Thursday, August 17, 2017

for when we want to know what we're supposed to do

As we continue to look forward 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 loving and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's Spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions.  He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world, the one who gave us "time."  Today lets hit the big stuff, listening for God's call and walking in it, and expecting the unknown all the while trusting we are completely Known to Him.

"People are always telling you that change is a good thing.  But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all...has happened." ~Kathleen Kelly

--Just hearing those words from Kathleen Kelly a.k.a Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail immediately gives me the great desire to put on a trench coat, curl up in a bed, stare at daisies, and get lost in that iconic movie.--

Change has different faces, and while we each have our share of graciously given exciting ones, we each know too well the scary and disappointment that can come when something we didn't want to happen, happens.

Almost 4 years ago, something I didn't want to happen, happened.  Life was shaken up, any control I falsely thought I had was completely stripped away, and I was left with no other choice but to look up, to see that all I really needed I already had in Christ, and with that the promise that I would never be left, never forsaken.  I can expect, and even welcome, the unknown, because I am fully known

Through that single experience, and the massive amount of ripples that came with it, life as I know it now is very different from what I was imagining for myself.  However, in many ways it is beautifully, mercifully, similar as a loving Heavenly Father, my husband, children, and certain friends are still here, next to each other, bearing burdens, living life as children of the King, better and closer and able to tell of His goodness.

All is not roses and rainbows, many scars still remain and many idols are still being unearthed as work that has begun is still in the completion phase, but the heart within is changed and, while still being renewed daily as inner dispositions continue to be formed, has a new trajectory, a clearer purpose, that would not have been possible without that change.

Any good that is here for me, and for you, does not have come on our own terms, by our own hands.  It is something we are not able to create, but is instead masterfully created. 

I know this because even still, when confronted with the new hard things, there is an almost immediate desire to let it consume my emotions, forcing me back to the past memories of frustration, exhaustion, confusion.  Because I know, I know, how hard HARD can be,  I know how energy sucking it is.  I know how vulnerable you feel through it as your heart is laid completely bare.  I know the doubt that swirls around within when your world is suddenly a very different place.  Even with the litany of positives that have come, even with the humbling honor of walking with others through their own Hard, even with the encouragement that we should feel joy when facing trials of any kind because of the mature faith it brings (James 1:3-4), I am tempted to ignore His faithfulness and promised comfort and reach out for the comfort of the world.  Even if your events are much different than mine and those others around you, do you still find yourself in this same place at times?  Embrace your weakness.  Say a prayer of thanks that you can not go on on your own.


                                             

In our own strength, we are weak.  In our weakness, we are made strong.

It's our fear of appearing weak that keeps us from following those places we are being called.  Fear of failure, of admitting we might have heard wrong, of what we may have to sacrifice to go forward, of what others may think, or what might be assumed by our inability to accomplish the goal we thought was a sure thing.  After our church closed it's doors last year I was meeting with our then pastor sharing my confusion about different choices I should have made, could have made.  During my should I have done this, could I have done that, his response was eye opening, heart opening.  "Just because the outcome is not what you wanted, it doesn't mean you made the wrong choice." 

The trophy at the end is what we all want, but it's the experience of the journey and the hearts touched through it that God is really after.

As someone who relishes being told the right answer, knowing the exact right thing to do and steps needed before proceeding, it is somewhat painful for me to tell you that no where in this sharing will there be anything resembling a "How-To" in regards to knowing what you are called to.  It is in fact bad blogging form to not give you a "How to hear and listen to God's call in your life in 10 easy steps" kind of advice.  But it's not something in my power to give.  There's no rote answer, sorry to all those fellow type As out there.  If you want a map of where to go to find out the answer I can draw a simple line straight to the foot of the cross.  If you want a map of where that will take you next, consider instead to stare at the abstract drawings of a two year old with all their chaotic swirls and overlapping lines.

normal_scribbles_3.jpg (365×400)


In his book The Will of God as a way of Life, Jerry Sitser says "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."  

For 8 years of my husband's childhood, his family were missionaries in France.  When my father in law was asked how he knew it was the will of God to be a missionary in France, his response was along the lines of "well when I was standing in the middle of a French airport I figured God must have wanted me there."

There is no perfect way of knowing, there is only a perfect One to follow. 

If I would even attempt to give any kind of advice to you as we seek out our next ten months and forever it would be to do two things, Abide and Obey.

