Sometimes I’m Overcome

Sometimes I am overcome by the mercy of God.  Other times, I am a moron. 

A few days ago I was tired when I came home to my AWESOME family.  My hyper-active two year old wanted to play outside and my wife looked like she could use some house time, so I took Julia outside (she’s not really hyper-active and I always feel like the hero when I get to do these kinds of things). 

She bounced and giggled.  My feet hurt.  She told me to swing her, then scolded me for swinging her too high.  “No, Daddy!  I don’t like higher!”  I had a slight head ache.  She pushed her little puppy down the slide and then tried to make me go down it.  (The physical properties of her plastic play slide cannot withstand the 215 pounds of Daddy.)  I was annoyed.  She then wanted to see the horses…  so we walked down and watched our neighbor practicing roping with his horses.  She wanted to see the bull and the donkey, so we walked the other direction to see the donkey.  I wasn’t wearing shoes that were good for walking… my feet hurt more.  I was tired, remember?  So when she wanted to go swing again, I told her, “Daddy’s tired, let’s go inside and get some tea.”  She threw a minor fit, but acquiesced quite quickly to the change in plan.  As I walked her into the house I was feeling tired and a little frustrated that I had not sat down to breathe, so I began to complain to God in my head. 

“Lord, I’m so tired!  Can’t you just calm her down for a few moments and make her play by herself!?  And why is her nap between 1 and 4!?  While I’m at work!?  And I know I’m going to have to cook dinner tonight!?  And my wife is tired!?  Why did You wake me up last night!?  I know it was You!  You woke me up and said nothing!” 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone on the street… when I saw him a pain hit my chest and I realized, I was being a moron.  I don’t know if he was real, or if God just let me imagine him.  The strained and haggard look on his face rocked me at my core.  I watched as the man was struggling to move his wheel chair down the street.  He clearly had one bad hand and was carrying some groceries home from the local grocery store. 

It suddenly occurred to me: I can walk.  All this time, I’d been able to walk and pick up my daughter.  We played in a yard that I own, on a swing that I was able to hang between two trees that are mine.  We played on a slide that I own, in the back yard of my house… that I own.  I’d led her about 50 yards down the street to watch the horses and then back 70 yards to see the big long horn bull and donkey!  Who else lives next door to a veritable free zoo!?  (Seriously, occasionally there are peacocks, raccoons, armadillos, and other odd creatures around our house. And we live two blocks from a grocery store and ten minutes from the mall!) 

When God woke me up the night before, I had not tried to listen.  I did not take out my Bible, I did not pray, didn’t even ask Him to help me go back to sleep.  In frustration I rolled over muttering something about needing more sleep.  In my selfish state, I had missed out on all the joy that was lavished on me.

I think this describes me more often then not.  I am a man who God lavishes mercy on and most of the time I don’t even notice.  We should always be overcome by His mercy.

I remember a story a missionary told me once.  He said he had been robbed while in an African country and they had taken his shoes.  The ground was mostly dirt and rock roads and shoes were a necessary commodity for him.  He began to complain to God about the shoes.  He didn’t realize he was complaining out loud when he passed a beggar who yelled, “at least you still have feet!”  He spun around in anger ready to berate this arrogant buffoon who would dare to speak to him this way!  Then he saw the beggar… he had no feet.  Holding his cup up, he said, “at least you have your feet.”  My missionary friend put some money in the cup and walked on… ashamed. 

I walked inside and my wife had prepared dinner.  I still have my feet.

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Texas Sky

Last night I was finishing up some yard work.  The air was crisp and the sky was just darkening.  It was a rare opportunity in Texas to feel a slight chill while surrounded by the grey sky.  I felt that odd surge of energy that people get when you think of something deep while you’re working with your hands.  In that moment you feel as though you could crush a rock with your bare hands and could climb a mountain.  Most men feel this just after watching Braveheart, Gladiator, or somthing of the like.  It was at that moment I looked up at the sky. 

If you’ve never seen it, the sky in Texas is a massive canopy over the earth.  It is massive because Texas is flat… like a pancake.  (albeit a burnt pancake.) There are also very few trees to obscure the view of the sky.  So as I said, I had this surge of energy then I looked up and was oddly reminded that of tremendous power mingled with tremendous weakness.  I looked over my shoulder and saw my two year old playing with my wife in the window.  With remarkable clarity I suddenly realized the frailty of our lives.  So much held together by so little. 

I stood for a moment watching my beautiful bride and our two year old daughter concentrating on the new toy.  I recognized that there is nothing I would not do for my girls.  At the same time, I can do nothing for them that really matters.  I am subject to the master of this great sky. 

