Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I am NOT hard of hearing.

I'm not.
I hear plenty. Actually, I hear too much. That's the problem.

I was on the phone today, when two other people entered the room and started whispering to one another. They were trying to be considerate of the fact that I was on the phone
(Duly noted, and appreciated)
But I couldn't hear a word of what the person on the phone said.

Oh I heard them talking.

And I heard the whisperers talking.

But I couldn't hear a single word.

I'm a focused person. If you talk to me, I listen. If for no other reason than that I have a hard time concentrating on anything else while you do. I can't listen to you, and think something else through at the same time. Those are the times that, despite how attentive I looked when I squinted at you thoughtfully, I was really trying to think through some other idea that just came to me.
Those ideas are usually based off your words though - does that make it any palatable?

This seems like a rambling post so far, but I really am going somewhere with this.

God is specific that no man can serve two masters. It's either all God or all Devil. Regardless of what you think.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

For the past couple of years I've struggled with the normal. The typical. The house, the two car garage, the dog, the job, the 401K with medical benefits. It just seems as though my life should be radical. Unusual. Set apart for something foreign to this world.

I just have never figured out how you can have so many things of this world and still have God.
And I realized today that maybe I've been too harsh on Christians in general. Maybe they can hear two conversations and still focus in on what they need to hear. But I was built and designed for focus. To hear one conversation and follow it with all my heart.
Because that's exactly how I live my life.

But maybe my life hasn't turned into all the Fruit that it could simply because I don't distinguish between the two conversations so well. It's harder for me to pick out Gods voice amongst the din of everything else.

So perhaps my spiritual growth is hindered right now only by my ability to shut everything else up?

Is God really calling me to a radical lifestyle?Or am I just hearing too many conversations?
(As a side note I am still growing here. I'm not saying that I'm not. But I want to grow so badly so deeply that I spend a great deal of time searching for weeds in my garden that suck the nutrients out of my ability to produce fruit. I'm still growing. Oh and I'm so very glad.)

***A few moments after posting I realized just how huge a target I made myself for the typical "She hears voices" joke.. Go ahead and make the joke if you want, but now it looks cheap because I just pointed out how obvious the joke was. :) ***

Desperate Prayer - Link

A post from Tim Chester on "Desperate Prayer"

Short, sweet - loved it.

I wonder...

... when did the gospel message become more about "Accept Jesus, Jesus loves you" intead of "All have haved sinned... Jesus died for your sins because Jesus loves you. Repent of your sins, and accept Jesus as Lord of your life."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holiness struggles

I sent an e-mail today that I really hated to send.

It was a good chronicle of how I am still held back by thoughts and emotions that are not of God. And why I wasn't breaking out of them.

The why explanation was simply this: I still believe them.

And between erring between the two sides, I choose to err on the side I've been on for most of my life because to err on the other side is ... well, just something I can't stand.

And I wondered, not for the first time, how you get to a place beyond this. Where long held ideals, long held biases, long held fears somehow are diminished under the cloak of holiness and Gods perfect healing and grace. Holiness that doesn't allow you to accept anything but perfect in yourself. Holiness that God, in His mercy, increases by clarifying your motives when you don't even realize they weren't right.

Writing that e-mail today was the perfect way to realize that I've accepted a certain area that hasn't been given over to God. It's still fully controlled by me.

It's easy to shrug it off and say "nobody's perfect" but I don't want to do that because perfection is exactly what I'm striving for.

It leaves me in a quandary. Because I don't have the faintest clue how to act outside of these false beliefs.

All that to say this:

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don't judge me yet I'm an unfinished part
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Fathers loving hand.

He's still workin' on me.
To make me what I ought to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars
The Sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
Cause He's still workin' on me.

In the mirror of His Word - reflections that I see
Make me wonder why He never gave up on me.
But He loves me as I am
And helps me when I pray
Remember He's the Potter I'm the clay.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Relearning Forgiveness

I was thinking about a lot of things today. I almost wrote an entire post concerning why we witness to people - do we do it because we want to be able to draw another tally line next to our name under the "saved" column, or do we do it because we're genuinely broken over the idea that this person will spend eternity in hell?

I think it's easy for us to blur that line, because "all's well that ends well". Saved is saved no matter what your motives for witnessing to them were.

And then this evening I was in a car and one of my brothers "bible on cd" discs was playing. It's one of those rare moments when you already know something but somehow you walk away from hearing it knowing it in a clearer more impacted way.

Samuel L. Jackson was the voice-over for Jesus - it's strange, I know - and my brother liked how he said something so he went back on the tape directing our attention to it. I believe God wanted me to hear it too.

It was the story of the man who owed a great debt to a king, but the man could not pay his debt so the king ordered him put into prison. The man then fell down and begged the king to please have pity on him and he would pay his debt if only the king would be patient with him.
The king then, moved with compassion, forgave the man and completely pardoned the debt.

The forgiven man then went out, and found a man that owed him only a little money and demanded he pay his debt. When he found out that the man could not pay his debt, he then ordered him to be put into prison. The poor man fell to his knees begging for mercy, that he would somehow repay his entire debt if only given more time.

The forgiven man refused and sent the man to prison.

