Thursday, July 30, 2009

Out in the Woods

My son was sleeping by himself out in the woods last night.

So...I wasn't sleeping at all.

He's at Boy Scout Camp and this is part of a Wilderness survival merit badge. They're taken to a spot in the woods with their sleeping bag, they construct a shelter and then spend part of the night until they're awakened at 3 am to find their way back to the main camping area.

I lay in bed praying that he wouldn't be scared, and if he was that he would pray; that he wouldn't be cold, or scared, or eaten by mosquitoes, or scared...

Did I want him sleeping out under a tree somewhere? Well no...and yes...
I want him to be prepared so that he'll be comfortable in the woods and on his own and to gain the skills he needs to get through life and that covers many areas doesn't it?

It's remembering the first day of school where they were tentative and we were tearful - how would they ever make it all day without us? How would we?
Fast forward a mere thirteen years and they're driving off with a car crammed full of stuff for college... but at the moment he's twelve and sleeping in the woods....

We go through trials and they're not fun. We don't understand why God would let us suffer like this and find ourselves saying repeatedly "Why do I have to go through this?"

Romans 5;3 says "We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..."

"Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" James 1:2-4

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I Peter 1:6-7

What Robbie didn't know, while he was sleeping in the woods, is that there was a counselor also in the woods nearby watching out for him. Although he thought he was alone, he wasn't.

Even if we're scared and feel we're in this difficulty all alone, we're not. God has promised that "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5)

Just as I was pulling for Robbie out there in the woods, God is pulling for us in our trials that we will be victorious. We have an unseen Counselor by our side.

In Luke 22 we find this precious story,” The Lord said, 'Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.'"

Jesus is interceding on my behalf. When I don't understand why this is happening or how I'll get through it, Christ is praying for me. He is with me, He is for me, He is confident that I will not only come through this but that my faith will grow because of it.

When I'm out in the woods, I am not alone.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Transplanted


I transplanted some flowers today to a new location and they are not happy.

They were very happy where they were and then their root system was attacked, they were dug up with just a bit of their accustomed soil and traveled for a day without a home.

Now they're in new soil, where they will grow and thrive and bring beauty to an area that was barren but at this moment, they don't know that; all they know is that they are no longer established.

Sometimes we find the same thing has happened to us. We've been transplanted into a new job, church, location, health condition, family dynamic, friendship situation, or economic state and we're cut off from how things used to be; where we were rooted and thriving.

Nothing is familiar, or comfortable.
We're in foreign soil.
We don't see how this is going to work out.

How will we deal with the grief, the pain, the antagonism, the demands, the weakness, or the awkwardness of our new place?
Will we ever feel again like we've put down roots and are established and thriving?

"Come back, we beg you, O God Almighty. Look down from heaven and see our plight.
Watch over and care for this vine that you yourself have planted." Psalms 80:14,15

God knows where I am for He has transplanted me here.
I want to be happy and comfortable.
He wants me to grow; in this new place and under these conditions.

I know that my transplanted flowers will fill a barren space with beauty.
Perhaps God has put me in this place for the same reason.

This is the hope I will cling too for in this place I am without roots or established parameters. I don't know what to expect or how to thrive here but I will keep my eyes and my expectations centered on Him and claim His promises to me.
The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11

Thursday, July 23, 2009

T.V, Reruns, and God's plans


Every good television drama has them; little hints, seeds, foreshadowing dropped into episodes that will come to fruition later in the series. The problem is that a network television season is so long! First of all it’s on just once a week and then there are is special programming around the holidays, and then all those awards shows, and then the occasional rerun inserted for no apparent reason in the middle of the season (!) and let’s not even talk about how the “season” ends in early May and resumes in late October… So I usually find myself asking, “What was going on in this show?” Not to mention the fact of course that you’re actually living your real life while attempting to follow this fictitious reality.

