Out of joint

Sometimes following Jesus is easy and sometimes, to be completely honest, it can be a real pain. That’s not the “churchy” thing to say, but it is the truth–especially if you’re really serious about desiring to do it well.

There is an Old Testament account of a man facing the possibility of trouble who wrestled with God. All through the night he grappled and held tight. He refused to let go until God gave him a blessing. He got what he asked for, alright; he got his blessing and a little something extra. He walked away a new name…and a limp.

That happens sometimes when you’re determined not to let go of God and you’re desiring His blessing. I use the present tense here on purpose because I know it to be true. I’ve been wrestling with God this morning about something and, as a result, it’s not my hip, but probably more accurate to say that my nose is out of joint about it.

God has a funny way of working on me. He’s so good to allow me to teach His Word and be in a position to give counsel at times. He gives me space to recover from doing those things and retreat from the energy expenditure, as well. As a deep introvert, that’s a critical blessing for me and I value it highly. As my Creator, He knows that AND (not BUT–AND!) this morning He put a thought into my head about considering the possibility of that going away for a bit.

Let me be clear: He hasn’t asked me to go DO a hard thing yet, He’s just asking me to consider the possibility of doing a hard thing…and I balked. Big. Time. I get why He’s pushing me to even consider this. I deeply appreciate that He’s still speaking to me and stretching my faith. I want to be able to run joyfully toward every single thing that He calls me to do, but this morning…well, I just felt a big old “No” rise up at the very thought of this thing He brought up to me.

How do I know it was from Him? Well, let’s just say that it isn’t anything I would ever choose to do on my own. I’ve got multiple “reasons” why I wouldn’t want to do it and only one really concrete reason to consider it: because I made a decision to and have the privilege of belonging to God. (that sounds like two, but it is actually just one thing, I promise.)

If/when the rubber meets the road, I will respond with a “yes.” I know that. That decision was made a long time ago. My problem is that I would wish to say that I can’t wait to do whatever He might ask of me–as SOON as He mentions it…and, as evidenced by my response this morning, that’s not where I am just yet. I hate that. I really, really hate that. I thought I was better than my response today, but apparently, I am not. It is humbling. Perhaps that was the point.

My husband says that determined obedience is enough for now and that if–or when–God actually asks me to do this thing, that will be the time to get to doing with a right attitude, but I’m still wrestling with this idea. I am making progress already, though, and I’m grateful for that. I am deeply aware that becoming a person of influence doesn’t automatically come on the “easy pay” program. It means things might–will!–often become uncomfortable because the people who are watching need to see God at work in every area of our lives…and they need to see Him win. Although I first balked at the very idea, now I am wrestling with the possibility of doing it the with the right attitude. My nose is still out of joint a bit about it, but at least I should be able to walk without a limp today…

maybe.

I guess we’ll see.

Praying all your joints remain in place today and that mine gets back in line as quickly as possible.

Grace and Peace!

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Make a good day!

Earlier today I chose brightly colored vegetables to the tune of “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Bible study was over for the day and I had been privileged to spend some time afterward in a discussion about theology, doctrine, and obedience. I was ready to get home and fix a sandwich for lunch.

As I unloaded my items onto the moving conveyor belt, my checkout lady commented on my necklace. I told her I had made it and she and another checker who was acting as a bagger began asking questions about how I did it.

As she handed me my receipt, my cheerful checker said, “Make a nice day!” We all chuckled as she laughingly stammered out her explanation that she was still thinking about me making jewelry out of broken china while still trying to wish me a nice day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our verbal blunders still held such profound truth?

Make a nice day. Yes, we can choose to do just that. I pondered it again as I drove home and waited for the men who were cleaning up the debris from a recent power company cleanup to allow me into my driveway. I set about putting up my groceries and making my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Home at last. Simple goodness. On to the next thing.

Minutes ago I headed out to check the mail and view the freshly cleaned area…and actually teared up a bit to see only a small twisted stump where a favorite young tree once stood. It had survived a transplanting from MS in 2014, multiple hot summer suns, several winter storms, and the whirring blade of two previous cleanups only to fall pray to an apparently overzealous cleanup crew.

IMG_20180206_173549941I wrestled the remaining portion from the ground and carried it behind the house where I re-potted it in a large vacant planter. I went inside to do some research and, based on what I found, I am hopeful for an eventual recovery. It will take time to replace the nearly 4′ of growth, but maybe, with care, it can be done.

I could choose to be angry and call to make a fuss. Who knows? They might even try to do something about it, but I’ve decided to apply some margin for others here, as well. Although I’m definitely annoyed, I’m working hard to apply the truth that I can MAKE a good day even when frustrated by what feels like a thoughtless and unnecessary act. Better yet, I’m bolstered by the hope that I can live up to the name given to this particular type of tree, a smoke tree called, believe it or not…”Grace”…because I’m also called to live up to what Jesus did for me a long, long time ago…on a tree.

(Insert very wry grin here.)

God surely does use the strangest things to teach us, doesn’t He? ( FYI: I may still need another Grace-tree…just saying…I’m officially on the lookout…)

 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

GRACE and Peace, every one! Grace and Peace!

 

On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

The Today Blessing

I’m cleaning out again. Still. This time it’s the table top beside my chair. Old cards, magazines, photos, pens, paints, sticky notes with prayers and verses on them, books and Bible study materials…yes, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of treasures here.

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As I’ve sifted through all of the detritus of many yesterdays, I unearthed this poem. I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give credit where its due, but it’s too good to keep myself, so here it is, just for you in case you need reminding, too…

Living in the Present (by Helen Mallicoat, 1977)

I was regretting the past and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Teacher was speaking:

“My name is I AM.” He paused, I waited.