Others saw it and were displeased so they went to the king and reported what they had seen.
The king was very angry and reminded the man that he had been forgiven a great amount, so he should have shown mercy himself to his own debtors. In his anger, the king sent the man away to be punished until such time as his original full debt was paid.
(Story found in Matthew 18:21-35)

For some reason, hearing that story tonight struck me deeply. I think, too easily, that I'm a good person. That when someone wrongs me I will forgive them easily because I'm not the type to hold grudges or because it's just not worth being upset over.
But, just like I mentioned earlier, not everything can be covered with the "all's well that ends well".

God doesn't want me to forgive so I won't be angry. God doesn't want me to forgive because it's not worth fighting about. God doesn't want me to forgive because it was only mildly important to me anyway.

He wants me to forgive because of the blindingly obvious realization that I have been forgiven so very much by so great a King that the mercy I've been shown by Him draws the forgiveness out of me towards others.

And yet another thing... Two weeks ago, on a Sunday, when we attended church the topic of the morning service was about forgiveness, and I confess I thought "Well, this message is for someone else, because I don't have anyone I'm not able to forgive."
The evening service, at a completely different church, was, ironically enough, about forgiveness as well. We got back in the car as my brother jokingly apologized to whoever in the car might possibly be needing to forgive him of something. But even with a double hitter, I assumed the message wasn't for me.

Every message is for me.

It just took a little while for the point to make it all the way home.

So may this be a reminder for my future self - Listen.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Newest sidebar additions. Updating my blog.

It's been quite a while since I updated the information on my sidebar concerning links. A few that were over there weren't really good anymore and considering how long my list is that I'm going through every day I knew I was missing several key bloggers that ought to be read.

So if you look at the sidebar, you'll see it's been updated, but I thought I'd try and give you a little help in figuring out which ones you might like. I might not be able to tell you much about each one, but hopefully most of them will get a description.

  • Anti-itch Meditation This blog is one of my top 3. If you've been checking out links in my reader feed on the side bar, several have come from here.
  • A Place For The God-Hungry Ok, no real description on this, just Christian Living. Good insights.
  • Bring The Rain This is a blog from a mom who started the blog because of a tragic diagnosis concerning her unborn baby. She was given (I believe) 2 hours with the child after birth before her daughter, Audrey Caroline, passed away. It's more of a personal blog and her walk with God than most of the rest you'll find in this list.
  • Chris Hamer-Hodges He doesn't post very often at all, but when he does it's certainly worth the wait.
  • Christ Is Deeper Still This site is also in my top 3. He's often in my reader links on the side as I'm always marking his posts.
  • Christ The Truth Ditto for him, he's the last of my top 3 and always in my reader links when he posts something excellent - which is often.
  • Cross The Road He doesn't post too often, (every 2 weeks or so) but I've always enjoyed his posts. They typically link to real life lessons and that's right up my alley.
  • Don't Call Me Veronica The rest of his title says "That's not my name" He makes a point in his "legend of Veronica": "Have you ever had someone put a label on you that wasn't true?" Most people would respond with a "Yes," a nod, or at the very least a mild grunt. You'd then continue with, "So have I. And even though these labels aren't true and we know they aren't true, so often we just accept them without claiming out loud who we really are instead. In this case, my name isn't Veronica and so I want everyone to know what my name really is. It's Kenny." It's usually a good read.
  • Gospel Driven Life Not in my top 3 but awfully close. He makes my reader links in the sidebar pretty regularly.
  • Hungry And Thirsty He has a unique writing style that makes it easy to keep reading even if he gets long-winded. Not that I'm complaining, I've seen my blog. ;)
  • In All Honesty This lady did some amazing posts concerning tabernacle sacrifices and her Sunday School class learning about them for many many weeks.
  • Mount Jesus Focuses in on the Sermon on the Mount
  • Preacherman Preacher from Texas. He'll come preach for you if you like!
  • Steven Furtick This one is a bit of a conundrum (and yes, I am happy to be able to use such a unique word)... I'd NEVER attend his church. Can't stand his videos typically, but love his writing. He has a talent I don't have - the ability to be succinct and profound all at once.
  • The 48 files I often have to read his posts slowly because he makes me think. I imagine he reads a lot because he typically has a lot of quotes.
  • The Church Of No People I get a little frustrated with him sometimes, but am still a faithful reader and enjoy his posts. Even if I get frustrated.
  • The Jesus Paradigm Nate has this blog... it used to be called "Into The Desert".

  • So there you are... the latest additions to my sidebar. I hope you find some you enjoy!

    Watchman Nee - You must cease to do.

    Glen over at Christ The Truth posted this from Watchman Nees book Sit, Walk, Stand.
    I thought it was amazing so I wanted to share it just as he did.

    “An engineer living in a large city in the West left his homeland for the Far East. He was away for two or three years, and during his absence his wife was unfaithful to him and went off with one of his best friends. On his return home he found he had lost his wife, his two children and his best friend. At the close of a meeting which I was addressing, this grief-stricken man unburdened himself to me. ‘Day and night for two solid years my heart has been full of hatred,’ he said. ‘I am a Christian, and I know I ought to forgive my wife and my friend, but though I try and try to forgive them, I simply cannot. Every day I resolve to love them, and every day I fail. What can I do about it?’ ‘Do nothing at all,’ I replied. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked, startled. ‘Am I to continue to hate them?’ So I explained: ‘The solution of your problem lies here, that when the Lord Jesus died on the Cross he not only bore your sins away but he bore you away too. When he was crucified, your old man was crucified in him, so that that unforgiving you, who simply cannot love those who have wronged you, has been taken right out of the way in his death. God has dealt with the whole situation in the Cross, and there is nothing left for you to deal with. Just say to him, ‘Lord, I cannot love and I give up trying, but I count on thy perfect love. I cannot forgive, but I trust thee to forgive instead of me, and to do so henceforth in me.’

