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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do Everything

      I was driving along the other day, windows open to that exhilarating warmth of first spring air and sunshine pouring in, radio turned loud. Stephen Curtis Chapman was on the IPod and "Do Everything" was emulating through the speakers, emulating through me. Maybe it was the stark white of mountainous cumulus clouds against the pale blue canyon of the noon sky. Maybe it was the promise of new life in the muted pinks and milky whites of the Dogwoods. Perhaps it was the way the flow of the trees and houses, along with the rest of the world passing by, seemed to melt perfectly into the melody and beat of the music. Whatever it was, I suddenly realized that in the catchy, upbeat rhythm and charmingly honest lyrics there existed great wisdom.
     Sure, I know that I have been created to bring glory to my Heavenly Father. Of course I understand that I am to behave in a manner becoming to Christ. Don't all Christians know that??
    Today, though, I realized Mr. Chapman was singing about much deeper things than these. While I am certain he was referring to our responsibility to be "harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit" (1 Peter 3:8)I believe he was also saying much more than that. I believe, on a much deeper level, he is talking about trust. Trust that God does, in fact, have a plan for your life. Trust that He's got you exactly where He wants you for the moment. Trust that the things He has called you to are important.
    This particular song holds a lot of meaning for me because I have been that woman "pickin' up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time today". I have swept up a multitude of Cheerios and wondered if the monotony would ever end. And somewhere in the middle of laundry and grocery shopping and singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for the one gazillionth time I have found myself asking, "Lord, is this really important for Your kingdom??"
    I wondered how the same God who raised the dead back to life, walked on water, and commanded the heavens to be simply with His words could possibly be pleased with my changing diapers and cutting peanut butter and jellies into star shapes. How could the same God who calls missionaries to feed orphans in Haiti and care for the dyeing in Kenya really care about the noses I wipe and silly songs I make up just to relish a goofy, drooly, two-year-old smile?
     Here's what I have come to learn, though, about those missionaries caring so compassionately for the sick and hungry and dyeing and lost. Somebody, somewhere, a long time ago wiped their nose gently with a tissue and sang soft when they were sick. The people who spread God's love today were cared for by a loving, compassionate, and exhausted mom (or dad, or someone else who loved them) yesterday. That's what Mr. Chapman is talking about when he says "Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you". The little hands we hold today through all the "firsts" and "scarries" will be the hands that reach out to others tomorrow.
     We have no idea what the Lord has in store for our little ones, we can only be sure of one thing - it is our responsibility to "train them up in the way they should go" so they will not depart from it. God said it himself in Proverbs 22:6. If we do our part in teaching them to love the Lord and, thus, love others as themselves they will not depart from it! I heard in church the other day that some are called to go down into the well while others are called to hold the rope for those descending. Perhaps, in singing silly songs, wiping noses, and kissing booboos we are the mothers (and fathers) standing proudly at the top of the well, holding for dear life onto that rope which holds our little ones.
   

       Lord, thank you for calling me to raise my children up in the way they should go. You may not have called me to far away places to heal the sick or minister to orphans (at least not yet), but I trust that the things You have called me to for now are just as important in Your plan. Besides, if everyone went down into the well, who would be there to hold the rope?

Do Everything, Stephen Curtis Chapman
   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Wine Skins and Straight Paths

