Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Hot Pursuit

It’s one a.m. and I can’t sleep. I hate this whole wake up in the middle of the night routine that hit in my forties. As I lie here, I’m not kept awake by my thoughts but I can’t turn them off, either. So I decided to write them down!

I want to live in God’s reality, to see life the way God does.  I believe Jesus could heal people and do miracles when he was a human because he had been God; he’d lived in heaven and knew the truth. He didn't go through any of the faith killing things we do like “Is this really God? Is God really like this? Does God want to heal this person? Will God heal this person?” None of these thoughts ever crossed Jesus’ mind at all. He was faith-filled because he understood what was true. He had no doubt. He knew how God thinks and He knew how the Kingdom of God operates.

I want to live like that. Badly. Or maybe desperately. I don’t want to get caught in the lies that I believe as a frail human. Lies about what God thinks of me. Lies about where the source of life is, or the source of joy and satisfaction.  Whenever I look for my circumstances to make me happy or feel worthwhile I am believing a lie, because that is not where the source of life is found.  It means I don't understand how God thinks. I don't know what's true.

I am in hot pursuit of a deeper understanding of what it means to have the Lord be my source of life and joy.  I don’t know specifically how to get there.  I know I’m not where I once was.  I have a much greater understanding of what’s true than I did when I was younger in the Lord and I’m quicker to recognize when I believe lies. But I still find myself looking to stupid things to be my source of life. And they are becoming distinctly unsatisfying. 

I’m desperate for the kind of relationship with Him that is more powerful and meaningful than any other relationship I have.  I want to live in the truth.  I’m praying. I’m asking.  I’m repenting. I’m trusting that God is good enough and big enough to overcome my weaknesses and help me get there.  

Matthew 7:9-11 (NKJV)
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

What are you asking for?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And God Will Wipe Away Every Tear

I’m a sucker for happy endings. Seriously. I can watch that final scene when the guy and the girl get past all their misunderstandings, declare their love and ride off into the sunset over and over again. It’s the same with books. My favorite chapters are the big moments when it all works out and the characters finally make it through all their trials.  Sometimes, when I can’t stand all the problems in the middle of the book, I just skip right to the end. Then, when I’m assured that things really do come out all right, I go back and read the rest of it.

When my daughter was a toddler she had this curious habit of laying all of her stuffed animals and dollies down and covering them all with blankets; their own little private “tuck in”.  One night I walked into my bedroom and there were about ten stuffed animals lying on my bed, each with their own blankets snugly around them. Danielle was supposed to be asleep! In her mind, she had to make sure all her babies were cared for first. Crazy that my daughter and I share the same desire to see the world all tucked in and warm, happily ever after. 

I try hard not to think about what happens when the movie is over. Do you ever think about that?    After the lovers declare their feelings and kiss? A year later, are they still happy? I want them to be. I want everyone to be a member of the happily ever after club. I think that’s why I became a teacher, so I could save the world, make all those kids’ lives better.  It’s the reason I don’t like to watch sad movies and I don’t like the news.  I can’t stand hearing about all the sad people whose lives I can’t fix. 

Did you ever think about the fact that God loves happy endings more than we do?   The desire for happily ever after is a feeling God and I share; only His feelings are infinitely more powerful than mine.  God longs to see every tear wiped away, everyone's sorrow eased, and all of us living gloriously with Him in heaven. He longs for it more than I can imagine.  He’s the one who came up with the idea of heaven in the first place. If God longs to ease my sorrow in heaven, it only stands to reason that He cares about the sorrows I am facing now.  He longs to wipe away every tear I cry this side of heaven and wants to comfort me in my distress. He is not a God who is indifferent to pain and suffering. Ever.  My God is a God who loves more deeply than I can fathom. Thinking of that makes me love Him back.

Revelation 21:4(NKJV)
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Art of Self Pity

Self Pity - pity for oneself; especiallya self-indulgent dwelling on one's own sorrows or misfortunes

I was a black hole yesterday, mastering the art of self-pity with increasing skill as the sun marched across the sky. Misfortune held my undivided attention in a manner that could only be described as disgusting. Need I continue? It’s kind of fun to go on about it now, but yesterday it wasn't fun at all.  

My poor husband tried to be helpful using what could be called a stereotypical male methodology. He listened patiently and then tried to solve all my problems. I fired him as my counselor as soon as it started to sound like “you shouldn’t feel that way”. He swears that wasn’t his intent, but I was not in the mood to hear it.

I let my attitude consume the day, and didn’t really go to the Lord until this morning. The good Lord never ceases to astound me. I could have gotten my ears boxed. I was, after all, in sin. (And I did repent, by the way). But I didn’t get fire and brimstone from the Lord.

These were the verses in my Bible reading:
Psalm 27: 13-14
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.   Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 28:7-8
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed.

I felt so much compassion from the Lord. I did have some things weighing me down and He knew the struggles I was facing. He was there for me, ready to be my strength and shield when I turned to Him. He is more “for me” than I am for myself.  More than anyone in the world (even my very well meaning husband) the Lord totally “gets me”. He knows what I’m going through. The minute I went to Him I felt His peace and reassurance that life wasn’t so bad and I could keep going, and keep going with a heart that greatly rejoices. He helped me believe that I will see His goodness, and I saw His goodness today.  He is my saving refuge.

How do you need to let Him be your saving refuge today?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Please Call the Plumber!

