Sunday, January 31, 2010

broken hearts accepted

Psalm 51 tells us that the only acceptable sacrifice to God is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I offered mine to Him this morning.

It has been a weekend of naughty kids and a hormonal me, and that is never a good mix. By this morning, I was very happy to drop them off at their respective Sunday school classes and have a breather. You know how I like to get my praise on and look forward to the music so much, but this morning it was different. One of the songs referred to our (my...I need to own it) crimson stain and how Jesus has washed us white as snow. Every time I sang crimson stain I could hear myself yelling at my kids mostly because it made me feel better to yell but did nothing to help the situation. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I recognized that I needed to be washed white as snow and there was nothing on my own I could about it but fall on the grace of God. All the meals I fix for friends who need a hand, all the errands to help out, all the patience in the world with other people does nothing to wash away sin. It is not a tally sheet of trying to balance more good than bad. It is just an awareness that no matter what, I will never be good enough for God. But along with that awareness is a knowledge that He doesn't need me to be. He loves me anyway and offers me grace. A fresh start. A firm place to stand. He is not waiting for me to clean up my act or act better. He loves me today.

It was truly an amazing morning. The next song we sang was by Matt Redman, You Alone Can Rescue. How appropriate...I stared my need for rescue straight in the face during the previous song. I can't describe the squeaky clean feeling that taking a nice hot shower and being wrapped in a giant fluffy towel, warm and snuggled. When we truly recognize our need for forgiveness, stop hiding, and seek Him, He comes closer.

If I might be bold, if there is something holding you back from seeking God, something you think you need to fix, He knows already. And He still wants you. Yes, you. If someone reading this wonders if this God is for real, I can promise you He is. But you don't need to take my word for can take His. He is knocking. He is waiting for you to let Him in.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's In Your Garden?

Did you ever decide you were going to stop doing something, eating something, whatever it is, you get the idea, and then it is all you wanted to do, eat, whatever...? I decided this morning to stop wasting time FaceBook stalking. I can't tell you how many times I have wandered over to my computer, ready to tap-tap the mousepad, and see what everyone is up to. My computer, which, incidentally shares the roll-top desk with two Bibles that don't see as much action as Facebook.

This morning I read a devotion from Proverbs 31 about how quickly the little things add up. Little calories, little wrong choices, little random thoughts. This afternoon I watched a sermon by Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church on reaping and sowing. I am seeing that God would like to have my attention, perhaps.

To paraphrase the Bible through the sermon, there are three main points:
1. You always reap what you sow. Not once in a while, not usually, but ALWAYS. ALWAYS.
2. You always reap more than you sow. There are tons of easy examples ice cream cone every night combined with no exercise will result in a bigger me.
3. You always reap later than you sow. The good and the bad of this is we can't see immediately what good will come out of the good we do. We may do good godly things in the lives of others and think there is nothing happening, but God's Word promises that what we do will always produce a harvest, at some point. As Pastor Furtick said, it would be much easier to eat sensibly if one french fry did go immediately to my waistline.

Anyway, all of this calls me to examine what I am planting. I am not knocking Facebook in general, just the mindbreaks I seem to be taking more and more often. I could be praying. I could be cleaning. I could even be playing with my kids instead of listening to them fight while I stalk.(A plus of FB is that I have gotten connected with family in a more normal everyday way, and, when someone needs help or prayer, I know about it really quickly. And if I type "praying" on the line, I promise that I stopped what I was doing and lifted you up that minute.)

Maybe Facebook isn't your escape...maybe it is blog-hopping, romance novels, or gossip. Instead of spending quality time with God while you go about your day, you attach the phone to your head and talk about everyone you know with everyone you know. Substitute your crutch here. I am just trying to make the point that we can't slack on the things that will enrich our lives and bring us closer to God, and then wonder why we aren't happy and fulfilled. It has helped me to see how two minute decisions can have lasting results, and to want to spend my time more intentionally.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Starting a Revolution

I never did choose a New Year's Resolution for this year. I have set some goals, but I have also made some discoveries. I have discovered that I am a sprinter. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but in the way I get through life.

If there is a crisis, I am all over it:

Prayer warrior.

