October 26, 2009

Courage and Baseball

For much of my life I was the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. I put on the face of having no fear, but the reality is that I was afraid. I wasn't afraid of typical things, like staying by myself or walking in parking lots at night. I was afraid to show others who I was. I didn't like the me inside of me and I certainly did not believe that others would like that person. Fear used to be a driving force in my life until God said enough. Just like the good Dad that he is, he used started moving me into circumstances where I would choose to trust myself or trust Him.

This journey began in the late summer of 1999. God showed me that it was time to deal with some things that I kept tucked away thinking they really didn't impact my life or how I lived. I was wrong. As I was confronted with these things in my life, I was like a batter whose turn came in the order but when I stepped up to the plate, I had no intention of swinging my bat. I feared that if I actually hit the balls that the Lord was tossing at me that I wouldn't make it even to first base. I feared failure. The irony is that failure was exactly what I chose. My paralysis in life kept me from achieving anything and kept my self-esteem at the bottom of a pit. There in the pit I stayed with myself and my insecurities until all the orchestrations of God got me to the place where he could give me the courage to trust Him and to allow Him to love me.

Beth Moore made a great point during one of our lessons on Esther. She said that we can only truly trust God when we are absolutely convinced of His love for us. I had no courage for so long because I didn't believe God loved me. When I finally came to a place where I understood that I had nothing to do with God's love, was when I was ready to receive it---to believe it.

Nine years have past since I chose to stand in the truth that "Jesus loves me this I know." How grateful I am that my Father didn't allow me to stay in game. He took me out of the game, put me through some workouts for the purpose of getting me back in the line up. Now, assured in His love, I can walk up to bat at clean-up.

I still hear the heckling and the chatter of the enemy, but I'm not afraid. My God has given me everything pertaining to life. I stand in Christ alone. Batter-up.

October 19, 2009

Too Deep

I hate sin. I hate that I'm a sinner.

God makes it clear that He hates sin.  It separated us from His Holiness and from relationship from Him.  But He loved us enough to send His Son as the One, the only One, set apart to take away the sins of the world. It is incredible that it was God's intention from the moment sin entered his perfect creation that He would redeem it. It has been called the "Greatest Story Ever Told" and it is.  Written on scrolls, and eventually finding it's way to a printing press, we get the whole story, the crimson thread that runs through the pages of Scripture culminating in the final Revelation, the Day of the Lord for which we long.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:19-26) 

Sin did more than separate us from God. It literally changed the world he created. It change ecosystems and introduced the consequences of sin upon the earth and the created on the earth. That included sickness to people I love and people I don't know, not caused by "a" sin but because sin spread like a virus scarring God's perfection and infecting the "sons of man." They are people I pray for---and I always ask for healing.

Sometimes I groan for those whose bodies are sick---emotionally sick or physically, both can be life-threatening and devastating. But I have HOPE and with perseverance I will wait eagerly. Waiting eagerly is hard. Waiting seems to be a non-active kind of thing to do but put the word eager with waiting and that changes everything about it.

Over the past few months, God has called me to more and more intercessory prayer and it has caused me to have wait and trust more than anything else that I "do" with Jesus. I realize that sometimes the anxiousness of my prayers actually is the eagerness of my waiting, the sure hope I have that God is working and that He will respond to prayer and I can praise Him and glorify Him for His answers. 

This is what I am learning: it is not just the answers that I desire that make prayer valuable. It is the gift of prayer.  It is the opportunity to put people before the God who loves them, knows them, and has a plan for their life.  It blesses Him but it blesses me more because it reminds me that He is not unaware of what sin has done to this world and to our human bodies. Jesus became "like us" yet without sin. He understands the pain and it breaks His heart.

Somehow, as I have learned to intercede, those things that break the Lord's heart, break mine as well.  The difference I realized lately compared to my prayer life in the past is that although I can empathize or sympathize, I can leave it to the God of hope. I leave it with God with hope. And incredibly, it is a hope that stays with me throughout the my days of praying without ceasing.  It is not the world's hope but the sure hope, rooted and anchored in the truth that redemption is near.  God is not slow about his promises. He will answer.

So today, as I pray for the sick and the hurting, I thank you God for the promise from Romans 8:26.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
I'm praying.  I don't have to write their names. This morning it's just too deep. Thank you Holy Spirit for stepping in the gap with me. How precious is that!


October 16, 2009

What I Know

God, this is what I know: You put me here in this place, at this time on purpose and for a purpose. Sometimes I understand--- I really get it. It amazes me and causes me to shutter at the same time. That you would call me out and use me at all after all I've been and the many times I turned away from your best for me to walk on my own is truly incredible. I know that there is more to the destiny you have for me; more faith that you will require of me; more revelation of yourself that you have for me. And what I know is that more than anything I want to obey even it is costly. From my heart, Amen.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

October 14, 2009

A Momma's Heart

This morning I just want to thank God for allowing me to be a mom. I named my first born Andrea; we call her Annie. My second born we named Jared; we call him Bear. My baby boy is Luke and the name stuck. They are all just really cool people.

