Wednesday, November 8, 2017

For the perfectionist

When with my eyes I try to see
A perfect world around me be
No mess, no stress, everything in a row
My heart may seem happy
But my vision is low

When with my eyes looking through God's view
They open up to things quite new
Heartache, trauma, loss, grief
First to appear
Difficult to believe

It may feel hopeless
You may feel doubt
The emotions that surge, we'd rather do without
But when looking through God's view you try
It keeps our vision way up high.

From that way now my eyes can see
How hope infuses everything
From the simplest smile to the highest praise
His hand it guides
It shows the way

Love and Joy, Faith and Trust
It never did depend on us
Perfection striving is a ceaseless task
Always trying, always lack
Until within His Son's light you bask.

This Perfect one
He is so near
Your eyes, your heart
It becomes quite clear
This world's imperfections mercifully show
It is along His path I long to go.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

because there are stages in your growth

Each of our three boys learned to ride their bikes in very different fashions, ones that honestly matched their overall personalities.  Our oldest learned gradually, methodically moving from one step to the other until he finally stopped freaking out enough to realize he was really riding on his own.  The video of the first ride is priceless!  Our middle just decided one day that that was the day he was going for it and then pretty much jumped on the bike with minimal help and took off as if he'd practiced the event so often in his head that he didn't need practice in the physical world.  Oh to have his confidence and determination.  Our youngest, oh that baby, rocked his first time on two wheels.  I was inside cleaning the kitchen when he came and told me he wanted to try his two wheeler.  Not even bothering to put on shoes, because this boy had cried wolf before, I very shortly found myself running barefoot down the street with our oldest videoing his first epic ride. However the day after that first ride, and for many more, he claimed he didn't know how to do it anymore and wouldn't even try.  It wasn't until his neighbor friend came over on two wheels and upon seeing "the competition" yelled "Daddy get my bike." Since then it has still been an up and down experience because, bless his diva heart, if the conditions are not PERFECT buckle up for a patience draining trip around the block.

While my own journey to learning to ride a bike is not one I wish to remember, I see myself so much in each of their scenarios, especially in regards to my faith.  Whether it's methodically doing the right steps the right way so that the end result is practically perfect or jumping in on my own confident that I can get it done or going down the trail of trying, succeeding, fearing failure, quitting and trying again, I am constantly given opportunity to "work out my salvation in fear and trembling"

When through our past sufferings God bent me towards a desire to write and share, I at first took it as a yes to feeling confident in Christ to share the things placed upon my heart without fearing my lack of theological prowess and coming across as not reformed enough, or not loving and open enough, or maybe even seeming completely heretical.  As time has gone by I also have seen it as a confidence in sharing my short comings, the ways I am still very much being worked on as my Inner Dispostions are being changed.  Even again this past weekend as we were sharing with an elder at the church we are going to be joining, that pesky theme of self-righteousness reared it's ugly head again as I was sharing my faith story.  It is what Satan uses to derail me and what God uses to continually draw me to Him.

If given my wish, my bike metaphor for faith would be God give me a push so I can ride on my own from here.  Amen again and again that he doesn't leave me on my own.  I wouldn't want to see the massive crash that would happen.

When thinking of the verse from Philippians 2 that talks about working out your salvation with fear and trembling it was never the fear and trembling part I had a problem with odd since that word fear usually is in my top five of describing myself.  While I am thankful that as a teenager I learned in this scenario that fear is just a deep respect and trembling is just coming in humility. the problem I have always had is with the working part.  What God always calls working I seem to translate as earning instead.

Faith is a walk, a working out, a struggle between flesh and spirit.  It is not perfect, but within it we are being perfected.  Looking back over the years there are three distinct stages of growing in faith that have emerged.  As time continues and "knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:3-5)" more knowledge will transform into wisdom and the stages of growth will expand.  That is His promise until the work in us is completed.

For now, here are the three stages that have been walked through in my life and I pray my story disappears in your thoughts and yours comes forward and you will either see yourself in one of these or be able to discern your own, not to become discouraged at your lack, but to feel power in your weakness and hope in the growth that is promised.

