Mar 25, 2008

Sink or Stand

Well, girls, I don’t know what else to tell you but that I’ve been struggling this past week. I think it has everything to do with getting out of my routine and putting my time with the LORD on the back burner. Mary Beth…funny that you highlighted this tendency in your comment last week and then I ended up stumbling into that exact trap! Ugh…I’m so dense sometimes it’s a miracle that God doesn’t just throw up His holy hands in exasperation. Anyway, I’ve come to learn that I have to spend regular time with God in order to feel “right”. Yea, I can go a day or two and be okay, but beyond that, if I pay close enough attention, I can see my attitude start taking a downward turn. Unfortunately, I don’t normally heed the warnings and soon I find myself exactly where I found myself this morning, downcast and discouraged. Cranky. Thank God I had enough sense to sit down and talk out some stuff with Him, but, hello! Why did it have to go that far? Geez. . .rebel girl.

I was talking about all of this with my friend, Aimee, last night and her response was poignant, of course. It always is. Thanks, Aims.

“Relationships take work, and you’re in one with Jesus,” she said.

Of course! Just like my attitude with my husband Lou goes south, I mean WAY south, when we’re not connecting, my outlook on Jesus does the same. Poor Lou; he puts up with so much. When we haven’t cut out quality time, for some reason, I begin noticing more of his negative qualities than his positive. In fact, I think I even turn his pro’s into con’s! And I noticed myself doing that exact thing with God. Truths I previously had no trouble accepting started looking questionable. I began to only see the problems instead of the wonderful successes God turned them into. I had taken my eyes off of God and focused them on the world. What happens when we do that? Take a look:

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake…Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ and when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:25-32

Peter was doing just fine while his eyes were on the Prize, namely Jesus, but as soon as he started looking at what was around him, he began to sink. When we choose to gaze upon the world alone, without balancing it with the presence of God, we begin to sink. It looks different for everybody. For me, it’s crabby girl. Sometimes it even manifests as fear. Maybe for you it’s feeling sad, exhausted, chaotic or easily overwhelmed. Possibly, you start pulling away from people and into yourself. Maybe it’s a longing in you that just doesn’t seem to be getting completely filled. Whatever it is, the answer is in the person of Jesus. Did you notice that as soon as Peter grabbed Jesus’ hand and climbed into the boat, the wind died down? Within the grasp of Jesus, suddenly the world was safer.

It’s easy to get off course; this world is harsh sometimes. It brings with it many obstacles. But if we’re attempting to navigate it on our own, we’re set to sink. Take His hand, daily, and keep yourself afloat.

Lord, thank you that simply being in your presence brings peace. Help us to be intentional about pursuing you and continue to teach us how to have a real relationship with you. We love you, Amen.

Just a couple of discussion questions:

1. What is your warning sign that you are beginning to sink?
2. What’s keeping you from spending quality time with God?

I love you, girls. Thanks for listening.

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Mar 17, 2008

Pass the Passion, Please

Yesterday I read a heartbreaking story of a woman named Amy, who, as a child, experienced significant emotional trauma. Not knowing how to effectively overcome her pain, she carried it into her adult life. After years of seeking out every source of help she could think of, she could find no peace. She shrank into a lonely, reclusive life and fell victim to her pain. One afternoon, she was found in her house, alone, having purposefully drunk herself to death.

A devastating story. But what was even more upsetting to me was that Amy had sought out the church. She had reached out to Christians for help, and there was no one who could effectively communicate the very real freedom and peace we have in Jesus. Maybe she was simply not in a place mentally to be able to receive it, but what if that wasn't the case? What if the people she reached out to just didn't have the answers? What if she could tell that the words of freedom spoken to her were just that: words? Have you ever been in her shoes? Perhaps you've had a very real problem and the advice you received was biblical, but the presenter had no passion behind it. Platitudes. Warm Fuzzies. This has happened to me many times, and I found myself thinking, "Does she really even believe that or is it just something she's been taught?" Unfortunately, it made it hard for me to believe the words. I'm also sad to say that I have been the passionless platitude speaker myself. I don't think we do it maliciously. I think we want to believe the promises of freedom, peace, and joy that we've been given, but we sometimes fall short.

I remember when I first started attending Beth Moore's classes in Houston. This woman taught with a fiery passion and sense of urgency that I had never seen. I could tell she believed what she was saying with everything in her. I've since realized this was one of the reasons I was so attracted to her teaching. It was real. She had been in the pit and watched her Father pull her out of the mire and place her high upon a rock. She gave me hope that if God did it for her, He would do it for me. Was there someone like Beth in Amy's life? I don't know. But here's what I do know: I want to be that person for the hurting souls in my life. I want to be so passionate about the freedom God has given me that the women around me would dare to believe that God would accomplish great wonders in them, too! I'm not claiming to have attained all that God wants to do in me, but He has done miracles. And it is my responsibility to share them. I want to be "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'prepare the way for the Lord"! (Luke 3:4) I want to be the one telling the Amy's of this world that there is a hope and His name is Jesus Christ. There is liberty in no other!

