Friday, August 31, 2012

Why I love roses...

My mom's favorite:  Tropicana
If you haven't noticed yet, I absolutely love roses.  I've always loved them.  Other flowers were fluffy or plain, but nothing could compare to the beauty of a fully formed rose--at least in my eyes.  When we were little, my mom got the delight of pruning nearly an acre of roses each morning at the resort where we lived.  The fragrance was heady and rich.  The colors were stunning.  I loved everything about it--even though it was often a hot and thankless job. 

A Particularly Thorny Rose
Belinda's Dream
I love that roses have thorns.  I've used some varieties for security around my front door because of their needle-like stems.  Their beauty is not without danger.  I can relate.  As much as I want to be sweet, with untarnished, painless beauty, I've never been able to pull it off.  A lot of my best friends are that way too and I love them anyway, thorns and all. 

I love that they need pruning constantly.  The more you prune them, the more they bloom.  I need that kind of care regularly too.  Even though it hurts, it keeps me from getting leggy and out of hand.

I love that they need fertilizer regularly.  I do too.  The Word of God keeps me fed so that I can make more blooms. 

My Favorite:  Ronald Reagan
I love that they need water constantly but can't sit still in it.  I need the Holy Spirit constantly, but He doesn't let me sit still all the time, taking in His presence for my own sake alone.  He gives me plenty of opportunities to pour out into others to keep myself from rotting. 

Roses take a lot of sunshine--and so do I.  That was a hard lesson to learn, but it is good to know what your physical limitations are.

Here in Central Florida, my roses often have a habit of blooming in the most surprising times--I usually get a flush in January, near the time of the frosts.  God helps me bloom at strange times too, often catching me by surprise, to my great delight. 

The rose variety that does the best locally drops its leaves when they become diseased.  It doesn't hold onto its pain or sickness--it sheds it as fast as possible so that the disease doesn't affect the entire bush.  It's a wise practice. 

A beautiful Don Juan
Honestly, they have very little practical value.  I don't have them for their practicality.  I have them because they are beautiful--a visual reminder of the goodness of God.  Sometimes it feels like I have little practical value too, but the Father enjoys me even when I am not all that useful.  I am His child and that's enough.  I enjoy His presence and that is enough sometimes too. 

I've learned a lot from roses, and as my own rose garden can attest, I still have much more to learn.  There's a new bacterial infection in this area that I have yet to lick.  I've got my own illnesses for which I need healing too.  I know the Lord and I will get through both problems. 

What things have you found that teach you about our Lord?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hearing God's Voice, 123...

"2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice."...14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me"  John 10:2-5,14

Recognizing Jesus's voice is the birthright of every Christian, but it doesn't come automatically.  Just as a baby learns to recognize the voice of his mother, we have to actively work to learn the voice of our Heavenly Father.  One of the best ways to learn to hear God's voice is through the Bible.  A good friend of mine, uses a journaling process she calls 123 to teach people how to hear God's voice and it's probably the best process I've seen to date. 

1.  Write in the journal the date, time and scripture passage you're reading that day.
2.  Read the passage, paying attention for what God wants to say to you.  It is God's word.  It is living and active and He will use it to speak to you.  When you find what He wants to say, paraphrase it in your journal as if He is speaking it directly to you (because He is!!)
3.  Write a prayer of response back to Him.  You can tell him what you are going to change because of what He has spoken into your life, or describe to Him how it changes the way you see the world, or you can just write a prayer of gratitude. 

If you can, keep the journal close to you all day and meditate on it throughout the day.  Keeping your conversations with God in a journal is powerful and helps you see what kinds of themes God is using with you over time.  It's amazing to look back and see how God has changed you and what He has brought you through. 

If you want to meet my dear friend, Linda Meyers leads a Bible Study for women called LIFT (Ladies in Fellowship Together) every Wednesday night at 6:30 at First Baptist Church, Winter Garden. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses . . .

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

He speaks and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that he gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing . . .

