Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Every Day, I Will

One thing my Dad taught me is that God is always speaking to our hearts.  We can blow off a speaker as dry or impersonal, but to be hung up on the messenger can cause us to miss the voice of the Spirit.  Somewhere in all that muck God is seeking my attention.  I need to have keen ears and sharp eyes, always ready and looking for God's voice.   And if my heart has communed with God that day, then I can more easily tune my radar into the places He is speaking to me. 

I have days where life seems overwhelming and my stomach begins to grip with pain.   I know this hurt.  It comes every time I seek to bear the weight of my tomorrows in the moments of today.  I feel a loss of control or hope to ever overcome my obstacles.  This usually comes when I am weary and exhausted.  My husband always tells me to wait for the morning.  And he's right.  After rest and the clean slate of a new day, everything looks better. 

Last night my youngest daughter had the lead role in a play performance with our home school co-op.  Their song is still running through my head, "Every day I'll trust You Lord, Woah-woah, I will. . . ."  Purple and yellow sashes float through the air as medieval knights and princesses sing out and the Spirit of God calls my name through the words of my daughter, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry of its own."  (from Matt. 6:34)

The play was fun and entertaining, but through all of that, I could hear the voice of God in its message.  Somehow, the director fit each character role with just the right person.  The carpenter fairly took my breath away, not because he was some dashing young boy, but because of who he represented.   My Shepherd.  The One who calls my name and draws me close to His heart saying, "It's okay.  I am building a place for you in heaven, but I am also your sufficiency for this day, your daily bread."  My pastor recently spoke of this very truth as well. When I receive the same message several times in the week, I know without doubt that God is seeking my attention.

As I write this, my daughter is at college, taking an important final exam for her anatomy class.  So many "what ifs" were running through my head yesterday.  What if she does not get the grade she needs to renew her scholarship for next year?  And how will she get to Africa for her internship?  What of the summer which is already booked?  And what of family dynamics undergoing change? What of a dryer on the blink at just the wrong time?  The list goes on.  While assuring my daughter that God would provide, I realized that I myself, was not trusting. 

In most cases, I do not care for pictures of Jesus.  The artist muddies the relationship I know in my heart.  Yet, there are some that I do appreciate.  I have a marker I've kept in my Bible since childhood but it now sits on my vanity as a daily reminder of His lead.  I love the way it portrays Jesus as my Shepherd, the One who "carries the lambs close to His heart."  (Isa. 40:11)   When my heart is unsettled I know that He is my stability.  He has everything under control and nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  I can trust Him.

Today, I carry out the task He has called me to.  I rejoice, for this is the day He has made.  I will be glad in it because He knows the way of my tomorrows.  Obedience is all He asks of me, one step at a time.  I need only follow.  He will do the rest.

Monday, April 22, 2013

From the Hundred Acre Wood

"Just be yourself," is what I'm often told by well intentioned friends.  Yet, typically, myself is not what they mean.  What they're really asking is that I be an extrovert, of which I am not.  It's like telling an Eeyore to be a bouncing Tigger, or a bubbly Pooh Bear.

When the Proverbs speak of "training your child in the way he should go", it means to direct them in the way God created them to be, not forcing the personality or bent of my own desire upon them.  (Prov. 22:6)  The whimsical storybook characters of the Hundred Acre Wood, representing various personality bents, illustrates this well.

'There's Rabbit and Piglet, and there's Owl, but most of all Winnie the Pooh...'  I'm sure you remember the catchy little song.  Eeyore is reflective and serious, but is followed by a cloud of gloom and prefers to be alone.  Rabbit works his tail off, but becomes so concerned over the task that he forgets people are more important than his project.  Piglet remains a loyal friend through thick and thin, but is timid.  Tigger is energetic and loads of fun, but not always sensitive to the feelings of others.  And I could go on to speak of Owl, Kanga, and Little Roo.

But of one thing there is no doubt.  Everyone adores Pooh Bear.

He is so loveable and friendly. . . the extrovert.   But what kind of story would it be if the characters were all the same?   The variety keeps the story captivating and develops the plot.  If the story held only the yellow bear, there would be no story.

I've been learning to follow in the way which God created me to be and rejoicing in that.  As a child I remember asking God to change my personality.  "Make me a bubbly person," I would pray.  Yet still I remained the shy introvert bound by fears--an Eeyore, Rabbit, Piglet combo.  I despised myself and wished over and over that I could pick a different me.

Finally, in exasperation, I cried out to the Lord admitting that I could not change.  He would have to do the changing in me.   It was while in junior high, that God began to give me victory over my weak areas, but I had to take risks and put in some effort.  I had to step out of my comfort zone by faith and believe that God would really come through for me.  He did.  My weakness was turned to strength.  It was then I realized that God makes us the way we are so that the power of Christ might be seen in us. (John 9:3)  Our weakness can be used for God's glory as he works in our lives for change.

