Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gripping Reality of the Gospel

     In the summer of 2008, God did a mighty work in my heart.  He took a "good girl" who'd been raised in a godly home with true Christian parents, who'd been a member of a good church since childhood, and who'd completely put all her hope and trust in her own "goodness" and "showed strength with His arm,...scattered the proud in the imagination of (my) heart...exalted the lowly...filled the hungry with good things...helped His servant In remembrance of His mercy" (Luke 1:51--55).  I never cease to be amazed that a mighty and holy God chose me before time to love and save, but He did, and my life will never be the same as before, thank God! 

     A couple of years later, I realized that though I'd "read through" the Bible a couple of times as a child, I'd never done it as His child, and there were many books in His word that I was completely unfamiliar with.  So, I decided to read through it again, this time actually caring about what I read.  I chose to follow a chronological plan, as I didn't really have much concept of the timeline of the Old Testament; it was a one-year plan.  Well, this past December marked two years of following this plan, and I just this morning began the New Testament.  This is due, in part, to the fact that though He has saved me and called me with a holy calling, my sinfulness and laziness is still warring in my body against my spirit, and I've not been as faithful to get up in the mornings and have a QT as I should have been.  It is also due in part to the fact that sometimes you just need to take a break from Jeremiah or Ezekiel and read the Psalms or the Gospel a bit, or the fact that you feel the need to be reminded of the teaching on practical Christian living in Galatians.  At any rate, I broke open the New Testament this morning with Luke chapter 1, and was...well, a bit surprised at what I found there.

     We never THINK we're reading the Bible casually and carelessly.  It just kindof happens.  We read (or this is true of me, at least), sometimes a whole chapter or more and then realize we don't know what we just read.  Or, more often for me, I read something with which I'm extremely familiar and just let my eyes go over the words because I already know the story, and don't realize the Gripping Reality of what's going on - that Moses was a real man who really lost his temper with a stubborn people, or that David really was a typical young boy who liked to shoot his slingshot to pass the hours of watching sheep, or that Hosea was a real man who lived through a truly awful marriage in order to honor his God.  I lose sight, sometimes, of the fact that these are not stories, but that they are historical accounts of real people that God used to reveal Himself to us. 

     And then some days, I read a story I could almost quote in my sleep and God allows the words to practically jump off the page with stark Reality that is quite wonderful.  This happened this morning.

     The story of Jesus - the story of God's greatest manifestation of Himself and His wonderful Love to a wretched people - the story of our salvation - begins with an old, childless man who had loved and served his God with his wife for many years going into the temple to worship God and offer up to Him sweet incense.  Zacharias felt that morning, I'm sure, the same as he'd felt many mornings before - there was nothing special about entering the temple that morning....until the archangel Gabriel appeared before him. 

     Now, we must not think of this as the Blue Fairy appearing to Pinocchio or the Good Witch of the North coming in a pink bubble to Dorothy.  What must it have been like to suddenly see an Angel of the Lord appearing just in front of you?  It was an awesome and terrifying thing to behold.  Fear fell upon Zacharias.

      My Daddy used to shake his head at the "preacher" who (I think) he heard on the radio telling about one morning when he was shaving Jesus appeared to him: the man said, "I kept shaving, and there was Jesus, and we stood there and talked while I shaved."  Daddy said, "If Jesus appeared to you, you WOULDN'T keep shaving.  Every time even an angel appeared in the Bible, people were afraid and usually fell face-first in the dirt."  Daddy didn't have a lot of time for this type thinking.

     Do you supposed that when Zacharias didn't fully trust the words of the angel, Gabriel softly and casually replied, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings," or do you think he probably thundered it darkly?  For Zacharias to doubt Gabriel was for him to doubt the word of Him who sent Gabriel, and I doubt that was a thing Gabriel would have taken lightly.  At any rate, this was a frightening, REAL happening - so real that Zacharias could not speak when he came out. 

