Sunday, August 30, 2009

What about your history?

I'd come to the end of the day and the end of my resources.
It'd been a long weekend and I had nothing left to give or the ability to cope with anything else. All I wanted to do was crawl into a warm bed and sleep.

But I couldn't yet so grabbing my MP3 player, my Bible and journal I sat on my bed, plugged in the player and wrote about my weekend and how drained I felt.

The album I'd chosen was A Millennium of Sacred Music, a compilation of hymns done masterfully on piano by an old friend. And with the music in the background, I started recording how worn out I felt but then found that these songs were pouring back into me peace and hope. These were my songs - the songs that had been a source of strength and comfort time and time again - Be Still my Soul, God will Take Care of You, Abide with Me, Nearer Still Nearer, He Hideth My Soul, No One Understands Like Jesus, How Great Thou Art.

I unconsciously hummed the familiar lyrics along with the piano -

"When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless O abide with me"

"No one understands like Jesus when the day is dark and drear, no one is so near, so dear as Jesus cast your every care on Him"

"Be not afraid what ere' betide, God will take of you"

"No one ever cared for me like Jesus, oh how much He cares for me."

And a verse came to mind from Psalms 107:43, "They will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord."

I saw it tonight in my history. In the familiarity of songs that have brought words of encouragement throughout many years, in the friends who I've been privileged to have along the way with whom I've been able to engage in the deep discussions of life and grace and God's will. I think of adults who were teachers and mentors when I was a child, and other adults along the way who shared honestly with me as a teen and college student of their own journey of faith, and the life of love lived out by my parents and my list keep growing from the past to all the present manifestations of grace in my life.

Take a look back.
See in your own history the faithful, steadfast love of the Lord.
And be encouraged that He who has taken care of you and poured out His love on you for all your years is not about to stop now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Magic Tablecloth

Life is messy, but I have a magic tablecloth! So when spills occur (notice I said "when" and not "if"), they are much easier to take care of.

For years I've had vinyl tablecloths covering my dining room table because invariably when I'd succumb to the temptation to put on a nicer fabric cloth, I'd be taking it off to throw in the wash after the very next meal (sigh). Maybe someday ...

But hope springs eternal, and one day I put a new fabric cloth on the table and when the milk was spilt it immediately became a little ball that looked like a pearl! And if you lifted the tablecloth, the ball rolled around! A few more intentionally flicked drops of milk, to our delight, had the same effect. It was a magic tablecloth! The spills would sit on top of the fabric long enough to be cleaned up. No longer were they immediately absorbed into the weave.

Life is messy. Things happen to us that have the potential to permanently stain. Acute disappointment, betrayal, unfair treatment, cruel words, unmet expectations—and the list goes on and on; when these things happen (notice I said "when" and not "if") what kind of souls do we have?

There are plastic people out there—whatever happens to them just seems to roll right off them. I think we've all known and wondered about them. But then there are the rest of us, who think and dream and live and love deeply, and when something happens we take it into our hearts much like a stain settling into the weave of our being. If it stays there long enough it becomes almost impossible to remove, and therefore we'll always carry a blot of that mess. I don't want to be that person who says, "Well, twenty years ago this happened and I've never gotten over it / refuse to forget it / remember like it was yesterday how I was hurt." I don't want to carry with me every one of life's painful experiences.

Psalms 18:30 says "As for God, his way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." I've always pictured God's protection like a fort with strong walls available for me to run into, but let me venture to say that this shield of protection that's offered to us is similar to the scotch guard finish on my magic tablecloth.

When my soul is splattered with the messiness of life, the knowledge that God is aware of every detail of my life (Psalms 37:23) acts as a buffer to my soul. Knowing that He sees and care and that He will take care of me allows me to isolate the incident and view it from His perspective first and not let it immediately seep in to damage my heart. Seeing it contained this way makes it easier to deal with.

Recently something I'd been pouring my life into was upended and spilled all over my heart. My first response was "Okay, Lord, what do I do with this?" Because I first looked to him, the incident sat on top of my heart instead of soaking in. So I looked at it, and rolled it around, and had some wise, trusted friends also look at the situation, and we all came to the same conclusion: "This is what happened, this is who you are … put it behind you and move on." And I did.

Come look at my heart—no stain mars its peace for God really is a shield to all those who look to Him for protection, to those who follow the words of Philippians 4:6-7 "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Will there be messes? Yes.
Do I have to bear a stain in my soul for every painful experience? No. Absolutely not. For God has promised to be a shield of protection for us, and when we turn things over to Him that He will give us peace beyond our ability to understand why we should be peaceful about this when it was really not a peace promoting kind of thing. My heart needs that kind of protection and God has promised to provide which makes a magic tablecloth nothing compared to this!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Gift Card



It all started with a customary check of my e-mail and a message from Starbucks. They informed me that their site was new and improved, and I could register my gift card and check my balance. I had a card, time, and curiosity, so why not?


