26 Oct

A Postcard From Nineveh

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“Arise, go…

The words sound electric when he sings them. Arise and go…his voice fills the theater and my heart beats a little faster. Yes…that’s it I want to go where God says “go”, but……………….

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Plants, murals, high ceilings. Whirligigs, stuffed creatures and brightly colored everything for sale in every corner. Sight and Sound theater (in Lancaster, PA) was a delight to the senses already and we hadn’t even gotten past the disney-esque lobby.

 

 

Mouth open, camera out I stood very touristy, just trying to take it all in. Whew, I thought this show will be great. And then, the words came, “I get it,” my hubby said, bright greens eyes dancing, “We’re at Jonah, and you keep telling me you want to be go where God wants you to go.”

Somewhere deep within me an alarm began to sound. Uh-oh. How in the world had I missed this? How had I missed the fact that I have been wrestling with God over where we go to church, what my ministry looks like, and more. And in it all I just keep saying, I want to do what you want me to do Lord, but…..

Now here we were, Jonah about to unfold on the stage before us. Uh-oh.

The show is fantastic. The music, the sets, the costumes…truly a delight. Watching our kids on the edge of their seats, mouths open, excited about this passionate (creative) portrayal of the Bible makes a mama’s heart happy. It all unfolds around us, above us, through the aisles.

I don’t have a Nineveh, God. There isn’t a place I wouldn’t go for you.

On stage, Jonah flees, runs, argues with God. I’m beginning to feel less like Jonah. My hunky hubby had me worried for nothing…I’m just here to enjoy the show.

Jonah’s words…in the show…this creative portrayal…suddenly they are mine. Literally the exact words I’ve used in our discussions lately, the exact words! My stomach began to twist. Inner alarms going off. Uh-oh.

Boats, winds, storms, whales, sinking….hiding from God…….And then Nineveh looms large on the stage. Imposing. Scary.

(photo courtesy of Sight and Sound Theater)

I don’t have a Nineveh, God. There isn’t a place I wouldn’t go for you.

And as I watched the rest of the show unfold I began to get it. I am in the place God told us (our family) to be and I complain, wrestle, argue and am generally a sourpuss out the whole thing. My words, Jonah’s words, they haunt me. And I know…it isn’t about how I feel…it is about God’s glory. And when the Sovereign Lord says, “Arise and go….” it isn’t to check to see if I want to or only if I feel like it. No “arise and go…” is a cue that He’s got some glory to shine and I/we are blessed to play some part. But our part in God’s plan requires obedience…requires faith, patience and a willing heart.

And I began to see, across the landscape of my life, many Nineveh’s…places I don’t want to go with the Lord. Places where it feels different than I want it to. Places where comfort and my plans aren’t the order of the day. Places that hold my fears, worries and possible failures…places I avoid.

Total obedience isn’t just about where my feet are pointed. Total obedience isn’t just about what I am doing on the outside. Total obedience is about my heart. THAT is God’s whole point in this process…taking this heart marred by sin and life and making it more like Christ’s. There’s no comfort in scrubbing out stains and reshaping my heart {thinking of how our children smash, mash, and punch play dough to get it into different shapes}. It’s not about  feeling comfortable, it’s about  becoming more Christlike.

Some of the hard truths I’m learning in Nineveh.

I don’t want to fail. God can succeed in my failures…His plan is about something bigger than my pride. God’s success is not contingent on our perception of win or lose, success or failure. No God’s success…His glory…lies in who He is. In grace. Mercy. Power. Justice. Love.

I want everyone to like me. It’s more important for people to know Christ than it is for them to like me.

I want to feel happy and comfortable. I have joy, through the Holy Spirit, in Christ…I need to learn that He is enough…the joy there. The feeling of doing what you are made to do far exceeds any comfort zone…hands down.

But I want, what I want. It’s not about me.

And there I sat. Tears pouring down my cheeks. Sitting in Nineveh in the middle of Lancaster. I didn’t want to run anymore.

I don’t want to be swallowed by a whale or darkness. I don’t want to be separated from my Jesus or disappoint Him. I don’t want to miss one chance to be part of the extraordinary with God.