    The man sat there amazed and said, ‘That’s all so new, I feel I must do something about it.’ Then a moment later he added again, ‘But what can I do?’ ‘God is waiting till you cease to do,’ I said. ‘When you cease doing, then God will begin. Have you ever tried to save a drowning man? The trouble is that his fear prevents him trusting himself to you. When that is so, there are just two ways of going about it. Either you must knock him unconscious and then drag him to the shore, or else you must leave him to struggle and shout until his strength gives way before you go to his rescue. If you try to save him while he has any strength left, he will clutch at you in his terror and drag you under, and both he and you will be lost. God is waiting for your store of strength to be utterly exhausted before he can deliver you. Once you have ceased to struggle, he will do everything. God is waiting for you to despair.’

    My engineer friend jumped up. ‘Brother,’ he said, ‘I’ve seen it. Praise God, it’s all right now with me! There’s nothing for me to do. He has done it all!’ And with radiant face he went off rejoicing.”

    I did the exact same thing once, radiant and amazed that God had somehow taken so great a burden of forgiveness off of me. As complicated as I've said God can be, sometimes relief comes from the simplest of actions.

    Give up.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    My God shall supply... Himself.

    So obviously, I've been looking for work since moving here. That information certainly hasn't been classified. I've been on several interviews, and usually walked away thinking "Yeah, it's a job but I wouldn't enjoy it."

    But then one job came along. It was a special job that I'm still surprised I took the time to apply for. It seemed ridiculous to even try. It was completely different from anything else I applied for.

    And I walked away from it and I told God that there wasn't any chance of getting it but "God, that's the job I want."

    And today, they offered me the job.

    Now that the initial happy dance is over, my heart is still simply looking to God almost with embarrassment. "God, it's so good... You didn't have to do this." It's a gift of truly thoughtful proportions. I've received gifts of monetary proportions before, and while surprised at them I was not usually overly impressed.

    But when my great-grandmother, a woman that I'd never met, didn't even realize she existed, left me a crocheted afghan when she passed away - her gift is still a treasured keepsake displayed where ever I go.

    This job, the fact that it was the only one that I stopped to say "That's the one God", just reminds me how very blessed I am. He's done so very much - He didn't have to do more. But my God doesn't work that way. He doesn't give until He decides it's "enough". He gives from abundant mercy that is new every morning. From abundant favor that never fades away. No matter how foolish I am sometimes.

    My God shall supply all my needs, just as I said yesterday, and He has supplied all my needs.
    Because more than anything else - I just need Him.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Beautiful contradictions

    Something came to me yesterday as I was writing about Paul and his confidence in doing what God would have him to do.
    If you'll allow me a quote, he says:
    "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. " Philippians 4:12

    And one of my personal favorites (though only if I'm able to close my mind to the idea of the things he's suffered) is what I assume to be one of the few rants you'll find in the Bible.

    Paul takes off on a tangent in 2 Corinthians 11:
    "Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
    For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
    For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
    I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
    Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
    Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
    Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
    Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
    In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
    In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
    Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
    Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
    If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities"

    Did you read that? The part that really speaks out to me is "in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often..."

    That is the life of Paul.

    But I said this connected to the chapter in Philippians didn't I. I do have a point.

    The same Paul that said how he suffered weariness, painfulness, hunger and thirst -
    is the same man that wrote "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory." (Philippians 4:19)

    And he meant it. God meant it. Means it.

    I find that a fascinating contradiction.

    I was talking to someone today about faith, and after several questions that I could only prayerfully guess at, I finally ended up saying what no one wants to hear: "I believe it, because I have faith."
    I'd love to have all the answers, but God doesn't trot down here to earth in the evenings to chit chat about why He does what He does all the time. I have to accept some things purely on faith.
    So when you're hungering, and thirsting, weary and hurting, God still supplies all your needs.

    It doesn't make sense. It doesn't mesh together. Joel Osteen probably doesn't preach it. ;)
    But that's the crazy, and wonderful thing about serving God. It's true, all true, whether you believe it or not. Whether I believe it or not. God doesn't pull His holy hair out waiting on me to understand, He says "trust Me anyway" and you choose faith or fear.

    We want God... ok, I want God to be easy sometimes. Uncomplicated. I'd like Him on a first grade level that spells out everything in simple terms with words that don't go longer than 5 letters as opposed to "predestination", "existentialism", "theocentric".
    But God... right behind the definition "God is: Love" is "God is: Complicated"

    Perhaps one day when I'm able to function with more than 10% of my brain I might be able to comprehend a bit more of His ways. But right now, the thing that holds my faith tightly to the cross is simply that He warned me I wouldn't understand. He knew it was going to happen.
    And then He simply expected me to trust Him anyway. (Isaiah 55:6-13)

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    What can you do?

