Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome Signs and Doormats

In my kitchen is a cute fall Welcome sign. I put it out on the counter every September and leave it there until I put it away as the Christmas decorations descend from the attic. It's orange and green with cream-colored trim. Everything about it screams fall decor. And that one little word, Welcome, makes me feel a little more lively, as I hope it does for anyone who enters my kitchen. I hope it says, You've been invited into my kitchen, and you are welcome here.

At the entrance to my front door is a decorative black words, just a design. I keep it there for people to wipe the grass, dust or mud off their shoes before entering my home. I often have to pick it up and sweep beneath it because the black rubber pieces that make up the design fall off. It's not in the good shape it was when I bought it, but it still serves its purpose.

Offering grace is like the welcome sign, not like the doormat.

Grace welcomes others in. Grace says I love you, no matter what. Grace wants what's best for others. However, grace does not mean we have to be like the doormat and allow ourselves to be trampled upon. When we allow ourselves to be trampled over, allowing others to rob us of our joy and peace, we may still serve our purpose, but we are no longer in good condition...just like my doormat.

In Matthew 21, when Jesus walked into the temple and saw the evil being done there, He overturned tables and seats. He called out those who robbed His "house." (v. 13) Just because He was {is} grace didn't mean he had to sit down, shut up and avoid a confrontation in order to appease the robbers.

Grace does not mean contradicting our core beliefs and values just to please or appease another. It does not mean keeping the peace at any and all costs. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacably with all. (NRSV) And as much as we may want peace, as I recently read in a book titled Boundaries: We can't bring peace to someone who doesn't accept it!

Sometimes, living in grace means having enough grace on yourself to avoid the freight train that would run right through your front door and trample all over you. Sometimes living in grace means we must sit quietly and allow God to fight for us.

Of one thing I am certain: living in grace and offering grace does not mean we have to be a doormat for someone else's disregard and disdain. But, we must hang our welcome sign so they know they are loved.

Friday, October 28, 2011


The awareness of death, especially in tragic situations, is often a reminder to the living. This week has brought that awareness for me.

It's so unnatural for parents to outlive a child, yet today my friends will say a final earthly good-bye to their 19-year-old daughter. And as Mark, the girls and I, along with hundreds of other people, visited the family last night, her Dad said to me, Hold on to them while you can.

He reminded me to hold on to my precious children who I'm so quick to fuss at when they aren't doing things like I want. He reminded me to make memories of the little things, like sticking their heads out the car window and letting the wind whip through their hair. He reminded me to make videos of them singing, dancing, telling jokes...of being their silly, little selves. He reminded me to say I love you every time they walk out the door. He reminded me that no disagreement with them is worth a lifetime of regret. He reminded me that every moment I spend with them is a gift. He reminded me that I'm not promised to have them tomorrow.

Please pray today for the Ward family as they lay to rest their precious Rachel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Season of Softball and Marriage

My daughter played her last softball game of the fall season on Tuesday night. She's never played fall ball before, but thought playing this year would strengthen her skills before the spring season. Apparently fall ball is much more relaxed than spring ball, and quite a few other girls were playing for the same reason. In addition, there were a few girls who'd never played ball and thought fall ball would be a good way to get their feet wet.

They lost the last game by one point. They made a few errors, but all in all, they played hard and looked good. It was quite a different ballgame than the first game of the season. The first game they played looked almost like a t-ball game. One child made it to first base, but as she attempted to get to second base, was tagged out. I'm pretty sure she thought they were playing dodgeball instead of softball. She didn't understand that she was to run in a straight line to second base, and she curved so far behind the first and second base players that we thought she might run to the outfield. Then there were those who never really knew where to throw the ball once they caught it. It was quite a funny and frustrating scene for us parents to watch since we knew what was supposed to be happening on the field, but could do nothing to help.

After many evening practices and many game losses, they slowly improved. As the games rolled along, the parents would comment how much better they were doing. As I watched them play Tuesday night, I thought, They've come a long way since they first began this season.

When Mark and I married fourteen-and-a-half years ago, we didn't know what we were doing. We thought marriage would be fun and roses {I guess if anybody really knew how hard marriage is, they might not ever get married}. We started out not having a clue about what it takes to make a marriage work. And like the ball team, we've had lots of practice and many errors. And in the stands we've had people cheering us on, but who knew it was up to us to make it work. We've had moments of joy and moments of tears; we still have to practice, and we'll still have losses; but overall, I can say, We've come a long way since we first began.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Miracles and Praise

Buildings collapsed in eastern Turkey during Sunday's 7.2 earthquake. The death toll is over 450 and rising. More than 1,300 were injured.

