Sunday, October 30, 2005

The "yeah, but's" of love, when it is hard.

I *LOVE* doing this read through the N.T. email thing. I wish I was at a point that I didn't need 50 other people doing it with me to keep me on track, but then again.... I wouldn't be learning all I am with out them needing the same thing! He is good in how He uses our weakness to reveal His strength!

Coming out of Romans, straight into 1st Cor. I am struck by something powerful. These two books encompass much of what we struggle with balancing among each other. Grace, mercy, sin, responsiveness, law, obedience, freedom. My church background doesn't let this settle with me easily, though. I like things to be more "clear-cut" than I am finding out they are.

In His grace, we are freed up to do so much. Yet, the strength that His grace allows me to stand in is the very strength by which I am to support and uphold those who are not as "freed up" in some areas that I am.

My flesh wants to argue with those who don't hold my convictions. I don't want to be "held back" ! The very nature of a conviction, says 'I believe what I believe and I want you to believe it too!' When you don't agree, my insecurity wants to disconnect from you, at the very least.

Yet, my God says He empowers me not only to not disconnect or argue with or belittle you, but to protect your walk with God from my own vanity and arrogance.

My flesh doesn't like that that my spirit is told to do that!

But at times I walk on the other side of the fence too. Surrounded by many who are "freed up" in their personal convictions and understanding of God to pursue certain things in their life that I still carry much doubt about, despite their convicted reasoning. I may see it, and believe it, but He reminds me that until it becomes my own conviction, even if it is right, to pursue it would not be pleasing. My actions don't please Him, my faith does. Faith comes when internally ascribing to a belief, not from just agreeing to a well reasoned argument.

"Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. " ( Rom. 15: 5)

Jesus Himself, in one of the longest conversations we get a glimpse of that He has with God, prays for our unity with each other, so that we would glorify God.

I really think we all want that. I really think we all want to please Him in His request and hope of us.

I don't have to disclaim that I am not disputing the core facts of the gospel we have been entrusted with. I am just learning again that if we are to get nearer to honoring Christ's hope of our unity, it won't be found in the unity of "thought" or of each personal conviction we hold with another believer. It will be found in unity and dedication of ourselves to walk in humility and love towards each other. I think that is why He said that the whole Law (which we try so desperately to meet without admitting it) would be met in loving Him most and loving our neighbor as ourself.

"Love does no wrong to one's neighbor ( it never hurts anybody). Therefore love meets all the requirements and is fulfilling the law." Rom. 15:10

I spent too many years discrediting that verse for all the questions it did not answer in my mind. I find now that I was just not up for all the challenges that loving this way would actually bring. To devote myself to this kind of love leaves no time to resolve some of the issues I thought were so important to convince the world of before. Or at least my attempts to resolve them are much less volatile than I allowed them to be before.

That is not a weak move... but one that can only truely be upheld by His Spirit and His power, as far as I can tell.

So as I begin to admit there are a lot more spaces in the recesses of my mind I could clear out to make room for Him, I anticipate that challenge of this kind of love will bring new dimensions of life into view, especially among those who differ from me.

I admit, even as my flesh is afraid, my Spirit is excited!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The circle of life... all in a weekend.

Went out of town this weekend - we went to do a purity retreat for a group of teens. It was one of those weekends where you think you know what you are going for, but then God reveals much more than you expected.

I learned from a dear friend and her teen daughter what struggles I will be facing in just a few short years, if I'm not careful, and maybe even if I am careful.
I learned that God might give me influence in her daughter's life today, in this struggle, and in a few years, He might bring someone else in to my child's life to say the very same things that I thought I would be able to say adequately. It makes me sad to think we might reach a point where my own child would desperately want to hear and believe the truth about themselves, and yet wouldn't or couldn't hear it from me. My friend has been parenting like I think I would. And in some ways even better. The faults and weaknesses she admits to having had mirror the ones I hold now. So I listen and take to heart what she says.
I acknowledge that even as I can point out to my friend that our kids are never to confuse us with Jesus, I simulateneously want to live a life where I will have done it all right so as to put no stumbling block in front of my kids. I feel more comfortable with having done it all right than with pointing my children to Jesus over and over because I haven't.

My children's faith will have become their own. But it is downright gut wrenching to watch it happen. I am just sickened at the relentlessness of our enemy and how he attacks those who might have faith in our God, even our own.

