Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You want me to do WHAT God?

Even though I knew that I had put it all at His feet, I still wasn't expecting Him to use me this way. I figured He'd have me give an encouraging word here, a pat on the back there, some prayers with people, maybe even a little scripture reading now and then. And oh yeah, the occasional food item, lovingly prepared in my home by my own 2 hands.

But stand up to the enemy in the heat of battle? Is He kidding? What is He thinking? Does He not know me at all? Doesn't He know that I am weak and fearful? He created me so He should know.

Doesn't He know who they are? Doesn't He know how uncomfortable this makes me? Or that the outcome could be really bad? I mean come on now. Can't He just fix it and make everything better?

But it doesn't work that way, now, does it? It's like praying for patience. How can we become patient people without the irritating issues that help cultivate a patient heart within us, if we are truly willing.

I honestly could identify with several old timers...People of faith (though sometimes a little faith) from the old testament who were used mightily by God, who trusted God with their lives and the outcome of every circumstance.

I related to Daniel when he was commanded by Nebuchadnezzar, his earthly king, to fall down and worship a golden image immediately upon hearing the sound of all kinds of musical instruments. Anyone who did not obey was to be immediately cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. I knew the affinity there because I was asked to agree with lies, deception, and bullying. No, not worship like we think of worship, but when we go with the flow because we are afraid to rock the boat we may as well be worshipping something other than God. Maybe our own egos. (hhmm) Because let's face it, we may not be thrown into a real fiery furnace, but if people gossip about us and keep us on the outside of their circle doesn't it feel the same?

I knew how David felt as Saul was seeking to kill him. No, nobody actually sought to physically kill me, just my good name and reputation, which can have deep effects on a person's mental, emotional and physical health.

I was in the sisterhood with Moses, who stuttered and felt small and unusable. Not to mention the murder he had committed. That made him a wanted man back in his home town. I've sinned. We all have. Don't believe me? Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." Yet, even with Moses' history God had a plan to use him to free the chosen people. God's people. I have felt like Moses. I'm a sinner saved by grace. I have a lot of fear at the thought of having to face any giants in my land. (ring a bell?) Most people wouldn't believe that because God has gifted me with boldness and I don't always show my fears outwardly. He has also gifted me with integrity and I knew that He was calling me to be a mouthpiece, to stand up in defense of the people. For the people. They are afraid. Still.

The truth is, God uses us in spite of our weaknesses, fears, and sins, and sometimes because of them, to work out His plan. Obedience comes with a price. But it also comes with great reward. The outcome of my stand has left me unemployed. But I am still employed by God. The worst, what I had feared would happen, did happen. But I rejoice because I know that I was obedient to each moment and put it all before the throne.

Honestly, I don't ever want to again be in a position to say "You want me to do WHAT, God? Are you sure?" But the truth of the matter is that I would do it again if He asked me to. Through all of this He is revealing His strength in and through me. He is revealing His character more and more and showing me what is important to Him, and for me. He is building my character, faith and hope. And He is revealing His plan for my life in regards to where it fits in the big scheme of things.

Until next time...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grace for today...not tomorrow

I was visiting with a friend a couple houses down from us the other day. We were talking about the economy and how we have become a society of consumers. Our homes are consumer households. We purchase our food, our water, our energy, our clothes, etc.

A few decades ago it wasn't that way. I can't remember ever as a family going to the local Wal-Mart, yet somehow we had food to eat, clothes to wear, actual Tupperware :). Mom used to make most of our clothes. We hung our laundry on the line to dry. Many of our meals didn't contain steak or a roast, but when they did my mom could make a roast last for 5 meals. We ate a lot of fruits, veggies and beans. And we were healthy. We played outside until it got dark, or dinner was ready. And we had 3 T.V. channels in black and white (that has nothing to do with my message today but I just had to throw that in there)

Aaahhhh...the good old days.

Many of us are going back to that kind of lifestyle. We have a clothes line and as I was hanging laundry out the other day it dawned on me that, really, everything we need to exist and even thrive is a gift from God. The wind, the sun, the rain. I love the fact that I can dry my laundry without having to pay FPL. I love that I can collect the rain water for the garden without having to pay Lee County Utilities. I love that I can take the seeds from our fruits and vegetables, put them in some dirt (again a gift from God) and harvest food for our table. And none of this is difficult stuff.

