Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good Junk and Organized Chaos

When Kaitlyn was in High School, she was part of our school's swim team. Her sophomore year was our first introduction to swim meets. If you have never attended one of these incredibly chaotic events, let me try to describe it from a parent's perspective.

First of all, swim season runs from about September to February so many of the meets are during cold weather. Kaitlyn of course rode to the meet on the team bus and Trey and I would travel the hour or more to the meet together, arriving with a couple hundred other parents and family. We were bundled up for the cold weather outside while walking up to the door of the natatorium. (until this point, I had no idea that an aqua center was called that) We would walk in, pay for our entry, and make our way to the pool viewing area. The moment we entered the pool area, my breath was taken away, not because of the awesome sight I beheld, but literally because I could not breathe! The air was heavy and hot, similar to a sauna or steam room and the chlorine in the air was so strong that it burned your eyes and nose. (Don't forget, we were wearing our winter coats, jeans and long-sleeved shirts, so, the un-layering quickly began!)

On top of the air restriction, the noise was deafening! There was always this weird echo effect, as though you were in a cave or something. Student swimmers would be walking all around the pool in their Speedos and racing suits (very awkward moments for a teacher that they all ran up to hug and say "Hi Mrs. Rieper!) and many of them had in their headphones. They all had this weird black marking on their forearm, like a tribal tattoo or something.

Swim meet tattooing

I am not exactly sure what each number means, but I know it was a cipher of their individual events. The noise level and crowds of people were always a little overwhelming. The "announcer" was about as audible as Charlie Brown's teacher, but somehow every time the loudspeaker squawked "Muah muah, muah mauh muah lane muah muah muah"  (usually followed by feedback squeals from the microphone) swimmers started shuffling around and lined up, ready for their race. It was and still is the most amazing example of organized chaos that I have ever witnessed. During the races, there would be cheering and coaching, and encouraging and splashing...oh my goodness it was loud in there!

As parents, we would be sitting, peering over the rails trying to catch a glimpse of our daughter. In the midst of all that chaos and craziness, it was like we had a built in homing device for our daughter and could spot her even when we were not sure what in the world is going on all around them. Often she looked exactly like the other girls around her, but there would always be something that told us that she was ours. Seeing her with her team, talking to friends always made me smile. She was in her one-piece racing suit and had waist-length hair wadded up under a rubber swim cap, but she was always so beautiful and we would just watch her. You see at a swim meet, she would have one, maybe two races that lasted less than just a few minutes each  (of the often 6-8 hour event) and were of course scattered within the other races, so we just sat there. Occasionally, we would watch another race or root for a former student that swam on her team, but more often, we spent time asking each other, "Where's Kaitlyn? When is her next race? I wonder if she is nervous. Do you think she saw us?" You see, the key here is that she is our daughter. We treasure her and her younger sister Amanda. They are precious and priceless to us. 

Similarly, I am God's precious daughter; priceless. He looks down from the balcony seats and the Bible says:

II Chronicles 16:9 "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."

He is searching the whole earth to strongly support his children! What a promise! In the midst of all of our chaos, craziness and deafening noises, He is searching me (and you) out to support me! I am a precious daughter of God! That verse should give so much hope to anyone who feels like they are in the midst of chaotic times. God has his own version of the swim meet tattoo; He tattoos our hearts as his when we make him our Lord and Savior; master of our lives. He even gives us a manual to help decipher what the tattoo really means; it is up to us to take the time to read and figure it all out. One of my favorite verses is Joshua 1:8.

"Keep this Book of the Law (the Bible) always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

Notice that our prosperity and success is directly related to the Word of God; what a challenge. I pray daily that God will give me a love for the scriptures so much that I would not want to put it down; that I would write them in my memory and in my heart. I pray that He would open my eyes and mind to teach me His ways and His words that I might live better for Him. Reading the Bible regularly has always been a struggle of mine and I want to be more disciplined in this area. Whatever the area for you is, ask God to place that desire in your heart to make it better; and not just a one-time desire, but a continual desire to be stretched and to grow. 

I was thinking about how God views us "down here" on Earth the other day while at the movies. (I still have that residual imprinted idea of Heaven being up and Earth being below it and Hell being below that left from childhood.) Movies have always been something that Trey and I enjoy together. Don't worry gentlemen, I am not usually the sappy, chick flick type. In fact, I really enjoy drama, suspense and action movies. We haven't had the occasion to have a night out in a while, so the other day, Trey and I took advantage of our daughter having plans and went to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction. 

