Is There A Safe Haven?

She didn’t bring him out right away. We knew he’d come, but we had to wait to see him. When she was ready to show him.

We have deer living in the brush surrounding the pond behind our home, and it became obvious that one of the does was going to have a baby this past spring.

One day she showed up, less of her but no little one with her.

We have other wildlife behind our home, and I was concerned something had gotten to the little one. All the mother doe had done to provide for her baby might have been for nothing.

Then he showed up in our backyard. Alone. Resting on the ground as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

I didn’t see his mother, but I’m sure she was nearby. I couldn’t imagine, with hiding him for this long, that she’d let him out of her sight. But the little guy was calm as I approached to take his picture. He looked at me with interest, not fear. I respected his need for distance and didn’t push my luck. As I stood there and we stared at each other, I wondered how it would be to feel that calm, that safe in the midst of this very big and harsh world.

People all over the world are longing for that sense of peace and safety now. Life appears to be spiraling down into places none of us really want to go. Fear is rampant; anger is nurtured by fear which can lead to divisions among people, who then become caught in a perfect storm of loss of control and perspective.

Like the fawn, we have limited resources to keep us safe. We need outside help from those who are concerned and able to assist us.

We all want a safe haven. A place of rest for our overwhelmed minds and overdone emotions.

There is no safer place than in the arms of God. The Father who knows what horrors we deal with and calms us with His truth and love. This world is not a safe place–no matter what your geography or socioeconomic status. We can’t hide from brokenness. We can’t avoid shattered dreams.

But God offers us comfort and peace in the midst of the crises. He doesn’t make them go away–that short circuits the free will of those He has created in love. Consequences happen because of the condition of our world–sadness, despair, loss, grief. He’s in it with us, experiencing our pain because He knows what it’s like to be misrepresented and misunderstood. He knows what it’s like to feel the hatred of the crowds. He understands the cost of standing up for what you believe in.

Jesus did all that. And more.

Who is safest to go to when the times are tumultuous? Who is best equipped to help us through those times of hardship and heartache?

The One who has lived it.

In the midst of the uncertainty of today, He is our safe haven.

And so much more.

 

 

Father Knows Best–Doesn’t He?

With Father’s Day just passed,  I’ve thought a lot about my Dad.

He died eighteen years ago, and I’m still saddened by the reminders of him that I encounter on a daily basis. Small winks of wit and wisdom that allow me to remember the man I deeply loved and respected.

Dad was a man of great humor and a generous heart. He would be uncomfortable with the social distancing now; his normal response to being around people, old friends or new acquaintances, was to shake hands with firmness and respect, no matter whose hand he was shaking. His smile lit up a room, and his go-to phrase was “It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind.”

What was most memorable about Dad was the stories he told. Stories of his growing-up years in Texas on a small farm. The youngest of five children, he would tell of the chores he had to do–and the ones he was able to get out of doing. He’d describe the fun he’d have with his brothers and sisters, the trouble they’d get into. All of us kids could point to the place on the floor in the hallway where he’d fallen off the stairs, landing on his mouth, losing his teeth. The marks remained as a testimony to his fearlessness as a young boy climbing up the wrong side of the banister.

The stories Dad told showed him to be a man who understood that we as kids didn’t always follow directions. We didn’t always obey or make the best choices. His stories described a man who lived and learned who he was no matter his circumstances. His stories made him approachable, genuine, a man of feelings who recognized our weaknesses and didn’t abandon us because of our imperfections.

He wasn’t perfect. He was present.

It’s a character quality I’ve found in my husband and sons-in-law. A sense of being in the moment and believing the best of their children. Men who listen and recognize that what they perceive isn’t always what’s happening.

I’m grateful to have these men in my life. To see them as reflections of a greater Father who is very present with His children. One who is kind and full of grace, gentle and yet firm. One who is approachable, who doesn’t shame His children but listens. Discipline comes from love, not anger.