This song was written by a pharmacist and photographer, C. Austin Miles.  One day as he was developing some film, he had a vision of Mary Magdelene waiting in the garden, looking for the body of her Lord.  The thought was so touching to him that he quickly wrote out this beautiful hymn. 

Francis Frangipane noted that Jesus was eager for his disciples and friends to touch him when he met with them later.  It was only Mary Magdelene that he pulled away from because "He had not yet returned to His Father."  The point Francis made was that the pain and dispair of his dear friend was enough to interrupt his own trip back to commune with the Father.  He let all Heaven and His beloved Father God Himself wait so that he could comfort her.  If that doesn't touch your heart, then you need some serious soul searching.

We still have the same opportunity today.  We can come into the garden of fellowship with Him every morning, just like Mary Magdelene did--with the same passion, pain and urgency--and find Him waiting there, willing to place all of Heaven itself on hold to meet with us.  Even the most barren place can bloom in His presence, becoming more radiant than even the picture above.  He even promises this in His word to those He has grafted into Zion:

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Is. 51:3

Take some time with Him today, whether it's mid-day, evening or early tomorrow morning.  I promise on His authority that He will not fail to meet you there.  He said, "They will find Me if they seek Me with all their hearts," and He hasn't changed since He made that promise.  Just talk to Him as you would a healthy Father and dear friend.  He is willing to be both for you if you will let Him. 

Tomorrow, I'll give a short road map for spending each day with Him and learning to hear his voice. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Will you Believe God or suffer disappointment?

Saw this on facebook earlier today.  What is even more amazing to me is that it doesn't need a disaster for this to be true.  Once you really grasp the depth of the sacrifice He has made for us, it seems too good to be true. 

Someone gave me a book a few years ago entitled, Those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed.  The point of the book is not that we will avoid disappointments, but that, in light of the immeasurable love of God, we will choose not to be disappointed.  We can choose not to be disappointed because we know God's end will not be disappointing.  Therefore, if the circumstances haven't come around for God's Glory (and our ultimate good) then God isn't done yet. 

Too many times, I mope because it looks like the end, when the end has yet to be.  Like I wrote a few weeks ago, one of the scariest things about finishing things (good or bad) is that it feels like there's nothing next.  This is silly because I know my God and I know that He is not done yet--but I still do it.  It's good to have the break inbetween the major projects God uses to shape our lives, but rather than resting peacefully in those lulls, we wonder what's coming next.  I'm still struggling with being at peace, no matter what the circumstances are--and I've been working on it for decades.  I'll admit I'm better at it than I have been, but I have a long way to go. 

Next time you are tempted to be disappointed, go back to God and ask for His perspective and look forward to a surprise.  Things may not be over yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Collage by Altered Angel
A few days ago, I wrote about taking every thought captive.  David frequently fought depression and fear, yet his actions rarely showed his inner struggle.  Throughout the Psalms, he gives us great examples of how to take our thoughts captive.  One of the best examples is in Ps. 42 and 43.  The chorus of the song always comes back to:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. 

David recognizes that his emotional state is temporary so he disciplines his thoughts to return to the good times before God rather than staying in a place of agony.  Even when his thoughts return to his pain, he drags them back to memories of worship.  He meditates on the possibilities of worship in the future, turning that thought over in his mind again and again. 

During my own long seasons of depression, I remained in the Psalms for years.  There are 150 Psalms, which means you can read 5 a day every month or you can take 5 months to go through the book.  The 31st of each month I'd do a few stanzas from Ps 119--just because it is long.  The praise would lift my heart.  The cries of distress would echo my own aches.  Through it all, I would be continually reminded that God is good and recentering my thoughts on Him would yield fruit if I waited. 

It will yield fruit for you too...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wild Goose Chase

Ok, tonight I went on a wild goose chase.  I had ordered something as a part of a fund raiser and needed to pick it up in the next county.  It was a rough day for both of the kids so we stopped by at Nana's to give them a break.  Nana was free tonight so they got to spend the evening with her--which they loved, as always.  I, on the other hand, did not have a smooth evening.  I went to the place I thought the pickup was and couldn't find it.  Looked for hours.  Nothing. 

