I Accept You As You Are

I accept the fact that I’m never going to be an Olympic Athlete.

I don’t like it, but I accept it.

103_0372I accept the fact that my sons will never play Major League Baseball. I always hoped they would continue their baseball careers after Little League, but they just didn’t want to continue. I wish they had, but they just didn’t want to.

I accepted the package the UPS man handed to me. It was addressed to me, and I had ordered it, so I took it and claimed it as mine.

I accepted the change the cashier at the grocery store gave me. It was due me and he was handing it to me, so I accepted it.

We use the term “accepted” in many different arenas these days, and I think there might be a misconception about what it means.

Acceptance does not mean that you agree with everything a person does; but it does mean that you love them for who they are. I can say that I accept my husband the way he is, but if I see something in his life that needs addressing, I am going to bring it up.

I heard a wonderful message years and years ago by one of my favorite pastors, Chuck Swindoll. He titled the message “Love, Sweet Love.” At one point he listed the ABCs of love: I Accept you as you are, I Believe that you are valuable; I Care when you hurt; I Desire what is best for you; I Erase all wrongs.

Now, it has been a really long time since I listened to this message, but even without it right before me, I’m thinking I have those right.

What everyone wants to feel is that they are accepted and that they are valuable. But if IMG_7277someone is participating in a behavior that I don’t think is healthy, I am not going to accept the behavior, but I AM going to accept them. It is they who are valuable, not their behavior.

I think many times we equate the behavior with the person. My kids would get mad at one of their siblings and say, “He’s so mean!” I would say, “No, he is not mean. What he did was not kind, and could even be called mean, but he is not mean. He just did something that was unkind.”

I didn’t want the behavior to define the person.

Labels of any kind can be dangerous for people. The beauty queen, the smart one, the loser, the one we can count on, the one we worry about. These can define a person; but they are not who that person is at their very core.

But it’s much easier to stick a label on someone than to spend time getting to know who they really are. Does the child who struggles in school deserve to be labeled as “slow” or “dumb”? Does the person with amazing athletic talent deserve to be labeled as a jock? Is that performance or behavior going to define them for the rest of their lives?

I accept you as you are, and I believe that you are valuable.

fullsizeoutput_96f7You are too valuable to be accepted solely on the virtue of your behavior or your performance. Those things can change over the years. When I am no longer able to throw a football downfield to a receiver or run a mile in record-breaking time, that label of “athlete” becomes useless to me.

Acceptance means that I see you for who you really are. I believe you have value because you are an image bearer of God.

That’s a label that never changes.

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Rest

Rest

A few days ago I wrote a post about relaxation on my Facebook author page and how that isn’t the same thing as rest. On Sunday I was sitting in my family room watching football, which can be relaxing, if your team wasn’t in the process of losing mostly because they gave up 4 turnovers.

Sigh

But I digress. It was a relaxing afternoon, but I must admit, that my mind was still running and therefore I’m not sure I was really experiencing rest.

Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He’s not saying, “I’ll give you a break for a little while so you can catch your breath.” He’s talking about true rest, where our burdens are not our burdens anymore. We have laid them on the deep, strong shoulders of Jesus, and He takes them. Forever.

Sunday is called a day of rest, but in this time, there is still a lot of controversy about that. Some people say you can’t do any work at all. You can’t mow your lawn, you can’t do your laundry, you can’t cook.

Some take it to mean you shouldn’t go shopping or out to eat, because then you’re making someone else work.

I think I can make dinner and be totally at rest because my mind is stayed on Him.

Or I can be sitting and reading a book and be burdened by things that are not mine to carry, and be very much not at rest.

So rest for me means a lifestyle. Sabbath rest means I am trusting in Jesus to always carry my burdens. I am fixing my eyes on Him. I am filling my mind with praise music and talking about Him with those I spend time with.

This is not just on Sundays.

I can’t go to church and not do all those things that people say I should not do on Sundays, and then turn around on Monday morning with a knot in my stomach because of all the cares I am hauling around.