Stage 1- Passive Faith 
     For reasons that would require an extensive explanation of my background that will not be shared here but will delightedly be shared with you personally over a cup of tea should you ask, there was a very long period of time where a passive view on faith led my life.  While there have always been hints of self-righteous earning and the desire to be good and do good in hopes that that would up my status, the majority of my life was spent thinking that faith was just something that happened to you as in God gave us each a measure of faith and we were kind of stuck with how much we got.  Thinking no matter what I did either way would make a difference I became equally content and discontent.  

Stage 2- Aggressive Faith
     In my late 20s after a sermon series on the spiritual disciplines my spiritual life changed dramatically. Eyes were opened to Truths and Promises that were never quite understood and there before me in lists and notes were ways and things I could do to grow.  Read, Meditate on the Word, Pray, Watch, Fast, Worship, Memorize...all actions.  All tangibles that sent me from being a spectator to jumping in and participating.  It was a time of amazing growth and learning and prepared my heart for the trials that would come just a few short years later.  While this remains one of the most memorable times of being drawn close, in the background self-righteousness was growing as well.  Creeping in on was a thought in my head that now that I've started I have to keep going.  I have to work hard to continue to grow and learn.  Subconsciously the gift of a new found and growing faith was taken over and thankfulness began shifting into triumph.

Stage 3- Active Participation
     There are times in life where God will break you down just so He can rebuild you.  So that He can rebuild you because you have been doing your level best to build yourself.  He does not need us to fulfill His plans.  As hard as that is to hear, it's true.  We are not powerful enough to destroy His plans and we are not Holy enough to fulfill them.  However, we are loved enough to be asked to participate in His Kingdom for our own benefit, for the encouragement to others, and for His ultimate Glory.  We are asked to participate through the disciplines, through acting out our spiritual gifts, through practicing the fruit of the spirit.  We are asked to participate so that we get a front row seat to seeing Him work, and love, and grow, and build, and disciple, and rescue.  We get a front row seat to the fulfilling of His promises so that we will learn to see His hand in every minute detail of life so that, instead of trying to go it alone, we burrow deeper into the shadow of His wing knowing that is the only place to be.  

I wish I could say I am fully entrenched into the Active Participation stage that I rejoice in the gift of Faith given and the way in which it increases only through Christ, but the world being the broken world it is, I crawl away at times and lie and wait for things to happen or try again to ride on my own with nothing but a push.  Then again He reels me in and loves me anyway.  

Today I pray for you words from John Piper, "Lord, thank you for our faith.  Sustain it.  Strengthen it. Deepen it.  Don't let it fail.  Make it the power of our lives, so that in everything we do you get the glory as the Great Giver.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

loving my neighbor: an ode to anne shirley

In fair warning to you, my dear reader, the following will be a little different than my normal.  But alas, this writing time for me is just a continual saying of Yes to the One who I believe is asking me to do it and today I feel more than a little compelled to say a thank you to a quite fictional person whose example can, and arguably should, be made real to others through us, His children.

Anne Shirley is a beautifully, spunky female character created by L.M. Montgomery in the early 1900s and lead character of the book Anne of Green Gables and it's many sequels.  She was made more popular due to the PBS movies that came out in the mid 80s which introduced her to a new generation and generations since.

One of my best friends from early elementary school through today introduced me to this girl who would influence my heart greatly.  Being a red head herself, my friend was very fond of Pippi Longstocking and Anne Shirley.  Most of our early sleepovers involved watching a movie featuring one of these carrot tops.  I received the box set of books one Christmas and read the first one many times as well as watched the first two movies over and over.  For those who are also fans, you know why I don't mention the third installment.  It was truly terrible.  I even upon meeting the man who would become my husband found a greater love for him because he not only knew who this girl was but he also had a great affection for the story as well. He was my own personal little Gilbert Blythe.