And in just the span of a few hours:

I hugged a dear woman, I fear, for the last time in this life. My God -given grandmother. She is a rock. She is one of the most consistent lovers of God I have had in my life.And so funny. Her body just isn't cooperating with her mind and spirit anymore.

It's hard to do that. - I mean have that last moment, when they are alive. I have had so many where you didn't get to have that last moment, -they were just gone.
But yesterday I did. You want to say so much, you don't want to wait for a funeral - but yet you don't want to say it now, because it's not quite the end. We both knew. And we both knew we really couldn't go there. And, because of Him, we didn't really have to.

I prayed a few years ago that God would give me another chance to see her alive. He is so gracious.
This was just so much to take in. So I sat at her feet. Small talk. Life talk. Went to get a bite to eat, and she drove with me to pick it up. Took it home so she could recover from the drive. Ate some cake.
And when the time was over, I hugged her for so long. I tried to take in the smell of her perfume and some how make it permanent, and even as I tried, I couldn't say that's what I was doing, and I knew it wouldn't last. So I kept trying harder. I know she knew. My family went out to the car, and it was just me and her alone again.
It was a gift. And heartbreaking at the same time. Funny how you can want something like this so bad, when you fear you might not get it, and yet when you do get the chance, it just makes you want the moment to last longer. How do you end that moment?
I guess you don't. It's why I'm still sitting here reliving it.

And one more gift from God this weekend.
I saw some of my family that I haven't seen since I was married. My parents were seperated just a few years before that, and there were some things that just never seemed to go back to normal, for a number of different reasons. And I have blown through town for an hour once before, but I have never really returned home. There were some who I had distanced myself from because I thought that I made them uncomfortable, or I thought that they didn't care. Or I was hurt by them.

But this time, when I had just an hour to see a few, some drove for an hour just to have the chance to say hi. Some were the ones who I didn't think cared.
Some of the family had been telling me I had been away too long. This was the first time I think I believed them - that I felt like I had a place to come back to in their lives. Funny to think that maybe if they knew that I thought that way they would be shocked. So now, for the first time in years, I think I want to go home again, for more than just an hour. Maybe it is safer than I ever thought it was. Thank goodness there were a few who hung in there patiently repeating the same message to me over and over for the last decade.

And maybe I am still just like that prodigal teen age daughter who goes through all that junk she doesn't have to because for whatever reason she can't hear the truth from the ones who really do love her after all.

Thank God for all those in life who are in it for the long haul. Thank God for Him being the ultimate example by which we learn how to do that for others.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Confessions, Part 1...(to be continued...)

Hmmm. Today has been a day of deep thoughts. I think that is good. But for those of you who read my "cave-dwelling" post before I erased it in my insecurity, - these are my thoughts, and I'm not yet out of the cave. :)

I just am thinking of how much I struggle with struggling. I put in my heading that this journal would record the days I would celebrate God' mercy & grace in my life when I failed, but the longer I do this whole blogging thing, I come to grips with the fact that I don't think I really meant it. I think I wanted to mean it. But I would just rather everyone not know I struggle. So I take a vacation from writing on those days. Or I write something cute about my kids. But I don't really share that personal stuff.

And I have family in Him who are good enough to call me on it.

Can you believe I had actually convinced myself you couldn't tell?

I both love finally having brothers and sisters that can and will do that, and yet it keeps bringing me more and more into conflict with this perfectionistic part of me I thought I had gotten rid of. I find now instead that the layers go deeper and deeper than I originally had thought.

Yuck. ( Not the family. The junk in me that I hoped was gone already.)

The part of me that always has to be right.
The part of me that is insensitive and selfish. Daily.
The part of me that gets angry at my kids. Over stupid things. (Not every day, but almost every day that I didn't get a nap.)
The part of me that has no self control or discipline. Even tonight. In almost every area of life. My diets last no more than two days. Usually I'm fully committed to it after a good meal and ready to give up before the next meal rolls around. (That's why I need a nap!)
The part of me that doesn't remember birthdays, or cards, or doesn't save up money to send a gift to someone who means alot to me. The part of me that hates calling people or talking on the phone.

That's the short list. (more of an abbreviation than a list, really.)
To some it may sound stupid. Or generic. But my eyes tear up as I admit it, here, in a semi- permanent form, so I know it is a good start.

It's not a "beat up on myself" session. It is a response to God's truth and His Spirit. A response in faith that I believe He is bigger than all of that combined. A belief that I am not the sum of all of that put together, so there needs to be no fear of it's reality. Or of confessing it.

