Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Day in the Life - Bad Guys

"I'm looking for a bad guy book!"

Kids say the darnedest things, and Shelby said this to one of our friends at the library last week. She settled for Spider-Man and Ironman. She's too young for the concept of an antihero, but I think/hope/pray that's really what she means when she says "bad guy."

She's obsessed with bad guys, but it seems to me in her innocence they are heroes who don't always do the right thing. Maybe they even spend some time as a full-on bad guy before converting or returning to the light.

Darth Vader started it. No, she hasn't seen the Star Wars movies. I think Disney is partly to blame ... since they bought the franchise he's been showing up in the strangest places. Like on yogurt. Darth Vader yogurt ... not something I ever really thought about arguing with the girls over in the grocery store ("No mommy is too cheap to get the yogurt with Darth Vader on it! We're getting our normal vat of cheap but good yogurt and you can look at a Darth Vader toy while you eat it").

I know, he's decapitated. I couldn't find his head. Everyone shrugs when I ask.
I know I'm partly to blame. I'm a closet geek. I love the Star Wars movies. I'm excited about Rebel One. Generally I despise the science fiction genre ... but I have a weakness for Star Wars. Lucas is a genius. They got lucky. Lucky casting. Lucky costume design. Great story, great music, everything was groundbreaking and unconventional (for its time). And they hit the jackpot somehow with Darth Vader's seemingly frightening yet appealing persona.

It started when the new Star Wars movie was coming out. There was a doll (action figure?) in the grocery store. It was actually Rylo Ken ... but I mistakenly told Shelby it was Darth Vader when she asked, in a voice filled with wonder, "Who is THAT?"

Her response to this scary dark figure in the mask? "Dark Mater? [think Tow Mater] He's my best friend!!!" Sweetheart. Darth Vader is not your best friend. He's a bad guy. A fictional bad guy at that.

Since that day she has had a mysterious fascination with this bad guy, who used-to-be-good-and-ends-up-good-in-the-end. Recently we were looking for a new "good to grow" cup because her cup had gotten moldy. "I want a bad guy. How about Darth Mater? Yeah that's a good one."

Seriously, the child picked Darth Vader soap. Over Elsa. Over Olaf. Over pink.
There was not a Darth Vader cup. The best we could do was The Hulk, because he was angry. He must be a bad guy because he is very mad. And we had checked out his book from the library before and he is a little on the careless side. And the antihero fascination continues. Spider-Man abuses his powers. Ironman is egotistical and a bit selfish.

He glares at me disapprovingly from her nightstand, in the car, and from tangles of tulle as he rests on a princess hat
Really Jesus Christ is the only perfect superhero. Perhaps we're fascinated with antiheroes because, like us, no matter how much good we do we're still trapped in sinful fleshly bodies and we long for something more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word: Know Your Enemy - the tempter

There are more names for the enemy in the Bible for anyone, aside from Jesus Christ Himself. I came across that statistic this week while doing some research for this post. I mentioned last week that I don't like talking about the enemy; I shy away from giving him any of our time or attention.

But if the Bible ... God's Word ... addresses him so frequently ... doesn't that sound like something we need to lend some attention to? While I myself have never taken the privilege to hunt (yet) I will tell you what I see hunters doing as fall approaches. They are honing their weapons and skills ... target practice, Hoppe's No. 9, siting bows and rifles in. But they are also studying their prey - their movement patterns, where they congregate, they are offering them feed, they are mimicking the presence of others of their kind in order to lure them to their leases and hunting blinds.

Our enemy does this. God knows you and knows your heart. And your enemy knows you and knows your every weakness. He has been a student of human nature for eons. But more than that, he has prowled like a mountain lion ... observing your ways and your habits. He doesn't strike erraticly. Mountain lions in several places have been known to observe joggers habits and highways for long periods of time before attacking.

The closest I have ever been to a lion; a zoo in Nicaragua
Unnerving to have so little between us and so much boredom reflected in those eyes
"... Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
- 1 Peter 5:8b

One of the names the Bible gives the enemy is tempter. This gets so personal, so ugly. That the very one who is called the accuser is the one who tempts us. Does that not infuriate you? Entrapment of the worst kind. He butters us up and draws us out into the open then exposes us in the wrong ... the crooked finger that coaxed us there now turned on us impeachingly.

"Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
- Matthew 26:4

Those weaknesses of our flesh is what our enemy is well versed in. This same father of lies who will lie to us about ourselves, about the goodness of the father. He tempts us into a trap and holds us there in a web of lies. Anything negative in your past can be your prison. Thoughts like "I'm too _______ for God to use" ... "God wouldn't notice me because ______" ... "God has given up on me because _______." Lies.

