Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life's a Dance You Learn As You Go

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Philippians 2:12-13

It seems that whenever a woman is pregnant for the first time, all of her friends who have already had children want to tell her about their experiences, what it was like, etc. I am no exception. I don't know why I do this. Maybe I feel like I am preparing them so it will be a little easier? Maybe I like to recap the fond memories of pregnancy and childbirth that I had? I can dish it out, and I also had the same experience when I was pregnant. I actually enjoyed (most of the time) hearing the stories.

But when I think back on it, even after hearing the dozens of stories, it still did not totally prepare me for my own experience of childbirth. It's one of those things where you don't REALLY know what it's like until you actually go through it.

I was thinking today about how my experiences with God are the same way. I have recently just had a great desire to study the Bible. I grew up in church, so I have heard Bible stories all my life. I knew about Noah, Moses, and Abraham. But it has just been within the past year or so that these stories have really had the full meaning to me that they do now. In the past, I have read the Bible out of some sort of obligation or guilt. It wasn't until God gave me this deep desire that I went out for my quiet time today and couldn't wait to read my Bible and felt really disappointed that I had left my Bible at home. That is not from me. "...for it is God who works in you to..."

One of my spiritual mentors always prayed for me that I would have "eyes to see and ears to hear." It took over almost a year and a half for them to really be open. And it's quite possible and likely that they're not even completely open now. You see, in a recent church service, Pastor Phil spoke about being asleep. And I never thought about this before, but he said, "When you fall asleep, you don't know you're asleep. You don't know you are asleep, actually until you wake up." Ephesians 5:13-14 says, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

This has been a very difficult year for a lot of people. There are several of my close friends who are going through really difficult times not a whole lot different than what I have experienced myself. I can very much identify with their hurt and heartbreak. Almost every ounce of me wants to tell them everything I know, give them all my books, and do whatever I can to take the hurt away. It is REALLY hard to watch someone you love go through deep trials.

But God reminds me through Paul's words... "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." It's not me that will make this better for them. Just as no matter how much I can tell my pregnant friends about the birthing experience, it's something that they have to experience.

If in the beginning of this "awakening" journey that I have been on, someone had told me all the answers, it would have taken away what God was doing. I love that country song that says, "life's a dance you learn as you go..." No one else can do it for you. That is one hard lesson right there.

So right now, in the midst of these trials that I am watching, I am also trusting God. I see my friends doing the same things that I did and making the same mistakes that I made. But despite all the dumb things that I did, God still worked it all out for good and for His glory. If He could bring me to the place He has so far, He can do the same thing for my friends. So Lord, I pray that you would give them "eyes to see" and "ears to hear." And continue to show me my place on the sidelines unless you tell me otherwise. Amen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Embracing Who I Am

Today's post is another one I did not write myself. It is by Lysa TerKeurst with Proverbs 31 Ministries. It was really something that I needed to read today as a mother and I wanted to share it.

Embracing Who I Am
21 May 2009
Lysa TerKeurst

"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.'"
Luke 1:30 (NIV)

Ten years ago I sat in a seminar listening to a very organized mom talking about how she parented her kids. She was an amazing woman; a super mom in my eyes.I held up my feeble efforts with my three toddlers and determined I stunk as a mother. I thought that maybe if I went home and imitated her, I could enter into the world of super moms.I mentally listed out what I discerned must be her secret to success and set about to be just like her. But it didn't take me long to become absolutely miserable. I mentally beat myself up for not having what it obviously took to be a great mom. What was wrong with me?

I begged God to make me just like her - that really good mom. And then one day in Bible study I read the story of Mary, the teenage mother of Jesus. My heart beat fast as I realized she didn't meet the standard of super mom I'd set for myself.

Somehow, just as she was, God chose her to be Jesus' mother. And the only qualification that she seemed to have was her willingness.

I made the choice to try and let go of all those expectations I had for myself as a mom. I let go of the comparisons to other moms. I laid down the measuring stick of perfection. And I simply bowed my head and gave God my willingness.

Slowly, I started to see my own unique qualities as a mom instead of always focusing on the places I felt I fell so short.

I may not be the most organized mom, but I'm a fun mom willing to drop my to-do list in the name of spontaneity.

I may not do sit-down devotions with my kids every morning, but I'm good at helping my kids see God working in situations all through out our days.

I may not sew a lick, but I know where to find an alterationist that is the bomb. I may not always keep my cool in the everyday aggravations of life, but throw something big at me and somehow I'll be the calmest person in the room.

Sure, I have a lot of room for growth in my mothering. God and I work on things daily. But over the past ten years I've learned how to embrace who I am and the beauty of living fully as me.

And while I still fall short at times, I'm finally learning that being fully me is so much better than an imitation version of someone else.

I have the exact qualities God knew my kids would need in a mother. So, each day I hold up my willingness and ask God to make me the best version of me I can be.