It was not until adulthood, and bonding with other truly kindred spirits after the death of Jonathan Crombie, that I read past the beloved first Anne of Green Gables and farther into the set.  Quite quickly I realized that the woman this Anne-girl grew up to be was a woman I longed to be as well.  There are many things to love and respect about this character, from her young spunky honesty and dreams to the wisdom she gains through experience and desire to make the most of all situations because as she says "It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will." 

Above all else, the thing I admire the most is the way she loved others, showing that love, true Gospel love, was indeed an action.

Art imitates life, but there are times where Art is showing me how I need to imitate it.

So, here are 5 ways Anne loved well and gave us an example of showing The Gospel in life.

1.  She leaves people better than when she found them.  Repeatedly, she makes her way into the lives of the lonely, the grumpy, the gruff, the quiet, the wild and changes them, not with force or lessons, but with love and words.  Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the world scouting movement, challenged us in 1941 to "Leave the World better than we found it."  This simple statement can be applied to our homes, our schools, our friendships, our churches, and any person and any place with which we come in contact.  A welcoming smile, a kind hello, a friendly hug, an honest answer, a helpful hand can turn another's day around.  It's just being a light and Shining a light. And just as Jesus is the light of the world, a city on a hill,. "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

2.  She seeks them out and approaches them first instead of waiting to be approached.  I was struck by one of the stories in the book Anne of windy poplars where a fellow teacher named Catherine after being consistently rude on a daily basis was invited home for the Christmas holidays by anne simply because she knew this woman needed a friend and felt energy within that it was something she needed to do.  Just as my first reason stated, This woman left to go home much better then when she came.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am not the only one who has found themselves in a situation where they feel alone.  Even the most extroverted of extroverts have at least one experience where they were out of their comfort zone and unsure of exactly who they should talk to and what they should say.  I love Anne's desire to not just approach others, but to approach the unapproachable.  Those who with every ounce of themselves are trying to repel others due to their own insecurities and yet she reaches out and loves anyway.  "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even tax collectors do the same?"

I am drawn to the wall flowers, to the ones who are trying to hide because maybe they don't think they have anything to offer.  There is a desire within to give them a glimpse of how much they are loved and sought after by God by seeking them out.  In those people, I see a past version of myself.  Knowing the girl who once didn't understand her worth, has been gifted enough reminders to fill a book that she is completely known and completely loved and worth every spiritual blessing in Christ.

3.  She thinks about what she can do for another instead of what they can do for her.  In his letters Paul tells us to "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself." and to "let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

It is not just in this modern world where we have a desire to look out for ourselves and ourselves alone. It is a sin that was introduced into this world from the first moment of the Fall and has weaved its way into every aspect of our being. The only way to fight it is with the help of the Holy Spirit and the best way He provides for us to do that is to practice putting others above ourselves until little by little, leap by leap, the desire of our heart is not for what we want, but instead for how we can sacrifice ourselves for others, giving to them instead of receiving for ourselves.

4.  She listens.  And listens intently.  I have shared in the past the importance of saying things out loud. That moment where your words full of fears, desires, insecurities, confessions, and dreams become a voice to be heard is most often a milestone moment in a life that sets you forward into the next thing that needs to be done on your life's journey.  To have someone there who listens, truly listens, is a precious gift. Yes, advice is wonderful. Yes, empathy and compassion and encouragement our treasured gifts too. But to have someone sitting and listening, intently listening, to the words that seem to be falling from your heart, is such an example of the unconditional love, care, and steadfastness that our Heavenly Father has.  It is bearing the burden of another as they finally let go of the things weighing them down and see another help them carry it.

5.  She, on occasion, crosses a line of friendship from passive into active pushing others to do what they have always long to or felt that they needed to but didn't have the courage to do alone.  I cannot pick a favorite quality shown, but if hard-pressed to do so this one could be given that title. Not because it's something that I do well though hopefully I have been able to in the past then again in the future, but because it is one that has been done for me countless times. Often, I am blinded to my strength because of the focus I put on my weaknesses. And while His power is made perfect in my weakness, there are times where insecurities freeze so firmly that it takes a voice from the outside fueled by the love of God within them that melts those insecurities into actions.  It's why we were created for community. It's why we are so mercifully given the body of Christ to walk with us.  Because of this, "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day Drawing Near." (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

Loving our neighbor is a command, not a suggestion.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39)  Not just the ones you like.   Not just the ones who are just like you.  Not just the ones who were nice to you first.  Not just the ones who can scratch your back if you scratch theirs. Everyone is your neighbor, look around and love them. 