On the way home, I heard the Lord say, Wild Goose Chase.  It sure felt like one--a futile activity that profited nothing.  I've been reading the book, the Wild Goose Chase, by Mark Batterson.  His synopsis tells it all:

Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something…

Although it felt like the evening was a waste, there were some great things that happened.  My son's attitude greatly improved from the "first day of school" grumpies.  On the way to Nana's, he told me he had pushed his ear-plug too far into his ear canal.  Instead of needing to go to the ER or an urgent care center, Nana got it out without too much trouble, since she's a retired nurse (Thank you, again, Nana).  Katie had the fun of winning at arm wrestling with her Pap-pap--and he got to push her into the pool. 

We can never know all of the intentions and actions of an omnipotent God.  There are times it seems like we do what we need to do or follow Him where He goes and it comes to nothing.  I've learned better.  I may not always be able to see what He's doing, but I know without a doubt He is active and has a reason for even my wild goose chases.  That's what it's like to live by the Spirit:

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  John 3:8

If you want to go where the wind goes, you will need to chase it into some odd places, but that's ok because He's promised to never leave us.  For that I'm grateful. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Greed or Generosity?

Picture by J.P. Weesner
A friend of mine took this picture the other day and posted it saying, "Probably a lot of people who are confused as to why they are different directions."  He's probably right. Shopping can become an act of worship within our materialistic culture.  It becomes a greedy stuff-grab, particularly during the holidays or right before school starts.   

In reality, the Holy Land Experience is a Christian themed amusement park, complete with a replica of the Jewish Temple overlooking I-4.  The Mall at Mellenia is a very upscale mall, developed by friends of my parents at our church. 

Knowing that the mall was developed by a tremendously Godly family, one day as I was sitting in the mall, enjoying the ambiance, I wondered what it would look like to have a mall like theirs in heaven. 

Immediately the thought that the Father downloaded was that it would include everything you could ever imagine and more--and all of it would be free.  However, there was one delightful catch: You could only pick out items for someone else.  Everything about Heaven will be about giving.  Can you imagine such a delightful place?  It would be Christmas every day.  Anyone who has ever gone to a toy store to pick out a toy for their deeply loved child knows the excitement of finding something perfect for them and the anticipation of waiting to see their face when they open it. 

It reminds me of an old church illustration.  Two groups were invited to a banquet at the palace.  It was a great honor and they were all on their best manners.  When they arrived, each group found that their places were set with 4 foot long forks.  None of the guests could bear to give up their manners and eat the delicious feast with their fingers.  The first group sat at the table and cried because they couldn't eat a bite with such implements.  The food looked delicious and their hungry stomachs growled.  The second group hesitated for a minute and then joyfully set about enjoying the feast.  What was the difference?  The second group quickly figured out that they could easily feed each other across the table.  It was even fun aiming for their neighbor's mouth and there was great laughter all around.  The first group only thought about feeding themselves and went hungry.  It always works that way.  Proverbs 11:25 says,

"The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed."

It may take a tremendous amount of trust to believe that what you give away will come back, but it's worth it.  I wish the joy of great generousity on you and your family today!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crazy life...

Like most families, we are adjusting to the new school year with some bumps in the road.  I apologize for my spotty posts of late.  PJ and Kate start next week, but we started doing a developmental repair program for PJ this week that takes about 3 hours each day.  I've scheduled every activity and spread them out through the day, but it's a lot of work on top of school.  The specialist that put the program together recommended strongly that we take him out of school and homeschool him this year.  I'm not ready to do that, but I understand why she would recommend it. 

On top of all of this we have nearly every evening booked through Easter.  We have two nights each week that are tentatively roped off for family time.  The nice part about this is that I know what I'll be doing.  I have margin planned, but not a huge amount. 

