Monday, October 27, 2014

Letting go

"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." 2 Corinthians 3:5 (ESV)

I slammed the trunk lid down and dust from the back of my car flew everywhere. Wiping the sweat off my brow I just felt a little lighter with the bags of clothes and over abundant items I had just sorted through. It was a whole trunk load plus half of my back seat.

I've been doing a lot of cleaning lately. De-cluttering always leaves my mind a little worn about what to keep, what to toss, and what's going to a new home. The biggest wearing is the letting go.

Why do we let a nagging memories of days gone by hold us captive?

Does our de-cluttering stem from the fear of what might happen afterward? Or are we living in a pauper mentality instead of living like a princess in God's economy?

I tend to forget that God is our sufficiency in all seasons. Wouldn't that cover our treasures we cling to? I'm not just talking about teddy bears but wouldn't God's sufficiency also include opportunities to make new memories and relationships?

My mother taught me to never throw away a photo. I laugh now because everything is digital but what about those crammed photo albums we never look at that hold all those precious happy times together?

Do the items we hold tightly in significance make us more important in God's eyes?

How often do we fill our lives with old hurts of the past, holding them close and clinging to unhealthy relationships, hoping that we can fix the situation and make it all better again?  Here's a hard hitting question...are you in a job, volunteer position, prayer group, social circle, or partnership because you fear what might happen if you’re not?

Letting go and trusting God with our reputations, our jobs, our next steps, our relationships, with those who influence us is the most healthy thing we can do. It makes room for new life in areas that are stale and unfruitful. And it doesn't just help us, it helps others too.

But it's hard to do when you are insecure and won't let go of them.

There are times when you just can't be the hero for everyone. It doesn't make you right or them wrong. It's just makes for an awkward fit.  And no one needs awkward.  It's just like that old pair of jeans at the back of your closet. You know the ones. They are either too tight and you think one day you will get into them again.  Maybe they remind you of a season when you could wear them and you can't let go of the memory that you will never be that size any more.

What's worse is thinking we would want to go back to those "mom" jeans. Seriously, though we must shake the past with all it's hurts and unwanted reminders, those things that will never be the same.

I think we want them near by because those memories make us feel special or we hide behind them in fear of letting go.  We fear that we will be the only ordinary.

In looking at our unwanted items, the things that aren't a good fit, or just aren't needed, we tend to slip into letting ourselves be measured by man's idea of where our worth comes from instead of just letting go to God's yardstick.  Our worth isn’t measured by public opinion, numbers, platform, or recognition by significant people.  

I prefer the way God measures us instead of how man sizes our worth.

Jesus says we are worth dying for. That is our story and this is the only story that counts. Looking at the life of Jesus he shows us how ordinary doesn't mean less valuable. He had humble beginnings and took the worst of humanity upon his shoulders.

His one act gives us great significance in the only story that matters. It's enough to make this little princess know that when I let go of old junk hidden away, there is more room for new things He wants to do in me.

That isn't exhausting, it's exhilarating.  What's keeping you from letting go?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"You're in trouble"

I don't even don't know how to start this post.  What I've said about me is that I could have ten conversations at the same time, as if ten people are talking all at once.  

About ten different topics.

It's so hard to put all those topics into words, to make sensible conversations, sensible truths and make them all circle back around and connect.  And yet, for me most days it happens.  

Every time I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit speaks to me on the very day that I needed to hear exactly what I needed to hear.  And when I think about causes my spirit to stir.  Not just a "I'll think about that later" stir but a deep discovery stir.  I want to know more about the character of God.  

His stories stir my spirit.  So grateful for the supernatural work that happens when you crack open God's instruction book.  We tend to think of instructions of any kind as a negative thing, as disobedient children being called into the principals office to hear..."You are in trouble."  That's not true with God.  God is our loving Father and everything He says and does is out of love for us.  For me.  For you.  About ten times over.  

But God is right about one thing, we are in trouble in this world.  John 16:33 says, "I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”

Do you know how hard it is to encapsulate God in a single blog post?  It can't be done, why even the greatest storybook, the Bible, couldn't contain all of God's stories.  And yet in the currency that is God speaking to us every we seek Him, He teaches us about His character over and over about every last one of our ten topics that are currently and deeply stirring.

