Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dumbest Kid in the Class

Have you ever felt like the dumbest….

No, wait, I’m not even going to ask that question because I hope your answer would be “No. Of course not. I have no idea what you’re talking about!” (And just in case that wouldn’t be your response, I won’t even ask).

I hate that feeling. Like not only is everyone around you “getting it” but that it really isn’t that difficult a concept and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to comprehend it. For me it is a depressing, isolating, frustrating and discouraging experience, feeling stupid is not fun.

Now it is one thing when it happens in a school situation –quite another in a work environment – and most serious of all when it occurs in “real life.” School might mean a bad grade, work could be a loss in advancement or employment but what about when we’re missing it in life?

I find that I get into a situation, have a problem, a decision to make or a conflict and suddenly I’m the kid with the blank stare on her face. What am I supposed to do? How do I even start solving this equation? What are the pertinent factors? Could someone at least give me some multiple choice answers??? And even though I know that at one point I learned the process and knew how to find the answer now I can’t even remember the basics!.

In preparation for a writing conference I’ve been looking over my writings. Over the past 3 ½ years I’ve written about 300 times. I write when I’ve been so inspired by something that I cannot not write about it; when I have learned something about God that is so big to me that I have to share it. So, in using the learning motif, I have written an “essay” on these concepts of faith approximately twice a week for the last 45 months and STILL, when I get into a situation, I act like I’ve never heard any of the answers before!

How patient is God with us? How many times He comes to us with the same lesson again and again as currently “testing” reveals we just haven’t gotten it yet…

I am beginning to realize that, when it all comes down to it, there are only two things I have to learn; only two truths that impact all of my reality. God is God (and I am not) and Jesus loves me. Who knew that the song I learned as a toddler was actually my earliest exposure to this concept I’ve still yet to grasp?

In every situation there is God – holy, powerful, sovereign, above us, with a plan, in control, of greater understanding that we can every comprehend and there is the fact that He loves us – sent Jesus to die to offer redemption, is a constant help, companion, advocate, strength and is watching over and taking care of those He loves.

Think about it. The thing you’re facing right now. How do these two truths effect the situation and your response to it? It really is all you need to remember.  If God the possessor of all power, strength and understanding loves you - what else do we possibly need to know?

So even though I may have come to the understanding every week for the entirety of my life and yet still forget when a new "test" comes I, the dumbest kid in the class, am assured that God has not given up on me yet because, after all, God is God and Jesus loves me!

“Being confident in this very thing that He which began a good work in your will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tenacity

For the past few days we've had 20 to 60 mph winds and they are brutal; I keep expecting tree branches to land on the roof...

I had also expected that these vicious winds would strip the trees of all their colorful leaves...


but as you can see from the video, they have not!
(if video does not appear click here http://thinking-on-these-things.blogspot.com/2010/10/tenacity.html)

These are autumn leaves - they are already on their way out - they've got just a few more weeks until they fall to earth and die - their summer season is over yet they are still hanging on and holding firm for all they are worth. Their glory days are over and these winds are fierce yet these leaves are tenacious!

How tenacious are we when the winds blow? It is easier to be dedicated and have that bulldog determination when we're younger or the situation is new but how about when the winds are familiar as we have already had to hold on through many previous storms? When this is not your first rodeo, dance, or trip around the block; how do you hold on when you don't feel as strong or you're not as young as you used to be?

I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, "Now it is required that those that have been given a trust must prove faithful."  But how do we do that?

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Father." Hebrews 2:2

"Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." I Peter 2:21

We can remain faithful because we are not blazing the trail on this path of pain and difficulty. Christ has walked it before us, and now He walks it with us. We are never in the storms all alone.

"You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am...You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head." Psalms 139:3,5

There is One who is holding onto us, surrounding us, no matter how fierce the winds that blow.
If these leaves can hold on through these gusty winds, surely can not I hold on too when there is One who is holding me?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

God bless "Don Jose"!

My daughter is in the opera Carmen at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  This is a big deal as it's not a small town hall kind of presentation. The fact that the main floor tickets are $194 should tell you something in itself!

At last night's performance Yonghoon Lee, who is in the starring role of "Don Jose", brought in a cookie cake to the children's chorus and on it he'd had written "Jesus loves you very much".

Yonghoon Lee is South Korean and Katie says seems to speak broken English.  He is young and a rapidly rising star in the opera word with a smooth powerful voice. Everything about him could say "diva" but this star chose to share his faith with a group of children.

His ingenuity speaks to his passion for Christ.
This was something he never "had" to do yet went out of his way to do as a witness.
Think about this (as I've done nothing but think about it since she came home with this news). He's leaving Chicago soon as the performances are ending. The only contact he has with the children is briefly on stage in the first act. Yet, apparently he so desired to tell them that Jesus loves them that he found a way to do it.

