Friday, August 29, 2008

What I do vs. Who I am

I have a blog, but I'm not a blogger.
I can swim, but I'm not a swimmer.
I can prepare a meal, but I'm not a chef.
I can balance a checkbook, but I'm not an accountant.

We wear many hats.
We have many responsibilities.
We have numerous abilities.
We are not proficient in most of them.
We do what we can with what we have.

I go to church on Sunday, but does it influence how I live on Monday?
I am a Christian, but do I know Christ?
I refer to God as Lord, but do I follow his commands?
I know how to pray, but do I engage in ongoing conversation or merely recite appropriate sentiments?

It is not critical that I am a blogger, a swimmer, a chef, or an accountant but…
It is crucial that if I claim the name of Christ that I know him, obey, and talk to him.

Being a Christian cannot be one of the things I do, it must be who I am.
It must become the essence that characterizes and defines everything else in my life; the hub from which everything originates. If I have invited him into my heart then I must also give him that authority to change it. But He is not a despot or a dictator – he does not rule my heart by threat of punishment but quite the contrary as He sways my heart by his absolute and unfailing love and as I am loved I am changed.

Think about it just for a moment: if there was a person in your life who loved you no matter what, who thought you were precious and treasured and would give up their time, strength, and even their life for you, what would your response be…?

His commands are not burdensome when He is the one providing the strength to carry them out. When I know that I will never be in a situation that He is not with me, or in a place where His grace and power do not surround me, and that no matter what I do, or do not do, that there is always a place at the table for me; why would I want to only be playing the part of a Christian and not enjoying the fullness of life available to me?

“Blessed is he that who fears the Lord, who finds delight in his commands.
Please hear this from a humble heart but I feel like exhibit A in the evidence that God is good to those who live by faith…”
(by the group 4Him and their song Psalms 112)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's in a Name?

I was on Facebook looking up old acquaintances; typing in names from the past and seeing who I could find. So I decided to type in my maiden name to see how easy it would be to find me if someone were looking...

What I got were 385 people with my name...
With my same name!
And that's just on Facebook!
Talk about being lost in a crowd...!

So, if you knew me before I was married, you would have to go through 385 pictures and lack of pictures and one word location clues until you could possibly narrow it down to which Becky is the Becky from long ago. I'm amazed anyone has ever found me at all!

So what's in a name?
Well, in my name, you may recall some times we've shared but in my God's name...

Psalms 9:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you."

By which names do you know your God?

Savior? As he has rescued you not only from eternal destruction but a life of meaninglessness.

Lord? As you continue to make your will subservient to His.

Provider? As you've seen him open his hand and meet your needs. (Psalm 104, 145, Phil. 4)

Father? As He has poured out his love on you as his own child. (Psalms 103)

Rock of safety? As there has been shelter and protection for you in time of trouble.(Psalms 46)

Emmanuel? As you've journeyed through hard places and known that you were not walking alone. (Hebrews 13, Psalms 23)

Shepherd? As you have known God's guidance for the right path for your feet? (Psalms 23,25)

Those who know your name...

The more names of God that we know - and I mean know in an experiential understanding kind of way, not merely the making of a list - the easier the second part of the verse is in you
because by your own experience you know that

...for you O Lord do not abandon those who search for you.

So what then is the greatest name we can know?

My name?
The boss's name?
The president's name?
A celebrity's name?

You already know the answer: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 and
"Therefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-12

His name is the greatest name.
For in His name is salvation, but not just for forever, but also for today; because the name that will one day bring you safely home, is also the name that will guide you each step of the way; because He will never abandon those who search for Him.

"The Lord says, I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them." Psalms 91:14

So what's in His name?





Unfailing Love...

You can bet that's going to stand out in a crowd...

Monday, August 18, 2008

It is not the critic who counts....

The Olympics are well underway and while it is a great testimony to dedication and has also made us all critics!

