...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Greatest News of All

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (Sort of makes you want to start singing, doesn't it?)

The tree is lit. The packages are wrapped. The cards are coming. The food is piled up. The plans for the holiday are laid.

Sigh. I really love Christmas.

In the midst of the season this year, I have decided I have a new favorite Christmas verse. No it is not in Luke 2, although I love Luke 2.  I love "The Charlie Brown Christmas" when Linus recites it. I love reading Luke 2 on Christmas Day.  But that is not my favorite this year.

And my favorite Christmas verse is not found in any of the Gospels. My favorite Christmas verse is found in Philippians.
"...although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man...humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross."                                       ~Philippians 2:6-8

Just think of the implications of that verse. Just think of what it reveals about the Savior of the world. Just think of how much He must love us to have given up so much, to have humbled Himself so greatly, and to have obeyed the Father to the point of death.

Jesus- who is King of Kings....humbled Himself to be born to a simple teenage girl.

Jesus- who created every animal....humbled Himself to being born in an animal's stable.

Jesus- who is the Bread of Life....humbled himself to needing to be feed by His own creation.

Jesus- the only One who can change us....humbled himself to needing to be changed.

Jesus- who reigns in the throne room of all creation....humbled Himself to be raised in a no-account village in a small, poor country that was ruled by a pagan empire.

Jesus- who could call Heaven down to His aid....humbled Himself to be chased from town as a baby to flee King Herod's attempted destruction.

Jesus- who is omniscient....humbled Himself to be taught by others.

Jesus- who was, and is, and is to come....humbled Himself for 33 years to be constrained by time- to have to get up in the morning, go to bed at night, to live with a clock, and to feel tired.

Jesus- who is Ruler of all creation....became Servant of All and showed it by getting on His hands and knees and washing His disciples feet.

Jesus- who is the Word....humbled Himself to be in a position to have His words misconstrued, twisted, and used against Him.

Jesus- who is the Judge of the Universe....humbled Himself to being brought before a pagan judge and offered no defense.

Jesus- who has legions of angels at His command....humbled Himself to be arrested in the night, drug through town, falsely accused, beaten, mistreated, stripped, abused, mocked and ultimately crucified.

Jesus- who is Love....humbled Himself to be subjected to lies, insults, plots, abuse, and finally an unjust punishment...death on the cross.

I love Christmas.

And I love manger scenes.

Because they are the picture of the moment of Love Come Down.
Of God taking flesh and dwelling among us.
Of the greatest love imaginable.

But this Christmas, don't forget the point of the manger.

The point of the manger is the cross!

And the point of the manger is the love and forgiveness your Creator God has for you!

He loves you and me so much HE HUMBLED HIMSELF AND TOOK ON FLESH!

That is the greatest news of all!

And to go with my new favorite Christmas verse, here is my new favorite Christmas song. Hope you enjoy it....and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nothing Is Impossible With God!

With the coming of Christmas trees, and the appearance of nativities, and the singing of carols, it has been natural that I have Christmas on the mind.  The fact that the holiday is just a few days away and I am not done with my shopping, has also put it on my mind!

I diligently make the effort each year, however, to concentrate on the WHOM of Christmas and not the what.  But really, this year, the one who has been on my mind the most is not the One. But the One's mother.

I have been thinking about Mary.

I have been picturing the innocent, young girl who was on the precipice of her life: she was betrothed and would soon begin her own home and her own family....just like everyone else did. Just like she was supposed to.

But then God came and told her that what was impossible was exactly what was going to happen. And when it did, it would turn her whole world upside down.

The Faith of a Mom
I think I have been thinking about Mary in a little different light than ever before.

I have been considering what I can learn from her as a Mom.

I have never been faced with the kind of impossibility that Mary was, but as a Mom I am called to some impossible things as well.

Like when I am called to:

  • patience when I am intensely frustrated
  • faith when circumstances seem disastrous 
  • silence when I have the perfect thing to say
  • prayer when I what I really want to do is "fix" everything
  • long-suffering when I am hurt or wronged, or even worse when one of my children is hurt or wronged
  • trust that God loves and cares for my children ENOUGH to take care of them, even when I can't or shouldn't
  • hope....no matter what anything looks like, no matter what my children are doing or not doing, no matter how things seem to be developing,.....a hope that is in God and not in myself nor any other human

Mothering is Impossible
I don't think I understood that mothering, like God calls me to mother, is actually impossible.  At least without Him.  It is the most impossible thing in the world. For everybody.

