Sunday, September 27, 2015

Here's Why

On Wednesday morning, during my quiet time with God, just finishing up Proverbs, a question formed in my head. It’s not as though I have never asked the question in one form or another many times before but this time, somewhat older and by default wiser, a clearer answer came. Some folks refer to this as the Lord speaking to them. I refrain from labeling it that way because without a strong, mature knowledge of how God speaks to us through the Spirit it sounds arrogant. Somehow. But that’s just me. 

Nevertheless, this is how He speaks to me, when I am ready to hear. Time after time, it’s usually the simplest answer possible. Humans keep trying to make walking with Christ so hard, so complex, so bound by religious law and definable only by the highly trained and credentialed. But even Christ said that His yoke was easy. Pretty clear, that. Not sure how it got off track from EASY.

I mulled over the answer to my question the rest of the day and into the next. On Thursday, I made a trip to Costco and paused in front of a stack of books. First title I laid eyes on was Accused by Tonya Craft. It’s the true story of a woman who prevailed against the most heinous accusations possible - child molestation. Not sure why but I put it in my basket. 

On Friday, I had the whole day to myself, with nothing on the schedule, husband out of town, so I sat and read all 405 pages. From cover to cover. The sun was shining when I began and was long set when I finished. That the unique circumstances came together to allow this marathon read did not escape me. Whenever God is trying to get through to me, He always sends confirmation in the most unusual way. 

Tonya Craft, a gifted, well-liked kindergarten teacher in a small town in Catoosa County, Georgia, on the first day of summer break, May 29, 2008, gathering her two children and a friend to head to the first swim of the summer, opened her door to two detectives. Her life from that moment forward for the next two years was an unimaginable trial of faith. First accused of molesting two girls, over time she was also accused of molesting even her own six year old daughter. 

Told in first person, the story, nightmare actually, takes the reader in real time into the depths of grief, fear and disbelief that Tonya experienced and compels the reader to consider how easy it would be for anyone to face such a tribulation. Accusations are so easy. Guilty until proven innocent, everything was taken from her. Her job, her children, her reputation, her life as she had known it. 

On the inside of the dust cover the last paragraph states: “Accused is the first hand account of Tonya’s fight to clear her name and regain custody of her children. Her story shows us that, for the falsely accused in a flawed legal system, simply telling the truth isn’t enough.”

Tonya made two good decisions from the day her whole world fell apart to the day she was truly free again more than two years later. First, she determined not to roll over and let evil have its way. She fought back. Along the way she learned what was truly important in life and worth standing up for. Secondly, she learned, the only way to be free is to forgive. And so she did, eventually. But not in the middle of the fight. 

She pointed out that the forgiving stage was more for her children and her sake, not necessarily for those forgiven and this is the point then. Christians are lulled into believing that we don’t have to put up a fight. We must be meek and let the wolves ravish us. We are admonished to be victims. But that’s not what Scripture says.  

(2 Timothy 3:1-5) But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come.  (3:2) For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  (3:3) without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good,  (3:4) traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;  (3:5) holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.  

And for those times when you cannot avoid or turn away from such people?

(Ephesians 6:12-13) For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].  (6:13) Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.  

Sometimes we must be still and let God do what we cannot do. And then sometimes we are called to get up and do. Learning the difference is part of maturing in the Spirit.

What Tonya Craft’s tale confirmed for me is the difference between cowering and succumbing to the forces of evil or choosing to do all, against the odds, and then stand. Just stand.

The question I asked on Wednesday was, “What is the point of tribulation?” “Why does God thrust us into the fiery trials?” 

And the answer is: Purpose. 

God does nothing without purpose. We may not know what the purpose is at the outset but we can be sure of one thing - there is good purpose. If we are called to trouble, and we respond with truly righteous intent, and not our own agenda, we can count on God taking us all the way through to the other side where the purpose waits for us.

Tonya Craft fought back, prayerfully paying attention to God’s prompts, even when it was counter to her legal team's advise, and ultimately found the purpose for all her life-altering trouble. 

For Him,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Playhouse

Imagine it’s summer 1957. 

Even in the bright daylight it is dark in here but the eyes gradually become accustomed. Soon a hodgepodge of unrelated, discarded furniture comes into view. Rough wooden boxes occasionally sting and leave slivers in little fingers. There’s a faded yellow rocker, kid-sized, one man's trash, a ten year old's treasure rescued from the garbage collector. There’s an old Hollywood sofa bed. Brown and smelly. A lethal combination of dust and dog. The walls are raw but good for writing on. A name, a phone number. A primitive drawing. The ceiling is bare rafters. Great for suspending temporary fabric walls. Also great for harboring wasp colonies. 

A six foot ladder leans into the corner. The top becomes an entire second floor of a sprawling mansion. 

