Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Bitter Prophet, a Mercy Loving God, and the Miracle of Miracles

I love the book of Jonah.  Something I'd never considered was that when Jonah fled, he had more reason than I'd ever dreamed.  Jonah knew prophecy.  The prophet Hosea was before Jonah's time.  He had penned that the Assyrians would be used by God as an instrument of judgment on Israel.

When God told Jonah to visit Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Jonah's heart shouted no.  His running legs were proof.  Jonah was a Patriot.  He loved his nation and wanted to do everything in his power to keep it from future doom.

Jonah believed the prophecies and took matters into his own hands, trying to change the plans of the Almighty. Jonah balked at the idea of the Assyrians repenting, because they would still be around one day to destroy the northern part of Israel.  Jonah was running from the Word; he wanted his enemy flat wiped out.  He did all he could to thwart God's plans.

Jonah ran.  Jonah boarded a ship.  Jonah did all he could to escape his God that was more merciful than he could stomach.

God started providing.  God provided a violent storm at sea.  God provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah whole.  God provided a vine.  God provided a worm.

Even when we run, we can't escape the provision that points to the Holy Glory of the Provider.

After being bathed in the stomach acids of a fish, Jonah bitterly enters Nineveh.  For a single day, Jonah announced, "In forty days, Nineveh will be wiped out."

I'm thirty eight years old and I've missed the biggest miracle of the book until now.  The biggest miracle was not that God chased after Jonah in his rebellion.

The biggest miracle was not that the storm went silent the moment the sailors threw Jonah overboard.

The biggest miracle was not that God sent the perfectly made fish at the perfectly assigned time to swallow Jonah in such a way that would not harm him.

The biggest miracle was not that Jonah was able to survive in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights, the stomach acids not eroding him to mere bones.

The biggest miracle was not that the fish vomited Jonah up on dry land instead of the middle of the deep.

The biggest miracle happened in the hearts of over one hundred and twenty thousand people that believed Jonah's message and repented from their sins.  A fish god was one of the many deities that the Ninevites worshiped.  Don't you know they paid extra attention to this prophet bleached in the stomach acids of a fish!  Don't you know the stories of him being spit up by a fish onto the shore had them talking!  They clothed themselves in sackcloth, from the beggar all the way up to the king.  They fasted.  They didn't just acknowledge their sins against the one true God, Yahweh, they turned away from them.  Every single person of Nineveh turned away from their evil lives.

The most precious miracle in the book of Jonah is that God turned the hearts of countless beloved souls over to Himself, using only a bitter prophet as His instrument.

Grace was the miracle that day.

Thousands of Gentile souls, all His.

What about the words of Hosea, that had prophesied Nineveh to be the instrument of destruction for Israel?

Those came true.

The Assyrians were used by God to bring utter destruction to the Northern Kingdom.  Apparently, the repentant hearts didn't bleed into future generations and they were once again defined as a fierce and cruel people.

In mercy, God (all over again) sent a prophet to their land.  His name was Nahum.  Nahum was on the scene a century after Jonah.  He predicted their doom, but the Ninevites would not listen this time.  The book of Nahum teaches us that God will always forgive repented sin, but He refuses to condone sin that continues.  The Assyrians later fell to the Babylonians.

God sets up kings and deposes them. He sets up nations and allows them to fall.  He does all of this based on the apple of His eye, his beloved Israel.

I look at my beloved nation, America, and wonder how it will all shake out.  Will God miraculously allow us a Jonah-Nineveh moment when we repent of our sins as a whole?  Or will we be like the Ninevites during Nahum's day, who refused to hear His warnings of judgment?

God deals with Gentile nations all the same:  He will always forgive repented sin, but He will refuse to condone sin that continues. 

His mercy longs to envelop us.  Will we choose repentance?