While Jesus was on this earth, He met a woman at a well and showed Himself to be God to her. She responded to this encounter by telling the people in her town about this Jesus. In fact, she was so excited that she left her water jar behind when she left! Here's the cool part:

"Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman's testimony." (John 4:39)

Amazing! This one woman changed an entire city with her passion. Because of her zeal for the Lord, the people around her were attracted to Him and He saved them. Don't you long for your testimony to do the same?

Ladies, we must stop settling for mediocrity. Our God is a powerful God who performs mighty wonders in us. Let's start acting like it! The Amy's in your midst will thank you, and you just might save a life.

Father, you have done tremendous works in us, but sometimes, we don't see them. Open our eyes to the wonders you've performed and may we be awestruck! Turn our complacency into passion. A passion that can't be contained, that bursts forth from grateful lips. We love you. Amen.

I'm including a few discussion questions for those of you who would like to participate. I'll be checking and responding soon. And you all feel free to respond to one another. Love you all.

1. How am I pursuing freedom?
2. Do I believe what I say I believe, and if not, what am I doing to remedy that?
3. Looking at where I am now and where I have been, what has God done in me?
4. Am I excited about what He's done, or am I complacent?
5. Do I need to ask God to light a fire of passion in me?
6. Who is it in my circle of people that needs to see the passion of a life lived in freedom?

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Mar 11, 2008

Oh, the Humility!

Hey, gals. I was just doing a little thinking...I like to do that, ya' know. And I thought I would just throw something out there. Idea: tell me what you think. I'm thinking about shakin' things up a bit. Mondays: I post a Bible passage for all of us to read. Tuesdays: I share my thoughts on it (much like the posts you've been reading). But, I would also include a couple of discussion questions for you to comment on. That way, we could create a community of "cyber-friends" and support/ encourage one another. Besides, sometimes I get tired of hearing myself talk. I'd like to hear what y'all have to say. We could have a trial run for a few weeks and re-assess after that. honest (you know how I feel about being honest) and tell me what you think. Go ahead...go make a comment...I'm not going on until you do. Go!

Okay, now that you've put in your two cents, let's move on to Mary, Jesus' mom. I've just started doing some one-on-one discipleship with a couple of our high school girls, and we are going over women in the Bible. And who better to start with than Mary? I figure she's pretty important, being the mother of the Messiah and all. And let me tell you, watching her life lived out on the pages of scripture not only intrigued me; it convicted and challenged me. She was an incredibly humble woman who trusted her God completely, no matter in what circumstances she found herself.

Trust and Humility.

Two characteristics I continually have to battle for. They aren't natural are they? And I don't think they were necessarily easy for Mary either. You may remember that she was visited by an angel who informed her that she would soon be pregnant with "the Son of the Lord Most High". Her response wasn't, "Oh, I should have expected as much; I am such a holy and blameless woman." My guess is we wouldn't be studying her right now if it would have been! Anyway, after a moment of fear (comforting to know she was human and felt anxieties, too), Mary asked for some clarification since she was a virgin. Mr. Angel then proceeded to inform her that, of course, the Holy Spirit would be taking care of all of that. This seemed to be a satisfactory explanation for her and she simply said, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). Excuse me?! Mary, aren't you going to ask him the exact method and time line of said events? And what about your fiance? What are you going to say to him? Details, Mary, details! But, no. Complete trust. I'm not suggesting that she didn't have questions or concerns; I'm suggesting that she trusted her God and His love and "bigness" enough to take care of them. She didn't fret, insisting on answers to every "what if?" in order to assuage her fear. She chose to trust in the midst of the unknown. Ugh, now I'm forced to ask myself:

1. Am I willing to do the hard things for Christ? Am I truly serving Him or am I really serving myself?
2. Am I really trusting His plan, or am I questioning every aspect until I get enough answers to feel comfortable?

Difficult questions. Questions who's answers are great indicators of where we are with God in the faith department. I'm sorry to say that I wish my answers were a little different than they are.

Later in that same chapter in Luke, we get to witness Mary's humility as Luke records "Mary's Song", a hymn of praise to her God. It is here that we learn one of the secrets to true humility. Praise. Extolling God reminds us of who He is and that we are not Him. I don't know about you, but I would be in danger of thinking I was pretty amazing if I were chosen to bear the Savior of the world, but there's no indication that Mary went there. She, instead, chose to praise God, to put herself in right relationship with Him. Listen to her heart:

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state [humble origin or state] of his servant. . .the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name." vss. 46-49

She was thanking God for blessing her in the midst of her lowly circumstances. She knew that this was all from above and she was giving Him full credit, taking none for herself. Oh, I wish I were more like her, don't you? Luke also noted that throughout Jesus' life, his mom "treasured up" the things that surrounded her Son and pondered them in her heart. Interestingly, this "treasuring up" denotes an intense and careful protection. It was active. She worked at her humility. Are we doing the same? Our nature is to exalt ourselves, so are we actively working against it? Are we purposefully praising God so as to remind ourselves of His greatness? I have found a great way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. This is a discipline I have practiced in the past. It simply involves a nightly session of jotting down things in your day that you are grateful for. I would also pray and thank God for those things. Doing this reminds us that any good thing in us or our lives is from Him and has nothing to do with us (James 1:17). It also focuses our minds on Him and His love for us right before we enter into dreamland. It makes for a more peaceful night.

