20 05 2010

Caedmon wears a device on each of his feet known as AFO’s, you might have heard us refer to them as his “boots.” They have very specific purpose and that is to force his feet into their proper alignment so that he can maintain some stability. Here’s the problem, his feet tend to want to do their own thing.

The Cerebral Palsy has affected his feet in such a way that his toes are almost always pointed. He is capable of relaxing them but it would be like you lifting your toes while you had 100 pounds tied them. Most of our feet, when relaxed, lie basically perpendicular to our legs. Caedmon’s might too, but he can almost never relax. He is to flexibility what Nascar is to turning right…

So we place his feet into the AFO’s and then velcro the straps down over the top of his foot, the joint of his ankle, and around his calf. Once he is strapped into his boots, he can sit or stand with his feet flat. Ideally we will get to a place where we no longer need to use the AFO’s but that is unlikely and probably a long way off. In the mean time we use the law… err AFO’s (did I let the cat out of the bag?) to get his feet to function properly.

This illustrates the dynamic of what the Bible refers to as the “law.” We aren’t talking about laws like this one from Georgia; “No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.” We are talking about THE Law, God’s Law, thou shalt not kill and stuff.

Where this gets interesting is when Jesus came on the scene and claimed to “fulfill the law and offered grace to the world. Some people take the doctrine of grace, offer it a lollypop, jerk it into their van, and then drive it off into the woods and beat it. They live as if there were no law because “love covers a multitude of sins.” By their reasoning; we can lie, cheat, and steal all day long and just proclaim grace.

Other people see grace standing on the side of the road and are scared he has a knife in his pocket so they drive on by and leave him standing there. These folks tend to be a bit overbearing. Not only do they have a “Jesus fish” on their car, but they would tell you that Hell is promised for those who don’t.

I would argue that neither group is correct… hence the need for the AFO’s.

You see, our natural tendency is to self. We love us. But, God says that’s a bad idea. If I love me it is normally to the neglect of you which tends to disrupt relationships. Not only that, the love of the man in the mirror keeps us from loving the man on the throne, Jesus. This is what we are talking about when Christians use the S-word…sin.

Our natural inclination is not correct, neither is it helpful to our own well-being. God provided the Law to serve in much the same capacity as Caedmon’s AFO’s. It is a rigid, corrective measure that forces us to maintain the correct moral posture. Ideally we won’t always need the law but that is unlikely. The law provides that objective measure by which we can judge our behavior and motivations.

But, as we are all too plainly aware, we will not ever master the law. This is where Jesus comes in. He loves us knowing our inclination to self and desire for sin. He loves us more than we can really understand. You can tell your dog you love him all day long, but he really doesn’t get it. There is a gap in communication. Our communication gap with God is similar; we don’t fully get it.

The point is; without the law we would be walking around hurting ourselves and others without really knowing what was wrong.

Just like Caedmon’s AFO’s provide a feel for how it is supposed to work and, in turn, allow him the freedom to experience that much more.
God’s law provides for us, when applied, a feel for how life is supposed to work and, in turn, allows us the freedom to experience that much more.

God’s law informs us that something is wrong.
It provides the mold for us to conform our lives to.
And, it points us to Christ who overcame sin and promised us new life.

As Caedmon grows and we work on his flexibility and strength he may not need the AFO’s as much. When we put them on him now he gets red marks where his feet were resisting them and he gets blisters where his feet were rubbing against them.Eventually he may be able to put them on like you put on shoes, no friction, just the benefits.

I hope I grow spiritually much the same way. Some parts of the law really rubbed me the wrong way in years past, but now I embrace them. 

Maybe you have struggled with elements of God’s law? You might feel it is too restrictive or harsh. We have all felt that way at times. Some of it is difficult to accept. That just points out our need. If I chose not to use Caedmon’s AFO’s just because it felt restrictive or harsh we would never use them and he would suffer for it. The same is true morally and spiritually for us, we have to get past our “feelings” and trust the long-term benefit of God’s law.

While we keep trusting God’s law to guide our behavior; we trust Jesus to redeem our hearts. He is the only one who has ever lived that didn’t need AFO’s. His bent was towards obedience to God. Was he tempted, sure; but he never succumbed to it. He is perfect, He is God. This is how his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead are our rescue from this life of dysfunction.

Instead of cursing the Law, we should thank the law for revealing to us our need and then thank God for meeting that need in Jesus.

Thanks to Jesus; one day we won’t need the law and Caedmon won’t need AFO’s and that will be a great day!


