Hit Me with Your Best Coconut

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dk_mountain_-_bridge_-_mario_kart_double_dash

Back in college, my husband and our friends played hour upon hour of Mario Kart – first for Nintendo 64, then the GameCube once it came out during our junior or senior year. (Yeah, we’re getting old!) I played, too, but not nearly as much as most of my friends, mainly because I was (and am) really, really bad at it. When playing in a big group, the loser of the race had to give up his or her controller to someone else … and I was almost always the loser.

There was a race for the Nintendo 64 version called DK’s Jungle Parkway. In certain parts of the race, when you went off course, monkeys threw coconuts at you, spinning your car out and slowing you down. (This Mario wiki says they are actually “natives” throwing rocks at you … but I’m pretty sure they are coconut-launching monkeys.)

I was praying last night and honestly asking God to give us speedbumps if our family is driving the wrong course. If we aren’t going where He wants us to be, I want to KNOW. And sometimes that knowing can be really painful. But without it, we can be driving off into nowhere, His glory fading into the background as we gun the engine.

It’s silly that this made me think of Mario Kart. But still, sometimes I wish God would just hit me on the head with a coconut rather than let me wander along my own path. I wish the turtle guy would flash the TURN AROUND arrow sign in front of my eyes when I’m aimless.

I’d rather run slowly and deliberately, learning lessons along the way, than be off in the jungle, hanging out with the “natives,” far away from God.

Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:35-37, NIV

Into the Palms of His Hands

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“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.”

Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV

Isaiah 49:16
[pinit]

All of those times my children’s and youth leaders said Have a Quiet Time. The Read the Bible in a Year plans. The checklists and to-do’s, groaning at the idea of reading Leviticus.

I never got it. Sure, I read sporadically. Sometimes even faithfully. Opening my Bible, finger pointing to a passage, willing God to speak to me.

And then I started doing (and working on!) more in-depth studies. And I began to see the trail, the thread through the Bible. The lasso that ropes all the words from Leviticus and Joshua and those little-read prophets at the Old Testament’s end and throws them all on Christ’s body.

For this lover of words, the beloved of Christ, it is mind-blowingly beautiful.

In Isaiah 49, God tells Zion (Jerusalem and the Israelites), “I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”  According to several commentaries, there was a practice among the Israelites of somehow puncturing or burning in the palms of their hands images symbolizing the temple or the city of Jerusalem. Scholars hypothesize that this practice was taken from Exodus 13:9, which reads, “Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the Lord’s instruction may be in your mouth; for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand” (HCSB).

If you’ll allow me to put some words into His holy mouth, in Isaiah God is saying, “I told you to remember Me and how I saved you from Egypt. And just like that, I remember you! You are as close to Me as My hand.”

And that would be enough, wouldn’t it? That God treasured those people, in spite of all their failures and idol worship and sin. But even as He spoke those words, He knew what would happen hundreds of years in the future. Jesus was born in a time where the holy They knew He would suffer on a cross and receive a marking on His own hands.

We know Jesus’ resurrected body has nail prints, as Thomas was able to touch them. (“Then he said to Thomas,’Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe’ ” John 20:27, ESV.) Once again, God related to His people, showing them He knew their ways and their history. Each and every detail was in His mind. And once again, He knew them like He knew His own hand. Now His and His Son’s hands were marked for them. For the past, the release from Egypt. For the present, the salvation of all. And for the future, for all the ones who would think on Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and believe.

Nothing in the Bible is a mistake.

Seeing Forward

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seeing_forward
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photo source: yettis doings

There is something about driving through flat land that makes me deep-chest-sad. I’m not used to being able to see for miles; I’ve lived in mountainous parts of Tennessee for nine years now.

I can’t quite explain the sadness, the overwhelming need to spill tears onto dashboard. Memories of childhood, perhaps: the yellow-corn fields so common in northern Indiana. Leaving fields of gold for the wooded acreage of Virginia when I was 8, headaches speaking my pain for me as I wondered what a new third-grade class would bring.

Beauty lies in the ability to see for miles, as much as there is in purple mountains majesty or snow-peaked mountains or a flowing waterfall.

Why the sadness in this delicate beauty? in the beauty of a baby’s brow, wisps of hair scattered on it? in the beauty of an old picture, sepia and frills?

Seeing forward, seeing for miles in advance, is not our right. Baby’s brow: we know she grows. Old picture: we know the end. Miles of flatland: the road will end, hit ocean or mountain, canyon, museum, something to obstruct view.

Great Love doesn’t let us see infinitely because it would overwhelm. Looking forward swells the heart so large it cannot keep inside the body.