Some versions of the Bible use “rest” when they’re talking about death. Maybe that can look like dying to yourself over those things you want to carry but shouldn’t. Maybe that’s taking an analogy too far, but it makes sense.

Rest. Don’t pick up that thing that’s not yours to carry. Don’t take on that task that’s not yours to do. Don’t worry about that situation over which you have no control.

IMG_3895Psalm 62:1: “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”

 

A Flag, a Nation, and What it Means to Show Respect

OuterbridgesRecently, a close friend of mine experienced something that appalled me and caused me to rethink the meaning of respect.

My friend Collin is a young, tall, good-looking man of color. He is married to Stacey, a petite, lovely white woman. Unimposing, articulate and well educated, Collin is currently pursuing his Ph.D. He is the father of 4; 3 biological children and 1 adopted son who is white.

Recently, Stacey shared an incident that happened when their family went to a restaurant they frequent. Their toddler, being, well, a toddler, was having a meltdown before their food arrived because he was hungry. In order to stave off further screams, Stacey asked Collin to go to the counter and get a cookie.

chocolate chip cookie

Collin didn’t have cash with him, so he pulled out his credit card to buy the $1.50 treat. The cashier asked for his i.d. He didn’t have his i.d. with him. It was in the car and it was pouring rain. The cashier proceeded to tell him that she would not sell him the cookie.

Thankfully, their food arrived shortly thereafter, so further meltdown was avoided. But Stacey wasn’t done.

Fully believing that she would not experience the same thing if she went to the cashier and attempted to purchase the cookie, Stacey, with Collin’s credit card in hand, approached the counter where the same cashier waited on her. She was able to buy the cookie with no problem.

But there would be a problem for that cashier as Stacey asked to speak to the manager.

To her credit, the manager was appalled and apologized profusely and said that was not the way they did business. But Collin and Stacey simply chalk this up as another example of experiences they have way too often.

Something needs to change.

So when I saw that Major League baseball player Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the National Anthem in Saturday’s Oakland Athletics game against the Texas Rangers, I saw his side. When NBC noted it on their Facebook page, I commented that one can love one’sbruce_maxwell_national_anthem country while not agreeing with everything they do. I actually thought Maxwell’s stance was very respectful. He had his hand and his cap over his heart and he was looking at the flag. He wasn’t disrespecting it in any way. He was acknowledging and bringing attention to the fact that things need to change. Click the link above and listen to his short statement. It’s very thoughtful.

Of course, by making my thoughts known in a pubic forum, I opened myself up to the haters. Although more than 100 people liked my comment, there were several who labeled me as “liberal” and “sick.”  Which is totally laughable if you know me at all.

I love my country, but by no stretch of the imagination do I believe that everything going on is right and good. We’re always asking our famous people to use their platforms for good, so why, when some of them do, are they then vilified?

Blind nationalism isn’t loyalty. I have been married to my husband for more than 26 years. I’m loyal to him and I love him with all my heart, but I’m not ignorant enough to think that he has no faults. I wouldn’t be much of a wife if I didn’t encourage him to be the best version of himself that he can be. Does that mean I don’t respect him?

I want America to be the best version of herself that she can be. Does systemic racism need to be rooted out and destroyed? Do people need to be made aware of their prejudices and educated about how to rise above them? Do we all need to be more willing to lean in and listen to people’s stories?

Yes, to all of the above. That is what respect looks like. It’s not about a country and a flag. It’s about people and how they are treated by others.

light-in-darknessIn just my one little comment on Facebook, I became a target for haters to label me. It doesn’t feel good, but I know that they are speaking out of ignorance. Will I condescend to name calling myself? No. I will pray for them, because Jesus alone can bring light where there is darkness. And He has tasked us with shining that light ourselves. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16, New International Version, emphasis mine).

I will let my little light shine.

 

photo of the Outerbridge family courtesy of Stacey Outerbridge; cookies from bettycrocker.com; Bruce Maxwell from complex.com; candle from friendsofjustice.wordpress.com

Hurricane Irma and the Storms of Life

IrmaIt’s Atlantic hurricane season, in case you didn’t know. We all watched the devastation in Houston. We read the reports, we saw the pictures. What a tragedy!

