#20: You Shall Know Them by Their Fruits: “I Thirst.”

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Every detail of the gospel is important, so why is it mentioned that, when Jesus was thirsty, He was given sour wine? It’s unusual, isn’t it?  He was suffocating; why was His mind on thirst? And why did the Romans have sour wine there?

Jesus said “You’ll know them by their fruits. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a bad tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18)

Where does wine come from? Grapes. What are grapes? Fruit. Jesus sipped the wine of bad fruit–the wine of sin! Scripture says that when He tasted it, He said, “It is finished.” He ingested sin. Mine. Yours. The sins of those before Him. The sins of those yet to be born.

And most churches practice communion once a month, and we drink sweet, tangy grape juice–the closest alcohol-free beverage to wine. We drink the good-tasting symbolism of His blood that cleansed us of our sin, and He drank the caustic representation of our filth.

#19: Hiding From God

The other day our oldest child, Chloe, was playing in the dining room while I was scrubbing dishes. She loves to play with the blinds on the sliding glass door. However, her parents–who don’t want to pay out the nose to replace the casualties of a toddler’s fun time–aren’t too fond of her love for destruction blinds.

She’s holding a blind in one hand, watching me for a reaction. I shook my head with an I-love-you-but-I-don’t-want-you-doing-that smile and calmly said, “No, Chloe, I don’t want you playing with blinds.”

What does she do? She lets go, squats down out of sight behind her sister’s playpen, and grabs it again.

My first thought was “Wow. She’s smart.” (She’s only 23 months.) My second thought was that her cuteness was not a license to disobey.

I believe we raise our kids to obey their parents not for the sake of Mom and Dad, but so that they learn how to obey God. That’s a tall order to fill, but I’ve found one way to go about this is to treat my children how God treats me. So as I walked to my daughter, I thought about times God has told me to do or not do something, and I’ve deliberately disobeyed Him. He’s always gentle with me, and even when my decisions landed me in grave danger, He’s rescued me from harm and was still gentle with me. In other words, He extends grace. A lot.

So I did the same.

I walked over to Chloe and leaned over the playpen. In a quiet but firm voice, I said: Chloe, just because Mommy can’t see you doesn’t make it right to do what is wrong.

The look on her face? Guilt.

She turned and walked away from me. I got on one knee, opened my arms wide with a tender smile, and called her name. She peeked over her shoulder, wondering if she was in trouble. But when she saw my face, she froze.

“Come here,” I said.

She walked into my embrace. I kissed her hair and whispered in her ear. I don’t want you playing with the blinds, alright? and I followed with another kiss. It’s been a few days, and she hasn’t touched them at all.

Everything has a time and a place. There are occasions for timeouts. There are times to spend in their rooms. But there are also times for gentle correction.

I love how God treats us with grace so we never fear coming to Him, no matter what we’ve done. And I love that He taught me such an important lesson for every parent:

If my kids are scared of me, they’re going to run to somebody else for comfort–and there are plenty of hungry wolves in the world, waiting to devour my children.

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#18: Secrets

Child sex predators are known for using cliche lines to cover up their evil. They say things like:

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Make sure you don’t tell anyone about this. It’s our secret.”

“I’ll make you or someone you love  hurt if you tell.”

“I’ll kill you or someone you love if you tell anyone.”

Sometimes the word “secret” is directly used, and sometimes it’s implied.

Naturally, my husband and I took the word “secret” out of our family vocabulary. We’ve substituted it with the word “surprise.” So when we go shopping for presents, we’ll tell our girls, “Don’t tell Daddy/Mommy/ Sissy. It’s a surprise.”

“Surprise” means the person we’re keeping the knowledge from will know in the near future, and surprises are (hopefully) something that person will like. Surprises are fun and light.

Secrets, in contrast, are dark and heavy. Especially “secrets” that are forced upon a child by a perverted sex predator.

Child sex abuse happens far too often. (One incident is one too many.) It can happen to anyone, from pro-ball player R.A. Dickey to rap star Lecrae to the girl writing this post.

