Weary Mama, Jesus has been there

jesus-feeds-5000

Moms, the struggle is real. I’m not a mom, but I am married to one. We have four kids, the oldest of which is five, three of which are girls, which means there’s more drama in my house than on all of daytime television.

And when I find myself taking care of all of them solo, I wonder how my wife does it the other six days of the week. But what’s that have to do with Jesus, you ask?

Jesus performed two separate feedings of thousands of people with minimal resources.

In Mark 6, there are 5000 men and who knows how many women and children. The disciples have just returned from their maiden missionary voyage to report all they’ve done in Jesus’ name. But Jesus says, “Shhhhh….you need to rest.”

Out on the boat they go for some rest and relaxation. After all, you can only pour so much of your cup out before the thing is empty. Time to refill.

BUUUUUUUUUUT here come all those needy people. It’s like no matter where Jesus and the boys go, the crowds find them.

Jesus has compassion. “They’re like a sheep without a shepherd,” lost, wandering aimlessly without a clue of how life is supposed to look. After instructing them even more, Jesus feeds them. Actually, he makes the disciples feed them after miraculously multiplying the fishes and loaves.

So I’m reading this in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and I think, hold on one daggum minute. I’ve seen this happen. In fact, I see it almost everyday.

Lindsey has 2 or 3 kids with her depending on the weekday. Inevitably I get a call or text about 2pm. That’s supposed to be nap time for the kids, which would mean mommy time, which would mean rest or something productive for her own sake.

But that 2pm text usually reads something like, “Addie sabotaged nap time today” or “Caroline is still awake and asking where you are” or “Why do my kids hate me?”

I try to reassure her it’s only a season…that’s going to last another 5 YEARS!

And before you do the whole, “Cherish it because it goes by so fast and you’ll miss it” thing, I hear you. But I’d be better off slapping a lion in the face and trying to outrun it than telling that to my bride.

There will be times, dear mommies–maybe every single day of the week–when you’re at the end of your proverbial rope.

  • Physically exhausted.
  • Mentally shot…like you just found the milk in the pantry that you thought you put in the fridge mentally shot.
  • Emotionally worn.
  • Spiritually sapped.

Because you pour yourself out and out and o..u…..t.

And still, here come those needy people. They’re hungry, tired, scared. They have a belly ache or need a drink of water for the fourth time in 14 minutes. They have no idea what life is supposed to look like. That is, no idea except what you show them.

You’re poured out for them. You resemble the disciples, called by Jesus to shepherd and feed and love those who can’t seem to fend for themselves.

So you have compassion. You shepherd those little hearts (sometimes with the spanking spoon), but always with love. Even when it doesn’t feel like love, it’s love. You’d roll yourself across burning coals for those little punks.

Jesus was literally broken and poured out that we might be blessed and filled. You are figuratively broken and poured out that they might be blessed and filled. But what a calling that is. What a season.

 

Being Pro Life is Bigger than Party Politics

The quicksand in which Planned Parenthood finds itself grasping for any relief or aid is not firming up any time soon. Videos continue to be released that depict the despicable details associated with abortion, early or late. When verbiage such as crunching and crushing are used, the tone is hardly mistakable.

This isn’t just murder; it’s sadism for profit.

If anything, the surfacing of these videos has put a spotlight once again on the pro choice / pro life debate. The pro choicers have to violate laws of logic to maintain that worldview, but I want to talk to pro life people, of which I am one.

Being pro life is bigger than party politics. Democrat. Libertarian. Tea Party. Independent. Republican. Each party has pro life tendencies.

What!!! Democrats kill babies!!

Slow your roll.

Why do I say even Dems have pro life tendencies? I say it not because of their position on abortion, but their outlook on helping people once outside of the womb.

I have written before about how being pro life is more expansive than simply being against abortion–which has to be where it begins. But it doesn’t stop there.

For all who spit venom against abortion advocacy, the shouts boomerang back to us in question form: What are you (what am I) doing to support life?

– Am I counseling pregnant women?

– Am I adopting?

– Am I funding adoptions?

– Am I, either through my church or a parachurch ministry, working to alleviate hunger, nakedness, thirst, homelessness, joblessness, etc.? As one satirical cartoon portrays, Republicans will do anything to get you born, but once born you’d better not slow anyone else down or be in need. If you are, it’s your fault.

– Am I fostering?

– Am I housing pregnant teens and showing them a better way?

The questions go on and on and on and on.

What am I doing to show, not just speak, that I am pro life?