I find it extremely hard to witness. I worry about what people will think of me and if what I say will come out "right".  I wait and wait and wait for the perfect time and opportunity - which of course never seems to come - yet this young man made an opportunity and chose words to share despite what this would cause others to think.

Sadly Katie tells me that some of the kids now think he's a freak... however I think he's a shinning testimony to me of the kind of witness I, and all of us who love the Lord, should be.

May God bless Yonghoon Lee and bring many to Himself because of this man's bold and faithful witness!

Monday, October 25, 2010

1-800-4UR- HELP

It's happened.
I knew it would although I was hoping it wouldn't  for at least a few more years; but it's already happened twice...

I had to phone a friend.
For help.
With my son's homework...

I knew eventually he'd be in a subject I couldn't help him with and I expected it to be Calculus or Honors Biology; surely I could be the expert on all things through elementary school and Jr. High...

Nope.

And it even gets worse than that; last night when I was talking to the friend having it explained to me so I could explain it to him I couldn't understand it and had to turn the phone over to my son to hear the explanation and who understood it immediately! (and I'm still not clear on the whole subject...)

There comes these times when we don't have the answer; as much as we want to and as desirous as we are to help, we can't.
But we know One who can.
He has promised to give wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5). We know that He desires for us to walk in His ways and follow His commands so God will not be grudging in giving answers to those who are seeking Him.

But, like my son last night, I couldn't get the answer and then give it to him.  He had to get it from the source himself. We can pray for those around us who are seeking answers and whose problems exceed our ability to advise. We can lead them to the Source of all answers but they must do the asking as we cannot ask for them.

And therein will they not learn the bigger truth? Beyond help for the immediate need they will know what it means to seek God and isn't that truly the greatest lesson of all?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Showers of Blessings


There are experiences that cannot be described adequately by words or captured on film and walking through a boulevard of trees as the leaves rain down on you and crunch underfoot is one of those inexplicable and heart-awing moments.

You are surrounded by beauty, so stunning you are silenced as you watch the glorious color that is over you and also swirling around and showering down. And then these leaves remain on the pathway, audible reminders of their presence completing this whole multi-sensory immersion into the grandeur of Fall.

It is the season of gratitude; of open eyes to the majesty of God's faithful care over us and the blessings He showers down upon us. It is the perfect time to realize that as the leaves falling from the trees are many, so also have been our blessings.

Typically my family will make lists around Thanksgiving of what they are grateful for but this year it is time to visualize the blessings as they're showered on us - not in neat rows and an chronological times but by the handfuls and scattered throughout life. This year I will write my blessings on paper leaves and make a pile - a glorious, messy, taking-over-the-table type of pile and thereby remember that is how generous God is and how much I have been blessed.

How great is our God and how much we should praise Him! Psalms 48:1

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Open my Eyes?

I love my eye doctor! He is the most enjoyable and engaging medical professional I have ever been forced to spend time with (seeing that two of the four of us are quite bereft in the vision department, it has been a decent amount of time). 

He is knowledgeable, funny, and caring, and  he takes his time with the exam and in answering all my questions.  I love it as a patient in the chair, not so much as one in the waiting room but at least I know my time with his undivided attention is coming.

Last night he dilated my pupils and, although I've worn contacts the majority of my life, I'm still a bit squeamish about things being put into my eyes but it was necessary. So I laid my head back and opened my eyes wide for the drops. After a few minutes, when my pupils were wide open and fixed in place so they couldn't constrict; he took an extremely bright light and, getting right up to my eye, looked through my open pupils to the back to check out the health of my retina. It was intense and for the rest of the evening my vision was altered.

We sing these beautiful choruses that say "Open my eyes that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me" or "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you." but I've found having one's eyes opened can be a very uncomfortable experience.

God often brings a catalyst into our lives that opens our eyes and then with the light of His Word examines our hearts and it is revealed to us that all is not as it should be with our souls.  Sudden illness or downturns or conflict or conviction disclose that deep down faith is frail and doubts are lurking; that when push comes to shove perhaps beliefs ascribed to by lips and intellectual assent have not taken root and flourished in the heart.

I've recently had my eyes opened and am still processing through what it exposed.  I liked the way I saw things before my vision was altered because with new sight comes new responsibility. So now I must chose to respond appropriately or close my eyes to what God has shown me.

May our all-powerful and loving God, who opens our eyes, also give us the ability and courage to walk in this newness of sight.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

To-Do Lists of MANY things

I’ve given up trying to remember...

I’m not saying I’m old but I’ve given up trying to remember things. And, since it seems my memory is only as long as my pencil, I make lists – lots of lists –for everything because writing it down is my only hope of remembering what it is that I’m supposed to get done! I wish I could say this was a new thing but if it’s a sign of old age I’ve been old for decades!

There is always so much to do isn’t there? I feel that I cross one thing off and then add two more. I’ve discovered this morning that I’m not the only one…

“While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’ The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ” Luke 10:38-42

Many tasks…

One day I was asked what I’d done that day and so I listed it – every last thing - and even I was amazed at the accounting because it was full of many, MANY things. I’ve always felt bad for Martha in this story – Mary, just sitting around, gets the credit for doing the right thing while Martha, busy providing for everyone, is chided.

