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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poverty and Generosity and The Widow's Mite

By the world's standards, we are anything but poor.

In fact, by the world's standard we are doing fine. I don't think many Americans understand poverty, anyway. It is just not something we are intimately acquainted with.

But sometimes it feels like we are.

There are times when the requirements and the checkbook are in total disagreement.

There are times when the cars sound bad, and the cupboards are sparse, and the phone bill is higher than expected, and the dentist finds cavities, and, and, and...

This is not really poverty. But once again, it can feel like it.

So, in times like that, what happens to our giving? When the budget is squeezed? When the economy is bad? When the excuses for why we can't give sound perfectly logical and sound?
I have wrestled with these questions often lately.

But I read a quote in a book today that defies my logic:
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
(2 Cor. 8:2)

Joy can arise out of trials, and poverty and generosity can live together...Jesus is our example; He possessed nothing on this earth, but He had everything to give, even His life." -Michael Whit

This reminds me of the story of the widow in the temple. Jesus sat and watched as wealthy people put in LOTS of money. But when the widow put in two mites, it was something He wanted to point out to His disciples.
Mark 12:41-44 Then he sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”
It wasn't about the amount. It was never about the amount.

It was about the ALL.

It wasn't the leftovers. It wasn't what wouldn't be noticed. It wasn't the extra.

And I don't think this principle just applies just to money. Not only is my money limited, but so is my time, and my energy, and my availability, and my love, and my patience, and my long-suffering.

I think the only thing I am not poor in is my need.

Maybe THAT is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:3)

Oh my, that gives me comfort. He knows all about my poverty. He loves me anyway. He desires me to share His kingdom with Him- where there is endless joy and no need.

And He does not require nor need vast amounts from me. He requires and desires, but still does not need, something more- my all.

So Lord, out of my poverty, in all areas of my life, I vow to give You my mites- my all.

Because You are so immeasurable and supremely worth it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Growing Straight

Sometimes I imagine myself a gardener. I think I could really be one, if I had the time. I like gardening.

But that is the problem with time- it limits how many good things you can do. One of my "secret" bucket list items is to become a Master Gardener. (My "secret" list is items I think are highly unlikely to happen but still dream about anyway. Going to Antarctica is on there too. Also highly unlikely.)

One of the things I love about gardening is that it is chock full of spiritual analogies. Just ask Jesus- He used lots of gardening analogies- soils, harvests, fruit,....see?

Last week, on January 16th, in "Life is Messy", I wrote about 2 Corinthians 10:13:
2 Corinthians goes on to say in 10:13: But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned (assigned is another translation) to us as a measure to reach...

If the God of the Universe has assigned me a messy, non-containable, unorganizable, full to overflowing life, then I had better stay within the "measure of the sphere He apportioned" and quit looking at other spheres to determine how I am doing. And I had better stop looking at the sphere of the planet of "How Things Should Be."

After I wrote that I did a little more research into that verse and.....

do you ever look something up, maybe on a verse you have read lots of times, and just get your mind blown open, or maybe it is your heart, but you just see something new and bigger and, ...well...amazing?

Well, that is what happened to me.

First I looked up measure which is the Greek word metron meaning instrument for measuring, graduated staff. So it was something to measure with and this is where our word meter comes from. Nothing too shocking here. Sort of what I expected to find.

Next, I looked up apportioned, the Greek word merizo, which is divide, assign, distribute. Once again- nothing earth shattering.

But then....

I looked up sphere. This was the last place I expected a surprise. I figured it would mean...well...a sphere...or ball. But the Greek word is kanon and its first meaning is "straight piece of round wood to which anything is fastened to keep it straight. A measuring rod and by implication one's sphere of activity."

Maybe that doesn't blow your world, but for those of us with active imaginations- wowzers!

This is the perfect gardening picture.
I had always seen my "sphere" as the area God gave me in which to work. It is His assignment to me for my life. It could be my family, my church, my neighborhood, my ministry. This is the "where" of where He wanted me to reach.

And I am not saying that is not true. It is just not ALL that there is.

All this time, I was looking at what I was supposed to DO in these areas.

But I have failed to look at what these areas were supposed to be doing to me!

They are supposed to be straightening me!

I know God wants to transform me and conform me and purify me and make me more and more like His Son. But sometimes that process, in all its messiness (messy because of me and my resistance, not the Lord's work) is hard to understand.

I need a picture I can hang onto in the times of Holy Sandpaper doing its job in my life.