And as you read this, perhaps you have exhaled thinking…God’s not asking me to go anywhere…I’m off the hook. But I challenge you, examine your life…God is calling you to something, to someone, to the hard stuff of love and life. Check your heart, what is your attitude like. Obedience is a heart issue…how’s yours?

My friends, I’ll send you a postcard from Nineveh….a postcard from a place where I let God grow, shrink or change this ministry He’s called me to…a postcard from places where I don’t fit in and they don’t do things how I think they should…a postcard from a stop on my journey to become more Christlike….a postcard from places where God has some glory to shine!

Father, oh how I want to be the woman you want me to be. But it’s hard and scary. I worry about failing, about not being liked, about our family having to love people who don’t like us or want us there. But, I know that I know that I know that I know that You have some glory to shine and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be part of your plan. Lord, please forgive my unbelief and help me to lean into you! I want to “arise and go” with a heart full of Spiritfilled joy!! Amen.

 

 

 

22 Oct

Give Them Jesus

they need Jesus

“They need Jesus. That’s why we need you.”

She sits just a few feet away, this woman I admire. I look up to. And in casual conversation she says something that strikes a chord somewhere in me.

It is so much more than a reason for asking me to speak at a retreat {which is what the conversation was about}. It is about Jesus. About me.

And then a few days ago, I read this.

Now, I’m restless.

Restless I tell you.

Approachable words filled with Jesus. Words that live, encourage, lead, shape, mold. Can I find those words? No.

But, somewhere deep, God whispers…they are My words….give them My words.

A deep breath….over and over again.

Prayer…over and over again.

Writing. Rewriting. Breathing. Prayer.

Late into the night…struggling to write.

I’m not a speaker, I began to say {to anyone that would listen}, I’m a Bible study teacher. I’m not a woman gifted to stand in front of a crowd and tell them how to live the life of a Christian woman.

And then I felt it…I knew it.  I wasn’t called to be a speaker. Echoes in my head…they need Jesus…give them my words.

I began to craft messages around Bible study — when I dug into the Word I could speak for hours…how interesting, amazing, fulfilling God’s Word is. When we look into the depths of the Bible we find the stories of a loving God who wraps eternity around His beloved and expresses love in ways that will never be paralleled.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-4

Give them my words…give them Jesus.

The Word is Jesus. When you teach the Bible…when you teach the Word you teach Jesus.

God had already given me everything I needed – a passion for His girls and love for the Bible.

My friend’s words had struck a chord because that chord plays the notes of my soul…what God made me to be….just a Bible teacher.

I struggled with nerves and worries of disappointing God, but I pushed through…obedience became a theme…this was bigger than me, my fears, or my nerves…someone needed to hear Jesus and God presented me with the opportunity to be the bearer of a beautiful gift. It was my choice — as the things of God always are. I could choose to walk away, but no matter how big the butterflies {or vultures} were in my stomach I knew this was going to be a defining moment in my walk with God…in me.

The words of that blog {linked above} ring in my ears like music…calling me…moving me. “We need Jesus.  We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travellers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus – not to the sale at the mall.” SarahBessey.com

It is an honor and a weight this calling of teaching and bringing Jesus. That I’m looked at as anything more than a flawed and broken girl trying to figure it out seems scary and overwhelming. But when I lean into God, dig into the Bible and just be honest about how beautiful God’s grace is {even in the midst of my messy life} all the pieces fall into place. God is faithful to accomplish His purposes through His word {Isaiah 55:11}.

How can you honor God today?

What step can you take toward finding or stepping toward what He is calling you to do?

How can you bring someone just a little bit of Jesus today?

Father, thank you for Your Word. That in the beat up and worn pages of my Bible I can touch, read, and absorb the majesty of my beloved Creator. Whew. Thank you for making us for a future, for a calling, for being parts of the body of Christ. How blessed we are to carry pieces of Jesus to give to others. Help us to share Your Word, memorize Scripture and share it, study the Bible…Let us be women of the Word because that makes us women of Jesus. Amen.

 

16 Oct

A Weedish Offering

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The front door crashes open.

Little hands meet mine. Palms open I receive little flowers…broken, mangled, dry, crushed….beautiful.

I cherish those little yellow flowers, the clover, the grass, and whatever else finds its way into the little bouquets delivered by peanuts with sparkling eyes.

