Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Frustration Ends in Love

Sunday evening was not good.  I was someplace between, "I just going to drive my parent's truck through the sunroom" and "I'm going to hire someone to finish what I've started and cannot finish".  My frustration was primarily with the sunroom.  A room I began to remodel years ago and have stalled on finishing ... partly because of time, partly because of finances, and, perhaps mostly, because of a lack of knowledge in how to finish the project. 

Nonetheless, I have moved toward finishing the project.  Paneling is up and it's time to trim around the windows.  I am clueless.  Instead of slopping wood on there, I call a few friends for advice and instruction only after I completely frustrate myself.  I cannot remember the last time I was so frustrated. 

Jessi was a little stressed and frustrated, too.  She says it wasn't me she was frustrated with, but I can assure you all that I did nothing to take any stress away from her. 

At perhaps the peak of our frustration we are all (three of us) riding along in my parent's truck.  No, we are not cruising toward the sunroom.  Yes, I realize I alluded to doing that earlier.  The wife and child would not have been in on that showdown.  This is strictly between me and my creation (the sunroom).

While cruising along Jessi and I are not smiling.  Sveta sits in her seat between us just as cute as a button.  I decide to engage her in conversation.  "Sveta," I say in a rather serious tone, "there is no smiling, no laughing, and no having fun tonight."  (Yes, she has caught on to my sarcasm after only 5 months with us)  "Noooowha", comes her response.  Then a cute, brief 4-year-old-giggle.  Followed with, "I have to smile, daddy."  "Why do you have to smile?" 

Her response puts a smile on Jessi's face and mine. 

Her response puts many things into perspective. 

Her response is the thing which many long to hear ... even to the point of killing themselves to hear.  Literally.

Her response is what gives life to hope and brings death to despair.

Her response has been learned in 5 months and will be unpacked for all eternity.

Her response:  "Because Jesus loves me"

Frustration finds its end in love.

I have learned many things since this little girl entered my life.  I have learned how many times I can ask someone to do something before I need to leave the room in frustration.  I have learned that I can love my wife FULLY and FULLY love a child at the same time.  I have learned what it feels like to have a little girl scream "daddy!" and ran at you with open arms. I have learned the helpless feeling of holding a child in pain (physical or emotional) and know there is nothing you can do but cry together.  I have learned that the white 'play shoes' are what she wants to wear everyday.  I have learned that I simply cannot make a pony-tail look good ... on anyone including myself. 

Many things in my life have changed.  I eat differently.  I sleep lighter.  I shut doors.  I move knives away from the end of counter tops.  I read kids books ... over and over.  I pretend to be many things in many places. 

One thing that hasn't changed is the love of God.  And it's amazing the way this little girl can remind me of it every day. 

A 4 year old can be a picture of ultimate selfishness.  She's simply not learned to hide it the way I have.  We don't grow out of this 4 year old state of selfishness.  Instead, I am convinced we manipulate it and mask it and hide it ... but it's still there.  She, just like me, deserves hell.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).  Reason to smile.  

I am amazed at the immeasurable amount of patience God extends toward me in my countless selfish endeavors.  I am amazed at the way He loves me, despite me.  

The brokenness that surrounded us in that truck ...
... a child once an orphan, three selfish persons, a young man who so deeply wants to be proven by the work of his own hands, a beautiful young lady who longs for a restored community ...
... that brokenness that surrounded us in that truck is overwhelmed in the face of a matchless love which is unrivaled by all the hell and brokenness that may surround any one person or the entire population of the globe.  

There is nothing greater than the love of God.  

I experience it each day when I hug my wife and my daughter.
I experience it each time a friend comes and helps with my house.

I will never know the depth of God's love, but I will enjoy swimming deeper and deeper into it. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Confessions of a sinner...who desires for MORE.

I should be cleaning, or preparing my house to look perfect for when some new friends come over for dinner tonight...but I'm not.  Because the more I think about it, the more I don't want a "perfect" house.  I would trade the "need" to have a perfect house for almost anything.  Because, here's a little secret my friends...I don't actually NEED a perfect house, nor a clean one.  Most of the world has neither and doesn't even think twice. 