The movie star descends gracefully to the marble foyer and greets her guests. She laughs lightly and charms her way around the gracious ballroom astounding everyone with her wit and cleverness. The phone rings. She accepts devastating news. She excuses herself and retires to her quarters. A grand exit up the winding staircase.

A nice dramatic ending but not as compelling as... 

...the Princess imprisoned in the highest turret of the Giant's cold, dank castle. Her golden locks float easily around her shoulders like a silken mantle... [or a bunch of The Mom's old nylon stockings]. She looks longingly out of the window at the tree tops and the misty countryside. She does so need her Prince to come. She passes the time singing sad songs in the most beautiful voice ever known to man. She waits patiently perched for hours on the spot that reads: 


Arranging, rearranging. Ragged chairs, boxes, little broken tables. Make them fit the daydream. Work around the nasty burlap curtain that conceals the lawn mower but can't hold back the acrid odor of sour grass and gasoline. A concession with The Dad for the shared use of this space. 
Arranging and rearranging. The kitchen is a sagging little shelf suspended limply between two wall studs. Jars of tiny bits and pieces of collected things cling together on one end trying not to slide forward to sudden splintering on the rough concrete floor. An old linoleum surfaced counter top is a workspace for the amazing concoctions of grass and mud pies. 

A world renown chef humbly accepts the praise for her latest recipe for goulash. The secret ingredient is closely guarded. 

Faded crayon marks outline the remains of paths on the concrete floor. Trails through Candy Land. The ladder/mountain/staircase has dried whipped cream on its peak. Some wall studs bear red stripes, candy cane sentinels. 
The Candy Land Fairy Princess emerges from her sugar cottage a/k/a Amana refrigerator box that says: THIS SIDE UP. She sparkles and flutters about tending to all the little creatures of the forest. She is so wise and they love her so. She always has the answers. 

Except how to open the window which is always stuck. And the other one won't stay open without a stick to prop it. But it only matters in the summer months when the soaring temperature swells up the pine walls and makes the knots weep sticky, amber tears. In the heat, the pine sap and the gasoline fumes mingle and synergize into an explosive aroma. 

Outside, the concrete step-up runs the length of the front of the playhouse. A hopscotch grid is permanently etched into the surface. A good place to escape the oxygen deficient atmosphere. An old pine tree provides hit and miss shade to this spot in the afternoon. Lindy, the English girl, brings new games and great skill to this place. She also brings wonderful English books. Us Dogs is read uninterruptedly in the yellow upholstered rocker in one sitting. A sad ending. A new and painful experience full of sobbing, salty, last page tears and delicious desire to read more books. 

An idea! Other books. Gathered from everywhere. Old moldy books, paperbacks and new Readers Digest Condensed books. A library. 

The librarian is very strict. She is a rock. No noise allowed. No talking, no loud movements. This is a quiet place, a place for reflection and serious study. But an unfortunate incident. Something to do with the entire works of Mark Twain left in the yard. Rain. LIBRARY CLOSED. 

Books confiscated by The Mom. Back to the lone reader in the yellow upholstered rocker.

Chairs and tables and boxes in neat rows. A Blackboard. Students of all shapes and sizes and species. One is four-legged, spotted brown and white. She is dressed in a tee shirt and baby bonnet. This is not a happy student. She looks longingly backward towards the door. She has a plan but she is patient. 

The teacher begins class. She is brilliant. Math, English, History a little Geography. The teacher turns to write large chalky letters on the blackboard. The student sees her opening and escapes out the door barking wildly at some imagined hostile intruder.  Recess. 

Time to swing for a while on the tall swing set in the shadow of the playhouse. Great ideas are sometimes born here where the closest thing to independent flight is often attempted. Pumping and straining every muscle to toe touch the lowest branch on the world's largest pine tree. A tree held together with several pounds of ten penny nails. A little carpentry practice. The Dad always wondering where his nails disappear to. This tree is also keeper of the basketball hoop. No net. Many one-on-one games called HORSE with The Brother who always wins. Swinging higher and higher. This time, so high the chain relaxes at the top of the arc and there is a millisecond where gravity is defied. 

Recess over. Back to work. Star student hiding. Never mind. Arranging and rearranging. A boat. A hospital. A cave. A bank. Never-Never land. A home, but only in the daylight. No electricity. Too many dangerous fumes for candlelight. 

Dusk ends much more than just the day. There's tomorrow. Another day will dawn on this magic place that inspires exploration, expansion and rehearsal for all the possibilities. It is a parallel universe without limits or boundaries; no dimensions of height, width, or length. 

To open the wooden door and cross the threshold is not to enter this old shed, but rather to penetrate the heart and soul of a dreamer.

