Thursday, November 26, 2009
But because of Christ I've spent this day alone less alone than I've ever been before.
I had a wonderful day. I'm so thankful that He loves me. Simple as that.
I hope your Thanksgiving was more special than ever before.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, the instant the song service began at church I felt something big and exciting was about to happen. Every single song just drug you deeper and deeper in. It was powerful, and wonderful, and addictive. By the time it was over you simply wished it could go on forever.
Part way through though, God told me to do something. He's told me before, and the answer was always 'no'. He told me to go to the front to worship. To get out of my row, walk down the aisle to the front of the church and worship.
No God, anything but that. They'll think I'm just doing it to be seen, to be dramatic and all "look at me".
God, I just can't. Not that. You know what they'll think, I can't draw attention to myself. This isn't about me; it's suppose to be about You.
God, if You really want me to go, You're going to have to give me the strength to do it because I don't have it. I can't do it God, I just can't.
And then we began singing a song "Here in Your presence". I'll give you the words and a link to the video at the end of the post; but the words that really hit me were the words "Here in Your presence we are undone."
And by my refusal to do as He asked the contrast to my saying "we are undone" put lie to my words. I hated my refusal. I hated the things about me that held me back from anything that God would ask of me. I hated my weak self. And I begged God, even as I felt a quake of fear at how God might answer, I begged Him to actually "undo" me. To make me "undone" as I had just sung.
Get me there God, somehow.
And just as I had talked about before, it's the first step into the unknown that is the very hardest. My arms were raised and I took one step out into the aisle. And I literally don't remember how I got to the front. Once that first step was made I was there. And, I do want to add that once I got there not one thing else was more important to me than worshiping God.
I suppose I won't go into further detail except to say that the Spirit of God was wonderful in that place, and praise - hungry, holy praise went forth to Him. I'd have to say it was one of the best experiences in my life. One I hope to repeat only to greater extents and deeper depths as I continue living my life for Him.
God is freeing me. Bit by bit. Control by control. And I can't help but sometimes think how incredible it is to be the clay with potential that is only limited by the Hands that form me.
As promised, the words to the song followed by the video:
HERE IN YOUR PRESENCE
by New Life Worship (Desperation Band)
Found in Your hands, fullness of joy
Every fear suddenly wiped away
Here in Your presence
All of my gains now fade away
Every crown no longer on display
Here in Your presence
Heaven is trembling in awe of Your wonders
The kings and their kingdom are standing amazed
Here in Your presence, we are undone
Here in Your presence, Heaven and Earth become one
Here in Your presence, all things are new
Here in Your presence, everything bows before You
Wonderful, beautiful, glorious, matchless in every way
Wonderful, beautiful, glorious, matchless in every way
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Just wanted to write a quick note... in a previous blog I mentioned the specific issue of gas money to get home for Thanksgiving. There was an amount in my head when I wrote that. That was written on Tuesday.
Today, Saturday, via a few different sources as has been the constant habit in the last 5 months, I have a little over double what I need. And that's not counting the one craigslist item that someone hasn't picked up yet. Yet I have a little over double. And it's also not counting the offers I received from blog readers and friends to pay my way for me.
God is incredible. I wouldn't have been upset to not make it home. This is going to be our first Thanksgiving that mom doesn't know who we are. Missing that wouldn't have bothered me a bit. So I suppose I might admit that I was smirking a little bit as I said I would leave it in Gods hands. I may have been hoping... but God knows best. And He provides exceedingly and abundantly. As I think about it now I have to smile as I think about how the post I had written about it talked about how God has given me too much. And here I say I need a certain amount and He gives me double. Again, too much.
He is the God of too much. There is abundance in my home today. Perhaps I'm the only one who can see it, appreciate it, revel and relax into it, but bountiful abundance it certainly is.
Now I'm just hoping Proverbs 28:25 doesn't come true!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Part of the subject matter went to the moment (Luke 22:21-24) when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them would betray Him. They immediately begin saying "Who is it?"
Then, just one verse later they're fighting about who would be the greatest in Gods Kingdom.
