Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rest and Trust


Today, I am just tired. I am tired from work. I am tired from all the tennis I have been playing. I am tired from being so frustrated at projects that don’t seem to be going my way. But, more so than my exhaustion, I am feeling like I am one step away from being completely beaten in more than one area of my life. I realize that this doesn’t make much sense, and my casual vagueness IS intentional, but I am sure that you can read between the lines. Plain and simple, all month I have been towing the line between success and disappointment.

Throughout the course of my life I feel like I have been on board with trusting God in the big decisions. I trust Him with my salvation, I trust Him with my marriage and I trust Him with my spiritual development. Where I tend to falter, and often, is in the smaller things…the everyday things.

At some point during this walk of faith that we are all on, does there not come a point when we must learn to detach from the things that so greatly concern us and case them wholly on God? Must we stop thinking of ourselves as the source of deliverance in a difficult situation and realize that it is not even up to us to be successful?

Mark 4:40
“Do you still have no faith?” – NIV

When we pray and ask for God’s will to be done in any situation, do we always believe that His will is good, or, that He is able to accomplish it? I have learned that any asking that maintains an internal sense of panic is not derived from a genuine trust. This anxiety secretly reveals a hidden belief that we are perhaps more critical to the situation than God is. This mistrust only leads to fatigue.

To trust is to rest, and the heart that is calm has learned that Jesus is above the storm all together.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Great Divide


This morning I was reading Luke 18 and the all-too-familiar parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. As we know from this story, two men went into the Temple for prayer…only one emerging with an answer. The turning point of the story is that the all knowing Pharisee was the one who found himself in the dark while the sinful tax collector emerged uplifted, as we all hope to be.

Luke 18:13
“The tax collector stood at a distance.” - NIV

At first glance, this parable is a little odd, at least to me. I find myself asking: Why would Jesus even find this story worth telling? Doesn’t our Lord beg us to draw near to Him? Isn’t God always encouraging prodigals to return home? Yes, it is a fact; the Lord’s invitation to intimacy is a reoccurring theme throughout scripture. Yet, in this parable, Jesus condemns the Pharisee’s familiarity with God and praises the tax collector’s distance. What is going on?

The solution is simple, and also a reoccurring theme throughout scripture: It is all about attitude. When we approach our heavenly Father, do we feel entitled to be there? Do we draw near to Him with anticipation of being rewarded for our good behavior? I read once that it is never wrong to feel comfortable in God’s presence, but on whose merit is He accepting us? Ours?

As believers, we probably do not take pride in ourselves the way that the Pharisee’s often did, but, we can become awfully casual about being in God’s presence. In this parable, I truly think that Jesus did not mean to teach us to keep our distance from God. Instead, He was hoping to remind us of the distance that, in fact, once was.

May we always remember two things: We are sinners. Christ is a Savior.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Meek as a Mouse


There is no section in the Bible that gave me more trouble in my memorization efforts than the Beatitudes. Simple in their wording and formation, there was just something about them that always presented trouble. Perhaps, as I recall, it wasn’t necessarily the wording that I couldn’t grasp, it was the implication.

Matthew 5:3
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – NIV

Do you know the definition of meek in the dictionary: cowed submissiveness, mildness or extremely docile. It is not that these characteristics are in anyway negative, it is just that these adjectives are not exactly associated with an independent adult that our society cultivates. Who wants to be defined as meek? Who wants it said of them that they are always in a state of cowed submissiveness?

It is a simple fact; our culture rejects meekness and considers it all but a weakness. The irony in this entire issue is that it takes incredible strength to be meek by Jesus’ definition. I read somewhere that Greek experts say this word “meek” is the same word used for horses that have been broken. They have submitted themselves to the master’s will.

God is calling us to lay down our rebellion. In the end, we can trust God that meekness wins.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prayers of the Son


We know that the prayers of the Son of God never go unanswered. Why would they? There is no conflict, no separation between the persons of the Trinity. When the incarnate God asks, the enthroned God hears. When Jesus prays for us, we are secure.

Sometimes, for me at least, it is difficult to feel the assurance in the words of Christ. He prays for me and for my continued faith. He prays for me and my uncharted devotion. He prays for me and my line of spiritual discipline that I am able to maintain. If He is praying for all these things, why then, do I continue to falter?

When Jesus sees our faith, we often forget, He sees the lifelong process. He sees whether our faith will be proven false by our testing, or developed by it. In short, when we fall, Jesus knows whether we will ever get up.

In our humanity, we tend to dwell on our faltering efforts at faith, remembering well the stumbles that we have taken along the way to maturity. And, this is something that should be remembered, Jesus does not want us to casually dismiss our poor decisions. The difference between our point of view and the Son’s, however, is that our struggles in the faith are never the conditions that define us.