Because it involves pouring your life and heart into people that you love more than any other thing with a heartbeat (except, hopefully, the one who made those children with you!). And you love them and train them and clean them and scold them and feed them and tickle them and read to them and pray for them and lead them to the feet of their Savior. And all without any guarantees on the return of your investment.  But that is not the impossible part.

The impossible part is that they are individual, willful, cognizant humans who choose, in the end, what to do, what to believe, how to behave, who to marry, what to retain, what to throw away, and who will, someday, stand alone before their God. And you no longer, at that time, can stand in the gap for them.

Mothering is a lot like taking your heart out of your body, laying it on the table, and inviting your family to take all they need.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think mothering is one of the greatest and most fulfilling callings that exist. It is the reason I am most glad that I am female. But having said that, I can also say.....

.....it is impossible.

And so the angel speaks:
Most likely Mary was feeling like what the angel told her was impossible. And she would have been right. For her to bring forth a child when she had never known a man WAS impossible.

But the angel speaks:
"And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age (another impossible thing, by the way); and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.  For NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD."  ~ Luke 1:36,37
So the impossible happens.  With God.
Life can be conceived.
Barrenness can be defeated.
The Word can enter the world.
The Sacred can be made flesh.
The Holy can interface with the sinful.

And Love can overcome all that is impossible.

Mary's Response
Mary's reply to the angel, in Luke 2:38, is one of my favorite in all of Scripture:
"Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word."
That is the response I want to have: to whatever God tells me to do, or to whatever God allots or allows in my life, or whatever impossible thing that God calls me to in the life.

WHATEVER LORD! That is why I named the blog Whatever Lord!

Because whatever it is, no matter HOW impossible, I want to say:  be it done to me according to your word.

So for Christmas this year, I want to concentrate not on the packages, bows, menus, cards, parties, ....and on and on and on. Instead I want to LEARN from Christmas and the young girl who laid down her life to God's will.

Yes, Mothering is impossible...without Jesus. And so is most everything else that matters.

And that is why this year I want to concentrate on Emmanuel: God with us!
With us in the impossible.
With us in our parenting.
With us in our marriages.
With us in our jobs.
With us, with us, with us.

What seems impossible to you this Christmas?
Remember, because of the Impossible that occurred in Mary, and was born in a manger, God is with you in the midst of your impossible.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where To Take Your Problems!

What is Your Problem?
Problems often feel like knots. Knots are difficult to untie.  Because they are...um....knots.

It can be very hard to figure out where to even begin to unravel the knot. But it is important to figure that out, because if you pull on the wrong thing you can actually make the knot worse. You can end up tightening the knot rather than loosening it.

And problems are usually the same way. We could start doing things thinking we are solving things, when in all reality we are making things worse.

The Story:
"MOM!!!", I hear the child's voice calling from the other side of the house. 

All Moms know that tone. It is the "I have a problem and I know just the go-to lady who can fix it" tone. The great thing about being a Mom is the there is no job description available that could encompass all the issues you get to interface with on a day to day basis.

My little girl finds me in my room and brings me her necklace. It is a mess. It is in knots. And knots. And knots. In fact, it is in so many knots, it looks like it may be impossible to ever NOT be in knots.

But she hands it to me in complete confidence and looks me in the eye with total trust that I can and will fix her problem. Yikes! That is a lot of pressure!

And, thankfully, this time at least, I live up to her expectation.  After many attempts and the use of a magnifying glass (these old eyes ain't what they used to be!) I succeed in unraveling the rascally, knotty knot.

The Point:
Yes, there actually is a point. And it is this.

Where do we take our problems?

Yes, I realize that this is a question and not a point, but it leads to the point. And yes, this IS a rhetorical question. You ARE supposed to go with the obvious answer...GOD! Our Heavenly Father! The One who created and loves us. He is whom we go to with our problems.

Then the follow-on question is: when we go to Him, do we go with faith, hope, and trust that He CAN and WILL solve the problem?!?! Whatever it is? Do we have the expectation that He is our "go-to" for our problem because Of Course He can work it out?

Oswald Chambers said:
"any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God increases my ecstatic delight because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing."
There it is.

Complete trust. Complete confidence. Complete LACK of fear or worry.

And therefore Complete JOY!

The Question?
Where do you go with your problems?

Who do you trust implicitly with finding the solution?

