Friday, July 29, 2016

Nothing Wasted...

     In three weeks our four year journey through job loss will come to an end. My husband has been called back to the same school district that he was furloughed from... something we thought would be highly unlikely. Everyone seems to expect us to be excited and relieved to have come to the end of this long journey. Sometimes these expectations make conversations feel awkward for me. I am still processing this... have been since we found out in June. I don't feel excited and I really always thought that I would. Instead I am a mixture of relief, gratitude, and sadness. This mixture of emotions has gotten me thinking about what I've learned, how I've journeyed, and the places I've been with God since the furlough in 2012.

    Those of you who read this blog have shared in some of the things I've learned along the way. I was trying to figure out if there was just one giant lesson that I've learned through all of this. There isn't. However, God has offered me many opportunities for growth and I've taken them. Others may call them "lessons" but because of the ways He's loved me and stretched me through them... I can't. Maybe, I could call them treasures. Perhaps that's why I am a mixture of relief, gratitude, and sadness. Journeys can be long and treasure hunting in the desert places can be tiring. I am relieved that I'll be journeying through new territory. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude often to the point of tears, when I think about the places God and I have been on this journey and how He provided for every leg of it. I'm sad because there is something so precious, so sweet, about His presence in my life... especially during the hard times.  I don't remember experiencing it in quite the same way, when the journey on life's terrain was smoother.

      I expected to feel elated, like a weight was lifted when this time of uncertainty in our lives came to an end. Instead, I find myself pleading with God that He will engrave on my heart the places we've been. I don't ever want to forget my treasures or how it felt to continually experience Him doing the impossible for me and my family. I don't want to forget learning that He truly does inhabit the praises of His people... a treasure I gathered in 2012 when my daughter was in the hospital.  We had few answers, and God seemed unreachable. Choosing to praise in the midst of feelings of abandonment brought the rush of His presence like I have never experienced before. I also don't want to forget how to be content with only seeing one step illuminated at a time on life's dark pathways, or the way it felt to grab His hand and trust His lead when I couldn't see more than that.  I pray I always remember that I don't need to desperately search for His will for fear that I will miss it. All I need is to stay close to Him and I will walk right into it. I hope I will continue to experience the joy that comes from giving out of my need and continue to commit to give in faith more than I can count on having, because it's here that I have seen God multiply. I want to hold tightly to the treasure of  not having the answers to the "why" questions the children asked me, so that they could witness their father and I stumble our way through trusting God when we didn't understand His reasoning. I pray I never lose the ability to remember that what God has planned for me is always, always so much better than what I could have dreamed of for myself. May I remember, that even when His plan is to journey through the dark desert places... the paths I  will walk on are laden with treasure that I can't find any other way but through the light of His loving presence leading me.

    You see, nothing is wasted with God. The things in life that we would like to throw away... are His treasures. I didn't always see trials as opportunities to grow or journeys that I would take with God. Most of my life, they were something I sought to get through quickly... learn my lessons and move on to better times. Truthfully, I approached these past four years the same way in the beginning. I can't pinpoint the exact moment that it changed for me, but I strongly suspect that it was that day I learned to praise Him in the midst of having no answers and feeling abandoned. I do know this, we've had a running dialogue ever since and it's made all the difference. I don't feel like I have learned "lessons" I feel like I have been on a long journey with God. God, who has loved me in my rough places. God, who has taken what could have been a wasted four years and made it some of the most prosperous years of my life.

    I don't know what desert you are in right now or what dark places you journey through searching for answers. I do know this, you have a choice to make and how you choose will make all the difference. You can either journey with Him... which requires brutal honesty, a running dialogue, and a heart that is willing to hear the things it does not want to, because it trusts and loves the One who is leading it.  Or...you can go it on your own. I know of some who are doing this right now and so far all they have to show for it is waste. They are afraid, hurt, bitter, convinced that God has forgotten them, and bent on going their own way instead of seeking Him for each step on the journey. They have traded treasure for chains.

