Friday, May 13, 2011

Recognizing God's Gifts in the Everyday

Ephesians 3:17-19:  May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.

       When I had a 5-year-old, two toddlers, and a husband that traveled, I often felt overwhelmed and alone.  Bitterness slowly crept into my heart like the Angel of Death in that movie, The Ten Commandments. I complained that no one understood me, including my husband, who got to eat at nice restaurants every night while I cleaned peas off the carpet.  With my griping came the guilt that I didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of bedtime prayers and patty-cake, but I came to realize that God sees our faith instead of our faults.  When we throw temper tantrums, God doesn’t condemn us.  Instead He shows us his intense love by meeting us where we are and bringing comfort in the midst of situations that are out of our control.

       I admit those pre-school years were difficult, but I yearn to relive those days at the seashore when I wrapped up my squirming mermaid, smelling of chlorine and sunshine, in beach towels and wrung out her wet pigtails. Recently I jogged past one of those waterparks in which water randomly shoots up out of the ground.  It melted my heart to see a 2-year-old tip-toeing through the maze of spouts and squealing when one erupted.  In contrast, my teenagers, with typical aloofness, regard displaying emotion as the epitome of uncool. I try to shrug it off when they want me at arms-length, but I remember them standing at my feet with their arms raised for a hug.  My heart is still at the park pushing them on the swings.  I’m very grateful for my beautiful, ever-evolving adolescents, but I’m sad that Barbie high heels turned into real ones so quickly.  
  After my run, I plopped down in a chair on the hotel patio, lamenting the end of a cherished phase of my life and the emergence of woeful teenagers and wrinkles.  I closed my eyes, but I felt as if someone was watching me. Glancing up, I saw the blue eyes of a 2-year-old blond angel spying on me inches away.  With his highly-evolved toddler street sense, he judged me as friendly.  I smiled, and he reached out his chubby little hand, not in an impulsive way, but in a deliberate, mature way, and took my hand.  His grip was strong and peculiar, as if he knew me, and he gently led me to a small fountain three feet away.  He squatted on his heels contentedly looking at the shooting spray, and I followed his lead, straining my decrepit knees.  He gazed up at me with an adorable smile that took me back fifteen years when my son used to smile at me with innocent wonder pointing at the ducks on the lake.  When it was time to go, he disappeared with his young mom into the hotel.
  Teary, I wondered why God would use such a cruel means to strengthen my character. Today, when I missed my little ones so much, why would He send this little boy to rub it in?  Soon I felt God whisper, “How long has it been since you felt a little hand in yours?  How long will it be before you feel it again?  I brought this little boy to you because you needed him. My daughter, open your eyes to see the ways I show you my love.”
  I caught my breath, amazed that the Creator of the universe would hear my selfish complaint yet reach down into my everyday life to tenderly demonstrate his unquenchable love for me.  It’s not how I envisioned, but what a holy, sweet surprise. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hope To Hang On - Devotion

Hope to Hang On
2 Cor. 4:8-10 - “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit.  We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.”      The Living Bible
I don’t understand why I have to wait on answers to my desperate prayers. I’m glad the apostle Paul was also perplexed as to why things happen as they do. We can learn from Paul’s life that the Creator of the universe does see our plight and is always lovingly at work either preparing a rescue from the storm or providing a way to stay afloat.  
In Acts 9, when Jewish leaders plotted to kill Paul, God provided a basket in which His servant was let down from an opening in the city wall. In Acts 27, Paul’s ship ripped apart in a violent storm on the way to Rome. Instead of sending a flaming chariot to rescue him, God sent Paul the ravaged ship’s splintered planks to which he perilously clung while the storm continued to rage.  Do those sound like the actions of an all-powerful God? They certainly do. Both instances are characteristic of our lives.  God either performs a miracle or provides the planks.
While we wait for God to answer our critical prayers, He provides slivers of hope along the way to reassure us of his love. As God supplies us with one plank after another to stay afloat, we must reach down into the depths of our spirit to discover a faith we never thought we had. Realizing our helplessness, we are compelled to surrender everything we hold dear to an all-powerful God.  Not only does a miracle occur in our situation, but in our hearts as well. 

“Thank you, God, that you have provided me with bits of encouragement while I wait for answers to my prayers. Strengthen my faith and help me to recognize the instances in which you reach down into my ordinary life with divine intervention to assure me of your intense love for me.”