1 Thessalonians 2:4
“…so we speak not to please men but to please God, Who tests our hearts [expecting them to be approved].” - AB

We must remember that our failures are never what define us. It is not how God measures us. In fact, they are exactly how the enemy wants to measure us. We must learn to never trust this measurement, trust Jesus. He has prayed for us.

Jesus Christ will never dwell on the toddler that stumbles, no; He will always know us as the mature adult who walks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

City Champs


Today was a good day.

Woke up and left for the baby shower that I co-hosted for my sister-in-law. We had a great time.

Left the shower and headed to Dekalb tennis center where my mom and I won our city championship tennis match to become the champions of our division. We had an even better time.

Left the tennis center and enjoyed a wonderful time of extended family fellowship with my husband's family in Marietta. We had an amazing dinner.

All in all, today was a good day and I am grateful for everyone who made it so.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friction Factor


We wonder why we have trials sometimes. Like it or not, as any reader of the Bible can decipher, troubles are never accidental occurrences. Quite the opposite actually. Every day of our lives, every minute that we breathe, Satan is targeting us for sifting and our Almighty Savior is totally letting him do it.

Luke 22:31
“Satan demanded to have you…” – RSV

This is such a difficult part of the spiritual journey to walk through: Jesus, allowing His children to be broken. And, to top it all off, I do not see a passage where he appears to put up much of a fight for us. I’m sure that Jesus prays for us during these trials. I’m sure that He never leaves His knees during these seasons. But, the question remains, why does He grant the demand in the first place! Satan seems to all but do the bidding of God with full permission from the Most High.

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to spare us from temptation. Challenges will come at us from all sides during our time here on earth, and God will permit such enticements. As was the case with Job, Satan will argue that our faith is never fully genuine unless it proves itself to be so. God has such confidence in His children that He will never shy away from a challenge; He will never rob us of the opportunity to reflect the heart of Christ in our devotion.

All this being said, all this fear being felt, one thing never ceases to amaze me: What the enemy means for evil, God means for good. Yes, He will let Satan have his way with us…for a time.

As it reads in Zechariah 9:16, “They will become… like gemstones in a crown, catching all the colors of the sun. Then how they'll shine! Shimmer! Glow!” We must all remember that gems cannot be polished without a little friction along the way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Long Farewell


Just the other day I had the pleasure of reading someone else’s blog for a change. It was just by chance that I happened to glance at it and take in their message of good news for the day. This friend of mine is a wonderful writer and, apparently, a soon-to-be dad! It was such an inspirational story of conception that I couldn’t help but write about it here.

After years and years of childless living, the dream of becoming a parent had been all but lost along the way. Finally, out of desperation and faith, the decision was made to trust God with whatever He planned to do. If children weren’t part of this plan, there was a faith that God would provide in some other way. In true God-fashion, He blessed the trust that this couple had displayed and after four years of marriage, a baby is on the way.

Job 5:9
“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” - NIV

We face a lot of distractions in life, things that take our eyes from our Heavenly Father and focus on our helplessness. Satan is tricky like that. He can blanket our eyes with so much entitlement that we miss the things that make life exceptional.

I suppose that to really appreciate a miracle in life, we must first experience…well, nothing. Sometimes, it seems, miracles must be done in the presence of desperation and faith to even be recognized…when a need for God and a trust in Him can take center stage.

It is so amazing to think that the miracles of Jesus Christ were just the ordinary works of His father.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Trip Cancelled


For the past few years, I have been attending what is commonly called a “mega-church”. The pastor is one of the most skilled communicators that I have ever come across and the music ministry is breathtaking to say the least. The bookstore is convenient, the children’s programs are remarkable and the baptisms make it all worthwhile. There is, however, one tiny problem…there are too many people!

In our time with this church, both my husband and I have attempted to join the missionary program overseas but found ourselves silently rejected as a result. Not only was my time unwanted, but I wasn’t even given an acknowledgement of my submission. It seemed as if I was just invisible amongst the vast numbers in attendance and that my time was unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

Luke 22:26
“The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” – NIV

To our disappointment, our culture’s churches and ministries often resemble worldly institutions with their power structures, chains of command and man-made methods. Whose ministry is bearing more fruit? Is this person contributing enough to be taken seriously in the congregation? Do we even want that person to volunteer?

In the face of ministry rejection, what is the next step for parishioners? If we are not selected to serve in the area we desired, does that mean that we are not to serve at all? Can we sit back, blame the ministry, and say “hey, I tried.” I am ashamed to say that I took this dismissal and morphed it into a deep-seeded bitterness. I have not volunteered my time for any other ministry in need. I have not accepted that this was not my time and I have blown no wind into the sails of those who would become missionaries.

I read once that we must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead.

I hate getting prepared…

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As for me and my house...