What I didn’t know until the other day was that this disastrous flooding had been predicted in the Houston area for a very long time. (See this article in the Dallas News about a report that was basically filed away and forgotten about this issue.) But because of politics or ecological concerns or the astronomical cost of fixing things, the harbingers of danger were ignored by the local government.

And now the cost of clean up and rebuilding is likely to exceed that cost by billions of dollars.

Today, we wait for Hurricane Irma to come across our area of Florida. Irma has us in her sights and we are being warned to not ignore the advice of our county and state officials. We’ve known this massive storm has been coming for days. We’ve known we are in the “cone of uncertainty.” We watch, we prepare, we wait. When the storm hits, hopefully we’ll be ready.

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Watching Hurricane Charley in 2004

2017 has been a very stormy year for our family, and they have been storms that we had no idea were coming. We didn’t have emotional doppler radar scanning out weeks and months in advance, warning us that we’re going to be hit. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe then we could be ready.

But the fact is, life doesn’t work that way, so we need to be prepared for life’s storms even when things are going well.

Am I anchored on the Word of God? Do I know who God is? Do I trust Him to be good and loving and merciful?

“Through every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” These words were penned by Edward Mote back in the early 1800s. That means we have to have an anchor, number 1, and we have to keep it deployed, number 2. Sometimes I see kids riding bicycles with their helmets hanging from the handlebars. Dude, that helmet won’t do you any good there. An anchor held by a person or a job or money will not save us in a storm.

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Bent but not broken. A pine tree in a nearby neighborhood after Hurricane Charley came through in 2004

If our anchor is not held by our strong and mighty God, we will be tossed by those stormy gales.

In preparation for Hurricane Irma, we are taking down loose fence panels, trimming dead wood from nearby trees, picking up everything that is not tied down in our yard. What’s not anchored becomes a potential projectile.

It’s easy to find those fly-away objects in a yard; it’s not so easy in a life. What might look stable could end up being the very thing that overwhelms you.

We are also filling containers with water and eating any perishable foods that might not survive an extended power outage. These are all normal preparations when you know a storm is coming.

Feeding from God’s Word, drinking from the Living Water on a daily basis helps prepare our hearts for whatever storms might come.

100_0028

Morgan and Sunny stand by the only loss our home suffered from Hurricane Charley in 2004.

So, do we just live in constant fear of future upheaval? No, that doesn’t show faith. But being prepared for the inevitable helps.

Ground yourself in God’s Word.

Listen to wise counsel.

Ask for help when you need it.

Ride out the storm in community. In other words, make sure you have good friends praying for you.

When Irma rushes by us in all her fury this weekend, we will rest in the assurance that we have done all we can to prepare. And then we trust in Jesus, that beautiful, solid Rock, for the results.

Enjoy this old Benny Hester version of the hymn containing the words mentioned above.

 

A Neat and Orderly Life

I’m a list maker. I love having things written out clearly so that I can follow guidelines and get things done. It makes me happy to check things off. Lists are lifesavers sometimes when there’s a lot to do and remember.

Too bad life isn’t like that.

I’d love to have the checklist for a good marriage, happy and successful children who are following Jesus, a personal ministry that encourages people to walk with God in truth and grace.

IMG_4473Fact of the matter is, life is messy and grace is a big, borderless blob that ebbs and flows and doesn’t look the same for any two people.

One married couple might find the key to a happy marriage is weekly date nights and nightly prayer. Another might work split shifts and barely get to see each other, but love and support and cheer each other on in a rocky season. Is one marriage more successful or godly than the other?

One family may put their children in the best private schools money can buy, serve only organic, non-gmo, whole foods and have weekly family game nights to build a happy, healthy family. A single parent might struggle to get the kids out the door to public school every morning with a couple of bucks for cafeteria food. Game nights? That’s a joke. Unless sleeping on the couch while the kids play video games counts. Are the first family’s kids guaranteed to be following Jesus and the other’s guaranteed to fail?

