Snack attack and a lesson in grace

Last week, we finished up soccer practice–kids running all over the field, parents lined up in travel chairs along the sidelines.

Somehow, our team had been double-booked, so we couldn’t practice on our normal field.  We shifted to the side into an open area and used cones instead of goals while a younger team practiced in our normal place.  They were a group of tiny, enthusiastic and sweet four-year-olds whose team shirts mostly hung down to their knees.

While our team took a water break, their team finished up for the night and headed off the field.  Their little arms were full of goodies–Gatorade bottles, Oreo snack packs, little bags of Goldfish.

I thought to myself, “Wow!  That is a bit much, all that snack after practice.  It’s not even a game or anything!”

One of our kids noticed the other players leaving with their armloads of snacky goodness.   (How could you not notice?!)

He wanted to know where our snack was?  Were we getting snack after practice?  How come we never got snack after practices?

Coach reminded him that we don’t get snacks after practice, just games.

Again, I had that silent little thought:  “Well, yeah!  Snacks after games is reasonable.  Snack at every practice is over the top.”

But then the coach filled in the blanks.  He said, “We did snacks at practice when you were that young because you didn’t have any games.  So, that way you still got a little celebration when you finished up playing.  But now you’re older and you have regular games, so we save the snacks for those days instead.”

Oh.

It all made sense really and I felt that check to my heart to be less quick to assume I know everything, to assume I ever know enough to judge something as “foolish” or “silly” or “a bit much.”

I am not always careful with my tongue or my words; they have a way of escaping me in moments maybe of stress, anger, pressure or frustration.  But, even so, I have grown in this.  I am more gracious and gentle now with my words than I have ever been.

And yet,  there is  still that aptness in my spirit to criticize.  Even if I don’t speak the words aloud, my heart still sometimes sits in silent judgment.  The Bible uses words like “scoffer” and “mocker” and I don’t want that to be me.   I don’t want my attitude, my thoughts, my heart to be bent towards judgment and assumed negativity instead of grace, love, mercy, gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

And,  while I do need to be wise and discerning about what is evil  or wrong, in most of these cases I simply need to be more apt to consider the other side of the story.

Maybe there’s a reason a team of cute four-year-olds leaves soccer practice with some snack bags.

Charles Spurgeon  wrote:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

We are indeed heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.  All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

But we can choose whether to join in the all the noise of negativity or to  tame our own critically inclined spirits.

We can open ourselves up to the possibility that there’s more to this person’s story than we know or see.

We can take Paul’s challenge to  heart to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

James also says:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law (James 4:11 ESV).

I feel like I tumble into this lesson repeatedly: that there is a difference between being spiritually discerning and having a critical spirit.

Help me, Lord, to clearly hear your voice, to yield to your wisdom, to be discerning about right and wrong, truth, holiness, and righteousness, but help me also not to add  to that my own voice of criticism or hurtful thoughts or prideful judgment.  May my heart be humble and may my thoughts be rooted in grace.

 

 

Weekend Walk, 03/10/2012

Hiding the Word:

We’ve returned home after a long and exciting family day at our area Awana games.  Our two oldest girls competed in Sparks-A-Rama for the first time.  We cheered them on from the bleechers as they popped balloons, dodged balls, and ran like lightning-ish around the gym floor.

Our coaches and the kids worked hard for weeks to practice the games, to learn the rules, and to develop discipline, listening skills, teamwork and kindness.

I was so proud of our team. Not only that, but I loved the sweet cheerleading of my youngest daughter as she sat in the stands and picked her sisters out from the crowd.  Whether they were racing or sitting on the line while another team played, Catherine didn’t stop yelling, “Go, Toria! Go Lauren!”

We all need people in the stands cheering us on, whether we’re in the thick of the battle or resting for a few quiet moments.  God has commissioned us all with pom poms and asked us to call out our words of praise, perseverance, and encouragement for others.

So, that’s the verse that’s on my heart for the week.  It’s a challenge to each of us to be the cheerleader that someone else needs.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

Weekend Rerun:

The Giving of Courage
Originally Published 04/27/2011

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 20:24-25 

My sweet baby girl is my cheerleader.  I finish putting the clothes in the dryer and she claps her hands excitedly for me.  I change her diaper; she shouts yay!  yay!  and applauds with enthusiasm.   I drop the last of her toys into the basket and she does a happy dance and showers me with praise.  When I slide the last puzzle piece into place with her, she cheers and shouts.  If you spent the tiniest bit of time in my home, you’d think I won an Olympic medal every hour all day long because my “crowd goes wild” just that often.  My little crowd of one tiny, joyful cheerleader.

Has someone been a cheerleader for you before? 

You sit tired in the pew at church after the rush of Sunday morning preparation, but you made it and all your children sit next to you with clean clothes on.  Small victories.  Then a comforting hand reaches across your shoulder and a friend tells you, “Great job.  You’re such a great mom.”

You push your cart through the grocery store and try to efficiently and frugally shop all while monitoring the arms and legs of your various kids and periodically reminding them to use “inside voices,” when an unknown woman whispers to you, “Your children are so well-behaved.”

You pour yourself out into the ministry you know God has called you to and yet there are those moments and days when you wonder if it really matters, if it does any good, if anybody is blessed by it, if it’s worth the time and effort you spend on it.  Then, you sort through the bills after collecting your mail and find buried in there a card from a friend, a note of appreciation and thanks, a prayer, a verse.

You’ve been struggling.  Life is hard.  You don’t know what decisions to make.  You’re hurting and overwhelmed.  Then an email arrives and a friend says, “I’m praying for you.”

God uses others to bring us these messages of hope and encouragement at just the right moments in our lives, filling needs we can’t even always identify. It’s one of the reasons He designed us to travel together—He knows our hearts sometimes need this cheerleading from others.  When we stray from the group, when we go off on our own and try to live faith solo, we are easy prey for attack.  The Israelites learned this on their journey out of Egypt: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18, NIV).

If your heart is weary and in need of some encouragement today, look to your right and your left for your group; be sure that you are connected and not lagging behind.  Perhaps the first step needs to come from you in a search for the Christian community that will walk alongside you and encourage you along the journey to the Promised Land.

But you can also ask God for the refreshing your heart needs.  He knows exactly what will fill your spirit, giving you strength to overcome fatigue, guidance when you need direction, laughter when your heart lacks joy.  As the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness, God led them to an oasis: “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exodus 15:27).    Priscilla Shirer writes: “‘Twelve springs of water’ to match the twelve tribes of Israel.  What a great illustration of God’s overwhelming care and specific concern for His people.  He knows exactly what it takes to refresh you.”

He is the shepherd who knows His sheep.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Sometimes we sheep feel the hunger and thirst; we know we are empty and in need of filling, but we depend on a Shepherd to guide us to the perfect place for refreshing and provision.

And when He has led us beside the waters so perfect and the green pastures so filling, we have a testimony to share with others, a story to help them along the way as well.  Like the Psalmist, we declare:

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7-8).

We who have received encouragement, in turn encourage others through our testimony.  This encouraging truly is the giving of courage, placing it into the heart of another.  Isn’t that what this cheerleading does? It renews our strength so that we persevere and press on.  God asks us to do this for one another, to stand on the sidelines of a race and cheer, shout, and applaud for the runners: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).

How can you be a cheerleader for someone else today?

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King