Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Beat Like No Other

How many times have you been in a place in your life that makes you wonder if you have what it takes? You begin to wonder just exactly what were you thinking when you said "Sure, I can do that."

I had a dream not too long ago that, while it is sort of funny, speaks to a deeper issue. I dreamt that it was Saturday night church, and I was the drummer for the worship team. Three of us were on stage, and I was responsible to keep the beat for the other musicians. There were only a few problems with this, the biggest being that I am not actually a drummer. I had no idea what I was doing. The second problem was that the equipment was a child's drum kit, suitable for my 7 year old.It soon became apparent not just to the rest of the band, but to the whole church, that I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like a fraud, realizing that I couldn't live up to my own hype. I woke up embarrassed, and it is so weird how a feeling from a dream can stick with you.

Even though it's been a couple weeks since I had this dream, I can't stop thinking about it. Dreams can help us process how we are feeling when we don't know we're feeling something. So, based on this dream, and my high school psychology degree, I've got some stuff going on that is probably not unique to me, so let's talk it through. Obvously, I do not feel equal to a task set before me. I am feeling a little unsure and insecure.

And that is a good place to be.

As long as I feel completely sure of myself, confident in my own abilities, I lose my need for God. It is only in recognizing where we fall short do we leave room for God to act. His abilities know no limit, and He never lacks for confidence. He never wakes up wondering if He is going to screw something up today.

I am grateful for an opportunity to serve in a way that I know I can't do on my own. Standing on His promises reminds me that His Word that He sends out will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish that which He purposes and succeed in the thing for which He sent it.(Isaiah 55:11) I know that when the Holy Spirit fills me, I will be His witness to the ends of the earth, including Waukesha, Wisconsin.(Acts 1:8) I know that when He called the Hebrews to build the tabernacle, He provided them with the skills they would need to get the job done, and He will do the same for me.(Exodus 35:30). I remember that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I am praying to remember that it is not my strength, but His, that will lead me through this next season. I am also praying for you, that you take a challenge that God may be whispering to you, so that you can set out on a journey equal to none you have done before. That even though you are nervous about your own ability to succeed, you give God a chance to prove Himself capable of leading you to new heights. Stop living safely, within the bounds of your own talents. March to a beat like no other, take God at His Word, and remember that He created you to impact your world for Him. By Him. Through Him.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Truly Amazing Race

Sunday, August 22, was the culmination of eight months of training for the Danskin Triathlon. It has been a fantastic journey of balance. Balancing family with working out, keeping it fun but not militant, being encouraged but not prideful, all while keeping the goal of getting in shape enough to do the triathlon. Along the way God has reminded me which race I am supposed to be running, the one with the imperishable crown.
The day dawned at 3:40. One cup of coffee, one final check of my bag, one more hug from my hubby (who was celebrating his bday yesterday), and my friend Julee was in the driveway. It was a foggy twisty ride through the back roads down to Kenosha, picking up Cheri and Carol along the way, all the while listening to KLOVE. We were chatty and keyed up for the big day, when Revelation Song came on the radio. The atmosphere changed as we all started singing, calmer and focused on God. We pulled into the shuttle parking lot and covered the whole day in prayer before heading to the shuttle which would take us to the Rec Plex.
There were over 1500 women taking part in this triathlon. I hesitate to use the word "competing" because there was not a feeling of competition. If anything, most of us were competing against ourselves, determined and excited to be doing this in the first place. I cannot tell you in words the feeling of camaraderie that permeates this event. We met up with Jessie and Becky, said good-bye to Carol who was in an earlier heat, and went to wait on the shore of Lake Andrea for our turn to swim the 1/2 mile. There were cheers and tears as the wave of cancer survivors entered the water.
As my friends and I started the swim, I couldn't help but be reminded of the scene at the end of Titanic with all the people bobbing in the water, wishing each other well. That is just evidence of my warped sense of humor, I suppose. Anyway, I completed the swim, only swimming outside of the buoys and off course once, and ran out of the water up the beach to get my bike. I was so excited to see my family all in matching tie-dyed t-shirts decorated with puffy paint cheering me on. All five of my kids, my granddaughter, my daughter's boyfriend, and three friends got up early to come share the day. Talk about feeling loved and supported...it was wonderful!

