Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cause and Effect

Classic elementary grammar.  Cause and effect. 

Lest we’ve all forgotten, let’s review with a quick mini-lesson:  

A cause is something that makes something else happen.  In other words, it’s WHY something happens.  To determine the cause, we ask ourselves, “Why did it happen?”  Of the two events, it’s the event that happens first.

An effect is WHAT happens as a result of the cause. To determine the effect, we ask ourselves, “What happened?”  Of the two related events, it’s the event that happens second or last.

Life is full of natural cause and effect relationships. 
You went to work.  As a result, you get paid.
You get paid.  Therefore, you get to eat.
You eat, so you live.

As parents, we use the same logical pattern with our children.
If you finish your dinner, then you will get dessert.
Because you practiced your spelling words, you earned a good grade on your test.
You chose not to obey.  Consequently, you lost your privileges.

You get the picture.  Cause and effect.  It’s everywhere; we can’t avoid it.

Our Sunday School class has been reading through a New York Times bestseller by David Platt, entitled, Radical.  In chapter four, “The Great Why of God”, the author pens one of the biggest cause and effect relationships I’ve ever heard or read to date. 

He asks the reader to consider why God formed us the first place, since as a self-sufficient God, He had no unmet need to fulfill.  He goes on to explain that according to scripture, we were created by God, in His image, to enjoy His grace.  We have the capacity to enjoy God by having a close relationship with Him.  And the Bible describes that relationship as a blessing.

The story does not end here. 

God follows His blessing with a command. 

In Genesis 1, after God blessed Adam and Eve, He tells them to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…’  Because we’ve been given His image, He wants us to multiply it throughout the world. 

In other words, “He created human beings, not only to enjoy His grace in a relationship with Him, but also to extend His glory to the ends of the earth.” (Radical, p. 65) God pours out His grace on His people for the sake of glory among all peoples.

Mr. Platt gives multiple biblical examples of how God, throughout history, has blessed His people so that salvation would be made known. 

Absorbing this scriptural truth, I am also reminded of some other simple, yet profound cause and effect relationships in the Word.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” James 5:16

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, (then) you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

The Bible is filled with cause and effect promises and warnings.  Every now and then it may prove beneficial for us to review the most relevant, most truthful words in the greatest text of all.  Better yet, we may even consider writing them on the tablets of our hearts and minds.  You know, just in case an unexpected, unplanned pop quiz is announced. J

“God blesses His people with extravagant grace so that they might extend His extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth.” (Radical, p. 69)

It’s His global purpose.  It’s the great why of God.  It’s the ultimate cause and effect relationship. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Can Carry It

As was the norm for most Thursday mornings, I drove up to the front of the gym, parked my car, and prepared myself for the day’s fitness class.   In the back seat, my youngest daughter, Gloria, began organizing her belongings to go inside the building.  Before leaving our house earlier that morning, my pint-sized preschooler had managed to fill quite a few tote bags with various toys to entertain herself and her friend while in childcare that day.  Because I had also packed her a snack bag and brought her a water bottle, she had more than her little hands could possibly carry. 

I grabbed my purse and naturally began assisting her out of the car, inquiring if she needed some help carrying her bags.  She declined by saying, “I’m fine.  I can carry it.”  I watched as she struggled to climb out of the car and out onto the pavement.  She nearly got wedged between the seat and door because of the manner in which she chose to hold all her possessions.

Slowly, but deliberately, we made our way to the door at the front entrance where I scanned my key card and then paused to talk to my instructor who was sitting at her desk.  Again, I watched to see Gloria clearly having difficulty managing all her gear and asked if I could help her.  For the second time in just a few minutes, my petite, yet head-strong four year old, rejected my offer and continued to walk in the direction of her class.  Another gym friend greeted us; we made small talk and started moving again. 

Concern turned to action when I gazed down one final time at my daughter.  The weight of the bags bearing down on her arms had begun making large red indentations on her skin.  At this point, I stopped and looked her in the eyes.  Firmly, yet gently, I said, “Gloria, let me have some of your stuff.  I know you want to carry it and you think you can, but it will be easier for you if I help you out.”  This time, without disputing, she began to distribute some of the bags to me and consequently, her load became lighter.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7(NLT)

 At that moment, I felt the Spirit whisper to my heart, “You know, my child, you’re a lot like her.  You want to be independent, handle things all by yourself and in your own strength.  The stuff you carry is weighty, burdensome, and awkward.  Oftentimes, it slows you down.  It’s not until pain is felt and wounds are evident, when you finally choose to accept help from Me and from those I send your way.  Give Me all your cares and your worries and really believe I care for you.”

Father, thank you for the firm, yet gentle reminder that you are always present, ready and willing to carry my burdens for me.  Forgive me for declining your help time and time again.  Forgive me for being strong-willed and independent, thinking I can take care of it all by myself; I know I cannot.  Instead, I pray complete dependence upon You and Your strength.  I pray I will experience both gentle peace and jubilant freedom in laying my burdens at Your feet.  Most importantly, Father, help me to never forget how much you truly care for me.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. 
I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4(NIV)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Letter to the Bride

My dearest bride,

Thirteen years ago was your wedding day.  The day you'd imagined since you were a little girl.  The day where all your dreams came true.  The day you married your doting Prince Charming.  The day your real-life fairy tale began.  The day your "happily ever after" became a reality. 

You knew better than to place all your focus and all your finances strictly on the wedding day.  You knew it was but a day in the grand scheme of your life.  But you also recognized July 11, 1998, as holy, as sacred, as set apart to honor the union of you and the one God had chosen for you. 

