Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the End

Love wins seems to be the theme for the week.

History is being made in our great nation, and a line has been drawn in the sand.

Equality for the masses.

So why does it seem like the only thing that is rearing its head is hate and confusion?

I've been processing for the last three days, trying to balance the weight of loving and not judging and being Christ's hands and feet...

Yet there is the Great commission that I'm not so great at which lingers in my mind. "Go, and preach the gospel."

The good news... What we want to focus on... of love.

Because that is essentially the message of Jesus Christ. Love God with all of your heart.  Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Everyone.

Sums it up right well...

But then there are those words "Judge not that ye be judged." Ok.  I get that.  He talks about the plank in your own eye while worrying about the speck in the eye of your neighbor.  This morning as I was working on a Bible study I was convicted.  John speaks of a "sin that leads to death" in 1 John.  As I thought of those Old Testament warnings, my heart hurt... because all sin leads to death.

Sin is black and chokes out the light. It can take your breath. It separates one from true fellowship with God.

And I sin... I get angry and take life with my words. I am prideful.  I sometimes lie.

One of the church's favorite sayings is "Love the sinner.  Hate the sin." I even quoted it to Caleb last week, because if there is anything that has bothered me about the mess of this nation, it is thinking of future generations.

One of the arguments that I read about this whole issue is that by making that statement, we are automatically judging by saying that they are sinning.

We become intolerant by that statement... but I'm not judging. If, God forbid, someone in my family was to kill someone... I'd still love them.  I'd just hate the sin.  I know drug addicts who steal from their family... yet I love them.  I hate what they are doing to themselves and others.

I am a mess and am the first person to admit it. You don't need to point out the plank in my eye.  I know that I have sinned and fallen short. Like Paul, I hate what I do yet sometimes do it anyway.

I'm no better than you...

But the only hope for me that I will make it out of this world into the other is in Christ. I sometimes wish He'd point a neon sign at me telling me what to do, but He hasn't chosen to communicate with me that way.

He just left His Word. The same Word that says that we are to love and not to judge also says that marriage is between a man and a woman. It says that murder is wrong and that if you mutter words in anger it is the same as killing someone. It says that divorce is wrong and stealing is wrong and cheating is wrong.

Sin is sin.  We all need forgiveness.

Another argument that'd I've read is that it doesn't affect me...

And you're exactly right.  It's really none of my business and same sex marriage doesn't hinder my marriage or my life in any way...

You have the right to your own decision and your own happiness and what you do is between you and God... except as Christians we were given that little commandment to participate in discourse. That Great Commission? "Go and teach..."

Teaching them... to hold discourse with others.

Discourse means to hold communication with others... which means talking about issues.

Which has suddenly become wrong to do. Because our viewpoint offends, we should keep silent.

Except Jesus said differently... we have to point to the Word.

What you do with our message is up to you.
The issue at hand is about so much more than same sex marriage.

It's about heart change. It's about acceptance of all of those issues I named above. The family is no longer important and children are killed before they have the chance to live. Mamas care more about drugs than they do their babies and violent protests are ok when we are done wrong. There is no respect in our country.

I don't have all the answers.

My heart hurts because I see a nation sliding down a slippery slope... I see a church that preaches water downed gospel because the congregation wants their ears tickled, and a population that believes it is ok to do whatever is right in their own eyes. I see Christians who wound with their words and their unacceptance.  As Paul said, I am the chief of sinners.  I have been guilty.

As I've pondered this message, I am reminded that I may be the only Jesus that someone sees. He is in me... but do I show it? I do know that the only way that we can hope to win others to Him is by love. Please know that everything I say is in love, and that really is my heart. I worry about offending others... but I worry more about offending God. How do we balance loving "like Jesus does" with telling the gospel? How do we, as a church, the Body of Christ, be the light in a world of darkness when the majority of the world really doesn't care what we have to say... in fact, despises our message?

I'm still struggling with that. I'm struggling to understand love without judging but pointing others toward the light. I struggle with any kind of conflict. I generally want people to like me, to "like" my statuses on facebook, to see me as a friend. However, I fear that in this world where lines are being drawn, we will soon be called for a boldness like never before.

I'm so not brave. I'm not bold.

But my road map says that "If they deny me before men, I'll deny them before the Father." I don't want Him to deny me.

The only thing that I have to cling to in this world is Jesus. He is victorious. Satan is defeated.. Love that ran red on a cross, love that was demonstrated while I was in my sin.. that love wins in the end.

I'll just keep pointing to Jesus.  Looking to Jesus.  Trying my best to live like Jesus.  And looking for Him to return. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Words Don't Do it Justice

There's something about being around people who already know your story.

They know where you come from, they know your problems, and while they may not always understand or even like you, they love you.

You don't have to pretend. 

You don't have to worry about looking stupid, because they'll just laugh with you...

even though it may seem like they are laughing at you.

Sometimes, life gets tough. Let's face it, a lot of times, life is just plain no fun.  I often wonder where I'm headed. What God wants from me.  How I can be a light to others when I feel so messed up myself.

This week, I'm reminded that sometimes, you have to remember where you came from to know you're headed in the right direction.

It seems like yesterday I was a little girl headed to Pigeon Forge with my family. We ate at pancake houses, looked for black bears, played putt putt golf, traveled across the mountain and watched Unto these Hills, stopped at the lookout point and gazed at God's creation.

I can close my eyes and see my childhood.

Sometimes, I'm not sure if things are my memories or those that have been passed down... but they have been weaved into my soul intricately and shaped my experiences.

So this week, I remembered... and made new memories.