A search through my wallet revealed three gift cards … hmm, that was surprising. I entered the numbers and found that the first had a balance of $15, the second $0, and the third $25! Wow! I didn’t even know I had three cards, and now I have a $40 balance. Can you imagine, $40 all to be spent on coffee and its accessories? What a gift! Call me and we’ll do coffee!


Suddenly I’m a rich woman in coffee currency. To know that I have the ability to pull into a Starbucks and get one of those Venti blended, sugary, whipped cream topped coffee drinks for free – iced or hot – makes me feel like I possess a great resource. The next time it’s mid-afternoon and crazy hot, I can pull right up and get a beverage to take care of that. Or if I’m out shopping and it’s cold and dreary and I’m ready for something to warm up, I’ll just whip out my card and get a nice brewed coffee with a shot of vanilla, or perhaps the seasonal favorite that catches my eye as I walk in. The next time caffeine calls and there’s no money in my wallet, no problem – ­­I have a card that says that java is already paid for and it’s mine.


I am very glad I looked through my wallet this afternoon. I had no idea of the treasures it already held, waiting for me to discover them. And isn’t it the same with that Bible that’s sitting on our shelves? It’s a repository of promises, many of which we’ve found at some previous point in our lives but maybe we’ve let them slip into the back of our minds and forgotten that they’re still there for us.

When I am bothered, frustrated, and stressed out, I have the promise that comes with “Casting all your care on Him for He cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7) When I’m worn out, I have an invitation waiting to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Whatever I need, there’s a promise God has made to me concerning it, and even that fact is all wrapped up in the promise of Philippians 4:13 that “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory” and since He says “I own the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalms 50:10), that’s a pretty big balance available to me!


On my gift card I was able to combine the money from the one card to the other. Perhaps it’s time to reload the promise card I carry as well, to get into the storehouse of God’s Word and find those promises that God has made to me and transfer them to my current thinking so that I will walk through life with the security that I am rich in this resource that, whatever comes my way, God has promised to take care of me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Will you be my friend?

In case you’re not familiar with it, Facebook is a fascinating world that gives you the ability to reconnect with just about anyone with whom you have ever had contact in your entire lifetime. And you can also connect with others with whom you have never had contact or would not be able to outside this social cyber world. All you have to do is to ask them to be your “friend,” and once they accept, they are on your list, you are on theirs, and you are now connected.

This afternoon as I was bored and randomly looking around Facebook, I discovered that I could identify myself as a fan of Max Lucado. I’ve respected and admired this man and his body of work since I first read one of his books. I’d shared his thoughts, taught classes with his materials, referenced him in numerous conversations, and even put magnets with his quotes on my fridge. Yes! I want to be his Facebook fan!

Two clicks later, and my face is among the thousands cheering about him.
But then I noticed that I also had another opportunity. If I sent him a message and he responded, I would not only be a fan, but we would be “friends.” I could be “friends” with this public figure I admire so greatly? He would see my name on his friend list?

I clicked the box to send a message.

The cursor kept steadily blinking, waiting to be moved along with the stirring words I intended to compose that would compel Max to be my “friend.”

Dear Max … No, that’s too familiar.

Dear Mr. Lucado … No, that sounds like a telemarketer.

Dear Pastor Lucado … Better, as his words have shepherded my soul on numerous occasions, but I don’t actually attend his church.

Dear Highly Esteemed Master of the English Language who can parse a concept into so few words that they innocuously slip into my thoughts and then expand into such overwhelmingly complex ideas that my mind can no more hold them than a linen closet can contain a self-inflating raft … Definitely not!

And even if I could get past the greeting, what could I possibly say to make Max Lucado want to be my friend? I ain’t got no gift with words compared to the prose that flows from his pen. He has nothing to gain from being associated with me, but I would have much to gain from even a single word of praise from him for my meager attempt to form words into sentences as powerful as his. If he recognized my efforts, it would set me apart from the thousands emulating his style. If the master wordsmith himself said “Well done,” I would be grateful beyond even his ability to express it on paper!

What if somehow Max heard about me? If one day he scrolled through his list of fans and decided to send me a personal message and ask me to be his “friend”? Would I answer?
Are you kidding? Sure, I would accept his offer of “friendship”—right after I returned home from the hospital because of the sudden heart attack I had—and you’d better believe I’d tell every single person I would meet for the rest of my life that I was Max Lucado’s friend!

