Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Simple Things...

When was the last time you enjoyed the simple things? When was the last time you stopped trying to "save the world" or get ahead? When was the last time you slowed down enough to enjoy the people around you?

I am guilty of being too task oriented at times and losing sight of the bigger picture. I get caught up in keeping house, educating the kids, and entertaining friends and family for dinner. Sometimes I pack my schedule too full and go non stop from the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night. I do this until I crash from exhaustion, I become too cranky with the people I love, or God steps in and gets my attention some other way. Someday I hope to be better at not doing this so that I don't need these wake up calls!

This week God used the electricity going out for a couple of days to grab my attention. I wish I could say that I graciously received this wake up call... but that would be lying. I was very upset. It went out as I was about to start the over stuffed dish washer! The kids were sticky and dirty from outside and I was about to bathe them as well. And did I mention it was 9:30pm? No amount of prayer got the electricity back on. No matter how many times I reminded God that I had a busy weekend ahead, dirty children, lots of dishes, and lots of laundry!

This changed the focus of the next few days. When the electricity was off our focus was to keep the food cold. Once it came back on the focus was catching up on the dishes and the laundry. Because of all of this and the lack of sleep on the hot and sticky nights without electricity, I was too tired to plan my usual Memorial Day cook out. This forced me to find some other fun for our family. Because I was tired and only planning something for my family I was able to keep things simple.

We took the kids to the park and had a picnic lunch. We ate some ice cream, had a water gun fight, watched a movie, and made smores. It was the water gun fight that made me think about the simple things...

When I am too busy doing I miss the most important things, the simple things. Because I was forced to slow down I had a blast strategically hiding in the yard waiting to ambush my children and my husband by soaking them with water! I was able to enjoy my youngest daughter's giggles as she tried so hard to be quiet and not give away our hiding spot when we were a team.

And I saw who exactly it is that I miss when I am too busy. I miss enjoying the people I love. Sure I still take care of them in my busyness and have conversations with them. But do I enjoy their laughter? Their smile? Do I really listen to them when they talk to me? And if I miss all of this, than how am I loving them well at all?

Will you join me this week in remembering that there will always be a world to save, a desire to get ahead, and a list of things to do? And will you also remember that the chance to love others well and enjoy them especially those closest to us, is gone when they are gone? We only have the moments we are given to enjoy the simple things with the people we love and those moments go by way too fast! Slow down this week and love and live well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God Sees What I Can't....

I take comfort in knowing that God sees what I can't. I wrote this sentence in an email to a friend yesterday. Funny thing is as I was typing it, the words came out in a very matter of fact kind of way. I was expressing a conclusion that I had come to after having struggled with some things. It wasn't until later on in the day that the words started to roll around in my mind sort of speaking to me beyond that matter of fact kind of way.

God sees what I can't...
I can only see what's in front of me right now. Sometimes that can be uncertain,disappointing, cause for concern, or scary. If I could see the end result, the future, how things will turn out I may feel better. Even if things don't turn out well, if I could see ahead at least I could see the way God would work in my heart and in my life through what is presently going on. But I can't see more than what is in front of me.

I take comfort in knowing...
God sees the future. God can see what is in front of me but He can also see what lies ahead. He can see the end from the beginning. He knows how it all works together and why it all works together. He sees the purpose He has in mind for everything that I go through in this life.

I take comfort in knowing that God sees what I can't...
Because God can see ahead and I can't I need to keep my eyes focused on Him. He needs to be in my sights as I look forward and step forward in faith. David puts it this way in Psalm 16: 8 "I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

Many of us face uncertainties and hardships right now. For some its a serious health issue or a rebellious child. For others it's addiction, divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one. Whatever it is please take comfort in knowing that God sees the future, He sees what you can't and He sees beyond the fog of this trial you are in right now. If you fix your eyes on Him and take comfort in knowing that He can see what you can't you too will not be shaken!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Things That Shape Us...

I have spent some time recently with some hurting people. In some cases they are being made anxious by their past. In others, people in their life have hurt them in such a way that they battle with negativity and trust regularly. Without minimizing the fact that some wounds are extremely deep and can take years to heal, I feel moved to share some of my wounds and how going to God with them has helped me, because I believe that He is the ultimate healer.

