Cat Scratch Fever

20140416-093708.jpg

I am a dog person.

I would have stood behind a panel of jurors and declared that fact with unwavering certainty. If I were on trial for loving dogs, I would have gone to jail. I was not only a dog lover, I was a cat hater! I was equally passionately sure that I did not like and would never like cats!

Enter Peter.

I don’t know what happened.

Just as much as I cannot imagine my life without my pooch, I am equally smitten with this kitten! You could chalk it up to him being a baby, no doubt that doesn’t hurt, but I don’t love him for his looks even though he is cute as a, well, a kitten! I love him because he is Peter. He is boisterous and fast, feisty and fun! He can tire himself out running after my feet only to turn around and find him cuddling with one of the dog’s toys sucking his paw. (Yes! He sucks his paw! How sweet is that?!)

I’m so glad I met Peter. I’m so glad my daughter was down-right ridiculously set on getting a cat. I am so glad that despite years on animosity toward the feline kind, I opened up my heart to love that which I once was sure I hated.

There are aspects of cats that I’m not altogether crazy about – changing out litter would be on the top of my list, but I don’t mind doing those things because I know who I’m doing it for and Peter is worth it. I value him; he is like a child to me. Scratches fade away in the comforting purr of a contented kitty.

And as a child of God, this challenges me.

It should challenge all of us.

How many times have we decided based on first impression or past experiences that we hate certain people? Now the Jesus loving side of us will reject that word vehemently, “I don’t HATE them. I just don’t like them.” The older I get, the more I live, the more I realize that you can’t truly love someone you don’t like. You can’t.

In us, if we are Christ followers, beats a heart not bound by judgement or prejudice. It’s the heart of God, and we can choose to follow that heart or set up walls of derision. The danger is when we begin to mistake our heart for the heart of God. I think it was Ann Lamott that said, “You have created God in your own image when you find He hates all the same people you do.”

God loves.

How, we wonder? How can He love the selfish and the sinful, the righteous and the rebellious? How? Well, He knows us. We aren’t a mass of people relegated and viewed through the prejudiced eyes of flesh that chooses to look past frailties and base judgements on momentary actions. We are individual, specific, intimately known and consequentially loved.

Before I knew Peter, I had lumped him in a category called “cats” in a pile called “not interested.” In fact, it took quite a bit of convincing by my daughter to even consider having a cat! She was persistent. She KNEW I would love him. “Mom, you know you’ll fall in love. You love everyone! You will love my cat.” I wasn’t so sure.

I was allergic.

That’s what I told myself, and to be honest, I was convinced I was! I would get a dry feeling in my throat, my skin would itch, my eyes would water. Allergy. Has to be. Ironically, I have none of those symptoms with Peter.

We convince ourselves of the same things, “I can’t be around that person.” Instead of itch, they make us twitch. Instead of watering eyes, we squint our eyes, watching for any and every excuse to NOT have to accept them – whoever they are. And you know who they are. You’ve spent a lot of energy distancing yourself from them.

But what if, your fears and insecurities have you missing out on Peter? What if beyond a category or a predetermined prejudice you got to know the person? It changes things. So, do so at your own risk. But, you will lose nothing, and you just might gain more than you ever knew you were missing! I challenge you, please, open your heart, and the mind will follow.

Advertisements

Removing Splinters

Image

“I’m not one to judge… but…”

I knew what was coming, the same thing that comes anytime anyone starts any conversation with those words – judgment. I struggle with that. I think Jesus struggled with that, too. The same Lord that warned us, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matt. 7:1) and the very God who cautioned, “The same measure that you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2), He wasn’t lax on this issue of judgment; in fact, of all the things He reprimanded the “religious” for, this was consistent.

What is in us that wants to judge?

Comparison.

That’s the nuts and bolts of it. We haven’t evolved past Cain and Able. We still feel the need to compare ourselves with one another, and lets face it when we can point the finger at a more public, more destructive sin, we will do it. Why? Because in the shadow of those failures, our gossip and little white lies don’t seem like anything that matters.

Jesus addressed judgment with the analogy of a log and a splinter:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42)

I’ve been there. I’ve been the pointer and the accused. But it truly wasn’t until I had to fill the shoes of the accused that I could fully understand how the logs and the splinters must be dealt with.