Yet why is it that whereas we are struck wordless or become blithering idiots when we can make contact with a personality we admire, we so casually ignore the invitation waiting for us from the Author of all things? That when God who spoke the universe into existence asks me to be His friend and to enter into communion with His heart, I sit here drumming my fingers, deciding whether or not I wish to respond? Have we gotten so familiar with the Almighty that we no longer think He is all that?

I admire God and am in awe at His power. I speak of Him often, have His words in my home, and have taught His Word to hundreds, but God is asking for more than my respect, admiration, or even the propagation of His name: He wants me. He wants me not just to talk about Him but to come and talk with Him (Psalms 27:8) because He wishes to share with me His secrets (Psalms 25:14). He invites me to come to Him not just the one time, when I first came to the cross, or yesterday when I spoke to Him, but even now He tugs at my heart to come into His presence (Psalm 100).

He has nothing to gain from association with me. He is God and I am dust. My greatest praises can add nothing to the greatness of Who He already is, but just one word of His favor gives me a place with Him forever. There is nothing in me worthy of such love and acceptance. And for Him to say “well done” over just a moment of my service for Him would be the pinnacle of my entire life.

I, like many, am a huge fan of God, but He invites me to be His friend. What wonder is this that God speaks my name?

And what am I doing wasting minutes on Facebook when instead I’ve been given an invitation to right now be seeking His face…?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Corrective Lenses

I’ve been so focused on the fine print of life that when I look up to see what is ahead, my vision of the future is blurred and my head begins to throb. I need to visit an eye specialist for help with my lack of perception. As I sit in this doctor’s chair and peer at his chart, he asks, “What do you see?”

It’s all dark and fuzzy, and all I can see is a big solitary X, as the future is a completely unknown variable.

“Here, put these on and tell me what you see,” he says, handing me a pair of glasses with rose-colored lenses to try.

“Okay,” I reply. I can make out ...

D O N ’T W O R R Y B E H A P P Y


Making some notes, he says, “All right, go ahead and read the next line.”

L I F E I S G O O D


“And now the smaller ones below that.”

I can’t make them out at all.

“Let’s try these lenses instead,” the doctor says. The frames are a sunny yellow and these lenses are clear. I take them and vaguely notice some cartoon character on the side. Balancing them on my nose, I read ...

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT’S AROUND THE BEND
A BIG ADVENTURE OR A BRAND NEW FRIEND


Taking off the glasses and looking at them, I find Curious George smiling up at me. “Um, I think these are meant for children, as the field of vision is pretty small,” I say, handing them back to the doctor. “My mind and experience level is a bit broader now, so these aren’t going to fit. I don’t think these flimsy plastic lenses will be powerful enough to give me the clarity I need.”

“Mmm hmm ... Okay. Now, let’s try these lenses.”

The glasses he places in my hand are minus colored lenses or flimsy composition. Putting them on, I find that they fit securely and that the lenses are large enough to enhance my entire field of vision. The future ahead of me clearly comes into focus as I move to the next line of the chart.

I A M W I T H Y O U A L W A Y S


“That’s right. Go on.”

G O D I S I N C O N T R O L


“And the next line?”

“That’s it,” I reply. “I've reached the bottom line.”

“Yes, yes you have,” agrees my optometrist.

“Would you be interested in using these lenses? They are part of our truth collection, and we’ve found them to be the very best lenses for accurate, clear vision. You’ll notice the special engraving on the rims.”

Along the top of the frames I read, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6), and along the bottom, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

When I take them off and peer again towards the future, I see nothing but a big X. There is no way I can successfully keep moving forward, with all the changes of life, with such limited vision. What has been offered to me is exactly what I need.
I'll take them!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How many licks does it take to get...

...to the center of a tootsie roll pop? What a delicious problem to have!

Instead I was wondering how many shovelfuls of dirt it would take to move this pile from here to there. The current count was 70 wheelbarrow loads with about 40 shovelfuls apiece. It looks to be more than halfway done so the final count could end up being somewhere around...5000?!(Excuse me while I go and get more aspirin...) Wow, it sure didn't look like it was going to take that much work... It seems there must be a "Murphy's Law" for that; something along the lines of "Any project takes three times longer to do than expected"?

We want answers! We want to know how many times...
will I have to remind my child to say "please" or "thank you" before they do it on their own?
will I need to pray about this problem before I see a resolution?
will I have to pass up that cake or get on the treadmill until I lose this weight?
will I interview before I find a job?
will people look at my house before they buy it?
will I keep getting up after I've fallen down?
will I do the right thing before I get the desired results?
will I need to resist this temptation before it no longer has power over me?
will I share the gospel with my loved one before they respond to the Lord?
will I need to have this conversation until the message gets through?