        I went to Walmart today to buy a few things and ended up getting more than I bargained for. I pulled into the parking space and sat in the car for a few minutes, sharing my yummy chocolate-peanut butter Odwalla bar (if you've never tried, I highly recommend!) with the boys before we went into the store. All of a sudden, for no particular reason at all, I glanced up. There in my rear view mirror was the face of a ghost from my past.....someone I suffered greatly for in my addiction. Of course I will not mention names but this person had used, abused, and taken great advantage of the state I was in at that period of my life. There, in my rear view only 20 feet from where I sat, was the embodiment and epitome of all the pain and guilt and shame that was the worst part of my addiction. I have to admit I have wondered before how it would feel to see this person and rub my blessed, beautiful life right in their face....but I suppose that wouldn't be very Christ-like, huh? Well, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away and, here, He was giving me something and taking something away. He was giving me the chance to finally show off the new me but, at the same time, He was taking away the desire to do so.
        I think I was in a state of shock for a little while because I could not hold back tears and I had no idea why they were coming. Maybe it was memories. Maybe it was awake nightmares. I think it was really the fact that for a few minutes, I actually felt like that girl again. I felt as though I had been transported back years ago when I was so desperate for love and affection that I allowed myself to become enslaved - not only by drugs but by someone who was even sicker in the heart than I was. I believe it was also the fear that simply this person's presence was enough to wipe away the new person Christ had given birth to in me. That if I had gone in the store and ran into this person, my beautiful, blessed life as a mother, wife, and (most of all) daughter would vanish away.
        After a little while I began to hear the Lord gently reminding me, though. Reminding me that He was the One who brought me from my bondage. He was the One who stayed with me, cried with me, hurt with me, carried me all the way through even the darkest of times. And that, if He was strong enough to break those chains and lift me up to where I am today, He is surely strong enough to hold me. "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:29) He also reminded me that I am not that girl anymore. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is not simply my words that are new or my clothes that are new. I am new! My heart, soul, and mind are new and the old have passed away. To the rest of the world I may look the same, but Christ knows differently.
            I think of the parables Jesus used about the new patch and the new wine skins. The Lord could have given me this new life and even this new way of behaving, but if He didn't make me a new creature, I would have surely gone back to my old ways and ruined the new life He had given me. I cannot describe the comfort in knowing these things. God is always good!
         I am still amazed at the Lord's perfect timing, although I should be used to it by now. (I don't really think He wants us to ever "get used to" Him, though!) If I had not parked in that space and sat there for a minute to finish my snack with the boys..... If this person had not parked where they had parked and walked right up the same isle I was parked in.... If I had not looked up at the exact moment this person was walking behind my car to be seen in my rear view.... If all these things had not happened exactly as they had, I would have undoubtedly gone into the store and had to face a very painful part of my past.
         I don't believe it is the Lord's intention or desire for us to never have to face (and be reminded of) our mistakes in life, but I do believe He knew I would not handle seeing this person well. I believe He was protecting me - in more ways than one. Yes, it would have hurt me tremendously to see someone who deliberately tried to keep me chained to my addiction. But who knows what hateful and spiteful words would have come out of my mouth? Who knows what vengeful and prideful thoughts would have formed in my heart? I believe the Lord was doing what He could to keep me from sinning against Him and, thus, moving myself away from Him rather than toward Him. How loving and merciful is our God!
 


 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them, and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone." (Isaiah 42:16)

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God"