As I watched a news report describing the quake and the disaster it left behind, one anchor commented that there was "a miracle amidst the rubble." 14-day-old Azra, her mother and grandmother were found alive among the destruction of a collapsed apartment building. The image of a rescue worker holding the baby, walking toward safety is not one I'll soon forget. I wonder if when Azra is older she'll tell everyone she meets how her life was spared, how she was rescued, and how thankful she is for the one who pulled her to safety.

I've seen quite a few miracles amdist the rubble lately. I have friends who are enduring the worst kind of sickness, and friends who've been hit with the unexpected death of a loved one. In my opinion, they have every right to complain, to curl up in a heap and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Yet, from their lips {and hearts} resounding praise is heard: Praise to God who heals, delivers and rescues. Praise to God who makes all things new. Praise to God for the surety of eternal life and heavenly reunions. Praise to God because their tragedies may bring just one person to Him. Praise to God who shelters them under His wings. Praise to God who makes miracles amidst rubble.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More On Counseling

Since posting last night, I've received several emails and messages from people who are either considering counseling or are currently attending. I wonder how many of you have questions about counseling, but are afraid to ask. If there's one characteristic I try to maintain on my blog, it's that of being real. So I want to share what relieved me most in my counseling session yesterday in hopes that some of you can relate.

I think my greatest fear in seeking counseling was that I was making a bigger deal of my feelings than I should. After all, I've always thought I should be able to handle issues and circumstances, or at the very least, releasing them to God through prayer would be the solution. But after months of both, I still knew I needed help. It's kind of like when we're sick: we can eat chicken noodle soup, drink lots of water, push ourselves to the max, pray for healing...and sometimes, we're still sick and have to go to the doctor to get a shot or prescription meds.

When I unloaded on my counselor, I had a what-have-I-got-to-lose attitude. And I honestly expected her to respond that the issues I'm dealing with are normal...that it's no big deal. Instead, she started putting words to the behavior I described. She validated my feelings, and drew a chart for me to see the behavioral extremes that accompany anxiety. I just sat there, nodding my head in agreement because I finally began to understand that I'm not crazy! {Some of my friends might disagree. :-)} She shared with me how we're going to work step-by-step to get me to a place of middle ground...a place that is healthy, and dare I say...normal.

I share all of this because some of you are probably in the same position as me...knowing you need help, but fearing the worst of counseling. I encourage you to seek a counselor {and if you are a Christian, I encourage you to seek someone who will base their counsel upon God's grace}. More than likely, if you think you need help, you probably do. Walk out of the I-must-be-crazy-for-feeling-this-way trap, and allow someone to guide you to a new place of healthy and normal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking Help

Today I walked through that door. The one I've known for a while I should push open. The one I've been scared to approach. The one I've been through before, but with my husband by my side. Today I opened the door and stepped across the threshold alone. This was something I needed to do by myself. I signed in {quite sure that my nervous stomach and watery eyes would tell on me}, then sat in a chair where I could see the entire waiting room.

Normal. They all looked normal. I wondered if they felt as abnormal as I did.

The door past the waiting room opened.

Rebekah, she said with a smile, come on back. Small talk about my shirt and jacket put me at ease.

Within seconds I was spilling my soul to a woman I'd known less than a minute...because sometimes it takes someone with training to help work through the hard stuff. 

And after one hour I was confident that I'd made the right decision: seeking help through counseling. I'm confident that the end result will be worth the time and energy I'll put into it over the next couple of months.

It's daunting and scary to bare your soul to a stranger {even for those of us who've been through it before}. But I highly recommend and encourage counseling if you have issues or circumstances which cause you daily stress or anxiety.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Parking Ticket And The Fate Of Children

This is a long post in which I am simply working through a long-time question. I don't claim to be a Biblical scholar, and what I've written is simply the understanding to which God has led me at this point. I'd love to read your thoughts on the subject...

Last week Mark and I loaded up the kids and drove to Washington D.C. We had meticulously planned an itinerary for the four days we'd be visiting our nation's capitol. Upon our arrival the first day, we drove around for no less than thirty minutes, looking for a parking spot near the Washington Monument. Finally, we found a spot just across the street from the monument. The sign next to our parking spot read something to the effect of Three-hour parking until 4:00. We assumed that after 4:00, there was no time limit on parking. Since it was about 2:00 when we parked, we weren't concerned about passing the three-hour limit.

