Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pity-Party Humbled

As I sit today contemplating a recent contact from someone I really do truly love, I have to be honest. I'm mad and a bit put out. Yes, a little on the angry side, for sure pouting, but mostly it's hurt I'm feeling. It seems to me there are an awful lot of people, friends, and even family that only contact you when they need something. It's a quick "hello" with a "how do you do" so they can jump into the importance of themselves; their needs, hurts, wants, and desires.

That is about as far as I got in my little pity-party before the Lord, as he so often does, kicked my butt with a gentle thought..."and isn't that how you so often come to me?" Ouch! Yes, Lord, yes it is.

I'm often running through my day trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of daily life and just throwing up quick prayers. I come to the Lord with a quick "Dear Father, I love You...please remember I need patience for so-and-so as he's getting on my nerves, I want to love for my clients truly I do so help me out here cause they're just plain crazy, please calm this weather down it's been so nasty as I'll be out and about today for meetings, keep me safe and could you throw in a good parking place at the court house cause it's always a pain to find parking!

I make fun, but seriously don't you do the very same thing? I know I do. I run to the Lord with my laundry list of needs, hurts, wants, and desires and throw in an "I love you:" and "thanks" as a side note. How backwards is that? How must my Savior feel? Probably, I would guess, ever deeply more than I do this morning. I mean He gave so much for you and me. I can tell you I've never done anything unconditional or heroic for my friends. I love them, but I didn't lay down my life for them like Christ did for me.

So when is the last time you called on your Savior just to say "I love you Lord", to sing to Him in open worship all by yourself, to read His word back to Him in praise, or to give thanks in quiet contemplation on all He did and still does for you. My thoughts turn a bit humbling and I feel the need to wrap it up. I love to write, but right now I have a need to worship my Lord in the quiet stillness of this calm morning.

Oh and by the way, call a friend just cause you love them!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Know Love

Today is Easter and I have to say I have experienced a lot of firsts this Easter. A very good, much needed thing as it has helped me to remember the cross not as the story I know because I hear it told year after year but as the scandalous, beautiful, expression of love that is the foundation of our faith. It was my first Easter Pageant Celebration, my first Holy week services, my first Lord's supper that we dipped from the same cup, my first Friday night service leaving in darkness (so profound), and a beautiful sunrise service. It has all been most awesome and thought provoking.

The Easter pageant celebration was our choir's celebration of Jesus' life from birth through resurrection. We dressed in Jewish garb, sang songs and there were acting parts of strategic highlights from Jesus' life that brought the story to life. It was a powerful production and if I had really let myself think about it I would not have been able to get through it dry eyed.

We had to play all parts, meaning following Jesus as wide-eyed worshipers in one scene and then yelling as the angry mob when we did not get the king we wanted. I was caught off guard when our director, Dave, said to shout things like "crucify him", "blasphemer", "guilty'. It was difficult. Many said "I can't say that". I was not immune as I thought to myself I can't say that, that is horrible. It was too. When you think on what Jesus endured, His death, it was as our pastor says "scandalous".

Make no mistake though. He endured ridicule, beating, mocking, whipping, and being nailed to a cross for me and for you. In essence we have all said "crucify Him". We were enemies of Jesus in our sin. You still are if you have never accepted Him as Savior. It was our sin that held Him there. He choose to endure all of it because He knew us (the Bible says, before He formed you in your mother's womb, He knew you. Jeremiah 1:5), He loved us (the Bible says, for God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. John 3:16), and He desires for us to be with Him in eternity (the bible says, God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3 & 4). Yes, Jesus did this for us. It was intentional. It is why He came...and we think we know love. If you know not Jesus, you know not love. 

There is a song that comes to mind by Nichole Nordeman called 'How Deep the Father's Love For Us" that sums it up. I'll leave you with her words for in His gift, I have life, hallelujah!! 

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thank you Jesus!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Change in Attitude

About 3 weeks ago our pastor, Wyman Richardson, preached on Romans 9:1-3. I'll probably butcher it bit, but I'll try my best to present it as well as he did. Hopefully, I can adequately verbalize the main point. The basis is that Paul's heart is breaking over the Jews lostness. This was just the introduction to the battle that would rage within my heart over the nest week. I could blame Wyman for my discomfort, but I know well it was the Lord's conviction that left my heart hurting. So here goes...

"I am telling the truth in Christ. I am not lying, my conscious bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh". Did you catch that? Yeah, me either. I've read the Bible through a couple of times and never caught it. However, as presented this particular Sunday it came barreling through my consciousness like a ton of bricks.

Paul is so concerned for his "kinsman" he says he wishes he could trade places. He states if he could be "accursed" and give up heaven, take their place in hell for their sake, he would. I have to admit when Pastor Wyman asked "can you say that?" My immediate thought was an emphatic NO WAY!!! For a person that has never had the experience of a healthy body, I'm kind of looking forward with great anticipation the new, glorified one I will be receiving. I have imagined myself on occasion skipping along on the streets of gold chatting with Mary and Martha, looking to Jesus and praising him in person.