We are raising our kids to come to us whenever someone wants to share a “secret” with them. The day will come when they report a classmate who wants to share something cute and innocent, and then we’ll have another conversation about it. But at this age, I want them to know secrets are bad, and that secrets that might get someone hurt are the most important ones to share.

I got this idea from God Made All of Me.

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#17: Go Ahead and Do It.

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Most of us have heard the Adam and Eve story so many times we skim the details.

But the story of sin’s origin into the human race is critical to understanding the origin of sin in our own lives.

In Genesis 2 God tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if he does, he will die.

One chapter, one mate, and one serpent later, he’s chowing on the fruit. What happened?

When the serpent talked with Eve, she told him what the rules were–even adding in that she couldn’t touch the fruit.

But the serpent responds: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Why Eve took a bite is for another day, but this post is about Adam.

Eve takes some of the fruit to Adam. He sees that she had eaten some and wasn’t dead. He likely doubted that God had spoken the truth, so he gave in and ate some, too.

And this is how the enemy gets us (or at least me): He says, “That (insert sin here) won’t offend God. Look at her; she’s getting away with it. So is he. And him, too. Nothing’s happening to them.”

Yet.

He caters to our impatience, and we forget that crucial and implied-but-left-out yet.

When God says there will be a consequence for something, sometimes it won’t happen immediately. In fact, consequences often take a while to come to fruition.

God wants what’s best for you, so don’t look at others who seem happy in their sin hoping for a free pass.

Don’t. Touch. The. Fruit.

#16: Cause and Effect

Preface: We are not responsible for anyone else’s salvation; however, in light of the Great Commission, I can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening in churches, Bible studies, cell groups, and church gatherings across the nation.

In the last few years, I have spoken to a number of people who are not Christian, and they have valid complaints for why they don’t believe. Their complaints are us.

Some have said, “All Christians do is bicker about stupid stuff, like whether or not tattoos and rock music are evil, and how much wine people can drink. Why would I join that for fun?” Others have said, “Churches are full of cliques. I visited a couple, but no one said hi or even noticed me because they were too busy in their circles.” Another person said she was judged. “Every word I said was critiqued. They analyzed everything I did. When I didn’t change how they wanted me to, they made it obvious they didn’t want me around anymore.” Another man said, “I used to believe, until my church found out I’m divorced and kicked me out.”

Please, nobody comment with the cliche, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” because this post isn’t about them. It’s about us.

We are the problem, not our church’s outreach team. Not our shortage of missionaries. Not our church’s lack of frozen mochas or child care.

We have fish bumper stickers and cut people off. We nitpick petty matters in public view, when some debates belong behind closed doors. We ignore new comers in favor of familiar faces. Some of those visitors never attend church again because of how we’ve mistreated them. And because of that, some people never find salvation because no one’s there to show them Jesus. We judge people instead of loving them.

Sanctification is a life-long process. Everyone is dealing with sin in their lives, but–for some reason–we act as if the Holy Spirit isn’t doing His job anymore and certain sins must be criticized by us and/or are too big to be forgiven.

We are supposed to be a cause for Christ, but instead we’re the cause of strife.

Analyze yourself. Are you a Christian or a Pharisee? Are you really a follower of Christ, or are you lukewarm water?

I have failed Jesus and other people a lot. And again, we are not responsible for anyone else’s salvation. But we are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, and we tend to turn our neighbors away from the faith as soon as we walk out the front door.

How many of you have prayed to God almighty to show Himself to someone and undo what damage had been done by you or another  believer who poorly reflected Jesus’ character and set a bad example? Isn’t it an awful feeling?

Some of you may be thinking this right now:

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While this is true, it’s not a get out of jail free card. Jesus Himself asked us to represent Him to the world, and one day we will all stand before Him and give an account of every action and every word.

God is faithful and true. We should be, too.

#15: Real-Life Parenting

It all started when I forgot the sunscreen. But in order to put this story in its proper context,  I need to start with Tuesday.

