Monday, April 30, 2012

The Future

This sign is a perfect description of my life right now.
If it was not against the law,
I probably would have unbolted the thing and taken it home. 

If you were to peek behind this sign, it doesn't look too scary, right?
Blue, clear skies.
Sure, it is a dirt road, but I can see pretty far down it,
so it should be alright. 

Why would they put that sign there,
when I can clearly see for miles that it appears to be just fine?
Are they just covering themselves?
Have they never driven down this road?
Did they just find it easier to make a sign than to find out what is up ahead?
Or do they know something about this road that is unclear from where I stand?
So poetic....
So my life...

If I were to apply this crazy sign to my life and what is in the future,
it makes for some interesting pondering on how to process things in real-time.

* As I try to guess what is ahead for me, I could choose to not believe the sign
and just go with what I see physically in front of me.
The problem with that scenario is that my eyes can deceive me.
I see what I wanna see. 

* I have a person in my life who totally could have been the author of that sign
either to cover themselves so that they would not be blamed
for anything that might happen or
because they have so much fear about the unknown. 
Listening to this person's advice is not good for me.
This person does not have my best interest at heart.
They are worried more about how all of this is going to affect them,
cause them worry,
make them look bad.
So the advice is tainted with self preservation and not for what is good for me.   

 **I find the best balance for me is to use a little thing I like to call discernment
This helps me to prepare for the conditions that may be ahead of me.

The Webster dictionary defines discernment as:
the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is not clearly seen.  

So, since I know that there is not one person on this planet that can tell me
what the conditions are ahead for me,
I have to rely on The Only One that truly knows my future.

I love the Common English Bible version of Jeremiah 29:11, it says:
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord;
they are plans for peace,
not disaster,
to give you a future filled with hope.

Although this was written to the nation of Israel, from God, through Jeremiah,
I think it still applies to His children today.
God does not change.
What He has for his children is still true.

This does not mean that I will not encounter hard times, for I will.
But I must hold onto the fact that God is for me and
He has an ultimate plan that is full of peace and hope.

Proverbs 3:5 must be hidden in my heart for times like these,
when I want to trust in my own understanding of things
or the way seems too hard to continue.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will make your path straight.

Now, I must confess that I have actually gone down this road
where this sign is and it is awesome.
Yes, the road is rough and bumpy,
but the views are spectacular the higher up I drive.

Just think, if I had been too afraid to try.
Instead, I went prepared for the possible conditions ahead.

Really that is all we can do, right?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Choosing to Honor

I never knew the Stephens,
but the choices they made were pivotal to me being here today.
They are my Great, Great Grandparents.
Many years ago they chose to homestead a place in southern Arizona.
Back then it was bustling. They came here for a better life, a new start.
What they found was virgin land with possibility.
To me their part in my story is precious.
They had a general store and a farm with an apple orchard.
Back then you did what you had to do, you worked hard. Up with the sun...

My Great Grandparents were part of that dream as well,
but their dream was stopped short
 by a great flu epidemic that swept the nation at that time.
They died,
leaving very small children behind,
and their name.

Hard decisions had to be made.
So many mouths to feed.
What to do?
Not only did my Great, Great Grandparents have to bury
their daughter and son-in-law,
they had to decide what to do with the children, one just an infant.
As was the case many times back then,
the children were dispersed between various relatives
so the burden of more mouths to feed was not left to just one family.
My grandfather was then essentially raised by his grandparents.
It was a hard life.
But he was sheltered and fed
and my great great grandfather taught him how to be a man.  
I never knew my Great Great Grandparents,
 but I am so thankful they were there
to take in a scared little boy who lost both parents and needed a home.

Once a year we take time to Honor these brave souls who lived a very hard life,
to give later generations a better life.
They deserve honor.
I may not agree with some of the things they did, or even how they lived.
But, without them and their dream, I would not be here.
They deserve honor.
I honor my past. Those that came before me.
Their blood, sweat and tears built up a family line.
They deserve honor.
There may have been pain, disagreements, anger,
disappointment, depression, hunger, sadness.
I choose to honor all of it.
They deserve honor.
They did the best they could,
survived hardship, lived, laughed, loved, cared, worked hard
They deserve honor.
All of us have a history.
We may not like it,
it may appear to haunt us.
But we can honor our past. We recognize their place in our history.
Warts and all.
We understand God's Sovereignty
Putting it all in perspective.  
God uses it all.
So, why would we bury it, not share it or even change it to seem more palatable?
It took all of that to get here.
They deserve honor.

