Saturday, February 25

Living Well

After last week's lengthy post, I determined that I WAS NOT going to blog again until I had something light-hearted and FUN to write about. There is plenty of fun to speak of, so I don't know why that decision wouldn't have been an easy one to stick with.

I'm not sure that this is going to feel light or fun by the end. But, I'm going to at least begin that way.

Caleb's team played their first game of 2012 last night. We absolutely love our baseball team, and we LOVE baseball season. So, we were all pretty excited all day yesterday. Caleb was practicing his pitching in the yard. And, although his season hasn't begun yet, Collin wanted some pop flies he could "dive for".

It was really too cold for baseball, and I'll spare you all of the details of the game. But, at the end, Caleb's coach sent him in to pitch. Now, I believe that Moms just know these things... I looked at Caleb on the mound, and I could tell that this was not going to be pretty. If there was one word I could have used to describe him at that moment it would have been DEFEATED! Yet, he hadn't even begun.

Again, I'll spare you the details, but it wasn't even remotely pretty. We ran out of time and lost the game 8 to 5. We got back in the truck and rode home with a teary 9 year old -- the same one who was extremely excited just a couple of hours earlier. Why? Because he had in his mind how things were going to go and he did not live up to those expectations. He began to say one condemning thing about himself after another.

The entire time home, Scotty and I were talking to him. There were many things said. But, the gist of our message to him was that we don't care if he throws 100 balls and 0 strikes, we want him to believe in himself. We were trying to understand why it was he felt defeat before he had ever begun. And, I believe the answer is that Caleb wants do things WELL. He wants to SUCCEED. And, sadly, in the mind of our 9 year, that means PERFECTION! So, Scotty and I have our work cut out for us as we continue teaching him how to do his best without expecting to be perfect.

But, this morning as I was still thinking about our night, I realized that wanting to do well is a desire of mine also. Now, I couldn't care less about throwing balls or strikes in a baseball game. My family and childhood friends will tell you that I never really cared about doing well in my athletic performance on a softball field or any other kind of field. But, at LIFE, I want to do WELL.

For sure I want to be a great wife and mother. I'm so thankful for the jobs that I have that I truly love and enjoy. And, I want to minister where I can with a joyful heart.

But, if I could be even more honest...

I want to completely TRUST when everything around me seems uncertain. When Scotty is still searching for a job, our house hasn't sold, and we still don't have clear direction about staying or moving, I want to demonstrate unwavering TRUST, and I want to do it well.

I want to totally FORGIVE even when the world might say that I have every reason to hold a grudge forever. I believe that God is calling me to a level of forgiveness that will seem almost crazy to the world. I believe that I'm being called not only to forgive but to ask for forgiveness in return. While some may see me as a victim -- and by many standards I guess I am -- God has shown me my sin and lack of awareness. I had some sort of relationship with each person that has hurt me. These were people that I lived with, walked with, studied with, and had fellowship with on a regular basis. So, why did I not recognize the emotional and spiritual state they were in that led to the sins committed against themselves and me? I'm working on an answer to that question. But, for starters, I lived in a bubble and let myself become detached from the spiritual needs of others. I'm called to minister in this world. To do so, I've got to ask God to guide me through all of my relationships. I want to completely FORGIVE and be humble enough to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, and I want to do this well.

I want to LOVE unconditionally. I'm not just talking about within my family. These people are easy to love. I'm talking about the people who make it so hard to love them. The bitter, the angry, the negative, the mean, the immature, the misguided... I want God to show me how to see them as He sees them. I want to live with understanding that this life is TOUGH, and some people don't deal with that well. I want to be able to LOVE in such a way that these difficult people are driven to the ONE who heals anger, bitterness, negativity... the ONE who gives direction. And, I want to do this well.

God sees the heart, so He knows that sometimes I've done well and many times I've failed miserably. I know that I've got a long way to go in living well!

So, my 9 year old and I aren't much different. And, there's nothing wrong with wanting to do well. We just have to figure out how to turn our 'want to' into an action. I'm going to leave his issues up to his coaches. I'd be absolutely NO help in that area.

But, for me, I've found this scripture in Psalm 25 that has become my daily prayer. If I'm going to do this life well, God's going to have to show me HIS ways.

"Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long."

Saturday, February 18

Daily Bread

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Well, I'm still studying the book of Exodus.I LOVE studying this book, and I love it for so many different reasons. But, today I'm struck by the main reason... every time I read a chapter from this book, God teaches me something brand new through His people, the Israelites.

This morning, it was rainy, cold and yucky outside. I got to sleep a little longer than usual. So, I went to my chair, pulled out my Bible and turned to Exodus chapter 16. Manna and Quail.

God's chosen people are wandering through the desert to a land that God has promised them... A land flowing with milk and honey. But, so far, they've struggled to find food and been led to water that was bitter! Now, God never forgot them (although I'd say who could blame Him if He had because they grumbled so much), and He performed a miracle to make the bitter water sweet. He then led them to a land of springs and palm trees which provided the Israelites with peace, rest and COMFORT!

Once again, chapter 16 opens with the Israelites complaining and wishing to be back in Egypt where they NEVER went hungry... you know, their glorious life of SLAVERY!

Anyway, God answers their complaints with a promise that He hands to them through Moses. He tells Moses,

 "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day." (verse 4)

I guess you can see which parts of this message meant so much to me... "each day" and "that day".

In other words, God is telling His people that He will meet their needs, but He is going to do it on a daily basis. They were going to have to trust that even though they had NOTHING for their next day's meal at night, there would be "bread from heaven" the next morning.

For the most part, I don't know what this feels like. I know there are people in the world that honestly DO NOT know where their next meal will come from. And, thankfully, I haven't been in that position. But, lately, I HAVE been in the position of NEEDING God's provision of love, strength and compassion on a daily basis. And, He has provided perfectly EVERY time.

There have been nights that I have fallen asleep thinking about someone, and I would feel like those thoughts would consume me. In those moments, I'd begin to think of the next day and all of the places I might possibly run into that person. Those moments are few and far between, but they are still there. I have to deliberately give those moments to God and beg for redirection. And, guess what? The next morning dawns with new mercies... enough for THAT day!

You see, I'd like for God to just do one GIANT work and rid me of all insecurities, fears, hates, etc. And, then, I could just go on with life healed and prepared for each new day. I'd give Him the glory! I promise.

But, I think He wants to teach ME the same thing that He wanted to teach the Israelites... dependence on Him. DAILY!!! What if He dropped all of the manna that they would need for their journey in one night. And, the next morning, they were to gather all they would need and find a way to store it. Do you think that every time they went to the stored manna they would thank their Heavenly Father who had provided for them?

Maybe. But, I doubt it.

God knows us so well! He knew that even though He'd asked them to gather only enough for THAT day, some would try to hoard the manna. Miraculously, any extra manna rotted and began to stink by the next day. No. This wasn't a lesson in saving and hoarding, this was a lesson in TRUST. Clearly, the Israelites NEEDED this lesson. And, I'm so glad, because I need it too. 

We want to feel self sufficient. We need to feel capable. And, while those things aren't terrible, they are sometimes our downfall.

I wonder how many nights those Israelites had to fall asleep worrying and fretting over what they'd eat the next day before they began to fully trust that there would be manna on the ground? Of course, I don't know the answer to that question. I'd like to think there were at least a few of them that never worried. Surely, there were a couple that rested their heads and fell asleep anticipating the morning meal simply because the Father said it would be there. I'd be willing to bet that the majority had to SEE the proof of God's faithfulness before trust took over fear.

I'm pretty hard headed, but I'm getting there. I won't attempt to make you believe that I live out my days without fear or worry. But, I'll tell you this... I live more days like that than I ever have before. And, do you know why... Because day after day, my "manna" is there.

Each and every morning.

New mercies.

GREAT is HIS faithfulness.

There's one other point that I want to make. The Israelites had to GATHER their own manna. God did not drop it right into their tents. They had to go out and get what they needed for that day.

Spiritually speaking, we must do the same thing. God promises ALL of the grace and mercy that we need to get through ANY situation common to this world. But, we have to be willing to trust Him to walk us through. We have to be willing to DO what He asks us to do in our tough situations.