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Tuesday morning I had to take care of a $900 bill we don’t owe. Company A wants their moolah, and Company B keeps saying they’ll pay it after I fill out my 768th form, sign document #5,112, and call for the 118th time to update my information since their “system” conveniently keeps glitching and losing information just before pay-out time comes. Since both companies have bigger communication problems than Apollo 11 and NASA, I’m trying to fill the gap between the two before disaster strikes.

So Tuesday morning,  I’m preparing to drive to Company B. As soon as my feet touch the porch, it hits. That feeling in my gut that something isn’t going to go right.

Should I stay home,  God?

He didn’t say, so I decided to act before I heard Aerosmith’s Don’t Want to Miss a Thing playing in the background.

I get there and see three receptionists free and next to no other patrons, so I think, Hey, I might not be in here long after all.

I should’ve known that the receptionists’ rate of speed is directly proportionate to the number of clients on hand (think supply and demand), so only one receptionist is actively helping others, and she’s waiting 10-15 minutes after a client leaves to call the next one up.

At least I packed my art supplies. I got some hand lettering done.

I finally get help, and she needs something I wasn’t expecting. (Again with their “system” glitching.) She tells me she’ll call me that night, and I know she won’t, because–again–I am coordinating between Apollo and NASA.

The rest of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday goes bumpy. Company B still hasn’t called, my husband and I both got sick (who gets sick in June?!?), and I’ve got a pulled or torn hamstring (which really isn’t good when I remind everyone I have two kids under two). Also, I have numerous friends who want to get together, but I’m stuck at home because between working 50 hours a week, getting hurt, and having a cold, my husband hasn’t been able to switch our tires on one car to summer tires. I haven’t been able to, either, for the same reasons. It’s okay, we think. We’ll just keep that car at home so we don’t get a huge ticket for having studded tires on in June. (I don’t know how much, but I’ve heard it’s $10 PER stud.) We’ll have time to switch the tires next week.

Then Friday happened.

I was feeling blue, and I knew some time out in the sun would fix me up. So I took the kids out with me.

I was feeling great, until I realized I forgot the sunscreen. I noticed Chloe’s skin turning red and knew I had to get her in right away. She didn’t want to go inside, so–like any reasonable almost-two-year-old–she threw a tantrum.

And hurt herself.

I pick her up and rush her inside. I know she’s hurting badly by her behavior,  so I call our doctor. His assistant tells me what probably happened and that I need to get Chloe there right away before the doctor leaves  for the weekend.  I look at the clock. It’s  3:38 Friday afternoon. We live about 20 miles away, and over five of those miles are construction. (Welcome to Alaska.)

Realizing how short time is, I throw everyone in the car. I call Matt at work and tell him what’s going on as I’m running a screaming toddler and a confused infant to the car, while grabbing my purse and trying to remember where I put my keys in the chaos of it all.

I didn’t have time to change, and I realize I left the house in leggings. Being modest, I don’t do that kind of thing. Thankfully,  there was a sweater in the passenger seat, so I tied it around my waist at a red light (without taking off my seatbelt!). As I’m tying it, I realize I’ve sweat through my deodorant, and my pits are soaked. My hair is in the non-stylish messy bun, and I’m trying to rub something annoying out of my eye as I drive down the one-lane  “highway” caught behind someone who’s going 10 miles below the speed limit. (Another common Alaskan scenario).

Sweaty pits, dirty face, ratty hair, and an injured toddler in the backseat at the eleventh hour before the weekend, I really don’t want a police officer to catch my studded tires and pull me over. I felt like a felon the second I heard myself say, “Lord, please keep the cops away from me.”

Matt’s in the doctor’s parking lot and comes to help unpack the girls while I run inside and check Chloe in before the doctor leaves. I come running into the office, getting strange looks because it’s a hot sunny day and here I am in a long-sleeve shirt, long leggings, with a sweater tied around my waist checking in an imaginary child. That’s right; I was the Hot Mess Mom on Friday.

And the kicker: After the doctor has Chloe all better, I get back in the car and smack my forehead when I see that Company B called while I was in the doctor’s office and couldn’t answer. And they didn’t leave a message.

