God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”

A different way to worship

I was taught to do my best at everything. I was taught that when I did my best, it would be enough because I was also taught not to quit until it was enough. I was taught to pull my own weight and help others pull theirs, when needed. I was taught to play well with others and work well with a team, but mainly, I was taught to be self-sufficient.

Those are good things.

In fact, if I had a child, I’d probably make sure I taught them the same lessons. Mixed with my own natural stubborn streak, those lessons have pulled or pushed me through when others around me didn’t see how it was possible. I’m grateful for those lessons. And yet…

Those same lessons can be misapplied, as well. I know this because when I look back, I see that I often took those lessons about my physical life and tried to put them to work in my spiritual life, as well. Don’t get me wrong. Some of those lessons–especially the “don’t quit!” one–have probably been beneficial from a spiritual angle, but they don’t always translate so well. That self-sufficient thing can get me in trouble because I’ve been known to try to fix things on my own instead of asking God to do things His way. (And right now, you’re probably thinking, “Mercy! I’m so glad I’ve never done that!”…right?!…right.)

I’m still taking my time reading through Matthew. This morning, I read Matthew 15:21-28…again. This is the passage where a Gentile woman came to beg Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter…and got ignored for awhile. She persisted. The disciples begged Him to do something just to make shut her up and leave. Jesus’ response seems more than a bit rude. She begged some more and His response appears even more harsh. She persisted all the more…and “Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

At first glance, this seems designed to reinforce my stubborn streak and applaud the level of my persistence…but not really. Here’s what caught my heart this morning as I went back and reread verse 25: “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'” (NKJV)

Wow. This lady with a problem that was way more than she could handle on her own WORSHIPED Him by asking for help. Let that sink in a moment. Yes. Oh, my.

At the heart of it all, to worship is to ascribe worth that is due; to acknowledge the weight of something; to truly see and respond appropriately to the core value of the object of the worship. That’s what this lady did. When she asked for help from Jesus, she worshiped! She saw the core value and the worth of the One standing before her and she needed some of THAT in her life because she had discovered she could not fix it by herself.

Maybe you’re like me today. Maybe there’s something you can’t fix, either…and you’ve tried. Maybe you need to worship with me today and ask for help from the only One who can really fix it.

Father God, I’m coming to worship you in a new way today. I’m coming because I desperately need YOU to show up and fix it. I align my prayer with the woman in Your Word today and I am begging: “Lord, help me!” I am in need of things that only You can deliver. I need this handled. And if, by some measure I’m wrong about WHAT I believe I need and I am requesting what is not your best for me, then I still need, so please give me an accurate assessment of what I DO need and help me to turn to You for that, as well. Amen.

 

How Deep?

Monday afternoon:
There are times when God steps in and transforms the ordinary physicality of a place into a cathedral of words and song and prayers of praise. That kind of grace (unmerited favor–fyi: auto correct wants to make that “inherited favor” and that works for those of us who are His, right?!) snuck up on me just now. I’m sitting in a hospital. There are no stained glass windows on this hall and no choir and no anything truly spiritual but God…and those of us who believe.

I’ve been waiting. For awhile now. It feels like we’ve been here forever and, maybe, we’ll be here just that long, as well. We won’t be, but after a long night, it kind of feels like it and so I sit on this couch and wait for healing to become evident in this one I love.

Earphones in. Book open with beautifully crafted words and I am deeply involved in the story…and then the music overtook me. David Nevue’s “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” swept in and removed place and time and anything but that realization. The Father’s love is that deep…and it is mine.

Tuesday morning:
There are times (rare, of course) when even hospitals are quietened. I think that’s what woke me up. The unexpected quiet. The delightful quiet in this place of beehive-busy-ness. In the deepest dark of early morning I found myself sitting up on the side of my couch/bed and reaching anew for this modern hymn of old truth. Once again, the simple melody moved me beyond imagining…and with palms laid open before God I asked for His help to choose THIS. And then I laughed…and amended my prayer to, “Forget that ‘help me’-thing, Lord, and just DO this thing in me.”

