Heroic faithfulness?

Our Sunday School class is in 1 Samuel right now and the lesson this week is on David and Goliath. Almost everybody knows this ancient story. Its part of our cultural lexicon and used even by people who aren’t believers in the Word. We refer to it when we face difficult situations with impossible-looking tasks or to significant victories where the little guy comes out on top even today. As I read through the material in preparation to teach, this quote made quite the impression on me, so I thought I’d share it with you today:

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” *

I read that sentence, grabbed my highlighter, and then I read it again and headed to the computer. Those words speak to me. In this world of political and social upheaval, we’ve seen policemen, firemen, and other emergency personnel run toward the danger almost every day. They go because they’re trained to do so. They’ve worked hard to be ready at a moment’s notice. They go because they care. Despite the actions of a few, the majority hold the line and perform admirably every day whether they’re caught on camera or not.

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” 

You don’t have to be a public servant for these words to apply. The same can be said of those who are faithful to prepare and perform any task. Not so sure about that?

  • Ask the child with the scraped knee when the parent shows up with a hug and a band-aid.
  • Ask the patient in need of pain management or just a friendly face.
  • Ask the employer who can’t get product out the door or make a living without the people who show up on time and as scheduled…and who actually work while they’re there.
  • Ask the friend in need of a listening ear and some sound advice.
  • Ask the husband or wife trading sleep to comfort and encourage–or do the dishes and laundry!– after a difficult day.
  • Ask the school without enough qualified teachers or coaches.

We may not automatically think about people performing mundane tasks as preparing to be heroes, but perhaps we should. Heroes-in-the-making are everywhere, quietly going about the business of living faithful lives. We need to be reminded to say “THANK YOU!”–BEFORE the need is great and the response is required. We need to show appreciation for those around us who do their job and show up consistently to make our lives better.

You know what this means, right? It means you need to be reminded that someone is counting on you today, too. They may not call you heroic and they might not throw a parade, but you matter more than you think you do. Your work ethic matters. Your attitude matters. Your presence matters. Your faithfulness matters.

Yes, your faithfulness matters…and so do you.

Thank you.

Grace & Peace!

 

*Explore the Bible Leader Guide HCSB, Summer, 2016. Eric Geiger, General Editor. Lifeway, One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234.

 

 

 

 

God didn’t make a mistake…

Mom. God did something wrong. He messed up on me because he made me brown, he did not make me white. He needs to go back and fix it so I can be white.

A friend recently posted the quote above on her Facebook page…and my heart just broke right open. She went on to tell about how she responded and how she sought help from someone else within their circle to reinforce her words and help instill pride and understanding into her precious child.

I wanted to write about it then, but it just seemed a bit out of touch for a middle-aged white woman to address such a thing in her blog. I’ve continued to think about it though, and with all that has happened in the last week or so, I know for certain that I was wrong. It needs to be addressed by ALL of us. Not addressing such a thing has led us to where we are right now…and it is beyond unacceptable for us to be where we are. But, honestly, where to start? Where to start?!

I’m so grateful he talked to his mom and didn’t just keep this to himself. This precious child who is strong and smart and handsome knows he can trust his mom with what he thinks. That’s the mark of great parenting and I’m incredibly proud of his mom and the way she walks her walk in the difficult task of raising her boys.

Because she was open enough to share it, I’ve had to think about it. It hasn’t all been comfortable. I’ve had to deliberately think through what I was taught and what I “caught” as I grew up in Mississippi in the 1960s. For the record, that doesn’t always mean what people think it does. Some of the most educated, lovingly inclusive people I’ve ever known come from the same place I do. A person can never be truly known simply by the history, actions and attitudes present in the land of their birth. The same can be said of wherever you come from, too, I suspect, and that’s part of the point of this post. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly do something about today!