I have come to love the freedom and spontenaity of the way God has been using me over the last few years.  I have loved that I have room in my schedule for interruptions.  Saturday night, my husband, John actually brought my own words back to me, reminding me that interruptions are people--I almost cried. 

Now, I guess I get to see how God works when life is busy.  I could be terrified that He will forget me. I'm more terrified that I will forget Him in the busy-ness He has orchestrated.  I can't do this without Him.  I know He is so present with me now--can He be just as present and guiding when there is no room that I can see for His interruptions?  I didn't want to have it that way.  He has wedged me here. 

I've made intentional choices in line with the priorities He has for our children and family.  I've talked over every commitment with John and he agrees they are all important--not just good, they are God priorities and He hasn't shut the door on any of them.  I've even turned down opportunities for ministry that I'd love right now because I just can't take on anything more.  Nearly all of the new commitments within my family fit within the schedule we've had for the last year.  Maybe I will still have all that spontenaity and I just don't know it yet.  

A this point I have a choice for fear or faith.  My heart is not comfortable with this--it feels like stretching.  I choose to trust that He will do far more than I could ask or think. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Yesterday I wrote about being loved, thoroughly, completely by God.  In some ways that's the easier of the two fundamental needs of the human heart.  Women need to be loved.  Men need to be respected. 

But how can one be respected by God--who is "no respecter of persons?"  He is God.  We are human.  We deserve no honor from God.  We are fallen, twisted wrecks of what He created us to be.  From a pragmatic point of veiw, respect is the last thing we deserve. 

What every man desires is deeply is to be respected, but that means respected for who he is on the inside; who he is capable of becoming.  Jesus came to rescue us, to rescue in us the potential for all we could be--to finally conform to the image of Christ.  Remember, that was the goal of making man in the first place.  God said, "Let us make man in our image."  Adam was the start, but he was not conformed to the image of Christ, so God isn't done making man yet.  Jesus Christ was the first man fully made in the image of God.  His sacrifice broke the chains of death, hell and our sin. He then sent His own Holy Spirit to live within us--to write His law on our hearts. 

This is the key--He died for us, not just because He loved us but because He knew what He will make us into.  He knew what we could become because it was what he made us to become--a partner suitable for Himself, made and conformed to His own image.  He made us for that and gave the life of his own Son--part of the God-head itself--to achieve it. 

If a company is willing to spend $1,000,000 training a valuable employee, that says a lot about the potential they believe that employee will have.  God was willing to expend his own life to finalize who you were created to be.  It is that kind of respect that God has for those He came to save. 

You are infinitely valuable to God.  He was, and is, self-sufficient, but as any Father does, He wants to pour himself into us out of His great love and expectation for what we can become.  Of course, as with anything with great potential, we have great potential to be like Him as He transforms us or to be unlike Him as we twist ourselves away from Him.  It is His great humility and patience with us that gives the room for greatness or villany.  It is our simple, innocent selfishness and self-sufficiency that is our primary danger. Our greatest risk is that we will make it on our own, never acknowleging our need for the God who made us so amazing--and in that success, seal ourselves into a horrific fate without the source of our very life, defeating our own purpose. 

Failure is the only option.  Recognition of our inadequacy and the lost potential He repurchased for us at great cost is the beginning of a new life.  We have to give up a life of our own for the the chance of fulfilling the life He has for us.  You will never have a more challenging assignment--a life that requires all you are and more. 

He respects you enough to demand it of you.  You have the choice to respect Him enough to give it to Him. Will you?

Friday, August 10, 2012


As I look through my prayer journals, there's often a theme that my Friend continually reiterates.  For many years, it has been "Trust Me."  In this season, it has been:

"I love you." 
Love Poured Out
Tracey Bautista

Every woman desperately needs to know she is loved.  She can do anything as long as she feels it deep down in her heart.  She can gently, softly move the entire world.  Without it, she is a hollowed out shell, going through the motions, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." 