By His grace, we are directed, instructed, and guided by the stories that were inspired by His Spirit long ago.  I learn more and more about God every time I ask and seek and listen to Him speak.  I love how current God's Word is, like it was written an hour ago.  Our challenge is that we must make time for the encouragement that is always found there.  As if it's the ONLY way to live out our days in whatever current situation, construction, restoration, directions and trouble of this life or in all the seasons we currently find ourselves in.

I find comfort in the fact that when I grip God's heart, as expressed in His words to me when I'm troubled or not, that it is perfect for whatever is stirring inside.  I need a constant reminder to remain in living out my days in God's peaceful and orderly plans.  I trust His rest in my best use of time about the numerous topics that are currently stirring my spirit.

What God starts are those things that He perfects.  Things, aspects, plans have already been perfected in us but yet undiscovered, or uncovered or to be restored.  The matter of your story, life crisis, life's joy, or whatever and all of the ten topics that are stirring deeply in your spirit or just on the surface, know that each story counts.  God remains in the restoration business and the encouragement of truth applied to our lives is available 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.  God is always listening to our cries, our spirits, our praises, our gratefulness and listens in our troubled, burdened tears.  

And friends, you want to know what I find as great encouragement about God's love and faithfulness?  It's the fact that He perfects me, as if my one little story counts, as if He only speaks to me, and He has all the time I need.  Each time, all the time. 

My time spent listening to Him has directed me to His faithfulness in how He listens, how He loves and how He shows His character.  When I come to His place, with so many topics, with my little ten conversations that stir the deep parts of my heart, I can see more of His supernatural perfecting in who I am, as He perfects me be more like Him.  

Wow!  I don't know how to start a post that says that.  Today I am out of words. How are you encouraged by reading the Bible? 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When life covers you up with a little soot

Sometimes, there are those days when you are required to put your big girl pants on, gulp hard, and just hold it together.  My recent kitchen remodel taught me that.  But recently I have reinforced my bravery in holding it all together.    

It's good to prepare for times like these so you know how to respond when life ushers the opportunity to be brave at any time.  About six weeks ago, my daughter and her family suffered through a house fire...twice.  They were coming home from church on a bright Sunday afternoon to find the firemen working on their house, extinguishing a fire that started from a failed power strip.

No one was hurt and we are all grateful for that.  Absolutely, no question.  However, the same embers rekindled the fire again, the very next morning blazing more damage to the roof, it's structure and all of the upstairs living spaces.

Yes, they have home owners insurance.  One of the bedrooms affected belonged to 6-month old Clarke.  She will miss out on growing up in that nursery that held so much love for her.  The attic, all the bedrooms, two bathrooms, and everything included in them, are considered a total loss in this second story home.   As for the lower level, because of the water and smoke damage, those spaces are being restored.  What the fire didn't consume is either burned, melted, smoked like a Thanksgiving turkey or charred.

All their possessions were affected, and the safety of a three-year-old who wants to be a fireman, has been shaken.  In times like these, family circles up to help pick up the pieces.  Initially, I didn't want to go in to see the damage because I didn't want to remember it with all it's soot.  But my son-in-law, Billy the pilot, asked me help move some unaffected belongings to a new rental property.  I was afraid I would lose it right there in the rubble of their lives but I knew I had to be brave.

The smoke aroma immediately filled my nostrils, as the stench was unbearable, as soon as we opened the front door.  I cautiously walked up the staircase to the charred shell of the house.  The places where we made family memories, new ways to play pretend, to read nap-time books, and where my daughter momma learned to love her little babies...everything I could see was covered in black soot.

Everything....even little Clarke's pink shoes.  That's when everything I was holding together broke a little.  I shed a few tears when I saw their life as I knew it covered with life's soot.  My little Avery talks about the fire everyday, even though he doesn't know the extent of what was really lost.

There are new questions in his mind about the event that has completely robbed him of all his toys and life as he knows it.  It's understandable given the circumstances  his family has endured.

"Does Jesus love us less now that the fire happened?"

I gasped a little when I heard that big question slipping out.  I thought of all the times we must think that about God.  When life slaps, steals, or throws us curve balls, we wonder if God knows or cares about what is plaguing us at the moment.  And then we deal with the fact that everything about us is under God's omniscient presence.

But we still wonder where God is when a tragedy occurs.  And then we wonder...about the depths of God's love for us in spite of what life has presented us with on any given day.

