31 August, 2010

One More

Football season is upon us again. In fact, our local paper in Tuscaloosa has reminded us every day for the last year just exactly how many days remain before kickoff...5 days as of today (Monday). In our city, over 101,000 people will attend a football game on Saturday. Of course, that is in addition to all the high school stadiums filled to the brim on Friday night.

These teams will run out onto the field welcomed and encouraged by those of us watching. That must be an overwhelming feeling for a player...to feel the passion and enthusiasm of the crowd. Do football players get goose bumps? It just seems they might with such an experience. We learn in Hebrews that there is a crowd of witnesses watching us too. I interpret the scripture to mean that the crowd of witnesses includes: Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, and many other faithful. They wait and they watch, encouraging us, welcoming us, cheering for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud [crowd] of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:39-13:1

Did I read that right? We have a great cloud of witnesses just for you and me. A packed stadium encouraging us to run our race. Run the race of finding one person who doesn’t know the name of Jesus. Run the race to find one person who is hurting and needs to see the love of God expressed in his life. Run the race to tell those who have not heard the Good News.

Last semester, a friend and I were having lunch with two Chinese scholars. The Chinese scholars are Christians who are passionate that their classmates learn of Jesus. At the end of lunch and after the discussion of semester plans, Peter spoke. With deep concern and sincerity, Peter looked at us and asked a simple, quiet, stirring question, “Who will tell my people? Who will tell them of Jesus”?

On Mondays, I think of Peter and his question. Who will tell? Often Monday is a day of slow starts but when I think of the crowd of witnesses encouraging us to persevere and to keep running toward the prize…..one more, one more may know the Good News today.

24 August, 2010

Beautiful Boy

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15

I have recently finished reading the book, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. It's a book of a father's love, loss, and struggle to reclaim his troubled son. As I read it, the words were often difficult but always compelling as the father, over several years, pursued his son in love. It's a love story.
Over the last several months many of our friends have spoken to us about their sons. Sons who are home from Iraq, sons who have shipped out to Afghanistan, sons who excel academically and received college scholarships, sons who play football, sons who drive big trucks, sons away at college...all our beautiful boys. One friend has just taken her beautiful boy to college and he is the last child to leave home. She and I have talked about what it will be like in their home now that all their kids are gone. A part of her heart seems to be spread across the globe with each of her children. I feel she is thrilled with their success but also struggling with their leaving. I've learned slowly that the heart of parents burn ever brightly for their children, ever hopeful.

I, too, have a beautiful boy. He'll be 21 on September 7 and I wonder how in the world that could be possible. My beautiful boy. In my minds eye, I still see his dirty sneakers and smell that little boy smell. He captured our hearts the second he was born. This year my beautiful boy has struggled, stumbled and fallen...And he's figuratively come home bedraggled and wounded. Yet I have seen the Father God run off the porch to meet this beautiful boy. I have witnessed His unbelievable love and unconditional love.
When our children struggle there is pain straight to our hearts. Their pain becomes an extension into our hearts. We literally 'take-on' their pain, don't we? I can feel their joys and their sorrows in the deepest part of my heart. I ache as they ache. I'm joyful when they are joyful.

The heart of parenting has led me to think about the Father's love for each of us. Our pain, as His children, becomes an extension into His heart. He literally 'takes-on' our pain. He feels our sorrow, He feels our joy. His complete care and concern overwhelms me today. If we love our children with such passion just imagine God's love for each of us. He must whisper our names....Oh, beautiful girl. Oh, beautiful boy....I'm so glad you're home.

17 August, 2010

Hold You

When my children were around 2 years old, they would come to me with their arms reaching up and I would hear them say, “hold you, hold you”. They wanted me to pick them up and hold them but the misuse of the words of ‘hold you’ were so precious to a mother’s ear. A child’s transparent need and desire for holding and healing speak to me. Children know their needs and do not hold back in expressing them. They are not afraid to be honest and open.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman has a conversation with Jesus about needs, honesty, and openness. They meet at a well for water.