I am not immune.  I need it as much as any other woman.  We are derived creatures, formidible and amazing, but created for the purpose of serving others; created to be gratefully adored.  This need leaves us vulnerable as we seek for that life-giving love from those we serve.  This is the essence of codependency:  I will serve and care for you in return for the love that defines me.  I will torment you with my service if you cannot or will not fill the aching hole in my heart.  In the end, it destroys both the lover and that which she loves.  The truth is that no man, no family can provide the kind of love that she needs to fill her heart and overflow into truly unconditional service. 

Man and woman were created together to grow into the full stature of Christ.  Jesus could give without expecting anything in return because of the love that His Father poured into and over him.  Without that love pouring into me, I will pour out what little I have and be left aching.  With His love, I am complete.  It takes a complete love to fill me.  It takes Hesed--the loyal lovingkindness only Jesus gives. 

love vine
As a pitcher, I run dry.  As a pipe, I can't help getting wet.  That's why Paul encourages us to, "Pray without ceasing."  It is not for God's sake that we pray continually.  We pray continually because we constantly need to be in contact with the source of the love that keeps us soft and pliable.  We give out love and care all the time.  If we are not connected to the source to be renewed, we will run out long before the need runs out.  When I rush around my day without contact with the Holy Spirit, I end the day feeling drained.  When I move in concert with His presence, I am continually refreshed and fall asleep contentedly with praise on my lips.  I am the branch.  He is the vine.  Apart from Him, I can do nothing but wither and die.

Men have slightly different needs, but they need to be connected all the same.  I'll talk about that tomorrow. 

Thank You, Father, Friend and the Lover of my Soul.  You are my source and I enjoy You. Keep me near You today.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gratitude Check

Around our house we have two "checks."  The first one is an attitude check.  When someone is giving me a bad attitude, I say attitude check and the appropriate response is "Praise the Lord."  The second is a gratitude check.  It works best when we're overwhelmed.  I say gratitude check and a number.  The person then has to say that number of things for which they are grateful.  You can't say anything you've said before (unless you really mean it in a different way this time).  Usually by the time the attitude check or a Gratitude check is finished, perspective is regained and there is enough peace to move forward. 

Today is the first quiet day with no kids at home and no paid work to do.  I've been going over the program for PJ's therapy this year that the neurodevelopmentalist created.  If I were to do it all, the program would take 4 hours each day.  Too much.  I've pared it down and shifted some things throughout the day, but I'm still pretty overwhelmed.  It's a lot to do and every bit of it is important.  On top of 7th grade, it feels like a monumental undertaking.  My friend just called and she may get evicted this week while she's halfway across the country and can't do anything about it.  Double overwhelm. 

There are so many verses that run through my head:

  • "My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in Glory." 
  • "I have been abased.  I have abounded.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
  • "With God, nothing is impossible."
  • "All things work together for the good of those who love Christ and are the called according to His purposes." 
  • "Fear not, little ones. It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."
  • "All Your waves and breakers have washed over me."
Time for a Gratitude Check (7):
  1. We know what's wrong with PJ and know what we can do about it.
  2. Katie has good teachers and support staff and is doing as well as she can so she doesn't need a lot of attention right now.
  3. Some of the work will overlap between the two kids--double benefit.
  4. I'm not working full time in an office at the other side of town so I have the time to work with him.
  5. I have time to organize a schedule and systems that will help keep us on track.
  6. I am not alone--The Lord, My God, is my Father, my friend and my love.  He is with me and will help me do this.
  7. I am trained as an engineer and know how to systematically break big jobs down into managable pieces.  I wasn't born that way, but I can do it because I have been trained to do it.
 Thank You, Father.  I trust You to help me do all I need to do.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A breather...

Life is not always a flower strewn path.  It's often through the brambles.  Still, sometimes you get to stop for a minute and revel in the stillness of God and the beauty of His creation. 

Be with Him.

Enjoy Him.

He's waiting for you.

