Dec 18, 2007

The Perfection Infection

*This week is a little different. An editor for a ladies' Christian magazine has asked to see an article from me. I'm sending in the following piece. Let me know what you think. Also, I will be taking next week off since it is Christmas. I pray that your time with your family is Christ-centered and full of joy. Thanks for reading!*

Do you have that friend who can confront you on an ugly truth about yourself but leave you feeling like you’ve been embraced instead of slapped silly? Thankfully, I only have a few who are willing to try. Kathryn is one of those friends. We have known each other since age thirteen, so she has seen almost every facet of my personality. However, last year she became privy to a side of me that I have managed to hide pretty successfully because it is mostly an internal thing: my incessant need to be perfect. She became my boss, poor thing. She hired me to “teach” 2-year-olds. If she only knew what she had gotten herself into. Now, I adore tiny tots as much as the next gal, but to be the one solely responsible for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being? Eek! Every week they must review their alphabet, numbers and colors. They must craft, color and learn to play well with their classmates. They must be taught to sit where they’re told and to nap in the middle of the room on their mats. What? They’re two! They must be disciplined consistently but also loved and cherished. Oh, yes, and most importantly, they must learn about Jesus and give their hearts to Him by the end of the year. Okay, that last one is a lie.

Interestingly, Kathryn never told me every one of the requirements needed to be met every week. In fact, she specifically told me, “Toddlers are tough. Just do what you can. No pressure.” Where I got the idea that every single activity must be done and done at a Martha Stewart level, I do not know.

After a morning of watching me rush around the preschool building huffing and puffing because I couldn’t get the craft ready in time or the room prepared, she pulled me aside. How dare her? Couldn’t she see I was running behind? Anyway, I digress.

“Misti, relax! When did you become such a perfectionist and so hard on yourself? In high school I admired you because you were so confident. What happened to you?”

I didn’t have an answer. What had happened? When did it become okay to expect perfection from myself? As I sat and pondered that question, I realized that this Perfection Infection had invaded every part of my life like a cancer run amuck. I realized that I only feel “good enough” if I’m the mom who never yells at her little one, the employee who never makes a mistake in judgment, the daughter who never disappoints, and the wife that keeps a perfectly spotless house, has dinner on the table every night, and is always in the mood. Hadn’t I read something about all sinning and falling short of the glory of God? Wasn’t I expected to be weak since God clearly says that when we are weak He is strong, thus making it apparent that I will have weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9)? Yet, here I am, descending into meltdown mode because I didn’t get the toys disinfected before the kids arrived.

And I see that I’m not the only one with this debilitating condition. As the wife of a youth minister, I get the privilege of forming relationships with women of all ages. Not only do I get to hang out with girls in their teens, but I get the opportunity to become friendly with their moms and sisters as well. And I witness the same tendencies in all of us, age 14 to 60. We are all unmercifully beating ourselves up for the tiniest missteps. The younger ones are shredding themselves to pieces because they asked someone a “stupid” question, and the older ones are doing the same because they can’t meet every need of every person in their families. Girls, we are not meant to live this way! We were never meant to strive to find perfection. We are not meant to try, try, and try again to reach unattainable goals of flawlessness—to only find peace when we make no mistakes. Amazingly, in Christ, we are enough.

You are enough.

God is clear. You are the apple of His eye (Zec. 2:8), the display of his splendor (Isa. 61:3), very good (Gen. 1:31), forgiven (Ps. 103:12), favored (Ps. 5:12) an object of his rejoicing (Zeph. 3:17). Surely, if I am the apple of God’s eye, I am special and valued. Surely, if God says I am very good then I am good enough. Surely, if God says I am forgiven, I can forgive myself.

I’ve had to come to the conclusion that I will never get it together completely. I will continue to make mistakes, but I do not embody them. Yes, I’m going to sometimes give my husband attitude; my patience will run low with my stop and smell the roses 3-year-old, and I will never know all the answers to all the questions my teens will ask. But I will choose not to “snowball” into thinking I’m a horrible wife, the worst mother in all of America, or an imbecile who shouldn’t be teaching the youth of this world anything. Although I know this territory quite well, journeying down that familiar road is not an option.

