Sunday, August 30, 2009


We've all heard the saying "a thorn in my side" but do you know where it comes from...the rest of the story? And the promise that comes with the thorn?

The apostle Paul says that a thorn, figuratively, was allowed to remain in his flesh. The purpose: to keep him humble. To remind him that when he succeeds, it is because of God at work. The thorn was allowed because if Paul was in perfect condition, it would have been easy for him to take credit for his ministry, instead of recognizing God as the true source of all power.

Don't think though that Paul didn't beg and plead with God to remove the thorn. But, God, in His grace and wisdom, gave him a promise. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Is there a thorn in your flesh that you have been begging to remove? Is it possible that He has allowed a particular situation in order to show that He is enough for you? I know the circumstances that I pray to God to change...and He hasn't really. I have dropped to my knees in the quiet of my kid's closet, because that was the only quiet place, and asked Him, "How am I supposed to do and say the things You want me to in the middle of this?" In His wisdom He directed me to Paul's thorn. Paul probably said the same thing...You want me to go where and do what with this going on? God's word to Paul applies to me, and to all of us.

So, like Paul, I suck it up, bite my lip, and focus my eyes on God. And in the end, at the end of the day, I know that God was with me. Every step. There is no place He asks us to go, literally and figuratively, that He doesn't go before us and behind us. If you are facing an impossible situation and are using a thorn as an excuse to behave in a less than godly way, stop. Do what you are feeling justified in not doing, and watch God work. If your life was perfect, with no conflicts or thorns, you would miss an opportunity to see God.

Let His grace be sufficient for you. Accept it for yourself, but don't forget to offer it to others. That may be the lesson He is waiting for me to learn.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Ever-So-Slightly Less Ugly Side, or How Not To Apologize

I wish I could say that after yesterday's post I woke up and I was a brand new person, my regular sweet cheerful self. Yeah, not so much. I did sleep on the couch...not because I didn't want to sleep in my bed but to avoid one more confrontation. Lights on or off? TV on or off? Laptop allowed in bed while I am trying to sleep or not? I really just needed dark and silence, so I took my pillow and slept on the couch. Much of the night was spent in indignant prayer, the kind that is probably not counted as the prayers of a righteous man...or woman.

Anyway, after looking for things to be further ticked off about today...and did you ever notice how easy they are to find when you are looking?...I decided to apologize. Don't think for a minute that I didn't know who was actually at fault here. 1 John 1:9 played through my head all day...God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness when we confess our sins. I just couldn't seem to confess without a chorus of yeah...but's following each confession.

So anyway, at about 6:00 pm I decided it was time to apologize. I practiced in my head. Here's a couple that I didn't go with:
1. I am sorry that I couldn't tolerate the way you acted all day yesterday.
2. I am sorry that you frustrated me so badly.
3. I am sorry that you lost it yesterday and I got mad at you.
4. If you would be more patient with the kids, I wouldn't have to get so bent out of shape.
5. I am sorry that I wasn't the bigger person yesterday. It's hormonal.

As you can see, all of these still place the blame for my behavior on someone else. You can't sincerely apologize if you are still excusing yourself. In the end, I went with a very sincere "I am so sorry for the way I acted yesterday. We were both stressed out and I didn't make the situation better for anyone." Of course he agreed completely with me and pointed out that the two hour family trip one way on a train was too much. Of course I pointed out that we wouldn't know that without doing it. But I think we are at a truce. At least I feel like I could ask for the light to be off without starting a new round. Maybe tonight I won't need the dark silence quite so badly either.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Ugly Truth

Church this weekend was about patience. No, I didn't pray for any. But what I found was my Achilles heel...other people's lack of patience. I get really frustrated with that, and become really impatient with them. When I get impatient, I am expecting that I deserve better than I am getting. And really, why should I? Except that right now I am so out of nice that I could give you a million reasons why I shouldn't have to put up with A, B, or C.

This has been a day. Every nerve ending is laid bare. God has given me many opportunties to show grace, compassion, and mercy. Remember, all these things imply that the recipient is not deserving. Yes, many opportunities.