We walked block after block until about 6:00, then headed back to our car. As we approached the street where our car was parked, we quickly realized there were no cars parked where we'd left ours. Our always-observant middle child was the first to exclaim, "Our car's not there!" Then, "Hey! There's our car! Why's it on the grass on the wrong side of the street?" Gulp. It only took a second to realize our car had been towed to the opposite side of the street. Obviously, there was NO parking after 4:00 on the other side of the street. When we reached the car, we found a $100 ticket snuggled tightly under the wiper blade.

Mark and I immediately started complaining:

We didn't know.
The sign didn't say No parking after 4:00.

The next day, I was thinking about the ticket and wondering why we were penalized for breaking a law we didn't even realize existed. Of course we're going to write a letter of admission and plead ignorance, but I'm guessing we'll still have to pay the full cost of the ticket. Not fair! Not fair!

{stick with me...I'm about to make a big, leaping transition}

I've often wondered about the fate of a young child who dies. I've always been told that young children go to heaven, but I've also always been told that there's an "age of accountability." So I've often wondered what that age is. Then there are the verses about children:

And (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  (Matt. 18:3-4, NIV)

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)

So...what of the child who's never prayed the sinner's prayer of salvation? {I could go off into an entire new topic here on the "sinner's prayer" which, by the way, is not in the Bible. But I'll stick with the original subject.} What of the child who's never made the conscious decision to believe?

I guess my question has been this: If children are born with a sin nature, and God hates sin, how does one enter heaven without redemption? For instance, my youngest child has yet to pray the sinner's prayer that I've always assumed meant salvation. While I occasionally talk to her about sin, she still doesn't "get it." She talks about going to heaven when she dies. She says she loves God and Jesus. She prays sweet, little prayers. There's still a lack of understanding on her part about confession. She simply believes God loves her, and she loves Him. She hasn't rejected Christ...she just hasn't reached the crossroads of understanding where she must make a conscious decision to reject or accept.

When we parked on the street, we broke the law in ignorance; but once we understood the law, we recognized why we were being penalized. We also understood our need to plead for mercy, and if denied, to pay the cost.

I assume the term age of accountability refers to the time when a child moves from ignorance to understanding. Until children understand there's Law, a penalty, a Savior, and a need for mercy, they simply must be covered by God-grace. My child's simple faith in a God who loves her and a simple faith that God hears her prayers and will answer must be the childlike qualities Jesus was referring to in the above verses.

Simple, trusting {childlike} faith...

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Thank You"

If you've ever found yourself in a place you never thought you'd go...

If you've ever known the power of one person's love when everybody else turned their backs...

you should take a couple of minutes to listen to this song:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Second Time Around

I remember learning to roller skate. My sister held my hands as I skated along the sidewalk. I learned how to move my feet and maintain balance that day. The next time I skated, it was a much easier process, and I didn't need anyone to hold my hands.

Have you ever noticed that once you do something for the first time, it's easier to do the second time?

I was terrified the first time I had a speaking part in a play. My hands and knees were shaking, my mind raced a hundred miles a minute, and my stomach was in knots. But after that first time, each subsequent time became easier. I became a little less nervous, and a little more bold.

I read a passage in Luke a couple of weeks ago, and since then, have been reminded of it several times and have come across it in other places. It's one of those passages that I've read and heard many times, but felt it didn't apply to me. I've never stopped to give it my full attention until a couple of weeks ago. Jesus was speaking:

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." (Luke 11:24-26, NIV)

Most of us don't give a second thought to evil spirits, but according to the Bible, they do exist. And as Christians, evil spirits do not dwell within us, but they can {and do} surely persist in attempting to make us miserable. For if Christians are caught up amidst sinful behavior, we are usually not sharing Christ. Think with me in terms of sinful strongholds. Do you have one? What is it?

Say, for instance, you've acted out in sinful behavior. The first time you acted out, it was scary, yet a little exciting. However, you recognized your wrong, and cleaned up your act. You attend church every Sunday, facilitate a Bible study, volunteer at a local shelter, and by all appearances, you are a shining example of a Christian. But if you're not being transformed by the renewing of your mind with His Word, you have a void that is an easy target and a stronghold that you may or may not recognize. You may know your weakness, but assume you can handle temptation. However, you don't imagine that temptation could return with a vengeance much stronger than you. Soon you might find yourself amidst the same sinful behavior as before with its grip on you much tighter than you ever thought. You never realized how easy it would be to give in a second time or how much destruction your actions could cause the second time around.

Doing good and behaving well are great for appearances, but won't satisfy our innermost cravings. Only Christ can satisfy our deepest longings. It is only when we dwell in Him that we are assured a refuge from evil.