Finding our peace with our limited selves is all about choice. Will we believe the lie that we must be good enough to be genuinely loved? Or will we choose to trust the truth that weaves itself through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation: that we are fully forgiven and scandalously loved despite our imperfections? It is a choice. We decide either to remain in our spiritual sickbed or resolve to rise and be healed. Believe. Choose to believe. That is where your healing is.

You are loved and you are enough simply because you are His.

Father, thank You that You love us dearly in the midst of all of our weaknesses. And thank You that You promise to meet us where we are, love us richly, and tenderly mold us into the women You desire us to be. Help us to be cooperative and believe what You're saying and walk in Your truth. We love You. Amen.

Dec 11, 2007

Remember Me

**I realize that the last two posts have been pretty long, so this one is shortened up quite a bit. I pray God speaks to you. Thanks for reading!**

“to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 25

As most of you know, we moved to Rockwall, Texas a little over four months ago. I remember when we first crossed that short bridge over Lake Ray Hubbard into the tiny little town. We were instantly enamored. Being from one of the biggest cities in the nation, the charm of small town life and the view of the lake at sunset sold us immediately. Never had I seen more vibrant oranges, pinks and purples woven into such a tapestry of beauty. We couldn’t wait to pack up and move into our little condo next to the lake. Much of the first couple of months here we spent simply walking or sitting out by the water. I couldn’t get enough. I just wanted to drink in every little drop of that scenery.

Interestingly, last week I was hurrying down the main street in our community that runs parallel to the lake (yes, there is ONE central drag...I love it). I happened to glance to my right and caught a glimpse of the water. It was sunset and it was just as beautiful as it had been in August. However, I realized that it had been quite a long time since I had really taken the time to soak in its beauty. I had begun to take it for granted and the grandeur of the landscape had lost its impact on me. I saw it so often that it was just another part of the town at that point.

It prompted me to ask whether this mirrors my reaction to God at times. Is this the way we respond when we hear the Christmas story every year? Yes, we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn, visited by wisemen, shepherds, and sheep, and was the Son of Mary and Joseph. But is that all it’s become to us? Has it become so familiar that it is just another story that we hear at this time of year? I have to confess, sometimes that’s exactly what it is to me. I forget that Jesus left behind the warmth and comfort of Heaven to enter into our cold, dark, and painful world. He was placed in a lowly manger, giving up his rightful throne at the right hand of the Father. I fail to remember that he was born to a fleshly, sinful woman. He gave up the splendor of Heaven to reach out to me. Jesus-God in the Flesh-took drastic measures to save me.

To save you.

Have we forgotten the magnitude of that? He could have sat stationary on that throne and let us fester in our own filth and shame. We deserve it. But in His unfailing love and tenderness, He chose to humble Himself. To sacrifice Himself and His comforts for us.

We know the entire story. We know how it ends, but can we focus on the beginning for right now? We were guilty. We deserved hell. But Jesus would not have it. He rose off that throne, filled with compassion, determined to save His creation, and descended on a condemned world. This Christmas season let’s determine to fix our eyes on Jesus and the wonder of what He did and continues to do for us. For He not only lived on this earth in the flesh; He continues to live amongst us as He lives in our hearts. Inconceivable!

Father, help us to never forget the magnitude of what Your Son did for us. Empower us to live our lives as a thanks offering to You. Thank you, thank you for Your sacrifice. We love you. Amen.

Memory Verse: Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Dec 4, 2007

The Masquerade Ball

I truly believe that in our church today we have a problem with lying. Maybe we aren’t walking around with bold-faced whoppers falling off our tongues, but how many times have we answered the question “How are you?” with “Great! You?” while our hearts are breaking inside over an issue at home? Why do we feel that we must walk into church or into any other meeting with other women with all of our ducks in a row, neatly put together, mask in place? I’m not talking about spilling our guts to everyone we come across, but can we get a little honesty please? A little vulnerability?

I lived most of my life behind a mask. Oh, I never kept the same one for long, but I always had one firmly affixed. In high school, I wore the successful, fun, full-of-joy mask. In college and my early twenty’s, the intimidating, crass, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar mask. Later, I replaced that with the put-together, righteous Christian mask. You know the problem with those masks? In high school, I was hurting; I wasn’t full of joy. In college, I felt lost and defeated, far from powerful. And when I wore that pretty, put-together Christian mask was when I was the most broken. Yet, no one knew the truth. Behind the mask I was alone. And I was tired.

