January 31, 2010

Winter Retreat

Snow days in the South are a beautiful of diversion.  I love living far enough  from the equator to have four seasons but really am thankful that snow/ice days don't last long.  When the temperature falls and the roads start to cover, life as we know it changes pace.  There are so many possibilities of what to do when everyone is home and the daily routine has changed.  I guess the best thing to do would be to clean out closets and drawers and catch up on things often left undone in the day to day of life when there isn't snow and ice on the ground.  But what I did instead:
  • Walked around in in my goose down, because if I got on sled at my age I would never get up and I am not into walking up a hill just to slide down it and possibly take off a body part
  •  Made cookies, soup, banana bread, and cooked a big supper with risotto on the menu (what else do you have to do; might as well stir rice)
  •  Played games with friends even when the game is pointless (bananagrams--what is the point?) 
  •  Put a 1000 piece puzzle together that you bought for $5 two years ago with the most unlikely people (that would be Bear!)  The odd thing about our puzzle was that instead of missing a piece we had an extra one!
  • Stood in wonder at the shadows cast on the snow from a cloudless sky with a full moon.
  •  Remembered the goodness of the Lord on a few days rearranged by weather that refocused our lives from its demands to its blessings!
Thankful for the snow days and thankful for the sunshine that is melting it today. Forecast 55 degrees by Wednesday!

January 27, 2010

Resignation and the Abundant Life

This is just an opinion but to me there seems to be spirit of resignation among the people of God. We often don’t live the abundant life Jesus promised us; we have stopped even believing it is attainable.

What am I talking about? What is it I see that manifests itself as resignation among the people of God. What does it mean?

Resignation: an accepting, unresisting attitude, state, etc.; submission; acquiescence: to meet one's fate with resignation.
-the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable

It hit me that resignation is born in cynicism and it is in direct conflict with faith. Faith is being certain for that we hope for, and evidence of that we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). And without faith, it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6). 

As we began our study Breaking Free this week,  I felt the Lord calling me to encourage my class members to resist the temptation to be resigned to the fact that they will always be who they are today…that their course has been set. Some of them have believed the lie that they need to settle in and accept that their experiences, those they have chosen by their free will, and those that were swept into their lives because of the sinfulness others, have sealed their destinies. I urged them to reject the feeling that many believers have that they have no option but to resign to what they have come to believe is true about their lives:  that what they are now is what they always will be.

Some of us are completely comfortable in the place of resignation; it feels right to us. We wear it like a coat. It is so comfortable we are at home in it. We don’t know anything else so we assume this is our reality. I say this because I have been there. I lived all cloaked up and very sure that my destiny was set in stone.  

But it wasn't my destiny and I "broke free."  Praise God! Or maybe, I could more accurately say, God broke me free.  By His grace, I walked out of the darkness into the marvelous light of God's love and freedom. I learned the power of grace and I chose to accept it rather than turning away from it as one unworthy. I am not worthy but that is exactly why I needed grace then and why I need it everyday to live free from the lies that once defined my life. To know that God loves me exactly the way I am has been the most liberating truth of my life. It has freed me up to trust God, love myself, and have great compassion for others. There is just something so wonderful that our God would take what was bitter and make it bittersweet. 

I cast cynicism aside for faith---faith in the God who does not fail, in His love, in His correction, in His power for living. Faith is the catalyst to the abundant life that is ours in Christ.  What a glorious gift of grace for now and forevermore. Amen and amen.

January 21, 2010

This World is Not My Home

Most people probably don't know the song that is the title of my blog today. We sang it a lot when I was growing up in the little country church where we sang from the shape-note hymnal. My Grandma sang it when she rocked me.
This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through.  My treasures are laid somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven's open door and I don't feel at home in this world anymore.
Since last week's earthquake in Haiti, I have been following the Livesay [Haiti] Blog (www.livesayhaiti.blogspot.com).  It is the daily happenings of a couple who are missionaries with a smaller Christian ministry on the island nation. Since I stumbled upon it, I have read the incredible story of this dedicated couple as they have ministered to the Haitians since the disaster hit last week. Their home has turned into a hospital. Troy "tweets" while he's out working and Tara fills in the days events on the blog.  I think it helps her deal with the incredible situation and it lets those who love them and those who don't know them, know what they are doing. The blog lets those who read it know how to pray.

Today, Tara ended her daily post with the following:
Our house is set up with room to sleep 20+ when I get home at night I have no idea who might be there. Different people have been sleeping over each night. At one time a few years back I could not deal with little messes without getting all uppity and cleaning it up instantly. Today I have friends and strangers in and out of my house and the place is totally unorganized -- crap everywhere ... but it is not bothering me yet. I let go of all of that need for perfect order and we're getting by without it. Hoping that will be true a week from now too.
Last night Troy walked in very late and one of our guests said, "Hi who are you and why are you here?" Wearily Troy said, "Well, I am Troy and I live here." :) The guest said, "Well then - make yourself at home." It's a little bit crazy. But we're still laughing.

