Children Are People: Little, Whole People.

I’ve had the privilege (yeah, let’s call it that) of flying with my daughter six times in the first two years of her life. That’s six trips, twelve flights, more than twenty-four hours on an airplane. She was three months old the first time. I held her the whole flight in a window seat. When we stood up at the end, the guy on the aisle looked over and said, “Whoa! You’ve had a baby this whole time?!” Besides his lack of observational skills (and the odd insinuation that perhaps the baby had not actually been there the whole time), we thought this was a great compliment.

Fast-forward to toddler days. I don’t think anyone would make the same mistake now. It’s stressful to fly with a toddler on your lap, there’s no way around that. They’re loud, unpredictable, stubborn, active, and sometimes they move their limbs like those vintage mini-puppet toys where you push the bottom and their arms and legs collapse at awkward angles:

702704336_o

So flying with these little people is always an adventure. But one I’m more than willing to take on so Abigail can see grandparents and cousins and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles. Because my little child is a person and I want her to experience as much life as possible, even when she is not yet two years old.

We recently flew home from five glorious days of vacation in Texas. There was lots of sun, swimming, sweets, and very little sleep. Michael went home a day early so it was just the two of us. We got on the plane and spotted a window seat on the third row. Yes! The worst part of the flight is always those last ten minutes it takes to unload after the plane has landed. Your kid knows the flight is over and you should be getting off, but you’re not. It’s airplane purgatory. So the third row was a win!

We squeezed by our new friend on the row (I’ll call her “Aisle Seat”. She was probably in her 60’s, so maybe a grandma? Cross our fingers . . .) and we settled into our tiny, cramped home for the next two hours.

One by one everyone boards and keeps walking to find another open seat, even as the flight attendant announces that this is a full flight. I get it. I really do. I know how relaxing a flight can be when you don’t have a bouncing, laughing, poking, kicking toddler on your lap. I don’t blame you for walking past us. Not even a little bit. But then the door closed and the middle seat on our row was still empty (win again!) and “Aisle Seat” turned and said this: “Well, looks like you lucked out. I guess nobody wants to spend the next two hours next to a screaming baby.”

Like I said, I get it. An airplane is obviously not an ideal place for a toddler, but it’s necessary to let people travel back and forth to see loved ones. But just a few thoughts:

1. At this point, my child has not made a sound and has been quietly sitting in my lap looking out the window at the luggage carts and other planes and clouds. No screaming.

2. An airplane is a public place. Any time you venture into public, you run the risk of being inconvenienced. I have a responsibility in public to help my child act as much like a civilized human being as possible. I recently abandoned a half-full shopping cart in Target and carried my screaming child outside to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes. But there’s no outside on a plane. There is just this tiny seat.

3. I will do my best to make this experience as pleasant as possible, I promise, but my child isn’t an electronic device that I can turn off or put into airplane mode. She is a person. She has a personality and feelings and right now she’s sad because she just said goodbye to her grandparents in the parking lot. But we’ll do our best.

I wasn’t rattled, like I said, I get it. So in an attempt to disarm “Aisle Seat” a little and ease the tension, I responded, “Well, she’s awfully cute, so I guess they’re all missing out.” “Aisle Seat” didn’t laugh.

IMG_2674

Of the 130 minutes that we were in the air, Abigail cried for approximately 10 of them. Man, we tried so hard. We got out all the toys and all the books. We ate all the Cheerios, played all the games, and sang all the songs (quietly). There were a few minutes where I thought Abigail’s charms might win “Aisle Seat” over. But just when I thought we were gonna make it with a decent amount of dignity, “Aisle Seat” got up and walked to the front. And complained to the flight attendant.

I know this because the flight attendant (bless her) then came over and started banging cups in Abigail’s face to “entertain” her. Confused, Abigail took the cups, stacked them together, and put them down. The flight attendant cheerfully said, “Maybe that will help,” and walked away. Not to be deterred, “Aisle Seat” grabbed a cup and the bag of Cheerio’s (that I was holding), got a handful of Cheerio’s out of the bag, filled the cup, and started shaking it at Abigail. (At this point, I was just trying not to laugh.) “You’ve got to keep them distracted,” she said. Them? There’s only one of her. And she’s doing pretty good for a toddler on a plane, but she is having a rough day. Maybe you are too, since you’re now on your second Jack Daniels on a two-hour flight.

