Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Petit Four Or A Full Meal

I was thinking the other day about the journey that it's taken me to become a fully committed and God-pursuing believer, not just one in name and external behavior, but someone who lives and breathes this life because it has actually become my very breath.  I don't say that to be dramatic, but now if I am not immersed in His presence on a regular basis, I can feel as if I am suffocating.  

I am sure people who have known me over the years read my Facebook or Twitter and probably think, "Wow, when did she become such a Jesus freak, Bible thumper, etc., (insert your favorite nickname for a radical Christian here)?"  As I was mulling this over, I began to think, you know the radical ones are actually the most rational ones.  That is...if you believe what the Bible says about the length and weight of this life versus eternity.  As Christine Caine says, "This life is a vapah!"  That's my best attempt at phonetically writing how that wonderful Aussie says vapor :), see the actual Scripture below:

James 4:14 ~ Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 

Like much of the Word, if we believed what it says, rather than what we have surmised or experienced, we would live our lives very differently.  If this life truly is a vapor (or mist or fog as some other translations say) compared to the SUBSTANCE of eternity, why would you not shift and rearrange the circumstances and efforts of this life TOWARD the one that really matters?  I began to think of an analogy of completing a course of study that I think illustrates this rather well, so here goes.

In my academic days, I, like many other over-achieving type-A personalities, would strategize my grade in a course from day one.  You know, I need this grade on this test and this grade on this paper, in order to only need a grade of say 75 on the final to get an A overall.  If you didn't do this on the front-end, I guarantee you did it during finals, if only to prioritize and allocate your study time for your course load to maximize your grades for the semester!  The point here is having a long-range vision for the end goal, but this is all kind of subjective when talking about business studies.  I thought a better analogy would be a course of study for something very tangible, like say, a chef.

If you are in culinary school, your end goal would of course be to graduate and be able to prepare a full meal, of many different kinds of foods, with amazing presentation as well.  But suppose, you got hung up on the dessert portion of your study, or worse still, on one small part of the dessert course.  The smallest thing I could think of was a petit four.  You spent all of your time in culinary school trying different recipes and decorating and sprucing up one tiny dessert.  Your classmates tried to encourage you that you should look toward completion of your study, and maybe spend some time toward that end, rather than getting so focused on one small sugar-filled portion.  But you didn't listen, and at the end of your time, you were left presenting an amazing petit four to your professors, but that was all, while the rest of the class had full meals prepared.  They pursued that which really mattered and would end up with successful completion, while you would not.

Many believers are like this culinary student.  They know the truth, but for whatever reason, they have become so focused on this tiny sugary portion of our existence, that they are missing the end goal of growing in God, furthering His kingdom, and becoming more and more ready for an eternity spent in His presence.  What does it take to make this shift, to have a long-range vision, and to make eternity become so much more substantial to us than what we experience with our physical senses here on earth?  Because once you make this shift, as I said in the beginning, focusing on spiritual matters truly becomes the most rational thing you can do.  

For me, it took the removal of all external stimuli during these quiet years as a mom to small children - not a process I have thoroughly enjoyed, but one that I am ever so grateful for its results.  For some, it may be a tragedy that reminds them how short life on earth really is.  For others, maybe it is the Holy Spirit revealing this truth ever so subtly through a song, the Word, or some other resource.  Whatever it takes, as I told a friend the other day, this is what I pray for anyone I know who is wandering.  I don't pray that they don't search anymore or that they don't wander.  Instead, I pray that the season would be as short as possible - that God would reveal the truth to them and woo their heart in an undeniably personal way - to where their faith would become so real that no one can ever take it.

And I pray this for more than my personal world, I pray it for the church at large.  That we would wake up more and more to the REALITY that we are the object of affection of a good and loving God and that loving and serving Him for an unimaginable amount of time become our ultimate end-goal.