I trim them carefully and place them in vase, with all the loving care the florists use for the most expensive flowers and arrangements.

They look little, broken, dry…almost weedish…in their tiny vase. A vase salvaged just for small little, weedish bouquets. Every time I fill up the vase I wonder if this is the last time. Will they grow out of it next week? Will the somedays when little boys aren’t interested in kissing their mamas and delivering flowers come too soon?

His little love offering to me….

 

I begin to ponder these weeds. That no matter how they look, how clumsily they are delivered they bring joy to a mother’s heart.

I suppose my life…my offering to God…is not much more than this handful of late season weeds.

This sin-wracked life is broken…mangled…dry…crushed.

But as I seek my God, who longs for me to come to Him, perhaps the light cast on my handful of weeds changes. Perhaps as I come to God…as I try to be the woman He made me to be…perhaps my weedishness softens.

In the light of Heaven’s grace…of mercy…of eternity…of a God who knows that my dirty hands clenched tight around this life are trying to learn to deliver all I have to Him…my handful of weeds looks breathtaking, lovely.

You see, nothing matters with out the light of God cast on it. If we are living only to survive, not to thrive and shine. If we are living to fill up on what the world offers, not pouring out what God has given. If we are clutching our lives, instead of offering them up for God to mold, direct and breathe life into. It is an ugly, sad bunch of weeds.

But, oh my friends, how does it change when we are willing to open our palms and hold it all to the One who says, Come!! I wonder does God’s heart swell like mine when little palms deliver little offerings? Does He kiss our foreheads with heavenly glory just as I kiss my peanuts?

I watch my little man run off. Off to find more flowers to deliver. Some will be dropped, lost along the way. Others will be bent, broken, mangled. Some were dry and wilted before they were ever delivered. But for my little man, it is never about the flowers or the run up and down the hill to get them. No, it is about giving them to his mama.

The lesson there for us is palpable….the lump in my throat is too…our life is meant to be lived full of joy and expectancy as we go about the business of living for our God who loves us. Who dotes on us. Who is the beautiful light that changes all we are and all we offer.

What handful of weeds can you offer to your Jesus today? Can you give Him control…trust that He is big enough for your circumstances? Can you serve someone in His name today? Can you tell someone about the Savior who waits open-handed for your weedish offering?

 

 

Father, thank you that see the beauty in my broken, that you receive my offering from grimy hands, that you loved me enough to give me Jesus. Thank you for little peanuts whose simple, unfiltered love teaches me about how I can and should come to you. Thank you for accepting my weedish life and help me to continue to offer it to You. Amen.

28 Sep

This is God’s House

me and my house

Piles of dirty dishes in the sink.

Dust bunnies…no dust monsters gather in the corners and under the couch. Plotting world domination or at least to rub all over my black pants.

Chairs need to be moved. My notes need to be highlighted. The kids aren’t dressed.

Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person.

It all seems to pile up on Thursday mornings. The stuff I haven’t done, the stuff I don’t want to d…it all looms big and ugly as the clock ticks the minutes away.

Bible study starts at 10, right here in our living room and I’m not ready.

And a breath before I get upset, before I let a bad attitude be the attitude that prepares for Jesus’ girls, I flash back to another house, another time.

Snow was piling up outside…literally feet upon feet. The kids had such a bad case of cabin fever that the wiggles, giggles and drive your mama crazies had set in. Our stuff was in storage. We were pulling groceries up the driveway on a tarp (as it was too deep and slippery for our cars to make it). This was not how I had planned this move to go.

Every call about the new house (the short sale we were waiting to go through) was confusing and disheartening. Stories changed. Price went up. Days…months…ticked by and we were still waiting. While we were blessed to have some place to stay and we were warm and dry…it wasn’t home.

I would sit in front of the large picture window in the silence of the afternoon naps and pray. I knew the fate of our house purchase was in God’s hands, and if it went through it would be for His glory and His use. And in those moments I would promise the house to Him…”if you give it to us Lord, we will always use it to honor you and further your kingdom…homeschool, women’s ministry, life groups, and more.” I began to picture that work done for God in the house….

God blessed us with the house. And within months we stopped doing anything for God (except homeshooling) within our walls. Overwhelmed. Too tired. Full of excuses.