Dear Lord, I admit that I am dependant on You in every area of my life, as a mother, a wife, a co-worker, a daughter, and a friend. Help me to understand the depth of Your love for me. T hank You for being familiar with me in all my ways. Thank You for laying your hand upon me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Things Happen to Good People

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." I Peter 4:12-13

Whoever said that if you follow Christ, that your life will be happy happy joy joy? That bad things might happen to you, but they won't be THAT bad because you are a Christian and God works everything out to make you happy? What verse is that? Where does God say that in the Bible? Who is preaching this message? I'm not sure but someone must be because this is how I used to think. I think this is a common misconception, actually. God just wants me to be "happy." I thought this way for a long time. Sometimes, I still hear this message drifting through my brain because it has been in there for so long. Happily ever after, right?

Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale since I was a child. What a great story. I may be taken advantage of in life, but eventually I will be wisked away by prince charming, the people who took advantage of me will be changed and live to serve me and love me, and we will all live... happily ever after. The end.

So what happens when I wake up one morning, and my son has special needs? What happens when I wake up one morning, and my husband is gone? What happens when...

In my ladies' Bible study, we are currently studying the prophesies in Daniel. Daniel 8:12 says, "Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it [the ruler/puppetmaster]. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground." This is referring to a long time ago when Antiochus IV was in power and made the Jews stop offering their daily sacrifices to God and he threw TRUTH to the ground. It was a common practice to get up early in the morning for their "quiet times." Antiochus IV put a stop to this. And God allowed this to happen. The Lord allowed Satan to stop them from offering their sacrifices to God. They may have thought that God had abandoned them.

I was listening to the radio the other day and there was a report that there is a movement called Bash Back, where a group of homosexuals went into a church during service and started shouting and "bashing back" as they called it toward the church who took an open stance against homosexuality. And now, with the new hate crimes legislation coming through, this kind of disruption is beginning to be tolerated. There is a lawsuit in the works. I don't know the whole story. Other than, this is the state of the world today. Soon, there will be nothing the church can do about people disrupting the church services. Everyone has free speech. If people want to come in and yell at you while you're also excercising your freedom of speech, that's fine. Just tolerate it. It's kind of like what Antiochus IV was doing back then.

There are many stories. There are a lot of things like this happening in the world today. There is a major moral decline in society and it seems to get worse and worse every day. Who knows how long it will be until I am not even allowed to voice such things. All in the name of tolerance. Is this a scary thing? Is this something to be afraid of? Perhaps, if you look at the smaller picture. But if you know even a little bit of the Bible, you know who wins in the end. This is just temporary.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I Peter 5:10.

God promises that we WILL suffer. This is part of life. It's not a fun part of life. In fact, it really hurts and stinks. But it won't last. Seeing the things that are happening now just proves that the Bible is true. What God says, He does. And if you look at the big picture, God will reign victorious. We WILL suffer... but we won't suffer forever. Sometimes it just seems that way and it's okay to suffer and feel that pain because God promises that it will come. No sense in pretending it's not there.

Not too long ago, I was typing a paper for a friend of mine about the ministry of Paul. As I was typing, I realized some things I never knew before. When Antiochus IV destroyed the temple and forbid daily sacrifices, it paved the way for new synagogues to be built instead. It paved the way for the Christian Gospel and the establishment of the church. Also, during this time, different roads were opened for trade and the Roman road system provided rapid growth and exposure to the Gospel throughout the world. All of this happened because of God's perfect plan and timing. Antiochus IV didn't have the last word. It is obvious who was holding his puppet strings, but after looking at the bigger picture, it's also obvious that God alone makes the way, and the same God who calls us keeps us. Just because a ruler says it's "not allowed," doesn't mean that God is caught off guard and has to come up with a Plan B.

Never underestimate what God is doing. It may seem like something awful is happening. But what Satan plans for evil, God uses for good. He has everything under control.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Been there. Done that.

As I was typing my blog the other day, I kept thinking about how the Israelites kept complaining. No matter what God did for them, as soon as they couldn't see the next step, they started complaining. They didn't trust. They complained. I thought, "Man, what a bunch of whiners!"

But then I thought about how I do that, too sometimes. Ouch! When I can't see the road ahead, I start to think of the good things on the road behind. Sometimes I tend to forget all of the bad things that God used for good to bring me to this point. So for the Israelites to think that going back to Egypt is actually going to solve their problems? Yeah, been there, done that, sold the t-shirt on craigslist.

In Numbers 14, they are STILL complaining. They have gone and explored the Canaan land and it is gorgeous and has great fruit. But the people that occupy the land are big so the Israelites feel like they might as well forget about it. I want to shake them and say "WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!! If God is leading you there, He's not just going to take you this far and then leave you!!" Ugh, but then in Numbers 14, there they go again... "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? ...wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to each other 'We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'"

Okay, so the one who hurt you is the one who is going to fix it? That is such twisted thinking. That is delusional... Pharoah is in Egypt and he doesn't care about them at all. Oh wait... yeah, been there, done that, too.