The point was made that these two seemingly unrelated topics were probably strung together by one statement.
"Well, I obviously wouldn't be the one to betray Him."
When faced with the idea that someone in the room was going to do something utterly despicable , the conversation turns to how they would never do something that awful, which then leads to which one of them is better than all the rest.
In my own life, too often, I've seen a way to make a joke of something/someone; or I've seen a way to put down or, at the very least, doubt the validity of some ministries. I've struggled (and still struggle) with going to new churches without having that skepticism in my heart as to whether or not these people actually love God. As though that distinction is mine to make and it can be made in 2 hours time. I've judged people by groups. When I know I wouldn't want my passion for Christ to be judged by some of churches I've attended.
It's hard to get out of a judgmental mindset. Hard to keep from thinking along the lines of my preconceived notions and simply leave myself open.
Because ultimately, when I make myself the judge like that it's easy for me to be an exact replica of the disciples as they say "I wouldn't do that, matter of fact I might even be among the greatest of us all. I guess I've got this all down pat now."
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go remind myself that this post must be referring to the old me, for surely I'm too good for this kind of behavior now.
...Harumph... I wish
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
And while not everything has come together (I sincerely doubt that until I reach Heaven that I'll be able to conclusively say that "everything" has come together...) I just want to tell you what God has done.
When I left San Antonio at the end of September, I had been job hunting for nearly 4 months with no real success. The only luck I did have was one incredibly fun job that unfortunately netted me about 2-3 hours of pay per week. Needless to say, for some reason I felt that wasn't enough to live off of. Just before I left, I had finally been offered 2 jobs and had to turn them down. I also had two interviews lined up that I had to cancel (interviews were hard to come by as well, so even getting to that stage was progress).
When I submitted to God and said I would return to San Antonio after a month helping my mother I wondered if God had been in my return at all. It had felt like the right thing to do, and today, in hindsight, the month seemed just exactly what was needed. Dad needed a break from mom, and some physical help in doing some of the major renovations he'd begun on what will one day be their home, and here I was ready and able to crawl under the house and get dirty.
When I came back though, in my prayers was that God would bless what I'd done. That He would bless my letting go of San Antonio and doing what I felt was necessary. I suppose it's hard to understand but I didn't want a blessing just because I wanted things to be easier or because I was tired of job hunting or needed money. I truly wanted it just to know that Gods hand of blessing was on something that I had done.
I returned on Sunday night, and began job hunting Monday morning. I went through several interviews and tests with one company and was required to come back a second day for more interviews. On that second day I was hired. I didn't announce it on my blog because there were some negative issues concerning it but deep inside all I could think was "You've really blessed me Lord." 4 months of looking and searching, and He brings about His will in 2 days. I was distinctly impressed with the realization that what I have isn't because I've done something, but because God has. It's easy to neglect that idea.
The only issue was that, well, now it was November 3rd, and my new job wouldn't start till November 18th. I deliberated the idea of continuing the job search in hopes of finding something that would start sooner. But the reality of no money coming in combined with the fact that cars run on gas, equaled the knowledge that if I have no gas I could technically have no job as well if I can't transport myself back and forth until the pay begins. So I sat back, slightly nervously I must say, and waited for the 18th to arrive.
At nearly 7pm on the 17th I received a phone call from the company telling me not to come to work. They'd had a problem with my background and until it was resolved I couldn't come to work. The next training classes would begin in January.
I'd like to tell you that I began fasting and praying, or that I hit my knees and didn't get up from my righteous womans fervent praying until I felt the issue was resolved. But instead all I could feel was quiet. I told God, quite simply, that I could only do what I could do the best I could do it and the rest was up to Him. And then I wrote a blog post about how God had given me too much.
At 8am this morning I stood before the door of their building and asked that God would grant me favor with these people. Then I went in, announced myself, and said I was there to talk to Barbara in HR. I took a seat in the lobby filled with people that were preparing to start that morning. I sat quietly as the receptionist called them all back. I waited alone in the lobby 20 minutes for my audience with Ms. Barbara McCoy.