    I was sitting on the floor tonight just staring at a plaque I received a couple of months ago. I posted on it, including a picture if you'd like to see it.

    The plaque simply states "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phil 4"13

    I sat here, just reading the words over and over again wondering about them. Wondering about some people I've met recently and their situations. Wondering vaguely about the people I live with and their situations. Wondering about the kids and their situations. Wondering about my family and their situations. Wondering about myself and my own situations.

    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I can do all things, I can do all things, I can do all things...

    Then suddenly the question crossed my mind: What can I do?

    When I read the context of what Paul is saying in that chapter it doesn't fit what we generally use the verse for.
    I love to pop that verse out when I want to do something that I'm not sure I can actually accomplish "I can do all things". When I was on a puppet team, part of the practice was constantly going up, and down (walking your puppet high into the air, and walking it realistically back down) and we did this to the rhythm of "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" set to music. It was hard work because you're not used to holding your arm in such positions for so long.

    But you had to do it to build up endurance if you ever wanted to be able to actually endure a show.

    If you asked me to go to China, and preach the gospel in a hostile country I would announce that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". And I would be wrong.
    But if God asked me to go to China, and preach the gospel in a hostile country, I could announce the very same thing and be 100% accurate.

    I can only stand confident that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me, if I am confident I am doing something for which Christ would strengthen me for. Do so many of our endeavors fail and crumble because we are constantly attempting things for which God is not willing to strengthen us for? Obviously if I set out to murder someone, I'd be crazy to imagine that I would succeed because "I can do all things..."
    Yet I wonder if that foolish man, building his house upon the sand said those exact same words.
    If the prodigals of this world wandered from home saying "I can do all things..."

    We've put more emphasis on the "I" rather than the "Christ".

    Paul learned to be content though we was abased because God led him into abasement. He learned to be content though he abounded because God led him into abundance.
    Paul learned to be content through trials because God led him into trials.

    To which he stood up and said "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

    If God leads me into something, He will give me the strength to make it through. Always.
    But as I've grown all too fond of saying, my idea of 'making it' doesn't necessarily match up with His idea of 'making it'.

    I was listening to a lady today who was obviously very hurt over her failed marriage. Her husband, a minister, had left her for a younger woman. Or, more accurately, she had left her husband when he informed her that he no longer cared for her and was in love with this younger woman.
    She had walked away from a $250,000 house according to her. And in the conversation she just kept saying how she believed that if God shuts one door, He is opening a door for something better and a bigger blessing to you. So she stated that she was choosing to be excited because if God took a $250,000 house from her - then what greatness she was going to be coming into to get something better than that!

    Gods idea of great, doesn't match mine. Personal prosperity of peace, joy, patience, love, gentleness, self-control, kindness, faith, goodness (that's 9, I think I got 'em all!) is not the same as financial prosperity. And while at times part of me would probably choose one over the other - ultimately, in concrete, I choose personal prosperity.
    I'll scrawl dreams of financial prosperity into the sand to be washed away by the next tide.
    I'd rather have Jesus.

    But I only get my personal prosperity by following this tentative path where ever it leads me.
    But I do it more soberly now in my heart, knowing that "I can't do all things."
    But I can do all things as the Lord strengthens me for His work.

    Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
    I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
    I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

    So what can I do? What will I have the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual strength to accomplish?

    Whatever God wants me to.

    Anything to add?

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Listening for God

    I was reading a post concerning Josh Wood. You might recall I had posted on him nearly two years ago when he was attacked and went into a coma. His mother still posts on his caringbridge website if you'd like to see updates.

    The update I read today had a special Bible verse in it and I had to stop and read the chapter.
    It was from Isaiah 30.

    The verses I pulled out were 19-21. (Isaiah 30:19-21)

    The whole chapter is about these people that went into great sin, and then the Lord says something interesting.

    "And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him." (Isaiah 30:18)

    I'd hate to think that my actions were making God wait on being gracious to me. I just found that verse especially interesting.

    But then the next three verses completely got my attention:

    "For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
    And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
    And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. "

    I always worry about taking Bible verses that seem to be in a particular context and simply inserting them into my life and situation. It could simply be the typical issue like how you never notice a blue Jeep Liberty until someone mentions it. Then you see them all over the place.
    I don't like red herrings.

    There were just a lot of key words that I've been using a lot lately in this entire chapter. Even though it seems like an awfully strange chapter to take comfort from. Seriously, have you read Isaiah 30 lately???

    But still, the minute I read those verses Angie had posted I dropped what I was doing and stopped to read the chapter. I had to.
    Because when God speaks, everybody listens. Even E.F. Hutton. ;)

    Alzheimers Information

    Since posting more details about my mothers alzheimers, I've had a few contacts from people telling me they are dealing with the disease as well. Since I'm the google bot for getting information to my dad I thought I'd share the information I'm passing along to him, with you.

    Alzheimer's Info

    We are going to be changing her medication from the well known and loved Aricept which is no longer working, to a product called Namenda. As with all alzheimer's medication it is very expensive. A months supply ranges from $138 - $148.

    Since my parents do not have health insurance we take option number 3 and travel to a little city called Progreso, Mexico where this product is available for $80. If you'd like more information on purchasing medicine from Mexico feel free to contact me. A lot of medications, even with insurance, can be extraordinarily expensive and these trips to Mexico have been very easy.