Loud noises are rising up from the basement. Yelling. The clanking of thrown tools hitting the ground.  Oh dear. My husband is trying to fix the plumbing.  Nick is actually an amazing “fix-it-up” guy.  Our home is a 75 year old antique and he has remodeled almost every beautiful inch of it. Unfortunately, for some reason plumbing is his nemesis, a foe that he never seems able to vanquish.  He tries. He tries for too long and then, sadly, breaks something.  Then the plumber has to fix more than one thing. It’s not pretty. And it’s happening right now. I’m trying to be the good wife and keep my “I told you so” mouth shut. I’ve managed pretty well so far, but I’ve literally been praying to God that He’d help me hold it in before I say something that puts me in the Bad Wife Club. Been there too many times—don’t need a membership.

You see, I know what Nick should do. He should be reasonable and call a plumber. But he doesn’t!  And then I have to watch him make himself miserable. While I was upstairs pleading for God’s patience the good Lord reminded me that He goes through this with me all the time.  He watches me go back to the same struggles again and again. He listens to me while I whine and complain (though I don’t throw thingsJ). The right thing, though obvious to Him, totally escapes me.

I have to try very hard to be loving and patient. But God IS love and patience. He does not look down on me like I’m a stupid woman (even when I am!)  He never gives up on me. He never goes to the Bad Anyone Club for his attitude because it is always poised towards me with love and understanding.  As I write this I’m smiling, because I have this picture of God looking down at me, shaking his head and grinning. The look in His eyes is affectionate, warm. He likes me, even when I won’t call the plumber and I break the pipe. Again. Come to think of it. If he likes me then he likes Nick too. Dear Lord, please talk to Nick about the plumbing!!   

I love this verse. It applies to this post in that it describes the loving way the Lord regards me (and you!):
Isaiah 40:11
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to Measure a Life

20,000 people went to the Taylor Swift concert in Tacoma last Wednesday.  When she walked out onto the stage the sound from the crowd was deafening.  I had to plug my ears. Yes, I was there. I have two teenagers and we promised them that if Taylor ever came close to our small town we’d go to the big city and listen to her sing.

It was incredible. Kids had decorated tee-shirts that bore her name and carried signs that lit up so you could see them in the dark. There was a one-hour wait at the merchandise table. Three teenage boys behind us randomly yelled out, “We love you, Taylor!” at the top of their lungs.  And they were definitely not alone in that practice. At one point she ran through the crowd on her way to a smaller stage at the other end of the dome, shaking hands and hugging people as she went.  The minute she left the stage bodies flooded down to the main floor and pressed to get a glimpse, a touch. The stage was surrounded by fans reaching out towards her.  After each song the screaming was so loud I had to go back to ear plugging. I’d never seen anyone so worshipped in my life.

I like Taylor more than most celebrities.  Her concert was clean enough for young children to be there, and according to the press she has certainly tried to live a wholesome life.  Some of the text messages that flashed on the screen before the show read, “You’re my inspiration, Taylor!” and I think she’s a better role model than the majority of famous people.

But as I sat there watching one twenty year old girl become the focus of the most amazing attention I’d ever seen, I was struck by an interesting reality.  I know that God loves her, but I have no idea how he views her life.  I imagine that her desire to live a wholesome life in the midst of a truly corrupt industry can be a way to bring light to darkness and that could be pleasing to God. But I don’t know and it isn’t my place to say one way or the other.  Regardless,  the most famous and admired people in the world may not have as much positive impact as one quiet soul who is living to please God and being faithful to the ministry God called him (or her J) to.  If we could see the network of affect that our lives and actions have, what would we see? If we could be like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and watch the difference our life makes, would we be surprised by the far reaching impact our choices to serve God have made? 

I’ll never be Taylor Swift, but my eternal impact could be greater. I’m not thinking of that competitively, but rather, I was struck deeply by how much things are not what they seem in this world. What the world thinks of me is truly irrelevant in the face of what God thinks of me.  I’m back to that deepening awareness that He is the only one who assesses my value and my life. 20,000 screaming fans looks like the place to be, but in actuality, the place to be is in the center of God’s will for my life. That is the one place that matters. I came away from our experience more determined than ever to be committed to the life God has called me specifically to live.

What has God specifically called you to do?

Philippians 3:13-14
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Does God Tell Jokes?

When Jesus walked the Earth, do you think he told jokes?  Can you see Him laughing when you picture Him? If He was with us now, do you think he would be more likely to smile or frown? You may be thinking “Come on Tammy, does that even matter?” But I want you to really ask yourself those questions, because I think it does matter. 

How we see God affects how we live and how we relate to Him.  The movies that have provided visuals for us in the last 100 years certainly portray Him as this stern, rather cold being. In an attempt to make him look otherworldly they have made Him aloof.  A God who would send His son to live on the Earth and die a horrific death for the sake of mankind is anything but aloof.  He is involved. He cares. He is passionate.  It may be easy to visualize a passionate God, intense and strong. But can you see a funny one? Does your God have a sense of humor?  

My God does. One of my all-time favorite verses is Hebrews 1:9.  It was actually first written by the Psalmist in Psalm 45 and was a prophetic verse about Jesus.  “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” 

Gladness in this case means exultation, extreme joy, and well, gladness.  This means that Jesus was more joyful than anyone He knew.  He was, after all, filled with the Holy Spirit and that includes joy.

I’ve been meditating on this because school has started and I’ve let the busyness of the teaching year affect my joy. I’ve been tired and stressed. I was talking with the Lord about this and He reminded me to laugh. He made me smile.  He filled my heart with gladness. 

I do tell God jokes, by the way.  And we both laugh.