As the plane touched down, “Aisle Seat” said, “I hope you have someone coming to pick you up because I don’t think you can handle all that.” Oh, I think we’ll be ok. I will manage to gather all our belongings and we will go on to live our lives after this flight.

Just to be clear, I’m not bitter or mad at “Aisle Seat” and I’m recounting this experience mostly because it’s funny to me. I can’t say enough that I get it and I literally feel a burning wave of nausea every time we step on a plane because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, ever. I feel eyes piercing into us as we walk down the aisle, but then I remember, hey, this is my little person that I get to travel with today and I like her, even on bad days. You might get to sit by her and get a few Cheerio’s in your lap or you might get to sit by the guy that busts out his Salmon Caesar Salad five minutes into the flight.

I told Abigail before we got on that flight that I was so glad she was with me. I always get sad leaving Texas and I was happy to have her company as we traveled home. And I meant it. I’ll put up with the awkward sorry-we-bumped-into-your-tray-table . . . again . . . because she’s a person and I enjoy being with her. An airplane with a toddler isn’t my ideal place to spend a Sunday afternoon either, but it’s still two hours that I get to spend with someone I love.

For all the things that children can be: loud, rude, unpredictable, annoying, selfish . . . oh wait, adults can be those things too . . . They are people. Feelings, emotions, good days, bad days, all of it. Little, whole people.

Wait and Hope

Last week, I had the honor to write a guest post about God’s faithfulness on my friend Bobi Ann’s blog, bobiann.com. We first met when we were three years old in Mother’s Day Out together at First Baptist Church Kilgore, TX. We crossed paths again in college and seminary, then we both married minister husbands and are both in ministry ourselves! It’s been a joy to reconnect this past year through writing. Today’s post, in a way, is part two of that post on faithfulness, so if you want, click here for part one.

Isn’t it interesting how God often takes the really slow road? How, sometimes, we have long since written off a part of our lives as old or forgotten? And He pulls it out and dusts it off and says, no, I still have plans for this.

My husband and I are both fans of fantasy book series (i.e. Harry Potter), long-running TV shows (LOST), movie trilogies, etc. (Yeah, call us nerds, but as John Greene says, “when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all.”)

We love books and shows like this because they are stories that take a long time to tell. The arc of the story is not over and done in one episode. There is a beginning and end (or in the case of LOST, they just give up mysteriously and leave everyone in confusion. Still bitter.); but in the middle, there are twists and turns, backstory, character development, and each little story within the big story is important. Everything is building and every detail is significant. These stories often take the slow road and something introduced in the beginning can play a huge role later on.

A few years ago, our church took one year to read through the Bible chronologically. Two things about that. One: The Old Testament is really long. Really, really long. Two: It wasn’t the first time I had read the stories, but reading them in this way I got completely wrapped in the history, the character development, and all the details (yes, even the genealogies were interesting!). I loved walking through the story from beginning to end. I loved seeing how things in the beginning were important in later stories and how all the pieces fit together. And just like a good movie where you anxiously wonder if the hero really will be able to save the day, I found myself identifying with Israel in their longing for a Messiah, for rescue. It was indeed Good News when Jesus finally came on the scene!

I loved being connected to THE story. The story of Jesus. Because ultimately all of Scripture is telling about Him. And all that time in the Old Testament was build up. It was getting ready for Him. If I could sum up the Old Testament in two words, it would be: wait and hope.

But talk about the slow road. We often get impatient when we wait for an answer from God for days or weeks or months. In the first three chapters of Scripture, the human race was already broken. Israel was promised a Messiah, and they waited. And waited. For thousands of years. Hoping for redemption. Hoping for rescue. Waiting and hoping.

When we talk about hope, we often use it in this way:

“I hope I get the job.”

“I hope we sell our house.”

“I hope the weather is nice for the birthday party.”

“I hope they have nachos in the cafeteria today.” (Who doesn’t?!)

