Come

April 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

She grips a fistful of buttons and his small collar. Her face reddens with irritation.

His eyes are dull, his face expressionless.

I hold my breath, ire rising, knuckles clenched. I begin pacing between the racks of clothing, hovering within fifteen feet.

She reeks hatred and lets loose an inch from his face, releasing him with a hard shove.

He trips backward. His face remains impassive.

Mine contorts for him. I’m not strong and she’s bulky. In the moment, it doesn’t matter. I’m ready to stand toe to toe with her. For his sake.

In Your soft, still way You remind me to seek You first, so I walk in circles to the beat of my anger. Trying to calm my shaking legs and queasy stomach. “Beloved, let us love one another.”

“Lord, how? How do I show this woman love?” And in my soul, I know she needs love, not shame. My feelings do not reflect this, but You dwell in me, You are love. I walk toward her.

She raises her hand defensively, palm out.

“I was watching your children play and your daughter tripped, your son did not hurt her,” I say quickly.

She scowls. “I don’t need parenting advice, so bye-bye.”

I want to contradict her, but instead I speak with a bit more authority. “I’m not here to give you advice, but rather a compliment on your child’s behavior. Your son is a great big brother.” My eyes shift down toward his little face. He is still on the floor. “He was kind and concerned when his sister fell, she slipped on a hanger. He merely tried to help her up.”

She stares at me with hard eyes. “He is not your concern.”

I lower my voice. “Actually he is. You both are.”

She stares at me incredulous.

Silence hangs between us. My words feel foreign as I stumble on. She knows it was wrong. God built that into each of us. I look her in the eyes, longing to water her soul.

The sadness is palpable as I turn and walk away. For her. For him. For what an unredeemed future holds. I think of a picture that hung on my Sunday school class’ wall. Jesus, arms extended with children piling on his lap. His words warning the disciples captured at the edge of the frame.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14 NIV).

In a world of generous wrath, there is a counterpart. A God of generous love.

Christ beckons “Come.” Lay down the anger, and shame. Break chains of habit. Fight the enemy that has taken you captive.

I quietly converse with the store manager and take short, pondered steps to my car.

I thought the perpetrator was the enemy. I was wrong. That woman is not the enemy, Satan is. I think he hopes we will be just angry, offended, and ashamed enough to think there is nothing more for us. No salvation possible, only despair and depravity ahead. I know that is not the case.

I have witnessed a grand resurrection from the dead in my own life. I am a redeemed sinner, charged to help others find their way home.

Walk, Stand, Sit

March 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

Roughly twenty to one. Those are not great odds in a face-off. I did not have a sling or five smooth stones. My life was not at risk, my future was.

The loudest in the group of my would-be friends turned hard eyes on me, her face twisted into a snarl. “You are just a Jesus girl.”

And with that, it was done. The horde moved down the hall, a repetitive bell reminding them school was in session. I stood alone. Wow, Jesus girl? There are moments when Satan’s mask slips. I almost pegged the wrong enemy.

Two solitary school years began that day. No matter who you are, at some point you will have to choose who you are going to walk with.

We drive our daughter to the south where tea flows and generous smiles beam. The brick dormitories that could be her home stand bookishly solemn, reminding me of the lateness of the hour. The breeze catches my sweater. We head for the campus coffee shop. Laughter circulates through the air, companions bend over a paper, a grinning barista is ready to help.

I trail my daughter, wondering how our home will move on when she moves on. The campus President graciously shuffles his schedule and shares lunch.

He looks me in the eye. “There are three questions you must ask.”

1. Does this school and its instructors believe in absolute truth?
2. Does this school and its instructors believe God’s word is literal?
3. If yes to the first two questions, how is the truth of God’s word incorporated into the classroom?

I sit back letting my breath empty. I should have studied for this.

Six people enter the conversation and we start talking about Psalm 1. I squint at the window and up to the clouds. Should I fall on the floor and declare Holy? This passage again. It has been spoken to me at least four times in two weeks. Okay God, I hear you. If Psalm 1 were a location, I just moved in. My attention shifts back to the college President.

“Do you see the sequence? First a person walks with those who are rebellious against God, and then he takes his stand with them, and then he sits and remains in the dwelling of the wicked, who are arrogant and scornful.”

His last words on the subject went something like this,

“If you have trained your child to live righteously, if you have carefully instructed them eighteen years, and this is the first time they are leaving your influence, why would you hand them over to those who are ungodly? Would you have them alter what you have spent so much time building? Why would you pay for your child to walk in their counsel?”

Good questions, thought provoking. Leaving this circular mind with a few more.

We wave goodbye to the South, our time is up. Winding down the Appalachians confident, knowing He will keep us as we journey. He has a path for us. I know He will lead.

“For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm1:6 NIV).

Loved

February 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

I attended college just hours from Washington D.C. and this, combined with my school’s overtly political university Chancellor, fanned my fervor to be a champion for Christ into full blaze. It seemed right that marriage should be in the distant future. My sights were set on law school. Which I believed presented the quickest route to transforming the world. I was confident that was my destiny.

During the winter of my freshman year, a college-sponsored ski trip landed me on a large bus headed for the mountains. A friend and I were the last to climb aboard. We scanned the bus for two open seats. The search only turned up two good-looking guys.

My friend nudged my ribcage “I call the dark-haired one.”

My eyes scanned both faces. But when I looked into the eyes of her choice, my chest grew tight.

I tried to be discreet. “No deal.” I tried not to stare.

He stood to his feet and moved to the aisle, offering me his seat.

Suddenly shy, I thanked him and sat down. I kept watch for him on the ski slopes, but he was nowhere in sight. When the ski area closed, my friend and I trudged to the bus and wound back down through the dense Blue Ridge Mountains.