I went back to my weeding, reminded that God has given us the responsibility of tending the ground.  It is not ours to grow, but to tend… to plant… to water.  God grows.  The clouds come and go… the sky remains.  So I surrender to the master of the sky. 

When I finished my work, I walked to the window.  Julia was still playing with some sort of toy that sticks on the window.  I leaned in to where I was about a foot from her face.  I got directly in her line of sight, no recognition from her.  I lightly tapped the window, careful not to startle her… nothing.  I waved and moved my face in her direct line of vision.  She was so engrossed in her toy, she never even saw me. 

I wonder…  how many times I have failed to see the sky?  What about the Master of it?

The Plane Ride Home

I was wearing my derby hat and had a red sweater as I carried my two year old onto the plane.  We passed the flight attendants, smiled cordially in that odd recognition that we would never see them again after 4 hours in this winged airborne tube.  We followed mommy who was going to choose our seats.  I must have been carrying 2 or 300 bags because I remember hitting every person in an aisle seat at least twice.  (I think airlines designed the rows that way on purpose!  You ever notice you can’t walk down that aisle without hitting every person with your backpack!) 

When we found our row, Julia climbed into her seat with Steph’s help and I began unloading our pack mule.  (Disclaimer: we didn’t really have a pack mule, those aren’t allowed on planes.)  I settled into my seat and tried to push back my anxiousness while helping adjust Julia. 

We spent the obligatory 4 hours waiting to push away from the gate. (Maybe it was only 20 minutes, but what are you going to do!?) Then we taxied away from the gate and took off. 

Now let me just get a few things out of the way: 1- 2 tons of metal is not supposed to fly. 2- I don’t care about torque and the necessity of flexibility, I’d feel better if the wings did not bounce! 3- I know God is Sovereign, that is precisely why I hate planes, because if He decides I go home, then we go down in a blaze of not so glorious metal death trap.  4- Nasty peanuts and 2 ounces of coca-cola do not help!  5- What’s to point of fastening my seat belt if we’re being hurled through the air anyway!?  6- I am pretty sure planes were invented by the devil.  7- pilots are incredible men who do miraculous work, but… we are in a 2 ton metal tube…  really!?  8- Can the two skinny metal rods attached to your chair rightly be called “arm rests?”

So, I have flight anxiety (not a medical term, I just made it up).  For about a week before we fly I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels like I’m not sick, but I’m gonna throw up.  I have two daughters (Julia-2 and Elliana- 4 months).  So being a dad, I have to be more concerned with their comfort than my own. I try to hide my anxiety and suppress my urge to squeeze the “arm rests.”  I smile, talk softly, laugh, sing, occasionally look at my wife with that face that says, “you gotta handle this without me for a minute.”  (Just a note: My wife is awesome and takes care of EVERYTHING.) 

I knew this flight would be bumpy…  I checked the turbulence forecast that morning.  I was prepared to deal with it.  I was not prepared for what God wanted to teach me.

As the plane began to feel the effects of turbulence, my two year old began to repeat a phrase: “I don’t like this…  This scares me.”  She didn’t scream or throw a fit, it was just a slightly panicked phrase she repeated at a reasonable tone.  I could see the panic growing in her as I realized, she has her daddy’s anxiety. 

I reached over and took her hand.  She repeated her refrain.  The turbulence got worse. 

 I pulled her close and held her tight.  She repeated her refrain. The turbulence got worse. 

 I kissed her head and told her, “its ok, daddy’s got you.”  She repeated her refrain.  The captain turned on that stupid seat belt sign.  The turbulence got worse. 

 And so on and so on.  No matter what I did, I could not calm my child.  I began to weep, hiding my face from anyone who may see, as my I-Pod played a song:

 O Great God,

blessed Redeemer,

Merciful Savior You are

 O Great God,

King of creation,

Hope of the nations You are

 I knew the anxiety…  I knew there is no cure…  I knew my daughter would just have to wait in her daddy’s arms until it was over.  I knew I could do nothing to help… she would just have to outlast the turbulence.

 God seemed to whisper to me, “I hold you like this all the time.”  To think, God knows our every anxiety and pain, and not like someone who just knows about them…  He has felt them.  He created them.  He has been through more heartbreaking turbulence than you and I could imagine.  He knows.  He weeps to see us have to ride it out, and He holds us while we do.

 After the flight we stood up to gather our things and Julia said, “This is a big cave.  Where’s Grandma?”