Friday, May 16, 2014

To Be a "Son-Catcher"

This past weekend was one of mingled celebration: our daughter's birthday, our 13th wedding anniversary, and Mother's Day.  My heart felt full, alive, and spoiled rotten by the things that matter most in this life.

One does not need extravagant gifts to live a life of extravagance.

Last weekend my heart was dripping in this wild extravagance.  Gifted to me by all of my favorites in this world.   I unwrapped this weekend slowly, intentional not to miss the beauty of each gift given.  For love and grace do not come wrapped in a box with a pretty bow.  They are freely given, void of frills and fancy paper.  Opened and unravelled in one's heart, to enjoy from the inside out.

One of my favorite gifts was given to me by my four year old.  She made it in her preschool class and could hardly wait until Mother's Day to give it to me.

A sun-catcher.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "SUN-CATCHER" as:

A window ornament especially of colored glass; a small, reflective glass that is hung indoors at windows to "catch the light" (to bring in and disperse the sun's rays on the walls of a room) from a nearby source.

And it's had me thinking that a life well-lived could be defined in similar ways.

Our lives are windows for others to see Christ shining through.  An opening for light to pierce through the dark places.  While not made of glass, our hearts and our lives have certainly felt broken and shattered at times.  But God takes this brokenness, molds it together into a mosaic, and creates purpose and beauty out of it.

"You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

There are moments I feel small and insignificant and wonder how I could really make a difference or an impact on this world, or even within my very household.  But God takes the "one small life" and can use it for His kingdom in big ways we may not be able to see or understand.  Just look at the life of Jesus.  He left heaven and came into this world in the smallest, most humble form.  And He has had the greatest impact on this world and eternity than any other person who has ever lived.  God, too, can take my one small life and use it for His good.

No life is too small or insignificant to make an impact for Christ.

A sun-catcher is also reflective.  We were made in the image of Christ (Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10), designed to reflect His image to the world around us.  A world who needs the hope that is found in Him alone.

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:18

Oh, to reflect this glory.

The purpose of a sun-catcher is to catch the light and disperse it on the walls of a room.  A life well-lived will catch and take in as much of Christ as she can, and she will disperse and share Him with those around her.  He will be reflected on the walls wherever she goes.

She will be the ultimate Son-catcher.
To the hungry, lost and broken.
A light in the darkness.

A sun-catcher is hung on a window indoors.  The life of a Son-catcher will be as open and transparent as a window.  Authenticity will frame and drape her life, making her approachable, relatable and able to bring in His light to share it with others.  This bringing in denotes purpose.  And effort and action on her part.  She will gather, hold, and extend grace daily.  Dependent on it to refresh and sustain her as needed.

"Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed...he who gathered much did not have too much , and he who gathered little did not have too little."
Exodus 16:18, 21

This extravagant grace.  It's there for the taking when she draws back the curtains of her heart and opens herself up to it.

In the life of a Son-catcher, God often starts indoors...with the heart, working from the inside out.  He's far more concerned about the state of her heart than the state of her circumstances.  He starts within.  And this is where her focus should be as well.  Who cares about the color of the drapes when the window of her heart is too dirty and clouded to see through?

"First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will also be clean."
Matthew 23:26

This Son-catcher, her life will be marked and there will be no separating her from His light...when she keeps Him near.  A sun-catcher catches light from a nearby source.  A Son-catcher is to do the same.  Jesus is her nearby source. She walks daily with Him.  Keeping in step with the Spirit to guide and equip her.

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
James 4:8

She is best to draw near to Him daily, moment by moment.  For He is the source of all of her light.  And all of her hope.  Without Him, there is nothing worthy to reflect.

Yes, I want to be her.
A Son-catcher.
His Son-catcher.

Lord, only You could have known that a small gift crafted by my littlest could be wrapped in such extravagant meaning.  Purpose that reminds me of my purpose.  Thank You for this gift of unexpected blessing.  Take these broken pieces, this one small life, and shine extravagantly through me.

For You.
For Your Glory.
Make me a Son-catcher.
A wildly extravagant one.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Childlike faith, white-knuckling rope burn...and prayers for legumes

"Out of the mouth of babes."  Such a familiar phrase that flashes with stories of innocence spoken.  And thunderclaps with memories of cheeks flushing crimson hot as brutally honest words escape the mouths of little ones in our midst.  My youngest is four and she often gives us reason to chuckle.  (Or turn beet red in embarrassment.)

Not only do we laugh at the things that come out of the mouths of babes, sometimes our little ones end up teaching us a thing or two about this life.  Or reminding us of the beauty in it.  When we drop our knees down a few feet into their field of vision, the view of our world can take on a whole new lens.  A panorama of refreshing simplicity, effortless joy, and wild marvel tucked and folded inside. Creased in wonder.  Stamping blessedness onto this envelope of parenthood.

My littlest is a human sponge.  As most little ones are.  She listens and observes everything around her, curious to make order and sense out of her little world.  I'm often intrigued and impressed as I witness the wheels in her mind spinning as she tries to figure out this life.

Car rides are common ground for this to take place.  Today alone we discussed red lights/green lights, cemeteries, coffins, funerals, heaven, apartments and condos on our way to preschool.  She's soaking in everything she sees and hears in this backseat education.

For instance, if you listen to contemporary Christian music, you are most likely familiar with Laura Story's song, "Blessings."  It's laced with beautiful lyrics which challenge us to look at our heartaches and hardships from a different perspective: one of grace, protection and provision from a sovereign God.

