What This Silent Wooden Wiseman is Saying…

Wise-Men-are-Not-Always-Silent

Early in our marriage, Scott and I received a small, hand-carved nativity set made of olive wood from friends who brought it back from their travels.  It has moved across the country with us, survived little hands arranging the pieces over and over again, year after year. By some miracle all of the pieces are still together more than 20 years later.

_MG_9736A few months ago, I moved some furniture while cleaning and found a stray Wiseman that didn’t make it back into the Christmas boxes when we packed them up for storage. At first I tucked the little guy into a jar where I had corralled several other stray items before delivering them to their proper locations around the house.  He looked so out of place among the lost rubber bands and random trinkets. But there was no way I was crawling up into the attic to put him away.

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Yesterday I found him on top of the refrigerator. I picked him up to move him and, as I felt him in my hands, I couldn’t ignore all that this little wooden figure represents.

Just a silent piece of wood, carved into the rough form of a tiny Wiseman; yet he is part of a far bigger Story. One that altered the course of history. This piece of wood is part of that Story because, centuries ago, someone showed up far from home because he believed in something – Someone – even bigger than all his wisdom, or experience, or knowledge. That Story, told from generation to generation, is our greatest hope. Such hope, in fact, that even this lost little wooden man can help tell it.

In other words, this wooden man and I have a lot in common.

All my so-called wisdom, and even my most well-honed abilities, pale in comparison to what happens if I’ll just simply BE part of the Story. Only then can more-able-Hands put me exactly where I’m needed, so hope can shine into unlikely places.

I’m going to keep this silent little Wiseman out where I can see him; where I can remember that, whether my life, or talents, are on display for others to see or I’m all alone just being who I am, the Story is good and I am part of it. All day, everyday.

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Be Still and Know.

Yesterday, my son and his friends had rehearsed most of the afternoon preparing to lead worship for our church today.  The adult worship leaders were all out of town this weekend, so Jackson, Drew, Laekin, Shane and Scott had been called up from their usual place leading worship for student ministries to play for the main services. And they were ready.

Several of the band members and their friends decided to have a movie night at our house, so I was making popcorn for them when I got a text message saying Shane and his girlfriend, Cassidy, had been in a very serious car accident. At that moment, a flood of calls and text messages made very clear the fact that this was more than a fender bender. Cassidy had been trapped in the car and, after a “jaws of life” helped paramedics get to her, she was life-lined to one hospital while Shane was taken to another hospital by ambulance.   Two of my kids’ dearest friends were in danger.

Groups of friends, parents and church members immediately began to flood each of the hospitals to offer support, prayer, drive-thru burgers, someone even thought to bring a phone charger, which was utilized almost constantly during the hours that followed. Calls and texts were exchanged between each hospital with updates.

Over the course of the evening we learned that Shane suffered a concussion, a shoulder injury, and a bruise on his brain, along scrapes on his face from the airbag.  He had no broken bones and was alert and able to have visitors. But there was no way he would be playing drums in the morning.

Cassidy did not fair quite as well, but we were relieved to learn that her injuries were not life-threatening. She had broken ribs, cracks in her pelvis, a severe concussion and a collapsed lung.  Friends went back in twos to quietly check in with her, but she was hurting and groggy.  Late in the evening, Shane’s dad revealed a photo he had received of the car and suddenly we fully realized the miracle we were witnessing – that they were alive.

By the time visiting hours were over, Jackson had gone from, “There is no way we can sing tomorrow,” to  “It’s going to be really hard but I think we need to do it.”  Fortunately, our student ministry is blessed with more than one great drummer, so Josh was called in and the band would meet at 7:15 this morning to get ready for the service.

None of us slept much.  But at 7:15 this morning, I began to see a group of exhausted, concerned teenagers learn first-hand what it means to see Christ’s strength made perfect in their weakness.  While two of their dearest friends in this world lied in beds at two separate hospitals, they led people more than twice their age into the very Presence of Deity.  Their raw emotions and weary minds miraculously did not get in the way of what they were there to do, which was worship the God who had graciously spared the lives of people they love.  Their gratitude was contagious. And the place was bathed in His Spirit.

After the services were over, they formed a huge circle (pictured above) to thank God and to pray for continued healing for Shane and Cassidy.  When teenagers poured into our house for lunch, last night’s uneaten popcorn was still sitting on the counter as a quiet reminder of just how quickly things can change from fun and laughter to somber reflection on life’s fragility.

Shane was released from the hospital this morning and immediately went to see Cassidy.  Their friends all piled into cars after lunch, along with our amazing new youth pastor and his wife, to join them.  As they left I gave a gentle reminder to drive carefully and watch for other drivers.  No one argued.