And now I have one.

God cares about my soil. (Mark 4:8)
God cares about my rain. (Psalm 107:35)
God cares about my fruit. (John 15:2)

And God cares that I grow straight.

He knows that left to my own I would grow crooked. I would wander off from the straight line up to His sunshine. But, thankfully, He doesn't leave me on my own.

He fastens me to kanons to keep me straight.

Kanons like my family, my church, my neighborhood, and my city. And kanons like my struggles, and my challenges, and my sorrows. And kanons like His Word, and His Spirit, and His sweet consolations.

So now I go back to 2 Cor. 10:13: But we will not boast beyond our measure (determined extent), but within the measure of the sphere(straightening rod) which God apportioned (assigned) to us as a measure to reach.

God loves me so much. So much more than I can ever understand. He loves me enough to fasten me on to straightening rods. He has assigned them into my life...the EXACT. ONES. I. NEED.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says- "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in to the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

Praise God- I am being transformed from a scraggedly, crookedy, scrawny, unfruitful tree, into a testament of His power. But the more I fight against His straightening rods, the longer that straightening is going to take.

So Lord, thank you for it all. Thank you for all of Your holy fastenings!

What about you? What does He have you fastened to?

Have you thanked Him for them lately?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Take My Hand

One of the most fearful moments for a Mom is to be in a crowded place and to realize you cannot find your small child. They are so small and they can't be seen amongst all the people.

So what does a Mom do then? You throw all pride and dignity to the wind and search frantically, call loudly, and interrogate anyone and everyone until you locate your missing child. Oh the joy indescribable when that missing lamb is discovered.

After hugging hard, and scolding gently or vehemently (in direct proportion to how long you searched for him) you take him or her firmly by the hand to walk back through the crowd together. You can see easily which way to go as you lead your newly rescued child because you are an adult. And even if you are a height-challenged adult, like me, you can usually find your way through the crowd.

But think about this from the young child's perspective.

What do they see?

A forest of legs, one indistinguishable from the other except for the type of pants and the length and the width of those pants. It must be a very bewildering sight from their eye level. Maybe that is how they got lost in the first place. They thought they were following the right pair of jeans, but when they looked all the way up to the face....it was the wrong face.

I can completely identify with those little ones.

Life can be filled with lots of pairs of "legs".

There can be money problems or relationship problems. There can be medical issues or car issues or issue issues. There can be job complications or school complications or parenting complications.

As I stand and try to find my Father in such a crowd it is easy for me to get lost. Maybe I thought I was following the right pair of legs, but when I looked up...it was the wrong face.

What do I do now? Sit down and cry?

If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle on the other side of the sea,
even there Your hand would guide me,
Your right hand would grab hold of me.
Ps. 139:9,10

Oh, that's right I am not out of my Father's sight. He has thrown off all His Dignity and come to earth as a baby and a Saviour. He will find me. He will take me by the hand. He will guide me.

And while I still cannot not make my way through that "forest of legs" on my own, I can rest my hand in the Hand of the One Who can see the way.

Guide me into Your truth and teach me.
For You are the God who delivers me;
on You I rely all day long.
Ps 25:5

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life is Messy

I love neat, and organized, and color coordinated, and plastic containers, and labels.

I love for everything to have a place and to be in that place.

I love to open the drawer and have the scissors right where they belong. I love for my file cabinets to have neat, alphabetical files with everything in them, preferably in chronological order.

I love to have a schedule to my day, my week, and my year.

And this is just how things are.....on the planet of "How Things Should Be".

But not in my house.

I can always envision it, and draw up lists to get there, and plan on days to accomplish it, but it just doesn't happen at my address.

It is sort of like when I sing. I love harmonies. I hear them in my head. But somewhere between my brain and my vocal cords the note changes or gets translated or altered or something... because when it comes out, it is not harmony...it is usually the opposite. When I actually hit a good alto harmonious note it just gives me a thrill and sends shivers down my spine. And when I stand next to someone who sings perfect harmonies it both blesses me ... and condemns me. Why can't I do that, I wonder?

It is the same feeling I have when I walk into someone's home which actually looks like they live on the planet of "How Things Should Be". It gives me a thrill just to look around and see that it is possible and it condemns me as I ask myself, why can't I do this?