Ephesians 1:15-18 ~ Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Don't Turn The Channel Too Quickly

We are beginning a pretty big life transition right now - that of moving to Houston with our little family. These transitional times always leave me feeling contemplative. I have been more emotional than I ever thought possible, especially given that our eight years in San Antonio have felt more than a little like a wilderness (or a left hand!) season. As I thought about my unintentional responses to the move (and tried to suppress them mind you), I began to realize a couple of things.

For one, I had actually become quite settled here. I had no longer had that "grass is greener" mentality that was always looking for the next exciting thing, but had resolved to be content and thrive where God had planted me. My sudden, strong emotions in regard to leaving (especially given that we are headed back to where I grew up and some of my family - picture my confused husband!) could mean nothing less and would not have happened a few years ago. Now that is progress and growth for me - to His glory!

Two, I needed to take some time and allow myself space to work through the emotions, acknowledge the end of this time in our lives, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me about it. As our pastor says, "Don't change the channel too quickly." I am still in the midst of doing all of this, and God is revealing more and more. (Stay tuned for the next post.)

Three, God is so gracious to have given us lots of confirmations along the way that this is His next step for our family. From the vision I had almost exactly a year ago where he showed me this move, to the small transitions of friends here that make us feel more released to leave, to the peace my husband has about this career move - He is faithful!

So whatever you are going through today - whether you are in a transition, desperately looking forward to one, or trying to find a way to avoid one - take some time to be still in His presence and let Him put some perspective on your life up to this point. He knows, He knows, He knows, and that's all YOU need to know! Here is the song/scripture that's been in my spirit:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning, great is thy faithfulness O Lord. Great is thy faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Go Home - Bad Dog!!

As I have been working through the Deeper Still Bible study over the last month, a story by Priscilla Shirer really resonated with me and brought back some old memories that I'd like to share.  She spoke of a time when she was approached by a menacing dog while by herself on a walk; by raising her voice and jabbing at it with a stick, she was able to send that dog hightailing it out of there!  She compared this to the enemy's attacks against us that are often-times, "all bravado and no bite."    She further taught that "No matter how good he (the enemy) is at barking, he has already been rendered impotent."  The way she described it made me think of the following verse:

Colossians 2:15 (NLT)
In this way, he (Christ) disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

That's some pretty serious stuff...not only did He DISARM them (or render them ineffective), He also SHAMED them publicly at the cross.  Make no mistake; that's a spectacle we're talking about.  As I rolled this around in my mind, I suddenly remembered stories of my own encounters with vicious dogs as we were growing up in a rural area north of Houston - I think I had blocked them out of my memory up until this point!

My twin and I enjoyed running and riding our bikes around our "neighborhood" if you could call it that.  Everyone had a couple of acres, no fences, and no HOA restrictions.  On one particular stretch, there were a couple of houses that had rottweilers and dobermans with no restraints whatsoever...ridiculous now that I think back on it.  They would come charging, and I mean charging with nostrils flared and teeth bared, out at us as we ran or biked innocently by.  Now, for even the bravest of us, that would be a terrifying sight...but I am far from the bravest of us...I'm actually kind of a wimp!  It would take every ounce of bravery and gumption that my 9 year-old self had to stand up tall and yell with all my might, "Go Home, Bad Dog, Get Out of Here!!"  It normally didn't work the first time; it took a bit of their edge off but they would keep coming.  And we would keep yelling over and over, and even have to run at them at times - but they would finally back off when they saw we were serious. 

Reading Priscilla's story brought back memories of that specific gut-wrenching fear that I had to PUSH down as I forced myself to be authoritative and show NO fear.  Now, of course, intellectually I know it to be true that I have authority over the enemy and that he has already been disarmed and shamed by Jesus Christ once and for all.  But, oh that fear, that can stop you in your tracks...

What are you facing in your life today that has literally frozen you in place and all you can see are the teeth and all you can hear is the barking?  The enemy will leave you alone, but it is going to take an exertion of your FAITH and WILL to stand up with all you have and say, "Go Home, Bad Dog, Get Out of Here!!"  (In Jesus name of course!)  It cannot be a half-hearted, wimpy prayer - that just won't work - not with what the people of God are facing today.  But when you do with all the bravado you can muster, just like those rottweilers and dobermans, the enemy will tuck his tail and run when he sees that you are serious. 