I really want to both make improvements in these areas, and yet I want to bear no pride in it or dependence on it when I do. I want to change because I believe Him and I believe He can change me and wants to change me, not because I believe I can change out of my own will power.

My confession allows the glory to be His when His Spirit eventually can take over an area I have been unable to conquer myself. My flesh still would be tempted to take credit, and my confession, I think, is a faith move that acknowledges beforehand whatever change may occur in the future is not mine to own, as I have already acknowledged defeat in the present.

"...that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...." (Acts 3:19)

Funny how before you do it, you never think it will end up "refreshing you". And yet, once it's done, you get it. No wonder He would want it to be an ongoing part of our life.

My flesh wants to serve one master in this area. My faith, in it's size, feels like a small contender in this battle, especially in comparison to the dominant area my flesh has long occupied. But my faith wants to move in and serve the True Master. It wants to not be intimidated by the flesh. I can't serve both. And my flesh can't defeat my flesh. Only His Spirit can. So I'm going to start trying to make room.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Parental "Pardon Me? 's"

This has been a rough week for our son. ( And hence a rougher week for us. ) His teacher sent a note home on Thur. saying it was a very bad day for him, (some of you know what that means.) We love this teacher dearly, she is a God-send and she has a son with similar conditions to Eli, so we take her very seriously when she lets us know something has happened. Included on her note were a number of his behavioral dilemmas, and one comment that said "naughty words".

So Jason asked him what naughty words he used.

He couldn't remember for sure but one of them was "barnacle head".

??? A six year old using "barnacle head" as an insult?

I myself had to confirm that yes, indeed, a barnacle is some sort of ocean bottom dwelling creature.

The next day, the teacher reported that he was a different child again, and had a very good day. He only one problem that day, -he spent recess kissing the girls and making them mad.

A far cry from "barnacle head".

Now that is just like a boy, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Okay, Yes! Green means stop.

"Green means stop and red means go." Julia is adamant about it.

We are all in the car and we all try and explain it to her. But when this 3 year old thinks she is right, there is no one changing her mind.
(Jennifer - no comments.)

One day, in some situation, that will be a great quality.

But for now, it's not just that she believes it, she wants to know and make sure that everyone is on board with her way of thinking.
And she has a temper. No one believes me, but she really does. She is intolerably cute and almost mesmerizing by her sweetness. But she does have this side of her. So first start the low level tears.

At this point, the three of us all know that she just needs to learn this lesson. Green means go. Red means stop.

Then comes the high pitched assertions.

We are still clueless and try and hold our ground.

The three year old will not have it! Somehow her 40 pound body begins to rock the entire car.

Just in time, our six year chimes in with wisdom for the moment that exceeds that of mine and Jason's combined.

"Well, green does mean stop for the walkers, and red means go for the walkers." Hmmm. He is right. And we can all agree on that.

So we do.

Today, she criticized my turning right on a green arrow as the other cars in the lane to the left weren't moving yet. But she did accept my explanation.

Someone this week taught the girl not to talk with her mouth full.

Good grief. I guess I'll learn some manners yet.

The Simple Meaning of Life

How many of us have heard others and even ourselves have personally wondered what the point of life is?

I don't know if there is another section of scripture that more clearly and repetitively lays out the purpose of Jesus' life and of our life, than those in John 17.

It reveals one of the most intimate talks Jesus ever has with our Father, and He does it for our benefit. He talks to Him about us. Yes, He prays over those who were there, as well as you and me.

I don't even know if it is possible to catch all of the word plays that reveal so much depth of meaning! Take verse 17, alone:

Jesus asks the Father:
"Sanctify them ( purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy) by Truth. Your Word is Truth. "

(I laughed that Pilate struggled with the concept of what Truth was, (18:38), even as he spoke it!) But then I thought more.

How quickly I have often read over this and elevated the ability of the scriptures alone to create in me truth, and rightness, and missed the correlation that really Jesus was always the Word, from the beginning, and Jesus was always the Truth, from the beginning....always my Sanctification, and my Purification.
(It reminded me of when He warned the Pharisees about their habit of searching the scriptures thinking that in that process alone they would hold eternal life, but the scriptures were only there to lead them to Him!) I admit I have been guilty at times of trying to find my righteousness in knowing truth, and getting every last bit of it right, feeling that might remove doubt and insecurity, but in doing so overlooked the need to trust & believe the Truth , (not my ability to know and discern truth) that would actually sanctify & redeem me. Pilate suddenly didn't seem so hard to identify with from that perspective.