The Mess of Masks

The Upkeep
If we’re going to keep that glossy veneer shining, it’s going to take some work! I’m going to need to stuff my “stuff”. Subconsciously, it sounds something like this: "I can’t let anyone see what’s really going on, what I’m really thinking, my real pains! Don’t dare ask me about the very issue that’s caused me to put my mask on in the first place. I might break. One tear and the floodgates might open. I can’t have that! I’m good. I’m alright. Okay, I’m not, but nobody needs to know that. My business is my business and I just don’t want to think about or deal with my needs. I will do whatever it takes to keep you from seeing behind the ruse."

Ugh. . .exhausting! The constant, sheer volume of emotional energy exerted to maintain a fa├žade of perfection while you’re crumbling inside is enough to crush you all by itself!

The Ball for One
You may have created a masquerade ball to attend; the problem is that you’re the only one invited. Living behind a mask is a lonely place. Nobody gets to know the real you, the genuine person you are. What they see is whatever you choose to put out there. The person they are getting to know is not the real you. And you know it. This breeds the lie, “If they knew the real me, they wouldn’t want to be around me.” You feel fake, misunderstood, and devastatingly alone.

The Contagiousness
When we decide that we’re going to camouflage our hurts with a disguise of perfection, it makes others believe we have it all together. And although we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others (another blog, another time), we do it. Consequently, when that woman who is going through a difficult time is looking for someone to sympathize with her and comfort her, all she sees is people who have no issues. She has no one to talk to because in her eyes, no one struggles like she does. In an effort to protect ourselves, we contribute to someone else’s pain.

The Host of the Ball

You know what I’m going to say. The one behind this entire ordeal, the one providing all the face gear, is the enemy. His words are ever the same:

• “Don’t let anyone in. They’ll hurt you.”
• “Don’t tell anyone that! It’s too embarrassing.“
• “Don’t blubber on. No one cares about you.”
• “You’re the only one with this issue. If you share it, they’re going to think you’re a freak. It’s better to keep it to yourself.”

The list goes on and on, but the feelings behind the words are the same: shame and a need for secrecy. Ladies, those are tell-tale signs that the enemy is at work. Don’t let him fool you! Stand up and refuse to let him talk you into a self-imposed prison!

I know that for many of us, we live behind masks because it is scary to think about letting people see inside. We have been hurt, ridiculed, and abandoned, but the walls that we are putting up around ourselves are not keeping us safe; they are keeping us imprisoned. In isolation. In loneliness.

The Most High Host

There is a gala for you to attend and you are the belle of the ball. It is a place where the Most High God provides the music. Zephaniah 3:17 says,

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

I know it’s frightening to let people in, but your God is a mighty God. He can handle that fear. Ask Him to help you be comfortable simply being you. It’s so freeing. He also takes great delight in you. He doesn’t just delight; He takes great delight in you. If someone else doesn’t necessarily take pleasure in you, could you be content with the God of the Universe being head over heals in love with you? Accepting that love will quiet that unease in you if you’ll let it. He is so in love, so enamored, so delighted with you that he rejoices in song over you! Unfathomable! Why should I care what others think if the Alpha and Omega thinks I’m so lovely that He can’t help but burst out in song? And you know the best thing? He knows every single, itty-bitty part of me, good and bad, and still thinks I’m great.

So, girls, do you think that we could start chipping away at that wall? Could we start letting people in and being honest about who we really are? Not only will we find rest from the work of the upkeep, but we will find peace within ourselves knowing that we are loved for our true selves and not some false image we have portrayed. There is freedom in simply being ourselves. And do you know the greatest benefit of all? In taking off our masks, Christ covers us with His image.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing
glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Cor. 3:18

How comforting to know that when I become vulnerable, when I stop the charade, Christ meets me there and covers my nakedness. What a gentleman.

Memory Verse: Zeph. 3:17

Father, thank You that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that we were made on purpose and with purpose. Thank You that you love us, the true us, warts, bruises and all. We bring our masks to You and lay them on Your altar. Please consume them and cover us with Your love. Help us to be content with Your love and acceptance and to remember that to truly fulfill the calling You have for us, we will have to be ourselves. We love you, Jesus. It’s in Your name we pray, Amen.

