Monday, April 29, 2013

"Ain't nothin' but a CHURCH thang..."

And THIS is the reason we love God's Church. It is such a gift when God shows you clearly the reason doing things His way pays off. More times than not- I ignore Him and feel the consequence, but WOOHOO for when we get it right! (Rare as that might be!)

This last year has been full of ups and downs when it comes to living with people. Whether it be "my people" that share my house, church folk, co-workers, or extended relations, I have felt more often the sharp slice of the old Proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" than any other time of my Christian life. And I honestly was pretty sick of the painful clashing! Who wants to have someone rubbing up on you- scratching away the rough patches, sharpening the dull spots to make you "edgier"? I know- it is meant to be an encouraging verse, but I am ready for the other kind of encouragement. Something that talks about fragrant roses and quiet, soothing creek beds or something. Can't anyone find me THAT kind of encouragement?
In all seriousness, having walking with my family through a tough time and watching the way people view you change so much: changing friends,changing ministry, changing stages; it was sometimes the last thing I wanted to do on any Sunday morning to walk into a church with people who were still the same and looked so together. I would much rather have walked on hot coals, drank a couple gallons of vodka, jumped off a bridge, got in a fist fight, you get the drift. In reality, I would have rather just stayed in bed and watched Little House on the Prairie episodes- but all those other things sound so much more dramatic.

More than anything, we struggled with the mantra: "The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" Proverbs 18:14 I read that so many times, I couldn't help but memorize it. I would tell God- "I just can't. I can't love anymore. I can't fight anymore. I WON'T." I'm sad to admit it.

 But God knows what we need better than we do. Where I thought sticking my head in the sand would be the best thing for me, He challenged me to "not forsake meeting one another with brotherly devoted to one another...encouraging one another...forgive each other..." SO many "one another" verses! Why couldn't we just ditch and run? Fly solo, be independent of others opinions, needs, feelings? "To each his own" thinking sounded really nice for awhile.
 Last week I had read a story- just chugging through my "assigned readings" on auto pilot- but one verse jumped out. In Luke 7, Jesus just finished healing some servant, and as He walked in to the city He saw a large crowd and a weeping mother carrying out her son in a coffin. She was an old widow, and this was her only son. This is the verse that couldn't be ignored:
"When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “[j]Do not weep.”
Oh, to think that God sees us, and feels COMPASSION for us in our sorrow!

 But Jesus didn't stop with that. Because He is God and can do whatever He wants, the passage goes on to tell us He brings the dude back from the dead and the guy sits up and starts chatting with everyone. Wah! Can you even imagine it?

This is what I love about God's word- it sounds like a fairytale story, but read on: "Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has [l]visited His people!” 17 This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district." (Luke 7:11-16) People saw this happen, people heard about it, were still alive to dispute it- and nobody did. I am sure many thought it was a trick, but the point is that they heard of it and the dude was walking around to collaborate it. Sooo good!

As I thought about the fact of a compassionate God, I felt ashamed that I so quickly distrust Him. So quickly give up and think He isn't paying attention to the little things that are "crushing" my spirit. I realized how little time I spend focusing on where I see God working. We have amazing friends. They have stood by us when they thought we were crazy. When they thought we were wrong. When they thought we were more a burden than a blessing. For every stinker, our church has two people who truly care. Who are committed to the gospel of Jesus and know that God saves lives, He changes hearts. My daughter and son are the most amazing two people and I see daily how God is growing them. My husband has stood by his family fiercely, in spite of his own struggles. A fellow blogger calls her son-in-law her "son-in-love" because she adores him. I can honestly say the same. I see my "son-in-love" trying so hard through sleepless nights, full time work, full time school, and I am thankful that he still shows up to church every week. No matter how he feels.
 It is a wonderful thing to recognize the support and love God's community can provide. In the midst of our troubles, I had several friends express their anger at church folk for what they saw as "punishment" for mistakes that many make. I saw friends leave, saying they were too bothered by how my daughter was treated. I listened to others debate all that was wrong with churches today. I felt it too. I know we are all ugly on the inside sometimes, and do and say hurtful things. My "advice-itis" has done it's own share of damage.

