Friday, March 12, 2021

Cougar Courage

 Have you ever been at a loss for words when trying to explain something that felt truly indescribable?

All around us, every day, is the evidence of people's selfishness. The news, the stores, the streets, the AIR, is rife with hostility and malice and self-righteous anger and judgement.

But that's not what I'm talking about. 

I'm talking about moments of greatness, that steal your breath, that make your eyes well with tears, that solidify themselves in your memory for all of time.

The upheaval and isolation and division...it has been before, and it undoubtedly will be again. Nothing is new under the sun, after all. We just have a different name for the same ugliness.

But...over the past 7 months, all of that has been set aside. Because greatness must be paid attention to. 

The second season of the Triad Cougars basketball team has come to an end.

And before you think I'm going to say it was special because we won every game or set some record or played better than anyone has ever played before...I'm not.

I will say that there were some amazing dunks, some breath-taking three-pointers, some perfect passing. But, fundamentally, they're just boys. They're just learning. They made mistakes. They won and they lost.

Still...within all of that, we saw so much more.

Young men stepping up to welcome new members into the brotherhood.

The youngsters willing to play agains guys twice their size, fearlessly.

The stronger ones coming to the aid of their smaller comrades.

Boys, just beginning to become men, feeling the swell of anger...and choosing not to let it overcome them.

Players willing to step in between their teammate and an unkind opponent, and refuse to allow ugly words to be spoken.

A brother coming to the defense of his brother, no matter the consequences.

All of them running until their legs would barely hold them, and then, when it was asked of them, running some more.

There was vomiting.

There were technical fouls.

There was a broken nose.

There were tears.

There was blood.

Watching them out there on that court, fighting for every ball, encouraging each other endlessly, calming each other down, defending each other, helping each other...I saw a little glimpse into their future. 

Men of honor and courage, these boys. Willing to do the hard things for each other. Willing to push through pain, fight back mental fatigue, press forward to win the prize.

Not a trophy, though they did win a few. 

No, the prize they earned was within them, and between them.

We have watched them pray for each other in church...and we have watched it on the sidelines of a ball game. Heads bowed, shoulders touching, hearts knit together forever, these Cougars have clawed their way through a tough season, and they have won a victory for us all.

A victory over the distractions of the chaos all around us.

For a couple hours a day, a few days a week, a few months a year, there was nothing we couldn't do if we fought hard enough for the person beside us. Because they were fighting for us too. We soared when that ball and those legs did. It was special. We will always remember.

Thank you, Cougars, for your hearts of gold-covered steel. 

Thank you for fighting for us, for representing us.

We will do the same for you.




Thursday, January 28, 2021

Jesus Freak

 I've started reading a book called "Jesus Freaks" to my kids. It was published when I was a teenager, in cooperation with Voice of the Martyrs. Maybe you've never heard of it, or VOM for that matter. That's okay. (The older I get the more I am finding that I've been introduced to a lot of super "Christian"  things, and protected from a lot of super "worldly" things, throughout my life. I support this and am working hard to make sure my kids have the same weird knowledge base when they are grown and reflecting back.)

It's a compilation of stories of people who have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus throughout history. Some stories are from the early church, many come out of countries that still persecute Christians today.

Why am I reading them tales of young men being hung from the ceiling by their hair in an attempt to get them to recant their faith? Why do I want them to know that a man stabbed his sister to death with a knife rather than allow her to openly convert to Christianity? Why do I require them to listen as I read of people who refused to spit on their Bibles and so were shot in the head?

Because the day will come in this country, and indeed has already come, where there will be persecution handed out to followers of God Most High and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't know of routine floggings for proclaiming a belief in Jesus, unless you're referring to verbal floggings. 

I am not aware of anyone losing their fingernails for refusing to back down from a truth then KNOW...unless you count chewing off ones own nails in anxiety while being blasted on social media or over text. 

No one is being burned at the stake in America for being a Christian. At least not physically. At least not yet.

And to further clarify what I mean by "Christian," let me be frank: Most of the time the members of the church, those who profess the name and character and Lordship of Jesus, do so quietly, to their own close group of people who won't verbally rip them to shreds. We (I'm including myself in this) are very willing to speak the truth and defend the truth and hold tightly to the truth...unless it might cost us friendships and relationships with family and standing in our community and butts in seats on Sunday morning at our church. We are Christians in all the ways that are acceptable in society...and we are tight-lipped in all the ways that culture tells us isn't allowed.

