Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Citizens

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” ...
Joshua 5:13-14 (courtesy of www.biblegateway.com)
I have purposely waited until Memorial Day was over because our soldiers--and all soldiers--who fight to protect others and their rights deserve our unqualified respect and honor.  I do not want anything I say here to be taken out of context.  But I have something very important to say to American Christians, particularly ones whose churches make large nationalistic celebrations and preach charged, politicized sermons.

We are citizens of Heaven first.
Our leader is the Lord of Heaven and not any man.
Therefore, do not worry about what man may do or what the government may say.
Seek the Kingdom of God first. 
The question is not whether God is on our side.  It is whether we are on His.

Let us not worship at the altar of national pride or national fear.  Let us come before our Maker in reverence, awe, and confidence that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.  Let us know that He so loved the world (John 3:16), that He cares for it (Matthew 10:29), and that He does not discriminate (Galatians 3:28).  And let us begin to act that way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

God Loves Baby Gates

On Wednesday, I had to apologize to a parent.

"I am so sorry.  I thought your son was going to hurt someone, and I yelled to stop him.  I made him cry.  I'm so sorry."

I won't forget her uncharacteristic response.

"Oh, noooo," she said, drawing herself to her full height, her eyes flashing as she peered past me toward her son. "I know my child.  Thank you for not letting him get away with it."

And that stuck with me.  I, too, have thanked teachers for keeping my children to a standard.  My kids have issues.  They are not bad kids.  They are hyperactive, creative, and occasionally strangely inflexible due to sensory issues which literally make their brains incapable of rationalizing until the problem stimulus is adjusted.

And the whole thing reminded me of Psalm 139, so often quoted in reference to abortion.  But that's not the part of the Psalm that most sticks with me.  The part the most resonates to the core of my being is this:
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Now, mothers don't have divine omniscience, but we certainly search our children, and it does indeed begin pre-birth.  What was it I ate that kept that child up (and kicking) all night?  Didn't I know that everyday at 2:30 I would need to pat my eldest's little butt that was protruding forward in the gap under my sternum between my ribs?  After about ten minutes of patting, he would settle down and presumably fall asleep.  The whole pattern was destined to repeat once he entered the world, and I had already discovered that the butt pat was the key.  Eight years later, we have an exercise ball where he can bounce (on the butt of course) and calm himself down (one of the sensory issues I mentioned above, in fact).  I did know him.  I searched him to know him (although I wasn't originally seeking to discern his patterns out of love--it was more to alleviate pain).

And what about that whole sit and stand and perceive thoughts from afar?  Almost every mother can tell you what her child will be doing in a certain situation.  Take last fall when the men were repairing a roof in the neighborhood.  My little one asked, "How did they get up there?"

"I think they climbed the ladder on the other side of the building," I answered.

The little one began to sprint around the house.

"Don't think of climbing that ladder!" I yelled.

My friend, standing beside me, began, "He wouldn't...."

"Awww, Mom!" the little one shouted, throwing his backpack on the ground.

"Oh, yes, he would," I said.

And I knew he would because we mothers know these things.  We know when they have used toothpaste and when they have brushed with only water solely by the number of seconds the water has run.  We are, indeed, familiar with all of our children's ways, which brings me to the most profound part of that passage:

You hem me in behind and before.
Was I the only one scrambling to keep children from scaling balconies, climbing out windows, descending into creeks, and generally tempting death multiple times an hour?  Do you know how this line, this idea that the Creator of the Universe does the same for us, calms me?  And do you know how it turns the whole abortion argument, the whole consequences argument, the whole they-are-condemned-to-hell argument on its head for me?  All of those things may be true, but the Lord of Creation created the mother contemplating abortion, the sinner, and the unrepentant just as surely as He created the Psalmist.  In fact, I really believe that God allows us to read the Psalmist's words:

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
specifically because those are not the thoughts of God.  And how would I know this?  Well, does it sound like the God who told Abraham to wait more than 400 years for the promised land because "the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Genesis 15:16)?  Or the God who said, "And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals” (Jonah 4:11)?  Or the God who said, "Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country" (Deuteronomy 23:7)?  Or more importantly, the God who sent His son to die for our sins?  We are the ones who jump to anger and revenge, not God.  He is slow to anger.  He lets us read the Psalmist's cry for revenge precisely so that when we come to the Psalmist's plea:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
we understand that even though the Psalmist does love God, there is an offensive way in him, just as we all have offensive ways, offensive ways that are just as clear to God as the Psalmist's are here.  And He "hems" us in.  This chapter has completely changed how I see myself and those around me.  I don't pray for judgment, and I don't worry as much about the unborn babies.  I pray for hemming in.  God loves baby gates even more than I did.  He catches His children far better than I ever caught mine.  And He knows His wayward children, even better than I know mine, and loves them more than I could even imagine, which is a whole lot.

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