But what those who sit on the sidelines of church don't get to see, is the amazing things God can do through us- the worst of sinners. When we choose to take God at His word, believe that His ways are right even when it hurts, great things happen. Wow.
My daughter has a great big family of women who love her and will help her learn what it takes to do this marriage and mama thing for the long haul. My son and son-in-love have men who will call them out when they are slacking and show them how to step up when needed. Men who will show them how to love their wives and families with "never quit" strength. My husband has friends who understand him. It is almost too much to be thankful for.
(She's obviously found her hands!)
This last Sunday was the first time my little grandbaby- the little girl I will always call my "darling precious"- was awake through a good portion of church. I never get to hold her during church, but this week God gave me the chance. Oh, to see her sweet little face as she slept, hear her soft snores, and then see her big smile as she woke up to Pastor Scott's voice as he taught why GRACE matters. (Usually she just LOUDLY fills her pants while he's preaching!) To stand and sing "In Christ Alone" and watch her stare at the stage, taking it all in. To have a dear sister in Christ sneak over and ask for a turn, and to watch them sing and dance together. The "older women teaching the younger" ALREADY! Just like the book of Titus talks about. THAT is what is great about church! That is the reason God says we are to "do church", even when it's hard.

When I was little and stressed or sad, my dad use to always blow things off by teasing us and saying "It ain't nothing but a thang" and doing a little "Blues Brothers"-type hand jive. All day yesterday, I just kept hearing his deep voice saying:
 "It ain't nothin' but a Church thang."
 I'm so glad God didn't let me jump ship when I wanted to. Because church is a pretty cool "thang".

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:2-5
(Somebody got a new toy, and it's too adorable to see her in it! I can't believe how strong she is and outside a little supporting, she can actually stand in her exersaucer at only a little over 2 months! Too fast!)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dr. Seuss never fails...

(Don't be horrified! Our plan was to throw the baby if Mindy spooked. Bahahaha!)
In the midst of national madness, we can still feel God's provision. Right when I decided to take a break from my social media sites, the bombing in Boston happened. Steve keeps me updated on the findings, but it's a relief not to have the gory details right in my face all day long on my Facebook/Twitter/etc etc- and instead be able to just pray for the post trauma of those who were directly affected. When you think about the fraility of life, the sanctity of it...makes you want to hug and kiss your people and not take a day for granted, doesn't it?

The last couple of weeks in the contentment study we have been working through, God keeps asking us to be content in our roles, content in our relationships. Whoohoo- easy to say! But so incredibly hard to do. Why is it that it takes tragedy to open our eyes and push us to be thankful for what we do have? I wish I knew. It reminds me of a Dr. Seuss quote I use to love:
"Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple."
(Found our happy place!)
It's a simple thing to look at what is in front of me, rather than look for what I wish was.
It's a simple thing to read the Good Book and believe it, rather than question why it's so hard.
It's a simple thing to trust that God is at work in the world, rather than focus on the ugly.
It's a simple thing to enjoy my work each day, rather than dream that someone else will do it.
It's a simple thing to just listen.

My study this week ended with committing to "secret choices" we can make regarding relationships in our lives. The idea was "What I choose to be, What I choose to do, What I choose to say". I love that because it reminds me: We can't control anyone around us- their choices, their lives. But we can control ours. We can trust God to be acting in it.
(Oh, I missed seeing this!)
The author shared hers:
"What I choose to be- faithful to God.
What I choose to do- forgive others, go beyond forgiveness
What I choose to say- words of blessing and love."                       Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart
                                                                                                                                 page 82

What are your "secret choices", friend? Make today count for eternity.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." -Dr. Seuss

(Training up the next generation of CowGirl! Brielle loved looking at Mindy's "spots")

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves...Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse...If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
(Romans 12:9-10, 14, 18)

(Had to share this song. I am glad my kiddos are growing up...but can't lie. This song has been breaking my heart all week. Both kids graduated by June, daughter married with her own family...I kinda miss this. ;)

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life."