I like to think if someone were holding a gun to my head, I would find that my love for Jesus was more precious than my love for my life. I think all believers hope this is true of them. But here's a question that'll keep you up at night: what if the gun is being held to your child's head? What if the person about to lose their life isn't you? Do you, do I, still choose Jesus when it affects someone else besides us? If I'm not willing to be verbally assaulted for 'hate speech' on social media...doesn't that say that, in function, I am not willing to lay down my life to defend the gospel? 

Oof.

Almost daily, I see or hear something that makes me say: "That's not true. It's a perversion of the Truth. It's twisted to mean what that person wants it to mean." But I don't say it on a platform of any kind. I just say it to myself, or to someone I know won't disagree with me.

Because I've tried holding to the truth and voicing that truth...and it has cost me relationships. More than once. More than twice. And when you have heard enough times that you're being a bigot or close-minded or arrogant to think you have all the answers (especially when that's coming from someone close to you) you start to bite your tongue more often.

Here is the raw, ugly, unguarded truth: I have allowed the enemy to silence me because I don't want to be emotionally ripped to shreds by people who used to love me but suddenly find they don't agree with me...and the things we don't agree on are deal breakers for them. So I remain silent. I speak of my Jesus, my friend, my Lord...but in function I do not willingly speak of ALL that He is.

How heartbroken I am to realize that, in words, I say "I don't love my life so much that I shrink from death" (Revelation 12:11)...but in deed, that isn't actually the case. (Not that I think I will die if I speak against things the Bible speaks against...at least not currently. But being 'canceled' and labeled 'hater' are happening every day. Both have happened to me over this past year.)

My whole life, the wisest man I know (my daddy) has told me to take all my questions to the Word, and let HIM answer them. 

This morning I did that very thing. I went to the Word. Because something came up last night to which I responded "that is NOT true, it's being misused" but only to my daughter. And today the Spirit of God has been asking me why I am shrinking back from standing on His Word and being willing to say it out loud. So...here it goes.

"Even Jesus grew angry at injustice."

"Jesus made a whip and flipped tables to make His point."

Maybe you've heard this recently. Maybe you've said it. Maybe you are hearing it for the first time, but are nodding along in agreement to the underlying point attempting to be made. The point that violence and destruction on behalf of social justice has precedent, set by Jesus, in scripture.

May I submit the passages of scripture for your reading? I read them all this morning. I also read commentary about them. 

Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48 (All three of these are records of the same incident, which is referred to as the second time Jesus acted in this way. The record of the first time is found in John 2:13-16)

After reading them all, as well as commentaries, I have come down very firmly on the truth I already understood.

It is a truth that is "cancel" worthy. But if I believe it, I should be willing to say it. And if I'm not...do I truly believe it, in function? Am I willing to stand up and point out what is true, in the hope that light is shed on something that is being misused by the enemy?

Yes. I am.

Jesus did in fact go into the Temple and angrily drive out those who were trading and selling there. The Jewish merchants had set up trade tables in the court of the Gentiles in order to take advantage of people who were coming to worship God. They were exchanging their foreign money at an exorbitant rate, and then requiring them to buy "acceptable" animals for sacrifice from them, also at an inflated rate. Jesus said it was a den of thieves, when it was supposed to be a house of prayer.

Several things of note:

Jesus was dealing with hypocrisy and distortion of truth WITHIN the 'church' of that day.

He did NOT speak against injustice in the society, though there was great social unrest and injustice to be found during His life and ministry.

He didn't even address the Gentiles who were there. Rather, He set right the lies of those within His own circle of culture and, dare I say the buzzword, ethnicity.

He was angry, yes. Angry in defense of worship and reverence for His Father. Righteously angry in defense of the TRUTH. He walked into a place He wanted to come to worship Yahweh alongside His fellow Jews...only to find that they were more concerned with making money by extorting the innocent or ignorant. They had become distorted by the culture around them. Complaining about the way the Romans taxed them too heavily, and then turning around and doing the same thing to others, in God's house. 

And so, Jesus came to the defense of what was right. He opposed that, within His own ethnicity, within His own cultural place of worship, which was anti-TRUTH. 