Jesus wasn’t saying they don’t exist or that we should ignore them. He was bringing attention to the flaw, not excusing it, to help us to see that we must first inspect ourselves before we can even begin to correct another. But that is also the mystery of it, because as you see your flaws and imperfections, when you become aware that you have something in your life that humbles you before God and man, then you are much more gentle in the splinter removal.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The other day Lily got a piece of glass in her foot. She limped around until finally I convinced her to let me look at it. Reluctantly and with great fear she grabbed her foot, letting me have only the shortest (and non helpful) look. I could sympathize. I have been there – clutching my foot, crying, begging my mom NOT to get out the needle! I got her fear. As I gently pulled her foot back to me, I told her a story, a story of a splinter in a kitchen when I was exactly her age with my mom and my grandma and grandpa. I shared with her the absolute fear I felt because I didn’t know what was coming. And something happened, in the telling, in the sharing, in the confession, she relaxed. She loosened her grip and her eyes lost that stark white stare as she relinquished her foot to my care.

And that’s exactly what removing logs to help with splinters looks like.

Compassion.

As we gently approach one another with the confession and story of a life where we stumbled and fell but found the strength in Christ to get back up again, when we tell them, and remind ourselves anew, of the love that met us when we were convinced we would be disowned, we become credible, and the difficult work of healing seems more tangible, more possible, and less frightening. I think that is the very point Jesus was making – before you point out your neighbors struggle, deal with your own, and then you will see better to help them… because empathy begets compassion, and compassion doesn’t stand at a distance and point, it reaches out.

Life is loss.

Image

In Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” this is her admission, her announcement, her proclamation. Life is loss… when, what, who will you lose? It’s not a matter of will I lose, but solely when will I lose.

Continue reading

Little Orphan Annie

20140318-092736.jpg
The other day at the movies, we saw a preview for the new Annie. I’m going to have to see more than that one trailer to judge whether or not I’m going to see it. You see, “Annie” holds a special place in my heart. The roles played by Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry, in my mind, can’t be replaced with a newer, fresher face. It was my go to movie as a kid. I would watch it over and over, and imagine that I, too, was the fortunate child that was adopted by Daddy Warbucks.

I smiled as the awkward and seemingly uncaring man became a slightly more awkward deeply caring father. The unlikely and outwardly appearing ragamuffin Annie got the gift of a lifetime simply by being bold and confident, and by convincing Grace, Warbuck’s personal assistant, that she was the orphan perfect to spend a week with the billionaire.

Got to love a kid with pluck!

It is the gift of a lifetime! A reserved theatre all to herself, an indoor swimming pool, and all the amenities any kid would give anything to enjoy! But, something in Annie had never given up on her family, her dream of a mom and dad that loved her and longed for her so regardless of the gift, she chose instead to use his resources to find what she had forever dreamed of… And his love was great and despite his own affections, Warbucks set out to give her what her little heart desired.

Enter the enemy.

When Rooster and his voluptuous lover saw what money could be had if they could convince the world they were the long lost parents of the orphan, the plot thickened and love was tested. So, desperate to believe that she could be a part of the family she had dreamed of, she fell for the lie and embraced the deceiver, saying goodbye to the man who desperately loved her, loved her enough to let her go.

Almost immediately she sees the mistake. It was a lie. She was tricked, and her dream life looked like her greatest nightmare. As strong and independent as she was, there was no escaping without help. And, the same man who moved heaven and earth to give her what she wanted, moved them again to see her saved! And she at last realized, that she had a family, that her dreams could never have captured her reality, and finally she was loved and felt like she belonged.

Our life in Christ isn’t much different. Too often we are adopted children of the Living God living like scrappy orphans. Whether it is because we have been independent so long we don’t know what it is to have support or a Father watching our back, or if it’s that deep down inside we can’t believe that we were chosen, the deceiver uses these insecurities against us to hold us back from our family and to keep us from our Father’s arms. But, just like in the movie, that’s where Grace steps in. But, unlike the movie, Grace doesn’t have to convince the Father, He sent Jesus to adopt us all. We fail to realize is that He moved heaven and earth to save us once, and daily He moves them to bring us closer to Him. Only, unlike Warbucks, He didn’t have to learn to love us, we didn’t soften Him or have to earn that love (though we live like it), instead He loved us first, had His eyes set on us (not a boy, or a more fitting guest as in Annie’s case) and knew from the beginning of time that all time would be spent gathering His kids and bringing them home. He has given us more than a locket, engraved with His name. He has engraved our names on the palm of His hands! Each one of us, no one neglected or singled out, everyone that desires has the right to be a child of God!

So come on, orphan Annie’s, let’s start living like children of the Best Dad ever! 🙂

A Missing Missive

20140311-112733.jpg

Graham Cooke said that “God doesn’t focus on what is wrong with us, rather, He is attending to what is missing.