When we say we hope in this way, we’re basing it off of a very narrow definition. It’s “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” (dictionary.com) This is temporary hope and the thing hoped for may or may not come to pass. This is a definition of hope, but it’s not the only one. This is not how the Bible talks about hope. Because our real hope is not in someTHING, but rather in someONE.

“Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25, HCSB)

When God’s people waited and hoped for the coming Messiah, they hoped in something that was sure. It was promised. There was no way it wouldn’t come to pass. More than just wishing for what we want or crossing our fingers that events will turn out for the best, hope is “a person or thing in which expectations are centered.” (dictionary.com) It’s not hoping for a thing, it’s hoping in a Person. THE person in which our expectations are centered. The person of Christ.

When our hope is in Christ and not merely in wishful thinking, then hope cannot fail. Because Christ is eternally faithful. In Psalm 130, the psalmist declares, “I wait for the LORD; I wait, and put my hope in His word . . . Israel, put your hope in the LORD. For there is faithful love with the LORD, and with Him is redemption in abundance. And He will redeem Israel from all its sins.” (Psalm 130:5 & 7-8, HCSB) The hero will definitely save the day, no doubt about it.

There is the only true source of hope, hope that does not disappoint. It is Christ, His faithful love and His redemption of sins. There is our rescue. All the twists and turns along the way are part of the story. The details of our lives that we want so badly to work out are important, just like the thousands of years of Israel’s backstory is important. It’s all part of the bigger story that points us to a singular hope in the person of Christ. And regardless of earthly circumstances, this hope remains, because He is always faithful.

 

Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

10321165_555777895356_9204282405598875939_o

At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

What My One-Year-Old Taught Me About Fear

My sweet child is young and is still learning so many things about this great, big world. Just this week she learned that if food is hot to the touch, it will also burn her mouth, so she should put it back down and wait before eating. This was a lesson learned by trial and error (and many looks that said, “Why did you let me eat that?”). Currently, she is learning just how much she can irritate the dog (i.e. pull his ears, legs, tail, poke his eyes, yell at him, etc…) before he loses patience. She’s also learning the delicate timing of how fast she can get away from him when he’s had enough.

But there are plenty of things she doesn’t know about. Like sharks. She doesn’t know about sharks. She has pictures of fish in many of her books. You can ask her to point at the fish and she will. But she doesn’t know that some of those “fish” grow to be very large and have very sharp teeth and can eat you.

We took our sweet girl to the beach this month. She had only been in water a handful of times so we were prepared for some natural fear of the water. We were also prepared for a downright paralyzing fear of the sand, due to her being OCD and never wanting any dirt on her hands. She will literally spend 30 minutes picking invisible specks of dirt off her hands and feet. She carries wipes with her at all times, just in case there’s dirt somewhere and it might get on her. We can’t explain this phenomenon but we do take full advantage of it.

So we were a little nervous about the sand and the fact that it would be completely covering her at all times. As kids often do, she surprised us and immediately loved digging in the sand. The ocean, on the other hand, took a little more time. We tried over and over to put her little feet in the water and she would pull her legs up as fast as she could and wrap them tightly around us.

imagejpeg_0-2

But I was determined. I wanted my baby girl to have fun at the beach and I wanted to show her that she didn’t have to be afraid. The problem is, the ocean is downright scary. She doesn’t know it, but there are plenty of things to be legitimately afraid of in the ocean. Like sharks. Ok, so obviously a shark is not going to attack in three inches of water, but the ocean is seriously a breeding ground for danger. Stingrays. Jellyfish. Crabs. Oil spills. Undertow and riptide. (And when you’re 2 1/2 feet tall, you can add plain old waves to the list of really scary things.) This stuff is real! I know when I was a kid, I would swim in with reckless abandon as kids do. But I can’t remember the last time I went further than knee deep in the water. Because, sharks.

So I had a major, pivotal, decision-making moment while holding my terrified one-year old in ankle deep ocean water. I’m afraid of what I can’t see in the water. And rightfully so. There are plenty of dangers lurking. I can choose to stand here, ankle deep, and let our experience with the ocean be shallow. And my daughter (eventually) will learn to let fear control her. That’s not what I want. I want her to be wise, discerning, informed, careful even…but not fearful.

