Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Faith in God Isn't Faith At All

The Hope Experience Day 11

I can relate to Katuk's resignation. I struggle with that resignation and cynicism often. For a moment, it looks like faith, but it's not. It's giving up. That's why I love this devotional. It points me back to true faith in our God of love and power. Yes, bad things happen to good people and our loved ones die and struggle with life-threatening addictions and lifestyles. And no we don't control over much of what happens in this world. But does that mean we just give up and say, "What will be will be"?

NO! We continue to struggle and persevere, wrestle with and trust this God of ours who sees a much bigger picture than we can. We know that He holds all things in His hands, that we have come from Him and, best of all, that we are going to Him. (John 13:3) That is my unswerving hope!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who is my Hercules?

The Hope Experience, Day 10

My Hercules has been many things. Lately, it's been approval, affirmation, recognition. When will I get over myself?! When will I stop desiring what I may or may not get--what I may or may not deserve--what I may or may not need? Why can't just doing what's right be good enough for me?

My Offering

So many things scream for my attention--good things--but will I let them rob my little girl of my time and attention? Only I can answer that question.

But what about me? I want to be noticed too. I want people to see all the good things I'm doing. But will those things have the same eternal value as the impact I could have on one little person? It depends on what God's calling me to do. And for now, I have to believe He's calling me to a little girl who needs me. Despite what the world tells me, I can't have it all, I can't do it all.

33 Miles sings a song called Offering. In it, they say, "On my own I've made a mess of things, but you take it as my offering." That's where I am tonight. I always try to do too much for all the wrong reasons. Why can't I just focus on what's important and do that? Because I'm broken, I have holes that scream to be filled. I continue to wrestle with pleasing my employer, my family, myself. I can never seem to get all my ducks in a row. I know all I really need to do is to please God, but that feels so intangible, so hard to measure. It's easier to hear my boss say, "Good job," or my husband say, "That was a great dinner, Honey." Two-year olds don't dispense too many compliments, and neither does God. So if compliments are what I'm working for, I'm probably trying to please the wrong person.

Oh Lord, take this offering of mine--as broken as it is--as many holes as it has in it--it's all I have and I give it to you tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hope in Who I am, Whose I am and Where I am Going

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself..." John 13:3 (NKJV)

Jesus was able to humble himself and serve his disciples, and ultimately face the cross, only because he knew that his Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God. If I am secure in the knowledge of who I am and whose I am, and where I am going, I can do whatever God calls me to do.

Before I even finished writing that last sentence very early this morning, my two-year-old came tiptoeing into my room. There is a message in that. Parenting a two-year-old is a challenge--especially for a 48-year-old who has been an empty-nester for 5 years. But that is what God has called us to do. We have had a divine interruption in our "early retirement" years. The house can no longer be just the way we want it--it must be childproof. My schedule is no longer my own--it has to revolve around nap times, bed time and potty training. This is not a temporary interruption. I will spend the rest of my life raising this little girl.

For now, she is the one God has called me to serve. I can only serve her well if I truly believe God has all things in His hands, that I have come from God and that I am going to God. I can only serve her well if I am secure in my identity in Christ. Without that, I am a lost, floundering soul seeking only self-protection and self preservation. It is impossible to serve anyone when my main goal is to preserve my comfort zone and protect my heart in order to keep it from being broken--again.

Never have I needed to be more secure in my identity in God--to know that God has everything in control. This world is a scary place and I need to know that God has my future and my little girl's future in his control.

Never have I needed to be more secure in knowledge of where I have come from. I need to know that I came from God and that he has a purpose and a plan for the rest of my life. I need to know that we are in the middle of his perfect will.

Never have I needed to believe more strongly in the truth that I have a place in eternity. With that truth in sight, I can endure whatever God calls me to do while I'm here on earth. No matter how long that is, it is minuscule compared to eternity.

I just want to sit in the middle of this lesson for a few minutes and make sure I really get it. I can give up "my life" on earth (what I want to do--my comfort zone) because...
  1. God has everything in control
  2. He created me with a purpose and for a reason
  3. I can look forward to spending eternity pain and frustration-free with Him

That is my unswerving hope today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pride Can't Wait but the Just Shall Live by Faith

I've been caught by surprise by my pride. It kind of snuck up on me. At times, it has ambushed me! I didn't see it as pride, but more and more, God is revealing it to me in the subtle ways that it has taken shape in my life. I've been unwittingly hiding it. God is good about revealing those kinds of sins when we least expect it.