Isaiah 56:7
“For my house will be called a house of prayer for ALL NATIONS.” – NIV

In the New Testament, we read stories of Jesus overturning the money-changing tables crying out from Isaiah 56. But, when we really think about it, what was the action that upset Him the most? Was it the financial business taking place in the synagogue? Was it the poor being taken advantage of? No, none of these ignited quite the passionate reaction from the One who is love.

Seen through the eyes of the Lamb, the money-changers were having a limiting effect on who could worship God. The entire message of Christ speaks of global inclusion, and this commotion was in complete defiance of that message. As we all do sometimes, the money-changers were forgetting the entire meaning of Christ’s message and only seeing profit instead.

God’s house is not about church regulations. God’s house is not about appropriate behavior. God’s house is not even about tithes. As stated numerous times in the Word, God’s house is about prayer and nothing else.

As Christians, we must notice one fundamental fact of scripture: Jesus never calls a church building or ministry “God’s house.” It is essential to understand that with the outpouring of the Spirit, God’s house is now in the heart of every believer. He dwells in us, and as His house, we are the house of prayer.

Whether we like it or not, Jesus WILL pursue communion with us, even if that means turning over some tables.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do Not Defect


Every year, my company holds a cross-department competition called Be-A-Star. There are no department lines drawn, in fact, you could belong to any team that you wanted with no restrictions or assignments. Never one to shy away from friendly competition, I jumped into the contest with both feet.

About halfway through the year, I couldn’t help but notice something…our team had greatly increased in number of participants. Hmm, seemed a bit odd. Apparently, each week, we would adopt some straggler who would join from a less successful team in hopes of becoming part of the “winning side”. I couldn’t believe my eyes or what was going on. Where was the loyalty? The moment your team started losing, you jump ship? Ridiculous.

Matthew 28:18
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” – NIV

Here is a simple fact of life: No one likes to end up on the losing side. In any contest, if we can clearly see who will win ahead of time, it is quite likely who will inherit our support. Nobody wants to identify with the losers. No one wants to go down with the ship.

Fortunately, as Christians, this is a problem that we know nothing about. We know good and well who the ultimate winner will be. We know, and are secure in our knowledge, that we sided with the One who has all authority over the battle itself.

But, every now and then, it seems to look like the world is winning in the short term and we must be patient for the final minutes of the game when the Lord’s victory will become apparent. Where we must stay loyal, where we must stay strong, is in THIS life. We must resist the urge to switch to the “apparent” winning team of the moment. We must play our game focused on its end and refuse to support both sides.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day


Today is Father’s Day and I was fortunate enough to spend the entire day at the lake with my dad. I consider myself an extremely blessed daughter simply due to the fact that my dad is still speaking to me after some of the shenanigans I put him through during my adolescence.

I remember one instance, in particular, that occurred when I was only a middle schooler. In my defense, what did he think was going to happen when he left me alone with an open pack of pepper spray? Long story short, I will just say that his in-home office was temporarily redecorated by a long line of red paint-like substance that burned the eyes of anyone that dared to enter.

Malachi 4:6
“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” - NIV

Nevertheless, throughout all of my disobedience and all of my independence, there was one thing that my dad never shied away from: Forgiveness. And, as hard as it may be for me to even grasp a heart more pure than my dad’s, it is a simple fact that the heart of God is incomparable.

As children, we are prone to wandering. We break the rules. We break our barriers. And, over and over, we break His heart. Happy Father’s Day to the heart that never closes and the love that never fades.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To Each His Own


I think that I have mentioned before how enthusiastic I was when I first became a Christian. Immediately, I wanted…and sought out…positions of influence and leadership.

Being at UGA during this time, my main outlet for spiritual influence was within the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry. Not knowing anyone from Adam, I went to the leadership meeting and sold myself as a mature Christian. Only weeks old in the faith, I now realize why it was such an effort to convince my peers that I was ready to hold a position of responsibility.

Naturally, as anything done prematurely would result in, I became overwhelmed. My responsibilities were vast and my leadership position proved to be something that I was nowhere near ready for. Looking back, I can clearly see, I was trying to do things that were never even assigned to me at the time.

John 17:4
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” – NIV

Complete the work – if that isn’t a mission statement, I don’t know what one is. Everyone on earth has a purpose for his or her life, an ideal to strive for. Every business on earth has a purpose for their company. Yes, mission statements are never a surprise in a culture such as ours. What does come as a complete shock: A mission achieved.

When I think of the mission for Jesus Christ, I only think one thing: Success. All that the Father gave Him to do, He has done. No, Jesus did not preach redemption to everyone in the world. Jesus did not travel to all the distant lands in existence or reach every door available. Jesus did not try to complete more than He was assigned.

Blessed will be the people who can review their lives and say: I have completed the work God gave me to do. This statement will never mean that we were everything to everyone, but it will mean that we were everything to the One.

