Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My God's Not an Indian Giver

No one likes an Indian giver. I mean, who does that, anyway? Gives a gift just to take it back. And how could you ever trust someone like that? Knowing that this precious gift you've been given could be taken back at any time... I imagine you would need to build quite a thick wall around your heart in order to protect you from heartbreaking vulnerability. Don't show too much excitement. Don't let on that you treasure this gift more than any other. Say thanks. Show some baseline gratitude. Don't get too attached. Maybe you'll just wear the ring on special occasions...hide it in a drawer so you can kind of live without it. Perhaps you should just stash the money somewhere safe, because what if you spend it and then have to give it back? Maybe you'll touch it when it's safe. In a year. Or twenty. When there's no way it could be taken from you. Or maybe you'll never touch it. Maybe you'll just live alongside of it--this gift--but never take part in it, never use it, never touch it, never allow yourself to truly hold onto it and experience its goodness. Because to do that would make you vulnerable. And vulnerability makes you broken. And in your brokenness you harden. And in hardness, you live life. Or something like life.

It's true. No one likes an Indian giver. But we sure do like an Indian giving God.

How many times have you, in the midst of sorrow, loss, heartbreak or struggle, heard a well-meaning friend or family member tell you that God's got a plan or God's in control or God gives life and takes it away? God gives life and takes it away?! What kind of God is this? And why would you ever choose to trust him? Life is the ultimate gift and he takes that away at whim? No thanks!

We heard phrases like these when we lost our first baby due to miscarriage. Friends and family. At a loss for words. So they tried to comfort us by telling us that God has a plan and God knows best. But what they were really telling us was that God killed our baby. That God is an Indian giver. That we can't trust God.

But I knew my God's heart and I knew that these things were false. He does give life. That's true. But He doesn't also take it away. There is another to blame for that. You may have heard of him...he goes by satan. He has come to steal, kill and destroy. He's not just the sci-fi monster Hollywood continually portrays. Although, those monsters aren't so far off. He's also real. Very very real. And he loves when God takes the rap for his work because he also knows that no one likes an Indian giver. And if God can't be trusted, then he wins. Evil wins. But that's not how the movies end. So why should real life?

You see, when bad things happen, we quickly cite Job. We say what Job said. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? We say that we trust in God's plan, but how can we when it causes utter heartbreak? How could our God be so cruel? But if we don't trust that He has a plan, then what do we trust? What do we believe? Doesn't that frighten us even more than being robbed of all good gifts? So we proclaim these things with our lips while building walls around our heart and live a hardened life built on lies.

But we fail to read the rest of the story. We fail to see that there is a conversation of which Job is unaware. A conversation between Good and Evil in which Evil tempts Good to take back the gifts He's given to Job. But Good resists. And we see that Job's possessions and his health are taken by Evil and not by Good. And God spares his life.

Because my God and Job's God are the same. And my God's not an Indian giver.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Funday

Today's holiday couldn't have come at a better time. It is the perfectly unpretentious addendum to an otherwise hectic and exhausting weekend. Here are some snapshots of our day in the park!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Free to love

There is no better time than now for me to be a Mama. I am a work in progress, that's for sure. But the progress has been monumental over the past two or three years. And I am so thankful that God prepared my heart for the awesome responsibility of raising a little one.

Had I become a Mama a year or two ago, I would have done just fine I'm sure. I mean, I know how to care for the basic needs of a child. But I'm not sure that I would have been ready to care for the other needs--the emotional and spiritual needs of my child. I don't know if I would have been able to give him the unconditionally, ever present and abundant love he needs. The kind of love that humbly admits fault, is not dismissive, always patient. I wouldn't have been able to give a love like this because I hadn't allowed myself to receive it. My heart wasn't there yet.

But my Father has continued to pour out overwhelming love on me. Love and grace. Always. And as a result, I am now living in a place of utter and absolute freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry or anxiety. Freedom from the world, from natural perspectives. Freedom from criticism. I am free. And it is awesome. And in my freedom, my heart is now free to love. And as my Father pours out his love on me, I can overflow and pour out love on others. Especially my baby boy.

photo by Ken Bruggeman Photography
I have begun to see people like Jesus sees them. He loves us all very much. And I have really truly begun to love his people too. And I am so excited that I get to raise Burke in freedom and love. He will be a lover. A compassionate soul. He's got a great big destiny to fulfill, and I am so honored to lead him into his Father's arms so that he can walk it out. And I imagine a day when Burke runs off the bus and tells me that he doesn't understand why the other kids made fun of some boy or girl. And when I ask him what he did, when he tells me that he told that boy or girl that he loved them. That Jesus loves them. That they are precious in his sight. And that was his gut reaction. His instinct. And he wasn't afraid. Because he knows who he is. Because his reality is freedom and love. Because his Father loved his mama so that she could pour out His love on him.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Love Wins

When was the last time you watched the defense win the game? Not just put on a really good defense to assist the offense. But literally win the game. I mean, when the offense just couldn’t score. (Assuming, of course, that the other team didn’t score against themselves). Right. You haven’t. Because it’s not possible. Because the best that a good defense can do is tie the game.