   There are no chains when you journey with God. To journey with God is freedom. It is to set yourself free to take His hand and rely on His strength, direction, and wisdom. Relying on Him affords you the opportunity to gather treasures along the way. By the end of your journey you too will find that nothing is wasted with God... that of all the treasures you've gathered none can compare to the fellowship you've shared with Him.

   It's with this knowledge that I look ahead to what lies before us and choose to embark on this next leg of life's journey with a heart eager to learn and receive whatever He has for me. A job with benefits does not guarantee a life without deserts or dark places... but at least I know that nothing will ever be wasted and the fellowship will be sweet!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Only Love...

  Only love. Love reads the angry Facebook posts and prays for those who wrote them. Love chooses not to judge those who will vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Only love.  Love really hopes that he did come to know Christ, and that she is more than just a Methodist. Only love. Love chooses not to allow political differences within the body of Christ to give way to division in the heart. Love...is a choice.

  Love chooses to see the victims of the Orlando shooting as human beings. Love chooses to see God in all faces...not just the faces that belong to straight people. All of us were created in His image regardless of the lifestyle we choose to lead. Love weeps with the families whose arms ache to hold their loved one again. Love weeps for the son of the gunman who took their lives...weeps because he only knew him as dad and now his dad is no more.

    Only love. Love looks at the faces of the Syrian refugees and refuses to see potential terrorists. Instead, love remembers. Love remembers that the Savior of our souls once fled to Egypt with His parents...seeking refuge from a murderous King. Love sees Jesus in the face of a Syrian refugee because Jesus was once a stranger seeking shelter in a foreign land....so love makes room.

  Love chooses not to get hung up on bathroom policies but to ask the questions that really matter. How do I respond in love to the transgender persons of this world? How do I continue to see God in all faces...even the ones who have made changes to their own? Love knows...love knows that in order to lead them to the Lover of their souls, they must first meet Him in the loving and respectful responses of His people. People, who see a human being created in God's image first and not the politics of the day. Love responds the way God responded to us. He entered our mess. He came right into the heart of our sin and loved us any way...with a love so compelling that we were drawn to Him and moved to be transformed.

  Only love. Love lives out  Christ's directive to "Love one another. As I have loved you." (John 13:34)  Love takes to heart that "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:14) and "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) These verses spell out how extravagantly we've been loved...and so we must love the same. We must dwell among others and enter into their mess, much like Christ entered into our messy world and our messy lives... through the messy business of a live human birth!

   His people today, seem to want Him all wrapped up in a neat little package made of black and white wrapping paper. He came to us a mess, covered in the remnants of amniotic fluid and blood. Even as He grew and walked the earth there was nothing about the way He loved that was tidy. He was a religious rule breaker. He stopped a woman from being stoned for adultery. He ate with a tax collector. He touched and healed a leper. The broken and the messy were drawn to Him...by His messy upside down looking love. Do people see this same love in us today? Can they recognize that we are His by our love for them, or are we too busy being divided? Are we too busy trying to box God up in a neatly wrapped package with black and white wrapping paper, to live out the directive that He gave us to "Love one another" ?  

  Only love. Only God's love can heal a hurting world. Only God's love flowing freely through us can can effect lasting change. We are so divided right now as a world, as a nation, and even within the body of Christ. Yet, within the midst of all this angst, hostility, and harsh judgment of each other...there still exists a remnant of people who relentlessly hope for radical change.  As Christ followers who have been placed on the earth at this point in history "for such a time as this", we have the opportunity of a lifetime to point them to our radical Christ. However, unless we are unified by His love, empty of ourselves, and have given up trying to neatly package God...we will miss it!

  I don't want to miss it, do you? Join me. Join me in seeking to BE God's love to a hurting world. Only His love can effect radical change...look what it did for us! Join me in trusting that we don't need all of the answers neatly boxed up and ready ahead of time...God will lead us by His Spirit in each  and every messy moment. Let's point our world to the love of our radical God by the way our love for Him unites us and overflows to embrace them in the midst of their mess!