After getting my shoes, shorts, and helmet on, I got on my bike for the 12 mile bike portion of the event. Immediately I knew something was wrong. I was not able to get any speed on, and everything just felt tight on my bike. I had my tires filled before racking my bike and had to walk it to the gate, so I never had a chance to see how it "felt." I was pedaling along, working really hard to get anywhere, when I looked down just past the three mile mark to see my back innertube flopping around on the outside of my wheel.
Now I'm not an expert or anything, but I know this is not a good thing. I quickly learned that being a frugal optimist is not a good combination because I never invested in a repair kit. My heart sunk as I realized that the day was over for me. I loaded my bike in the courtesy van that came by but decided to run back to the finish line. I was not going to cry in front of a stranger.
I started the run back fighting back tears and disappointment, but I was not alone. Jesus sent His Comforter a long time ago to walk with me, and we hashed it out together. The Holy Spirit reminded me of God's Sovereignty, of why I was created, not to run in races but to glorify God, and that the question to be asked is not "Why?" but "How?" I took the advice I give everyone else and FOCUSED.
  • It was a gorgeous beautiful day with a light breeze.
  • I did not get injured when my tire blew.
  • I had a whole team of people cheering me on.
  • There were a lot of dehydrated dead things along the road and I wasn't one of them.
  • I had gotten in good shape during the training.
  • I took this journey with a great bunch of friends, and made some new ones.
  • I live a life that allowed me to go through this whole process in the first place, growing closer to God and learning new things about Him.
I couldn't keep track of all the blessings once I started looking for them. Immediately I felt the despair lifting, and as I ran along, I was filled with joy. The Joy of the Lord was my strength. This day stopped being about me and about the Lord, and how He could use me.

I was able to offer encouragement to many women who were struggling. I ran backwards up the hills, talking one lady to the top. I ran most of the three miles back to the start, figuring that I would push myself for as long as I was allowed to take part in the event. I was only sad when I thought about my family being gypped out of seeing me cross a finish line. I got back to the check in where the bikers were rolling in, and told the guy what happened. He told me I could keep going and do the 5k run.
Immediately I took off for the last leg after a high-five from my family.

I jogged, walked, and ran my way through the last leg of the event, crossing the finish line with a sprint. It was a celebration to say the least since everyone had heard about the bike drama. It was the one thing I was worried about happening, it happened, and the day was still amazing. Christ in me can do way more than I could ask or even imagine. The normal me would be pouty and disappointed, looking for someone to blame for the tire mishap, but Christ gives me His joy, peace, kindness, and self-control where mine leaves off. Make no mistake here..this is not about me and my good attitude, this is about the power of Christ that is available to each one of us.

When I got home and turned on my computer, I was not surprised to see John 15:5 as the KLOVE Verse of the Day: "I am the Vine and you are the branches. Those who abide in me bear much fruit, because apart from Me you can do nothing." Amen to that, and amen to a truly amazing day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Protect the Investment...

That has been my battle cry since I started training for the triathlon, which, by the way, is tomorrow. I have been so careful with my body, trying not to get injured or knocked out of training. It has definitely paid off, until the other day.

I took the kids to the Horeb Skatepark to go up and down the ramps with their bikes and skateboards. (That fact alone makes me the coolest mom ever...) I was helping Justin get his bike up the ramp when I lost my footing, slipped backwards, fell down, and had his bike roll back over the top of me. All this while wearing a pretty white shirt...me, who never wears white just because I'm afraid I'll get it dirty. Anyway, I'm laying there on the ground thinking "I can't believe this just happened" and checking for damage. To my body, not the bike. Except for a big bruise on the side of my ankle, a slightly twisted knee, and some scratches, I'm good. Nothing a little Power Gel, ibuprofen, and adrenaline won't be able to deal with in the morning. All my hard work and training and militantly protecting the investment that I have put into this triathlon almost went right out the window.