May we all be so single-minded.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day of Rest

Today I have been in the car since 9am. I have driven from Palm Beach, Florida to Marietta, Ga. I then proceeded to play my second playoff tennis match for the T2 league I compete in with my mom. Upon our victory (yea), I then got back in the car and drove from Marietta to Cumming, Ga.

It is now 11:35 and I am officially exhausted. There is no lesson in today's post. There is no devotion in today's post. All that I can muster the energy to write is below:

Genesis 2:2
"...and so, He rested..." - TNIV

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Small Talk


I don’t know about anyone else, but I really hate small talk. Probably one of my least favorite activities is making the rounds in a room where the conversations never escalate past married life and current employment. I realize that this sounds super unsocial, and that could account for the small number of close friends I can claim, but it is just the way that I’m wired.

Recently, Brian and I attended a wedding for a couple of mutual friends. Immediately, upon our arrival, we were greeted with acquaintances long forgotten. And, just as assumed, nothing but routine small talk followed. How’s work? What are you doing now? Are you still in school?

It has kind of hit me all of a sudden why I don’t feel great about these conversation topics…I think I’m embarrassed. I graduated from Seminary school, a fact unhidden to my peers. I hope, one day, to become a teacher of the Word, a goal not yet achieved. I am still in the same career that I have been in for the past four years and, apparently, a bit self-conscious about it.

Luke 10:2
Ask the Lord of the harvest…” – NIV

I suppose that at one time or another, we have all struggled with God’s plan for our life. Are we doing what we should be doing? Are we really fulfilling the role that we were created to fill? If He wants us in particular roles, He will place us…right?
We question His intentions and where He would have us place our time and energy. As believers, we know full well that it is impossible to know our Lord of the harvest without participating in its development.

It is so easy, in our haste, to forget that the first step in God’s work is always prayer. Perhaps, as hard as it may be to accept, our current role in the harvest aligns with this passage in Luke: Asking.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Paradise Lost


I have watched many people in my life go through seasons of loss. Lost jobs. Lost loved ones. Lost joy. No matter who the person is to me, or what particular event they are going through at the time, one thing remains constant during all of these times: The growth of my own appreciation.

It is almost an inherent fact that witnessing others going through hard times makes us appreciate how good we really have it. Yes, we have some troubles of our own, but nothing like what they are experiencing. Our thankfulness for our own blessings seems to overflow in times of outside hardship.

But, this all being said, what happens when there is no one to compare to? What happens when the season of loss is your own? What happens when, no matter where you look, no one feels the emptiness that you do? It can be a scary feeling when you can’t appreciate the blessings you have because they are buried in the shadow of something lost.

Genesis 31:39
…”I bore the loss myself.” – NIV

Why are our hearts, suddenly, so blinded in the face of loss? What makes defeat so big that it casts darkness on all that remains? Is it that our lives really are worse in light of these new circumstances, or, is it that our focus needs adjusting?

Like it or not, we all must recognize that there is a relentless, malicious intelligence behind the losses we suffer. These spirits know our weaknesses; they know the buttons to push. These forces remove one block in our lives and watch the rest crumble as a result. It is a fact: Some of Satan’s workers know each of us by name. They know exactly what will make us break.

The only piece of our lives that can never be lost is our salvation through Christ Jesus. We can place all of our joy in Him, and always find ourselves complete. Where we all put ourselves at risk is when we place our happiness in any other piece.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Power Hour


Last night, about 9pm, my husband and I set out for our anniversary vacation to Palm Beach, Florida. Our plan was to drive through the night in hopes of missing all the traffic and making good time. Right away, everything was going according to plan. As soon as eleven p.m. reared its ugly head, it seemed as if the roads opened like the red sea.

Yes, all was calm on the traffic front until – out of nowhere – the highway “safety patrol” was on our tails. I use the term safety patrol only because it was plastered all over the vehicle in question. Not a single thing about his driving was, in any way, safe. He was swerving in and out of passersby, speeding recklessly and all around being a horrible example to his fellow drivers.

2 Corinthians 6:3
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.” - NLT

Why is it that at the slightest hint of assigned power, humanity seems to lose themselves in supremacy? I wish that I could say it was only our highway safety patrol that abuses their power, but we all know this not to be the case. As I sit here typing this, I can think of a number of instances where I have thought myself above the rules.

Even in our spiritual lives, where we know the one true power personally, we cannot wait to wrestle away a little authority for ourselves. As children of God, we know that we have been saved by the Almighty’s gracious hand. Regrettably, however, I have often seen this saving power abused. People run off and continue to lead sinful lives, knowing full well that God’s mercy is limitless.

There we go, swerving in and out of on-comers, and all the while…eyes are upon us.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nanny Diares


Right out of college, I had an extremely hard time finding a job. Down to zero possibilities, I accepted a full-time position as a nanny of 2 children. One of the children was a two-year-old boy who was filled with nothing but mischief.