God is a Father to all who will choose to be His children. He adopts us into a family that is diverse and widespread, with relatives from every tribe and nation of the world. A family that is full of variety and differences.

All loved equally, even in their imperfections.

Father’s Day reminds us of the great need in our lives for men who will responsibly love and care for their families. For each of us to have someone we can look up to who is faithful in love and trustworthy to do what is best for us.

That won’t be a full reality until heaven.

But God.

He alone loves us with an everlasting love. Not seeking to shame us when we blow it–which we will. But helping us get up and move on in hope.

The best Dad ever.

 

 

 

Applying Truth Can Be Sticky

Food isn’t always viewed as the best thing to be eaten.

Tastes vary. Many have allergies and are unable to eat certain foods. And some days something just doesn’t sound good enough to eat.

Cal, at two, isn’t the most accommodating eater in our family. He’s picky, and if it’s something he doesn’t want or won’t try, he pitches it off his highchair.

The dogs have learned to wait expectantly nearby.

The most challenging foodstuff to get into him is protein. He’s not a fan of meat or eggs, and his enjoyment of peanut butter comes and goes. He’s getting enough nourishment because he’s growing, and his energy level is something I can only dream of having.

One morning for breakfast, when Cal really didn’t want anything but fruit snacks, his mom got creative. She spread peanut butter on a waffle and cut it in pieces for easy consumption.

He picked up a piece and examined it.

The piece never got near his mouth. Instead, he put it peanut-butter-side down on his chest.

It stuck.

He put the rest of the pieces on his chest and tummy. Like giant messy stickers. Or pieces to a very grubby puzzle.

Not only did he avoid eating what he didn’t want, but he had fun doing it.

The dogs were all over him. He’d gotten enough peanut butter smeared over his entire belly that they were able to reach it with their tongues.

Sticky and slimy.

This was hysterical to watch, but normally I don’t condone wearing food. It’s not what it’s meant for.

How often do I do things that aren’t done the way they were intended? When I don’t follow directions or do things the way they’re supposed to be done. I make choices that suit me.

That might work if I lived in a world all alone, and my life didn’t impact anyone else’s. The fact that we share this world with billions of others means we have to be conscious of our choices and how they affect other people.

Truth is absolute. It’s not a piece of clay that we can continually shape in a way that pleases us. Truth is the reality that exists. I can’t look at the moon and decide it’s the sun because I want it to be that. It is what it is. It must be handled in a way that respects its consistency and what it was created to be.

We struggle globally now with how we’re choosing to look at our circumstances. People want to choose what is right based on what they need. There’s no freedom or hope in that.

Only God.

He alone is the truth. He speaks of two rules we need to follow to find contentment and hope in this life–love God, and love others as He loves us. It’s selflessness that doesn’t come easy. God’s way takes the focus off what we demand and puts it on what all of us need.

To be loved, accepted, forgiven, and valued.

Only God.

Ignoring truth leads to chaos that impacts everyone through its ripple effect. Hurtful and ineffective.

As effective as trying to get nutrition by plastering peanut butter waffles on your stomach.

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped In The Myth Of Control

With warmer weather, we buy more fruit for the kids; it sits in baskets so they can grab and go.

Unless they’re weary of that produce. The fruit becomes an open invitation for fruit flies to feast.

They appear out of nowhere; their sole purpose is to irritate everyone in the house.

I’ve been quite annoyed by the presence of these small exasperating bugs. They’re everywhere in the kitchen. Too small for fly swatters and too quick to just smash with my hands, I’ve been perplexed as to how to deal with them. I’ve whined about their existence more times than anyone wanted to hear.

We googled what to do with fruit flies. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Several methods were suggested. Some needed more materials than I had handy; others required more work than I wanted to commit to. The easy one was pouring apple cider vinegar in the bottom of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, secure it with duct tape, and poke holes in the wrap big enough for the little buggers to get through.