    If you are still in the mild to moderate stage you can look into a neat new patch called Exelon, but since I've seen Aricept do so well I wouldn't use anything but that. After 4 years though, Aricept is no longer meeting her needs so we need to switch and we'll be moving to the "Moderate to Severe" medications.

    It's a little hard to imagine how it helps when a person is so confused, but the way my research has described it to me is that it helps them continue to be independent a little bit longer (e.g. not needing assistance showering, going to the bathroom, etc.). All good things.

    I wish no one needed this information. And I certainly feel for you if you do need it. But I hope this is helpful to you.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Don't Give Up.

    I don't know what part of "His ways aren't our ways, His thoughts aren't our thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-13) doesn't sink in with us, but... we won't always understand what is happening.

    And when that happens, Don't give up.
    Don't give up.

    Don't. Give. Up.

    You won't always understand... accept that. Be willing to fight the good fight, even when you can't see your enemy clearly.
    Be willing to endure the race, even when you don't see the end in sight.
    Be willing to stand, with hope, even when things seem hopeless.

    Be willing to press on with patience. Patiently awaiting the day when Gods plan, His will, finally shines itself through whatever your situation is.

    Don't give up.

    Guard yourself against the "give up" language.

    When Elijah ran into the cave yelling about how he was the only one left, God knew He had people reserved. The fact that Elijah couldn't see them made him want to quit. But don't. (1 Kings 19)

    Stand firm, in faith, waiting for Gods plan to manifest itself.

    I was thinking on Wednesday night how the "steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord".(Ps 37:23)

    We were unusually late for church Wednesday. We're always a little late because of a work schedule but this time different things happened to slow us down. So, 30 minutes after church had started we finally walked in the door. It was a very loud, and very soulful black church. (Our 2nd one to attend, they do a better job of welcoming people than most churches do.) Right outside the door we were listening to the unusual music coming through the walls and considered leaving.

    But we carried on walking and went into the service where the song service was slowly coming to a close. I wondered briefly if we had been there at the beginning if we would have stayed through the song service. But we were late - so it wasn't an issue.

    There were a lot of preliminaries and while I could describe a lot about the church I just want to mention this one preliminary act.

    A gentleman got up, and instructed us to get out our Bibles.
    We then repeated after him this "Bible Declaration"

    Bible Declaration

    This is my Bible, I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do. I am a believer and not a doubter. I respect and love the Word of God.

    My Bible contains the inspired, immutable, prophetic, and unadulterated Word of God.

    The words in my Bible contain seeds to exceedingly great and precious promises that lead to blessings, faith, wisdom, and prosperity.

    The Word of God can set the captives free, heal the broken hearted, open blinded eyes, raise the dead, break demonic possession, depression and all types of oppression.

    The Word of God is restoring my mind.
    The Word of God is restoring marriages.
    The Word of God is restoring ministries.
    The Word of God is healing diseases.
    And because of the Word of God I will never, ever be the same again!

    And standing there, joyfully, with all these other believers who know as I do that this book, this God has changed their lives, I was profoundly thankful that I'd been led to that church.
    And I grabbed onto the promise that each step I'm taking here - each new church, each new endeavor (as long as I listen and listen hard) is ordered of the Lord.

    Even with my long diatribe about the church I went to last Sunday, God was able to use that awful place to work repentance and renewed reverence in me. The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.

    Even with my many complaints about being bored because I haven't begun working full time yet, God has worked a patience in me and a peace concerning it. The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.

    We all say we understand that God is not our Christian Santa Claus, yet we still act as though He is. Here's what I want, what I believe I need. Now go fetch it for me God.
    The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.
    Those steps don't always lead you where you expect to go. They don't always lead you where you want to go. But they will always lead you where it is best for you to go.

    So don't give up. Whatever it is in your life that doesn't make sense right now, trust God and wait. I cannot tell you the peace I've gained in the middle of troubling circumstances. That is why I speak of joy and unhappiness abiding together in me because I am profoundly troubled and hurt by things going on around me, yet there is still joy. ** I only just now caught that I said I could not tell you it... it truly is joy unspeakable and full of glory**

    But God is most glorified when your patience comes in the middle of a trial that would invoke impatience.
    Just as He was most glorified when His Son, Jesus Christ, died for love of a people that should have invoked hatred. For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

    So, don't give up. Wait upon the Lord: be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say, on the Lord. (Ps. 27:14)

    Don't give up.

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Bridge of Grace quote - Spurgeon

    A fitting quote for me from Spurgeon:

    “The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. I can hear their trampings now as they traverse the great arches of the bridge of salvation. They come by the thousands, by their myriads, e’er since that day when Christ first entered His glory.

    They come and yet never a stone has sprung in that mighty bridge. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them, trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”

    (Found at The Gospel Driven Church)


    This story doesn't have an ending yet, even as I begin to write out the idea I know it doesn't. You see, I'm sitting here missing home.
    And I struggle with the idea that I no longer have a home.

    The place I've called home for the last 2 years, isn't home anymore. The general area I lived in for the past 10 years, it's not home anymore.

    If I stood up today, and said "I've had it, I'm going back home.", I've realized that there is no place to go to.

