"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jumped on

Sometimes the words just jump off the page and slap you in the face.

I was jumped on by God's word this morning. This is one aspect of the Scriptures that I love, although the words jumping out at you are not always an easy slap. Today's slap hurt a bit.

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" were today's jumping words.

I often start my time before God in confession and repentance. After a time of worship and adoration it is good to bring before the Lord my heart and ask for His light to shine. This morning was no different. I was agreeing with the Lord in repentance this morning as His light shone brightly into my pride, my judgemental attitudes, my gluttony and my worry.

Certainly none of these sins are new to me. Unfortunately the list of sins is similar week to week and month to month. Oh, Lord have mercy! My heart cries out and I ask for His faithful love to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. He promises to do this and I can rely on Him as the Rock of my salvation (it is a beautiful thing I don't have to stand on me, or my works for my salvation!).

So, I truly received forgiveness once again for my crimes against Almighty God. What a gift we have in the blood of the Lamb, my brother, my Savior Jesus!

After a time of confession, I turned to my assigned reading and whammo! bam! off the page jumps these words... as God's heart speaks to my heart.

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance". These words spoken by John the Baptist are directed at the Pharisees in Matthew 3. I am not a Pharisee. I am a child of the living God. I am forgiven and set free. So, what do these have to do with me? Everything.

I believe John was inviting to Pharisees to do something they simply could not do. They couldn't produce fruit!

When I repent from worry, I simply CAN NOT produce the fruit of peace that is "keeping with" my repentance. When I confess the sin of gluttony, I can not produce the fruit of self control that would be "in step" with my repentance. I can't make self-control happen in my life. Certainly there are things I can do to strengthen my faith, to exercise my will, and to work the "muscles" of right choices; but, I can not make myself joyful, peaceful or full of love instead of judgement.

The only One who produces good fruit is the Spirit of the living God. I have to rely on Him!

Abide in Him. Rest in Him. Rely on Him. In Him is Your salvation. Keep in step with the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit.

From a Spirit-tree comes Spirit fruit... from a flesh tree- comes flesh fruit. I can not produce Spirit fruit. Only He can... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience... and self-control.

John the Baptist mentions this as well in Matthew 3. He explains that the baptism he was offering was only repentance. But, One better was coming that would baptise them in the Spirit of God!

Repentance isn't enough. We repent all the time. We turn from our sins, we turn toward God... and then whoops... we turn back. And on goes the cycle. Have mercy on us, Lord. But, God offers us more than just repentance. He offers us fruit that keeps with our repentance. He offers us life and freedom. It is when I turn from my sins and then walk filled with Him where I find this life and freedom. This is where I find fruit in keeping with repentance.

It certainly doesn't mean try harder, Steph. It doesn't mean squeeze really hard and pop! out of your life fruit might emerge. No! It means surrender. It means keep Your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of Your faith. It means keep in step with the Spirit and rely on Him. Listen to His promptings and rest on His strength. This alone will produce fruit in keeping with your repentance, Steph.

Off the page, they jumped and slapped me in the face. What a gift!

Thank you, Lord for Your Word. Thank you Lord for Your faithful forgiveness. Thank you, Lord for the gift of Your Spirit. It is He that will lead me into all truth and righteousness. It is in Him I will find freedom and rest. Fill me today a fresh with Your Spirit and produce in me, O Holy Spirit of God, the fruit that is in keeping with my repentance. For Your glory alone, Father!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Like a good ballet

Our team has the fun opportunity to attend the ballet, The Nutcracker, this Christmas. I am very excited! I absolutely love a good ballet. I love to watch a well danced ballet...

I have watched and participated in a "good ballet" this past few days. Our team danced well this last week. It is so great to "do life" and work with a team. I so see God's wisdom in making each member of His body different and with different roles. I am so aware this morning of why He gives us each other. When working well, the Body is a beautiful thing!

Team is not always easy, of course. Just like our physical bodies... when one part isn't functioning well the whole body is affected. As it is with the Body of Christ, when one part... or two parts together are not working well together, then what an unhealthy mess we can be! But, when functioning well and within our gifting the Body can be beautiful.