It’s not that easy. A popular evangelistic booklet has illustrations of what life looks like with Jesus on the outside of a person’s life and then with Jesus inside a person’s life.

4 laws self directed4 laws spirit directed

 

 

 

 

I can understand the concept, I really can. But the reality is that, even with Jesus directing our life, even when we are completely submitted to Him, all our little circles aren’t going to be neatly lined up and orderly.

Life will still be messy.IMG_4361

The difference is that we don’t have to figure it out for ourselves. We have a Savior who knows our suffering and invites us to lean into Him and let Him carry our burdens. Our sight isn’t short, looking only at the problems that confront us. We keep our gaze fixed on the face of Jesus. We see the love and compassion in His eyes. We know we’re not alone.

There’s much talk these days about being authentic and real and transparent. That scares me a little bit, thinking that people will spill details of family troubles that rightly should be shared with only a few safe people they know will pray for them and support and encourage them in the process. That doesn’t mean you paste on a smile and say everything is hunky dory, but a simple, “It is well with my soul,” can speak to waves crashing over us and leaving us broken, but hopeful.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NIV).

IMG_3902We don’t do any good for anybody if we put on a mask and tell everyone that we’re doing great if we’re not doing great. Our trials aren’t just for us. Chances are, something we’re going through will be experienced by someone else down the road, and they will be encouraged to know that they are not alone, and that someone actually survived the trial and found themselves closer to Jesus because of it.

And another thing. This may come as a surprise to some people. Ready?

Everyone sins. That’s right. Everybody. Jesus was the only person who never sinned. We are all in need of that wonderful, gooey grace that has no borders and no rules. So why pretend like we don’t suffer or have hard times or messy lives?

The next person who says to me, “I’m doing great!” in response to my question, “How are you?” I’m going to look them in the eye and say, “Really? Nothing you need prayer for? Nothing that’s worrying you or stressing you out or causing you to lose sleep?”

I don’t expect strangers to reveal all their deep dark secrets, but darn it, my friends better be honest with me when I ask them.

Because I know better. I know they’re human.

IMG_0654

The Parenting Trap

Here’s the hard truth. Are you ready to hear it? It’s not going to be popular or sugar-coated or comfortable. It’s a trap many parents walk into with the best of intentions, but ignorance of the gospel. Ready? Here it is:

12-2-03You can do everything according to all the experts in your parenting journey, and your kids could still walk away from Jesus.

♦ Stay together as a couple with love and happiness in your household. check

♦ Go to church as a family, build a firm foundation of faith. check

♦ Pray together, both as a couple and as a family. check

♦ Encourage openness, ask the hard questions, be there for them emotionally. check

♦ Provide things for them, but don’t over indulge. Help them learn the value of work and study. check

♦ Give lots of physical affection and words of affirmation. Let them know they are always loved. Show grace, yet speak truth. check

♦ Give them both an anchor and wings. check

Fact of the matter is, no matter what you do right, or what you do wrong; no matter how hard you pray or how close you feel your relationship is, your children still have the choice to go their own way.IMG_6263

It’s heartbreaking.

That’s how God feels all the time. He so loved the world that He gave His only Son to restore the broken relationships. And still people argue that He doesn’t even exist. They insist that they’re better off without Him. They want to do their own thing without restrictions. Without consequences. Without fellowship with God.

It’s devastating.

And yet He loves His children, rebellious or not, and we love ours. He refuses to give up on them, constantly seeking to woo them back. And we don’t give up on ours.

Love them well. I haven’t yet figured out yet what that looks like, but I know part of it is not throwing their sin in their face. I know it means maintaining a relationship and speaking truth in love. I know it means letting them know that they are loved no matter what they have done, simply because they are my children.

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NIV.)

fullsizeoutput_193On this earth, our nights of weeping are not yet done. But the promise is this: rejoicing comes in the morning. If I didn’t believe that, I would curl up and die.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV.)

If loving wayward children well can reflect the deep, deep love God has for them, then I will keep loving mine, praying for that day of repentance.

