Pandas and Pregnancy
"Would you like to make a personal difference in the life of a panda?"
I was walking across the CSU, Chico campus when I noticed some students manning a booth full of pictures of pandas.
As I walked by I heard it again: "Would you like to make a personal difference in the life of a panda?"
I was dumbfounded. In the last election, California voters struck down Proposition 4, an attempt to amend the state constitution to mandate that teenage girls be required to notify their parents before getting an abortion. My two teenage daughters can still get pregnant and eliminate the baby without me ever knowing about it.
We live in a state that worries about pandas but freely kills babies. Something is very wrong.
Afraid of Being Real
I have found myself pondering this same issue again and again. Why are people so afraid of being real with one another? Is it our egos or something more? How many people walk through this life and find it next to impossible to be totally open and honest with others? Or for that part, how many of us are capable of handling that sort of honesty and vulnerability? I think it comes down to fear or many fears.
Are we really better off if we compartmentalize our lives, hide our "greatest" sins, or remain silent in our needs? Do we serve each other better when we "perform," or act as we deem others think we should? Are we created to need each other? If we are, then why do we behave in such ways?
I long to see people being open, honest and caring with each other; where pride is swallowed and we really lean on each other in our darkest hours; where prayer requests are more then surface level tidbits, and the real meat of the matter is offered up instead. I long to know at the deepest level what it means to be poured out in service and love to others. I long for others to know that true freedom includes the ability to be completely real with those we love, to be able to find a safe place to fall and support to start again. I think that this is what we need, what we long for. I believe that this is a gift, if only we could be free from the fears.
Jesus Doesn't Bite
Today I got to have some precious one on one time with my daughter. She sat in my lap, we snuggled, and she talked.
I told her how much I love her, and she said, "Yes mom! Big yaya!" (Translation: big love)
I smiled and said she was right. Then I asked her who could love her more.
"Jesus!" She replied.
Again, I smiled as she gave me her most precious grin. Then she got serious and said, "Jesus love me, huh mom?" I said yes. Then she said, "Jesus would no bite me, huh Mom? Jesus no bite, huh?"
I had to laugh at her sweet, child reasoning. I assured her that I did not believe that Jesus would ever bite her. She smiled and waved her head back and forth with pleasure.
It took me a while to think about how significant her statement was. Not too long ago Emily had a real problem with biting, especially her larger foster brother. We explained to her that if you love someone you do not bite them. Obviously, she made the connection. She realized that if Jesus does love her, then he would never bite her.
How right she is! How I thank God for the reminder. No matter how things may hurt us in this life, Jesus never will. Thank God that Jesus doesn't bite! :)
Life's Everyday Blessings
The book Ruthless Trust talks about seeing everything around us as manifestations of the glory of God:
Those who look beyond the literal see the world as a metaphor for God. When they direct us to the majesty of the mountains, the beauty of the prairies, the variety of wildflowers along the roadside, the smell of mint and hay on a summer morning, the rumble of a train through the valley, the sound of a waterfall, they birth the Word in our midst. They dare us to dream of our homeland, where eye has not seen, neither has ear heard, nor has the imagination conceived of the beauty that awaits us.
Since reading this, I've been watching for ways that God is revealing himself to me through the things I see in my life as a husband, father, and child of God. Here are just a few of my everyday blessings, the blessings that give me small glimpses of what heaven might look like.
- A smile and a slobber-kiss from a one-year-old with only 4 teeth.
- Waking up to find that Emily has crawled into bed with me sometime during the night. Let the tickle-fest begin!
- Hugs and kisses from my wife and a love for her that grows stronger and deeper with each day.
- Watching my adopted daughter's life being transformed by love and a relationship with God.
- Sunshine, puffy clouds, and crisp air the day after a storm.
- My teenage daughter's giggle of pure joy.
- The radiant beauty of a wife in love with her Lord.
- Clouds at sunset painted pink by the light of the setting sun.
- Laughing our heads off during a family game night.
I am so tired of this road, the road I call 'What Next Lane'. It seems I have traveled here so often I have every crack and rock memorized along the path; and yet it always seems a bit different and a bit more daunting than it was the time before. I stand before a road that leads to 'who knows where' and wonder if I will ever get there. It seems I am stalled in neutral on this road, going neither forward or backward. I know it is but a temporary and powerful illusion. And yet, the power draws me into a place dripping with self pity and egotism. My eyes lose their luster and the light seems to dim.
What is the point of this road? As I stare at the familiar foreboding of time past I realize my sight is darkly distorted through the lens of myself. I look upon my Savior and the light returns, illuminating my path yet again. I am saddened to see that my path seems hidden still to me. The tears of sadness and despair run gently down my cheeks. Why can't I see? What am I to do? So many questions fill my mind, and then their comes a calm -- a calm in the midst of my stormy thoughts. A gentle whisper soothes my soul. "Trust me...I will not let you go."
The Gift of Pain
What is the point of creation? In God's infinite knowledge, he decided to create mankind and this world, but why? His decision was not based on his need, and he already foresaw the sin that would so horribly distort and separate his creation from Him. So why did he bother to create us and this world anyway? I have spent countless hours pondering this philosophical repose, the amount of time rising exponentially with each new painful trial I journey through. Pain. Alas, it is the great catalyst for many of my unceasing questions and thoughts. Every fiber of my being screams out in protest against pain. Can the two somehow relate to each other?