I think there is a living lesson for Christians in Troy and Tara's new perspectives of what home is. Yes,  our homes are where we lay our heads but they aren't where are treasures are laid up. Thank you Troy and Tara for making your home a hotel and a hospital, a place for friends and strangers.  So many treasures you are laying "up somewhere beyond the blue."

January 14, 2010

Makenzie's Broken Heart

Makenzie is my friend Sherrie's precious little girl. Last night she was praying for Haiti. At some point  she asked her sweet Momma a question that when answered with truth broke her little heart. She wanted to know what happened to those who died without Jesus. Sherrie told her the truth that those who had not trusted Christ would spend eternity separated from God in hell. Of course, she was concerned for those she loved and decided with tears that she didn't want anyone to go there. Sherrie wrote me today because she was thinking about her sweet baby's heart and I think her own. Though thousands of miles from Haiti and the tragic realities that come with such devastation, I feel Makenzie's pain and I want her heart that no one go there. Sherrie was looking for answers for her baby and I was looking for answers for me. This was my response.  Right or wrong (and I could be) this was my heart today.

To Sherrie---

"As you can imagine, tears fell from my eyes as I read your email. Oh, the faith of a child that believes what the Bible says even if it breaks her heart.  If we could all be so heartbroken for the those who have not heard with their ears. We know that God has called us to be ministers of reconciliation to the world, to show them who Jesus is and to share His love but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who draws men to Christ.

To you I would say, that it got me to thinking about another time -- the time before the New Covenant when people looked to the hope that only God could make a way for them to enter His presence.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Job and many others in the Old Testament were looking to the Hope that God, because of His goodness, His kindness, His patience would make a way for them to come be with Him where He is in the most Holy of Place where man could never enter on his own merits.

I think all people have the inner understanding that "this isn't all there is."  God has placed eternity in our hearts. Eternity is our destiny. All mankind who find themselves in the Presence of God come there by faith--faith in the Someone, their Maker, who loves them and has made a way for them. Is our God not big enough to reveal Himself to every single person on earth?  Why did He reveal Himself to me??  Did I deserve to know the name of Jesus since I was eight years old? On this side of the cross, our faith is in Jesus. I think most of us in America would be shocked at the number of people in the world that know about Jesus---- even a tribe in Africa who has heard of him through legends told maybe for centuries. When I was in Cuba, the people there were so incredibly open to the gospel; there is no doubt that God sent us there at the exact time and place because he was drawing these people to Himself and he is now, I am sure, using many of them to tell others who Christ is. Of course, there are those who have never heard, or have heard there are other ways to get to heaven. The fact of the matter that it is fair that some won't go to heaven. If man chooses his own way then he has chosen death, but if he turns to the Living God who the Bible says has made Himself evident so that no one is without excuse, then I am going to trust God that He is working in ways I may not even be able to comprehend.  That's where you hit it on the head my friend! There is the Judge who knows the heart of a man, and He will decide if they have placed faith in His power to save them through the sacrifice of His Son. He did it for those who looked toward the cross and he does it for those on this side of the cross. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Of course, the above paragraph was for you and for me. We all have to remember Who the God is that made us and how incredible it is that His grace came to us. It is a mystery because we really didn't have anything to do with it. God is the covenant maker and keeper. We just received his gift and oh, is it good!

This is what I think you should consider sharing with Mackenzie. Talk to her about the mysteries of God. We can't know everything about how God works but we trust His character, who He says He is.  Remind her that he didn't let everyone die in the flood only the wicked. The Bible says His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We can't even begin to understand God. But we can act on the things that we do know--that God is love, that it is not His wish that anyone go to hell, but that all come to a saving faith in Jesus. He wants us to tell everyone about Jesus and serve others in his name. When we don't understand then we just tell Him we don't understand. But then we say, since he is God and we are not, we will trust Him. We remember He can see the whole story--from the beginning to the end. God is really big. Someday we will really understand that with our eyes when we see him in Heaven. Jesus came and died and came back to life. That is the greatest mystery of all. Even though we can't explain everything about it, we know it happened. We know it in our hearts. We can't see God but we know He is there. Remind her that God is so sad about Haiti. Everything bad that happens is because of sin, and soon Jesus will put the Earth back together like it was supposed to be. Until then we are his hands, his feet, and we tell of his love as long as we live or until Jesus comes back.

I think we all need a good dose of the mysteries of God thinking. We in our world want everything to be reasoned out and proven or we reject it. That is our nature, our culture beats this message into us, but it isn't going to happen with God. He requires that we will live by faith and we must do so to please him. We don't even understand how the brain works but we try to use it to figure out God.

