresponsible?

But he calls us to be like children. And don’t kids trust us to fix things for them? My kids don’t share their problems and then hover around the kitchen as I make dinner, throwing out helpful suggestions with nervous little gestures. They don’t dart back in the room every two seconds with a worried expression and repeat their requests from a new angle (well, unless it’s for a new Playstation game). They run off to the backyard and play, trusting their brilliant mom to work things out. That’s how we’re to be—trusting, in stillness, as we wait for his response.

God reminded me that when I try to reason through a problem, I’m limited to human answers from human reasoning. His ways are higher than our ways. As the Psalmist states, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding.” God takes responsibility for us, as all good parents do for their kids.

Next stop as I’m racing through those green lights, is to drop that purse off at the Salvation Army.

Taping Pears to Tree Limbs

My kids were at it again—laser rays of disrespect and anger (and was that a cuss word from my fourth grader’s mouth?) shot back and forth across the hall toward each other. I was discouraged by the recent escalation in their fighting and attitudes. Being the problem solver that I am, my mind quickly started grappling for solutions on the slippery shale of parenting.

Bible studies!

I immediately created a plan of action to start hammering verses into their little minds. How else would they learn to “Do unto others” and “Let their gentleness be evident to all?” I decided I needed to run to the Christian bookstore and get a family devotional (not that there aren’t several dusty ones on my book shelf—but new ideas need new materials). All this raced into my mind with a tinge of panic. Could I undo all the nights we didn’t sit down and study God’s word together? Was it too late for them to become kind and loving once again? Would they be friends with each other when they reached adulthood?

Daily prayer!

Number two on my list (with many exclamations around it) was the daily prayer time we needed to start. I would sit them down in a circle and teach them how to pray together and for each other. Bring them quickly into God’s presence so they could learn to think of others before themselves.

Then I heard a noise and realized that God was clearing his throat. Sort of an Ahem!

Into the midst of my racing thoughts, I saw a picture of a tree full of green foliage. Barren except for the lush glossy leaves. Then I saw the tree again, with lovely green pears taped to its limbs.


I got it. Rather than getting to the root of the problem—the anemic soil and lack of water or other nutrients—in my need to fix, I was attempting to tape fruit onto the branches.

Performance is really what it was. I wanted the outward appearance that all was well.

Trying to pound a rich spiritual life into my children isn’t going to take. Maybe I can tape a few pears to their arms, but they’ll soon wither and fall off.

God reminded me that I need to invest into them. Take time with them. Hug them. Stop and listen when they speak without finishing the dish I was washing. Go outside and play a round of basketball with them. Snuggle in bed with them at night for a few minutes (instead of flopping into a chair with my exhausted, “Finally, the house is quiet,” sigh). This is what will nourish their soil and sprout good fruit. I guess I won't need that industrial sized roll of tape after all.