A Birthday

He’s the shoulder that caught me one night years ago in a hotel lobby when God used a perfect stranger to set me free. He’s the one who quietly bought gorilla tape to fix the sole of my shoe when my feet kept getting wet in the snow. He’s the one who uncomplainingly tackles dog poop on the rare occasions it ends up in the house because he knows my nose can’t handle it. He’s the one who always makes me walk closest to the curb to keep cars from hitting me.

He’s the one who was my quiet shadow at a pro-life rally in Houston when we marched through the streets in silent prayer. He’s the one who danced in the new year beside me with 35,000 other worshippers. He’s the one who didn’t blink when he snapped his laptop closed around the giant spider descending on my head; the one who brought the shovel and decapitated the snake that hissed at my bare feet. He’s the one who always kills cockroaches.

He’s the one who told me it was okay to cry as much as I needed to in the weeks after we released our child back into the arms of God–the one who knew to pack me in a car at sunset and let beauty touch the pain he couldn’t. He’s the one who scoured the Internet to find relief for my second degree burns. He’s the one who held my hand and watched in silent strength the day I brought our firstborn into the world, and then carried me from wheelchair to hospital bed when I couldn’t stand. He’s the one who snuck out to buy and set up a tiny Christmas tree that first week as parents because he knew I loved the lights but didn’t have the energy to decorate or “undecorate” that year.

He’s the one who persisted in leaving Scriptures, flowers, and chocolates at my doorstep when I insisted I just wanted to be friends. He’s the one who found bad news first and went out of his way to let me know I wasn’t alone and he was praying. He’s the champion of my purity, who routinely protects my eyes and ears from media that we would deem unacceptable in our home. He’s the one who married me in a hospital and in a church. He’s the one who sat beside me through the midnight hours when we thought my mom was dying, who challenged me to sing praise music at the top of my lungs while he drove me the two hours to the hospital, who spent the week before his wedding in an ICU waiting room, who volunteered to leave his honeymoon early to return to that waiting room when things took a bad turn. He’s the one who spent days sitting in the rehabilitation center with my mother when I had to be at work and my dad had to be under medical supervision two hours away.

And these things are just the surface of what the past three years with this man have been like. I haven’t even talked about the everyday mundane–how he takes out the trash, gets up in the middle of the night to check on our child, takes himself to the couch on restless nights so I can get more sleep, challenges my theology on a regular basis (which often results in glorious fights because we are equally stubborn and equally versed in Scripture, but we make up quickly), takes care of the car before long road trips, watches our child so I can be involved in ministry…. He is as dedicated to promoting my dreams as I am to his. He is generous, compassionate, committed to holiness, quick to apologize, slow to bring up past wrongs, dedicated to family, open-handed to those in need, obedient to the voice of the Lord (when he is convinced it’s the Lord), and faithful to his vows. He is my sweetheart, my hero, my solace, and my unexpected gift from the Lord. This is my beloved. This is my friend.

Happy birthday, “JD.” I’m so thankful you were born.

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Thankful

And this is what You had in mind that night I sat trembling and watched the second pink line appear–this dimpled, rosy challenge to my spontaneity, who prefers sleeping on the floor to his bed and would be content all day if he could just have a running water hose. This is what You planned when I balked at carrying a life–these tiny hands that pull mine to his room when he needs a diaper change, and this gleeful voice that calls out every morning for “rah-seen” (raisins) and “mah” (milk). How could I have known that my biggest fear would become my greatest joy? How could I have pictured how You would change me? And yet this is where I find You, steady and laughing along in the sticky, messy, muddy chaos of creativity. You croon along to every lullaby, wrap love I still don’t understand into every kiss, make sure that the dreams are sweet when I turn off the lights and that the dog doesn’t play too roughly. You keep him from breaking his neck when I don’t get there fast enough to keep him from flipping off the couch. You’re the calm that whispers what to do when he starts vomiting during a road trip. You’re the barrier that keeps predators away when he escapes through locked doors into the front yard. Through tantrums and kisses, flooded bathrooms, diaper explosions, dinner meltdowns, giggles, snuggles, sneezes, when I’m stressed out, climbed on, pulled in a hundred directions and desperately in need of five minutes to breathe, You’re the sweet solace that whispers “keep going.” On the nights that I sidle into his room feeling like I’ve failed all parenthood requirements, You’re the one who puts a hug in his arms, forgiveness in his heart, and trust in his eyes. What You have done is wonderful. I know this very well. Thank You.