Ahhh, the hubris that God would need my help…even to change me. And yet, I must choose. I must choose to do, to actively seek Him, to actively live Him. And so I DO choose, God. I SO DO choose…and I also wait on You to do this in me, as well. How deep the Father’s love for me…for you…for us…how vast beyond all measure. Worship. Praise. Peace.

And then someone kicked the hive. It happens.

And He is still good. He is always good.

Lyrics

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart TownendCopyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

Lap time…

“What are you going to do this week to increase your abiding in Christ?”

My friend Lynn asked us that question near the end of our Bible study last Tuesday focused on John 15:1-8, with emphasis on verse 5, which says,

““I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (NKJV)

She asked us to write our answers down on a 3×5 card since writing down your goals is supposed to help you follow through. And it would…if you actually did what you wrote down…or wrote down what you intended to do. I didn’t do either of those things. Well, not really.

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to do, but it sounded a bit strange in my head and even more so as I tried to write it on paper, so I just wrote down that I planned to work on memorizing Scripture. I DO plan to do that, so I wasn’t missing the mark entirely.

What I really wanted to write down was “lap time”…but I didn’t know if she was going to take those cards up and, if she did, then that wasn’t going to tell her very much.

0221161718When I was little, my daddy loved to sit in the rocking chair and rock us. He wasn’t the only one who did that–because I come from a very big, loving family who got in the act with all of us–but he was pretty consistent about it. Many times, we would get a story as we rocked. That was the best thing ever. (and it might just be why I love words even today.)

Anyway, when I thought about what to write on my 3×5 card, that’s what popped into my head. Now, I’m WAY past being able to sit in a rocking chair and get a story from my earthly father, but one of the great things about having a big God is that you can never outgrow Him.

I decided that I would start re-reading the Bible “for fun.” Now, don’t get me wrong–I always love reading the Bible, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve mainly been reading for specific study, for teaching prep, or to “do” a devotional activity. It’s been awhile since I just sat down and read the Bible because it was fun to read the story…and this is, trust me, THE Story.

We’re studying Matthew in Sunday School, so I decided to start there, in the New Testament. I made up my mind that at some point each day I would simply put everything else aside, and jump right into the Word without being concerned about analyzing, picking out base language meanings, or anything else the least bit academic. I just wanted to crawl up into God’s lap and read His story…which, incidentally, tells me how much He loves me…just like my earthly daddy did when we were rocking together all that long time ago.

It’s been amazing. There’s no pressure. There’s no schedule. I’ve been reading until I found something I wanted to ponder, or give thanks for, or celebrate and then I quit. I still have to do that ‘real study’ and prep, but this story time/lap time with God, has rested my spirit and calmed me down in a way that only He knew I really needed.

I shared all of this with a friend via text the other day and, before I knew it, felt like I needed to share it here with you, as well…you know, just in case you needed to crawl up in His lap this week, too. It will help you to rest, to remain, to abide and all those other good things that you’re in need of…and there’s plenty of room up here in the lap, because He’s a great big God and He loves you–way bigger than you can ever imagine…at least until you read His story and find your place in it.

Praying Grace & Peace…and some lap time for all of us!

 

 

Cumulative

“Is it cumulative?” Not too long ago a friend surprised me with that question.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean, all of the hard things y’all have gone through…does it feel cumulative?”

“Well, no… I don’t think so. I guess it probably would if I was trying to do it all on my own, but that’s God’s job, so I guess I just never think of it that way.”

We went on to talk of other things, but that little conversational snippet has stuck with me. In fact, I’ve given it some rather serious thought over the past several weeks.  I’ve even shared it with several others, as well.