I love what Beth Moore says, "I finally understood the nature of God's mercy and grace. They are always there, available every day, prior to our need, and in direct proportion to every moment's demand; but we must gather them. That part is completely our responsibility."

I can't sit back with arms crossed and wonder why I'm not receiving new mercies every day when I haven't...

Forgiven where He's asked me to forgive.

Trusted where He's asked me to trust.

Studied what He's asked me to study.

Given what He's asked me to give.

This list could go on an on, but I think you get the idea. We can't just sit back apathetically waiting for transformation in our lives. Let's actively pursue the One who transforms.

"I am the LORD, your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."  Psalm 81:10

Friday, February 10

Just Getting By? I Hope Not!

"Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them." Exodus 25:8

How do those words make you feel? For me, they cause me to ask only one question.


The words are being spoken TO Moses BY God. In Chapter 20 of Exodus, God gave Moses the 10 commandments. In chapters 21 through 23, He gives many other laws -- laws concerning Hebrew servants, personal injury laws, laws protecting property, social responsibility guidelines and laws of justice and mercy. Then, in chapter 24, the covenant that God made with His people was confirmed to Moses, and the Israelites were called to respond. They eagerly answer... "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." (Yeah, right!)

In chapter 25, Moses goes up the mountain to hear from God. And, in chapter 8, God announces that He plans to dwell among them.

Again, why?

I know the earth isn't too terribly old at this point in scripture. But, still, I would imagine that Heaven is pretty spectacular. Why wouldn't He just stay there?

Also, these people that He's promising to 'dwell among' aren't very loyal. They continually promise to do things and remain faithful to God only to betray Him again a few verses later. Wouldn't He save Himself a whole lot of grief if He just kept some distance between Himself and His creation?

Furthermore, there are so many struggles to be had here on Earth. Once sin entered; difficulty, sickness, death, and more sin have caused life in this world to contain hardship that just isn't present in Heaven. So, why would God determine to invite this struggle? By 'dwelling among them', He was agreeing to take on these struggles... willingly!

Well, it's very hard for me to understand. But, it was God's plan all along. We were MADE to dwell with Him. The first humans did just that. Adam and Eve enjoyed the very purpose of their creation in the Garden. They walked with God -- in fellowship with Him.

Of course, sin messed it up. And, we will not experience that kind of fellowship with Him again in this life. But, as early as Exodus chapter 25, God demonstrated that He was unwilling to sit back and wait for His children to make their way to Him. He came to dwell with us.

And, why?????

Because He loves us! And, when you love someone, you want to be with them.

I wonder if that makes anyone uncomfortable. Is it hard to imagine that the God of the universe, the One that set EVERYTHING into motion, the One that NEEDS nothing, WANTS to be with you?

I suspect it probably does. Sometimes, it makes me uncomfortable. But, I am being hit with this reoccurring idea over and over in my quiet times with God. Even the books that I pick up are filled with this theme. And, I'm struck by the thought that if we really got it, we could significantly change our days, our lives, our family's lives and, maybe even, the world.

God is God, and He could have chosen a plan to redeem mankind that called for Him to sit back and watch the events unfold like a movie. I'm thinking that would have been so much easier, neater... less emotional. But, His determination to BE with us through every challenge, every failure and every difficulty until we can be with Him in heaven, tells me that God isn't interested in the easy way. He is interested in ME. And YOU!

And, that changes the way that I think. When I know that God loves me and WANTS to do life with me, I don't think about spending time with Him as a duty that I can mark off my checklist. I DESIRE to have time alone with HIM.

When I view God as the Father that wants what's best for me rather than a judge far removed from my life waiting anxiously to hammer me for every failure, I RUN to Him in my weaknesses. There would never be reason to attempt to hang on to sin if I could TRUST that His way is the only way to experience true, abundant life.

I posted this quote on Facebook. But, I can't get it out of my head, so I'm posting it here too. It's from the book, Crazy Love...

"The irony is that while God doesn't need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don't really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him -- and we wonder, indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by."

Get by?

The God that is in charge of this world -- every part of it -- doesn't need me! But, He wants me! He demonstrated that in Genesis with Adam and Eve. He demonstrated it again in the wilderness. The Israelites were going to be roaming through the desert for hundreds of years. So, God gave them a pattern for a roaming sanctuary. If they were going to move, He was going to move! That's determination.

