Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I stood there, wearing my new shirt, and scanned the room...gazing into the eyes of men and women living rather messed up lives. Maybe choices, a devastating circumstance, or the family they were born into launched them toward this place.
God's grace, care and provision has been extravagant in my life. But, while serving the physical needs of these people last night, I was reminded again that I’m not blessed just because God picked me out to be one of the lucky ones to live a comfortable life. I’m blessed…to be a blessing. And blessing others makes me feel so, so good.
2 Corinthians 9:8, 10-12
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Is it okay to change the part in history where it says Thanksgiving originated with pilgrims and turkey and other stuff(ing)? The REAL first Thanksgiving happened not hundreds, but thousands of years ago…
There were two brothers, two offerings and two very different responses. The Lord was looking for the men to realize who was God and who was not. So, He invented thanksgiving by asking them to bring an offering of praise to Him.
At harvest time Cain brought to the LORD a gift of his farm produce, while Abel brought several choice lambs from the best of his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” (Genesis 4:3-6)
Well..what’s a family holiday without a little bit of sibling rivalry? We could speculate all day about why God rejected Cain’s offering, but one thing is certain; this thing didn’t go down - in this way - because God hates peas! Cain was not rejected because “meat” is a better offering than “garden veggies”. There was definitely a heart issue with Cain that didn’t set well with the Lord. Abel gave his offering with a grateful heart.
Cain’s thanksgiving was like wax fruit in a bowl. It looked real on the outside, but in reality it was fake and useless. Abel on the other hand, remembered that every breath of air he breathed was a gift from God. As a response, he brought his best to the thanksgiving table.
This week we reflect on life and respond with being thankful. Let’s not forget that God cares very much about the heart behind our thankfulness, and He is not fooled when it is merely wax fruit in a bowl--set out to look pretty, but good for nothing. True and heartfelt thankfulness recognizes that every good thing in our life is directly from God's hand. It gives us hope and turns our eyes on Jesus.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
In 1 Kings 19, I read about a victorious man who had hit a wall, and was ready to give up. I've been there. There are moments in life and ministry, when I am discouraged and giving up seems like the easier way. Elijah had just defeated a slew of false prophets. He went home, and was getting ready to chill out on the couch with a Diet Mountain Dew over crushed ice. Just when he begins to revel in his victory, word is sent to him that Wicked Lady Jezebel is planning to kill him. (Who hasn't been kicked in the knees right after a great success?)
Fearing for his life, Elijah ran a day’s journey into the desert, sat down by a tree and said to God, “That’s it! I’ve had enough.”
Elijah was done. He prayed for death.
Exhaustion. Defeat. Fear. Simply ‘over it’. Have you ever felt like the combination of everything that’s going on in your life is just too much? I’m a wife, mother, daughter, friend, housekeeper, tutor, potty-trainer, volunteer, counselor...you get it. Sometimes it’s all just too overwhelming. I don’t even have a job outside of the home to add to that list, and there are days that I just feel TOTALLY incapable of doing it all. Maybe you identify with me, or maybe you have stress at work, issues with finances, questions about the future, conflict in relationships… realities of life. Possibly, just like a cherry on the sundae (but not as delicious), a crisis tops it all. Talk about a time to collapse.
That's what Elijah decided to do...collapse in the desert. Fast-forward a bit in his story and we read about Elijah's amazing (and literal) mountaintop experience with God. It’s totally awesome! The mountaintop is great. It feels good. But does that mean there is nothing to gain from being in the desert? Many times I’ve heard people say that they are “in a desert, a dry place, not hearing or feeling God”. They are just waiting for, and anticipating a mountaintop moment. Don't forget, God’s presence is in the desert too. It is possible that in a desert we can get strength for the journey back from collapse, strength for our trip to the top of the mountain.
Here are some tips from Elijah’s time spent in the desert:
Elijah prayed. Yes, he asked God to take his life…but it still counts! Elijah slept. Rest is important in order to maintain strength. Elijah was touched by an angel. God sent messengers to encourage and minister to Elijah. Recognize the messengers God is sending your way. Elijah ate, and then he ate again. Wow! I love to eat. The angel of the Lord provided a cake of bread and a jar of water. This angelic fare strengthened Elijah for his 40 day/40 night journey to the mountain.
So what did God say to me in that airplane, soaring over the clouds? In short...
1. I'm not the only person who has felt like giving up.
2. Time spent in a desert can be uncomfortable, but God is working there too.
The next time I feel like everything in life is stacked against me and I'm ready to collapse, I'm going to run a day's journey into the desert.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Last week stunk! Yesterday was Sunday, and I woke up feeling exhausted and annoyed from the drama of the previous week. I wasn't looking forward to gathering for worship at church. I just wanted to get it over with. (I'm human, acknowledge and move on.) The 'stinkiness' didn't end at church. Chris and I were both frustrated, resulting in a ruined lunch. Can I just say, "Aaagh!" I wanted to come home, and drown myself in some mind-numbing television. Chris wanted to watch Golf--so I guess we both won. Things are looking up! Honestly, by the end of lunch, we had said our apologies and we moved on from the frustration of the day. :)
Thankfully God speaks on Monday mornings too.
"Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
What a lovey-dovey passage of scripture. It sounds so encouraging and "comfy". THEN...the going gets really tough. Things in life are pushed so far it is difficult to trust that walking with God will give us a life that is free and light. In the toughest of circumstances we are left with the question: "What in the world do you mean by easy? Because I'm with you God, and it doesn't seem true as far as my eyes can see!"
When we read God's word, we realize that there is no promise that following him was going to be an cushy life. In fact, if we do some 'not too in-depth' character studies, we soon realize that God is forever asking his followers to do hard (if not close to impossible) things.
Abraham, leave your home and family. I'll tell you where you're going later. Also, don't forget "sacrifice your son Isaac".
David, take three small rocks and kill the giant.
Esther, approach your husband the King without being summoned, even though the results often lead to death.
Hosea, marry that prostitute woman and redeem her with your love.
Jesus, give up your glory. Live among the wicked. Let yourself be tortured and killed.
God's ways seem anything but easy and light. We see over and over again that he asks his followers to live dangerous, risk-filled lives! Could it be that your job, your family, your crazy situation has been purposefully placed in your life for a reason...to grow you, or to reveal God's glory. So, how do we rest in him, through the risk and danger? Or, how do we trust him during the challenging circumstances that we face? How do we exchange our worry, weariness and burdens for Christ's peace, joy and rest?
The answer is simple. We need to stop picking up our old yoke. I wonder if sometimes we think Christ's easy yoke just feels too light and awkward. Our's is heavy and painful, but we've been trained so long under it, that it feels like a fit. So, we make the choice to carry our burdens around with us when Jesus offers a renewed life.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30, The Message
So, there ya go. That's what God said to me today. I'm with Him and my difficult, risky, sometimes impossible life is easy and light.
(Side note: I know there is a lot more theology behind the yoke and how it relates to the rabbi's, and their additional rules and regs for people to follow. But, that was not the topic of this blog. Rather, the practical aspect of the weary and burdened finding rest in Christ.)