We wonder...where is God in the middle of my cancer, or my marriage that is falling apart, or the debt that keeps pushing us into a dark hole, or the pit of depression our teenagers fight every day, or the bouts with illness after illness, the failing health of our parents, the failing strength of the national budget, or the threat of a pandemic, or the failures of our past that we can't shake.

And then we wonder...about God's love and we wonder why doesn't God intervene when He knew all about it first?  We find ourselves gasping that question when life brings storms, fires, and things not nice or hard.

I waited for Lindsay's answer and she said what a grown up momma could only say.  "Jesus proves His love for us through the people who have helped us so much.  He proved His love by keeping us at church and away from the fire, and how no one was hurt, and everyone is safe and sound.  He showed His love for us by many people who helped us get some new clothes, a safe place to life, and some new toys."

I was at the sink washing some dishes when peace flooded my soul.  She held it together to explain one of life's biggest moments for her family, even though she herself was dealing with the same silent question, just like we all do.  She was brave when she needed to be and that kind of brave could only come from what she knew and believed about the love of God over the soot that was currently covering their lives at the moment.

When life covers everything you know familiar, comfortable, and gives you a little sooty squeeze, or strips you of precious, know that bravery awaits you too.  It's one more opportunity where God proves His love for you by showing you where you put your big child-of-God bravery, gulping hard, and leaning on what you know about God versus what life circumstance is suffocating you right now.
God makes us brave.  Need a little extra bravery today?  Watch this.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This isn't the "I Dream of Jeannie" show, it's practice.

One of the biggest moments I had in choosing to do this blog, was to start.  A co-worker had started one and I only thought I had something to say.  Little did I know where this little blog would end up or turn up.   I didn't know that I could fill a page back then.  Years of writing in a journal has shown me otherwise.  I didn't know that  a blog would be so demanding and require so much attention.

I didn't know that it would be a beast sometimes.  I didn't know how I could be inspired to be a better writer.  I did know to practice often.

"You write a lot." someone once told me.  Yes, I do.  But I have a confession to make there have been some dry seasons too.  There have been those times my mind has felt like a brittle sagebrush flying down the Kansas highway bouncing off anything in it's path.

One of my biggest moments in writing for this blog is the daily practice that I invest in it.  This isn't happening by simple wishes or my good looks.  I pray consistently for the content.  I ask to be inspired, and then keep my eyes open for opportunities to experience a story.  That's what a good journalist does.

I keep a small notebook and pen at the ready.  (yes, I say that all the time).  I keep my tools handy and at hand.  I have to.  When you ask for divine inspiration, you never want to miss the opportunity to take notes.  By the way, I understand there will be a special gate in Heaven for us scribblers who take notes during Sunday worship.  Look for me there....I'll be the one with a red wagon full of journals.

A big moment for this blog was to finally embrace the desire to publicly speak in this.  That might have sent me over the edge of no return.  Upon starting, God birthed a bigger desire in me to continue.

I wasn't prepared for he hustle it would take to put some muscle to it.  I was a fool to think it would come easy.  Anything worth doing requires some effort.  I had to dispose of my ideas of what I thought this should look like, and let God show me what it means to follow in Him in writing.  I had to choose to let Him lead me in this versus me trying to find my own way in this.

This practice of embracing God's ways have spilled over into many areas of my life.  I like to call life my content provider, while letting God write His story in me.  It just so happens that by following the Great Story Teller in this, that there are new chapters my story that are evolving every day.

I call that something of value.  I call that progress.  I call that practice.  I call this a daily pursuit of my heart lining up with His words to me and me taking a few notes.  As you know there are millions of blogs out here, I had to choose a direction and I had to choose to be inspired by something.

I had to choose to let God be the keeper of these words.  As I follow Him in the purpose of this blog it's my practice.  I want to do this in the most excellent way.  That means in His time.  Our God, who created time, has plenty of time for you and your inner design development too.

Ever consider great things of worth take time to develop?  Just like you can't lose 100 pounds overnight.  Don't you wish we could just snap our fingers, and poof...100 lbs are just gone?  No, this isn't the I Dream of Jeannie" show.  Doing something of worth, the things that matter, takes practice.  And more practice, and practice again.  Building an audience takes practice.  Endurance is found in the dry spaces.  Faith is exercised in each post.  Tenacity is strengthened.  Patience is developed.  Your craft is practiced.

