Monday, January 31, 2011

Outdated and Unnecessary

"Getting up early this morning, I went out back to pump some water from the well and build a fire. Hot coffee would be good, in about a half hour when everything was ready. I made my way to the outhouse shack on the back of our property, wishing the cold wasn't biting my backside and that the splinters wouldn't be too deep. Heading back inside, grateful for the moon to light my way, I searched for my candlestick to read my Bible by its light." Excerpt from my diary January 31, 2011.

If you just did a doubletake or wondered if this was a backwoods pioneer woman writing this, it's just me making a point. It would be ridiculous, unless that was your thing...not judging live this way unless you really had to. We would not choose to pump water from a well when we have a kitchen sink. We not need to build a cooking fire when we have a working stove in our kitchens, a kitchen complete with a coffee maker that has our coffee waiting for us when we get up. We would definitely not choose to sit in an outhouse, quaint as that might sound, to do our business, especially on a cold winter morning.

But, looking at our spiritual lives, we make these choices everyday. We live without the power of a Living God, giving in to fear, anxiety, the quest for money and control driving us before them as slaves. We live in darkness, forgetting that in Christ there is no darkness at all.

My Chronological Bible reading is taking me through the Exodus right now. The words of chapter 6 spoke to my heart as I thought about the slavery and oppression that people are subject to today, some by their own hand admittedly, but when we are trapped, we don't always see the way out. Even when someone is standing under the Exit sign calling our name. We are blinded by the starkness and hopelessness of our situations. Consider the words of the Lord:

"Therefore, say to the people of Israel: 'I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!'"

He is standing by, waiting to deliver you from whatever enslaves you, to deliver us from our troubles, to lead us into a new place, not necessarily a new location physically, but spiritually, a place where we don't have to live in fear...a place where we can be strengthened in His mightiness.

Here is the response of the people Moses was sent to deliver: v.9: So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.

Besides the fact that God was speaking directly to them, and they were too broken to listen, these people were Israelites. These people were believers. This is written about you and I. While this post is an invitation to those who don't know the power of God to come and learn, this is also a wake-up call to us as Christians. We have met the Christ, we know WHO HE IS, and we still choose to live in the dark. What will it take to free us from the bondage that we choose over Him? How long will we camp out in our own Egypt, too discouraged by whatever enslaves us today, to choose life? To choose not to fear? To choose to live in the light, as children of a glorious, all-capable God? When will we strip off every weight that slows us down, so that we can run in freedom toward the throne?

Do not disregard the help and power that is available to every one of us as followers of Christ. If you are not yet a follower, if you are burdened and weary, come to Jesus and see what He is all about. He is more than a "Get Out of Hell Free" card. He is power, strength, and love for today. Follow me to the shelter that Christ is. Right here, right now. In your Egypt.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

And We're Off...!

Mom Time starts Tuesday, as a lot of you know, and for me that means preparing and teaching. I am so excited! But somewhere, at the bottom of all that excitement, must be a little nervousness because I had my first "failure" dream for this semester last night. Now, I have some fun stuff lined up for Tuesday (just sayin'...), but in my dream, I forgot to bring it all with me. I drove home to get it, got lost, couldn't reach my tech person on the phone, and by the time I got there, everyone had gone home. I was disappointed, you were disappointed, certain people who should remain nameless because it was just a dream for cryin' out loud were irritated with was just a big mess.

Failure dreams, or dreams where I am definitely not in control, are nothing new for me. The most common one involves me being in a car where, for one reason or another, I can't reach the steering wheel. You can't be in charge if you can't even steer the vehicle, right? You can read about last semester's failure dream here. It's pretty funny, actually.

Most of these last few years have been a journey of learning that it is not all about me, nor is it all up to me. I don't know why this semester should be any different. So, once again, I draw from the past and look to the future. I will pray to know the message God would have me prepare, that He will put the right words in my mouth, and that I leave the rest up to Him. There is a plan and a purpose for this season, and besides hoping to do a good job and bless the ladies of Mom Time with a decent lesson, I know there will be a lot of growing along the way for me too.