A few weeks ago, I was blogging about waiting. As of today, it appears that my waiting has ended. I have the thing I was waiting for, but it's not a done deal. It's still possible that I could lose it. I still have some waiting to do.

Today my devotional reading was from Habakkuk 2:2-4. God had showed Hab a vision. In chapter 1, Hab was getting impatient and had done some "righteous complaining" about the wait. God answered:

Habakkuk 2:2-4

My study Bible says that God's instruction to write down the vision was an unusual one. Typically, prophets only spoke the word of the Lord. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea for us to write down the "visions" or hopes and dreams that God gives us--you know, those things you've been believing God for for years--the salvation of a loved one, the end to some one's endless suffering, the restoration of a relationship. I have some visions and dreams for my kids, my marriage, my church. And I've written some of them on the blog spot.

And I've also complained on this blog spot. Some of it has been righteous complaining and some of it has not. According to my pastor and the first couple of chapters of Habakkuk, there is such a thing as righteous complaining. Laying it all out before God then (this is what makes it righteous) waiting for God's prescription--His instruction--and following through on that instruction. In Hab's case (and more often than not in our cases) the instruction was to wait--in faith.

A proud man would have given up waiting. He would have taken control of the situation and made things happen. Oh, how often I've been guilty of that--until I was faced with situations that were so far out of control that I knew I could do nothing. Those have been the times that I learned the most about God, about His timing, about life, and about myself. Those have been the times when pride was exposed. It was no longer hiding, no longer subtle. It was outright distrust of God. And it took me months to work my way out to where I could trust Him again. But it was
a different kind of trust. A much deeper trust. One that knew that I could get through anything with Him. I was finally able to let go and say with every ounce of sincerity I could muster, "I trust You, Lord," even when nothing about my circumstances had changed.

As this section of scripture ends, while the proud man is not upright in his soul (and obviously doesn't like to wait,) the just shall live by faith--and that involves a lot of waiting!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Overflowing Hope!

I just came across a great website about hope--www.hopexperience.com. It was posted by an old friend on Facebook. Since my mission in life is to continue exploring and sharing my unswerving hope, I knew I had to check it out. There are daily devotionals, videos and lots more, so I encourage you to check it out too!

I've only done day 1, but I like it already, and I'm committed to following it through. Please let me know if you decide to do it too!

The Hope Experience is not a sugar-coated message that says, "Don't worry, be happy." But it goes beneath the surface of our everyday existence to find a true reason to hope, even though people we love die or go their own way without us. Even though life doesn't turn out like we planned we can put our trust in the unswerving hope that only comes from knowing God.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Redefining Hope

I'm still reading Timothy Keller's book, "The Prodigal God." What an eye-opener to my prideful sin!

Chapter 6 is entitled, "Redefining Hope." That title got my attention for a couple of reasons:
  1. My whole life message is based on the hope--the unswerving hope--that God began speaking about to me when my daughter died.
  2. After reading the first 5 chapters, I was feeling pretty convicted of my "elder brother" sins and needed to find hope for a way to be freed from them!

Keller talks about the parable of the prodigal son being, not just a story about one man and his sons, and not just to point out each of our personal sins, but how "Jesus retold the story of the whole human race and promised nothing less than hope for the world."

That flicker of hope begins with a certain desire for "home" that each of us feels. He quotes C. S. Lewis, "Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation."

I felt that feeling of longing for home in the days and weeks following my daughter's death. The longing was not for my hometown, it was for something longer ago than that--not from my earthly childhood, but from eternity past. It was kind of like a dream that you remember for a split second, but then it quickly fades away as your mind furiously tries to hold on to it. The memory of that home is just out of reach. It's right there, but you can't quite grasp it.

Back to Keller's book--toward the end of chapter 6, Keller quotes Isaiah 35, "Your God will come... he will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. The ransomed of the Lord will return, they will enter Zion with singing. Everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

Oh, how my heart longs for that day--to see my ransomed son set free--to see my daughter alive again! To see them, along with my parents and other relatives and friends singing and dancing, overtaken by joy! On that day, it will not be my nostalgic memory fading as I attempt to grasp it, it will be my sorrow and sighing that will be evaporating! And that is my unswerving hope, redefined!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Mother's Heart

Today my heart hurts for my son. This marks the end of a 15-month battle and he appears to be on the losing side.