Children can often get things wrong simply because they aren’t old enough to understand or don’t hear/know the whole narrative. This child got it wrong because WE as adults haven’t understood the whole narrative, so what has been passed down over the generations has led us to this toxic reality that we share today . With that in mind, I’ll start like this:

  • Oh, sweet child (and adults and everyone in between!), God is never wrong. He is perfect.  “As for God, his way is perfect…” Psalm 18:30 (NIV) 
  • Because He is perfect, we can assume that we are not mistakes. He made us on purpose and He made us ALL different. There is no wrong color and no right color because God apparently likes them all or He would have already stopped making people of all different shades –and height and weight and every other physical characteristic you can name.
  • God made each of us on purpose. Psalm 139 is clear about that. He carefully created us and planned out our lives in order to bless us. That’s really great because it tells us that the things we can’t change about ourselves (our parents, the place we were born, and our genetics–including our skin color!) are things that God chose individually just for us. HE thinks that’s the best way for us to be. Yes, He could have created you differently, but God decided that YOU would best glorify Him by being just the way He made you–and He is never wrong.
  • The things we can change about ourselves (our thoughts, decisions, actions, and attitudes) are the things over which He gives us free will. These are OUR choices so it is up to us to make the most of them so that we can glorify Him and honor those around us as fellow creations of a loving and almighty God.
  • When God’s Word tell us something and the world around us acts like something else, you can take it to the bank:  it is the WORLD that is wrong. People are the problem, not God. That’s always the case whenever there is hate, discrimination, and bigotry–and a whole lot of other ugly words I wish you would never have to learn about first hand.
  • The decision to elevate one skin color (or any other physical trait!) over another is a sin. It isn’t a cultural issue. It isn’t a pride issue. It isn’t “the natural order of things” or any other phrase that’s used by those who practice it. It is sin.
  • The only cure for sin is Jesus. That’s why every single person on the planet needs Him.
  • The only way we can change our society is by accepting Christ and then acting like Him. We need to be “Jesus with skin on”–no matter what color our skin is!!– for everyone we meet. We will still mess up and we will occasionally be wrong in really big ways because we are human, but if we are consistently trying to be like God tells us to be in His Word, then we’ll be way ahead of where we are right now…and our world NEEDS us to be like He tells us to be. It is the only way some of them will ever hear about Him.

Hear me well, please. Wherever you are, whoever you are, or whatever you look like, God loves you! Be proud of who you are! He designed you on purpose for great things–the best of which is to be like His Son. You can only do that if you choose to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and walk out the rest of your days according to His teachings in Scripture. It isn’t always easy, but it is definitely worth it.

Now. How will you choose to walk out and talk out today? Your choices matter…to all of us.

Grace & Peace!

self-limiting

 

cropped-heartThis post isn’t so much a rant as an observation.

We had a wonderful service at church yesterday. The kids were in charge. Well, actually, there were adults who were in charge, but the kids were the main ones on the stage. They sang and acted and led us in worship. It was amazing…for some of us.

I loved it! The kids were happy and energetic. They sang beautifully and the motions they had learned at Worship Arts Camp the week before will help them remember these songs forever. Several times during their program I had to wipe away tears because the message in the songs was so powerful and the image of the kids as they sang with gusto was just too precious for words. I noticed that my husband was similarly affected–and we don’t even  have children! We talked about it on the way home…about how God uses music to touch us in places we might not go to as often as we should, about how song lyrics can allow us to express things publicly that we might never bring up on our own, and about how wonderful it was that these young children were being taught such deep truths in a way that could really stay with them. We had worshiped and it was a blessing.

Not everyone seemed to have the same experience. I know that because there were people around me holding up cameras and phones, looking through tiny screens, hitting their rewind buttons and changing their lens focus…and getting frustrated when it didn’t work like they thought it should. I know, I know. I can’t begin to judge what was in their hearts and how their spirits were affected. I get that, but at times their frustration was palpable enough to be visible and that made me sad for them.

I also get that this is something that our culture is more and more prone to do: we make records of what’s going on around us instead of actually entering into the experience of it. I think that we’re missing out when we do that. Certainly, take a photo–or several!–but don’t miss out on actually participating in life by limiting yourself to what can fit on a tiny screen that you probably won’t watch that many times after it is recorded.

Take time to actually SEE the JOY around you and add some of your own to the mix! Head down, staring at a palm-sized view of the world is not the way to live. Kick back and actually WATCH the fireworks–or shoot them off yourself, if you’re so inclined! Play a game that doesn’t require a remote controller. Read a book together! Have conversations about IDEAS and CONCEPTS–or even politics, if you’re desperate!–and not about people you will never meet who just hired really good publicists. Build relationships, not miniature video libraries! Enjoy the NOW. It’s the only thing we really truly have for sure. Don’t waste this incredibly valuable God-given NOW by self-limiting behaviors and then find yourself unable to share your heart with those people on the tiny screens because you were too busy recording the moment to actually have the moment with them. Shared experiences will beat a shared video any day…and maybe twice on Sunday.