She was gracious, but very firm. My application was fraudulent, the company I said I worked for for 5 years did not know I existed. They would not hire me. I pointed out the error (they had called the wrong company - which was partially my fault because they had to look up the information because I'd written the wrong area code). I told her that I'd already talked to that employer this morning and that she should have already received an e-mail from them in the last 30 minutes.
She left me alone in the room again while she went to verify the e-mail and some other things that had not been done concerning me. She returned with a welcoming smile and said "Come with me." I suppose I have limited life experience, but I could only imagine those words sounding sweeter coming from my Savior as He welcomed me to Heaven. I have a job.
I've been in San Antonio 5 months without steady work. When I try and stop and figure out how on earth I've paid my bills, I don't have the faintest clue. I really don't. Yet every month I've been able to pull my share and even help others when they've needed it. He's given me too much.
As I studied the facts tonight and that the two tanks of gas required to drive back to my parents for Thanksgiving might be more than I can handle, I talked over the possibility of my not going back for the holiday with my family here. Minutes later I checked my e-mail and someone was interested in something I had on craigslist. There is one tank of gas. Will God provide the 2nd?
None of these things have happened with wild shouts and exclamations of joy but with a suddenly quiet spirit that is willing to just wait and see how it turns out. This has distinctly felt like one of those moments where I just had to hold my peace and let the Lord fight my battles. And He has. And it has been a perfect example of how I am victorious today. Rather than trying to pin it all on "Now the problems are solved it's going to change" it's simply; Today. Sufficient for the day is the trouble thereof - or something like that.
He's given me too much.
I feel like this part should be in a different, separate post so those who aren't interested in the minute details that this post is chock full of wouldn't have to wade through it all - but it fits here so for those that skipped this post because it was too long I'm sorry they missed this part.
At church tonight, the speaker made a point concerning the events of Adam and Eves original sin. If you read from a King James Bible it depicts how God came to Adam and Eve and said "You may eat of all the trees in the Garden. But do not eat of this tree."
The devil came along and said "Did not God say you could not eat of all the trees in the Garden?"
Gods focus in His wording was on all that He has given us. You may eat of ALL the trees - save one.
Whereas the devil twists the words to "You can not eat of all the trees" and taints everything with the one thing forbidden.
In explaining the concept to my niece this evening I gave her the example of when she and her brother were obsessed with heelies. No matter what you gave them, their hearts cry was for heelies and whatever you gave them it wasn't heelies. They couldn't see "all the trees" because the devil had limited their focus to "not ALL", the one thing they didn't have.
And I don't know how to hand you a peace like this except to tell you what God has done for me, and how wonderful it is, how peaceful it is, how precious it is to have my gaze now on "all the trees".
I'm sure my gaze will swing sometime. I'm human and stupid - a LOT. But despite the things that seem to be lacking right now, I can only keep thinking "He's given me too much." There is extra. There is more than enough. More than more than enough.
Don't let the devil show you one tree, when God has planted you a forest.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It's a great post stemming from a comment his daughter made about what might happen after some publishing company bought her daddys book. She announced that if they made too much money they could give it to Vietnam. (He is currently working with his readers to build a 2nd kindergarten over there right now too - click here to give).
In part of this post he said this: "I love that. I love that as a six year old she still believes in the concept of “too much” money. Those words are so foreign to me as an adult. There’s no such thing as “too much” money. That’s crazy talk. Have you ever heard someone at work say, “Yeah, my wife and I realized we have too much money so we’re trying to figure out how to do something with it before it does something with us."
I read that post and I thought about how crazy my focus is sometimes. I'll be the first to tell you what I don't have, what I lack, how I'm not enough. But God has abundantly blessed me with too much. I just don't focus on it, utilize it, or appreciate it.
He's given me too much. He's given me so much that I have enough to give to others.
It's just too easy for me to only see in terms of money and possessions. Or worse yet, to use that money only to acquire those things that I deem to make my life "enough". That attitude only leaves me feeling unsatisfied and frustrated.
But when I really sit back and see what He's done, what He's given me, how He has blessed me, I can only see, with joy overflowing, that I've got too much. How can I give it away.