This year, I recommitted my life, my calling, and our house to the Lord. Bible studies, ministry, dinners, mentoring and more have begun again.

On Thursday mornings (yes, almost every week) God reminds me of our agreement and I stop grumbling. I pray while I sweep, worship while I make coffee and smile as it comes together. I need to get out of the way, open the door and let God meet with His girls.

 

 

 

What do you have that God has given you? A house, a car, a phone, a heart for service, a business, etc.? How can you (or are you) using it serve God? God blesses us with so much, how can we use those blessings to serve Him?

Father, thank you for our house. Thank you for your house. Help me to remember when our doors and hearts are open we are serving you. Thank you that the moments you have planned with your children in our home aren’t dependent on whether I’ve dusted or if there is fresh coffee, but instead you look for open hearts and willing spirits. Help me to be that woman. May I always say, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Amen.

 

04 Jun

Planning to be Obedient

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To the crowd she likely seems just a sweet, impulsive child as she wades into the water. One that makes you say, “aw.”

She is sweet.

She is impulsive.

She is a child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this moment is so much more.

This is God leading her. Her teaching me.

As we walked up next to the pool (late for the baptisms), we walked up just in time to hear the Pastor asking if anyone else wanted to be baptized.

I was just setting down my camera bag (luckily the camera was around my neck) and my husband hadn’t even made it to where we were standing…yet a little voice answered “yes.”

For nearly a year we have been saying we would plan for Isabel to be baptized. Weather, schedules and life seemed to get in the way, with promises of this summer. We would plan for her to be obedient.

And then there in this moment with a church we are new to, with people we barely know, with no grandparents or godparents, no plans, no towels or extra clothes. There in that moment the opportunity to follow God was presented, and Isabel understood.

This wasn’t about plans or the crowd. This was about a little girl and her Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were planning for obedience. She seized the opportunity to be obedient.

And as I stared teary eyed at my baby girl boldly declaring her life for Jesus, I knew deep in my heart that once again God was teaching me through my peanut.

To get out of my own way and follow Him. Tune my ears and heart to the sound of His whisper. To walk in His footsteps. That there is a time for planning and there is a time for doing. And doing is what touches hearts, changes live.

Isn’t that the moniker of Jesus’ ministry? Doing. Healing, teaching, loving. Heart tuned to God, eyes on His people, hands open to life…to love.

The water was cold. She didn’t turn back.

A pastor she barely knows held her hand. She didn’t flinch.

Her parents were caught of guard. She knew what she was doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabel was baptized exactly when she was supposed to be. Following her Jesus when the whisper moved her soul.

This morning I awoke with teary smile remembering yesterday. Thanking God for the lessons He is teaching me. My prayer breathed before my feet touched the floor, “help me follow You like that.”

I urge you, today, to turn your heart toward Jesus. Listen for those whispers. Don’t miss the opportunity to follow Him. Even if the water is cold. Even if you don’t know the people or you aren’t prepared.

…even if you haven’t finished planning….

26 Jan

Lessons I’ve Learned While Eating Grass

grass flavored obedience

(or at least drinking stuff that tastes like it)

So I’m on this journey…a juice fast.  As I write it is day three, as you read it will be day four, and Lord willing I will still be chugging along.

Some things l’ve learned this week:

–        I like to eat while I watch tv. I don’t like to drink juice and watch tv…not the same.

–        There are many, many commercials about food.

–        I’m not nearly as interested in cooking shows when I’m not eating. Granted I still cook for my family, but somehow not being able to taste and enjoy the creations takes the winds right out of my sails.

–        There is no joy in food. Oh, don’t get me wrong I enjoy food. Tastes. Textures. Heck, even chewing! But I am finding that I turn to food when life is hard, when life is difficult, for comfort, for joy. And the more I eat, the more I search for something that isn’t there.

Yesterday, was an awful day. I had a caffeine (or lack there of) headache, I felt sluggish, exhausted, deprived. Every bit of food I prepared for our children smelled sweeter or more savory than ever. Even hotdogs became a stumbling block…oh how I wanted just one bite. To be honest the day sucked.

I found myself much like the Israelites in the desert. Following God. Grumbling. Unhappy. Missing the whole blessing. I still consumed food…I was not hungry or starving. I still had all the blessings I had the day before (if not new ones that I refused to look for or count). I didn’t like where I was or what I had to look forward to so I dragged my feet, moaned and begrudgingly followed God.

