Thursday, July 7, 2016

BLACK LIVES MATTER


I have two sons.
One white.
One black.

I am a white mom with a black son and days like today, with news of black men being shot for being 'just black in the wrong place', I forget that I’m white.  I feel things that I never felt as a mom of a white son.

I feel rage.
I feel scared.
I feel sad.

I feel the need to take a stand, to protect my son, to fight back.
And then I remember, I’m not black.

I don't have your personal experience, but I desire to understand.
I don't pretend to know how you feel, but I join you in taking a stand.

I am a white mom with a black son who has Autism, and that combination worries me.  If he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, he’s in real danger because he looks completely normal, but doesn’t respond to basic commands.

He won’t listen.
He won’t obey.
He won’t comply.

He won’t know he’s in danger and will even run and turn his back.
He won’t know to be afraid because he doesn’t know he’s black.

I am a white mom with a black son and my heart grieves.  I am mommy to a little black boy who will grow up to be a young black man and unless something in our system changes, that thought frightens me.

So today, I stand.

I stand for unity.
I stand for love.
I stand for you.
I stand for us.

"Since the gospel of grace removes the wall between all ethnicities and races, His death on the cross has made us one in Jesus Christ.  It is time for the walls of racism and injustice to come down!... When grace is experienced personally and collectively, love will be demonstrated loudly and consistently."  {Ronnie W. Floyd}


Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.
Carry [endure, bear, share] their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that
[to important to condescend to shoulder another's load],
you are badly deceived.
{Galatians 6:2-3}

Thursday, June 30, 2016

TRIALS ARE LIKE ROLLER COASTERS

Expedition Everest @ Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World

I love roller coasters.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!

When we lived to Orlando, we lived equal distance from the Disney parks and Universal Studios.  We could be at either place in about 10 minutes and it was not unusual for us to be at a park several times a week.

One morning, after dropping off Alex at school, I was driving home and I decided to take a little detour.  Since my to-do list that day included laundry and cleaning, I thought a little excitement before my boring day would be nice.  I ran into Islands of Adventure and the plan was to ride The Incredible Hulk a couple of times before heading home.  There was no line because it was off-season, so I hopped on and rode the roller coaster.  When the ride was over, I decided to go again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  I ended up riding The Hulk five times in a row... with no wait in-between.

And I got sick.
And I was reminded that I'm old.

I walked to my car, drove home and was sick the rest of the day.

I told that rather embarrassing story to our Small Group a couple of weeks ago.
We were finishing up our journey through the book of James and talking about some of our takeaways and ended up talking about trials.

James shows us the lens from which we are to view trials….

“Count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds.”
{James 1:2-3}

Jesus warns that we will face many trials…

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
{John 16:33}

Peter tells us how to respond to trials…

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold— though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trialsit will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."
{1 Peter 1:6-7}

Joy in trials?
Gladness in suffering?

I was thinking this morning about some of the past trials in my life and how God has used them to mold me and shape me into the person He has purposed me to be.

Each trial was difficult.
Each trial was different.
Each trial demanded something of me.

One thing that helps me in a trial is I assign it a roller coaster.
I’m weird.  I know.

Some trials come into your life like Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.  You are minding your own business and before you know it, 3-2-1-ZERO.  You are “rocketed skyward 185 feet into the air then hurled back down faster than the force of gravity itself.”  It is a lot at once, but as quickly as it came into your life, it’s over. 

Some trials start out nice and smooth like Expedition Everest, but on the ride, a lot of unexpected things happen and you think this ride might just be the end of you.  Just when you think you are about to fall off a cliff, the ride starts going backwards.  You can’t see where you’re going.  You feel kind of sick.  The enemy jumps out at you a few times to fill you with terror.  And then it’s over.  And you are amazed and find yourself telling people about the ride because it forever changed you and it was so worth it!

Some trials keep you in the dark like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  The trial comes on fast and you find yourself spiraling in the dark.  You can’t see where you are going.  It feels lonely and isolating.  But 3 inversions, 2 rollover loops and 1 corkscrew later, you see light and you come to a stop.  You made it.  You survived and you can’t imagine your life before that experience.

I could literally walk you through all of my favorite roller coasters.

Each ride costs me something.
Each ride makes me feel alive.
Each ride allows me see the world through different eyes.

I can remember the first time I rode each and every one.  And when I ride them now, I get on with great anticipation of what is to come and of what I will experience.

I think that's the way we are suppose to approach trials.

“Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
{James 1:2-4}

Joy.
Grace recognized.

Trials.
The testing of a man’s integrity, character, virtue, consistency.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
{Malachi 3:3}

To refine silver, a silversmith holds the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest to burn away all the impurities.  The silversmith has to sit there in front of the fire the whole time and keep constant watch because if the silver is left too long, it will be destroyed.

