Sunday, February 16, 2014

I am (still) Iron Man...

Today I took one of those "Face book, Which character are you?" quizzes. I got Iron Man. At first I was pretty happy - he is my favorite of the Avengers, then I remembered a blog I wrote about 6 years ago. Decided to give it a revisit since I haven't had the time (or inspiration) to write anything lately. 

Hope you enjoy this "blast to the past."

I took my kids to see Iron Man this weekend, and other than some objectionable “womanizing” scenes at the very beginning, it was pretty good. There’s the whole ‘bad guy realizes the folly of his ways and turns good’ kind of message. I was surprised to the modern day references that seemed so much like they were pulled from the front page headlines. The horrors of war were, well, real. But that’s not the purpose of this blog. This blog deals with the closing line of the movie.

Spoiler alert – for those who haven’t seen the movie, I may give away the ending here!
Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog. At the very end of the movie, after Tony Stark has defeated the bad guy (at least we hope he has), he is about to go into a press conference. Just before he goes out, he is given an iron clad (sorry for the ‘iron’ pun) alibi as to where he was when the city witnessed this cataclysmic battle between the huge bad guy iron man and the much smaller, but far more resourceful, real Iron Man. All he has to do is stick with the story and his identity remains a secret; he can continue to do good and no one will ever know that Tony Stark and Iron Man are one in the same. Just read the cards. That’s all he has to do; read the cards. Of course, he doesn’t follow the plan. (Has Tony Stark ever done things according to plan?) In a flurry of words, Tony Stark blurts out that he is Iron Man. In fact, he inadvertently refers to himself as a super-hero in the process. That is the story of this blog.

That last scene of the movie really bothers me, probably because it hits so close to home. All I could think of as I watched was, “Shut up, you idiot, shut up!” It was as if I was watching an exaggerated version of myself. As a Christian, I know there is truly no good thing within me except Jesus. In myself, I am no different than the first Tony Stark, the one who lived for his own pleasure alone. But occasionally, I am able to see God do wonderful things through me, in spite of myself. Through His mercy and grace, He allows me to play a part in what He is doing on the earth. To be able to share His love, His mercy, His power with others who are desperate for a Savior is so amazing. Then, I am given the perfect opportunity to slip quietly into the background and just watch….problem is, there’s too much Tony Stark in me to do that. I find myself wanting to blurt out, “I am Iron Man.” I want to call attention not to God, but to myself. That part of man that wants desperately to be noticed screams out. Even though I tell myself, “Shut up, you idiot, shut up!” I continue on. And in an instant, the beauty of the moment is tainted by my own selfish ambition.

But, there is hope that this is slowly changing. Some would say wisdom comes with age. For me, I think it’s just finally starting to sink in through my thick skull. Say no more than needed, allow God to work and then quietly continue on. As Joyce Meyers says, "It's really not about me." Hopefully, I'm finally starting to learn. No, I’m not iron man. I’m just blessed enough to have been allowed to be a part of what God is doing. For a moment, I was used for something far greater than myself. That feeling is golden….and no moment of iron can compare.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

God made.......

This is a re-post of one of my first blogs. Today my daughter turns 19....she's not a baby anymore. My, how time flies.

We have always known what a blessed family we were. Since our daughter entered our lives through adoption over 13 years ago, we have been a family living with the constant reminder of God’s grace toward us. When we were blessed three years later with her baby brother, we knew life would never be the same......

Most families begin the same way, man and woman fall in love, get married and have children. For us however, things didn’t follow the pattern they were supposed to. I met my husband in Jr. College. He was sitting on the air conditioner - right above the sign that said “Do not sit on the air-conditioner” and it was love at first sight. Of course, it took us 5 more years to get to the married part. Soon after we married, we decided to start our family…only things didn’t go according to plan. Things rarely go according to my plan.

