Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Hardheaded Woman...

Ok, I’ve been waiting for it to happen since I typed the word “anxious” in my status on FB and Twitter Monday night. I knew as soon as the letters hit the screen that I should erase them and think of something else to write. But I didn’t. I left them there and continued thinking I was getting “a little anxious about this week” because of all I had to do and knowing that more than likely I would not have enough time to accomplish all of it.

My first thought after I hit “comment” was, "I’m not supposed to be anxious…God says." And if He says it, then He means it. Remember last week when I decided to wait until mid-week to listen to Him and I wasted so much time and energy struggling? And I said that I had learned my lesson? And I was going to remember next time? Guess what. Yep! Busted again!

I was hearing the “do not be anxious” verse in my head all this week. I kind of let go of my worries to a certain extent but I didn’t fully rely on God to provide and therefore missed multiple opportunities to see Him show up for me. What a goober! (that’s Southern slang for, I’m such an idiot or nut – get it? nut=peanut=goober). Any how… back to my train of thought. I was almost expecting a repeat of last week with the Daily Bible Verse thing, but it didn’t really click this week. God is very creative, don’t you know. (That one’s for my Minnesota friends, don’t ya know!)

So this evening I was going through my daily blog check and I found the prize. It was on Steven Furtick’s blog today. The title? Anxiety. Plain and simple…you need to check it out. It was my very own personal sermon. Why do we have to wait to hear something from a third party when God has already been crystal clear? Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me.

Here’s honesty for you…when I worry or feel anxious it has less to do with whether or not I think God can handle a given situation and more to do with will I let Him. It’s no less wrong, just different. I believe that God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do, but just like last week I most often try to accomplish things in my own strength first and then call out to God when I find out I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. (Another Southern thing…plus I had to get my food/eating analogy in somehow.)

So this work in progress would appreciate your prayers and I’ll return the favor. Plus, for heaven’s sake – feel free to kick my rear end when I apparently refuse to see God daily! And I thank you in advance…

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Great wisdom from a man called Jones...

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

“We need to start noticing a few things. We need to check your heart. We need to gather a little perspective.” These words, from a character by the name of Jones (no Mr. - just Jones) in the opening pages of The Noticer, have never rung truer than in the midst of the uncertainties we face today. We get so caught up in everything that’s wrong that we often fail to notice everything that’s right.

Jones contends that noticing is his gift and he uses it to help others gain perspective – “a broader view – allowing them to regroup, take a breath, and begin their lives again.” Isn’t that just the perfect picture of hope? Through the course of this book, Jones interacts with many people who believe that things can get no worse and the chances of things getting any better are slim to none. After a session or two with him, each of these individuals seem to have new insight of their circumstance.

There are many seeds of wisdom that Jones plants along his journey with the residents of Orange Beach, Alabama. Seeds like “whatever we focus upon increases,” and “if you’re still breathing…and alive…then you have not completed what you were put on earth to do.” Yet another shows us the differences between a mistake and a bad choice as well as the difference in apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

Andy Andrews, a master storyteller, shares invaluable insight in this delightful narrative. It will inspire you to ask yourself some important questions and hopefully encourage you to notice things in the lives of others that will enable you to bring to light a little perspective for them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spaghetti and Ravioli...

I’ll be honest with you…I’ve been in a mood this week. It’s been so bad I didn’t even want to be around myself! I woke up with it Monday morning and things just spiraled downward from there. I couldn’t figure out what happened. I mean, I went to sleep Sunday night with thoughts running through my head of God's strength being displayed in the lives of people I know and wondering how I could creatively turn it into a "seeing God through strength" blog post. I thought I was on the right track and expected to have it ready by Monday night. But I messed up (real good) and through my failure God taught me a very important lesson (again!).

So there I was, first thing Monday morning and already I was wishing it was Friday. Everything I touched seemed to fall apart and I mean everything. Actually, what was falling apart was me. But I was still thinking about God and strength so I thought I'd look up the word “strength” in the dictionary. Words such as endurance, power, force, intense, might, and depth were listed in the definition. I like it! Those words just jump out and shout “ARGHH” to you, don’t they? They pump you up and make you feel like you can handle anything, right? So what in the world was my problem? Yeah, I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.

