Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Privacy Rights

Privacy Rights
by Brenda Black

Knock. Knock. “Mommy, are you in there?” Without fail, they will find you at your most private and most vulnerable moment. After hours of postponement, you seize the opportunity to nab some privacy and that's when they need a cup filled or clean up from a cup spilled. They will hang just outside the door and get into a knock-down, drag-out tussle with their sibling. Or, and here's the kicker, answer the phone and announce that Mom's in the bathroom.

If you think your child's timing is amazing, wait until you read about King Saul's close encounter of the commode kind. David and his valiant men are in hiding. King Saul and his 3,000 chosen men are in pursuit. In the Desert of En Gedi, near the Crags of the Wild Goats, a cave is being used as both a hideout and an outhouse.

“[Saul] came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, 'This is the very day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, “I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.”' Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.

“Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.' With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.” (1 Samuel 24:3-7)

So many thoughts race through my mind as I read this strange account. The whole scene is more like something from a sixth grade boy's prank than from the Holy Scriptures describing two warring men risking their lives. I can almost hear the snickers from David's cohorts as their leader belly crawls silently across a dampened cave floor. I imagine David's wince as he gets close enough to cut off the end of Saul's robe only to be stricken by the humanness of his nemesis. Then, how he did slink back into the inky depths of the cave without notice, bearing his clutched royal slice of fabric.

Pardon the pun, but behind all this privacy in a privy is one amazing lesson that sorts the waste from the trustworthy – David's noble decision to honor one who has done him wrong. David's men spoke correctly when they said this very day the Lord will give you your enemy. What they failed to see that David rightly discerned was the second part of the promise – “for you to deal with as you wish.”

For David to defeat his enemy, he had to first conquer temptation and spite and disrespect. And he had to let God fight the battle for him rather than take things into his own hands. Had David seized his rival at his most vulnerable moment, what glory would there be in that? It would have been a cowardly act wrought with ridicule. Had David elevated himself in order to humiliate King Saul, could he have maintained his innocence? And what of the command that none of his army lay a hand on the sitting duck? David was granted a wish and he wished for the truth to be revealed and peace be restored. So he ventured to Saul once more his noble intentions rather than lower himself in the eyes of the Lord.

“'Why do you listen when men say, “David is bent on harming you”? 'This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed.” See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.'” (1 Sam. 24:9-12)

David's dirty crawl through the cave ended with clean hands and a pure heart. Even in the most private of circumstances, David did what was right. That was his wish. And God was pleased to honor him straight from the mouth of his enemy. “May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today,” Saul proclaimed. “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.” (1 Sam. 24:19b-20)

The lesson from this latrine clearly merits recording the tale in God's Holy Word. Consider it adult toilet training. “When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)

Brenda's latest release is a child's story book Cowboy Pete. Enjoy a fun-filled rhyming ride and help lead your child to Christ with this colorful, hardcover, glossy keepsake written to grow with your child from infancy to pre-school. Get a copy to share with your family today by visiting www.thewordsout-brendablack.com

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Worthy or Webbed

Worthy or Webbed
By Brenda Black

As a result of unending cool, cloudy days and torrential downpours, it's surprising I haven't developed webbed feet. Had any of the following newsworthy people acquired webbed toes, it may have helped them this past week. A triathlete could have out swam the alligator that chomped down on his torso. A not-so-bright student who surfed through traffic atop his car may have decided the ocean was a more logical choice. And Miss USA may have avoided stumbling in her mermaid dress.

Webbed toes or no, I'm glad the sun finally showed its shining face! Perhaps some of the craziness in this world will cease with a little more light shed upon us. I would like to think that is true, but common sense and common decency seem to be drowning along with the crops. For the swimmer says he'll head back to gator-infested waters once the puncture wounds heal. Friends of the car surfer say it doesn't surprise them that he would do something so idiotic. And so much for role models for little girls throughout the world, when our lovely 2010 Miss USA Rima Fakih has more clips on the internet of her pole dancing than she does jewels in her new tiara.

Of these three, the gator man is willing to risk his own life and that's his prerogative. The teen has posted an apology and assumed some measure of responsibility for his influence on other kids who might try the same stunt and get killed. But what of the iconic beauty queen? Is her rise to stardom just another in a long line of closed-door dealings where the outcome is pre-determined no matter what the public thinks? That's what many are wondering as she becomes the first Muslim to wear the coveted crown. I must admit, she looked very certain of her win and did not bring to the moment the quivering shock that is often seen on the newly enthroned. No tears. No nerves. But she thanked Trump for “hiring” her. Hmmmm, that's kind of weird.