Our story isn’t unique, many couples go through the heart-ache of discovering that having a baby isn’t an option for them. Since we realized that the love in our heart didn’t require that the child be “flesh of our flesh”, we decided to adopt. Unfortunately, the adoption fell through and we found ourselves heartbroken and questioning God. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t hearing our prayers….why it seemed that the world was crashing down around our shoulders and there was nothing we could do except ache. Life lost its color and joy. Laughter left my heart for a very long time. God did slowly heal the hurt, but there was still that empty space in me that longed for a child. Since I wasn’t willing to be hurt like that again, I often said that God would have to send a telegram telling me Himself that we were to adopt again. Eight years later that telegram came in the form of an invitation to a Bethany Christian Services banquet.

At that banquet, we heard adoptive parents speak, a birth mom speak, and we saw countless pictures of happy children who had found their forever families. Before the night was over, we knew that we were on the road to adoption once again. Nine months later, our daughter came into our home. With her came laughter like refreshing water to a thirsty soul. I never knew how much I could love someone until I held her in my arms. I also realized what a sacrifice her birth mother had made in choosing adoption and I prayed for her….I still do.

As our daughter grew, we were blessed with joy that words could not express. She was and is the apple of our eye. We talked wherever we went and she was becoming quite expressive with her language. As we would drive, I’d point out the beautiful colors in the sky and ask her, “Who made the sky?” She would respond, “God made the sky.” I just knew that we had a child prodigy on our hands.

At the park, I’d point out the flowers and ask, “Who made the pretty flowers?” Her response would be, “God made the flowers.” What a joy! My child was so smart!

When we’d see butterflies, I’d point out their beautiful colors and ask, “Who made the butterflies?” She’d answer, “God made the butterflies.” Obviously, my child was destined to become a spiritual giant!

Then one day, I walked into the living room to find the floor covered with crayons! I put my hands on my hips and said, “Who made this mess?” She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said very matter-of-factly, “God made the mess.”

I still laugh when I think of that day, but her words make me realize afresh and anew just what a miracle working God we serve. Through all the turmoil, He brought laughter. He gave us hope where there had been only heartache. Where there was emptiness, He brought fullness of joy. Where there were wounds, He brought healing. He truly did give me the oil of joy for the ashes of mourning. Though I did not deserve it, He gave us the most precious gift and He did what no one else could do.

No, God didn’t make the mess….but God certainly can take the mess and make a miracle.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I do it! I do it!

Tonight I made a quick run to the grocery store to get supplies for lunches. I gathered my few items and then as I rounded the corner, I saw a mom with her young son standing at the meat counter. He was so small that he had to stretch to make his pudgy little hands reach the handle of the buggy. Mom was looking at the meat, trying to make a decision. He had other ideas.

"I push, Mommy. I push! I can do it! Move your hand Mommy! I can do it!"

That patient mom just kept browsing the display, keeping her hand on the buggy so it did not move. "I haven't gotten what we need yet, son."

As I turned onto the next aisle, I could still hear that little voice saying, "No, Mommy! I CAN do it! I push!"

And I felt that unmistakeable nudge from God...that kid's a lot like me.

How often have I pushed, wanting to go forward, not recognizing that God hasn't put into my "buggy" the supplies I will need for the journey? I think God is being slow, but He's simply making sure I have what I need before I impulsively push ahead. I want to "do something" and God is saying, "Wait."

I imagined that little boy pushing that cart all the way through the store, up to the cashier, and finding it empty. 

I don't want to do that in my life. I want to make sure to wait till God has filled my "buggy" with what I need for what lies ahead and till I hear God's voice say, "Now you can push..." 

You can learn a lot at the grocery store.

Habakkuk 2:3 ESV

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Isaiah 40:31 ESV 

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 27:14 ESV

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord

Galatians 6:9 ESV 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Facing a giant...

Today, David and the giant have been on my mind. 

We all know the story. It is a nursery favorite and is alluded to throughout literature and conversation on a regular basis. Even during football season, we often hear of a "David vs. Goliath" confrontations. We know the story...but have we ever put ourselves into David's shoes....I mean sandals?