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

With each year that passes in my life, I’ve noticed that I’ve become comfortable. My life and my surroundings are comfortable. Let’s count the ways we’re comfortable: good jobs, good friends, good church, food to eat, attend church at least weekly, give charitably, happy marriage, great kids, great dog, family is fine. All of those are the outward appearances that make up my Samaritan woman look.

But yet, I know and God knows that the well inside me is so very deep…the well of pain, of disappointment, of failure, of lost dreams, of lost hope, of lost love. There is so much heartache in this earthly life.

Even in acknowledging those places, I find that often the world swirls around me so quickly that I forget my great need of a Saviour. I actually start living like I believe the comforts in my life will save me. Or I actually find myself believing that I’m really OK. Like the Samaritan woman, we continue our daily lives that are filled with obligations and activities. We go through the motions all the while the wells inside us are so very deep.

We are a broken people. We are a people in need of a Saviour. The
need to know and be known is inside each of us…the need, the desire to hold and to be held by our Saviour. Hold you, we cry.

10 August, 2010

After the Comma

“Red Rover, Red Rover send Sally right over”. Are you too young to know the game Red Rover? Surely, some of you remember this old game. I can remember it from my elementary days. Standing hand-in-hand in a long line waiting to hear the other team yell my name, Red Rover Red Rover send Kathy right over! There were other games we played when the choice of players was one by one. Each team captain chose one player, then the other team captain chose a player. Back and forth it went until all were placed on a team. It was uncomfortable waiting and hoping to be chosen but only to be passed over time and time again. Teams wanted the most athletic, the fastest runners. Choose me, choose me the overweight, slow, non-athletic girl in me cried. This cry from early childhood would stay with me for many years.

It was many years later, that I finally realized and accepted that I had been chosen. From John 15 we read, you did not choose me but I chose you. These words were some that God used to heal hurt places in me. I couldn’t get over it – the God of the universe chose me?? Are you kidding me? How can that be? He chose me, you, all of us for relationship, to be on His team. Just like in Red Rover He calls to each us…..send Sarah right over, send Elaine right over, send Janis right over, send Nick right over, send Peter right over, and on and on and on, He cries out. Amazing love. Hallelujah!

However, there’s more. I have found that in my life I often don’t read past the comma. I like to comfort of certain words of the Bible but don’t often complete the verse. So the entire verse of John 15:16 reads,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.

This is Jesus speaking a final word to his disciples. And He’s speaking to us today – his disciples. Yes, He chose us. He has healed us. He has completed us. And now keep reading. “I chose and appointed you to go and bear fruit”. Please read that again to yourself and just ponder it a moment…………………

For so much of my life I have interpreted these words to mean: He chose me, He loves me so I will faithfully attend a bible study and worship every week. I will also teach a bible study for other believers. I will sing in my church choir. I will teach Sunday School. And I did. And I do. And I will continue. All these activities are good, great ways to serve the existing Body of Christ. I need fellowship and bible study but I’ve also got to read past the comma and apply that command to my life today.

I believe His words to His disciples and His words to us are the same. Yes, I chose you AND now appoint you TO GO (into your neighborhood, your city, the world) and find those who do not know me and show them my love. Bear fruit to those who have never heard or seen Me.

How about you? Do you dare read past the comma?

03 August, 2010

Every Knee

We’ve just returned from a weeklong vacation in San Francisco….breath-taking beauty, overwhelming creation and cool weather! It was glorious. We toured China Town, North Beach, Height Street, Golden Gate Park, Sausalito, Stanford University and points in between.

The airports were packed both coming and going. San Francisco was packed with tourists, tour guides, locals, buses, cable cars, taxis, subways, food, more food, sidewalks, long walks, music, sweaters, coats, and more people. People everywhere. We saw people from every nation. And met people from Italy, Ethiopia, China, India, Germany. People laughing, solemn, begging, hurting, dancing, going, moving, achieving, dreaming, wanting, looking, hoping.

My thoughts were, “there are so many people, Lord. How can love so many people at one time and love them so well and so unconditional. Who is telling them about you?”

…so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11
Photos by SKHayes

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