Thursday, September 18, 2014

for those who are tired and thirsty

Ever wandered through the desert?
It can be so lovely getting lost in among the cactus and tumbleweed, finding wildflowers and watching the sun set behind giant red rocks.  I lived in Arizona for almost seven years and I found beauty in the desert.  But...
there was also heat
and snakes
and coyotes
and scorpions
and dust storms
and dry, cracked earth.

It's one thing to spend an afternoon discovering desert beauty and it's another thing to spend days there alone and without food.
Not so lovely.
But that's what Jesus did.
40 days.
40 nights.
Alone.
No food.

And then the enemy showed up with one purpose...to tempt him.

Jesus allowed himself to become vulnerable and weak not because he wanted to, not because he was forced to, but because he was led to that desert place.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness...

No one ever wants to find themselves feeling alone, weak, tired, hungry, vulnerable...
but sometimes we are led to that place...to that desert season in our lives.

And when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable...when we are just plain tired of the daily struggles of life or the crises that just won't stop running us over...the world tempts us.

We are offered all kinds of shiny things that promise to 'make life better'
or 'ease the pain'
or 'give us what we deserve'
and so in the middle of the desert we become so preoccupied with our own well-being and what is best for ourselves that we accept those offers which ultimately are just a mirage.  We are so exhausted and disoriented that we believe we are moving towards a pool of water that will bring refreshment and fulfillment to our dry souls but it turns out to just be more sand...more desert that we can't escape.

Jesus knew that there was only one way to escape the temptations in the desert.   One way for Him and one way for us...
the word of God.

Jesus is alone and vulnerable in the desert when Satan tempts him to use his power to turn stones into bread and stop his hunger, but Jesus answers,
It is written...man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Satan then tempts Jesus to demonstrate his authority by calling upon angels to do his bidding but Jesus answers,
It is written...you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.

And still Satan would not relent.  He tempts Jesus to gain more power by declaring his allegiance to the devil and receiving authority over all the kingdoms of the world but Jesus answers,
It is written...you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.

And then...the devil left...the temptation subsided and the scriptures tell us

angels came and were ministering to him

because in the desert season Jesus didn't succumb to the temptations of temporary pleasure...temporary relief of discomfort...Jesus remembered the eternal truth of God.

It wasn't about a little story he was living in the moment...it was about a much bigger story that God has been writing since the beginning of time.
And
every single. thing.
that the enemy offers...that the world offers...pales in comparison to what God offers.  If you know God's word, you know that's true.

Recently we completed a two year journey at our church called 'The Bible Project'.  We began with Genesis and worked our way all the way to Revelation.  In the process God's word worked it's way into our hearts and our lives.  

If the greatest way to survive a desert season is to proclaim and stand upon what has been written by God then I guess we better darn well know what is written.

There is no substitute for studying God's word.  
There is no better way to safeguard yourself for the desert wandering to come.
There is no other way to ensure that even in the driest of seasons you will still grow and flourish.

Knowing what is written is knowing the greater story.
It's not just knowing bits and pieces of scripture and trying to make them fit into our little lives but knowing the depth and breadth of God's story and how you fit into it...because you do.

When you know God's word you know this...
what Satan was offering Jesus
what he offers us
is all just a trick 
because God has already given us everything...there is nothing he withholds from us.
To submit to the enemy's ways is pointless because there is nothing he can offer us that Jesus hasn't already died and bought for us on the cross.

The only way to live a truly abundant life is to live it within the pages penned by the Great Author...the one who wrote you into existence and who writes you into eternity.

And the only way to live that story is to know it...to know the word of God...the story of God.

The more we understand his story, the more we understand our own.

Believe me...I have chased after my fair share of mirages in this life but I have learned the truth...

when our roots are connected to streams of living water there is no desert season we can not survive.
{art courtesy of my lovely and talented friend arin}

Thursday, September 11, 2014

from chick-fil-a to dippin' dots: lessons in giving and receiving

I let them unbuckle and climb into the back seat to watch as I pulled slowly away from the drive-thru.

Wait mama!  I want to make sure they give her the picture I made!
For weeks the kids had been pestering me asking me about the 'drive thru difference'.
Our local radio station designates certain days on which they encourage listeners to order their food at a drive-thru restaurant and then pay for both their own meal and the person's behind them as a gesture of kindness.  It's a kind of 'pay it forward' {or backward...depending on how you look at it} type of thing.  It's a great idea, I just never got my act together to remember what day you were supposed to do it and to print out the letter to give the person at the drive-thru to give the person behind you.

Last Friday the three of us were packed up and headed to Clemson for the weekend.  We decided to stop by our favorite 'cow-approved restaurant'.
On the way over Oliver reminded me - let's do that drive-thru thing!
Lucy grabbed her box of markers and a piece of paper and said - I can make a picture to give them when we buy their food!

I was so close to being a party pooper and telling them 'no' since I wasn't prepared...since it wasn't part of the 'plan'.  Thankfully I came to my senses and realized it didn't matter if it was the designated day or if we had the designated letter...acts of kindness should always be the plan.

We were brimming with excitement as we pulled into the parking lot.  All of us looked expectantly out of the back window to see who would pull in behind us...who would be the recipient.
Just as we were about to place our order a young woman in a white sedan came into view.
It's her!  There she is!
You would have thought she was a celebrity.

When we got up to the window to pick up our food Lucy rolled down her window and passed the drawing she had made to the cashier.  We explained that it was for the person behind us and we also wanted to pay for her meal.  The cashier got excited.  We paid, we pulled forward, and the kids watched just long enough to see the woman receive what we had given her.