I'm learning a lot about the American Dream and a lot about the dream of living the Gospel...and how actually...they don't mesh very well.  See, here's how I've learned to live...and, things that I've thought recently. 

1. My house must be clean, nicely decorated, and I must have a great meal prepared along with matching china before I can invite friends over for dinner.

2. I must have 2 cars.  They must be in working order, and have lots of bells and whistles:: push a button your window goes down, plug in your ipod, turn on the a/c, etc, etc, etc.  And if I have one child, I should probably own a mini-van or some other large vehicle. 

3. I just got birthday money...how should I spend it on myself?  Maybe I should use the money along with money I make off of selling my ipod and Kindle to buy myself an ipad.

4. I have one pair of shorts that fit, and one pair of jeans.  I should go buy new ones.

5. There are really cute Merrell's in my size for "super cheap."  I could get some more shoes.

6. I don't want to get messy and try to serve Jesus here.  I'd rather pack for a week somewhere and love on orphans than love on the children and families of Decatur county.  Why?  Because the orphans didn't do anything to deserve their plight.  The people here should know how to live "better." 

7. I really want to do well with selling Pampered Chef...then maybe my name would be on the "top sellers" list that all consultants see...and that'd be AWESOME.

8. Maybe instead of cooking tonight, I'll just have my family go out to eat.  $35 isn't that much.

9. This coffee is the least expensive.  And it has a fun flavor.  Got to have it. 

10. Church.  I think I can do this thing.  I can create an event where people want to come and fall in love with Jesus there.  It'll be great.  We'll have a great speaker, nice decorations, yummy food...and great coffee!

So, here I sit, in my sin.  Thinking these things.  Judging others.  Putting myself on a pedestal and thinking that my glory and my power is greater than God's.  Humbled...that's what I am.  I'm not greater than He...and in His grace He's teaching me to invest and live in His Kingdom with His glory and purposes in mind. Here's what His upside-down Kingdom tells me in opposition to my own human-ness:  (I'm not trying to claim that this is Absolute Truth...simply that in my walk to be like Christ...this is what He's teaching me)

1. Invite people into your home.  Share a meal.  Break bread. Talk about Me.  And, don't invite people over who can pay you back.  Invite the poor, the broken, the needy, the foreigner, the orphan.

2. Materials will pass away...and only He will remain.  Stop trusting in a hunk of metal to take care of you and get you where you need to go.  Half the places you go, you don't need to go anyway.

3. That money was given to you as a blessing.  Use it to bless.  Don't hoard it on yourself.  It's not really yours anyway.  Further MY Kingdom, not your own.

4. Stop eating the stuff you don't need, and take care of the body I gave you.  Then your clothes would fit and you wouldn't feel the need to waste money on clothes you don't actually need.

5. Really, do you need 21 pairs of shoes?  Your brothers and sisters around the world...they've never even owned a pair of shoes...and they are in pain because of having to walk so far to fetch water without shoes on their feet.

6. You are the worst of them all.  You think you are perfect and holy, when you have so far to go.  (and I am).  I'm not better than any...and I shouldn't judge those that have less than I.  Whether they are in Decatur County, or Russia, or Kenya, they are children of God.  End of story.

7.  Even if people that get that email think you are great...I will know the truth.  You did it for your glory...and not for Mine.

8. $35.  Actually allows a Kenyan orphan to go to school, have food, and supplies for a MONTH.

9. This coffee might be cheap...but it is costing a great deal to the farmers who are enslaved by the company that makes it.  Is your flavored coffee really worth continuing to support companies who literally are enslaving thousands daily?

10. You can do nothing without My power.  So, go ahead, throw yourself into this event...or pray.  Ask me to show you who to invite in, who to love on, and watch as many come to know me.

American Dream?  Gospel centered dream?

My dream is to live differently for Jesus.  To love Him with abandon and to stop caring what this world says.  This world, it's not my home.  His Kingdom is all that matters, and I want my life to mimic His hopes, dreams, and goals...and for all the glory to go to Him.

What is your dream??