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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dance With Your Groom

Each wedding photo has memories attached with it, but this photo is by far my most embarrassing moment. I'm no dancer. It's okay when I'm alone and being silly, but not when all eyes are watching. Wes was set on dancing, and after some convincing, I agreed. It was one day, a special day, and although skipping this portion of the wedding would have been fine with me, I understood his desire to dance with his bride for the first time in front of family and friends. 


I can imagine God wanting to dance with His bride too, and I'd likely feel just as self conscious and awkward attempting to fall in step with Him when I feel so inadequate and unworthy. 

So, we danced. The room was quiet and motionless aside from the music that I could hardly hear over the inner voices screaming "don't mess up." I tried to quiet them by focusing on my husband. "We're married now. You're my husband now. It finally happened." Speaking this truth into existence calmed me. I whispered that I was nervous and he reassured me. We continued dancing, and for a few brief moments, it was just him and I. 

But, the end of the song neared, and Wes went to dip me just as we had practiced, and I panicked when I remembered that all eyes were on us. I remembered how awkward dancing was for me. The dip was mildly unsuccessful. A few gasped. Some covered their mouths. Wes managed to pull me back up and held me close as my face turned every shade of red. "It's okay," he whispered in my ear. "Don't worry about anyone else. I've got you." 

I think of the account in Matthew 18 where Peter takes his eyes off Jesus while the disciples are watching. Peter, the strong one, the determined one, the leading one, got all focused on the circumstances around him. He looked at the waves, and began to sink. 

I'd like to think I'd walk straight out to Jesus with eyes fixed only on Him. But, I'd be Peter in a second. Clinging to insecurities, I'd consider the disciples safely in the boat watching me do something out of my comfort zone. "Who walks on water? This isn't even possible." The inner voices would scream loud and clear. Then, just as the wave nearing me curls and dips, I panic. I sink. 

I've always been a little bothered by Jesus' words that come after He helps Peter. "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" They seem harsh, perhaps because they get at the core of my insecurity. It seems like this loving Jesus we all know so well is ticked with Peter, and perhaps He was a bit frustrated. Or, perhaps not. 

Jesus didn't say, "Peter, you have little faith in me. Why did you doubt me?" Yes, Jesus allowed this miracle to happen, but He didn't make it about himself. He made it about Peter. Peter began well. Faith and belief in Jesus and himself were in full swing. I don't think Peter stopped believing in Jesus' ability to perform this miracle. When my balance changed as Wes dipped me, I wasn't afraid that he couldn't handle it, I was afraid that I'd do something wrong, especially with others watching. As soon as Peter began to sink, he knew that only Jesus could help him. Peter stopped believing in himself when he saw the seemingly impossible circumstances around him. He was walking on water, I repeat, walking on water, with the Messiah. He suddenly felt inadequate and unworthy. Oh, how I can relate. 

What if we had been there to see Jesus' reaction to Peter. Perhaps the detail left out in scripture was His character that we know all too well. While it seems His words were harsh, I'd imagine that His reaction to Peter was one of love. He reaches out his hand, lifts him, and then holds him close as they walk back to the others who complacently sit and watch with anticipation. He speaks those seemingly harsh words in love. He's the Messiah. He understood exactly why Peter lacked faith and doubted. He was speaking directly to Peter's insecurities. 

Jesus wants more for us than we could ever imagine. When we begin to sink, He's right there and willing to reach out and pull us back up. Then He speaks the same words to us that He spoke to Peter, and He speaks to our insecurities and feelings of unworthiness. In Him, we are secure. In Him, we are worthy, holy, righteous, and redeemed. 

So go ahead, walk on water (figuratively). Go ahead, dance with your Groom. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coach, Janitor, and Hope

Life sometimes leaves us feeling like we may as well admit defeat.

In the race of life, everyone is ahead, nearing the finish line, while you feel as though you've only taken a few pointless steps. You feel you may as well stop, grab some water, and stay by the wayside to watch the others cross the line you once hoped to reach, the line that once seemed attainable.

Your coach sees you. He races over and tells you to get your head in the game, reminds you that you are capable, and explains that it’s not over, but you flounder in your self-pity and wave him away, unable to grasp that he sees your worth and believes in you.

Time after time you speak “I can’t” into existence and ignore the one who has trained you and knows that you can. You give up. You quit the team. Your coach is left watching you walk away.