2 Corinthians warns us in 10:12: ...but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

This Scripture actually refers to boasting and feeling pride as we compare ourselves. I personally don't deal with the temptation to boast all that often. I am pretty sure that almost everybody else has figured this thing out better than I have. I am, through being so aware of my weaknesses and failings, so incredibly grateful of the grace and mercy of God, because otherwise I would be sunk.

My comparing however brings about other sins, and they are ones I see in many women. Discouragement. Dissatisfaction. Regret. Self-condemnation. Weariness.

And in reality, ingratitude. So, while I am grateful for His grace and mercy, I am not grateful for what He has allotted to me.

My looking at other's strengths and letting them magnify my weaknesses, makes me ungrateful for how and what God has created and given to me. I am an idea person who starts projects before the last one is finished. I hate waste and therefore don't want to get rid of things that might be needed later. I am a Mom of a large family of varied and talented kids that are involved in projects and activities that require stuff and driving and traveling and equipment. I am a wife to a man with qualities and talents that have brought opportunities and requirements into our lives that necessitate me to stretch. I am a homeschooler who has a school library, computer lab, and various and a sundry other supplies to corral.

In short, my life and my abilities, and my weaknesses do not fit in a closet filled with Rubbermaid that has been attacked by a label maker.

This weekend I had a lesson in the fact that life is messy. We were staying with sweet family who put us up while we went to a Speech tournament. Their house looks perfectly clean- smooth counters, no piles, no dust.

And when we would come home at night between 9 and 10 they would already be asleep, with their house in order.

I on the other hand had made a mad dash out of my house (leaving it a mess), on very little sleep, trying to get everything ready for what I was leaving behind and where I was going. We had been going to bed late and getting up early.

At least twice during the weekend, when I thought I was feeling great and even smiling, someone would ask me, "Are you all right? You looked so tired!"


I didn't think I looked bad, and I looked bad.

What do I look like when I know I look bad?

I was already feeling the condemnation rolling over me as I left their neat, well-rested house this morning....late by the way....to rush off to our next activity, when life got even messier. Some minor mess ups, some accidents, some irritations, some miscommunications.

No reason to go into specifics.

Suffice it to say, life is messy.

Life is messy.

And I was discouraged.

Alright, I am still a little discouraged. But that is why I felt the need to write about this. Because I don't think I am supposed to be.

I don't think I am supposed to let the weight of the world rest on my shoulders, but rather let the One who placed the world on its foundations carry the weight.

I don't think I am supposed to be overcome, but rather rest in the arms of the Overcomer.

And I don't think I am supposed to be surprised that life is messy!

So if it is a fact that my life is messy, what will my response be?

  • Will I sit back in my condemnation chair, singing "Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen"?
  • Will I give up and become bitter and angry?
  • Will I decide it is just not worth it and live for myself alone?

no. No. NO.

2 Corinthians goes on to say in 10:13: But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned (assigned is another translation) to us as a measure to reach...

If the God of the Universe has assigned me a messy, non-containable, unorganizable, full to overflowing life, then I had better stay within the "measure of the sphere He apportioned" and quit looking at other spheres to determine how I am doing. And I had better stop looking at the sphere of the planet of "How Things Should Be."

And I had better start praising Him and start being grateful for all He has given me.

Praise God for these messy days. These messy, accident prone, question provoking days. These days that keep me leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

These days, that confirm in my heart, that even if I wanted to boast, I have nothing to boast in.

2 Corinthians 10:17: He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lessons From A Mouse

I came to Narnia late in life. I remember hearing about the books from a few people in school, but I had never read them. After I got married, I stumbled across a boxed set of "The Chronicles of Narnia" and decided to buy them on a whim. And then I stated reading them. And then I was hooked.

For a week, Nathan would come home from work and find me on the couch, buried in a book, uncommunicative, and even unaware of his presence.

Not exactly a lot of fun for a newlywed husband!

But I couldn't help it! I was IN Narnia. I dove right in---like diving into the pools in "The Magician's Nephew", and didn't come up for air until after the climax of "The Last Battle."

I fell in love with Narnia.

And then I read them outloud to my kids.

And then we listened to the Radio Theater version---multiple times.

And we watched the movies. Oh, no, not the current movies, but the old BBC ones where Aslan can barely move and looks suspiciously like a puppet. Now we make fun of them, but back then we loved them.

When we heard they were making new movies, we were excited, but concerned. There is such richness in the allegory, and Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of protection for Christian allegory!

But actually, I have enjoyed the new movies- as long as I ignore my purest tendencies that argue with both the subtle and the glaring deviations from C.S. Lewis's masterpieces.