Who is the great Unraveler of all your knots?

The Answer:
Not you.
Not your boss.
Not your spouse.
Not your circumstances.
Not your checkbook.
Nope. Nauta. Nein. Nyet. None of those.

It is God. Always. Only. Alone.

It is God.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Thank God for Persecution!"

Last night I got to go see "Fiddler on the Roof" at our theater.

Note to all gentleman- my husband got me 
season tickets to the theater for my birthday. 
Best. Present. Ever.
Just wanted to share that little idea, in case you 
were stumped with what to get your wife this year.

Okay- back to the story.

I love musicals, and out of all musicals "Fiddler" is way up at the top. I love the family. I love the Jewish history. I love how Tevye is always talking to God. I love the music. In fact, I was very proud of myself last night when I didn't just burst out into song every time they began singing on stage- because I do know all the words after all!

During intermission after I got back from the bathroom....
I have the "bathroom strategy" down pat. We sit toward the
back of  our theater, so AS SOON AS the curtain begins to 
move for the Intermission, I hurdle over the people on the
 aisle, walk VERY quickly past the ambling women, and 
Get In Line at the bathroom. By the time I come out, the line 
stretches all the to the lobby. Successful bathroom strategy 
is an important part of a good evening at the theater!

Okay- back to the story.....again...

...when I got back, my husband, who talks to people wherever we are, had of course fallen into conversation with the people we were sitting by. We talked through intermission about all sorts of things, and in the course of the chatting we realized they were Jewish (they told us that during the Sabbath scene they were doing the wrong prayer over the candles!) Anyway, we had a lovely conversation, and sort of kept chatting during the second half. They were like us, just twenty years older, but they liked to evaluate the production while it was going on!

At the end of the play, the Russian soldiers come and order all the Jews out of the village- just because they are Jewish. Even though I know it is coming, it always makes me mad. Injustice and prejudice always make me mad.

But in the play, although they are sad, the Jewish peasants put the best face on it, pack up, and move on.  With their Traditions! And with each other.

As we are clapping with the curtain coming down, my new friend in the seat next to me rocked my world by saying,
"Thank God for persecution!"  
As I stared at her, quesitoningly, she continued.
"In 1917, when my grandmother was 15, she and her family were run out of Kiev. They burned her father's store down, and so they left Kiev and came to the United States. THANK GOD for persecution!" 
What an amazing viewpoint.

Just think.  She could have grown up in communist Russia if her family had stayed there. Or she may have never been born at all since Stalin ruthlessly murdered millions of Jews.

And so, instead of being angry, she saw the bigger picture.  What had been heartbreak and loss for her ancestors, had been great gain for the generations to come.  
This will be written for the generation to come;That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. For He looked down from His holy height; From heaven the Lord gazed upon the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoner; To set free those who were doomed to death; That men may tell of the name of the Lord in Zion, And His praise in Jerusalem.  Ps. 102:18-21

And her story made me wonder.

What is going on in my life now that seems unfair or difficult or horrible or destructive?

Is it possible that those very things are occurring in order to drive me some place that I wouldn't otherwise go?

Is it possible that their purpose is a result or conclusion that I may never see, but that the generations to come may be grateful for?

Is it possible that I can TRUST God in the most difficult of circumstances, rest in His arms, and believe that He really can take care of me?

Yes. Yes, it is possible.

So, I repeat the words of my seatmate:

Thank God for persecution!

Is there something really difficult going on in your life?  Maybe that is the very thing that the generations to come will praise God for!

What do you need to thank God for today?

To Life!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"The Girls"

As I groaned and turned over to meet my morning I woke up face to face with "The Girls".

I have a lot of girls in my head. And quite frankly some of them are much better behaved than others.

The ones who greeted me this morning are not my favorite:

  • Rhonda Rollover: encouraging me to just pull the covers over your head
  • Mrs. To-Do: jostling with Rhonda Rollover and trying to loudly tell me all there was to do
  • Paula Procrastination: trying to talk over Mrs. To-Do to explain why it could all be done tomorrow
  • Miss Worry Wart: wringing her hands as she looks at the To-Do list and reminding me of several other impending disasters that REQUIRE my emotional energy
  • Sarah Storm Cloud: giving off dire predictions of failure

It is hard to rouse myself out of bed when that is the crowd greeting me. I begin to wonder if Rhonda Rollover doesn't have the right idea.