Nov 27, 2007

The Good Gifts

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Today I went Christmas shopping for my son, Cooper and I was ecstatic about it. I had in mind what I wanted to buy him (because he had made it clear after all) and was double and triple checking the toy aisles to find exactly what he wanted. Maps. Yes, maps. This kid sits enthroned on his car seat and peruses the Dallas area map telling me which direction to drive. Never mind that the map is upside down and that he’s pointing at an airport while directing me to the zoo. Details. He just loves gazing at the tiny, crooked lines of the country roads and the big, blue signs that number the major highways. I also believe that he enjoys telling me what to do, but that is beside the point. Anyway, our problem is that the map he has to look at is as large as he is and when he finally manages to get it opened up, it has become a head to toe blanket. Hence, his desire for his own toddler-sized map. And although it was difficult to find (I spent an hour in Target), I loved looking for it. And what I found was better than I expected: a plastic, easily foldable, small map of Texas, including detailed maps of the major cities! Just his size! And do you know what was right beside it? A kid’s atlas with fun activities included on every page! He loves dot-to-dots! I know that I’m getting a bit excited about my find, but I just know that it’s going to make him so happy. It pleases me to be able to give him the gifts that he desires.

Isn’t that just like God? Don’t you know that He is pleased to bless us? So many times in His word, He instructs us to ask Him to fulfill our needs. We are told to ask for wisdom (James 1:5), to present our requests to the Lord (Php. 4:6), to come to him for our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), to simply ask (Matt. 7:7). So why do we hesitate? If God wants to give us gifts and even says that every good and perfect gift that we receive comes from Him (James 1:17), what’s holding us back from asking? I, of course, have a few ideas.

*We simply don’t think about it. Whatever our need is seems so trivial, we don’t even think about approaching the throne room of God on its behalf.

*We’re too busy. If I’m not carving out time to spend with God, then I’m definitely not praying like I should. This also robs us of peace because we are trying to do it all on our own again.

*We don’t want to be disappointed. If I don’t ask God for something, then I can’t be disappointed when He doesn’t provide it. The problem with this one is that in asking God to do nothing, sometimes that’s exactly what He does: nothing. He still protects us and watches over us, but we have cheated ourselves out of seeing God work in this particular situation.

*I wrote the book on this one: we’d rather worry and do nothing than ask God and find peace. Ouch! I know; I’m sorry if that one hurt. I’m a bit bloodied by it, too. I think as women, we are natural worriers. Even though it’s no fun, it’s comfortable. We’re familiar with it. We’re more unfamiliar with the whole asking and trusting thing. But again, we are cheating ourselves of the peace we would find if we would learn how to present our struggles to the Lord and choose to believe that He’s going to act on our behalf (Isa 64:4).

Are you trying to do it all on your own? Or are you one who is afraid to trust God again because you feel you’ve been burned in the past? Maybe, like me, you’d rather just sulk and worry than get on with it. Ladies, God says in John 10:10 that the life He means for us to live is an abundant life. A full life. But He also says that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). I want every aspect of abundant life I can get my hands on! I want all the joy, peace, love, wisdom, strength, and effectiveness that He wants to give me. I want it all. I surely don’t want to miss out on any part of it simply because I wouldn’t ask for it.

This Christmas season, with all of the giving that’s going on, let’s let our Heavenly Father give to us. Let’s bring it all to Him, no matter how small or big, and expectantly wait for His answer. He will answer. And be assured that the response we’re looking or hoping for will pale in comparison to what He will do. Let Him show off in your life! He is always up to something, and that something is good and loving. His reply may look different than we had anticipated, but it is ever for our benefit and for His glory. Will you cooperate with Him? Will you trust Him? Will you let yourself be given to? Unlike a child who is not guaranteed what he has asked for, we will be given to. Let Him do it.

Memory Verse:

Isaiah 64:4 - “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

Thank you, Lord, that you are so involved in our lives, that you want to give to us. Father, help us to remember to pray for everything that we would ever need, should it be spiritual like wisdom, joy, and peace or material like mortgage. You are the Meeter of all of our needs. Thank you. We praise you, Jesus, and ask this in your name. Amen.