I know it is not an easy task, nothing on our own is easy.  Fortunately for us, gifted to us through Jesus is a Spirit that dwells within guiding our hearts and our lives, changing our Inner Dispositions so that these impossible to do on our own things can in fact be done with Him.

I am praying for you within this current climate and beyond that you will feel the push within to love your neighbor and love them well and then after you feel the desire, to go forward in action and let your faith be known through your works. Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

because He bears repeating

During Spring Break my junior year of college I took a road trip with my now husband and two of our guy friends to New York City.  Looking back now, I wonder what I was thinking as I voluntarily trapped myself in a van for 15 hours with three guys.  All of my girlfriends were going on a trip to Biloxi for one of their 21st birthdays, a trip which my parents did not find it a good idea for me to go on, so it was either head out with the boys or go home alone.  If I'm being honest, there was also a small part of me that was hoping to get a little diamond ring action in a picturesque part of Central Park...ok, so maybe I do know what I was thinking.

On the most budget-friendly--read desperately frugal because we were poor college students--NYC trip imaginable we did anything and everything that was free and cheap.  Our biggest splurges were discount matinee tickets to a broadway show and the ridiculous amount it costs to ride an elevator to the top of the empire state building.  One moment that fondly sticks out in my head is us sitting on the sidewalk devouring food we bought from a grocery store deli with whatever cash we happened to scrounge together between the four of us.  Awe, memories.

The majority of our trip required us to walk, A LOT.  One day as we were navigating the city we realized the course we needed to take was exactly the same path as the day before.  These three males I was with found it hilarious to also repeat every conversation and comment that was made the day before as well.  There's a chance this hilarity only lasted a brief amount of time, but to this girl it might as well have been forever.  My husband not only finds this story funny but also loves to act it out in other places as well.  Apparently repetition is the key to comedy.  I don't know about that.  Repetition tends to be the key to unlocking all kinds of anger within my soul.

While I agree smiling is a good thing, efficiency is my favorite--anyone catch that Elf reference!?  My days revolve around what needs to get done, who needs to go where, and how can it be completed in the most efficient way possible.  Days like today when I drove into the driveway after dropping my babies off at school only to discover a forgotten lunch box on the van floor makes me seethe just a bit. Not because a child made a mistake, but because now instead of going straight into the house to begin the next thing I had to turn around, go back, repeat the act I had just completed.

I want to walk up a mountain and reach its peak.  I want to start each day with everything just as I left it.  I want to remember each lesson taught so the next day only holds new ones.  I want God to just finish His work in me already so I can move on with my life.  Yeah, that last one made me stop in my tracks too.

The truth that each day we grow in faith we realize how much more we need to grow in faith can be rough at times, especially for those who like to accomplish, check off, and move on.  God did not create us with the intention of teaching us all we need to know so that we can go off on our own.  He created us to constantly not only need, but desire to reach for Him, over and over looking for His ways and not our own, seeing our weaknesses so that we ask for His strength.  He created us for repetition. The repetition of dying to ourselves, of letting the gospel overflow in our hearts, so that we can pick up the cross and follow Him.

Lara Williams, blogger and author, wrote, "We cannot coast today on yesterday's faith"  Yes, yesterday's faith taught us lessons, yes, yesterday's faith drew us closer, but our human hearts, chock full of the black stuff as Logan called it, are always trying to take over.  Paul Tripp reminds us that, "(sin) renders us unable." and we need help, on the daily.  

