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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday
Dance with Jesus

Da

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I love rain storms. Rain storms are the pause button to my schedule. Maybe it’s baseball or football that keeps you busy – it’s soccer for me. When the rain comes, my schedule comes to a grinding halt.

“I’m bored. What can we do?” the boys always ask.

“Fill the emptiness,” I answer.

“With what?” they persist.

“With big and little thoughts,” I think. “Press in to the quietness. Let its peace be like a soothing balm rubbed into the cracked and worn feet of my soul, soothing my walk, giving me rest.”

“’This is the resting place, let the weary rest’”; and, “’This is the place of repose’”–but they would not listen” (Isaiah 28:12).

“It is important to learn how to handle nothing-ness,” I answer. I go into a great story about back in the day when I was their age, only 3 TV channels existed. On a rainy day we built card houses, watched NASCAR races, played cards or board games. . . read books. On sunny days, porch wall jump-offs, sidewalk roller skating, tree climbing, daisy chain construction, bee catching.

We never uttered the words, “I am bored.” If we gave them a mouth-full of whine, they gave us an afternoon full of chores. We wisely kept our complaints to ourselves.

“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature” (Albert Einstein).

Where do you go when nothing-ness comes? Where is your Pausing Place? Pausing Places – a place to sit and let nothingness wash through, like clear water in a rushing stream – clearing away the debris of my soul, clearing away for freshness and new growth.

My back porch, during a rain storm – that is one of my pausing places. Sometimes it is my kitchen when no one is home – and I can throw myself into the cooking and think about life without interruptions – while making something wonderful for my boys.

“Solitude is such a potential thing. We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no condition”
(Amelia E. Barr).

Other times, it is wrapping myself in a blanket, curling up with a good book and my knitting. I would read a bit, knit a bit. That happened the other day. My son flung himself across the end of my bed – and just looked at me.

“There’s nothing to do,” he said, baleful eyes woefully wooing me to create “something” for him out of nothing.

“I’m having a great time,” I said. “I’m loving this. I’m sorry there is nothing you want to do – but there is plenty you can do. But – I am not going to let your frustration mar my nothing-to-do-time.

He sighed.

“One of the most important things you need to learn is how to find peace and joy in the nothingness of a day,” I gently coaxed.

He wallowed a bit more, making sure I knew he was frustrated. I wouldn’t be baited. I sent him on his way.

Filling each moment with him-centered activities does not prepare him to live a fully enriched life. If they do not learn to embrace the quiet times, in the stopping times later, they might fill those moments with harmful activities – just to fill the nothingness.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

One of the most important skills in life is to learn how to embrace those pauses. My boys, well, they need to learn how to make something out of nothing. Their day is so chocked full of activities they become bewildered when they face, what they think, is the Great Monster Nothingness – which I have discovered to be a great friend.

Learning to turn nothing into blessing – what a great life-skill. Bring on those rainy days!

 

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Words go on consequence journeys, just like actions do. This week, the word “No” went on a journey – from our home, to defining a weekend for one son, to church on Sunday morning, to Sunday lunch. It went on a journey growing and becoming much more than it started out to be.

“No!” My little guy said, 7 a.m. Thursday morning. It was picture day at school. I’d asked him to wear a light blue and white checked shirt, button down with khaki shorts. He wasn’t balking at the shorts. He balked at the shirt.

Typically, I don’t make a big deal over clothes – well, except for Sunday morning. All I want on Sunday mornings is khaki casual and a nice shirt (like that blue and white checked, button-down shirt). You’d think I was asking them to wear pink boas and tap shoes to church!

I digress, though. It was 7 a.m., and I had a “No,” not-gonna-wear-it response trying to stare me down. Here was my littlest, almost 12, already exhibiting verbal fronds of teen rebellion –  7 a.m. on picture-day Thursday. This was the first picture day I had remembered before the photo in a couple of years. I wanted a couple of nice, shiny, smiling, smartly-dressed sons in a photo.

It was 7 a.m. I needed a cup of coffee. I didn’t need rebellion.