Like a beautiful ballerina dancing her debut solo performance. She is well trained, physically fit, and well practiced. She understands the choreography, the staging, the lighting and the music. The stage is well staffed with the props she needs, her dressing room with outfits and people to help her change, and the lighting is adjusted just so. The orchestra knows exactly the timing and the notes that need to be played,... when to pause, when to begin. All this and so much more allow the one ballerina to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy solo with ease and grace. Now, give this girl a chest cold, a broken foot, a missing outfit, a wrong size in her ballet slippers, a violinist off beat, a broken light bulb or a bad conductor and you get a different picture. This is team--- one way or the other.

Our team danced well this week. We had guests come. These were really our guests, requesting time with my husband and I... and so our team didn't really have to "do" anything. These guests were really our responsibility to care for. There were no "musts" when it came to our team's involvement. But, man!, this family wouldn't have received half the care (maybe more than half) without the help of our team. What a blessing the Body of Christ is when working together! What fun to perform together a good ballet before our Father.

Father I am grateful for my brothers and sisters. I am grateful for Your wisdom in making us a Body. Help us to glorify You as our head as we function well, as we love each other well and as we work together well. Be honored and glorified, Lord in our team.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Art of Lying

I was lied to the other night. He wasn't very good at the art form or at that moment, in particular, I saw through it as clear as day. But, I was clearly lied to. All in brotherly love, right?...

We Christians have mastered the art of lying. We lie to each other all the time and then we spiritualize it away and call it "being sensitive", "sacrifice" or "service". I was lied to probably four times yesterday. I could see it in his eyes. I could see the lie in his eyes as his words said one thing, "yes", but his heart was reeling against the request. We lie to each other all the time. I, too, lie.

What are we doing exactly? Dr. Cloud talks about the Christian (or human) tendency to "manage the emotions of another person". So, I discern what that person wants me to say, or wants me to feel, or wants my answer to be... and then say that thing, do that thing or answer that way. Some of us do this better than others. Some of us do the discerning better. Some lie better or cover up their true feelings better than others. Unfortunately, I can do them all well.

These last few years it has been a deeply personal goal of mine to stop this ugly habit and live my life honestly, not managing other's emotions or responses. This is not easy. When you attempt to do it... you say "no" more frequently and you don't "agree" with that piece of gossip that would be natural to just wag your head up and down and say "interesting... or uh, huh..." Interestingly enough, when you try to do this some people don't trust you. Strange as it sounds you get the questioning look more often. It is clear you have stopped playing by the rules. This is confounding to some and off putting to others. Those that are particularly good at this art form are trying their darnedest to discern if you really mean that "yes" you said or just saying it. What in the world are we doing to each other!?

The other night we offered a favor to a friend. As honestly as I can say, it was a genuine offer of help on our part; but, they had a question in their face. You see we lie to each other so much that any real, genuine offer of help is questioned... they are now trying to manage my emotions and figure out if I really want to help or if I am just saying so... Oh how this lying has corrupted our trust of each other!

We tell each other enough stories of how we have been "taken advantage of" and we offer enough fake help that all of us are constantly assuming that others are doing it as well. We just lie to each other.

Now, as I write this, I am aware of people who proudly refer to themselves as "straight forward" and are actually just unkind, selfish, mean and lacking in verbal self control. I am not talking about that. I am not talking about being careful with our words and choosing when to speak truth. I am not talking about our admonition in Scripture to speak truth in love. I am not talking about the "yes you look fat in that dress" comments that are unproductive and unnecessary. I am not talking about those who are selfish, don't ever serve and call it "good boundaries", either. Certainly we all need to grow in serving... truly serving with right attitudes!

I am talking about the person who lied to my face last night when he said, "yes" and really didn't want to help. I am talking about the person who I had to convince last night that I was genuinely offering help... and she didn't need to question my motives, my emotions or my offer. It just isn't spiritual to offer help or compassion when the act or the words will be complained about later to a safe spouse or friend. It is just wrong. It isn't Christ like to say yes to everything. It isn't right to say something your heart does not mean in a effort to manage another's emotions, to have them like you or to "be" Christ like.

