Thursday, April 27, 2017

When Wills Collide.

I thought about opening with a cute story about my kids being rebellious...  Lord knows I have a million, but I decided instead to share my struggle with God's will.   It started about 8 years ago. 

I grew up a typical American girl, with big dreams.  I knew what I wanted out of life.  I spent hours daydreaming about what my life would be like, when I was an adult and could make my own decisions.  I lived for the time that I could make my own way and do what I wanted, believing that doing what you wanted, was the key to happiness. 

I remember when I was in the 6th grade and my best and only real friend, made a book out of construction paper with pictures cut from magazines... her idea of what my life might look like.  Cute, successful, professional husband, adorable children (2 of course), nice fancy car and obviously a gorgeous house, lavishly decorated.  The American Dream clipped out of fashion mags.  That was all I wanted out of life.  Those pics represented true happiness. 

After becoming a Christian at 19, I just transferred my American Dream to my Christian life.  Wouldn't God want me to have all that?  Wouldn't he want me to be HAPPY?  So, I went about making that Christian-American Dream happen.  In the beginning, it all worked flawlessly.  God answered my prayers and brought a wonderful man into my life, who happened to be handsome, professional and successful.  Check.  God and I were on the same page.  Next up...  We bought a house and new cars and started filling them up with children...check.  The Lord out did himself there... we had to get a bigger house and bigger cars to fit all those little blessings. 

The glorious future stretched out in front of us and I was blissfully happy.  Life only became more satisfying when my husband was asked to be the leader of the Youth Group at our church.  We were overwhelmed that God would honor us with the position since we had no experience.  That position did something for this mess of a girl.  I wanted more than anything in this world to be "somebody" and this was the chance.  I could be married to one of the leaders of our church.  I could be important.  I could be seen.  This was proof that I had left that messy, teenage girl behind.  I wasn't her anymore.

I didn't recognize any of this until many years later, but the day we were no longer in that position I began a decade long war against the will of God.  If this was the will of God, he could mind his own business.   This was the beginning of a season of taking.  He began to take things from me, that I thought I couldn't live without.  He took my importance (in my mind), he took the position, he took my validation.  Not long after, he took my mom, who died of cancer at 52.  He took lifelong friendships, he took family members and moved them far away.  The more he took the less I trusted.  To be honest, there were times that if he would have let me go, I would have left and not looked back.  Like a rebellious teenager, who runs away from home, I wanted out from under his oppressive will.  I wanted freedom to make my own way.  Instead, I pretended.  I didn't run away, I stayed.  I pouted.  I cried.  I raged against God for being unfair.  I silently rebelled and rejected his authority. 

Like my preteen daughter, who obeys just enough, with her barely concealed anger and thoughts about how little her parents really know.  I thought that I knew better and longed for God to submit to my will, but He's God...  He doesn't bend. 

I didn't get God.  In my mind, God was a genie in a bottle, who granted all my wishes.  I had forsaken the true God at some point and constructed a god in my own image.  A god who would bow to my will, a god, who would give me what I wanted.  There was no place in my Christian-American dream for a God, who had his own ideas. 

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I began to see the truth of the situation.  I was at a women's conference at our church and I had been struggling against God for so long and I couldn't figure out why I had no joy, no peace.  Why?  I had so much to be happy about.  IF happiness came through having what you want...  I should be happy.  I have the husband, I have the kids, I have the house, I have the car.  WHY, can't I be happy. 

How convenient the topic of the day was about joy! Woot woot...  another lesson on something I knew deep down I would NEVER experience.  I have been a Christian for 20 years and I've been deliriously happy and in the valleys of depression and every other emotion in between, but never have I experienced JOY. 

As the speaker preached her heart out that day, I realized that my thinking had been jacked up for a very looooooooooong time.  As she expounded on words I had read a million times the truth became clear for the first time. 

I had always wondered how Paul, who basically endured hell on earth for Jesus, could say things like "Rejoice, in the Lord. Again I say Rejoice."  He must be a special kind of crazy, because I just haven't been able to get there.  If you look at Paul's life before and after Christ you can plainly see how deciding to follow Jesus had been a demotion.  His life was filled with trouble... and all because He couldn't shut up about how great Jesus was.   Stoning, beating, jail, prison... nothing would keep this guy from telling anyone he came in contact with about the Savior and what did he get in return...  more abuse. 