Last night I finally went to "Voyage of the Dawn Treader". And aside from moving the plot around, and the goofy serpent at the end, I really loved it. Oh, and I had issues with their interpretation of changing Eustace back to a boy- one of my very favorite scenes from the books. They missed the point- but since that is not the point of this post I will save that evaluation for another time!

But Reepicheep.

Oh Reep! I love Reepicheep. He is magnificent. He is heroic because of his heart and his complete devotion to Aslan. For him, the facts that he is small and well, a mouse, are somehow transformed into advantages.

Now the movie changes things around a bit. In the book he is just completely and unswervingly committed to going on to Aslan's country, no matter what. In the movie they tried to encapsulate that attitude in a speech at the end. Someday I am going to find the exact script, but for now I have to rely on my memory. He states that he fought every battle and never shrunk back from what was before him. But the greatest desire of his heart is to go forward into Aslan's country. Where else could one want to be anyway?

I got teary eyed as that little rodent made his speech.

I think it is because I want to live that way. Live all out for the Lord, all the time. Embracing adventures. Fighting battles. Standing up for right and honor and justice.

Now my battles look slightly different from Reep's. Mine involve, but are not limited to, managing the development of young and old hearts and minds, creatively managing finances and needs that never seem to be at the same level, forging a marriage in a world that mocks marriage, rejecting the desire for bitterness or anger at wrongs committed against my family, trying to squeeze an extra hour out of that "only 24-hour" day.

I have the battles alright. But I want to take a lesson from that mouse.

Don't hold back.

Have no fear.

Stare the beast in the eye and charge.

And then when the opportunity comes to enter Aslan's country, there are no regrets to hold you back. All that has happened before is just the preface to the story after all.

Oh, that I would live like that mouse.

Period. Exclamation point.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Well, it is that time of year again.

Time for a New Year- and New Year's Resolutions.

I am a little wary of New Year's Resolutions, because frankly I am pretty much a failure at them. At least the ones that take more that 3 weeks to accomplish.

But I started thinking about last year. Last year I put my goal up on this blog and this was it:
It is this: I want to abide in Christ.
That sounds like a funny goal, even to me, and I am the one who wants to do it. I think it is that I want to go past knowing what I need to do and go to the place of doing it. And I want to go beyond doing and go to the place of being. I want to be so connected to Christ that I will decrease and He will increase. And I want to do it by His power, not by my efforts in the flesh.

Funny, but now, looking back on last year, and all that it entailed, and all the heartaches, and all the disappointments, and all the.....well, you get the picture...but looking back on all that and reading what I wrote when I thought everything was going so well, I think God was providing me with the mindset I needed and the heartset I required in order to walk through the fires He was lovingly allowing.

And all of the, um, well, let's just call it "stuff" (at home I call it "carp" because a bunch of old dead fish smell very bad, and bring flies, and generally are something you don't want around. But I didn't want to put that because you might accidentally switch the letters around in your head and it would say something I didn't mean!). But back to the stuff. All that stuff has made me so clearly aware of what I want.

I want Jesus.

I want all of Jesus.

I want to serve Him. To love Him. To reflect Him. To proclaim Him. To value Him.

Because, in the end, He is all that matters.

Because, in the end, everything else will pass away.

And the "stuff" has also made me aware of what I don't want.

I don't want lies. And I don't want false. I don't want the fake and the phony. I don't want to settle. I don't want the world.

So after having been through 2010, I approach 2011 with a little bit of trepidation. And yet with hope.

And I approach my "resolution" with trepidation as well. But having said that:
I want this to be the Year of Now.

Now is the year to give. Now is the year to invest. Now is the year to write. Now is the year to teach.

Now is the year of Whatever Lord. Whatever. For You Lord, whatever.

And here is my desire from one year ago. And it is still my desire.

So here is my non-specific, un-measurable, without a plan New Year's goal- or maybe it is better named plea- for 2010: (and now I add 2011)

Help me abide in You, my dwelling
Help me keep my feet on You, my rock
Help me be attached to You, my vine
Help me survive on You, my bread
Help me go through You, my door
Help me rest in You, my fortress
Help me obey You, my King
Help me follow hard after You, my shepherd
Help me born anew in You, my resurrection
Help me see by You, my light
Help me not get lost from You, my way
Help me learn from You, my truth
Help me breathe with joy in You, my life