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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Those Who Did Hard Things

I can still vividly remember laying on my bed in ninth grade and reading The Cross and The Switchblade.  I was mesmerized.  I was blown away.  I was deeply convicted.

Here was a man who really believed God- not just on Sunday, but all the time.  With everything.  With his family.  With his future.

He was willing to "do hard things".  To go into the inner city with his family and minister to people who might hurt or even kill him.

I grew up going to a respectful church, and I am grateful for a churched upbringing.  But no one in my church would go off and do something crazy like that!  We were too busy being nice and middle class and trying to reach the American dream.

David Wilkerson didn't seem to be too worried about any of that.

And I asked myself:
     ~Could I lay down the American dream and do anything God asked me to do?

Then later in high school I read The Hiding Place, and so began my voracious reading of biographies of people who have survived the unimaginable.  But also within me began the question:

     ~If I was faced with same choice, would I choose the safe way?  Would I choose my own safety?  Or would I lay my life down for others?

Corrie and her entire family laid their lives down to save any of the Jews they could in Holland.  In the world's eyes they were very unlikely candidates.  They were old, spinsters, and had, up to that time, led rather unremarkable lives.

I eventually read every book by Corrie ten Boom I could find.  When we lived in Europe we went to visit her house.  She is one of my heroines, though I never met her.

She did hard things.

Then, in the first year of our marriage I read another book- God's Smuggler.  Here was another one.  Another person who was willing to lay everything down for his Lord.

Brother Andrew's willingness to head straight into the jaws of the lion convicted me deeply.  Every time he crossed the border he knew he could be headed straight for a communist prison.

But he did it anyway.

He did the hard things because he loved God so much.  And he loved God's people so much that he was willing to take the risk in order to bring them the Bible.

And I asked myself:
     ~What am I willing to risk?  Where am I willing to head?  Into danger?  Am I really?

And there were other books:  Tortured for Christ (Richard Wurmbrand), I Will Never Leave Thee (Darlene Deibler Rose), The Shadow of the Almighty (Jim Elliot), Peace Child (Don Richardson), Lords of the Earth (Stan Dale), and many more.  Oh, I am so grateful that I love to read.

The reason I am writing this today thought is because yesterday David Wilkerson passed from this fallen world into the arms of the Savior for Whom he was willing to spend his life.
David's life was not easy.  Living on the front lines of a battle never is.  He died yesterday in an auto accident in Texas and amidst the horrific tornadoes and the Royal wedding the news got buried.

But I wanted to say publicly,  "Thank You Pastor Wilkerson."

I want to thank you for being the first person I can remember reading about who was willing to give your all for your Lord.  You were the first one who inspired me to want to be more than a nominal, everyday Christian, but instead to be one who really, really believed what I said I believed.

2 Corinthians 4: 7-11, 16-
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh... Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vision vs. Reality

The last time I had a garden it was 1994.

Yep.  My visions of going to the backyard and picking fresh organic vegetables and putting them on my dinner table are just that.  Visions.  Not much reality there.

But this year, after 7 long years of wanting one, we are finally attempting to put one in.  We have gone from four raised beds, to two raised beds, and now I am making do with one raised bed.

But hey, one raised bed is better than no raised beds!

In my flush of farming excitement I took myself off to my local hardware store that carries plants and bought a mix of regular tomatoes and heirloom variety tomatoes.  And cilantro and peppers (can anyone say fresh salsa?).  Zucchini seeds and cucumber seeds too!

My fresh, precious new plants sat on my back porch as I tried to finish preparing the bed for several days.

And then it happened.

The back gate was left open one night.  No need to name the culprit, or culprits (if we were to name them they would be Hannah and Abigail, but then again we are not naming names.)

What is the problem with the gate being left open you may ask?  Well, we have deer.

I am not talking Bambi here.  I am talking herds of voracious, ravenous, devouring, plant eating deer.

We are in the middle of a drought here.  And so there is not a lot of green vegetation around.  Deer must have a nose that would rival a hound dogs because they must have smelled my fresh, green plants from across my dead weeds and came right in my yard and ate my baby plants down to the dirt.