After a few intense moments, he agreed under duress. He did wear the shirt. He did look terribly nice. When he and his brother got out of the van for school, I thought, “Shouldn’t they look like that everyday – without a verbal war?”

Some of you might say, ‘You shouldn’t fight over what they wear.” I agree to an extent. However, they need to know how to dress appropriately for appropriate occasions, like weddings, funerals, graduations, Sundays, job seeking, and, well, picture day.

My little guy, he suffered for a few days.  He had to tell his dad later that night what he’d done – and he was grounded from t.v., video games. As he was walking out his punishment, he uttered these awful words, “What is there to do without t.v. and games?”  Did I say he was my saucy one? Who smiles while yanking my chain?

I told him we may turn off the t.v. after words like that. I suggested he read, create a little art, play his guitar, find his friends in the neighborhood.

He did – all of it, peppered with a few moaned words, “I’ll never tell you no again.”

Some of my sons obey easier than others. I call it being more “coachable.”

Today, the minister preached on believing God. He talked about how Eve didn’t really believe God when he said, “Don’t eat of the Tree” – because she did eat of the tree. She didn’t really believe He meant it – or she wouldn’t have eaten the apple. She didn’t trust what God said enough to obey – and she created a heap of a problem.

The Israelites had a problem believing, trusting, and obeying, too.

“But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him” (Deut 9:23)

When God tells you to do something, we are to trust him and do it. That’s a hard lesson to learn – even harder to learn if you cannot do it with your down-here, earthly father (and mother).

With a house full of boys to men, “No” opportunities happen more than I like – some verbally, some behaviorly – not just on school picture day.

During the sermon, I passed the following note down to another teen. Yes, I am that mom!

 “If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”

He sent a typical teen note back, trying to out-smart my note. I penned back, “Don’t out smart your common sense”(Song, “Love Like Crazy”) .

Later, over Sunday lunch at Cracker Barrel, we discussed Neil Armstrong, booms and earthquakes in California – and how if you cannot trust and obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God.

The parent relationship is the training ground for the child’s God relationship.

Each son, since we’re down to just 3 – each has signed up to do the dishes 2 nights a week. Each son knows his day. Each son hears us remind. Each son makes a choice to obey or not.

If they disobey, the brother doing the dishes the next night has a bigger load. The relationship experiences conflict. Chaos evolves.

When children don’t obey, problems pile up, seemingly little problems like dirty dishes. Like saying “No” to a parent might result in down-time, relaxation activities being taken away and one moment turns into 3 uncomfortable days.

 “If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”(Blue Cotton Memory)

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”(The Message, Romans 10:14)

 Holding my sons to accountability, to hear, to obey – even at 7 a.m. in the morning on picture day – it is not a comfortable thing. Sometimes, it makes me want to slam the door to a room. Sometimes, it makes me want to go into a quiet place and cry. Because some things are not as simple as shirts on picture day. Some children are not as easily coached.

If we are to teach them how to listen to the Father, hear what He tells them – and, obey it, then we need to teach them how to listen to us, hear what we say, and obey.

If you neither trust or nor obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God?

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When my boys come to me for  boo-boo prayers, migraine prayers, and over-coming fear prayers, I know we are going in the right direction.

When my oldest son called from the Christian camp he worked at asking me to call the sweet, older ladies at church who are such prayer warriors to pray for a camper’s mom battling cancer, I knew we going in the right direction.

When my rebellious son allowed me to lay hands on him and pray before he went to basic training . . . . and he cried – I knew  we were going in the right direction.

When they come home
and tell me they have prayed for someone else,
I know I took them
where they needed to go.

All the challenging in-between moments that wear me down are just trip-wires in the path, designed to bring down my mission.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 156:5).

I might lose my balance, trip, even fall – but I pull myself up. Graceless, awkward, wobbly, but I keep on going.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

I will not give up. . . on my children. . .

be strong and do not give up” (2 Chronicles: 15:7).

. . . or on myself.

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A Chess and Checkers Saturday

Not just games. Rather challenges that encourage them to think cause and effect, to think 5 moves ahead, strategy to achieve goals, that for every action there is a reaction.

And that is the beauty of  a deceptively lazy, chess and checkers Saturday.