This whole "Protect the Investment" mantra got me thinking, though. What do I value enough to actively protect, besides the obvious like my kids? As Christians, we have had a huge investment made in us, paid for with the blood of Christ. We have received an inheritance, to become children of the Most High God, and given the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, as a means of protecting that investment. So how do we maintain and honor that?

How careful are we about what we allow to influence us? Are we filling our hearts and minds with "junkfood", or are we craving the Bread of Life? I think about this in regards to the choices in music, television, and books that are out there. I know my family gets irritated because, for the most part, I only listen to a Christian radio statioin, but the lyrics of the mainstream music fill my head with words of hopelessness and lust. I would just rather listen to scripture set to music because that is how I arm myself to stand strong in this world full of temptation. That is how I protect this investment.

The closer I grow to Christ, the more aware I am of things that seek to separate me from Him. There is a certain author that I used to read everything by, but it makes me think of things that are not in line with the life that God would like me to lead. We have to be so careful what we allow to influence our thoughts, because the battle truly takes place in our mind first. I was in the doctor's office last week, reading a mainstream ladies magazine when an advice column caugth my eye. A woman was broken hearted because her husband has suffered a severe brain injury and now has the mind of a five year old. She was missing the companionship and love of the relationship they had had. The author of the column advised her, that when she was healed of the grief, she consider an extra-marital relationship to supplement her life. What??? If I did not have my foundations firmly established, this would make perfect sense to me. At one time, it did. I prayed for all the ladies reading this magazine, that they would not be led astray. It is definitely a hard world we live in.

We need to run the race intentionally, with our eye on the prize that God has for us. We need to screen every influence with the question "Is this what Jesus would want for me?" The only way we will know the right answer is to be in His Word, to be learning and growing. It is impossible to run two directions at once, so we have to choose to run towards Him. Otherwise, by default, we are running away.

When I cross the finish line tomorrow, I want to know that I did everything I could to run this race successfully. When I cross the finish line at the end of my earthly race, I want to be out of breath with excitement of having pursued Him with every fiber of my being.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dream Chasers

The question came up last night with friends what was the highlight of our summer. In my self-absorbed shallowness I said it will be the triathlon. Don't get me wrong...I am super excited about it. I am amazed that I haven't quit by now. But, the real joy has been actually enjoying my kids. Joy has come from growing in my relationship with God. Joy will be when I get to share His truth with a friend in a hurting place. There is nothing in this world that I could accomplish that compares with following Jesus. Here are the lyrics to the song that changed my life at the Women's Retreat a few years ago:
One Pure And Holy Passion

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your dicsiple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after you
To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you

Lord to know and follow hard after you
And to grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You Want Me To What??

God has been working on my heart to be obedient to Him, to stop being self-centered. I have committed to being radically obedient...saying yes without worrying about the personal cost. It won't be easy, but when I line that decision up against His truth...He loves me, He has a plan for me, He only wants what is best for me...it is not hard. It's just that sometimes it leads me to tricky situations that I wouldn't feel the need to visit on my own.

I have been comfortable saying for the last few years that I gave up my goal of running a race two summers in a row because Rob wasn't willing to handle the kids while I practiced. I played the martyr role of giving up something I wanted to keep my man happy. This morning during my run, I was thanking God for the blessing of being able to train for this particular race. People have come forward, offering to watch the kids so I can train. Rob has been pretty good about it...everything is falling into place. But, as I was running, God brought to my mind that the reason the last two summers didn't work out was because it wasn't His timing. I had been secretly nurturing resentment towards my husband, clothed in martyr's garb, for not being able to do what I wanted. I knew I needed to apologize to him when I got home and confess what I had been feeling.

So, feeling full of the spirit and wanting to be obedient, I wiped the sweat off my face and bounded up the front steps to open the door. The door was locked. What?? After standing on the porch giving blood to mosquitoes and ringing the bell for like five minutes, my husband opened the door. I was irritated and sweaty and bit up by this point, and he gave an unfriendly response to my question about why the door was locked. I was ready to stalk off to the shower when God reminded me that we were apologizing this morning. Seriously? He was just mean to me, I whined. Remembering that it is not about me, but about God, I confessed to Rob what I had been harboring. It was actually wonderful and cleansing to release a burden that I didn't know I'd been carrying.