Last week was a tough one. Taxes, travel, to-do lists…those things might be trying enough, but we also learned about the passing of several friends, of heart-breaking medical news for some, of difficult personal tragedies for others, and we’re still in the waiting phase on several personal fronts. I’ve thought back to that conversation and wondered if I might have to give her a different answer if we’d had it last week, because to be completely honest…it was starting to feel cumulative…and I wondered how much more I could take. Oh, I realized that most of the difficult news we were privy to wasn’t actually OURS, but it was still very personal because it was happening to people we love and value…and I’m a fixer…and I couldn’t fix a single thing.

God wasn’t a bit surprised.

In fact, He knew I was supposed to teach Sunday School this past week and He’d already set it up for us to be in Matthew, Chapter 11, which starts off with John the Baptist in a really tight spot–prison!–and how John sent a couple of people to check in with Jesus and ask that really big question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” v. 2 (HCSB) Can’t you just hear the frustration in that question? I can…and I can relate. I’ll bet you can, too, because sometimes things are just so hard that you want to ask God where He is in all of it and why He isn’t fixing it…like, right now.

Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:  the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.  And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”  Matthew 11: 4-6 (HCSB)

Well, would you look at that? There were some good things happening, too…right at the same time as all of those bad things. It’s that way today, as well. We have just have to look harder for them some days and not get distracted when things start to feel cumulative.

My favorite part of Matthew 11 comes close to the end, however. It’s verse 28.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “

Oh, how I LOVE this!

  • “Come to Me”–not to a religion or a mantra or a set of rules. Come into a personal relationship with the God of the universe! What an invitation!
  • “all of you who are weary and burdened”–who isn’t that? or hasn’t been that? or will be that again? That’s ALL of us!
  • “and I will give you rest.”–verse 29 spells it out even plainer, “you will find rest for your souls.” Soul deep, abiding, permanent rest IS possible, but only when we go to Him.

And this week? The hits have just kept on coming for several of the people we love…and it’s still hard, but I’m also remembering all of the miracles in my life–and in theirs, too. I’m remembering all of the blessings because I CHOOSE TO DO THAT and because there are far more of them than there are difficulties, so they’re easier to count. And you know what that means?

They’re cumulative.

Taco Bed Becky

SONY DSCGod started teaching me very early in life about change. My parents were foster parents. From that day when I got off the bus from first grade to find that I suddenly had two older sisters, I began to realize that change was a part of life and people would be coming and going from then on in it. Actually, I got the part about their coming into my life that day…the part about them leaving it didn’t really sink in until later.

My extended family wasn’t Ward and June Cleaver stable. They were more Smokey Mountain stable–rock solid and comfortably immovable, beautiful and a little bit wild around the edges, full of the kind of surprises that make you glad to be there and happy to be a part of it. They were big in number and in stature, loud in laughter and with a work ethic that just wouldn’t quit–everything from hoeing corn to shelling peas, picking up sticks for a bonfire, playing softball or badminton,and seeing who could find the best hiding place was a contest that ended in a good-natured joke. In my innocence, I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have that kind of stability.

Because we lived out in the country with no street lights (easier to make sure you weren’t being followed), my parents took in children from emergency rescue situations as well as some who stayed with us for years. I lost count of the number of times I rolled over in the morning to find a face I didn’t know looking back at me. As the foster children began to come in and out of our home, I learned the value of stability in life and how it was our responsibility to give that gift to each one for as long as they were with us. There were no favorites in the house–the rules were the same for all of us. For some, it was the first time they had ever experienced that kind of love. For us, it was just normal. Stability in fragments. It’s quite a concept.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a bit mixed up about the concept of stability, however. I truly didn’t mind the additional people in the house–I was used to large numbers of children because I had a WORLD of cousins and all the neighborhood kids were regularly in our yard, anyway. I was ok with change…as long as it didn’t involve ME or my stuff. Everything had a place and was in it. Woe to the one who moved it.