Just to be on the safe side, though, everything I want to bring with me is in a small heap in my computer room. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Holding Temperatures

Because it is cold where I live, hooking my dog to her outside leash requires that I hold the metal clasp on her outside lead in my hand for a minute or so until it warms up enough for me to open. On the really frigid days, it sticks to my skin and hurts a little when I take it out of my hand. When I feel this little click, I know that I will be able to hook up my pooch outside. Each time I do it, though, I am reminded of God's words in Ezekiel.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27

As I hold that hook, thawing it in my hand, I am reminded that God holds each of our hearts in His hand, and that like the temperature outside determines how long I have to hold it for, we are each created with a different temperature inside. Some of us just need a touch from God to thaw out completely, becoming malleable in His grip. Others require a longer holding period, but will eventually gain that heart of flesh that contains the Spirit of God. I am reminded that all of us are a work in progress.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Wardrobe

I was so excited the other day to realize that something I really wanted to put on didn't fit anymore. Before you get jealous or snarky, it was not a pair of jeans or any other item of clothing. This is not a post about eating right and exercising, because, unfortunately, in the dead of winter, that is relatively low on my list of priorities...


A "situation" came up the other day that really ticked me off. I was in the middle of being toasty warm with my computer on my lap, enjoying a cup of tea, watching the snow fall through the windows, when a certain adult in my house forgot that he said he would make the school pick-up run and decided to snowblow the driveway instead. I had to jump up, get bundled, and slip and slide my way to school, the one thing I really didn't want to have to do.

I could feel the anger start to rise, then it slipped away. I didn't get it.  I wanted to be pouty. I wanted to be coddled and apologized to. I wanted to get my "mad" on.

I couldn't. It didn't fit anymore. It was almost comical as I tried to think of all the reasons I had to be mad, trying to work up a good fit. I used to be able to hold on to an offense, nurse a grudge, for a commendable amount of time. Now I couldn't even be irritated.

I know why. At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, it is simple. I've been hanging out with Jesus. Not just stopping by for a chat, but doing life with Him. Abiding. I have been intentional about starting my day with Him, asking Him to be my strength in situations that make me want to be less than Christlike, situations that bring out my self-righteous tendencies. Situations like going out in a snowstorm when someone else said they would and then forgot.

I think I am more excited about my "mad" not fitting than I would be about a pair of jeans being too big. It is evidence of the truth that is held in scripture...that life change occurs when we allow Jesus to come in to our hearts and clean it up, replacing our imperfections with His perfection.

What is your default emotion when life doesn't go the way you want? We all have something that is triggered by circumstances out of our control, and most of the time, to be fair, those defaults are not God-honoring. Can I encourage you to surrender those negative reactions to Jesus? When we spend time with Him, we can't help but be changed from the inside out.

Strength Builders
  • I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. John 15:5
  • Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God--truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:23-24
  • But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Masterpiece or Rough Draft?

This was part of the Women of Faith entry...

Have you ever wondered how all this God business fits into your real life? I know I have. I'll read a passage like Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do" and wonder why I don’t feel like a masterpiece. I wonder when I will turn into one, when most of the time I feel like a very rough draft. I wonder what God’s time table is…when do I get to be a masterpiece? After all my kids are in school? After I am a much nicer, better person? Or maybe when I'm older and my nest is empty. That must be what He's talking about. And while I'm at it, how big of a work will I get to do? Can you see the pride creeping in...? Remember, this is me we're dealing with right now. I’m not generally known for my humility. (I tried to be humble once, but I quit because no one noticed…)

Seriously, though, I am convinced that if we live out Colossians 3:17, doing ALL things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him, we will be hitting the mark of Ephesians 2:10 more often than not. When we are walking on the path that God sets before us, even when sometimes all we can manage is one blind step in front of another, we will accomplish His purpose for us.

