Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Baseball and Grasshoppers

My kids used to play baseball.  One of the things that always drove me nuts were the chanting, heckling, cheers of the teams at the batter.  "Hey, batter, batter batter, batter, swing!" there were many more, mostly insulting or distracting intended to cause the batter to lose focus and blow his chance at the plate.  Those kids weren't chanting because they were the stronger team, they weren't chanting because they were the better team, they were chanting because they were determined to use anything, even pointless, annoying, urgent heckling to distract the batter from accomplishing the goal before him.

Moses had a group of people following him, he led them out of Egypt and up to the edge of the promised land.  Here stood this group of Moses followers.  Think about what they had just witnessed.  Plagues, the Angel of Death passing by their homes, the Red Sea parted so that they could cross on dry land, and Egypt's Army, the superpower of the ancient world, destroyed!  How could they have come through all of that and still have any doubts about God's provision?  Yet Moses was surrounded by an enemy chanting far worse than 'Hey batter batter batter batter...."

His enemy said "You can't do it!"  "You'll fail" "You'll be destroyed"  "No one will follow you!"  "You'd better be careful!"  and he chanted it so convincingly that Moses' own team started chanting with him...

 Numbers 13:25- 33
After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land.  This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.  But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”
But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!”  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge.  We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

Can you imagine a player's own team chanting against him?

Here are the Israelites, after all God has done, reporting to the community how they are afraid of the 'Giants' living in the land.  The word 'Anak' translates into 'no-neck' it was the land of the no-neck body builder types! I don't blame them for feeling outmatched.  Satan is like a roaring lion, who wants to meet that? But I do wonder how they could so easily dismiss God's provision?

What did they tell themselves? It was just a coincidence the rivers turning to blood.... all those first born kids dying like that. and the Red Sea really isn't all that deep....      I am joking, but I sincerely wonder how they talked themselves out of God's blessings for them?  Only one man - only Caleb speaks up to say 'God can do it, let's GO!'

Everyone else, everyone, says it's too hard!

It's the next part of the story that really gets me. The Israelites, the ones who are God's people, the chosen ones, favored, blessed beyond measure ones, yeah - they decide that rather than walk forward, they will go out among the people and "spread a bad report"  Not only did they harm themselves with their inability to trust the Lord, but they also hurt their friends and neighbors. 

They exaggerated the truth, they forgot God's favor, they spread nasty gossip to their neighbors, why?
Because " Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

They saw the problems and not the promise!  They embrace the barrier and not God's bounty!  They hang on to the heartache instead of looking for the healing! They see themselves as grasshoppers, lowly, incapable, and they assume that the enemy sees them that way too!

But the truth is quite the opposite.  Those kids chanting, heckling the batter don't see them as a failure, as weak and puny and insignificant - NO - they see them as a threat!
No one heckles the bat boy!  No one chants at the last kid on the line up, the scrawny kid, the kid that always strikes out - no, they chant for the kids that will get on base. and they heckle the loudest and the longest for the homerun hitter.

Rather than listen to the voices of the hecklers, I would encourage you to listen to the voice of your Heavenly Father, and take captive those chanting chumps!

 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)  "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 

Most often, when we fall prey to the hecklers, it is when we start defending their position for them. "that's what they thought too!"  Rather than giving a voice to the enemy, we need to spend our time taking those thoughts, and chanters, captive and making them obedient to Christ. 

We all come to places in our lives where we have a choice.  Are we going to surrender to the hecklers before we even get our chance at the plate, or are we going to tune them out - tune into the Lord's direction and swing for the fences?  My God is faithful.  He has walked me through fire and suffering unharmed.  He has protected my family and children from days of disaster. He has refreshed and renewed my soul. 

I'm with Caleb - let's go at once! Let's swing for the fences!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hard stops for prayer

Its morning, but just barely. I've been sick, the kids are sick, even the dog is sick and nothing is going according to plan. Science Fair is next week, Mason needed to finish his writing, I need to grade Mac's math, Marshal had a rough week with a friend and the weekend is here already and will be gone before we blink. Today is a big day, band contest, presentation tonight, and I really don't want to get out of bed, but, I do.
Get dressed, make a plan for the day that is half over already, feel like a failure, struggle and then struggle some more, feeling anxious and moody and hormonal....

Hard stops for prayer (a tip from Ann Voskamp) I hear it in my mind before I pull out of the driveway, I'm alone in the car and I stop. I stop rushing, I step out of the swirling current of life for a minute to pray.

Lord, so much to do today, please grant me strength, please give me peace, please organize this mess! I'm inadequate to this task today, please take it. 

Back on the accelerator, driving to complete the errands that need to be completed, bank, haircuts, license bureau, meet Drason and he takes the boys and I have 1\2 an hour to relax and breathe and get my hair done....

I must look frightful, they assign me to a nice lady, about my age, near the back. She has a kind smile.

'You look nice, are you going anywhere special?'

She washes my hair and muscles unwind and I tell her my plans.
'You homeschooling? Me too!' She says as we chat...

We exchange stories and I learn that her daughter is a little older than my son and will be a senior next year. We talk about tonights event and how useful it might be for her daughter. She smiles and says she gets off work at 5 but she might try to come. I hand her a card, write directions on the back, and leave with my hair looking much better and my heart feeling lighter.

Her service lifts my burden, her care, her willing ear, the easy conversation, it comforts.

I meet Drason, we grab dinner before the presentation.  Its busy, there are lots of personalities, but when the evening draws to a close it is a success, and I am joyful and relieved.  Then the woman with a kind smile walks over to me and says 'Hi, I made it tonight!' It takes me a moment to recognize her, but then we laugh and embrace like old friends.
Today, my almost too tired, frazzled, busy day, ends with a sense of serendipity, coming full circle, and seeing how even my most inadequate state of being is upheld, guided, directed, and blessed by my heavenly Father.

Hard stops for prayer. 

Thank you Lord for peace, and strength, and organization. Thank you for guiding my paths, thank you for using me as your vessel. Thank you for blessing me beyond anything I could ask or imagine. Thank you for your goodness to me.