What did Paul get that I don't???  Well, first of all, he got Jesus.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who existing in the very form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.  And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death- even death on the cross." Phil. 2:5-8

Jesus, who was God, left glory behind to be a man... not just any man, but servant (WHICH IS REALLY MEANS SLAVE).   Being obedient to the Father, submitting to God's will, UNTO DEATH.

We don't really understand this concept, but let me tell you a little of what I have learned in the last few weeks...  Slaves HAD NO RIGHTS.  The were purchased by the owner of an estate, who was the Father.  The slave assumed the name of the Father/Owner and became his property.  Slaves did not speak to the master unless they were spoken to and their standard response would have been, "Yes, Lord, your will be done."

Sounds familiar.  Isn't that exactly what Jesus said in the garden?  Didn't he plead for this cup to be removed.  Didn't he beg the Father for another way, but then submit to the will of the Father and say "Not my will, but thine be done."

Paul, said this is the example that we should follow.  Paul, in every letter, written in the Bible, calls himself the servant (slave) of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  The reason that Paul could have joy is because he understood that He was a slave.  He was a servant.  Wherever and whatever situation he found himself was the will of God for his life.  He submitted to the sovereignty of God.  Sovereign is just a fancy word to say that God is in control.  Paul said the craziest things like, I am content in whatever state I'm in or I can do all things through Christ.  He KNEW that God was in control and he need not worry himself with details.  He knew that God was going to supply all of his needs.  He knew that he was a slave and the only right response was "Yes, Lord, your will be done."

Paul also knew that He had been working his whole life to achieve righteousness (a right standing with God) and that He couldn't.  He was OVERWHELMED to learn that Jesus had done for him, what he could never do for himself. 

Paul had spent his life trying to keep those 633 laws and failing everyday.   I know for myself I can't even keep the first one.  He had to continue to make sacrifices for sin that he could never conquer.  He KNEW the value of the price that had been paid for him.  He knew with every fiber of his being how good being truly forgiven by God's GRACE had set him free. 

Paul could not keep his mouth shut about what Jesus had accomplished on the cross and he knew that every place that God took him was an opportunity to share that Good News with whoever would listen.  NOTHING could get him down.  He recognized that God was worthy to have his will in Paul's life. 

Not only did Paul get Jesus and understand his right standing as a slave to Christ, Paul rejoiced in his position.  He was adopted into the family of God.  He was heir with Jesus of all the promises of the Father.

In Jesus day, the Father of the family or the Patriarch, was the leader of his clan.  Everyone in the family was under the authority of the Patriarch, even grown sons.  This was not an arbitrary position...  The Father had all the responsibility for the family.  He made all the decisions, but he was also expected to provide and protect his family.  The Father was expected to do what was best for the family.  As we all know that did not always happen, but when Jesus spoke of his Father in heaven, this is what he had in mind, a perfect Father, who put his families best interest first. 

When Jesus talked to the people about God, he always referred to God as, the Father.  Paul understood that Jesus was telling us that we could trust our Heavenly Father to do what is best for us.  Paul need not worry about anything... that was his Father's job. 

We live in very different times, but God has not changed.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  This side of heaven we may never understand the WHYS of God, but we can trust the will of God, because we know that as our Father, he has our best interest at heart.  As Master of our lives our only response can be "Not my will, but thine." 

When wills collide, whose will do you choose?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Soul Food.

Each one of them had their own unique reaction to the food in the pot.  My 8 year old  laid out in the middle of the kitchen floor, hands over his tear-filled eyes, devastated because I made roast for dinner.  The 11 year old walked in picked up the lid, looked in, looked around to see if there was another option and then just walked out of the kitchen.  The 6 year old sat at the table whining and forcing a couple of spoonfuls in his mouth, knowing that if he made it through a couple bites he would be able to fill up on his usual before bed yogurt.  The 3 year old just looks in his bowl and says, "This looks bisgusting." 

Funny, Two hours before they had nothing but praise for me when I stopped at Sonic to surprise them with Ice Cream Sundaes.  Oh, yeah then it was all "you're the best mom ever". 

