Father and Son

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Isaac. The story of willingness and sacrifice and reprieve and provision, captivate me. After all, isn’t that ultimately the journey of every faithwalker? But this week God challenged me to reread it, in His narration, with His thoughts, through His eyes and, most of all, in regard to His heart for His beloved.

Abraham was ready, I felt sure of it. Patiently, he had waited for Me to send Isaac, and daily I watched his love for his son and pride over him grow. I delighted to see that My friend was pleased, but much rode on the faith of My beloved Abraham, a faith that I had to test for its surety and steadfastness.

He was out observing My creation, strolling among his people, eyes always trained upon his boy. He marveled aloud to Me as he watched Isaac pull back the bow how very grateful he was over the gift of his son. It was in that moment of thankfulness I chose to make My request, in the glow of his joy.

“Abraham!” I called.

Immediately he answered, “Yes, Lord! I am here.” The look on his face was eager to speak, eager to obey, age had not changed his youthful expectation, but I had the highest price to ask of him.

“It’s time,” I commanded. He seemed confused so I continued, “Take your only son, Isaac, now and go to Moriah…” I waited to finish as his smile hesitated, “…and take him and offer him…”

Abraham’s eyes took on a look of disbelief even as his soul screamed out to My heart not to finish the thought, but his obedient heart waited for Me to finish.

“Offer his as a burnt offering on the mountain of My choosing.”

His head fell, his grown man lips quivered, but his resolve was not shaken. He trusted Me. I felt it and I read it from his heart even if his lips could not utter it.

I watched the next morning, early, as he loaded up his donkey and assembled his entourage, Isaac, the most prized possession by his side as he led the way. Each day was a litany of praise to Me, stories of my goodness and faithfulness shared with each footstep closer to the unspeakable. Isaac never seemed to question Abraham’s frequent affections and head rubs. Abraham was making the most of the three days, three days I ordained for them to say goodbye. I’m a loving God, I could have chosen any mountain, but that one had significance to this sacrifice and to My own, and I wanted this for them.

When they made it there I observed intently as Abraham settled his servants and gave them directions and a time frame in which he would return. I watched as he swallowed hard while Isaac said his goodbyes. Then, I watched as Abraham placed the bundle of wood upon Isaac’s shoulders. As he did so, I felt the scars in My own back ache.

“This is necessary,” I whispered into the ear of My beloved, but all he felt and heard was the whistle of the wind.

In his own hands, Abraham carried the fire source and the knife. His grip on its handle was weak almost begging the slightest force to rip it from his hands, but his obedience carried it nonetheless. Isaac wondered often as he observed the elements of sacrifice that a significant piece was missing – the offering. He questioned his father, but he could not bear to tell his son and so I heard him say with spoken words, “God Himself will provide.” He had no idea the revelation of those words. I could feel the cries from Abraham’s bosom asking if there was any other way? And, My own voice echoed through the ages in his acceptance, “Nevertheless, let Your will be done.” Years evaporated and generations passed away as I beheld Abraham telling Isaac to be still as he bound his only son. I watched Isaac struggle and question, begging for understanding. Abraham was silent but in his heart he called out to Me declaring My name for all generations and with each name a work of goodness that preceded it. He, like his son, was begging Me to hear his cries, and I, too, remained silent. Would he recall My favor thus far? The promises I had made? The nature of My faithfulness?

I observed the Accuser reminding him of his failures, of his sins, planting doubts of My character and My affections for him. But, I encouraged Abraham to recall My love, My grace, My kindness despite what wrongs he had committed. As the Accuser started in again, I held up My hand to silence him. I tired of his lies, his attempts to discredit Me and to discourage those I love. Besides, something greater had My complete attention, Abraham reached for the knife.

All eyes in heaven stood in observance of this moment. I had issued a command, and only I could choose to undo it. A tear escaped My eternal eyes as I watched my beloved hold the knife high. Faith that once trembled from his lips now held firm in his love for Me. My heart was full! Abraham was declaring his love for Me! I had asked him to do the unthinkable, and still he chose My will over his own. Time stood still as I observed this gift. – the love he showed Me as he held a knife to his son – his beloved as he was Mine.