When I wake up face to face with my weaknesses and fears it is easy to despair of making it through the day. On those days, my weaknesses are certainly loud and in my face and rather convincing to my spirit that I really cannot "do" this....this....this...whatever.

This day.
This task.
This busyness.
This challenge.

But as all "The Girls" were trying to make their own case about what was wrong with me and why this day was not going to go so well, there was another Voice. A Still Small Voice.

by Grace Macias
And It was saying:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."              

2 Corinthians 12:9

He didn't tell me to be strong on my own. He didn't tell me to pull up my boot straps and get going. He didn't tell me to get over it. He didn't deride me for being tired. He didn't parade the needs of the days in front of my eyes.

Instead, He simply and profoundly offered His grace and assured me it was sufficient. Enough. All that I needed.

Then suddenly, all of the girls vanished. And in their places was my Savior, with His hand outstretched, and His grace waiting to impower me.  And in place of the screaming needs of the day were doors. Each need was a door. An entrance to the grace and the power of God.

Each need was really an entrance for Jesus to come into my life in a new and fresh way.

So, and even more in this advent season, I say, "Come Lord Jesus, Come!"

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.                                                       ~ Revelations 3:20

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where is My Confidence?

What do I put my confidence in?

This is an important question, because what and where I put my confidence in is what I rely upon. It is what I turn to in time of trouble. It is what gives me my security. It is what I constantly check on and tend to. It is what I protect and value.  Because the STATUS of what I rely upon determines the LEVEL of my confidence.

Or in other words, it determines how confident am I in what I put my confidence in.

That confusing sentence actually makes sense because most of the things I am tempted to put my confidence in are fragile and changeable and dependent upon either my actions or the actions of others. And let’s be honest, both my actions and other’s actions are pretty flimsy and unreliable places to rest.

In Philippians 3:3 Paul states that he “puts no confidence in the flesh.” And then in the next three verses he lists all the things he could put his confidence in, if he DID rely upon the flesh. He lists all the places of his own actions where he could put his trust in….if he wanted. And it is a pretty impressive list.

My list looks significantly different that Paul’s. Paul had both a stellar Jewish pedigree and vocation. I am not a Hebrew or a Pharisee. I have never really been very good at keeping the Law. I view Speed Limits as suggestions to people who don’t drive well.

My list is more earthy. My “confidence temptation list” consists of bank accounts and academic achievements and my children’s academic (or business or social or personal) achievements and completed To Do lists and stock portfolios and zero balances on the credit card and a clean, organized house. 

I have a rather interesting list of financial security and personal achievement on my “List”, don’t I? I guess because if I have enough money I feel secure and if everyone (including myself) is doing well I feel successful.

But I don't think God wants me to feel secure or successful in anything or anyone but Himself!

One of the ways I KNOW that I know that God is at work in my life is that He has pretty much been taking every single thing that I am tempted to put my confidence in and He has been actively “shaking it up” and turning it upside-down. It is pretty hard to put your confidence in ANYTHING that is upside-down!

I guess God shook up Paul’s “List” too, because in Phil 3:8 Paul states that he has “suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish.

Wow. How did Paul get to the place that rather than complaining and mourning his losses, he instead counted them as rubbish? If you get around to thinking of the "stuff" as rubbish you would be glad to get rid of it! It would be like getting the trash taken out!

He probably was able to have his view of his "confidence list" stuff changed because of what he previously told us in Phil. 3:7: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
What this means is that no matter how well or how poorly the things of Paul’s list were going….no matter ….compared to knowing Christ….they were a loss.

Phil 3:8:  "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

So if I am counting all the stuff as loss then it wouldn't matter how well or poorly something was going. Because compared to knowing Christ it is just all a bunch of trash in big black trash bags!

That means that no matter how much money is in the bank or how well my child did on the SAT or how perfect my house looks, compared to knowing Jesus it is like:
  • the bank closing, or
  • losing my job, or
  • the stock market crashing, or
  • the house burning down...with no insurance, or
  • failing out of college, or
  • the car being totaled, or....
I think you get the idea.  Just think of the freedom of being released from the care and the concern and the tending and the management of the stuff. I could be free and COMPLETELY AVAILABLE to get to know my Lord more.

...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 3:13,14

So today I choose to:

  • put no confidence in the flesh
  • count everything as loss
  • put it behind me
  • forget about what lies behind me
  • listen to the upward call
  • press forward
  • right into the arms of Jesus.