Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stop. Collaborate and Listen

Stop. Collaborate and listen. 

Some of you really, really want to finish that sentence, don’t you?  If you owned a radio in 1990, you likely now have Vanilla Ice’s, “Ice Ice Baby” stuck in your head now.  Don’t worry.  I do, too.  What can I say? It immediately popped into my head as I donned a swimsuit and sat down into my very first ice bath about a week ago. I had just finished my first ever 20 mile run and my muscles were screaming for ice.   Ice is what they…ice is what they got.   "Ice, Ice baby...dun dadadundundadun", immediately came out of my mouth.  I went the ice bath route because, well……it would take too long to ice down all of the areas that were screaming at me.

The story of my life these days….so much to do.... so little time.
As many of you know, I've been on a marathon journey.  I mean that both figuratively and quite literally. And, while it's all for a cause that's been on my heart for some time, clean water systems in Africa, I recently found myself losing focus on the heart of the matter.  Instead, I was obsessing over the day to day concerns that these kind of commitments naturally involve: time management issues and well….pain management issues! Sure, occasionally I was reminded of the real purpose that got me started on this journey in the first place.  But, I was letting a lot of “stuff” crowd out my joy in the experience.  By, “stuff”, I mean the list of “have to’s” that really was out of whack.  You know what I mean… likely have your own list that rolls through your head in the morning, in the afternoon, and then again before bed.  Here’s a sample of my scrolling list of have-to’s:

·         I have to get the kids home, fed, and homework done so they can go to bed at a decent hour.  (After all, they have a very busy day tomorrow….and I want them to play nice with others!)

·         I have to get them in bed so I can get in bed at a decent hour (and so I feel like playing nice with others tomorrow, too.)

·         I have to get in the bed early so I can get up early and run.

·         I have to get up early and run so I have time to do the laundry during the day.

·         I have to do the laundry because if I have to dig through one more basket of clothes for socks I’m going to lose it! I should probably ice my knee but that will have to wait.

·         I have to go to the grocery store (everyone here thinks they need to eat 3+ meals a day) so I guess the laundry will have to wait. 

·         I have to clean the kitchen so I can cook dinner.  So, the laundry will still have to wait.    

·         I have to cook dinner now because my children are about to start chewing on the cabinets if I don’t feed them soon.  (I’m sure I can dig through the dirty clothes and find them at least one shirt for tomorrow that isn’t stained or smelly.)

·         I have to do some research online to see why my knee and foot are hurting (I really don’t have time to go to the doctor…I’ll ice it.  Sometime.)

Oh….and add in church activities, school, baseball, dance, phone calls, text messages, etc….you get the picture.  Most of you probably have your own picture of what we’ll lovingly refer to as “organized chaos”.  Or, for me, loosely organized.  So, long story short, I hit a dry patch.  I had cravings for weeks…or should I say thirst….to get back to a quiet time with the Lord so He could help me decipher my list that was starting to overwhelm me, and I just couldn’t “find the time”. I was at a point that I needed to be reassured that I was doing what I was suppose to be doing.  If so, I needed perspective again because I was just frazzled and quite parched.  I was elated to finish the 20 miler and still be running, not crawling.  But, I was in pain and I was exhausted. 

So, that was it.  I drew the line.  I HAVE TO HAVE MY QUIET TIME!!!!! And, you know, judge me if you must…..I am not ashamed, sometimes the bathroom is the only quiet place in the house….. for days.  So, I dumped a bunch of ice in a tub of cool water. I proceeded to plop down in it with my bible, my Beth Moore study on James, a glass of water and a bowl of cheese and crackers….because well… you “have to” replenish water, carbs, and protein fairly quickly after a run like that.  So…..Yes, after I got use to the cold and stopped singing, “ice-ice baby”,  I ate and drank and studied whilst soaking in my surprisingly pleasant ice bath (side note – a tip for those of you wondering….the only way it’s pleasant is if you soak one half at a time while keeping the other half covered.  None of us have time for freezing to death.)  Anyway…..this gives new meaning to the phrase, “He’ll meet you where you are.”  Indeed He does. 

It had been a while since I’d picked up the study and frankly, I couldn’t remember what week I was even on.  So, I found my spot and the lesson I was on that day was on pure, undefiled religion (James 1:26-27).  The entire lesson was needed.  However, the last part is what really washed over me.  Maybe that’s really why ice-ice baby came to mind.  “Stop. Collaborate and LISTEN.”

James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

As she always does, she had us look us other verses on the topic at hand:

Isaiah 58:6-7: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Deuteronomy 14:28-29: At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.  And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Deuteronomy 28:17: You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

He goes on to tell them not to go back over their crops a second time during harvest, but to leave it for the sojourners, the fatherless, and the widows. He doesn’t say give them half of everything.  But He consistently throughout scripture tells them (and us) to give to the poor.  Just give SOMEthing.  I was thinking, “Like, say, $50??”  (You can’t laugh AT the Lord but you most certainly can laugh WITH Him!) It was funny to me because I had been asking for that when doing my marathon fundraising for Water For Life (still am for that matter.)  Suddenly, my perspective was back in focus.  Here’s what I learned during my icebath:

It's not about whether I can find the time to clock 30 miles this week. It's not about whether I can find a pair of matching socks in the mound of laundry or whether we've eaten fast food twice for supper this week. It’s not about asking, “How am I going to get all of this done?” It’s about stopping.  Yes, stopping and collaborating with God and asking, “Is this what you want me focused on right now?” Then…Listen.   Because, whether wiping a snotty nose, shuffling kids to practice, meeting with friends, or training to run 26.2 miles….He is the One that holds it all together for me.  Of course this is what He had called me to!  And of course, He was going to be with me every step of the way.  He had been all along in so many precious ways.  Why was I questioning something that was already settled? Because I left Him out of it.   
He meets us right where we are in our hearts.  He knew what I needed…He was just waiting on me to ask for His input again.  Don’t think the tears weren’t flowing.  Partially because after running 20 miles, I was exhausted and that tends to make me weepy.  Or it could’ve been hypothermia setting in at this point.  But, I got a mental picture in my head again.  The picture that started this journey for me. It was of a mother helplessly watching her child die from dehydration due to diarrhea from contaminated water.  Growing up in a very blessed nation, that’s just baffling to me.  It’s so simple….so basic.  Our children rarely, if ever, die from diarrhea.  Yes, this was most certainly on HIS list of priorities for me right now.

So, yes.  I’ll admit it…..even though it may be TMI…..I’ve since then had to soak in the bath with a foot or knee propped up on the side with an ice pack and my bible in my hands. We do what we gotta!  That’s my marathon journey right now.  (For 10 more days anyway!)  Your marathon journey may look different right now.  But, one thing applies to all ……you can’t leave Him out of it and expect to reach your goal.  And you certainly can’t expect to be abounding in peace and joy when trying to chart your own way.    

I’ll leave you with these refreshing words from Beth Moore in the lesson that day on the subject of what God asks of us. You’ll see what I mean…..: 

“God is practical.  He doesn’t ask us to do what doesn’t matter.  What seems a drop in the bucket to you is a sip from the wellspring of life to someone about to thirst to death.  Let’s muster the courage to ask Him to show us who to help and how.  True religion is all hands on deck and all heads out of the sand.  The mystery is that, there, we often find our own healing and fulfilling.”

Now my “have-to” list is scrolling again. Until next time, y’all!

I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me.  I have to say it...................

Word to your mother.....