Way to go Daniel…

17 05 2010

Jeni, the boys, and I went to lunch with my brother Daniel and our friend Brent to one of the Chili’s restaurants around Atlanta yesterday. We had a great time watching Andrew throw anything within arms reach at anyone within throws reach. Brent and Caedmon played tic-tac-toe, Jackson colored on his menu, Toby ate continuously and we had a cheerful time. But, in a matter of moments everything changed. (insert dramatic, cliffhanger music here)

Caedmon had been his smiley self, prompting Brent to ask, “Is this the happiest kid in the world?” (or something like that). Anyway, towards the end of dinner Caedmon told us he had to go the bathroom and asked Daniel to watch his food for him. His concern is rooted in Andrew’s reaching and throwing habit. Daniel started playing with Caedmon and acting like he was going to eat Caedmon’s food. Laughter and squealing ensued as I wheeled Caedmon to the bathroom.

Continuing the game, Caedmon had me call Daniel from the bathroom and remind him not to eat his food. That sweet little, never hurt anyone, delight of a child was having such innocent fun with his trustworthy, loving uncle. As we walked through the restaurant back to our table Caedmon could be heard from a distance as he lost the battle to contain his enthusiasm. But, (insert another dose of dramatic music) when we arrived at the table Caedmon’s plate was gone! Daniel told Caedmon that he had eaten the rest of his food!

Caedmon’s face was robbed of its carefree joy and invaded by a foreign presence of heartache. He dropped his head down, laying his forehead across his right forearm, staring at the floor below. Daniel began asking, “Is he sad? Is he really sad?” All the while tears had begun racing each other to the floor to escape the sadness portrayed by Caedmon’s heartbroken countenance. He finally lifted his head to reveal his anguish and the groveling began.

Daniel quickly returned the plate of food that he had hidden and began pleading with the lamenting toddler, “I’m sorry Caedmon.” Thankfully Jeni had come prepared with some leftover chocolate cake and we were able to divert Caedmon’s attention to the imminent sweet relief. Crisis averted, lesson learned.

Caedmon’s distress came from a combination of  factors.

1) He really wanted his dinner.
2) The person he trusted appeared to have betrayed him.
3) He really, really wanted his dinner.

The  incident had me thinking about that second factor. Reliability, trustworthiness, shooting straight.

In our personal relationships it is always tough to tell whether or not someone is “shooting straight” with us. Do they have an ulterior motive? Are they simply dishonest? Or, do the know and tell the truth? The classic stereotype of this is found in the politician. But, that’s for another blog and another blogger.

I want to point out something about the God that loves me and you.

(I know that not everyone reading this is a theist, much less a Christian but can I encourage you to consider these words. You aren’t sitting in a church, no one is watching you or judging you. You have the freedom to reflect on these ideas and ask God to help you understand them… what do you have to lose?)

1) He is trustworthy. We can take God at his word.
2) He has “shot straight” with us. Now, we may not like what God has communicated to us through the Bible but we can agree that he didn’t mince words. Many people struggle with the idea that they are a sinner, but that’s what the Bible says. We wrestle with the idea that our goodness might not be enough to make God accept us, but that’s what the Bible says. So, what are we to do with this?

In my little parable about Caedmon and Daniel, the villain was Daniel because he made a false promise and when it proved false Caedmon was heartbroken. The promise Daniel made represents the lie that we are being fed in our culture. The lie that we are good enough for Heaven or that God is mean-spirited and evil because some go to Hell. Unfortunately, when our time comes if we have believed the lie we will find ourselves heartbroken beyond words as we stand before the Holy One.

God has stated His case plainly. No one is good enough for Heaven. Secondly, He is love. He doesn’t just love or have the capability to love… He is love. To not love is impossible for Him. Our not being good enough and His love collided just outside of Jerusalem about 2000 years ago when Jesus was crucified.

Our sin was placed onto Jesus, God incarnate, so that the payment for sin could be paid for everyone. From the beginning God knew of our condition and promised a rescue. Jesus is that rescue. We now have the benefit of history and hindsight to look back and embrace our rescuer. But many of us have believed the lie so we look back at the rescuer and find Him silly or dishonest. We have exchanged the truth for a lie.

