Sunday, November 15, 2009

Where would we go?

"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'" --John 6:66-68

Have you ever been angry with God? I balk at the gall of humans who have the nerve to be angry with God, and yet I am. There it is.

I would love to confess a really "good" reason for my anger -- some consuming illness, an untimely death, a great injustice. However, the reason is so basic and fleshly. I want what I want and God has not given it to me. I want more money.

It's so awful to see it written here. It's so horrifying to confess it. Gone is the spiritual pride.

I have wonderful, very practical reasons for wanting more money. I don't need to go into all of that here. Yet God has seen fit to tighten our finances. I'm not alone. It seems everyone's finances are tighter these days. The economy is tough right now. There are so many without jobs; so many without good health care. So many are doing without the grandeur of a former life.
"Does this offend you?" Jesus asked. He was saying a hard thing to his
disciples. Many of them turned away and followed him no more.
I am so deeply offended by having to suffer on any level. I aspire to be a holy, righteous, sanctified Christian woman and I can't get past the fact that God won't give me more than one bathroom. Wretched woman that I am! Who will rescue me? Christ alone.

What a battle rages inside of me! I rail against God with my demands, my discontent, my selfish brattiness, even while conceding that He has given me everything. At the same time, I beg Him not to leave me or forsake me. Yes, I take offense at the hard things, but where would I go? He has the words of eternal life. I long for the Christian hedonism of which John Piper speaks. "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Why is this so hard? My only hope is the promise that God will be faithful to complete the work that He began in me.

I will not turn back. I fear I will be broken soon because of the stubborness of my sin, but I will not turn back. I'm so angry, Lord, but break me. I'm afraid of how it will hurt me, but break me. I'm begging You to break me and make me like You. I will not turn back. Where would I go?

Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Let this be the "winter of my discontent". Let me be content under your rule. I need You. I cannot do this on my own. I'm sorry. Forgive me. Amen.

Hebrews 13:5-6
Ecclesiastes 5:10
Psalm 63

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heaven Can Wait

I was just thinking about all the reasons we crave "things" on this earth. I know there are blatantly sinful reasons why - like greed, insecurity, fear of man, etc. I think, though, that there is another not so obvious reason, one that begins well and ends terribly. That is, our desire for The Blessor turns into a desire for the blessing.

For a very long time, I've wanted a huge piece of land and a big, white house with green shutters. Actually, this has been my dream since childhood. It's the impossible dream for me. It's always out of reach, just beyond my grasp.

The other day, my husband and I went to look at a piece of property that I've been eyeing for quite awhile. Mind you, we have no way of buying this piece of property. It's not even in the town where we live.
As I was walking around this piece of property with my husband, kids and the dog, I was so very happy. The land was beautiful. There were plants and trees and flowers of all kinds, bugs were humming, birds were singing. A slight breeze rustled the leaves and grass, making music for accompaniment. I smelled the smell of a dozen childhood summers around me -- of grass, dirt and flowers combined with heat and Southern air. We walked to the edge of the land to a gently flowing creek bordered on one side by a lovely little beach and by majestic (by Louisiana standards) bluffs on the other.
My children were playing, laughing and splashing in the creek. Our dog was running through the creek enjoying the cool water. It was almost like, well, like heaven.
Ah yes, that's it then. That place, and the white house in my mind, is my own version of Heaven. It's as close as I can get in my earthly mind to imagining pure happiness and joy. When I think of the "new heaven and the new earth", that's where I imagine myself living -- in a place just like that.

And so I want it. It's where I go in my mind when things aren't going well during the day. I escape to my own small dream of Heaven.
Problem is, maybe if I got that place, maybe I wouldn't want Heaven so much. Maybe I would be content with my own very small version of Heaven. It's hard to say. God says He sets eternity in the hearts of men. Certainly, any Christian who has matured at all longs for Home, but we cannot see the scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I think maybe we settle or strive for cheap imitations of eternity.

I think maybe a large part of our sanctification, or setting apart, is God wrenching from our hands the ordinary things here we would call Heaven. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."
Perhaps our desire for Heaven starts as a true chasing after God and a desire for all that He is. Then, because we can only "see in a mirror dimly", we grow impatient and begin grasping for the things we can touch and see and smell and taste. We try to put our hands on Heaven here on earth, and it simply cannot be done.