"If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."  Jer. 29:13

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Parenting with the future in mind...

When PJ was little, complete strangers would come up to me and rave that I was the most amazing mother.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  PJ was an easy kid.  He was alert, even tempered and easy to calm when he got upset--which was rare.  Looking back, I was alert, even tempered and rarely got upset myself. 

Most of this I attribute to the fact that I had some great parenting mentors who taught me to first pray for my children and then train them with the end in mind.  I was taught by Godly women to parent him in light of how I wanted him to see  the world as a man.  They taught me to only ask him to do something if I really intended to follow through and make him do it.  Full obedience was immediate, complete, cheerful and without comment or it wasn't obedience.  The obedience I was to demand from him was the kind of obedience that he would one day give to God himself.  In the same way, if you could say yes, you did.  It was ok to say no, but the leaning was toward yes, not no--because we live the same generous life that God Himself does. 

When Katie came along, it was hard in so many ways, but the hardest was that I just couldn't envision her future.  What would she look like as a grown woman with Down syndrome?  Her future was so painful to think about, I lost my way as a parent to her, and to some extent to my son as well.  About that time, PJ had neurological issues that completely changed his entire personality as well and I floundered.  Our days became a flurry of therapies, worries, panic and grief.  I still don't know that we have completely regained our equilibrium.  I'm not sure we ever will. 

I have regained some of the future focus in my parenting.  It made a difference when it came time to talk to PJ about the facts of life.  Bringing his future wife into that discussion provided a context that I couldn't give him in any other way.  I'm still working on regaining a focus on character traits they will need as Godly adults.  Jon Gordon's quote really goes to the heart of the matter.  I could focus on getting them to behave the way I want, but mostly, I want them to be everything God created them to be, regardless of what occupation or life style they ultimately have.  I don't know if Kate will live independently, have a job or a spouse.  The thought of grandchildren seems too much to even entertain.  She will still need to obey immediately.  She will still need to think of others before herself and live with great sense of generosity.  She will need to know who God is and need to relate to Him for herself. 

Today, my kids were pretty wiggly in a women's clothing store and I ended up telling them the old adage, "Children should be seen and not heard"--mostly because they were being pretty frisky and a little loud. Later on, in the car, PJ and I talked about it more.  It does still apply, in that when anyone--children or adults--can engage someone else, looking to understand them and draw their real self out, they may earn the right to be heard and understood for themselves. 

I really look forward to seeing Him as a grown man, and I'm coming to terms with Katie's future, though there is still so much uncertainty there.  She wants a "truck" of her own, just like mommy.  I trust her and she acts independently in many situations with little fear.  She has been known to be a flight risk at times, but not for the sake of running away from us.  A few years ago she walked away from an evening family gathering at Downtown Disney without any of the 9 of us noticing until she was gone without a trace.  We had been talking about where we were going next and she just decided to leave instead of talking about it.  We found her at the Lego Store, contentedly playing, with absolutely no fear.  She and her brother played hide and seek (more quietly) in the fabric store later in the day today and they both came immediately when I called them.  She can feed herself at home, and often does, even if she can't reach the plates without climbing on the counter .  She's learning to ride a bike.  One of my closest friends sees my boldness and dynamic personality in Katie.  I have come to see her as Katherine, which means pure, undiluted, full strength--eu de parfum, not toilet water. 

I still don't know what kind of life she will have, but I know God has a plan for her life no less than He has planned for mine or PJ's.  I can try to teach her the character traits that will help her fulfill His dreams for her, but I'm not sure I could do much more than steer her, even if I wanted to.  The Lord holds her future and she loves and knows him for herself already--and that's enough.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Dreamscaping 16, Why plan?

At first glance, this verse is frustrating.  When I make plans, I want them to happen.  There's no guarantee in this verse that things will work out that way.  In fact, it almost implies the opposite--that we can plan all day long and our planning is futile in comparison to the purposes of God. 