My family was watching the synchronized diving and suddenly we were all experts. Every last one of us was being critical of the divers and the judges, discussing, over our bowls of popcorn, the merits of one dive against another. Later it was gymnastics and the floor exercises as we all watched eagle-eyed to see if they stepped on the line or out of bounds. Forget the fact that they just executed a perfect triple flip with and inverse half twist I saw her bobble on that dismount!

How easily we sit back in our comfortable chairs and talk about the poor performance of someone who has been training thousands of hours for this event - somehow we think, since we know a few terms, that we are the experts.

Teddy Roosevelt said this far better than I ever could so let me give you his words.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Powerful words aren't they?
It is not the critic who counts.
So while I may critique the Olympians all I want from my living room, my words hold no weight. I am not with them in the arena, nor have I ever attempted a triple flip with an inverse twist...

So remember that when you are in your own arena and there are those around you who are critical of your actions or execution; and you know there will be!
It is not the critic who counts.
Their words, as impassioned as they may be, carry no weight.
Those who are sitting around eating popcorn while you are in the midst of it doing the work, can have all the opinions they want, but they just don’t matter!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tabula Rasa

From John Locke's philosophy we get this term - Tabula Rasa - meaning "blank slate". He believed all children were born with a mind that was "unformed and featureless" just waiting for impressions to mold the mind by it's experiences.
But don't worry, this writing isn't about what John Locke thinks. (I saw that glazed look in your eyes...!)

This is about you
It is about your calender.
The one starting in September to be specific.

Many of our lives know September as it's own mini "new year" as school resumes. This means the resumption of sports teams, and car pools, and fundraisers, and piano lessons and homework and...(you already know what's coming don' t you?) And for many others it is the resuming of the full slate of church activities - classes and choirs and fellowship events and ...
I was getting my dry erase calender ready today for the onslaught of activities and was struck by this phrase - this "tabula rasa".

I have on my fridge a blank slate.
Look, there's nothing on it!

Now I know it can't stay that way for long because many things are just a given but I do have the ability to control some of what ends up on that calender.
It will be easy to cover it in things to do.
It will be harder to keep some white space on it.
But I can do that.
And I must.
So must you.
And you can too.

Let's not lose our days in a flurry of activities.

Let's not let the months fly by between now and Christmas in a blur of busyness and a lack of thought or purpose.

There are a lot of ways to do guard your time; like each kid only gets to play one sport, or reserve a date night each week, or open your mail over the trash can or...
But this is not about how to do that.
I'll leave that to the writers of the books and magazines.

This is here just to encourage you that you do leave a little "tabula rasa" space on your own calender!
And appropriately this term has one other meaning which is "A need or an opportunity to start from the beginning." Let's begin again to strive to do mostly what is important and not just what is imperative, and therefore live our lives (or at least our September) a little more intentionally and give ourselves the space we need to think, to play, to love, and to breathe.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"

You know exactly the commercial I'm talking about don't you? How long has it been, ten years or more? Surprisingly, I saw a remake of that commercial this morning.
But it's not funny any more as I had a mom who lived alone, and kept falling, and therefore wore one of those devices.