Maybe this means that some of us need to have a change of heart and want to help more, as Christ served. Maybe this means that some of us need to stop lying and not feel obligated to serve when it is not what God is calling us to do. Even as I write this it sounds so scandalous.

I can speak so candidly on the subject because I, too have mastered this Christian art of lying. This learning curve has been a steep one for me... and I am still learning.

Oh Lord help your Church to stop lying to each other. Help us to follow your example, Christ, and to do that which you see your Father doing. You said "no" often and you said "yes" often and you truly meant it each time. You never lied, Lord. Teach us. Teach me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What about me!?

Who's taking care of me? This was the cry of my heart, this morning. A selfish cry? Yes! But a genuine, heart-felt cry from deep within as I juggled the normal... breakfast, laundry, phone call, email, early morning prayer meeting, time with the Lord?, children, dog, husband, upcoming guests... I woke up this morning bombarded by needs. What about me? I just wanted to get back into bed and sleep another hour.
When I sat down to pray... I just began to tell the Lord exactly how I was feeling. I love that my Father in Heaven is not burdened, upset, worried or shaken by my emotional well-being. His throne, His crown, His very being is perfectly stable regardless of how I am feeling! It is such grace to remember this. I can rant and rave and cry and stamp my feet a bit... and He is unmoved. Not that He doesn't care for me and not that His heart is not filled with compassion, I believe it is. But, my emotional make up any given morning does not affect His well being. What a blessing!

So, I told my Dad how I was feeling and He listened. Did I feel Him listening right away--- no! I was feeling grumpy, selfish and angry. I wasn't feeling His presence at all. But, after a time of telling and then sitting and then remembering... and His presence was more distinguishable. I knew exactly what my heart needed. I needed to worship and give thanks. My heart needed to look up and out a bit. So, I began to thank Him. It isn't hard once you get started. There are so many blessings! He has given me so much and has cared so well for me. He has been so good, so kind, so sweet to me. It is amazing what thankfulness can do for a selfish heart!

And then the sweet words began to flood my heart and mind... "in repentance and rest is your salvation". "Restore the joy of my salvation". "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty". Ah! His rest. He, Himself is my care-giver. He is my refuge and the One who gives to me. He gives strength to the weary and makes those tired mount upon wings like eagles. He never tires. He never sleeps. He takes care of me and He is a good and loving Father.

O kind Father, thank you for Your sweet love and care. Thank you for Your word and Your grace. You have strengthened me and given me hope. You have restored the joy of my salvation and given my heart rest. I am still tired, Lord. I need You to carry me. Thank you for Your limit-less love and grace. I choose to dwell in You today and rest in Your shadow.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lavished chocolate... lavished grace

Where in the world is the cookie? This was my thought as I saw the mountain-pile of chocolate icing in front of me. I assumed there was a cookie amidst the mound of chocolate, but it was certainly undetectable to the eye! Last night, my children used left over chocolate icing to decorate and ice some sugar cookies. If you have ever allowed children to ice cookies on their own... and then encountered their proud works of art after the fact, you know what I witnessed last night. Absolutely all sugar cookies were almost entirely engulfed and lost under the lavished chocolate icing. Living out the motto: if a little is good, a lot is better... my children lavished the cookies with lots and lots of chocolate. And, I won't even begin to describe the lavished colored sprinkles that adorned the chocolate mounds.

This was the picture that came to mind this morning as the preacher read from Ephesians chapter 1 and I began to think on the word "lavished". "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

We can only lavish from that which we have a lot of... abundance is a must. We must have much in order to pour out much, to pour out lavishly. We must have wealth in order to lavish. Webster defines "lavish" as giving without limit. A limit-less supply is required to give lavishly. My children lavished chocolate and sprinkles. We had loads of both and still had left-overs when they were done with the cookies. They could lavish.

God tells us in Ephesians that the forgiveness of sins, through the blood of Jesus, came from God's riches and His wealth. God is wealthy in what? God is wealthy in grace. He is rich in grace. What a thought! He has abundance of grace... plenty. And it is from this wealth of grace that He lavished His grace, redemption and forgiveness on us. His grace is limit-less.

We didn't have enough cookies to satisfy the riches of chocolate icing. We ended up with many mounds of chocolate covered sugar cookies. ...

