Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Tooth and the Truth

We have reached that wonderful stage in my first grader's life when teeth are almost constantly falling out of her sweet, blonde head. It seems like as soon as one tooth makes its exit from her gum line, she announces that yet another tooth is beginning to wiggle. As her mother (who, until recently, became nauseous at the sight of teeth dangling by a thread), I have been forced to put on my big girl pants and yank each tooth the pre-approved time by my daughter...while she screams at the top of her lungs. These precious moments that we share are not particularly my favorite.

As a matter of fact, the most traumatic tooth-pulling experience occurred just a few weeks ago, and it was a family affair. Eden had wiggled and wiggled one of her teeth until it was clinging to life in the front of her mouth. She sat down next to me and whimpered to let me know that the hour had arrived. However, when I tried to grab hold of the offending tooth, she shrieked and pulled back in fright. I made a few other attempts to no avail. Any other movement in her direction only served to fan the flame of her terror. I called in back up, and my husband came over to work his daddy magic and calm her fears. This was surprisingly unsuccessful. We ended up carefully trying to hold her still so I could get a good grasp on her tooth. She got so upset that she inadvertently kicked her little sister in the arm during the drama. And the tooth remained.

She cried herself to sleep. Let me rephrase that. She howled and wailed herself to sleep. She was so afraid of enduring one moment's worth of pain that she simply refused to let me give her the relief she so desperately desired. She wanted the end result without the unpleasant yet necessary process. By midmorning the next day, the tooth gave up its will to live and simply fell into her mouth. Eden heaved a huge sigh of relief as she realized that the trying time had come to an end...and so did I.

Do you ever hang on to needless things, trying desperately to avoid even the slightest amount of pain? I surely do. Maybe it is a worry or a fear that keeps you up at night. Maybe there is a sin that continues to drag you away from the peace and hope of true forgiveness. Maybe there is a broken relationship fueled by pride that needs mending. Somehow, the trouble of hanging on and enduring the unpleasantness seems to outweigh the impending pain that might occur to release it into the open hands of the Savior. The enemy wants you to be so burdened that you are rendered ineffective, but Jesus came so that we "may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Whatever it is in your life, let it go. Give it to Him.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fifty Shades of Red

This week we will pack up most of our belongings and head to the coast for a fun-filled week of family time. Now that both of my girls are potty-trained princesses, making the trek down to the water's edge is not nearly as stressful as it used to be. In fact, it is quite pleasant. I look forward to planting my chair directly in the path of the sunshine, shoving my toes in the sand, and basking in the warm glow of that great big fireball in the sky, while my children scoop sand into their buckets (and their bathing suits) and squeal at the roar of the waves.

But this peaceful scene comes at a price.

In order for us to truly enjoy the great outdoors, we must first lather ourselves in sunscreen to protect our precious skin cells from the harsh UV rays. It is not an exciting process. Both of my daughters loathe this ritual and generally try to avoid it. I'm not a fan of it either. However, we cannot jaunt out into the glory of God's creation without this vital step. Why? Because spending an hour or two in the sun without our Banana Boat fortress will most definitely lead to the pain and discomfort of the dreaded sunburn. I neglected to reapply my sunscreen one day during our last trip, and I ended up looking like a lobster for about a week. It doesn't feel good and it doesn't look good. The fifty shades of red on my face, shoulders, and back revealed my mistake.

The same is true of our exposure to the wickedness of this world. The enemy seeks to destroy those who truly desire to follow Christ. He loves to get us so distracted with things that do not matter that we fail to accomplish the task that we have been given - to take the gospel of Jesus to the nations. In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, Paul exhorts the believers to "put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Eph. 6:11, ESV) Plain ole Coppertone is not going to be able to shield you from the flaming darts of Satan himself. We need to be completely outfitted with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Spirit of God to withstand the enemy attack. We must begin every morning in the Word and place our feet firmly on the stronghold of His saving work. Because when we truly entrust the battle to the Lord, we realize once again that He has already won.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hide and Seek

My daughters have recently re-discovered the game of hide and seek, but like every other game in their repertoire, they have established their own set of rules and regulations. They generally do not ask their mama to play the game with them (probably because I find such incredibly good hiding spots that it takes them way too much time to find me...I've always been an over-achiever), so usually I get to sit back and listen to them play the game themselves. The perfectionist/teacher in me cringes when it's Caroline's turn to count and she skips from 19 straight to 100, although she says it with such flair that it's hard not to crack a smile. But my major frustration with their approach to the game is that they leave one very important component out - the HIDING part.

I hear Caroline begin the countdown in her bedroom as Eden races through the house to find her "hiding" spot. As Caroline continues to list each number, Eden scurries under the table in the dining room and waits impatiently for her sister to find her. Caroline yells, "Ready or I come!" This should signal the beginning of a rousing little girl hunt. But instead of remaining in stealth mode, Eden proceeds to holler, "I'm in the dining room!! Under the table!!" Caroline squeals and runs as fast as her little legs will take her to the exact spot where Eden is waiting. They scream and giggle and then switch roles so that Eden can count and Caroline can hide. But before Eden begins counting, she instructs her sometimes submissive sibling to hide in the closet so she can easily find her when her countdown is complete. And the madness cycles through once again. As someone who highly values playing by the rules, the whole process drives me slightly crazy (it's a very short trip over the edge), but it definitely works for them.

I am so thankful that God is not in the business of playing hide and seek. He wants to be found. He longs to be seen and discovered. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." His creation shouts forth with His praise. As a matter of fact, in the book of Romans, Paul says, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:19-20) Not only has God removed all the guesswork from the equation when pondering His existence, those who choose to ignore or completely reject Him are "without excuse."