Our God is a jealous God. He is away for now. Will we run after other lovers while He is away? How is it that we are unfaithful to a God who's given us everything, even life itself?

We MUST NOT attempt to satisfy ourselves with some premature, human version of Heaven. It IS NOT God and it WILL NOT stand. We must continually manage His affairs and we must continually shade our eyes with our hands as we look in the distance for His return.

God, our Heaven, is coming back. I would be really embarrassed if He found me dancing with a gold cow (aka a beautiful piece of property with a big, white house) when He gets here.

Father, make my dreams Your dreams. Sanctify me, no matter how painful. Help me to not be carried away by the beautiful things of this world. Nothing compares
to You. Forgive my infidelity. Make me faithful and true. Satisfy me with Your
love. Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Crazy love

I'm a pretty passionate person. I could probably count on one hand the things I'm indifferent about. I'm on or off, hot or cold, hate it or love it. No in-between. All or nothing. You get the picture. Being passionate is a great asset. It's also a great liability outside of God's grace.

Don't you just love Jacob's nerve and passion when he wrestles with God in the Old Testament? Whenever I read that, in my mind I say, "Ooooooh, you're gonna get it now!" "Oh, I know you did NOT just tell God you weren't gonna let go until He blessed you!"

Don't you know - God blessed that crazy man! Who do you think made Jacob crazy in the first place??? God! Whenever I read about Jacob, I get so angry with him. I just want to beat him for all his conniving foolishness. But you know what ? He's not mine. I don't love him like God does.

I think when Jacob wrestled with God, God said, "Would you look at this spunky little son-of-a-gun I made? You gotta love his spirit! What a scrapper!"

Now God still put Jacob in his place. Jacob walked away from that wrestling match with a permanent limp. God, in His infinite love, left Jacob a little reminder that God's still in charge. "Yes, Jacob, I made you just the way you are, and I'm going to use your nerve to teach you about Me. You're going to do things My way and for My glory, son."

Think about your limp today. God gave it to you to keep you close to Him. And oh my word, He's crazy about your craziness. All you guys out there who lose your temper when injustice is broadcast on the news? God loves that about you. All you sweet mercy givers who would rather run your car into a tree than hit a dog in the road? How God loves your tenderness. All you administrators that make everybody down here crazy with your dotted i's and crossed t's? God just relishes your attention to detail. And the list goes on.

We all look like our Father. How he laughs at and takes delight in all our quirkiness. Who else but stuttering Moses could lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Who else but David, the sensitive poet, could write those beautiful Psalms to the Lord? And oh, James and John, those boisterous Sons of Thunder? Who else but those two could do what they did in the founding of God's Church? All those guys looked ridiculous when they tried to run their own craziness, but in God's hands...oh, what beauty!

I'm weeping as I type this. This was supposed to be a post about parenting - ours, not God's. God cracks me up. He turned this whole thing around as I typed. The Spirit in me feels God's joy and delight this morning. I hope you feel it, too.

Oh my beautiful Father, thank you for filling me up with Your love this morning. Thanks for giving me Your Father eyes for just a few minutes. I'm grinning from ear to ear. I see how you love us now. I see Your method in our madness. Help us to never be afraid to be fools for You. I seek Your pleasure in me, Lord. I want to make You laugh. Use all my craziness for Your glory. Thanks for loving this beautiful mess. Amen.

Psalm 139
Zephaniah 3:17
Ephesians 2:10

Friday, November 7, 2008

Smack Into You

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools..." --Romans 1:18-22

Everything runs smack into You, eventually.
Here's where it's found lacking or true;
Right when it runs smack into You.
Everything runs right up to You.
It cannot go over or under or through.
Here in this place it's naturally weighed.
Right when it runs smack into You.
--Esther Sparks from Esther and the Protesters

I was at a funeral today. As we stood in the cemetary and listened to the melancholy bagpipes wailing Amazing Grace, it struck me. Well, here we are then - in need of God.

John Mayer said in a song, " I am invincible, as long as I'm alive." But the one thing that man cannot conquer - the one thing - is death. And so for all our talk about the autonomy and independence of man, about how we can do anything we set our mind to, and about how Jesus is just a crutch for the weak, we still end up dead, don't we?

