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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven Belongs to Such as These

     Last night at dinner, my husband and I stared at each other in shocked amusement as Ephie reached his little hand carefree-as-could-be over the macaroni and cheese my husband was offering him and helped himself to a few choice French fries instead. He didn't even look up as if to say, "Is this ok?" as he shoveled them into his little button mouth. Eyebrows raised, my husband and I could only gape at him as we wondered whether to laugh or scold him.
We chose neither and continued on with our dinner after exchanging surprised smirks. However, I couldn't help but wonder at the trust of this child. With total ease and complete faith he simply took what his little heart desired and, in all innocence and humility, what he knew his father would not deny him. "Wow!" I thought. "This must be how our Heavenly Father desires us to come to Him."  
Ephraim wanted that French fry and he just instinctively knew in his little heart that his father would not deny him that joy. I believe this is how we are to approach the Lord - total and complete trust that He loves us and wants to bless us. When we approach the Lord hesitantly with our prayers, it can become a slippery slope right down to doubting His goodness. I have experienced this many times and I can tell you from experience, it is the crack in the door the enemy longs for. A very good friend recently reminded me of the oldest trick in the book (and I mean LITERALLY the oldest trick in the book). Back in the day when Adam and Eve were hanging out and living life in the beautiful sanctuary of Eden, satan came along and used doubt to trick Eve into disobeying God. We all know the rest of that story!
Now, am I saying that we should just expect the Lord to give us whatever we want, whenever we want it? Absolutely not! If God always just gave us whatever we wanted, wouldn't He be harming us instead of helping us most of the time? If your child said he wanted to go up to the roof of the house and jump off because he wanted to fly would you let him? In the same way we, as children of God, do not always know what is good or right (or even safe) for ourselves. So, while we cannot expect to get every little thing we desire in our hearts (because God is merciful and loving) we ought to approach Him always expecting His goodness. That even if we do not receive what we have prayed for we can know it is for our own good and because HE LOVE US! 
I am quite certain if my husband had told Ephraim, "No, you can have the macaroni I am offering you instead of the French fry" Ephraim, being the child he is, would have been just fine with that. Why? Because he knows who his father is. No matter what happens in his tiny world, he knows without a doubt his father (or mother) will be there to protect and shelter him. He trusts his father wholly and completely because he has never known not to. He may not always like our decisions as parents but he will always (sometimes kicking and screaming) follow us. This is what Jesus was talking about when he told his disciples "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken"
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Thursday, June 13, 2013


     So, I'm picking up where I left off a few months back in One Thousand Gifts and it is a wonder of a blessing! I am reminded that giving thanks is the way to truly experience the joy the Lord has set before us. Giving thanks in all circumstances (even when it's hard and every fiber of my being is screaming against it and it feels all mechanical and awkward) is the only way to see the blessings, yes even the face, of God in all. To feel His presence even when I can't feel His presence.  
  So, I had a "light bulb" moment. Ann says, "Do I hold worry close as this ruse of control, this pretense that I'm the one who will determine the course of events, as I stir and churn and ruminate?" (Emphasis added.) I read that and it was like coming out of a deep cave into the sunlight after days of darkness. Every day I walk around subconsciously believing I am the one controlling my destiny. How quickly I forget! Sometime ago I gave my heart to Jesus and, in doing so, relinquished all control to Him. 
    Him, the Creator of huge galaxies and tiny microbes. Him, who had all the days of my life written in His book before I was even born. So why, as Ann puts it, the "spiritual Alzheimer's"? Why do I so easily, almost eagerly, forget that it is not I - but He - who is control of my destiny? The author speaks of the hard eucharisteo and the struggle to give thanks in all circumstances. I totally get it. But for me, the light came on when I read that sentence about "the pretense that I am the one who determines the course of events" (chapter 8, pg. 143). It is this very idea that has been allowing the weeds of doubt, fear, and anxiety slip in silently and choke out the beautiful blooms of trust, confidence, and passion for the Lord. When I buy into the idea that I must control everything (from finances to career to relationships) all on my own, it's no wonder I would be stricken with panic! It's only when I understand that He is the One who determines the course of all events that I can truly see and, as Paul urges the Thessalonians, give thanks in all circumstances.
If all His ways are good then I don't need to worry about our waning bank account or when my children are being tiny terrorists or when there's an unexpected problem with the car because I know it's all a part of His plan. And I can know for a fact that His plan was written with my good in mind for, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). So why do I regularly insist on grabbing hold of that fear and pulling it to myself as if my next breath were coming from it? I lay it down at my Savior's feet only to quickly steal it back again in that first moment of uncertainty.  
Isn't it a painfully simple matter of trust? Isn't that what all my angst, guilt, worry, irritation, and ungratefulness boils down to? When I am afraid that we will not be able to pay the bills I am saying that I don't trust the Lord to provide. If I don't trust that He will provide I am saying I don't trust that He loves me enough to provide. If I don't trust in His unfailing, unending, undeserved love for me I am saying I don't trust in His goodness. If I don't trust in His goodness, what else - on all this earth - is there? For, "Whom have I in heaven but You?" (Psalm 73:25) 
 Trusting in His goodness. Isn't that what being a Christian is all about? Loving and trusting in God because I know, without doubt, that all His ways are good? Yes, I am to worship and fear Him because He is the Lord of Lords, creator of heaven and earth. But my love for Him, the yearning to walk every day with Him, my most intimate and personal relationship with Him should flow because of His kindness, faithfulness, gentleness compassion, and perfect love. Isn't this the reason He graciously gave us free will? I know if my children only "loved" me because I commanded them to and could somehow force them to, it would certainly be a love lacking. It would not be true love at all! If we do not see the value in forced "love" from our children why would the most perfect Father of all want this from His children? 
Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me not only who You are, but who I am in You. Thank you for teaching me that the only way to experience the closeness I long for with You is to trust in Your goodness, faithfulness, and love. Not as the world trusts but as a little child trusts his parent. Thank you also for loving my praise and thanksgivings and reminding me to give them constantly in order that I may have the grateful and humble heart I desire and You command! 

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18