I have noticed several things about plans. 
  • I almost never end up following the plan perfectly.  The day gets a schedule and life happens instead.  The project gets a timetable and a task list and things intervene or the goals change.  
  • Without a plan, nothing really happens.  When I get frustrated by the fact that the schedule didn't happen and give up on planning, nothing happens at all.  the day gets frittered away. 
  • I don't always know what I really want.  I might set up objective benchmarks and plan steps to get my goals achieved, but too many times I've found myself climbing fast up a ladder that was on the wrong building.  A plan that goes perfectly to achive a bad goal is not a good thing.  A plan that goes perfectly to achieve a good goal when I'm supposed to be chasing a God thing is an even worse thing because it takes longer to figure out I'm on the wrong ladder.
  • God has a plan and He doesn't always let me in on it and He rarely does one thing at a time--He is the ultimate multitasker.   Sometimes I can even see His plans and some of the reasons why He does things, only to find that He has a much wider scope in mind and is is working multiple plans toward multiple goals. 
That's one reason this verse ultimately becomes very comforting to me.  He doesn't chide us for having plans.  He encourages diligent, consistent planning as we partner with Him.  He makes plans.  He expects us to do no differently.  He even laughs at our plans when they are silly or when we're full of ourselves.  I haven't quit planning because His plans are better than mine.  I just try desperately to make my plans alongside Him in concentrated prayer and then hold my plans with a loose grip.  I don't want to miss out on His plan because I'm chasing mine--especially since my goal is to build His Kingdom, not mine. 

It also takes the pressure off my planning to some extent.  If it's His purpose that will ultimately prevail, I can mess things up pretty badly in my human weakness and innocent incompetence and He will still bring it together to accomplish the purposes He had in mind.  I don't want to miss out on being a part of His plan coming together for the best good possible so I plan and I plan carefully, but it wasn't My purpose that has to prevail.  Only His purpose counts and that's guaranteed. 

It's all good. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What makes me a good steward of my belief...

A friend asked today: "I would like for you all to weigh in on what makes anyone a good steward of their belief."  This is a really good question.  The verse that immediately came to mind is this: 

"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."  II Timothy 1:12  (it's even a song...that's why I have it memorized in King James--Sorry for the antique language.)

To me, being a good steward of Biblical Christianity is pretty well summed up in this verse:

  1. I know the One I have believed.   I also know He is Holy and I am not. I cannot live up to His standard of Holiness any more than I could jump the Grand Canyon. I am not worthy of being in relationship with Him but He has made a way.  Therefore, I know Him more intimately than I know my own husband and He knows me even more intimately than that.  My stewardship involves daily, consistently cultivating that relationship by seeking Him for myself. 
  2. I am pursuaded He is able.  I have seen by experience that He is trustworthy.  I continue to choose to trust Him.  I am also pursuaded that I am not able.  No good works of mine could erase my inability to be fit to be in relationship with Him without something to bridge that gap.  I don't just feel guilty.  I am culpable before a living God who has the right to demand of me complete perfection to be in His presence.
  3. He is able to keep all that I have committed unto Him.  Since I cannot remedy this predicament, I have committed myself and my fate to His remedy.  To the best of my ability, I have committed all I have and am to His Lordship.  I am a part of His Kingdom because I choose for Him to be King in all of my affairs.
  4. Against That Day.  There is a day for which I have had good reason to be afraid.  One who loves infinitely is also infinitely injured by the abuses I have caused to those He loves.  True love requires justice.  I should be held accountable for that which I have done that isn't consistent with His love for others--even if it's just missing the mark.  That is the definition of sin--missing God's mark.  Biblical Christianity recognizes this.  The fair wages to be paid for sin are death (I John 1:9).  I was created to be in relationship with God and my snubs of Him and His standards are worthy of death.  Jesus had no penalty to pay for himself and was therefore able to pay the wages for what I have done, along with the rest of humanity.  It is a free gift and includes both eternal life and adoption into His own family.  Of course, as a part of the family, there are house rules--some of which I can't yet keep--but I deeply want to.  As a dearly loved child, I desire to become like my beloved Daddy.  I obey out of profound gratitude for all He has done for me.   Obedience is only possible because He has given His own Holy Spirit to write His law on my heart in the context of an ongoing intimate relationship.  I do have the option to follow the poem Invictus, choosing to be the "master of my own fate", and God will allow that choice.  He will not force Himself on us.  He has created a place where He Is Not for those who want to be their own masters, but it is described as burning with the intensity of brimstone.  It is a place of intense lack, need and unfulfilment.  What else could it be since God is the source of all generosity, provision and good?  If it is true that we were created to be in relationship with God it also means being infinitely thwarted in the very purpose for which we were made.  It is, by definition, a lonely, selfish place created for demons who, after having seen an infinitely good God, have chosen their way over God's way. 
 This is the core of Christianity.  Being a steward of that belief means recognizing the free will of all men and the infinite workings of a soverign, fore-knowing God.  It means doing my best in the power of the Holy Spirit to give everyone I know the opportunity to see the nature of the created universe from the perspective of its Creator who is also my friend. 