We surround ourselves with people so that, should some injury befall us, we are not alone. But the fact is that millions do live alone, and do need what these services supply; someone that can be called on in case of an emergency, someone who will offer assistance.
I doubt that a single one of those millions who live alone ever thought they would get to the place where they would be needing to wear a pendant in case of an emergency.
None of us do.
Children aren't the only ones who think they're invincible.
There's a very good chance that one day many of us will be sporting the same taste in jewelry...
So now, while you are on your feet, what can you do for those who aren't?
This question cuts both literally and spiritually.
Are there people you know for whom you can just do things? A ride to the store or help with a project? A visit to fill some of those hours they are awake and alone. Of perhaps even a card or a call to add some joy to their day.
And what about those who are not obviously elderly or in need of assistance?
What about the fact that so many around us are carrying burdens alone?
Thoreau is famous for his observation that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I know that has been true in my life at times, so I'm thinking it's safe to assume that for many of us.
And let's go one level harder and deeper.
What about those who have fallen and can't get up? In our churches, in our immediate circle of contacts. What about the family member with the substance abuse or financial mismanagement or the dissolution of a marriage or a family? Their failure is obvious so what will be our response? Will it be that of standing over them and saying "Now what did you go and do that for?".
Twice paramedics needed to be come to my mom's house and their approach was simple. They asked what happened and then started taking care of her injuries, helping, and assisting to get her to a place where she would be healed so that she could be back on her feet.
The person on the floor doesn't need you to tell them where they are, or how foolish it was for them to be there.
Let us be the ones who come alongside and help get them back on their feet.
Well simply becasue you were once found when you had fallen, and were unable to lift yourself up to be worthy of a holy God and a place in heaven. Jesus came and with a nail scarred hand and reached down and helped you to your feet and set you on a course for heaven and you were shown abundant and undeserved mercy.
God has told us that we are to go out into our world and let our hands be His hands, and from our mouths come the words He would speak, and to be busy about showing His love to our present generation through how we live our lives and love our God.
Be the one who responds when someone has fallen and can't get up: both because of the love God has shown to you and the strength with which He has currently enabled you.
Who is not to say that one day we may be in the same place, either because the infirmity of our age or because we have knocked down by circumstances or a temptation too strong for us to combat and at that time we'll need a button to push, a friend to call, someone who will love and lead us to a place where we are on our feet again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The difference between knowing and knowing...

This summer I discovered the luminescent world of making stained glass. It’s addictive and beautiful. It wasn’t difficult and with the first piece I soldered I was hooked and then the first time I went to choose glass to cut and saw all the various patterns and shading … make that hook, line and sinker!

My dad made a Tiffany lamp years before I ever remembered him doing so. The light fixture was just always there hanging above the dinning room table.
Suddenly now I realize, my dad made a tiffany lamp!

I have a better idea now of what that means and the craftsmanship it involved.
I knew that about my dad for a very long time but it is only now that I really know what that means.

It’s that way with God too.
We know lots of things about him.

He is holy, faithful, just, gracious, merciful, and omnipotent; he hears our prayers, collects our tears, sends us peace, a refuge in trouble, knows our hearts… and on and on we could go.

We know these things and we believe these things, absolutely, but then there are times that the light bulb goes on and we really get it.
Perhaps it is because at that moment we find ourselves in need of one of these attributes, or perhaps because we have been called on to be one who listens, or is faithful or to be gracious.

Suddenly knowing and knowing are two different things.

Every week we sing music that bears testimony to who God is but how do we sing it?
These songs are beautiful and encouraging when we sing them giving mental acquiescence to the text – yes, God is a mighty fortress, or You are my strength when I am weak.

But what happens when our experiences have brought us to a place of knowing what that really means; when our singing of “A mighty fortress is our God” or “You are my All in All” comes from a heart that is affirming “Amen” I know this to be true?

We then may find ourselves singing with Chris Tomlin’s song “How can I keep from singing your praise? How can I never say enough, how amazing is your love? How can I keep from shouting your name? I know I am loved by the King and that makes my heart want to sing”.
Perhaps his inspiration came from Psalms 28 where we read, “The Lord is my strength and my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving!”

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises!” (Psalms 108:1)

This is what I know with that kind of knowledge that is complete.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

God looks on the heart

I'm sure you're familiar with the story of the little boy who was standing up and had been told numerous times to sit down. Finally he was persuaded to be seated and from his chair he said "I may be sitting on the outside but I'm still standing on the inside!"

Our "insides" being more important than our "outside" is a familiar Biblical theme; from Samuel passing over the physically impressive sons of Jessie to anoint David as the new king, to the sermon on the mount and how our heart's motivation discounts our outward actions if we're doing what we are just to be applauded, to admonitions in the epistles about having a heart that is pure before God.

God is looking at my heart no matter what outward actions everyone else is observing.
God knows how I really feel.