    But here's what I began to wonder, as I longed for the settled and comfortable feeling of 'home'. I've never been to my real home. You see, when I die and leave this house, this state, my friends and family, I'll go home. A place where I will never long for anything else, ever again.

    And I'm thankful for this... unsettling lesson about where I am truly supposed to consider myself settled.
    Because as Christ prepares Heaven for my arrival, I doubt He considered Whitesboro, Texas my "home". It was just a place to be until such time as I can go home.

    I wonder how many opportunities are lost, refused, rejected, or not even considered, because they involve us giving up our settled-ness, our comfort, our familiar. While I latch on to things, trying to claim them as my own so I can feel validated, accepted, and comfortable - I wonder if God looks on with eyes seeing me as a child trying to make a Wal-Mart their home. If your child did that, you'd think he'd lost his mind, "You're not going to stay here." would be the first reasoning you'd give as to the foolishness.

    I'm not going to stay here on earth. My home is somewhere else.
    But for my actions, my desires, my longings to change - I need God to change my heart. So when I sit down to long for home - I long for the right one.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Joy vs. Happiness.

    I was thinking today about joy. And happiness.

    And I wondered if it's possible to not be happy, but to have joy.

    Could joy be defined as something you have despite your circumstances, and happiness defined as something you find in your circumstances?

    If you say you have joy, but the moment a difficult struggle comes along you lose your joy - was it really joy? or simply happiness that is easily produced in good times?

    Granted joy, just like faith, can falter sometimes - but overall, would the definition fit?

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Exceedingly and abundantly beyond all I can ask or think according to the power that worketh in me

    I wanted to wait until I had something more solid but I wanted to share this interesting note.

    I have been looking for work in San Antonio since about May. Since that time I've received little to no leads.

    This is July... so I did what I do better than I do most other things. I took my job hunt to God. And I fasted for 2 days seeking Gods direction and leading in what He wanted me to do.
    During those two days I got two phone calls setting up interviews.

    I ended my fast.

    My phone went entirely silent again.

    I began yet another fast today.
    Today I got two more phone calls.

    It really doesn't mean as much unless you imagine weeks of applications and resumes and no response whatsoever. And then suddenly, I fast and interviews begin.

    I almost (almost) think joblessness is the most exciting thing I've ever done. My only job is to do my best at applying for as many jobs as I can, and then simply trust God for the rest. It's... challenging and wonderful all at the same time.

    Today, one of the calls I received is for a job that I have refused over and over again. People have asked me to do it for years, and I refused. And in fact, when I applied (almost as a joke) I made a point of telling them that I've refused the job before because I didn't feel I could do it.
    They called saying they liked my honesty.
    I hung up laughing at Gods crazy ways.

    God is good. Quirky and crazy, Holy and Magnificent. And I cannot even imagine where He's going to take me next.

    And I'm ok with that.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    For God has not given sin power over me.

    This is the post I hate to write. It's the post I'd rather cover up quickly with 5 or 6 inconsequential posts just so it gets buried a little faster. It's the post that I wish others couldn't read. It's the post that I'd like to pretend didn't exist within myself. At this exact moment though, I'm wishing it didn't exist mostly because I do not want to write this post. I guess it's time to get it over with though.

    Within the recesses of my heart I imagine great things are happening. Purity is taking place, righteousness and other well known and pleasant fruits of the Spirit are growing. Instead, I found a dark and dirty section full of filth and fungi.

    Two months ago I wrote this post where I told how I was praying for my replacement. The person who would take my place playing the piano for my church after I left.
    And I mean every word of it still... I really do.

    And then I went to visit the church and met my replacement. She's wonderful -she's even got the ability to play with soul, a particular ability I never managed myself. I truly enjoyed listening to her play.

    And then it came... the thought that now that Sundays will no longer be a glaring reminder that I'm not there to play the piano for them I will lose my tentative connection to all these people I still long for and miss.
    It gets worse, I even specifically refrained from e-mailing any of them this past week so I could see if they would remember me.

    Can I tell you how much I'm not enjoying this confession?

    But for all my years of Christian training, for all my posts on Christian growth, I'm still fighting hidden icebergs of sin. For all my talk, for all my hours of Christian service, sin still pops up and bites me. So guess what? No one is safe. And all those people you imagine as never having those embarrassing sins, the truly selfish ones that no one would want anyone to know about them (eg. this post) well, let me be the first to tell you - they do.

    Worship leaders struggle with pornography, that church secretary is struggling with lust, that usher that has been so great a part of your church for 37 years struggles with greed and the temptation to steal. That childrens minister that you love so much and look up to for all he's done for your kids? He's got a problem with lying.

    No one is safe. Not from the devil. The more you try to be clean, the more he'll try to smut you up.

    So here's the thing I'm embracing out of it. The necessity of being a whole person. One that struggles with sin, looks at it and sees it for it's nastiness and then works to root it out. Hiding it, and pretending that sin never knocks on my door or could ever be found in my heart doesn't do as much good as this all-too-humbling post might. Exposing sin, and refusing to give it the power of shame over me.

    I feel obstinate as I write this. My thoughts turned to how much I did not want anyone to know my foolishness and I realized that that was as much from the devil as the original sin was. The instinctive idea of hiding was disappointing to me. I believe the devil wants me to hide, to hide in a little hole of self-recrimination and imagine a world of perfect Christians that me and my selfish little ways will never measure up to. But I refuse.