So when Malachi tells us that God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, he means that He sits, keeping constant watch of you.  He holds you in the hottest part of the fire to refine and purify you, but He doesn't leave you and never takes His eyes off of you.

That feels so incredibly safe.
I want to be anywhere that God sits looks intently, eyes fixed on me.

But how does God know when you are refined?
The same way a silversmith knows when the silver is fully refined.
He can see His image in it.

Trials are God testing you, refining you, purifying you, so He can look down and see His reflection.  His goal for you and for me is to be a reflection of His son, Jesus.

So when you find yourself in the middle of trial, a roller coaster, remember that God has taken His place right beside you.  He has strapped Himself in and is along for the entire ride, watching you the entire time.

The ride will never be longer that it needs to be.
The ride will never be the end of you.

So sit back, buckle yourself in, acknowledge that God is with you, and enjoy the ride.

“…we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance
produces character, and character produces hope"
{Romans 5:3-4}

Saturday, June 25, 2016

JESUS BE NEAR

Today, my friend buried his bride of 9 short years.
Today, two small children said goodbye to their mommy.
Today, the world lost a Jesus-girl who honored her husband, loved her children, and was faithful to her Lord and Savior.
 
The Shippey Family
Chris, Christina, Malakhi, Brooklyn

Last week, my friend buried her husband of 28 years.
Last week, three children said goodbye to their hero.
Last week, the world lost a mighty warrior who ran to the hurting, the broken, and the forgotten all around the world with the goal of pouring out love and spreading the Gospel by being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Craig Miller

This morning, my heart is heavy.
This morning, the tears flow freely.
This morning, I am sad that my friends have to grieve so deeply.

I can't imagine the pain involved when your spouse, your person, the one whom your soul is mingled, passes from life to death and leaves you behind.  Jesus, how does a broken one-flesh heart heal from that without having an intimate relationship with You?

You tell us in Psalm 34:18 that You are near the brokenhearted.
You tell us in Isaiah 41:10 that You will strengthen and help us.
You tell us in Psalm 147:3 that You heal the brokenhearted and bind up wounds.

God, I pray that you will envelope the deepest places of their hurting hearts today.  I pray you will be their refuge and their strength.  I ask you to bind up their wounds and lead them along the path of healing.  Jesus, I pray today that as they face dark days ahead, that you will be near.  Jesus, please be near!

These two giants, these two friends, they left a mark on the world.  My human brain can not even begin to understand how calling them home instead of leaving them here was the right decision.

Their lives brought You glory.
Their journeys pointed people to You.

Even though I am sad and confused, I echo Isaiah and declare that my thoughts are not Your thoughts and my ways are not Your ways. Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine and I stand on that truth and I trust that You know best.

To the Shippey family and the Miller family, I am so deeply sorry for your loss.  Keith and I dearly love you and would do anything for you and your children.  Christina and Craig hold a special place in our hearts and we are committed to praying for you in the days and months ahead.  

“Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be your darkest days - when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you are out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone.”
{Rick Warren}

Sunday, June 12, 2016

DEAR FIKIRTE,

Our boy turned seven today.
SEVEN.
Can you believe it?

Oh how I wish I could sit with you today over a cup of coffee.

I want to hold your hands in mine and hear your life story.
I want to look into your eyes and tell you how much I love you.
I want to hug your neck and thank you for choosing life.

If you could have hand picked a mom to raise your Misikir,
I don’t think you would have picked me.

The me before your Misikir was so full of pride.
The me before your Misikir wasn’t willing to die.
The me before your Misikir loved me more than you.
The me before your Misikir didn’t have a clue.

But God.
He gifted me with your Misikir and we named him Miles.
You gave him life, but I get his smiles.

The heaviness of that truth is not lost on me.
And that’s a reality I will always grieve.

Miles was fearfully, wonderfully and autistically made.
Miles was purposed, adopted, and a gift I wouldn’t trade.


Firkirte-
Since I can’t see you and hug you and love on you today,
I pray that the Lord will comfort you in every way.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

THE GIFT OF THORNS

"We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
-Abraham Lincoln

My knockout roses are blooming.
Delicate blush-pink roses surrounded by bright green leaves.

From a distance, I see beauty and color and I marvel at God’s creation.
But up close, when I reach in to touch them, I get pricked.
The beauty is surrounded by pain.
The roses are protected by thorns.


Thorns.
They weren’t part of God’s original design.
They were part of the curse.
They came into this world because of sin.

But God.
He can use anything.
He can redeem anything.

There is a man in the Bible named Paul who was hand picked by Jesus to take the gospel to non-Jews, to kings, and the people of Israel.  When Jesus called Paul, He knew the person Paul would be.  But He also knew the things that he would have to endure to become that person.