To my son,
Since before you were conceived, I have prayed for you. For the nine months that you resided in my womb as the Lord knit you together, I prayed Psalm 139 over you. During your years of elementary school, in addition to my personal prayer time, I met weekly with a Moms In Touch group to pray for you, your friends and your school. When you became a teenager, I went back to Psalm 139 and began praying it over you in a new light. Again, I met weekly with a parenting group to pray for you and other teenagers like you. In the years following, as you became an adult, I've continued to beg God to show you the path He has laid out for you. For all the days of your life I have loved you and bombarded heaven with prayers for you. I have cried a small ocean of tears for you.

You may feel like those prayers fell on deaf ears, but I know they have been heard. Not one of them has gone unanswered. Not one of my tears has gone unnoticed. The Bible says God keeps them in a bottle. They are like the rain that waters the garden of our prayers and makes them grow. God promises that his deliverance arrives on the run and his salvation is right on time. He is never early and He's never late. I will continue to trust that He is right on time.

I love you, my son, and I will never stop believing in you... believing in who God created you to be... believing that He has all the answers... believing that He alone is your unswerving hope.

Love,
Mom

Monday, October 5, 2009

Elusive Humility, Deceitfull Pride

I've never thought of myself as having an issue with pride--at least not for a long time. But is it possible to be prideful in your humility? Yeah, the instant I start recognizing and relishing any humility, it immediately vanishes. Poof! Gone. How are we to seek something that at the very moment we grasp it, we destroy it?

Oh, the elusiveness of humility and the deceitfulness of pride!

God started dealing with me on this through a book I read by Joanna Weaver called "Having a Mary Spirit." I came across this book by accident. Like I've done so many times, I received it through the book club because I didn't return the little card in time. Sometimes, the books I get that way are the ones I need the most. They are the ones I don't think apply to me, but God knows they do!

Anyway, I always thought I must be more of a Mary because I really hate housework and I'm not the greatest cook. But I'm beginning to realize that just because I'm not a domestic goddess doesn't mean I'm not a doer. So I connected with this book way more than I thought I would.

Back to the main point... One of the chapters in Joanna's book is all about pride. Again, not my issue, right? Wrong! The main thing that got my attention was "The Pride Test." I was shocked at how many of the symptoms I possess! I have been oblivious to my pride! Some of the symptoms of this deceitful character flaw are:

Being easily swayed by others' opinions
Getting huffy and defensive when criticized
Hungering for admiration and praise--wanting to be the center of attention (ouch!)
Making sure others notice good works and demanding credit
Self-indulgent; making personal comfort a priority
Easily offended
Responding to problems with self-pity
Obsessing over obvious failures (pow!)
Resenting responsibilities and the lack of peace that often accompanies them
Loving people who love her (as opposed to feeling God's heart toward all humanity)

There are more symptoms, but these are the ones that reverberated through my spirit. I've known they were issues for me, but I never associated them with the sin of pride! I thought obsessing over my obvious failures was a sign of humility or insecurity, not pride!

If you've read any of my previous posts, you probably recognized more of these symptoms in me than I would like.

Now I'm off to finish "The Prodigal God," by Timothy Keller. This little book is about the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Oh, how that is resonating with me as well. The elder brother may have followed all the rules and looked good on the outside, but his heart was far from God and he was full of, you guessed it, PRIDE! God's work is never really done, is it?

Friday, October 2, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In my devotional this morning, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (NKJV) I have read that scripture many times, but have so quickly forgotten its message.

Lately, instead of rejoicing always, I've been complaining. Instead of praying without ceasing, I've been whining. Instead of giving thanks, I have shaken my fist in God's face. Oh, thank God for his unfailing grace and his patience with me!

This morning, I have spent time confessing and seeking God's forgiveness for my pitiful response to life. Yeah, life is tough sometimes, but I've got to look beyond that by rejoicing always, praying without ceasing and giving thanks in all situations. That's the only way I will stay in touch with that unswerving hope that I profess to have.

So today, I wrote 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 on a card, and I plan to keep reminding myself that instead of complaining, I will rejoice. Instead of whining, I will pray. And instead of shaking my fist in God's face, I will give thanks. For he is my unswerving hope.

About Me

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I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother raising her granddaughter. I am blessed with incredible family and friends. I love working for my church and serving on our Women's Ministry Team. I especially want to reach the women who wear their "Everything's fine" smiles on Sunday, but go home to deal with tough real-life issues throughout the week.