He did not beat up any tax collectors. He did not flip any tables and drive out, with a whip, any Romans. He did not even support not paying taxes. (Luke 20:25)

He. Was. Put. To. Death. Unjustly. And still, during His sham of a trial, He said "my kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)

From the life of my best friend, Jesus, I glean who I am supposed to be.

I will defend the truth. The truth about HIM. ALL of it. Without apology.

I will not go out looking for a fight about a kingdom that isn't my heritage.

My citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20) I will defend the truth of my Homeland, even if it costs me everything.

"I don't really care if they label me a Jesus Freak. There is no denying the truth..." ( Jesus Freak by DC Talk)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is everything I expected it to be.

It's massive. Over 2 million acres. We drove all day long and didn't even make a dent in seeing everything.

It's as off the grid as anyplace I have ever been, with cell service so spotty it wasn't even worth it to try and use the phone. In fact, we saw an actual pay phone at one rest stop. I guess the park operators figure if someone gets mauled by a bear or falls off a cliff, someone needs to have SOME way to let the authorities know. It was definitely a strange experience, coming out of the park and having all our phones begin to blow up with texts and calls and notifications we had missed.

 Old Faithful was...well...faithful. We were able to get a great seat and only waited about 30 minutes before the most famous geyser in the world did her thing. Steam and occasional bubbling water kept us in suspense while we waited. Well, some of us. Ashely was less enthused. "It better get more interesting than this. We better not have come all this way to see a hole smoking." It did get more interesting. I'm not sure I'll ever NOT be totally in awe at the way boiling water just spews out of a hole in the earth, for several moments, all of the time. 

The animal activity was the coolest thing. It was like being INSIDE a zoo exhibit. Bison roam freely, sometimes solo and other times in massive herds. The first time we saw one, we climbed from our car to take pictures along with everyone else. A man nearby, holding his 5-ish-year-old daughter, responded to her repeated "What is it, Daddy?" question with the epically misinformed "Its a buffalo," response. Before I could even help myself, I went full teacher/defender of the identity of the animal kingdom. "It's actually a bison. Isn't he cool?" 

I have since looked up why it is that the bison are so often referred to as buffalo, and the original reason makes sense. The settlers were reminded of the herds of buffalo they had seen in their homelands, and so referred to the bison as buffalo early on. By the time the distinction was made...it was too late. We literally ate bison burgers at a restaurant called "Buffalo Bar." I am totally offended by this entire, perpetuated mistake, on behalf of all bison, and buffalo for that matter. 

**Side-bar: how often is this true in a spiritual sense? Someone says or does or believes something that isn't actually TRUE to the Word or character of God, and repeats it or allows it to be repeated often enough that it becomes widely accepted as okay, and culturally appropriate, and probably just an interchangeable term anyway. I can think of so many things, SO MANY, in Christian circles, that are flat out NOT accurate or in line with who we are called to be as believers and witnesses of Jesus, but we just go ahead and allow them because its been said or done or accepted long enough that we don't want to look like the crazy person for calling out the WRONG.

***Side-bar 2.0: I am not sorry I corrected that random stranger. I'm just doing my part to protect the truth. :)

Back to the animals: We witnessed a good old fashioned elk testosterone match. Complete with a locking of antlers, and aggressive elk shouting (otherwise known as bugling) as one giant male defended his family of females from a potential imposter. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life.

We are leaving Yellowstone today, and driving south to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for our final two days of my #birthdayadventure. We are footsore, but we are enjoying every moment of taking in God's creation. 

I'm sure, before it's over, I'll have a few more opportunities to defend the actual facts about something.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Lessons From a Mountain

 When making plans to hike in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, there are a few things its important to know.

1. The trail map lies about the length and difficulty. Straight up lies. Because if the map told you the truth...you would never do it. So when it says 6.5 miles, you should go ahead and assume that you'll be walking for 10. And the "moderate" label really should read "will be going straight up for at least half of the hike."

2. No matter how in shape you are, the elevation and amount of oxygen will leave you lightheaded and gasping for air. If you're LESS in shape...you may or may not have to stop every 30 steps or so on the vertical sections of the trail, in order to avoid passing out.

3. People on their way down will lie to everyone heading up. They will tell you that you're almost there, even if you're only a mile in.

4. The sense of accomplishment you feel when finishing the 6-that-was-really-10 mile hike will be real, but not as real as the sore muscles and tired feet if you happen to be older than 30.

5. There's no trash anywhere. None. There's a respect for the surroundings and commitment to preserving the beauty of the trails. 