 

They think it is just a game.

A Chess and Checkers Saturday

 

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My kitchen stools were finally pulled out of storage. The house we rented the last two years had a very stool-unfriendly island in a frustratingly family-unfriendly kitchen. A refrigerator opened was the equivalent of Gandalf commanding, “You Shall NOT Pass.” If the dishwasher was open on the opposite, well, that was just me glaring the same thought.

I missed my boys sliding onto a stool to snack, do homework, sometimes eat dinner, cook s’mores  or whatever yummy was coming out of the oven. I missed kitchen living. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then my stools were the arteries that gave that heart life.

We are back in the state where we had lived for 19 years in the house which did not sell (thank you, God) – and in my kitchen with the family friendly island.

Back to the place I most often met one of the older boy’s current girlfriend, or where their friends would eat before a soccer or football game.

Where life was recounted. Just across the counter, I pulled from the oven the “You’re a Cake” lecture. The “Are You Man Enough” moment happened there.

It is a place covered with friend’s dishes and mine, too, when they come for dinner – and where everyone refills their plates for second helpings.

It is where life gathers, in stacks and piles, in paper and little boy what-knots.

It is a place I meet my weaknesses, like kitchen organization and boys running for solutions to brotherhood battles for Solomon-type judgements.

It is where my mom painted my stools with Tole-style designs, 3 with my style preference, 2 with hers.

5 Stools where differences learn to sit together both literally and figuratively, loving and valuing those differences.

Life spills out over that counter, a divide of giving and taking.

Words pass from both sides, like dishes, spicy or muted, nutritional or comfort, hit or miss words, laughing words, lashing words, loving words.

Yes, my stools are back. I am home.

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The other night, the little guys, the artist and the writer, were dog-piled in bed with me – I love it when these two talk about big and little things, little and big. The conversation went like this:

“Wasn’t the oldest man about 900 years old?” the writer asked.

They both look at me, expecting me to know everything and love discovering that I do not.

“Methuselah,” I answered.

“No, he wasn’t’ the oldest man,” the littlest one, the artist said. “God is.”

“God isn’t a man. God made man,” said the writer.

They both look at me, in a chorus, asking, “Who made God?. . . How old is God?”

“We all have to wait for heaven to find out those answers,” I answered. Score one for mom not knowing everything.

“God is like an illustrator,” answered the artist.

“A creator,” chimed in the writer.

“My Father,” I thought to myself.

They don’t really understand God the Father yet. We talk about it, teach about it and call Him Father. Right now they recognize Him as the Creator, so Big He can palm the universe, the illustrator who gave the world scope.

When my boys hurt, right now they press into me, for comfort, for me to make everything o.k., for my tangible ears to hear their story.
Right now, when a finger is cut, or a splinter wedges into tender footpads, or a collar bone fractures – they reach for my hands, to lay my hands on their brokenness, while I approach the Father for their healing, their wholeness, their wellness. They know God heals, but sometimes they are not ready to go there alone – so I take them there.

When my son battled night-fears, I introduced him to Joshua and Caleb, to David as the little brother in the field and in the valley where he met Goliath, to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – all boys to men who battled fear but chose to find their courage in God.

My writer when he was little pointed out his brother had boo-boos that needed prayer. “Lay hands on them and pray for them,” I encouraged, waiting for him to speak, to pray. We were driving somewhere, just the 3 of us. I saw he had reached his hands over, but no words came out. “Well, when are you going to pray,” he asked. Interceding for others can be overwhelming, going into God’s presence and asking. . . the Creator, the Illustrator.

Children are used to barging into rooms in their own home – but not others, not even God’s. They need for someone to show them that God’s door is always ready to be opened. That He cannot wait for His children to enter. That He meets you at the door. They just need to feel comfortable enough to turn the knob, to feel like God’s home is their home.

The artist came home from school a few years ago, hurting for a friend who was constantly being bullied. His friend had been crying. “I prayed for him in the bathroom today,” he said. He could go to the Illustrator, the Creator for a friend. It was a beginning of his personal relationship with the Father. He walked to that door, turned that knob and entered the Father’s presence for a friend.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5).