“Abraham!”

He didn’t drop the knife, “Yes, Lord?” Determination shook his frame.

“Stop! His arm slowly dropped its position, confusion, quickly replaced with relief, washed over him.

“Don’t touch that boy!” All of heaven was rejoicing in his love for Me! “You have shown you honor and respect Me! You were willing to sacrifice, without holding back, your son, your heir.”

I had situated the ram – spotless and pure – a most fitting offering – in the bushes beside their makeshift altar. I caught My breath as Abraham quickly unbound Isaac, clutching him to his chest and thanking Me for My provision. Together, they situated the sacrifice on the pile of wood. I touched the engravings in My hands, the scars that symbolized the name of every soul willing to be saved, and I smiled.

“ No, my friend, my beloved. I would never ask you to give up anything that I haven’t already sacrificed for you.”

Heads bowed, knees bent, I listened as father and son praised My name for their provision, but what I had truly provided was more than a ram but the Lamb of God – for with the sacrifice of MY son, I would fulfill My promise to Abraham, for I AM Jehovah Jireh. I AM the Lord who provides.

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Life is loss.

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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.

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Couch Parenting

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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.

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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A Bird in the Hand

“…And you count far more to him than birds.”

God gave me a very real lesson this weekend, a moment that captivated my heart and my attention and spoke life into a hard and trying time.

The story:
My friend and I were sitting at a local restaurant. We were talking about some of the hardship that I had just faced, the attack of the enemy with an arrow trained directly at my heart and my past. Actually we were both sharing, about our faith and our trust despite the accusations that others might want to level at us. It was in that moment of serious honesty and transparency that something hit the window.

I flinched. She noticed, and wondered what it was. Then I saw it the little bird outside the window, heaving for breath and looking so tiny and vulnerable under a chair of a young girl that was completely unaware that her foot may just take a life. I looked at my friend and she looked at me. “It’s a hummingbird,” she announced. I didn’t believe it. To me it was just a baby. But she was sure, “It’s a hummingbird. Look at the beak.” She was right. Then, she said what I knew in my heart, “We have to go out there and rescue it!” She ran for one last refill, and I ran outside to see what I could do.

I ran out and told the girls sitting at the table, “There is a bird there. We have to rescue it!” At first they looked at me like I was crazy. It was, after all, a bird. We stooped down and picked it up and my friend, Dionne, took him in her hands. She stroked its chest and silently we both prayed and willed that bird to find its wings. You could tell it was stunned. It was blinking its little eyes rapidly and trying, it seemed, to get its bearings.

I marveled at the moment, here was this most beautiful green hummingbird completely still in the hand! I announced the miracle of this to the girls whose table we’d invaded as Dionne looked on the verge of tears. Something, no EVERYTHING, in me told me that I had to capture this moment. So I did. At this point the girls were interested, a stilled hummingbird, “I want a picture, too!” And the bird was still just long enough. The pictures were taken, and with one small, fast (after all it was a hummingbird) flit of its wings, it flew off.

The rest of the story:
That amazing moment, though so short, spoke volumes very specifically and intimately to both of us. To Dionne, it was a moment of captivating love lavished on her from Daddy God to say “I see, I know, I hold you…” and so many other personal messages of love and hope that only she can interpret.

To me it was lesson. It’s like Daddy God said, “I know that you have been stunned. I know that you are hurt and you feel that your pain came out of nowhere. But, like this little bird there are two choices: You can stay on the ground and struggle to breathe and possibly find yourself trampled under the weight of it. Or, you can let Me pick you up, remind you of your purpose and My purpose in you. Open yourself to love again and be loved, and find the wings to soar once more.”

Is that you? Are you stunned, finding yourself hurting from an injury you never saw coming maybe from those you least expected? Take heart. If God cared so much for this errant bird (one of the tiniest that you can find!), how much more does He care for you! Let our story be your hope. And, it’s no surprise that upon further research and the input of others more acquainted with birds… our friend is thought to be female. Well, of course she was. 😉

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