I must tell you that the tragedy of this weekend – of seeing these precious kids and their families hurting – has somehow morphed into one of the most beautiful sides of the church I have ever seen. I have seen the church from the inside out throughout my life. I have seen its ugliest sides.  I have been dangerously close to cynicism at times.  But today, I saw Jesus.  His hands and feet – even adolescent hands and feet – serving with strength, grace and humility.  I needed to see that.  And I needed to be reminded that we can trust him with the full weight of our cares, our questions, our fears and even our weakness.

He.  Is.  Here.   He was in that car with those sweet kids.  He was in their rooms late into the night when all was quiet and the questions inevitably rolled around in their heads.  He was in their friends’ music this morning.  He will continue to be in the moments yet to come.

The following is a portion of the lyric from the last song the kids sang this morning, entitled, “Still.”  It’s a perfect reminder for us today, and every day.

Find rest my soul In Christ alone

Know his power in quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with you above the storm

Father you are king over the flood

I will be still and know you are God

Re-post: “Busymess” Truths for the Long Haul

I used to think being busy was a badge of honor that announced, “Hey, everyone, look at how important I am. At this rate I might just become irreplaceable… invincible, even!”

It sounds so silly and embarrassing now that I’ve learned just how ineffective I became when I tried to carry too much.

The workaholic mentality deceives us with promises of feeling awesome and esteemed… and, of course, with hopes of success. But years of constant busyness, late nights, overcommitment, I’ll admit some resentment, and a constant awareness of my own unmet expectations did not give me nearly the satisfaction I had hoped.  Instead, overcommitment and constant busyness succeeded only in making my life a busy mess and placed a wall between me and what I needed most.

I eventually came to 3 important realizations (and just so you know, these apply to you, too)…

1. I am not important.  Each human life is valuable beyond measure. But mine is no more valuable than another. Human value doesn’t lie in the amount of “stuff” we take on or how many people know our names. Realizing I am not important freed me to effectively deal with the overcommitment and helped me approach life with a more healthy mindset.

2. I am not irreplaceable. Pride is ugly, and I hate to admit that there are many, many people in this world who may be better suited to carry a number of the responsibilities I have tried to shoulder alone. But eventually, coming to grips with this fact brought tremendous relief and freed me to reorganize my life without the pressure of my own unrealistic expectations.

3. I am not invincible. I used to tell myself (and others) that I didn’t need as much sleep as other people, or as much food and water, or exercise, or encouragement… the list goes on. I really had myself convinced that I didn’t need all the nurturing that others need in order to spin all my overly full plates. The reality is, I need all that and more because I am human. Humans need refueling. We need ebb and flow… balance… input… and a realistic awareness that we are not superheroes. This reality does not mean we lack drive or determination.  In fact, the opposite is true. Being effective for the long haul means making intentional decisions so we don’t fizzle out… pacing ourselves so we don’t burn out.

Each moment of life is truly a gift. Moments only come to us one at a time. Some call for us to work hard and produce great stuff. Others offer us the chance to refuel. But they don’t always introduce themselves or wear badges that say, “I’m your moment to breathe and refocus.” Prayerfully consider how your moments are best spent in the grand scheme of things. You may be surprised with just how life-saving, success-building and relationship-strengthening your moments can be when they aren’t all about you. Trust me, I’ve tried it both ways.

Anyone out there in the middle of a busy mess?  Or perhaps you’ve learned some things about life balance you can add below in the comments?  I so love hearing from you.

Relax and Go With It

You know when you walk out into a storm and tense up every muscle in your body trying to resist the beating wind and stinging precipitation? And you know how you inevitably drop your keys in a puddle or dump your bag upside-down because you were trying to rush through it? Yeah, me too.

I always think fighting the storm with every ounce of my energy will some how keep it from getting to me. Or I try to run through it as fast as possible, thinking that will somehow make it less bothersome. But it doesn’t work. Fighting it just makes me tense and clumsy. And I still get wet and wind-blown!

Guess what. The exact same fact is true when challenges blow into our lives and send us running for cover. Somewhere during the past few years, I’ve realized how completely out of control I am to make life’s difficult challenges go away.  So, out of necessity, I decided to relax and stop fighting it — just to slow down and see what I needed to learn about myself. Eventually, the sun started to peek through again.

There are still clouds that come in and out, mind you. But now that my family is starting to see a little break in our storm, I see even more clearly God’s incredible care for us. We have witnessed Him reshaping our dreams, building our character and purifying our motives with all that proverbial wind and rain. It’s like He washes away our former expectations so He has a clean heart to work with.

We can’t wish storms away, but it feels surprisingly good to stop digging in our heels and trying to control it… just to relax and go with it.

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