Sometimes I forget that Annie got married last May. Yes, I know it but my heart forgets. I was listening to my music on my Shuffle the other day and an instrumental piece, "Carol Ann," that Annie must have played on the piano a million times began to play in my ears. It shocked me that instantly tears began to fall from my eyes, and it wasn't because I was sad, it was because I was grateful.  How blessed to have the privilege to raise a little girl to womanhood and then see her flap her wings and take off with that big hairy boy of hers. One that I love. He's great and I see them enjoying one another and I thank God for the boy I prayed for so long ago that now takes care of my baby girl.


And then there is "Number Two" my little man of integrity and grit, who gutted it out as the smallest one on the field but with the biggest heart.  He may not always do the right thing, but he wants to. I love that "want to" in him. He works hard and lives and loves with passion that he wears so comfortably. I think that is unique for a man--and he is a man now as much as I hate to admit it. He is getting his education, working a job, and paying off a truck. He blesses his parents even though he can be a little loud!

And then there is my baby, Luke. We tried to give him a nickname so he wouldn't feel left out. What he doesn't realize is that we didn't intend to give his sibs nicknames. It just happened. So I guess that Luke just suits him. His sister and brother helped name him and they liked that Luke was a doctor in the Bible like their daddy. And then we decided to put Jeffrey with Luke--Luke Jeffrey. And incredibly God gave us a child that is the spitting image of his namesake, his Dad.  Brilliant, funny, and flat-footed. Oh, how I love him and oh, how I dread the weeks to come when he takes the test for his driver's permit!


Yesterday, he learned a life lesson.  You make good grades when you study!!! Who would have thought-- 100 % on a nine-week math test. A miracle!! High fives all around. Luke loves getting out in the woods or on a river just like his dad.  Too bad he can't beat me at fishing.

Thank you God for a blessed life. How often do I forget to thank you for it, to revel in the wonders of the life that I live. I know you placed me here and allowed me this privilege of parenting these wonderful people in a grand kingdom purpose that only you know the impact for generations to come.  Thank you. I am humbled and so very grateful. Forgive me for taking any of the joys or the pains for granted for you have shaped a family for your purposes. Keep doing it, Lord. To your glory.

October 9, 2009

Identity

God has been dealing with the issue of identity with me lately. I told my Bible study class the other day that I think I have always struggled with identity. Who am I?

Twins aren't that uncommon today with all the new fertility treatments, but 45 years ago you didn't see a set of identicals that often. At least that was how I remember it all these years later. From my earliest memories I can't remember feeling like I was known by my name. My mother even missed it a couple of times calling me Leanne when as I pretty sure I was Deanne. Most of the time we were introduced or referred to as the twins.

I could recount many times when we were misidentified. Once my sister said she was eating at restaurant near where I live with her husband. Somebody there kept giving her the "evil eye." She knew that the woman was thinking I was out with another man! (And my sister did not say, "I'm not who you think I am!" Instead she risked my reputation, but we laughed it off.)

The older we have become the less mirrored we are in appearance yet my Mother returned a phone message I left her this week to my sister. The older we become the more I value the gift of a twin who has all the same chromosomes that I have. It is truly a blessing and I wouldn't change my life as a twin for anything. There is nothing a like a best friend that you met in the womb.

The struggle in my life lately is about actually laying hold and be courageous enough to let my life passion to be expressed in my identity. That passion is Jesus.

A question asked in one of my study questions from the book of Esther last week addressed this struggle.

"Are you going through a time of not knowing or showing your identity? Describe a few of the circumstances that make distinctiveness a challenge in your environment."

This is the answer I wrote in my workbook:  I struggle with my identity around other Christians. I hold back because I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. I tend to see my walk with Christ as my walk; my lack of control over their “reaction” to who they perceive me to be can be a challenge to allowing the “real” me—the crazy in love with Jesus-- me out. I hate rejection and I don’t want to risk it. So I wrestle with my identity and who I will allow to really know me.

The following quote defines so well where I want to be when I think about living out my true identity:

“No matter where you live and what your days look like, you have the choice each day to depend on yourself, to live safely, and to try to control your life. Or you can live as you were created to live---as a temple of the Holy Spirit of God, as a person dependent on Him, desperate for God the Spirit to show up and make a difference. When you begin living a life characterized by walking with Spirit, that is when people will begin to look not to you but to our Father in heaven and give him praise.” ( Francis Chan, Forgotten God)

Today I identify with Christ.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

October 6, 2009

This Jar of Clay?

Last February (2009) I was in Chisnau, Moldova. Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe nestled between Romania and Ukraine. It's geographical area I've heard described as the size of New Jersey. The people of Moldova speak Moldovan which is actually Romanian. For many years they were governed by the powerful government of the Cold War era, the USSR. Now they are independent, still communist-ruled and are struggling to find their identity between the powers of the European Union to their west and the wealthier former Russian states to the east. Moldova has few resources. It's only exported good is wine produced in its exceptional vineyards. But their most abundant resource is clay. If you happen to visit Moldova and plan to pick up a souvenir, there is a good chance it will be made of clay. Who doesn't love a folksy art piece from a far away place? The problem with the clay objects, with pictures of village scenes scratched into them, is that the vast majority of them are not put in a kiln. They haven't been fired and they are fragile. Let's just say baggage handlers in airports give Moldovan pottery many opportunities for the red clay souvenir to turn back to dirt.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)  
This a is verse God gave me a few weeks ago when I was reading a book that referenced it. I began to memorize and meditate on it over this past week. I have come to realize I have a treasure, the precious of gift of life in Jesus Christ and it's in me-- a jar of clay. What an awesome treasure given by the Father!

