Monday, October 31, 2011

A Dirty Rotten Trick

Facebook, you have deceived me.

Decked out in beautiful faces and perfect lives, you hold promise of friendship. But I am not fooled.  You are but a ghost, evading my grasp and taunting my emotions with what I can't have.  People from my past blend with the present and pop up here and there, sneaking around the corners of backyard fences.  Peering through the cracks, their view obscured, they find snippets to chew on.

Every now and then you bring flowers to my gate . . . sweet fragrance for the soul . . . promise of what you could be.  At other times I reach out and find hands meet, but dissolve into cloudy mists of misunderstanding and hurt. Lacking voice inflection and the warmth of real bodies they are but words engraved on stone, never to be erased or taken back.

Why do I continually return to you facebook?  Perhaps because you tease me with the longing for which I was made. Your talons strive to hold me in your grasp, but I am drawn to another place, its pull far more powerful, because God has set eternity in my heart.

I'm going to a place of real people where a book of faces will be opened and the Lamb's book of life will reveal our true colors.  There we will connect with each other's hearts and our friendships will be genuine through and through. Attached by love our words will bless.  Joy will not be staged, but real.  In that heavenly host I will commune with God where there will be no death, no parting, and no hurt.  A place of complete purity, my cloak of sin sizzled to nothingness by the iron of the cross.

Stripped of our facades would leave us exposed . . . vulnerable.  It is risky business, and far more than we could ever handle and so God graciously provides a covering.  It is not skimpy, but covers us completely . . . a robe of righteousness. Shimmering, dazzling, righteousness that glistens in the Son. We will love each other for who we really are . . . the character of Christ which God has molded in us, washed in grace.   Joy will reign as we are fully known, yet fully loved.

And facebook?  Your pangs of loneliness will never haunt me again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lift Up Your Head

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love...
for to you I lift up my soul." 
 Psalm 143:8

I never enter a corn maze alone.

Not for fear of scarecrows or spiders that might lurk there, but because of endless trails which threaten to engulf me into obscurity, digesting me in the belly of a field.  None the less, excited and confident of the way we should go, I recently entered a corn maze with my family.

But what started hopeful began to wear thin with frustration.  We had already circled the same area once, then twice, even going back to the beginning and trying again.  We had the map.  What was wrong?  Certainly the map.  But we couldn't bring ourselves to exit at the entrance.  This maze would be conquered!

Hot, tired, and low on zeal we finally gave up and decided to chill out and follow our instincts.  I don't know what it is about a man's sense of direction, but somehow they just know.  Suddenly my husband had found our way out with ease . . . at the exit.

This same phenomena occured again last weekend, not in a corn field, but in life.  I've been working on a project for several months. . . a maze I entered with confidence and excitement, sure that if I just followed the rules I could find my way out.  I thought it should all make sense, but in the midst of it began trying too hard.  It became a part of my life where I'd grit my teeth and seek to conquer, its weighted shadow always looming over me . . . laughing, mocking, accusing.  I was advised to go in a direction that did not make sense to me.  I resisted the advice thinking I knew better.  But things are not always as they seem.

Lift up your head.

Release the desire to do things your way.
Stop making excuses...
resisting... complaining. 

Then . . . it all fell into place.  

"What do you want me to do for you?"  Jesus asks the blind man. 
(Luke 18:40) 
Jesus met me in my "maze" of frustration.
"I am blind", I cry out, "I just want to see!  
Show me the way . . . if you are willing."

"I am willing", Jesus replies.  He has been eager all along to lead me through this maze to its finish . . .but am I?  It requires sacrifice . . . wounded pride. Am I ready for God to finish what He's started even if it hurts?  Even if it requires such total dependence on Him . . . such need on my part?
Am I willing?

"I will not sacrifice...that which costs me nothing."  (2 Sam. 24:24)

I know the maze is simple from above, but in the midst of it I cannot see.  I get claustrophobic.  I've tried and tried but cannot find my way through.  I've even gone back to the beginning and started over.

But this weekend I looked up.  I followed the lead of the Holy Spirit and the thoughts in my heart flowed freely to my pen with overwhelming ease . . . completing in two days that which I'd labored over for three months.

God wants to draw me close to His heart.  If the process gets me to that place, then it has accomplished its purpose, even if the exit is never found.  If this is what it takes to get me to trust Him, then so be it.

I cannot see, but I trust the One who can.
He will do it, because He is willing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fire In The House

"Let us not give up meeting together...but encourage each other."
Heb. 10:25

Comfort.  Warmth.  Family.