The part that trips me up sometimes is that I think it is up to me. If I am going to be a success for God, I had better get it together. I forget that He is God, and I am not. Sometimes I worry that I will let him down if I mess up, but then I have to remember that I am not holding Him up in the first place.

Standing outside one wintry morning in the predawn chill, dressed in my robe, my winter coat, and my mukluk slippers, waiting for my dog to do her business, I looked up for a moment to see the moon. It was one of those slivery crescent moons, shining for all it was worth.

The moon, if you don’t know, produces no light of its own. The glow of the moon is reflecting the light of the sun. No matter what phase of the moon it is or where it is placed in the sky, it reflects the light of the sun. Even though we can’t see the sun, we know it is still there because we see its light reflected. As I looked at the tiny sliver, it made me think of the light we are supposed to reflect.

I began to imagine that I was the moon, called to reflect the glorious light of the Son. Am I just showing a sliver, little glimpses of light but mostly in the dark? Do I shine like a harvest moon, reflecting the full glory of all that is possible in the Son? Does how much light I shine changes with different phases in the month. (Ouch!)

I thought of places in the real world where the sun doesn’t shine for six months out of the year, and the only light seen is the light of the moon. They know the sun is still there, even though they can’t see it, because of the moon. There are people in our lives living in spiritual darkness. They can’t see the Son, but they can see His glory and beauty reflected through our lives, if we let them. We can give a glimpse of what is really out there to someone who otherwise wouldn’t know.

I bet the moon doesn’t hang there in the sky, being all proud of its bright shining light. As I begin to shine for God, and things along my path are lit up, I sometimes get confused. I start to think that I am responsible for the light and goodness working in my life. I’m sure the moon doesn’t have an ego problem.

My prayer that morning was multi-faceted. Lord, please help me to remember to shine for You, to reflect Your light into the darkness that fills this world. Use me, Lord, to point the way to the True Source of Light, to be a beacon of hope in the night. And Lord, keep me humble. (Always a brave prayer, I know.) Help me to keep You at the forefront of my life, remember that it is only Your Light that I reflect, Your Spirit in me that is seen, that on my own I am nothing. It is Your grace in my life that gives me light for this journey.

Never underestimate the power of God. And friends, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, YOU ARE GOD'S MASTERPIECE. There may need to be something chiseling done, but only with grace, love, and mercy. Remember the definition of mercy? It's one of my favorites. Mercy is kindness shown to one undeserving. None are more undeserving than I.

If you haven't made that step, if you haven't accepted Christ into your heart, why are you waiting? If you don't feel worthy of being God's Masterpiece, know that none of us are. Lean on His mercy. Fall on His Grace. He loves us. Regardless. And will go to any means necessary to reclaim us.

So stand still, even if it hurts, and let Him shape you. Brings a whole new picture to Psalm 46:10...Be still, and know that I am God...doesn't it?

Thoughts to Consider

• Do you sometimes get confused as to Who’s light we are shining?

• Are you still thinking that God is limited by your abilities?

• Are you ready to dream big for God, to let Him impact your life now, not just your eternity?

Strength Builders

• But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

• Do all things to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

• And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Growing Things

Who is ready to talk about gardening? I know the snow that is blanketting a good portion of the nation isn't exactly conducive to growing pretty flowers and veggies. It is hard to imagine warm sunny days and spring showers right about now. But, and here's the important part...

It is under this blanket of snow and ice that the earth is getting ready for its next season of growth. When I picture this is my head, I think about situations that look so dormant, so hopeless, that we can't ever imagine a harvest coming out of that particular soil. We just never know what work God is doing beneath the surface, though. Is there a situation in your life that looks hopeless? Do you feel like you should have seen a bloom or two by now?

Can I encourage you with the story of my zucchini? I know, that sounds so silly, but I have a zucchini story. I planted a zucchini plant in my garden. I watched it get bigger and bigger, with huge leaves and big yellow flowers. But no zucchini. Every day I checked, and no zucchini. One day towards the end of the summer, I saw this shadowy looking thing under the plant. There was a massive zucchini laying there in my garden. I don't know when it grew because I was checking all. the. time.