I trust God to be the keeper this blog and grower this blog.

In these practice sessions, it's honing my public voice.  As I fine tune my words, I am spiritually sharpened by hearing the One Voice that inspires me.  As long as I let the Holy Spirit inspire me, I will have a well-spring of blog posts.  Recently, I heard God's whisper to "Remain in this place, you will write from MY overflow."  All the while, I've been reading and remaining in John 15.

My almost four year old grandson is a chatterbox.  Avery is constantly asking questions, so much so he strings question to question.  I have to remind him to breathe sometimes.  Some waking hours he spews questions at rapid-fire pace.  One afternoon, he didn't even allow time for one thoughtful answer.  It reminded me of that word-dry season I had gone through, when I constantly asked God why I couldn't finish what I had started.  I was asking my questions so fast and furious that I couldn't hear His answers.

That was big moment to realize that if I am spewing words at God, I can't hear His whispered answers.  Oh don't you wish you were watching an episode of "I Dream of Jeannie" now?  Can you relate to this?  Don't you wish you could know God's plan before we choose to follow God's plan?

When we ask God to intervene in ways that only He could we have to still our hearts before Him so we don't miss the practice sessions He requires of us to build our faith, our tenacity, our strength, our endurance, and our story that's worth telling.

Show up for practice, your attention matters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One of the big problems for this writer

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

"It's not what you do, it's who you are."  What I nice comment from my husband who just read one of the best blogs I've ever written.  "I'm encouraged after reading that."  He's so kind and happens to be one of my biggest cheerleaders.  Comments like that affirm what God is telling me to stay faithful too.
Writing.  Overcoming and more writing.

Only the Lord, knows how much I struggle to find my way into this big pond of authors.  Never let it be said that I want to promote my problems.  Certainly sorrow has shaped a lot of my stories.  But by honoring God in these posts, it helps me overcome my problem with posting.

I always what to share the hope of God in each post.

You see, sharing here is becoming safe place now.  I feel comfortable here.  It's been well determined that this isn't a topical blog.  This is a personal blog.  A place of sharing, caring and embracing this crazy journey called life that God has me on.

So one of my big problems is deciding which story to share today, or first or one that will move you to see God in a new light.  I don't take that honor lightly.

Please understand that I don't have all the answers.  I don't, but I am interested to know God answers about everything.  The enemy wants me to not be here, but this is about God proving fortitude in this little blog, perhaps patience, and yes even endurance in my little corner of the world race of faith.

I am mustering faith each and every time in writing.  It's God's way of building confidence, security and faithfulness.  It could be that another problem I have is using self-control.  I don't just share my stories, but I share heart with you.  Our wayward hearts are loaded with so many emotions, that they can be deadly and powerful, all at the same time.

A famous author once wrote this about his purpose in writing about pain.  "The only purpose is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all."

I bet he struggled with writing too and what to share.  You see when writing emotions intersecting faith it gets painful.  I'm really sharing some deep heart stuff here and putting my emotions on the line.  It's really my heart's response to what God is showing me through the storms of life and through His inspired Word.

For me, that's my honorable way to process.  It's God's way of teaching me what I need to know to cope with life, to be prepared for all situations, but also to become more like Him.  It's God's way.  Any time you play the God card, the game get's serious.  I don't take my big problem lightly but honorably.

Can I tell you in this that it is becoming less of a problem and more of an honor?

I bet C. S. Lewis thought so too.  He's the author of many books, essays, countless words of encouragement and the above quote.  From his corner of the world, in his writing place, I dare say he wrestled with what he would share.  I would call his writing honorable and share worthy.

Be encouraged today that the good works that God has designed from His craftsmanship, are specifically carved out for you too.  All that He has placed inside of you can be used in an honorable way.  Don't miss the lessons along the way as you learn His honorable way of sharing the good works He is doing in you.  By honoring God first in what He's designed you with, it doesn't take much for God to change the world through you.  All you have to do is listen to His voice, and use the creativity He places within.

All of the sudden your creativity bears your burdens God's way.   For me, this matters, and I don't have to use a lot of words to help you see that.  That's God's job and in honoring Him with mine, I know He will use them well.