I prepped my bowl, placed it in the middle of the island where the produce had been, and waited. Rather like a watched pot. Bugs hovered over the bowl, but none really dared enter.

Were my fruit flies too smart?

In the morning, success met my wondering eyes with plenty of the little guys now expired in the vinegar or unable to get out of their plastic-wrapped prison.

I felt no sadness over their demise.

Such a simple solution that worked isn’t always the way life rolls out for me.

I can only wish.

There’s something very satisfying about the containment of my problems. Having them understood, with specific parameters, where I can observe and deal with them. Out-of-control issues aren’t fun. They leave me without a plan, and proceeding forward may be problematic. Out of my comfort zone.

Life doesn’t fall to us in easily controlled lines and spaces. Managing all our life circumstances as if they were on a spreadsheet is a dream, a myth. Personal resources are limited, and we don’t know all we need to know to handle all we need to handle. Containing my problems in a workable way may help in the short term, but it’s guaranteed that something will throw off my plans and I’m left without hope.

But God.

He is the One who knows everything all the time because He isn’t limited by time and space. Our entire lives are known by him before even one day has passed. And He offers His presence and power to us to deal with the messiness and pain of life and all of its unpredictability.

I can’t prep my life in a way that limits my problems to what I can fit in a container. Life is unwieldy and unpredictable.

God expands my capacity to deal with life by His presence and power. He loves to love me well, and in His love, I have security and hope.

That’s not containment.

God holds us in His Enough to walk with us in our needs.

That’s freedom.

 

 

 

Is It Ever Enough?

photo courtesy of Methi Somcag on Unsplash

Here in Florida, we’re fully into hurricane season. We’ve had three named storms already. I never remember the names.

What I do focus on is the amount of precipitation we get during this time.

Not all hurricane seasons are the same. Some years we have very few, and the rain never comes. It’s a Florida drought when that happens, and everyone is careful about watering only on their allotted days.

We’ve just come out of a dry period and are grateful for the rain. The ponds were extremely low. The grass was brown and crunchy. Ducks were standing in the water, not swimming in it.

We needed rain.

We’ve gotten it. Good, solid soakings that have revitalized our grass, filled our ponds and made all the flowers happy again. As an inconsistent gardener, the rain has saved me from neglecting to water my herb garden.

The humor in all of this is part of our Floridian lifestyle. Because of the intensity of the sun most days of the year, many people have sprinkling systems to water their yards. They’re more efficient in watering effectively without as much waste.

Unless it’s been raining.

After a truly grand soaking last night, accompanied by the timpani of thunder and lightning, the ground has become supersaturated. Excess water flows into the streets and sewers, and there are standing ponds on many lawns.

And yet, as I walked today, I was laughing at the number of people who had their sprinklers running. The water had nowhere to go.

It was unnecessary.

Water is required for life itself. Is it possible to have too much of a good and necessary thing?

I find I operate many times with a too-much, not-enough mentality. If a little of something is a good thing–like chocolate–more is better. Only if it doesn’t rot my teeth, cause weight gain, or make me sick to my stomach. Then it becomes problematic.

I typically don’t figure that out until I’ve eaten too much of it and begin dealing with the consequences.

I think of myself in those terms as well. I’m too much for some people. Loud and talkative, I can be overwhelming. I’m not enough for others. I don’t have the right skill set or personality.

Where in life can we get exactly what we need?

Jesus offers us that with His gift of mercy and grace. He paid the price for our brokenness and misery with His death on the cross.

That payment is sufficient for everyone who seeks forgiveness and a relationship with God.

Nobody has to do anything to earn His favor, to be good enough to receive such a gift, to become somebody else to be qualified for forgiveness. Nobody can earn what’s being offered or be good enough to be considered worthy of such a gift. Jesus paid the full price for anyone seeking the hope of His love and compassion.

No strings attached.

We can’t predict when or if we will get the rain we need. But we can know with certainty the life we’re offered in Him.

That’s precisely what we all need.