Abiding is sitting right there in the shadow of Christ, the safety of His wing, getting to know Him better and as that knowledge grows the wisdom will follow after.  Obeying is hearing those still small voices and saying yes to them until gradually you are able to hear the bigger ones that come, not worrying about the ending as much as relishing in each now He is giving and what it is giving to others.

We can't screw up God's plan for us.  We're not that powerful.  Abide.  Obey. Do not fear that you will do it all wrong, you might possibly will, but trust that the Holy Spirit will always guiding us towards what is right.

I'll be praying for you, pray for me.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

sunday song


Even without the tragic events stemmed from hate filled hearts that occurred yet again yesterday, our world is full of heartbreak, struggles, grief.  I stand still and all around me in a whirlwind of thought are headlines, phone conversations, texts filled with despair and loneliness, scenes seen and overheard in different areas of life.  Swirling, they try to cover up what I know is Good, who I know is Good.  It's so easy to think we live in a world much worse today than ever before, but honestly, the "worst" we see has always been there, its just gets closer to home, forcing us to look in the eye and decide if we will turn away or not.

There are many who need to speak out more; there are just as many who honestly just need to shut up.  But we all need to remember even in the midst of the overwhelming chaos in our eyes, is a God who holds us all, image bearers of Him, in His hands, even when we don't understand what is going on around us, especially then.

"He is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonder in heaven and on earth." (Daniel 6:26-27)

This week in a devotionsI read these next words. feeling thankful for the reminders, and the promise that even as we move forward in our what's next, there is One who already knows.

"Over all the trouble that confounds and dismays us is a God of glorious wisdom,  power, and grace who rules every moment of every situation.  No, you will not always see his hand.  You often won't understand what he is doing.  There will be points when life won't make sense to you.  At times, you will wish that life could be different.  There will be moments when you will feel unprepared for what is on your plate.  In these moments, look up and remember that above it all there is a throne, and on it sits a God of unimaginable majesty, ruling all for his glory and for your good." Paul D. Tripp


There is strength within the sorrow,

There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding,
You're teaching us to trust



CHORUS
Your plans are still to prosper,
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us



You are wisdom unimagined,
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens,
Reaching down in endless grace
Youʼre the Lifter of the lowly,
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me,
Your promises are my delight



Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good,
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
Youʼre working for our good,
Youʼre working for our good and for your glory


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

because our time is not our own

As we continue to look forward 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 loving and continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.  Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's Spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions.  He is our simple answer in the midst of the complicated world.  Today, let us think about how to guard our time for His use instead of constantly filling it up with ourselves.

Here in our small corner of Georgia, our children are in the midst of the second full week of school. Which, for me, means that after ten years of staying at home with at least one little toe headed boy, there is instead quiet all around.  I am far from empty nested, as it is only a few hours until their noise reenters our environment, and even while they are gone learning from our loving community of teachers there are plenty of things left in their wake that makes their presence in our home still fully known!

However, like anyone who has suddenly, or not so suddenly, found themselves in a new stage of life, there is plenty of doubt trying to creep its way into the experience.  With that doubt, often comes his unwanted friend Worry.  Yesterday, in perfect timing--as if God was capable of anything else--a quote by Oswald Chambers came to my attention reminding to not "take the pressure of forethought upon yourself.  It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything else that worries us."


"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; 
     the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; 
     and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind" Job 12:7-10
  

Whenever you feel worry begin, dig down to the root of it before it can take root in you.

For me in the now of my life, worry was triggered by one seemingly innocent question that has been asked in a variety of ways but with still the same meaning at the center: "What are you going to do with all that time?"

Time, this almost tangible among intangibles.  We want to enjoy it, we want to use it wisely, we want it to not fleet it away, we want it to stand still, we want it to fly by, we want to make the most of it, and we do not want others to judge the way we spend it.

There is great temptation to prove myself worthy and not wasteful to every person who asks that question.  In truth there are lists upon lists in my head of things to catch up on, projects to tackle, goals to meet, people to connect with, and places to volunteer.  However, also, admitting to anyone that there is a great desire to spend a week laying on the couch watching old movies, trying to replenish some of the sleep that has been lost in my first decade of mothering with daily naps is exactly what I am afraid to say out loud because it seems selfish and slothful, and goes against all things women have been responsible for doing since Eve screwed up the peace of the Garden for all of us.  Kidding, but not really.  You get me, right?