Strangely, this coach doesn't move on to the next best. You've moved on with life, and years of hopelessness have gone by. You've somehow stumbled into a position of teaching, because you believe others are teachable. You believe they'll reach success. You begin to place your hope in others, because that fulfills you, but the very thing that makes you authentic has been placed on a cold backburner to sit stagnant.

Some weeks are good. When the ones you teach fly, you soar. When the ones you teach fail, you flounder. This roller coaster of emotion leaves you lacking true happiness.You begin to long for your own finish line. 

Your running coach never gave up on you, even after all these years. You wouldn't recognize him anymore. You don't see him anymore. This coach has moved selflessly into the position of janitor.

When you weren't aware, he gently plunged a white towel into water and cleaned the slate you'd written over and erased so many times. He became a servant for your sake. He took the lesser position in hopes that he would one day reach you, in hopes that you would one day place your trust in him again so that he could coach you in the thing that made your heart pound, your palms sweat, and your body move forward, one foot in front of the other until you sensed a pattern and comprehended the rhythm.

You'll attain hope when you trust in your coach again. You'll attain hope, and one day, you'll reach that longed-for finish line with joy.

Jesus is coach. Jesus is janitor. Jesus is hope.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dirty Slate

Weekends bring with them restoration and strength to begin another week in spite of a chalk-filled blackboard but a week ago. 

Blackboards aren't ideal. The chalk taps and streaks with annoying repetition, the sandy grit plasters fingers, a residue appears when erased, and words are caked on top of the past. Just the thought of scraping fingers penetrates the mind. 

Friday arrives. The teacher looks at the board in aggravation. She sees the remnants of her week and wonders if the work has really done any good. She leaves the class. The filthy chalkboard can stay until the following week. Perhaps things will be different if they see what she sees. 

But what good is a dirty slate? One can only write so many words on smudges before the words begin to blend, obscuring what's most important. 

The janitor steps into the classroom to complete his afternoon tasks. The work is dirty-wipe desks, check for sticky gum in crevices, sweep and mop, and empty wastebaskets. He sees the chalkboard that the teacher didn't bother to clean, but he's not upset. He knows her job is difficult. End results are a long way off in her position. His work is evidenced on a daily basis. Feeling compassion for the teacher, he grabs a bucket full of water and a white cloth. Submerging the cloth in water, he lifts it up, squeezes the excess water, and begins wiping the board from one side to the other. He finishes the task of cleaning the room, walks to the door, and takes in his work. 

This is a place of learning. The slate is clean. She'll be relieved. She'll begin the week with hope. 

To be continued...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Wildflowers And Pain

I'm weary. 

My thoughts were to come back to this blog with eloquent words that might encourage you, but how does one encourage another when they've had a difficult week? Perhaps encouragement comes when we can willingly admit that we are discouraged, that some weeks don't always consist of daffodils and tulips, (my favorite flowers) and that sometimes spring results in burning eyes and a stuffy nose amidst its graceful beauty. 

Yesterday evening, I noticed that Irises had bloomed in our backyard, and in true childlike fashion, I went outside to admire them. Spring brings out the inner child in me, the little girl who walked the dirt road in search of wildflowers to give to mom. I wanted her to appreciate those flowers that I picked while admiring beauty around me. I noticed every detail, every bud bursting forth, every delicate dogwood flower, every goldfinch singing in trees, and the lone Monarch searching for summer Milkweed. 

When I reached home, I hid the weeds behind my back, and told mom to close her eyes. Handing them to her, she opened her eyes, smiled and thanked me, and then insisted on placing them in a vase to display on the kitchen table. She placed them in the kitchen, the room where she spent much of her time, and made comments over how beautiful they were. 

She found beauty in those many vases of wildflowers, the very same wildflowers that caused her sneezing fits and watery eyes. As a kid, I didn't realize she was reacting to those flowers, and she never would have admitted it to me. She embraced the discouraging allergy because she saw the beauty of her little girl lovingly bringing her the most precious gift she had to offer. 

So here's to embracing the discouragement faced within the week without letting it define who I am. Here's to hoping for beauty to come from the pain. Here's to a mom who constantly puts herself last, who embraces the discouraging moments, fully knowing that throwing the weeds away would be so much easier, and yet chooses otherwise, and chooses to define those same weeds as flowers. 

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