It’s no different when we go around trying to defend our faith. We’re playing defense and wasting our time. Faith doesn’t need to be defended. Faith requires good offense, something I rarely see. Because if I told you that I believe in you. That I have faith in you. You’ll come through on your promise. I know your heart. You wouldn’t let me down. If I told you this and I meant it, then it would be a waste of my time to defend your heart, your dependability. I would only have to entertain this futile task if I really didn’t believe it and needed to assure myself that it’s really true.

But, say I didn’t really know you. Maybe someone told me about you. They told me that you were really dependable. A trustworthy sort. And say this person told me that I could trust you, but I didn’t really know for sure. I just didn’t know for myself. But I trusted the person who told me about you. They never let me down. And so, on their word, I put my faith in you. I say that I believe you will come through on your promise to me—a person you don’t know. But say I don’t see anything. It seems like nothing is happening. Like you’re not upholding your end of the bargain. So I start telling myself that I can believe in you. Because my friend said that I could. And I trust them. I think. Should I trust them? Well they’ve never let me down. So they must be trustworthy. And so must you. But how can I know? I’m counting on you, but I don’t know you. And I don’t know if I can trust you. But I have to because if I don’t, then what? If I don’t have faith in you then I have nothing. An empty promise that goes unfulfilled. It’s an ugly thought, so I constantly reassure myself that I have faith in you and you will come through.

A lot is riding on this though. I’ve told people that I have faith in you. That you will deliver on your promise to me, a stranger. I’ve really put myself out there. You know, placing my trust in you. And so if you don’t come through, then I’m going to look like an idiot. A fool. And I don’t like looking like an idiot. So you have to come through. Whether you do or not. They can never know. And I begin to get defensive. To defend my faith in you. Whenever someone asks me about it, I respond condescendingly. Perhaps harshly. Judgmentally. Because I am insecure in my faith in you. And I know that I really shouldn’t have placed my faith in someone I don’t know—whose heart I can’t vouch for with certainty. But I have and I can’t look silly. So I am proud and loud and I feign confidence except it comes off as condescension. I suddenly have to know it all because if I don’t then I have nothing. Just an empty promise that goes unfulfilled and a foolish reputation.

So if I told you that you should live a certain way, say certain things, be careful not to practice certain evil things… If I told you that Jesus loves you BUT… If I judged you because of the way you were living. If I was proud and loud and condescending… Then it would be because I don’t really know my Father’s heart. I was just told about his heart by someone I knew. Someone I trusted. And they told me all about him. All about his anger. His rules. All about the ways in which I can earn his love. That I am a sinner. That he only loves those who love him in return. And they told me about heaven and hell. And that you have to do x, y, and z to go to heaven, otherwise he’ll damn you to hell. So not wanting to go to an awful place called hell, I chose heaven. I got “saved.” And now, I have “faith” in “Jesus.” Except I don’t really know him. All I know are the rules and doctrines, the systems of belief that my friend passed to me. So I guess really, I put my faith in religion. And when someone questions me, I am frightened. And if I see you breaking one of "the rules" then I must immediately hold you accountable. Because I wouldn't want you to go to hell. Or worse yet, I wouldn't want you to go to heaven acting the way you do when I'm working so hard to get in. So I get loud, proud and judgmental. I spout off the rules, doctrines, verses I know. I warn you about hell. All the while, I’m telling myself that I’m right. That I have faith in what I believe. Because I’m so scared of hell. Too scared to imagine the alternative. And I live my life defending what I believe in. Powerless and afraid. Hoping just to tie the game.

But when I tell you that I have faith in Jesus. That he so loved the world and died to save us. Every one of us. That in his abundantly unconditional love for us, he allows us to have the desires of our hearts even when it is destructive to us. Because we are free to choose. He brings absolute freedom. And he does not judge the world. That no matter the condition of your heart, he loves you. That there is nothing you can do to lose his love, though you don’t have to accept it. He loves to give good gifts to his children, though you don’t have to receive them. When I say this, I mean it. And if you ask me about it, I’d be so happy to share it. To share his love. Because I know his heart. I live in relationship with him. And he pours out his love on me. So why wouldn’t I give it away?

Because to be offensive with our faith, means to live out of the freedom within it. I don’t need to worry about whether Jesus loves me or you. I know that he does. And so I am free to love also. He told me to heal the sick, set the captives free. These are actions. They imply some seriously powerful offense. I’m in this game to win it. And as Rob Bell said, "LOVE WINS!"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Am: Pro Life AND Pro Choice

Generally, I refrain from defining myself, from quickly ascribing to one particular social label or another. It's not that I'm not proud to stand up for what I believe. It's just that I believe that it's these labels that are and continue to cause many of the social problems we face here in the United States of Dichotomies America. So while you may think I'm a walking contradiction, I think I just make a whole lot of sense.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that my Facebook news feed was flooded this week by articles from both camps regarding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation's decision to stop providing funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. I didn't participate in the discussion, but watched it unfold. And in the process, I realized that while I am pro life I am also pro choice. And I also realized that to be both is the most authentic position one can have.

