...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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I Am Thankful For

I love Thanksgiving. The most.

No presents.  Pretty colors. Family. And the best food of the year.


This is what our Thanksgiving buffet looked like. There were 42 of us: aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins. A friend looked at my daughter as she was describing the day and exclaimed, "You KNOW your SECOND cousins?!?!"  Yes, with great gratitude I can say, not only do my kids know their second cousins, they actually like them. A lot.

I am thankful for many things, and I thought it might be good to record exactly what some of those things are:

  • I am thankful to have a husband who continues to show up, to forgive me, to ask me for forgiveness, who laughs with me, and likes me, and takes me out for dates, and sees me at my worst and loves me anyway.
  • I am thankful for the privilege of being a Mom. A privilege that involves effecting hearts and bearing burdens. And it is also the privilege of being encouraged, challenged, and convicted by the boldness and faith of my own children who often surpass me in their passion for the Lord.
  • I am thankful for enough. Enough food. Enough clothing. Enough water. Enough gas. Enough. Enough. Enough. Of everything I need.
  • I am thankful for a country where I can vote and go to church and disagree and stand up for what I believe in.
  • I am thankful for the mercy, grace, power, loving-kindness, justice, forgiveness, and protection of my Lord.

That really just scratches the surface.

I have so much to be thankful for.  But I often forget to be thankful. To my shame.

So as I look forward to immersing myself in the joy of the Christmas season, I don't want to rush past the gratitude of the Thanksgiving season.  Because it is so easy to digress into the "stuff" of Christmas gift giving and it is so easy to lose sight of and dismiss the appreciation of my great blessings.

So this week I am holding off on Christmas. Just for a week. Cause I am just not done being Thankful.

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  Ps. 111:1

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sowing in Tears...

Today I had to take out my garden....because it looked like this:
This is what tomato plants look after a freeze. Lovely...

And like this:
A lot of those shriveled up green things that look like
dead leaves are actually serrano peppers.

That, my friends, is what happens when a garden that has been ravaged by extreme heat and drought all summer long meets up with a surprise freeze.


When I walked out the morning after the cold snap I thought I might cry.

I have to honestly evaluate my first year of gardening and admit it was a bust. A failure. A bomb.  In the cost/benefit analysis equation, the cost far exceeded the benefit.

Although, there was this one benefit: I learned a lot about the Lord this summer. The garden was so chock-full of spiritual analogies I could hardly keep up.

I have always been intrigued by the verse in Psalm 126:5
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joyful shouting."
The first part of the verse perfectly describes my summer. I did sow. And I did cry....well, at least on the inside. I could never seem to get ahead. I got my plants in late. And then there was a drought. If it wasn't the lack of water it was the heat. Or maybe my soil wasn't right. Or there was the time the deer ravaged my poor plants.

Yes, my sowing did involve tears. And then when the plants finally did grow there was no fruit.

And then finally, finally some rain came and the nights cooled off. And my tomato plants put on fruit. And....

And it froze.  Sigh.

Here is the fruit that fell off as I was yanking those dead plants out of the ground:

So if I am going to take God at His word (and yes I AM going to take Him His word!) then my "reaping with joyful shouting" must have meant something other than reaping tomatoes!

What I didn't reap in fruit, I think I more than made up for in lessons learned. What did I learn from my garden this year? Well...

  • That I don't want to be a Christian that looks good on the outside, but that has no fruit.
  • That a lack of water has the same effect on plants that the lack of Living Water has on my soul.
  • That the potential for fruit is not the same thing as fruit.
  • That difficult conditions might result in a season where there is no visible gain.
  • That life and fruitfulness and harvest are precious gifts and require tender care.
  • That neglect results in death.
  • That I am not in charge and I can't control all my variables and sometimes I have to be faithful and try to do the right thing and just leave the results up to God.
Something else I learned....sometimes the harvest doesn't look like we wanted it to or expected it to.