The probably familiar verse in Lamentations, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." is one that can be read with a warm feeling of comfort and encouragement, but also, with just a slightly different head tilt of perspective, is a loving reminder as well.  His steadfast love never ceases because we NEED never ceasing love.  His mercies never come to an end because we NEED endless mercy.  They are new every single morning because every single morning when we wake up we are in need of that same mercy.  Live, love, and repeat.  Yes, Lord, great is YOUR faithfulness, because I would have straight given up on me already!

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I on the other hand can go from got it altogether to hot mess in a second.  And even still He is with me, reminding me, repeating His Truths over and over, then circling around and doing it again.

Yes, yesterday's faith was a blessed gift, but it did not complete in us what is needed for today.  Today I still need Him just as much, today I am thankful He is repetitious.

I am praying for you that you not only see his constancy, but that you embrace it wholeheartedly, not feeling guilt because you once again need to have something repeated, but that you celebrate a God that bears repeating.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

because we all need to gain a little more perspective

As another Wednesday morning comes up there is a bit of an anxiety within.  Do I have anything to share, anything full of purpose, encouragement, helpfulness?  Anything new?  And then I am reminded of this verse from Ecclesiastes, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new?"  It has been already in the ages before us."

The only newness we see on a daily basis are the new morning mercies we are gracefully given and the new ways we are able to comprehend the age old things that have been around for eternity.  The additions that are forming and restoring our Inner Dispositions.  The struggles that have been here have always been here along with all the joys.  Sure, they are relived over and over in cyclical ways with different people, different settings, different results, but the base remains the same.  We are all forever learning the same Truths, just in a million different ways.

I have been given a sweet reminder this morning that my job, my purpose, what I am being asked to do, is not to create fantastic new ways to handle life or new thoughts to be remembered and written on reclaimed wood and placed on the wall above a beautiful entryway vignette.  My purpose is to remind, just as I am constantly being reminded.  It's why we need community, why we were built for it.  We learn from one another, feed off one another, take one idea and expand it, one creation and tweak it, become inspired by another so that we can inspire another still.  Build skyscrapers together instead of struggling over and over on one level alone.

There was a time, quite recently actually, when I would judge the "goodness" of a day as I was laying in bed at night.  Pondering over the days events I would subconsciously add tally marks to the good side and the bad side and then see which side won.  One day last week, school had been cancelled yet again due to post Irma-ness and I was determined to get out of the house and do something fun.  We had already had a watch the Hurricane through the windows all day day, then a lazy day, then a post Hurricane clean up day, and all parts of us all were needing a get away fun day.  

Without giving you a play by play of the mornings events, and a list of all the parenting moments that ensued, just know that for many different reasons, NOTHING went as planned that day.  By late afternoon in a moment of desperation--more for my sanity because I could feel negative emotions rising quickly within--I grabbed my phone and ear buds, put on my running shoes, and ran the small length of road in front of our home back and forth, over and over, while my sweet and temperamental boys played football in the yard spanning between our home and our neighbor's.  Somewhere in that 30 min jog, and the numerous interruptions of boys needing their mama, I was reminded that life is not an average of bad and good, we don't have to take both numbers, add them up, divide by two.  Life is one moment at a time.  One good moment at a time.  While plenty of yucky and not so fun ones are mixed in, they do not have the right, and should not be given the ability, to minimize the good ones.  Learn from them yes, allow them to overtake, no.  Nothing is strong enough to overtake the Good we are given.  There are better ways to be overwhelmed. 

As if I needed to be reminded of this lesson immediately, literally right after I was done running and mentally planning an instagram post about appreciating one good moment at a time complete with a picture of three finally happy boys playing football together, one of them fell and scraped his elbow in a pretty ugly way on the driveway.  In the next overly dramatic filled moments of injury fixing and using a ridiculous amount of bandaids because the proper first aid items needed were not on hand I was still holding on to that moment from earlier.  Letting the good shadow the bad, instead of the other way around.  Maybe that should have been my post.

This was going to be the end of my intended sharing for the day, short and sweet, and a bit of food for thought, but then in the car on the way to my new Happy Wednesday spot, I was brought to tears by the recent earthquake in Mexico and the news reports of children in a school texting from underneath the rubble praying that a rescuer would get to them before it was too late.  The suffering of others is all around us.  