This little guy was sneaky! One day in particular, I was making the lunch for our picnic outing, when I turned around…he was gone! I searched high and low for that boy, and still, he didn’t appear. It was official; I had lost a toddler! Finally, after the initial onset of cardiac arrest, I found him. He was patiently waiting in my car. He had gone outside, opened the door, and crawled into the back seat. There he sat, oblivious to my panic, looking as though I should have expected him to be there the entire time.

Luke 2:29
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” – NIV

Mary and Joseph; two parents who were given the most sacred job in the history of the world: Parenting the Son of God. And, bless their hearts, they lost Him! To make matters worse, they did not just lose Him for minutes or hours, they suffered through his disappearance for three unbearable days.

The search party was extensive. They searched among their peers. They searched among their lands. They, no doubt, were consumed with the panic a parent feels for a missing child. And, finally, they found Him…in His home. Where else would He be?

How often do we find ourselves in the same frantic search for the Son of God? We search among our peers. We search among our daily activities. We search within ourselves. Even though we are assured of His presence, He often seems awfully absent.

What greater promise could Jesus make than this: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” We never need to wonder where our Lord may dwell; He is always about His Father’s business.

Jesus’ own nature compels Him. He must be in His Father’s house, and His Father’s house is us.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary


Show me what a man honors, and I will tell you what kind of man he is. My husband is probably so sick of this phrase because I feel like I say it all the time. I cannot help it; I believe this phrase to my core.

If a man honors money, he will be covetous. If a man honors power, he will strive for supremacy. If a man honors lust, he will always be tempted. But, if a man honors God, he will be heavenly.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” – NIV

365 days ago, today, I married a true man of God. He is biblical to the core in his morals, values and beliefs. Everyday he flees from temptations that would prove us harm. Every minute he flees from harmful desires that accompany a sinful soul. Every second, he places God in the supreme place that He belongs and submits his life to spiritual direction.

I consider myself blessed to follow a man that follows God.

Happy 1 year anniversary pickle.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

People Pleaser


I have always been somewhat of a people pleaser, but no more so than in my first few years of college. Still unsure of myself, I often let people walk all over me.

My sophomore year, specifically, is a great example. As second year members in my sorority, living in the house was mandatory for my entire class. We selected our rooms, chose our roommates and were all to meet at the house on move-in day. Being the prompt person that I am, my family and I were the first to arrive. I claimed my bed, laid out my belongings and just went through the motions of unpacking.

One by one my roommates began arriving, each having a problem with something that I had done. I had chosen the wrong bed. I had taken the wrong desk. Basically my existence was a problem! As hurt as I was to be casted aside almost immediately, I said nothing. So afraid of the backlash that would accompany a disagreement, I played coy. Intimidated from the start, that year’s living arrangements were nothing less than awful.

Luke 12:4
“Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” – NIV

When I look back on this time, I often wonder: What was I afraid of? Was it the tiny adolescent female that rearranged my closet? Was is the awkward silence that consumed our room? In the grand scheme of things, was it anything that really deserved my fear?

We all let people intimidate us. We all let people restrict us. Despite our best efforts, it is my assumption that we all have found ourselves, literally, pushed around.

Jesus says that our only fear should be a fear of God. His will, and His will alone, is to be the overwhelming influence in our lives. There should never be people in this world who have a disproportionate influence on us.

God will put all of us in situations, from time to time, that will test our allegiance to Him. He will let people - and circumstances - seem huge and powerfully influential in our lives. It is during this time that we must decide: Who’s opinion matters most?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Joy of Creation


I know that I have mentioned this in my postings before, but I’m not above saying it again…I love ceramics. My favorite thing that I ever made was not for any functional purpose, no, it was simply a treat for the eyes. After days and days of arduous labor and concentration, my vision was complete: I had made an extremely lifelike rendition of the Taco Bell Chihuahua sitting in a bubble bath.

You may be thinking to yourself, “She made what?” Don’t be deceived my friends. While it was true that my creation had no special purpose or function to complete, it did not matter. I didn’t create this masterpiece so that I would have an easier life or yet another tool at my disposal. I created this work of art to simply enjoy.

Luke 10:41-42
“Martha, …you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” – NIV

God is an artist. Sometimes, in our daily lives, we forget that, above all else, God is a creator. And what does every creator want out of life…to enjoy their creation.
Yes, as children of the King, we are called to serve God. There is no dispute about this among believers; the Bible is quite clear on this topic. However, in our humanity, we tend to forget that God never calls us to serve Him at the expense of knowing Him.

No parents ever have children for practical purposes. We do not choose to create life so that we could have an extra hand around the house or an extra arm to hold the door. No, we have children to enjoy them, to know them. So it is with our heavenly Father.

