Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Name Calling

Remember the sing-songy rhyme, sticks and stone may break my bones, but names can never hurt me? We all know that's not true. Names can hurt. I've been called lots of names in my day...true or not, the insults still ring in my ears. Names hurt.

God has a name for you. Isaiah 43:1 reads "But now says the Lord who created you, I have called you by name. You are Mine."


Gives you visions of two two year olds fighting over a toy. Mine. Or the seagulls from Finding Nemo...mine,mine,mine,mine.

Consider a few things about that statement, though, You are Mine. The God of the Universe, the Great I Am, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, says that I am His. I belong to Him. I belong. To Him. Have you ever had it happen when you thought someone was trying to get your attention, and you were excited and flattered, until you realized they meant the person behind you?  God does not do that. When He says you are His, He is looking straight at you, calling your name.

Like a two year old in the sandbox though, God's grip and desire for us is just as tight. He is not letting go of you, or me, for anything.

Next time someone calls you a name that is less than flattering, remember that God has a name for you as well.


This Little Light of Mine...

I love watching people moving into a new house, especially for the first time. They hang up flags outside, set special lights on the porch, and just do things to let the world know they have arrived. I was comparing that to inviting Jesus into your life. What do we do as believers to let the world know we are here?

"Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and
give thanks to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Are You Doing?

Leaving a vision-casting session at church last night, to say I was pumped for Jesus would be an understatement. I felt like staying up all night to read Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, a great book that showcases that intersection of faith and experience.

 Anyway, after loading the kids in the car, the song Waiting Here For You by Christy Nockels came on the radio. Being sort of chilly, I wanted the windows up and the kids wanted the windows down. I said they could roll down their windows if they got their praise on nice and loud and let the whole city know about Jesus. (Yeah, I'm sorta like that.)

So, here we are, driving down the road, all three of us singing at the top of our lungs, hands held high, when I look in my rearview mirror and see the slapfest that has begun. "Boys," I said sternly,"That is not glorifying God."

 "I am too horrifying God," came the reply.

"Yup, yup you are,"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Living by Faith? Really?

"Whoever gives up their life for My sake will find it." Matthew 16:25

These are the words that nearly poked my eyes out last night as I was reading a book called Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. The chapter was about living by faith, heavily built around Hebrews 11:6, which says that whoever comes to God must believe that HE IS and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Now, I totally believe that He exists, and that He has a master plan that is only to my good and His glory.


Why then am I still wrestling the school district in regards to "Little Isaac's" placement?

I am trying so hard to be faithful and follow God where He is leading, but I'm not thrilled. I wish we were standing on the playground with all his other little friends and the moms I already know. At the same time, I fully believe that God has a plan. I feel like I am standing with a foot on each side of the line. I want Justin at the same school as his brother, even though I am willing to engage where ever God wants me. To bloom where I am planted, as the saying goes.

I can see the sin of what I am doing. I'm operating out of fear and frustration, still sending emails to the school board to fix what I feel is their injustice. On the other hand, as I've been saying all along, God is in control. He has a plan. I've never understood the verse "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." more fully.

In the life of the faithful, there is not room for "I believe, but...". Either you do or you don't. God is not a contingency plan. He is the master. I have the tattoo on my wrist to remind me of it, which incidentally, I got a few days before finding out about the school mix-up. Hm.

Today I am beginning anew. I turned in my paperwork to volunteer in "Little Isaac's" class, which I was holding out on, hoping to switch schools. Last night, after reading the verse about losing our life to find it, I realized that God is trying to lead me to life in Him, and I am the one dragging my feet. I must lose this life, that playground, in order to find my life. I begged forgiveness for having so little faith. I have to let go, and it is scary. As much as I want to see God at work in my life, and the lives of those I will meet, I am afraid. The what-if's fill my mind. What if Justin never makes friends? What if I fail at whatever He wants me to do here? I feel like I'm on a scavenger hunt without a list of what to find. 

I'm done, though, standing on both sides of the line. I don't want to be like Lot's wife who missed out on her future because she kept looking backwards. This morning, before taking my son to school, I prayed,committing myself to His plan, whatever it is. And two kids called  Justin by name to say Good Morning. Yes it is... a very good morning for a fresh start.

How about you? Is there a situation that you are playing both sides of the fence on? You can't hedge your bets and fully follow God at the same time. You must lose your life to find it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

She Said What???

"It is to one's glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11

But sometimes that is easier said than done.

Have you ever had someone upset with you due to a misunderstanding, and then get mad right back at them for being upset with you in the first place for something that didn't actually happen? Confused? Let me give you an illustration:

You think I am fixing meatloaf for dinner and get mad about that. I was never fixing meatloaf in the first place but now I'm kind of irritated with you for being mad about the meatloaf that never existed. I'm feeling like my cooking judgment is being questioned and if I wanted to fix meatloaf in the first place that should be just fine anyway.


Now I'm finding myself getting worked up about a situation that is totally made up but I feel like defending my choice to make a freakin' meatloaf.

Anyway, enough about meatloaf.

Something along those lines happened to me this week; a person receiving wrong information levelled a judgment against me. Even after clearing up the misunderstanding, I could feel the indignation bubbling up. Bitterness was creeping in. Because this relationship is important to me, I called a friend to talk me off the ledge. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you the things you already know.

Here's what she said:
  • How can I glorify God in this situation?
  • How can I serve the other person?
  • How can I become more like Christ through this?
Conflict is not easy, or random. It not only  reveals what we are passionate about, it reveals the condition of our hearts. No matter how justified I felt in my response, it was not right.

How about you? Ever get bent out of shape and not know how to get back into shape? Maybe try the three questions. Just don't let the situation become more important that the relationship.