    Well, I know it's been quite a while since my last post. What with holidays to prepare for and books to read and projects to finish and laundry to do and kids to chase, it's a wonder any of us even have time to breathe! However, I finally decided it was time to get these thoughts that have been swimming around in my head out and into some sort of organized manner.
    The Lord has been leading me on somewhat of a journey of gratitude over the past few weeks. Probably over the last few months - this is one of the great characteristics of our Lord. He has the ability to work behind the scenes without us even realizing it! Gentle and, yet, so irresistible. One of the three (yes, I said three) books I am currently reading is called One Thousand Gifts. (Please forgive me if you find some of my thoughts to be highly similar to Ann Voskamp's - her book has been an amazing blessing to me thus far!) As I mentioned in my previous post, this book is about being thankful in all circumstances.
      Now, some people might hear this and think, "What?! Is she crazy?" Some hear the words be thankful and automatically think of all the things in their lives for which they couldn't possibly be thankful - bills, debt, workloads, broken relationships, addictions, wayward children and spouses, long lost dreams. I used to be one of those people. Actually, up until fairly recently I looked at my life through the scratched, cloudy, and terribly warped lens of "want". I could never be happy with what I had because I ached for more. I longed for a bigger house, yearned for a better paying job, and desperately needed more "me" time. I was blindly searching and praying for circumstances which were anything but the ones I'd been given.
     Then, the Lord began leading me on a journey to open up the eyes of my heart. That line in "Amazing Grace" that says, "I once was blind but now I see" is a stunning truth when you accept the Lord into your heart. It still amazes me the way He commands all the pieces and elements to fall in the perfect place at exactly the perfect time.  When you pray for wisdom and truth you'd better be ready to receive it! Because the Lord is diligent and faithful to respond to the calls of those who sincerely seek Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you". Isaiah 65:24 says, "I will answer them before they even call to me" And so I prayed for wisdom, which is what I got.
    I began to realize that my problem was not external. It was not my car, nor my job, nor my living space, nor any of the circumstances surrounding me that were causing me to yearn for more than what God had already given me. The problem I had was internal. It was a disease, a sickness that infected me all the way down to the very fibers of my heart muscles. A disease called pride. I was so busy focusing on what I thought I should have that I was blinded to the beautiful (and undeserved) blessings that I already had. When we think we deserve more, how can we ever be grateful for what we have?
      I began to realize that if I could learn to  see myself from God's perspective instead from my own human perspective, I would see things very differently. From my perspective, I was a pretty good person. I take care of my family, go to work every day, pay the bills, don't murder, don't steal, and don't commit adultery. I'm a good person, right? Don't I deserve a better life? A life of more? Ah . . . but God sees things differently.
     First Samuel 16:7 says, "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." (NASB) Aha! Now it was all beginning to make sense to me. Sure I help take care of my family . . . but the Lord saw the irritation and annoyance when I couldn't put myself first before them as I thought I deserved. Sure I went to work every day . . . but the Lord saw the pride and resentfulness in my heart when I felt I was not making as much money as I deserved. Sure I help pay the bills . . . but the Lord saw the doubt and mistrust in my heart when I held back His portion that I thought I deserved. Sure I don't run around with a butcher knife stabbing people in plain view of society . . . but the Lord heard the hateful gossip spoken in secret, bringing death to the person I spoke of (Proverbs 18:21). All these things I do or don't do because I think others are watching are "like a filthy garment" to the Lord (Isaiah 64).
      I cannot think of one good thing that ever came out of my life, or mouth for that matter, from thinking I deserve more. When I feel that I deserve more, I am saying that what God gives is not enough. I am learning now that it is only when I see myself for what I truly am, a sinner who does not even deserve to be in the presence of the Most High, that I can begin to turn my prideful ingratitude into humble thanksgiving. When I begin to realize that I really don't deserve any of the things God has blessed me with, I see my life - my whole life - as a beautiful gift. 
     Psalm 139 tells us the Lord has formed our inward parts and woven us together in our mothers' wombs (NASB). Let me tell you, I checked the internet for videos of weaving and it does NOT look easy! In fact, it's a rather complicated and tedious process. It also says we are skillfully wrought. Merriam Webster defines the word wrought as being "worked into shape by artistry or effort". Another definition of the word is "elaborately embellished". This second definition of the word which the bible uses to tell us how we are made by God makes tears well up in my eyes. We are elaborately embellished!! Woven skillfully and carefully by the same God who placed the stars in the heavens one by one and fashioned the earth with His very hands. It is more than we deserve. It is better than we deserve. And, yet, He held nothing back from us - not even His own Son.
      It has been (and continues to be) immensely humbling for me to awaken to the truth that the Lord sees and knows everything about me and still loves me anyway. He knows every hurtful word before I even speak it. He sees every ungrateful thought before it's even formed in my mind. He sees the very pride that lurks in the darkest corners of my heart, causing me to turn away from Him again and again. Yet, He loves me anyway. Not only that, but He goes to great lengths to demonstrate it to me . Maybe this eye-opening truth that I really am just a sinner, this stark reality that I once turned my back on the God who put so much effort into creating and loving me, is the key to the heart of gratitude I have been praying for since I first came to know the Lord. Maybe the way for me to know that what God gives is enough, is for me to know that I don't deserve any of it.

                                                                                                             Love always,
                                                                                                                 Eva

    "A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor." Proverbs 29:23