But I Love It.

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David Gets In Trouble

 

This is a spread from the book David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon. Having a David ourselves, we are always tickled by poor David’s antics in these books. As Mr. V read it for Libbie last night, he and I both had to stop and laugh at this page.

Because this is basically our David’s excuse for everything.

“David, why did you hit Daddy?” “Because I love it.”

“David, stop hitting Joshua on the head with that!” “But he loves it!” “No one likes being hit by toys, David.” “Yes, they do!”

It’s hard to reason with a 3-year-old.

Our pastor spoke this week from 1 Samuel and briefly touched on Saul’s disastrous response to God’s direction to completely destroy the Amalekites. Sure, he destroyed them … most of them. Except not the good animals. Except not the king.

Samuel confronted Saul. Saul had the audacity to greet Samuel by saying, “I have carried out the LORD’s command!” And Samuel says, “Then what is all of this bleating of sheep … I hear?” Saul tries to defend his actions desperately. Lost under Samuel’s chastising, Saul spits out, “But I did obey the LORD!”

To me, he might as well have said, “But I love it! God likes it, I promise!”

It’s silly, isn’t it? A grown man, a king, standing heads and shoulders taller than all of his countrymen, making a declaration so absurd it can only be described as childish.

I’m thinking of what I say to God when I do something I know isn’t exactly in His path for me. I know He desires to meet with me every morning (and that was only reinforced AKA SMACKED ME IN THE FACE in my Bible study this past week). And yet I generally only manage to get up when my alarm buzzes once, maybe twice a week. Being honest, that are usually times that Joshua gets up early and I am fully awake after he eats.

It’s easy to defend it to myself. I am not getting enough sleep as it is; I have three little ones who frequently get up during the night. I need those extra minutes. God doesn’t mind. He tells me to lie down and sleep, right? (Proverbs 3:24)

David telling me Joshua loves being hit on the head does NOT make him love it. (“David, if Joshua is screaming I think it means he doesn’t like it.”) All the defense in the world does not make a wrong thing right. It doesn’t make a sin not a sin.

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“But I love it” doesn’t cut it. Maybe it’s why I really detest the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Because if it you can profess that it’s something you shouldn’t be watching/doing/listening to/seeing … shouldn’t that be a sign to avoid said behavior/whatnot?

I don’t want to be a 3-year-old to God forever. Growing up in faith isn’t comfortable. My stomach hurts just thinking about waking up early each and every morning, truly refusing to give up some old habits. But growth is good. Painful. But good.

Known by Name

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source: TDOT

There are signs on the highway in Tennessee, digital ones showing the number of deaths from vehicular accidents in the current year and the past year. Around Thanksgiving weekend, the number was about 10 lower than in 2012. I guess we’re supposed to celebrate that fact? I’m never quite sure what the signs are proving or provoking.

It’s strange, seeing those signs everywhere, when you know the names of two of the number. A friend of a friend in Nashville was killed by a drunk driver early in 2013. And a few months ago, the daughter of a woman at our church had an accident and passed away. Her husband was on the phone with her and heard the whole thing.

It’s the peril of every statistic, every large number, I suppose. The numbers are meant to intimidate you, frighten you, make you think. But within those numbers are names. Souls. People.

We all know names that fit into numbers. I know Killed in Duty in Iraq, Succumbed to Ovarian Cancer, Died in a Car Wreck at 18, Life Cut Short By Meningitis, Born Too Early. There are hundreds of thousands of names under each category, but all the names are people who meant something to someone.

We can easily believe that God sees us grouped into categories, too. Here are the Not-So-Great Ones. The Ones Whom I Want to Punish. The Ones Whom I Really Like. The Extra-Super-Jesus-Lover Ones.

Humans love to categorize, to simplify. I noticed while playing a drawing-and-guessing game on Thanksgiving that words that started out complex – dog tired, forklift, fortune teller – because the simplest of ideas – house, truck, water. (Yes, fortune teller became water. Thanks to Uncle Phil’s phenomenal artistic ability.)

The Bible doesn’t categorize like we want it to, though. Instead it says that we all fall short of the glory of God. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. And that no matter who you are, God can banish your sins as far as the east is from the west. There is no sin that is worse than another. They are all blackness before God, and they all need redeemed.

When God sought Hagar out as she fled from her mistress, Sarah, Hagar was astonished. She wasn’t from Abraham’s line; she was a slave girl from Egypt whom Sarah hated. Hagar called Him “The God Who Sees Me.”

He knows each name in each category. He doesn’t see divisions. He sees you.