Well, by Wednesday morning I had come to the end of my little rope and I finally asked God, “What is wrong with me? I feel like bowl full of messy spaghetti when all want to be is neat little ravioli pockets. Help me. Please?” And just like only God can do, He was already way ahead of me. He knew what I needed before I knew. He provided the answer even before I asked Him the question! (He also overlooked the fact that every one of my analogies has to do with food and/or cooking - go figure!)

I logged on to my computer a few minutes after my plea for help and my daily verse was revealed to be Ephesians 6:16, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” You may recognize this as part of the section in Ephesians that explains the Armor of God for us. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks…this verse was a continuation from the previous day and even the day before that – all the way back to my dark Monday morning. So I quickly went back to the beginning of the section. It starts in verse 10 and these are the first words…”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Oh. My. Word. (Well, actually God’s words, my emphasis.) Strong, mighty and power all in the same sentence. It almost sent me clean over the edge! I continued to read the whole section and realized that I had fallen victim to the “devil’s schemes.” Yep, I stepped right into it! I was trying to make it in my own strength instead of God's. What a dumb idea!

But the real clincher I found in verse 18…”And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” I could have saved myself (and everybody who had to endure being around me) a whole heap of trouble if I had just prayed and paid attention when God spoke. And how many times do you count the word "all" in that verse? Think it's important? Yeah, I think so too! All Occasions, All Kinds of Prayers and Requests, Always keep on praying, For All the Saints...Doesn't leave much room to argue that there are days we would be wasting our time by praying, does it? I think He really means it when He says ALL.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at spaghetti the same way again. And hopefully the next time I feel like a tangled, mangled, grouchy mess, I’ll remember this lesson…use God’s strength, not mine! Then and only then will I be on the right track to a wonderful “ravioli day.” (And I'm not talking 'bout Chef Boyardee, either!)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seeing is Believing -OR- Believing is Seeing?

See – I’ve seen that word a lot lately. I’m not kidding you. Everywhere I look God is reminding me that I can see Him and His hand if I’m looking. Here are a just a few examples of those reminders from last week (all emphasis mine):

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13 (Bathroom mirror card – previous bible study)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 (iGoogle DBV) from last Monday

We live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (iGoogle DBV) from last Tuesday

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him

to the one who seeks him.

Lamentations 3:25 (NIV) (Bible Verse of the Day email) from last Tuesday

To save space I will stop with four – but you get the picture. The first entry is on a card taped to my bathroom mirror. It’s been there for about a year now, leftover from a previous bible study. When I think I’m ready to take it down something always stops me. I don’t think God will let me take it down until I believe it and can say it with passion. (It may be up there for a little while longer.)

I like the word “confident”. Being certain, full of conviction, assurance. Faith is being sure and certain of what we do not see. The Psalmist had “faith” (if you will) that he would see the goodness of the LORD in regular daily activity. So if I had any doubt that God wants me to write a blog centered on seeing His work, I’m rounding the corner and heading straight into certainty. We don’t have to wait for heaven to see God. He’s all around us…constantly, ever and forever present.

It’s like floating in the middle of the ocean and claiming you can’t see the water. You have to work hard not to see it! If you don’t see the water, you’ve intentionally missed it. Maybe you have your eyes closed or you’re looking at the sky instead. By the same token, if we don’t see God it’s because we’re not looking – either on purpose or maybe because it never occurred to us. Something else could possibly have our attention or we’re afraid of how our lives could be changed by what we might see.

We can see God everywhere. We can see God in the beautiful and precious things of this life. But we can also see God when things get a little rocky (or a lot rocky!). We can see Him when we say a final good-bye to a loved one, whether it’s a parent we’re not ready to let go of or an innocent child taken, by our minds, much too soon. We can see God when the doctor says that the cancer is back followed by, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do.” We can see God when the only news we hear seems to be bad news. When the boss announces the doors at work are to be closed – forever. God is still working when we’re scared, angry, confused, worried, frustrated, discouraged and completely devastated. When our lives seem to shatter like a crystal glass carelessly dropped on a concrete floor, God remains steadfast.

It’s hard to remember, when we find ourselves in the middle of our own crisis, that every single second of every single day there is always someone somewhere who is absolutely devastated. When we’re having a good day, there is a person out there somewhere who is having their worst day ever (maybe for the second or third time). That person may not be too far “out there” either. They may be standing in line behind you waiting to order their lunch. They may be sitting in the cubicle beside you. Maybe they’re in the car next to you at the red light or even living in the house across the street.

