Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Narcissistic Christian

"Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise thee." Psalm 63:3

I was reading an article on narcissism the other day and found it interesting that as a child, often times the narcissist was highly praised for his or her achievements. Because of his talents or giftedness, he was admired. As a child, he began to sense that he was not loved for who he is but for what he does. Therefore, he became highly concerned about his image. In essence, he became a human doing rather than a human being.

Isn't that what we as a society have reduced God to these days? We live focusing on what God is going to do rather than who God is. Or additionally, what we can do for God rather than who we are in Christ. Have we allowed ourselves to become narcissistic Christians?

Lord, my lips will praise You because of who you are. I am incredibly thankful for what you have done for me and the grace and mercy you display every day because of who You are. Thank you for your lovingkindness. Thank you for loving me in spite of myself. It's because of Your love that I live and move and breathe. My prayer is for more of You and You alone in a world and a nature that tries to convince me that it's all about me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why?

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." John 14:12

The other day I wrote a post called More Than I Can Handle. Since then, I've been thinking, "Sure, it's easy for me to write something like that. I am not dealing with anything right now that feels like more than I can handle."

Within the past week or so, I have heard several stories of unthinkable sadness, devestation, and just utter heart brokenness. People who are facing things that are even more than I can comprehend and don't even want to.

And I think, "How do you explain something like that?" How do you explain a fifteen year old girl learning that she has less than a year to live after being diagnosed with a rare and untreatable form of cancer? How do you explain an eighteen year old boy laying in a hospital bed in a coma after having a massive stroke? Why? And where is God in all of this?

Why? The answer is simple and profound: I don't know and I don't understand. There are no answers to that question on this side of Heaven. We can speculate, but only God truly knows.

So where is God in all of this? He is in the heart of the neighbor who goes next door to comfort a devestated mother after she received heartbreaking news. He is in the hands and feet of a group of students sitting in the hospital room of a young man who doesn't even know they are there. He is there at the front door, holding a casserole dish just to help relieve one burden of the day.

There is a song by Mandisa titled, "He Is With You." I'd like to end with the lyrics from her song.

There's a time to live
And a time to die
There's a time to laugh
And a time to cry

There's a time for war
And a time for peace
There's a hand to hold
In the worst of things
In the worst of things

He is with you when your faith is dead
And you can't even get out of bed
Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore
He is with you when your baby's gone
And your house is still
And your hearts are stone
Crying, "God what'd you do that for?"
He is with you

There's a time for yes
And a time for no
There's a time to be angry
And a time to let it go
There's a time to run
And a time to face it
There's love to seek
In all of this
Through all of this

He is with you in the conference room
When the world is coming down on you
And your wife and kids don't know you anymore
And he is with you in the ICU when the doctors don't know what to do
And it scares you to the core
He is with you

We may weep for a time but joy will come in the morning
The morning light

He is with you when your kids are grown
When there's too much space and you feel alone
And you're worried if you got it right or wrong
He is with you when you've given up on ever finding your true love
Someone who feels like home
He is with you

When nothing else is left and you take your final breath
He is with you

He is with you

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Than I Can Handle

"Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

I've heard well meaning Christian friends say before, "God will never give you more than you can handle." In fact, I've even made that statement, myself and believed it to be true. However.

What about that babies who lay in cribs alone and untouched in orphanages all around the world? Studies have shown that we all need physical touch in order to live and thrive. Is the saying still true in this instance that God will not give us more than we can handle?

What about the couple who waited fifteen years to finally have a baby, only to be hit by a car while driving one day and the wife and unborn child pass away just weeks before her due date? Is the saying still true then?

What about the man who lost all of his children as well as his livestock, his health and the support of his friends and his wife. Is that something any human being can possible handle?

All of these things are more than any of us could handle. But there is One who is able to supply all of your need according to His riches. He has a very special place in His heart for widows and orphans. And He knows me as well, and He calls me daughter.

The question is... do you know Him? We may be able to get by during many trials on our own strength for a time. But eventually, our own strength will run out. We will become defeated, angry, and maybe even hopeless.