Love does not happen without relationship. Relationship does not happen without visiting. Visiting does not happen without an introduction.

Hand in Hand, I walk my sons to His home until one day they walk there themselves. Until one day, when they are too big to press into me for comfort, when they no longer look to my hands to minister God’s healing, – then, on that day, they seek relationship one on one, Father to son – no intermediary, man to God – and they press into Him for comfort, for healing, for help. The Illustrator is the Creator is Dragon Slayer is the Healer is finally The Father.

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Unconditional Love grows, and groWS, and gROWS and GROWS

over days, with months, years

in sunshine and storms

if we let it

if we don’t hoard it

Then it grows, re-seeds, spreads like buttercups in a field

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Unconditional Love drags unwilling feet to all sorts of places that build up the mind, body and soul. Unconditional Love sometimes has to put up with some whine, deal with a bit of balking, kind of like making a child eat their peas or green beens. They might pull a 5 sensory boycott:  Don’t like the taste, Don’t see the need, Don’t feel the positive effects, Don’t hear the message, Can smell a learning moment a mile away.  But it is good for them, regardless. It stretches them beyond what they are.

While visiting The Great Smokey Mountains, we toured Cades Cove – the day after a torrential storm. My joyful son commented, “Sure it was fun. . . for the first 30 minutes.”  Yes, they moaned every time we stopped to learn a little history, discover a little beauty. Yes, they cheered when the camera batteries died.  At the very end, though (about 4 hours later), you should have seen them all trying to make that camera work – but to no avail. We have no proof we saw 2 brown bears!

It is the kind of day they will talk about how “Mom” forced them to be dragged through a great wilderness, stopped too often to capture something beautiful. They will sigh, roll their eyes and make the funny jokes boys make. Probably until one day when they start bragging about it to their kids. 

Unconditional Love is willing to get uncomfortable because we know things they don’t know, like the importance of stopping to take a moment to enjoy a beautiful sight, despite peer pressure to not. Or that by stopping to look at a grave site, you learn why those immunizations you have to take are pretty important. Or seeing with your own eyes that a family of 8 lived in 2 rooms without a bathroom, and maybe realizing how blessed they really are. Or seeing streams of water all frothy and rushing as a result of the previous days storm. That in order to make a moment outstanding, you have to seize that moment instead of letting it pass by outside your window.

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Once upon a time, my boys were little enough to fit beneath the microscope of my attention. I could identify the entry point of every new word in their increasing vocabulary. I knew every friend, every friend’s mom and the nature of those friendships.  I could match every sock, find every shirt and dress them neatly for church without much of a howl.

Beneath the microscope, they learned the following kinds of things:

How to Pray
Handle nightmares
Discern Friendship
How to Read
How to Swim
Handle Frustration
See Animals in the Clouds
Appropriate ways to Say No
Not to Talk to Strangers
How to Really Blow your Nose
How to properly shove off with your upper arm in soccer so you don’t foul with your elbow
How to make boxed brownies in the 3rd grade and homemade cakes in the 5th grade
How to make your needs known if you are a need stuffer
Forgiveness
Unconditional Love

Beneath the microscope, how they ate, what they ate and when they ate – well, I pretty much knew where it came from – and, yes, where it went – and, hhhhmmm, probably even what it looked like for a long time at its exit.  I still miss orange noses from sweet potatoes and carrot baby foods. All beneath the microscope.              

All children should have parents who place them beneath the microscope – because this studying of their hearts, learning of their dreams, recognition of their gifts – better enables nuturing what God placed within them, better enables healthy healing of their hurts in addition to teaching them to heal their hurts, and train each how to handle their individual challenges. 

Pre-12 is just the training ground to prepare for ages 12 to 20. From 12 to 20, my behavior,  my message is meticulously examined by my boys.

Around age 12 – suddenly, everything starts changing, from knowing what goes on inside the classroom, to the nature of their friendships, to some things they know and when they knew it? “Where did that word come from?” leaves me guessing. Well, their desire for independence, even 12-year-old independence, has burgeoned so they literally pop themselves from beneath the microscope.