I stopped at the scenic overlook with Wallace and Caleb and breathed deep. That little boy of mine is taller than me, and I'm forever thankful that the picture snapped by some random stranger will validate  my love.

 I  watched Princess Mermaid Lily go under water and Merman Mason float in his donut. They talked about Magiquest and Amazon World and Lily plotted ways to get us all with the whoopee cushion.

I watched Braylee toddle around the cabin looking for her "Nona" and "bite-bites." She growled a little at us and blew kisses and one brief moment allowed me to snuggle with her as I wrapped her in her blankie and Al kept pushing play on the Mickey Mouse Hot-Diggety-Dog song. I kissed her cheek and thanked God for sweet babies.

I laughed hysterically when Uncle Winker flipped out of the boat white water rafting. I briefly felt guilty for laughing so hard that I cried, but when I looked back and saw Lisa laughing I realized that it was one of those moments that I'll cherish forever. Floating down that river, Wallace in front of me and Mom behind me and two other boats full of people I love more than I can ever say... the sun shining and the water hitting me in the face and the guide pushing Caleb off the boat only for him to climb back up with an actual smile on his face...

I worried because "the kids" who now pay taxes and are responsible adults were driving themselves on the interstate.

I laughed as my Papaw wandered around our cabin at 4 in the morning and shined his flashlight in our eyes. I cheered as he played nine holes of putt-putt and was reminded that it was no coincidence that the winners were those who kept score. I clapped as Braylee put her golf ball in the hole. I sat with Kami on the skylift as we traveled above Gatlinburg and soaked in the view, remembering when she was little and I was her best friend.

I sat around the campfire and listened to their stories.... my stories... our stories.. and laughed so hard my belly hurt.

Four generations, five bedrooms, more air mattresses than you could count... but still plenty of sleep.

There have been new faces added over the years. Brave individuals who decide that loving a certain someone means spending time with their crazy family.... and yet they fit...

Because true family, the kind of family that I've been blessed with, well...

We've been taught that family is what you make it. It's the problems and the craziness and the misunderstandings that you just accept.  You love a little harder and thank God for the good times and try to skim over the bad.

That guy who blew out those candles on Monday taught us about hard work, about quiet love, about respect.

And the legacy that we appreciate will continue, because God promised that He'll bless the generations...

Thanking God tonight for my blessings, that Clemons Clan, and knowing that words can't do justice for the fullness of my heart.  <3

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Battle of Mamahood

There was a time being a Mama felt like going to battle every single day.

You had to assemble all of your supplies... the diapers and the wipes and the formula and the bottles and three different outfits because the first two were destined to be covered in spit up or occasionally poop (and then there were the outfits for the baby!) Favorite toys and favorite blankies.  And then there was the wrestling them in and out of the car seat...

I thought of this yesterday, as I sat in church. I would often leave church on Sunday mornings feeling like I had been in a boxing match.

Caleb would climb up in my lap, and then climb under the pew, and I'd have to reach and grab him. He'd play with my hair and try to hold my hand and climb back up in my lap.  He'd lean over on me, as close as he could get, and then head butt me to get my attention. He never went anywhere without at least fifty cars (I am NOT exaggerating. I'm trying to decide if this meant that I spoiled him for continuing to buy them or just by packing them along... but they were a lifesaver at many a ballgame. He just didn't understand why he couldn't take up a whole pew on Sunday morning to line them up to listen to the message, After all, even Lightning McQueen needs Jesus, right?)

So, if you're a Mama, you can probably relate.

And almost thirteen years later, I still feel like I'm going to battle every single day... only this one is a verbal battle. A battle of words and wit and eye rolls and the occasionally slamming door (and yes, I still can slam doors with the best of them. Real mature, Mom...)

I have tried to choose my battles. There is no choice about going to church most Sundays, but there is a choice about what to wear, even if it kills my husband's soul. And I don't battle over bedtimes at night, but I am trying to wage a war on disrespect toward myself and others. Sometimes, I make a little ground. A lot of the time, I want to wave the white flag, but I keep on digging in. I know that God formed Caleb in my womb, and He has plans for Him that were laid in place before Caleb was even thought of. Though the battle is tough, the Bible promises that those who endure to the end shall be saved, which tells me that this battle is already won. I just have to claim the victory.  (And I don't want you to think Caleb is an awful kid... because he's not. He has a heart of gold and loves long and hard and never meets a stranger. He just sometimes cares more for strangers than he does his parents, and I'm convinced that is pretty typical for a twelve year old. At least, it was for me when I was twelve, and the kid has definitely got a lot of my genetics!)

And then there were moments like yesterday. Caleb had sat up all night long (accidentally. He really didn't mean to.  He really wanted to go to sleep. He just never quite got there.) He was in an excellent mood considering. There was no back talk on the way to church. He sat with some of his friends and was relatively quiet. Then, about halfway through the sermon, he made his way back and sat next to me. He laid his head on my shoulder and fell fast asleep.

I'd like to say that I was a tough Mama and I shook him awake, but I didn't. I just sat there, rubbing his back and feeling the rise and fall as he breathed in (and snored. I did shake him a little to get him to stop snoring). I sat there and allowed myself to go back to those days nine or ten years ago, when I'd walk out of the sanctuary sure that I was half-dressed because my skirt would be twisted and an occasional button was missing from the wrestling match that had just ensued.  I thought of chubby little arms wrapped around my neck and warm breath smelling of cheerios falling on my cheek.

Just for a minute, I paused and appreciated just how blessed I am to be Caleb's mama.

And then he woke up, grouchier than ever...

But oh, baby.  I'm still blessed.