Stop for a moment and imagine, not the moments when David is in the field watching sheep, ignored by those with "important" jobs, but the moment he stands looking at that giant. Imagine not the moments he'd spent being the "little brother" of warriors, but when he steps out of the crowd and makes those first steps. Not the moments when he stands before the king rejecting the armor that doesn't fit, but the moment when he feels the breeze blowing against his bare arms and legs, perhaps carrying the stench of that giant he is about to face. Not the moment when he said, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied" but the moment he first stood on that battle field.

It is this moment that is on my mind today. The moment after David has said yes to the battle. The moment after he dared tell his brothers that someone needed to face the enemy. The moment after he has talked with his leader and said, "Yes, I will take on the job." This moment....when he stands looking at the sheer size of the giant and he swallows. Does he think, as I often find myself doing, "What was I thinking?" Does he even mutter under his breath, "Dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into?!?!"

Ever feel that way? You have said yes to a job that is far bigger than you thought it was. You have taken on a responsibility that you know God led you to, but now you look at it and wonder if maybe there's still time to change your mind. (Of course you can't - God led you here and you know it's right...but still you wonder!) You see the unbelievably immense size of the task that lies before you and you think, I'm gonna die...maybe not physically, but career-wise, socially, or at least find my reputation wounded beyond repair. 

So why in the face of all this does the thought come, "that's right where God wants you...."
I know that I've been in "this place" so many times. In WAY over my head - in my job, in my parenting, in my marriage, in my fiances, in my life. I've found myself standing there, facing a giant and thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?????" I am at a loss. I really don't have a clue how to do this, how to fix it, how to kill the giant that threatens to destroy me. What was I thinking?!?!

I wonder if David felt this way; if he wanted to turn and run. We always think of him as so filled with courage that he didn't hesitate, but did he? Did he for a moment wish the ground would swallow him up? Did he wish that God would somehow make the problem just go away? I know I would have....I HAVE.

I think our young hero did feel those things, at least a little. But instead of running, he stood there and reminded himself of all the times before when God was faithful...the lion, the bear, and now - the giant. 

I don't know what "giant" you face today. Maybe it's something that would seem small to others, but to you it towers like Goliath, breathing its intimidating breath in your direction...laughing...mocking...waiting for you to give up. Be like David. Remind yourself of the lion and the bear. (Oh my, how huge must Goliath have been to make a lion and a bear seem like practice???) Take a step, knowing that you can't, but God CAN. It's really not all up to you. It's up to Him and He is able. Afraid you might be "embarrassed" if you step out and God doesn't come through? David would have been a great deal more than embarrassed...he'd have been DEAD! Step out anyway. (Just had a funny thought. I wonder if when the stone hit Goliath, were his eyes "opened" so that he could see Jesus standing in front of David, holding that slingshot?)

It's in those Goliath moments that we start to realize, it's really not about us anyway. We recognize that we are NOT able. We know that the giant we face is far greater than any little slingshot we might be holding. We have a God or run. Run and the giant laughs at you. Trust God and watch the giant crumble.

I don't pretend to have this down pat. I have faced giants many times, shaking in my tennis shoes and wondering if God would come through this time. I'm facing a couple of them right now! I have to continually remind myself of the dead lions and tigers and bears - oh my! And I look at my giants again to find that they're not so huge after all. In fact, they seem to be shrinking. Could it be because finally I stopped looking at the giant compared to myself and started looking at it compared to my God?

How big is your giant? Does it matter? Our God is bigger still.

Take a deep breath, focus on the faithfulness of God, and watch Goliath fall.

1 Samuel 17 - David and Goliath (Message version)

2 Chronicles 20:14-17 (MSG) (Emphasis mine)

14-17 Then Jahaziel was moved by the Spirit of God to speak from the midst of the congregation. (Jahaziel was the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the Asaph clan.) He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”