Friday, May 29, 2009

Get a girlfriend!

I have one thing to say about girlfriends - you have to get one.
Or better yet, get a few.
And best of all, get a few girlfriends that are also friends with each other and I'm telling you there is absolutely nothing like it! nothing!

There are four of us who are such girlfriends. Our kids range in age from 5 - 30. There's a scientist and an administrative assistant, an office manager and a teacher, although most of us are just being full time moms at this moment.

We met for breakfast this morning and the hour and a half conversation covered a high school and firefighters graduation, the pink-dyed baby chick one girl had gotten as a child for Easter that grew into a mean hen (to which the response was, "yea, wouldn't you be if you were dipped in dye?") and when it was attacking her, her grandma had snatched it, wrung it's neck, and they had "chickin' and dumplin's" for dinner! (she's our own southern belle).

We also discussed where you can and cannot find a 40 long men's suit, the new dinosaur exhibit at the zoo, when school ends, copyright laws, the ten commandments, the Christian music industry, various types of yeast, an upcoming baby shower, various churches and denominations and the differences in them, a whole program idea and making bread with a bread machine - it was absolutely hysterical and all in about ninety minutes! It makes you wonder what the people at the next booth must have been thinking... :)

There are starts from each other’s gardens in our flower beds and we feel free to "shop" at each others houses when we need something. We've attended each other's children's sporting events, and worked on and celebrated together the first wedding of a daughter. We have cooked, cleaned, shopped, “retreated”, worshipped, served and weeded together.

Today was a celebratory conversation all about awards and graduations and opportunities and it was the epitome of the adage "Joy shared is doubled joy". I don't even have the math skills to know what a joy shared times four would be...!

But we’ve also stood together in hospital rooms and at too many gravesides. We’ve cried together over needy parents, clueless kids, major health problems, spiritual and personal struggles and how we're trying to juggle it all and keep our sanity intact. There have been times when the tears could not be stopped and you were simply held tears soaking their shoulder; because the rest of the saying is "and shared sorrow is half-sorrow". When you are surrounded by those who love you and sorrow is divided by four, the pain is diminished enough to get through it.

We also talk to each other about each other.

And to me this is the most amazing thing.

I can't tell you how many emails and phone calls have flown between us saying "Pray for...because of..." or "What can we do for...because ...". In all these years we talk about each other “behind their backs” just as we’d talk to their faces because in all things we’ve operated out of a I Corinthians 13 kind of love; not easily angered, patient, not jealous (well…there has been that coveting of that one purse...) but it's not been hard. I think that when you are so completely loved, it is simple to return that same type of love.

So get a girlfriend (or several)!
But get a girlfriend who loves the Lord.

And I promise that you will never be able to find enough words to express her value!
I know I’ve tried, but I can’t, so let me default to these words from Philippians 1.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy…
It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart (as) we have shared together in the blessings of God.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Remember the good things

It's easy to focus on all that is wrong in our lives.

The negative things are like dark gloomy clouds that obscure the good things. Dreary days of rain make it hard to remember what it's like when the sun is shinning and everything is bathed in its warm beauty, because during a storm even the most spectacular flower garden looks dismal.

I'm a real visual person as in I have to see it to get it. Don't even think of showing me a 2 inch square paint sample and ask me how this color will look on the wall! I'd have to paint half the wall and then close one eye to tell you what I think!

So I have an idea, a variation on something that's been around forever: I'm going to make a collection to help me remember the good things. I'll be using a blank book and some glass flat stones from the dollar store. Each day I want to choose one good thing, one blessing, or one positive from that day, write it down and put a stone in my jar to symbolize that.

I invite you to join me; collect what you want - coffee beans, silk flowers, stones, or just the written words on a page.

It's almost the new season of summer, especially for those of us with kids going to be out of school. What if we went into these next three months determined to realize, recognize, and record each day some good thing, something we're grateful for? What kind of people would we be by the time autumn rolls around?

There will always be clouds. There will always be problems. There will always be some part of our lives that doesn't feel like we want it to.

Psalms 68:19 says "Blessed be the Lord God who daily loads us with benefits". If that's the case, I want to remember just one from each day and then be able to look at this pile of evidence in days to come and remember, no matter what clouds are in my sky, that God has been good.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Catch A Wave!

At this time of year every party store looks like the aftermath of a colorful explosion because summer is, apparently, tropical party time!

Tikki torches, coconut cups, hula skirts and flowered leis, aisles of Hawaiian plates, invitations, napkins, banners and wall decorations! It makes me want to throw a party just to enjoy all this fun stuff! I've thrown a few Hawaiian parties and still have half a box of plastic leis to prove it!

It’s a great party theme; all that color, in the d├ęcor and those crazy Hawaiian shirts, there’s the tropical music and all that fresh pineapple and coco-nutty drinks. It conveys a feel of being in a different place; a very special place.