The tasks we're doing repetitively, that seem to never end, really will be finished someday. At some point there will be no dirt left in my pile. I know that 2,800 shovelfuls is not enough but I'm hopeful that it will be less than 5000!

Our tasks are not yet complete which leaves us with two options either quit or the option that comes with a promise. "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 At some point the children will learn, the project will be accomplished, the work will be over, the message will get through, and the rewards will be great.

This is not to say that there will not be sweat, tears, aching muscles, pained hearts or disappointments along the way but if we don't give up; if we take just one more shovelful of dirt, one more conversation, one more attempt, one more day, you never know...that could be the final one and the job will be done!

Whatever it is that you find yourself doing that seems it will never end - Hang in there and don't give up!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing with words, sheets, and pillows

"You've made your bed and now you have to lie in it."

You've heard these words, maybe even used them yourself. Obviously this is not a happy kind of a phrase and the above mentioned bed is not something one would want to lie in...! This represents a reality that is unavoidable and unpleasant, much like a hard unyielding mattress that waits for you at the end of a long weary day.

But what if we find ourselves in the Shop of God's Word and bring to our "bed" some additional truths?

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" Deut. 33:27. Knowing God's arms are under us would be like putting a plush pillow top on that mattress.

You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head...I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence!" Psalms 139:5,7 and that "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people" Psalms 125:2. His presence surrounding us is like cocooning ourselves in some soft top and bottom sheets.

"He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge." Psalms 91:4. Of course, what else but a fluffy down comforter of God's awareness and protection just waiting for us to snuggle under!

Twin truths like pillows for perplexed minds wait for us in these promises of peace and wisdom "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you" Isaiah 26:3 and "If you need wisdom--if you want to know what God wants you to do--ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking." James 1:5

So now, although the hard mattress of your reality remains the same, you've also brought into your heart the eternal truths of God's arms holding you, His presence surrounding you, His might covering you, His peace settling you, and His wisdom guiding you.

May you now, soundly and comfortably,"Rest in the Lord"! Psalms 37:7

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lies and a Retaining Wall

Today I was building a retaining wall and now I know why "blocks" were an integral part of kindergarten! (and who says you never use all that stuff you learned in school?!) Although the wall is not done yet, it's looking good and I'm learning all kinds of new things.

The first step was to get the bottom layer of bricks level and that takes a really long time. After that foundational layer was level and secure, the bricks practically stacked and correctly aligned themselves. Now this unusual activity for me has gotten me thinking about foundations. What are these base level of truths that we believe? What is it we're building our actions and subsequent beliefs off of?

Dr. Chris Thurman has a book called The Lies We Believe and in it he identifies some pretty common ones such as "Life should be fair", "People are basically good", "God's love must be earned", "It's easier to avoid problems than to face them", and "You can have it all". These are all lies I've believed along with ones like "I need everyone to like me", "God loves me more when I'm good", " I shouldn't be making the same mistakes twice", and "My value is directly proportional to my accomplishments"

The tricky part is that all these lies are pretty subtle and therefore not easily identifiable as not truth. What lies do we believe and what impact are they having on how we're building our lives?

If I believe that God loves me more when I'm good then suddenly His love is dependent on my actions. Although I've been saved by grace this lie causes me to live and feel accepted by God by what I do. And if, in my opinion, my works are not enough then God must love me less at some times than at others.

I would have never said that out loud to you. I don't know if I actually realized it myself until I heard the song "What If" by Jason Lavik.

"What if I climbed that mountain? What if I swam to that shore? What if every battle was victorious then would you love me more? Would you love me more? Lord, would you love me more? What if I were everyone’s first choice? What if I went farther than before? What if I stood high above the rest than would you love me more? Would you love me more?

What if I ignored the hand that fed me? What if I forgot to confess? What if I stumbled down that mountain then would you love me less? Lord would you love me less? What if I were everyones last choice? What if I mixed in with the rest? What if I failed what I passed before, then would you love me less?"

And I discovered that was really what I believed. Yes, I do think God does love me more when I'm victorious and stand out from the rest and when I'm mediocre and taking more steps backwards than forward, then He must love me less. I know that's how I feel about myself...

Wow, what a lie.

Realizing that I lived with this as a foundational truth changed some things. I'd been building on a lie and therefore there were parts of my life that were not squared with the truth.

So, is it possible to sit down right now and figure out if everything we believe is really the truth? I don't think so because some of the beliefs we hold to are so deep that we may not even realize the foundational concept on which we're basing our decisions. But as events occur that reveal to you what you really believe, don't be afraid to get out the "level" of God's Word and make sure that what you're believing is really worthy of being foundational in the structure of your life.