In Need Of Rescuing

scaffolding collapseMy attention was captured today by the story of a painter on a high-rise building who was literally left hanging when his scaffolding collapsed underneath him. When I entered the scene via live video, a firefighter from Key Biscayne Fire Rescue was on his way down to the dangling man.

Hanging by a white strap, yellow buckets of paint visible on the askew scaffolding below, the man appeared calm, but I could only imagine the panic he was feeling. He couldn’t see his rescuer above him. Green shutters framing him, other firefighters watching and calling directions from balconies nearby, the man was in good hands, but he probably didn’t feel that way.

I said to him, as if he could hear me, “Hang in there buddy. Help is on the way. He’s almost there.”

As I watched the competency of the firefighter, though he moved ever so slowly, I imagined how the day had started for the dangling man. He just thought he was going to work. He put on his white painters clothes, shoved his feet in his work boots, maybe told his family goodbye, and drove to the job site. Little did he know that some hours later he’d have his feet knocked out from beneath him.

How glad was he that he followed the rules and was wearing his harness? high rise rescue

Soon, another firefighter appeared from above, talking to the man, putting a calming hand on him. I could almost hear what he was saying: It’s gonna be OK. We’ll get you down. We’ve done this lots of times. Trust us.

Trust. Easy to say when you’ve got 2 feet on the ground. Not so easy 7 stories up. What will work be like tomorrow? Will he get the day off to recuperate? What about when Monday comes? How much bravery will it take to step out on that scaffolding again?

Slowly, slowly, the firefighters secured him and began to lower him down, both constantly attached to him, one above, one to the side. When the cords that had bound him before became entangled with the rescue lines, the first firefighter quickly cut them away.

The 7-story descent to solid ground went off without a hitch. The stretcher was there waiting, along with a bottle of water.

He was safe. He was going to be fine.

But how uncomfortable was that rescue? How much did it hurt to hang there for more than an hour? But would he have chosen to stay there, wanting to avoid the pain and the pull of the rescue lines?

Certainly not. He wanted someone to save him.

lone man hangingThis lone painter knew he was in trouble the minute that scaffolding failed. Who saw him? Who called for help? Other white-clothed men talked to the rescue crew after the painter was safely on the ground. Were they co-workers? Comrades in color? Did they know his distress and call 9-1-1? What would have happened had they ignored his distress?

Luckily, we won’t ever know. Someone called. Someone got help. Someone got involved.

And this man lived to go home to his family.

How many captured, enslaved, trafficked souls in need of rescuing aren’t going to have that option today?

Get involved. Make the call.

images from wptv.com (1), fox13news (2) and wpec (3)

Guest Post: Demons

Sometimes my 18-year-old son, Nathan, surprises me. He balks at traditional education and procrastinates writing for his classes. Then he shows me poetic masterpieces that absolutely blow my mind. The first one that captured me was composed several years ago for a class project. It was about Yellowstone National Park. It’s still one of the best things I’ve read. I’m keeping it forever. Maybe someday I’ll share it here.

He handed me the following yesterday and gave me permission to share it with you. Enjoy.

shadowy figure

Midnight comes and midnight goes

He tries to go to sleep but his eyes won’t close

His mind is in turmoil as he tosses and he turns,

He longs for some release but the nightmare returns

No peace can he find in the comfort of his bed

For no comfort can drown out the war zone in his head

He tries to cry out but his mouth won’t open

Desperately he searches for something to put his hope in

He’s drowning in the tears that are streaming from his open eyes

Screaming as his demons escape and start to terrorize

He knows that alone he is too weak to defeat this

Too weak to beat the demons with nothing but his clenched fists

So with pulsating veins and eyes turned upwards

He tries to find the strength to formulate enough words

To call upon the only one who is strong enough to save him

The one whose power is enough to cause the mountains of fear to cave in

And in the suffocating darkness he gasps and he wheezes

His dry throat only able to choke out one word: Jesus!