The proximity to the wide open sky allowed plenty of time to think, and pray, and reflect. It was interesting to note how many spiritual parallels could be drawn.


1. No one willingly sets out on a trail that they know will be way worse than they think. And really, they'll be grateful they didn't know at the start. They'll also be thankful for their traveling companions to help distract from the gasping for air and morning muscles.

 2. We are never, fully, spiritually "prepared" for hard things when they hit us. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be in training at all times. Understanding that hard things are always ahead should make us train more, strengthening our spiritual muscles for the fight.

3. No person can truly equip you for the climb, the struggle. They can try, and sometimes their attempts are helpful. But really, the only One who is able to help is the one who IS breath and strength and courage.

4. You will feel accomplished, relieved even, when you make it through the thing that was way harder than you thought it would be. But...the effects will linger. You will not soon forget the aching, the pain, the struggle. 

5. But during the climb, during the struggle, during the pain, as you realize that you're close, so close, to the One who is always with you in the hardest times...you can look around and see purity and beauty, without pollution or garbage. Its just you and Him there on the path, and it's enough. He's enough.


And that's not even close to all you can learn from a mountain...but it's all I have energy for today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Anniversary Hope

 Ten years.

Ten.

Years.

I've been sitting here pondering what to say on this, the 10th anniversary of my sister's death. But I've said a lot of things over the years, probably more than necessary. I've walked the process of grieving in a rather public way, and now that its a milestone anniversary...I feel as though I don't have new words to give it.

I want to. I always feel the weight of putting perfect words to the life, death, and story of my little sister. I don't have very many people in my immediate realm of days who ever even knew her. My children barely remember her at all. And so it feels like it falls to me to talk about her, so that they know.

In the first few months after Joy died, I met a gal in a Bible study group who had lost her brother. I gasped when she told me. "I'm so sorry. How long ago was it?" She smiled and said "It's been over 10 years now." I remember standing there, looking at her, and thinking, "There is hope. I will smile again someday. I will be able to breathe again. I can survive."

And so I have, by His mercy. Mom and I were chatting this weekend, and she said basically the same thing. "It's a miracle, but we have survived. By the mercy of God, we have survived."

There were plenty of days when I wasn't sure I would. When I didn't want to try. When the shattered pieces of everything I had ever felt certain of were slicing open my hands as I struggled to collect them. 

And I have talked about this before, about finding the Lord there, at the bottom, in the depth of deep agony. 

"I am with you," He whispered.

"I am with you. I am with you. I am with you."

Still, ten years later, when I am struggling, I can close my eyes and remember those words. Softly spoken words breathed into my heart, while I lay curdled in a ball on the floor with my arms wrapped around my head because I felt sure at any moment I was going to literally break apart.

He saved me that day, when I was drowning. He saved me over and over again. For ten years, He's come striding across the raging waves of pain, whenever I needed Him, and He's rescued me.

I won't retell all the ways. I've said them before.

How He gave me a vision of a hospital bed in Malaysia, and her in the room, and me hugging her and telling her I loved her, and how that was within hours of her death.

How He gave my little girl, my sweet 8-year-old daughter who was grieving so hard and so quiet, a vision of heaven, of Joy running down the hill to hug her, and telling her everything was okay..."She's so happy, Mom," were Faith's words to me when she told me about it. "It's so bright there, and Jesus is with her. They were walking on a hill, and Aunt Joy had her hair in a ponytail, and it was flying n the breeze when she ran down the hill to hug me. She smiled so big."

How He stood beside me and sustained me, and my family, while I wrote down the story, HIS story, of miracles and mercy, that made up the life of a skinny little girl from South Carolina who became a world changer. How He directed the steps that led to publishing that story. 

But, 

I think the biggest of miracles, the deepest mercy, is something I didn't expect until just now, and I was sitting here trying to give appropriate words to the occasion. 

There are words, phrases, truths, that resonate deep within me and from me, words that have always been true, but have also now been LIVED, and the depth of belief when I speak them and pray them and share them...somehow in those moments, I see that He has made a beautiful mosaic of His mercy through my shattered heart.


It is well...

Even if He doesn't...

Sovereign.

Death, where is your sting?

I believe you, God.

Heaven.


Eleven years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a lovely getaway trip. 

We have made a big deal out of the 10th birthdays of all 4 of our kids. 