Your desire was to see God glorified and to demonstrate gratitude to the One who brought you and your beloved together.  You wanted to celebrate your love with all your family and all your friends, who would serve as witnesses to this momentous occasion.  You clung to the hope that every detail of this day would be etched in your heart and mind forever.  And it would be.  Forever.

Your wedding is but a memory now.  The marriage began when two separate-thinking, separate-feeling individuals joined together to become one and thus, formed a new family unit.  For the first five years of your marriage, life was pretty simple.  You started your careers.  You both taught school.  You labored in the Lord together.  You traveled.  You reveled in life as it was.  You enjoyed each other to the fullest.

Baby girl #1 arrived and your family grew.  So did your responsibilities.  So did your love.  You saw each other as partners in this crazy, but overwhelming, task of parenting.  You needed each other more than ever to overcome the numerous challenges that inevitably came with having a newborn.  But you survived.  As a matter of fact you treasured your new role as Mom.  So much so, you desired another little one.

Baby girl #2 joined the family three and half years later.  With her arrival, life became busier, but also more fulfilling.  You were extremely grateful for your newest gift and managed to juggle having two little blessings completely dependent upon you.  You cared.  You cried.  You prayed.  And suddenly, the realization hit you that life was no longer so simple. 

Years later, your heart is content.  You feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all you've been given.  You're in a good rhythm, singing new songs and learning to dance new steps each day of your life.  Your home is filled with the goodness and grace of a loving and faithful God. 

Amazingly, your husband still adores you.  Still considers you a most cherished treasure in his life.  Still honors you, loves you, and cares for you as he publicly promised he would on your wedding day.

You feel the same way.  Your beloved is your best friend.  He is your strength.  He is your calm in the storm.  He rights a multitude of wrongs.  He speaks with wisdom and truth.  He is well respected.  He is an invaluable helpmate and trustworthy provider.  You have an amazing man, a reflection of your Savior, with whom to share your life.  You love him with all of your heart.

Be forewarned.  Over the years, there will be times of tension.  Moments of misunderstanding.  Seasons of struggle.  Lest you forget, may I remind you that forgiveness is paramount.  Listening is essential.  Silence is golden.  Compassion is key.  Take heart.  True love conquers all.

Most importantly, remember that your marriage to your beloved is a symbolic picture of Jesus' precious relationship with His radiant bride, the church.  You were called and sanctified.  You are pure and holy.  You are unblemished and unparalleled, all because of Jesus, your bridegroom.  He is passionate and patient, as He waits to be with His bride.  He longs to celebrate with those He loves. 

Trust me, the union will ultimately be a day you will never forget, just like your own wedding day thirteen years ago.  It will permanently be etched in your heart and mind.  Forever.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Open Water

I have never been a fan of open water. 

Well, unless...
I'm firmly on the shore gazing out at it.
I'm safely in a vehicle riding by it or over it.
I'm in a very large, stable cruise ship riding upon it.

Otherwise, count me out.  Instead, I'd much prefer a good ol' concrete, rectangular shaped, chlorine-filled swimming pool.

I think my hesitancy and fear stem from watching one too many Jaws movies when I was child back in the 80's.  I would peer through my fingers, which covered my face, and watch the hungry ocean creature attack the poor, helpless victim from under the water without her ever seeing it coming. 

As a result, I've never had an interest in surfing, scuba diving, or even swimming far out into the deep, blue sea.  On the contrary, I have been quite content to enjoy the water, with all its glory, safely from a distance.

So, how was I to respond when our friends, who happen to love being out on a boat, out on the open water, invited us to join them this past week at Lake Lanier? 

Yes, I know the difference between salt water creatures and fresh water creatures.  In my head, I know there are no great white sharks lurking in Lake Lanier.  But what about snakes, giant fish, or even alligators?  Hmm. 

I was faced with a dilemma.  Do I go with them or do I stay home?  Do I get in the boat, face my fears and try something new?  Or do I avoid the boat, stay afraid and refuse to accept the challenge of enlarging my experiences?

In this case, I chose to be brave.  I chose to suck up my fears for the sake of having fun and spending time with friends.  And I did have fun.  Lots of it. 

Not only did I get into the boat, but later in the trip, I even got out of the boat.  I jumped in the water and swam around with my daughters, out in open water. 

And even more surprisingly, I tried kneeboarding for the very first time.  Imagine that.

Being pulled around behind a speeding boat, out in open water.  Then after letting go, waiting for the boat, out in open water, to return to pick you up. Talk about getting over my fear of open water! 

Will I do it again?  Absolutely.  Why? 

Because, thanks to the Lord and some encouraging friends, I've discovered that going out into the deep, open water is much more fulfilling than only observing from a distance or simply staying where it's shallow. 

Peachtree - Take Two!

Running Georgia's very own Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10K in the world, has become one of our newest and most favorite traditions.  We love the thrill of running down the streets of Atlanta, on our nation's birthday, with thousands and thousands of other participants, all striving toward the same goal. 

It's unifying.  It's exhilarating.  It's challenging.  It's fun. 

We cannot wait until our girls have the opportunity to run the race with us sometime in the future.  Until then, we'll cherish running this race together, year after year after year.
Before the race began...
Waiting in a LONG line to use the Port-a-Potty. 
What can I say?  When you gotta go, you gotta go! 
Walking toward the starting line...
Group E is about to run!  Here we go!
The Peachtree is a GIANT race, so it needs a GIANT peach! 
Yay!  We are official finishers of the 2011 Peachtree Road Race! 
 Better yet--we shaved four minutes off last year's time! 
That's what you call, "picking up the pace!"
"Ran" into my friend, Farredeh, before/after the race. 
Considering there over 50,000 runners, that's quite the feat!
Proudly displaying our wearable trophies!
Until next year...

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