Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Invisible Woman

Last Sunday, a friend of mine came up to me in the lobby at church and shared some feelings of frustrations. She later apologized for "dumping on me." Oh, my goodness! That's what we're here for. I applaud my friend for not putting on her "I'm fine, how are you!" face and for sharing what was really happening in her head, instead of what she thought I wanted to hear.

So now, that's what I'm about to do to you because today I'm feeling like the Invisible Woman.

I feel like nothing I say is valued. Nothing that's important to me seems to be important to anyone else. I can't seem to get it all done fast enough or good enough or completely enough to please anyone, and no one seems to care that I'm trying as hard as I can. Does anything I do really matter?

It feels like it doesn't matter enough to my husband that I actually cooked a meal last night, he didn't come in until long after supper time. It doesn't seem to matter to my coworkers that there are reasons for deadlines, they blow right through them. A meeting I was preparing for today didn't happen, my coworker was too busy. And nothing matters to a 2-year-old except that she gets what she wants and she gets it right now, which is not always possible.
I am feeling really pitiful today, it may be that I'm tired, that I haven't allowed God to fill me, that my hormones are confused, or that I am going through a huge transition in my life and am feeling overwhelmed. Hopefully it's not the latter, because I'm beginning to believe that life is just one transition after another with very short breaks in between. You'd think by now that I'd be better at handling transitions. Someday, maybe I'll get it. For today, I'll just keep holding on to my unswerving hope.
Thanks for allowing me to "dump on you!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Journey of a Lifetime

Today my husband and I will embark on a journey that will change our lives forever. It's the answer to our most fervent prayers, and yet my knees are knocking, my heart is pounding and my stomach is churning. Am I worthy of this thing that God is entrusting to me? Am I well enough spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically for this new life? I keep asking God those questions and all I can hear is, "Do you trust Me?"

"Yes, Lord, I trust You, but..." I also see how flawed we are. I see our imperfections so clearly and we seem so powerless to fix them.

As I read the introduction to my devotional reading this morning, I was reminded of how often you have used flawed people to do some of your most amazing, world-changing things. My reading today was about Samuel appointing Saul as King of Israel. Talk about flawed. That guy had some major character flaws, and yet You used him. I think of others...
Abraham - Lied about Sarah being his wife
Isaac - Played favorites with his children
Jacob - A conniver
Joseph - A show-off and bragger
Moses - Insecure stutterer
Rahab - A prostitute
Samson - A womanizer, selfish, spoiled brat
David - A lustful adulterer, murderer and lier. Yet God still called him a man after His own heart.
Peter - A burly, mouthy sailor.
Judas - A greedy, slimy traitor. Yet he was necessary in God's plan for our redemption.
Paul - Religious, persecutor of Christ's followers

I'm sure the list could go on and on. God used most of these people in the midst of their imperfections. He didn't clean them up and make them worthy before He used them.

So Lord, can you use me in the midst of my imperfections to do the most important, world-changing, risky job in the world? A job that involves many unknowns? One that we're never really trained for or ready for? One where we have less control over the outcome than we realize? One that drives us to our knees before you with great fear and trembling? One where you entrust to us the thing more valuable to you than heaven and earth--a precious little human soul.

This is an area where we don't have a great track record. One in which we have felt like complete failures. One that we prayed you would give to someone else. And yet, here we are, preparing to do this most impossible job. Only by Your grace, Lord, only by Your grace.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still Seeking God's Presence

How thick-headed can I be?

Just a few days ago, I blogged about how I, like the elder brother of the prodigal son, seem to be too into myself to enjoy God's presence. Yesterday, I blogged about the presence of God being stolen from the Israelites by the Philistines and from me by the busyness of life. When I blogged about the elder brother syndrome, I had a list of goals that I was going to put into practice to make sure I took time to enjoy God's presence. I implemented most of them--except the part about my petitionary prayers following a time of worship, repentance and thanksgiving.

Thank goodness God is faithful and patient. As I opened my Bible this morning, I couldn't move on to the next day's reading. I felt that I needed to think a little more about God's presence being stolen out of my life. It was only then that I saw the recurrent theme between yesterday's blog and the one before it! Again I ask, how thick-headed can I be? Obviously, God is trying to make a point here, and I have been pretty slow in figuring it out!

So, I put down my Bible and my journal and knelt at my little "altar" which is actually a coffee table that my dad made many years ago out of a wagon seat. I began my prayer time with adoration of God, and thought of all the ways he has been at work in my life. I worshipped Him for just a few minutes, and you know what, He showed up! How can you not love God and His presence. And why would I ever let anything steal it from me or take its place? (I don't know, but it seems to happen all the time with me.) I continued my prayer time with confession, thanksgiving and finally, supplication--my requests. When I start with worship and confession, then remember how God has answered previous prayers, thanking him for that, it's much easier to have faith for the new requests that I have now. Instead of begging and pleading with God, trying to convince Him to see things my way, I found my self presenting my requests to Him, trusting Him to answer them in the way that seems best to Him. Wow, what a difference.

As I finished, it was beautiful to see my dad's coffee table that used to be cluttered with magazines, newspapers and half-full glasses of pop, now holding my Bible, my journal and my tears.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Elohim, God Almighty!