There are simply not enough sins that I could commit that would spend God's riches and grace-wealth. A sinful, wayward and unworthy girl... lavished in grace, covered in precious blood, decorated with love and sprinkled with forgiveness. Oh the God we serve! Oh the Heavenly Father that calls us His own! Are there words enough to express Who He is and what He has done for us!?

Thank you Father for Your lavished grace, love, and mercy! I am overwhelmed with what You have given me, what You have done for me, and what You continue to do for me each day. Thank you Lord for Your wealth, Your riches, Your wisdom and understanding. Words simply could not express my gratefulness for Your gifts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Intention game

What does it really matter when I intend to do something and don't? I am reminded of the two sons that Jesus tells us about... one who says he will help and then doesn't, one who says he won't help and then ends up helping. What does it really matter when I say I am going to do something... and don't? Intentions don't really amount to much at all without the doing.

I have intended to exercises lately. Great. But, does that make any bit of difference in the actual health of my body... my intention? In fact, to be quiet honest, it can be argued that the intention without the follow-through is more detrimental than helpful. I am certainly conscious of my intentions. Therefore, when I don't follow through I know my failure keenly. Failure can bring discouragement. Discouragement can begin a cycle of the "fixing-it" heart techniques that include more good intentions. And, so the circle begins. The intention game begins.

I have intended to eat better lately. Fabulous, right? What do my intentions do for me exactly?...

I have intended to guard my tongue lately...

I have intended to pray more consistently throughout my day...

I have intended to read more... to shut off the television...

I have intened to not worry about this or that...

I have intended...

So, Christ asks the crowd, "What do you think?". He asks the crowd for their opinion regarding his story of the two sons. Which son did what the father wanted, he asks them. The answer is so plain. The son who actually does what the father asks is the son in the right.

I want to be the right son. I want to do what I intend to do. Why do I do what I don't want to do and can't seem to do what I want to do? Hmmm... sound familiar (Romans 7)? "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

So, my game of intentions is played and failed... oh, what a wretched one I am! Thanks be to the God and my Lord Jesus Christ!

Oh kind Father, help me to follow-through on my good intentions. It matters what I do and not only what I say, I know Lord. Forgive me, Lord when I fail. When I am like that one son who says "I will" and yet don't, please forgive me. Help me to do what I say I want to do, to do what I know you want me to do... give me Your strength, Your perspective and Your perseverance. Thank you for Your grace, mercy and unfailing love. I stand on it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do you want to get well?

When asked to imagine the scene in John 5... a great number of ill and disabled people surrounding a pool, I can almost feel a sense of sadness in my gut when looking on.

I have been in a dump where people live. When I was 15 years old I had the privilege to minister in this dump in Central America. It isn't a pretty sight. Many times in my life overseas I have seen, walked by, been touched by a invalid beggar at the bazaar or on the street. I have seen them in Guatemala, Kazakhstan and Turkey and they often look the same. Rarely moving from the same spot they are filthy, smelly, barely clothed with sometimes desperate or sometimes hollow-looking eyes.

When I wonder at the scene that Jesus saw in John 5, I don't have to go far in my imagination. I have seen it. I have watched these least ones just sit on the ground and wait. What are they waiting for? A coin in their cup? A kind glance? A harsh word or abuse? A piece of bread?

The scenes I have witnessed are just sad and hopeless. They sit and sit and wait... What are they waiting for? These ones I have seen are waiting for something... but, certainly they are not waiting for healing.

The man that Jesus sought out that day was certainly not waiting for healing. He was stuck in one place, unable to move forward, unable to find health. He was just sitting there. I had to read the passage twice to catch the amazing fact that Jesus went to him. Unlike other stories where the sick have come to Christ, where the blind have yelled out "Son of David have mercy on me!", this story has Jesus enter the invalid's world and seek him out. Jesus himself approaches this man. He walks into this dank, dirty and stench filled "world", asks about the man and approaches him. He then asks the man a simple question, "Do you want to get well?"

Are you kidding, Lord?! Of course, he wants to get well!! Is this a joke? Is this the question you ask a hopeless, disabled person after almost 40 years of illness? Does he want to get well? ... but, this is the question that Jesus, my kind brother, asks this sick man... "Do you want to get well?"