I’m not sure if it’s a cable thing or a summer thing but I find that in the summer there’s usually some channel running network dramas every day and sometimes two back-to-back episodes a day. And, yes, I do get pulled into them, I admit. In two weeks I can see the entire season of a show and suddenly so many things make much more sense! Why? Well because of them being compressed I now see how things were interrelated, something I was incapable of grasping when I just saw one show only a couple times a month.

I suspect our perception of God’s plans for us is similar. We don’t understand His hand in the small stuff, or the things that seem so random in keeping with everything else going on. Things happen and they make no sense; they are seemingly not pieces of the puzzle we have in front of us. But we are hindered by time because we see our lives and events as they unfold, episode by episode if you will.

One advantage of age is the ability to look back on our lives and see them compressed. It’s the ability to view something that happened one year and something else that took place five years previous or later and see how they worked together to accomplish something greater than either of them individually. Hmm, sound like a familiar biblical concept…? (Romans 8:28)

We do not yet have the luxury of seeing our lives as a compressed rerun and having all the pieces come together for us but if television writers can make seemingly random things part of an overall theme, let us remember, as we’re enjoying old T.V. series, that God is both capable of and is doing the same thing in our real lives!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A thin veneer



The world is full of frauds.


Two bookcases stand side by side both with seemingly solid construction in gleaming oak. These are beautiful bookcases that will hold volumes of information. But distress them, scratch or chip them and the truth is revealed- one has only an oak veneer; hardwood over particleboard, symbol over substance.

You who represent yourself as a follower of Christ, if you get a little dented up, what is revealed as your underlying support structure?

And you especially, whose lives serve as a repository of God's truth, you who are leaders in your churches, are you genuine or merely a veneer?

We've witnessed it, sadly, way too often; the televangelist with the penchant for fine things and therefore creative bookkeeping, clergy involved in sex scandals, and those who say it's all about worship and God's glory but their actions reveal it's really about their ego as author, artist or performer.

I can entrust the keeping of mindless paperback drivel to the quality of a veneered bookcase. These are the "Don't worry, be happy" and "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" colloquialisms that abound in our society because if the people endorsing those collapse, little is lost.

But...but to those of us to whom God has entrusted the ministry of sharing His truth, we had better be genuine.
Perfect? No, because only God is perfect, but we must be real so that when distress comes our way it is revealed that we truly believe what we say we do. That the oak that gleams on the surface is also that truth that makes up the essence of who we are and is the foundation of our belief systems and thought patterns.

In many churches you’ll hear the pastor pray before they preach, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight." That prayer is not just for them, nor is it only for that hour on Sunday morning. If you are someone who offers words of prayer, praise, or instruction, this must also be your constant desire.
If it is revealed that you, who claim the name of Christ, are nothing more than an opportunist or a person just working a job, then the damage from your hypocrisy can be great.

Are you a speaker? If these words about Christ are not coming from the deepest part of your heart, talk about something else.
Are you a musician? If the lyrics you perform are not the cry of your heart, find other lyrics. Do not stand before people singing something you have no intention of doing and you don't ascribe too.

Do you seek praise for all the good works you do “in Christ’s name”? Then find a place in which you can get the applause you're seeking, but not in the place in which our focus is to be on glorifying God.

Have you worked in the church or "for the Lord" for years and years? Then be sure that what you do has not merely become the habit of your life but is still an outgrowth of your heart's desire to see the name of the Lord lifted up.
Don't say you'll pray for someone when what you really mean is that you wish them well.
Don't offer biblical advice if it's not something you would follow yourself.


The world is full of frauds.
If you are going to represent Christ, be genuine, through and through.
Let there more to you than just a thin venee
r.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Traveling

I glance at the speedometer and it says I'm going 70 mph. The odometer is increasing and the miles to destination on the GPS is decreasing yet I feel as though I'm barely moving. It's a strange traveling phenomenon isn't it? When everything says "You're moving!" yet you feel so stationary.

Although the mileage said it'd been a hundred miles, it all looked the same; the same trees, cars, road, more trees, more cars...