Today at church I was given pause and considered the “flip side” of this mind-set, because in this day my outward actions were not able to properly represent the attitude of my heart.

I have only lately come to appreciate the dimension that physical expression adds to my own sense of worship – be it in being on my knees, or on my face, or in using my hands in expressing praise, honor, thanks, or surrender.

There was a hymn, of all musical expressions, that really struck my heart this morning – its words, and not the influence of the music passages, that evoked such a response in me that this was truth and God was to be exalted because of His character and faithfulness.

The church I was in was not a “hand- raising” kind of church. And I am not unaware enough to cause my own manifestation of worship to become a distraction to someone else, thereby drawing their attention to me and away from the message.

I stood, hands at my side, in the third pew on the left but in my heart…in my heart I was not so stoically standing…!

And this is when I realized how good it is that God looks on our hearts because here it is that He can see how I really feel about him if I’m able to reveal it or not.

In the 14th century there was a monk, Brother Lawrence, who had one goal in his life and that was to practice the presence of God; to realize that God was always with him and to worship him and communicate with him constantly. He had said in essence that he was as much involved in the praise and adoration of God in the scrubbing of the pots as when he was in prayers in the sanctuary. (He also conveyed how much he hated being in the kitchen…)

God looks at the heart so even if all the things we must do in our outward appearance have nothing to do with God we have this liberty to be fully engaged with Him even if our hands are covered in soap suds or axle grease.

Perhaps this is not the time for you to be engaged in prayer, or Bible reading or meditation – the demands of life must be met and so often our time is not our own to command.
But since God sees our hearts, He can see if the attitude is like that of the psalmist who’d said, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming!’”.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

God and our Gadgets

I was watching a movie in which a billionaire was bored and decided to steal a painting from a museum, and then put it back just to see if he could do it. The whole movie is the revelation of this very intricate plan. He'd thought of every possibility and made provisions for it.

I have a GPS unit that can get me from here to there if I just turn where it says to turn. And, if I miss a turn, it's "recalculating" to give me a new course to follow to get me to where I am going.

We have personal computers that in seconds can give connect us to a website that originates ten thousand miles away.

With instant messaging and text functions we can contact someone virtually any time day or night. Ask a question and get an almost instantaneous response.

OnStar and the like have satellites that can keep track of exactly where millions of people are all at the same time.

My point?
We live in a great age for more easily understanding the abilities of God.

If someone with money could make an intricate plan to steal an unattainable painting, cannot God, as he is all powerful, have plans for us down to the smallest detail?

If a GPS unit can get me home even if there are many detours along the way, cannot God also safely get us to Himself, even if we take a few paths not on the original route?

Can I communicate with God although he is far away? Will He hear and respond?

Can God really hear and know about where everyone on earth is at the same time?

Of course the answer to all these questions is Yes.

But this it's not just about acknowledging that God is capable of doing all this but in the embracing of these things in your heart. I can have the ability to communicate with God but do I use it? When my life is suddenly off track, do I follow the directions I'm hearing to get back on the right path? When I feel all alone do I take comfort in the fact that God does indeed know where I am and what is going on in my life and can send help to my location?

So the next time you use your cell phone, get online, or access your GPS for directions - let these both remind and comfort you about the abilities and power of God.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How I know you...

For me a piece of writing is sometimes a crazy juxtaposition of different occurrences, conversations and various directions my own thoughts have taken. It’s fascinating sometimes to see how they all come together in a cohesive and, hopefully for you who read them, a coherent thought. Lately it’s been all about relationships.

I was at a funeral today for my girlfriend’s father. It took me a while to find her because, when I did, I hardly recognized her; she looked great in her high heels and sharp outfit. (Now how do you write that as a compliment without it also seeming like an insult for how she looks the rest of the time…?) :)

She looked stunning, and she truly is but how I know her as stunning is not in her choice of outfits but in how she is as a person – in how she gives of herself, how she loves her children, how she’s a selfless friend. I know her with dirt on her hands as she’s trying to help my poor attempts along at a flower garden. I know her under stacks of library books we’re talking about for the kids to read. And most dearly, I know her in tears – both hers and mine as often one’s filled eyes are all it takes for the other person’s to fill as well. And this is the woman that I know – not the snazzy one everyone saw today, but the one I’ve seen from life, that day-in and day-out kind of everyday, year-after-year, life.