     What about Mary?  Do you read over the passage where Gabriel was sent to her and she was told she would be the mother of the Son of God and not be gripped with the reality of what this meant to her?  A young girl - a virgin - to have her life turned upside down and her reputation ruined; for who would believe the Holy Spirit had planted a baby inside her Who's father was God Himself?  Do you think her parents believed her?  Her best friend?  Her neighbors?  Perhaps, some of them.  Her fiancĂ© didn't until God spoke to him about it.  Would you have believed her?  Would you have shunned her?  Would you have talked about her behind her back?  Do you not think she realized how she would be treated in those first moments after Gabriel told her what great thing God was going to do in her?  And what was her response?  "Oh, God, please not that!  It's too hard!  If you're going to put a baby inside me, PLEASE go tell all my family and friends what you've done so they'll be nice to me!"  This is young Mary's response: "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word."  Trust.  Willingness.  What is my response when God requires of me MUCH less than He required of Mary?  I'm afraid too often it is not immediate trust and willingness.

     Is it Grippingly Real to you that as soon as Mary walked into Elizabeth's house, and unborn John leapt for joy in his mother's womb?  Do you read over that and take it for granted because it's so familiar?  It's AMAZING.  Perhaps even more amazing than the appearance of an angel - an unborn baby having the spiritual awareness of the Presence of God in the form of another unborn baby near him?  Incomprehensible.  But it was REAL.  It HAPPENED.  It's not just a story to read at Christmas - ALL THESE THINGS REALLY HAPPENED TO REAL PEOPLE!!!  And through it all, most amazing yet, God revealed Himself to humanity!  He worked the salvation of a People whom He had chosen before the foundation of the world through these "stories".  They are the manuscripts of our Hope; the words of our Comfort; the story of our Salvation. 

     When we read them, let us not skim over them with a familiar acceptance - let us be GRIPPED with their stunning reality.  Let it sink in what they meant to the people who lived through them, and what they mean today to us.  May they jolt our system into Love for our Father, Willingness to turn to Him for all we need, Enthusiasm to obey His every command and request of us.  May they give us the fuel for living THIS day to His glory - every single day of our lives.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Oh, the joys of mothering 3 boys...