So what am I to do?

Do I throw those plants out and trudge back up to the hardware store for new ones?  In a different time I might have done just that, but the current budget does not make that possible.  Soooo........

Seeing no other option, I planted them.

In one little bed.  It is not the vision.

My reality garden.

This is the vision.

My "vision" garden.

And these plants are not the vision either.
Peppers anyone?
No, that is not a dead stick,
it is a tomato plant.  Really.

But as I stood looking at my pitiful, eaten, nub of a plant I could see the tiniest of little leaves trying to re-emerge.  And I could just feel my Lord wrapping His arms around me.

This is how life is.  I have a vision.  I have a dream.  It is usually lovely, and not messy, and smells good, and has singing birds in the background.

Tiniest of leaves coming forth.
But I also have a reality.  This is where the fallen world and my nice vision come crashing into each other.  And my vision gets banged up and bent and cracked.  And put to the fire.  And refined.

And then my vision get to meet up with the redemption of God.

And then it gets to be transformed from something selfish and material and affluent into something real and tangible and eternal.

And so, in celebration of the redemptive power of God I planted my little eaten up plants.  They remind me a little bit of someone.

Who would that be?  Oh yeah, me.

A broken down saved sinner who needs to continually be planted in the soil of God's Word so that the life giving Water can flow through my veins and produce eternal fruit that can feed a hungry world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Got Weeds?

There are several good reasons my yard needs to be mowed, but hasn't been:

  1. The riding lawn mower is broken.
  2. We can't afford to buy a new one and our old one is not worth fixing.
  3. My sons, my resident "lawn men" all moved out.
  4. When looking at the myriad of chores that need to done, mowing the yard, the big yard, with a push mower, never seems to move to the top of the list. (Gee- I wonder why?)
As a result, there are quite a few interesting plants growing in my front yard right now.  You have to understand, we have a BIG yard (hence, the need of the riding lawn mower).  It is really more of a field than a yard.  And while I don't have any anticipation of it looking like a golf course, but I do want it to look neat.

There have been these big green weeds growing all over the field, getting bigger by the day, and I think they look terrible from my vantage point of the living room window.  They look like gangly, and ugly, and out-of-control.....and well....like weeds!

And I am not over-fond of weeds.

My general standpoint on the weed matter is they need to go.  Not picky on the methodology.  They just need to go.  Mowing them out of sight is perfectly acceptable.

Today, though, God taught me something through those weeds.

I was walking through the field- just a sort of "mental health" walk.  A few minutes in the wind and sun to clear the cobwebs and produce some vitamin D.  As I got closer to the weeds I noticed something.  They are about to burst  forth in bloom.  Lots and lots of blooms.  They are the native Texas wildflower "Mexican Hat", which is actually one of my favorite flowers. I just think they are so cool looking. 

And they are growing everywhere.  In my field.  In my un-mown field.
But if our mower had been working....
If everything was groomed and orderly....
If things were as "they are supposed to be"...

I would miss out on all the little "hats" that are just waiting to burst forth in glorious yellows and reds.

And as I walked around the field, and found the first anxious little flower that had bloomed, I wondered.  

I wondered how many times I looked at the "weeds" in my life, from my limited vantage point, and wished for them to go away.  OR maybe even MADE them go away, and the whole time I never got to see the beauty they could have produced.

If everything in my life was according to the "plan", if it all lined up with the "vision", if things were ever "normal"....

To borrow a phrase from Anne Shirley, "Oh, how much I would miss."

Isn't it just like God to hide beauty in a weed.
To hide a king in a shepherd.
To hide a prophet in the wilderness.
To hide Eternal Life in a manger.

So why do I doubt?  Why do I look at my life weeds and not see them knowing they will produce something good?  Why am I not hoping and believing in the flower that is sure to come?

It is like the story of the little boy- the optimist.  When rushing into the barn and seeing a bunch of manure he gets so happy and excited.  His friend, confused at his joy asked him how so much manure could make him happy?.  "Well", the young hoper and believer states, "If there is this much manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!"