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Pray, Church

We had an interrupted night last night (Li’l Bit woke us up crying at 2:45 and it took a while for me to go back to sleep). I spent much of the night in prayer, and when I fell asleep again I dreamed that I saw “Ezekiel 333″ lit up before me. I looked up that passage this morning–Ezekiel 33 is the chapter that speaks on “if the shepherd sees the coming terror and doesn’t blow his trumpet the blood is on his head.”

I believe we are in a dangerous season, both spiritually and physically in our nation. While I’m not sure how practicing Ezekiel 33 looks to any of you personally, I encourage you to be vigilant in sharing your faith, outspoken in standing for righteousness, bold in your commitment to the truth. Men like David Wilkerson, Mike Bickle, and others have seen visions of cities burning and foreign troops on US soil; I have reason to believe this has started within the past year. Even liberal mouthpiece MSNBC readily acknowledges there are 100,000 foreign troops currently “training” on our soil. Cry out for mercy for our country. Shake yourself from “business as usual” Christianity. Reject the lie that “it could never happen here.” Fast. Pray. Repent. Wake up. “The hour is urgent.”

 

Ezekiel 33:1-9 (ESV)

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 (A)“Son of man, speak to (B)your people and say to them, If(C)I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their (D)watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and (E)blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, (F)his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 (G)He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 (H)But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, (I)that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

7 (J)“So you, (K)son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. (L)Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 (M)If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, (N)and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, (O)that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 (P)But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, (Q)that person shall die in his iniquity, (R)but you will have delivered your soul.

 

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To Let Go

Being the husband of a pregnant wife is not for the faint-hearted. JD has had to use wisdom and discernment to know when I’m having a serious problem and when I’m just being hormonal (like the other night when I literally cried over a peanut butter commercial–he’s yet to let me live that one down); which is why I try to be cautious on my reading material these days. Let’s face it, these hormones don’t need any help!

Last night I pulled out Brian Zahnd’s “Unconditional” thinking to enjoy a few chapters and receive some motivation in forgiveness before bed. (Side note: I am only a few chapters in, so I can’t endorse it yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the finesse with which he writes). I was unprepared for the illustration he cited from another book, telling the story of a dying SS officer making a last confession to a Jew; the officer told of how he and his fellow officers herded a large group of Jews into a multi-level home and set it on fire. They officers stood in a circle around the building to shoot anyone who tried to escape, listening to agonized screams as men, women, children, and infants burned alive. The officer told of seeing a father stand at a 2-story window holding a small child in his arms. The child’s mother stood close by. With his free hand, the father covered the eyes of his child. Then they all jumped out of the window.

I had to stop reading around this point, lay aside my book, and tiptoe to the next room to smooth silky hair and press a kiss against a chubby cheek. When I returned to bed, the tears were streaming down my face. JD listened quietly to my explanation (really, what do you say to a story like that) and soon after we went to sleep.

The image of that Jewish father continues to shadow me today. His pain-filled, poignant love ignored the fact that his clothes were already burning and shielded his child’s final moments on earth. What gave him the strength to jump, knowing there would be no survival? Did he explain to his child what was happening? Did he turn his body so that the child would hit the ground first (and be more assured of an instant death) or did he try to take the brunt of the fall himself? Did the mother wait to see them hit before she jumped?

Of course, the major question in my mind today remains, “Could I watch JD in the same scenario and find it in myself to forgive the ones who drove him to it?” The idea alone makes my sunshine-bathed afternoon in suburban America seem surreal.