 "Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life." Mary Oliver

What a quote! It's sad to think she probably didn't realize her life would continue into eternity, but for those of us who know- how great to think we can spend this time preparing for the forever? I swing from one end of "Plan every SECOND" to "Why bother?". There must be a happy middle that allows for planning how to spend the days given, while allowing the work of Providence- God's hand- on our lives.

It's a comforting thing to know that I don't see the whole picture, but God does. We spent some restful time at the beach this last week and as I watched the waves roll up and over, in perfect rhythm, I kept thinking about Samson and his mother.

Do you remember that story? It's in Judges 13-16 and while we often remember him and his sweet mullet that Delilah cut off, I think of his mother. She is never even named, just known as "Manoah's Wife". As I worked on writing down her attributes a few weeks ago for some sweet girls I study with, I was taken aback at what a woman she must have been. We see her faith, her love, her calming influence on her husband (in one scene he's flipping out because they have seen God and he thinks they are going to get slaughtered...she speaks truth and logic. What a girl!), her perseverance, and even her grief as she buries her firstborn.

What's funny to me, is that as great as those things are, I kept getting hung up on one verse. Samson was a stubborn, strong willed child if there ever was one, and this verse comes right after his parents say "Don't marry that hootchie from Philistine! What's wrong with a good Jewish girl?" And Samson says, "Whatever- she's the one. Get her for me". And they do! (So strange- I see a big ol' slap right there if my son said that to me, yet another reason I admire Manoah's wife- she's so calm!) Anyways- done paraphrasing- look at the verse that sticks out:
"(His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)" Judges 14:4 
Crazy! Did the Bible just say that God was allowing Samson to make this dumbo decision, because good things would come from it-like the saving of Israel? Oh! What a comfort that is! Parents don't  always have to know how God is going to work through their kids choices, but we can trust that He WILL work! 
To think, that in all the mistakes, God is still overseeing it all. That He is LARGE and IN CHARGE and won't abandon us because we married the "wrong" person, took the "wrong" job, said the "wrong" thing. Now, the consequences of Samson's disobedience are huge. He's repeatedly betrayed by the woman he loves, has his eyes gouged out, and for a grand finale, dies under a pile of stone rubble. But God didn't abandon Him. And God still USED him for a good purpose!  
 Sometimes I like to say "why", "if only"...and just make myself miserable. But MOST of the time, I want to cling to this truth- that while people make mistakes, God isn't surprised and is still acting on our behalf. When I look at a big whoppin' mistake, I am going to think of Samson and his mama. She hurt and she worried, but in the end- her son did a big thing for Israel. He did more in his death than in his whole life combined, the Bible says. I hope that as she buried him, she was able to see some redemption for her wayward boy. She was able to feel the COMFORT of God's providence. 

I see my baby grandgirl, and she is a dream and a delight. I see my daughter maturing and growing in ways I never thought I'd see this young. I see the way God has pulled Spencer into our family and is humbling him and growing him into a strong, faithful young man. And if my son didn't get freaked out when I "oooh and ahhh" over him via internet, I would tell you all the wonderful things God is doing in his life. And all of these things here- are results of missteps. Consequences there? Yep. But blessings too. 
Oh, praise you, Lord, for that. Thank you for the way You move in our keep us heading towards you. With this "one wild and precious life", may we always seek to honor you FIRST. Then hopefully, we will make the "right" decisions right away- because the detours kind of stink. As Samson could attest. ;)
 But never doubt, my friend, that God is with you in it! He will help you- if you are willing to ask Him too. 
Look at those biceps! She's going to rival Samson someday! that just chubs? Bahahaha!