It is the default position of the human heart to choose our own way rather than His way, particularly if His way hasn't been made clear and we don't understand the consequences of our own way.  Unencumbered by the facts, our own ideas seem right.  A disabled child might just think she can fly off her 3rd floor AC unit if she doesn't realize the laws of gravity will cause her pain when she hits the ground.  The law of gravity wasn't at fault and wasn't going to change just because she didn't understand it.  Thankfully, Jesus came to catch us, just like the bus driver who caught that little girl and suffered great injury in the catch.  It is their own choice to recognize the laws of the Creator or choose to see only themselves as the final accountability in their world.  Ironically, I don't know anyone who can even live up to their own standards, much less God's.   

People see it as proselytizing. I see it as reality check.  I hope that helps.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Taking thoughts captive, she is now free

Last night, I talked about guarding our hearts with a dear friend of mine.  She's been terrified of leaving her house since her abusive husband got out of jail.  Even though there is a restraining order and seeing her would mean a parole violation that would get him sent back to prison, she's still worried.  I can understand, but it's been over 18 months since she last saw him, other than in court and she is such a people person.  For the last few months, she's been doing her laundry in her bathtub even though she has terrible back pain. 

As we talked about her fears and hesitation, she first pointed out that it's painful to bend down to put her clothes in the washer and dryer.  We took that before the ultimate judge, our Heavenly Father, and He confirmed that this is, in fact, the case.  However, when we looked a bit closer at the issue, she also recognized that it's even more painful to do her laundry in the bathtub. 

Next, she pointed out that she felt ashamed and judged when people saw her hobbling around.  So we took that to the Father for judgement as well.  The first thing that He brought to her mind was that it shouldn't matter to her what they think.  What immediately came to my mind (and took my breath away) was the thought that if she wasn't there they couldn't see her and she couldn't see them.  There might be people who needed her. 

She remembered then how she would go everywhere on her scooter handing out tracts, witnessing to people, constantly telling them about Jesus.  She realized that her fears were probably demonic, encouraged by the enemy to keep her from witnessing as she had before.  At this, her entire perspective changed.  We even talked about what would happen if she saw her soon to be ex-husband.  She has often cried out that she didn't even get to say goodbye.  The last time she saw him, he was being carried off by the police for beating her nearly senseless, throwing her in the road in front of an oncoming car, then keeping her in his back seat as the police chased them around town.  She admitted that it would be disturbing to see him again, and I agreed.  But she also said that she could call 911, and I reminded her that she could say goodbye to him as she called 911. 

I left her with the quarters to do her laundry, explaining that she has a boldness to witness that I often wish I had.  Investing in her doing her laundry at her complex advances the Kingdom of God and is a good investment, as far as I'm concerned.  At that, she got even more excited. 

And I'm even more excited than she is to see the fruit of our labors together.