When I read the question this morning, it stopped me. I stopped and sat with a deep sigh... Do you want to get well? Christ asks.

In answer to this odd question, the man does not say "Yes!" In fact, he doesn't really answer the question that Christ asks. He answers a different question... Why are you not well? Why are you ill? or something of the sort. What is the man's response to the Lord? What is his tone of voice? When he begins to explain why he can't or hasn't gotten better... what does his tone of voice sound like? Is he defending himself? Is he annoyed? Complaining? Does he have a child-like whine to his voice... Ah, Dad, this is why I did this or that? Or is it just sadness, a wavering, unsure voice? What does his voice sound like when he explains, "this is why I can't get well!!"? I don't know.

But, I do know my Brother's response to this man. Jesus says, "Get up. Take your mat and walk". Simple words. Simple to read, simple to say, simple to understand. But, for an invalid... impossible to do! "Get up", Christ says. It reminds me of His words to the wind and the waves, "Be still." He says "Be still" and the winds go silent. It reminds me of the "Let there be Light" words spoken over creation. The words are spoken and then bam! there is light. In this story, Jesus says to this man, "Get up" and the man is instantly healed. One word from the Lord and he is healed.

And then Jesus slips away... why did he leave? Again, I am puzzled by my Saviors behavior. Jesus leaves the man. But, the story doesn't end there. We leave the man and end up at the temple. We are no longer at the dirty, dank and dark pool at Bethesda. We are now at God's temple and the man is there! I love that! He went to the temple. He was healed and then he went to the temple. Even though people were criticizing him and questioning him, he still went to worship. It says that Jesus found him at the temple. I love that our Savior goes out of his way to find this man... like He has nothing better to do! I love that! And when Jesus finds the healed-man he says to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you". Wow. Those are intense words.

In Scripture it is clear that NOT all illness is from sin. But, it is equally clear that some illness IS from sin. Was this why Christ asked that question, "Do you want to be well?" Was it the man's sin that was keeping him from health? Was it his doubt that he would ever be well? Was it his lack of courage to fight for wholeness? Was it worry? Was it fear? Was it a victim mentality that left him sitting on the mat and not trying, not choosing health? Was it these sins you were prodding, Lord Jesus? Again, I have no idea.

But, Christ clearly says... continued sin will lead to an illness far worse than you have ever known. OH how this is true in our lives. When we have learned to trust and then choose to not trust... ah, the sickness in our hearts. When we have learned to not gossip and we choose to let our tongues wag loosely, oh! man the sickness in our hearts... When I know what to do that is right and I do not do it... oh! the brokenness. Like an invalid, I plop down on my mat and chatter about why I am not well.

I can make you well, Jesus says. Do you want to get well? Okay, then, Get up! I can make you healthy and whole, he says. Do you want to stay healthy? Great, then stop sinning.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for going out of your way to find us. Thank you for knowing us and for being an initiator AND a responder. You initiate with me and you respond to my cries. Thank you for knowing exactly where I am. Thank you for healing me. Thank you for your healing words, your healing touch, your healing presence. Yes, Lord, I want to be well! I want to stop sinning, stop being fearful or worried. I want to get up from these old patterns, this "mat" that I can sit on, and I want to continue to walk forward in freedom and health. I am not a victim of my personality, my upbringing, my circumstances or my temptations. I can get up and walk... make my way to the temple to worship you! I love you, Lord. Thank you for your Word!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eye lookin in...

Really, I am such a mixed bag.

I am strong and weak. I am faithful and lazy. I am kind and I can be mean. One minute I am full of faith--- genuine and real faith, and the next moment I am doubting or fearful. I am a mixed bag.

We need to know ourselves. We are complex beings, no two-dimensional sitcom character, to be sure. We need to know who we are and what we are made of... the good and the bad, the mixed bag.

We need to be aware of how we have been uniquely created and gifted. We need to be in tune with our strengths and our victories. We need to know our individual temptations, our weaknesses and our wounds.

John Calvin once said, "True wisdom consists in two things: Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self."