Last fall I decided to take our son to the park while our daughter was at an afternoon activity. I was so excited to push him on the swings, watch him climb and run, and yet he sat on the bench. Grumpy. Whining. The fun I had dreamed of all day was lost, as I tried in vain to make him happy, to help him play, anything to redeem our time together. He didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to stay and play. He just wanted to be unhappy.

I wonder, today, if God feels like I did at the park. If He wants to whisper, you’re missing it child! Get up, come with me. Trust me. I wonder if He did whisper that to me over and over yesterday and I sat, in sweats and t-shirt refusing to shower, not listening. Refusing to live…I justed wanted to be unhappy.

You see, I couldn’t run to the food I used for comfort and joy. When life got hard, I was stuck with only God for comfort (HA! Poor me, huh?). And as much as I love God and want to follow Him, the truth was, yesterday I didn’t know how. But, I prayed A LOT (as much as I whined, probably) and I pushed through the day trying to be more for God…with God.

This morning when the sun came up it was like I’d never seen the sunshine so brightly. What joy there was in that moment. That still quiet moment as God painted the skies and woke the world with His morning kiss. There’s joy in the things of God.

–        This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Drink juice for 10 days. I can do that. At least I thought I could, but the truth is I don’t like vegetable juice that much. Although I am happy to report on day three I longer gag on the green juice, but I still don’t like it.

Go without caffeine, carbs, refined sugars, and all the things I crave. Hmmm, yeah, I think I can do that. Or at least I thought I could until I started. Halfway through day two thoughts of pizza, chocolate, chips, diet coke, burgers, shrimp scampi, mint chocolate chip ice cream…all things yummy began to parade across my mind.

Drink juice for 10 days. I can’t do that. This is just too hard, I’m learning. When I look at 10 days spread out over the calendar, all the comings and goings, all that my family will do and accomplish, all the hours between here and there…I can’t do it.  Yesterday, as I cut the kids hotdogs up for lunch I began to salivate. I could hardly contain myself for thoughts of just one bite of hotdog. Just one bite. That’s all I wanted.  One. Bite. Just one. And as the temptation began to be too much for me I prayed, God, help me, please. I didn’t eat the hot dog but went through the rest of the day lamenting how I couldn’t have hot dogs. Somewhere late in the evening it hit me, I was walking around defeated at the loss of a hot dog. A HOT DOG! But I wasn’t beaten by the hot dog, I chose not eat it as I leaned into God. I chose God. There is no defeat in that…in fact are we not more than conquerors in Christ? (Romans 8:37)

I can’t drink just juice for ten days…not by myself. Not when this is about me fighting food, fighting cravings, fighting the sin I’ve been mired in for years. I don’t have the strength, the conviction, or the love (for me)! But God does. And He who called me to this will see it to completion, as long as I lean into Him.

–        Food will not defeat me. I am empowered by every choice, every whir of the juicer is the sound of victory, every gulp of green juice that passes my lips will be taken with praise.

–        Oh, and one last thing…strawberry, cantaloupe, blueberry, blackberry juice is delightful. 😉

 

24 Jan

Grass-Flavored Obedience

grass flavored obedience

The taste in my mouth is like I’ve been grazing in the backyard or licked the bottom of a salad bar. Kinda like grass. Kinda like vegetables. Kinda gross.

This is what obedience tastes like.

Today. Right here. Right now.

For me. God is calling me to something impossible. Bigger than me. That I don’t really enjoy.

 

A juice fast.

(I debated sharing this with you all, as it seemed like I was opening myself up to criticism. But in the end I thought perhaps this lesson I am learning might strike a chord with some…just maybe not the drink a cup of vegetables kind)

For months I have been feeling that quiet stirring in my soul. The one that points to change on the horizon. To God rearranging the pieces of my life.

If I looked in the mirror, stepped on the scale or paused to catch my breath I knew that I was too fat and that on top of being a health risk it has become a faith risk. A gap where my walk with Christ…toward Christ…veers off and I pretend to not notice the glaring sin, addiction that food has become in my life. My tight jeans scream to it. My suddenly smaller t shirts choke it out. My heart pounds the rhythm of loss when I get winded running up the stairs.