My daughter wants to be a cheerleader. This is a pretty tall order – Not because she isn’t capable but because she is missing some key components in order to do so. As a parent I have a choice – point out what is wrong with her… Or attend to what is missing.

If I choose to point out what is wrong with her, I will very likely crush her spirit. But, if I choose to attend to those missing key components, not only is she capable to live her dream, but she will become confident and strong not only to fulfill that purpose but the passions that inspire her later.

And isn’t that what God is about? With our acceptance of Christ and the knowledge of Him removing the blot of sin and the punishment it affords, what good does it do for God to point out what is wrong with us? Instead He is better served (and I mean that in the very literal expression of that word) by pointing out what is missing and what He provides, what He has already provided!

This is what I see. We are too sin conscious. This serves one purpose, the purpose of the law, to point out our failures and precipitate the exhausting effort of keeping up with holiness. This mindset leaves us feeling defeated and undeserving, which has the eventual effect of crippling our service as Ambassadors of Christ. We will never measure up.

This is what I believe. If we paid less attention to what we were doing wrong or right and more attention to what is missing from our lives, keeping us from dwelling in His fullness, and seeking God for that supply, we will become more holy. The end that we seek through the means of performance is fully met in the knowledge of who we are in Christ!

Let me step back a minute. The key there is “who we are in Christ.” Without Christ we are still stained with sin and our punishment is death. It doesn’t sound nice. We don’t like to hear that some are excepted, but it’s the Truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Without our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are still marked by death. His blood and resurrection is what changes who we are to what we are meant to be. Those who are without Christ are judged by what is wrong AND by what they are missing. But, at any moment, in understanding and humility, they can change all of that!

That being said, as we are reborn in Christ, we are equipped for everything our life in Him requires. God isn’t a task master, He is the giver of all good things. He will never ask something of us that He hasn’t already given us in advance. So, He gave us Jesus to take away what was wrong, and now He reminds us that what we are still missing He has already given us in vast supply!

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” (1 John 3:20-22 NLT)

I think a big reason people refuse to come to Christ or believe in God is because they fear what He will do, and that is because they do not know Who He is. I think of Jesus telling the parable of the talents. Why didn’t the guy with the one talent do anything with it? He says “I knew you were a hard Master…” The word “knew” is more like “convinced.” When we are convinced God is one way, heaping shame and guilt upon us and seeing us as infidels never able to measure up, if we perceive Him as hard and cruel and unyielding, if we see Him as vengeful and punishing, that’s how we will respond to Him… In fear, not reverence, in hatred instead of love.

How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart that someone cannot see my Father and Saviour as accessible and grateful and merciful and loving. Secondly, I’ve experienced it. If I came down on my daughter and told her she wouldn’t measure up and that she should just forget ever pursuing her dream, she would think me mean and cruel, and I would be. But, when I lovingly instruct her in what it takes to do what she desires and we take the time to help her make those changes, no doubt she might not like me at first because I’m asking her to change her sedentary ways, but in the end through her perseverance and my support and love and encouragement, she will realize that she is free to be more by replacing her doubt with confidence.

God wants to do the same. He wants us to see our relationship like the latter example rather than the first, but too often we see changing our ways as punishment rather than transformation and being led as brain-washed rather than walking in freedom from guilt and shame.

My daughter may never be a cheerleader, but she is learning new habits and a mindset that will set her up for greater things to come! And I know God is doing the same with me – little by little, day by day, pointing out that in fully abiding in Him I am found whole!

Beauty and The Beast

20140304-111855.jpg

“Let’s just go.”

She said it with a voice of defeat, tears on the verge of breaking free. We had been in the same store for almost an hour trying on outfit after outfit. On the hanger they looked cute, anything hangs beautifully on air and wire, but on a real body fabric pulls, and hugs, and stretches making the wearer feel as if there is something wrong with her and not the size 2 fashion.

We left the store in silence. She walking two steps ahead head down, unwelcoming. I walked a protective two steps behind cursing super models and anorexic-sized media stars that made my daughter feel somehow less than. On the verge of tears myself, I started the car while she sobbed quietly beside me.

Lost. Helpless.

Those are the two words that annihilated my heart.

Fat. Ugly.

Those were the words echoing in hers.

“Why do I have to be so fat?”

And, what do I say? From the time she was born she was solid. The doctors would be surprised when they weighed her, people would be caught off guard when they tried to pick her up, by the time she was 8, I could barely lift her. But she wasn’t obese, not to the naked eye, but according to the charts and standards not based on anything I can see that is healthy she’s classified as “overweight.”

