Posts Tagged ‘patience’

Grace, Love & Bunny Hills

A few days ago I took a group of all ages from our church on a “Family Ski Day” a few hours drive from home. I love to ski, but living in Illinois has only offered me opportunities nearby, and probably only about once every other year. Still, I look forward to it every chance I get – and dream of someday going down an actual long ski run. I don’t enjoy the “Black Diamond” hills as much as a long, side-to-side, “Blue Square”.

This trip was different, however, as I brought our oldest daughter along. I secretly hoped she’d be a prodigy so we could enjoy a bit of skiing on the biggest slopes the valley of Andalusia, IL could offer. I took a quick video of her first attempt on a bunny hill so I could capture & share the memory.img_0397

Fast forward 6 hours later – she was still bubbling over with delight as she cruised down the bunny hill, using her ski poles to increase speed on the way down. She loved it. There was a small part of me that wanted to see her experience a larger hill – for her own sake – but also so that we could share that experience together. But her cup of excitement was filled and flowing with joy as her eyes communicated that she was thrilled to be skiing down the hill and riding the “magic carpet” back up, over and over again. She granted me permission, more than once, to go enjoy some more extreme skiing for a bit. I took her up on that offer a few times, and each time returned expecting her to tell me she was growing weary and wanted a larger, steeper hill. Instead, I could see her smile still beaming from a football field away. She was in the zone and loving every bit of it. I’d gently ask her if she wanted to try something a little different, and explore a larger hill. “No thanks, dad! I’m loving this.”

I smiled, loving her. As her father, I wanted so much more for her – and knew someday she may enjoy cruising the larger slopes. But also as her father, I loved watching her gain confidence and grow in excitement over her abilities here – where things were a bit easier to stay in control.

There are moments in scripture where I hear the same kind of love Jesus has for his disciples. He came as God in flesh, to reveal a way of loving and living never before seen in humanity. He gathered a small group of followers and began taking them down the bunny hills of revealing God’s Love. They were thrilled.

He began pointing to some of the larger slopes, and inviting them to adventure…and they took a few tumbles. Peter asks Jesus how this new approach to forgiveness works in Matthew 18:21, and you can imagine Jesus nudging him along on new ground. The disciples begin to rebuke people who were bringing children to him, and Jesus reminds them to keep their knees bent, and body relaxed (ski talk for a grace-full approach) in Luke 19:14.

There’s a bit more exasperation in his love during other moments. Times like the disciples freaking out about the storm in Mark 4:38, or Peter using his sword in Matthew 26:51-52. You can imagine Jesus patiently wanting so much more for his followers, even as he understood they were limited and still maturing in their faith.  The smile coming over his face, as he closed his eyes to imagine the ways God’s Love was yet to be revealed by His followers in the years and millennia to come. Then perhaps a bit of sadness in the corner of one eye, as he understood humanity would also continue to stumble on such large slopes.

There is a moment, in Luke 24:36, where Jesus comes back to the bunny hill to check on his followers. He waits a bit, hearing their conversation and smiling to hear their excitement as they share stories of his resurrection. This group of random men – fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, all brought together and united by the stirring of God’s Love. He knew they were being prepared for so much more…and they would invite others into the mission as well. He finally spoke up, “Peace be with you.”
They couldn’t imagine the places He’d just returned from and were stunned to see his scars. But as he began to talk to them in those final moments, they realized the grand picture of what he’d always been inviting them to join. They were no doubt overwhelmed by the love of this Savior who’d spent so much time on the bunny hills with them. They believed His promise that a power was coming that would enable them to Love & Live as He had.

May we be newly aware of such grace and love, and see how the Spirit might guide us to reveal His Love in ways we never imagined on the bunny hills…

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

Reminder: Check out the adventure of faith our family is launching out into!

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Leading Them To Water

Moses: Hello rock.

Rock: Hello Moses.

Moses: How are you today?

Rock: Oh, ya’ know, it pretty much rocks being me.

Moses: lol, always so witty.  Hey, do you think you could give us some water?  God said it was cool.

Rock: Well sure (transforms into giant office water tank).  Go ahead.

Moses: Wow, that’s a pretty nifty trick.

People: WHOO HOOO.  Hooray for the Lord, God of Moses! All of creation responds to His desires!

You may not recognize the above story from your time in scriptures.  That’s because it never got a chance to happen.  In Numbers 20:8, God directs Moses to relieve the thirst of the people and their animals by speaking to a rock “that it may yield its water.”  Who knows what they may have looked like?  Okay, probably not the situation above, I just had a bit of fun with it.

Instead, Moses was filled with anger and frustration at a whiny group of untrusting people.  Even after all they had been through, they were blaming God for their thirst, and asking if Moses had led them to this place to die.