In order to be able to stand when the stormy trials of life come, we must be standing on the Rock which cannot be moved. Without a firm foundation on which to stand, a house will fall. Remember that old song? "The rains came down and the floods came up... and the house on the sand went splat!"

Oswald Chambers once said, "You have no idea where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption... you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens."

So now I will say, "God will never give me anything that HE can't handle." I may not know why I must endure. Sometimes life seems so unfair and doesn't make any sense at all. Even then, I will cling to the Source of my strength... Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Steps

"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..." Hebrews 12:1

At the beginning of June, my son had surgery and was in the hospital for several days. And my schedule got messed up. My sleeping was off... my eating was off... my energy was off. And so the slippery slope began.

Prior to that week, I had been fully on the wagon. Each morning I woke up and I spent some time with God through a daily devotional. Not because it was routine or because I felt like that was what a "good" Christian should do, but because I really wanted to. Each night after the kids went to bed, I worked on my Bible study for my Sunday School class. God and I had candid conversations throughout the day.

And then I fell off the wagon. It was just a few days missed at first. I was tired and overwhelmed. I don't normally watch a lot of television but there were a few interesting looking summer shows beginning. It was easier to just veg on the couch and relax. There went my nightly Bible study. And the shows would keep me up later at night, making it more difficult to wake up early in the morning to do my morning devotional. God and I were still having conversations throughout the day, but without that daily time in the Word, I just felt... blah. And feeling blah leads to more vegging on the couch doing nothing.

Something had to change. I didn't like the way I was feeling and I missed the daily study. But I had a hard time getting back into it. The natural tendency of the human heart is to pull away from God and towards having our own way. But at the same time, we were made for worship. I could feel that internal struggle there. I had two choices. Either I could beat myself up and wallow in my failure to stay on the wagon in the first place, or I could get up, move forward, and get back in the race.

It seems strange, but the thing that helped me get one foot back on the wagon actually came in the form of a small little black device that I wear on my foot each day. You see, we have a wellness program at work and they have recently launched a new walking program. It includes a high tech quarter-sized tracker worn on the shoe. The tracker counts each step, as well as the pace, time of day, etc and then offloads the information to a customized website anytime the wearer passes an access point. Each day I can check my steps and see how I'm doing.

When I first started wearing the tracker, I was averaging about 5,500 steps per day. After that time, the kids were gone for a couple of weeks which allowed me to walk more. During that time, I averaged 8,500 - 9,500 steps per day. I wanted to use that time to help myself get motivated and realized that I really enjoy walking. It's more difficult now that they are home but I am still averaging 6,500 - 7,000 per day because I have been making a more conscious effort. I go for a walk on my lunch breaks now and I also park twice as far away as I used to at work each morning. That's it. As time goes on, I hope to increase my steps even more. Ideally, I would like to be at 10,000 steps per day. But for the moment being, I am starting slow.

What does that have to do with my daily time with God? Everything. I realized with walking, that if I can start with baby steps, it is easier to keep up with it and I really enjoy myself. Had I started with a goal of doubling my steps each day, it would have felt like a chore and I would have quickly burned out. Patient endurance.

The same is true with Bible study. I don't want to read God's Word out of obligation but with a cheerful heart. This week I am starting with baby steps to get back to where I used to be. I have decided to go to bed an hour earlier each night so that I can wake up 15 minutes earlier and spend some time with God before I start the day. So far so good. This morning I read a very interesting portion of scripture in Jeremiah. As I was reading, I actually wished I had woken up even a few minutes earlier because it was really interesting.

There is no hurry because as I run this race, I am gaining the prize along the way. I Corinthians 9:24 doesn't say the prize is found only at the end. I think it is found on the journey. The tortoise completed the race because he went at his own slow pace. His intent was not to get to the finish line first, but to run the race with patient endurance. And guess what? He did end up winning the race anyway because his focus was the prize.

Wouldn't you know that today after I had started writing about this, I went outside for my afternoon walk and it was starting to rain. It would have been easy for me to turn around and go back inside. Instead I grabbed my umbrella. The thing is, I'm certain there will be many more obstacles along the way and it's highly likely that I will begin to slip from the wagon again at some point. That's life. But one thing I'm certain of... the only way to finish a race is to start it.