God will use us all, this is true, but not before He thoroughly enjoys our company.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yankees Fan


For the past few years, I have had one particular hat that I always seem to wear. Complete with navy blue fabric and crisp, white stitching, my NY Yankees baseball hat is my go-to accessory. Each time I wear it, the blue gets grayer, almost as if it was proving my exclusive commitment to the team.

Why the NY Yankees, you say? Well, isn’t it obvious that I consider myself a major supporter of their sports program? Hardly. The truth about my favorite hat has absolutely nothing to do with what it stands for but everything to do with convenience. Everyone loves the Yankees right? Cool hat + cheap price = Tara’s choice.

The problem with my exclusivity in regards to this hat is that everyone just assumed I was a diehard Yankees fan…and after a while, I attempted to own that trait. (Trust me, there is no problem in faking allegiance until someone begins to test you.)

There I was, faithfully sporting my support for the New York Yankees major league baseball program, but knowing nothing about them. I did not know what they stood for. I did not know about their history. Heck, I could not even name a player on that team until Derek Jeter caught my eye. One word defines what I felt on a weekly basis: Busted.

As difficult of a lesson as this was to learn with this whole hat issue, I began to find myself wearing disguises in other areas of my life as well. Yes, I was a sorority girl…but sisterhood meant nothing to me. Yes, I was a “Bible-Thumper” for a period…but my heart was never moved to such a rigid acceptance of the Gospel. And worst yet, I spent much of my life appearing as though I was a Christian…but, internally, I always walked the other way.

Psalm 139:23
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” – ESV

The Word of God is full of warnings against appearance-only faith. Time and time again, God says that our hearts will be tested. There isn’t a disguise big enough to keep the truth from our Almighty.

We must live our lives in such a way that no one ever feels the need to test us.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Distant Wanderers


Well, its official, my brother has left again. Most of you already know, that about a year ago, Tyler decided to leave his existing residence in New York and head out west. A difficult trip to make in the winter, with no vehicle, he eventually returned home in early October.

This time, however, he has taken his car and headed out once again. He has only been gone nine days and already visited three states. Right now, just being a traveling stranger, I can honestly say that he is right in his element. Tyler does not live his life like most and, constantly, beats to the rhythm of his own drum. He is most content when he is independent and free from all responsibility.

Unfortunately, however, we all know what role finances play in our dreams…a fact that he must learn the hard way.

Luke 15:13
“The younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant land and there squandered his wealth…” – NIV

It is easy to look at the decisions of a wanderer and assume that they know not what they do. They are irresponsible. They are going to lose everything. But, when we look in the mirror at our own spiritual lives, we must see the similarities.
We were all once citizens of a distant country. It was not a case of exile, no; we went there on our own. We were happy to be independent. We were happy to be out of the “oppressive presence” of our Father – yet all the while – had zero problems with the abundant wealth and blessings that were providing for that freedom.

Yes, we too are prone to frivolous lives, squandering of benefits and neglecting responsibilities in our Father’s house. We, too, have a streak of independence that carries on in spite of our salvation. At times, our behavior may lead us to think that we are no longer welcome in our Father’s house. But true believers know the truth…

We have a Father who waits.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bitter Barn


I have heard it said that it is easier to obtain forgiveness than permission…um, that person obviously did not know me. Shamefully, I must admit, I am not one who offers up forgiveness easily. If I am wronged, to a certain degree, you can most likely count yourself all but ridden off. I know what an embarrassing attribute this is of mine, and yet, it still remains. This merciless quality has been with me since childhood and, regrettably, cost me more than one relationship.

Why do we hold on to bitterness the way that we do? What is it about this feeling that we cannot escape? If you are anything like me, you find yourself nursing your resentment (and even cultivating it) as if it was doing us a favor. Ridiculous when you think about it. We harbor grudges instead of grace and have been known to dwell on specific offenses for years.

Luke 6:37
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” - NIV

What we do not realize, however, is that bitterness is the primary bacteria eating away at our lives. Our inability to forgive is robbing us of our joys and basically eroding our sense of peace. This resentment, this animosity, is such a pitiful human tendency and, yet, we are all guilty.

I have to wonder, when we focus on judgment and justice towards others, are we even capable of understanding God’s mercy towards ourselves? Jesus’ command to forgive others prepares us to understand the gospel, simple as that. The God of immeasurable mercy has provided us with an opportunity to gain only a glimpse of His eternal grace, and yet, we refuse.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fear of Failure


All my life, I have been absolutely terrified of failure. My poor mother has had to; literally, push me into more than one of life’s stages simply due to my unwillingness to try something new.

Unlike most fifteen year olds, the last thing that I wanted to do was obtain my driver’s license permit. I didn’t want to have to learn to drive, what if I was horrible at it? I didn’t want to take the permit test, how embarrassing it would be if I failed it! No, I was perfectly comfortable being taxied around by everyone else who would offer me a ride.