So I nudged her along. I carried her along the shoreline and every three steps would dip her and sweep her legs through the water and tell her to kick the scary waves back into the ocean! She kicked and kicked and laughed and laughed. Mom’s arms and back got more and more sore. I would put her down for a second to stand on her own and she would reach back up for me. Then, finally, I put her down and without warning, she ran full speed into oncoming waves. They knocked her down, rolled over her head, she laughed, got up and did it again. And again. And again. And again.

IMG_1658-2

So Mom had another choice to make. I can let my one-year-old have more fun at the beach than me…or…

I broke a very long streak of basically never putting anything more than a kneecap in the ocean. And I have my daughter to thank for that. I wouldn’t say we overcame our fear. I would say we found joy in spite of it.

I know there are healthy and appropriate fears. It’s ok to be afraid of snakes and spiders, particularly poisonous ones. It’s not ok to never go outside because you’re afraid of snakes and spiders. Scripture tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “Happy is the man who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10a and 112:1a HCSB, respectively) To fear the Lord certainly doesn’t mean to avoid Him or to stay away from Him because He is big and terrifying. There are unknowns and plenty of danger lurking, but our fear should make us run straight into Him. Like the ocean, He is vast and mysterious, but He still offers us a chance to know and enjoy Him. We fear Him because if we are really following Him into unknown places, He won’t always be safe and comfortable. But there will be joy. So much joy.

 

The Doctrine of “For Now” and “Not Yet”

For you astute theologians out there, you may be thinking this is going to be about the Kingdom of God and how this Kingdom is both earthly and heavenly, expressed in the here and now through Christ’s followers and is also yet to come in the perfect culmination of all things when we are with Him in Glory.

And you would be wrong. Sorry to mislead you.

No, it’s just that I have found myself saying those two phrases a lot lately. A lot. Here they are in context:

Michael says, “Well, we finally got the leak downstairs taken care of.” I say, “For now.” Michael says, “Got the faulty pipe replaced and we don’t have any more water coming into the basement.” I say, “Not yet.” Michael says, “All the doctors bills have come in from Abigail’s (not broken) arm and we’re all caught up.” “For now.” You see where I’m going with this?

Here’s the gut-level-honest-truth: February was a rough month. It was just one of those months where you find yourself saying, “This is just getting old.” I’ve never been so glad that February only has 28 days! We were ready to move on to March!

But regardless of what circumstances we are facing, this Debbie Downer mentality of “something worse is probably just around the corner” is pretty much the exact opposite of faith.

Part of Abigail’s bedtime routine each night is to sing a few songs as she goes to sleep. After we’ve read the books, after we’ve turned out the lights, we sing. I think it helps her calm down, but honestly, it’s refreshing for me too to sing a few minutes of quiet praise at the end of the day. One of the songs that almost always makes it on the bedtime playlist is one that I learned as a child. It’s simple. It goes like this:

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Halle-ju, Halle-ju-jah.” If you know the tune, I hope you were humming along.

These words of wisdom are straight from Scripture in Matthew 6 where Jesus spends a great deal of time telling us not to worry (which is again, the opposite of faith). The passage on worry begins in verse 25 with the phrase, “This is why I tell you.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever noticed that little phrase before. So I backed up to see why He was telling us not to worry. Interesting. Just before Jesus gives His command to not be anxious about anything, He is giving some cautionary words about money and possessions having too much power in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I find that worry and financial stress OFTEN go together. I guess Jesus is on to something here.

Jesus goes on to paint a beautiful picture of how delicately and intimately He takes care of some of the smallest members of His creation: birds and flowers. He cares for them and provides their every need. Won’t He do much more for you? Ok, I want to stop there, but He doesn’t. Actually He says, “won’t He do much more for you-you of little faith?” (v. 30, HCSB)

I’m confident that when my response to God’s blessing in my life is “well, it can only last so long” I am guilty of having “little faith.” My favorite part of Jesus’ teaching here on worry is verse 34, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (HCSB)

Wait, what? In a passage where Jesus is condemning worry and assuring us of His provision, I want Him to finish off with something more like, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow because I’ve got it all handled and it just gets better from here.” No, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush here. His command to not worry about tomorrow doesn’t change, but it’s not because He promises nothing bad will happen. No, in fact, He assures us that tomorrow will bring challenges. No doubt about it! God’s provision today does not eliminate hardships tomorrow. Actually, His provision today doesn’t even eliminate hardships today. Faith doesn’t cancel out our difficulties. It cancels out our worry.