Ephesians 6:13
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Unfulfilled Love Songs

How many over-the-top love songs have you heard and thought, "Wow, there is no way that actually happens in real life!"  Not just songs, but expand that to books, movies, etc.  Sure, some of us hope more than others that a "perfect" romantic relationship is out there somewhere; but if we are being honest, we would admit that we have come to expect little from love...yet we still yearn and long for a deepness of feeling and expression that continues to evade us.  Just look at the litany of media available along these lines - these stories are produced by human hearts and minds for a very consuming public; in a lot of them, you can hear the heart cry of the human race, ultimately looking for perfect love.  All of this makes me think of the following C.S. Lewis quote:  

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." 

The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe created us to be the very objects of His affection and love.  Just try for a few seconds to wrap your mind around that...  Wouldn't it make sense that no relationship here on this earth could begin to satisfy the deep capacity of the reservoir for love He designed in each of us?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

As I have grown in my relationship with God over the last few years, I have begun to listen to these same songs, read these same books, and watch these same movies with a new set of eyes and ears.  Instead of immediately calling them out as sappy and unrealistic (yes, I admit that I am a recovering cynic), I choose to allow my heart and mind to entertain the idea that all of them just might be possible - except not with another human being but with the ONE who has always known and loved me from the beginning of time.

I dare you to try this same exercise; you'll never be the same.  Here's a music video of one of the songs in particular that God has been revealing Himself to me through - thank you George!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who Directs Your Steps?

So on Tuesday I posted about traces of grace and finished it off by quoting Psalm 37:23 - The Lord directs the steps of the godly; He delights in every detail of their lives. That blog was primarily focused on Him delighting in our details; this one will focus on Him directing our steps, based on an event that happened yesterday.

My friend, Kate, and I had made lunch plans and agreed to meet at a restaurant near my work place (incidentally in a very nice part of town). What was meant to be a brief lunch so we could both get back to work, turned into an hour and twenty minutes. As we departed, we gave each other a hug and both held on longer than usual. I remember thinking that was odd, but those seconds may have been vital, as you will read in a moment. Kate headed out the door as I went and refilled my drink and visited the restroom. I left the restaurant and drove to the left back to my workplace; as I did, I saw ambulances and fire trucks whizzing by me. I didn't know what had happened until Kate sent me a text about an hour later.

She told how she turned right out of the restaurant and went through the other side of the parking lot on her way back to work. As she drove, she saw a commotion around a small red car and a man stumble out covered in blood. Being trained in CPR, she stopped to help. Upon reaching him, she realized he had been shot and stabbed multiple times. She assisted until the ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

After the adrenaline went down and the processing began, Kate told how during lunch she kept looking at the clock behind me thinking she needed to leave and go back to work...but yet she stayed. And then there was the lingering hug that felt odd. She strongly believes that God was protecting her from being right in the middle of that violent situation (ended up being reported as a robbery of a jeweler by two masked men) which had transpired only moments before she drove by.

We both knew with our head knowledge of the Bible that God directs our steps, but now we know experientially that He does. To add one other element, I firmly believe that not only was God protecting us, but He was also arranging for His agent to be involved in this situation. Here is yet another reason to allow God to direct our steps - to be fully available to His service in bringing light and love to this dark world. I told Kate to take it as quite a compliment that He entrusted that to her yesterday. While I am also trained in CPR, I don't know that I would have been able to handle it with such grace as she did.

To wrap it up: Do we live in a treacherous world? You betcha. Is it bound to get more treacherous? You betcha. Do I know who directs our steps and keeps us from harm? You betcha. So TRUST that wherever you go today, He directed your steps there and that there is grace to cover whatever you may encounter!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Traces of Grace

How many times in the busy pace of your life do you stop and notice small hints of His grace sprinkled throughout your day?  If you're moving too fast, it's hard to notice.  But if you determine to be aware and watching for these small love notes from Him, the Holy Spirit will highlight them to you...guaranteed...and you will watch in amazement as to how often and when they appear!