And as the winds of change sweep across the landscape of my life God’s calling is pushing me forward. Calling me to new adventures in Him. Photography. Blogging. Mission trips. Oh, and glory, perhaps a mixture of all three.

And I’ve become aware that to be effective for God I need to be healthy (physically and spiritually). And if I am going to be healthy I need to learn to be obedient….physically and spiritually.

My spirit grew tense and fidgety as I ignored the stirrings of all this heaven-sent.

And then, a late night movie night with my husband opened my eyes.

We watched the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” a documentary about an Australian man on a quest for health. He does a 60 day juice fast as he travels across the US. Along the way he meets others who are willing to try his fast. One woman who suffers from migraines. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but basically there are drastic changes to the Aussie’s health and the woman he meets no longer suffers from migraines.

For a few years I have lived under the tyrannical weight of migraines. Often I am robbed of joy, sleep, and time with my family by these paralyzing headaches. The medicines the doctors have given me seem to make me feel far worse and do little treat the why.

The thought of living migraine free found me considering a ten-day juice fast. But quickly I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I love to cook. I love food. I love to eat. Quitting eating would be too hard for me.

And then God….

I began to pray and search. God is this something you are calling me to?

I don’t do things that are beyond the scope of my abilities much anymore. I live a fairly routine life and have gotten comfortable in the pattern, predictability and control. I was happy to be fat if that meant I could eat what I wanted. When I wanted.

But this is the year I follow God deeper. Deeper into the Word. Deeper in to the world.

This is bigger than me, these cups of green juice that sometimes I just manage to choke down. This week is bigger than me (especially from barely past mid-day on the first day). This quest for health is bigger than me.

Today as thoughts of pizza, brownies and pasta flip through my head I have turned to God. A simple prayer…

Father, help me. Take this. 

It is hard. Day one. Out the gate it is hard. But I am committed to going with God on a journey that starts and ends in Him. A journey that opens me up to discomfort, criticism and grace.

What is God calling you to? What acts of obedience is He placing in front of you that seem too big? Too much? How can I pray for you as you face them?

As I open myself to this journey of grass flavored obedience I can already feel the grace. Grace in dissolving cravings. Grace in intense Bible study. Grace in the opportunity to choose health, choose Him.

 

03 Oct

How Big is Your But?

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I want to be an incredible wife….

I want to be a nurturing, involved mother…

I want to be a phenomenal home manager and homeschooling mama…

BUT!

I’ve discovered something this morning.

My but is too big.

Today as I contemplated my life, my tasks and all that never seems to get done I sought answers. Why are some days better than others? Why am I Patty Productive one day and Sally Sloth the next? Why do I allow the buts, excuses and interruptions of life to keep me from being the woman I want to be…that I could be.

Sometimes, admittedly, I know the reason. I am willing to let laundry sit, dusting go undone and leave beds unmade if we are lost in the chapters of a fascinating library book, if the sound of counting and learning fills the hallways, or if there is a child in need of snuggles, love and giggles. In my opinion (humble it may not be), those moments are far more important than the smell of any cleaning product or straightened sheets. The moment will pass quickly that my children are here…chores can always be done.

And that sounds noble and loving, right? If only those were my only excuses. Then my BUT wouldn’t be so big and I would be much closer to the woman God has made me to be. Some days I just don’t want to ___________ (fill in the blank) and I’ll find other things, anything else to do so that don’t have. I will research until the cows come home, clean out cupboards and reorganize the entire playroom just to ignore other chores. Or I’ll justify watching a movie in the middle of the day, taking a nap or lingering on Facebook for longer than I care to admit.

This morning, as I write to you our house is clean; the meat for the month has been separated and sealed for freezing; tomorrow’s roast is marinating filling the house with the smell of garlic, rosemary and onions; the laundry is going; the kids are playing; school is tucked up until tomorrow. I’ve been productive. And I still have had time to linger over a cup of coffee, listen to music, play with kids, and more. What’s the difference?