I thought of the uneven, imperfect letters on that paper, passed through the window, that said 'I love you, Lucy'.  I imagined that somehow that note, that gesture, must have brought a deep joy to her heart.  I will probably never know who she was or what her story is but I believe when we simply extend kindness to strangers God takes that and uses it in ways that we couldn't imagine.

If the story stopped there it would have been a good one but it didn't...

The very next day we found ourselves in a different line.  There we stood under the stands in Death Valley, surrounded by a sea of orange, enduring nearly 100 degree heat to watch a football game.  The only thing that had convinced my children to go with me on such a brutal day was the promise of Dippin' Dots.  So there we stood - in line - for almost 15 minutes.

The kids never complained about the wait, just kept looking up at me and grinning.  Occasionally they would discuss whether they were going to order cookies & cream or just plain chocolate.  When it was finally our turn they had both decided on cookies & cream so I placed the order.  With spoons in hand they watched their dots being scooped up and set on the counter in front of us.  When I handed my credit card to the cashier he said - I'm sorry ma'am, we don't take credit cards.
My heart sank.
I didn't have any cash.
I apologized to the cashier and ushered the kids away from the counter. The disappointment on their face almost made me burst into tears.  I apologized to them.  We had only taken a few steps when I felt someone running up behind me.  It was the woman who had been standing in line behind us...
Please come back!  Please let me pay for their ice cream.  They waited so long and so patiently.  I don't mind at all...really.
At first I hesitated and then I remembered the day before and the joy we all felt at buying that meal for that woman.  I smiled and thanked her profusely...told her that she had no idea how important this was to them and how much I appreciated it.



I don't for one second believe it was a coincidence that those two events happened one right after another.

I believe that's the way God intended for this world to work.
I believe it's important for us to learn how to be givers and receivers of kindness.
I believe there is value in meeting the needs of others but remembering that we need other people too.  I believe that to stay pure in our giving we have to keep on receiving lest we begin to think too highly of ourselves for our good deeds.
I believe freely giving and receiving over and over and over again sets our lives to the rhythm of grace...that thing we all need...
rich or poor
short or tall
mother or child
black or white
man or woman
artist or plumber
...we all have to keep that gift circulating in and out of the minutes, hours, days, and years of our lives.

Never stop giving.
Never stop receiving.
It's the thread that keeps sewing our hearts together.
Because when we give we receive and when we receive we give...and it just keeps propelling us all forward.

And so we stop working so crazy hard to
meet a deadline
meet a quota
meet a goal
and instead set our hearts to
meet a need.

And we don't dare
give up
give in
give out
We just keep finding ways to
give away...
our time, our resources, our kindness, ourselves...

What if every day, instead of being party poopers, we pressed our faces up against that back window and waited with anticipation for the one whose needs we could meet...the one to whom we could give.  What we offer may be uneven and imperfect but it conveys love all the same...and that is something we can celebrate.

What if, in our time of need, we waited hopefully on the one who would run up behind us and offer to help.  What if we graciously accepted and then kept that weaving in and out of kindness and generosity going.

And so we give.
And we receive.
And in doing so threads of grace move in and out of our souls, binding us
closer and closer to one another
closer and closer to the One who gave everything for us...
not because we earned it
not because we deserved it
but because great love couldn't help but meet our great need.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

first friday finds :: september

So it's First Friday Finds time...only it's not.
I mean...it was, but I missed it.  Today is Saturday and it's not called 'First Saturday Finds'.
My own blog series...totally missed it.

I could try to sneak this in on you and adjust the date/time label so that it would look like I actually wrote it yesterday, but...well...that might be dishonest.  And I want to be honest and say...
I forgot.
I was busy.
And I probably wouldn't have done it at all were it not for a friend's reminder.
So, here goes...

I dug something up in my quiet time yesterday that I wanted to share.  It's not going to run long but I hope it runs deep...I know it did for me.

Want to know if something you are doing {or thinking about doing} is right or wrong?  Check this out.


Or put another way...


Paul wrote that to the Roman church two thousand years ago but I needed to hear it today.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

when you just want to get better

Earlier this week I closed my head in the car door.
You read that right...my head.
Not my finger or my arm or my foot...my HEAD.
For the record, this is not something that often happens to me.  In fact, of all the hundreds of times that I have gotten into a car this is the first time my head was injured in the process.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

what i learned the first day of school

Yesterday was my final staff meeting.

Today was my first official day of homeschooling.
It's a strange season blowing in over here.  I'm caught somewhere between identity crisis and identity clarity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

what lies within you when there's a war around you

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. 
{Ralph Waldo Emerson}

She has never known darkness like the kind she is feeling her way hesitantly around in...lost...scared.
Sometimes life comes out of nowhere and knocks the breath right out of you.  Every attempt at filling your lungs is met with the feeling of suffocation.  Have you ever been there?  Watching events unfold that your brain can not process...that your heart can not possibly accept.

My friend is in that place.

Friday, August 1, 2014

first friday finds :: august 2014

{It's #firstfridayfinds time again and here's this month's unedited, 15 minutes worth of truth.  
Please share yours at the bottom too!  The link will be up all week.  Here's how.}
The first friday of the month is almost over and I am barreling down the racetrack, screaming in here on two wheels.  Fifteen minutes at 10pm is truly all I have today, but I have definitely uncovered some nuggets of truth in the passage I just read...{beeeeep...beeeeep...beeeeep} that's me backing up the truck...and here comes the dump...

Ever heard that crazy story about Jesus feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish

Friday, July 25, 2014

how to take your time

When we arrived last night the gray clouds hung like a veil over the mountains.  This morning the curtains have lifted and we have a front row seat to the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.