Click here for a one minute video on dealing with conflict.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Changed Forever

The juxtaposition of unbelief and knowledge rival for dominance.

While my eyes knew what I was seeing, my brain could not wrap itself around the fact that airplanes had crashed on purpose into the Twin Towers. I stood in the break room of Bakers Square, the smell of grease and cigarette smoke heavy in the air, watching the news unfold on a 12” grainy black and white television with tin foil on the antenna. Normally, the television use was reserved for Packer games only, employees who wished they were someplace else gathered around because there were no customers anyway.

That morning, we gathered around, despite a restaurant full of customers, wishing we were someplace else but not even sure where that would be.  The world had changed. Our cocoon of safety had been ripped open, flames and dust filling our vision.

I did not have a relationship with Jesus in 2001. I believed in Him, knew there was a god, and “knew” that the scales had tipped out of my favor.  In that moment, though, watching the tv on the flickering picture, towers crumbling to the ground, I wondered where He was and felt that first push to get close to Him. The world was a scary place, and if there was any safety to be found, it would be near Him. While it would be three years before I began my relationship solidly with Him, seeds were planted.

I attended Christmas Eve services that year at the church across the street, looking for hope in the message. I was still wandering in the fog of disbelief and fear as the landscape of our lives changed. I wanted to live deeper and with more love, with more meaning.  I needed connection with something bigger than me to help me make sense out of it all.

9/11/2001 changed me ultimately for eternity. Ironically, a day of death and destruction brought me new life. I now know that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of boldness, love, and self-discipline, and with Him, that is the way I try to live.

How has that day changed you?

Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be YOUR NAME.
Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and
forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever.

"LET'S ROLL!" Todd Beamer, Flight 93

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

At What Cost?

I heard a story not too long ago that one of the richest men in the world was giving away 99% of his money, but that it would not impact his lifestyle or that of his descendants in the least. I remember thinking, then so what? Now, I realize that his money that he is giving away will go to help lots of people, but if there is no cost or loss to him personally, then what difference does it really make? If there is no discomfort, there is often no growth. That is why Jesus died such a painful death.  It cost Him. It cost the Father to allow that for His son. In His words, he could have given the word and had ten thousand angels come free him from the cross, but he paid for our freedom with His sacrifice.

This summer, when the temperature hovered around the 85 degree mark, I did not have the air conditioner on. I wanted to know what it felt like to be uncomfortable. We have so many luxuries and privileges at our disposal that I don’t think I understand what it feels like to suffer. I wanted to stand with those who don’t have a choice, who don’t live in a comfy house with the modern perk of central air, and feel what they feel.  I realize that is a small and trivial thing to say, but it struck me that we don’t know how to be uncomfortable for very long. We scream for situations to be fixed, for equality, for fairness all the time. What that really means is I deserve what he has. I deserve to have what I want.

We give to several charitable organizations, but it doesn’t really cost me. We have our cable with 300 channels. We have our Y membership. We have a full freezer and pantry. We are not people of luxury, by many standards, but we are comfortable. But not so comfortable that when a big bill came in unexpectedly, the resulting financial tantrum put the charities on the chopping block. I offered up alternatives…cut the cable, live with less…and was met with indignation. I found myself waffling to offer up the Y membership in trade, and was sickened by my own indecision.


We did come to an agreement, but the feeling of shame is left. At what cost will I serve the least of these? When does the price become too high, and who am I to decide? Feeling like my heart is being broken in a new place. That’s a good thing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Faith Enough to Follow

Abraham, Isaac, and Jonah walked on to the school playground. . .

Sounds like the beginning of a joke except that this week has been no joke. My son began kindergarten at the school that, although it is two blocks away from our house, is not our school of choice. But somehow, back in January, I mixed up the paperwork, so he is not attending the same school as his eight year old brother. Follow me? We "choiced" out of this school four years ago, but here we are, standing on the playground in Nineveh.

Why does it always come back to Jonah with me?

I will tell you that I feel like God definitely has a plan here, which is a silly thing to say in the first place because of course He has a plan. He's not in Heaven saying "Oh crap, I can't believe she didn't fill out the paperwork."

The first day of school dawned muggy, and my five year old rode his scooter to his line on the playground where he knows no one; his circle of friends is at the other school. In that moment, I wondered how Isaac felt about being brought to the mountain because his dad was busy following God. Did he question being tied to the altar, because scripture tells us that it was as Abraham was raising the knife that the angel called out? I kissed "little Isaac" good-bye after helping him find his cubby, swallowing hard so I didn't turn into that mama.

Stepping into the bright sunshine, I realized his scooter was nowhere in sight. Seriously? SERIOUSLY, Lord? You sent me to this school, and now someone steals his scooter?! My neighbor had passed this scooter along to us a few years ago, and now it was gone.

"Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.  But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah 4:10-11

Feeling bad for my snarkiness, I asked God to help me love the people that I would meet, and show me why I am here. All I could think was that it had to be an adult who had taken the scooter, because all the kids were in class already, and these are the people I am supposed to be reaching out to. Jesus did not come to call the righteous to repentence, right? He hung out where people needed Him, and expects us to do the same. He has definitely knocked me out of my holy huddle.

So here I am, feeling like Abraham and Jonah all rolled into one, with Isaac trailing along behind, wondering what God is up to. Is it a test of obedience for me? Is there someone at this school that I am supposed to meet? God gives us just enough light for the next step, and while me feet may drag a little, my heart wants to follow willingly. If my head could just stop thinking so much, I'd be good.
ps: I called the school secretary and learned that someone had brought the scooter to the office thinking a kid had left it out. In that moment, all I could do was cheer for God. He is so good! He confirmed once again, that He knows exactly where I am and has the situation under control.