Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm a saint! Well, sorta...

I think women in general can be exceedingly hard on themselves, and I know I in particular am on myself. I never seem to get it right. I want to reflect Jesus’ mercy, but instead I withhold it, thinking rather that the person should “get what they deserve.”

I try to remember Colossians 4:6, and keep my conversations full of grace, but instead I grumble about inconveniences.

I want to be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit (who couldn’t use an extra dollop of patience?!) but instead I get annoyed.

And then I feel guilty, confess these sins to God, beg the Holy Spirit to work in me and start the cycle all over again. How in the world did the Saints of the Old and New Testament DO it? How did they always get it right?!?

Well. Ahem. They didn’t.

I was reading about Elijah recently. I Kings 18 tells the amazing story of how Elijah, with God’s power, got soaking wet wood to ignite in flames, proving to the Israelites that the one true God was Yahweh, not Baal. He faced a king who wanted to murder him and 450 “prophets” of this false god, and he didn’t even flinch. He knew the Lord was on his side. No fear, only power. No timidity, only courage in the Lord.

Then you get to chapter 19. You don’t know if it is hours or days later, but the king, Ahab, tells his beyond-wicked wife, Jezebel, what Elijah did. She in turn threatens to hunt Elijah down and kill him. So Elijah, who has seen the power of the Lord first-hand stands up to her, right? He’s seen what the Lord can do – didn’t he just face down 450 Baal prophets and the king? Clearly he can face one queen, right? Nope.

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

He was afraid. He took off running. Even after experiencing God’s awesome power and presence. And then told God he was done and wanted to die. He had forgotten all the good that the Lord had done through him, and the omnipotence of the Lord.

I’m not at the point where I want to die, but I’ve certainly done my fair share of wanting to give up. It was a nice revelation this morning to realize I’m not the only one who has felt like that in their faith walk, and to realize that God will still love me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I am Jonah

So everyone thinks of Jonah and the Whale. Big Fish. Whatever. But lots of folks forget why he got swallowed up in the first place – because he was running from what God wanted him to do. And what was it God wanted him to do? Go preach to the people of Nineveh. Who were Assyrians. Low-down, stinking, no-good, barbaric, cruel, torturers-of-the-Jews Ninevites. And Jonah didn’t want to. He didn’t think they deserved God’s abundant mercies. He didn’t think God should give them a chance to repent from their sins. He thought he knew better than God about the deserved fate of those people.

I’ve come to realize I’m more like Jonah than I thought.

There are some people in my life that I think make consistently poor decisions. There are people in my life that I think don’t behave in a way appropriate for their age. There are people in my life that I think need to show more maturity and wisdom than what they do. I want to deal with them as little as possible and don’t really want to talk about the Bible or Jesus Christ with them, in part because there is open hostility to such talk.

But therein lies the problem – thinking you know better than God about a situation. I mean, He flat out tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways and His thoughts are so much higher than ours. He sees a big picture we can’t even imagine or comprehend. Yet I’ve been so insistent that I know better – if not best.

Now, instead of being told to head out to Nineveh, Nineveh is coming to me. I’m just thankful He didn’t throw me in the belly of a beast for three days to figure this out. So like Jonah (finally, during the second chance God gave him) I’ll obey. And hopefully these people will respond just like the Ninevites did. Unlike Jonah though, I plan on rejoicing with the angels if any happen to repent and thanking God for His mercies upon ALL of us that are so undeserving of His favor and kindness. Maybe especially me and Jonah.

Is there anything in your life where you think you know better than God? If so, maybe ponder on Isaiah 29:14 for awhile:

"Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thank goodness for wake-up calls

And I’m not talking about the hotel ones, either, though they have certainly come thru for me on more than one occasion. I mean the life wake-up calls that God hands you.

A friend’s mom, who is a sprite 84, recently had a stroke. The Great Physician took it upon Himself to assist in a recovery that the regular ol’ human physicians have labeled “miraculous.”

