Nov 7, 2012

A Mother's Love

Where can we go when we're afraid, vulnerable, sad, or lonely?  In our increasingly violent world is there anywhere we can be really safe?  Yes, there absolutely is such a place.

Pastor Malcolm Smith, who was at that time a pastor in rural Ireland, tells the story of an Irishman whose farm had been ravaged by fire.  The day after the blaze, Malcolm and the farmer ambled through the smoldering remains of the property surveying the black wasteland that just yesterday had been verdant and full of life.

They came across what looked like a pile of burned rags.  The farmer kicked the clump and bubbling up from the ashes came  baby chicks! What looked like a pile of rags was actually the remains of a mother hen who had gathered her babies under her wings and bravely faced the flames.


I imagine myself in her place. (Now let me first say, I know that chickens aren't very smart. In fact, I had a couple of roosters once, and when I cleaned their cage, if I did not put it back exactly as it had been before, they could not get out. When I opened the door, the chickens, like feathered MMA wrestlers, would slam themselves against the bars of the cage where the door used to be. Even so, like all of God's creatures, chickens still have a strong instinct to live.)

I suppose the mother hen's first impulse was to run, leading her chicks through the maze of flames, scrambling frantically through a labyrinth of dead ends. But at some point, she was surrounded by fire with no way of escape. She gathered her chicks under her body and waited. Two choices. Her life or the chicks?

Most mothers would have made the same choice, I imagine. But I wonder if time slowed down in that moment. Did she waver? How did she quell her instincts to run? What is it like to resign oneself to death?

I believe that the hardest choices are not so much sacrifices and self denial, as choosing what we want the most. The hen must have wanted to save herself. But she wanted to save her babies even more. That is all dying to self means. Ironically, it is choosing what we ultimately want

So the hen chose. She chose what she wanted the most, and that was to protect her chicks at any cost. Even the cost of death by fire.


As the two men watched the reborn, yellow chicks scurry pac-man-like over the blackened earth, a promise came to life for Malcolm:

Christ determined to face his own "fiery death" of  crucifixion rather than let you and me face the flames of hell.  Like the mother hen, He anguished over his decision in the Garden of Gethsemane. But he chose what He wanted most and paid the ultimate price so that we could experience the joy of knowing God intimately and personally  forever.

"For the joy set before Him, he endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2) Do you wonder what that joy was? Freedom from the evil of earth? Freedom from finite, human limitations to be God again? Being crowned King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom every creature will one day bow?

No, the joy Jesus died for is relationship: God longs for each one of us to know Him because He loves us with a mother's love. (Psalm 131What the God of the universe wants more than life itself is to know you. He wants to be more than your Lord, He wants to be your father and mother, your brother, your lover, and your friend.

So, my dear friend,

"I pray that out of [God's] glorious riches 
he may strengthen you with power 
through his Spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep 
is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, for ever and ever! 

(Ephesians 3:16-21)

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Nov 5, 2012

God's Goofy Kids

As you probably know by now, I'm stupid in love with my animals. I'm sure people sing silly songs about their children, however, since we can't have children, I sing over my pets just to amuse myself and let them know I love them.

Today is your lucky day. You are about to be graced by my lovely singing voice and some cute pictures of my animals. Turn up your speakers, but not very loud. I'm just warning you.

This is a silly song about, Ladybug, a diffuse calico Manx who lived with us for 17 years. We lost her to kidney failure in 2010.

OK, now a little walking song. I'm very conscientious about cleaning up after my dogs, and so, to make "light" of transporting baggies and baggies and baggies of doggie "muffins" (my dogs are prolific, I'm telling you), I made up a little song. This video features our extremely brave blind dog, Snickers!

Now, the point. (I suppose you thought I forgot that.) Did you ever realize that God sings songs over us?  (Zephaniah 3:17) Imagine the warm feelings you get for your children, or a favorite pet, or chocolate chip cookies and milk. God has the same emotions toward you, but more. (OK, maybe not the cookies and milk.) Right now, God is loving you, laughing at you and thinking you are pretty dang cute.

Jesus called God Abba, pretty scandalous in his religious culture. The English translation of this word as "father" is unfortunate, in my humble opinion. Abba is a baby word. I learned this as a speech pathologist. Words that mean mother and father in every language are based on baby sounds:  !Kung ba, Aramaic abba, Mandarin Chinese bàba, Persian baba, and French papa (all "father"); or Navajo amá, Mandarin Chinese māma, Swahili mama, Quechua mama, and English "mama." This is because these are the first sounds an infant is able to make. I guess it is like us egocentric adults to think they are talking about us. They are probably giving a theological treatise on the Trinity and we miss the whole thing because we think they are trying to say mama!

Takeaway: God has the same feelings for us, his babies, that we have for the things we love the most. Different in degree but not in kind. Believe it: God delights in you!


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