In my spirit, I hear  the whisper "Here, Dea take notice of the Holy Spirit, let Him dwell in you to the fullness of who He is, be filled, and let that Presence be reflected in your life. Know the great Treasure in your jar."

An honest question to a God who I believe loves questions:
"This jar of clay?"

"Because... Lord, I feel that if anything were to come against me I might crumble. I find myself feeling hard pressed on every side, but the truth is I am not crushed. In fact, I can breathe in the depths of understanding that You Are and I find peace for my soul."

"And Lord, I am often perplexed and without understanding in this world that seems so idol crazed and evil. How often do I ask you why? Yet, I am not despairing. I put my trust in You for you have never forsaken those who seek you."

"Thank you, Lord, that I do not know persecution, not like my Christian brothers and sisters in other places in the world. Am I living in a way that does not threaten those who would persecute me for your name's sake? Am I taking up the cross and following you daily?"

Yes, Lord, I know what it means to be struck down. But I am not destroyed. Praise God it is to your glory!"

"This jar of clay?"

In the still small Voice, I hear "Yes, you are the jar of clay I have chosen."

So God chose to put His treasure in my jar of clay. I've been focusing on the jar but I missed the point of the Scripture. It is more about the treasure than the jar. I am no longer worried about being crushed and destroyed and turning "back into dirt."

I kept asking God a question with a very simple answer. God can use any "jar of clay" because it's not the strength of the jar that matters, it is the Treasure that is in the jar that shows off the power of God. The journey may get bumpy and I may feel the pressures of life on the road, but this jar has enough power to make the trip all the way to the final destination.

October 5, 2009

Kissed

In the Bible God often has authors of different books repeat things twice for emphasis.  Basically, God is saying through this emphasis, "pay attention to this!" Over and over as I meet God in the Bible and books, songs or sermons, God will bring the same Scripture to me more than once within a short period of time. Sometimes they are Scriptures I know and maybe think I have some understanding, and sometimes I think "what??"

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I went to Mexico with Keith and Susan. Our beautiful hotel was situated where every room had an ocean view. Awesome. It also had a big balcony.  Every day, when the Lord called up the morning, my eyes would sense that little bit of red that announced that the earth would roll back and let the sun make it's daily arrival.  We were on vacation but I couldn't resist. I slipped from bed, took my devotional book out on the balcony to see what God had painted up for the day and to thank Him and praise Him for His glory and for giving me another day live in this beautiful world He created.

The really sweet thing was that most mornings in real life I don't see Jeff since he heads off so early. It was a real treat for me when he slipped out the door to see what I was up to. I loved it when he would join me, have a pot of coffee ordered up to the room and turn to me and say "What's the Lord have to say today?" Wow, could anyone know what that meant to me?

On one day in particular, I turned in my Daily Light devotional and read September 26.  I stopped when I read this verse: "Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed." Ps. 85:10  What in the world?  I asked, "Have I ever read that? What does it mean?"  I told Jeff I was going to have to meditate on that. There were five words in that Scripture that intrigued me: mercy, truth, righteousness, peace, and that one word that stuck out like a sore thumb, kissed. They kissed!

I thought about it a little, but not much, thinking I would have to wait to get home and get into a few commentaries so someone smarter than me can tell me what this meant.

But I didn't have to wait. (God is good!)  On the flight back I read Timothy Keller's book, The Prodigal God. Near the end he was explaining the significance of the feast thrown by the father for the son who had come home, and also how devastated he must have been that the his other son, the "older brother," refused his father's invitation to the feast.  And there in the middle of the talk of a feast was Psalm 85:10. The Lord had my attention.

Here is Keller's explanation based on probably the best remembered parable of the New Testament.
Jesus tells us that both the sensual way of the younger brother and the ethical way of the elder brother are spiritual dead ends. He shows us there is another way: through him. And to enter that and to live a life based on his salvation will bring us finally to the ultimate party and feast at the end of history.  (Keller, Prodigal God, p. 132)
Grace is the link between the law that could not save us and sin that would kill us. Grace was the kiss. It is the wonderful, powerful touch of God. I have been kissed by God into eternity. None of us can just stand in knowledge and obedience like the older brother and get angry at God for blessing the undeserving younger brother. Obedient or undeserving, what the Father really wants from us is  relationship. He wants to kiss us. Give us grace and with it righteousness and peace. He wants to know Him, know His heart, sit down and eat with him taking in all that is on his banquet table. Our Father wants to celebrate. Joy comes with righteousness through the grace of our Father who loves us so. Now I believe that calls for a feast:
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wines--- the best of meats and finest of wines.
On this mountain he will desroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
           The LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)

 Praise God I've been kissed. I am so hungry for that feast that is coming!