I love the heat and light of real fire burning in a wood stove on a brisk day.  It draws me in . . . beckons me to linger, its soothing crackle and dancing flames speak of a place where I am welcomed, wanted, and set to stay awhile.

But this fire does not simply appear.  No, someone went through a lot of sweat to make it happen.  Wood must be chosen, cut, split, dried, and hauled in. And then it must be ignited.

Likewise, a flame dwells within the family of God.  We are His house, and a fire blazes on the hearth- the Holy Spirit.  Today I'm reminded of those who shepherd the people of God.  They often carry heavy burdens, laboring in prayer and tears, bringing in the wood, fuel for the fire. They display self sacrifice in devotion and commitment to God's family on a regular basis.

I am blessed with four pastors who have had great influence on my life.  One in particular has a unique place in my heart and the most impact on my life. That would be my husband. I am honored to bear his name and look to him as my greatest spiritual leader.  He has led me into a faith that is deeper and more authentic than I've ever experienced before . . . a faith that relies on the power of God in the every day ebb and flow of life. . . a faith that simply takes God at His Word . . . that's my man!

But I'm grateful for the three other pastors of my home church as well.  How blessed I am to have a senior pastor who is passionate about preaching the Word verse by verse with accuracy and clarity . . . and with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing freely through his life.  I'm especially grateful for the way he has mentored my husband over the last 16 years.

Our education pastor is committed to teaching our children and adults, guiding others to teach as well.  He can be counted on to uphold the truth. . . reliable and dedicated to the people of God.  A man of prayer, he loves the Word of God.

Our worship pastor, in tune with God's Spirit, lifts the congregation into the very presence of God.  How refreshing to go to church each week and be a participator in that worship, rather than just an onlooker to an entertaining performance. . . to have a worship pastor, rather than a worship leader, one who shepherds the flock in his care.

I love my local church, its leaders, and its people.  I love Sundays.  It is like drinking in the fullness of God in all His beauty, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, sitting near the heated stove on a chilly day.  Yet, the pastors do not create the fire. The flame comes from God Himself.

All of us have received the gift, the promised Holy Spirit, and all of us contribute to fanning into flame the spark that is there . . .
                                    preparing our hearts for the fire.

Our pastors carry heavy burdens. . .

                                                                             Some administrate. . .

      Others do the marking. . .

                                                                       And still others do the cutting. . .

Stacking . . .

And the carrying of lesser loads. . .

Some protect from danger, guarding against false teaching, apathy, hypocrisy . . .
                     enemies that would sting and destroy.

Those young in the faith need simply be with other workers
to be blessed and built up . . .
                    the children whose play is their work.

Some lift their arms not only for burdens, but for praise. . .

But we all bear one another's burdens,
hauling them to the place of prayer . . . the place of fire.

God has chosen us together, in the body of our local church to work toward a common goal . . . the presence of Jesus. This is why we do what we do.  We long for fire in the house of God.  We long for His Spirit to consume us, to purify us, and to produce heat and light so the world around us might be drawn to its comfort.  A fire can be terrifying or it can be inviting. God's fire is both, for "our God is a consuming fire!" (Heb. 12:29)

My pastors have encouraged my walk with the Lord and drawn me into deeper levels with Him.  But I am perhaps most indebted to my very first pastor.  He began praying for me before I was born and continues to do so. That would be my dad.  He was a shepherd to his own family along with the house of God.  Sitting under my dad's sermons shaped my life.  He first introduced me to the Lord and later led me to put my faith in God.  What a precious treasure he is.

Let's not forget the pastors of our local churches, set apart, called, anointed, and commissioned to shepherd the people of God into the blaze of holiness. Indeed, there is a flame in the house of God.  Don't miss it by being aloof, distant, or uninvolved.  My family loves sitting by the stove and enjoying its warmth. But we also love going out to gather the wood and exerting ourselves in the fall air among the towering aspens,

listening to the breeze flutter the leaves . . . yes, even out there in the forest, the leaves witness evidence of God's Spirit at work, though we cannot see Him.  He is there.

God's Spirit is present working in and through us as we contribute to the body of Christ in our local churches, laboring together for the building up of His Kingdom.  Can anything be more attractive, more inviting, more bonding?
Lord Jesus, ignite us with your holy flame.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Heart and Soul

"I am come that they might have life...and have it more abundantly."
John 10:10

The air is brisk.  Perfect for a morning run with my girls. . . at least in my opinion.  Coaxing them out of their warm beds, their sleepy eyes fight the light as they search for tennis shoes and a sweatshirt.  They are not quite as eager for mornings as their crazy mom.  "Just one lap," I tell them in hopes of sparking interest.  (We are building up to four, just because . . . well, every kid needs to be able to run a mile.)