We all have those impressive moments when we just shine, perhaps in appearance or accomplishment or in a very public place with accolades. Don’t you love that? When it all works together and we look so very impressive? Everyone sees us then, everyone can appreciate our talent or beauty or accomplishment.

But there are also times when we’re not quite as stunning. Who is it that you let see you in those times?

We have hundreds of relationships spanning all the years of our lives, and they are all unique to that person. Some are very specific around a shared interest, some are that of colleagues, some are just for a season because of proximity, some broad, some thin, some new, some old, and then there are those that are deep.

How precious a gift it is both to be allowed to see and to allow ourselves to be seen when life is not so great and we’re not looking so sharp; when there’s more failure than success, more perspiration than inspiration, more sorrow than joy, more hurt than happiness.

It’s the essence of an apt play on words I once heard, the word “intimacy” means “into me see.” How much of me can I let you see? And if I do let you “see into me”, will I be glad or sorry that I did? Will I feel that you have understood me or that you have merely compared me to how I should be or how I appear to be to everyone else?

And this kind of intimacy is built over time and with risk. It’s in that give and take and little layers of vulnerability exposed to see if someone can be trusted. Will a conversation with them be kept as a confidence? Is the expenditure of their time on my behalf willing or begrudging? Do they respond to my heart and not necessarily my words? And most of all are they true to me if I reveal that sometimes I'm just a little less polished than when I'm in my “Sunday best”?

And when there is someone with whom you need not censure your words or thoughts, one who can see you with dirty hands or furrowed brow and when this person grants you that same intimacy…the value of that is incalculable and not able to be expressed by mere words.

For can there be any greater treasure than to be trusted with the heart of another; or to have one in whose hands you may place your own heart and know that it is safe?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What is at your center?

I am reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book Gift from the Sea and it is fascinating.
In it she likens our lives to a wheel, with spokes radiating from a central hub. These spokes represent all our responsibilities – spouse, children, extended family, community, job, etc.

There are tensions that press down on these spokes as we meet the needs and demands of all these different areas of our lives. And the question is then, as she puts it “How to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center, how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel?” Good question.

If we are the center of our individual worlds, what is in the center of us?

Now I haven’t read far enough in the book to know what her answer is but I did read the answer today.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

Why do you think so many forms of meditation and spirituality are popular now? Are we realizing as a culture, that being still is a necessary part of mental health?

But being still is not something easily accomplished – first of all there is rarely the space to be still and secondly, even if we get the space we usually lack the ability to stop our racing minds and just be still.

But is it just all about the stillness?
While sitting cross-legged saying “ohm” could be quite calming for a few moments but what about what the quiet time is over?

“Be still and know that I am God.”

What does that mean, to you?
That phrase, “I am God.”
I am more and more convinced that how you view God is fundamental to how you live your life.

Is God powerful enough to handle the problems that come your way?
Is He bigger than anything else? Does He have the authority to impact how you live?

Psalms 46:1,2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore (because he is God and because he is our refuge and the source of our strength) we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

Now that’s some kind of trust!

I don’t know about you but it would severely rattle my sense of security if the Rocky Mountains suddenly crumbled into the Pacific…
But that happens to us doesn’t it? Something we’ve counted on as stable suddenly disintegrates; or our routine abruptly falls to pieces, and then what are we left with?

An “ohm” will not help you here.

Here it is that you must know that He is God and cling to the promise that follows,

“The Lord Almighty is with us.” (Psalms 46:11)

We may be at the center of our worlds but He is in that center with us.
He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)so therefore
we are never without His presence or His power.

Is that enough? Only you can answer that...

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:3