How Easy Is It to Love?

God’s a lot like us as parents, He just wants cheerful obedience, He was compliance because He wants to see our joy,

We’re deep into Hosea this week in my Bible study group and it’s been beating me up, from the inside out.

Being a friend, a spouse, a family member means continually reaching out, expecting nothing in return. I love my daughter because she is my daughter, but I have to say, it’s easier to love her when she is obedient, pleasant, compliant…it’s those times that she is disobedient, sassy, selfish or just plain lazy that I have have a hard time

If Gloves Could Talk

Photo by Creative Commons rickpilot_2000

I think it  goes without saying that this has been an unusually cold winter all over this hemisphere, so it shouldn’t surprise me that they are lots extremities out there that needs some warming.  I have a tupperware container full of scarfs, hats, gloves, weird ear warmer thingies for runners–all things cozy and ready to brave the elements.

I also had a pretty awesome pair of Thinsulate gloves perfect for hiking, yes, slightly big and man-ish looking, but oh so warm.  And, not coincidentally, I’d been reading the words of John the Baptist in Luke 11,  addressing the crowd who were coming to be baptized by him:

“You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘ We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, ”The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

Pretty straightforward.

As I was coming out of our local farmer’s market a few weeks ago on a chilly day that was quickly getting colder, I passed this guy on his cell phone, God said, “Give that guy your gloves.”

Musta been hearing things.

I kept walking.  I was in a hurry, I had to pick up Little A from school.

For me, the issue wasn’t about me giving up a pair of gloves, it was about me looking weird.

So, I made the excuse to God immediately after getting into the car: “I’ve gotta pick up Little A from school.  I can’t be late over some silly pair of gloves.”

Don’t you love it how we try to reason with the Creator of the Universe?

So I turned on the ignition and found that I had ten minutes to spare.  And I thought of Beth Moore and this lovely woman of God brushing a stranger’s hair…  Grrr.  I reluctantly retraced my path, looking for cell phone man outside, went back into the market and did a visual scan and,  of course, he was nowhere to be found.  I hadn’t memorized his facial features, I knew generally what he looked like and that he was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt.  My focus shifted then, there was a guy, somewhere in here who needed a pair of gloves, it didn’t matter exactly who, so I stopped the next person whom I knew worked there and who vaguely fit my mental picture and asked, “Were you just outside talking on a cell phone?”

Confusion.

Translation problems.

Time running out.

Attracting strangers’ attention.

So I asked, “Could you use a pair of gloves?”

Yes, he nodded.  Bingo.

Truthfully, I don’t think it was necessarily about the guy, I think it was about me (albeit reluctantly, embarrassingly, being obedient to God).  The guy was grateful and smiled and said thank you several times so it seemed like he could have really used the gloves, but the point was for us to just do what God says.  I wonder if there was any embarrassment on the boy’s part who offered the five loaves and two small fish, if the thought ever crossed his mind, “This is a little bit crazy.” Or, if he thought, “God told me to give my little lunch, so I’m just gonna do it.”  Either way, I think 5,000 people were thankful for his obedience.

Laboring in the Dark

Early this morning, before dawn, while reading the Bible, I thought about all the moments I’ve spent on my knees in the dark, wondering what God was doing while I poured out my questions and my anger and my tears.  Still, these days, I wonder what He’s up to in my life, but there are fewer tears and less anger and despair now.

But still, I’m in the dark.

I will always be in the dark until that glorious day when He reveals His face to me.

And all these thoughts about being in the dark made me think about the morning I gave birth to my daughter. My first child–my only child–so no explanation, no idea about those first labor pains starting around 1:30–were they the real thing?  They kept happening, and there was a tearful call to the midwife of, “What’s happening to me?!”  Like it or not, they were real.

Her dad kept time on the contractions while I slipped into the hot running water of the tub.  After a while the lights were too much, so I sat in the dark, with the door slightly ajar so I could yell/whimper into the bedroom that the contractions had started and stopped.

Thank goodness for online contraction timing programs.

And, after the initial drama, things got quiet again, I settled into the water, and bore down, contraction after contraction.  Her dad fell asleep after a while and I stayed in the water, in the dark and pulled down hard with each contraction on the towel that was draped around the towel rod above my head.  I spent about five hours here, and around 5:30/6:00 we headed out to the hospital in the semi-dark to welcome our little one into the world.

Maybe it’s my personality, but that day I preferred to suffer there in the dark, to myself, not knowing exactly what was happening.  In many ways, it was a good thing, even the midwife said so when she examined me after arriving at the hospital, my body was getting ready and by the time I arrived at the hospital, I was close to that transition point your read and hear about.  Still, we kept the lights low for as long as we could after I languished in the shower for a while and heaved myself up on the bed for the delivery.

And all these thoughts about the darkness were on the brain when I read this morning of Jonah.  It feels that there are epic amounts of information and dialogue that are left out of this story, but this is the Word of God, so we trust that what it written is what we need.  So chapter 2 of this book begins with a prayer by Jonah from the belly of the whale–just one–and I’m guessing this was his very best prayer, by virtue of the fact that it is beautiful and yielding and thankful, almost other-worldly when you imagine the circumstances.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.  You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.  I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’  The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.  To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the Lord.(Jonah 2:2-9)

And maybe your darkness has been three days, or thirty or 3, 372 days and your prayers are beginning to change, you are beginning to sense the beauty that is coming–like labor pains, you know something good is happening because you can feel it and there are people on the other side telling you, you’re almost there, just keep working, keep going because it’s all going to be worth it. And they’re right, because when that baby arrived or that giant something spits you back up, you are grateful to be alive to see this gift of life right in front of you, whether it’s a baby or a new beginning, or a restored relationship or the job of your dreams, it’s happened and suddenly there is light.