For me, part of it lately has been to pour it into this blog. I am encouraged, I am blessed, I am hopeful, and it's all during some pretty scary times. So whatever your scary time, whatever you're facing where you're tempted to believe whatever it is isn't "enough", let me give you some of my peace. He's given me too much.
Let me give you some of my hope. He's given me too much.
Let me give you some of my joy. He's given me too much.
Let me tell you what God has done. He's done too much.
Monday, November 16, 2009
It's short, so it won't take but just a bit to read, and you'll have something interesting to chew on all day long. But here are just two small portions of it that give you a huge idea of what he's talking about and I wanted to comment on.
Malachi is a book that gets little attention and that’s too bad. if there is any book that is highly relevant to modern American churchianity, this is it.
He points out all their faults and their response, over and over again, is “What? How have we done that?” To every charge they respond, “How have we done that?”
He contrasts the difference between the wicked who are ignorant of their sins from the righteous who are ignorant of their goodness.
Contrast that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. When I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink. Here’s the response of the righteous:
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?”
I want to be ignorant of my goodness. I want to be absolutely oblivious to it because I'm so wrapped up in Gods goodness.
I'm a terrific legalist if I don't stop myself. I was raised in it and still get lectures on it today. And the unfortunate part of that is that it leaves you dwelling on your own goodness, your own rigid hold to right and holy so that you will measure up. And it's hair-pulling hard to let go of those ideas and that constant survey of yourself to make sure you "measure up".
When in reality I don't measure up at all. If God ever decided to hold up my works and my abilities to determine my eternal fate I would be hopelessly and laughably short of the mark. That is the brunt of the idea behind grace. I'm still an idiot sometimes, but thank God He's no longer measuring ME and what I've done when He looks in His Lambs Book of Life.
Instead He sees some idiot 28 yr old that imperfectly loved God and others and though she failed a thousand times over, she tried to do Gods will, and had asked for the blood of Christ to cover her life. And then He sees the blood.
And that will be enough.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I suppose if I had to summarize all that I felt God was trying to impress on me this last week it would be those three words. "Don't give up."
It's too easy to look at your circumstances, your burdens, how far you have left to travel, and so many other factors and just give up and stop.
After my unexpectedly long trek to the library yesterday my brother asked me something along the lines of "What were you thinking when you first left?" And it made me remember how hard those first steps were. It's one thing to commit to a journey 12 miles long when you're 6 miles from home and have to take those last 6 miles in order to return. But something has to be going on in your head to convince you to walk away from the comforts of your home and begin walking.
Too often the point of giving up isn't in the middle of our struggle, it happens before a struggle ever starts. It happens so early on that it prevents the struggle from ever beginning. We give up before we ever start.
"It's too far"
"It might rain"
"I'm not strong enough"
"Something might go wrong"
"This is a silly endeavor"
"It will take too long"
"It's just going to be too hard"
So we give up. We take our tennis shoes off and find a nice safe hobby that doesn't challenge our preconceived notions of what we're capable of.
But all this week as I panted up hills on my bike, and walked way too far, and as I stood in the doorway preparing to begin a walk I wasn't sure about, all I could imagine was God telling me not to give up. Don't give up.
So whatever you do, don't give up. Don't be afraid to start. And don't let the devil rationalize you into defeat. Walking to the library doesn't make sense to anyone, but I needed to do it. And I did it. And while I'm proud that I made the walk, I'm most proud of the fact that I started the walk. Because if there was a point I would have given up at, it was there.
So find something, ask God for something, then start it. Even if it seems impossible, unreasonable, illogical, or even unnecessary. Don't ever stop starting.
Friday, November 13, 2009
So I grabbed my backpack and and headed out the door.
Turns out, Mr Google lies sometimes and it was 6.1 miles to my destination.
I sat outside the building trying to dry off some ( I was quite the attractive picture at the moment) then I went inside and rested a bit and found what I always find at a library. More books I'd like to read than time to read them. I selected about 7 books, checked out and loaded them into my backpack and began mentally preparing myself for the walk home.