So here is to my weeds. (I like talking about the flower analogy better than the manure one.)  To the weeds in my yard and the weeds in my life- let me just say, "Welcome."

And welcome to the beauty and the flowers and color and the life that is to come. 

Almost ready to bloom.
My first "hat".

More flower lessons seen on the way back into the house:

Honeysuckle: blooms for VERY short time, but makes
the most of it by filling the air around it with amazing aroma.

Iris: can only bloom if it is cold enough and harsh enough
in the winter.

Cactus Flower:
It is a beautiful flower amidst the thorns.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did I Say That Outloud?

Sometimes.....um,...or, actually quite often..... I will say what I am thinking.

Before, maybe, I think about it.    And it gets me in trouble.

Being opinionated usually does get you in trouble.

I was recently asked to share my "wisdom" at a Shower for a young couple about to embark on the marriage adventure.  While I love to teach, this instilled a bit of fear in me. Why?  Because I am still, even after 26 years, learning so much about how to be a wife. So I started praying.

What do you want me to teach about dear Lord?

Given my confession about my mouth above, I was rather surprised when God directed me to a passage of Scripture, James 1:9, about communication.  Or maybe I shouldn't be surprised.  Maybe I should be grateful.  God not only wanted me to share something.......He wanted me to learn (or remember?) something.

Teaching is always a scary proposition.  Not because I am scared of speaking in front of people.  I actually enjoy that.  It is just that when I teach, I don't ever want to give the impression that I am trying to tell someone else about something because I have already arrived.  Nope.  Not even close.

I am still on the learning journey.

So here is my disclaimer:  I am still learning what I am sharing below.  With my husband.  With my children.  With almost everyone I have a conversation with.

Here are things God is still trying to teach me:

Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.                                                      ~James 1:9 

Quick to Hear:
Our first command is to be quick to hear.

This is the linchpin, the main cog in the wheel.  If this doesn't happen, the next two commands are impossible.  If I am not quick to hear then I will say something wrong and will get angry for the wrong reason.

 Proverbs 2:2
Make your ear attentive to wisdom.
Incline your heart to understanding.

So not only do I need to be quick to hear.  I have to listen with both my ears and my heart.  This is an active listening, not just a cessation of speaking.  It is more than keeping my mouth closed, but it is keeping my heart open.

Slow to Speak
Okay- confession.  This one is REALLY hard for me.  I mean, having words to say is usually not my problem.  Keeping them to myself is my problem.  But listen to this Proverb:

Proverbs 13:3
The one who guards his mouth preserves his life.
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Uh-oh.  I need to put a guard over my mouth.  Like a German shepherd dog, or a soldier with a bazooka.  The consequences of not doing so are pretty serious apparently.  Listen to this one:

Proverbs 10:19
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.

I would much rather be wise than come to ruin.  But why is it so important for us to restrain our lips?

Because of what the tongue can do according to James 3:
  • boast
  • set off forest fires
  • defile entire body
  • can't be tamed
  • restless evil
  • full of deadly poison
That is pretty serious stuff.  Because of the damage we can do to each other, we must restrain our tongue.  We must be slow to speak!

Proverbs 17:27
He who restrain his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

A cool spirit.  A man of understanding. Sounds like someone who is...

Slow To Anger
This is a hard one too.  Maybe if I was quicker to listen and slower to speak it wouldn't be.  Maybe those two things are first because they are what make this command possible for passionate people like me.

Proverbs 16:32
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty.
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Oh, to rule my spirit instead of being ruled by it.

So, there is God's prescription for taming the tongue. 

It is what I shared with the young couple.  But more importantly it what is what God wants me to do. In my marriage.  In my home.  In my homeschool.  In my church.  In my neighborhood.

Quick to listen.
Slow to speak.
Slow to anger.

Amen.  Let it be so.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Expecting Jesus at Every Turn

"The battle is not against sin or difficulties or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in work that we are not ready to face Jesus Christ at every turn...

It is not service that matters, but intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus at every turn...

