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Thursday, October 26, 2006

You find God in the most interesting places. Some times we try to limit Him to a verse of Scripture or the words of some great speaker (testifying on behalf of all speakers, that's a lot of pressure). But God can use anyone or anything to challenge us, direct us or encourage us. Take today for instance. It's yucky here--cloudy, cool, off-and-on rain showers. It is a great day to just stay in bed. Especially when you wake up lonely again. So, I got the kids ready, got them off to school and then crawled back in bed for a few minutes with no real intention of forcing myself out of bed. I didn't really want to sleep so I turned on the TV. I have no idea what movie it was nor do I want to take the time to recount all the details. I was playing through my mind the things I know to be true. "I need to be up and busy. I have a really good life. There are others who need me and count on me and I cannot let them down. God will get me through these moments if I will just ask." Nothing seemed to be motivating me to move. I had even had a friend who e-mailed this morning to say the same kind of things were plaguing her (this one's for you "A"). Then, from the screen spoke God. Not really, I haven't completely lost it. But from the mouth of this old actor came the thing I needed most this morning. Here's what he said, "You know why so many people are afraid of dying Joey (the name is irrelevant here, he meant Ridley). They are afraid of dying for the same reason so many people are afraid of living...they're not sure where they're going." Now, you might read that and go "whoopee". No big eye-popping statement. I already knew that. Me too. The difference is that, at that moment, I needed to be reminded that I do know where I am going. I know how to get there. I know what God wants for me and from me and (this part the actor didn't say, God picked it up from there) I've got absolutely no reason not to live. I'm not talking about walking, breathing, eating and sleeping. I'm talking about really living. I'm talking about knowing where I'm going and heading there full speed. I love the way that Peterson puts it in his paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. "Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him....fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out." Romans 12:1-2 MSG
Does that mean I'm good? That everything is fixed just because some kooky actor had a good line in a movie? N0. Wish it did. But what it does mean is that God wants all of me, not just the pretty pictures. He wants the days that are gloomy and sad. He wants me when I'm alone. He wants me when I'm frustrated. Whatever the case, He wants me. And because He does, I know exactly where I'm going. I have no fear of death. No fear of being alone. No fear of being single the rest of my life or raising two kids on my own. And, if God should choose, I don't have to be afraid of marrying again when the time comes. I don't want to get caught "not living life" when there is so much life left to live. So, I will choose to embrace God. I will choose to offer ALL of me to him today and every day. I will not be afraid to let Him see all of me (He already does anyway). And I won't be afraid to go back to bed, watch another old movie and continue this conversation we started. It may well have been the most "spiritual" part of my week. Hope you have yours!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I hate waiting. Anyone who has known me any length of time can tell you that I like to see things happen and make them happen. Patience is NOT my middle name. I think it's always been that way for me. And that's why it is so hard for me to read verses in Scripture like the one I read today. "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14 NIV Why is this such an issue? Why does God say so much to us (to me) about being still, having patience and waiting? I believe it's because all good things take time. You've heard the expressions. "Champions aren't built overnight. Rome wasn't built in a day. Good things come to those who wait" (there's that word again). The truth is, spiritual transformation lies at the heart of all these discussions for the believer. Paul tells us that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That word brings to mind the metamorphosis that takes place when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. There is no microwave version. For that caterpillar, the wait must be excruciating. Especially if he is impatient like me. And so, I am learning to be still and wait. I want to be more for Christ. I want to see answers to problems and prayer requests that are granted via spiritual "drive throughs". But God gently reminds me that what I desire may be good; what He desires for me is best. In order to have that I have to be transformed and transformation takes time. I may not know immediately what He desires for me. I may only know what He wants for this next minute or next hour. And, if I am to be made into the likeness of Christ (the ultimate goal of every Christ follower), then I must be content with that. In the mean time, I think I'll take another bite of my muffin and wait. I mean, if you got to wait, you might as well drop the stress and enjoy the minutes as they pass...right?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I just got back from a visit to SW Montana. What an amazing place! I love being in the mountains--the amazing scenery, the wildlife, the rugged nature of everything that's there. I had made the trip with some of our staff to make preparations for an upcoming mission trip with our church. As the three of us wound our way through the mountain ranges, I was like a little kid looking for the next sign of deer, moose or elk. There was one thought that kept rolling around in my mind. This beauty, all of it, was orchestrated by the hand of an amazing God. There was nothing left to chance, no need that was not contemplated as He formed it all in His mind and then created it with His words. And I was pulled back to the passage of Scripture where Jesus says for us to think about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Even the smallest parts of God's creation are cared for. He knows when each lily fades and when each sparrow's life ends. Why do I worry about life? How can I believe that one part of my finite mind could "aid" God in taking care of me? Through everything that I have been through and all that still remains, there is not one minute of it that has surprised God. He's got it covered--the pain, the trials, the temptations and the suffering. Through every joy and laugh, through every loss and tear, there's not one thing about my life that God cannot handle if I will but trust Him. Now, that's an easy thing to talk about but a little harder to put into practice. I just got through looking at my checkbook. Talk about trusting God. Where does it all go? You get one paycheck deposited and you are already looking for the next. Even there, I must trust Him to care for my needs and to love me more than I can love myself. I need to know that. I need to trust that. More than anything else, I must allow that to transform how I live my life and how I go through each day. In the end, it's the only real way to live life.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One of the most familiar passages in all of Scripture is this: "and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13. I have been thinking about these words as I recapped a trip to Chicago for a conference last week. One of the speakers used this passage to talk to us about many things--I held tightly to one. There are a lot of things in this life that compete for our attention. Many of them are very legitimate concerns--family, jobs, school, friends. However, the essence of our life boils down to these three things: faith, hope and love. Every man desires to know that there is something bigger than himself, something that he can place his faith in. Without it, life can seem so out of control and beyond the scope of our understanding. Living life in the absence of God insures that chaos will be the rule. It is God who provides order, God who gives meaning and God who handles life--even the things that we think we have control of.