I cringe every time I hear one more story of high-level corruption. And I get weary of feeling suspicious. It's not attractive. I want to be able to trust again. But I'm disgusted with the direction our country is headed where anything and everything goes and one is prejudice only if they profess any kind of moral code or venture wariness with political correctness.

Past Miss USA contenders have been raked over the coals for having conservative opinions on controversial topics. For example, in 2008, Miss California Carrie Prejean was slam dunked for her opposition to same-sex marriage. This year's first runner-up, Miss Oklahoma, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, ironically got the loaded question when she was asked: "Do you think [immigration laws] should be mandated by the state, or the federal government?" Her answer was applauded by and was in line with the views of a majority of Americans, according to polls. Still, both of these women ended up as the first losers, while winners have been pardoned for lewd behavior. Prejean lost her state title a couple of months later, supposedly due to breach of contract. But 2006 Miss USA Tara Conner, who was imbibing entirely too much, got a second chance. Commenting on her problems, Donald Trump said only, "She left a small town in Kentucky and got caught up in the whirlwind we know is New York."

So is the whole nation so caught up in such a whirlwind that simple decency is moot? If Trump is truly “ticked off” about Fakih's photos and videos now so popular on the internet, did it occur to the pageant owner and deft business mogul to do a little background check on any of his potential hirelings? The evidence of Fakih's uninhibited behavior has been on the web for three years!

Oh, we are seeing more webbed feet than you think! Feet that are tangled in the web of worldliness, deceit and indecency. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies...They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” (Romans 1:21-25)
Photobucket If you actually still adhere to some common sense and decency then be a beacon. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Walk worthy instead of webbed!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Get Ready to Launch

Get Ready to Launch
By Brenda Black

On Mother's Day, I was lavished with dark chocolates and pink roses and two deeply emotional cards from my sons. I used to get hand made treasures and crayon scribbled notes that melted my heart. Then, the presents shifted to gifts of necessity rather than sentimentality – I got things like a fry pan or salad spinner. So this Mother's Day I was quite enamored with the bearers of such adoring gifts. First, that they remembered and got them without any prompting. Secondly, how sincere and mature their gestures seemed. Then again, I am now the mother of men, not boys.

While the sweet smell of flowers fills my home, another sensation overwhelms my faculties. It's more like a cold, cream pie – not awakening my taste buds, rather hitting me square in the face! One son has but a single year of college to attend and the other is presently graduating high school. This Mother's Day, there's not just a switch in the gifts, there's a paradigm shift in my life – from boys at home to an empty nest.

As I face a future void of smelly socks, I focus on more important items like whether I've succeeded at truly launching my children into the next phase of life. Did I L-A-U-N-C-H ( Love, Articulate, Understand, Nourish, Connect, and Hug) intentionally so that they are equipped to sail under red-sky evenings with pleasure and overcome any crashes due to red-sky mornings on their journeys?

Loving is easy, right? Certainly when they are new and cuddly and soft and cooey. Sure, I have loved when they made me laugh with innocent antics and silly songs and games. I loved when they were afraid or had a bad day and needed some encouragement. Loving came easy when they were sick or hurting. But did I love when they misbehaved or defied my authority? Was love on my mind when they caused me worry? Yes! Just as Paul addressed his brothers in Christ in Corinth, my love has often taken many forms as a parent. Sometimes love was a painful admonition. “I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4)

State, vent, utter, voice, enunciate, sometimes pontificate, but always articulate. As parents, we teach, preach, praise and scold with words. But the most important sound my sons needed to hear rang with perfect truth -- “...the words of the Lord are flawless.” When they were little, I challenged them to memorize Scripture. As they grew, we talked about application for every day occurrences. And now they hunger for more! In the midst of teaching them history, grammar, science and arithmetic, they also had appetites whetted for the Word that instructs and gives life. Yes, I articulated the Word that is eternal (Psalm 119:89), the Word that is a lamp and a light for their paths (Ps. 119:105), the Word that provides instruction and wisdom (Ps. 119:97). Now I articulate prayers that my sons will claim for themselves: “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.” (Ps. 119:111-112)

Why do boys make funny noise? Why do they not see clutter? Why must boys wrestle next to the China cabinet? I never quite figured out the answers to all their masculine mysteries, but I tried my best to understand their need for activity and their blindness to neat and tidy. More importantly, I studied their individual personalities and learned to appreciate their differences and embrace their unique gifts and interests. I can now quickly decipher whether they are excited or nervous, scared or angry. I also learned how important it was to each of them that I understand what they were feeling.