Now it’s the demons who scream and run away to hide

And he’s filled with such warmth and peace inside

Cause the one who conquered death is there to guard his rest

And the weight of all his fear is no longer on his chest

Now midnight comes and midnight goes

But his mind is finally at peace… and his tired eyes close.

Version 2

Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., where he is a student in the Cambridge Program. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida, Burnett Honors College. 

Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline

I survived my kids little years. I not only survived them, I enjoyed them. I had great community, an involved husband and a knowledge that whatever struggles I encountered—and there were many—would be soon past. But not every mom thrives in motherhood, especially with little kids. For those in the midst of the mess, I would like to present to you author and mom Catherine McNiel and her book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.

hi-res-book-coverTell us about your book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.

Long Days of Small Things is a book that looks at the real life work we do in our everyday lives, and finds God right here in the midst of it. It’s a book for moms (or dads…or grandparents…or caregivers…) who know they don’t have any extra time or energy, but still want a way to connect with God and discover how to find Him.

Why did you decide to write Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline?

 A few years ago I was a work-from-home mom with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler. These precious, demanding children took me all the way to the end of my rope…and left me there indefinitely! My life changed in every way, yet I heard only the same spiritual prescriptions I’d always heard: spend quiet time each day with God. Find 30-60 minutes each day to be in silence and solitude before the Lord. As I considered the classic spiritual practices (which I love!)—prayer, worship, fasting, meditation, service, solitude, etc.—it became abundantly clear that the realities of motherhood meant I was likely to fail. Or opt out entirely.

But my spirit didn’t allow me to do that. I heard a lament rising in the hearts of the women around me—I have nothing left, nothing left to care for myself or give to God. But as I looked at the actual seasons and tasks of motherhood, I was convinced that there was no better “boot camp” for my soul. Each day we mothers create, we nurture. Each day we are pushed to the end of ourselves and must surrender, sacrifice, and persevere. Each day we serve, pouring ourselves out. We empty ourselves for those in our care—and isn’t this emptiness the very reliance on God that the spiritual disciplines are designed to produce?

I’m convinced that motherhood is doing an eternal work on my soul, even if I’m too exhausted and overwhelmed to notice just now.

How is this book different from all the other books and conversations out there regarding motherhood today?

There are so many books out there for moms on the topic of devotion and spirituality. Almost all of them have this in common: after admitting that moms are exhausted, stretched too thin, without any margin or time or energy, they look for a few extra minutes here or there which might be harvested for God; or offer a Bible study or prayer list that might fit in the tiny slots. Get up at 4:30am before the baby wakes at 5am! Read two minutes of the Bible each day!

I’m all for doing these things when it works, but I’m convinced that we don’t need to exit motherhood to have a spiritual life. Our children are what we create, and this is where our Creator God meets us. I’m certain of it. Without adding more “should’s” or “to-do’s” to our days, we can open our eyes to a unique spiritual journey, made just for us—and find him here. We’re already doing it. All that waits is for us to breathe deeply and begin to drink.

 

hi-res-author-photoCatherine McNiel survived her children’s preschool years by learning to find beauty in the mayhem. Now, she writes to open eyes to God’s creative, redemptive work in each day. The author of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress, 2017), Catherine cares for three kids, works two jobs, and grows one enormous garden. Connect with Catherine on social media: Catherinemcniel.com; Twitter: @catherinemcniel; Facebook: CatherineMcNielWrites

Buy Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline by clicking one of the following links:

Amazon

Barnes&Noble

ChristianBooks.com

NavPress

 

 

Drink Like A Deer

img_1701-1In my front yard I have a grapevine doe. She used to be a Christmas decoration, but eventually the light bulbs burned out. So I moved her over to my koi pond, which sits right in front of my dining-room window. And now I can watch her all year long.

Every once in awhile I see a lizard skittering inside her belly.

What struck me today, though, was that she’s ever so close to drinking that water, but never quite getting there. If she could just stretch a little further; if the water would just come a little closer, she could be fulfilled.

It reminded me of the verse, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1b).