I began to set such store on keeping “things” as they had always been that I actually pitched one of the biggest fits you’ve ever seen when my parents were finally able to purchase a new mattress for me and my sister. Our old one was pitiful. We would roll to the middle and the edges would creep up a bit like a taco every night. My parents were doing a good thing in trying to change it, but you’d have thought they were trying to kill me from the ruckus I made. They prevailed. We got the new mattress…and the world did not end. We actually slept better. Change. It happens…and sometimes, it’s for the good, I thought then…as long as there isn’t too much of it. (grin/grimace)

I thought about that this morning as I stood over my sink looking out into the rain-soaked yard. My life has been chock-full of change now for as long as I can remember. Over and over, I’ve had to re-learn the taco-bed lesson as God has moved people and places and things all over my world. We’re facing a lot of it right now. You probably are, too. People we love are ill or hurting and the number of situations about which we have no control in our lives mounts daily. It makes the stability of relationship with God even more important. He has no favorites and the rules are the same for all of us…whether we follow them or not.

All of this “disruption” makes me glad He already knows what’s going on and what is to come. I trust Him to do the right thing for me…even if it makes me uncomfortable for awhile. As I mentally ran through a list of changes we and our loved ones are facing right now, I suddenly asked God to please not let me be Taco Bed Becky–hanging on to those things that need to change in order for His best to be evident in our lives. I’m so grateful that He is my stability among the fragments. I need that today.

And I’ll be praying that for you, too.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)

Ahhhh, stability…without stagnation. Now, there’s a concept.

Grace & Peace!

 

 

Liberated in the Jiffy Lube

I had hoped God would speak to me. I hope that every day. (Some days I hear Him right off and other times, I seem to need some not-always-so-gentle prodding.) ANYWAY! Awhile back I was reading my Bible while waiting for the mechanics to replace my blinker light when it happened. (and MY, doesn’t that make me sound all super-spiritual?! HA!) The fact is that I rarely make stops of this kind without taking reading material along, but I didn’t think about getting the light fixed until I was actually on the road that day, so I just took my small pocket Bible from the console in with me. I was in multi-tasking mode: as in “how many things can I get done on this one trip to town” mode, so while I really wanted to hear from God, I wasn’t expecting Him to get too personal in the Jifffy Lube.

There were 2 men ahead of me when I sat down, so I expected to be there for a little bit. I opened the Book and started to read in 1 Corinthians. I hadn’t read very far at all before I was scrambling for my notebook and asking to borrow a pen. Some days, God gets loud with me. It was one of those days.

Here’s what I read:

Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother:  To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, that by Him you were enriched in everything—in all speech and all knowledge. In this way, the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Check out verse 7, where Paul says “so that you do not lack any spiritual gift.” Does that sound like you? It doesn’t sound like me. I must have missed something, because I most definitely do NOT have every spiritual gift. Read it again. Did you see it that time? Don’t worry if it didn’t jump out at you quite as loudly as it did to me…you probably don’t have some of the same issues I do: ones about trying to be perfect and ending up more than a little frustrated in my determination to do all things…and do them well…and being frustrated because I can’t really manage it some days. Most days. Every day? Oh, so it’s not just me? Well, let’s look at it again.

Ok, who is Paul talking to in this passage? See verse 2. “To God’s church at Corinth” (that’s them). “To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints” (Oh, yes! We get added to the mix!) and then, “with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (See! We get included again! Confirmation that this applies to me and you right when and where we are!) THAT is really great news for both of us because it means that I (we!) don’t have to do it all by ourselves. That’s what the church is for! It means that when we gather together to worship as a corporate body of Christ–no matter where we’re located!–and we each use the gifts that we’ve been given, then we won’t be lacking in the spiritual gifts that are needed to function right when and where we are! I don’t have to do it alone! Neither do you!

And if that isn’t bringing you some of that grace and peace from verse 3, then I don’t know what will! Whoever you are, wherever He finds you, know this: you are loved, you are blessed, and He wants to be yours. There’s freedom to be had here! There’s grace to be applied! There’s abundance to be enjoyed! There’s a church near you that needs you AND your gifts!–and there’s more to learn even when you’re you’re sitting in a Jiffy Lube!