Control, Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Life, Submission, Surrender

Boxing Out

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Boxing God out has been a common occurrence throughout my Christian walk.  Viewing Him as an opponent, with elbows out and my backside pushing against Him, I try desperately to keep him from getting the ball.  This is what happened on a Southwest flight in the summer of 2017 when my husband and I were sitting together in the aisle and middle seats.  Knowing the flight was not full I laid my jacket on the window seat next to me hoping no one would sit there.  (Yes, I did that.)  “Why is your jacket on the seat?” My husband asked, noticing the subliminal “Do not sit here” message I was sending.

“I really don’t want anyone sitting next to me so I put my jacket there hoping they wouldn’t ask.”

He replied, gently, “Uh, you should take that off the seat.”

So, while grudgingly removing my coat and sliding it under the seat in front of me, a young lady stopped and asked, “Is that seat taken?”

“No.” I whispered, letting her slide by.

Plopping in the seat next to me she promptly put her earphones in so she could listen to her music.  As she did my husband noticed the album cover on her phone.  “I love that band,” he said smiling.

Looking over at her phone I saw she was playing Christian music.  From that moment on Avie and I were flight friends.  In fact, we didn’t stop talking until we got off the plane.  As it turns out she was going into her Senior year of high school and in a dilemma regarding College.  She didn’t know if she should go to college or, if she did, where to attend or how she would pay for it.  Her parents were divorced and focused on their new families and spouses with little to offer for advice or money for education.   Avie had a heart for missions so I told her about Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and other options she hadn’t thought about.  At the end of our time together she said, “Thank you so much for talking with me.  I really needed to hear from someone other than my parents or my guidance counselor.”

Wow!  I almost missed it.  My comfort was the only thing I considered at the time and, in my narrow mindedness, forgot that God is so BIG that He could orchestrate a conversation to give a high school girl hope for her future.  He loves that much.  All I can think about at this moment is the waterfall of grace He has for His children.  Instead of calling “foul” He rolled around me and stole the ball.  I realize we are on the same team and all is forgiven, however, this encounter gives me pause for the future.  I resolve not to knowingly box Him out again and asked God to make Avie an Ebenezer stone for me; a reminder that God works in subtle, loving ways, running the plays of life through His children.

Lord, please give me a heart for those you wish to lavish with your love through this earthen vessel of mine.  Help me to remember.  I long to be compelled by your love and to live for Christ and not myself, keeping the Passion at the forefront of my mind.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

Faith, Humility, Overwhelmed, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Look Up

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Imagine a well-lit stadium full of enthusiastic believers before a Casting Crown’s concert. Now imagine a “no sense of direction” me trying to find my seat in a sea of people when finally, an usher brings me to “my” seat but in the wrong section.  I was overwhelmed and confused because my husband was not there and was texting, “Where are you?” when I thought I was in the right place.

“I’m lost,” I explained to a different usher, handing him my ticket.

“You’ll need to go all the way up the stairs and around to the next section,” he said, while handing the stub back to me.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because he immediately said, “I’ll take you,” and bounded up the steep stairway.

Just then the stadium went dark and, trying to follow him with two water bottles, my purse and my phone in my hands, I tripped on the concrete steps and fell, dropping the bottles and my pride somewhere in section N.  Disoriented and embarrassed, I looked up and saw the light.  The usher was holding his iPhone with the flashlight shining down the stairs so I could find my way up to him.  Just follow the light.  Walk in the light.  Thankfully, I arrived at my seat without further incident.

A bit shaken, It took me awhile to start enjoying the concert but the genuine love, patience and grace shown by the usher moved me.  This is God’s heart.  His light is always there for us to follow.  He waits patiently for us to get up when we fall.  He doesn’t make fun of us or even chastise us for looking stupid or being late or making a mistake. When we are confused He meets us in our confusion and orders our “steps.”

In many ways this experience had a profound effect, changing my way of thinking about walking in the light as well as living in a state of humility.  In the dark we cannot see and WILL have an accident, be disoriented and lose our way.  However, if there is light, any light, and we focus on it, it serves as a calibrating force in our hearts and minds, pulling us to safety.  Humility, though, is really a sense of selflessness where you find it easy to “look up” and follow God because you are consumed with neither pride nor shame, only Jesus, the Light of the World.

So, although I was embarrassed at first, when I looked up and saw the literal light I chose to follow it instead of hide in utter humiliation.  Now, to be honest, thoughts did swirl through my head like, “Everyone must think I’m drunk, or stupid or clumsy or…” but that kind of thinking is self-focused and not even based in reality.  The fact that everyone was actually watching the concert and NOT me was evident but I felt like they were judging me! Capturing my thoughts was no less awkward then retrieving the rolling water bottles but, like living water, so worth it!  Because God’s light is there for me (both physically and spiritually) I was able to walk out of the darkness by faith one step at a time.