I could look back and say, “We should have made sure they were owning their own faith. We should have listened better. We shouldn’t have let them hang out with that person. We should have kept a better eye. We shoulda, shoulda, shoulda.”

Don’t fall into that parenting trap. Do the best you can, and surrender your children to Jesus. And pray, pray, pray.

Their salvation is not your burden.

Their decisions are not a reflection of your worth.IMG_0780

Much as I want my children’s lives to look like the pretty postcard I pictured when they were born, it’s not about me, and I’m not in control.

No matter the pain and heartache I experience with every decision that rejects Jesus, God is still good.

Through my tears I won’t fall into the trap that says I blew it somewhere along the line; I should have been a better mother.

After all, it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus. It’s always about Jesus.

Of Lice and Sin

magnifying glassThe dreaded text came late one night while my daughter was away from home visiting my sister and brother-in-law across the country: “Mooooooom! I have lice!”

Whaaat? How? Where did they come from? As my husband would say later, these are not helpful questions.

After calming down my daughter via text message and having her talk to her aunt, I hopped on the internet to do some research.

I made it 20 years of child raising before facing this experience.

I don’t recommend it to anyone.

Also, don’t google this issue unless you absolutely have to. You’ll have nightmares. I promise.

And so my lucky sister got to be the first to start dealing with this problem. Do we try natural solutions which may or may not solve the problem? Do we go the traditional shampoo route? A combination of the 2?

No matter what was decided, one thing was clear: they had to do something. Leaving the situation untreated was not an option.

Once my girl came home a few days later, we spent the next 2 weeks diligently combing her hair every day and shampooing with the special shampoo at least 2 more times.

Those 2 weeks of nit picking taught me something: lice are a lot like sin.what-is-sin

 

When looking for nits, the teeny little lice eggs that would hatch if left alone, I had to have a bright light and good eyesight. I used a very fine-toothed comb and spent a solid hour combing through small clusters of golden hair looking for those eggs that closely matched the highlights glittering in my child’s locks. It was a tedious process, but it was necessary to make sure that no more little buggies were going to live to multiply again.

It’s the same with sin. We must ask God to help us see what we are not seeing in our own lives. Are we harboring anger against anyone? Is pride gaining a foothold? Are we compromising in even a small way?

The unexamined life leaves sin to gestate and hatch and grow and molt until it reproduces into something that eventually takes over.

The results won’t be pretty.

King David asked the LORD to search his heart and see if there was any evil way in it (Psalm 139:23).

We need to know that any sin, no matter how small, will multiply if we do not ask for God’s help in identifying it and eradicating it from our lives.

Woman in Shower Washing her HairA couple of days after I had declared my child to be nit free, another friend texted saying she thought she had lice. Oh no, please, Lord. As I asked questions and heard her description of her experience, in all my expertise of 2 weeks of dealing with this issue, I began to doubt that what she was seeing was an infestation. Sure enough, when she came by for me to check a few hours later, the  little white stuff she was seeing in her hair was not nits, but simply dandruff from a recent change in shampoo.

Relief was felt by all.

I’m not suggesting that we beat ourselves up over every imperfection—His grace is sufficient for our shortfalls—but I am suggesting that we not overlook what God is nudging us to take care of. Those little Holy Spirit itches that alert us that something might be amiss. The counsel of a wise and loving friend can help us identify if an attitude is wrong or an action is not Christlike, but as in the false alarm of my friend, sometimes we might think we see something that truly isn’t there.

But isn’t it better to have it checked out than to assume it’s nothing and let it go?

Since my kids are older, I thought I had bypassed the lice issue. But I was wrong. I should have been aware that we were still vulnerable.

Just like with sin.

I have a good marriage, but I don’t take for granted that my husband or I won’t become repentance2hard hearted toward each other some day. We need to protect and nurture our relationship.

My kids have good friends, but someone could still come along and lure them away from their relationship with the Lord.

There will be no pointing finger or saying “that will never happen to me.” Truth is, it always could. Just like with lice.

There but for the grace of God go I.

images from pixabay.com; lifehopeandtruth.com; health.com; lovestthoume.com