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

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)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sin Crouching at the Door?

Then the Lord said to Cain, "why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it." 
Gen 4:6,7

Crouching Sin
Have you ever wondered what "sin crouching at the door" would look like.

Well, I am from Texas, and I know EXACTLY what it looks like:

Yep! That is exactly what it looks like! Really!

And I know, because it seems I am constantly having to look out of these guys in my house!

I had just killed a really small one the other night (favorite method is to SMASH it very hard with a shoe). I had left it on the floor because frankly not only do I hate scorpions, but even after they are dead I still hate them so much I don't want to pick them up.

I am normally not such a sissy, by the way. I don't scream or faint when I see insects....well, except for scorpions. And snakes. I cannot claim any bravery at all when a slithering reptile is approaching!

Anyway, back to the story. I had already smashed one small scorpion in the doorway of my bedroom. I had gone out to the kitchen and then headed back down the hall to my bedroom- barefoot of course (will I never learn?!?!). As I approached my bedroom I slowed down to make sure that the little bugger was still flat as a pancake which would mean it was still dead, when I saw a most definitely un-flat, tail up, slightly bigger than I remembered scorpion.  I stopped, felt confused, and wondered if it had come back to life and gotten bigger??? Then I realized what you probably figured out several sentences ago- this was another one! Bigger! And in almost the exact same place!

So I did what all healthy, true-blue, American women do.....I screamed and called my husband to bring a shoe. I mean really. I had already killed my quota of scorpions for the day AND I was unarmed! (remember- no shoes).  And not only did my man smash the evil insect to smithereens, he also cleaned up not only his dead scorpion, he also picked up my little one! What a guy.

And this matters because?..?..?
And you wanted to know what these had to do with "sin crouching at the door"?

Well, I will tell you!

That scorpion reminded me of that verse out of Genesis where God is warning Cain to beware. Sin was waiting to pounce on Cain. And Cain was susceptible- God could tell by one good look at his face! Our faces so often scream out the inner ugliness of our heart. No matter how well we think we are hiding it, by the way!

And the very night I was being attacked (okay, not attacked, but really, two scorpions within 5 minutes of each other in the same place......coincidence???? I think not!), but back to the story....when I FELT attacked, at the exact same time I was dealing with a sin that was crouching at the door right beside that scorpion.

It was like God was giving me my own personal view into what my heart was looking like. What was the sin crouching at my door waiting for me to give it opportunity?

It was the sin of retaliation. The sin of "take that"! The sin of NOT turning the other cheek. The sin of defensiveness. The sin of the tongue.

That sin crouches rather persistently at my door. It is right there every time I feel wronged. It is there every time I feel misunderstood. It is there every time I feel accused of something.

Because I DON'T LIKE to be told I am wrong and I DON'T LIKE to be corrected and I DON'T LIKE to have my plans altered.

It's true. It may be too honest to admit that right here in the middle of the cyber world- but there it is and it is very, very true.

And the base of that sin is P.R.I.D.E.

I wish that every time it raises its big ugly tail to sting me, my Lord would gently remind me:
"why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it." 

OH. Really. I didn't realize.

My attitude matters that much?
Sin is just waiting for me?
And I am supposed to subdue it?
How do I do that?

The exact same way I subdued that ugly scorpion.

I take out my shoe (like the shoes of the Gospel of Peace maybe?) and smash that sin to smithereens. I don't allow it any ground and I don't let it get away.

I. Must. Subdue. It.

Not excuse it.
Not justify it.
Not compare it to someone else's.
Not ignore it.

I must take up my shoe and subdue it.

"We must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely"
Heb 12:1

Just think of it as spiritual "Pest Control"!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes My Head Needs Lifting!

Sometimes I am so tired when I go to bed.

Sometimes I am so tired when I wake up!

And that would be this morning, by the way. Ugh. I am supposed to be up and leading the day and getting school started and cheerfully encouraging the children and......yeah- that is what I am supposed to be doing.

But instead, I am waiting for the coffee to kick in.
*Side note: did you know that studies show that women who drink coffee suffer from less depression!!! Ha! I love it when "studies show" something good about something I do a lot of but which I feel a slight amount of guilt over. Oh Sweet Release!
So this morning, because (warning: transparency coming) I didn't want to read anything "HARD" and study hard, I didn't go to where I left off in Ephesians, I instead went to Psalms and was just going to read the "Psalms of the Day"- you know, where you do the date Psalm (Psalm 3 today) and then add 30 until you get to end of the Psalms (Psalms 3, 33, 63, 93, 123). I have done this for years and now it feels "easier". Yep- the translation of what I was this morning: LAZY!

But God isn't lazy. Nor does He waste any of His Word. Probably because it is Living and Active and stuff like that!


Psalm 3 was just what I needed this morning. It is a time when I am looking at our schedule and our requirements and our plans and our meetings and our lesson plans and our laundry and I am wondering, "How am I going to fit 39 gallons of needs into a 24 gallon day?"

And this is what God told me from Psalm 3:

3  But Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me
* I am protected all the time by the encompassing shield of my Father
    My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
* He is what is good and He is the One who lifts my head out of my hands. It is He who takes care of me!
4  I was crying to the Lord with my voice
* Oh good, even David cried sometimes! I love the honesty of Scripture. It is not bad for me to cry to the Lord!
     And He answered me from His holy mountain.
* Not only MAY I cry, but my cries are heard! By God! And He answers me!
5  I lay down and slept
* God's care, protection, and answers allow me to stop fretting and to rest! 
     I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
*God's care and protection are not to allow me to stay in bed! His refreshment is to re-energize me to wake up, get up, and face whatever He allows into my life.
6  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.
 * It is amazing how sometimes five people (the number of family still living in my home) can seem like ten thousands! At least all the things those people need or all the messes they can make or all the life that we live together! And then add in everything else and everyone else and all the everything involved in raising a family and homeschooling and being involved in "stuff" and- it feels like ten thousands of people are:
    Who have set themselves against me round about.
* yep, it is true. Sometimes it feels like all that stuff above (in the people paragraph) are set against me! Like drawn up in battle array! With awfully big guns!
7  Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!...
* Hallelujah! It is not my job to conquer all the foes. Instead, God will save me!
8  Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    Thy blessing be upon Thy people!
* God brings the salvation and God brings the blessings

My job is to rest in Him and then get up when He wakes me. To look on the ten thousands of needs and not fear. To call on the Lord and watch His salvation.  To wait for His blessings.

So I think I will get up after all this morning. And face the day. In the presence of my Lord. And I think I will sit back and see what He Will Do!

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:                    great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23