Las Vegas is known for temptation ... and the lie that what you do here won't affect the rest of your life
Remember, dear friend, even the truth becomes a lie when whispered from that throat of death. You may have messed up in the past. Guess what? We all have. God knows that; He knew we would before we were born. There is hope.

"then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation"
- 2 Peter 2:9

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."
- 1 Corinthians 10:13

Be aware that the tempter is studying you. Don't be afraid, even when evil your flesh desires comes crawling, dripping with enticement that threatens to overwhelm your pounding heart. Focus on God and beg Him to show you the escape hatch. It's always there; I speak from experience. Your flesh will war with you ... your enemy has done his homework, remember ... and the last thing you will want to do is fall to your knees and ask for help.

Even I can find something tempting in Las Vegas
Sweet friend! All it takes is once. It feels like standing on the edge of a cliff. You can't see any way out but giving yourself over to the darkness at the edge and hoping for a thrilling ride before you hit the rocks you know are waiting at the bottom. The weakest, whispered breath of a prayer though ... your hairs will stand on end in the almost undetectable breeze from heaven itself. It must be the flutter of angel wings ... stay with me, feel it even if you don't believe in angels. Believer, the Holy Spirit will sweep in and you will be lifted up from that precipice. It will shrink away below your feet like it never existed.

"Then the devil left Him; and behold, Angels came and began to minister to Him."
- Matthew 4:11

There is always a way out, and I've found that there is rest and relief on the other side.

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
James 4:7b

Friday, August 19, 2016

End Your Week Well - The Truth That Sets You Free

Fiction is easier than fact. That's what I used to believe. When I dreamed of being a writer, I always assumed I'd be writing fiction because I thought it would be easier. In a lot of ways I think it would be - I can only imagine I'll be dabbling in that arena as well. But right now that isn't where God has called me.

In the heat of any given moment, fiction ... or a lie ... something that bends or transcends reality is appealing as an escape. Under pressure our focus tends to narrow; fitting for an athlete, but leading to decisions without a thought or care for the consequences. Monday I warned about the father of lies. If there is a father of lies ... where is the truth?

"... If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."- John 8:31-32
God is the author of truth. That may not be what you want to hear. You may not want to hear about the Bible at all. Or you may want to hear that some of it is outdated. Your belief may be that we make our own truth, but I'm here to tell you that if you are writing it the foundation is the dust of your flesh. If you are writing it, it is fiction. Even logic will tell you that it doesn't work that way.

Think about it with me - if we each wrote our own truth, and we each prayed to "our god" who believes like we want to ... what of the areas in which they disagree? To simplify it ... if my truth is that the sky is red, and your truth is that the sky is blue ... assuming we're at the same location at the same time we can't both be right outside of our own minds.

The truth is the sky is God's. Without His truth it wouldn't exist. Every word that comes from His mouth is a fact. If He speaks something that doesn't yet exist ... there is its beginning. You can't get any more factual than that. The best way to irradiate lies is with truth.
"The sum of Your word is truth,And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting."- Psalms 119:160
Fiction is easier for us than truth, and it is impossible for God. I'm not speaking in a riddle "Can God make a rock big enough He couldn't move it" ... I'm saying that if God spoke fiction it would become fact. If God made a rock and said He wouldn't move it, He's not going to move it. Not because He is weaker than His own power but because He is truth. He doesn't break His promises.

Fiction is easier for us than truth because of our sin. We all sin. Not easy to swallow with our accomplishments and superimposed realism; a flimsy guise we're all too eager to accept because it doesn't require us to shift our focus. But without Christ we are bereft of truth.
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."- 1 John 1:8
Why would God make the truth a mystery? Why would He allow the enemy to continue to draw us away with shimmering mirages of perfection?

But dear friend, He has not abandoned us. When my flesh clings to the syrupy confection of fiction there is a way. The truth can be buried deep in our hearts where we can hold every illusion up in comparison and be guided in determining what is reality, not based on our own feelings, but on God.

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me."- John 14:6
He hasn't left us here alone to work out an inexecutable assignment. He has given us a way ... not a choice. Not a confusing array of paths like some convoluted maze only the clairvoyant will solve. One way. A way we cannot achieve or attain. A way that isn't taken from one and given to another. A way available to any who would simply have faith and accept it. It doesn't cost any of us anything - yet He paid everything.