As my friend and I were talking, we both shared our concerns in our lives and our finances and she said something that really hit my heart. She said "I just keep reminding myself that God gives us enough grace for today, not tomorrow. And I know that as much as I love my kids and give good things to them and take care of them, God loves us even more, and I know we are going to be ok."

I'd never thought of it quite like that but it's true.

He gives us enough grace for today...I accept that.

Until next time...

Friday, February 20, 2009

If at first you can't see it, readjust your focus

Have you ever received one of those images via e-mail that instructs you to stare at it for a certain period of time and then look away, at a wall or something, and all of a sudden there's an image of Jesus? Or another one where when you first look at it you see one thing but then when your eyes adjust you see something else, again usually an image of Jesus?

That's how it's been for me lately with things in my life. At first glance the image is not great. Others may not see it, but John and I know how things really are. Unfortunately for me at first glance all I can see is the problem. It's difficult for me to "see" Jesus in the circumstances. It takes me a while, (and usually with the help of a friend or my sister or my husband), to finally readjust my vision to see God working in the circumstance. I am reminded through this that the Christian walk is not about what we can see but about what we cannot see.

God's word tells us that the righteuos will live by faith and not by sight and I think this is where many of us get hung up. We watch the news (and come on now, we all know how the media is...dooms day this and glooms day that), we get a bill that we don't have the money for, we hear a diagnosis that's not good, and the list goes on. But what we tend to do is make these details bigger than the God who created all things, and then our actions start revealing our fear instead of the faith by which we are called to live. I, for one, am so guilty of this and it breaks my heart to know that I still carry a seed of doubt in my body about the abilities of God.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose." I look back at my life and never, not once, has He ever left me or left me without. Why would I think He would start now?!

Though my actions and thoughts don't always reveal it, I love Him and I want to be considered a woman after God's own heart. I ask forgiveness for my disobedience and doubt and today I will readjust my focus. I know He is there...even though I cannot "see" Him.

Until next time....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Surrender or else

"Have me, Lord; though He slay me, still will I trust Him."

This has been a year of faith and character building. After our youth retreat in August I had a very audible conversation with God and in that conversation I told Him that I wanted to surrender everything to Him. He reminded me that I didn't really know what I was asking for and I (in my so "I know more than you think I do" attitude) told God that maybe that was true but that I knew HE knew what my request encompassed, and that I trusted Him to accomplish His purpose in and for me.

Ever been there? Thinking you know more than God? Well, maybe not exactly in those words but that's what we are saying. We are almost calling His bluff and daring Him to use us and do His will (or His bidding, as we sometimes refer to it-if only in our minds)

Here it is February and I am walking yet again in a valley. It's a valley of what I have referred to as indecision. I am the type of person who can become crippled by the forks in the road. I am constantly acting like Gideon, "Lord, if this is truly from You then give me a sign and let it look like this ____ _____." You fill in the blanks.

I have been like this for far too long and it's time to grow up. Not that asking for direction in the way of a sign is necessarily a bad thing. It's just that it became my crutch, my excuse not to move until I saw the "dew", so to speak. Another term that could describe me is "paralysis by analysis". I can get so caught up in the details that I can't move. It's the old bugs bunny scene where his right arm is pointing left and his left arm is pointing right and he says "which way did he go, which way did he go". Only for me it's which way do I go.

When I had this conversation with God back in August I knew in my heart that He needed me to let go of everything; my pride, my fear, my offenses, my anxiety, my heart, my job, my relationships, my children, my husband, my dreams, my gifts, my talents, my thoughts. And the list goes on. I did not realize how much control I actually had, or wanted in my life, until He asked me to let it go. I would love to say that I have entirely let go. It's not the truth though. We feel out of control if we aren't holding onto something. And I know that in all of this He is telling me to just hold onto Him. I've never really done that before. I've never understood what that looked like played out in "real life" yet I know in my heart that this is where He is taking me.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it's own."

I know that in this season of my life I need to surrender or else...or else I will never truly live to His glory in my life. I will never truly be free. I will never be able to understand sacrifice as defined by Him. I will never be able to honor Him fully. I will never be the example and my life will never be the testimony that He desires for it to be. And I will never experience the abundant life that He offers. I have to surrender so that my life can be a limitless blessing to others.

Today I will cultivate a heart of gratitude for the things that I DO have, and not ponder on the things that I DON'T have.

That is my daisy for today.

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fear Not

The flu has been running rampant through our house. Didn't invite it. We weren't "prepared" for it. It just showed up. First Michelle, then me and now John. (He is home in bed with a fever and chills. I know he hates having to be in the bed but the cats are loving it :) He makes a great pillow!)

