Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Hard?

I’ve shared of some recent “funks” when I’ve been struggling. God continues to be so patient with me. Who else can tolerate my constant asking questions and then getting grumpy when I don’t like the answer? J

That’s what happened. I’d been asking God for direction and then when He provided it, I didn’t like it. Instead of being awed that He would answer, I got mad at what He said. (Proof that these blog posts are really written for me!)

As I’ve asked for God’s leading, His response is pointing into a direction that feels way beyond me. It’s different. It’s going to be hard.

My response was why? Why do I have to keep doing hard? Haven’t I done enough hard? Why can’t I just press the cruise button and let things be as they are?

This is the question God’s answered most recently. This time I am a bit awed that He answered because this wasn’t really a question – it was mostly a complaint. But God in his patient mercy answered me any way…. Through the book Kisses from Katie.

In a chapter I just read, she shares about her return to the States after spending a year in Uganda starting a ministry God laid on her heart. The transition back to such abundance and convenience from such poverty and struggle was difficult. As she processed the adjustments she finally realized what was making her so disgruntled. It really wasn’t the taking-things-for-granted, the excessiveness, or even the lackadaisical attitude toward the Ugandan people that had so little. It was the difference in her relationship with God.

When she lived in Uganda, caring for a family of 6 orphans she adopted, and 150 students she sponsored for school, plus the multitudes in the surrounding villages for which she cared and ministered to, she relied every second of every day on God – for safety, for health, for provision, for even the most basic of daily needs. She never knew where the funds would come from, but she knew God would provide. She never knew if she’d get another day for herself or with one that she loved, but she knew she was there right then. Her life was one of constant dependence and connection. And that resulted in an amazing relationship of intimacy and joy.

But in the States, she didn’t need to be dependent. If she got sick, she went to the pharmacy for some medicine. If she was lonely, she visited her family. If she needed guidance, she’d chat with her roommate. If she needed to get somewhere, she’d hop in her car. Everything she needed was so readily at her finger tips she didn’t need to go to God and thus was forgetting to go to Him first.

This is what bothered her most about being back in the States. This is what she missed most about being away from Uganda. This was more important than anything and why she returned to Uganda for good after one semester home.

And this was my answer.

God doesn’t give us hard because He’s a slave driver. He leads us into hard so we can experience the richness of connection with Him – the ultimate purpose for which we were created. As I sat there and whined and complained about how I’d already done enough hard, I was ignoring all of the rich benefits that came from those hard times – the growth, the freedom, the intimacy, the witness to others.

When I move into this new direction God’s pointing too, it is beyond me. And that’s a good thing as much as it scares me. It’s good because I won’t be able to do it alone. Even the challenges I’ve faced these past 4 years in returning to the classroom have built my reliance on God and given witness to His miraculous provision completely separate from me. How much more so in the years ahead.

God is not calling me to Hard. He’s calling me to Himself.

There’s no way I’m going to turn that down no matter how scary it feels.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eyes On Me

Lord, I praise You, Exalt Your name

May all my life be for Your fame

I look ahead and stare afar

The horizon stretches, Challenges my heart

You tell me out there, somewhere I cannot see,

There is a point at which I’ll be

The journey long, and in the way

Mountains, trials: My feet wish to stay

These I fear, these I see

But then You whisper Look at Me!

The journey is for Me to make

To clear the way, all for My sake

Your job today, what I ask of you

Just take one step; Eyes on Me- glued!

To say yes, simply to obey

That alone do every day

A trusted vessel for Me to use

A voice, a witness of the news

“God does it all, it’s by His hand

That I’ve arrived, I’ve reached this land”

So Eyes on Me, don’t look ahead

Step by step- your daily bread

Draw your joy not from where we’re going

But from My presence, walking together, knowing

That I delight in time with you

This journey a gift from Me to you.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Even If...

Surely, thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; For I will contend with the one who contends with you, And I will save your sons. Isaiah 49:25 NASB

What giant stands before you today? I have so many friends struggling right now. The giants I’m praying about range from Cancer to Depression, from children to the elderly, from spiritual issues to physical healing, from immediate disasters to future fears. These giants stand tall and strong as I raise my eyes to take them in.