I was bullied off and on from the time I was in elementary school all the way through to Junior High School. The boys in my neighbor hood were particularly mean. They would play with me and the two other girls who lived nearby but when the other girls would leave to go home, the boys would bully me. They did things like push me into a pond and in the winter time one of them pushed me down a hill on my sled strategically aiming me at a large tree at a high speed. I was unable to stop, you can use your imagination for how well that one turned out! It was shortly after that when I stopped playing with the neighbors!

These circumstances caused me to go to God at a very young age and pour my heart out to Him. I would spend hours in my room playing alone with my toys all the while talking to God about my hurts. He became my constant friend. I always felt better after being with Him. I believe that being able to spend this time with Him helped me make it through Junior High and helped me to be compassionate toward others who were picked on.

In Junior High I was mostly bullied about my relationship with God. In eighth grade someone spread a rumor that I was gay. I didn't know, somehow the rumor hadn't gotten to me yet, until I sat down at the lunch table and everyone else moved to another table. This went on for a week and a half. It was as if I had some disease and no one wanted to be near me. I got so upset that I stopped eating lunch. My parents began to notice something was wrong and when they found out what it was they called the school. The guidance counselor's advice was "Tell your daughter to toughen up, it's a cruel world!" And so I have. I learned that there will always be someone who doesn't like you and will talk behind your back. So I decided that what mattered most to me was what God thought because I already knew from experience that He loved me no matter what and He would always be there for me.

This experience also moved me to befriend others who were being bullied and to stand up for them when they were being picked on. Sometimes standing up for others caused me to receive threats of physical harm. But God protected me. By the time High school came around I was no longer bullied. In fact I had friends from all different circumstances. I had friends who were foster kids, friends who did drugs, friends who were still being bullied, friends from vo-tech, friends from marching band, super smart friends from scholastic scrimmage, cheerleaders, and even three football players who used to bully me! God used those years of hurt to enable me to witness to these people during study hall and lunch time. Because He loved me so well I was able to love them.

I share all this because I am convinced that what we do with our hurts can determine what character we turn out to be. We can either let them shape us into skeptical, critical, bitter, and afraid people... or we can take them to God. When we spend the time pouring out our hearts before Him until they are empty of the hurt, it leaves room for Him to heal us. The time spent with Him produces a deeper love in us for Him and for the people around us.

On a final note... I actually wrote this blog yesterday but didn't post it. It wasn't something I wanted to write. It was something I felt God moving on my heart to write but I didn't want to do it because of the content of what he was asking me to share. So I wrote it and saved it. Then I reread it this morning and said, "Are you sure God? There are other things I could write about." After further discussion with Him about my hesitations, I flipped the page on a calendar at my desk and found this quote on today's date, " We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." The quote is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Then I understood. I have been shaped and fashioned by WHO I love. God has taken my hurts and made me who I am and it's because of His love that it's important to encourage others who read this so they can know that He can do the same with your hurts because He loves you so incredibly much!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Matters?

This past week I have ended up spending time with or talking with people who are either not thrilled with the church or have been wounded by it at some point or another in their life. Let me be clear that when I say "the church" I am not referring to any one church, I am referring to the Body of Christ in general. These people come from many different denominational backgrounds and their experiences occurred in various denominational churches. So I have been contemplating why God put me in these clusters of conversations with these various people as well as what can a person learn from bad church experiences?

There is no perfect church. There is no perfect denomination. There are no perfect Pastors. There are no perfect church people. In fact the church is full of sinners saved by grace and that is why people get hurt. I have grown up in the church. I came to know Christ when I was 4 years old and I too carry scars from past church experiences. Here's the thing, people often leave the church they are in because of their hurts or the things they disagree with and go in search of another church they can attend that does not have those problems. What happens? They end up in another church with it's own set of problems! Then they get frustrated because they can't find the perfect church.

But there is NO perfect church! In every church there will be gossiping. In every church there will be immaturity. In every church there will be some leader along the way with their own hidden agenda. So what do we do? Where do we go? What really matters? This is what has captivated my thoughts most this week... what really matters? What is worth staying for?