A line from a recent study by N. T. Wright has been a constant in my mind.  When reading through 1 Peter and the amounts of suffering from these Christians Wright challenges with the statement that "those of us who read 1 Peter in comfortable freedom have a deep responsiblity to help our brothers and sisters for whom persecution of which Peter speaks is a daily reality"

At first there was more than a bit of guilt from my first world, love of making all things pretty and clean self, for all the times I complain or struggle.  What gives me the right to ever think that what I am going through is hard...just look at what "they" are having to go through, whomever they might be at the time. --For the record, I know this is not true and that struggles we have are very real to each of us and a part of the way God is redeeming us--

While I 100% think that the responsibility he mentioned is true and required, quickly added to it was another thought. This concept needs to also be put into practice right where I am sitting now.  

The whole idea of nothing new is under the sun, the whole idea of living in community, takes place under the command of bearing one another's burdens, wherever that person happens to be.  Constantly looking to one another and looking out for one another.  God will place someone in your life to grab your hand and pull you higher just as you will have another lower than you who needs the same.  Down the rope it goes being helpful and being helped.  Sometimes simultaneously, sometimes pulling up the dead weight of a severely injured soul, sometimes being the desperate one that just can not help with the way because of the heaviness you are in.

What was really gained that day of running, was another level of perspective.

Gaining perspective can often feel like being scolded, "Come on, get a little perspective, things are not as bad in the grand scheme!"

Maybe that will be the lesson you learn, maybe you are having a pity party for yourself and need something to snap you out of it?  But I'm beginning to realize the gentleness of God in this scenarios.  As a perfect Father, He rarely uses shock and awe as a discipline tool, scaring us into obedience.  He lovingly sent a son who walked on the Earth.  A son, because of His perfect communion with His Father, knew all things, was told all things, was given the ability to do all things, and yet gently walked alongside the sinful, the confused, the ignorant, the boisterous, the boastful, the depressed, and saved them, restored them, and gave them a different perspective.  How I long to have that same gentle manner.

A shift in thinking is all perspective really is.  Taking a step to the left or right to get a different angle, asking for other eyes to join you to give different thoughts, different opinions, different experiences.

But as much as we were created for community, created to have others alongside instead of living a solitary life, the best eyes to ever gain perspective through are the ones of our Creator made available to look through by the Son He sent, the Spirit He left, and the Words that hold true for eternity.

I will be praying that you not only see the good moments and hold on to them, but that through that there will be a heaven-sent perspective that will lead you through each moment you are brought through in your own life and when walking alongside others in theirs.  Pray for me. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

because small things are a big deal

one sheep.

In Luke, Jesus said to not only leave 99 safe ones to find just one lost sheep, but when we do find it, to celebrate, and celebrate big.

One is not so small a number.

We each know or know of grand people, large personalities, that people gravitate to, that people emulate, that people secretly or not so secretly wish to be.  His perfectly designed history introduces us to great Kings and Generals that led battles for freedom, leaders of countries that spoke wisdom and truths to the masses, artists of all kinds that are now household names because of their reach across social lines, and missionaries and ministers with humble beginnings who have come to make waves that have reached even the most hidden places.

In the midst of a world making statements, taking stands, shouting louder than the person next to them, whether physically or through countless medias, it feels as if the only way to live a life of purpose, the only way to be bold for your beliefs, is to shout until your voice is gone.

It is all too common for me to feel that if my beliefs are not shared in the same venues as other individuals or if my actions are not as grand resulting in gobs of attention or if my voice can literally not be heard above another's shouting then there is an objective not being met and it is a direct consequence of my lack of ambition or determination or knowledge or ability.  There is a feeling that something is lacking somewhere in my soul.  Sound familiar to anyone else?

There was a time where I struggled with showing Joy.  Why did I not seem as joyful as others with a smile on my face in the midst of any trial and an upbeat voice to go with it?  Through conversations with my pastor there was a realization that Joy takes many forms and outlets itself through individual personalities instead of having one face.  My joy was just as real as another's even though it revealed itself differently.  All our actions in light of the Kingdom follow the same rule.