My house is quiet now, and all I can hear is the whir of the ceiling fan and the crickets in the yard. Sounds peaceful except for the grinding of my teeth that I can't seem to stop. I know I should act one way, but after trying all day, I'm done. Exhausted. The sad kind, when you know you should feel differently but you can't pull it together.

I know what God would have me do right now, and frankly, I don't feel like it. Not a good place to be. This is the part where the rubber meets the road. Do I submit my will to His, or do I continue to sit in my irritation and my self-righteous attitude and replay every judgmental detail over and over? I tell you what I would rather do...get my pillow and sleep on the couch. Will I? I don't know yet. Not feeling the love on my own strength. Time to confess my own ugliness and tap into some Holy Spirit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skipping Stones

I took my boys down to the Lakefront a few weeks ago and was teaching them to skip rocks. It is so satisfying to see one skip off into the distance and disappear from view, riding the waves. Ok, so I have never been that good...but two or three in a row still looks cool. More often than not, though, the rocks the boys picked were too big, and sunk with a giant bubbling thunk. Still cool, but not really the goal...or so I thought until this morning.

When I turn on my computer in the morning, the first email I read is the KLOVE verse of the day. Then, I read my actual emails from people, then I read the Proverbs 31 devotion. All good stuff. Each thing I read makes me nod my head and say, Ooh...that's good. Now I have a friend sending me devos, which I read, and say, Oooh...that's good. Then, I might work on a Bible study, or read a devo in a magazine, and say...yup, you guessed it...ooh...that's good. Then, midway through the morning, when real life is setting in, I try to draw strength from the Lord. With everything I have read, you'd think something would stick. But it doesn't, because I have been skipping stones with the Lord.

Instead of a big satisfying thunk of a bubble, as His Word sinks to the bottom of my soul, forming a firm foundation in the sand of my life, it never really settles beneath the surface. What to do? What to give up? I think the answer lies in the word "illumination". When something catches your eye, and you can't stop going back to it, stop there. The Holy Spirit could very well be telling you that this is your big rock. Grab that one, and settle there for a bit. Ponder. Meditate. Dwell there. Watch for the big bubble.

Father God, please grant that Your Word would dwell in us richly, not just scatter a few bubbles across the surface and keep moving. Yours are the Words of life, the Lamp to our feet. Please displace me with You, sending up a big bubble of surrender. Help all of us who are guilty of dabbling, but never really dwelling. In the Name of Him Who Makes All Things Possible, Amen. Not my strength, but Yours, Father.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pizza Party

I need to confess to a little anxiety attack I've been having lately. I know anxiety isn't allowed, and we are commanded not to indulge it, but to turn all things over to God. We have had some surprise expenses come up, along with a purchase that made sense at the time (I'm typing on it...) that has caused us to need to tighten the financial belt a little. Not much, but enough to send me down the same track I always do...let's sell the house. I could recognize that by the lack of peace I was feeling that this probably wasn't God's plan. I prayed that He would help the fog and anxiety clear from my brain, and that I could see the path He wanted. I also acknowledged that God has never failed to provide what I needed, and had faith that He would steer me in the right direction.

So, having said all that, God does provide, and continues to amaze me. I must get my sense of humor from Him, because He definitely has one. I made my husband a present for his 50th birthday, put it on the charge card to get it ordered, and planned to pay for it with yesterday's babysitting money. Seriously, Rob shouldn't have to pay for his own present, right? Then the little girl I babysit for was sick. Plan B. I took some time to focus my thoughts on God, thank Him in advance for the provision I know He can provide, and went about my day. You are wondering about the funny part...

I let the kids make homemade pizza for dinner and decorate it themselves. As I was cleaning up afterwards, I piled all of their leftovers on my plate and was headed to the garbage. My 20 year old daughter dared me to eat the leftovers for $50. If you've ever watched kids eat pizza, you know leftovers aren't always pretty... She didn't know about the scrapbook needing to be paid for. I thought about it for about a minute, deciding if there was an empty corner in the gut to be filled, and went for it. I won. I had her write the check directly to Rob.

Until this morning I didn't really see this as God's provision, just a silly way to make $50. But, when we pray for God to provide, we don't always know how He is going to answer. I might've had less indigestion if a long lost relative sent me a check out of the blue, but providing is providing. Imagine the blind man who wanted to see...mud and spit probably weren't what he was looking for, kind of gross actually. But what wouldn't he accept for sight?