But, I've also been to Hawaii.
So now when I look at all that party stuff, the cardboard palm trees and plastic coconuts and hula skirts, it's feels almost profane in attempting to represent what the islands are like.

I remember coming home from Hawaii that summer and seeing leis at the store, the really nice full ones with the silk flowers, the ones that had seemed so beautiful to me before I’d left. Now they were just poor imitations of the real thing, even when the real thing I had worn was the cheapest and simplest of all the available fresh flower leis.

The simplest real lei far outshone the most beautiful fake lei.

"God" is a popular thing. There are churches on every other corner and thousands of books, shows and Internet sites that talk about God. Signs abound in stores asking God to bless this house or garden or mini-van. People say "God bless you". Inboxs are full of emails that promise if you send this to 10 people in an hour that you will be blessed. We lump all religiosity and religions together. We speak of ones who are spiritual but with no distinction as to whom their spirits are worshipping as if it doesn't matter, just that they are spiritual. It doesn't matter what church, which religious book, which rituals, which songs, which doctrine, which preacher/pastor/priest, as long as it's referencing God, it works...Scripture references this when it says there are those who “have a appearance of godliness but deny its power.”(2 Timothy 3:5)

If you put a hibiscus, palm tree or surfboard on it, is it Hawaiian?
If you put God, "bless", or the appropriate terminology on it, is it of God?

Do not settle for a poor imitation when you can have the real thing.

Do not let a daily devotional or a plaque with a verse be your only venture into scripture when the whole of God's Word is waiting for you.

Why just say a prayer when the God of the Universe invites you to come and pour our your heart before Him?(Psalms 62:8)

Why be satisfied with religious platitudes when you have the opportunity to speak life-changing truth?

Isn’t it a loss to just sing the songs when instead those words can be an expression of your heart’s deepest worship towards God?

Why should we just go to church instead of being the Church in this world; His hands, His feet, His words of life-changing hope to those around us who are hurting, needy, and lonely?

If you had the choice which would you take? A CD of the sound of ocean waves? Or a journey in which you would put your feet in the tropical waters, feel the trade winds swirling around you, the sun warm on your skin, and the air permeated with the scent of plumeria?

You have that choice.
You have that choice every day.

No matter where you are
in your walk of faith from new believer to long-time church member to the senior pastor, the choice is still the same.

Will you be satisfied with the trappings of Christianity, as attractive, appealing and acceptable as they are?

Or will you pursue a growing, dynamic, intimate relationship with Christ himself?

Do you choose cardboard palm trees or a hammock under swaying palm fronds and a blue Hawaiian sky? That makes it seem an easy choice doesn’t it but what about the choice between listening to the Beach Boys' song “Catch a Wave” or actually getting knocked off your board?

A Hawaiian party is safe because you know what to expect, everyone does and everyone has more or less the same experience whereas surfing the North Shore is not an adventure that follows a prescribed itinerary. That wave may take you farther and faster than you thought you’d go. You may get rolled around in the surf and then get to your feet knowing that this was not at all like standing in an Hawaiian party holding a glass of tropical fruit punch.

A relationship is not a ritual, it’s an adventure with it’s own rewards. Following God and not merely formalities, whatever their tradition, is like watching a travel video as opposed to hiking the NaPali coast. It’s a little scary, it’s hard in places, and it’s a long winding trail. You may even end up with some mud on your shoes but the view from here is unlike anything you could have ever imagined.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind had imagined what God has prepared for
those who love Him" I Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, May 21, 2009

(beep)


I put a mug (beep) of water to heat up in the microwave first thing this morning.
It's still there.

The reason I know it's still there is that every minute or so I hear a "beep" to remind me that there's something I need to get to. (beep)

Now since that time I've gotten kids off to school, talked to a friend, talked to my husband, checked the email, started a load of laundry and hung a load of laundry out on the line to dry (after of course the hunt for the clothespins (beep) that I used last fall the last time it was nice enough to hang out the laundry). I've made my grocery list for the day and jotted down a few other errands. All of these are good things, necessary things but I've yet (beep) to get back to the microwave for my hot (?) water.

Life is busy. It just comes at us.
We don't have to go searching for things to occupy our time, they're all around us, sometimes screaming for our attention (beep) but in all the demands it's so simple to become distracted from what's really important.

My husband was mentioning how, again, the sheets in our bed where all pulled out and again it (beep) was because the kids had all piled in that morning after being woken up for school (crazy kids) and we'd all laid around for a while goofing off. I (beep) reminded him that in five years he wouldn't be complaining about the sheets being untucked and in ten years there will be nothing but pictures around to remind us of kids living in the house...important stuff, loving your kids while you can (beep) even if the sheets get all messed up.