Observation over…for now. There are flowers to be picked and conversations to be had!

Challenge for the week: See if you can put away your phone or computer after your work hours are over and play a board game, work a puzzle, or go get an ice cream cone with someone you love…and have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be long or deep, but you just might be surprised at the benefits!

Grace & Peace!

Learning New Old Things

As odd as this sounds, I think I may have grown up a little bit this past week. A few of my friends are snorting hysterically right now because they think  I may or may not have been “born old” and, maybe (again, Ha!), I’ve acted like that ever since.

I was (AM!) the first-born. A daughter.  A responsible one. The oldest female of the second set of grandchildren on both sides of the family—after a few years break—so I got plenty of attention for just by showing up in the world. That attention came with a lot of expectation, as well, because they seemed to think I could do anything and everything well and, with that much focused attention and instruction everywhere I turned, I learned a lot and I learned it fast or I kept at it until I was satisfied. Sometimes that took awhile, but I’m also stubborn, so that time element never really got in my way other than making me impatient with myself, because—truth be told?—my own expectations for me were even higher than theirs for me.

Knowing how to do things made me more independent and made them excited to see their instruction pay off, so it was a win-win situation for all of us. I just automatically assumed it was my job to keep on meeting  those expectations as I got older, and so I did so…on the surface, at least. I’m grateful for those expectations. Personally, I think they were good for me. I KNOW that the people who expressed them love me and are good for me and that was enough to make me just go DO whatever goal was set… sometimes without even thinking about whether or not it was I really wanted to do or something they had suggested for me.

On the inside, I wondered sometimes what it might feel like to not have those expectations, but then, I’d usually pick up another book and lose myself in the words and find new worlds to conquer and new things to learn and more expectations from myself that came with having all that information up in my brain. You can see where this is going, can’t you?  I come from a long line of seriously capable people and I suspect this pretty much describes their path, as well.

Stubborn, firstborn, introverted-yet-over-achieving female with a large built-in encouraging support system…yes, I was born old…and that’s not a complaint for me, just a comment…and more of a blessing than I’ve given it credit for being until just recently.

I’m not the smartest person I know—not by a long shot!—but I can hang in there with them for awhile and finding out what I don’t know has been as valuable to me as gold over the years. That information helped me focus on what I wanted to learn next, do next, be next.

In fact, I’ve often been so focused on that “next” part that I ignored the “now” part of life. That has been a mistake. I don’t often admit to making those (Mike, quit grinning!), but that’s one of my biggies. All of that go and learn and do has gained me skills, but often left me wondering what I planned to do with all of that…and feeling more than a little frustrated when I couldn’t fill in the blanks for those questions. I still don’t have all those answers.

This past seven months, however, of having the most definitely unplanned luxury of being with my husband and choosing to slow down and enjoy our unexpected time together has taught me a lesson I hope I never forget:  how to just BE in the moment.  I realized just this week that I’ve finally learned that those skills and that knowledge don’t have to be put to work every single second. There are times when you just need to breathe, times when you can fill a whole day (or weeks or months!) with counting the blessings God has poured into your life, times when gratitude for every single thing—good AND bad–about your life needs to consume you and put you on your face before God.

I don’t want to lose that knowledge going forward! I don’t want to go backward and be so determined to know and go and do that I forget to just BE God’s grateful child. I’ve always said that being stubborn was both my worst characteristic and my best—especially as it pertained to my faith!—but now, I want to apply it to this filling gratefulness; this drenching awareness of the goodness and grace of my God. I want to be stubborn about holding on to and living THAT out for the rest of my days.

I almost wrote that I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier, but on second thought, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. All the steps that led up to now and made me who I am today give me an amazing list of things to be grateful for right now. I may have been a little bit slow (it’s only taken me over 50 years!), but as for tomorrow, well, I plan to know more then, so I expect to be more grateful then…and I plan to be stubborn about that in the future, as well.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

                                                                         ~Thomas Ken, 1674

(1674! And still worth singing.)

Go, GOD!

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)