But I don't know how to commemorate this day. I've been asked several times what I wanted it to look like...and I don't know. It doesn't matter, I suppose. It's just another day in a long string of days missing her. So many more to come before heaven.


And oh, how I miss her. I miss her smile and her laugh and the way her ears turned red when I said something shocking. I miss the way my family was before we lost her suddenly: when the idea of not getting to sit with someone who was sick did NOT make all of us feel very triggered and nervous. When we didn't feel the weight of every goodbye being full of hugs and verbalized love, because it might be the last. When the possibility of losing someone didn't really feel like it could happen, but was more of a far off nightmare we didn't look too closely at. Those people were blissful. Those people are gone.

And in their place is a family with deeply etched scars. People who cry hard and long on this day every year. People who cling to each other in hospital waiting rooms, and say "I love you" more often, and swallow panic at the very real possibility of loss when it rears its head.

But we have learned to smile again. And we are aware, with a certainty that resonates in our very bones, of heaven, and mercy, and miracles, and sustaining power. We have lived them. We do live them, every day.

There's so much beauty to be found in Him today. SO much to be celebrated. So much to look forward to.

"All our burdens...all our pain...Jesus our healer...He has overcome."

"While I'm waiting...I'm not waiting...I know heaven lives in me..."

"Far be it from me to not believe...even when my eyes can't see..."

"With me in the calm...with me in the storm..."

"When night screams terrors...there Your voice will roar..."

"Take heart...let His love lead us through the night...hold onto hope...take courage again..."

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Power in Precedent

Guess what I found in the Word today? A precedent I had never seen before. 

It's a story I have read a dozen times, but that jumped out at me in a totally relevant way this morning.

Esther 4:1-8

In case you're familiar with the story, or in case you're not, here's the recap in my own words:

Esther was a Jewish exile in Persia, raised by her uncle, Mordecai. She was very beautiful, and eventually caught the eye of the guys looking for a new queen for the king. 

Haman was an official of the king's who had a very nasty death wish for Mordecai, and by extension, all Jews.

He got the king (who didn't know his wife was Jewish) to sign an edict that all the Jews in Persia could be put to death.

Mordecai, and the entire Jewish community, tore their clothes, put on sack cloth, heaped ashes on their heads, and mourned publicly over the edict. Weeping. Wailing. In utter despair. 

Mordecai went so far as to sit in the dirt in front of the king's gate, dressed in his 'death clothes,' so to speak, loudly lamenting the injustice that was widely publicized and totally acceptable to the majority of the people in the city.

Queen Esther heard about it, and sent him clothes to put on. Basically "dude, calm down, you're making me uncomfortable." Mordecai refused the clothes. Basically "I cannot be calm. My life is at stake here." 

So, finally realizing this was a really big deal, she sent messengers to ask him "WHY are you acting this way? What has happened?"

Mordecai responded by sending her a copy of the edict, and asking her servant to "explain to her what is happening and what it means." SHE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW up to this point. She was totally insulated within the confines of her own life until someone close to her threw back his head and wailed to be heard.

Her uncle begged her to go to the king and ask him to undo what had been done, to change things.

But "its agains the law to go to the king without being called...I will most likely be killed..." she responded.

"God's deliverance will come one way or another...but who knows? Maybe you were made queen for JUST SUCH A TIME as this..." came the grief stricken reply.

"Alright...I'll fast and pray for three days, and then I'll go to the king," the queen decided. "And if I die...I die."


Y'all. Are you kidding me? Do you see the parallel to the current state of our country? I swear, it was jumping off the page, dancing in living colors before my eyes today.