So, how about us? If we 'build a sanctuary', will He 'dwell among us'?

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"  1 Corinthians 6:19

Absolutely! It was the plan all along. He loves you. He wants you. And, through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, He will do life with us.

So, am I just going to do what I have to do to 'get by' when He has demonstrated pure determination to draw His children back to Himself regardless of the cost?

Oh, I pray, for the rest of my days, the answer to that question is, 'Absolutely not!'

Monday, February 6

Who's Up for a Challenge?

Just a quick post to talk about this book that Scotty and I are finally reading. I know the rest of the world is already very familiar with Crazy Love, but we are just getting acquainted with Francis Chan and his radical thoughts.

First of all, I sped through the book like I do all great books and then wished I had enjoyed it at a little slower pace. So, now I'm reading it a second time and doing just that. I'm reading, re-reading, highlighting and prayerfully considering the thought, "O.K. What now?"

This is the kind of book that I'm NOT going to be able to put on a shelf and conveniently move on to the next great read. No! This book is going to need a response. And, while I've never considered myself one to be extremely attached to luxuries of this world, I have realized that I'm WAY to comfortable with the routines of this life.

On top of that, the overwhelming message of the book has been that God has gone to such extreme measures to pursue relationship with me, so why am I so reserved in my response to Him? Why? I don't have an answer.

So, I'm ready!

I'm ready to be obedient to His call whatever the cost! (But, is it o.k. that I actually have butterflies just typing it?)

I'm ready to demonstrate complete trust in Him as my provider if He leads me to be risky in what I have foolishly considered to be MY possessions.

And, I'm ready to spend the rest of my earthly life making MUCH of God!

Now, I just need some direction. Hmmmm....

Then, Sunday, we were called into a 29 day prayer challenge. We were challenged to pray for 5 minutes each day for one specific thing. And, then to pray for spiritual awakening in families in our church. I'm all for prayer, and surely I can commit to pray for 5 minutes a day. But, for what?

Direction! I'm praying 5 minutes each day for direction. I am pleading for direction in the job hunt, direction in the sell of the house, and direction in determining if we should stay in or leave our community. That's a lot to cram into 5 minutes, right? I kind of feel like I'm cheating -- that seems like way more than one thing. Oh well, I felt like God was listening anyway this morning. ;)

This afternoon, my reading through Crazy Love came to my mind again, and I decided that while I'm praying for direction, I can also ask God to direct us into a very specific way that we can begin our change in lifestyle. And, that's exactly what it's going to be. I can no longer SAY that I'm more concerned with heavenly things than earthly things, while in many ways my life doesn't LOOK any different than an unbeliever's. I'm going to have to DO some things that demonstrate I really believe it!

I'm excited (and nervous)! So, some people have asked for updates here and there about how things are going and how they can pray. In a nutshell, there it is. DIRECTION! We need it -- in every area of our life.

And, while you're at it, why don't you join the prayer challenge? I bet we all have at least ONE area that consumes our thinking and causes us to lose focus on occasion. Why not take it to God on a daily basis and watch how He proves Himself faithful? AGAIN!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, offer your requests to God. And, the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:6-7

Wednesday, February 1

How Quick I Am to JUDGE!

This morning, I was reading a portion of Exodus in my quiet time, and I had sort of an "Aha" moment. Hmmm... I don't know if that is the correct way to describe what actually happened. While the moment was definitely enlightening, there was nothing positive about the way that it felt.

I was reading through Exodus 14 and 15. Earlier this week, I read about the plagues that God issued onto Pharoah and his people, because they would not let the Israelites go. The final plague was the death of all of the firstborn males which led right into the chapter on the Passover. So, today, I began reading through the beginning of their exodus... a chapter that I've heard and read many times. Still, I began with great anticipation.

Early in chapter 14, I read a sentence that I'm sure I've read before, but it really stuck out to me. As you probably remember, Pharoah changed his mind about letting God's people go once they were on their way. So, he and his 600+ chariots began to pursue the Israelites AGAIN. I was so proud to read of the Israelites boldness in verse 8,

"The LORD hardened the heart of Pharoah, king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out of Egypt boldly."