Nov 20, 2007

To Rest or Not to Rest. . .

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it." Isaiah 30:15

Well, tomorrow is the day designated to "give thanks" for the blessings we have been given. A day to take time away from the stresses of everyday life and thank God for His care. However, when we are up to our eyeballs in turkey, cranberries, and out of town guests, running hither and yon from morning 'til night, it's difficult to have an attitude of gratitude. We swap the pressures at work for the burdens at home. In turn, we wake up Thursday morning, and probably Wednesday as well, feeling defeated before the day has even begun.

"How am I ever going to get everything done?"
"I need to clean the house, pick up Mom at the airport, dress the turkey, and make the pies. By noon."
"Will someone shut those kids up?!" (Although, I'm sure you would never think this.)

The past couple of months God has been impressing upon me the importance of rest. And although physical rest is something that God clearly wants us to do, it is the spiritual rest that is paramount. Life-giving. In the midst of busy days like tomorrow, we are in danger of losing our tempers at best and our minds at worst if we are not quiet and at rest in the Lord. So, how do we get there? How do we get our minds to rest?

God instructs us to cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He also says that if we keep our mind steadfast on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Isn't that what we need? A healthy dose of peace? A mind at peace is a mind at rest. However, our problem, as outlined in Isaiah 30:15, is that sometimes we will have nothing to do with it. We continually lay our "stuff" down at His feet, start to walk away, then turn around and pick it right back up. We don't trust Him to take care of it. We worry about everything. What would happen if we woke up tomorrow morning, got on our knees in prayer and gave our day to God? What if we just said something like, "Lord, this day is Yours. Help me to accomplish the items on your agenda and let go of the items on mine. Help me to see that just because I think something needs to be done doesn't mean that You do. This is a day to spend with You and my family celebrating the blessings You have bestowed on us and we WILL do that. I resolve to trust your plan for the day."

This would free us up to enjoy the happenings of the day. The pumpkin pie didn't get made? Oh well, I guess we didn't really need it. Maybe someone's allergic. Every room of the house didn't get cleaned? Maybe another woman in the family needs to see that it's okay to have a little dirt in the house. Those kids simply won't cease barreling through the house at 90 miles a minute? Maybe I need to learn to lighten up and enjoy the innocence and joy of childhood. Mom didn't get picked up on time? Maybe she needed a lesson on forgiveness. Or patience.

Let's give it all to the Lord and then trust Him to take care of things and work out His plan. He's always doing something. Can we just let Him do it? Wouldn't it be so much easier to just let Him be God and stop pressuring ourselves to fill that role? Let's sit back and watch Him do His thing. Who knows? Maybe if we're still enough we might actually get to see Him at work instead of missing it because we're trying to do His job.

"Father, we thank you for an opportunity to rest and enjoy our families. We ask that we would be able to be still and quiet, trusting you to run the day ahead of us. Help us to remember that you've got everything under control and to find rest in that. We love you. Jesus, thank You for your sacrifice for us and the freedom it provides. In Your name we pray, amen."

Nov 13, 2007

How Much Fruit?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

As I sit here at my computer staring blindly at the blank page waiting to be filled, God reminds me anew that He is the source of all good things in me. This week has been one of slight personal struggle, and I confess, I have reacted to my trials by pulling away from spending time with God. Interesting that this follows on the heels of my devotional last week encouraging us to make it our goal to know God more intimately. Anyway, I digress.

I have known all day that I need to sit down and type up this post, but I could not figure out what it was I wanted to say. Usually, I am feeling particularly passionate about a lesson God has given me and I can’t wait to get it out. I decided I needed to pray and ask God what He wanted (duh).

“Father, I know I have not spent time with You as much as I should. I’m sorry. But these ladies are depending on me to get out a devotional tonight, so could you please tell me what to say?” I left off what else I was thinking: “and hurry, please. I need to get this done before Cooper wakes up from his nap.”

Still. . .nothing. Shocking, I know. I plodded on, deciding that I would write about a subject that God has been talking to me about for a couple of months. However, after I managed to painfully put a few words together to compose the first sentence, I had nothing else. A vast vacuum of nothingness. It was as if someone had turned my brain completely off. Stringing together words and phrases in an effort to give us something to ponder has been a joy to me and all of sudden, I was incapable of putting words to thought. It was at this moment that God reminded me that anything that He wants done through me will come from Him, not me. Not only will the command come from Him, but the ability to carry it out will also.