Exodus 20:12 tells us to
Honor our father and mother,
that our days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord our God gives us.
A command with a promise.
I have been pondering this verse for some time now.
Especially the second half.
The promise of prolonged days in the land God gives me.
I have not noodled it completely out yet, but it seems to me that peace is part of this.
I know when those that came before us are not honored,
it can cause many negative emotions.
But here it is promising me prolonged days, for honoring.
Our past follows us, whether we like it or not.
We have to do something with it.
Choosing to honor is what God would have us to do.
It seems clear to me that when we don't, we won't receive the promise.
That does not mean it will be easy.
In fact I am convinced that God knew it would be hard, maybe not even natural.
That is why it had to be part of the 10 commandments.
Those that came before us, 
deserve honor.   

Monday, April 16, 2012

May I see your I.D. please?

I find it hard sometimes to explain to people what I do.
It seems that is how one is identified.
If a person works they would say, "I do this or that".
Or if they are raising a family they may say, " I stay home"
or " I work outside of the home".
If one is older they might say, " I am retired".

Identity appears to be in what we do with our time.
Is that weird?
Is it right?
I am not sure.

I find myself falling into the identity trap myself.
I will say something like, " I am a nurse".
Then I have to tell them that I am not currently working. 
Then once they find out the age of my kids the questions begin.....
So what do you do now?
How do you spend your time?

I really struggle answering the question.
I shouldn't,
but I do.
I find myself getting embarrassed to talk about the way I spend my days.
Like I have to come up with something acceptable,
that makes sense with the way the world identifies us.
I can't do it.
What I do does not make sense to the world.
But, It does make sense in God's economy.

What do I do????
I wake up every morning and leave myself open to what God
has in store for me that day.

What does that look like, you may ask?

It looks like beginning my day working on household tasks
and then dropping everything for a walk with a precious friend who needs to talk.

It looks like a lunch appointment with a stranger who becomes a friend
over a meal and a common heart ache,
who has been longing their whole life for someone
to understand what they have been through.

It looks like silence, listening to God through His word.

It looks like serving my sisters in the Lord through encouragement and teaching.

It looks like caring and honoring parents.
Being an advocate for them in their time of need.

It looks like loving my husband by spending time looking for buried treasure.

It looks like nurturing my children by being home for the days debriefing. 

It looks like caring for someone else's kids instead of hanging out at home.

What do I do????

That is the only way to explain it, really.

That does not make me extraordinary.
It is what God has called me to do. This is the way God has called me to do it.
It is not for everybody. We are all called to minister in different ways.
This is mine.

You may ask me how I know this is what God has for me....
I have peace beyond understanding
I have joy that is not tied to my performance or anyone elses
I gain energy and endurance the more I work at what He has for me
I have hope in the future, though I do not know what it holds

He orders my steps.
Psalm 37:23-24
The steps of a man are established by the Lord;
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong;
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

When I get worked up with my identify according to the world,
I can become "out of step" with what my God has for me.
I know, I have been there, done that.
It hurts, it makes me wander.

My Identity is in the Lord and what I do is what He asks me to do.

So, the next time you see me...
I promise not be avoid answering the question:
So what do you do?
I may also ask you the same.
So how will you answer?  

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Bathroom blues

I hate cleaning the bathroom!
There, I said it.
I hate it so much that I will find other things to do in order to put it off.
I know that if I put my mind to it that it would only take me a half hour or so,
but I don't wanna.
I mean, I am sitting here writing this blog...thinking about my bathroom...wishing that someone else would appear to do it.
But really, I don't want some stranger to see the mess and to clean up after me.
How embarrassing.
The longer I sit here thinking about all the things I don't want to do, the longer it is going to take me to do them.
I know, I know, but I don't like it, it's no fun, ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

I also know that when I don't maintain my home by keeping it clean and repairing things that wear out, I am just asking for trouble.
The longer I put it off, the greater the possibility that it could cost me more than time down the line.  