I don't know if you caught the mention or not, but, I found 7 books... checked out 7 books... 7. Just so you know, 7 books are pretty heavy when you attempt to lug them 6.1 miles. About 2 miles into the journey I was thanking God that I never pursued the idea of joining the military. I'm pretty sure they make you do things like that on a regular basis.
I got home, finally, and I immediately got rid of the pack.
Here's the funny thing about that though...
Randomly, even hours later, I could feel that pack on my back. I would have swore it was still there, even though I knew it wasn't. My body just got used to the feel of the burden, it got used to being mindful that when I passed a tree branch I needed to make sure it didn't hit the pack on my way by. I took care of my pack. But suddenly, even without the pack I found myself watching, telling myself not to lean back, don't roll over, all to protect my phantom backpack.
I couldn't help but think how, even after God delivers us, pulls some burden we've carried so long off our backs, that we still have those phantom burdens - only it's not as easy to know that it's a phantom rather than the real thing.
I was thinking about my post yesterday, about some of the struggles I've faced and I knew that I couldn't blame the devil for all of them. I've created so many of my own obstacles that you'd think I was into professional obstacle course building... And I wondered how many times in life God pulled my burdensome pack off my back only to find me still tending to some phantom pack until the devil was finally able to put it back on me again.
A friend of mine posted something on her Facebook that I wanted to share with you:
"'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.' Marianne Williamson
As we tend our wounds, as we carry our baggage around, whether phantom or not, we miss out on something especially incredible - Being all God wants us to be.
Some of you carry around the baggage that you'll never find who you're meant to marry. Others of you carry around baggage of fear that everyone will hurt you. Maybe you're more like me in that your baggage is a heavy shield meant to protect you from all the world can throw at you. Those shields are too heavy to carry for distance. I'm learning how to lay mine down. And whatever baggage you're holding onto, whatever is in that backpack of yours; whether anger, self-pity, hurt, fear, rejection, shame, guilt... ask God to help you lay it down, just like I did with my guilt awhile back.
But when He does it, you and I always have to be diligent to remember what God has done for us. And what's done is done. So when that phantom guilt, phantom fear starts to haunt you then you can just remember "Oh that's right, I'm not afraid anymore." And so on...
It seems silly, even as I type it. And perhaps I just handle my issues in unusual ways and no one else connects with what I'm saying. But for me, so often I've had to just stop myself and remind myself "NO, I'm not THAT anymore." The phantoms appear out of nowhere, in situations where you'd least expect it, and your reality shakes for a moment - and in that moment you either concede to what the devil tells you or you remind him that you're not who you used to be by the grace of God.
For me, I tell the devil that I'm not alone anymore. For years I've faced the world under the assumption that if I couldn't do it on my own it wouldn't be done. I've told myself that if I fall on my face that I'm the only one who can pick me up so I had to watch how far I flew, how fast, and what loads I carried.
But I am not alone. There are people, and the number has grown in the last two years, that if I found myself in need of help I could call and at least one would be available to help me.
Even now, I'm more tempted than ever to erase those two paragraphs, but with sick to my stomach determination I say that the pack is not there anymore. I won't put it back on, and I won't erase my written confidence in it.
It's among the difficult things in life to do, so I don't know if you'll join me or not - but do you have any packs you want to lay down?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Every morning it seems, as I ride my bike merrily along the way, at some point I come to a seemingly flat surface and yet it's as hard to move along as if I were trying to trek up a steep incline. I half-jokingly griped to God this morning that apparently the devil didn't want me to exercise so he was holding my tire and I was having to drag him along.
Instantly, as though continuing a longstanding conversation, the words returned to me; "Then as long as you keep going, he's only making you stronger."
And I realized how much stronger I am now for having faced the hills, for having continued pedaling when my flat surface seemed not-so-flat. "I thank God for the mountains, and I thank God for the valleys,..." Because of those problems, because of those physical struggles I can go farther and longer than I could 5 months ago when I first moved here.
And as I looked back quickly into the last 8 years of my life, I saw a lot of times where it was really hard to keep going, where I felt held back, tripped up, or just couldn't see how the obstacle I had to climb was able to be clumb. Yeah spell checker, I know that's not a word.