God's truth doesn't stop there. Oh no. Why would He leave His children here to flounder once we've accepted Him if that was all there is to it? Wouldn't He just bring us home? But He not only saves us from the entangling lies, He helps us. He frees us to show others the way we have found. He commands us to show our love and gratitude through obedience and sends us help to do so.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."John 14:15-18
That, my dear friends, is the truth that obliterates the chains of every lie we've willingly and unwittingly taken on. That is the truth that sets you free.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Day in the Life - Where Are We Going?

Where are we going on this day?

Every day I get asked the same question. Sometimes as soon as they get up, but if I haven't by the time I asked them to get dressed I sure do then. Why get dressed if we aren't leaving the house? Its funny to me that they have that attitude because Mommy has this "we're going to get dressed at least for a little while every day" thing.

From the time she was a brand new tiny baby we weren't really sure they'd let us take home (she was barely over the bottom end of the weight range for her carseat) Shelby has done a lot of going somewhere:

Shelby's first trip in the car - we seriously thought they'd take one look and say "Oh no, you're staying here!"

GiGi and Dude's House - 152 miles
Hospital - 68 miles
Pediatrician - 64 miles
HEB - 55 miles (or 39 miles)
Walmart - 17 miles
Church - 7 miles
Library - 8 miles
Grandma and Grandpa's House - 0.3 miles (unless you cut across the pasture)

I want to drive!!!!
Because she was little, and because I'd had HELLP syndrome, we drove back into Austin many times just in Shelby's first few weeks home. Now we drive to College Station every week for gymnastics and groceries. Even if we want to go to Walmart, it's over a 30 mile round trip. You don't just "run to the store."

Getting gas after getting groceries! Party time!
Yet every day, the girls want to know where we are going. Granted, we've been very busy this summer with trips, birthday parties, VBS, and the like. And the past few days we've been receiving blessed, glorious, dare I say rare August rains. Highs in the upper 80s? Mid-August? Thank you Lord!

Awww yeah, this is so much better than being at home in my nice comfy bed for a nap.
We went somewhere every day last week. But you'd think it was the dead of winter in Minnesota and a snow-bank has covering the door for weeks; the cabin fever ran hot in this house Monday morning. I'm all for a little "get out because we just need to get out" ... but frankly, it's still raining. Mommy knows what is coming tomorrow. And Beast gets 12mpg. You don't just run around for the sake of running around.

Maybe riding bikes on the porch after their nap will be something. Sit-n-spin races and a dance-off was apparently not enough.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Know Your Enemy: father of lies

Do you know that you have an enemy?

You don't have to believe me, but it is the truth. Since before you took your first breath you had an enemy. He will be there beyond your last breath.

The accuser. The liar ... father of lies in fact. The prince of darkness. Deceiver. Destroyer. Devourer. Lion. Serpent. Dragon. Disguised. Tempter. Thief. Murderer.

The tempter is the same one who will accuse you ...
Let me introduce you to your enemy. While I don't like paying attention to him or giving any of my time and effort to him ... I think we need to. This is not an evangelical attempt to scare you straight. I'm speaking to anyone who wants to face this enemy, or at least explore the idea that one exists. I challenge you not to dismiss the idea that all the evil in the world points to a lack of God ... perhaps, rather, the evil in the world points to a dark source who stands to benefit from your incredulity.

"... He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
- John 8:44

Perhaps the first lie the father of lies wants us to buy is that he doesn't exist. As the father of lies, he is crafty with his deceit. Like a magician he weaves distraction and doubt before planting the lie. He doesn't necessarily commence with a bold-faced lie; he sets us up to be ready to accept it.

Before he told Eve that she wouldn't die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge (the lie) he set her up. The tone ... the question ... the subtle disrespect ... "Has God really told you not to eat from one of the trees?" (Genesis 3:1)

In the end your enemy's goal is death ... death of faith, death of hope, death of belief, eternal death
Such a liar is he that even the truth becomes a lie from his mouth ... "you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). His statement implies Eve isn't like God ... yet merely two chapters prior we are told that God made man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). We were already more like God than the liar, but somewhere along the way Eve forgot this.

In our weakness it seems to be part of our nature to forget God's truth and buy the lie. The lie often seems more plausible ... more probable ... more palatable than the truth. The tangible world around us instead of being a testament of God's creativity, His care, His character becomes reason to doubt He, or even a spiritual realm of good and evil, exist.

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie,"- Romans 1:25

The worst lie of all is that Jesus is not the Son of God. Our twisted enemy doesn't go so far as to deny He existed. Oh no, that would be too outrageous, too easily refuted. Instead he explains Him away as a prophet, a good man, a zealot with a few followers.