We are not all meant to have the loudest voices.

"Courage doesn't always roar" ~Mary Anne Radmacher

When there are 7 billion people available, quite a few are going to be known, well known, famously or infamously, depending on their impact.  Most of us, however, will not reach that level of recognizability by the masses.  For some that may be a relief, for others that truth is a harder pill to swallow.  It is in these moments where it is imperative to seek contentment in what you've been called to so that you do not begin calling yourself to places not meant for you.

When you only have eyes to see impact and change happening by those deemed important by the world's standards you place yourself in a position for a few different things happening.

          1.  becoming overwhelmed with the desire to reach the same level
          2.  removing God from his place of priority so that you can seek control 
          3.  losing yourself in the process as the dream begins to take that control instead
          4.  missing out on the smaller things right in front of you

God holds each of our futures and yours could be to become a louder voice among the masses to bring glory to Him, but just as meaningful is the quiet voice and intentional actions that bring glory in the midst of all of our mundane.  Actions, for His glory, will speak louder and steadier than any words.

There is beauty in smallness.  There is deliberate, intentionality in smallness.  Small things are just as important.  Small things make wide ripples.

"And every work he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21"

It can seem easy to get lost in the shuffle, to believe you are but a blip, but in Truth that is actually quite impossible.  We each are known completely, loved completely, planned purposely, and executed perfectly.  We are each small in the shadow of our Creator, rightly so as He provides that wonderful wing in which we can dwell beneath.  

I'll be praying for you to see the beauty in the smallness of life, pray for me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

for when you need contentment in the calling

As we conclude our look into these next Ten months, let us remember past Truths that have been revealed and concentrate on opening our hearts to the new ones God so lovingly and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  

He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world, the one who gave us "time."  

And in the midst of all unknowns, we are Known to Him and when we Abide and Obey we can hear and follow His call in our lives.  

Though you would think the hard part is over once we hear, it only begins, as we then have to be content in whatever it is He has called us to...

If at this moment we were somehow miraculously blessed with a daughter, she would be given what could be interpreted as a most grandma sounding name.  Matilda Ruth May would hold not only have all of our hearts, but in turn would be granted a first name after one of my most favorite book characters and a middle name matching that of a woman in the bible that has encouraged me since the first reading decades ago.

Ruth was a girl who married a man who had moved from another land into her own.  After the death of her husband, her husband's brother, and her husband's father, she was left alone with her mother in law along with a sister in law who also happened to be from the same country as she.  Though tradition and law would have kept her bound to her husband's family when the decision was made to move back to the family's original homeland, her mother in law gave her an out, told her to stay in the place she knew, with the people she knew.  Her sister in law took the opportunity to leave.  Ruth stayed.  And thus began a story that resulted in another link in the line of Jesus.

The thing is, Ruth didn't know that that was going to happen.  No angel appeared to her as did to Mary centuries later to tell her she was going to birth a Savior.  Ruth did not have the benefit of reading and studying her story in a bound book as we have.  All Ruth had was a brief moment on a road to make a decision to turn back or keep going.  No one would have faulted her for either choice.

Finally hearing and answering God's call in your life brings a peace, a relief, a joy that cannot be compared to anything else.  That moment when you step forward into your next thing, even when it happens without a feeling of complete confidence, holds an excitement of adventure whether or not there is a healthy dose of unsurety mixed in.  

But just down the road from that initial beginning, when the trudging of your feet on the path begins to wear down the initial excitement, is where the doubt can begin to sneak in.

An in depth study of the book of Ruth in college left me with a phrase that pops into my head often, Glean in the field where you are planted.  Meaning, wherever you find yourself, take advantage of the opportunity, learn all you can from the experience so that that knowledge can become wisdom and prepare you for whatever is to come next.  Over the years, I have learned--the hard way no doubt--that there is another aspect to gleaning where you are planted, you have to be content with being there in the first place.

