Sunday, October 30, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think 3--Lessons in Poverty

Poverty taught me a lot. Listen to me use the word “poverty”!  I wasn't poor compared to the world, but I was USA poor and the years in the trailer were painful.  However, I learned to rely on God in a way I never would have done had I kept all my money. I’m not necessarily recommending that you part with a significant portion of your discretionary income…..unless God calls you to it. But that’s between you and Him.

Before I go on to my next car story, I feel like I need to stop and elaborate on this time of my life, this time in the trailer, when Nick was in and out of work, before the fairy tale house and the bright gold carriage. (Yes, our Chevy Tahoe is a gold SUV and I call it the Princess car….sappy but fitting. J)

During this time I learned to pour out my heart to the Lord regularly. I kept nothing back from Him. I told Him of my frustrations and fears and the difficulty I had with our current life status.  I begged Him to change me, begged Him to help me; I was honest about my embarrassment over my attitudes.  He became my number one confidant, the one to whom I poured my heart. The thing that blew me away was that all I ever heard from Him in response was encouragement.  I would have expected Him to blast me. I thought He’d go on about how materialistic and whiny I was. I thought He’d tell me to shape up and be thankful I hadn’t been asked to die for the sins of humanity like He had.

Our conversations were nothing like that.  He would tell me how proud He was of me, that even though what He’d asked of me was very hard, I was willing to make any sacrifice for His sake. He seemed blessed that I’d do something for Him that was such a challenge and told me that meant a great deal to Him. (Go figure!) He repeatedly asked me to trust Him and promised me He’d take care of me.  At His urging, I started a habit of making a list of all the things I wanted or needed in my journal. Then I’d watch Him supply all the things on that list one by one.  It was this process that drew me to Him in a way I’d never imagined.

More to come…..

Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think--2

I want to state this disclaimer right up front: I know that God is not my fairy godmother, even though some of my life stories sound like fairy tales.

In my last post I told about our saga with the Ford Explorer. We got the Explorer in the spring of 1997. At the time we were living in a 30 year old mobile home trailer. I was 33 and this was a hard road for me. I’d grown up with money. We weren’t zillionaires, but we had a swimming pool in the backyard, a hot tub room and big screen TV (before they were popular).  If someone had told me I’d grow up and live in a mobile home when I was 30, I would never have believed it.

I wish I could say I loved God so much that I didn’t care. But I did care. A lot. Every day as I drove my car up that hill to spot #51, I grit my teeth.  I didn’t want to give people my address because they’d know I didn’t live in a house.  It bothered me to be poor and it bothered me that I was so materialistic that I cared. It would be so much easier if it didn’t matter! One day I was groaning to the Lord in my journal and I felt like He asked me, “So what are you looking for in a house?”

Well, I knew that God didn’t say those sorts of things to people, so I ignored it. He asked me regularly for months. Occasionally I’d give a half-hearted response. One day I spilled it all out in my journal. I wanted a new house, a pretty house, one that didn’t need to be fixed up. I wanted three bedrooms, two baths and a family room. After I was done, I heard Him snap His fingers and say, as King might, “Done.” I was so frustrated at this response that I threw my journal across the room.  After all, God doesn’t say these things to people! But later on in the day I went back to the Lord. “As long as you’re asking, and just in case this really is you, I want to add a couple of things. I want a porch and a fireplace.”   (After all….what if it really WAS God?)

The thing is, there wasn’t any building happening in our town, except for a few expensive homes. There hadn't been new building for years.  But God sees the future when we cannot. One day I was driving to work and I noticed a new billboard, advertising, you guessed it, affordable new homes.  I called them up immediately.  We were one of the first people who signed up.  The house we had built had every single feature I’d asked for. Even my “add on’s” were added on.  We signed in the spring and in August they told us that they were adding porches to all the houses, including ours.  Right after we moved in Nick’s dad decided to give us a glass front fireplace!

As you can imagine, I was beyond delighted.  More to come……

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Exceedingly Above All We Ask or Think

God is continuing to use vehicles to address issues of my faith. Who knew? In thinking back, I was reminded that car stories play a distinct role in my story with the Lord. I have no idea why.  It seems odd, even to me, and I’ve lived it! In order for you to understand my current story, you need to understand more of the bigger story.

When Nick and I were first married we felt challenged by the Lord to give a large tithe, between 23 and 25% of our gross income.  That made our finances very tight. It was compounded by the fact that Nick had graduated with a plan to go into sales and marketing, but we lived in a small town without those types of jobs available. We felt led by the Lord to stay in our small community. The ramification of this was that we had very little money.  It also meant that Nick was bouncing around from one job to the next. He kept trying his hand working with new businesses.  He tripled the sales of the first company he worked for within 18 months. Unfortunately, the owner was so delighted he decided to move the business to the coast. He begged Nick to come with him but we felt like we were supposed to stay where we were.  After that Nick tried several different jobs but to no avail. Finally, he just gave up trying for sales and decided to try and get a job at a local university. 