Maybe if it had just been one of them complaining I wouldn't have lost my cool.  I've never in my life cleaned a kitchen so fast.  I put up every bit of evidence that there had ever been food.  Slamming doors and dishes and hiding the pot of roast, where they wouldn't think to look for it.  Knowing full well those two ungrateful boys would come in starving in an hour, looking for the very thing they had disdained earlier.  Guess what...  Exactly one hour later, when all friends had gone in for the night, they bust through the door looking for... roast.  What they found instead was a spotless kitchen.  Kitchen CLOSED.  That's right!  Nothing. 

I've never seen more despondent children.  The man-child was hurting the most.  He knew there was no way he could make it til morning without food.  Did he apologize?  NO.  He just sat there with his private thoughts.  To full of pride to admit that he was wrong and sorry and hungry. 

I was angry with him...  but ready to forgive.  I didn't like the way he acted, but I didn't really want him to suffer.  I wanted to give him a good, nutritious dinner.  I always want to give him good things.  I love him. 

There are times that we must suffer.  There are times that we don't know how good we have it, until we lose it.  You don't know what you've got til it's gone.  
:
Well, Dad gave them a good lecture and told them they needed to apologize.  He reminded them that they should NEVER treat the person, who does everything for them like that.  And they did.  And ecause, I couldn't bear the thought of them going to bed without eating, I offered them that still warm roast. 

From the living room I could hear the sounds of contentment, of boys enjoying good food.  All the sudden, what looked terrible before was now amazing.  

I know you know where I'm going with this...  I am just like my kids.  Give me the "good" stuff Lord.  Make me happy.  Give me ice cream and candy, but you can keep the roast. 

My perspective of "good" stuff is skewed though.  Like my kids who think of junk food as good and roast as bad...  I think of the things that I want, as good.  I have no desire for things that might be good for me, if it looks anything like roast and carrots and potatoes. 

Food that will make me grow and become strong, has no value to me.  Take my new favorite verse for example:

"It is GOOD for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

Affliction is suffering and we don't want that.  We want as far away from affliction as we can get, but maybe our perspective is all wrong.  David said it was GOOD that God had afflicted him. 

Look at Moses perspective "By faith Moses, when he came of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; CHOOSING rather to SUFFER affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. 

Moses left the riches and majesty and glory of being royalty in the Egyptian court, to be afflicted with the people of God. 

Paul, who suffered much for Jesus, wrote frequently in his letters to the churches about his sufferings had this to say, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, being made conformable unto his death." Phil 3:10

Paul knew that the only way he was going to be made more like Jesus was through suffering.  Every thing He once counted gain, he now counted as loss.  He knew that the only truly "good" thing in his life was JESUS. 

I'm not there.  I look in the pot and I look around, to see if there is a better option and then I walk out.  Sometimes, I throw myself down on the floor, put my hands over my tear-filled eyes and refuse to eat.  Sometimes, I just eat enough...  hoping that the little I've done will please God and he will then give me some dessert.  Sometimes, I flat out say, "This is bisgusting."

That's when I need an attitude adjustment.  My perspective needs a little altering... 

Jesus, in the garden, before his death, pleaded with God to allow this cup of suffering to pass from him and yet he said, "Not my will, but thine."  He understands that there are things you don't want to go through.  He's been there.  He endured "Good Friday" for us.  He drank from the cup of suffering for us.   He is our example...  Not my will, but thine.

Today, if you are suffering, believe it's for the good.  There is purpose in your pain.  Read your Bible.  Believe the promises that God is working ALL things for good.  Trust that Jesus has not forsaken you. 
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Paul was sitting in jail, not knowing what was going to happen to him, singing praise to God.  The earth quakes and the chains break.   He could escape if he wanted to.  The jailor, who was in charge, thought that everyone had escaped and was ready to kill himself.  Paul calls out to him that everyone was there and accounted for and because of that act of surrender, to the sovereign will of God in his life, he was able to lead the jailor and all of his household to Christ.

Paul realized that wherever God had him, it was for the GLORY of God and the furtherance of the gospel...  The same is true for you today.  Whatever you are facing today.  Every storm, every trial, every hurt is all an opportunity to reveal Christ in your life. 



Friday, April 21, 2017

Hurts so good.