The other day this particular song was playing on the car radio.  The lyrics open up with:
"We pray for blessings.  We pray for peace..."

The little one in the backseat chimes in and asks,
"Mommy, this is a nice song and a Christian song, but is it true that we pray for peas?!"

Similarly, one day a Casting Crowns song was on.  The chorus sings, 
"All You've ever wanted...all You've ever wanted...all You've ever wanted was my heart..."

My little backseat listener asks,
"Mama, why would someone want my heart?"  

There was seriousness and a hint of sarcasm in her tone because clearly this seemed a bit ridiculous to her.  As if wanting her heart is likened to wanting any other organ or limb on her body.  All these lyrics taken so literally. Yet acting as a catalyst for dialogue to open up before us, spread thick in divine.

There was a moment a few weeks ago when my older two begged for me to turn on the "pop" radio station (or as they like to call it, "the cool music station").  That "cool" station was still on in the car the next morning as I drove my littlest to preschool.

Without throwing myself under the bus too quickly, and without naming the artist whose song was playing on this "cool" station at the time...(an artist my kids refer to as "unladylike," along with several other artists who have been given this same label after their mommy has had to abruptly change radio stations mid-chorus when she didn't like what she heard.)

Anyways, one of these "unladylike" artists was playing on the airwaves as my mind was wandering about somewhere else...probably making up a grocery list of milk, eggs, bread, and pickles...and I clearly wasn't listening to what was playing.  But, from the backseat, my littlest was.

She perked up from her booster behind me and declared, "Mommy, maybe in her world she is the only girl." (Not a proud mommy moment.  Can we go back to praying for vegetables?...Or are peas actually legumes?  Anyways, this was a reminder for me to be cautious and intentional with my little human sponge.  As the age old song persuades, "Oh, be careful little ears what you hear...")

Yes, kids hear.  They listen.  And they can take our words as literal and exact.  It's made me wonder why we don't too...Why we too easily dangle on words and lies that haunt and destruct.  Yet flippantly disregard and detach from words that speak hope and life.  Like Jesus' words.  Perhaps it's time we drop our knees down a few feet again and find our way to Him, as a child.

Lord, give us childlike faith that literally believes what You say is true to be true.

We started a new sermon series on "FAITH" at our church this past week.  Our pastor, Andy Timm,  cleared up the distinction between "belief" and "faith."

Belief  being reduced to "intellectually agreeing with a statement;  an agreeing that doesn't necessarily change our lives or require any effort on our part."

Whereas faith implies, "endurance;  our willingness to pursue something to make it happen;   enduringly pursuing something because we believe in it;  and LIVING it out;  life change."

Later Sunday evening we started diving more into this topic in our Life Group.  We chewed on reasons why we believe the Word of God in some areas, but have a hard time swallowing it down in others.  How sometimes we know His promises are true and we have faith that it'll happen in the lives of others, even witnessing it with our own eyes...but then struggle to believe it could really happen in ours.  That He could really heal, redeem, restore, and make good out of our catastrophic messes.

We debated issues of faith and trust and attempted to peel back the layers that reveal what it is that makes it hard for us to take Him at His exact Word.  To literally believe in those promises that we know in our minds, but have a hard time connecting to our hearts.

Lord, give us faith to trust what You say.

If Your Word says You will meet all of my needs (Philippians 4:19), why do I find myself worrying that you won't?

If Your Word says to not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I do not give up (Galatians 6:9), why do I worry that nothing will ever shoot forth and bloom out of this dry cracked ground around me?

If Your Word says that You are Healer (Psalm 103:1-3, Psalm 147:3), why, at times, do I wrestle as one who is broken, beyond ability to be whole and healed?

If Your Word says that when I trust in You and lean not on my own understanding, You will make my paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6), why do I feel there are days that I walk aimlessly on unmarked roads that turn and bend and curve me straight into doubt and discouragement?

If Your Word says You have good plans for me, plans to prosper and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11), why are there moments I struggle to believe that what lies ahead is good, and not riddled with more harm and destruction?

If Your Word says You are for me (Romans 8:31), why are there seasons it feels You are against me?

If Your Word says You work all things out for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purposes (Romans 8:28), why do I sometimes feel this situation is beyond Your redemption and no good thing can come out of it?

I could go on and on about this tug-of-war faith living that is lived out day to day, leaving me with bloody, blistered, calloused hands and strained spiritual muscle in places I am tired and weary of exercising.  Some days, most days, that rope is easy to move across the winning line.  It's effortless to declare victory, joy, and purpose over my life.  Other days sneak in, and it feels like I am white-knuckling it, quickly losing yardage and being yanked across to the losing side.  Collecting grass-stained knees and rope burn as I drag my heels in the mud along the way.

Perhaps my littlest, with all of her literal translations to lyrics and life, is reminding me that I, too, must do the same when it comes to God and His truth.  That it's not enough to just believe and agree with it in a way that doesn't bring about heart change or effort on my part.  But that faith will require endurance, and a willingness to pursue, in a "tug-of-war-living-it-out" kind of way.

No one has ever won a tug-of-war without beginning and finishing with bended knee.  This posture sets us up for victory.

Yes, a childlike faith, bent at the knee, in pursuance of truth, even when the world around us lacks reason and the understanding that we crave. This is a challenge.  However...

It's in the challenge that He changes us.

Life change.
Heart change.

That's what He's after.

His promises aren't just for those around us...they are for us too.  Personally available to each believer as if she really were "the only girl in the world."  For He offers so much more than peas or legumes...when we white-knuckle it and tug our way through the challenge and start taking Him at His Word.

Let's start now.