Thursday, September 25, 2008

Someone Else got it! Awesome!

Check out this post on a book being released in the US that addresses the importance of living intentionally as The Church - as a lifestyle instead of a concept. “ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.”  This is exciting!  As I watch and read in the blogoshpere, as I watch the book releases, more and more I see that this is a concept being addressed in many different sectors of the church.  It is crossing denominational and cultural bounderies.  This idea of unity in Christ - the prayer of Jesus from John 17.... it is grabbing hold of people all over the place.  I want to yell "YES!" from the mountain tops!  Every time I see someone else get this... that we are ONE, that Jesus makes us One Body, His Bride... that we need to function like a body - together.... every single time someone else sees this and starts to do something about it - I get excited.  I want to cheer them on! YES!

One day, we will all get it.  We will all be worshipping and praising God in one accord, no divisions, fully mature, together.... and then He'll come.  Jesus will come back for us, His lovesick Bride!  YES!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The joy of a cold

It's been years since I have been sick. Then last week it was a stomach bug and now this week - a head cold. You might think that this would be something to lament but I am finding myself grateful for this illness. Ok, so the sneezing and coughing is not pleasant and I certainly don't want to spread the illness to others.... but to be honest, I have been too busy lately and have not been as disciplined with my time as I should be. This sickness has brought everything to a screaching halt. It's not that I am not going to work or doing the things that need to be done; it is just that worrying about stuff and over thinking stuff (my 2 biggest challenges in life) just seems to be too much effort. So that is just it. I have stopped striving and I am resting in Jesus..... just resting. What a wonderful Savior he is!

And even when I have the realization that this place of weakness and dependence is what He has called me to and if I was actually fasting like I know I should be that this illness would not have been necessary..... there is no condemnation. Only realization and understanding and acceptance. The peace and rest remain. How sweet and precious is the Lord's chastening.

So I am grateful for this sickness. Whateve it takes, God!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thoughts on a rainy day

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both." — James Michener

I read this quote this morning and I thought "that's it! that's what I keep thinking life should be!" But I look around me and see very few people who have mastered the art of living. Even in the Church, I see so many, myself included, who are filled with a sense of divine discontent and find themselves striving to find that illusive place of contentment in our circumstances.

"It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts" (Ecc. 3:13, HCSB).

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (Phil. 4:11, NIV)

"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:18, NIV)

The Word shows me that contentment and enjoyment of life are not only possible, but, it seems to me, required. So why are so many so discontent? As I read that quote from Michener this morning, it hit me: compartmentalization. That is the problem. We try to leave work at work when we are home, we're told to leave our personal lives out of work, our faith out of our politics, our politics out of our relationships and on and on... It's the old "divide and conquor" strategy! And we fell for it.

It's not supposed to be that way. God created us as whole people, with needs and desires and gifts in proportion to His design for each of us as individuals to fulfill His purpose for each of our lives. If we try and live in a way that minimizes certain aspects of who God created us to be, we live an unbalanced life. There is that word again: Balance. It is not a matter of balancing the compartments - putting more in one place and less in another, but removing the dividers so that our whole being can flow and balance out.

Who we are at home should not be different from who we are at work or at school or at church or in our recreation. That is something I learned concerning behavior, a long time ago. But I think it goes beyond that. It is a matter of where our heart resides. If we find contentment and peace in the presence of God and yet leave Him in our prayer closets or at church, then we have compartmentalized our life. If we are not bringing Him with us in every activity, every circumstance, we are missing a part of who we are - we have become unbalanced. Unbalanced people are less likely to make good decisions, more likely to fall.

So what is the answer? James 4:8 says, "Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]." (Amplified Bible)

I like how The Message puts it:
"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet."
James 4:7-10 (The Message)

It may start in the prayer closet, but we have to take it with us!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting Down to the Basics