This has been a tough season.  Soccer that is.  Nothing hurts worse than playing your heart out and losing another game.   No doubt to his 8 year old brain, he's convinced he will never win another game.   He has natural talent and for the last four years his team has won more games than they have lost.  He's flown around the field like an airplane after scoring many goals.  He's pumped his fist and he has high-fived his team, feeling the glory of victory many times in his short soccer history. 

This year it's different.  Not many goals.  Far less fist pumps and high fives.  Much more disappointment.  Much more soul searching.  Less confidence in his ability.  Less joy in the game.  It hurts to lose again and again.

Last night, in the first few minutes of the game, it was obvious this would be another defeat.  I sent up a silent prayer, asking for wisdom.  How do I encourage my little boy after another sound defeat?  When there's not a whole lot of good to speak off... what do you say? 

As we walked to the car, side by side, I knew the important thing was not winning, not scored goals...  but that he has learned something this year that's far more valuable...  This year has taught him to keep fighting, no matter how far down you are.  This year has taught him to keep kicking, no matter how many goals you miss.  It's taught him that life doesn't always feel good.  You don't always win.

Sometimes, you have long, sucky seasons, but you don't give up.  You play hard the whole game.  You don't hang your head when you get down a few goals.  You keep trying.  Most importantly, LOSING WON'T KILL YOU.

David in Psalms says, "I KNOW, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in FAITHFULNESS have afflicted me."  Psalm 119:75

"It is GOOD that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Psalm 119:71

affliction- to distress with mental or bodily pain; trouble greatly.  to overthrow, to humble.,

Good to be in pain?  Good to hurt.  How could this be? 

Like my soccer player, I was used to winning.  Life came pretty easy to me.  I had everything I could ever want...  My Husband, my love.  My children.  Family.  Friends.  In the beginning, it all came so freely, I never had to work for anything.  I knew that the face of God was shining down on me. However, one day that changed.  I still had all the good things in my life, but I didn't feel like I was winning anymore.  Life was hard.  My relationships brought me no joy.   I was lonely.  An intense loneliness that ate away at my soul.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find in any human what I so desperately longed for.  This season lasted a few years and I thought I was just destined to be filled with this lonely ache forever.  I cried.  I was depressed.  I was hopeless. 

Finally, one day I started praying.  Instead of blaming God for ruining my life, I started asking Why?  What was the purpose.  What was he trying to show me.  What was I missing.  Instead of believing myself unworthy, I decided to trust that God had a plan. 

That's when things started to change...  He began to speak softly to my soul about how much I was truly loved- by HIM.  How valuable I am- to HIM.  Others can never, ever truly love me the way God can.  Even the love of a cherished spouse can not fulfill the aching longing in my soul for connection with God. 

He had to get me alone to speak softly to my soul and heal my deepest hurts.  When others didn't want me... He did.  When I was lonely...  He was by side.  When I was hurting... He was there to comfort me.  When I could share my secret thoughts with no one...  He already knew them. 

I NEEDED to be completely alone with God.  I needed to know that my worth and value was not in what other people thought about me.  I needed to know that no matter who forsakes me...  Jesus never will. 

I had gone hard after other lovers...  I cared more about what people thought about me, than what He said in His word about me.  I wanted human affection, validation, and love, more than my Creator's, but they could never satisfy my soul. 

I LOVE these verses in Hosea, because they speak perfectly to my season of loneliness...

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her heart." Hosea 2:14

He called me to the wilderness to speak comfort to my soul.  He afflicted me with loneliness, not to destroy me, but to heal me.  His words of peace and love have soothed the old wounds.  The feelings of being unworthy, replaced by the sure knowledge that the One who created me desires me.  He is my beloved and I am His.

These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah to Israel, but I claim them as my own...

"But now this is what the Lord who created you says...He that formed you,...'Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; YOU ARE MINE." 

"Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you..." Isaiah 43:4

There is no love that can compare to the love of God.  I'm thankful for this season in my life.  I have peace that I didn't have before.  I know now that no matter what happens in my life...  Jesus is with me.  Nothing can separate me from His love.  I am his and he is mine.

I don't know what kind of season you are in, but I know that there is purpose for our pain.  Sometimes, we need to be broken to be healed.  Sometimes we need to have a losing season to learn valuable lessons you don't learn from victory. 