First of all, it is hard to imagine something that isn't possible. We know that once you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can't trade heaven. You are sealed once for all, Praise the Lord!! So imagining that scenario is difficult given the fact that it isn't a possibility. However, the truth behind the point is profound and left me in conflict. Wyman stated (as I sent him a text later. I am a slow processor and this would not leave my mind until I had it settled in my heart). This is the heart of Christ and we should be, need to be willing. Willing to have such concern over our "kinsman" that we would do whatever it takes to point them to the cross.

I can't say I am there. In my flesh I still wrestle with thoughts. I do believe wholeheartedly though that the Lord brought out a point directly to me in my current life situation. Those that know me well know there is a particular situation and two particular individuals that I struggle with on a consistent basis. I have to confess, they are not the problem. I am. This was part of my lesson.

The sermon brought so pointedly by our pastor was the Lord's way to get my attention. I'd let my circumstances dictate my happiness. It became about me. My attitude stunk. I wallowed in self pity. I wrestled with this message. I told the Lord, he couldn't be serious. As He began to soften my heart, I realized I am in this particular time and place for a reason. Honestly, I do not wish hell on these people. Really I just wanted out! I wanted rid of them, move me, move them I didn't care I just did not want to have to deal with them anymore. I asked the Lord, why me? It was like he pressed my heart and said "why not you?"

You see I can't trade heaven for you or anyone else for that matter. Only Christ in His perfection can do that (and did)! However, I can be in a place, situation, class, be a light and to point people toward the Savior. So what if they are mean to me. So what if it is uncomfortable. So what if it is challenging. Oh my goodness, look what Christ endured for me and for you. I have no right. I had quit caring for lost people. Seriously, what can I expect from people who do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Exactly what I was getting.

The word says it is easy to love those that love you but the challenge is to love those that are unlovable. Luke 6:32 & 35 "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the most high. For He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." I know the challenging people in my life to not know Christ. So why was I expecting them to behave as if they did? I had quit praying for them. I had begun to despise them. Ouch! That is purely and simply, sin.

I can tell you as I began to pray and repent and tell the Lord I didn't like it but I would be obedient, He was faithful (and I am still a work in progress). They still pull punches and throw low blows, but the Lord is giving me strength. It's certainly not me! I often joke that the Lord made me small for a reason. In my flesh, I can be a little terror. I have a temper! I can say though that I certainly ask Him now on a daily basis to change my attitude and help me be willing to be His vessel. Oh, I still struggle, but the desire to get there is real. I truly want to be willing to say I'll do anything Lord. For now, for me that means sticking it out in this situation. I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.

So where are you today? To whom is Christ asking you to be "His vessel"? What situation has you so beaten down that you are willing to throw in the towel? I challenge you, don't ask God to move you ask Him to sustain you and work through you. This last week, though busy, has been a breath of fresh air compared to the last couple of months for me. i have to give God the glory cause it is not me.They have not changed, but my attitude toward them has. I ask that you continue to pray for my attitude. Ask me about how it is going. i want to be His light while I am here!  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

That's Not Really What I Had in Mind

Ever get frustrated because you feel you aren't hearing from the Lord? You pray about an issue, fret about it, and pray about it some more. You share with your trusted "prayer warriors" because you just aren't hearing from the Lord. You ask for help and ask the Lord why He is so silent on the issue. Someone says something to you about it and you get a little defensive, after all you are praying about it, right?

Yeah well, praying, maybe but for who's will?

This reminds me of the story of a man in his home as flood waters approach. He prays for the Lord to save him from certain death. A car comes by and the people offer him a ride. Nope, he replies. I'm waiting on the Lord to save me. He moves indoors to the 2nd floor as the waters reach his home. A boat comes by and the people implore him to get in. Again he says no, as he is waiting on the Lord. The flood overtakes his home and he gets on the roof. As a helicopter hovers above he refuses the rescue as, yeah you get it, he is waiting on the Lord to save him. Then he dies and goes to heaven. He asks the Lord, why did you not save me, to which the Lord replies, I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter for you what more did you want?

That's the same way it was when Jesus came. The Jews wanted a warrior, a King who would come charging in and save them and give them peace. Peace on earth for a time. A nice idea, but not what the Lord had in mind. He saw the big picture. He was sent to save the world "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17.

The Jews prayed and awaited their King, but they missed Him. They missed Him because He didn't come how they wanted Him too. It wasn't their way. It didn't make any sense. He answered their prayer but according to His perfect will not theirs. He came in the way that would give ALL peace, eternal peace.

I can tell myself they were stupid for missing the most important facet of life ever. Yet I am just like them. When I pray for something, it is with a preconceived idea of how I think it should be. How I want it to be. The Lord answers, but I don't like the answer so I keep at it. Like the child who asks one parent for something and not getting the answer he/she desires goes to the other parent.