"And this is eternal life: (it means) to know, ( to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and (likewise) to know Him, Jesus, (as the) Christ ( the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent." ( 17:4)

This Truth ( Jesus) set Himself apart, to obey the Father, so that God would be glorified and would receive all that He ever wanted, ( which was us!), through His obedience. Jesus says that is now what is being accomplished:

"I have made Your Name known to them and revealed Your character and Your very Self, and I will continue to make (You) known, that the love which You have bestowed upon Me may be in them ( felt in their hearts) and that I myself may be in them. ( 17:26)

You can't miss fact that Jesus began this whole prayer in excitement of the fact that the disciples had finally stated their full belief that Jesus has been sent by God, not just because of His miracles, but because they believed Him.

And He prays that the same will now be true of us. Here we find our God given purpose, if we ever doubted that He had one for us.

"But these are written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, ( The Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him, you may have life through (in) His name (through Who He is.) (20:31)

"That they all may be one ( just) as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me." ( 17:21)

There are more out there who have yet to believe in our Christ. They only know of His name, or have heard of His good teachings or miracles. They only know of churches or goods works done in honor of Him.

But they need to know HIM.

So feel confident to fulfill your life's purpose today. Go believe Him. And go share your confidence to help others to believe Him too.

Friday, October 07, 2005

truth versus Truth

"You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them. And these (very scriptures) testify about me!" ( John 5:39)

"Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law. ( If that is the truth) why do you seek to kill Me (for not keeping it)?" ( John 7:19)

You know the story from John 8. The woman caught and brought before Jesus for accusation. She's undeniably in the wrong. They caught her in the act! It's obvious and inescapable. I'm mean, how much clearer could it be?!? If Jesus can't agree with them on this being wrong , when it is so downright obvious, then ..... !!!

So He stoops down and writes in the sand. I'm reminded from a Beth Moore study that this finger is the same One that wrote on the very stone tablets the law they now use to condemn her. They point their finger at her sin, but the Finger that has every right to point out the breaking of the law it wrote, is now drawing attention to the sand, and away from condemnation and death.

"Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. " ( John 8:7)

One by one, oldest to youngest walk away. Who can stand under that directive? None. Hence the whole reason our Christ came. The reason He was here now, with her.

So she is left alone with Him, the One who rightfully did not have to leave, and He picks up no stone. He asks her to confirm her state of not being condemned. She does. He sets her free. He tells her she can go. Just like that. Go and sin no more.

"And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free. " ( John 8:32)

She knew the truth. She knew why she was there. They knew the truth, too, or so they thought. Then she met the Truth. The One that set her free from the truth of her sinful state, that all, including herself, already knew.

I find myself in both sides of this story. I need to be freed from my sin. It's obvious to all. I can't hide it. I want to be always aware that His Truth of freeing me is bigger than my own truth of my sin. Sometimes I believe the crowd and my conscience more than Him.

But I am also the one who has stood in judgement. And when He called me on it, I was ashamed. And I made the same mistake they did. I walked away from His grace. I didn't stick around to learn more than just that I was wrong. He never told them to walk away, you know, - but rather to just put down their stones. My embarassment & fear of failure causes me to retreat from Him sometimes. I thought I had it right, and then learn I somehow didn't, so I have to run. And in doing so, I miss the intimacy of learning more than just what I was mistaken in.

How humbling, and know the Truth, the Truth in you, and for you, and in love with you. And to know His surpassing greatness exceeds the truth of any reality of personal sin.

"So if the Son liberates you ( makes you free men), then you are really and unquestionably free." ( John 8:36)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

A case for neater handwriting....

For those of you doing the reponse questions on the email devo, I thought you'd find this narrowly escaped blooper funny. For question # 1, at first writing & before I sent it out, I referenced Luke 8:31 instead of Luke 8:39. Now those responses would be something else....

A quick fall off that high horse...