Notice however that it was Martha who invited Jesus into their home. She was out there being hospitable. I wonder what prompted her to invite Jesus; my guess being she must have known something about who He was and what He’d been saying. She is the one who shows this interest and first step towards faith.

But then the reality of inviting Jesus and his numerous disciples for a meal overshadowed the original intentions she started with; the bread would not bake itself! And soon,as she was so distracted by her many tasks, she was missing the opportunity to spend time at the feet of Jesus.

It’s apparent that she went complaining to Jesus resentful but perhaps it isn’t with the obvious resentment of her sister’s lack of help but perhaps; it is more her resentment that she wished she also had the luxury of time and responsibilities to be listening to His words…
While I can’t project that on her I know that’s typically how I feel when having a get together as I end up so busy with the hosting that I’m lucky say more than a passing hello.

I think Martha meant well – she had high aspirations. She invited Jesus to her home, to come in and be with her but then she got distracted by the many things.

There will always be many things to distract us.
ALWAYS. Many MANY things!
So while we’re intentional about inviting Jesus into our days, let’s not get so distracted with everything else, that we fail to spend time at His feet actually being with Him. There will always be things but spending time with Him is the most important thing of all the ones on the list!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My God - from the moment I was born...

"You brought me safely from my mother's womb and led me to trust you...You have been my God from the moment I was born." Psalms 22:9-10

Every birth is a miracle although sometimes there is more awareness of that miracle than other times - difficult conceptions, tenuous pregnancies, and deliveries that don't go as planned lead one to affirm, "You, God, brought me safely from my mother's womb!" My own two children can praise God in that way as they each wanted to make their appearance into the world far earlier than expected (overachievers from the very beginning I guess!) and I claim this verse as my own as well.

The year was 1966 and a girl was pregnant.
I don't know her name and  never remember seeing her face.
The pregnancy was unwanted and,  although I do not know the circumstances, this baby's future was uncertain. Was she young? Unmarried? Were her parents supportive and helpful or distant? Was she sent away to give birth as girls of that time and culture were? Did the baby's father know or care what was happening? Did she hold her daughter or never look on her face? Did she mourn when she gave her away or were her emotions more of relief? Did she return to her previous life? Finish school? Go on to marry and have other children? Does she still live today? Does she ever think of the daughter she never knew?

While I don't have those answers I do know this "You have been my God from the moment I was born."
I realize now how helpless a newborn is, and how it was of God that there was the giving of an infant and an organization of people who valued life and  found willing arms in which to place that baby.

You have been my God from the moment I was born.
It's true actually of all of us

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb" Psalms 139:13
He has been our God since our very beginning.
The question is do we recognize Him as "my God"?

Is there any term more personal as one that says "my God"?
Not God, or Lord of the Universe, The High Holy Impersonal One but the God who is mine because I have accepted His invitation to become His child and live attune to His direction. You may acknowledge Him as God but do you relate to Him as "my God"?  It is the most precious relationship you will ever have for to be loved unconditionally by an all-knowing God is a priceless gift. You will never be apart from His watchfulness or care. No matter what other friends or family may fail or no longer be with you, God's presence is constant. His mercies are new every morning. He guides our steps and tells us which path to take. It is a relationship that only grows sweeter and deeper as the years go on and He's promised that as He was my God from the moment I was born that He will be my God until the last moment of my life.

"I created you and 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 46:4

Do you know my God? Is He your God as well? Do you sense that in all that happens to you this day that His presence is with you and that He is watching over you? "Praise the Lord! Praise God our Savior for each day He carries us in His arms!" Psalms 68:19

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Old" Faith

I had a necklace and I'd lost it; so after months of not finding it I decided it was time to replace it. Bringing it home I noticed how shiny it seemed and sparkly.

Of course the afternoon I came home with the replacement necklace I found the original one! With them side by side now you could really tell the difference between the two. One was brand new and unsullied yet the other was a deeper sheen.

So compared to the old would I keep the new instead? All bright, fresh, and shiny?
Not a chance.

I had begun wearing this cross necklace as a reminder to myself of who it is I belong to and to whom is entrusted with my care. The subsequent years found me fingering it through hospital rooms and doctor’s offices, entering a new decade, and days in which life just didn’t work the way it was “supposed” to. It had come to represents a faith that is old and experienced; and a God that has been tried and proven Himself faithful time and time again.

I remember the shininess of first love when I first entered this relationship with the Savior but now it is a faith that has been forged through the fires of life and has come out as pure gold.

God is faithful. Always. Never has He abandoned the soul that has been entrusted to His care. Never has he fallen asleep and been caught unaware. This is the testimony to me of my necklace and of my life, and is true for every life that looks to Him as their God.