So often we get instruction from the Lord and we take it and run. We devise an action plan, implement strategies, and get going. And we are successful for a time. We are in His will. We are seeing fruit. But, inevitably, the moment comes when we realize we have done everything we can do in our own power. We hit a wall. Maybe you get assigned a task that you are completely untrained or ill-equipped to handle. Or maybe you are forced to work closely with someone who you, quite frankly, despise. Maybe, someone you feel you have been sent to help, is starting to look like they are beyond help at all. Or maybe, like me, your creative juices just dry up. Our plan starts to unravel, and we start to doubt whether we are really called to this place at all. Yes, we have seen fruit, but we begin to imagine it withering on the vine.

“Maybe I misheard God. This is too hard and I have no idea what I am doing. Maybe He didn’t really call me here.”

“I knew God calling me here was too good to be true. Obviously, I’m not succeeding anymore; everything is stagnant. I need to move on.”

It is at this exact time that God is calling us to turn to Him. He is whispering, or maybe with some of us yelling, “You cannot do this on your own! You need Me! If you will let me do this through you, the results will be astounding!”

God tells us that it is His will for us to bear much fruit (John 15:8), but He also tells us in verse 5 of this same chapter that we cannot do it if we are not remaining in Him. In the original language, remain has two synonyms that I find extremely interesting:

1. to stand
2. to wait for

How often do we stand and wait for God to give us further direction? How often do we hear only the first step and hastily bolt out the door confident that we know what to do from here? We know what we're doing, after all. Ladies, we must pause. We must listen. We must stop thinking that we know how to do it all. (Don't you hate that it always comes back to that?) We need to take our humility pill and admit that we need God to not only give us the what, but the how, where, and when as well.

God has a great plan for you, a unique way for you to do His work. And it will be the most fulfilling work you've done. But it is His plan, not yours. His way, not yours. Your way may produce a little fruit, but His produces much. And it is fruit that lasts (vs. 16).

Resolve today to stand, wait, listen, and then obey. When you do, your branch will begin to bend under the weight of new fruit. Mmmm. Do you smell that? Smells like grapes.

Father God, thank you for your patience with us. Thank you that when we rush ahead of you, trying to do things on our own, you are still there waiting to catch us when the fall comes. Thank you that you have everything under control and that your plan is good. Help us to wait on you, to trust you with the timing and the details. Thank you that we even get to be a part of your work here on this earth. Amazing. We love you. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Nov 6, 2007

The Narrow Door

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”
Luke 13:23 – 27

This portion of scripture makes me a little uneasy. Uneasy for our church community. At first glance, we can mislead ourselves into thinking that the people outside of the door here are only those people we consider “non-believers” or “atheists” or whatever we would like to call them. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear to me that He could also be speaking of the person sitting next to me in church. Of the sweet lady who serves in the children’s ministry or the man who greets me as I walk into the door to the sanctuary. Of any one of us who does not “know” Him. Know Him. What does that mean? If not knowing Him is going to keep me out of the gates of Heaven, I need to know what that looks like. Surely those attending church and serving endlessly and selflessly know Jesus. Surely the smiling grandma who welcomes my son into Sunday School each Sunday knows Jesus. And honestly, yes, they probably know Him in a salvation sense. They've probably asked Him into their hearts and will spend eternity with Him, and that is what Jesus was talking about here. But it got me thinking. Is that all that God desires of us? A knowledge that saves us from hell? Or does He want more for us?

Interestingly, two of the synonyms (or synonym phrases) for the original Greek word translated as know here are :

1. a knowledge grounded on personal experience
2. a knowledge obtained by proximity to the thing known

Do we know Him? I mean, really know Him? Are we experiencing Him in a very real way in our lives? Are we getting what I like to call “down and dirty” with Him? Are we asking Him the hard questions? Are we bringing Him our gut-level concerns and fears? Saying with our mouths what is really going on in our hearts? Are we being real? And are we in close proximity to Him? Allowing Him to speak into our hearts? Quieting ourselves enough to hear Him? Spending quality time with Him? Or are we just too busy for a real relationship with Him?