He continued, “When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears, it is hard.

I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,

it is not hard. I am HERE.

My name is I AM.”

Grace and Peace…and as Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”…because that’s where God is, too.

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.

 

 

 

 

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 30

SONY DSCI’m not exactly certain, but this may have been the most relaxing Thanksgiving of my whole adult life. It started off with a driving trip with my husband to see our Mississippi family, supper and catching up with my sister and her family, and resting in the open home of friends…and that was just day one of our little trip. The rest of it was all about shared food, laughter, catching up and loving on our extended family.

It was wonderful. We were busy, but didn’t try to fit in anything that wasn’t about family on this one. It was what all holidays should be about, but so seldom are. Yes, we loved on a couple of friends and were well-loved in return, but honestly…well…they’re actually family of the heart, so it still counts.

Hey! Did you notice? We made it. Today is the very last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2015!

That doesn’t mean we’re all off the hook tomorrow! It means that now we’ve had a whole month to practice and we should be much better at this as we go forward! (You didn’t think I’d let it slide that easily, did you?!)

Here’s some of what I’ve learned this month:

  • It is possible. You can actually set your mind to let go of your “right” to complain every single day.
  • Choosing to participate in this has been a very positive thing for me…and more than a few others, as well! When we focus on being more positive, people are drawn to that and want to participate!
  • You can never have too many people who are choosing to focus on the positive things in life!
  • Encouragement and positivity are contagious–and courageous!–choices in a world so often focused on only the sensationalized negativity that passes for news.
  • Small ideas still matter. What seemed like a single, simple conversation among friends in October mushroomed into something much, much bigger than we ever expected.
  • Sharing our experiences–whether they are our radiant successes or our less than stellar results–brings us closer, deepens relationships, and makes accountability fun.
  • Knowing that you’re not alone in something that may seem impossible at first is pretty good motivation to keep working at it.
  • I’m STILL the most blessed person I know…and I have the family and friends to prove it.

I’d love to hear from you about what you learned this month, about your best days and your worst ones, too, along with how you see this extending out into your future. I’m still excited about this “experiment” of ours and I’m looking for ways to make it even better next time, so share away, please! If you’ve got a focus for December that you’d like to share, please feel free to do that, as well–we’re always up for more blessing!

I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to end this post and I keep coming back to one of the most beloved blessings in Scripture. I’ll share it with you here and pray it for all of us in the month ahead as we celebrate the One who came to bless us best: Jesus, the Christ…no longer a babe in a manger, but seated at the right hand of God making intercession for each of us even in this moment.

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”   ~Numbers 6: 24-26 (NIV)

Grace & Peace! (and still no complaints!)

 

My Real Life God

I looked through one of those magazines today. You know the ones that are so full of pretty pictures and creative options that it makes you feel like a bit of a slug for not coming up with something like that…or that…or…well, anything that could just add to the pretty of the world and inspire someone to go out and paint a picture or write prose with deep thoughts that will change the world.

It was full of quotes from people who, apparently, live lives full of poetry and have plenty of time to cut little tiny bits of paper and reassemble them into works of art and it had lots of pictures of things like feathers in vintage vases and lace used in unexpected ways to create backdrops for family photo collages. The photos looked, well, the words “whispery” and “ethereal” kept running through my mind…along with very mundane thoughts like, “Mercy, that’s pretty, but even if I could do that, it wouldn’t last long at my house…the cats would kill that mood in a heartbeat. It looks great, but it’s just not an option in my real life.”

I walked out of the store without the magazine, but I carried the pictures in my head along with the desire to write things that were Jane Austin-y or William Wordsworth-y. The truth is that I know most of the same words they knew (or at least a good number of them, anyway!), but somehow mine come out without the flights of fancy most of the time.

I thought about how different we all are and what a good thing that is and that started me thinking about God. I know from Scripture that God is a Spirit and, because of that, a lot of people associate Him with things that are secret and wispy and whispery and gossamer and hushed reverential tones…kind of like some of those magazine pictures I saw today: perfectly staged and too pretty to touch with real life on your hands. I guess I just see Him a little differently.

I see God in the great big things like sunsets and even in the chaos on the evening news. I see Him in the practicality of finding a new use for an old thing that got sold at a yard sale and I see Him in the delicacy of the tiny purple muscari blooms that are scattered around our yard near the hot tub. (Yes, we are the Clampetts and we have a big old hot tub out in the yard–grin—and yes, I even see God in the humor of having that big old hot tub in the yard.)

I see God in delicate things like the moss at the base of the oak trees out back and in the silent flight of the owl that lives up in the top of those same trees. I hear Him in the wind that sweepsSONY DSC
through the Georgia pines out front and in the sweet scent of those same trees as I head to get my mail…it stops me in my tracks every single day. I hear Him in my nephews’ laughter and feel Him in my husband’s hugs. I see Him written out on the delicate pages of my Bible and also in the tough-as-nails, precious people I love who live with daily pain or those who are fighting cancer…still…or even, again. I saw Him today in the face of the perky little lady who came and sat by me at the deli counter and the way she reminded me of a loved one who now lives with God full time.

All of that makes me think that my words might be more whispery when I talk about God if He just wasn’t so loud to me every day. God is available for more than just those reverential, high-church holiday times like Christmas and Easter! He’s a REAL LIFE God for every single second of your life! I hope you hear Him, too—and it doesn’t matter to me if He whispers to you or shouts out loud with joy like He seems to with me most days! Just so you hear Him and know that He’s not too delicate to touch with real life on your hands…no matter what that real life looks like today.

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Grace & Peace!

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