Could this be a picture of what being spiritually disciplined is?
No wonder it is so hard. 
It is repetitious.
Doing the same things over and over again.
Getting the basics down, the foundation of things,
can feel so monotonous and time consuming. 

From what I understand about being disciplined, it helps one to have a solid foundation. And, when one has a solid foundation, when something new or difficult comes along, they are easier to handle. 

Being a disciplined Christian does not mean I become a soldier who does not have a thought of my own.
It does mean that I will become well acquainted and proficient with foundational things.
The things that God put in place to help me be a stronger and more effective believer. Things like: reading my Bible on a regular basis, praying, spending quiet time with God, fasting, being in community with other believers, worshipping Him, etc.
All these things are ways to make me better, stronger and more equipped for the path that God has laid out before me.
They give me the nourishment I need to handle the struggles, the dry times and yes, even the mundane tasks I am required to do.

1 Corinthians 9:27 says it best.
But I buffet my body and make it my slave,
lest possibly,
after I have preached to others,
I myself should be disqualified.

I love, love, love how the New International Greek Testament Commentary puts it: 
"My day-to-day life as a whole I treat roughly,
and make it strictly serve my purpose,
after preaching to others,
I find myself not proven to stand the test."

My day-to-day life.... 

So, now that I have managed to put off the task of cleaning my bathroom, I really must go.

One last thing...
At the bottom of this blog you will find a place where you can sign up to have this pop right into your email box. So easy. That way you won't have to wait and wonder when I will be writing my next post.

Okay.....I am really going now!  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finishing Strong

Already this year I have been to 4 memorial services.
I don't know if it is my age or what,
but it is at least unusual for me to have that many 
in just the first 3 months of one year.

They all had the common denominator of 
the song: "Amazing Grace,
people sharing about the life of the one who had passed
and food. 

I also observed that they each had differences as well. 

The first was for someone who did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Of the 4 services, this was the saddest for me. The service was a celebration of her life, but there was no hope given for those that she left behind. The family did everything according to her wishes, from what they wore to the parting song. For me, I went away feeling sad and empty for her life really was over and done.

The other three were for people who had a personal relationships with Jesus. All three came to know the Lord at different times in their life. I think that fact alone helped to flavor their memorial services. It was clear that each one of these people had wanted those in attendance to hear who Christ was in their life, especially if they had never heard before. It was the focus of their services. Yes there were songs, and stories, tears and laughter. But most of all there was Christ, right in the middle of the room. It could not be missed.

There is rarely a better time to share the Word of God than at a memorial service. It is one of the sweetest times to learn of the hope of Christ.
Each one of these "heaven bound" people had loved ones they left behind.

One of these had very few believers in her family. It was not for her lack of trying to show them the way. Even in her last breaths she was evangelizing. How awesome is that!

Another had left a legacy of faith. Her whole family were believers. The peace that passes all understanding could be felt strongly at her memorial service.

The last service that I have been to was this past weekend. It was for a man who went home to be with the Lord at an early age. He was only a few years older than me, with children still at home and a wife. From the world's prospective, it just did not seem fair or right.
The thing is, all of our days are numbered.
We do not usually have the blessing of knowing how long that is.
He did.
He made every moment count.

It was truly a joyous celebration of a life full of Christ.
It was a party,
a reunion of old friends,
stories of Christ's faithfulness,
a community of believers having a "Gone Home" party.

He spent time before he went home to be with the Lord to love on his kids, love his wife, love his church family, love his community. He did not leave one stone unturned, for he knew his days were numbered. And his wife got it too, so she supported him on this race to the finish line. I try to put myself in her shoes and all I can do is be amazed at how the Lord sustained her during this last year.

I write all this to say...
it is more clear to me than ever that my days are numbered as well.
I am accountable for what I do on my race to my finish line.
I long to finish strong, to share Christ much, love those in my circle much,
to make my Abba Father proud.  
I long for my life to be a celebration of who Christ is.
I pray that when I leave this world for home that those that I leave behind
 have no doubt where I am. 
I hope they celebrate and have a "Gone Home" party.  
I hope that they remember me for finishing strong.
And mostly I hope they understand a little more of
who Jesus is through the life that I led.

Well...I best go get my running shoes on, I gotta get going!

  Hebrews 12:1-2
Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance,
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.