If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious and be spiritually real."
-Oswald Chambers

I am facing lots of "bends in the road" these days, and quite honestly that can be rather unsettling.  Stability and predictability, while being somewhat boring, can make life "easier" and more "containable".  

But all this turning and bending is teaching me something.

And it is not about how to turn and bend.

Rather it is that however and wherever my road takes me I can be, as Mr. Chambers so beautifully put it, expecting Jesus at every turn.

The story is not really about where the road goes.  On the contrary it is that at every bend along the way Jesus is already there.

At every bend.  At every turn.

However, if I am so absorbed in my work, and my tasks, and my To Do lists, and my projects, and....... all the "stuff" that clutters my mind and heart I run the very real risk of missing Him altogether.

Oh Lord.

That I may never do that.

But instead, that I may keep my eyes ahead, 
......scanning the horizon, 
......pushing toward the next turn,
......in breathless anticipation,
......and in total confidence,

that You are there.


Just around that next turn.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

I brought my older girls to Abilene, TX for a Speech and Debate Tournament.

I planned it all out very carefully.  Where we would be, where the ones left at home would be, who would be caring for the little ones when my husband wasn't available...I always plan stuff out carefully.

After many years of juggling varied and numerous events, sports, classes, banquets, parties, etc., my logistical abilities surprise even me.  Give me nine people, four drivers, and eight requirements, and I can make it happen.

However all this planning  can make me feel like I am in charge, and that is rarely a good thing.  It makes me feel like it is "my" time, "my" schedule, "my" plan.

So back to Abilene.

I knew I was in trouble when I woke up Wednesday morning, the scheduled morning for departure.  I felt bad.  Really bad.  I initially wrote it off to the inundation of oak pollen that has besieged us. Our cars are covered with yellow pollen and I can only imagine what our lungs look like.  So anyway, it seemed perfectly logical that the pollen was the culprit in my feeling like a old, forgotten, wet dish rag (a perfect visual for all you Moms out there).  I, not to be one to be defeated by yellow dust, drug myself around, packed, and tried to get out the door.

I "managed" but I kept feeling worse and worse and worse.  When I had a fever Thursday morning I knew I was in trouble.  So I dropped my girls off at the Tournament and then worked on getting through my insurance hoops so I could get to a doctor.  I kept praying and praying for direction about what to do and where to go, but I have to be honest, I wasn't feeling or hearing a lot of direction from the Lord.  I didn't know why, but I just wasn't.

I will not bore you with the long version of this story.  Let's just say that there were lots of starts and stops and unsuccessful attempts and FINALLY after many hours and several bad experiences, I finally had a diagnosis and I am now on antibiotics and feeling much better.

But, and well I am ashamed to admit it, but I really pretty much complained to the Lord.  He could have helped me not get sick, or got me to the right doctor first time around, or just directed me better.  I mean didn't He know I had plans and had a job to do at the tournament and I didn't want to WASTE TIME.

Ahhh......there is the real crux of the problem.  I hate waste.  And I hate wasting my time more that all the other wastes.

But is it ever really MY time in the first place?  Or, rather, aren't I just a steward of it, just like all the other assets God allows in my life: like finances, talents, people, opportunities?

Maybe my hatred of time-wasting comes from the fact that I never feel like I have enough of it. Every time I choose to spend my time on one thing, I am choosing to not spend it on something else- or rather SOMETHINGS.  Because, there is always more than one thing I need to ignore in order to do what seems the most urgent or necessary or important at the moment.

So, back to my sickness, I wanted God to tell me where to go and what to do so that it would happen quickly and efficiently and I could get back to what I needed (or thought I needed) to do.  But God didn't do that.  Maybe He didn't direct me because He wants me to learn this lesson, this very, very hard lesson for me.

This is the lesson:  God doesn't NEED me to do anything.  He just wants me to walk through what comes my way in faith and trust and reliance on Him.  It is HIS time and HIS plan and HIS way that is important.  Not mine.

So if He allows sickness to come, I just need to walk, or maybe sleep, through it.  It is what He allowed.

It came down through His hand of grace and is for HIS purpose.

My time is not my own.

My time is His time....to use as He pleases.

HIS time.