But then I read Isaiah 49 this week. The paraphrase in the Message particularly caught my attention and gave me pause. Listen to its promise:

But God says, “Even if a giant grips the plunder and a tyrant holds my people prisoner, I’m the one who’s on your side, defending your cause, rescuing your children.

Can this verse encourage you today? Can you see that God is bigger than your giant?
We don’t battle alone.

Can you see God towering over that giant you face?

No matter your giant’s name, God is bigger.
God is stronger.
God is more powerful.
God has the final say!

Did you notice His care extends beyond just you, but to your children as well?

No matter how big your giant stands, no matter how far the affects reach, God’s bigger. God’s reach is farther. God’s control is absolute.

So take comfort my friend.

The battle is still a battle. I don’t promise it will be easy. It will likely be messy. But you can be sure of the outcome, confident of the good God has in store for you in and through the battle.

Stand strong. Be brave.
Your God contends with those who contend with you.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Father, Forgive Us!

My heart hurts this morning.

21 Christians beheaded for their belief in Jesus, their surrender to the cross. 

And just days before our own President chides Christians to get off their high horse because they too have done evil in the name of God. Seriously? This is our leadership? Since when do two wrongs make a right?

I see Facebook posts about a world gone mad over a book now movie that celebrates, promotes and honors sexual violence toward women. One person I know who went along with the crowd to watch the movie just divorced over the domestic violence in her own marriage. And now she goes to watch even worse as her choice of entertainment? Does the murder of Christians not bother us because violence and evil is now honored?

On the opposite end of the spectrum I’m reading Kisses from KatieI read of thousands of children, CHILDREN, who die daily – when all they need is so readily available in my world: clean water, medicine, nutritious food, proper hygiene. Why doesn’t someone do something?

How did our world get so evil? So corrupted? How did we get so self-centered, so self-focused, so self-obsessed that the pain in others’ lives doesn’t matter? Doesn’t hurt us? Doesn’t prick our conscience?

Christians are murdered. Children are dying. Evil is honored. And we western Christians stare out with blind eyes and selfish hearts.

Oh Father forgive us!

Then I read Isaiah 58 and it sounds like it's about the American church:

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like? (Is. 58:1-5MSG)

Is this what we look like to God? We put on a show of our allegiance to Him but he sees through to our heart. Do we worship simply for what we can get rather than because He is worthy? Is even our worship about us?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once. (Is. 58:6-9 MSG)

Are we no better than the church of old? Are we really serving God or simply serving ourselves? Why isn’t there more uproar? Why are we not reacting and responding to the injustices in our world, in our own land, in our own neighborhoods, in our own homes? Why is evil OK?

Jesus modeled a life of sacrifice but in America we see anything but. Why?

Please don’t feel I’m standing on this soap-box pointing the finger and finding blame. I am on my knees today weeping for the state of my own heart, for the heart of the American church, for the heart of our supposedly Christian nation. 

Father God how far we have fallen. How do we get back up? Open our eyes to all this that so breaks your heart!

How do I as one person make a difference?

Again Scripture points out the way:

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.
“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! (Is. 58:9-13 MSG)

I cling to these verses as an answer for my own heart:

If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

I don’t know exactly what God’s calling me to. All I know is I cannot sit by un-involved any more. I can’t remain silent. I must plead the cause. Shout the need. Press in to find where God needs me to make a difference. It’s not about me. It’s about connecting others to Him, freeing those bound into the grace and peace of His love. God has called me to listen this year. What I hear has brought me to my knees.

Jesus, show me how. Show me where. Show me who.
Make me bold. Fill me with truth.
As you live in my heart, may you explode into the lives of others.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Turning Thanksgiving Into Action

I’m sitting here on an extremely cold and blustery day. We have wind gusts of up to 50 mph. We have 3 inches of snow on the ground. Temperatures were 5 degrees when I awoke with wind chills that make it feel like -15. Roads aren’t getting clear because it’s too cold for the salt to work. So rare for us, church was canceled because they couldn’t get the grounds cleared and safe. I’m thankful we don’t have the multiple feet of snow that the New England states have to compound our problems. Our conditions are bad enough for me.