However, these victories did not change the fact of how He made me in my bent.  I learned to be content with the strengths God gave me, even if it meant that I would never be a Tigger or a Pooh.  Yes, I can exhibit some of their qualities through God's transforming power, but its also okay to be who He made me to be because the world needs a few Eeyores and Rabbits.  I have something to contribute that is different than anyone else.

As a parent, I often have to remind myself to 'train up a child in the way he should go', rather than in the way that I want them to go.  I seek to know my children, to study them, and to learn what their niche might be.  I want them to find God's purpose for their lives and to walk in that.

When our children are driven to excel in every activity under the sun, what message are we communicating?  Is it really to benefit the child or is it for ourselves and our own status?  When our children are so busy they have no time to develop their spiritual lives, something is wrong.  We must ask ourselves, "Why do I have my child in this activity?  What is the purpose?"  As responsible parents we need to lead them in the way they should go, which is first and foremost, relationship with God.    

Each of the storytime characters mentioned above have weaknesses that go along with their strengths.  And in our lives, the challenge is to overcome our weaknesses and to realize that our strengths are okay, and in fact, good.  We don't have to possess the same strengths as the next guy because we are not the same.  This is for a reason:  to display God's image in a unique way all our own, and to work together as the body of Christ.  As Holley Gerth puts it, "We only get one you."  Don't be afraid to shine.

To know the way that we should go gives great clarity to our 'yes' and our 'no'.  This means that I do not volunteer for everyone who asks it of me.  I only do what I know God has led me into with the gifts He has given and the bent with which He has created me.  Does this mean I never stretch myself beyond what is comfortable for me?  No, far from it!  In fact, it is in the challenges, in the impossible dreams God has placed in my heart, that I cling even tighter to Him.  And it is also how I grow in my character toward a more rounded personality.

Furthermore, understanding that we each have a different bent, helps to resolve conflicts.  To see from another's perspective gives us greater compassion.  For example, Rabbit and Tigger can face the same challenge, but each responds differently. Yet, if Rabbit can see where Tigger is coming from and vice versa, then greater kindness can be displayed. 

One thing I do know, is that "each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms...so that in all things God may be praised."  (1 Pet. 4:10-11)  This is true for us but also for the children we seek to bring up.

Trusting this week will be a joyous adventure in your 'Hundred Acre Wood'.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


When we woke to this silly snow it reminded me of God's surprises.  In the season for planting gardens, we are given a blanket to gently water the earth.  Oh how we need this moisture!  However, I'm glad I got some seeds in the ground before the storm hit. 

Yet, this amount of snow is very unusual in the valley for this time of year.  I found myself singing, 'In the meadow we can build a snowman...'  It reminds me that to everything in life there is a season.  (Eccles. 3:1) 

To push life where it is not meant to be seems out of place.  Snow at Christmas is so delightful, but in spring there is much moaning and groaning.  Why the differing responses?  The timing seems off. 

I failed to get my snapdragons, still in their tiny planting pots, into the ground earlier.  Now they sit drooped over with burden.   I don't know if they will survive since their roots are close to the surface.  Had they been in the ground I know they would be just fine. 

Likewise, in our lives, if we are firmly rooted in God, we will be better prepared for the surprises of the seasons.  They will be a delight rather than a drudgery.  Accepting what God brings, no matter the season, nourishes our souls and brings great joy. 

Oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!  Yet, He continues to do so and righteousness is available to me through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I can be holy as He is holy. 

Rejoicing in this snowy day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Brush of Pink

The presence of the Lord brushes my morning with a tint of His glory as in the sunrise.  He is faithful and always shows up, waiting in gentle anticipation of meeting with me.  I love these precious moments in quiet, but sometimes I fail to get up.  Sometimes I miss the sunrise.

As I walk my daughter to school each morning, we get to see the pink sky.  But there are times when I get lost in conversation, or I watch for traffic that we might get across the street, and in that moment, the sunrise has faded.  Just that quick I missed it.

I'm reminded of Thomas after Jesus had risen from the dead.  The most exciting event of history was about to occur.  Jesus Himself would show up in the room where the disciples were huddled behind locked doors.  Jesus, in His resurrection body, had only been seen by Mary in the garden and then by the two walking along the road to Emmaus.  And now his own precious disciples were about to witness Him with their own eyes.   But Thomas, for some reason, was not there.  Wow!  What a time to be gone, Thomas.  Ya missed it!  (John 20:24-25)

I don't want to miss seeing God's glory.  I don't want to be preoccupied with life when God waits to spend time alone with me.  When I miss my appointment with God too many times I give doubt opportunity.  The other disciples later told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, but Thomas would not believe based on their testimony.  He had to see for Himself.

