Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Father's Heart

God is for us.

It’s a difficult concept to wrap my mind around, that the God of the Universe is on my side, that He’s cheering for me as I follow Him and seek to do His will. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to even imagine that God sees me, much less that He is FOR ME. I’m so small, and He is so big. But I read in Scripture that He is with me always, He abides with His people, and He is FOR US. I know that all Scripture is Truth, so God IS for me, whether I “feel it” or not. I knew this truth with my head, but not with my heart, until a few years ago when I saw a yellow shirt and it all clicked.

I’ve been blessed with parents who love The Lord. They both reflect Jesus in their unique ways and raised me to know Him. Of course they are not perfect, and I think they’re crazy half the time, but still I cannot speak highly enough of them. I see Christ in my Mom and Dad, and that is so rare.

I suck at sports. Therefore I was involved in many plays, choir concerts, Christmas pageants, etc. all throughout my childhood. As a teenager, I lead worship at my church, and it’s by God’s grace that I ever got such an opportunity!

There was one thing I could count on every single time I stepped on a stage, from my community theatre role as an orphan in Annie to leading worship for thousands at a church service. Somewhere in the crowd would be a yellow shirt and a man cheering me on with his embarrassing Dad-wave. You see, my Dad always wanted us to be able to spot him, so any time one of my sisters or I performed, we could count on Dad to be somewhere in the audience sporting the same bright yellow shirt. As a too-cool-for-school preteen, I never would have admitted it, but that yellow shirt always brought me so much peace. It was a nerve-wracking thing to step on stage and look out into an audience of people I didn’t know. My knees would shake and my hands would tremble, but as soon as I spotted that yellow shirt, and my mom sitting next to him, all was right. Even if I forgot my lines or my voice cracked, I knew that my parents were FOR ME. They were proud of me, and they were on my side. 

Today, when I’m afraid, when I step onto the stage of uncertainty, I look for the yellow shirt. When I get on a plane, not knowing when I’ll return, I spot out Jesus who is for me. I fix my eyes on the yellow shirt and give my best, knowing that My Father is right here with me, fighting for me. Though I’m surrounded by the unknown, there is one thing I can count on. Somewhere in the crowd is a man who is FOR ME. His name is Jesus. May this be an encouragement to you this Father’s Day, whether you’re celebrating your dad, mourning the loss of your dad, wishing you had a dad, or cursing your dad’s name. No matter your situation, you have a Father in Heaven who is wearing his bright yellow shirt today, cheering you on. He loves you and He is FOR YOU.

Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for fostering in me a spirit of adventure and raising me to “be a Brave Little Toaster.” Thank you for wearing your yellow shirt and teaching me Truth about Jesus by the very nature of who you are. Thank you for being FOR ME. I love you very much.

Friday, June 13, 2014

t r i b e

Some days I just breeze through, seeing but not really seeing. Hearing, but not hearing. I live through a day, but I don’t live through each moment. I look at yesterday as one big blur of grocery shopping and phone calls and to-do lists. But there are certain days when I’m fully awake, truly alive. I can tell you exactly what June 8th, 2014 felt like. My eyes were so wide that day. I can still hear the sound of the rain in the first few moments of my waking, and feel the way the chilly water of Lake Victoria splashed against my skin in waves as I baptized two of my closest friends.

I can tell you about dinner that evening, where my fish was so spicy that my lips were on fire. I can tell you about how I requested a Johnny Cash song, about the belly laughs and about the deep conversations we had over blueberry cheesecake. I feel a weight in my chest, one foot in front of the other, hand in hand, walking Emily to her flight at Entebbe International. The car ride home was silent, one less piece of toast to make at breakfast the following morning.

There are certain friendships that open wide my eyes, friendships that awaken my soul to soak in every ounce of sunshine, every last drop of African spiced tea, every rich word spoken. These people are treasures. They’ve been scattered throughout my lifetime, my sisters who were there before I can remember, my junior high best friend. They’re all over the world, working at a church in Louisiana, going to nursing school in Texas, teaching in Germany. God put many people in my path, and I’m very thankful for each friend I’ve made. But there are rare friendships that I absolutely know were sent from Jesus to me. These relationships seem somehow God-ordained. They’re beyond friends. These people are my tribe. 

I think God has been stirring up this concept of tribe-mates in my mind for a while. It began in a letter to my friend Presley. I didn’t have words for it then, but I could have just summed up the whole two pages by simply writing “Presley, you are my tribe.” 

I was reading in 1 Samuel this morning, and saw in David and Jonathan this concept of a tribe, of friends who are with each other, heart and soul. It reads

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. -1 Samuel 18:1 

God will give you many people to live out your days with, laugh with, share a few meals with. These are people who will come and go, here for a season, gone the next. But I’m starting to see that The Father gives a circle of gem friends. The ones whose souls are knit to yours. The tribe.

A tribe-mate sticks. It's someone who, no matter the distance or time, stays by your side. A tribe-mate cannot leave. Your hearts are stitched together, always and to the end. Even if one wanted to leave, I don’t think he could, because the friendship is so set apart by The Father, it cannot be shaken. These are the ones who make you feel alive, who awaken your soul to worship God, who stir up your heart and cause you to seek Jesus harder. These are the people you pray your guts out for, the ones you would do anything for, your tribe. I thank God for my small band of Jesus followers and adventure-lovers. Far-away friends and Ugandan brothers. We are all knit together heart and soul. 

So who is your tribe?