1. Unwarranted targeting of a group of people with a different ethnicity than those in power.
2. A deep, echoing outcry against the injustice that had been accepted without a second thought.
3. People all around who didn't even KNOW what had been happening, or what would happen if they stayed silent. 
4. Well-meaning, well-motived, unaware people saying: "Calm down, you're overreacting."
5. Response? "I CANNOT CALM DOWN. MY LIFE IS AT STAKE."
6. (and here is where all us white people need to start hearing the precedent of the WORD OF GOD) "Okay, Mordecai, I'm listening. Tell me why you're weeping. Help me understand. What can I do?"
7. Shocked revelation...and also hesitation. "I can't do anything about that. If I do, my own life (peace, status-quo, pre-determined ways of responding, previously held views, oblivious comfort, innocent unawareness) will be in danger."
8. Resolve, and also an invitation to WAKE UP: "God will fight for us. He's on the side of the oppressed. He's just. You don't HAVE to do anything. But maybe He put you in the place you are in (entrusted you with those resources, made you an ethnicity that commands attention, gave you the platform He did) for this exact moment in time."
9. "I will fast and pray" (Seriously...can you imagine if she had just knee-jerk responded without fasting and prayer? I can. It looks a lot like facebook conversations I keep seeing. Firing back and forth, trying to make the other side see things your way, defending yourself, not really sitting, for a long time, with the Spirit of God, allowing Him to speak to and prepare and encourage and calm you down before you say or do something that isn't in keeping with the One who is Peace and Love and Truth. Pull yourselves together, people. All of us on all sides should stop talking and fall to our knees and empty ourselves in order to hear from God) "and then I will go to the King."
10. She did exactly what she said she would do. She sought the Lord. And she acted. (once we have aligned our hearts to His, and tapped into His will, His strength, His direction for us to individually take...we do something to affect change.)

I do not know how this could be more clear. Seriously.

Even if you didn't know what was going on before now...now you do. Don't be defensive about the fact that you didn't know. Don't make excuses. Don't try to give your grieving friends 'new clothes.' Don't try to redirect the conversation, or placate, or gloss over, or make light of, or blame shift. Don't say a word at all until you spend a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Even though she was innocent of wrongdoing, Esther risked her life to set something right. She had no personal responsibility in the wrong that had been done, but she stuck her neck out, literally, in the hopes of righting it. 

So what if you aren't racist? So what if you have lots of black friends? So what if you believe most cops are the good guys and they shouldn't all be treated like bad apples? So what if you think rioting is wrong? So what if you disagree with wrong policies and rhetoric of those in power? 

Good for you. That isn't the point.

The point is, someone is grieving. And we can try to make it go away as quickly and quietly as possible, so as not to upset our comfortable oblivion. We can argue, defend, explain our position, use words when none are asked for...

Or we can listen to those who are grieving. Without feeling like we are condoning wrong, we can do what is right. And then take what we now see more clearly to the Lord, and sit in silence with Him, asking Him to give us the courage to do what He might be asking us to do.

And before we cut the story short with the knowledge that Esther did in fact do something, let's take a second to glance at what she did, and what she didn't do.

She DID go in before the king, and he did not have her immediately killed. And as she stood there before him, with the attention of everyone steadfastly fixed on what she was going to say, something that was so important to her that she faced death to say it...she chose her words carefully, with respect, kindness, and a desire to do this thing well.

She invited her husband to a meal, where she promised to talk more. And then she went and threw a grand banquet for him, and for her worst enemy, the man who had all but sealed her fate: Haman. And the privacy of that banquet meal, she pleaded for her life and the lives of her people.

11. She invited an opportunity for personal, intimate dialogue.
12. She used her resources to assist in the comfort of those involved.
13. She spoke plainly and clearly and bravely, but...


What did she NOT do?

She didn't shout and rant. She didn't throw things. She didn't accuse. She came in humility, and she used her resources and personal relationships in order to affect change. Privately, not publicly.

This then is our mandate. We better get up and do it. The way it has been modeled for us in Scripture.

That's the precedent in the Word of God. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Old School Apologies

A well-known fact about me, if you know me at all, is that I am rather "old school" in a lot of my preferences.

I can barely operate something as technologically advanced as a computer. Possibly because we didn't have one in our house till I was nearly grown, and no one under our roof knew much about how to work it...so I never learned. And then I married a super tech guy, so I never had to figure it out. 

My kids have to help me navigate at least half of the workings of our television and my cell phone.

I still enjoy, though I seldom find time for, writing letters- on actual paper, with an envelope and a stamp involved. Walking to the mailbox and putting up the flag...it feels like my childhood, and I deeply enjoy it.

I would much rather read a book that I am holding in my hands than on a computer screen. In fact, I don't know that I have ever, EVER, read a digital book. I've listened to audio books, which isn't ideal but does work when I'm driving. But E-books...no way.

I feel even more strongly about my Bible being a hard copy. I do have, and appreciate, my Bible app, especially when I need to cross-reference the wording of a particular version with another. Or if I'm looking for a specific verse and I know the gist of what is says, but can't recall where to find it in the Book, I will search for it on the app. So it has its uses in my life. But for my daily reading? I want to feel the thin pages between my fingers and strain to make out the small lettering and see the places I marked the last time I was in that particular book or chapter or verse...