I have no idea what tomorrow brings. But I know today God will provide. He provides “for now” when only He knows the “not yet”. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Halle-ju, Halle-ju-jah.”

Leaving Old Bandages Behind

You may have never seen anything as equally sad and cute as a one year old in a sling. (And if you say those Sarah McLachlan commercials, I’ll have to ask you to stop reading.) How do small children not break bones more often? Ours falls approximately 37 times a day. Off chairs, over toys, running down the hall. Recently, she got a running start and went face first into a door frame.

On the afternoon that she fell and landed in just the right (or wrong, I guess) spot, Michael and I (with all our vast medical expertise) diagnosed her with what I am now referring to as “jello arm”. As in, we would lift her arm over her head and she would drop it like it was made of jello pudding. Now, I am generally a very level-headed person. So naturally my first instinct was that her bone had somehow turned into mush and we needed to call 911 and maybe they could grow it back like Harry Potter’s?! Michael, thankfully, was much more calm, called the doctor’s office to let them know we were on our way, and even thought to drain the hamburger meat that was cooking on the stove and put it away before we left. How completely rational of him.

The doctor’s verdict was it was probably a fracture. On to the ER. X-rays couldn’t confirm (which apparently is not uncommon at that age), but they suspected a fracture as well. She got a splint and a sling and they sent us home, WAY PAST an acceptable bed time for a 16 month old. The next day we had another appointment with our regular pediatrician who twisted her arm in all the same painful ways it had been twisted the night before and again she suspected a fracture. Another appointment was scheduled with an orthopedic doctor to determine if she needed a full blown cast. We were instructed to watch her closely over the weekend as she most certainly had something serious going on in her arm and if she was in pain, take her to the ER immediately. This is serious. Got it. (Side note: Abigail is really trying to make sure we meet our annual deductible as soon as possible this year. Bless her.)

We spent the weekend doing very laid back activities. Books. Puzzles. Sunday she seemed to be feeling much better and was moving her arm a lot more. She was also really enjoying her sling and finding lots of things to do with it like store toys and wipe yogurt off her mouth.

On Monday, we head to the orthopedic. Ladies, you know how your car will make that funny noise and it does it every time you drive the car, but as soon as your husband (or dad or older brother) get in to check it out, the car stops making the mysterious noise? That’s exactly what this doctor’s appointment was like. The wrap and the splint came off and if her chubby little legs would let her, Abigail would have been doing hand stands. The doctor was polite enough to at least “take a look at her”, which was difficult to do while she was doing chin ups on the chair beside me. And his diagnosis, which we knew the second that splint came off, was “there is absolutely nothing wrong with your child.” Obviously, but thanks for your expert advice.

The nurse asked if we wanted to keep the splint. Now, it’s not that I’m not sentimental. But one, gross. That thing’s been on her arm for 4 days and I got a whiff of it when it came off. And two, she doesn’t need it anymore. I don’t know if her arm really was broken and it miraculously healed over the weekend or if it was just a bad sprain. But either way, she doesn’t need that bandage anymore. And we literally left it laying in pieces in the middle of the floor and walked away. And I haven’t been able to shake that image since.

What Christ has done for us is miraculous. We absolutely were broken and He healed us and transformed us so completely that it’s as if we were never broken at all. Sometimes we try to hold on to our past and keep putting bandages on it. We can’t just leave it in the middle of the floor and walk away. We hang on to old labels: addict, adulterer, liar, immoral. But God has given us new labels: free, delivered, new, loved. Of Zion, the Lord said, “You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her…for the Lord delights in you…” (Isaiah 62:4, HCSB). A new name. A new label.