Unfortunately, the issues we typically refuse to forgive are a lot less daunting. We lose sight of the abject horror of Christ on His cross, using justification and entitlement to excuse our God-ordained calling to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us. Our breed of Christianity that glorifies self-indulgence and a “free-love” mentality is not capable of standing (much less bearing fruit) in real-life scenarios when God chooses not to “send His angels to bear you up so your foot doesn’t hit a stone” (my paraphrase from Psalm 91). To quote a line from the singer, Carman’s “Witch’s Invitation,” His sovereignty and our lack of understanding that He is working His plan and not necessarily ours leaves us “in that stunned moment when your faith gets violated….”

I fervently believe American Christians are about to see a rise in real persecution–not just the “oh-they-took-away-our-rights” kind but the dismemberment and martyrdom kind, and we are not ready. As a whole, we do not have the heart of the One who prayed, “Father, forgive them” as they killed Him. Truly, it is hard to forgive those who do not see they’ve done wrong; and yet, if we do not freely forgive “them” will we be positioned to forgive Him when He allows pain into our lives that we know He could have spared us? Could we have watched our spouse burning alive and leaping to death with our only child and still say “You’re faithful and You’re kind”? To do otherwise is to miss the central truth of the Way. Forgiveness is not a one-day goal for the Christian; though it cost us everything, forgiveness is the ultimate requirement.

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The 25th of July

For twenty-nine weeks I have dreaded today, prayed it would not come, asked God to blot it off the calendar. Twenty-nine weeks of white nights and numb days all pointing to this day–my due date for the baby who will never live in this home. When 12:30 am arrived and it became obvious sleep wasn’t coming soon I considered my options. I could listen to music: songs like “I Want You Here” by Plumb and “I Will Carry You” by Selah have helped put coherence to that wordless pain, while songs like “Worth it All” by Rita Springer and “Holding Onto You (So Faithful, So Kind)” by Rachel Culver have given perspective in a declaration of faith. I could reach for the battered, tear-stained journal that holds so many frantic scribbles from days and nights that grief and anger sought to destroy me. I could curl into a ball and soak my pillow in tears.

Instead, I got up and tiptoed into the next room, smoothed soft hair, pressed a kiss against a round cheek, and tucked a finger into a tiny hand that has led me so often from the brink of despair by its obstinate insistence that I live for someone other than myself. His little chest rose and fell in peaceful sleep as I curled onto the floor by his bed and fell asleep thanking God for leaving me this child.

Around 5:00 this morning, I awoke to grunts coming from my unwitting bedfellow while his little head edged its way off the bed. Quickly I righted him, only to discover his sheets and pajamas were soaked–the casualty of a diaper malfunction. I switched on a soft light and stripped him of the wet clothes and changed his diaper before wrapping his shivering body in a soft, warm blanket and depositing him on the floor beside me. You could almost see the thoughts dance across his face while I saw to his sheets–How did she hear me before I cried? and I’m so glad you’re here, Mommy!

The entire interlude lasted less than five minutes. I tucked him in tightly and made my way back to my own bed in the pre-dawn half-light. JD was still asleep and I knew our son does not have the vocabulary to discuss the morning’s events. He had no idea I had been beside him the whole time; he just knew that when he needed me, I was there. I felt the Spirit of The Lord speak to me then, a simple reminder that God is a better Father than I am a mother. I don’t have to cry out to Him today and wait for Him to come running; He has curled up beside me through every sleepless night and caught every brokenhearted tear in His bottle.

I still don’t understand why my daughter died–why this tiny grain of wheat had to be planted in the ground. Perhaps it has given me new perspective and new compassion for other mothers whose babies go into eternity before them. Perhaps it has given me greater authority in speaking out against the horror that is abortion, knowing firsthand how broken the sudden loss of pregnancy can leave a woman (although by no means was mine planned). Perhaps I’ll never know; but I thank God for a measure of grace to meet today and for mercies that are new every morning, for a diaper that exploded in the night and a little boy who has dedicated his entire morning to crawling into my lap and showering my face with kisses. These are little things, but they are enough to redeem the day.

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