I look at the calender and the months keep flying by, my children are growing taller, my age has increased as have the number of non-brown hairs on my head but I feel like I'm not progressing and am in essentially in the same place I was last year and five year before that. Am I moving forward?

When I arrive at my destination then I both know and feel that I have indeed moved from where I was to where I am now.

Perhaps it is the same way in life. When I'm "there" I'll know it and "there" could mean many things; when I react in patience instead of irritation, when a crisis reveals a maturity that was not evident previously, when I forgive instead of holding a grudge, and when I go sooner to prayer than to worry.

God's given us the promise that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6) If I'm on the right path and following the instructions of my Savior, yielding when He says yield and turning right when He instructs then whether I feel like it or not I will believe that He is bringing me along the pathway of His will and to completion in Christ.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Life is short

I wrote the date and realized this is the day my dad died, 28 years ago, at the age of 54.

54.

My husband and I were talking about other people this morning, a classmate who was in a car accident in his early 20's and is no longer the genius he'd been to that point, a friend who's had a stroke and will live the rest of his life without the use of his left side and will be unable to take himself where he wants to go, an elderly relative who spent the last year of her life unable to speak, the ravages of Alzheimers in which the mind leaves before the body...

I was making my son's bed this morning and suddenly clearly remembered my mom making my bed the day she drove me to college...

This month I'm attending my 25th high school reunion...

Life, as we know it, is short.
And in saying that I mean not only our physical life but life, as we currently know it, is short.

How many times have you not realized that the last conversation/coffee/dinner/meeting you had with someone was going to be the last one?


"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14)

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
It may the end of your life or the life of someone you love.
It may be the end of something that you've assumed will just always continue.
Tomorrow may continue on just as today, and yesterday, and last month.

"You do not even know what will happen tomorrow."

So let's live today making the most of every opportunity
redeeming our time (Ephesians 5:16) because our days are numbered(Psalms 90:10,12) and life, as we know it, is short.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A time to plant

The weeds have been pulled. The overgrowth has been pruned back or away and now what is left is a patch of prepared soil, ready for a transformation; for things to be planted in it and to flourish.

I’ve addressed the known sin in my heart and I’ve purged from my life those attitudes and distractions that are adding nothing to the landscape of my life and now my heart waits as prepared soil for what God is going to plant in it.

I think God plants two things in our lives; truth and opportunities.

God takes His truth, most often revealed through His word, by reading or the hearing it in word or song and plants these simple but eternal truths that transform our lives, deep into the soil of our hearts. These are truths such as “Jesus loves me”, “I am always in the presence of God”, “God is faithful”, and “God is in control”; seemingly simple phrases that make a world of difference in how we live.

One day at church I heard Renee Bondi and her remarkable testimony. Although she’d been paralyzed in her early 20’s and it seemed all her dreams had come to an end, she was now traveling the country sharing God’s power in word and song. That morning she sang the song “God is in control”. The song was new to me and I played it often letting that truth settle into my heart. God IS in control. It began as a seedling but as circumstances transpired and I found that truth grew larger in my heart as many other things were suddenly out of my control and if God was not in control we were all in trouble… but God was still in control. That truth rehearsed over and over has grown into, I pray, a solid perennial in my life.

God presents us with opportunities. Some are big and some small: perhaps it’s just to say a kind word, or to face a challenge, to be involved in something, or to even step out of a comfort zone on His behalf. This is not to say that every opportunity that comes our way should be pounced on by any means, but there are those that God plants in our lives in order that they may flourish into something greater. I think of the Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, who taught at a church in Boston in the 1850's . He faithfully taught a Sunday school class and one day lead a young man to the Lord and his name was Dwight L. Moody. We know Moody’s legacy, how his love for God started a school that has ministers of the gospel around the world. But it was because one man taught Sunday School that thousands will be in heaven…

What truths is God planting in your heart that as it matures and take root in your life will raise bouquets of praise to Him?

What small seedling of an opportunity may be of His hand that will ultimately be for His glory?