My but didn’t get in the way. Before I even placed my feet on the floor this morning I began the day in prayer. After my thanks and praise I had one simple request. Today, God, help me focus on the things you’d have me do. Let me do what you bring to mind. The result? The list above. I so often get caught up in my own trappings and excuses I find myself lost in a sea of chores, with too much to be done and not enough time. When I lay my head down at night I fight disappointment and look into tomorrow already behind and anxious. This is no way to live.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

As I read that verse today and nodded in agreement I began to ponder the word commit. What does is it mean? In Hebrew the word is galal, to roll. So the verse says, roll your plans/works onto the Lord. I thought this was an interesting word picture and it made me think of Sisyphus in Greek mythology. Are you familiar with this story? A deceitful and crafty king, Sisyphus, was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down before he reached the top. Thus having to start over. Never finishing the task, never knowing the satisfaction of a job well done, never again to have a sigh of relief at the completion of good work. (hmmm…perhaps the stone was actually laundry?? HA!!)

Are you seeing this unfold? Imagine your plans, your day is that stone. When you pop out of bed in the morning and take on the day on your own steam you are much like Sisyphus. Pushing your day up the hill. Easily tripped up on your own excuses, other people’s interruptions or expectations and more. In an instant the boulder rolls back down the hill and you are to start all over.  Ever feel like that? (by the way, happy Monday!)

Now picture rolling that stone…those plans, works and expectations onto the Lord. Nothing defeats Him. Nothing surprises Him. As He directs that boulder and pushes it up the hill called Monday you follow closely. Eyes on the Lord. Pressed in for direction and success in His plans and glory. No buts to trip you up and no pressure because the agenda is not yours to pursue and push. What needs to get done will get done in the Lord.

And tomorrow is another day waiting to be rolled onto Him.

Do you know how free this made me when I realized it today? Seriously, picture me and a little snoopy dance. Now, does it mean I sit on the couch watching soap operas and wait for God to interrupt me. No…God expects active participation in this life we live together. And in order to stay close I have to walk with Him, pursue Him, love Him…verbs. Action. Committed to Him.

How big is your but today? Do you have excuses and issues that are keeping you from being productive and embracing the joy of this life in Christ? Well, stop. Right now. Drop the but. Roll your day into God’s waiting hands, turn your eyes to Him and begin again.

Father,  I know this life of pushing my own boulder up a hill built in this world is tiring, time-consuming and often unproductive. Help me…us…to learn to look to you. Help me to roll my day into your hands and focus my eyes on You. I want to live a life focused on You, full of You….for You. Amen.

07 Feb

Lessons in Obedience…from our dogs.

I held his food bowl in my hand. Drool was pooling on the deck where it was dripping from his mouth. He was sitting patiently. Waiting. Triton knew food was coming. A reward for his obedience.

In my other hand I held her bowl. She was twitching, wiggling, and whining. Sitting is hard for her. Barlow is a sweet dog and if you can engage her brain for 25 seconds she can be obedient. But this morning as the smell of fresh dog kibble wafted on the breeze she was not happy. Her whole demeanor yelled, “I’m listening. I’m obeying. I’m so not happy about it.” It didn’t matter what the reward was. Obedience came at the price of her happy labby heart.
Our Rottweiler, Triton, is a very obedient lug. He’s content to lay on his bed when asked, with a watchful eye and a wagging tail he waits. He knows that love, bones, food, kisses and kiddo giggles come when the time is right. Obedience is the way he rolls. His quiet presence fills our house with security. His slow, intentional affection makes you want to spend time with him.
At Mach 3 Barlow has the best labbish intentions. She loves you and she wants you to know it as she stands on her head, in your lap, licking your hand, while wiggling her fool little body with her coffee-table-clearing-tail. If she’s excited, she barks. If she’s worried, she whines. If she’s disgruntled, she grumbles. She’s always got something to “say”. There’s nothing halfway about Barlow’s love or her need to play with our family. But caught in the emotional wiggles of life, obedience is forgotten, ignored or avoided. Loving her can be exhausting, irritating and often downright difficult.
Something I’ve learned today. I’m a kind of a lab these days.
God has called me to a place of obedience. A place where the only reward is time with God. Where the heavenly aroma of a sweet savior wafts on the breezes of my life. There is nothing easy about the uphill, often lonely, sometimes hidden path God has me walking on.
And what have I become? My yellow lab. I whine. I wiggle. I grumble. I want to do it my way. Mach 3 with emotions flapping in the breeze. But now, is not that time.
In the past weeks, months maybe, I have tried to blame others for why I’m unhappy. For why I shouldn’t have to walk the path my Master has called me to. They aren’ t kind enough. They don’t care. They don’t see the value in my work. They don’t see the need for my ministry. They…they….they. Grumble….whine….grumble.
Whether those things are true or not have no bearing on what the call on my life is. No more than Barlow’s want, or not, to sit for her breakfast. I said do, so she should. She will. She must. Or she’ll be a very hungry lil thing.
In my life. He’s laid it out. Work here. This is your ministry. Do it….or you’ll be a very empty lil thing.
And that is what I am. Empty.
I’m hungry for fellowship. I’m hungry for direction. I’m thirsty for my Jesus. I’m empty because an earthly, emotional, wiggling life is hard and there’s no substance to it.
Here are words I never knew I’d utter…I want to be more like my Rottweiler. Steady. Listening. Obeying.
Father God, how far beyond my comprehension are your plans and this life. I am sorry for grumbling, doubting and selfish unbelief. As I walk this path you have laid in front of me, please, please strengthen me. Whisper to me. Help me to obey you, so that I might live in your presence knowing that the reward of you is worth far more than the unpleasantness of my circumstances. Amen.