And yet God let me face them. Not because He gets some sadistic pleasure out of seeing me struggle but because He wants me to grow, to be strong, to learn, to understand, to chase after Him and His will with a drive and purpose and with stamina built by facing the daily challenges life brings me.
So often I've noticed me and my bike only have stamina to make it up the short hills, but the long ones require the foolish looking "park on the side of the road panting for a minute while drivers point and laugh". Okay, I made the pointing and laughing up but still...
When I moved to San Antonio, I never thought it would take quite so long to get settled, I didn't imagine mothers having heart attacks, or parents threatening to separate, or pills making my mother's alzheimers a thousand times worse. I didn't imagine half of the struggles I've run into since I've made it here. And this hill sometimes seems too long, as though I only have strength for a short struggle and if this is going to continue I will need a place to rest and pant and recover my strength.
But as I pushed through today, riding down my flat surface and imagining the devil hanging onto my bike tire, I could only tell God how much I appreciate the struggle. So again Lord, thank You for allowing me these struggles. I wouldn't have chosen them for myself but You have chosen the ones that You know You have already strengthened me to face. I remember riding up that long hill the other day and asking You for strength to make it up and I will never forget what You told me. You said that You'd already given me the strength to make it up the hill, but that I must only have the will to use it to the end.
So thank You, even when I cry and complain that the hills of life are too hard, that the grief or challenge is too overwhelming, I know that You have directed these things into my path so that as I go through I will be stronger. I'll whine and moan again Lord, I always seem to...but just keep reminding me would you? remind me that there's a purpose and a plan and those things are always for the best and that these struggles aren't meaningless.
Help me have stamina for the journeys Lord, for the long hills I'll face. I'll face the hills you bring me Lord, and as long as I don't stop I know I'll be stronger because of them.
Help me never stop.
I love You.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Occasionally you'll find some one that smiles and waves. Sometimes I'm just happy if they smile.
But the other day, I found the one person I like best of all; he was driving his small white pick up, looking as though he was heading off to work. He swiveled his neck to see me pedaling my way along and he grinned and gave me two thumbs up.
I was thrilled, because I had finally come across someone that seemed truly happy.
I like happy people.
Go back in time to a Sunday just awhile back when I took a step away from my normal habitats and instead went to a Baptist church. It turned out that they were missing their piano player that morning and so I offered to help them out. As I played, the people sang rather unenthusiastically, and never even pretended to clap. As I played, I was constantly trying to gauge myself and make sure I did not get too enthusiastic myself and offend my new Baptist friends.
When the service ended however, I found myself converged upon by people that were excited. It was as though the minute church was over they came to life. One man laughing and grinning even said he expected smoke to start coming from the piano at any minute from the way I was playing... (And that was with me playing in a toned down fashion!). I don't think I could have been more shocked at their comments and the sudden change in atmosphere after the final prayer was said.
And I wondered about who we really are. Deep down inside. Underneath the professional demeanor, the formal spiritual airs, outside the stress of being a mother/father, and the stress of being a single person juggling too many things by yourself.
Somewhere, deep down inside, I wonder if we all have that grinning-thumbs-up-guy attitude just waiting to come out.
I admit, I feel a little beaten down concerning attitudes. Happy attitudes aren't always appreciated, and looking on the bright side or looking for a positive in a situation seems almost as welcome as someone yelling at you. But I keep looking out for people just like my thumbs-up guy. The world isn't full of stoic people that only feel the weight of the world. It's full of some pretty incredible people that just can't seem to get the candle out of the bushel so to speak.
I suppose this post isn't exactly "Christian", it doesn't have some type of Spiritual application or some valuable lesson about Gods character. It's just a post that says be happy. I don't care if I lose my home, my family dies and someone runs over my dog, steals my man and gives me a bad haircut all in the same day. I have reason to be happy. I have reason to have joy.
I want to be a grinning-thumbs-up-guy that just can't be stopped.