Our walk to the track is invigorating.  Soon we are skipping, each child seeking to outdo the other.  Once at the track they start sprinting, but quickly run out of energy and sneak in a walk. "No walking allowed!"  I continue to prod.  Before long our mission is accomplished.

These same daughters have a peculiar little habit.  Every Sunday they step out of the car and run the entire length of the sidewalk, (which is quite long), to Sunday School. They love their class.  I continually remind them that young ladies walk while at church. But on one of our early morning runs I told them, "Pretend you are going to Sunday School."  Groan. "Mommmm!" one wails.

What's the difference?  Heart and soul.  Not a matter of ability . . . but desire.

I recently sat in the bleachers at the same familiar track.  My eyes were drawn to the words on the back of a T-shirt.  Not just one shirt, but an entire band wearing the same shirts.  
It's not the hours you put in, but what you put into the hours.  
I was not surprised to learn that this band won that afternoon's competition. With a motto like that, who wouldn't be a winner?

These thoughts remind me of our spiritual lives. We've read our chapter of the Bible. We've said a prayer. But have we truly met with God?  Simply going through the motions lacks focus, desire, passion . . . but if I place my whole heart, soul, and mind into seeking after God, then those same disciplines accomplish their purpose of drawing me into the presence of God.

How then do we keep heart and soul in the hours of our walk with God? Becoming interested in the things that interest God.  Encouragement.  Living life on purpose.  Living intentionally, not simply existing.

Every now and then I take inventory of my life and ask myself, "Why am I doing what I do?  For what purpose?  Is my heart and soul in what I do and who I am?  Am I building hope into the hearts of others to encourage their soul into living?"   If not, perhaps I am only putting in hours that could be better used elsewhere . . . futility.

I "do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air."  No, I would "run to win the prize. . . a crown that will last forever." (1st Cor. 9:24-26)  For this reason, "I press on to win the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  (Phil.3:14)

Heart and soul . . . the stuff of life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dare to be a Daniel

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for men, 
since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord 
as a reward.  
It is the Lord Christ you are serving." 
Col. 3:23,24

For many months God had been weaving together a work of art.

It was a surprise awaiting completion until on this day, 19 years ago, we got to see what God had been up to-- a son, Tyler Scott. God wove him together on purpose, for a purpose.  Born in his grandparent's house on Thursday morning at six, he was wide awake and alert, checking out his world.

Inquisitive, even as a baby, he was always trying to figure out how things worked.  Today as I made a visit to his abandoned room, there are remains of electronic contraptions taken apart and lying around--leftovers of his search to know how things work.

In the first grade science fair, he wowed the judges with articulate explanations of the workings of gears and levers, winning first place.  Indeed, Thursday's child had far to go . . .

But little did I know then what distance he would travel into the workings of computers. Years later those aspirations brought home first place in computer 3-D animation for the state of Colorado and shortly after placed fourth in the nation.

Doing the right thing--being on the side of truth, was always forefront in his mind.  He never concerned himself with what people thought of him--staunch in his beliefs, he knows what he knows, truth is right, and that settles it.

In first grade this was brought to life the moment he stepped off the bus, on that first day of school.  Spotting a bully harassing a damsel in distress, he knew what needed to be done.  Donning his trusty backpack and bearing a lunchbox sword, he rescued that damsel in distress with swift and sudden courage because . . . it was the right thing to do.

The following year Tyler's Battle of the Books team won first place--appropriate, since reading has always been his forte.  Giving his life to Christ in those precious pre-school years, he had a hunger for the ultimate book, the Word of God.  How delighted he was to read it on his own, choosing Daniel as his first read.  He loved that book and what boy wouldn't?  Lions and kings and fires, oh my!  Courage, hardship, adventure, beasts, and wild things . . . most of all, people doing the right thing in the face of wrong.

Tyler did not always enjoy watching many popular childhood movies because he could not tolerate the characters doing the wrong thing.  He would run out of the room or hide under a blanket with his hands over his ears.  Right must prevail.  Having three little sisters he often tried to instruct them in the right direction as well, his knowledge not always appreciated as much as he enjoyed telling them what to do.  

But under that crisp shell was always a tender heart 
ready to give out affections.

In his quest for what was right, he was drawn to the book of Revelation, his next read, where justice and truth prevail over wrong, and Jesus triumphs over Satan.  Later he delighted in the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings Trilogy. . . heroes conquering battles where evil is ultimately destroyed. The name Tyler means literally, tile maker or builder--reliable, honorable. His name fits him well as he is a builder in truth and can be counted on to hold fast to that truth, leading him to bear an honorable life.
building. . .

building. . . 
building . . . 