"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned." Jeremiah 18:7-8

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beavers, Motherhood, and the Art of Building Dams


When beavers gather twigs, mud, and branches, they do the most random thing with it.  They throw it into the rushing waters.  One would think that every piece would be carried away, but God gave beavers the instinctive ability to engineer the materials in just the perfect way.  When beavers build dams, their materials don’t succumb to the mighty river.  When beavers build dams, just the opposite happens:  their collection of branches and muck actually slows down the flow of the river. 

Motherhood is a sacred gift.  When I was younger, I thought I had all the time in the world with these babies.  I didn’t realize the collective moments would go faster and faster.  When Asher came three years ago, I knew better at how deceiving the daily clock could be.  I cherished each moment, knowing it would be my last run at mothering a newborn and baby.  I was right.  Time didn’t mind its manners this time around, either. 

Here is my gathering of twigs in an attempt to slow down the river that is carrying my babies…my young men…into adulthood.  This is my simple collection of random pieces of wood thrown into the rushing waters in an effort to create a pool of remembrance amid the mighty roar. 

{Asher, 2 years, 11 months, and 20 days}
Asher loves to lick.  He will come up to me and either lick my shirt or my arm.  Instead of telling him he isn’t a puppy, I just give him a kiss right back, knowing that I’ll blink and he will be too big to sit on my lap like a lap dog, licking away. 

His words right now slay me.  There is nothing better than toddler-speak.  “Ah, don’t tick me!”  I lean in to tickle his baby soft belly and he screams, “Ah!  That ticks!!!”  His favorite line at the dinner table is, “It’s too tasty!”  This means that he doesn’t like the food.  Asher will scrunch his nose and utter our new favorite line. Another adorable line is when he wants me to carry him after his bath to go find clean clothes.  “Hode Jue.”  I don’t care what it does to my back; I’ll hold that one until he stops asking.  Tomorrow, the river will carry him towards better grammar, but today I will relish in these precious phrases. 

Yesterday, Asher painted the bathroom walls with his stuffed animals that had been dipped into the toilet water.  Right now, he is sucking on his big toe.  Tomorrow, he will once again choose to pee in his terry cloth training pants instead of the potty.  It’s probably a good thing that toddlerhood sails straight down that glorious river. 

{Sam, 10 years and 7 months}
I love to peer down into my ten year old’s baby face, all splattered with brown freckles.  I breathe in childhood and exhale innocence.  Sam exudes comfort.  He is easy to be around and never judges a soul.  He is my gentle giant, my kid who dwarfs everyone else out on the soccer field.  He cried the hardest when we had to put our golden retriever down.  Hysterically.  I am pretty sure God gave him an extra big heart to go with his extra-large frame. 

When baby-niece-Addison came for a visit, he wanted to hold her the most.  He still asks for a baby sister.  He has a special affection for little girls. They melt him.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if God gave him six or ten daughters one day.  He would be a great girl-Daddy. 

Hearing him play “Amazing Grace” on the guitar while I am cooking stirs up something deep inside.   Coming from a rich gospel music heritage, I see God’s imprints of harmony and melody on this third born.  His laid back style doesn’t love to practice for hours on end, so teaching him to be diligent with a God-gift is in the works.  One of the sweetest parts of motherhood is seeing the splatter of gifts on your children and watching them develop, hopefully, for the purpose of glorifying the Giver. 

Perhaps it is selfish, but I do hope the river carries Sam towards the musical worship of Jehovah.

{Eli, 13 years and 3 months}
The sweetest end to my days happens in Eli’s room.  He still loves for me to tuck him in, pulling the red Arsenal blanket up to his chin.  We make sure his favorite animals are close by…Dave, Bruce, Shifu, and Kipster.  Some nights I pray, and other nights, he talks to our God.  I like it better when he does.  His ever present joy seeps into his Abba adorations and it always makes me smile.  I have a feeling that God smiles, too.  