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses the young, the simple and the unexpected to make profound, deep and meaningful points in our lives. This post by Randy Bohlender makes that point better than any I have read in a long long time. This is a beautiful picture of the child like faith and love to which we are called.
It also brings up a subject that has been on my heart for a while now - balance. I think that there are seasons when we focus so intently on serving in our churches, in our work and/or in our communities that our reach exceeds the depth of the roots that keep us grounded. This is when burnout can creep in. Then we admonish ourselves with scriptures like "Do not weary of well doing" and thoughts like "if I don't do it, it won't get done" and other things that on the surface may be true (of course scripture is always true within the context) but they can keep us from focusing on the real issue of relationship with Jesus instead of doing things for Him...and all of a sudden we find ourselves drowning in a sea of frustration, bitterness and self pity...wondering how we got here. We are out of balance. We have been doing so much that we haven't had the time to rest either physically or spiritually. We can look back and see that our prayer time has gradually gotten shorter, time spent in the word has decreased. And we have plenty of excuses. We are all experts at justification!
This is the real battle ground: the mind. It is what we choose to think about that determines our feelings and our actions. When we do not choose to spend time focusing our minds on the Word, on the person of Jesus Christ, learning to take every thought captive, we make ourselves easy prey for the enemy to come in and distract us with slightly twisted versions of the Truth. It is almost never something that is easily seen (otherwise we wouldn't be deceived). It is those "close to the truth" thoughts that get us one degree of track. We don't notice the deception at first because it is so close to the truth. But as we travel down the path of life, that one degree difference pulls us further and further from where God wants us to be.
So often that slight deviation comes in areas of our passions in ministry. For those with a heart for service, we over commit. For those with a heart for intercession, we can lose our heart for being Jesus' hands and feet in the natural. For those with a passion for evangelism, we can forget to disciple the very people we so passionately went fishing for. If we neglect our relationship with the one for whom all of our passions and desires originate, we are like a tent with posts that have never been hammered in to the ground. And the larger the tent, the deeper the posts need to be. And if you want to go deep, you have to get back to the basics: Spending time reading the Word, spending time in prayer, studying the Word, fasting, tithing, serving. This is the only way I know of to guard my mind against deception. It is the only way I know of the stay in Balance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The hardest part of parenting, so far

It's been busy since we got back from vacation. It's not been that I haven't had anything to say, just a lack of time to really put thoughts together in a cohesive way. I also think that maybe I was trying not to think too much. Getting Corwin ready to go to school became a series of things to do, a way of being busy enough not to deal with the reality of him leaving.
I really don't know why this has been so hard for me. But the bottom line here, is that it has been and still is.
As we were getting ready to say goodbye this weekend, there came a time when I was almost overwhelmed with the urge to punch my son in the arm. Now, I am NOT a violent person, so this was really one of those "out of nowhere" feelings. I realized that there was this part of me that was angry at him for being so smart and getting into a good school that took him away from us for the next 5 years (dual major in engineering and physics - it takes an extra year). That was bizarre enough to almost make me laugh. And no, I did not hit him :)
My biggest dilema was how to tell a son who is uncomfortable with displays of emotion how much I love him and not only love, but like! I really like the young man my son has become. He has an air of confidence without arrogance, he is funny in a quiet way that sneaks up on you and leaves you laughing even hours later. He is strong and tender hearted, smart and frugal and compassionate. Sure he has his faults but all in all he is a great son and I am proud of him beyond belief! And I couldn't tell him any of this to his face. I would have cried and not been able to speak and then he would have been embarrassed and I would have felt bad for embarrassing him and it would have been a mess.
When it was time to leave, I needed to leave. The rest of the family took their good sweet time saying goodbye and it just about killed me standing there and not crying. This is truly the hardest thing I have been through as a parent. Saying goodbye to Amber, when she went to Master's Commission, was not this difficult. There was never a question in my mind or heart about our relationship. I knew she would be calling every day and she was only 2 and a half hours away. I missed her terribly, kept having to remind myself that she was not around, but it didn't hurt so much.
I am still trying to figure this out. I don't know if it is because Corwin is my only son, or simply a son, or if I have a different relationship with him than some moms or what. I don't love him any more than my girls.... I love them all with all my heart... how can you have more or less that all? But I miss him!!!! and it hurts.
At the risk of over spiritualizing this, it has gone through my mind many times over the last couple of weeks - how God must have felt sending His only son to this world, knowing what was going to happen to him, knowing what Jesus was going to go through. That must have been awful! There is comfort in knowing that, certainly, God understands what is going on in my heart, and a bit of amazement and guilt that I should be struggling at all, when I consider that Corwin is only a phone call away or 6 hours without traffic. It is not like I have lost a child or sent him off to war. It is college, for heaven's sake! But I miss him and it hurts.
A friend of mine, who has been through this 3 times, keeps telling me that it gets better.... not just that the pain goes away, but that the actual relationship gets better. That there is a transition from parent-child to friend and it only happens through the separation process. I am clinging to that thought! I am choosing to believe this. So there it is.
It all comes back to this one thing: Faith. Do I trust God with my son? Yes, of course. He is God and He gave me Corwin in the first place. I am only his caretaker. Corwin is on loan to me. I get that. Do I trust God with my heartache? Yes. He has proven to me over and over again that He will see me through anything. And I KNOW that He will see me through this too! But it still hurts and I miss my son.