19 Jan

Good morning, ugly!

So, I’ve been grumbling for a couple of weeks. (we’ll get to why, in a minute)


And suddenly this morning, God took the things I’ve been reading, praying, studying and writing and brought them into focus. He quite literally shifted the lens of my life so I could see what was right in front of me.

In focus, it is ugly.

We’re talking U-G-L-Y….ugly.

We had the amazing opportunity to study “Growing Kids God’s Way” over the past few months. With witty and wise leaders and a committed and supportive small group we went through this book that literally changed how we are parenting. We are walking through the application phase of many of the challenging things we learned. Including first time obedience.

Our kids are getting it. We are seeing changes in them…and in us. The atmosphere of our home is shifting and we are enjoying the process (I know, who knew!?!?).

Then, this morning…the focusing…the ugly truth…the challenge.

Remember the grumbling? If you’ve seen me in person at all over the last few weeks you will…you’ve heard it…some more than once. Just think of the earful my poor hubby has had to live with. (some of you are breathing a sigh of relief…perhaps long distance friendships aren’t so bad, huh?)

A few weeks back the teaching team for our upcoming women’s retreat met. If you lay out the talents, gifts and credentials of the three women teaching at our spring retreat you’d see that I might be fit to hold the doors, set up the chairs or maybe introduce the others. My thoughts were I could teach the short, “easy” introductory session and leave the big messages to the big guns. I knew exactly how it would go down. Until it didn’t. Somehow, when the dust settled I was left with the Sunday morning session. I was the anchor.

And so the grumbling began.

I’m not worthy. Not talented. Not ready. Didn’t know this was what I was signing up for. And so many more, long, pathetic, whining excuses have come out of my mouth. Over and over again.

Is it coming into focus for you yet?

As the lens rotated this morning, there I saw it.

Saw me.

A child of God with a God-sized task laid out in front of her. What was I doing? Throwing a spiritual temper-tantrum — whining, stamping my feet, complaining, and throwing a little pity party. Where was my obedience?

Joshua 22 says to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

This morning, as I focus on God. I realize what He’s called me to is not about me…never was. Oh yes, I might learn something along the way (and if I don’t then I’ve missed yet another blessing), but God’s work is about God. And I’ve been called to such a time that I might be able to see God work in the lives of the women He calls to this retreat.

My job is to be obedient…the first time He calls. Not wander in my own desert until there is enough sand in my shoes that anything else seems like a step up.
My job is to read, learn, research, pray, listen, write. Rinse and repeat. Over and over again until it is time to open my mouth for Him. Then, as I step in to what He has called me to…He’ll show up. Even if I stumble over the words, shuffle my papers and forget the punchline to my opening joke, God will still be there. He’ll take my unpolished, overthought words and hand them to His sweet daughters with a heavenly bow.

My job is to answer Him. “Here I am!” “Yes Lord.”

The first time He calls.

Then hold fast to Him and serve with all my heart.

No more grumbling…

May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:171
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