The blood of Christ doesn’t just put a bandage on your past, His blood has covered it. “He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit…” (Psalm 103:3-4b, HCSB)

I want to leave old bandages behind. I don’t want to carry them around. They stink and I don’t need them anymore. I don’t need to keep a souvenir of the past. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, HCSB). So I’ll leave those old bandages scattered on the floor and walk away. Not broken anymore.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, The Old Man is Snoring

Weird, obscure 20th century nursery rhymes anyone? The rest of that little rhyme, in case you’re unfamiliar is, “He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning.” I’m not quite sure what the moral lesson is that we want small children to learn from this somewhat disturbing verse. Most nursery rhymes, in their original, not-modernized, versions tend to be on the frightening side geared towards scaring children into right behavior. For the record, I’m not necessarily saying I’m opposed to this kind of behavior modification, just making an observation. (If you don’t know me personally, please read that last sentence – and most of what I write for that matter – with a hint of sarcasm.) I will say, I don’t think “Rock-a-bye Baby” will be making an appearance on Abigail’s night-night playlist. Again…disturbing.

But speaking of behavior modification, this little rhyme is currently shedding some light on a little bit of bad theology that I think I’ve been hanging on to for far too long. Not too tightly, but just tight enough that it needs to be dealt with. I know it’s bad theology and every time I’m brave enough to say with words (out loud) how I really feel about a certain situation, I know it immediately. (Thank you, seminary education.) I know. It’s not right. It’s not how God works. But in all honesty, I am often tempted to believe that all circumstances impacting my life today are a direct result of how pleased (or not) God currently is with me. Let’s stop right there and say: This is no way to live!

Do you ever think this too? Everything seems to be going wrong so we wonder, “God, are you not happy with me? Have I done something to step out of your favor? Am I outside your will? Are you punishing me?” It’s difficult to unravel this bad theology, because sometimes, our circumstances ARE a direct result of our actions. The action is also known as “sin” and the undesirable circumstance is the “consequence” of the sin. But this is not always the case. Grace is also always at work. Sometimes your circumstances are the result of someone else’s actions. Sometimes your circumstances may be the result of something that happened before you were born. It would be impossible to expound on all the possible answers as to why we may be suffering in this way at this time in this context (sinful from birth, personal sin, sins of others, the world is a sinful place, the fall, etc.), so my short answer (and my current method of expunging this bad theology) is this:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8-9 (HCSB)

I want to push back. I want to argue. I want to question, “But WHY God?” But these verses tend to always be the end of the conversation. And honestly, they bring such peace. In everything that happens in this crazy world, His ways are always higher, His thoughts are always better. We can’t comprehend it. And besides, when did Jesus say, “Follow Me and I will give you the life of luxury and ease?” (I keep looking for that verse and I just can’t find it!)

Sometimes it rains and it pours. And it may seem like God is mad or He’s just not paying attention. He was there, tending to our needs and then, I don’t know, He got distracted or He just had bigger fish to fry. OR He’s not happy with me. Nope there it is again. It’s so easy to arrive at this conclusion if we don’t see the bigger picture. That God is always seeing our situation from a much larger lens, that He sees our situation as it relates to all things past, present and future. That at times, my circumstances may be a direct result of sin in my life, but at other times it may be an opportunity to exercise faith to produce something greater. Or it may be a result of someone else’s actions. Or something entirely different. Maybe it’s not about ME at all?! His ways, His purposes, His thoughts…so much higher than mine.

Sometimes it rains and it pours. God is not oblivious. He knows. He is not the old man who bumped his head and can’t get out of bed in the morning. He is so present and sovereign and HE KNOWS!

It’s hard to understand sometimes, I know, that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45b, HCSB). I assume that both sun and rain are meant to be positives in this verse, but I often associate ‘rain’ with not-so-good. Yes, it’s refreshing, but it also causes floods and sometimes it just pours and you want the sun to come out again. Either way, I have to stop believing that my good actions should return a blessing from the Lord, while my sins will incur His immediate punishment. It’s not that simple. That is a works-based religion. But we live by faith, set “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2b, HCSB). (Big side note: This grace and living by faith never excuses us from always pursuing righteousness.)

This is a 10,000 ft view of a very complex theological discussion about sin and grace (for further reading, see Paul’s letter to the Romans). But without knowing all the answers, I want to be able to live life in the reality of His abundant grace and not under the prospect of His impending wrath.

I don’t know all the answers. I’m so glad He does.