Do I long for God? Do I literally feel as if I will die if I’m not with Him?

This winter has been rough—I know, I know, how can a Version 2Florida winter be rough?—but though the sun has been shining and the weather has been warm, the storms of life have almost undone me.

From emotional crises to a nagging health issue to an accident that’s causing me to take on a role that doesn’t come naturally to me, the blizzards hit one after another, just as if I’m New England in this winter of ’17.

Oh, how I long for the flowing streams of God’s grace. I don’t want to sip, I want to plunge in, head over heels, and feel Him surround me and take me under so that I’m no longer breathing air, I’m breathing Jesus. Every breath I take.

Sometimes the life-giving water seems far away. I just can’t reach that far. There is too
much fear, like lizards crawling around in my belly. Do I trust Him, even though He’s choosing to keep me in this season?
img_9130Do I believe He’s a good Father who is doing the best for me? Working all things together for good. Because I do love Him. I am called according to His purpose.

As the hymn writer Horatio Spafford said, “When peace like a river attendeth my way . . .”

So many water images in the Bible, Jesus Himself being the epitome of that. Living Water.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Ps. 34:8.

The water is fine, I tell that doe. And myself. Dive right in.

It Starts With Spilled Milk

After my post the other day regarding lying, I had a conversation with several young moms about how to encourage an atmosphere of grace in their homes when they are more prone to be rule followers.

spilled-milkThat’s a great question. I think it starts with spilled milk.

Surely every parent, sometime in their parent life, has experienced a child spilling milk or some sticky drink either at the dinner table or in the car or on the carpet. Your reaction to these accidents helps set the tone for bigger mistakes in your child’s future.

Mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.

Here’s what I suggest could be said in different circumstances.

Your child spills his/her drink.

Oops! Well, I’ve spilled my share of drinks, too. Let’s clean it up together and see what we can do to be more careful in the future.

Your child breaks a favorite item of yours on accident.

I’m sad this got broken, but I know you didn’t mean to break it. It’s just a thing. You’re more important to me than that [insert broken item].

You forget to do something you promised your child you’d do. 

I’m sorry I forgot to do [insert whatever it is]. I was wrong to not follow through on what I said. Will you forgive me?

These are all common circumstances that every family can relate to. Building an environment where your child is not afraid to tell you they did something is critical to helping them understand that grace reigns in your household. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for their bad choices, but choosing to do something wrong and having something happen by accident are different.

Open dialog happens from a very early age. Listen to your children with your full attention. Ask them questions. Help them come to their own conclusions about issues. Let them express themselves in an appropriate, respectful manner.

With my kids, I found that there was a little bit of a Catch-22: We had such a close relationship that they didn’t want to disappoint me, even if I had never made performance a priority. The notion that lying to me is more disappointing than the original act doesn’t seem to get through their heads!

The most important thing I think I do is to keep telling them, “I love you.” And it’s never the person I’m disappointed in, it’s the choice. That is emphasized time and again.

 

Amongst many other forgotten things, I’ve had countless items borrowed and lost, and a favorite bowl knocked off the counter and smashed, all accidents. All covered by grace because the lossshattered-trust was unintentional.

But I’ve also had my trust absolutely demolished like that favorite bowl by a child lying right to my face. Things hidden from me because that child knew those actions would grieve me.

But grace wins every time. God will deal with the sin. I’ve given consequences for the actions to my minor kids. But for my adult children, I’ve cried, prayed, told them truth over and over, but ultimately, their decisions are part of the journey God has them on.

And sometimes that journey goes through the stream of spilled milk. Will it be a sour experience or a sweet one, ending in a pool of grace?

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave

img_7457I hate being lied to. As a parent, I’ve had it happen more than once.

It never gets easier to hear.

I am naturally one who likes to trust people. I want to believe that what you’re telling me is true. When I find out it’s not, something deep inside me dies just a little bit.

I think it’s my innocence. And after 55 years on this planet, I just don’t have much of that left.

