Friday, September 26, 2014

Brace face!

Yes, they need braces; both of them, said the orthodontist.  That’s when the ringing started in my ears while a simultaneous euphoric glow emanated from my oldest and youngest children.  Even with dental insurance I felt an immediate stinging to my left cheek.  Not my face either!  I’m talking about the cheek that pins my wallet into my jeans.  The very wallet whose goal I set every day to, go in to these jeans at sunrise and don’t come out until sunset. Yet I will continue to proclaim, despite the objections by my beautiful bride, that I am not cheap, I am thrifty.  And as I have just discovered, there is nothing thrifty about braces.  

But what has inspired this post is not a rally cry for an orthodontic Groupon or buy one get one free packages for siblings, no, this is about the uncontainable giddiness of my kids to be fitted with a mouth full of uncomfortable metal.  You would have thought the sleigh just landed on the roof in September!  Come December though, those two will realize Santa did deliver early when all they find is boxes and boxes of wrapped floss and toothbrushes under the tree! Thrifty I say, NOT tight!

I remember being in Mrs. Spence’s first grade class and the girl who sat behind me would put a metal bracelet in her mouth and try to convince me she had braces.  I also thought back to when I got braces in middle school and how I was excited too.  My beautiful bride even told me a story of how she attempted to wear her older brother’s retainer to school when she was kid.  Threw up in my mouth a little bit the first time I heard that story and obviously she didn’t tell me before we were married.  That’s one you save until after the knot has been tied. 

This is not even about the braces either. Come on, there is nothing attractive about braces but they are socially acceptable. Right now the same goes for eye glasses.  And not just any ol’ glasses, big bold black rimmed glasses like my Dad’s 60’s senior picture are what are in!  Used to when I was kid (I’m officially old for using that line) getting told you needed glasses was a social death sentence.  It meant very sophisticated words like dork, nerd and four eyes would be used on you.  If you played sports, especially basketball, it meant a pair of Kareem Abdul Jabbar prescription goggles of the 80’s!  You young Oakley wearing kids of today have no idea what the sports goggles back in the day looked like. Not good for the dating scene, not at all. 

Braces and glasses are just small blips on a large map full of things we use to display our individuality.  Today some common areas to express ourselves are in tattoos, shoes (guilty), top knotted hair (guilty), bow ties and skinny jeans for you hipsters, animal print purses, piercings anywhere, cars and on and on and on. 

Why though?  Why do we feel the need to be different?  Because we live in a world where there is a constant struggle to stand out, a need for uniqueness, something that will set us apart from the rest. And honestly it’s okay IF AND ONLY IF it was all taken away and you could still rest in this…

Psalm 139 13-18 (The Voice translation)

13  For You shaped me, inside and out.
      You knitted me together in my mother’s womb 
      long before I took my first breath.

14   I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation,
       filled with wonder and awe.
      You have approached even the smallest 
      details with excellence;
      Your works are wonderful;
       I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

15   You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
       As I took shape in secret,
       carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before
       I was born from its womb.

16   You see all things;
       You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
       Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
       You established the length of my life before I ever tasted 
       the sweetness of it.

17   Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish 
       each and every one of them!
       How grand in scope! How many in number!

18   If I could count each one of them, they would be more than 
       all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
       Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.

Can you find rest in that? 

If you can image whatever uniqueness you enjoy was removed from you in the next hour would you still know you were unique and loved?
Do you find rest in being known you are unique and wonderfully made by the same Creator who dotted each and every star in the sky and then made you; His greatest creation? 

If your answer is yes, then pull up that hair with pride, guys!  Go down a size in those skinnies.  Get another tat!  Heck, so long as you aren’t my kid, get braces and a retainer at the same time!  

But if and only if you can rest in Psalm 139.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hide and Seek

About once a year I post about a song that has a deeply moving affect on me.  I don’t look for an “annual” song, it just kinda happens this way.  Believe me, much more than one song consumes me yearly; I’m highly motivated by the power of music.  I’m frequently sending screen shots of songs along with my thoughts to our Worship Pastor, which usually fires up some good conversation between the two of us.  Last year a song from Bethel called One Thirst became my obsession to the point that I sent him so many messages he finally said, Dude you’re becoming a One Thirst zealot.  I agreed. I know I’m weird like that.

Today’s song though is called Out of Hiding from Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger (The Undoing album).

Know this though, what I’ve gotten out of this song, or any song for that matter, may not be the writer’s inspiration at all.  This is just what moved me.  I urge you to explore too and let the song take you where it will. 

Come out of hiding
You’re safe here with Me

There's no need to cover
What I already see

You've got your reasons
But I hold your peace
You've been on lockdown
And I hold the key

'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave

Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You're not far from home

I'll be your lighthouse
When you're lost at sea
And I will illuminate

No need to be frightened
By intimacy
No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me

'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You're not far from home
Keep on coming

And oh as you run
What hindered love
Will only become
Part of the story

Baby, you're almost home now
Please don't quit now
You're almost home to Me

Wow, right? Here’s what I thought the very first time I heard this song, Ah, confession and repentance.  Wait!  Don’t let that run you off.  I know those words often strike fear in Christians. Sad but true.  Notice how I started my thought? I’m putting emphasis on the, Ah part.

If you grew up in church, in the Bible Belt and you are my age or older you might correlate the words confession and repentance with memories of a pastor in a bland colored suit, veins popping from his neck, pounding his fist against a large wooden podium as he demands you to repent!   Let me be clear, I’m not disputing the importance of the command to repent at all.  I’m writing in support!  It is a necessity to our salvation. How can we possibly acknowledge a desperate need for a Savior and a turning our lives in a different direction without it? What I want to do is serve the topic to you a little differently. Instead of force feeding it to you like the yellow Triaminic of the 1980’s I want to offer it to you like a warm apricot fried pie from my Grandma’s dinner table.  I want you to imagine confession and repentance the way Jesus presented things to people; never forced, always loving.  Somehow through the years we’ve made this process demanding and harsh.  But I just don’t know how, if we are seeking true repentance and not lip service, that we think harsh and demanding produces the peace, healing, mercy and love that is offered through guiltless obedience to this command. 

Recently in my own life and in the lives of those around me I have seen firsthand the BEAUTY and FREEDOM of loving, Holy Spirit led confession and repentance. This was intended to be a positive thing and I feel like He’s beckoning us to run to Him because He is safe and cry out!  Listen to it in the words of this song when it says, 'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love- And I saw it all, still I chose the cross- And you were the one that I was thinking of- When I rose from the grave- Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours- I tore the veil for you to come close- …just throw off your fear- And come running to Me…

I don’t know about you but most of my life I never thought of repentance to be beautiful and freeing until I experienced it for myself.  Then I saw God wants us to obey this because an unrepentant heart separates us from Him and those gifts of beauty and freedom are offered only on the other side confession.  He desperately wants to remove that weight we are carrying around our neck, not punish, shame or embarrass us.  Yet He also loves us enough to allow us to make that choice for ourselves, never forced only urged – ah, the beauty of free will.  Remember Jeremiah 29:11(NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Go back and reread those lyrics again.  Or better yet, spend 99 cents and download a copy.  You won’t be disappointed.  Soak in the words. 
In closing, if you still doubt God has lovingly provided confession and repentance because He is for us and loves us just read these scriptures. (all emphasis below is mine)

1 John 1:9 ESV  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16 NLT  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Proverbs 28:13 ESV  Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.