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son."- 1 John 2:22

You do have an enemy. He has been lying to the human race since before you were born; examine what you are told, what you accept and dismiss, very carefully. To deny his existence is to throw off reason, alertness, and to walk into battle you don't realize exists absolutely naked and defenseless. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

End Your Week Well - God Made Me

Have you ever created something? Made something? Built something?

Even if it wasn't just like the picture, the instructions, dare I say it - Pinterest, I'm going to guess you felt pretty proud. Perhaps you still have some beloved childhood project squirreled away in a closet. Maybe you don't ... but I'm willing to admit that I do.

The other night as I was putting Tori to be she looked at me and said "God made me!"

Sometimes it is hard to feel like God loves us. I have often fallen into the trap of thinking of myself as someone trapped in some kind of cosmic ant-farm. Instead of a benevolent, gracious God I begin to believe the lie that, sure, He set things into motion but now He's watching from a distance, disinterested and bored.

We just keep discovering things He has hidden
But we are not an ant farm, and God is not human. God made us. He made us in His image ... we have His imprint upon us. We can know that He loves us, the He cares deeply about us, that He knows us, because He crafted us. Every other thing He created He spoke into being. But man was different:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
the Lord God formed man of dust from the round, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
- Genesis 1:26 and 2:7
He handmade us. He filled our lungs with His own breath. Even after creation, He knows us intimately.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
-Matthew 10:30

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb" - Psalms 139:13
 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
- Jeremiah 17:10 

He knows you, inside and out. There is nothing that is hidden from Him. Nothing you have said, or done, or thought will be a surprise to Him. If He made us, and knows us, He is compassionate towards anything you struggle with. We are His children. I feel that I understand this better now that I am a parent myself.

I love my girls simply for who they are and because they are our's. I did before I even saw the wonderful, funny, heartmelting things they do. And I won't stop loving them even when they mess up, or even turn in spiteful rebellion, and do some of the same stupid, mean, hurtful things I have done. God is far more compassionate, loving, and forgiving than any of us ever can be. He knows where we came from. He knew that we would break His Son. And He made us anyways. That is love.

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
- Psalms 103:14

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Day in the Life - Too Noisy

Sometimes I just have to get away. It is noisy and distracting for me at our house. The girls vie for my attention and the toilets, floors, sinks, and the top of the refrigerator chorus accusingly that they have not received enough. I often find myself longing for a place of solitude and quiet. My ears grow tired of the constant cacophony of humanity that seems to follow me everywhere.

My heart, no ... my soul ... longs for a place where the only sounds to be heard are the breeze, the birds, the splash of water.

In a huff I flee my house to find a quiet place to write. Success!

But as I sit down, spreading gear around myself like a sandwich board reading "Don't talk to me," a train horn blares and the rumble of engine straining against an impossible weight reverberates the air around me. So I wait, fingers poised above plastic keys.

Children just a bit older than our own come to splash in the fountain. The pleasant ring of water droplets chasing one another erupts with shouts, shoes plopping wetly onto the sidewalk, girls accusing one another of pooping (pardon me??) in the water. I write anyways.

"Load up!" Relief. Grandma's call turns sticky faces homeward. Finally, just me, God, and the summer cry of cicadas!

Until another car pulls in next to mine. This place is Grand Central station today! Who told everyone about my quiet place? It is (no exaggeration here, I just looked at my phone) 100 degrees out? Why aren't you people in the air conditioning?

Two men excitedly spill out of their SUV. Pokemon? No, they aren't grasping cell phones. Perhaps walking sticks? Maybe they are hikers? Until I see the thin discs about the size of a frisbee on the end. Metal detectors. What a strange place to use metal detectors?

A sound like nails on a chalkboard echoes across the square, a chorus of ringing echoes bouncing off the buildings around us. Squealing, squawking ... one of the man erupts with excitement and drops to his knees, calling out to his cohort "Two seconds and I'm already onto something!"

"A penny! A 2007 penny!"

Bearded man "What?"

"A 2007 penny!" His voice to me would relay something along the lines of "The lapel pin of George Washington!"

Bearded man "What was that?"

"I found a 2007 penny! Right here!"

Great. I bet it's worth a penny. The cynic in me screams.

But you know what? It's two people out enjoying their hobby on a Sunday afternoon. Just like me. So I stop glaring up at them between lines. And I realize I kinda miss my noisy little distractions who will probably be waking up from their nap soon.

As much as my soul longs for the quiet of a wilderness, to be alone with God, I know the day will come when I will miss all the noise. So I say a prayer of thanks for the screams, the squeals, the songs, the cries, and the endless "Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy?" that currently fills my days, and my heart.