I imagine a large group of kids in the back of a mini-van.  This trip has been much longer than they thought.  They’ve asked “Are we there yet?” about a hundred times, and now have escalated to the drama of “I’m going to die, I’m so IMG_9800thirsty!!”  Mom and dad are in the front, thirsty too, but driving through traffic jams in the middle of midwestern cornfields doesn’t offer many chances to stop.  Finally dad slams on the breaks and pulls over.  He’s had enough.  He turns around to look at his children and the main goal in that moment is to stop the whining.  He gets out of the car, and hits a rock.  The rock starts gushing water, and the need is met.

Now for a “bigger lens”…

As parents, we want to meet the needs of our children.  Just like Moses, we feel the burden of providing for our family.  There are ways to do it, that honor God and help turn the hearts of our children toward responding to their ultimate provider in worship.  There are other ways to do it, that simply (or luxuriously) put food on the table, but end in a result of our children being amazed at our abilities and filling their thirsts.

It’s difficult…sooo very difficult to spend time talking to rocks.  But in the end we recognize our children have a thirst that goes deeper than any material item in this world can quench.  More important than causing the water to flow, and meeting their every immediate need – is providing them a path on which they see and experience the love and provision of God, and are shaped to depend on Him.

The question then becomes – Where is the rock God is calling you, as a parent, to talk to?

 

confession: I want to prove God.

For as much as I wasn’t a giant fan of “God’s Not Dead” for reasons we can talk about in person…I will confess I have something in common with the young college student.  I have a desire to prove God.   It’s not that I want to prove His existence, or even prove to someone that Jesus was divine.  It’s not an intellectual debate I want to win.  I want to prove to my children, the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the midst of a world where such testimony may be hard to hear behind other noises.

It struck me in a particular way recently, as I was praying for our adoption.  You may have something else weighing on your heart.  Something your family is praying fervently for.  Something you and your children name regularly every night in family prayer time, and the main thing your kids might mention if they’re praying before bed at a friends house.  Whatever that thing is, beyond praying for that “thing” itself….as a parent we also find ourselves praying it for the sake of our children.   That they will experience God’s hearing of the prayer, and be able to celebrate together as a family when He responds.

So what happens, when that “main family prayer”, becomes the one unanswered?  The one a family is left to struggle with.  What if our children grow up praying about it, almost as a reflex, but slowly and accidentally learn never to actually receive a response from God on the issue?http___makeagif.com__media_5-05-2014_dpmt43

In my anxiety and frustration, God calms me down.  Hand on my shoulder, tears welling up in his own eyes, He speaks with love.  “You and your family are not the beginning, or the center of what I’m up to, Chadwick.”  In a moment of humility, He reminds me of where I sat just a few weeks ago, at a Seder dinner with my children. From my own lips, my children heard God’s story as one we are now the continuation of.  That His people lived for hundreds of years in slavery, and have faced suffering and death for millenia.  That the story of God’s people is one of embracing what it means to suffer in a world that is not yet made right.  What it means to not pretend everything is easy or can make sense.  Imagine what it would’ve been like for an Israelite parent to teach their children the goodness of God, in the midst of generations of slavery.  God calls us to live uncomfortably in a world that idolizes comfort and ease.  We are a people who have been crying out to God for thousands of years, and God has been/continues to respond to that cry.  He invites us to actively participate in that response as well.  Not by denying or avoiding the brokenness of the world – but by how we suffer as those who know God is with us.

His was a reminder – one of the greatest things we do as a parent is to give our children, and younger generations a context for their struggles/doubts.  A safe place to express suffering…(any youth pastor who’s heard a teenager lament at a broken relationship can understand this)…and a larger view/context that helps to bring genuine perspective and comfort knowing God is with us even in these moments.  Not promising to make everything better for every individual who comes to Him like a genie inside a magic lamp.  Yet….not like a removed deity who has nothing to do with the world He set in motion, either.

God is at work.  In faithful and world-changing-ly large ways.  But also in small, thankful whispers of reminder.  We know that His heart is seen being revealed in “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”

All of that to say, be encouraged.  Even when it seems our prayers aren’t being responded to.  Not because “God’s working it all out to be even better than you would’ve prayed.”  But because, God is with us.  Always.  Has been, and will be.  That’s the story we invite our children to live within.   That’s the story that invites them to prove God…

Okay with Wait.

I often find myself in the position parents all throughout time have been in, explaining a large word or concept to my 4 year old in ways she can grasp.  The word we were discussing was the word “patience”.  A word her daddy needs to work on every bit as much as she does.  The phrase I came up with to help her understand was simply, “patience means it’s okay to wait”.