Meal planner.


Irritatingly bright shining light.

Advice giver.

Life planner and organizer.

But, in the general scheme of things, being a sprinter doesn't get you very far. Just burnt out.

I never did make a list of ways to better myself this year, because, as a sprinter, that is self-defeating. Instead, I heard about the One Word Resolution on K-LOVE. Choose one word to be the theme for your year. My word is...ENDURANCE. defines ENDURANCE as the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions. Well, doesn't that just about sum things up!
The problem with being good in a crisis is that when one is done there is usually another waiting around the corner.

ENDURANCE will not just happen. Oddly and thankfully enough, as a Christian, it does not require more willpower. It requires surrender to a way that is better than mine. It requires trusting God to lead, and for me to stay on the path He has set before me. Hebrews 12:1-2 puts it nicely...even tells us how to do it. Click over and take a look.

I have made a few decisions that will require ENDURANCE. The most important is that divorce is not ever going to be an option. (Before the yeah...but's start, let me clarify. Unless my physical safety or that of my children is threatened, which is highly unlikely in my husband is not wired that way.) It will not be a case of "until selfishness and severe irritation do us part." Anything else, and I know that God is big enough to see my through it.

The second is that someone encouraged me to sign up for the Danskin Triathalon in August. It will take more than wishful thinking, it will take ENDURANCE. I have signed up for the YMCA and am working towards my goal.

Then, of course, there is the ENDURANCE required to raise kids. Definitely a process, not an event. And that is enough for this post.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Journey to Faith

Faith is choosing to believe that which is not seen. But more than that, faith is choosing to believe that which I may not fully understand or even agree with. I know that sounds weird, but faith gives us a giant plateau to stand on even though we may only see our small plot on the ground. I picture myself standing in a field of flowers that stretches endlessly into the distance. Even though I cannot see the entire field, I know that it will be the same wherever I step. Solid, firm, beautiful, and able to support me.

When I first decided to give God a chance, I was pretty sure that it would be temporary, that there would come a time when we would need to part ways. Something would come up, and I would need to venture out on my own again. Long term relationships were not part of my make up.

It turns out that I had a lot of misinformation about God. While there are things that He is definitely not a fan of, His grace and compassion begin at the same place as judgment. The biggest thing I have learned is that there is safety and comfort in this field of flowers. He truly takes away fear and replaces it with calm.

Shortly after I started attending church, but before I had a really firm handle on who God is, we had a family "situation". Crisis, by some standards even. There was a Saturday about 6 years ago that led me into very new territory that I did not want to enter. I was up worrying and crying most of the night, then I headed to church, bleary eyed and puffy. I remember walking in to a mostly dark auditorium, sitting down, and immediately feeling the weight lift of my chest. I took a deep breath, and before I knew it, I was crying again. Not tears of fear and frustration, but the kind when you lay your head on someone's chest and just let go. I had never experienced such peace and safety, yet been in the midst of a storm. Every song that morning in worship spoke to me...Trading my Sorrows for the Joy of the Lord is the one I remember the best. I heard the music with new ears, as a way for God to speak directly into my soul. I was beginning to realize that there is nothing He can't see me through. He won't necessarily steer me around the hard times, but He will hold me close and lead me through them. Like when a horse is lead out of a burning barn, he is protected and guided, but still walking through the flames. And on the other side, he has one more reason to trust his Leader.

I know there is a lot in this world that makes us wonder if there is really a god who cares, a god who is in control, especially in light of global tragedies. There is. But before you can come to faith, you have to jump without asking to see the net first. We can't allow the circumstance to define God; we must allow God to define the circumstance. God never moves. He never changes. He never stopped caring. He never stopped being in charge.

There may be a fire in your life right now, but you can trust Him to lead you through it. The smoke will clear, and you will see that you are standing in a field of flowers, as far as the eye can see.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friends and Physics

Did you ever meet someone and just click, like you were supposed to be friends? Or, have you ever heard something, and it strikes a chord somewhere deep inside, setting off the feeling of wholeness and "rightness", for lack of a better word?