Except I'll be a girl.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I've never been the most original person in the world, so I've always been happy to find someone elses idea and flow with it. This is one time I'm sure I won't regret it. Loving someone, and performing all the less self actions necessary to show that love, is worth it.
My niece created a power point project for school and each slide showed a person in her life or an interest she enjoyed. Slides for her mom included details like where she worked and some other tidbit I can't remember. Slides for her dad included where he worked and some other detail. My slide? It was blank. The slide for the dog she doesn't have? Includes details about how great dogs are.
I gave her no end of harassment that she would be able to come up with more information concerning a dog she doesn't actually have than she could come up with about me. Yet today as it came to mind again a single thought stuck with me: "What would I want her to say about me?"
And then, as I thought about the greatest thing I love about God I realized I would want her to have as her one thought when she had to describe me:
"My Aunt Net loves me."
One of the reasons I love God so much today is because of how He treated me when I walked away from Him. How He loved me and relentlessly pursued my return and my surrender. I know I'm going to mess up and be a perfectly moronic idiot more times than I can count in my life - but I also know that through it all He will love me.
I don't have to worry that His affections will wander, that my sins and foolishness will one day be the final straw that makes Him give up on me. I know He loves me, and will love me, regardless of how I fail. And because of that, I will try harder not to fail, to not be that perfectly moronic idiot whose sins and foolishness might drive someone away.
And that's a gift. A gift I don't take lightly anymore. A gift that I can realize and understand better than I did 5 years ago... better than I did even 1 year ago.
But to give that kind of a gift to someone else I have to not just sit around feeling good feelings towards people. I have to actually act it out. Every day. Every time. I need to act patiently, kindly, not be boastful about myself, not be prideful, not seek my own satisfaction or needs first. I cannot be easily provoked, or think evil about others, I can't be happy about someone elses sin, and I have to rejoice in the truth.
I must bear all things (this does not mean with a sigh and a glare to ones side).
I must believe all things (this does not mean say I believe them while I think negative thoughts).
I must hope all things (this does not mean saying that I hope in order to cheer others, while I have lost hope myself).
I must endure all things (this does not mean surviving bad things while I throw pity parties and whine and moan).
In other words, I need to act as gracious as a any dog you'll ever meet. They fulfill 1 Corinthians 13 perfectly.
It's not an easy thing to do, and I need to get a lot better at it as anyone of my family or friends could probably tell you. But it's the greatest gift God has given me (outside of salvation) just to be loved and to be able to count on that love.
So for all the gifts that I wish I could give my niece, my nephew, my brother and his wife, to my friends and family, to you, it's simply this:
Aunt Net loves you.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Sunday, November 1st my parents drove off to go to church.
I then packed all my things together, loaded them in my car and headed to church myself. This was the day I was to head back to San Antonio and the day would begin with pretending it was just another day.
We were entirely unsure of how my mom would react to my leaving, so it was decided that the best course of action was to simply not tell her and not let her see me leave.
I had spent the entire weekend struggling with the decision. I felt horribly guilty, imagining that she would somehow come to her right mind and realize that I had left without saying goodbye.
And then topping the mound was a conversation with a friend of my parents who could only express her shock and disappointment that I would abandon my parents. She told me of my parents disappointment as well.
If you know anything about me, you more than likely know how addicted to obligation and responsibility I am. The words spoken to me ate at me like a cancer. I struggled with guilt that was so heavy I could hardly sleep, eat, or get through the day without weeping. I pride myself on doing what needs to be done - and in this, I was leaving something so very important undone. I was sick.
At the same time, I was determined to return because I know beyond a doubt that God has planted me in San Antonio for some reason yet to be revealed.
By the time I drove my car, packed full of goods, to church that morning I was an emotional wreck. I barely held myself together right up until we began singing "He's all I need". In that instant I crumbled and I could only say "God, I need you. I know what You've called me to do and I know that I am not guilty, yet the feelings of guilt are consuming me and I can't bear under the load. Please God, take away my guilt."
And He did.