But we are reminded by God’s word, there’s much more to it than that.  In Exodus 24, God calls Moses to the mountain to meet with him.  Moses goes, and ends up having to wait 6 days before God reveals himself.  As they’re meeting together on the mountain, the people of God find themselves waiting 40 days and 40 nights, and they grow impatient.  It seems not only here, but throughout scripture, God’s people should be those who not only “know how” to wait well, but look forward to those times of waiting.

skyThis seems to be appropriately against the normal pace of an instant gratification world.  The culture of hurry, and filled schedules.  It also seems like a very important/beneficial time to embrace the concept of “waiting”, as we continue the season of Lent this week.  We wait, and deny ourselves certain things until the celebrations of Easter week.  We know there will be much to celebrate, and what we will celebrate together gives us strength and reason to remain faithful today.

The people of God in Exodus 24 lost sight of that.  In chapter 32, we read a disappointing scene where God’s people have lost patience in waiting for Moses.  In their impatience, they’ve created an idol to give them spiritual gratification immediately.  I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say, many times we Jesus-loving church goers find ourselves with the same desire for instant spiritual gratification.

But what about the faithfulness of God that comes after a period of waiting?  All of creation waited for Christ to come, and oh how things have changed!  The people of God wandered in the wilderness, waiting to enter the promised land.  Jesus spent his time in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan and spending time apart with God – preparing him for his earthly ministry.  Noah and his family waited through the storms, and waited even beyond that for the water to recede, in order to experience the covenant living of God.  Abraham and Sarah waited quite longer than they expected, to experience the beginning of God’s faithfulness to His word.

In each of these, the wait was much more than “okay”.

May we be people who are not only experienced in, but filled with anticipation by…waiting on the Lord.

a spoken update.

the story we wanted him to write.

I remember back in early April 2012.  We were right on the threshold of a new adventure in following God’s call for our family.   We’d made the decision to adopt internationally, and felt God leading us to learn more, and grow a love for the people and country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We’d been warned by several others, “this is an expensive process.”  “This is a journey with many unknowns.”  With smiles on our faces, we nodded.  We were aware.   We looked forward to the story God would write as we handed him a new stack of blank pages for the future of our family.

But we already knew what he would write.  The pages may not have been completely blank.

He was going to write a difficult but charming story of how a small midwestern family in full time ministry overcame great odds, and the  impossible financial realities of a single ministry income, to bring home a beautiful baby girl from the Congo.  It would be an amazing story and illustration that encourages every family to realize just how much of an impact they can make on the world, even if they aren’t a “power family” according to their status and income.

So far, that’s not been quite the story.me

After connecting with a great organization for quite a while, they ended up being much more focused on other efforts in the DRC.  That was fine while we were being processed, and finishing our homestudy.  But over a year into the process we finally felt released to switch to a new agency.  It seemed like prayers were answered, as immediately we received a referral.  We prayed for God to care for her, and put it completely in His hands.  We shared her picture with our children/friends.  Then her parents came to pick her up.

So here we are, back at the top of the “waiting list”, and the DRC has currently stopped issuing VISA’s for adopted children to leave the country.  They’re investigating specific cases of unethical practices from non-US countries, and making a statement while they do it.  It’s ultimately a good thing, as everyone involved genuinely wants the best for these children.  God has definitely used this time to help us learn more about the country, the people, and pray for the instability and fighting to cease.  This season shouldn’t impact us, because…well, it seems we’ll still be waiting a while.

If God had asked me as a young child what I wanted Him to do in my life, things would look quite a bit different from what currently is.  In reality, I’d probably be running around as the 5th Ninja Turtle.  So that’s obviously not the point I want to make here.  What I do want to do, is point out:  I don’t believe God is “making” this process difficult on purpose, as a sort of cosmic response of “I’ll teach you, Chadwick.”

I don’t believe God caused most of the difficult circumstances that have happened in my life, or in the lives of those I love…or your life.  Whether it’s the brokenness of your home growing up, or the economic struggles we’re currently facing as a nation.  He has granted humanity freedom out of His great love for us.  But I do believe God can write redemption into whatever story is happening due to the loving freedom He has granted humanity.

The story may not be the one we “wanted” Him to write as we handed him the paper and pen.  He may not be following the script we attempt to whisper into his divine ear every evening.  But He is still writing a beautiful story of hope and healing.  He offers to do the same in your life even today.  How will you respond to His invitation to be a part of New Creation?

Our story may not convince people that adoption is an easy/do-able choice.  But it may help paint a picture of what a family stubbornly relying on God looks like.  An image of parents who talk and pray with their children about a broken world.  Human beings yielding themselves to following God’s call…even as that call is largely unknown and uncontrollable.  As we’ve seen throughout scripture, He’s pretty good at knowing where such a story should lead…

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