These are the questions that I have been asking God. It's been three days of questioning and wrestling. When you have old scars from past church experiences it makes it easier to feel like giving up on church altogether when you come across something that angrily reminds you of what you have been through before. There have been times when I find myself wincing or recoiling at such reminders and struggle with wanting to run for the hills or throw in the towel! But I have had to learn that I can't allow myself to be focused on those things or those church people that make me want to do that, or I will miss the very things that God wants to use to shape me into the person He wants me to be! God wants us to focus on following Him as individuals. Our own personal relationships with Him matter. So in this sense it's not our job to concern ourselves with the rest. We must be concerned with following Him and His work in our lives so that we can be His hands and feet to others in the ways in which He has uniquely gifted us to do so.

The presence of God is worth staying for. As long as a person can continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, as long as God shows up in the services, as long as a person can continue to serve God with their gifts, and as long as the truth of the gospel is being preached from the pulpit... stay. All the other things that are not right, leave up up God to deal with. It's His job and even though it may seem to us that He takes His time in doing it, no one does it better than Him!

God is what really matters. As long as He is present and we are at church FOR HIM we will be okay. To be at church for any other reason is to set oneself up for hurt and disappointment. It goes back to what God seems to be drilling into me in this season in my life. So I leave you with this encouragement... don't forget who you belong to! He is the one sure thing when all others fail you and when you feel like you don't matter to the church, remember that you matter to Him!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Who Needs Prince Charming When You Have THE KING OF KINGS!

The world events of this past weekend and this week have me reflecting. They are opposites. The first event I am thinking of was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. As I have mentioned before, I have two little girls. They don't watch the news, but this wedding was inescapable in the weeks leading up to it. It was everywhere. My girls begged me to get up at four in the morning to watch it. We compromised and got up at six in the morning instead. After all, what little girl doesn't like a wedding or have dreams of a real prince coming to get her one day! So there we sat glued to the television that morning waiting to see the beautiful bride marry her prince charming! The girls were spell bound. My husband came in the room briefly to say goodbye and leave for work and they were so mesmerized that as soon as he said, " good-" they shushed him!

The other world event that captures my mind is the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Quite a different event! I turned on the television that morning and saw people celebrating in the streets. I felt an instant wave of mixed emotions. I was relieved that he was no more. I was proud of our troops, I was saddened by the reminder of why we had to go after Osama in the first place. And I was confused. I understand who he is and what he did. But the question kept turning over in my mind, is it right to celebrate the death of another human being?

These two opposite events have me reflecting on two future events. Let me explain....
One day my King will come. " And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war." Revelation 19:11. Ever since I was a little girl I have been told that someday Christ would return for His bride the church. It became such a common thing that I heard growing up that it lost it's importance to me. But when I watched the royal wedding on television and saw the grandness of the cathedral and the incredible gown the bride wore, and the prince waiting at the end of the aisle I realized something. No matter how grand this earthly wedding was, it pales in comparison to the marriage of Christ and His Bride. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. " Revelation 19: 7-8. And so I find myself challenged to make myself ready, and anticipating with excitement the return of the King!

Now for the other event. I told you that I struggled with the question of whether or not it is right to celebrate the death of another human being. I am not sure of my answer, but it pointed my thoughts in the direction of remembering our greatest enemy, the devil. I don't know about you, but I am tired of the oppression I see in the lives of some of the people I care about because of him and I am tired of the evil in this world. Are you tired of hearing about broken marriages? Battered spouses? Sexual promiscuity? Murder? Racism? Child abuse? Rebellious teens? Broken homes? Drugs? Alcohol? Abortion? Gossip? Death? I am and I look forward to the day when all of that will be no more.

For many years we could not find our enemy Osama Bin Laden and did not know if he would ever be brought to justice or have to pay for what he did. But the Bible is clear on our enemy the devil and what will happen to him. " And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Revelation 20: 10. I can't help but think after seeing the joyous celebrations on television over the death of Osama that it's nothing compared to what we will feel, witness, and celebrate when the devil is done away with forever! And as if that isn't enough, Revelation 21:3-5 goes on to say " And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' "

Who besides me, needed to hear that this week? I know we all need to be reminded at times that our King is coming, our enemy is defeated, and as big and strong as our God is... He is still tender and loving enough to take His God sized hand and wipe away every tear from our eyes! Can you imagine being face to face with God and He wipes the tears from your eyes?! Can you imagine God dwelling among you?
Who needs a Prince Charming, when you have THE KING OF KINGS!!!