Within just a couple of days Mom had recovered her speech, the use of her left side and was getting herself in and out of bed without help. I would have loved to see the look on the nurse’s face when she entered the room expecting to see an elderly, bed-ridden, stroke victim, and instead saw a patient who had gotten herself “up and at ‘em” calmly waiting in a chair, eager to start her day of therapy!

My friend, thankfully, has a strong relationship with her mom and both are women after God’s own heart (go read I Samuel 13, especially verse 14 if you’re not sure what that whole heart thing is about, or Elizabeth George’s book). But it was a wake-up call for my friend nonetheless. Mom isn’t going to be there forever. Now, she’s so healthy she may be with us on this earth for another decade. And my friend has the joy and confidence of knowing she will spend eternity with her mom someday. But still – aren’t there things in this life that you want to say, or want to do, now?

My dad was diagnosed with leukemia (specifically CLL) over a decade ago. As the youngest of four, and definitely Daddy’s little girl, this was devastating to me. But the good that has come out of it is I’m not afraid to ask my dad questions, because I never know when I’ll get another chance, which have led to wonderful, thoughtful conversations. And I end every phone call with “love you Daddy!” – it’s as much for me as for him. Because when he’s called Home to Heaven, I’ll know that HE knew how much I valued and appreciated him. I don’t want any regrets in that area.

Have you had a wake-up call recently? Is there something you’ve been putting off, that you should deal with? Do you need to make a call and tell someone you love them, or offer forgiveness and start some healing? Or do you just need to jump online and book that 10-day Alaskan cruise you’ve always said you would go on “someday”? Do yourself a favor – give yourself a wake-up call today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It’s the worst chore ever. When I was single and living in an apartment, I thought it was dusting, but once I got married and moved to a house in the suburbs, where you have to have things like “landscaping” (but no budget for a full-time gardener – drat!), I have discovered the single worst chore in the world is weeding. I truly, truly hate it. I want to move into the city, where land is covered in concrete and glass just so I never have to pull or spray another weed again. I am not kidding.

I think I loathe it because it takes so much time and work. Now, before all the gardeners jump on me, I am fully aware that if I would just expend a little bit of effort every week, instead of saving it all up and weeding once a… quarter?... I could save myself tons of grief.

Funny how weeds are almost exactly like sin, hey?

If I would just recognize sin in my life right away, when it’s small and easy to uproot and remove, how much agony would I save myself? Instead, noooooo, I let the sin get all big and dug in and rooted and then it’s work to remove it from my life. Sometimes there is stuff that sprouts up that I don’t even recognize as a weed, er, sin. But if it chokes life out of my spiritual garden it’s a sin that needs to be removed in order for God to flourish.

Maybe I need to start on a weekly weeding program that I also use as a time to inspect my spiritual garden. Anyone else do this? (I promise, you don’t have to continue the garden metaphor) What do you do to stay on top of the sin in your life? Do you have a regular time of confession and prayer with God? Or is it more of a when-you-notice-it sort of thing?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Figuring it out. Or not.

What do I need to leave behind so that I can go and fulfill God’s call on my life (ala Peter, Andrew and Elisha)? This was a question at the end of one of the day’s of a thirty day Bible study I am doing. And what a great question. But since I can’t even seem to figure out God’s call on my life, I have no idea what I need to abandon to fulfill it.

Does it ever seem like everyone has a purpose but you? I return again and again to Jeremiah 1:5. And I Peter 4:10. I’ve read 48 Days to the Work You Love and The Purpose Driven Life. And I emerge from them feeling… directionless and purposeless. Not really what the authors were going for, I don’t think.

Why is it so easy for me to believe that God has a purpose for every life but mine? I truly believe in those passages of Scripture – for everyone except me that is. I get so stuck when the discussion turns to purpose and talents. Where I am normally chatty, suddenly my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Whether it’s fear, or self-doubt or having beat myself up for so long for being prideful that I now have nothing to be proud of, I don’t know.