In their quest for independence, they have turned the tables, placing me beneath the microscope.  They have so diminished me in their hearts and minds that I fit there, at least in their estimation. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Maybe our children as they grow need to think of us as little before they realize really how wonderfully big we are inside.

It is not comfortable beneath the microscope. They record findings with which I disagree. Beneath the microscope, the parent is not nurtured.  It is a cold, critical place. They re-evaluate the slide notes I recorded of what I placed inside them (you know, all those messages, those values, insights, every good  intention instilled) and compare with their fresh notes of how they see my behavior beneath the microscope. Frustratingly, 12-to-20-year-old microscopic analytical skills are short-sighted. 

When the parent is placed beneath the microscope, it is not a nurturing act. It is a tearing apart and putting back together. They are studying themselves and studying us, seeing if everything we hold them accountable for is within us, too.

Nuance discernment is non-existent. Sharp focus comparing and contrasting message and action rules. Recognition of discrepancies in behavior and action is followed by a stiff call to verbal accountability – and they remember! I am judged by what I have instilled within them. Brutally so! The do not let me forget when I fail.

It can be a scorching place, beneath the microscope of my children.  Being the parent of a 12-to-20-year-old is vastly different from being a parent to a pre-12-year-old. It is an important time, an important training, this testing of that which we placed within them.

No more pre-nap failings, missing it, only to put them down for a nap and the moment is forgotten. No! When the saying “the memory of an elephant” came into the language, they must have been talking about this particular age group.

Starting at age 12, out from under the microscope, they make decisions (12-year-old decisions) on friendship, vocabulary choices, how to communicate with the parents, struggling for more independence – readying for the great pull-away at 14/15.  Out from under the microscope, they test those ideals, those values, throw some away, hold some close, and retrieve some they thought useless. It is a tough time for them, just as it is a tough time being a mom.

It is a time I risk being mis-labeled, suffering a level of censoring, my failings enlarged beneath this microscope. I desperately hold on to the promises of my Father, my faith that they will return, re-analyze with fresh eyes and fresh wisdom, and recognize the valuable specimen they had all along.



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I believe everything is possible through Christ Jesus. My vision of what can be is limited by my knowledge of possibilities. However, God has an unlimited supply of possiblities that I cannot even visualize or imagine!

If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believeth” (Mark 9:23)

Nobody ever said believing was easy, that trusting was easy – but the more I have believed in what I have not yet seen and still trusted my Father – the more truth I have discovered in what His word says.

“For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23)

Raising children dares me quite consistently to believe that God has possibilities to challenges I cannot logically discover, imagine or fathom; fix, organize, or buy; out-love, out-debate or just out-last through sheer determination.

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13)

To Dare is to “to challenge or provoke (a person) into a demonstration of courage” – to Dare is not saying to God, “I dare you to prove yourself.” No, that is not what I am talking about. It is to prove ourselves, our faith. To Dare is to be courageous in our Faith against the enemy who would see us fail, to see our faith fail, to see our belief fail,  – and our relationship with God fail.  Sometimes, this enemy would use the challenges of our children to entice us to fail.

To Dare is to test ourselves. “To dare or venture to meet or expose oneself to, to run the risk of meeting; to meet defiantly, defy (a thing)” (OED, definition of dare) – When we dare to believe, we put our faith on the line. We do not dare God – we dare ourselves – to put our faith into action, kind of like turning the key in the the car’s ignition. We trust the key will make the car turn on. When we stand on our faith and believe, we defy an unbelieving world. We run the risk of discovering God is not true. We expose ourselves to a world ready to ridicule our belief.

Yet, the most beautiful part of Daring to believe that God stands by His promises, His Fatherhood, is that each time we Dare to Believe, Faith and Hope are never let down; God is real and true.

Sometimes I forget to let God be fully God. Sometimes, it is difficult to let God into all areas of my life. It is like letting my son push the grocery cart. It is hard to let go and let someone else have control. But God is not just someone else. He is God – a God of endless Possibilities!

Dare to Trust. Dare to Hope. Dare to Believe. Double-Dog Dare to let God be God in your life!

                                                                                        

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