    All that said, I hope you got some good out of this post, because it killed me to write it. But that's the good part. No, the best part. You see, I needed to die. Romans 6:6

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    God is NOT a hobby.

    This morning before church I was in our little room playing the piano, I was playing various worship songs and choruses when something came up and I stopped playing to talk to someone about trash.

    Literally, trash.
    Someone taking out the trash and the duties assigned with it.

    Then I carried on playing my worship songs.

    Some little thought niggled at me, but I didn't stop to think it out. It was about time to finish getting ready to go so after a bit I just stopped playing and got ready.

    We tried a new church today. Christian Family Church. They had a 9am service and an 11am service and since my brother is throwing a paper route in the middle of the night we let him sleep late so we could go to the 11 o'clock service.

    As we got to the church the 9am folks are leaving. I was a little disturbed to see people in shorts, jeans, t-shirts, some walking by chatting on cell phones and holding their coffee cups.
    I was trying to shrug that off as I went in to where the worship service has already started, and I was trying desperately to enter in and worship, worship but I notice I'm having difficulty tuning out all the distractions around me. People are walking around, talking, chatting... I remind myself to focus... the ushers are constantly walking up and down the aisles... focus... the people two aisles up are talking and laughing with each other... focus... someone pushes in a stroller with an icee...

    That was my undoing.

    I wasn't sure if it was right or not (I am still not sure), but suddenly I just couldn't sing. I did not want my voice mingled in with theirs. Even when they settled down a little bit towards the end and the singing seemed more focused I just kept thinking over and over again "lukewarm... lukewarm...lukewarm...." I didn't want to be a part of anything that God would want to spit out with distaste.

    I could have been entirely wrong for feeling this way. But my entire being was wishing they would stop singing.
    I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my face. It hurt. I didn't want God treated badly, disrespected, treated so haphazardly. And I felt He was.

    It was during this, that God reminded me of my morning activities. I was playing words such as "worthy is the Lamb seated on the throne. We crown You now with many crowns.."
    Then talking about trash.
    Then returned to "I worship You almighty God, there is none like You..."

    ... I was ashamed of myself.

    But I was thankful for the new understanding of reverence and holiness in my life.
    When I stop what I'm doing and I begin doing something unto God, whether singing a song or playing the piano, praying, I need to remember that what I'm doing during that moment is the most important thing I'm doing. Because God is worthy of it.

    God is HOLY. And as such, when I offer Him something then in respect to that Holiness I need to make sure that I don't allow anything else to become more important or intrude. It broke my heart today to know that I had done that to Him. To know that something that was repulsing me so much, had been in my own heart.

    It's kind of like finding a polluted sewage pond, and running from it, only to discover that your drinking water comes from said pond.

    I've been seeking God for holiness, righteousness, that I would walk uprightly in as pure a way as He can create in me. So this painful revelation today was special to me, and I count it as an answer to prayer.

    The church was still awful. We sat through a 10 minute sermon on why you should tithe (which I certainly agree with) before the pastor finally came on and literally unveiled a giant HDTV (and when I say giant, I'm telling you it was over 10 foot tall) and he did this so he could discuss the new sign they were buying. A big HDTV sign, 30' by 25'. (Obviously, the reason they need you faithful in your tithes.)
    We spent 10 minutes listening to him talk about the glory of the sign when I passed the note begging that we could go. We walked out.

    Ironically enough, they introduced the idea with the scripture saying we should into to all the world and make disciples, and how 70% of their visitors came from friends and family referrals and only 7% came from their billboard.
    They actually claimed that now, all of their traffic would come from the new sign.
    *snide comment not added here, but trust me when I say it's hard not to say it*

    Please pray for us as we look for a church home here. I'm okay with going to church after church, (though it's certainly not my preference) but I'm not interested in going to churches that don't worship God with reverence and sincerity. I'm praying for wisdom, and a finely tuned ear to the direction God may want us to go.

    Meanwhile, my lesson in Holiness today tells me that God is not my hobby. And must not be treated as such. When I sit down to enjoy a moment with Him, it's not the same as playing with a postage stamp collection, or some scrapbook endeavor. Instantly, an ordinary moment of an ordinary day is completely transformed into a moment when you, simple ordinary you, arrest attention from the Almighty King of all Kings.

    It's important.
    It's also important to remember that God can teach you something even in the worst and most dreadful of circumstances. Problems and bad events in your life are not for no reason whatsoever. They are there for a purpose and a season and God will use it for your benefit.
    Always and forever.

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Stages of Alzheimers

    Judging from the stages, mom is completely on stage 5 of alzheimers. With a few issues from stage 6.
    There are 7 stages.

    Stages of Alzheimers

    Obviously, there are other places that note different numbers of stages (3 or 5) but this just happens to be the one we went with.

    It took us approximately 5 possibly 6 years to get to stage 5.

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    Whose glory is it?

    It's odd how we claim so many promises from the bible about our own blessings. The first one that comes to mind is how He would "open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing" Malachi. 3:10. We claim healing, we claim prosperity, we claim strength, we claim wisdom, we claim FOG even ("Favor of God") in our relationships and dealings with people we want to do things for us.