When we look at the world we see people around us constantly scurrying about.  Even if there is a smile on the face of a friend you run into around town as you both pause in that moment to chat about life while your grocery carts are blocking two aisles and an intersection in Kroger, you still know that you both have an agenda and lots of things to check off before the day is over. So after that pause, however pleasant it was, scurrying picks right back up.  I feel myself constantly quoting the visiting pastor from a favored Andy Griffith episode, "What's your HURRY!"

To answer this for myself, a list--of course a list--began trying to explain why people, myself included, feel the need to hurry about scheduling every possible minute of the day and more.  Maybe you have other thoughts to add, and if so please feel free to share.  I love hearing your thoughts and heart!

Thus far the list includes...

     *  Having to do life alone-  You are the mother and father, the caretaker and breadwinner.                                                                  Attempting to fulfill all the roles needed in a household was not the                                                          perfect Design, but a situation many find themselves in.  Oh how I pray
                                                 there is community around each of you to help bear the burden.

     *  Overscheduling-  When each person in the family has passions that you want to allow them to
                                      pursue, plus friends to commune with, plus school activities to attend, plus
                                      work that is needed to fund it all, plus...plus...plus you find yourself with a
                                      nightmare of a calendar and the desire chuck all of it.  I'm not going to                                                     lie, sometimes we need to go with that last desire.

     *  Too many yeses-  Saying no, unless it's to your kids when they ask you for a dessert after                                                     touching zero of their dinner, is HARD.  Even for us introverts who basically                                           want to hide out in our happy place alone with a book, still struggle with
                                      people pleasing where yeses fly out of our mouths faster than the nos cry out
                                      inside.  This inevitably results in a schedule full activity but a heart full of
                                      bitterness as time is being used up by the dayfuls on things you might never
                                      have wanted to do to begin with.

     *  Keeping up with someone else-  Could be the Joneses, or the Mays, or the Keels, or the
                                                              or the Cardozas, or the random person you see everywhere
                                                              and can't remember their name but you know you MUST keep                                                                 up with them.  Therefore, you say those too many yeses, let
                                                              everyone sign up for everything, take in those extra practices,
                                                              exercise classes, leadership roles, and all else to make sure your
                                                              life resembles the ones of those around you.

    *  You are afraid to be still-  This one stung the most.  Afraid to be still.  Afraid of what others may
                                                 think.  Afraid of what you are missing out on.  Afraid of what you may
                                                 learn about yourself if you have time to think about what you are doing.                                                  Doubt, worry, and then fear.  They are a threesome never far away from
                                                 each other, but never produced by the Trinity.  They are products of
                                                 darkness, only to be fought off by the Light.
                                   
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit with the sister of a friend, who I would love to have become a friend herself.  An artist by trade, she opened her home to me to peruse her art as I had a desire to add a little sophistication to my home with pieces that were unique all while supporting a local artist who also fits in the budget of one who, as I recently mentioned, hasn't worked outside the home in ten years.

Like many artists, she frames her non canvas pieces atop a white surface with plenty of room on the edges.  This 'white space' takes away the potential for distractions as your eyes are now free to fully take in the beauty of what is at the center.

photo cred J. Rollins


We are God's handiwork, His art here to glorify Himself and be used in the lives of others.  And around our lives needs to be the same white space any artist would give.  Because, "White space is where the world and all the distractions falls away.  Where the voice of the Divine can be heard..." ~Valerie Rickel

Days will come, seasons will come, that feel busier than others, depending on the ages of children, the life work you have chosen, the events of a given week, surprises that pop up and need to be dealt with immediately.  Life is life, and in this imperfect world we can not expect perfection from anyone other than the Creator, our Savior, and the Spirit He left with us.  We certainly can not expect perfection from ourselves, therefore how we use the time we are given will not be perfect either.

However, we CAN ask to be led to use it wisely and fight the temptation to use it all up with ourselves and for our agendas.  For "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."Psalm 127:1-2 
Sleep.  Rest.  In Him.

Author of Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray said, "Spiritual Whitespace makes room--room in our hearts for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, room in our lives for rest, room in our souls for rejuvenations.

So, as we continue forward with these thoughts towards the next ten months, and forever, I will be praying that there will be an opportunity to create some white space in our lives, room to breathe and see.