In the midst of all of this, our oldest daughter was born and I became pregnant with our youngest. In fact, during my second pregnancy Nick was out of full-time work. He was working several menial jobs trying to bring some money in, paper routes, a cleaning job, definitely not things that make you proud of your career!  We were praying desperately, knowing that the minute our youngest daughter was born we wouldn’t be able to pay for her life.  To make this story more interesting, that summer I was pregnant with Jacqueline we hit a deer that completely wiped out the front of our car. It was still drivable, but it looked terrible. The entire front end of this sedan was entirely smashed.  We didn’t have the money to fix it, and also knew that it wasn't worth fixing, but we couldn't afford a new car. So we were driving it around in its smashed in state.  Very humiliating to say the least!

Three weeks before Jacqueline was born Nick got a university job. As you can imagine, we were ecstatic! After a few months of steady income from Nick we started looking for a car. I knew what I wanted, I wanted a Ford Explorer. I remember the Lord speaking to me in my journal. He told me I was going to get what I wanted.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen because some friends advised us against buying an Explorer and we decided to follow their advice. I put what I wanted on the shelf and started looking for a practical sedan. Nick called his dad to tell him what we were thinking of buying and his dad said, “Nick, your mom and I have decided to give you our Explorer. It’s 6 years old, but it only has 40,000 miles on it.” This Explorer was absolutely beautiful. Exactly what I wanted.  They had no idea that we wanted one.  But God knew. Why did He do that? I have no idea.  It was a tangible expression of His love for me, though, and has always been a meaningful part of my story.  More to come……..

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I’m a hypocrite! Two posts ago I wrote about God’s loving-kindness towards me being precious.  I was reveling in the thought that God’s love for me is beyond anything that I can comprehend. Here I am a week later doubting that love. This morning I caught myself not really believing in the truth of God’s love for me.  That’s exactly how I felt, too. Caught.  Exposed in the reality of my belief system.  Here I thought I was all confident in my graced place before the throne. In truth, I was worried that God wasn’t out for my good. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I feel like an Israelite! Have you ever ridiculed God’s chosen people? Whether or not you’ll admit it, if you’ve read the Old Testament (and you’re honest) you have thought those guys were idiots at least once.  Well, maybe not anything as strong as “idiot”, but surely the thought “How could they doubt God like that?” crossed your mind. Come on, think back to the time right after the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea and then they decided to ditch God and make a golden calf.  Doesn’t that story cause disbelief to well up in your soul? How could they do that?

Well, I’m no better. I have the Bible. I have Jesus and the redemption of my soul by his grace. I have innumerable scriptures that testify of God’s unending love for me.  And still I doubt.  I am embarrassed. Why is it so hard to believe that God loves me unconditionally? God has more for me. He wants me to believe. He wants me to trust. 

Dear Lord, help me to know the truth deep in my soul; that you love me and are full of goodness towards me.  Help me to understand the truth of who you are and the way that you love.  I pray for revelation of the truth. 

Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flying Blind

My grandfather owned a small airplane that he flew for years. By the time I was born he was older and had long since sold it, but he liked to regale us granddaughters with stories of his younger days and that included talking about his plane.  He told me once that the instrumentation in planes at that time was very simple, nothing complicated like they have today.  They were so basic that the plane had no indicators to tell the pilot whether it was flying right side up or not.  It was possible to get in the middle of a deep bank of clouds, get turned upside down and not know it. So he tied a string to a pencil and taped it to the ceiling of his plane. That way, if the plane turned upside down the pencil would fall against the ceiling and the pilot would know he was in trouble.

I want indicator lights in my life. Lots of them.  I find myself constantly looking for feedback. I look to my circumstances and want to draw conclusions from them.  I want good circumstances so that I can feel like God is happy with me, and I’m tempted in bad circumstances to worry that God might be mad. I want positive feedback from others so I can feel good about how I’m doing. I want to look everywhere except to the one place where I should.

Getting caught up in trying to read God’s pleasure or displeasure in the circumstances of life is a dangerous business.  There have been times when my circumstances have been bad, but God has been amazingly present and changed my life. I’ve also experienced very positive circumstances both when God seemed present and when He did not.  

I need to fly blind, with only a pencil hanging from the ceiling, the barest of instruments lighting my way.  I want to cling to God, to His presence and the promises in the Word about who He is and what He offers.  When I’m in the midst of clouds and can’t find my way, I want to remember to look to the ceiling and let God direct me.  If I can do that, then my faith is unshakable. In good times and in bad I look only to the author and finisher of my faith.