How different would our lunch experience have been if it had gone like this…

“Caedmon, not only will I watch over your food but, if you believe me and trust me with this I will have chocolate cake waiting on you when you return. Do you believe me?” Caedmon would have replied, “Yeah!” and he would have instantly begun pointing towards the bathroom so that I would get him moving. His faith in Daniel being pure and knowing that he had to go in order for the cake to appear. While Caedmon was gone, Daniel cut a bronto-slab of cake and smothered Caedmon’s plate with it. It goes without saying that upon his return, Caedmon would have been thrilled, Daniel would have been thrilled, and cake would have been devoured.

You see, God has made that offer to you and to me. “If you will trust me with your life and believe me about Jesus then I will have eternal life for you when you get to me. Do you believe me?” Oh, that we would respond like Caedmon. But too many of us get distracted by the naysayers and the business of life and never accept God’s offer. Sad.

When the day comes and you find yourself being pushed up to God’s table will you have heartbroken tears or will you have cake?

Nice mud

13 05 2010

 A few weeks ago Jeni was inspired to become a gardener. Mrs. Nita goes to our church and she volunteered to help Jeni get started. True to her word she showed up one afternoon with a “tear up the ground machine” (see picture over there) and some gifts for our boys to put in the garden.

By the time those eager ladies were done we had not one, but two plots. Each of them large enough to park a couple of cars on! So the gardening began. Jeni bought a bunch of seeds and plants and went about planting in both plots. Flowers in the front and food in the back. The boys helped her rake up rows and then plant the plants. Just like that, the planting was done and the watering began.

Have you ever been in a large stadium that was only partially full, that gives you an idea of what our garden’s look like. A fair amount of plants within a huge plot… sparse a best. The picture above depicts our gardens quite well. But after a few days Mrs. Nita came back over and she said the darndest thing. “Jeni, your gardens are beautiful!”

Ummmm, have you actually seen the gardens? Those gaping rectangles of mud where lush green sod once grew, those gardens? Those plots that more closely resemble Popeye’s chest hair than a fertile garden, are you sure you saw those? Are you sure you didn’t mean to say, “good start,”  “those have potential,” or “nice mud?” Beautiful?? Really?

She was sincere. And she is a knowledgeable farmeresque lady. Her words haunted me for a couple of days.

How could she say that?
How could she believe that?

Then it hit me. She appreciated the garden for what it was right then and wasn’t judging it on what it might be one day. It was a perfectly plowed, perfectly planted, and thoroughly watered garden complete with the cute little signs and everything. It wasn’t fully in bloom, but it was beautiful. Do you believe her?

This truth slugged me in the kidney. I tend to expect the people around me to be in full bloom, and think of them as ugly. Instead of seeing people as they are… on their way to bloom and beautiful in the moment.

The person I am most guilty of this with is my wife, Jeni. I might be the only jerk in the world-wide web who does this, but if I’m not hopefully you can learn from our beautiful garden’s too. You see, instead of appreciating my wife as a maturing garden; I just get upset that she isn’t Eden yet. Instead of celebrating the shoots that are growing and the plants that are filling out; I stubbornly demand fruit. Instead of savoring the process of watering her and cultivating growth; I withhold what she needs and get mad at her for not appearing lush. Are you convinced I’m a jerk yet?

Husbands this lesson it for you. Parents this lesson is for you. Coaches, you too. Anyone who has people in their life that aren’t perfect yet should find this applicable. Even as you look at yourself in the mirror each morning.

We are a work in progress, but there is beauty in the work already accomplished. Just like a plant, first breaking through the soil as it strives to be close to the sun is beautiful; so is your wife as she strives to be what God made her to be.

A budding plant might be surrounded by tons of dirt. Your wife is surrounded by piling laundry, sinks full of dishes, mouths demanding food, groceries yearning to be bought, diapers needing to be changed, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on some more.

It is easy for us to swoop in and only notice the “dirt” and fail to see the flower that is trying to survive in the midst of it all. We can get angry with that flower for being a little dirty, instead of brushing her off and appreciating who she is. Does it sting yet? I feel sick writing it, because it is true of me. Although, my prayer is that Lord willing, it was true of me.

Thankfully the flower blooming in my home already has branch of forgiveness and the leaves of love. I am thankful that she doesn’t see me as dirty and immature, but as beautiful just where I am and hopeful of who I am growing to be. Hopefully, we can see each other as Mrs. Nita sees a new garden. Hopefully, we can forgive those who see us like I have been guilty of doing.

Hopefully, we know that the master gardener, Jesus Christ, loves us just as we are and offers us the trellis of His Word to grow to full maturity and bear fruit for His glory. Amen.