Ever thought about it that way? I think I am on the right path but I find myself telling my Creator, "Yeah, really not what I had in mind Lord. I don't like where You're going with this so I'll just take it from here." I want my will really not yours. So what was I praying about? Wow, if I say I trust Him, this is certainly not living like I do.

There are many versus in the Bible that speak about prayer. "Pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Versus that speak about the Lord hearing us and answering our prayer. He will show us things as Jeremiah 33:3 says "call unto Me and I will answer you, and show you great and hidden things that you have not known". However, we must truly be seeking His will and not ours. We need to listen for Him. To listen, we must be in His presence seeking Him. He tells us in Jeremiah if we seek Him, He will be found. Psalm 46:10 says "be still and know that I am God". I need to be still. I need to listen. I need to seek. I need to obey...even when it isn't the way I wanted.

It's as the song goes, "trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey". There is no loophole here, no fine print that says you only have to do so when it makes sense or when everyone agrees with you it is the best plan of action. It won't necessarily all fall neatly into place in your head. So are you really praying for the Lord's will or your own?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

When Life Doesn't Quite Make Sense

I am toilet training my cat. When all your snickers, snide remarks, and sarcastic comments are out of the way and you have stopped laughing perhaps you can read on. It is a daunting task, no doubt, but I am determined to succeed. As we all know necessity is the mother of invention and this will solve a huge problem that is peaking over the horizon. (I have gotten enough looks of disbelief from the members of my household so you can keep your pessimism to yourself. A girl, and her cat, could use a little encouragement.) 

It all begins with the impending movement of another adult into our home. My dad's sister, Muff who turned 83 last Saturday, decided that living in Virginia was too hard in the winter and awfully lonely throughout the year. We have begged her to come. We hate the thought of her being alone and ever since Violet, the oldest of the three siblings, passed away in December of 2009 she has been. She has refused time after time, with one excuse after another so we gave up. I get it. She was born (literally) in that house and has lived there all her life. It would be hard for her to make that change, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Then last week she called and said she was ready.

It will be hard for her. However, we want her here. We can take care of her. Most of all we love her and want to see her happy and secure. We have a spare room and spare bathroom. It's just that right now the cat's litter box is neatly hidden away and out of sight in the spare bathroom tub. So therein lies why this weekend I plunged headlong into the unknown territory of toilet teaching my cat.

I got everything I needed and set about to teach him. He saw me remove his box and set this training contraption on the toilet seat. He watched me put litter in said contraption. He seemed uninterested even as I showed it to him. He sniffed it and stared at me. I sat him on it and, again, he looked at me wide eyed and mystified as if I had gone a little nuts. He jumped down. I coaxed him back up. We did this back and forth, up and down, look of confusion filling his little face as he tilts his head to the side and looks at me and at the training seat....and then, eureka, he got it! He used it one time! I gave him a treat! We were both pleased. One time down, whew! 

It will solve a problem in that Muff will have her own bathroom without a stinky litter box to deal with. It will be cleaner and nicer for her. It will cut down on cost as I won't have to buy litter anymore. More room, less mess, it has to work. It is a good idea. he, the cat, just needs to cooperate.

I know that it is wildly out of kilter for him. It is strange looking, feeling and quite out of the ordinary. He paced around yesterday morning, yowling at the top of his lungs as if to say "you idiot I have to go and you put my potty outside. Are you insane?" I was beginning to think I was as the little guy paced around and I thought he might explode. He has the #1 part down it was the other he is out of sorts about. Then once again, he tried it, success! Day #2, he has done it all in the right place and no accidents.

Zeke trusts me so he is trying it. He is not completely trained but we have had success for 2 days now. He keeps coming back to me like I will get a clue and put his box back in place. I, however, see the big picture and when it is all said and done, well it will be truly wonderful.

I need to be patient with him as he tests this new idea out. I need empathy as he does not understand why we suddenly changed tactics on his bathroom etiquette. I need a kind voice as yelling and a heavy hand won't accomplish anything but terrorize him. I will encourage and support but I won't allow him to give up. It is what is best. It got me to thinking, isn't that a lot like how we are with God?

I've been there. Arguing and asking questions. You want me to do what God? Are you sure God? That doesn't make a lot of sense God. It feels strange God. I'd like to do it my way God. That's uncomfortable God. Why me God?

When the one question I should be asking I trust God? The answer is most assuredly YES! "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight" Proverbs 3:5 - 6. I don't see the big picture. God holds eternity, I can't remember what I did last week. I don't have to understand. I do have to obey. It's laughable really when I question the Creator of the universe. I am so thankful He is gracious and forgiving, patient and kind, firm and in control! Life is so truly wonderful when I sit back and listen to Him and let Him be my guide.