Important stuff also is loving our God and getting His perspective on our lives and current circumstances. (beep) but that's not always easy to do, given our lives of distraction. So how do we? How do we remember to do what's (beep) important and not only what's "in your face"?

I find that reminders help. I have a somewhat regular time frame and place where I spend (beep) time with the Lord. I've posted verses about the kitchen sink, where it seems I am constantly, for perspective and encouragement. (beep) For me I find that consciously putting reminders around, be a posted verse, or scheduled alarm on my phone, the verse of the day email from BibleLeague.org or placing a book in a conspicuous place are like the microwave's continual beeping (beep) quietly but faithful calling out to me to come to Him who promises me abundant life because it will be full (beep) of His power, presence, and strength.

But now, if you'll excuse me, I really need to go to the microwave and get (beep) that water!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prayer over pizza

Prayer is an amazing, holy and sacred thing.

But at the same time, if you've been around the church for a while, it can also be a very interesting and amusing thing!

Take the "announcement prayer"
"O Lord, bless the youth activity this Friday at the roller rink from 8 -10 pm, for which the youth can sign up at the table in the back immediately following the service and put down a ten dollar deposit. Bless also Lord the three chaperons that are also still needed for this event."

Then there's the "informational prayer" much like the announcement prayer only no sign up is required..."God we come to you about Mrs. Jones has tripped over her front porch step and fallen and broken her hip last Tuesday and is now in St. James hospital, room 307..."

Along with this type of informational prayer is also the "advice to God prayer"."..and Lord we pray that Mrs. Jones son Brian would come and see her and take care of her hospital bills. And we pray that you will heal her quickly so that she can be back in choir in time for the Easter Cantata."

And then there is the "speedy prayer" like my son prayed for dinner. At the speed of light he said (I think) "LordthankyouforthisgoodfoodinJesus'nameAmen"

How patient God is with us!

But back in the realm of the sacred, there is the prayer when you have no words. Psalms 38:9 says, "You know what I long for Lord, you hear my every sigh.", those prayers when you don't even know where to start or what to say or are so overwhelmed you can do little more than sigh. These are the prayers where we claim Romans 8:26 where we are assured that "when we don't know how to pray as we ought the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered."

And then sometimes there is prayer like when I stopped to pray for my lunch. No sooner were my eyes closed than God brought several names to mind. I didn't stop to give God the pertinent information or tell Him what I think He should do for them (although there have been "informational" and "advice" giving prayers on their behalf previously). I simply brought their names to Him; what assurance that I can bring someone to the throne of grace and know that God is fully aware of their situation and what they most greatly need and is anxious to accomplish exactly that.

It was a prayer without words, not because I didn't have any, but because none were necessary.

It is prayer that recognizes that God is sovereign, that He is aware, and that He loves them more than I do and is going to take care of all their needs.

It was simple and it was God-honoring for it simply brought them before Him with full confidence in His ability to help, because, after all, He is God.

And my pizza was still hot when I was done.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Parable of Sunday

(What I imagine God doing on Sunday morning- not doctrinally accurate but an interesting line of thought)
It was His favorite day of the week for this was the day that all the redeemed would gather together to praise Him. Throughout the week the praise of his children had risen to him as a sweet smelling offering, as one gets a whiff on the breeze of a far off lilac tree, and it had pleased Him and increased the anticipation for this day, when they would come together to lift their hearts to Him.

He made the necessary preparations. He quieted the continual angel chorus to a murmur so their praise would not drown out that of His children. He turned His ears from hearing the incessant words of the universe, those invoking his name in anger or in falsehood. The only sound now that would register on God's ears was the heart worship of his people.

The appointed hour was near. Settling Himself on His throne He watched as their cars converged in church parking lots and they streamed or, in some cases, straggled into His churches. Small white buildings, cathedrals, hundred year old brick structures, strip mall storefronts and massive auditoriums, ornate or simple, new or old they'd all been designated on this day to be where His redeemed would gather to honor Him. They settled themselves in their pews or their chairs and He was as anticipatory as one who was about to duck his head into a large bouquet of highly scented blooms.

The service began; hands flew over keys, piano, organ, keyboards and instrumental, guitars strummed and drums pounded, hymnals were held, screens flashed with lyrics, mouths opened and He listened… but He heard only the faintest chorus.

He leaned forward straining to hear, rubbing His eyes thinking He may have been mistaken of what He thought He'd seen but yes, there was plenty of action but the volume did not begin to represent the number of people who appeared to be praising. Then He saw people raising their hands. "Yes, I see you" He said, "Are you trying to get my attention because your heart is not saying anything to me."
People prayed and pastors preached, money was given and special music performed and still there was much silence in heaven. He heard the heart cries of a few in each place and gratefully accepted their worship, but they were so few among so many.

God kept watching, kept waiting for His children, who worshipped Him individually throughout the week, to raise their hearts in a great chorus of worship for this is why they were to meet together: those had been His instructions. Had they forgotten?