There isn't really a moral to my story, but it just makes me see even more clearly that God can handle anything I bring to Him. Even with a chuckle, I imagine.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shine for You

Even the stars answer His call. He has named them all and calls each one by name. He knows our names too, and calls us each by name. Father God, give me a heart to come running when you call, like the stars do. I doubt that shooting stars look around when He beckons to see if there is a better offer out there. Stars shoot through the galaxy at His whisper, gladly giving all they have to glorify Him.

Laying outside the other night, watching the Perseid meteor showers, all I could do was praise God. I could imagine the stars being excited because they were called. Not because of anything special they did, but because God chose them to hurtle through space at that moment, (actually thousand of years ago, but we finally see the light of it), for His purpose.

"All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them." Isaiah 43:7

Friday, August 7, 2009

Position Is Everything

This morning, as I was moving a flower pot off the porch into the yard to capture some much needed rain, I was thinking how important being in the right position is. Spiritually speaking, when we are praying for God to answer a prayer, position is everything. Am I waiting in a posture of humility, patience, and obedience, or am I finagling every detail trying to make something happen?
"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him." Psalm 62:5

Monday, August 3, 2009

She Speaks...He Spoke

Did you ever need to describe something and couldn't find a word big enough? Fun, inspiring, educational, amazing...I could go on and on. I prayed before I left that I wouldn't just learn to "do ministry" better. I am fairly organized and efficient on my own strength, but I am tired of doing things on my own strength. That just leads to burn-out. I wanted to go and really meet the Lord, to be all consumed with a passion for Him and what He has for me. And that, friends, is what happened.

From the very first session, the focus was on Him. There were technical aspects in each talk, but the out-loud, up-front focus was Christ. If we are not relying on Him and using the gifts He gave us, acknowledging Him as the driving force of all we do, we are not doing it to glorify Him. The minute I decide that if I stopped showing up a ministry would cease or fall into trouble, I need to walk away and get on my knees. God does not need any of us to accomplish His purposes, but He allows us to take part in His awesome story. Definitely humbling to be reminded of this.

I was also reminded that if God has an agenda, nothing will get in its way. You know the song "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part"? It's true. Sometimes I feel like God is calling me to something, but I'm not sure what it is or how to get there. If He has a plan, which He does for each of us (Ephesians 2:10), we need to keep doing the things we are supposed to do. Study the Word. Be a prayer warrior. Love and serve others. Stay on the path we know we are supposed to be on, and it will lead us to His purpopse and plan for us. I always worry that if I'm not intensely trying to make something happen, to force His hand, that I might miss His call for me. It doesn't work that way. That puts the power on me, and that isn't where it belongs.

The point was also made this weekend, which I am very, very familiar with, that when we are about Kingdom Business, anything done to glorify God, the enemy is watching. Waiting. Whispering. Reminding you that you aren't good enough or smart enough to do something. Telling you that your past disqualifies you from your future. Because of the blood of Christ, this is not true. Read it again: This is not true.

The last biggest thing that I will take with me after this weekend is to live the story God has given me. He has allowed my particular circumstances and mistakes for a reason. Don't cover up certain things, because that doesn't glorify God. He hasn't asked us to be His reporters, speaking generically about what He can do in a life, but to be His witnesses, telling of the transformation He has made in our lives. If, now that you "have arrived" and have your Super Christian ID card, you are ignoring certain parts of your past, stop. Remember, God is sovereign. He could have stepped in and steered you in another choice than the ones you made, but He didn't. If God allows it, He can use it. Takes guts, and it's scary, but entrust it all to God. Covering up denies His power. This is really enough fodder for a whole new post, so I will close now.

Suffice it to say that God is in control. We belong to Him. He will accomplish His purposes through us, not because He needs us, but because He loves us. Live the life He has called you to. Stop looking at everyone else's race, or you will trip running your own. I could go on, because my heart is so full, but let me close with this: If you do not know the Lord, I would love to help you meet Him. He has a plan for you, and is waiting for you. I am not any more or less special in His eyes than anyone else. We are all prescious in His sight. If you have questions, I would love to help you find the answers.