I have definitely found that the more I get to know myself honestly, the more I am able to know God. I begin to see myself rightly and see God rightly when I know myself. He created me. He knows me. The more I know myself the more I know a bit more about my Creator, my Father. I see His hand and begin to see His mind when I truly see myself.

When I think of myself with sober judgement (in my right mind, with a right perspective), "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Romans 12:3, ... then I am able to assess myself, others and God more accurately.

All that said, there is a fine line between healthy introspection and "inward eyeballs". I think that I have been on the unhealthy side of this introspective looking-in this past week. When I look in too long without lifting up my eyes and heart to look at God, my inward lookin' eyeballs get unhealthy.

John Calvin does say there are two things that beget true wisdom... self knowledge and God-knowledge. Too much self knowledge and my balance is off. Paul does say in Romans that we have to look rightly at ourselves, in accordance with the faith God gives. So it seems, we must have our looking-in always illuminated by the light of God, His creative work, and faith given to us by Him. Any looking-in without God just becomes dark, bleak and hopeless.

David Benner has a wonderful little book called, The Gift of Knowing Yourself, that is truly priceless when it comes to this topic. He says,
"Knowing ourselves must begin by knowing the self that is known by God. The possibility of knowing yourself is grounded in the fact that your self is already known to God. ...Our identity is who we experience ourselves to be--the I each of us carries within. An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God"

Living as one deeply loved by God. Do I live this way?
When I look-in too long without a simultaneous Godward glance, I don't live this way... When I am looking in without eyes also looking out and up, I am walking in foolishness (not wisdom) and without a full perspective or wisdom.
This was God's heart message to me this morning. Steph, look out and up!
"Repentance and rest are your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength", His word came from His heart to my heart this morning. OH! yeah!
I can look within and see these weaknesses... and repent and then ...I can rest.
Repent and rest. What a great concept! And, then I can be still, quiet and strong as I trust Him. I can look up from the place of repentance and trust Him who is on the Throne.
I need to look in from time to time, yes! I need eyes lookin' in... but while looking within I also need to keep my eyes looking out and up at the one who made me, my kind Father.

Oh, Father keep my eyes on You, for You are high and lifted up!

Friday, November 6, 2009

His Liver to Mine

What comes out of our mouths, the words we speak, say so much about what is in our hearts. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly come from our hearts and spill out of our mouths. Our words mean something. When we feel strongly, when we think deeply, when we ponder and question... we try to share our hearts with others with words. With words we attempt to put vocabulary, sounds and/or symbols on a page that might somehow explain the truth that is deep within us. It is hard for me to grasp sometimes... but it is true for our God, as well.

In the Kazakh language they use an interesting phrase that has stuck with me since learning the language 10 years ago. When you love someone... you don't love them with your heart, you love them with your liver. You know that place deep within you that feels? You know that physical place in your gut that can actually feel anxious, or scared, or sad... Is it in your chest? Is it in your stomach or your gut? Where is it?

This place is your "heart". In Kazakh that place is your "liver" (bauer). We say we ask Jesus into our "hearts". What we are really saying is that from our deepest part, from the center of our being, from our gut... we are inviting Him in. We want Him to come and live in us, deep within us, ...in our "hearts" (our English word for it). In Kazakh we love our husband from our liver and we ask Jesus into our liver.

From my Father's depths... from His inner core, the center of God... from his heart, or from His liver, come His thoughts. Just like us, His feelings and His being spill out into words. The Word of God. It changes my heart toward the Scriptures when I remember this. When I open this book... this sweet book... I am reading something that has spilled out of God's depths, God's center. When I read His word I am reading His mind, His heart, His thoughts. I am reading what is in His gut. His words are from Him. His words are very real part of Him. His words are a part of Him, His very thoughts, coming forth from His mouth... to the page... into my eyes, into my mind and intended to penetrate my depths.