The point is not to not feel that way. The point is to feel that way, tell God all about it, and do what He says anyway in His strength. If God is for you, who can be against you? And that's basically what Moses ended up telling them. (Numbers 14: 7-9) "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

Been there. Done that. Learning as I go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"What is it?"

I was listening to the radio a few weeks ago and they were talking about an interview with a well reknowned Christian author and they asked him what he felt was the best emotion. I was curious as to what he would say... happiness, joy, elation? No. He said it was relief. I had never thought about that before but that is so true!

I am still doing my study in Exodus and watching God's covenant with Abraham being fulfilled. At my point in the study, Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt and out of slavery. Funny thing, though. You would think that the Israelites would be relieved to be out from under the heavy hand of Pharoah.

Think again. After they crossed the Red Sea, they realized they were in the desert and there isn't much to eat and drink when you're in a desert. I think they became a little delusional even. They started saying crazy things [referring to being in Egypt] like "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (Exodus 16:3).

I seem to recall just back in Exodus 5:21 while they were still in captivity under Pharoah, they were groaning then, when they said to Moses, "May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharoah and his officials have put a sword in their hand to kill us." Yes, these are apparently the "great memories" they seemed to be longing for.

Anyhow, while the Israelites were there groaning in the desert, God hadn't fallen asleep. He wasn't just saying, "Okay, I've led the people out of Egypt like I said and now they can fend for themselves." Philippians 1:6 says that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion."

And so it was. The Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (Exodus 16:4). The Israelites had never seen this stuff that was being rained down from heaven so they called it Manna which means "What is it?" God's providence does not always look like we expect it to.

And God required them to keep some of the manna... "Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt." It was a symbol. A physical keepsake to remember how God had provided for them.

Deuteronomy 8:3 says "He humbled you, causing you to hunger, and then feeding you with manna... to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Reading this, I just began to realize that if God is calling me to do this or that, or go here or there, I may not see how it's going to work out. How can you go into a desert where there is no food or water and expect to survive? Because God sends some kind of "What is it?" to meet your needs.

It always seems like just when I get ahead on the bills or get an unexpected check in the mail, etc, my car breaks down, or the kids get sick, or something happens that I have to spend that money on. I keep thinking, "God, if only everything could be going well when those checks come, I could do something with them... why can't I just get ahead?" Then God reminded me of how he tells us to pray in Matthew 6, "... give us today our daily bread..." Proverbs 30:8-9 says "...give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.... otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say 'Who is the Lord?' or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God."

Lord, I don't want to be like the Israelites who were groaning in the desert wanting a feast. Not trusting that You will provide for them. There are certain things in my life that don't really seem to make a lot of common sense, but I feel confident that it is the direction You are taking me. Lord, I'm trusting You with these things. I pray for manna from heaven, if necessary. Some of that "What is it?" I am walking by faith and not by sight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pimple Patrol

When I was in high school, I used to deal with breakouts. My medicine cabinet was full of different powders and concealers to cover up the ultra-embarrassing blemishes of a teenage girl. I remember doing a lot more "covering up" than actually cleansing my skin to prevent the breakouts before they happened.

Then one day while shopping at the mall, I saw a new stand in the middle of the department store. Clinique. It had all these fancy displays and all kinds of concealers. It caught my attention. I stopped by to check it out. I told the lady behind the counter that I only wanted to buy some concealer and some foundation. After listening to her schpeel, I walked away not only with my concealer and foundation, but also with several different clarifying lotions and cleansers.

I was excited to get home and try them out. The next morning, I went through the whole regimen that I had learned from the Clinique salesperson. The tingling of the different potions felt good.

And then it happened. I woke up a day or two after beginning my new Clinque routine to find not a nice clear complextion, but breakouts everywhere! I was so frustrated! How was I supposed to face a group of thin, perfect skinned, beautiful high school students at school now? Or so I thought. I hurried up and put on more concealer to cover up the new disaster. I was determined never to buy Clinique products again as I stomped out the door to school.

There is a little lesson I learned from all of this. Had I continued using Clinique, my skin would have eventually been clean and clear, just like their sales representatives. When my skin broke out after using it, the products were actually doing their job. I just didn't realize it. You see, in order to have smooth, clear skin, I had to first go through the clarifying process to get out all of the dirt and impurities that had gone into my skin from all of my cover ups, and just being in the environment. I did not see any change because I just continued to "cover up" instead of actually allowing my skin to be purified.

Isn't it the same way with life? There is a lot of junk beneath the surface sometimes. Malachi 3:3 says "He will sit as a refiner and purifier..."

And that's all I have to say about that. Short and sweet! Think about it.