Compare these two Psalms:

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” Psalm 40:12

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

The first Psalm reveals a self-focused heart heavy with guilt and shame.  The second a God-focused heart full of love and faith.  Although my tripping may seem like a “silly” example, there are all kinds of ways we trip and fall; some more severe and painful then others.  The circumstance doesn’t really matter because the principle is the same.  God is there for you.  He is patient, kind, loving and gracious and waiting for You to… look up.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Hope, Submission, Surrender, Uncategorized, Worry

Are You the One?

“Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'” Luke 7:19

Have your circumstances ever caused you to question God?  Mine have.  The questions came pouring out faster than I could process them. Thoughts like, “Um, hello! Do You really know what You’re doing, God?” were floating around in my mind wrecking my peace and pressing me into a dark room locked by unbelief.

In the same way John the baptist must have felt abandoned and alone.  I’m sure he wondered why he was sent to make way for the LORD and then immediately afterward was ushered “off stage” right into a prison cell.  After all, John was obedient, doing the will of God by pointing people to the coming Messiah while baptizing them into repentance so they could see their need for a Savior.  “Are You the expected One?” he asked, “Or should we look for someone else?”  Jesus answered him with faith building evidence that screamed, “Jesus is Messiah!”  In essence Jesus was reassuring John that He was who He said He was and who John knew Him to be.  Jesus comforted John by telling him, “I AM still God, I still love you, I still care and I do have a plan that includes this trial.”

Likewise, Jesus reminds you and me that He is fully present, aware, loving, in control and all knowing.  He is also all powerful and capable of changing any circumstance.  Why, then, do we question God today?  I question God when He doesn’t do what I want, therefore,  mistakenly assume He must be wrong or not know what He’s doing.  An example of this was never so apparent to me then when I begged God to soften the heart of our ten-year-old son eight years ago.   God answered my prayer by allowing him to break his right femur during a football game.  Broken both physically and spiritually, our son’s heart softened but it WAS NOT the way I would have done it.   The LORD declares in Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” Still, we are bent on getting our own way instead of trusting God’s love and sovereignty by surrendering to His will.

Surrender means “to give oneself up into the power of another”(www.merriam-webster.com).  John went to the LORD and asked for reassurance with a surrendered spirit. Jesus answered and gave him hope.  What peace and joy must have overflowed in the heart of the locust eating prophet as he trusted in the God of hope (Romans 15:13) instead of his circumstances.  So often I drop my eyes and am overwhelmed by circumstances that I have no control over.  This usually leads to confusion but the remedy is found in Psalm 121. He is The One! \O/

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth”

Psalm 121:1-2

 

Uncategorized

Pliable People

“Like clay in the hands of a potter so are you in My hands.” Joel 18:6

Playing with Play-Do was a “Yay!” activity in our house when my kids were little.  We had all kinds of tools, forms and presses to make things with the colorful putty.  When we were done (yes, I mean we) the Picasso-esque artifacts were set on a shelf but it didn’t take long for them to harden, crack and eventually fall apart.

I imagine we are like that too.  God’s hands are pressing and molding us, sometimes adding and other times taking away.  All the while He is delighted in His creation and, as long as we remain pliable, He is able to shape us as He wills.  However, if we withdraw from Him, become hard or bitter, or even apathetic, we will not be workable.  No change can occur without first adding water.

In John 4:14 water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, “…the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” As a believer we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot be unsealed.  However, we can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit and have dry, powerless lives.  Ephesians 4:30-31 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Therefore, God will continue molding us into the likeness of His Son.  Our part is to remain pliable. Abiding in Christ, sitting at His feet, meditating on His love and forgiveness and prayerfully reading His Word are all ways to remain soft-hearted.  Another is confession.  When Jesus washed Peter’s feet He said, “Unless I do this you can have no part in Me.” John 13:8b.  This intimate exchange is a picture of confession.  We give Jesus the dirt that clings to our feet because we are living in this fallen world.  He gladly takes our sin upon Himself and makes us clean.  After Jesus finished washing the disciples feet He told them that they were (we are) to do this for one another.  Hence, James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Here the “Confess your sins to one another” is born.  This does not mean that we have to confess our sins to another person to be forgiven.  We are already forgiven!  Rather, that we reflect Christ in the lives of our brothers and sisters by showing unconditional love and forgiveness as we share our burdens and sin with each other by living out this command.  This is humble submission.  This is being pliable and soft, teachable and available for His Kingdom and for His glory.

Unfortunately, oftentimes we are hesitant to confess our sins to another believer.  We are compelled to hide our defects and pretend to have it all together when we are actually dying inside.  We were not meant to walk alone.  We were meant to be shaped by God through relationship. His Holy Spirit is the press Who shapes us through relationships that chisel off the rough edges.  We are being sanctified, made perfect for His Kingdom and I can’t wait to go home.

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  May we be pliable in the hands of a loving God and choose to be used by Him to comfort others with the Good News of forgiveness so they too can drink deeply of the Living Water and be forever changed.