Can I trust God enough THEN to joyfully shout anyway?

Can I trust Him enough to wait through the difficult times and WAIT for Him to bring the harvest?

Or do I have to have it now?

Maybe this was my training-wheel year of gardening.  Maybe next year I can apply all I have learned this year and maybe the results will be different.

Maybe. But for now I need to soak in my lessons and apply them to some other "gardens" in my life- some that don't quite look like I want them to.

And maybe I need to trust God and shout joyfully and wait.

What is happening in your life that looks nothing like you wanted it to? Do you trust God enough to joyfully shout and then wait on Him to do what He will?

This is what my garden looks like now:
-laying fallow
-covered in ash to replenish the soil
-being quiet


Waiting through the winter.

Until the spring.

When I can plant again.

Does God have you waiting through a "winter" in your life?

Leave a comment and tell me about it- I would love to hear about it and pray for you.

Someday we WILL reap and when we do, we will bring in that harvest with joyful shouting together!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's Time To Get Up!

This weekend was my favorite night of the whole year: Fall Back!

The only time where I actually do get an extra hour to my day. I love that feeling- the feeling when I wake up, afraid maybe I slept in, and then worriedly looking at the clock only to see.....YAHOO! It isn't late! It is a WHOLE HOUR earlier than it feels! It. is. glorious.

I have never been a morning person. I now get up early because I am a grown-up and I have to. But that doesn't make me a morning person.

Here is the way to tell if someone you are with is a morning person or not.  When they are up early, speak to them.  Do they answer? If they do then it is possible they are a morning person.  But if all you get is a grunt? Then you most definitely are not with a morning person. And if they glare at you? Then you have a grumpy morning person.

Non-morning people do not want to talk in the morning. At least not out loud. I like to talk to Jesus in the morning. And I like to read my Bible. And I LOVE to drink coffee. And I like to write in my journal. In the quiet. But people? Even the ones I love?

I think they have learned that it is better to let me have a little Jesus and a little coffee and THEN talk to me!

The whole morning/non-morning person thing should really be discussed before marriage. It is way more important than finding out if you neatly roll the toothpaste tube up from the bottom or if you squeeze it right in the middle of the tube.  About a week into our marriage as my husband was whistling at a early AM hour, an hour where silence should reign, I had a crashing realization....I had married a morning person!

It is okay though. We have managed to navigate the morning waters for almost three decades, so I am here to tell you that the morning and non-morning people can peacefully co-exist!

The Problem
Why all this musings on mornings?

Well, I was thinking back this weekend to some mornings in my not too distant past. Maybe you have had these kind of mornings too. On these mornings it doesn't matter whether you were normally a morning person or not. Because these kinds of mornings are grey and wet and dreary---regardless of what the weather is outside. They are the kind where you don't want to get up, because when you do, you will have to face the day. And sometimes....

Sometimes life is like that. It is hard. It is arduous. It is painful.
Sometimes life just hauls off and punches you in the gut and you are totally unprepared.
Sometimes the rug is pulled out from underneath you and you find yourself sprawled on the floor.
Sometimes you go to sleep at night and hope that when you wake up tomorrow you will find out it was all just a bad dream.

But then you wake up.
And you realize it wasn't a bad dream.
And you have to get out of the bed and face it.
But you just don't want to.

Maybe you are waking up to:

  • shattered dreams
  • or a family in crisis
  • or a job you detest
  • or no money in the bank
  • or terminal illness
  • or just a life that has turned out so decidedly different than your dreams.
What do you do then?

The Cure

If I hadn't had any of those kinds of mornings I wouldn't have had to find the antidote.

But I have.
So I did.
Find the cure that is. And, what do you know. It was in the place all cures are.

The Word. First I will share the Scripture and then I will share the cure.