Surely the sovereign Creator experiences deep sorrow relating to the condition of his creation if he truly desires that none should perish. I am convinced that somehow the answer to "Why?" is wrapped intimately in the vast and measureless love of God. Would all his work and sorrow regarding his creation be worth it for just one who would receive and believe in the Holy One? I feel certain that God thinks so, however incapable my mind will always be of truly understanding the depth of such a concept. How much will we be able to grasp regarding the vastness of God's love on this side of eternity? For me, it is simply too marvelous to even begin to behold. How then does a God so rich in love and abounding in mercy allow and ultimately design such great suffering and sorrow in our temporal earthly existence?
Somehow I know deep in the intensity of my soul that our pain must be one of God's greatest gifts of love. The gift of pain? Ha! The very sound of such a sentence can seem heretical and absurd; and yet, is it truly? In all of our self sufficiency, egotism, and brilliance we often feel no true need for God. We are self made, picturesque, miniature deities of our own private affairs and need nothing more than time to accomplish all our great achievements. How often am I guilty of such absurd reasonings that lead me to the deft, deceptive thoughts that I somehow am in control of my life? I am grieved to find, that it happens far too often. What then does it take to help me realize my finite mortality? Ah, pain seems to be such a masterful teacher. So vast are the tools that etch us through the pains we face in this life. Sadly, most often it is the utter horror of pain that reflects most brilliantly my desperate need for God. It is in my despair that my limits are most clearly realized and my fragility draws me near to the one who gives me life and sustains me through His grace.
The gift of pain then is what, exactly? Have I not made it clear? The gift is the clarity that pain can bring regarding our finite state and our need for our infinite Creator. Pain longingly draws our souls back to the one who we were created for. As naturally as a child longs for their mother during their desperate times of need, so our soul naturally longs for our sovereign deity. Pain provides a clarity of soul that no other agent this side of Heaven seems to be able to perform. Constant is our longing for more of God, for redemption, for help during our times of deep pain. All self sufficiency gets stripped away and the truth of our state is revealed clearly to us: we need God! Only through the knowledge of our need are we helped and ultimately saved by his immense and matchless grace.
Therefore, I submit that pain truly is a gift to those who in their sinful nature would never realize their deep, true need for the one and only God! Could that lead us to the answer to why God bothered to create us at all? Does he feel that the joy of intimacy with even one of his creation somehow makes all the pain and suffering worth the cost? While I may never begin to understand the implications of this truth, I have no doubt that God does indeed believe we are worth the cost.
A Grief That Fills My Soul
It has been a rough week for me. My heart has been heavy as I think about my oldest daughter and pray earnestly for her. Surrendering her to another was difficult enough. Now praying and hoping that she will see the truth? Well, that is even harder somehow. As the others sleep peacefully through the night unaware of the ravings of this wounded warrior, I pray as I have never prayed before. Clenching my fists, I raise them to God and cry out for his mercy. I cannot lose another child!
I plead for Rachelle. I plead for her soul, for her sight, for her healing. I plead to the one who can do all things, and I know it is He who gives me the will to pray. I cry for the daughter of my dreams that is among the walking dead. I cry for all that she has missed, all the pain she has embodied. I cry for her losses and ours. I cry, and in the midst of my sorrow I sense the sorrow of my Lord. I want to do something, anything, that will help her. I want to run and hold her close, to wash her in my tears and caress her with my words of love. I want to do something.
Then I remember it is not about me. I have done all of those things, and now I fight this unseen war on my knees as I never have before. I will never give up or back down. I will for all of my life carry her before the throne.
I must remember that she was never really mine. She has always been God's.
I have been praying for God to open my eyes and show me the truth on a daily, and sometimes on a moment by moment, basis. I have begun to marvel at his creation, taking the time to truly look at people and see who God created them to be. I'm beginning to notice what color eyes they have, their smile, their joy or sadness, and their attitude -- in short, getting a brief glimpse of who they really are.
If you have never really taken the time to notice those around you, you should. It is remarkable how much you can notice in a short space of time.
As I feel led, I have begun sharing my insights with these people, and their reactions never cease to amaze me.
Why is it so rare to share these thoughts? Being able to share these moments with others is a privilege. It is horrific to me how many men and women fail to see how beautiful God created them to be. Lies completely blind those who believe them.
As I seek to model Christ's love to others and teach my children what love should look like, I am humbled. I am humbled at how hard it can be and how totally against my nature it is. Each moment we can share in another's life is one of the greatest gifts we can experience this side of Heaven. I am so thankful for the privilege of knowing people who are truly more amazing, beautiful, and talented than they may ever realize.
I Only Wonder...
A different grief fills my soul tonight.
I stare at the endless sea of stars glimmering brilliantly in the cold night sky and wonder...
I do not ask why; I only wonder...
I wonder how God forms us out of nothing, into a masterpiece.
I wonder at the frailty of the human mind encountering the evils of this world.
I wonder at the beauty I still find in the midst of such still grief.
I wonder how God could possibly use these horrific things for good.
I wonder as I look at my own solemn reflection; do my eyes tell the mysteries revealed to me in the darkness of my night?
I wonder how I will let go of a child that was never really mine.
I wonder if I have any right to feel anger of things I cannot comprehend.
I wonder how many will God call to love the outcasts, the loveless, the destitute of soul?
I wonder at how few will ever leave the illusion of their own comfort and desire for a problem and pain free life -- to risk everything to love.
I wonder how I can sit here now before the throne of God and thank Him for my sorrow, my trials, my pain.
I wonder why I ever thought this life was about me at all!