Brief grocery store story from yours truly: I had taken the boys with me to the grocery store on a busy Monday after we had been at home with air conditioning repair, working on refinancing our mortgage, rescheduling some dental work for me, and arranging my husband's surgery details (torn achilles repair, altogether another story!).  Needless to say, mommy was already fried when we got there and just needed to get a little food for our very bare refrigerator.  To make matters worse, it was one of those days at the grocery store when there are so many people in the aisles, you have to steer around them and take turns to move! 

As I am cruising and referring back to my list (not to mention letting my children eat their way through the store - you know a donut here, a cheese stick there, etc.), I realize a few items that I have forgotten.  Almost on cue, I look up to find the exact item I would have purchased stranded in another section altogether (for example, pistachios in a facing of tortillas).  The first time it happened, I thought, "Oh, okay that's good - I don't have to circle back through the crowded store." But the second time?  I knew it was traces of His grace.  And while a small thing in our busy life - still very indicative of our compassionate God, who cares about even the little details of our lives. 

For one last flourish in the icing on the cake/lesson - as I was outside loading the groceries in the car and kids in the car seats, I notice we have lost one pair of Spider-Man sunglasses.  Why the big deal?  Only because we have two pairs, and if you know anything about close siblings...only having one would cause big issues in the future.  Which means, in short, for me, I would be throwing out the other pair if we couldn't find the ones we had lost.  Now it's 200 degrees (okay 100), and I have $200 worth of groceries already in the car...unloading children and heading back inside seemed like the least appealing thing in the world.  So I look over and see some teenage employees pushing carts and asked them nicely if they wouldn't mind looking at the check-stand we had been at a few minutes earlier - a long shot but worth it in this mom's opinion.  They agreed and began walking back; they returned just a few minutes later, having found them on the ground on their way back into the store!

Once again, if you're not looking, these things may seem like coincidences or "thank goodness" moments; but if you're tuned in - they can come to mean so much more than that and keep you moving (with a smile on your face) on this sometimes tiring road we call life!  HE IS GOOD :).

Psalm 37:23 - The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.

II Corinthians 12:9 - But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Intimacy Can Be Your Reality

If you had been reading my journal lately, you'd know that God has been revealing a lot to me about Himself and our relationship through different songs, some Christian and some not.  Many of the songs have been about unconditional love, happiness, joy, etc. 

However, today's quiet time was just fun and silly...I was listening to an amazing song by Mark Harris called, "When We're Together."  If you've heard this song, you know that it has a light-hearted and fun mood and amazing lyrics (see below).  It was as if God was saying, "Come and hang out with me, enjoy yourself, dance, be who I created you to be!"  Now isn't that a definition of true intimacy...when you can be your goofy self without a care in the world that the person will start to think differently about you?

If this sounds like a stretch to you in terms of a relationship with God, I invite you - and HE invites you - to come into His presence, take a load off, rest, and just maybe have some fun!  It's worth a try, don't you think?  :) 

And thank you to Mark Harris for the inspiration for tonight's post. 

Much Love To You All!!!


I'd like to sail to lands afar
Out on a boat that's built for two
Beneath a canopy of stars
That would be just like a dream come true
Just to be with you

And oh, oh, oh, ohhh
When we're together
Oh, oh, oh, ohhh
Feels like forever
Worries seem to fade away
As they become as distant memories
When we're together

I'd like a castle on a hill
Where you and I could spend the day
And I'd love to go where time stands still
And all that doesn't matter fades away
You are here with me

And oh, oh, oh, ohhh
When we're together
Oh, oh, oh, ohhh
Feels like forever
Worries seem to fade away
As they become as distant memories
When we're together

And I'd love toDance with you
Under the big blue sky
We'd hold theWonder of the moment
As the moment passes by
When we're together