You see, in order to be the "land of the free" we have to have freedom. The way I see it, you can't say that you're a right-winged, republican who believes in the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion and yet be anti-choice. It just does not make sense. Because if you are against a woman's freedom to choose the outcome for her unborn child, then freedom must really just be an illusion. Because what you're really saying then is that everyone should be a right-winged, republican, who speaks "freely" about your platform and who "freely" practices your religion and who chooses life for her unborn child. It simply makes no sense.

As a mother, I chose life for my child. I desired a child more than anything. And I discovered heartbreaking loss when my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. But I didn't let this loss define me. Because I knew that my Father loved me and wanted to bless me with a child. And I didn't want to miss out on this blessing. And now that I have my son, I have realized that truly the greatest gift is not even my child (don't get me wrong--he's AMAZING), but the unimaginable, unexplainable and unconditionally abundant love that I have for him. So if I chose to abort him, I would have missed out on this truly awesome gift. But HE (my loving Father) would still love me. Because He loves me unconditionally.

And if you're a parent, then you know that you can't force your kids to receive your love. Because they're too cool. Because they perceive your actions as punishment or unfairness rather than love and concern. For one reason or another. It doesn't matter. You can't force someone to take the gift you're trying to give. So why is it any different when a woman chooses an abortion? Yes, there is an amazing gift as well as many many blessings awaiting her. But she doesn't have to choose to receive them. Because then she wouldn't be free. And then America really wouldn't be the land of the free. It would all be a farce.

But what if she doesn't know about this gift? About the many blessings she's choosing to forgo? And what if you were there to tell her? Like it or not, Planned Parenthood has become a place of refuge in moments of crisis. It's not going anywhere. So there's no point in fighting. But what if you were the face who lovingly welcomed a scared teenager into your facility? What if you were the one who got to sit down with her and tell her how much she is loved? To tell her that she's beautiful and to tell her that she doesn't need to be afraid. It's going to be okay. What if you could tell her that God still loves her, no matter what choice she makes. And that there is an amazing gift of love waiting for her. One she can't yet fathom. No first-time parent can. And what if you could honestly tell her that no matter what her choice, she should not feel guilt, shame or condemnation. Whatever her choice, what if you were the one loving her through it?

So you see, that while I am for life I am also for choice. Because I believe in freedom. Real freedom. And that involves the freedom to choose.


Friday, February 3, 2012

To My Darling Burke: Eight Months

Can you believe we have only one quarter of a year left before you will officially transition from baby to toddler? It seems like just yesterday you were born. And yet you are already becoming quite a little man...all. on. your. own. You are so over baby things. You are a big boy now. With a big boy's appetite. A big boy's energy. And a big boy's independence.

It's the last one that chokes me up at times and yet I'm fascinated just the same. You fight us for your spoon at mealtimes. You want to feed yourself. Because you are a big boy. Not a baby. You want everything but what you have, you reach for everything in sight. You love to explore and your curiosity knows no bounds. You are no longer satisfied by mere rice puffs. I can see it in the look in your eye, the frustration on your face. You're thinking Mom! Seriously?! Rice puffs...again? What do you think I am, a baby? So we have started giving you big boy food and you are like king of the world!

You have figured out how to get around, albeit not altogether the conventional way. You get up on all fours and rock back and forth. But when you want to go, you "worm" yourself to the dog's bed or some other forbidden nook. And your face. Your face gathers with utter determination--eyes wide but set, brows fixed and your trademark open-mouthed "O" expression. It makes me smile every single time. You are the cutest little boy I know!

You are still obsessed with jumping. You're always jumping. If you could jump wherever you needed to go, you would. And you're so strong. One of your favorite things to do is to pull yourself up on Daddy's pullup bar (while he's holding you, of course). Another favorite pastime is bath time! Your eyes light up and glimmer with the sheer excitement of splashing all of the water out of the tub and all over Mama. You have even begun trying to climb over the side of the bathtub while I am running your water. Smart little boy!

Your independence pervades every aspect of your being. You have become quite adept at using a cup to drink. You love water and light up whenever you see your cup (or Mama's cup...or Daddy's...). You have begun to wean yourself too. Because you're a big boy now. Finally, your independence is evident by the fact that you now put yourself to sleep. No more rocking and singing or bouncing you vigorously in my arms to get your eyes to close and your arms to go slack. You may let me have a minute or two of rocking but then you squirm and fuss as to let me know that it's time now to lay you in your crib where you will take charge of getting yourself to sleep. Such a big boy. My baby boy. Growing up. And I am so proud of you. And I love you so much. And nothing. NOTHING. can ever take that away.

My love is yours forever.