My point is this...sometimes we can be staring at something so intently we miss what is going on right under our noses. God may be up to something that you aren't aware of because you are too close to the situation. Or maybe He is working on something in a garden a little closer to home...hint, hint...than what you were expecting.

For someone like me who thrives on being the master gardener in every situation, not seeing the progress or activity I thought I was growing is sometimes tough to take. But, it is during these periods of growth that I learn the most.

How about you? Are you ready to stare at the frozen tundra out your window and dream of sunny days ahead, days that God is busy preparing just below the surface of what we can see? Let's trust that He knows what He is doing and that one of these days we will see the harvest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stories To Tell

I'll be honest, I am really excited by the thought of new readers stopping by my blog. It is like having company over...I feel like I should be proofing, tweaking, and dusting all my previous posts so you'll want to come back. I want you to like me. Why do I feel like I just stepped back into a high school hallway as a freshman, hoping to find a friendly face, or at least not have my books knocked to the floor?

If you are here in my little cyber house, picture yourself sitting at my dining room table. It's big...used to be my grandma's. My kids have almost wrecked it already, and my dog has a taste for the knobby wood feet. We're sipping some tea, hot if you live in Wisconsin like me, sweet if you're visiting from the South, just chatting it up a little and getting to know each other. There's banana bread on the counter and if you don't eat any, I will probably finish off the loaf by myself this afternoon.


The conversation circles around to why I write, especially why I write the things I do. I have a story to tell, and so do you. God has done amazing things in our lives, with our lives, and it just wouldn't do to keep keep it to ourselves. My heart breaks for the woman who thinks God only wants her if she is perfect, following a set of rules that someone else made up. I want the whole world to know that Jesus saves, that He heals, that He transforms, and that He is the only one who can make that happen. I love the saying that God has called us to be His witness, not His reporters. The only way we can be a witness is to share what He has done in our lives, in our own messy places.

As we visit through my blog, I wonder if I'm sharing too much. I can be a bit of a Tigger sometimes. But then I remember, be His witness. My life has not always been pretty...some of it has been downright ugly, but it is this life that God has chosen to work through, to shine His light in some of the darkest places, and if I don't share His Truth, then the lies continue to live.

May I encourage you, no...too soft a word...challenge you, to let the world know how God has changed your life since you met Him? I know it's scary, to let others who know you now see where you have come from, but we are the walking, talking, living, breathing evidence of a god who transforms lives, one day at a time, from brokeness to wholeness.

Shine that light, girl. Shine that light.

Just an afterthought, if you are not a writer, but want to tell your story of how God has worked in your life, it would be my privilege to post it on my blog.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wooly Mammoths and Other Hungry Creatures

I've been revamping some older stuff...

The Wooly Mammoth Within

Do whiny kids, empty checking accounts, and chilly days make anyone else want to eat like there's no tomorrow, or is it just me? I never used to consider it a sin, more of a quirk, until I was reading about gluttony in my Bible during my devotional time one morning. The sin of gluttony relates to our level of self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. To be high on the gluttony chart is to be low on the self-control chart, which means that there is a disconnect between our actions and our beliefs. Anway, I think I've discovered I'm a glutton…a selective, emotionally-challenged glutton. Selective because it needs to be something sweet and salty, or crunchy, or maybe just sweet, but definitely not fruit or vegetable based. Unless it's a Frito, which technically is derived from corn somehow. Emotionally challenged because I find I can eat like a normal person when life is going well, but as soon as the boat starts rocking, I am trolling the cupboards for something to satisfy me. The way I eat then, you'd think I was getting ready to go into hibernation. My self-control goes right out the window.

I never would have considered stress-induced eating a sin in the past, more of a bad habit. But, when I look at the emotions that go along with wanting to eat with reckless abandon…frustration, impatience, boredom…I realize that I am substituting the activity of eating for something that will actually satisfy my soul instead of just my taste buds. The desire to crunch and munch my way to serenity is no different than an addiction to sex, drugs, or alcohol, just more socially acceptable. Using food to fill the empty spot in my soul only brings short term satisfaction. It signifies a deeper need that, as long as the bag of crunchy stuff is planted firmly in front of me, I don't need to deal with. So what’s a Jesus lovin’ girl to do?