Now, 12 years later, he lives the book of Daniel in the realm of revelation.  On a university campus, the classroom is a lion's den, full of lions eager to devour all the teaching of his parents and church. The Babylon of his time seeks to indoctrinate him into their philosophies, making him a product of their land and culture.  But Daniel stood firm, supported by his three like minded friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and continued to pray three times a day as was his usual routine.
lions in our midst surpassed by The Lion of the tribe of Judah

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;  they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev. 12:11)  Tyler, keep your testimony sure and faithful-- it will overcome them.  Keep your heart in the blood of the Lamb, purified and empowered--it will hold fast.  Do not love your life so much as to shrink from what is right and true.  Shoot straight and directly at the target.  Do not waver even a hair's breadth, so that years from now the arrow will hit the bull's eye, right in place.

The bow has been pulled back and it is a made of good stock-- strong in the Word and Christian heritage.  You have been sent out in the right direction. Dare to be a Daniel.  Lead others in the way of truth so that one day they can say, "dare to be a Tyler". . . one who builds.  A builder, who lays one brick upon another, one concept on another, keeping the foundation stone in place. Jesus is our Rock, our chief cornerstone where all other stones are aligned and built upon.  You have this Rock.  Build on it wisely.  Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known.

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, are sons born in one's youth. . . they will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."
(Psalm 127:4,5)

Happy Birthday Tyler!  Go with God and you will always go in the right way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Clocks and Candles

"Life is so unnerving, for the servant who's not serving."

Spoken by Lumiere the candlestick to Cogsworth, the clock.
Beauty and the Beast

In stealth mode, joy sneaks up on me unawares.   Its quiet fullness overtakes me as, for a few days,  I abandon the screeching demands of time.  Old Cogsworth the clock, from Disney's movie, Beauty and the Beast, is always in a tizzy, so anxious about doing and being . . . no mercy. . . typical of my life when I let the clock control me.  Wound up too tightly with anxieties, my insides burst, never at rest.  

By contrast, Lumiere, the candlestick, serves with great flourish and flare. He is in his element, doing what he was made to do. . . provide elegance and relaxation to the dining experience.  I have reserved two days a week to relish in tranquility.  Oh, I do not sit and stare at a candle.  No, I nurture my family.  I serve within the element for which I was made, creating a home from a house, a family from individuals. . . an oasis from the clock.  

The sheer delight on my daughters' faces is worth the bent over back as I sit at the sewing machine, creating a quilt for each of them, custom made. Carefree butterflies for Summer, and winsome kites for Ivy.  Their anticipation for its completion is rivaled by their involvement in the process. . . choosing buttons, rick rack, and fluffy pom poms, arranging the squares of fabric just how they like it.  Joy settles in.  

As I clean various rooms of the house, the family gravitates to these rooms like magnets, the invitation to serenity and rest irresistible.  Laughter and energy abound.  Book worms, gymnasts, and artists alike find the room perfect for their endeavors.  Joy ventures in.

The smells permeating from the oven bring promise of comfort.. . food to nourish the body and the soul.   The table neatly set, speaks to each member in the family of their belonging, each having their own place.  But one spot is empty.  A reminder that one of us is missing, away at college.  Heads bow. A simple prayer is said.

On the days I succumb to the demands of the clock, homemaking gets pushed aside.  No dinner awaits, the house is in disarray, laundry builds. . . no quilts.  Joy is shy in nature and easily frightened into a tight little corner of my life.  I do not realize what a blessing is this thing called homemaking until life gets busy--an ugly rat race. It is then I long to retreat to what I was made for--creating pockets of comfort and beauty in the day. . . nurturing. 

I am part of another family, the body of Christ, otherwise known as the church.  In this family I also have a place, a role to fulfill.  I've been given a gift to contribute to the building up of this family.  The gift is the Holy Spirit.  He shines His light through me to nurture the lives of others in the Word of God. He enables me to flourish in my element, bringing joy to my heart . . . much like the candle.  

Oh, there are clocks ticking here, but I choose not to serve them.  Clocks of people pleasing and worry.  Clocks of deadlines which threaten to steal the place of prayer and worship.  When I rush about in a tizzy, seeking to serve of my own strength, I only end up in high strung pieces.  No, in quietness and confidence is my strength. . . the joy of the Lord settles in, quite at home.  

Clocks or candles.  Which will it be today?