Hope brings to mind the things that are yet to come. Take away hope and man's life is worthless. I read years ago about some prisoners in a POW camp during World War II. They were given the task daily of moving a huge pile of rock and debris from one side of the compound to the other. Then, the next day, they would come out and move the same pile back to its original location. This continued day after day. The man sharing the story told how so many of his friends lost hope. They saw the futility of their labor and the grim nature of their surroundings. Most of these prisoners died from lack of hope; others lost their mind because of the situation they were presented with. When man has no hope, he has no life. Just look at T.O. (Terrell Owens, wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys). After an accidental overdose (some suggested it was a possible suicide) last week, his publicist, Kim Etheredge, told the press that claims about suicide were not valid. She said (I quote), "T. O. has 25 million reasons to live." (an obvious reference to his $25 million contract). Is that all a man is worth? Is the limit of what he can say about his life found in this--that he had a really good contract? When it is all said and done, God assured us that all the things of this earth would be gone (all 25 million reasons that T.O. lives). What then? Where is his hope...and the rest of the world's for that matter?

Then there is love. The song says it's what the world needs now. Christ said it 2000 years ago. In fact, He believed so strongly in its power, He said that the whole world would know who followed him by our love. Not our contracts. Not our talent. Not our performances. Not our cathedrals or our programs or our political agendas...just love.

This is what life is all about. Paul said it, not me. It comes down to the fact that the meaning of life is found in our faith in God (that higher power). His existence validates ours. His strength and love give us hope that there is something beyond beauty and power and success and prestige. We have a hope that there is a tomorrow that holds more for us. And, with hope and faith, we can love. We can love knowing that He first loved us. We can love knowing that His love paid the ultimate price for us. We can love others knowing that in Christ Jesus, there is great freedom and promise and faith and hope...and plenty of unconditional love.