For Him,

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C.S. Lewis

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Time For Mettle

Regrettably I must admit I am resolved to the reality that this civilization has reached the tipping point that most great societies all eventually succumb to, historically speaking. It seems that prosperity and abundance is a delicate fruit that becomes toxic as it ages and then causes blindness, not unlike most good things that eventually spoils unless great care to preserve it has been applied. 

While it is encouraging to speak about what could be... if only... what actually is falls well within the patterns of what has been before. At the point of no return, the only hope is not hope in restoration but hope in the Divine Will that good has already won the war. It’s in the battles that have yet to be fought where mettle is called upon to rise to the challenge. The small battles and skirmishes with evil are often lost in the great ongoing war of good and evil. But faith cannot be destroyed in those who understand that it is often in the devastating losses where we find our peace and resolve.

To say that resolve is a form of acceptance of defeat does not address the strength of those who have seen the enemy and recognized that the enemy is us and have determined that the only way to find peace is in allowing peace to find us in the truth of what is happening in real time. 

Relief in the middle of adversity is within the silent comfort of faith. Faith does not change our circumstances but rather our attitude and how we operate within those circumstances. Are we paralyzed by fear or mobilized by bravery? Are we solution-oriented or defeatist? Are we victims without recourse? Or do we stand up for something higher and determine that it is better striving for right than living tyrannized by evil? Even if sometimes we must die in the standing?

Ultimately, faith is the antidote to fear. But faith that believes in that which it cannot see is not myopic; it is founded in knowing the difficult truth first.

Sometimes you need encouragement. You need to hear from someone or something, that can tell you what will help you get past, rise up, get out, move beyond–survive the moment somewhat intact. 

Sometimes you need gentle words, kind, uplifting philosophical building up words.

Sometimes you need to rest and, and as they say, to ‘let your soul breathe.’

Sometimes this is possible. Sometimes not.

Sometimes when the struggle, trouble, crisis, loss, threat, devastation is so profound your soul holds its breath and forgets how to exhale.

Sometimes the only way to kick start breathing again is to get slapped on the back with tough words, not soft pats. Drill sergeant words, “Get a grip soldier!” “Sink or swim!” 

And so there is a time for everything. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time for shouting, a time for remaining silent. There is a season for good and sometimes for not so good. A time to be weak. A time for tapping into strength that can only come from Divine intervention and inspiration.

A time to muster the mettle you didn’t know you had.

For Him,

Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great things, and difficult, which thou knowest not. -Jeremiah 33:3

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall From Grace

Isn’t it ironic that in the most liberal, self-centered, reprobated society since the days just prior to the fall of the Great Roman Empire, we are still able to have our sensibilities shocked. A collective gasp goes up when we hear that an iconic father figure is accused of multiple sexual assaults, or a family touted as the standard for Christian living has dark secrets revealed. We quickly withdraw our support of a TV or movie star when the news cycle du jour is captured by reports of misconduct, misstatements, and any behavior unbecoming of our idols. 

And thus we are the biggest hypocrites ever to populate the earth.

We are completely self-absorbed and yet we look down our noses at others who are self-absorbed. We think and speak ugly things in private and then are quick to vilify others who are caught speaking racist and/or other newly redefined anti-PC words. 

We think nothing of watching what would have not too long ago been labeled soft-porn broadcast into our living rooms at all hours. We might winch a little but we don’t turn it off. We blindly accept that a cartoon channel pumps out silly kid entertainment and so we don’t bother to watch or vet what is being fed to our children’s brains. 

We buy filthy books that are so wildly popular they are quickly converted into living action movies that promote the basest of human activity. We post our reviews online. 

And yet when a sport hero is accused of domestic violence, we furrow our brows and condemn him. We call for him to be fired, or at least penalized. We like our domestic violence to be the fictional kind. We can put up with it, let it into our psyche, get some kind of stimulation from it, but we don’t want our little tin gods actually doing it. In real life.

In much the same way we endorse, by default, promiscuity, infidelity and perversion. Yet we are incensed when we discover there is a website devoted to such activity that thousands subscribe to. We shake our heads in disgust even as we click through the channels on our TV where promiscuity, infidelity and perversion reign as commonplace. Even in commercials. 

We are aghast when we read headlines about aborted baby parts callously sold as commodity. We might try to soften the topic by rationalizing that it’s for the good of ‘science’ for advancing the cause of medicine. To save lives. Wait. To save lives? Kill babies to save lives? Now that’s messed up I don’t care how you look at it. 

Where does it end? 

So, what does bottom look like for a society in a downward spiral? Once natural laws that have successfully governed integrity, decency and honor for eons are sufficiently diluted into meaninglessness, only chaos and illogical application of rhetoric can prevail. There is no better way to describe falling from grace than to say look around. It’s not only all around us, it is in us.

Not like it hasn’t happened before. But what if this is the last time? Last chance?

 (1 Corinthians 10:12) Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  

For Him,