The last half of the launch expresses ongoing love which carries great influence on our children and moves them beyond just the launch to keeping them afloat. Nourish their passions by encouraging pursuit. Connect at every opportunity as they grow and so do you. And Hug with great exuberance every time you meet or part! “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Ps. 127:3-4a)

When the nest is empty, my heart will still be full – full of wonderful memories, filled with God's promises spoken over my children, brimming with new understanding for all their uniqueness. I'll be fed with new excitement as I encourage their interests and blessed to keep the lines of communication open, especially when I get to embrace them each time they visit. God knows where their ships will sail. And I'll be here on the shore praying over their journeys and will keep the light burning just in case they ever hit rough waters.

May you find joy as your children mature. I pray you can look back with peace knowing you did your best by loving, articulating, understanding, nourishing, connecting, and hugging, so that you can look forward with confidence. If your greatest treasures are safe in the Lord, have no fear. Those you are launching will be prepared to go the distance and you will as well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grace-Full Finish

Grace-Full Finish
By Brenda Black

Blood rushed to my legs and throbbing stabs of pain pierced either side of my shin bones as I pounded the pavement. Not even a few hundred feet into the race and I wondered could I stand the sting for three more miles if it didn't cease. I walked alone, determined to not give in, but to keep the pace and see if the pain would subside as I got used to the hard surface on this cool morning.

I had certainly trekked many miles down country roads and gone farther than three miles on gravel or through tall, wet grasses and briar patches in the woods this spring. Strength training had toughened up the calves, thighs and hamstrings and I could tell they would go the distance, but those shins – those burning shins.

I kept looking for company, a companion to walk with me and distract me. In fact, en route to this 5K event, I prayed for the Lord to bring someone along who traveled my speed so that God could use me to be their encourager. I asked for an opportunity to minister to someone who needed to know about God's grace and the love of a Savior. I even spoke those requests aloud as we journeyed to Sedalia. Yes, I arrived at the race with a friend. But she was a runner and me – no way! This was her big day, a chance to improve her speed since her last 5K a month earlier. It was her birthday and I promised to go and cheer her on and give her passion for endurance a whirl as well.

Once I got there, I was caught up in the pre-race ritual of lunging, stretching and trotting in place like a proud pony lifting knees high in the air. I saw my friend's excitement mount as she anticipated the call “On your mark, get set...” So I positioned myself behind the runners, but at the front of the walking pack, and caught the competitive adrenalin rush when the start line judge yelled, “Go!”

I pressed through that first mile, convincing myself the burn would subside as I warmed up. And it did. In the second leg of the race, I decided air wasn't all that important, but a deep breath now and then sure was welcome. Only a handful of walkers passed me as I coached myself to “just keep the pace.” In short order, I had closed the gap on most of those and ended up back toward the front with only a few contenders ahead of me. Then I glanced over my shoulder to discover the rest of the walkers were far behind. So there I was walking all alone.

With no one else to encourage, I cheered myself. “You can do this.” “Don't slow down.” “When we make that turn and head up that hill, speed up and pass a couple more.” “Don't quit.”

My beautiful friend had assured me that when she finished, she would back-track and find me and walk with me the final stretch. Right before the 3-mile marker, here she came, beaming from ear to ear and moving swiftly and lightly down the hill toward me. She seemed pleasantly surprised to find me so quickly and I was encouraged to know that I must not be that far from the end of the course.

As we topped the ascent, she coached, “Now when we turn this corner, you are on the home stretch, so you are going to kick it into high gear and walk as fast as you can all the way to the finish.” I huffed out a breathless plea, “I thought I already was.” The fit friend cruising beside me, demonstrated a hip-rocking, arm-pumping gait I was certain would dislocate something if I attempted the same.

But when I turned the corner and spied two ladies who just recently overtook me and two young women who never would let me catch them, something was triggered deep down inside and I hauled it! I flat-footedly flew past them to the finish line, leaving the couple of teens looking shocked and their hair whipping from my gust! The crowd was cheering and the emcee was saying something about how strong I was finishing the race. The rest is a blur – truly.

Then, there she was again, that energetic friend, greeting me on the other side of the finish and as thrilled for my burst of energy as she was for her own excellent finish that earned her a silver medal. I wouldn't have done it without her encouragement. I couldn't have done it had I listened to my body, more than the Spirit inside of me.

My prayers were indeed answered. God gave me someone to walk with, who would go my pace and need to know about God's grace and the love of a Savior. Myself.

No prizes were administered to the walkers and I have yet to learn where I actually ranked among the masses. But this I know for certain, I went to accompany and cheer a friend and potentially encourage a stranger. And I was the one blessed with the satisfaction of finishing well. It was a little taste of heaven – the greeting and celebration at the end of the course – that left me inspired to dig down deeper in life's race and discover that God has equipped me with just what I need as I face each day. And sometimes, we learn that there is a whole lot more we are capable of, if we just believe. His grace is sufficient and that's true victory.

“...I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.” (Acts 20:24)