God is pretty clear on His views of pride and humility:

"Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar." Psalm 138:6

"This is who I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" Isaiah 66:2

To be intimate with and esteemed by God? Sign me up! Ladies, let's pursue humility. For, out of an accurate assessment of our smallness and God's bigness, trust is born. It's work, but anything worth having always is.

Father, help us to see your greatness and sovereignty and to be awed by your power. But also open our eyes to your deep love for us, your creation. Turn it all into belief and, thus, trust. We love you, amen.

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Mar 3, 2008

A Good Place

Hey, gals. Well, what do you think of the new design? Do you not totally love this picture? And the name it was given by its capturer is perfect: Good Place. Can't you just imagine yourself coppin' a squat right there on that bench to simply take it all in? And don't you just feel the stillness and peace in your soul as you do so? Ah, yes, it is a good place to be. As I spent some time sifting through endless pictures, I chose this one because I think it captures in picture form the place we want to be. The place of tranquility, rest, and beauty.

If you'll take a closer look, you'll notice the view appears through a break in an ancient wall. This wall is a ruin from long ago in Israel. It used to be strong and high, and now it lies broken and conquered. And from behind the rubble: wide open spaces. But, ages ago, you could only catch glimpses of this view for the wall. Don't we feel like that much of the time? We long for intimacy with a family member but feel an unexplainable "wall" between us. We meet someone, strike up a conversation only to find they have their "walls up". We so desire a closer relationship with Christ, but there seems to be some sort of barrier there. We see glimpses of the fulfilling relationships that could be, but we can't seem to attain the fullness of them. What is going on?

This is the heart of this blog site, my heart for you and me. Addressing the walls, the barricades, that keep us from the full life with Christ and His people and then breaking through them. The one I'm most passionate about we've discussed before: being real. So much of our freedom comes in learning how to do this. Our society is feeding us the lie that we must be something that we are not. That we must fit into some pre-set, assembly line-type mold created by the pretty people. Who are these people anyway? The individuals who get to decide what is acceptable, beautiful, and good? I'd like to give them a swift kick to the...whoa. Calm down, Misti. Anyway, this incessant drive we have to try to fit into this cookie cutter image of a good wife, mom, employee, child, etc. is slowly (or quickly if you're me) driving us mad! It also leads to anxiety, depression, and self-condemnation. God created us to be exactly who we are. Listen as David speaks of God's heart:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14

Have you ever knitted? It's not easy, nor is it quick. It's a lengthy process that takes commitment, concentration, and tenderness. One Christmas we were too poor to buy presents for our extended family, so I decided that I would learn to knit and create scarves for them all. Yes, even my brother-in-law received one (but he lived in the Windy City so I reasoned that a scarf would be a perfect gift). I expended extensive energies picking out just the right color and kind of yarn for each neckwarmer. By the way, have you been down the yarn aisle at your local Hobby Lobby lately? It's insane how many different textures, widths, and colors they have come up with. The feathery ones are my fave. Anyway, they all turned out beautifully if I do say so myself, but none of them were the same. My mom's was purple and sophisticated because purple is her favorite color and she would be wearing it to work. However, my grandmother's was pink and fluffy. She LOVES pink and comfort is paramount for her 90-year-old neck. Then there was my brother-in-law's. . .green, yet masculine (no feathers for him). The list could go on because I made quite a few, but the point is that each was hand-tailored to suit its owner. It was well thought out and special. This is the effort exerted by your Daddy when He created you! He thought about every detail of your being, whether physical, mental, or emotional. He then set out to knit you together and upon completion decided that you were very good. (Gen. 1:31) There is a reason you are the way you are. If you're anything like me, you have difficulty accepting certain qualities you posess. It's hard to realize that you are different and that sometimes people don't take too kindly to it. However, we are not here to be approved by the people. We are here to please God.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal. 1:10

You see, as long as we are trying to conform to and appease the individuals around us, we are stuck in a pursuit going nowhere, much like a hamster in an exercise wheel. People are fickle. One day you're in; the next you're out. Your only constant is the Lord your God. We'll find that in accepting and walking in who we are and pursuing only His pleasure, we will become the most effective servant for Him. And we will find ourselves sitting on that bench, looking out past the rubble of our former wall of self-condemnation into our wide open spaces of tranquility. A good place.

Daddy, thank you for your intention, your care, and your tenderness in creating us. Thank you that we are all unique and special to you. Help us to embrace who you've made us to be and to learn to love ourselves completely. Knock down our walls so that we may be free to look upon the fullness of your beauty. We love you desperately, amen.

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