Today we take Michelle to get her passport. She felt God nudging her on communion Sunday that she was supposed to go with the youth group to Trinidad. My first reaction was visible anger. If she was going to go, there was a meeting right then and we weren't prepared to go to a meeting. Plus we had missed the first 2 deadlines, she hadn't filled out any paperwork, or gone to any of the initial meetings. Also, we didn't have the money to support her. I could think of a half dozen reasons why she wasn't supposed to go however the truth of the matter was that God was calling her. I knew it. I couldn't deny it, though I wanted to. And the anger I was feeling was totally displaced. And in delving further into my own heart I could see that it wasn't anger that I was feeling, it was fear. I had a couple of dreams the week prior. They were very disturbing and normally I don't remember my dreams but I did remember these because they had to do with my daughter traveling. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not one of those who follows stars, horoscopes, visions or dreams. It's not one of those twilight moments. But these dreams woke me up and in one I remember sobbing. It was horrible. And my fear was starting to dictate my actions.

Then I remembered conversations with Michelle about how important it was to go on a missions trip at least once. I never had these opportunities at her age. She was scared of being in a foreign country around people she didn't know and I was trying to convince her that God could use her in spite of her fears. (I was preaching to the choir here). At the time of these conversations I was working and we could help financially. Now I am out of work and cannot help the way we would have been able to had she said yes to the call in October when this first came up. At that time she was adamant that she was not going so for me, I had put everything in a "locked file" in my brain thinking it would never come up. I felt "safe".

The truth of the matter was that God wasn't calling her in October. He made His desire known to her during prayer on communion Sunday, a time when by all human standards it seemed impossible for her to be able to go.

Now those dreams surfaced and I didn't like this at all. All I could think of was "we're not prepared". But that's a sorry excuse, if it's one at all. We are called to be prepared at all times. We need to be prepared to drop everything and go where He sends us and trust that He will make a way and provide our protection and our needs. We're told to be prepared with an answer for the hope that we have. We spend our whole lives preparing for just such moments as these. Or at least we're supposed to and now I can see my failures and how they have affected our ability to support this cause, or any cause. My failure to put money away for the future, my failure to put God's word in my heart. My transparency is painful...but helpful. I am sorrowful...yet hopeful. In our selfish acts of living for today our God still prepares for tomorrow. He still provides for His will. And because I know that He has called Michelle at this time, to this place, I know He will provide. In fact, it's in these situations where He does His best work. I know this to be true so why am I always so amazed when it happens?!

My daughter, who is so shy and introverted, felt God calling on her heart to plant seeds in another country, to reach beyond her own limitations and allow God to stretch and grow her. Who am I to stand in the way? Her mother? Yeah, but HE is her Father. I know that whatever happens to us is filtered through His loving hands, and He has called her to lavish His love in a place of His choosing. As He tenders her heart, and strengthens her courage, I look forward to seeing the daisies she is going to plant.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What next...

It's been 42 days since my employment status changed. I'd love to say that I'm ok with it but that would be a lie. The truth of the matter is I'm in a state of limbo and this has brought on many conflicting emotions. I'm so used to earning a paycheck and my day being defined by an office schedule. It's not easy defining it myself. Or should I say, allowing God to define it. I thought I'd be able to just pick myself up, dust myself off and then go on about the business of applying for jobs and getting a great offer. That's not how it has worked out though. And as much as I didn't want to see this before, I am starting to understand that if God wanted me working back in an office somewhere it would've happened already. I'm not saying that He doesn't have that in the future somewhere. Just not yet. He has a plan. I know this. I just don't know what the plan is. Well, maybe I partially know. There is so much to do around this house. So much "stuff" in the closets, drawers, garage, etc. And there are people to tend to. We move through each day, or at least I do, inundated and busy without much time for ourselves or our families, let alone our Father. We stuff things away and promise we'll get to it later; the bible study lesson, the note to your friend at church who lost her husband, the visit with the neighbor who lost his wife, the friend you promised to have lunch with, etc. The truth is we make time for what is important to us. Ouch!!! But it's the truth. I've done it way too often. And I believe that God is telling me it's time to refocus.

I would be lying if I said that our financial situation hasn't crossed my mind (or taken up residence there). But God has reminded me many times this week to store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, nor where thieves break in and steal. He has reminded me that He is our provider.

When/if God wants me back to work in the traditional sense it'll happen. For now I am going to concentrate on planting some daisies...