That is so true for us as well.  Others can tell us how great the Lord is or what He has done for them, which can strengthen our faith, but until we encounter God for ourselves, we will only be observers rather than participants.  When we are absent from our quiet time with God, absent from fellowship with a local body of believers, we miss out.  What great comfort, encouragement, and truths God has ready to give us, but we aren't there to receive them.  It is no wonder doubts creep in.

This morning, I grabbed my camera before stepping out the door, hoping to capture the rosy skies for this post.  But though I showed up for the sunrise, the clouds hid its glory.   Oh, the sun had, indeed, risen.  I knew it was there, yet all I saw was overcast grey.  Likewise, to consistently meet with God, doesn't mean I'm guaranteed the orange and pinks, for He's "not a tame lion you know,"  (Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)  Jesus is risen from the dead and given me life by His Spirit.  Yet, sometimes God is silent, and for various reasons, remains hidden from my sight.  This is where faith comes in, believing even when I do not see. 

It was a full week later before Jesus appeared again to his disciples.   What an agonizing week for Thomas!   I have to wonder, what thoughts went through his mind?   He might have been jealous that the other disciples had seen and he had not, or maybe he was kicking himself with regret thinking, "Why didn't I stay in the upper room with the others?"   Perhaps he felt hurt that he had been left out or might not be important enough to be seen by Jesus.  Yet, Jesus is incredibly personal and knows each heart.  He knew Thomas needed to encounter Him. 

At last the time came and Thomas was in the room.  Shock and relief must have washed over his face as Jesus addressed him personally.  Thomas was invited to see the scars, the nail prints, and to touch where the soldiers had plunged the spear into Jesus' side.  Thomas immediately believed and right then fell down and worshiped, crying out, "My Lord and my God!"  (John 20:28)  Jesus had not forgotten him.  He knew how Thomas yearned to see Him.

In the same way, God invites us to come close, to "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psa. 34:8)  For only a taste will open the palette to a vast world of God's goodness, a craving for more of Him, and the certainty of our sure foundation.  Faith finds a resting place.  "I need no other argument, I need no other plea.  It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me."  (hymn by Lidie Edmunds) 

Though I may not see the sunrise every time, I still need to encounter Jesus each day.  He is my Bread of Life and the very air I breathe.  May it never be said of me, "Ya missed Him."  Never.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Run Free

Tucked between the water turned to wine and the famous John 3:16, are a few obscure verses that just tickled my funny bone this week.  Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did at the Passover celebration, the people trusted in Him, but then it says that "Jesus did not trust them".  (John 2:23-25)  Ha!  How ironic!  Here we act as though trusting God requires great fear and trepidation, as if He were some dilapidated bridge over a chasm, when in reality, God is altogether trustworthy!  It is us who are not.  The thought that God trusts us strikes me as funny. 

The passage goes on to say that the reason Jesus didn't trust mankind was that He knows human nature.  He knows we are fickle.  But can God trust us with His silence?  Can He trust us with hardship?  Can He trust us with unanswered prayer?  Or do we need signs and wonders to follow Him?  I'm afraid we too often crave the miraculous.  When we do not receive it, we grumble in disappointment.  

If we do not believe when God gives us the simple truths, how can we be entrusted with heavenly things?  Oh how Jesus longs to share His heart with us, to entrust us with intimate whispers from His heart, but so often He cannot because all we are focused on is the trivial . . . our own comforts, our own agendas.  God's eyes are always looking, always searching, for the heart that is completely His.  He longs for the heart that is about His business.  (2 Chron. 16:9; 1 Pet.3:12)

Even the animal kingdom turns to God for its provision. (Psa. 145:16) What will it take to get my eyes looking only to Jesus?  We look so many other directions.  I'm reminded of Sheri, my sister-in-law, who in the prime of life, was so suddenly taken away.  It immediately turned our eyes heavenward, grabbing our attention.  Yet, how much better to have that intense focus on Christ at all times.

Like the song says, "we all want love, we all want honor, but nobody wants to pay the asking price." (by FFH)  We desire signs and wonders, great experiences with God, but then murmur and complain through the dry desert seasons of our lives.  Surely, if my delight is in the Lord, my circumstances cannot really deter that joy.

I had a happy week.  I know, 'happy' is not a kosher word in Christian circles because it is defined by the ups and downs of life.  Yet, I find comical moments in Scripture and I know by looking at some of God's creatures that He certainly has a funny bone!   But so often our happy gets squashed.  I wonder, what is squelching our smile?  Worries of this life?  Heat of the day?  Burdens we carry?  God tenderly cares for us when we are sad, but I think He delights in our happy. 

Trusting in a great big God, releasing my tightly clenched fists from the stresses of life, and looking only unto Jesus, lets the happy run free.  Praying that will be true for us today.