I can’t trust commercials on TV. They’re just trying to sell me something.

I can’t trust politicians. They’re just trying to sell me something, too.

And lately, I can’t trust the media either. They have an agenda they’re wanting to promote.

Why is it that lies bother people so much? For me, it’s because it’s so opposite of who Jesus is. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If we love and follow Jesus, we speak the truth. But the tangled web that deceptions demand dangle ever before us—ours and those of others—and they hide spiders ready to devour us if we let them.

img_7459When I was in 6th grade, I remember getting a piece of jewelry I already owned and telling my friends that a certain boy had given it to me. They were so impressed! I told that lie because I wanted to prove that some boy could love me. I was that desperate.

The lies I’ve heard from my children many times have to do with school. In these cases, it’s more often a lie of omission. They just happen to not tell me that they haven’t been doing their homework or turning in assignments or passing classes.

Other times, what it seems to boil down to is that my kids lie to me because they don’t want me to know that they’ve done something that goes against what they’ve been brought up to believe is wrong. They still want to do it, so they do it and don’t tell me because they don’t want to disappoint me.img_7457-1

But somehow, I always seem to find out. And the web begins to unravel.

I know the decisions are theirs, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of environment I’ve promoted that causes them to not want to tell me the truth. Have I put too many expectations on them? Do they feel pressure to be a certain way to please me?

I’ve done some pretty intense self-examination and can’t find where I’ve ever said to them, “I won’t love you unless you act this way.”

All I can do at this point is pray that the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin. And I can keep asking the Lord to show me where I am in the wrong.

I only wish discovering the lies of our politicians was that straightforward. I’ll keep praying for them as well.

 

Walk Your Talk

micah-6-8I’ve been in turmoil this week, as I know many others have, with what’s been going on in the world and in our own backyard. Criticism, hate, anger, vitriol. We’ve had it in spades. The message of tolerance and love and kindness and compassion don’t seem to be making a difference.

And we all seem to have so many questions.

What’s the difference between a protestor and a demonstrator? How can we keep our country safe and still have compassion on displaced people looking for shelter? Why are so many people looking for the worst in others?

I don’t have answers to these questions except a knowledge that the world needs Jesus. In the Bible, we are told that the prophet Micah wrote,”He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy,
 and to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

A friend of mine just asked the question, “I wonder how many of those protesting at the airports would welcome a refugee in their home to stay for a year until they get on their feet.”

Do you know any refugees personally? Have you sat with them and cried and listened to their heartbreaking stories? Have you bought them groceries and helped them navigate a new city and find a place to live? Have you been their friend?

Have you prayed for them?

If you can’t answer yes to even one of those questions, then I have my doubts about your sincerity when it comes to really caring about them. All of a sudden these people matter just because the current president did something he thought (whether wisely or not) would be a step in protecting our nation? Do you know all the facts? Have you checked every side? Why is this being called a ban on Muslim immigrants when Muslims from other nations are allowed entry? The rhetoric doesn’t make sense.

Those who use their very public soapboxes to decry the treatment of people they didn’t care two bits about in the past are showing their hypocrisy.  This crisis has been going on long before Trump took over. Where were their voices then?

It’s like taking your family to serve a meal at the homeless shelter on Christmas morning and then never stepping foot in the place until the next Christmas comes. Sure, it makes you feel better, like you’ve done something, but it’s more like a pat on your back than a hand up for the hurting of your city.

My prayer is that you will take what you don’t like going on and start getting involved, like, always. Not just when it’s a trending topic. Love mercy.

There are always 2 sides to a story. But Trump haters are more than willing to believe only one: whichever casts him in the worst light. Do justice. That means fact checking before sharing what you believe to be “news.” Take off your slanted shoes and walk humbly with God.

Seek to be informed yourself; don’t take the word of others, especially those with an agenda. Get involved with groups that are actually aiding refugees who are already here. Give to a reputable agency that helps people in country. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter on a regular basis, not just once a year.

Get out there.

And stop, just stop with the hateful words.