Lamentation 3:22: The Lord's loyal kindness never ceases; His compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; Your faithfulness is abundant!
Psalm 92:1-2:  It is fitting to thank the Lord, and to sing praises to your name, O sovereign One! It is fitting to proclaim Your loyal love in the morning, and your faithfulness during the night.
Psalm 5:3: Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer.

The Prescription?

  1. Realize as soon as I wake up that the Lord had fresh kindness and fresh compassion for me THIS VERY DAY.
  2. Thank the Lord out loud for this day and proclaim to myself His loyal love.
  3. Sing praises to my God.
  4. Present to God my case...my issue...my problem...or just the fact that I don't really want to rise and face the day.
  5. Get dressed (that one isn't in these Scriptures, but it is a very essential part of facing the day.)
  6. Get going. And wait. Get going with whatever I can do but wait expectantly for God's answer to the problem. 
  7. Praise God that I don't have to solve anything. I just have to wait on Him to do it for me!

The Result
The result is that I get out of the bed and find God's kindness and compassion enough. 
Enough to get me through the day.
Enough to enable me to thank Him and sing praises to Him.
Enough to empower me to walk through whatever the day brings.
Enough to wait. To wait on Him. To wait on Him for the answer- to whatever.

And that makes every morning a good morning.

Because it is a morning where, before I ever rise, I can receive my Lord's fresh kindness, put my hand in His Hand, and Get. Out. Of. Bed.

One may experience sorrow at night.
But joy arrives in the morning.
Ps. 30:5

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Life's a Stage"

In the play, "As You Like It", William Shakespeare famously writes, "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

But that quote is a rather sad and de-valuing explanation of our lives, don't you think? It takes the reality and life and sweat and blood out of our everyday existence and distills it down to us just flitting across a stage, acting our part, until the final curtain closes.


But I have been drawn up lately by the thought that really our lives ARE a stage. Now, don't worry, I don't mean that in any of the way ole' Bill Shakespeare did.

Here is an example of what I mean:
In Philippians, Paul is writing to exhort the converts who reside in Philippi, and he is writing from a Roman jail, a jail he remains in for two years!

You know he might have felt a little upset at being waylaid from his missions. After all, Paul had a divine commission from the Lord! He had work to do! He had places to be and people to meet! What was he doing sitting around in a Roman prison for over two years?

So does he complain? Just listen to this:
"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,"
Philippians 1: 12,13
You mean he isn't upset? He isn't complaining? He isn't asking them to start a letter writing campaign to get him released?

The answer is "NO!" No, he isn't.

Because he sees his circumstances as just the back drop....the scenery....the props, if you will. The circumstances are simply part of the stage, the stage from which can be proclaimed the reality, the power, the wisdom, and the supernatural character of God.

And if God gets proclaimed louder and better from inside a Roman prison, then by golly, Paul is willing to get thrown into that prison.

Can we look at our circumstances that way?
  • what if our children are rebelling?
  • what if our husband lost his job?
  • what if we have gained ten pounds?
  • what if we have terrible neighbors?
  • what if we have a difficult work environment?
  • what if the money is used up before the month is?
  • what if our car breaks down?
  • what if we get sick?
  • what if a loved one gets sick?
  • what if one thing after another, after another, after another rolls over us like waves crashing to the shore and we never have time to get to our feet and catch our breath? What about then?

Those are all bad circumstances, just like jail is a bad circumstance. But if those circumstances lead others to hear about the Lord or see His work in our lives....what then? Would they be worth it then?

For Paul his imprisonment meant several things, besides that he got to catch up on his letters and give us not only Philippians, but also Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Additionally, on top of writing all those letters, he also made sure that the "cause of Christ had become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else." (vs 13)

I mean, can you imagine being Paul's jailer? He would continually be telling you about Christ! How clever of God to put an evangelist right in the middle of Rome's governor's guard!

And then Paul says in verse 14 that many of the other brethren were having more courage to speak of God without fear! Maybe the Romans thought putting Paul in jail would make those other pesky Christians be quiet, but it seems to have had quite the opposite effect.