We need to know that it's not how many goals we score that makes us important.  It's not winning that gives us worth.  When your name isn't being shouted.  When your head hangs low in defeat.... you can learn the most important lessons.  You are loved because He is good.  You are valuable because He created you.  You can press on and give all you have, even if you are losing.  You will NOT die... no matter how much it hurts.

I'm thankful for this losing season...  It hurts so good.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Call my name.

Mom.  Moomm.  MOOOMMMMMMM!!!! 
WHATTTTTT????
I want you.

Mom.  Momm. MOMMMMMMM!!!
WHATTTT???
I need you.

Standing at the kitchen sink with dishes piled high, hands up to my elbows in suds, mind lost in thoughts of a day that has already worn me out and it's only 8 am.  The dishes from the night before are crusted over with dried food, because I had no energy left last night to wash them...  The day stretches out in front of me like Mt. Everest.   Before I can start today, I have to finish yesterday.  I'm tired and overwhelmed. 

In the backdrop I hear his little voice calling my name.  Sweetly at first and then more persistent.  He stands at my feet and pulls on my pants leg.  He used to having to call me over and over again.  Still lost in my own thoughts, but aware that someone wants something from me, I haven't made the connection yet that I need to respond.  That's when the inevitable happens...  he screams my name.  That does it.  That pulls me completely out of my thoughts and right into anger...  WHY are you screaming my name????  He just looks at me with the sweetest face and says, "I want you." 

To be honest...  I don't want to be wanted.  I'm tired of being wanted.  In fact I've been tired for 13 years.  I'm busy.  I need to get stuff done.  I'm angry and frustrated...  always.  I don't want to hold you.  I don't want to listen to one more story about super-heros.  You know what I want????  I want a self-cleaning house.  I want kids who don't whine.  I want a dog who requires absolutely no attention.  I want to be left alone.  I want to read all day.  I want to sit on the patio and not have someone ask me for another thing.  That's what I want.  But, he wants me and he needs me and so do the other 4 children that God has so graciously blessed me with.

I dried my wet hands, bent down and wrapped my arms around him, soaking up his beautiful love.  In that moment I could see just how deep and wide the difference from my response to my children and the Father's response to his. 

My favorite person in the Bible is David.  He was a shepherd boy, who was chosen by God to become King of Israel.  God himself called David a man after God's own heart.  David's most beautiful quality was that no matter what was going on in his life his first response was to call upon the name of the Lord.  David was a good man and a bad man.  We was a good king, but he was also incredibly selfish and self-centered at times.  David is famous for many things, adultery and murder being two of them.

David knew one thing...  He needed the Lord.  In the good times, he praised God. In the bad times, he sought God's wisdom.  He prayed for forgiveness for his sins, rescue from his enemies, and most of all comfort.  He wrote a good portion of the book of Psalms, which is filled with beautiful imagery of a man in close communion with his God. 

Look what he said about calling to the Lord:

"Because he (God) has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live." Psalm 116:2

"For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abounding in faithful love to all who call upon you. Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my plea for mercy.  I will call on you in the day of distress, FOR YOU WILL ANSWER ME." Psalm 86:5-7

"Call on me in the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:15

and this promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

"And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."  Isaiah 65:24

Before they call I will answer them. 

Jesus said, "Come unto me, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

If you are like me these verses feel a little foreign, meant for someone else, not you.  Meant for someone important, like David.  The problem is we compare an invisible God with people we can see.  Like busy, tired mothers, who dread our call, instead of relish in it.  But, God says He is not like us.  His ways are not our ways.  He is passed our understanding and we can't compare God to imperfect flawed humanity. 

God delights in our call.  In the beginning of the Bible we see the true heart of the Father, as he came in the cool of the day, to walk the length and depth of the beautiful garden, with the cherished man and woman he had created.  He delighted in Adam and Eve.  He delights in you. 

The Father draws near to all those who call on him, in truth.  He bends his ear.  He stops whatever he is doing.  He is never too busy.  He is never far away.  He doesn't grow weary. 

My heart goes out to many of my friends who are in painful seasons right now.  Some are hanging on to hope with the tiniest thread.  They don't feel worthy to call out to God.  They feel like my little guy felt... like God isn't listening.  God is not like us. 