But as I woke up this morning and crawled back under the covers and into the warmth, gratitude crossed my lips. Thank you Lord that I don’t have to go out. Thank you for the warmth of my home, my bed, my covers. Thank you for the stability of my house as I hear the wind rattle and rage outside. Thank you for the finances that I don’t have to fear the strain of energy demands. Thank you for your abundant provision.

How often do we express praise for such simple yet urgent needs God fills every single day? How often do we take it for granted that we crawl into a bed? That we have the funds to pay for heat, for food, for layers of clothes, for our essentials?

A saying circulates on Facebook every so often… what if you only had today that for which you expressed gratitude yesterday?

What would you have awakened to today?

It’s the extremes in life that often wake us up to the riches we have; the moments we really need them, or the moments we don’t have them.

That’s where my mind traveled next.

Yes, I was extremely grateful for the abundance and security in my life this morning. But I followed up my praise immediately with prayers on the behalf of the many who don’t share the fortune I have.

I cannot even fathom what it would be like to be homeless this morning. How are they surviving this cold? And the multitudes in our area who are worried about paying for the extra energy these temps require… Where will the money come from? What sacrifices will have to be made to ensure there’s money for heat, and food, and transportation to work?

All of this swirls within my mind like the snow outside.

I pray my heart will always overflow with thanksgiving and praise for the abundance in my life. And may that praise always cause my heart to turn to others, that in my abundance I will reach out to others. May my life always be simply an open conduit for God to funnel his love, his care, his resources into others. Will you join me?

Where will you bless others today? Donations to the homeless shelters? Food bank? Would you carry an extra blanket and water in the car, ready to hand out to one in need? Will you take time to notice others and be prepared to bless?

Isn’t that what God did for you?

Reputable Places Where You Can Make A Difference Locally:

https://helpingupmission.org/ (helping homeless & drug addicted men on the streets of Baltimore)

http://grassrootscrisis.org/services/shelter-services/ (helping homeless in Howard County)

Friday, February 13, 2015

The End of the Story

I was reading in Daniel lately. Have you ever read it yourself? Look at what it says:

The Ancient of Days Reigns
“I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
“A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened.

11 Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

Jesus. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away… His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

Whatever you are facing my friend, this is the future. This is guaranteed. Some day. One day. But this is true.

This is my comfort today. I hope it encourages you too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

God Speaks

Do we realize what a privilege we enjoy?

A friend shares how God gave her a scripture verse, providing the exact direction she needed for a concerning situation.

My husband had a dream the other night, that as we talked through, God used it to show his mistake in how he was handling a situation.

I look back analyzing a situation that went wrong, realizing if I had followed an impulse I ignored, things would have turned out better. Sometimes I recognize God’s nudges, and sometimes I miss them.

Regardless of the situation or means, do you recognize the privilege we enjoy?

God speaks to us.

God – the creator of the universe, the giver of life, the sovereign ruler in control of all, the Alpha and Omega, this one who creates but was never created – this God speaks to us.

Don’t take that for granted.
Don’t miss the incredibleness of this reality, this truth.

God speaks to us.

This is simply amazing.
But there’s a second half to this.

How do you respond?

Do you really listen? Do you immediately obey?

Do you rationalize and doubt and question if it’s really God?
Do you find excuses to ignore it?

Do you miss it like I did above?

If we really understand the awesomeness of this privilege, how God speaks to us, how can we not immediately obey? Or at least respond? How can we ignore it?

How can we disobey?
But, we do.

Father, forgive us. Forgive me. Forgive me for taking You for granted, for missing the wonder of your gifts. Help me to hear your voice, to recognize your leading. When you give me an impulse, speak through your word, or supply a dream, help me to understand. And more importantly, give me the courage to obey. In Jesus Name, Amen.