There is a man sitting in jail, probably until he dies, for what he did to another little girl. When women came out of the wood work at his sentencing to speak the unspeakable, the judge gave him the maximum penalty allowed which is 40 years. He has been there since 1995. Justice had been served.

In June of this year I was reading a devo on vengeance. It occurred to me that the ultimate act of getting revenge on someone would be knowingly letting them go to hell...not sharing the gospel with them. There is only one person I would consider worthy of getting revenge on, even though I know that God claims vengeance as His own, on my behalf. So, with that in mind, I sent a letter to the man in prison, telling him of the forgiveness and healing available in Christ. I shared the gospel with the man who abused me. God does not weigh out sin, or consider any of us worse than the other based on our sin. All sin is repugnant to Him. It is not for me to decide who is worthy of hearing the gospel. Sharing these truths with him gave me a measure of freedom and closure that I didn't even know I needed. God took me through a tunnel of darkness while I processed this and led me into His light.

I don't want you to walk away from reading this thinking that I have it all together or that I am better than I am. It is truly only the power of Christ at work in me that allows me to do the things He asks...on my own I am ugly and self-centered. But I do want you to know this: the blessings of growing closer to God, to going deeper in your relationship with Him are worth any price He asks. If He asks you to do something, it is only for your benefit and growth to be more like Him. He has directed me to some fiery places, but has never left me there by myself. Every time He has challenged me to step up in a way that my flesh rails against, my spirit has been strengthened. He has given me His joy. It gives new meaning to the phrase "The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength." I don't know what the Lord will ask of me in the future, but I keep my heart ready to hear His voice. It is the only one I want to listen to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bargain Shopper

How much are you willing to pay for something that you really want? Do you pay full price? Do you watch for a sale, and maybe try to find a coupon too? Do you wait until you see it at a rummage sale and then try to talk them down to a price that won't impact your pocket book too much? Is that really fair though, to want something so desirable for a bargain basement price?

I recently watched the movie "How To Save A Life". Even though it is set in a high school and borders on the unrealistically dramatic, I would recommend it. The main character asks the question before coming to faith, "Is He worth it?" It really got me thinking about all the times I've wanted something for nothing, and ended up with nothing.

We pray to have a closer relationship with God, but on our terms. The processes that we can know Him through, and see His character revealed, are not always easy ones. We get the deeper dependency, the more intimate knowledge of who He is, in the hard times. The times when we have no one else to lean on. The times when our hearts are broken and we finally turn to Him to fill us up. If you knew ahead of time the journey that God would take you on to go deeper in your relationship with Him, would you try to haggle Him down to a more acceptable price?

I prayed today that one of my kids would come to see the need for Jesus in their life, but I prayed cautiously...one of those "be careful what you wish for" thoughts. What price am I willing to see my child pay in order to gain a relationship with Christ? We want what we want without having to really sacrifice for it.

I just finished reading What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst. It is a book based on radical obedience...saying yes regardless of the price to us. Not in a "cut off your arm" sort of way, but in an "I don't need to be first because God is first in my life" sort of way. Definitely challenging...you know how I like to hold the reins.

Life is hard and hurtful sometimes, but if we can be obedient to the things that He asks of us, He is worth it. The price that we pay to know Him more fully is nothing compared to the price that He paid to make it all possible. Like the VISA commericals say...Priceless.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Son Shine

I was driving home tonight with my little boys, 4 and 7, watching the sun set as we went. The conversation turned to how far away the sun is, which was a nice turn considering the topics little boys usually like.


I was feeling really smart as I was explaining that the sun is really a star, and that even though it is so far away, it is the closest one to us. As I was saying that there are lots of stars out in the daytime but we can't see them because of the brightness of the sun, God reached down and took my breath away. He reminded me that when we focus on the brightness of His Son, everything else becomes harder to see.

The lyrics to "How He Loves" went through my head...these afflictions eclipsed by glory...