One last incredible promise from God's word...  "I AM sought by those who did not ask; I was found by those who did not seek me.  I said, 'Here I am, Here I am..." Isaiah 65:1

Today, call out to him, "I need you".  Call his name and he will say, "Here I am."


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You can do it.

Learning to read is HARD.  Teaching someone to learn to read is hard, especially if your student needs everything to be phonetically correct.  Rules that are only rules sometimes boggle little minds.   Sitting at the table watching my little guy struggle and give in to defeat is hard.  I wish is wasn't so hard for him, but it is just that.. HARD.  It's been a real challenge for this particular child.  I'm not sure why.  I'm sure I could have him diagnosed with something, but that would just solidify in his mind that he can't do it.  He would be even more aware that he is a little bit... different. 

The words on the page look totally unfamiliar.  There's no memory recall of having read them before, so he must go through all the rules he knows until he has the right one and then begin to sound out the word again.  He's read them all before, but for him it's just a little harder. 

His little eyes fill with tears and his head hangs real low.  "I can't do it, it's just too hard."  Around this mountain we go again.  Him defeated and mom trying to encourage him.  I know something he doesn't remember right now...  He's read them all before.  He can do this. 

Most days he will keep pressing forward.  I love that about him.  He never gives up, but today he is tired.  We stayed up on a school night, watching a movie together and he woke up extra early.  He's weary and he's whiny.  He really believes he can't do this.

I know how he feels.  I tell him so.  I know that he feels like it's too hard and he wants to give up.  I feel that way some days too.  I tell him that school makes me cry a lot.  But then I tell him I know he can do it.  I tell him how proud I am that he keeps trying even when he wants to give up.  I tell him I know it's hard, but he's improving every day. 

Soon his eyes dry up and his smile returns and he sounds out that word that he got stuck on and he laughs because he really has read that one before.  He presses on and after that book is finished he feels so good about what he accomplished.  He feels happy that he didn't give up and really happy about that little reward he earned for persevering.   Most of all, he's learning that you don't have to listen to your doubts and fears.

I see Paul sitting in prison, writing a letter of encouragement to the church of Philippi...  Paul who has served the Lord with all of his strength.  Paul who has given his whole life to the cause of Christ, sitting in prison awaiting an uncertain fate, writing to the church and telling them to keep on going.  Paul who has experienced MANY hard and  unfair trials and temptations...  stoning, snake bite, ship wreck, just to name a few, and yet telling them that He fixes his eyes on Jesus.  Telling them that he has learned that "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength."  Telling them to "REJOICE IN THE LORD."  To meditate on things that are true, lovely and praiseworthy.

How could Paul say all of that?  I would be saying:

"Lord, what are you doing?"
"Why are you making me go through this?"
"This is toooooo hard."
"I can't do this."

Yet, Paul claims he can do all things with God's strength.  I'm sure that didn't come naturally...  Look at verses 11 "... for I have LEARNED, in whatever state I'm in to be content."  After many times of seeing God work through hard situations he had learned to trust God.  Paul had seen the hand of God in so many impossible situations and He knew that God was working everything out for His glory.  Everything, good and bad.  EVERYTHING.  He had figured out that with Jesus, he could do it.  He could face Rome and death.  He could face hardship.  He could face loss.  Nothing was too hard for him to go through with Jesus by his side.

I don't know what you are going through today.  Some of my friends are going through fierce storms and they see no end in sight, worse still, the storm is obscuring their view of God...  but you can do this.  He is still there.  He is bigger than all the pain, hurt, confusion, and agony of your current situation.  He will bring you through this and when he does you will be a little stronger than before.  You will marvel at what you were able to overcome with Jesus. 

Don't give up...  You can do this.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just Be Quiet.

We're on our way to an Easter get together at the lake with family.  The kids are excited.  They know they are going to have fun and get candy, but unfortunately we made a wrong turn and it took us exactly 7 minutes longer to get to our destination.  7 minutes of whining.  7 minutes of when are we going to get there!? 7 minutes of "who's fault is it that we took a wrong turn?"  7 minutes of parent torture.  It's enough to make you turn around and yell the "sh" word at your kids.   I would never do that...  Well.