Our circumstances, just like Paul's, are just a stage. They are the backdrop against which God wants you to demonstrate HIS power, HIS sufficiency, HIS love and to reach into other's lives with His message.

Maybe God will use those difficult circumstances we find ourselves in to reach someone who would never have heard of Christ otherwise.
Maybe He will use them to encourage other believers to be courageous.
Maybe He will use them to loosen our grip on this world.
Maybe He will use them to show our children the reality of God in our lives.
Maybe He will use them to grow our love.
Maybe He will use them to grow our neighbor's love.
Maybe He will use them to save our marriage.
Maybe He will use them to enable us to minister to someone else's marriage.

Our lives are simply a stage where all those around us can see our dependence upon our God Who is sufficient and mighty and powerful and ready and willing to save. And the great news is, we just have to show up. God is ready, willing, and able to do the rest.

"For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."    ~II Chronicles 16:9

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gettin' Me Some Hinds' Feet

Deer on the side of a cliff.

This is the picture of a deer on the side of a cliff in Africa.

Um....yeah. I guess I just stated the obvious. Sorry.

Are you wondering what my point is?

Well it is this. This picture illustrates to me some well-known Scripture. It is Scripture I have heard my whole life but lately I have completely changed the way I now understand it. This is the verse:
"The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights."  Habakkuk 3:19

My whole life I have looked at this Scripture and pictured the Lord holding me up as I walked through difficult places. Maybe He would be holding my hand or maybe He would be giving me some supernatural ability or maybe He caused a miracle to change the path into one I could navigate. In all these scenarios He ENABLED me to walk.

So how did that interpretation change?

Well, look what it would look like if I was climbing (and no, this is not me):

  • First of all, she has a helmet
  • And she has gloves
  • And there are some serious straps all around her body
  • ....which are attached to the rope
  • And are those metal rods she is holding onto?

Now, if we go back to the top of the page and check the deer........yep, I checked. That dude has absolutely no safety equipment whatsoever! 

And as I look at these two pictures I had the realization:
  • God isn't going to make my clumsy, size 6, slightly pigeon-toed feet able to climb mountains, even allegorically. 
He is going to give me new, entirely different feet.

ME is not going to be able to do anything.

That is why He isn't going to enable my stubborn heart to truly love....He is going to give me a new heart. (Ezekiel 18:31)

And He isn't going to enable my spirit to survive the hardship....He is going to give me a new spirit. (Ps. 51:10)

Nor will He enable my mind to conceive the truth....instead He is going to give me a new mind. 
(Eph. 4:23)

It seems lately I have been stumbling on the difficult tasks in my life. They have been fairly successful at tripping me up. And down there, in the dust of the trail, things look more bleak and more hopeless than they do from the high places.

But no wonder I have been having trouble.

I was using the wrong feet! 

Lord, here are my feet: please make them new and into whatever you want them to be. 

For who is God, but the Lord?
     And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
     And makes my way blameless?
He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
     And sets me upon my high places.

Psalm 18:31-33

Monday, October 24, 2011

When I Am Weak...

I like this picture "Whistler's Mother" because she reminds me of
how I feel after a hard day's work.

...He is strong.

That is a truth that I come back to again and again and again.

Because I feel weak again and again and again.

Sometime I feel weak in my battle against my bad habits.
And sometimes I feel weak when I am trying to give unconditional love.
And sometimes I feel weak when I am faced with a tough day.
And sometimes I feel weak when I am tempted.
And sometimes I feel weak when I have too much to do.
And sometimes I feel weak when I need to turn the other cheek...and I don't want to.
And sometimes I feel weak.

No real reason. I just feel not up to the challenge of .....whatever.

It is the Math Problem of: addition of small thing plus small thing plus small thing that adds up to TOO MUCH for me to handle.