Oh Lord, help me to focus on Your dazzling brightness...allow it to fill my vision and filter everything else I see through it. And on the cloudiest of days, remind me that there is no cloud cover dense enough to hide me in darkness. I am Yours.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Soul Scratches

I'm drinking my coffee, looking at the end table I got from my grandma's house when she died. You've probably seen them, early American style from the 1960's that has a cover that opens to hide the TV Guide in. Except that no one gets TV Guide anymore. At my grandma's it held that, Time Magazine, a lighter that you had to refill with real butane, and her Benson and Hedges cigarettes. My table is special though because it has four big fingernail scratches in it that I put there by accident.

Ok, not by accident exactly...a damp washcloth got left on the table, resulting in a foggy white residue, which I thought I could scrape off. It wasn't until the next morning that I noticed the white residue was gone, with only four deep nail marks remaining. Hmm...in my efforts to fix a problem I made it worse. Ever done that before?

Ever yelled at your kids to be quiet because the baby is sleeping, and woken the baby up yourself? Ever been so frustrated with someone that you just start eating all the crunchy salty things in the house when you know you should just stop? Have you ever felt so sad because the one who is supposed to love you without question has changed his mind? So sad that you go in search of attention elsewhere, just to prove someone will still notice?

Looking at the scratches in my coffee table got me thinking about the things we do to fix the hurts, to handle the frustrations, to heal the damage. Most of the time, our decisions come from a place of pain and desperation, of longing for significance and intimacy. I have to be honest and tell you, the ways I have tried to fix my own issues have fallen flat, before I knew where to go.

It is in knowing who Jesus is that makes the difference. I know Him as Healer, so I don't have to try and heal myself through channels that just make it worse. Or at best, don't really suffice, just distract. In His own words, He came to bring good news to the poor, comfort the broken-hearted, set the captives free from the things that imprison us, and give sight to the blind.(Isaiah 61, Luke 4). He came to fill the empty places that separate us from God when we try to fix things ourselves. He came to show us that He alone is the Way.

I could go on for hours...days...the rest of my life...telling you Who He is and what He means to me in my life, how He has lifted my blindness to see life through His eyes, how He set me free from the things that imprisoned me, that I can't make my own way to Heaven by being good, and that I can't unearn my way when I'm not good...and how He is waiting for you to know Him as Lord...but the day is calling. The kids are needing me to pay some attention to them. Let me finish by saying that I am praying for you, that you might come to know Jesus as Lord...as the All-Sufficient Creator of you.


He knows what you need, and is knocking on the door of the emptiness that envelopes you...waiting. Will you let Him in?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stained Glass Windows

I've been thinking a lot about broken glass lately. I may save a lot of broken things, certain I can fix them or find a use for them someday, but broken glass isn't one of them. Once it is broken, you pretty much can't use it anymore. Things seem pretty final.

But, have you ever looked at a stained glass window? It really is nothing but a pile of broken glass held together by a bead of melted lead, called lead came. (OK, I'm not really that smart. I just googled it...) When it is all arranged though, there is nothing more beautiful than the sun streaming through a stained glass window, splashing its translucent richness like a baptism of color. To a stained glass artist, a pile of broken glass is like a box of treasure, waiting to take on the shape of whatever he desires.

There is a song that is getting knocked around a little bit...Better Than a Hallelujah. It speaks of brokenness and hurt being better than a pretty song. It is a song that makes me thing of stained glass windows. When we cry out to God in our broken state, He sees the beauty that can result. He knows that when we come to Him with nothing left, He fills in our gaps and broken places, allowing His light to shine through...we become His rainbow. His promise of faithfulness to never abandon us. He looks at us, when the rest of the world sees a pile of broken glass, something with no redeeming qualities, and pours His redemption into us, fashioning us into something exquisite and beautiful. We become His treasure box to design as He pleases.

I know that for me, I feel closest to God not when I am singing His praises, but when, in my broken state, when I just can't take another minute of another day, and I cry out to Him. He smooths my jagged edges, fills me up and holds me together, and shines His light through me. You may see me singing the Hallelujah song, but I know that without Him I would just be a pile of broken glass. With Him, I get to be a stained glass window, most beautiful when the Son is shining through me.