Knowing Jesus is much like knowing our best friend or our spouse. We spend time with them talking, laughing, crying, and sometimes just listening. We know what makes them tick. We know what makes them joyful and what burdens their soul. When my husband walks into the room from his ministry job, I know exactly how his time went. How? By the way he holds his head, the look in his eyes, the pace of his gait. I have spent so much time with him that I know what every look means and what's really behind the words that he speaks. Many times I can even finish his sentences. Do we know our Savior like that? Is our goal everyday to know Him and love Him a little more than yesterday or are we “trying to enter” into Heaven by serving, doing, striving? Yes, we are called to serve and to do it well, but what is our motivation? Are we serving out of obligation or because we feel like it’s a good thing to do “for God”? Are we serving and calling it a relationship with God? Sometimes we can have a relationship with serving God but not have a relationship with God alone. Let’s resolve to know our Lord and Savior more intimately than we know anyone else. To allow him into our lives so that when we finally gaze upon His face, we recognize Him. We are able to run to Him and embrace Him like a friend we have not seen in years. Because that is what He will be…a friend.

Lord, thank you that you do call us friends! Help us to really see you as our best friend and treat you as such. Thank you that you care about every part of our day from rising in the morning to lying down to sleep at night. We know that you actually enjoy being included in our activities, so please help us to invite you into them. And help us to make our relationship with you REAL. We're sorry for treating you as some far-off, impersonal being. Teach us to know you and invest in you. We love you. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Nov 1, 2007


“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”
2 Corinthians 11:14

There are two precious, dare I say sacred, days of the week that I set aside for writing. They are sacred because they are the only designated large blocks of time carved out where there is no bright-eyed 3-year-old pulling on my sleeve, staring up at me with Precious Moments eyes and sweetly begging, “Mommy, I love you. I just wanna be with you.” I can rarely resist pulling that pleading child into my arms and, thus, giving in to his demands. My days are filled with library trips, marble games, Hot Wheels adventures, and stick-fighting. Consequently, the rare times that I get to sit down with my coffee, my computer, my Bible, and my thoughts are held with a pretty tight fist. So, today when I arrived home from dropping my son off at pre-school and my husband looked at me with Precious Moments eyes and sweetly begged, “Can I get some time with you today?” my internal dialogue was…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing it was internal. I know, I know…I am blessed to have a husband who wants to be with me. Yes, he is willing to put aside his work for an hour; I should be too. All of this I know. But, all my mind was saying was, ”It’s my time! I only get it twice a week! Why can’t he leave me be and let me get things done!” And as these thoughts ran through my head, God reminded me that next to my relationship with Him, my relationship with my husband was the most important. So, I resolved to finish what I was doing at the time and then give the man what he wanted: my precious time. I know…my attitude could have used a little adjusting. Do you know what happened? That time was some of the sweetest we’ve had in the past few months.

As I came back to my computer, to a cold cup of coffee by the way, it hit me that if I would have let my perceived busyness dictate my actions today, I would have missed out on receiving the much needed love I need from my husband. And he would have been left with a longing unfulfilled. You know, I think Satan is really good at feeding us lies and making them sound believable. Of course he is; he’s the father of lies. It’s what he does. I actually believed that I was too busy today to spend time with Lou. The LORD has been impressing 2 Corinthians 11:14 on my heart the last few days. Satan will put things in our way to switch our focus from God’s best plan for our lives. As fine as writing about God and His word is, and as much as I am called to do it, it does not supercede my family. We have a tendency to think that if something we’re doing is good or noble or about God, it is from God. We need to remember that the enemy will throw good things in our paths to direct us away from the great things God has for us. Yes, I enjoy writing. Yes, I know it is something God has asked me to do. Will I let it keep me so busy and ministry-focused that I fail to fulfill the calling He has given me in my home? NO! Let’s decide today to put God and His plans first, not our to-do list. For it is in following Him in obedience that we find true soul-satisfying fulfillment and really, make the biggest impact on the world around us.

Father God, we are sorry for getting so busy that we sometimes neglect the people in our lives that need us the most. Please give us the discernment to know where you want us spending our time. And in hearing and following you, please help us to spread your love and the aroma of your Son to those around us. In His name we pray, Amen