Pray. Talk to God about the things that are making you nuts. Personally, I find that when I am stressed out, with my husband in particular, I tend to hang out in the kitchen. I’ll search the cupboards for Hershey’s kisses left behind from an Easter basket or Christmas stocking under the guise of cleaning and organizing. (My husband will be disappointed to learn that I don’t spend all that time in the kitchen actually cleaning…)

Bring those things to the Lord, the words that cause you to retreat to your safe havens of the Twinkie box, the tension that brings with it a taste for Doritos, the sadness that cries out for just one Milky Way. Bring all those emotions to Him, and ask Him to surround you with His peace. Philippians 4:6-7 remind us to bring all of our anxieties to Him, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart. There is nothing that you can consume that will fill you with the peace of God.

We can pray,asking for that power that is ours to utilize, through Christ's sacrifice. Since sin is anything that separates us from God, He has given us an amazing resource to deal with it. Kratos is a Greek word translated as mighty, power, and strength in the Bible. It refers to the power to overcome the sin in our life and live in victory. In Ephesians 1, Paul is praying for us as believers, that we would know, KNOW, what is the surpassing greatness and mighty power that is available to us through Jesus Christ. It is not about the strength of our willpower to walk away from the cookies, it is about relying and tapping into the strength, the Kratos, that the Almighty makes available to us as His children.

While there is definitely something to be said for making no provision for the flesh, and not having the munchy snacky stuff in the house in the first place, it is also about learning who God is and what it means to have His transforming grace alive and at work within us. God knew that his would be a hard life for us, and that we would face many temptations as we navigated through the trials.

Trying to deal with these things without the Kratos of Christ, the strength and power that are available to us as believers, is like leaving a state of the art food processor in the back of a dusty cupboard, and cutting all the vegetables with a dull butter knife. Or, cutting the grass with a scissors instead of the Binford 2000 lawnmower in the garage. It would be silly. I will be turning to God and His strength and praying for victory. Even if it is victory over the cupboards.

I will be praying that I remember who I am in Christ. He has given me this body as a temple for His Holy Spirit, not to use as I wish, but to glorify Him. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body," (1 Cor. 6:19-20). I know that when the Almighty knit me together in my mother's womb, He did not have a wooly mammoth in mind. When the emptiness strikes, I will remember that I am created in His image, and it is not glorifying to Him whe I drown my frustrations in a bag of Chex Mix. In my mind’s eye, I try to picture Jesus standing right next to me as I am reaching for that bag of chips. The Bible tells me that He is always with me. If I could physically see Him with my eyes, I would fall into His arms and ask Him to hold me. Even though we don’t see Him as a physical body next to us doesn’t mean He isn’t there. He has left us a comforter for the times that threaten to take us under, and He is as close as my next breath.

If food isn’t your thing, maybe television is. You can watch anything from kids cartoons to info-mercials to home decorating shows, all in the effort to not deal with what is hurting you. The remote control in your hand is a comfort, like a Little Debbie snack cake is to me. Or maybe it’s reading…you can lose yourself in a book for hours on end in an effort to escape your life for a while. Not that reading, watching a little television, or having a Hostess Fruit Pie is a sin. It is when we use these things to insulate us from our lives, or to fill up an empty place that it moves from a recreational enjoyment to something that becomes an escape mechanism.

The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. We are to have no other Gods before Him. (Deuteronomy 6, Exodus 20). If we are leaning on an activity or substance instead of Him, we have put another God before Him.

Thoughts To Consider

• When I am frustrated, sad, or angry, what do I turn to? How do I seek to fill the empty places?

• What is one thing I can do today to move away from the unhealthy habits?

• What is one thing I can do today to put Jesus first in my life?

Strength Builders

• And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

• Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

• Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14