I don't know what condemnation you are facing, whether it's feelings of shame, loneliness, guilt, hurt, anger, fear, grief, or worthlessness. Maybe you're afraid you're not providing for your family, giving enough time to your kids, not patient enough with your siblings, not a hard enough worker for your employer, afraid you waste time when you should be volunteering to a cause, not reading your Bible enough, not praying enough, not being good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not wise enough, not holy enough.
The devil is always able to show you some way that you just aren't enough. And the way past those accusations isn't to show him how you are enough, how you meet whatever standard he's set for you. All you have to do is head to the Master, and confess that indeed you aren't enough - and you absolutely need the One and only one who IS enough. More than enough. And then trust in that.
I was amazed when I left church that day in far better shape than when I came. I had need of my Savior and I found Him there. He touched me, and removed my guilt and shame. It was an absolute miracle. No one can change a heart like God can.
He can do the same for you, if you just ask.
The winner is...
So, Robert please e-mail me your address and I will send the Bible your way. I hope you get a lot of great use from it, or find someone suitable to give it to.
And thanks to everyone who entered with comments, it made my month to read your guesses. I'm excited to move into the month of November and get back to my regular posting. I think 2010 might have more contests in it, just because I enjoy them so much. :)
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
God has answered a good many prayers in the last two weeks, and I hope to be able to write them out soon if for no other reason than to encourage you with the specific ways that God hears and answers prayers. If you have ever doubted that He hears you, doubt no more. If you have ever doubted that His heart is touched by our suffering, doubt no more. He hears, He sees, He is moved.
But that is not why I'm posting today! I believe I have a contest to take care of and finally a revealing of what good thing caused me to sin. I doubt any of you ever would have guessed it in a million years.
This is "The Expositor's Study Bible" by Jimmy Swaggart.
It's heralded as being "The most unique aid to Bible understanding available today!"
And here are some of the specs:
Virtually every scripture is self-explained
King James Version
Biblical text in black, expositors notes in red.
Expositors notes are positioned immediately following the scripture, phrase, or even word
Bonded leather cover, Smythsewn binding
Concordance, Maps, Assorted Bible helps
Utilizing some of the best Hebrew and Greek scholars
Bible Dictionary, Bible Encyclopedia, Bible commentary in abbreviated form
Also... it's a $125.99 dollar value.
It's a pretty sweet prize.
Here is an example of how the notes are positioned.
For God so loved the world (presents the God kind of love), that He gave His Only Begotten Son (gave Him up to the Cross, for that's what it took to redeem humanity), that whosoever believes in Him should no perish, but have Everlasting Life.
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world (means that the object of Christ's mission was to save, but the issue to those who reject Him must and can only be condemnation); but that the world through Him might be saved (Jesus Christ is the only Salvation for the world; there is no other! as well, He is Salvation only through the Cross; consequently, the Cross must ever be the object of our Faith).
I see this as a wonderful tool for new believers. Forget that, it's an outstanding tool for new believers because it goes through and very carefully and diligently explains what each and every verse means. No statement that might leave a new believer, or new reader to the Bible confused is left unexplained.
But for me, while I am sure I could have learned a lot by reading all of Mr. Swaggarts notes, I instead just felt as though I were constantly being interrupted. By the time I finished the first chapter in Galatians I was ready to thump somebody on the head. Thus, how a perfectly wonderful item caused me to sin. :)
As a small commentary, I personally take slight umbrage to the fact that he put his commentary in red letters - when most Bibles tend to reserve that specific lettering for the words of Christ.
But, if I were a new believer trying to sort my way through all the typical ideas that most church people are already throwing around like secret codes... I would really appreciate this Bible.
So, I know several people I could have given this to - but I chose instead to entertain myself by having a contest. I'm sure you may as well either want this Bible to clarify things for yourself or perhaps know a new believer that could get a great deal of use from a gift such as this.
The contest officially ends on Monday 11/9/09 at 5pm. I will select the winner from all of the comments posted on this post, as well as all of the comments on the last post concerning the contest. I will attempt to post the winner that night.
If you link to this post on facebook, twitter, or your own blog or anywhere else just leave me a comment letting me know and each extra link will earn another entry.
Good luck everyone, and I am so thankful to be back with you. I've got so much to tell you!