Today in my Chronological Bible, I read about the Ark of God being taken captive by the Philistines. The Ark of God is His Presence, and as I read that, I thought about how sometimes I allow God's Presence in my life to be taken captive by my circumstances. I become overwhelmed with tasks or burdens from friends or family members. I get too busy and God's Presence gets pushed right out of my sight. The noise of daily living sometimes, too often, drowns out the still small voice of God.

But God is so faithful. The Philistines kept the Ark for only seven months. God's presence was not in its rightful place and He let them know. They kept moving it because entire towns were dying. Every time they moved it, the wrath of God fell on the town where it was being held. So they hitched it up to a cart pulled by two unbroken cows whose calves had been taken away. You'd think those cows would be crazy trying to get to their calves, but no, they plodded right back to Israel, pulling the very Presence of God.

But even when the Ark arrived back in Israel, the Israelites did not treat it with the respect that God requires. God does not dance in and out of our lives as we flippantly call on Him. He will not share His glory and will not compete with anything that we allow to take His place. Seeking God's presence is not something to be taken lightly. It is serious business. We can't just take God and place Him in the middle of all that we view as important. He is either Lord and the center of our lives or He is not! If His presence is not in its rightful place, all havoc breaks loose!

Lord, help me never to allow my circumstances, my busy-ness or anything I deem important to take precedence over You. Help me always to keep You in Your proper place as Supreme Champion in my life--as if I could "keep" you anywhere. But You know what I mean. Help me to recognize the times I take Your presence lightly or am flippant about who You are. Yes, you are my daddy, but you are also Elohim, Jehovah, whose name the Israelites didn't dare say out loud or even write out completely for fear of You. The awesome power of Your presence is more than my mortal body can withstand. In it is the power to heal and to destroy, to bring life and to bring death. Let me never forget who You are, Lord!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Enjoying God's Presence

Whenever I spend time reading the Bible, praying, listening to sermons, etc. I am constantly looking for a message. I am seeking to put the pieces together for a blog or some kind of prophetic word for my kids or my future. But do I ever just enjoy God's presence?

As you can tell, I am following my regular pattern this morning. I found a message and I'm putting it in a blog. Is that wrong? Is it a gift? Is it a calling? I'm not sure what the answers to those questions are, so for now, I'm just going to run with it and see what comes out.

Last week I was confronted and convicted by a quote Bill Hybels read from one of his old journals. He had written, "The pace at which I am doing God's work is destroying God's work in me." Hmmm. On the day I heard Bill read those words, our Women's Ministry was two days away from completing one of our four annual Big Events. And this event was held at my house--including every bedroom, bathroom and even the whole yard. I have been eating, sleeping and drinking this event for four or five weeks. Could the pace at which I'm doing God's work be destroying God's work in me too?

A few minutes after Bill Hybels spoke I heard a message from Tim Keller on his book, "The Prodigal God." He detailed the parable of the prodigal son from a new perspective. The "good son" really wasn't so good at all. He got angry, greedy and jealous--so much so that he refused to enter the banquet at the end. In other words, while the younger son, the prodigal, repented of his sin, entered the banquet and was saved, the elder son did not enter and therefore was not saved. Wow, never thought of it that way. He was no better than the prodigal and he was upset that his father was spending his inheritance on this party celebrating the return of the "bad son" who had squandered his inheritance.

Keller outlined some characteristics of elder brothers: They get angry when life doesn't go their way - ouch. They don't take criticism well. They only pray petitionery prayers. And they never just enjoy God's presence because they're always trying to get something from God.

Sometimes I pride myself in never having been a prodigal. I've always done good things and lived a good Christian life. So Keller is messing with my stuff here! Is it possible to be a "good elder brother" and remain unsaved? Apparently so! I'm not saying that all "elder brothers" are not saved, and neither is Keller. We just need to remember that we can't rely on our "goodness" or our "ministry" to save us!

I spent several months this past year being extremely angry at God because life has not gone my way. Wow, that one really hit home. I can't say that I never take criticism well, but I do struggle with it sometimes. I don't always pray only petitionery prayers, but it's hard not to when a constant parade of the faces of friends and relatives who are carrying heavy burdens runs through my mind during my prayer time. It's not that I never enjoy God's presence, but what is the bulk of my relationship with God? What do I spend most of my time doing or asking for when I come before Him? How often do I just bask in His presence without thinking about how I will blog about it or share it with a friend who needs an encouraging word or seek some kind of answer or hope for my kids' future?

I'm a doer. God created me that way. So I struggle with just being in God's presence. I get bored easily and waiting on God takes chunks of quiet time with few distractions. It's hard for me to be still and quiet without being asleep! That's where discipline comes in.

Based on the messages I heard last week, I'm going to reinforce some boundaries that have become a little too flimsy in the past couple of years:
  • I will have one place in my house designated for my personal quiet time with God.
  • My petitionery prayers will follow a time of worship, repentance and thanksgiving.
  • In that personal alone time, I will repent of my selfish motives for doing good works--motives like attention, affirmation, recognition or to get God to behave the way I want him to!
  • My office will be reserved for work and ministry.
  • It's not that these two worlds will never intermingle. They are way too integrated for that. But I do want to take time to enjoy my Heavenly Father's presence without bringing my family, my friends, my blog readers, my work and ministry with me! There are times I need to come alone into God's presence without what looks like the entire Verizon network following me!

Can you hear me now?! Does anybody else struggle with this stuff? I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. Let me know if you do too and how you deal with it.