“I [Jesus] have much to show Paul, including how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.”
{Acts 9:16}

Paul was beaten with whips, rods and rocks.
He was shipwrecked three times and lived in constant danger.
He was arrested several times and spent many years in prison.

In the fourth letter that Paul wrote to the church he planted in Corinth, he addresses the relationship between suffering and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul talks about crying out to the Lord several different times and begging Him to remove, what he refers to as a ‘thorn in his flesh’, which signifies a sharp affliction or a sense of some acute form of suffering.  More often than not, suffering is the very thing God uses to reveal and display His glory.

All of Paul’s trials and afflictions changed him.
They forged him into a might tool that God used to spread the gospel.

Miles graduated from Kindergarten last week.  He and 76 other Kindergartners proudly filed in the auditorium and found their place on the stage.  I sat in a seat, like a ‘normal’ mom, and watched and waited for Miles to take his place.  Even though his teacher had to stand up there with him and one of his friends, I was excited to be able to sit back and watch my son.  To have the same view as all the other moms.

But it only lasted about seven minutes.

Miles spotted me in the crowd and wanted off the stage.  I love that he can always, ALWAYS find me in a crowd.  But I hate that after he does he can’t focus and gets so frustrated.  His teacher took him off the stage because he was really struggling.  Miles wanted me and his friend that was still on stage was upset and really needed his teacher.  So I got up and made my way back stage.

Miles was so excited to see me.
It really is sweet.
But I struggle.

I struggle being the mom Miles needs me to be and not getting to be the mom I want to be.  I don’t want to be jealous of the mom you get to be, but sometimes I am.

As I walked Miles back out on the stage and took my place beside him and the other Kindergartners, my view changed dramatically.  I didn’t get to take pictures and video of Miles.  I didn’t get to sit by Keith and experience this moment with him.  I was in a room full of people yet my view and my experience was completely different.  I got to be like them for a few brief minutes, and then I had to go back to being me.  Being different.

And it’s those moments that the words George Matheson penned in 1901 speak to the deep places of my soul and gives me perspective.
“There was given to me a thorn in the flesh.”  {2 Corinthians 12:7} 
“There was given to me” Can, then, the thorn be a gift from God?  I am in the habit of seeing God’s gifts in the abundance of the things which my life possesses, and I call those things the dangers of life which diminish the sum of its abundance.  But here there is a complete reversal of my thought; the abundance is the danger, and that which diminishes it is the gift. 
Paul has been exalted above measure; he has been standing on the heights of prosperity, and summering in the sunshine of a cloudless day.  The cloudlessness of the day is his greatest danger, and there is sent a mist over the sun.  His spiritual life has been fragrant with the breath of flowers.  The thorn is, for the time, God’s best gift to his soul; there is something protective in it.  It has no fragrance, it has no beauty, but it yields one of the sweetest uses of adversity – it reminds a human spirit that it is, after all, only human. 
My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn.  I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn.  I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. 
Thou, Divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my gross, teach me the value of my thorn.  Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain.  Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.  Reveal to me that my strength was the product of that hour when I wrestled until the breaking of the day.  Then shall I know that my thorn was blessed by Thee, then shall I know that my cross was a gift from Thee, and I shall raise a monument to the hour of my sorrows, and the word which I shall write upon it will be these: “It was good for me to have been afflicted” (Psalm 1119:71).
We don’t like to suffer.
We don’t like pain.
Our humanness tells us to run from it.  To escape it.

But in the hands of a loving, purposeful God,
the thorns, the pain, they create something so beautiful.

When we walk through hard, our view can quickly be obstructed.  We will see the hard, the pain, and the thorns unless we get out of our seat and look at it from a different angle.  When we do, we see all the things they have produced in us and all the ways they have changed us.  Then we understand that the thorns, the cross, the hard, the pain, really are “God’s most precious gift to the soul.”

After the Roman soldiers stripped the clothes off of Jesus and place a bright red cape over his soldiers, they twisted some thorns into a crown and placed it on His head.  Their goal was to mock and ridicule Jesus.

Thorns.  They came into this world because of sin and were placed on the head God’s only Son who willingly became sin so that we might be “crowned with loving kindness and tender mercies, and have a crown of righteousness, life, and glory, laid up for us.”  [Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Matthew 27:29]

Ever feel like the thorns are too much for you to handle?
Ever feel like the cross you are told to carry is going to kill you?

That’s the point!  That’s the whole purpose of your cross.
Your cross is supposed to kill you.

We are called to deny so Jesus can shine.
We are called to die so Jesus can live.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must deny yourself,
take up your cross daily, and follow me."
{Luke 9:23}

God uses Miles everyday to remind me that I am not suppose to fit in.
I am not suppose to view the world like everyone else.
I am not suppose to be the mom I want to be.

I think I will always struggle.
I think I will always grieve.
But I pray I will always choose
to be the mom Miles needs me to be.