I will be praying for you and Mackenzie. Jesus is showing up BIG in Haiti right now. Christians are in the best place to mobilize relief efforts.I know Samaritan Purse is already on the ground as well as Compassion, World Vision and others as well. Praise God for that even as we weep for them.  We know they have been working there for years and our hope is that many of those who died did hear the gospel before the earthquake and received Christ by faith. What we cannot know, we leave it to God, who has given us "hope as an anchor for our soul."

I love you. I really need friends who are real like you. Who wrestle it out with God. Be blessed. You have everything you need for this situation in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that has sealed you until that Day."  

January 8, 2010

Turning Nouns into Verbs

"Compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy are nouns. It's our job to turn them into verbs."--Mark Batterson
I been thinking I might need a job. My kids are quickly growing up and I have more time on my hands than I ever imagined. What in the world am I to do with myself?  I guess everyone thinks about what they need to be doing when a new year begins. It is January and 10 degrees outside but since I am in middle of life I know that before I turn around, I'll see a daffodil blooming in Susan's yard across the street.  

I live in eternity. For someone like me who has received the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, that eternal reality takes the concept of my life work into a different realm than just having a job. The truth is that I am also living in time. God put me in this time and this place for a purpose--to give Him glory. I was created for that purpose both now and forever.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning... Gen. 1:31
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecc. 3:11
One of the maxims that I have kept as a guiding principle in my life is that God is more interested in who who am than what I do. I still believe there is truth to the principle but the older I get, and have humbly accepted that I don't have to work to please God in order to have his favor, the more I realize that I want to make my faith work. I would say I am convicted that true faith works or it isn't faith at all. The Bible says:
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.  Jam. 2:26
When I saw the "tweet" quoted above on another blog, the words compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy caught my attention.  They are powerful words and they are all things that I possess. What was it about the tweeter's thought that pricked at my heart?

Compassion:   sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
Wonder:   a cause of astonishment or admiration
Curiosity:   desire to know
Energy:  a fundamental entity of nature that is transferred between parts of a system in the production of physical change with the system and usually regarded as the capacity for doing work
What good is it to have a heart of compassion but not offer encouragement, comfort, or love?  The world is full of wonders but do I notice them, acknowledge them to their wonderful Creator? Do I thank him for them? What good is curiosity if the desire to know is never accompanied with an effort to find the interests stirred within? And energy, with its capacity, its potential, why let energy wait when it could be expended on things that make compassion, wonder, and curiosity become active, essentially, if not grammatically, verbs. 

Could that be my job description this year? Could I work at making these nouns into verbs?  

The Apostle Paul made a statement to the early Christians that a friend sent to me this morning as an encouragement:
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.  I Thess. 5:24
So if God calls me to show compassion, experience His wonder, makes me curious, and gives me the breath to move from the chair to join Him at work in the world then it will come to pass. Bring it on my Faithful Friend.

I think I have a job.  

January 4, 2010

Crossing Over with Confidence

In my current Bible study on the book of Hebrews, the question was asked, "what does it mean to "hold fast our confidence" that Hebrews 3:6 speaks of?

....And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope."

The writer of Hebrews was encouraging those who read or heard his words to trust. I thought about this in regards to concrete things we put our confidence in on journeys through life. This was the answer that came to me about what it means to hold fast our confidence.

TRUST and keep trusting. You start off over a bridge because you are confident it will carry you over to the other side. Don’t stop trusting that once you have begun the journey. You started over the bridge assured that it would hold to the other side. The journey may get shaky in the middle and may cause you to consider again why it was you trusted in the first place. When you remember that you didn't enter in lightly, but counted the cost, you then have the courage to cross going forward without wavering or turning back. 

When we live our lives with this confidence then we can boast of our hope to others who have no hope, those who have no confidence that they will make it to the other side. When we remember Jesus, the foundation of our faith, the Source of our life, we are confident we will call out to others, come alongside them to bolster their courage on their journey.

That is what I think the writer is trying to do for his readers/listeners in the book of Hebrews. They began their journey but their confidence was wavering. So the letter to the Hebrews arrived and their eyes were turned from the incredible circumstances that must of been their lives (this was shortly before the destruction of the temple) back to the truth of the Christ, our Savior who had fulfilled the requirements of the sacrifices being offered in the Temple. Which house (Moses' or Jesus') was theirs?  Oh, how they needed "to hold fast" to Christ!  

An exhortation for the first century, is now a exhortation to us. To choose not live with our confidence in Christ is to live with insecurity, without vision, fearful, always second-quessing life and its choices.  It leaves us unable to come alongside others to bolster their courage. 

Let us put our confidence for the journey in the One who gave His life and destroyed the power of death so that we can live in hope all the way to the other side.