A Missing Missive

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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!

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School Daze

Like most parents in The South, last week my kids went back to school. My youngest began her last year of elementary school (I cannot truly be this old!) and my oldest began her seventh grade year. It seems like yesterday I held her in my arms for the first time in relief that the nausea and vomiting of the last 9 months was over and the fun had begun! What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the pain of contractions, the pushing or the final clip of the umbilical cord that marked the end if labor… It was only the beginning.

I remember gently rubbing my bulging belly and hurrying the day when she would arrive – to see her face, to count her fingers, to watch her breathe and not just feel her move. I rushed those months in between trips to the porcelain throne to pray. When I started with contractions early, I obediently followed the doctors orders that I rest, stay off my feet, pretty much just get up to go to the bathroom. “Rest,” he said, “and don’t worry… You’ve have plenty of time to worry after she is born.”

I don’t think I really paid attention to that comment until the first night we were home, and her sleeping was so quiet I had to watch her back to make sure she was still breathing. Or the first time I heard her choke and cried for 30 minutes thinking of what might have happened if I hadn’t been there. The night she stuck a crayon up her nasal cavity, I envisioned how we would explain the bulge in her nose when she was older because that baby wasn’t going to let me help her get it out! Or the time she was playing with her daddy’s pocket knife and sliced her finger… That first sight of blood, from an injury… I thought I would faint – not from the sight of blood but from the knowledge that I hadn’t been attentive enough, I hadn’t guarded her enough and she was hurt because of my neglect.

I thought those were the rough days, until we experienced loss of friendship, abandonment, bullying, and heartache and disappointment, and those days have just begun, and I find myself wanting to scoop her up, open my womb again and tuck her back in… Safely, because the world is just too unpredictable and I can’t guard her from the perils or the problems.

But in those moments, I have to take a deep breath. I have to remember the words of Daddy God to me in some of those fearful moments when she was a baby, “Where your eyes cannot see, Mine keep watch. Where your hand fails to reach, Mine never leaves.” Those have been His words of comfort to me for years, and I cling to them!

Not just for my babies… But for myself. Life is unpredictable and full of uncertainties. Just when we think we have it figured out, everything changes. I once heard, “The only thing that never changes is that things always change.” It’s true. The more I live and experience and gain and lose the more this simple silly quote makes a world of sense.

Truth be told, I hate it. It leaves me dazed. I can adjust, but I don’t want to. It’s like this common thread in my life that screams, “Don’t get comfortable, it won’t be this way for long.” And still, like a fool, like a naive child, I forget and I allow myself to dream and believe only to watch it all change, again.

In those moments, just like with my baby girls, I have only One constant. One voice that can soothe me and remind me that where I cannot see, He has already charted a path, and where my hand is unable to reach, His is already there. And, I rely on that. I cling to it! Because as much as I’d like to build a cocoon around us and stay there safely tucked beside my Saviour’s breast sheltered and safe, life requires me to live apart from that haven for now to face and walk among the hurting, dying, and broken that might not understand a parent’s heart, that may have never felt protected, appreciated, encouraged, or loved. He requires of me to die today so I might live with Him forever, and that is anything but comfortable! But, I have a choice I can learn or I can sleep. I can roll back over making my own cocoon of comfort and denial and pretend like the Teacher isn’t calling my name, or I can sit at a desk right up front, pencil in hand ready to take notes, and learn all I can.

School is back in session, and I’m still a student.

Lessons Maddie has taught me

Twelve years ago yesterday, I held the most precious, wide eyed, soft skinned little baby my eyes had ever beheld! The next day, after the labor pains and still exhausted, my lessons began. The hard knocks of parenting were leveled at me. I got my first taste of judgement and learned the hard truth that I will mess up, and I won’t do everything just right. I learned that parenting is hard work and requires diligence and attentiveness. I realized that it hurts you when they are hurting and how much of a failure one mistake will make you feel and that emotions can rise and fall hourly with the mood or well-being of your child.

I also learned that what I knew of “love” was insignificant in comparison to what I felt for my sweet sleeping daughter in my arms. I learned that for someone that had grown up feeling used for her body, my child using me was entirely different. I realized that her dependence on me was necessary and that no matter what I felt or what I wanted, she had to come first. I learned the value of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m still learning.. And messing up.