Do you love that sentence? I do. After reading over ten chapters about the Israelites being abused at the hands of the Egyptians, I was so happy to see them in their deliverance. And, their boldness in leaving demonstrated to me that they had been on such a journey with the LORD that they were leaving without fear.

Well, my joy didn't last long. Pharoah began to gain on the Israelites to the point where they turned, looked and saw Pharoah and his army marching after them. I was shocked to see in verse 12 (just 4 verses later!) a complete 180 degree turn in their emotions,

"Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert."

WOW! I couldn't believe it. How quickly they forgot all that God had done for them until this point. He was constantly reminding them of the promise made with Abraham and assuring them that THEY were part of that promise. He'd called up Moses and Aaron to lead them... to be a physical presence in guiding them out of slavery. And, the PLAGUES! They had seen God promise to plague Egypt with frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, life threatening hail, locusts, and darkness. The Israelites were present when God issued ALL of these plagues and they witnessed His relieving the people of each plague once Moses prayed and asked Him to. And, finally, God promised that the firstborn male of every Egyptian household would die. And, that's exactly what happened. EVERY household in Egypt (even Pharoah's) woke to the death of their oldest male child. But, every Israelite household was saved.

That's really amazing! It's hard for me to imagine a thankless group of people who could forget ALL of that in just 4 short verses. How could they be so impatient with a God that had been so patient with them? And, why would they prefer slavery in Egypt over deliverance with God? I was appalled at their lack of faith!

And, then, it happened. God brought to my memory a little situation from last week. You see, the magnitude of what God has done for me over the last 5 months is nothing short of miraculous. In fact, I would compare these emotional, spiritual and relational miracles that He has performed in our family with ANY of the miracles I mentioned earlier. He has been THAT evident in our daily lives. And, because of that, most days I march boldly out into the world to see what He has in store for me. But, then, there are those days that I don't.

Friday morning, Scotty and I got some less than desirable news concerning our insurance through the school system. Things hadn't been filed as we thought they were going to be filed. And, we were told we'd need to  pay some money... a good bit of money... that we weren't planning on paying. It's fine, and it was paid. But, Scotty doesn't have a full time job yet. So, the check was written from money that I would have really liked to hang on to JUST IN CASE we need it later.

I'm not the least bit proud of this, but I REALLY had a pity party. Scotty and I had planned to run. But, I put pjs back on and went back to bed. I stewed over the bad news, and I believe I even began to panic. It was as if I somehow thought that the God who has literally been carrying me through situations that I once thought would have been to heavy to even stand under would now suddenly FORGET that I need to be cared for.

FEAR! Where was the boldness?... It was just there 5 minutes, one hour, several weeks ago.

I didn't even have a king and 600+ chariots chasing after me. But, I was grumbling and complaining over having to write a check that WE ACTUALLY HAD THE MONEY TO WRITE!

So, I couldn't judge the actions of the Israelites in Exodus 8:12 for too long. Nope! I'm way worse. God has proven so faithful in His promises to me and my family. And, at the first sign of difficulty, I was ready for a full blown pity party.

You know that I've always loved Bible study. But, I am being ushered into a love for studying God's word that amazes me. His character shines through each story clearly. He is so patient with the Israelites throughout Exodus. This won't be the last time that they grumble and complain about their circumstances. And, because of their lack of faith, they miss out on a whole lot of blessing. But, God is completely patient with them. Completely! As they demonstrate lack of belief, He does something for them that proves He is believable. Just in case you don't remember what happened after the Israelites grumble about the Egyptians following them, let me remind you.

Their faithful Father parts the Red Sea so that the water stands up on either side like walls! And, the Israelites "walk across on dry land"! The next time they turn around to check out the enemy, that same water is crashing down on top of them and not one Egyptian made it out alive.

This is the God, the Father, the King who is in charge of my life. He is so worthy of complete trust. But, where I lack this trust, He is patient... ready to prove Himself believable.

And, now MY emotions have made a complete 180 degree turn. I'm not quite so ready to condemn those Israelites. I'm very thankful for them! I'm relieved that God was able to use a group of fearful, weak and unbelieving people to fulfill His plans for mankind. Whew! There's hope for me yet.