1 Thessalonians 2:1
“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.” – NIV

When I think of how averse I am to even the idea of failure, I always seem to be met with stories of Paul. This poor man; how often he met with failure on an eye-to-eye basis. He would plant churches, mold them, nurture and teach them, only to have them fall upon his departure. Wasn’t he even the least bit disappointed? Didn’t he ever fear the next attempt? Wasn’t the idea that it may not work out constantly in the back of his mind?

It takes a certain type of individual to respond to failure so commendably. It takes more than a strong will to accept defeat as nothing more than a stepping stone in the path of greatness, it requires strength of Spirit. The ability to rise above fear is not special, it is spiritual.

May we all remember that, with God, failure is never fatal.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Big Canoe Church


Brian and I spent this past weekend at Big Canoe, a small resort in Jasper, Georgia. My father-in-law invited the entire family up for a long weekend of relaxation and togetherness. After days of playing cards, bocce ball, eating well and good times…Sunday was upon us. Luckily, before we were to depart, we had the added joy of attending the Big Canoe Church.

Perhaps, it should be said that our mere presence in the sanctuary brought the average age down by forty years. When I say that it was a senior service, there were very few exceptions. We sang from hymnals, had soloists from the choir and passed offering bowls made from pure mahogany.

Apparently, as tradition would be for this small church, everyone was to hold hands during prayer. I’m not going to lie, the prayer lasted for quite a long time, and at some point, out of curiosity, I did open my eyes. Sadly, there was a man about three pews up that caught my stare. This man, the sole occupant of his row, had no hands to hold. He was sitting still, head bowed, but hands completely to himself.

Psalm 135:13
“God stands up for his people, God holds the hands of his people.” – The Message

I don’t have a great message that follows this posting. I don’t really have anything else to say about it, unfortunately. All I do know, is that it is nine hours after the church service and this solitary believer – with his open hand - is still on my mind. This single man, with no hand to hold, cannot escape my memory.

I suppose that I should find in this a lesson of thanksgiving. Appreciation that my hands were completely occupied on both sides. Grateful that not only my pew, but also the one in front of mine, were filled with people who care about me.

But perhaps, this time, a single open hand was a more significant message than a pew full of friends.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Do your Part: Rebel


Mark 14:48
“Am I leading a rebellion?”

This culture of ours has a negative connotation with the word rebel. Teenagers who lose their way are considered rebellious. Disorder, matched with chaos, is an identifiable sign of a rebellious nature. Outlaws and criminals are synonymous with rebels of the night. It is all very normal and no one bats an eye at the expression.

In terms of the Bible, however, a rebellion is exactly what we are called to be a part of. When we read the book of Mark, aside from the sarcasm that Jesus insinuates in this verse, we can clearly see that he actually was leading a rebellion.

Christ is leading a rebellion against the human rebellion. Christ is leading a rebellion against the angelic rebellion of Lucifer. He is leading a rebellion against the ways of our world and anyone or anything that is not for the Kingdom of God.

As part of God’s creation, and descendents from Adam and Eve, we are, already, part of this rebellion. We have fallen into sinful ways that have automatically placed us on the opposing side in this war. In our sin, we have committed treason against our Lord of Lords.

Now, as God would have it, we have been given a chance to redeem our former uprising and join in the ranks with the King. We are, officially, called to arms. Whenever we see injustice, we can right it. Whenever we see hate, we can cast out love. Whenever we see pain, we can soothe it.

We must always be evaluating our position within this rebellion. Are we waist-deep in this battle, or just passively sitting by?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time in a Bottle


About a year and a half ago, when my mom and I were in full-on wedding preparation mode, we were getting along better than ever before. We were agreeing on everything and using our skills of cooperation to wade through some areas of friction. All in all, things were going quite smoothly. Then, the time came to begin receiving rsvp cards. Cooperation = Over.

Being a planner by nature, an expecting a certain degree of accountability from my family and friends, I was adamant in what I wanted. There was a “reply by” date on the invitation; I expected it to be followed. I was not ready to wait weeks and weeks for irresponsible people to get around to responding. If I hadn’t heard from you by a certain time…you were out. It goes without saying that my mom had a difference of opinion.

Now that the wedding is over, and the whole rsvp business is behind me, I have to wonder: Why was I so concerned? What it my planner personality just acting in overdrive? Was it my need to have everything under my control? Or, and most likely, was it my intrinsic need to save my time?

What makes us guard our time so protectively? What makes us feel as though there will never be enough of it? Most of us, on a daily basis, have the capability to balance work, family, friends and church with little to no effort at all. Heck, we even make time for resting.

