Expectant

If you want to see the definition of expectant, head to a baseball game. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, take a look around, and you will see the tiniest of fans with gloves on, ready to capture a foul ball. That glove says “I am going to catch a baseball today”. I’ve seen some foul balls end up in some surprising sections, but most of those gloves leave without a catch. Does it stop them from bringing their gloves back next time? Absolutely not. Attending a game without a glove is like forgetting to wear your team colors! It goes with the game.

When Jesus talks about child-like faith, I think this is the kind of behavior He’s looking for. In Matthew 18:3-4, He says, “Truly I tell you…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Child-like faith isn’t just about belief. It’s about the actions that follow. Just like the child at a baseball game, believing against all odds that he will catch a ball from his favorite player, we should expect the unexpected from our all powerful God.

Our prayers should mimic that hope, that faith, that God can do anything. Our hands should be open, ready to be filled with the Word He has for us. I want my heart to be a baseball glove every time I open my Bible.

Ephesians 3:20 tells us, that God is “able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think”. He’s not the sip of Gatorade in between innings, He’s the overturned cooler at the end of the World Series.

This last weekend, our Astros were down, and the prospect of runs was getting slimmer by the inning. But there was this one little boy who rallied with all his might. “Let’s go Astros, let’s go!” and the crowd followed through with a good, robust “CLAP CLAP”. It went on and on…and on. And we kept up the claps. His voice wasn’t going out, his smile wasn’t fading- in fact it stretched wider and wider as he commanded the crowd. His cheer didn’t pull our boys through, but I think his heart was filled by the camaraderie. He cheered with expectancy, with the belief that if he kept cheering, we would keep clapping. It stopped being about the score, and it became about the fellowship of fans.

Isn’t that like our prayers? We go all in asking for something, knowing God gives us the desires of our hearts, asking in faith and belief that God can do anything we ask, sometimes forgetting that His ways are not our own (see Isaiah 55:8-9). As we continue to ask, our focus shifts a bit, not because we’ve given up, but because we see more clearly. Because we open our eyes to what God has laid before us. It might not look like the original path we were on, but it is something sweet, nonetheless.

It’s no secret that I love baseball, but the game took on a different tone this weekend. It’s challenged me to put my glove on, metaphorically speaking, of course- just a fan, not a player! It’s made me think about the joy of leaning on Him to bring us to understanding and contentment. Praying in faith, believing and hoping in Him, can be a rocky ride, but gosh, it’s fun to stand on the other side of impossible.

Gloves up, dear readers.

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Grace Upon Grace

Yesterday, Daniel and I had some errands to run. A few were quick, a couple took a while, and one involved food. Overall, not too bad—for an adult. Our boys were wearing thin. Thankfully, one stop involved Lifeway. Here, everyone is shopping for one of two reasons: Either they want to grow in their faith, or they have someone in mind who they want to do the same. The music overhead is familiar songs from Christian radio, and everyone is casually humming along as they peruse the devotionals. All this to say, I feel comfortable letting my boys check out the kids section while I shop across the store. Until yesterday. Daniel and I had picked up everything we needed for our youth group, and we headed to meet the boys and check out. We were met by a sea of empty packages on the floor. “Did you do this?”, we almost asked in unison. Our boys’ wide eyes and slack jaws said it all. We maintained our composure–public place and all—and calmly asked the boys to find all the toys they had opened. Package after package after package. Some were opened before we got there, but Harrison kept admitting to opening each toy we picked up. In all, there were about eight. We explained to the boys why that wasn’t okay. These were not our toys. They did not belong to us. Someone else could have bought these.

We decided to bring them to the register and the boys would pay for them out of their piggy banks. They also had to explain what they did. The sweet lady at the register told us it happens all the time, and not to worry about it. We reiterated. They will pay for them. She thanked us and handed us our $16 worth of trinkets. We told the boys we would donate the toys to church, rather than keep them. We didn’t yell, we didn’t continue on. Debt paid. Grace extended. We did explain that now that they understand why opening toys in the store is not a good idea, they would have a harsher consequence next time.

Here’s my question though: When do we extend grace and when do we use a consequence to deter a repeat offense? Our actions have consequences. Some natural (you don’t do your study, you make a bad grade; you tell a lie, you end up in a tangled mess; you do drugs, you hurt your body, etc.) Some are based on the person you offended or a person of authority (you speed, the police officer can decide to give a warning or a ticket; you are late for work, your boss can decide if you receive a write up or a reprimand; you bump a car in the parking lot, and the other driver can decide if or not to press charges, etc.)