If ever we need a Savior, it's when we die. I can understand how a man might think he can make it through life all by himself "thank you very much". But somewhere in the corner of his mind and heart, surely he thinks about the day when he won't be able to make it all by himself.

My pastor today quoted someone who said, "It's a fool who makes no preparation for what he knows is certain." What will you do with death? Or perhaps, more importantly, what will you do with the life that precedes it?

God is real. The evidence is all around and is hard coded into your very being. Everyone must make an active choice about God and whether to serve Him - or not. You cannot go under or over or through God. You must face Him. Face Him saved, won't you?
Father, I wish that all men would choose You. I know it breaks Your heart when they don't. Thank you for Your grace and mercy in sending your Son, Jesus, to die and then defeat death for us. I cannot wait to run smack into You. Amen.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." --2 Corinthians 5:1-10

"It was like this. The tree which sprang from the Apple that Digory planted in the back garden, lived and grew into a fine tree. Growing in the soil of our world, far out of the sound of Aslan's voice and far from the young air of Narnia, it did not bear apples that would revive a dying woman as Digory's Mother had been revived, though it did bear apples more beautiful than any others in England, and they were extremely good for you, though not fully magical. But inside itself, in the very sap of it, the tree (so to speak) never forgot that other tree in Narnia to which it belonged." --from The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

I had the honor and privilege of seeing my Granny go home to be with Jesus last week. I never loved her or my heavenly Father more than I did in those last few moments of her life. In His sweet way, He allowed my father, my sister and me, our children and other family to be gathered around my Granny as she ended her sojourn here. Four generations of people who love Jesus, in large part because of her doing.

How do I choose which lesson to share from her life and death? There are so many. I believe I will share this one. Let me begin this way...

All my life, Granny meant love to me. I remember burrowing under the covers in her old feather bed next to her and being enveloped in her softness and warmth. She fed me chicken and dumplings, blackberry dumplings, and a host of other delicacies I'll never experience again; not like that. Granny showed me how to plant food, pick it and shuck it, shell it or peel it, whichever was necessary.

She was a simple woman of no means and yet I've never met anyone as content as she was with her lot in life. She bloomed where she was planted, you might say. Granny loved to tell me stories of her girlhood, though her girlhood was short-lived. At a very young age, she raised her brothers and sisters after both her parents died. Granny talked of cotton fields and flour sack dresses. Tomato gravy and biscuits. Making do and living decent. And she gave me mints and gum out of her purse during church, but only if I was doing right.

As I walked into her hospital room last week and put my hand on her arm, it was wet. Her skin was breaking down and weeping, my aunt explained. And I thought to myself, though maybe this is not biblical, "Her spirit is trying to get out of this old body. Her spirit is complete and this old body can't hold it anymore. It's fairly busting at the seams to go Home." She got out of that old body a few hours after I arrived. We were very happy for her.

...So, about that lesson. While we are here on this earth, if we are God's, we make it our goal to please Him. We live by faith, not by sight. We bear apples more beautiful than any in the world, and we are extremely good for people, though we are not fully "magical". But in our spirits, in the very sap of us, we never forget that other place to which we belong and long to return. We long to be home with the Lord.

My Granny was magical. She made me want to be magical - like Jesus. So her lesson to me was that most simple and, dare I say, magical of the catechisms. What is our chief end? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. She did and she is. Praise the Lord.
Father, thank you for the gift of my Granny and others like her who have shown me glimpses of You, and who make me long for Home. I greatly look forward to the day when we all gather around Your table at the greatest family reunion ever. Help me walk by faith until then and be "magical". Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How lovely is your dwelling place...

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." Selah --Psalm 84:1-4

Is there anyone besides me who thinks church is the greatest place in the world? I love church! Have I had bad experiences with church -- with THE CHURCH? You betcha'. Plenty. I've seen Christian people do some awful stuff -- adultery, hypocrisy, gossip, slander, struggles for power, you name it. And yes, it breaks my heart. We ought not treat each other like that.

Here's what I love about church: I meet God there. We talk all week and we work together. He corrects me and shows me how to correct the kids. He loves me and shows me how to love others. We work out my salvation all week. But on Sunday, aahhh Sunday.