If Eli only had one gas to breathe, it would be soccer.  If he only had one food to eat, it would be soccer.  If he only had one pillow to sleep on, it would be soccer.  I’m worried he might change his middle name to Messi.  Center midfielder is his position.  In many ways, it can be the hardest position, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  Good midfielders have to be feisty, smart, and creative.  That sums up my second born to a T.  Center mids have to be able to see the field in a visionary way.  As this soccer-sight develops, I pray his ability to see continues to develop in the spirit realm, as well. 

I love that Eli will tell me details.  If I ask about his day, he will tell me that a teacher gave him a snack (little charmer,) that he ran a 5:35 mile in track, and that he invited another person to join their project because that kid needed a place to go. 

Eli’s river is named Delight.  No matter what God gives him to do, I am sure it will be done with joy.

{Cade, sweet 16 in less than 2 months}
He’s making me cry buckets right now, and he doesn’t even know it.  It’s hard on a momma’s heart when that river starts moving faster and faster. 

Saturday, I birthed him all over again.  The pain felt like it, anyway.  We hopped in the swagger wagon and I drove him around to various businesses, looking for summertime work.  I took him job hunting.  (I just need that to sink in for a bit.)  As we drove, the labor pains got stronger and stronger and I fought the tears as I pushed out a one hundred and forty three pound young  man.  I put him in a slingshot and sent him off to manhood.  Just like that. 

Shockingly, what was birthed was beyond my imaginations.  All of the prayers, spankings, crying out to God for wisdom on raising him, begging God to pour out His favor on this firstborn, the late night vomit fests, the math and history/baseball and basketball competitions…it all seemed to come together in a moment of exhale.  What a precious, wise, kind, Godly, funny, and uber-intelligent young man he is.  He is a joy to be around.  I know not everyone can say that about their teenagers.  I’ll call myself one blessed Momma.   

Watching Cade play high school baseball has been so much fun.  He usually gets to start the JV games in center field.  A center fielder covers more grass than any other position.  I wonder how much grass he will cover once he graduates…what college and calling will whisper his name?  I’ve lost track of the amount of hours he has put into this one passion, so seeing him get to live out his dream has been so satisfying.  I’ll wash blue and white uniforms all day long just to see that grin on his face. 

We bought his first tie.  Red with blue dots.  Timeless and steady, with a hint of fun.  Just like him. 

I trust Cade’s Maker.  I trust Cade.  Float away, young man…float away.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Soccer Loving Boys

Goodbye Savannah Girl

We said goodbye to our girl Tuesday, April 5th. It was time to put our sweet Savannah girl down, our beautiful 12 year old golden retriever. Years ago, we brought a puppy into our home that snipped at the boys and we quickly got rid of that said puppy. We prayed God would give us the right dog for our family.

We heard David and Dee Callison's golden, Ellie, was having a litter, and we jumped on board. I remember the day we picked her out. She was the darkest of auburns and the ...fattest of fats. God knew I needed a squishy little girl to love. She was the best thing for our 4 boys. As toddlers, they would steal the bone straight out of her mouth and she would just lick them in response. She would even let them ride her like a horse.

Savannah taught Cade and Eli the power of prayer. As a feisty little thing, she loved to run away. They would cry out to God to bring her home. He answered every single one of those prayers. She was a low maintenance thing, only needing meds the past month and never once needing to use the restroom in the middle of the night.

If you ever came to our home, she was probably your welcoming committee. I have never ever seen another animal that loved people as much as she did. She just assumed everyone was her best friend.

In our old home, with our large backyard, she loved to go on a good squirrel chase. Snow was her favorite, partly because of the snow and partly because the boys were home to romp around with her. God created a lovely one in her, for sure.

As I cleaned up her quilt and bowls (with snot and tears everywhere,) I thanked God for the precious gift that she was to us. We couldn't have asked for anything better for those 4 boys. The emptiness in our home definitely reflects the state of our hearts. Yes, she was just a dog, but she was also our protector, friend, sister, and daughter. Who on earth will Eric trip over in the middle of the night, now?

We love you, Savannah.