Grace defined: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

I tend to go back to the woman at the well. Jesus extended grace. There was no punishment, there was no scolding, there was no big scene. They engaged in the first Full House style sit-down on record, she understood her sin, and I believe her life was changed. That model is so beautiful, yet as a parent, I don’t believe my children would do well in life if there were never any consequences. Where do I draw the line?

Old Testament consequences were no joke. You looked the wrong way? Boom! Pilar of salt. You touch the Ark of the Covenant? RIP. Jesus’ death on the cross changed that. Jesus didn’t contribute to the stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t excommunicate Peter when He returned. And I don’t think He would have rejected Judas either.

So again, I’m faced with the question, when are there consequences, and when is grace enough?

The Bible is very clear about discipline versus punishment. A lot of the verses about correcting your children include the word discipline. Discipline is leading, guiding, forming. Sometimes that includes a little conditioning to steer them in the right way. What I tend to get away from is making sure that the consequence has a direct line to the offense. Say a child gets caught in a lie. One direct effect of a lie is a loss of trust. An appropriate consequence would be to remove a privilege that requires trust, say a cell phone or an opportunity to go to a friend’s house. Grace says time served, let’s try again, and don’t bring up past mistakes. You are forgiven.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 3:11-12 Do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Romans 6:14-15  For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?Absolutely not!

Bob Goff says “Grace means we can put the chalk away and stop keeping score.” Also, “Our failures can leave behind pavement or potholes. Our ability to receive grace determines which it will be.”

As parents, friends, coworkers, teammates, we can fill those potholes with grace. We can acknowledge the problem, show kindness, love, and forgiveness, and pave the way for a smoother ride tomorrow. That’s our goal in all of this, right?

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, Great is Thy Faithfulness. I love the beauty of strength and hope that come with God’s peace and forgiveness. May my children see the hope and blessings that come from a life of grace.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I still may not have all the answers, but I have a map, and I’m ready to pave the way there.

3:37

Ever wake up with ALL THE THINGS on your mind? That was me this morning. I intentionally sleep without a clock in my bedroom so I can avoid stressing about how much longer I have to sleep, but after what felt like half an hour of tossing and turning, I checked my phone. 3:37. My mind was racing, jumping back and forth between news stories and tweets from this week. School shootings, unkindness, worry, heaviness.

I laid there and prayed for families in Colorado. I prayed for students who have entered into lifelong trauma. Families who spent the night in the hospital on a journey of injuries. A family whose heroic son lost his life for others. I prayed for my boys- that they would never know that heartache and fear.

I prayed for my dear Beth Moore who (wrongly) came under attack for preaching the Word as a woman. For those who can’t look past her gender and see the truth that she speaks and the lives that have been changed because of it.

I prayed for the mamas without babies. The sons and daughters without moms. The waiting, the hopeless, the hurting, the scared. All magnified on this Mother’s Day.

For nearly three hours, the cycle of prayer came. I wrote blog entries in my head. I scrolled through Facebook. I wrestled with my usually comfortable bed. I couldn’t make myself get up, so I stewed. When my alarm finally went off, it was almost a relief. I thanked God it was Sunday-a nap was in my afternoon schedule. I was grateful for my Mother’s Day breakfast- chocolate chip waffles, extra crispy bacon, and orange juice with a hint of pulp, topped off with hugs, flowers and a subscription to Magnolia Journal. And I didn’t have to lift a finger- just my glass!

The thoughts of dawn slowly slipped away and were replaced by shower schedules, little boys’ suspenders, Veggie Tales, and coffee. It’s funny how something can occupy so much of your mind yet so quickly make room.

Still, none of the problems went away. I gave them away to God. He brought light to my darkness, in both a tangible and metaphorical sense. Do they still exist? Yes. Nothing magically or miraculously disappeared. There was no time travel, no Groundhog Day repetition of a brand new day, no deleted tweets. But they were no longer my burdens. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. He carries the weight. In my weakness– and let’s face it, 3AM Maddie is weak–He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He can deal with the heart of a heretic, the speech of a slanderer, and the mind of a murderer. He can bring clarity and justice and forgiveness and peace. He can heal the brokenhearted, the lost, the lonely, and the confused. I can let go of it and remember it’s not my battle to fight. He will do it, and I am to be still (Exodus 14:14).

I will proclaim boldly His goodness and His mercy. I will encourage my sisters in the faith. I will ask for protection and bravery. I will ask for the peace that only He knows how to give.

I’m praying for a more restful night. I’m praising God for an easy day. I’m still saddened over our broken world, but my heart no longer feels so heavy.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him. -Isaiah 61:1-3

Whatever is on your heart and mind tonight, know you don’t have to struggle alone. Try giving it to God and let Him bear the weight of your burden. Rejoice in His good promises.