The time we have was never really our own.  If we were bought with a price, than that includes all parts of us, time spent included.  We cannot make the most of something that does not belong to us, but He will make the most of us when we give our time back to Him, the one who created it in the beginning.

I'll be praying for you, pray for me.





Wednesday, August 2, 2017

because sometimes there is a simple answer

Welcome August, you month of new beginnings, marked with your ability to send children forward into another year of childhood while mama's hearts break and rejoice as their visions of those growing souls before them change in and out with the perfectly remembered picture of a different age and younger, rounder faces.

Ten months are upon us friends.  Ten months of learning, growing, changing, following, leading.  Ten months of figuring and planning and implementing.  Ten months of some things staying the same while others are moving forward.  Ten months of treasuring past and anticipating future, of remembering past Truths and opening your heart to the ones God so lovingly, continuously presses upon us because of the beautiful gift of Grace.

Oh the many Truths He has for us, age old to Him, but shiny and new to us as we walk in faith ever learning how Jesus's spirit seeps into every part of our being constantly changing our inner dispositions. Should we ever really feel the effect of aging when each day we our spirit is being renewed?

It's tempting to take on newness, change, in two different ways.  Depending on personality or possible prior knowledge of the change that is to come, one way is to attempt it all at once.  The other, is to attempt to hide from it completely.  There is the typical battle of getting it all over with, getting it all completed and checked off, versus avoiding the need to begin with, doubting that any change is coming or even necessary.  How often do we drift to an extreme when there is a middle ground of patient faithfulness where we should usually be treading.  For me, it's often on the daily.

Living in this home, and in yours as well, are minds that, as Paul David Tripp puts it, "want to make life all about us, to want little more than our own way, and to live like little self-sovereigns."   Try as I might, I cannot just believe that there are three young monarch wannabes walking the floors of our home.  My heart desires my own way more often than it desires anyone else's.  One major side effect of this most annoying product of the fall--fall of man, not the season--is that it causes us to make much harder than it needs to be.

There are literally dozens of scenarios that come to mind that could entertain you slash make you feel better about your own life.  Just the amount of time wasted while arguing with a child about what socks to put on so that they can make it to baseball practice on time is shocking.  You would think a pair of baseball socks was the simple answer, you would be wrong.  And there is no pride in my head when I think about the attitudes I have illustrated and the time I have wasted being less than loving when that same pair of socks does not find their way back to my designated desired spot after said practice is over when a simple reminder would suffice.  This is only a drop in the bucket.  Only a small innocent example of the much more vile ones that have made their way into history.

Our innate being does not want the simple answer.  It does not want the one held open before us.  Sin has made us desire the complication this world brings, getting lost in the midst of a mess we make as we are bound and determined to find our own way instead of resting in the Peace given through Christ. The ever calming place in the center of any storm.

As we search for the biggest and the best, God uses the humble and contrite.  Even Anne Shirley knew that "All things great are wound up with all things little"

While the end goal for this series is to encourage you to make intentional plans for your next ten months, it would be futile without starting first at the heart level.  Clearing out ourselves so that someone else can fill its place.  Sin clouds our vision.  Our eyes are always looking at something, but where are they actually focusing?

The simple answer in the midst of the complicated world?

He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Rev. 22:13)  He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by him all things were created...all things were created through Him and for Him...in Him all things hold together. (Col. 15-17) All the things.

As we then seek our next steps, we can do so without succumbing to the complicated goals the world tells us we should be striving for because, "If you delight in the fact that you are God's, you cannot be disappointed in how He's using you." Ryan Johnson, pastor New City Church.

And if you are His, He promises He is using you.

If you have the opportunity right now, read Paul's words from Colossians 1.  It is within this line up of prayers that I find not only encouragement for myself, but petition for you as well.  Long ago this disciple wasn't just praying for those faithful saints in Colossae but also for me and you and every other child God calls to him.  He did not cease to pray for these things, with Christ we can strive for that as well.

As you seek the simplicity of just resting in Christ in the midst of the complicated world, I pray that it will, not just over the next ten months, but for forever, change you to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  That you will bear fruit in every good work.  That you will increase in the knowledge of God.  That endurance will grow and there will be patience filled with joy.  And that with each day you will be able to give thanks because you will see that He has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.




I'm praying for you, pray for me.