On Sunday, we rest. I get dressed up -- not because I have to or He thinks I look cuter in a dress, but -- because today is special. I'm going to meet Him in His house. On Sunday, I sing to Him, for Him and because of Him. I drop the week at His feet.

Then I go sit down with the other pilgrims, aliens if you will, and we talk about God. We love Him. We love to talk about Him. We want to know more of Him, so we sharpen each other and we check each other for truth. We encourage each other.

Here are some other things I love about church:

donuts, fresh fruit and coffee - Does that seem shallow? I hope it doesn't. It's part of how we rest together at my church. It's a pleasure to be in my Lord's house. (Isaiah 25:6)

people smiling and laughing - For a lot of reasons, because it means, "It's all good." "We're family." "We're all in this together." "Yeah, I love Jesus, too." "Girl, you're salvation is looking good. Keep on running the race."

kids everywhere - I love it because another generation is meeting God in His house every week, resting with Him. He's writing their love story and I get to see it.

my pastor - He is just a man and he knows it. He loves Jesus and he wants everyone to know Him. He's about grace and mercy, something I'm short of quite frequently.

My church is the building I go to to meet with my Lord each week and my church is the people in it. And I love it, maybe because God loves it so very much. Jesus died for it. The Holy Spirit lives in it. I hope you love it, too.
If you don't love the church, ask yourself why. Is it because someone hurt you there? Does it bore you? Do you sense hypocrisy there? I implore you - forgive, ask for a fresh fire in your spirit, and pledge to stand as an example to the weaker brothers.
Father, make us one. Give us an undying love and loyalty for our brothers and sisters, for Your Bride. Help us not to forsake meeting together. Make us one. Amen.

Acts 2:42-47
Ephesians 5:23-32

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just try to outgive Him, I dare you...

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." --Luke 6:38

A wealthy man is about to die. He's holding on to his gold and insists upon taking it with him to heaven. The angel with him says, "Well, OK, if you must." The man gets to heaven and meets Paul at the gates. The man once again insists on bringing his gold into heaven with him. Paul looks at him real funny and says, "You brought pavement?"

Why are we so afraid to give to the Lord what is already His? We hold onto every penny so tightly. We live like misers in the kingdom of God. How many times must our Father prove that He is our faithful provider? Some of us give occasionally. Some of us even tithe, feeling ourselves very righteous. Though when we tithe we are only being obedient to one of God's most basic commands.

Ask yourself how many times you've given sacrificially. How many times have you allowed God to have control of your finances; to prove Himself faithful; to show you what a blessing it is to operate within God's economy?

My husband and I recently switched banking institutions. Our new bank handles their online banking differently from our previous bank. I was just getting the hang of things when I realized one day that I had paid twice on a tithe from a bonus check. The amount was a big one for us and I panicked when I thought about double paying it!

The next Sunday, I spoke with our church accountant and explained the error to him. He very sweetly offered to write us a check for the overpayment. Whew! Good thing I took care of that.

But then I began thinking about that money. Was it an accident that the additional money had been given to our church? I pondered on that money. I thought of paying bills with it, but not for long. I knew God wanted to show me what He had in mind for that money. It was something special.

Another Sunday rolled around. That morning, our financial accountant stood to speak. He began to tell us how faithful the Lord had been to one of our church family in the passing of her husband. Through our church and others, she and her family were being well cared for. They would be OK. I knew immediately where God wanted our money to go.

God knew I wanted more than anything to help my dear, sweet friend, but I never would have dreamed of giving her the amount of money that had "mistakenly" landed at church.

Friends, it was one of the greatest joys of my life to see God use my family to bless my sister in Christ. I'm just sorry God had to trick me into it. Our family's "sacrifice" has been blessed.

Guess what? I want to do it again! I am jumping up and down, saying, "Pick me, God. Pick me. Let me bless somebody. I want to see what you're going to do next!" Once again, God has shown me that I cannot outgive Him. It is impossible. What a wonderful, generous, loving, compassionate God I serve. Can I get a witness?
Father, thank you for including me in your kingdom plans. You are sweet and good. I love how You work things out. May Your wonders never cease! Amen.

Malachi 3:8-12

A great book to read: The Blessed Life, by Robert Morris