I knew the second part to that question, “…when you’re so small?”

To make matters worse, I’m small without trying. I always have been. In the way that she feels unattractive because of her weight, growing up, I felt unattractive because of my lack of shape. Strange. Mother and daughter, battling how we were created on two different sides of the scales.

I did what all good mothers do. I addressed her beauty. Her flawless complexion, her smooth skin, her sparkling eyes, and her hands that could easily be used for modeling expensive lotions, but no matter what I point outed, she reminded me, “But, it’s just not fair.”

And it’s not. Body shape isn’t fair, but more than that, it’s a beastly battle that every woman faces at least in some season of life, if not everyday. Whether it’s an addiction to food or an obsession with body image, we find ourselves on the verge of self-destruction more often than satisfaction.

“My friends laugh at me because I eat all my food at lunch.”

I almost spit out, “Then, they aren’t real friends!” But that wouldn’t help matters, she already feels like she is friendless. So I find myself holding onto the only two words I can safely say, “I’m sorry.”

And I am. I’m so sorry that she has to grow up in a world where size 0 and size 2 classify as beauty and health and girls who wear a size 9 or size 13 are judged as slobs and lazy. I’m sorry that her friends feel the need to judge her for her appetite when they skip meals and gorge on snacks. I’m sorry that they make clothes that hang beautifully on wires but aren’t made to fit a frame with curves. I’m sorry that she can’t see her beauty because it doesn’t look like every one else’s. I’m sorry that as a mother I can’t do anything to help her but to do my best to point out her positive attributes and pray that someday soon it sinks in. I’m sorry that all too often numbers on a scale or the digits on a tag have the power to destroy a girl’s confidence. And most of all, I’m sorry that I can’t relate because maybe if I could, she might see that I don’t just say these things because I’m her mom but because beauty is deeper than fashion and her soul is more attractive for its perceived flaws than her desired perfections.

“It’s okay, mom.”

And it will be. The storm has passed and miles away from dressing rooms, I begin to see her perk up a bit. And, for the moment, life seems fair again.

Couch Parenting

20140225-110440.jpg

Could you imagine if you were the coach of an NBA team, hired for the sole purpose of coaching your team to a victory, leading ultimately to a national championship and you never even left the bench? My guess is you wouldn’t be a very effective coach. You would most likely be fired for not doing your job. More than that the players wouldn’t respect you, would never feel truly led or encouraged because you’re sitting on the bench merely yelling at them to do their jobs.

Your leadership wouldn’t go very far.

This is where I found myself the other night, this is the image God gave me to teach me a lesson, and it’s a lesson many of us might need to learn. With a mass of technology to occupy our time from smart phones to laptops to tablets, family time is getting less and less and children are becoming more and more unruly, or maybe that’s just in my house? This lesson came to me as I was directing my child to go and get ready for bed. I had been busy all night, helping my oldest with a project, fixing dinner, serving dinner, cleaning up the kitchen and in between doing loads of laundry.

I was tired.

I had just plopped myself down for the first time that evening and pulled out my phone to respond to some messages. “Get up and lead her to the bath.” I knew it in my heart it was the right thing to do, but did I mention I was tired? My daughter continued to lay on the couch, not moving, not doing a single thing I said. I looked over at my husband, and he was working so I was the parent of the moment. My impatience was growing, and I felt my tone getting more and more tense. The Voice got louder, “Get up and take her to the bath!” I argued with that wisdom, “I’m tired. Why can’t she just do what I told her to do and get in the bathtub?!” Then, my heart awoke. I looked at this growing girl beside me and how she was laying up next to me, and I realized that perhaps it wasn’t disobedience keeping her from doing what I asked but a desire to be with me. That’s when God said, “You can’t pour into her from the couch. You can’t help her to know and find me while you are on your phone. You can’t show her my intentional love and attention if she reluctantly gets it from you.”

Ouch. God pinch.

Ironically, or should I say, unsurprisingly, when I reached for her hand and told her, “Come on, I’ll sit with you while you take your bath.” She didn’t hesitate. Immediately she got up, and we went to the bathroom. We had a good chat. She shared about her day, how she had been hurt by her friend, how she was wondering if God saw that moment, and I chastised myself. I could have missed those confessions, failed to have an opportunity to undo that hurt and assure her that indeed God did see that moment… Just as He saw that one.. And the one before that where I sat with my butt on the couch.

Everyday it’s a choice – to couch parent or invest. And I don’t always get it right, but when I do – the reward is a better relationship with my girls and a greater understanding of my Father.