Ever been there?  Of course you have.  It's the form of torture that makes you never want to go on a trip again.  Imagine 40 years of that.  40 years of complaining, whining, moaning, grumbling...  Oh my gosh how draining. 

It's no small wonder to me that God, after enduring this for 40 years, while his children roamed in the desert, would immediately tell them to "zip it" as they came into the Promised Land.  

After crossing over the Jordan, God instructed Joshua to besiege the city of Jericho.  Jericho was an ancient city with a impenetrable wall, so thick in fact that houses and shops were built into the wall.  The people of Jericho had long trusted in the security of their defenses, believing no enemy could ever overcome that wall.  The wall of Jericho had a reputation in the whole region of being totally indestructible. 

The children of Israel were desert wanderers.  They were not skilled and trained in the art of warfare.  The stories of them defeating fierce enemies on the other side of Jericho were confounding all the inhabitants of Canaan.  How were they conquering, vanquishing and defeating such strong enemies.  Of all the people who thought them inferior none were more convinced than the children of Israel themselves.  In fact the previous generation had all died in the wilderness, never seeing the Promised Land because of their lack of faith.

As Joshua shares the plan laid out to him by God I can imagine the shocked murmur that spread through crowd.  As men and women looked around and shook their heads at the insanity of what Joshua was commanding them to do. 

"We shall march around the city, all the men of war; you shall go around the city once.  This you will do for 6 days.  And the seven priests will bear 7 trumpets of rams horns before the ark.  On the seventh day you will march around the city 7 times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets." Joshua6:3-4

Now Joshua commanded the people, saying, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, UNTIL the day I say to you, 'SHOUT!", then you shall shout."  Joshua 6:10

I'm not a real smart person or super spiritual so my theory on this is that after one round of marching around the city someone would have started in about how stupid this plan is.  Then someone else would say, "this isn't the way I would do it."  Then another person would chime in about "Who does this Joshua think he is anyway."  You would definitely have heard, "Are we there yet?"  and "He touched me." 

Before all that complaining could take place God through Joshua nipped that right in the bud...  "Do not make a sound."  OH man I wish that would work for my kids. 

Really though I want that to work for me.  I want to stop second guessing God.  I want to stop thinking I have a better way.  I want to just be quiet and know that God is God and I am not.  I'm not the all powerful, all knowing, all wise God of the universe so what do I know really?

Sometimes, my life seems impossible to me.  Sometimes being mom and wife and teacher feels impossible.  Sometimes when I look at my life I see massive walls that seem like they will never come down.  I see obstacles that seem too big to overcome.  I see giants to numerous to defeat.  I forget that I have seen water's parted.  I forget about water out of a rock and manna from heaven.  I forget about all the other miraculous things I've see God do and I get discouraged.  I lose my faith.  I give up hope and then I complain.  I complain to a friend or 10.  I convince myself that all this is too hard for me.  Instead of sharing my faith in a God who is able, I share my doubt and my fear and that spreads like wildfire. 

That day the Israelites were commanded to keep their mouths shut and march.  Do what you were told to do and WATCH YOUR GOD WORK.  

Just Show up.  Show up and march.  Just do it. 

It's not about how big you are.  It's about how big God is.  It's not about what you are capable of.  It's about what the God who formed the Universe is capable of.  Thick walls are nothing before the Creator.  Giants are like ants to God.  There is nothing that is impossible with God. 

I love that He told them to do 2 things they were capable of doing...  Being quiet and marching.  The task before them was impossible, but they were asked to do 2 things.   Trust God enough to do the impossible.  Imagine the shock and wonder of all the people that day...  The children of Israel outside the wall and the people of Jericho inside the wall as brick by brick it began to tumble to the ground. 

I don't know what you are facing today...  It may seem like a impenetrable wall in your life.  You may be facing giants, but if this story is true, what does it speak to your walls and giants? 

Be still and know.  Be quiet.  Keep marching.  Wait in silence for God to topple those walls.  Watch and see what the God of limitless power can do.  All of this was for one purpose...  To display the glory and power of the One True God.  What is God going to use in your life to reveal himself? 

Let's stop looking at our mountains and start looking above them to the One who is able to do exceedingly more than we could ever have imagined on our own... and all without our help!