But God already knows this. He knows my inward parts. He knows I am flesh. He knows I am not able. 

Maybe that is why He put this in the Scripture:

 But He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me… for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.          II Corinthians 12:9,10

Hallelujah! I don’t ever need to worry about being strong enough on my own. I am weak so that "the power of Christ may reside in me. 
In other words, I just need to get out of the way so God can be strong in me.
Now, there are things I should do.  I should study and I should love and I should serve and I should forgive and I should repent.
But EVEN THEN....I will not be strong enough. I will NEVER be strong enough!
I will never be strong enough because of MY EFFORTS.
That is why it has NEVER been about my own efforts.
This is for you and for me. Our lives are simply a stage to demonstrate our insufficiency and God's power. In our weaknesses He is STRONG. He uses His power through and on the stage of our lives!
Our job? 
Be obedient and keep showing up.
We have to show up on the battlefield of our lives. We show up on our knees. And we show up with our hearts. We show up for our family. And we show up to our neighbors. We show up in service. And we show up with worship.
We show up to the STAGE OF GOD'S POWER in us.
When we are weak....then and only then does Christ's power show through.
That is a life lived where there isn't any other explanation- only Jesus.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Ordinary Disciple

I love Oswald Chambers.

I love "My Upmost For His Highest".

It is the book that has taught me more about mothering and about following Jesus than any book, other than the Bible.

He is just so unafraid of being truthful.

Maybe that is because his words were never written to the general public. His writings were from his teachings or his journals. After his early death, when he was only 42, his wife compiled his most recent journal entries and his seminary teachings into daily readings.  And she had to use his most recent because he had burned his earlier journals!

Today, October 21, I read the entry as I do most days.  There are so often passages that stick out- but this one had flashing lights and sirens!
"We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus." 
The problem with the "ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence" is that no one sees us or realizes just how many sacrifices we are making, or how much of our selves are dying, or how "graciously" we are handling our disappointments.

I mean, where is the fun in that?

What is the point of suffering, if you aren't going to get any credit for it? Maybe that is why we sigh. So we can draw attention to our overwork without actually saying anything?

It is like, when dessert is being passed around and you smile and say, "Oh, no thank you. I am on a diet."  And then you companions compliment your self-discipline and say how great you are doing. It almost makes the self denial worth it!

But for no one to know? For no one to be impressed with our sacrifice?

It would mean that that I could be a disciple of the Living God of the universe while going through:

  • the drudgery of housework that though unseen makes a house into a home
  • the ordinary chores of daily life that are necessary but unpleasant
  • the unobserved sacrifices to enable others needs to be met
  • the ignored moments of death to self that transform an argument into a moment of peace or a disagreement into an experience of grace.
Most of the work of the ordinary disciple is unnoticed, unless it is not done. If we do not live the life of the unobserved and ordinary than literally, all hell will break loose. Literally.

But, if we are living the life of the unobserved appropriator of the Grace of God it will effect everyone we live with, but here is the catch. They may not even realize why and they may not even realize who- which means we will get NO credit.

Oswald goes on to say:

"It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes."
He is right: to be exceptional in ordinary things does not take five minutes. It only takes a moment. The moment we are wronged, the moment we are ignored, the moment we are "dumped" on: in that moment we have the choice.

The choice to be the ordinary, ignored disciple. And appropriate the Grace of God. And see death out of life. And see peace and joy and love enter the room.

And then we get to do it again. The next moment, and the next moment, and the next......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pressure Makes Diamonds

"Pressure makes diamonds."  
~George Patton

Yes, it is true. Pressure makes diamonds- when aided by a lot of time and heat. And I like the thought of being made into a diamond.

But pressure makes me something else:   CRAZY.

Really, really crazy. And tired. And cranky. And a very, very good player of the Blame Game.

Because pressure is usually related to the people in our lives and their needs, and their requests, and their demands, and their, well, whatever.