And, in my failures I am becoming a better parent. I’m learning that it’s best to just say no than to say yes and regret your answer and have to go back and set higher standards. (A lesson one can only learn through the struggle of mistake.) I’m learning that they grow up way too fast, that the phrase, “you’ll blink and she will be grown,” isn’t an old wives tale but a literal blink in time. I’m learning not to rush the moments, not to hurry their independence, and to take every moment to pour into their hearts the love that only a parent can have for their child.

I’m learning the importance of faith and the wisdom that it brings. I’m seeing through her childlike faith that relationship with God is a journey and doesn’t just happen over night or because I desire it. I’ve had to learn that just because I am tired or sick or impatient doesn’t give me a right to take it out on my kids… and that God will correct us if we mistreat them. I’m learning that it is less what she hears about Christ and more about what she sees in me, a Christ Lover. I’m realizing that as much as I long to see her fall in love with her Savior, I can’t force it. And I’m sadly seeing that as much as I would like to prevent any fear or doubt or pain from breaking her heart, it’s that struggle that will make her stronger.

I’m still learning… And I’m only 12 years into a forever life as her mom and 10 years in as the mom of her sister.

It’s not easy …But, my Teacher hasn’t let any of us out of His sight.

Nature Calls

“From the beginning of the world, men could see what God is like through the things He has made. This shows His power that lasts forever. It shows that He is God.”

God delights to show His love for us.

I marvel over little things. I like to sit for long spells and watch nature, the hues of butterflies and dragonflies, the many facets of a bird’s wing, and the slow creeping of a secure turtle. As I watch them I am reminded of my Creator…of the intricate way that He has designed me, of the many facets of His personality that make up my nature, and in Him I can keep moving, knowing that I am His.

When I fail to take these moments, I can miss His messages of love.

We try not to be selfish. We try not to want to feel good, happy, comforted, or secure. We know for the most part that others are going through far worse and have experienced the unthinkable. We are constantly reminded of wars and rumors of war whether in the world or in homes or dear precious bodies. The darkness of the world slaps us in the face day after day after day after day. But, is it wrong to seek those moments for our selves? Is it selfish to need to be reminded that He cares?

God created us to seek Him.

When we seek Him we cannot help but look within. It’s when we look within that we see the many places we are lacking. We realize with infinite reality that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude. And, when we find ourselves there, seeking Him, conversing with Him over the marvels of nature, we realize that what moments before might have seemed the biggest most depressing acknowledgement in the world, is actually one of peace.

He didn’t create us for ourselves.

Just the fact that we draw in breath day after day is evidence of our life’s purpose. No one is here by accident. Recently a friend of mine had triplets far too early. All three babies were delivered, but one lived only for a while. We might be tempted to get upset. What was the purpose of that, God? That life was in vain. But, we would be wrong. The reason thelittle guy died is because he was subjected to toxins and bacteria that his brother and sister were not. He kept them safe by blocking the birth canal, taking the sickness into himself to spare his siblings. They are alive and thriving today. His little life had great purpose for them!

He loves us.

We can’t neglect this all-important fact. As much as you love the person/thing that you love the most and cannot fathom what it would feel like to love more…multiply that by infinity…and that’s but a fraction of how much God loves us. Can’t fathom that? Nope. But, it’s true. His Word tells us that His love “endures forever.” Endure is pretty intense word. It means that it doesn’t give up. It means that it tolerates anything. It means that it stands firm in the midst of any adversity. And it means that it is on going!

He is for us.

I’m not trying to stroke your ego or mine. But, as I was listening to the heart of God this morning in my own very hurting heart, Hespoke this to me. “I am for you.” We gloss over this. We take this lightly. That, too, has deep meaning! He is for us means more than that He will fight for us. It means that He “takes the place of, works on behalf of, in respect of, concerning, and in spite of,” us. Let that sink in. Because sometimes we need to know that He fights for us, but more often than not we just need toknow that He is for us…and He is…remember His love?

Every time I take the time to look at nature, I see Him…and I see what I need to be more like. I also wonder what they know, these creatures that seem to have the simplest lives? Do they know that they have a Creator? Do they know that we can see evidence of Him through them? Do theyknow that as they simply flutter by our hair or squirm on the ground, we hear our Father whisper His love? I think they do. I also believe that He created them not just for His good pleasure but because in His enduring love, He purposed them for us…to remind us…we have purpose, too.

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