Have you ever tried to be content with where you are all the while being furious at where you were?  

Those two feelings do not mix.  You can not be content in where God has you if you are furious for being there.  But believe me, BELIEVE ME, when I say it is ok if contentment is not an immediate reaction.  For someone who is constantly carrying the undesired side effect of a short fuse as a result from her past hurts, Fury can definitely be a stop on the trip to get there.  It's ok to get mad and frustrated, with an array of other emotions thrown in as pit stops as well.  

If fury, or anything else besides contentment, is the one you are feeling now, let Him know, don't try to push past it or ignore it, or fix it on your own.  Your unrelenting loving Father can handle all of you and longs to do so.  He knows your heart and is forever refining you on the way, so tell Him what you are feeling, SAY IT OUT LOUD.  Your inner dispositions can not truly change if it's not Christ in you that is changing them.  

There are many words that can be substituted for contentment in the world.  Pleasure, cheerfulness, and gratification are just a few, but in this conversation of being content with where God has placed each of us, the only word I can think to use is Satisfied.  God longs for us, asks us, to let Him satisfy.  To let Him fill up all the places inside us so that we are satisfied in Him and Him alone.  To seek satisfaction elsewhere is to place something else in His place. above where He should rest in your life.  

Satisfy us Lord, with your tender mercies that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

The hardest part for me to understand was when in the middle of something, in the middle of the hard and confusing, not knowing whether to seek contentment and wait for change or to seek contentment and look for change.  Life in Christ is not passive.  Yes God is sovereign, and holds the entirety of my story in his Hand completely crafted from eternity, but it takes my physical movement to go forward on this earth.

Were the things I was facing, were the rocks I was pushing up hill needed to build whatever was at the peak or were they just getting in the way and needed to be let go to roll back down so that my hands would be free for whatever I would find to do at the top?  This is that time again when I listen to these words instead of the doubts that can come up, "No matter what our circumstances, we can enter right now into God's will for us--the will of a wise and loving Father who knows how to weave all of our choices into a redemptive masterpiece."  Whether I keep pushing an unnecessary boulder or whether I let one go that might have been helpful to have after all, I can be content in whatever state I find myself in next because He redeems it all.

One important thing I have learned to help me with truly being content in where I am was discovering that many times I was scared to be content because I was afraid God would make me stay there forever or forget that I wanted to move onto something else.  I realized, that God knows the desires of my heart and asking for something is not a sign of discontentment, as long as I trust Him no matter what His answer is.

Though I am not a huge podcast fan--I have an aversion to the lack of genuine voices podcasting can supply--there are a few, with normal vocal tones, that I have come to listen to.  One of which, called The Pivot, included a conversation between two singer/songwriters my husband and I have loved since college, Andrew Osenga and Bebo Norman.

When seeking contentment in where you are in the midst of following the call in your life, when racked with confusion over knowing whether or not your search is fruitful or futile, take into account my synopsis of the ending of their conversation...

"It's ok to try something and for it to go well and for it to not go well.  It's ok to walk away from something that is going really well because you are not meant to do it.  You can be about pursuing something and come to the conclusion that it is not something you need to continue pursuing.  You can be about pursuing something and know it's something you do not want to continue pursuing but have no choice at the moment to not do it because of the commitment that you have made.  Even the next thing you are sure you are supposed to do may not work and then you will find yourself back at square one again.  The gift is knowing that whatever hurdle comes, it doesn't end who you are, your identity in Christ.  Life does not fall apart just because of a shift in your current state."

Christ gives you freedom from caring about the end result because He gives you freedom to be content in the midst of whatever.  Nothing is wasted.

I hope you have enjoyed and gleaned from the lessons we have been learning this month and that they have and will help you think about your next ten months and carry over into your forever as well.

I will be praying that you will continue to see and hear where He is taking you and that you will be able to find contentment in the midst of whatever it is.  Pray for me.

Part 1 - The next ten months
Part 2 - A simple answer
Part 3 - Time is not ours
Part 4 - Doing the 'right' thing