No one was sad when the bus driver pulled into a restaurant. We stood in line, cold-cheeked, but cheery. When I had a steamy cup of hot chocolate in hand, I worked my way to the last seat available. I looked up. The guy from the bus sat across the restaurant and his eyes had already found mine.

He stared.

I stared.

Neither of us was able to look away. If it were not a purposeful, intent gaze it might have grown awkward. The young woman sitting at his table turned to see what held his attention. I silently prayed, hoping she was not his girlfriend because I had no intention of breaking eye contact.

My roommates were asleep when I entered my dorm room. I did not sleep much that night. I was shaken to the core. I knew who I was going to marry and I did not even know his name. Upon being introduced two months later, I told a group of friends that I finally had the name of my future husband. They laughed, thinking I was joking. I tried to laugh, but the laugh came out more like a cough. I was terrified.

The truth is, real lasting love takes more than we have. It changes everything. When a commitment is honored, it means no longer being first, but rather being first to go last. It is staying up late to doctor a sick spouse when you are exhausted. It’s picking up dirty socks that land right next to the laundry basket for eighteen years straight. It means keeping your mouth shut when you have a really witty, but unkind retort. But it also means holding hands. Laughing over jokes no one else knows. Having arms hold me tight when I am afraid and prayers prayed over me when I am discouraged.

Tonight, I watch the sunset, light grazing his nose and brow, taking in every detail. He senses my gaze, grabs my hand and smiles.

“This is going too fast. I am not sure loving you the rest of my life is long enough.” I breathe, choking back bittersweet tears.

Thank You Lord. Thank you for love. Thank you for marriage. Thank you that your plan overcame mine.

40 Years

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

I had never been to an abortion clinic before. But a frantic call came from a friend, whose girlfriend scheduled an abortion. He asked if we would wait with him at the clinic and pray that she would cancel her appointment. He clutched the hope for their future in a jewelry box in his nervous fingers. A small group gathered to hold out hope and support.

Determination set her brow as she walked toward the clinic door, but it was the anger in her eyes that gave me pause. She gripped her toddler’s hand and marched on. And I knew. I could say what I had already said. I could renew the promise to do as little as babysit or as much as adopt. My words would go unheard. So instead, I reached down, took her three-year-old’s tiny fingers in my hand, and followed her in. Her eyes met mine with surprise. She mumbled something about not wanting to leave her child alone in the waiting room. I nodded. I could not have known it would be the last time she would look me in the eyes.

Many joys died that day. A life was swallowed up in fifteen minutes in a sterile, straight-faced clinic. A child lost before ever having the chance to say “Momma,” smell a flower, make someone smile, or be held close. The shadows grew down the calculatedly cold hallway. There was no space to grieve loss.

So when the receptionist trailed me to my car I was surprised. I turned. Why was she was following? Did I leave my sweater? Did we leave a toy behind? It was not the time to talk with strangers.

“Who are you?” she called out.

“Huh?” I responded.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

“I am a stay at home mom,” I replied, completely lost as to why we were having a conversation.

“I watched you while you were in the waiting room. I have never seen anyone interact with a child like that before.” She stared at me quizzically.

“Oh,” was the only answer I could come up with.

Over the years, I have replayed the sadness, like a movie clip that I wish I could file away and never re-watch. I have thought about the receptionist, knowing her work routine was hammered out at a dark, soulless desk. While mine was worked out in my children’s learning, laughter and growth, birthing in me a prayerful urgency for patience, kindness, and a gently instructive tongue. If she saw anything in me that reflected beauty, it was simply the Lord. He takes women who know all their own shortcomings and allows them to be moms.

On college graduation day, I sat behind an empty row of chairs reserved for the classmates who would have taken their place alongside me had they lived. I am almost forty. Part of the first graduating class lacking members because abortion became legal the year of my birth. They did not receive diplomas, but most surely are round about Jesus in glory and much wiser than the most learned scholar.

I no longer grieve for the life that was taken that day. I am at rest knowing my friend’s baby was welcomed into the arms of Christ. My sadness is for the moms who will never carry their babies but will continually carry grief and remorse.

If this is you, Jesus offers forgiveness. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 KJV). Repent, and don’t pick the shame up again. No matter the sin, His love is greater. God tells us children are an inheritance, and then He calls us child. There is no greater love.

Humble Pie

November 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

I was waiting in line at a restaurant, stomach growling and caffeine deprived. But the line was not moving. I turned hoping for a distraction at the window and three men slithered past, sliding nonchalantly in front of me. I opened my mouth and closed it. A miracle took place and I am not sure anyone noticed. I am keenly adept at looking out for myself. I like to call it concern for what is right, but sometimes it is just plain old pride.

On the way to church, my son told me a story. He and a friend had differing opinions on a historical figure. Kids voice the profound without realizing it. My son said while he and his friend disagreed, they were not trying to prove each other wrong. And to him that leads to a good discussion.

We get to church and the sermon is on unity. Similar thoughts to my son’s are being voiced. Pride looks for an argument where humility appeals. Humility is so dog-gone appealing. Humble people are great to be around, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. It is easier to learn from the humble. It’s easier to be corrected by them too.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

I lay a weary head on my pillow. Evening is when I think on the world’s problems, grieved most by the way I contribute. Jesus sees how sick and tired I am of my pride. He knows I long to be free of the cords. So during the sanctification process, He offers rest. He is gentle with sad and tired hearts. He offers a blessing for those who mourn for righteousness. He knows my deepest longing is to shed this flesh and live as a sacrifice. He leads with gentleness. Going to Him and resting, leads to humility. I see all I am not in the shadow of all that He is. Human pride falls apart in the presence of true glory.

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