From His inner being... out His mouth and into my inner being... my heart. So, when I read, "He rejoices over you with singing!" (Zeph. 3:17), I don't have to wonder if it is true. When I read, "I am the Lord, there is no other" or " I will be with you always", I don't have to wonder or question what God thinks. I know it sounds funny to say, but I am struck with the fact that God himself believes it! He, Himself, is sharing the truth from His depths, from His center. It is Him coming forth from His mouth. What is in His heart, the words He speaks, say so much about what is in His heart.
...Or what is in His liver. His liver to mine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Puppy craziness

We got a new puppy. Yes, she is adorable and yes, my children are loving her... but, oh man!, I am about ready to tear my hair out! It is a good thing they are so cute, or she would have been seriously sold away on ebay to the highest bidder!

Seriously, though, in my frustration this morning as she yelped her way through my entire "quiet" time with the Lord, I cried out to my Father in agitation, "I don't see you Father! I don't see you in this puppy! What am I to learn here?!"

I am finding more and more that when I ask... and when I leave time to listen, ...He answers. Sometimes His answers are silence, yes... but not today. Loud and clear into my depths I knew the answer. Steph, this is about your heart. My heart needs a little work. Shocking, I know?! More heart work, Steph?! Yep and so it continues!

I knew I was upset by this little pup ...and more upset than need be. Always a good sign for a heart issue in my life... when the reaction far exceeds the problem. My reaction to this little sweet puppy's loud, yapping-antics far outstripped the necessary and normal frustration. I was mad. What is the word they use here--- manic. I was manic. What was up with this extreme response from my heart?! But, I knew the minute I asked the Lord...

The last year we spent in Turkey was a very difficult year for me. We had a neighbor directly below us (in an apartment) that truly and sincerely hated us. She made much effort and went to length to show us this during that last year. The anger she felt was really unexplainable... but she blamed it on our noise. We were apparently the noisiest folks she had ever come into contact with. Our family noise was a daily thorn for her. It was very difficult to live in this little apartment always afraid of being too noisy, constantly "shushing" our kids, and trying with all our might to make her like us. It never worked. There was simply nothing we could do (and we tried everything we could think of) to make her like us. She just was determined to dislike our family and to make that clear in many ways. So, all that said... my husband and I joke now that we experience a bit of "post traumatic stress syndrome" when it comes to noise and neighbors.

So, well... puppies are not exactly quiet! And yelping in the night and yelping in the early morning hours have brought a fair amount of angst in my heart. When I asked the Lord where He was and what He wanted to teach me in this "puppy" circumstance... the answer was clear. He put His finger on my heart and whispered, "fear of man".

Simply put, I was afraid of what the neighbors would think of me.

You see, I care entirely too much about what others think of me. I have always cared entirely too much about this and it has been a hindrance in my relationship with Him from the beginning.

I have sought another's esteem, rather than seeking His favor over me first. I have felt 'wrong' somewhere deep within when someone is angry at me, rather than believing His thoughts aboutme. Rather than walking in my Christ-secured identity, I have sought my "okay-ness" from others. This is not a new struggle... this is, by definition, a Stephanie-problem that has been around for a very long time. But, that has been changing. God's finger has been on it for a while now--- like a pressure point, He keeps pushing and poking.

Years of prayer and working on this issue and I feel ready (again) to lay it down. As I write this, the verse for today that pops into my inbox (no joke--it really is the verse for today and I just stumbled upon it in my inbox!) is Col 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man". Hmmm... think my Father has a message for me today?!

So, raising a puppy... does this count as "whatever you do?!" Can I listen to puppy yap and cry and not worry about bothering the neighbors? I believe that is what God is calling me to do--- as silly as it seems. Sometimes I feel silly bringing such small things to the Lord... I mean we are talking about a dog here, right?! And, then I read this afternoon in Job 39--- Do you know when the young mountain goat gives birth? God sees all things. His eye is on even the smallest, insignificant mountain goat giving birth. I feel confident that He is able to care, willing to care, about my puppy and me.

I believe He wants me to hand Him everything, again. I believe He wants me to release (again!) my reputation, my security, my everything to Him. I believe He wants me to live my life freely in Him, His thoughts of me, and in His call on my life. I believe He wants me to live in freedom. He wants me to live as unto Him.

So, Father I give you this sweet puppy. I give you the night time crying and the early morning yapping. I give you my neighbors and my relationship with them. ...all these things are yours! Even my "quiet" time is Yours! Father I release and surrender to your kind, big, powerful and loving hand.
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