What does that mean for you and me? As believers, this means that taking the gospel to the lost is more important than we ever dared to imagine. Because even if they have never heard the truth about Christ and His saving grace, they will still face an eternity in hell if they do not know Jesus when they pass from this life into the next. Why? Creation consistently heralds the reality of her Creator. So we need to make the most of every opportunity that the Lord gives us to share the salvation that we have in our Savior. God is not hiding...and we shouldn't either.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fear Factor

I am the original scaredy-cat. My list of fears grows daily. I'm afraid of most bugs, especially the jumpy kind. At night, I get scared that someone is hiding under the bed. I'm not a huge fan of the dark. Please don't ever tell me a ghost story because I will end up with goose bumps for days. I do not like scary movies. I don't even like scary commercials. As a matter of fact, one of the last times my husband and I went to the movies, they showed a preview for a scary movie, and Jason graciously told me to cover my eyes before I could see anything. I proceeded to cover my ears as well, and I hummed to myself until he told me the coast was clear. There are so many things that rally my "fight or flight" response that I wouldn't dare to inventory them all here.

While you might think that my catalog of cowardice is somewhat silly, the truth is that we all struggle with fear in some way, shape, or form. You might not flinch when a spider the size of your fist scampers across the floor or break out in a cold sweat when you hear a mysterious sound in the middle of the night, but you feel your heart skip into an irregular rhythm when they start handing out the pink slips at work. You might be able to stomach the latest horror film, but the thought of your teenager driving recklessly around town gives you a major case of insomnia. Fear is common to mankind.

In those moments when fear grips me like a boa constrictor (something else I'm terrified of, by the way), I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit who faithfully whispers the truth of God's Word to my rapidly beating heart. Scripture reaches deep to the center of our beings and cuts through the thickest fog of distress and despair. One verse that continues to bring soothing solace in the frazzled places of my soul is Isaiah 41:10. In this power-packed passage, the God of the universe proclaims, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (ESV)

Meditate on that for a moment. The God who flung the stars into space and causes the waves of the sea to ebb and flow knows your name and is familiar with every stressful thought you have each day. The Father who created daffodils and koala bears and dark chocolate and laughter goes before you and upholds you with His righteous right hand. He is WITH you. And He has promised to strengthen you and help you. Why do we waste time being afraid when we have Him attentively watching over us? 

Lord, forgive me for fretting over my fears instead of focusing on Your unending ability to protect and provide for me. Thank you for being strong where I am so weak.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ticket to Ride

We recently made our fourth trek to the magical world of Disney, and I am still a little dazed by all the pixie dust. While some might find the crowds of people and miles of walking a source of great annoyance, I am quite exhilarated with it all. (I'm also one of those crazy people who actually enjoys getting out and doing a little last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. Go figure.) My family adores all the sights and sounds (and smells and tastes!) that can be discovered at Mickey's wonderland. Oh, how we love to swim with Nemo, bounce with Tigger, sail on the Jungle Cruise, and shoot targets with Woody and Buzz. And then there's all the beautiful princesses that we get to meet and admire (mostly from girls get a little shy when faced with the real-life beauties). Just writing about it makes me want to go back. And possibly live there. Preferably in Cinderella's castle.

Our Disney week officially began bright and early Monday morning with the hustle and bustle of filling bags with snacks and water bottles, slathering sunscreen on every inch of exposed skin, and securely fastening our little Disney darlings into their Minnie Mouse strollers. We began our ten minute walk to the front gate of the Magic Kingdom with a sense of excitement and anticipation of all that the day would hold. As we joined people from all over the world and waited our turn to have our bags inspected by the friendly park authorities, my husband made a startling discovery. Something was missing from his Disney Dad lanyard.

And that something was my ticket.

No matter how many times he scrolled through his stack of cards, my ticket did not magically appear. So I immediately raced back to the hotel to procure the desired item. (Mainly because I am the "finder" in my sweet little family...if something goes missing, the Lord has gifted me with some sort of mommy radar that can track down anything from car keys to sippy cups to Barbie shoes.) I walked in the room, found my ticket, huffed and puffed back to the front gate, and waltzed through the turnstile.

The cold, hard fact is that I could not enter the most magical place on Earth without a ticket. Mickey doesn't care how many Disney princess songs I can sing on cue. He doesn't care how much I've spent on countless Disney movies that we watch over and over and over. In order to gain entrance to his world, I must purchase a ticket. I can't walk in using my husband's ticket or my daughter's ticket. I must have my own.

The same is true of heaven. When we pass from this life into the next, we do not automatically gain entrance into eternal life with the King of kings. We can't sweet talk our way through the pearly gates with a long list of all the wonderful things we did right. We can't coast in on the merits of our godly heritage. All roads do not lead to heaven. Jesus boldly declares in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (ESV) A price must be paid for you to have access to the perfection of paradise. But here's the catch.

YOU can't buy it. It's already paid in full.

Jesus purchased your redemption on a cruel cross. He didn't have the luxury of simply walking up to a ticket booth or finding a website with a great deal on admission. He was torn and beaten, spat upon and jeered at, pierced and judged...for crimes that He never committed. He bore the weight of my sin and your sin, and He endured unfathomable pain and anguish so that you and I could spend forever with the Lord of all creation. All we have to do is reach out and accept it.

So the question is...have you accepted the gift of salvation that Christ extends to you today? And if so, are you sharing His gift with those who have never heard?