I have a lovely new Insta-pot, but I'm still partial to my old crock pot, because I know how to work it, and don't know a single thing about all the buttons on the space-ship-Insta-pot.

You get the idea. I'm old school. 

I was recently in a conversation with my husband, where I was admitting to being "totally old school and not nearly progressive enough." And as I was saying it, the Lord all but stopped me in the middle of my words. I managed to stutter out the remained of my sentence, but then I fell into shocked silence as the Light of the World shined brightly on my heart, on the words I had just spoken, on the lie I was admitting to believing.

What were these horrifying words, you ask?

"I know its part of that backwards, sheltered, old-school, politically incorrect way or thinking, and I feel bad that I can't figure out how to become more progressive...but I just want to hear what the Word says on a subject, and align my life to that..."

And the Spirit whispered to me: "Did you just make apologies for choosing to allow my Word to guide your life?"

I've been marinating since then, acutely aware of the fact that I have frequently done that exact thing: I stand on who I know my God to be, as revealed in His Word, but I also apologize for how NOT-evolved that makes me. Why do I do that? I don't know.

Maybe I am hoping to make room and allowance for the fact that everyone has had a different life path, and we all feel differently on...well...a LOT of things. I know the going rhetoric about Christians being close-minded and judgmental. I am surrounded on every side by the ever-changing landscape of the world...maybe I"m hoping not to offend someone who has a different view than me, and so I just start out by apologizing for my 'old school' approach to...everything.

I also understand that much of the Scriptures are open for debate. SO many different views of the same verse exist.  Maybe I apologize in the hopes of not getting into a debate about a difference of opinion? 

As I've been sitting in this revelation, stewing over the fact that I feel strongly about the Word as the reference for my life, but also make haste to apologize for that fact...the Spirit of God has been reminding me of a few things.

Memories have been parading through my mind.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather was killed in a car accident. I have a vivid picture in my mind from that time. In a gray chair in one corner of our family room, my mom would sit, her Bible open in her lap, her face in her hands, weeping.  She was so young when she lost her dad. She was heartbroken. And in it, she clung to the Word. She dropped physical tears onto the pages.

When I was in a very dark depression, my husband came and sat on our bed one night, opened his Bible, and started reading it to me. And I wept, silent tears streaming for an hour as his voice carried through our room. That was 15 years ago. My husband still reads to me every evening. Because the Word saved my life that night. And that makes it something worth grasping onto.

When my sister died suddenly on the mission field, I laid in the middle of my living room floor, barely even able to cry. I felt I would drown in the pain. And do you know what? I saw a raging storm in my mind. I felt the waves crashing. I knew I was about to die. I could not catch my breath. I was there with the disciples in that boat. And there, Jesus came to me, walking on the water. He spoke to me, echoing His Words through my heart. "Don't be afraid...take courage...I am here..." (Matthew 14:27)

I have never, in my whole life, seen the Word and the Spirit of God prove anything but life-giving, life-sustaining, true and faithful and entirely able to withstand any storm.

If that makes me unusual, old-school, or backward...I'm thankful. I don't apologize for my bone-deep KNOWING that He is there with me in anything, in ALL things.

I was praying last night, grieving over the horrific injustice of this broken world, over the evidence of hatred and ignorance and cruelty and SIN that is so visibly apparent, and deeply affecting people I love. I asked the Lord, "what do I do? What can I say? What is Your heart?"

And, because it's been true all of my life, the Word answered me.

"I punish the wrongdoers..." (Deuteronomy 32:35)
"God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)
"I will come quickly and save them; the time of my victory is near..." (Isaiah 51:5)
"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted..." (Psalm 34:18)
"...He will help the oppressed..." (Psalm 72:12)
"Arise, O God, defend Your cause..." (Psalm 74:22)
"In Your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth and perform awe-inspiring deeds." (Psalm 45:4)

I stand with Him. And He is on the side of those in need of defending, on the side of the oppressed. He is close to the broken-hearted. He defends truth and justice. He will not be mocked.

He has performed so many awe-inspiring deeds in my life. And believing that He will do it again, on behalf of truth and justice for the oppressed, might make me "old-school." But I do not apologize.