What is God planting in your heart, this very day? Will it find a ready place to grow and flourish in the soil of your soul?


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pruning and the ultimate plan

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I have a new pruning tool and there is simply no stopping me now! This thing is incredible; it has these two sharp blades which make no stalk under two inches in diameter able to withstand it's cutting power. I'm like Tim "the tool man" Taylor let loose in the landscaping!

Suddenly the overwhelming shrubbery is not guaranteed to retain it's current location. It's not that the scraggly bushes are bad but that the whole area would be better without them. I have plans for that space that will make it far superior to the overgrown mess it is now.

And so does God.
For my life.
There are elements that have just always been there. Attitudes, speech patterns, preferences that aren't bad but they could be better. And God, the creator of the universe, is the Master Gardener. He has plans for my life that I can't even imagine (Ephesians 3:19-21).
His Word will be the sharp pruning instrument that will cut away all that should not be until I am what He has planned for me to be. (John 15: 1-8).

I'm not sure what that will look like.
Or how long it will take to get there.

But this is what I know.
"Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weeds

I was out pulling weeds today – BIG weeds – taller than me in most places.
And there I was, allergic girl as I am, in the middle of the bed trying to pull out undesirable intruders.

There were so many I wasn’t even sure which was what but I went after the biggest, most obvious ones and as they were cleared away I could see the small ones that were in there hiding among the foliage.

Feet firmly planted in the dirt I tugged on each stem, close to the bottom, trying to pull it out root and all. Pulling with all my strength I sometimes came away with a stalk with the roots still attached! Other times I heard a snap and pulled up only part of the problem.

Where did these all come from?
But that really wasn’t the question.
The question was what was I going to do to get rid of them?

In Mark 4 Jesus shares the parable of the seed. A man was sowing seed - which represents God's Word - and it fell in various places and "other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain." Apparently weeds have been taking out the good stuff for a very long time...

What weeds am I dealing with? What sin in my life is taking root? What attitudes have overtaken the good soil of my heart like creeping charlie in a beautiful lawn?

And what will I do about it?

I have to get in there and start pulling: the obvious blatant things are first. I'd wish to get them root and all the first time but chances are that I won't, they will come back but then so must I. And then as the big things are eliminated I will begin to see the subtle thought processes and secret sins that dwell in my heart; they are closer to the ground but still as deadly in choking out the truth's God is planting.

It's not fun or pleasant to get that up close and personal with what shouldn't be there: to squarely face the fact of all that is in my heart that is choking out the fruit that is trying to grow there. It's taken all of my strength to tug out some stalks that have been there long enough to get thick and hardy.

My skin is itchy, my feet are covered in dirt, and I have no doubt I'll be sore tomorrow.
But the question is, what do I want?

Am I content to let any suggestion, motivation, sin, or attitude come into my heart and take root there? Do I want my heart to resemble a patch of weeds?

I want my heart to be a place where the soil is prepared; a place available and anxious for God to work in, so that when He moves in my heart I will bring forth fruit- some thirty, some sixty and some a hundredfold (Mark 4:20) and all for His praise and glory.

This heart, this life of mine will only last for a little while - what kind of garden do I want?



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"thank you"

I got up early this morning and made a special breakfast...
I found the shoes my son was frantically searching for before he had to run out the door...
I shopped for three hours getting groceries and then spent over an hour making lunch for people and putting them away when I got home...
I taught my son how to cook a dinner meal tonight, cleared the table, and washed and put away all the dishes...
I made several beds, picked up a bunch of clothes left on the floors, and folded scattered blankets and towels...

All of this I did today and there was not a single "thank you".

I had the ability to get out of bed this morning and a kitchen with electricity to make breakfast in...
I have children who are able to run out the door with or without the lost shoes...
I have the finances to buy food to put on the table and transporation to get it home...
I have a family to feed, the ability to teach, hot water, and a house to live in...
I have active children who dirty clothes, towels that belie summer enjoyment and sweet faces to tuck into bed each night...

Thank you Father.