Pondering and with little audible to hold his attention, He'd become distracted and saw now that they'd exited the sanctuaries and were greeting each other enthusiastically. He tuned into their chatter and heard His name mentioned often but still their hearts were silent. And now they were dispersing to their cars and headed into their every day lives.
The appointed hour was over.

Reluctantly He turned to the angel chorus and let their praise crescendo "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty" quickly came the refrain and it's intensity reverberated throughout the throne room, exactly as He'd expected the praise of His children gathered together on this day would have done.

"Well,” He sighed, “perhaps next Sunday."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Bible story for grown-ups who serve the Lord


It's a familiar and dramatic story.

There was Elijah, the only prophet left (to his knowledge) that served the one true God and then there were all the other guys, the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah.

The other guys had the numbers. They had the volume and all the attention as they chanted and danced. They had rituals as they cut themselves "as was their custom" (I Kings 18:28) They had perseverance as they continued their earnest pleading with their gods the entire day (I Kings 18: 28)

And all the people of Israel were watching.

On the one hand there is an old man, just standing there, insisting the God is the Lord.

On the other hand there are 800+ men praying and pleading and involved in all types of ritualistic behavior. I think the sheer showmanship of it all would have been very convincing.

I attended a Chris Tomlin concert at an area mega church. The concert was worshipful and God-honoring, but shortly thereafter I began getting emails from the church; emails that said for a generous donation to Pastor So and So's ministry I would receive books/tapes/sermons/secrets that would show me, guaranteed, how to get blessings from God...ugh.

It really is everywhere. All these people proclaiming what is not truth or perverting truth for their own gain, monetarily or for power.

And there are so very many.

So many preachers, and deceivers and authors ,that as one who believes the Bible is the Word of God and the highest authority and that following God does not mean I'll be healthy, wealthy and wise, I feel outnumbered. I have no great showmanship, or perseverance in engaging in ritualistic customs. I see what appear to be so few in this great endeavor of spreading the news of God and who could not possibly be heard over the din being made by all these false prophets.

It is then I need to remember the rest of the story.

At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” I Kings 18:336-39

God sent the fire.

When God answered, it was beyond the request and all expectations.

When Elijah prayed for God to prove himself so that the people's hearts would be turned back to Him, God did so in a way that far surpassed what was going to be the "proof" of who was God

God didn't need the masses, or the rituals, or even earnest perseverance to answer. He only needed one,who desired for Him to be honored, to ask...

This is His work we are doing. And while we are his servants, He is still God. He only asks our faithful obedience even if we feel that we're the only one and that no one can possible hear us up against the quantity and quality of the others voices. And we have these assurances:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Wherefore 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 in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:10-12

Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...one day everyone will know the truth.

Have you seen this video? http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ecdf7b249b5bdc228e92 (really, go watch it now) I think it's amazing and it reminds me of this verse. One day, all the agendas will be over and all will be united, of one mind and purpose proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.(as opposed to in a train station singing a Mary Poppins song as impressive as that was!)

And these false prophets that surround and outnumber us? Well...Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21,22

Father, reveal yourself in your power in the places we serve you so that the people's hearts will be turned to you...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Letting it go...


I think the only thing more prolific than bunnies are papers!! A single sheet grows into a stack overnight and by the week's end is spilling onto the floor! Where do all these papers come from....?!

I'm sorting through stuff today, stuff and papers and more papers and more stuff. I have found pictures of my kids from seven years ago, various letters and notifications, programs and brochures. I also found a stack of my mom's medical bills; rehab facility, orthopedist, ambulance services, hospitals. She lived on a fixed income and paid on them little by little and was so proud of how she'd gotten the deductible she owed the hospital down by $50 a month until it was almost gone, but then, she was readmitted...

These papers I now hold in my hand caused her such anxiety, they asked of her resources far greater than she had.
But now she is with Jesus. None of this concerns her anymore.

One day too, we will be with Jesus, and these things, these big huge insurmountable things that multiply exponentially and concern us, will trouble us no longer. One day we will see His face and be standing in His presence and all our current sorrow will be gone; inconsequential now that we are safely home.

We have such an amazing promise...

I created you and have cared for you since before you were born.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime, until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you." Isaiah 46;3

When we are finally with Christ forever there will be no sorrow, no worry, no anxiety, no fear, ever. We will have let it all go.

But we're here now, and holding papers filled with demands that exceed our resources, and that are the cause of tremendous stress and anxiety and fear. We can't just open our hands and let them all go...

But perhaps, if we turn our eyes towards and spend time with Jesus, remembering how He cares for and carries us throughout our lifetime, we will get a taste of that peace that is ours to come and these concerns will become like papers in piles; messy and needing to be dealt with, but no longer a stranglehold on our hearts.