I'm not here to give my review of the movie or anything like that. I will say it was typical of the Transformers movies, with a new family and new pretty girl. the action and special effects were as good as always, so we enjoyed the movie. The funny thing is that there were several quotes in this movie as well as in the former movies that hit me with Biblical correlations. The one that just really stuck with me on this day was:

"I'm asking you to do what I do. I'm asking you to look at all the junk and see the treasure. You gotta have faith in who we can be." (Tranformers Age of Extinction 2014)

I just loved that wording, "look at all the junk and see the treasure." You see my Grandpa May was a collector of what he affectionately termed "good junk." He had a garage full of anything from old fire hydrants to the original version of a hide-a-bed sofa to tools and more! He had rotting carcasses of his original Studebaker and a Mach 1 that were hidden by overgrowth and trees. My Grandpa saw treasure in the junk, a trait that was passed down at least three generations.

 I have a few treasured items from the good junk piles. Grandma sent me a slaw shredder that my great grandmother brought from Germany to shred heads of cabbage on. I have a few old aprons and a bonnet and a cool tin pie pan as well as a couple of old glass bottles. When we were cleaning things out after my Grandpa passed away, I found the title to his Studebaker and check stubs from his first teaching job of just a couple hundred dollars a month. I didn't keep all these things, but the treasure was not lost in my eyes. It was endearing to me to see things that he had kept, albeit a little overwhelming that he seemed to keep so much. I sensed the stack of junk before my eyes was a treasure of his yet to be unfolded. 

We live in a fallen world. We are faced daily with so much junk that sometimes, it is difficult to remember that human beings were created in the likeness of the creator. Turning on the television just this week, I am reminded of poverty and terrorism, impending war and hate crimes, crimes against children and elderly; it is overwhelming. Even more personal, on a weekly basis, I have dealt with hurt, betrayal, dishonesty, and just plain meanness. My initial craving is to respond in a way that is neither Christian nor lady-like. I am learning that these are opportunities for growth and learning. 

Somehow in the midst of the junk, God sees His treasure. He looks down and every heart that is His shines brighter than the junk in that person's life or the chaos that surrounds it.  Every heart that he is pursuing is a treasure untold and undiscovered. What if I had the same view of others? How would that change my worldview if I simply tried to see others as precious treasures instead of whatever it is that I am viewing them at the time?

The immature, annoying young lady who insists on using her body for attention would no longer irritate me, but I would see her as a treasure not yet polished. The person who lives a life that I feel is detrimental or against my beliefs would become a heart that God is chasing after and my heart would break in prayer for their rescuing instead of disdain for their entrapment. The rude, bitter woman at the checkout would become someone who needs to be shown an amazing love like my Savior's. The child whose mother was so desperate for him to have a chance at a better life, she thrust him into the hands of a stranger to take him to a destination unknown would be a treasure unfolded that God wants me to help. The homeless man who hasn't bathed in weeks would would remind me of my own filth covered by the blood of Christ. The list could go on and on.

 Or let's get a little more personal. How about the friend who suddenly deleted me from Facebook with no reason, or the person at church that hurt me deeply and doesn't seem to care, the  family member who turned their back in my desperate time of need, the former boss who did not respect me, the kids from junior high school whose mean words still ring in my ears; they are all still treasures of God. Now, please don't misinterpret what I am saying as an insistence that all severed relationships should be restored completely. I believe that I can love others in spite of the hurt they have caused me only through God's grace and strength but that does not mean that I should disregard the common sense He gave me and allow the same relationship as before every time. Sometimes, the best thing for everyone involved is to love from afar; it is about not allowing the hurt caused to be the one thing you see when that person's name comes up in conversation. Instead you pray for God to work in their life and heart as well as your own. 

 I am personally working on learning to let God have the hurt and instead of immediately going to a place of hurt or anger when I see them, I am reminding myself that God treasures their hearts. If I want a heart like His, I must see the treasure he sees.

Matthew 6:21  "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I need to rest in the awesome power of our God to change hearts, to grow people, and to love the unworthy. I mean, how much has He done all those things for me and how self-centered have I been thinking I somehow deserved it above someone else? God is endeared to us in the treasure hunt. Thank goodness, in the midst of my junk, he still sees the treasure beneath the grime and dust! I am not worthy of His gaze, much less his affection and yet I am chosen, I am loved as a princess of the most High God! If I am to understand even a smidgen of the enormity of that, then I must grasp the idea that I am not the only one! How can I disregard God's highest creation simply because of poor choices they have made; have I not made poor choices? He sees me in the midst of my chaos and finds the treasure buried by all the junk. But for the grace of God, I would be a rotting carcass lost in the weeds beneath a tree somewhere like those old cars my Grandpa had. 

God is searching to and fro to see you and support you, his precious child, in the midst of the chaos. God is sifting through the junk and finding the treasure that lies deep beneath the surface. I cling to these promises! I am working to be less critical of others and to let go of hurts from the past. I am eternally grateful that our God is continually working on me. 

Philippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
Blessed more than I deserve,