Nevertheless, time is scarce and we know it. For our culture, as a whole, it would not be far-fetched to label it our most valuable commodity. It is always running out and we will never be given more than God intends.

When our time is demanded from us, how do we respond? As Christians, we understand that God gets the first fruits of our paychecks; does He get the first fruits of our time and effort as well? Think about what we are saying if He does not. Perhaps, in our humanity, we overestimate the importance of our own agendas. Of all the sacrifices that we are asked to make, the sacrifice of time is the most challenging.

I suppose we should ask ourselves: Is our schedule all that sacred?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Miracles Happen


It’s funny that now, even in adulthood, I often catch myself praying like a child. I don’t just blurt out requests toward God, no – that would be presumptuous of me – instead, I cloak my numerous wishes in a beautifully wrapped package of options. I commit my soul to Him, I declare my allegiance to His Kingdom, heck, I even say that He doesn’t have to give me a single thing in this lifetime. All I ask for in return of my loyalty is one little ol’ miracle that will prove to me that He is listening.

A sign. That’s it. Can you imagine? A heavenly gesture would be such convincing evidence…wouldn’t it?

Luke 11:29
“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign.” - NIV

When we truly think about what we are asking when we request a sign from the Lord, does it really make sense? Sure, it is easy to dream of all the conversions that would result from such a miraculous action, but I’m beginning to wonder if this is just that…wishful thinking. Secular individuals have always ridiculed the signs of the church as no more than tricky hoaxes, would our culture be any different?

Truth is, the world currently has all the miraculous signs that it needs to accept the Gospel as Truth. The truest, most indisputable miracle is simply a changed life. More people have been brought into God’s Kingdom from such a sign than any other act.

This all makes me wonder: What kind of sign am I? Christians have a tendency to beg for the ability to perform miracles, so much so that it becomes our focus. We must remember to focus on the miracle that has taken place within, the kind of miracle that really saves people.

There is a huge difference between doing a miracle and just being one.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

T2 Tennis


A couple months ago, my mom and I teamed up to play T2 tennis this spring. All season we have played super well together and last night was our final regular season match. Fairly confident in our abilities, as we both are, we could tell during warm ups that this match was going to be a problem.

The women we were playing hit the ball so soft that it seemed like it was never going to get to us. My mom and I both, I guess you could say, have an inherent “need for speed”. As players, we thrive off power and velocity; it is just our game style. Suffice to say, against these two powder pushers, we were facing a world of frustration.

Naturally, as we both are inclined to do, we found ourselves playing down to their level. They would push it over, we would push back. Their balls would just seem to be sitting in mid-air, waiting for us to kill them, and we couldn’t deliver. We knew that we were better. We knew that we had the capability to overcome. Sometimes, I suppose, all the knowledge in the world isn’t enough to affect your behavior.

Romans 12:2
“Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” – The Message

Don’t we all wish that a sport was the only area in life where conformity was an issue? Playing down to your adversary in games is not nearly as impactful as life. But, alas, our nature is our nature.

So often I find myself longing to belong. I know that this world is not for me. I know that my treasure lies in Heaven. I know that, by nature, this world will hate me and everything that I stand for. But, once again, all the knowledge in the world just isn’t enough to affect my behavior.

I regularly find myself coming down to culture’s level. I constantly watch my body take action when my spirit cries for patience. I continuously need God’s grace to bring me back up where I belong.

I have heard it said that the opposite of courage is never cowardice, its conformity.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Radical Repellant


I am going to be the first one to bring attention to my appearance this morning; I officially look as though I have just emerged from combat. After a long weekend at the lake, my legs and arms appear viciously beaten. I have red lumps covering my lower legs and enlarged discoloration on both my forearms. The guilty party…stupid ol’ mosquitoes!

Those little pests have lurked around me since Friday. More often than not, I do not even know they are there until I notice the aftermath of their presence. Sly and devious in their maneuvers, I have to wonder what good they do being in my existence. There isn’t a pest repellant in the world that has proven to be 100% effective against this unknown force of irritation. No matter what precautions are taken, they are a force to be reckoned with!

1 Peter 5:8
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” - NIV

I have heard, time and time again, how calculating Satan is. He is like a ferocious lion on the prowl. He is the most dominant demonic force in existence. He is in constant battle luring souls daily for his spiritual warfare. All of these descriptions, while truthful at times, seem to overlook the most valuable tool at his disposal: his concealment.

Satan is not always the massive rival that we come to anticipate. No, more often than not, Satan is the unrevealed force that corrupts us in disguise. His secrecy and invisibility only make him more successful in breaking us down. A thief in the night does not come in with weapons raised and bombs blasting, a thief never announces his presence. Most of the time, the only evidence that we have of a demonic presence, is the destructive aftermath left behind.

As believers, we shouldn’t be so on guard for demonic lions that we miss the even more destructive mosquitoes.