There is a better word, actually. It is "resonance". Beth Moore used it in a video teaching, with the example of a piano chord. The physics definition of resonance is when an outside force causes an increase in amplitude of oscillation of something internal. Right now you are probably wondering why I am talking science to you, but this is so cool. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit in us, to guide us and testify truth to us. Picture the Holy Spirit as middle C on a piano. If someone stands near a piano and sings a perfectly pitched C, the piano string itself will vibrate, on its own, without any keys being touched. It is responding to an external force. Likewise, when the middle C in us, the Holy Spirit, hears truth, it will respond. Remember, one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to be our communication between us and God. (Romans 8:26-27.) You can see that the saying "strikes a chord" is based in physics. That resonance is the Holy Spirit witnessing that you are hearing from God.

Now that you are feeling smarter, let me tell you how this mattered to me this week. I had a rough one, and it took the counsel and loving words of a few godly friends to bring me around. I was wrong this week, and two friends, Shelley and Kristen, reminded me of God's truth. One reminded that I am not stinky to God, and the other reminded me that the my husband is the head of my household, and even if I don't agree with what he thinks, unless he is asking me to violate God's law, my problem is actually with God and not with Rob. Their counsel resonated within me, and without that Holy Spirit testifying to the truthfulness of their words, (one in particular would have been easy to argue about. I'll let you guess which one.), they would have just been kind words from friends. But they were speaking God's truth to me.

"I said to the Lord, "You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you."
The godly people in the land are my true heroes!
Psalm 16:2-3

My friend Shelley has been reminding me of God's place in my marriage for a few years know. I joke that we should keep track of how many times we go back to the same conversation, because every time I hear it, it feels like a brand new epiphany. Life is a cycle, folks.

My friend Kristen is a new friend. Sort of. We met at the beginning of the school year, each of us has a son named Connor in the same 1st grade class. We keep finding things in common...our journey to faith, people we know, situations we have been in, and every time we find a new similarity we laugh and say we were meant to be friends. Truer words have never been spoken. To read about how we actually met, check out this blog post from last December. You will see that God really works in mysterious ways.

The next time something, or someone, seems strangely "right", resonating through your soul, listen closer. God may be whispering in your ear.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


These last few days have been filled with some turmoil for me. I was ugly to my husband, not unprovoked, but that is not what is bothering me. I can't seem to get my own voice out of my head. I have got a really short fuse lately, and that is not how I normally am. I could look for all sorts of reasons, blame it on hormones or something equally acceptable, but that's just a cop-out. I need to pull out the wide angle lens and look at the bigger picture.

God is growing me. I could look at the people who tick me off and say that God needs to grow them, but I don't think that is the response He is looking for. Every time something happens that makes my blood boil, I have two choices. I can respond in a way that does not seek to build anything but a bigger fire, or I can step down. Stepping down does not mean the other person is right, necessarily; it just means that I am going to give God a chance to tell me what this is really about. Every attitude that someone brings to a relationship is years in the making. Long before you or I arrived on the scene the groundwork had already been laid. Instead of getting mad, I could choose to wonder where this (annoying) belief stems from. (Sorry, I am extremely human.)

Another way to look at this, as a friend suggested, is that this is my opportunity to suffer. Just stay with me for a minute...I totally recognize that there are people dealing with a whole lot of stuff that makes my life look like a cake walk. Angel food cake with strawberries, even...Anyway, God allows injustice and suffering in our lives for a reason. Instead of throwing an unholy tantrum, I could honor Him by seeking Him first, instead of my own way. (1 Peter 4:19).

In the process of God growing me this week, He has been leading me through James, especially chapter 3. The whole huge blazes being started by a small fire section. Also, Psalm your anger do not sin, but take time to ponder the situation. The Holy Spirit has been doing some serious convicting, to the point that I can't raise my eyes to the Throne of Grace yet. I don't want to stay here for long, but I also don't want to forget this horrible feeling that I am carrying.

There is some healing that needs to take place in this house. I read through Psalm 51 today, realizing that it is really against God and His creation that I am sinning, and that He would restore the joy I had, but how do you stop smelling like smoke when you have been caught in a blaze? I'm just not sure where to go from here.