All I know is that while I read God’s Word about using my gifts for Him, I acknowledge them with my head but I don’t believe them in my heart. Or, even more accurately, I believe the words for everyone except me. I know the danger of such sad, discouraging, negative self-talk. I try to obey II Corinthians 10:5b and “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” But I’d still really like to know what I am good at.

I always feel like I look around and see someone else already doing things I could potentially be interested in, and doing it so much better than I could, that I feel like I have nothing further to contribute. So is that fear, self-doubt or both? And aside from taking a bunch of multiple-choice quizzes, how do I learn what talents I have? And what God wants from me? Does anyone else ever struggle with this??

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I love a good story, even when I think I don’t have one

I’ve never thought I had a particularly compelling testimony. When you accept Jesus as your Savior and acknowledge Him as the Son of God when you are a wee one of four – well, frankly there just wasn’t a whole lot of depravity into which I could have sunk.

Mischief? Yes. Naughtiness? Sure. Disobedience? You bet. All of which I needed Jesus’ sacrifice for. But depravity? Not so much. I wasn’t an alcoholic or a drug dealer or a gang member. I didn’t turn tricks or have teen sex and a baby out of wedlock. I likely sassed my mom, and I KNOW I pestered my older siblings after being told not to. That’s about it – my sin hadn’t had a whole lot of time to mature, if you will. And oddly enough I’ve always felt sheepish about that!

I sometimes wonder - are we as Christians so focused on the conversion story that we forget the angels rejoice when every person comes to Christ? The Bible doesn’t say they cheer louder when the abortion provider asks Jesus to forgive her or when a pimp falls to his knees to beg for God’s mercy. Those angels cheer for every one of us. I might not have been Saul on the road to Damascus, or even just in jail for a DUI, but I needed the Lord just the same – and I can see God’s hand on my life just as surely.

Do we do a disservice to God and to the church by not recognizing that every conversion is special? I know everyone loves a good story – myself included – but if the angels can cheer just as loudly for the pre-K set as those adults at the bottom of the pit – shouldn’t we? I mean, why else do we pour so much time, money and effort into youth programs, if not to bring them into an early fellowship with Jesus? It’s what every Christian parent prays for, right? An early and consistent walk with the Lord versus the prodigal?

So today, tell your testimony to someone. Even if it’s just sharing with a fellow believer how you came to Christ, share your story. Let someone cheer you like the angels did! Don’t minimize or belittle or apologize for it – praise Jesus for however He got a hold on you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The coming storm

As the people sat in their coffee cafes in the capitol city, did they know trouble was coming?

As they went to dinner with friends, shopped the boutiques, headed to the market to pick up items for dinner, did they feel unease? And if so, what did they do with it? Push it aside? Dwell on it? Act on the fear?

How do you prepare for the coming storm when you aren't even sure what the storm is or how bad it will actually be?

I recently finished a book by Erik Larson – In the Garden of Beasts – about the U.S. Ambassador to Germany in the early 1930s. Hitler was chancellor, but not yet completely in power. And I started to wonder if any of the people in Berlin had any unease? Were any nervous about the movements of the government? What did they do or think as they went about their daily living?

Then I realized I was wondering these things during our own time of unease, as I was sitting in a Starbucks just outside of Washington, D.C. sipping my iced coffee.

It's scary right now. Financial trouble around the world and here in America; recent riots in London and Philadelphia; our troops still in serious peril on a daily basis; new, unknown regimes in the Middle East; China owning almost all our debt. All that without even touching on the weather that rocked us this summer or the cultural decline we are most clearly in.

It is beyond reasonable to be concerned with all of these issues, if not uneasy or even scared. How does one person even remotely begin to affect change, when these situations are so huge and global?

And yet. And yet God gives us the antidote to these poisonous fears.

Psalm 62:1-2 – My soul finds rest in God alone… He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

I John 4:17 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

II Timothy 1:7 – For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.

Psalm 62:1-2 are my life verses. But if I find myself leaning to worry or fretting (which I HATE to do!) I’ll definitely remind myself of the other two. What verses do you remind yourself of in times of trouble?