"But when you are invited, go and recline a the lowest place, so that when your host comes in, he may say to you, ' Friend, go up higher'. (Luke 14:10)

So I continued with the the scheduled reading in our email study today - ( Luke 13-16) and there is much in the reading today that causes me to reevaluate my own heart.
Humility seems to be at the core of pleasing Jesus, and I often think that is where I am until I read what that humility looks like in some of these passages! I am reminded that Jesus does not mind stepping on our toes if it brings about our awareness to what really matters and pleases Him.
Many of the parables He shares "pinch" those of us in this current day and culture. Scarily, I admit to you that find myself reading something He has said, feeling convicted by it, and then telling myself what it must not mean, as if to alleviate the pressure of what He said. And then I am scared by my own willingness to do that!
Passages that teach us not only to not expect repayment for things we give, but to seek to give to those who can't repay rather than friends or family, or statements that remind us we should not seek our comforts in this lifetime and miss the ones in the coming life, - these conflict with the wants of my flesh heart. I am at times the jealous older brother, the Pharisee who misses the importance of people for the "rules", or the invited
wedding guest with something better to do for the night.
But equally, we have a consistent view in these same passages of a generous Father who is trustworthy. He is the one who rejoices at our return from the ridiculous journeys we take in our heart and mind, and life. He is so able to be trusted when we feel insecure about fully obeying and listening to Him, especially when that takes us out of our comfort zone or the security we are used to providing for ourselves. It is amazing how in love He will keep taking us further and further into that journey of fixing
our eyes on Him and stepping out of our boat in belief of Him, no matter what it may end up looking like it will cost us.
For those of you reading the same passages today, I imagine His words will touch each of us differently. I'm praying for what your Spirit will uniquely hear from His today - and that
you will rejoice in His goodness of sharing it with you!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Okay. I never put my random thoughts up here. But in honor of Shawn M. who always says I think too much, and in confidence that the 6 of you who read this & already know I think like this anyway...

I love the new "Lemon Ice" crest toothpaste. It reminds me of cleaning my bathroom, getting that fresh all clean lemony pine sol smell - but without ever having to touch the toliet. Now even in my own mind it is a disturbing correlation, yet somehow still addictive.

So it made me wonder what toothpaste you use? And does it make you eager to clean your teeth again?

( You can tell I haven't done my bible reading today, can't you! )

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Not so bloggable moments from my kids.

So I asked Eli (6) and Julia (3) tonight, what they thought God looked like. ( As soon as I asked it I thought to myself "What did you just ask them that for? If they don't know - they're gonna turn around and ask you! ) Thankfully, though, they were ready and confident.

Eli said - "I think He is like a king, but without a crown."
Me - "Why doesn't He have a crown?"
Eli - (with a tone of "well everybody knows....) "Because He is the King of everything! "

So feeling a little dumb, I turn to Julia and ask her : "What do you think God looks like?"

She said - "Eating bread."


Now what in the world do I do with that?

I've been in that boat before and I'm NOT going back...

I've figuratively lived that statement out, honestly, many times before.

"...but on the grounds of Your Word, I will lower the nets again." (Luke 5:5)

I wonder what the situations are in each of our lives that we could say we have already worried over, already tried to fix, already said or done all we could have, and like Peter, we have reaped nothing that we set out for? ( And on top of that, we are exhausted from trying! )

"... but on the grounds of Your Word....." , and Peter tries again.

Faith takes a different look at the same situation. It doesn't look through logical eyes. It instead looks into the eyes of the One who can make things that aren't ... as though they are.

And all that Jesus goes on to share in the sermon on the mount, especially here in Luke 6, requires faith eyes. It is hard stuff! A contemporary Christian artist, creating songs from this section of Jesus' teachings, recently titled his album "White Flag", symbolizing how Jesus, in calling us to submission of this incredible heart standard, eventually brings all of us to our knees in surrender of our need for Him. That speaks to me. We can't accomplish it on our own! Reading it again this morning reminds me of that.

" ...pray for the happiness of those who curse you..."
" ...give away to everyone who begs of you... "
" merciful....judge not....

Those were just a few of the words I listened to Him say this morning that touched me personally. I tell myself "That makes no logical sense in this fleshly realm! By my own power, I'm pretty sure I can't accomplish that. It's never worked before ?!?"

Then I think about Peter. "But on the grounds of Your Word......" So I'm reminded it is worth it to look in His eyes and try in His power what never worked for me trying in my own power to do before. And because of Peter's story, I can eagerly anticipate the faithfulness of my Lord - and the rich excitement of seeing all that He promised will both bless me personally and please Him ultimately.

What a journey it is! - opening your heart to the possibility of embracing all that doesn't make sense to your earthly mind because of the One who calls you to live outside of yourself!