Here’s the thing, bad things are going to happen. It’s part of living in a sinful world. But there is HOPE! And we cannot fail to tell people about it – but first, we have to believe it ourselves. The way I look at it, the fact that we are able to have those “good days”…that we can laugh and play and enjoy each other through relationships…that we can be happy at all, to me that’s proof that God is completely present and active. If He weren’t, then any sort of good wouldn’t be possible at all. God’s gift to us is that HOPE. Without it the devastation would never end and we would all lose our minds (Some of us would go faster that others, for sure!). But God intends for us to live full, productive lives. When we live like we believe God is working around us and through us, then others will SEE GOD, too! The world says, “Seeing is Believing” but God says, “Believing is Seeing.” Give believing a try and then share what you see

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seeing God Through Forgiveness...

So you may have noticed (both of you) that I haven’t been back to post here for a few days. It actually has nothing to do with not seeing God and everything to do with not taking the opportunity to write about it. In the process I’m beginning to see God teach me something about obedience and forgiveness.

Just yesterday morning I was thinking about God’s unconditional love and the concept of forgiveness. I’ve been reading a book by Anne Lamott called Traveling Mercies, the section was titled “Forgiveness.” She gives a rather unique perspective of how forgiving someone (even when they don’t ask for it, or know they should) actually changes something inside of us more than it changes the other person or even our circumstances. Now Anne has a very distinctive writing style. Actually it’s quite raw, but it’s refreshing, in a way, to read about her hurts and struggles and the way she writes with such open honesty. Friendly warning ***READ WITH CAUTION***

So I guess that was close to the surface of my mind and prime meditation material. Now as far as my personal experience with hurt goes, I’d have to say I’ve been blessed. However, depending on your perspective, maybe not. What it really means is that I’ve lived carefully instead of courageously. My goal (up to now) has been to prevent ruffled feathers instead of encouraging action, but the few times I’ve been pretty riled up it has always involved someone I love enduring the hurt, if not me directly. Two examples come to mind and involve ex-in-laws (of the sister and brother persuasion). One of these two people was married to my sister and the other to my brother. Both hurt my siblings, and by extension our whole family, in a huge way. These two individuals have minimal impact on our lives now, but they’ve been on my mind the past couple of days. Imagine that. Just when God is prodding me with the idea of forgiveness, dang it! But wait, it gets even better…

I was talking to my mother this afternoon (totally unscheduled call, we usually talk on Sundays and Wednesdays) and before the conversation was over – mainly we discussed the two high school graduations looming over us in the next two weeks – she totally brings up the two villains. AND ACTUALLY ADMITTED THAT SHE PRAYS FOR THEM – DAILY!!! Everyone who thinks that was a so-called coincidence, please raise your hand. Yeah, me neither…

God and I had already had our conversation so it really didn’t surprise me that Mom and I crossed the same turf. It also didn’t surprise me that she prays for them. That’s the kind of mother (person) she is. The woman needs a 27-hour-day just to pray for all her kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and friends of friends and all their stuff. It’s a wonder she has time in her schedule to talk to me twice a week with all that praying she does!

But, back to my point…forgiveness. I had already been thinking about trying the forgiveness thing that Anne describes. It would definitely be rough and raw but I was wondering how it would feel. Now I’m not saying I’ve arrived but I did start the process. See, if I believe that God loves me unconditionally, meaning that my behavior or performance cannot cause His love for me to increase or decrease, then I also have to believe that He loves the ex-in-laws exactly the same way. If I believe that God extends forgiveness to me for all my junk, then how can I withhold my pitiful little forgiveness from someone else? This is not an original thought by the way, check out Matthew 6:14, Colossians 3:13 and Mark 11:25, just to mention a few. So even though I’m trying to forgive a couple of people for something they did that only offended me indirectly, it has more to do with my relationship with God than my relationship with them. It’s not going to change the circumstances surrounding the betrayals or the consequences we all struggle with still. But I think it will increase my understanding of God and His character and hopefully some of that will become evident in my life. That’s the goal…for others to SEE God through me. WOW – what a concept. What do you think? The more we practice this type of forgiveness and unconditional love, do you think it will become part of our character? I kind of think that’s part of the Plan…