This whole ordeal was a fairly gentle reminder to triple-layer my deodorant and get dressed in jeans every morning because with toddlers, I just never know.

But, since my blog is about Jesus,  not Degree or Levi’s, I have to tie Christ into this somehow. I was wondering how to accomplish this goal all the way home from the chaos. (Which was a long time since construction was backed up for two miles and then someone ran a red light and almost hit me, then pulled in front me and drove below the speed limit. On a side note, this blog is going to kill Alaska’s tourism industry.)

So I’m thinking about Jesus most of the way home, and it hit me: How many times have I hurt myself by resisting God? Chloe wouldn’t have been hurt if she hadn’t thrown a tantrum. How many times has the Lord sweetly told me the way to go, and I’ve been too scared, too selfish, or too tempted to obey Him? I was telling Chloe to go inside to protect her skin, and when God lovingly tells me to do (or not to do) something, He is looking out for my best interest.

Another wonderful thing about God: When I resist Him and go the wrong way, He is there when things blow up in my face. The second I cry out in pain, He sweeps me up, comforts me, and gets me on the path to fixing me up. He doesn’t say “I told you so,” or, “Well, you got yourself in this mess, get yourself out.” Instead, He gives me mercy, love, comfort, and grace in my self-afflicted pain (that could’ve been avoided if only I’d obeyed Him).

Do I still pay a price when I disobey Him? Yes. Chloe missed out on hours of playtime. She experienced pain. She was scared when the doctor fixed her. But she also gained valuable treasures: She realized how much I care for her and how much I can be trusted. As soon as she felt better, she melted on my lap and gave me the biggest, sweetest hug. And I loved her in such a tender way at that time.

We lose opportunities when we resist the Lord’s will. We experience pain and fear. But we also learn how faithful God is, and God, like a good father, loves us tenderly and in a special way when we hurt.

#14: Creativity and Split Personalities

I didn’t know I was an artist until months ago. I’ve been writing my whole life (fiction for half a decade), but after years of being told I wasn’t any good at art (What 5-year-old paints like Vincent Van Gogh?!), I was pretty shocked when God told me in November to start hand lettering.

The first thing I did was Google “What is hand lettering?” because I had no idea. Upon seeing the results, I thought to myself: Was that really God? I’m pretty sure He knows I’m not an artist. That night, the Holy Spirit woke me up: It was Me you heard, and here’s your first project. He gave me a picture of a canvas piece to make for my best friend for Christmas. I made it, and the lettering turned out beautiful. Turns out I can hand letter! 🙂

But I write this to say it’s tricky switching hats between being a writer and an artist. If a stranger walked into our office,  they’d think I have split personalities: My art desk is covered in beautiful paintings and intricately woven, hand lettered Bible verses, and my writing desk is covered in chicken-scratch notes about murder, WMDs, vandalism, fighting techniques, and various weapons. (I was waiting for a knock on the door from the FBI when I was researching lethal homemade gasses.) Sometimes it’s soothing to listen to podcasts while making art, but when writing, all the yapping can really mess up how you read the words.

Being that I’m a parent, I guzzle coffee as soon as my last child is down for the night. (Don’t worry: I pop melatonin a few hours later and still konk out.) I’m used to drinking coffee whenever I work, but–being an artist–I now have to take certain precautions that I hadn’t thought about before. Like last night. I was flicking paint on a project, and noticed that specks travelled a lot farther than they had in the past. I wiped them off the areas they weren’t supposed to be and didn’t think much of it . . . Until I reached for my go-go juice. Before the glass reached my lips, I panicked and lowered it to check for specks of white on a sea of brown.Yes, I’ll take my iced chocolate mocha with a side of paint, please. Glossy finish. Matte’s a little hard on the throat. Thankfully, it was clean. The paint says it’s non-toxic, and I think maybe an artist found that out the hard way. 🙂

(P.S. The picture shown was my second hand lettering project, and my first using watercolor. There are areas to improve, and that’s what makes creativity fun!)

(P.S.S. It should go without saying, but please don’t steal my work!)

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