It’s easy to make a point, whether on a blog or Twitter or Facebook. It’s easy to get applause during a sermon. But what difference are you making? What difference am I making?

Advent Anxiety

Waiting.

  Wondering.

    Questioning.

  What will he look like?

 Will he be healthy?

Does he really have a role to play in God’s grand story?

Lindsey is about six months away from giving birth to our third child. In a few weeks, Lord willing, we’ll find out if the balance of power will rest with the men or women of the house. From the fatherly side of things, it’s difficult to wait on the arrival of a child. I realized with Ben and Nora Jane and now unnamed child 3 just how powerless I am.

I’m powerless to make my child healthy. I’m powerless to protect Lindsey from drunk drivers or freak accidents that make headlines every day. The waiting (advent) can breed anxiety. That is, if trust isn’t placed in the only place that matters.

Imagine the myriad of questions that Mary had 6 months away from Jesus’ birth. 3 months. 3 weeks. 3 days before, as she’s journeying for the census and knows the time has come. Oh how intense that anxiety must have been!

She had the anxieties of every woman who gives birth. But she had the added anxieties that come with giving birth to the Savior of the world. That’s something we can’t imagine.

Waiting is a humbling experience. I can’t do anything. Waiting teaches me where to place my trust, namely, in God.

To all you moms, you know the Christmas story more intimately than a man ever will. May we all, like Mary, humble ourselves before God this Advent season. As we wait, we give thanks: “for he who is mighty has done great things for me…

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The Bank Called: Your Loan Has Been Forgiven

 I happen to agree with country singer-songwriter Rebecca Lynn Howard: Forgive IS a mighty big word.

 Last Sunday I preached on forgiving one another out of Ephesians 4:31-32:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been on one side or the other of forgiveness. That is to say, either you have been hurt and faced the choice to forgive, or, you’ve been the offending party and need to ask for someone’s forgiveness. I see the Apostle Paul as bookending these verses with two ends of the spectrum.

If I choose to withhold forgiveness when you’ve done or said something to hurt me, then eventually my resentment will grow into bitterness and slowly overtake my mind and heart. The time will come when what I’m harboring internally will find external expression—wrath, clamor (shouting), slander, malice. I liken this to having a garden that was once fruitful and cared for but soon became ignored and neglected. Weeds have overtaken what used to be, to the point that I cannot even imagine what it would look like to have a healthy garden once again.

We do this with relationships that were once cared for, cultivated, groomed, pruned, but then have been ignored. Forgiveness has been denied. Bitterness has overtaken and choked out anything healthy and good. The only resolution is to allow the forgiveness of God in Christ to overtake my life (head, heart, and hands). Now should you choose to forgiven, or at least consider forgiving, you will face the following internal objection: But how can I just forgive this person and move on? They don’t deserve to be forgiven!

I appeal here to Tim Keller. The answer to our common objection is this: “God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver. You can never just forgive…when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss the debt. You bear it yourself.” (Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 89-92).

In other words, when faced with the choice to forgive, you are facing the choice to absorb the loss, to bear the pain that comes with extending forgiveness. This is what God has done on the cosmic level. He paid our debt Himself with the life of His Son, Jesus Christ,(ibid.)

I imagine it is rare to hear of a bank calling a customer and saying, “Great news! Your loan has been completely forgiven. This one is on us!” But that is exactly what happens in the economy of grace. It holds no record of wrong. Our debt is erased. It won’t be held over our heads and used to manipulate us in any way. In the same manner, we forgive liberally because of our being forgiven. In fact, the only qualifier in the Lord’s Prayer, which nearly everyone, Christian or not, has prayed, is this: If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15).

To summarize: the measure of grace and forgiveness you show others will be shown to you. The longer you withhold forgiveness, the stronger your bitterness will grow and that person who hurt you will continue to have power over you.

Strangely, even though in forgiving you absorb the loss and the pain, only then will you experience freedom and peace. Who do you need to forgive? A mother, father, sibling, co-worker, church member? Or maybe the question is who do you need to approach and ask for forgiveness?

Today We Cewebwate Marriage

Thank you Princess Bride for ever etching that sound bite into my mind.

Today, August 12, is the anniversary of my marriage to one Lindsey Danielle Mitchell, then Lindsey Danielle Porter. 5 years ago today, we wed at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church (pictured left) in the beautiful city of Savannah, GA. Marriage has been the single greatest sanctifying tool God’s used in my life, and for that I am grateful. Love you babe and look forward to many, many years in the future.  Really enjoyed dipping you by the way…