The Countdown

     No, I'm not blogging about an old, blasphemous Carmen song.  I can almost hear your collective sighs of relief. ;) (I'm dating myself there, I know.  You may as well know it most painful secret...I'm..................twenty-eleven.  Whew.  There.  I said it.  Now you know.)  No, no - today begins another kind of countdown entirely - actually, today marks the start of TWO very important countdowns for me: One week from tonight my wonderful, sweet, amazing, fantabulous, hunky husband/best friend comes home!!!!!!!  For anyone who has never lived for long stretches over and over without your other half, you cannot possibly imagine my giddy anticipation of his arrival.  In order for you to understand it a bit, I need to tell you a little bit about him. 
     First off, he works on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Mexico.  This means I take him to the Memphis Airport way earlier on a Monday morning than I ever like getting out of bed, he flies to Houston, catches a plane to Del Carmen, Mexico, hops on a chopper, and flies anywhere from 3-75 miles out to the rig (depending on where they're drilling).  He stays there for 28 days, working 12-hour shifts every day.  Then, 4 Mondays later, he rides the chopper back to Del Carmen, (or thereabouts) spends the night in a Holiday Inn (but don't worry about him being lonely that night - there's plenty of large iguanas to keep him company), catches a plane Tuesday afternoon back to Houston, then back to Memphis where his wife and 4 Wild Banshees are eagerly awaiting his arrival!  Whew!  Kindof takes my breath away just to write it all down.  The bottom line is, he's gone from home for 30 days, but then he gets to be home with us for 26!  Yay!!!!   The month that he's away is hard.  I mean HARD.  And when it gets to this point - he's been gone for 23 days today - I feel like I may go stark-raving mad before he comes home.  It seems like he's been gone for an eternity.  The longer he's gone, the more behavior issues I deal with from the kids, the more things tear up here at home that I can't fix, the more I miss him like stinkin' craziness.  But there are lots of things to be thankful for even in his absence: he's a Storekeeper on the rig, which means he has access to the phone all day long, and I can call him or he can call me anytime we need to talk, and the kids get to talk to him every day; he also has internet all day, so he gets FB, and we can chat there (usually early in the mornings before the kids are up), and also he can keep up with bills and finances online which takes a huge burden off me (cause he's awesome like that);  also, I have an amazing family and church family all around me who love and support me when he's gone, help out with the kids, and generally keep me sane.  So that's his job.  Now to tell you why I miss him so much.
     Obviously, I miss him because he's my husband, and the Wild Ones' daddy.  That would be enough right there to miss him - anyone, almost, would miss their husband if he were gone for a month at a time.  But Trey is especially missable.  Seriously.  He's THE BEST husband in the world.  I mean it.  I already told you I call him my Mary-Poppins-Husband cause he's "Practically Perfect in Every Way."  I was serious.  Now, does he have faults? Yes.  Is he a sinner?  Of course.  But, Y'all, he's Da Bomb.  He's kind and sweet, thoughtful and sensitive; he's the kind of guy who doesn't even let me get the words out of my mouth to ask him would it be okay if I went and did this or that with some gals from church or our homeschool group before he's saying, "You don't even have to ask that, Baby - of COURSE I want you to go!  The kids and I will build a fire in the backyard and roast hotdogs and have a great time!"  And he means it.  He's the kind of guy who NEVER calls me to ask "When are you coming home?" when I'm out with said girls.  He's the kind of guy who is ALWAYS happy for me to go to my mom's and hang out with her and my sisters while he has the kids here OR is always happy to bring the whole gang and be with my family because he truly loves them all.  He's the kind of guy who brings me flowers (sometimes from the side of the road, which of course, are the best kind) just because.  He's the kind of guy who tickles my back almost every night in bed because I love it so much (even if it's only for the 14 seconds it takes him to fall asleep. ;))  He's the kind of guy who loves to sit on the swing and hold hands and dream together about the things we want to do in the yard to make it more livable and beautiful; the kind of guy who is always eager to take me on a date; the kind of guy who will happily watch a sappy romance with me even if there's a shoot-'em-up that he'd rather watch.  He's the kind of guy who NEVER MENTIONS anything about the fact that you've gained...well...many pounds since you got married.  I could literally go on and on for PAGES about how great he is.  I have really nothing bad to say about him.  Yes, sometimes he makes me crazy mad, but honestly, that's usually my fault.  He's my Best Friend, my Pal, my Confidante, my Lover, my Anchor, the best Daddy 4 crazy kids could ever ask for.  He's my husband, and I love him madly.  We've been married for pretty nearly 13 years, and I've never for one single second regretted it or wondered "what if?"  My life with him is Fairy Tale happy. 
     So, now you see why today is a very important Countdown Start!  Seven more days!  From today I can say, "This is the last [insert day of the week] that I have to be without Trey before he comes home!!!!"  It's a good feeling.  When I'm within a week, I know I'll make it.  It's still crazy hard, but I'll make it.  He's coming home.  I'm starting to feel the excitement building like butterflies in my stomach (which I still get every time I pick him up from the airport). 
     Today also marks 7 days till I can eat!!!  Because of that...several pounds....I've gained since we got married, I've been on a diet.  Not just any ol' diet, because pretty much with me it's "Go big or go home," to quote my dear friend, Lindsey.  I've been doing the HCG Diet (which you can read about online if you're interested.)  It's crazy, and it's crazy hard, but IT WORKS.  I've done it a few times in the past, and it's worked great, but through my laziness and self-indulgence, I've gained back most of what I lost.  I've had a real spiritual struggle with eating for years, but have, by God's grace alone, been brought to what I hope is true repentance over it, and for the first time ever, have a real desire to yield it up to Him and be obedient in this area of my life that I've held quite tightly to myself for years.  So, trusting in God for all that I need, the weight that I've lost I'll not put back on this time.  For 4 weeks, my friend Lindsey and I have been on this - the short version is: you only eat 500 calories of VERY SPECIFIC AND LIMITED FOODS a day.  You take some drops every day (all-natural); and you're hungry.  And you're tired.  We purposed to do it 5 weeks.  We're ONE WEEK AWAY!!!  The diet isn't over in 7 days, but we move to the next "phase" where we can eat lots of different foods (I get my dairy back!! I LOVE CHEESE!!!), I can have real cream in my coffee, which means I actually enjoy it and get to have more than 1 cup a day! 
     So, today is Monumental.  One week till my amazing husband comes home AND one week till I can eat CHEESE!!!  There will be great rejoicing in all the land.  I'll be sure and let you know how much I enjoy eating a variety of vegetables again - real SOUP, coffee and, most importantly - CHEESE. (did I mention that I love cheese?)  If you see me, you'll know by looking that I'm loving having my best friend home cause that kinda weird crazy-eyed look will be gone from my face.  I can hardly wait.