    In my many years of church-going I've also learned that at the end of all those requests, you're supposed to state that God would do all these things so "HE" would be glorified. Because it's certainly not about us wanting more things, an easier go of it, or anything like that right? Yeah, it's not about us. Really. We just want God to be glorified by doing nice things for us. That's certainly the only reason I would ask. Really. -- Have I dripped enough sarcasm onto these sentences yet?

    The other day, my brother had gone to the library and come back with some videos with the intent of making his children watch them thus gaining substance, and slight education over this education-less summer break. That evening, they sat at the kitchen table and were asked to tell us what happened in the movie.

    The first story, was about a man named William Tyndale. You may have heard of this famous name if you happen to own a Bible. Well, according to our brief book report Mr. Tyndale translated the Bible into the English language, but the church didn't like it, and the king didn't like it, and they found out he did it so they burned him.

    The second story, was about a man named Jim Elliot. If you're not a reader or you just haven't read "Through Gates of Splendor" by his wife Elisabeth Elliot, perhaps you've seen the movie version called "End of the Spear". The kids watched a short animated version, and according to our mini book reporters Jim (or Sam as he was accidentally called) went to preach to the Mexican people, and they didn't like him because he had weapons and so they killed him.

    That one report is a little less than accurate - you can click on the names to get the fuller, far more interesting stories of these two men - but the one thing that stuck with me through the two recitals was - both stories ended the exact same way. Both men were killed.

    While we're praying God will bless us, (while we do little to nothing to further His Kingdom except for the "letting our Godly lives speak for Him") these men took on specific missions from God and if I compared myself with either one of them, I'm pretty sure between the two of us they are the ones that deserve the blessings. Or one might imagine they could gain at least the blessing of protection so they don't get killed doing what God has sent them to do.

    But no, God was glorified in their work, in their lives, and even in their deaths. God uses glory, and takes glory from situations that we would least expect Him to. That - THAT is the glory that is really about God and not us.

    Our lives are meant to glorify God, to be in a blessed relationship with Him that brings Him glory. But those blessings are rarely blessings of prosperity, except in the fact that we have ALL things of Christ at our disposal and so because of that our every need is supplied.

    We Christians tend to get cranky when our needs aren't met but it's typically because we spent our "need" money on other things, we spent our "need" health on other hobbies. We spend our "needs" on "wants" and then wait for God to bless again for the need. I think God sometimes just wants to get our attention concerning how little we really need.

    But our blessings still run deep and pure, and in over abundance. And perhaps we'll all see that when we begin to try and see things Gods way, rather than according to our flesh.
    God is good.

    William Tyndale knew God was good even as he was tied to the stake.
    Jim Elliot knew God was good even as he was murdered by the Auca Indians.
    Perhaps we can find it in ourselves to know God is good even if we don't have a new car.

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Alzheimers, Grief, Faith

    Since I no longer go to church here, I suppose I'm officially breaking and entering. The fact that I used a key only means that no one has remembered to request it of me, and I have yet to remember to return it.

    But, being raised in a church - this was instinctively where I pointed my car when I got the news we'd all been wondering for a while now.

    A counselor has recommended my mother stop using her medication. It is no longer doing her any good.

    I was in a store, standing next to a clothing rack when the voice over the cell phone told me how the bad days that I'd witnessed a couple of weeks ago were progressively getting worse.
    I remember walking out to my car and looking into the rearview mirror and looking at my face. I'd never recognized the emotion of grief on my face before. Yet there it was, so very different from all the other emotions, looking back at me from this strange face in the mirror. I managed to not cry for 23 minutes.

    And then I went to church to cry.

    I was at a stop light, with tears rolling down my face, when I considered how we don't deserve anything more from God, but as a Father He truly cares about my earnest please God that is still ripping from my gut.

    My mom is going to be gone beyond any of our reach all too soon. I speak that in faith, knowing she won't be gone to me forever, but it doesn't diminish the grief. Grief.

    Just in case anyone needs to hear this; I believe Christians should feel emotions. Grief, sadness, joy, heartache. I believe it's ok to cry because it hurts. I believe hurting over things does not, in any way whatsoever, show a lack of faith or hope in Christ Jesus. I know Jesus grieved. I know Jesus had sorrows. I know Jesus cried. I know Jesus never lost faith.

    I am free to do the same. Just so long as I, too, do not lose faith.

    Father God, my mother is dying with alzheimers and the pills don't work anymore, please heal her.
    My dear pastor is dying with heart problems, every stint seems to only buy a little more time before the next one, please heal him.
    My dear L is constantly suffering with migraines, and so many medical problems that I don't even know them all - please take control back for her and heal her.
    My friend is suffering daily with fibromyalgia, constant pain and nothing seems to work to free her of it, please heal her.
    My friend refuses to believe in a God who loves Him and created the universe, instead he chooses to chase psychological cures and hope from the world, please draw Him.
    My friends father is chained by alcohol and simply cannot find release, please deliver him.

    Please Jesus, You have shown mercy beyond compare to me in my journey. You have made me Your child when I am less than nothing, yet You loved me. It's because of all You have done up to now that I know You care, and that's why I ask so many things of you that I still do not deserve. Because my worthiness means nothing to Your graciousness. You are simply gracious and merciful despite my faults.

    I love You.