And it is therefore easy to blame the PEOPLE rather than the problems.

This stuck out to me very strongly the other day as I read in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. Now, this is a very familiar passage and I catch myself sometimes skimming over the familiar verses because, well, you know, I have read them before.

But as I read/skimmed the other day I had a new thought and understanding. (And this, by the way, is why I shouldn't skim- God's Word ALWAYS has something new to say!)

So here it is:  Eph 6:11,12
Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of  evil in the heavens."

As I read this I realized, this is one of the Greatest Schemes of our enemy: to fool us into WHO and WHAT we think is the problem.

The people in our lives ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. Even when they have problems:

  • not the critical parent
  • not the unkind spouse
  • not the rebellious child
  • not the unreasonable boss
  • not the angry neighbor
  • not the grumpy store clerk
  • not the selfish driver in the next lane
  • not the lazy co-worker
  • not the demanding family
  • not even myself or my own bad habit or my own failings.

Every one of these things, these people, including ourselves, are flesh and blood, and our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood! But when we are busy blaming each other for our problems or identifying each other as the problem or seeing ourselves as the problem we are distracted FROM THE REAL PROBLEM.

So, nice try Satan, trying to divert me from the REAL battlefield. But I am on to you now! You are the problem. And sin is the problem. And all the other things listed in Eph. 6:12- they are the problems.

So maybe that pressure isn't so bad after all- since I now know it is not the people around me who are making me crazy.

Maybe this "becoming a diamond" thing isn't so bad either.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Today, I again heard the Plop. Bounce. Roll. Splat. And it reminded me of last year. Then we had had so much rain that there were lots of acorns. This year we have had a drought, and so.....yeah, there aren't so many. But there are some. And they are falling. And they are dying. And out of their death......well, I guess you will have to read the rest below! 

Re-post from Oct 9, 2010

Plop. Bounce. Roll. Splat.

I kept hearing this sound over and over on the roof.  Something was falling with fair regularity upon my roof. Something hard, but not too heavy from the sound of it. But what was it?

Finally it struck me. It was acorns. After a very wet Summer and Fall for south Texas standards, our oak trees 
are brimming with them. And we are sur
rounded by oak trees.

I always loved acorns- how they wear little hats that can instantly with a twinkle of the imagination be turned into a doll's tea cup. I love their greens and browns. I love how they hang in pairs.

But as I listened to the acorns drop noisily onto my roof over several weeks I began to think beyond the romantic view of acorns and began to think about what was happening to the acorns. Why were they falling and what were they falling for?

Now, to set the background, there are some things going on in my family that have the potential to be discouraging and downright disheartening. When a dream dies, or a relationship ends, or a shortage occurs it can be painful. There can be death to a vision or death to a dream. And death always involves grief.

"I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain." (Jn 12:24)

That is why, after all, the acorn can't stay hanging in the tree. If all it every wanted to be was an acorn it could hang there and look decorative, but all it would ever do is hang. How many acorns are on an oak tree? Well after a little research I found the rather unscientific estimate of "thousands". But one reason it is hard to pinpoint is that the number can fluctuate so much each year depending on the weather. But while the number of acorns on a tree can fluctuate, the productivity of a single acorn can not- there is only one seed per acorn. Only one.

And the only way that seed will get in the ground is for the acorn to let go of its comfortable, life-sustaining position and drop to the ground. And there it must die. It must die to its previous position and status and affluence and security- all that it had while hanging on to big old oak tree. But if it dies...

"But if it dies, it produces much grain."

And then it can grow into a tree and produce thousands upon thousands upon thousands of acorns.

Out of death comes life. At least with God in the middle of it all.

And God is in the middle of it all...OF IT ALL! He is with us in the midst of the struggle and pain. He is there to console, comfort and redeem. He is there to plant us, nourish us, water us, and then cause the growth so that when "it dies, it produces much grain."

"To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.(Isaiah 61:3; NKJV)