Psalm 31:3 (NKJV)
For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

God's Loving-kindness Towards Me is Precious

Psalm 36:7-9 (NKJV)
How precious is Your loving-kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

This section of scripture gives me hope. It reminds me things about God that are important for me to remember.  God’s loving-kindness towards me is precious.  He really likes me! A lot! That makes me smile as I type.  Imagine the most doting father or grandfather in the world. They cannot in any way compare to God. His love is beyond anything I can comprehend.  It just fills my heart to think of that much love directed towards me. I can place my complete trust in Him. I can draw near to Him and He will love and protect me.  He will keep me no matter what is going on in my world. Circumstances change but He is my constant.

The psalmist says that the children of men  are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of God’s house, and that I can drink in the river of His pleasures.  God wants me to be satisfied in Him. He wants me to know abundance and fullness. He doesn’t want me to be empty or longing.  He even wants me to enjoy pleasures!  That is what God desires for me every day; that I would know abundant satisfaction in Him.  That sounds lovely. A God who loves me wants good for me. I’m going to try and live this verse….all day. In order to do so, need to remember that He is the fountain of life. If I want abundance, I need to look to Him.

This verse is going to brighten my day as I think on it. I pray it brightens your day too!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Truck Drama: The Sequel

The day after I finished writing my last post we had a car accident. Nick and I were transporting our boat and it came off the hitch and crashed into the back of our SUV.  So now our once nice car is all patched up with garbage bags and duct tape across the back windshield.  It will go into the shop this week… us all more quality time with…..the truck.  J

I was talking to the Lord about the situation and I just wanted to make one thing clear to Him. I know I said I was in pursuit of not worrying about what other people think, but I really hope that didn’t mean I was going to have to go through all sorts of uncomfortable and painful circumstances!  Can you get a “do over” with prayers? Can I amend my request to say, “Lord, I really want to grow but can you do it without having to make it hurt very much?” I mean, I can take a little pain, but I’m becoming worried about how painful this might get.  I’m not ready for a true Job experience.  

I called my dad to wish him Happy Birthday the day after the accident. In the course of the conversation he told me that he and mom had gotten inheritance money from a relative. They had decided to share it with us kids and would be sending me a check. It’s enough for me to walk out and buy a new truck tomorrow if I want to.  So back to the Lord I went.  “What, Lord? Are any of these circumstances from you? Are you trying to say something to me here? Or is this just a string of coincidences?”

I had been living in anxiety because I just couldn’t seem to get free of my preoccupation with what others think. I figured God must be unhappy with how long it was taking me and how poorly I seemed to be doing.  Maybe He would send me a bunch of bad circumstances to teach me a lesson! Then along came some better circumstances. Did that mean anything?  

Finally it hit me (or maybe God revealed it to me). I needed to quit thinking about the circumstances and focus on the issue.  The real problem is that I’m trying to perfect myself again, trying to fix what’s wrong with me and make myself acceptable to God.  I’m worried that if I don’t He won’t like me.  I’ve got to quit trying so hard to make myself acceptable and accept His grace. The blood of Christ isn’t just about salvation, it covers all my sins….even worrying about how I look driving a beat up truck. 

I have to face it (again). I need God. I will never outgrow my need for God. I need His forgiveness and His grace. I need His help. I must trust that He loves me and He will help me. God knows I can’t do it on my own.  He knows I need Him. He wants me to need Him.  And He will always love me, even in the midst of my struggles.

Coming to this place of neediness drew me to God in gratefulness and love.

Psalm 138:8
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
         your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
         do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An Audience of One

I have a thorn in my flesh. I’m not sure what Paul’s was, but mine is Nick’s 1992 Ford truck. This vehicle is definitely the worse for wear. Nick has hit it with a backhoe two or three times! It’s dented and scraped and a big strip across the back tailgate is just plain missing.  Not only is it completely ugly, but it’s also hard to drive. I’ve been stranded by that truck more than once. Nick does not share my opinion. He thinks his truck is great. He doesn’t care what it looks like and it always seems to run fine for him. He’s just delighted that it’s so cheap to insure and it’s paid for.

I never used to drive the truck except for dire circumstances. However, I now have a 16 year old driving who can’t drive a stick shift car (and I’m not sure I want her driving this vehicle anyway!) Sadly, this means that I have had to drive the dreaded truck more frequently. We are shopping for a new car, but aren’t likely to buy anything for at least a couple of months.  Until that time, it’s me and the old Ford.

Remember when I said earlier this week that I find myself looking to stupid things to be my source of life? Well I was thinking about the truck. I hate driving it. More importantly (and worse) I hate how I look driving it. Yesterday I was heading towards the school parking lot and one of my students and his mother were walking out to their rather nice car. They greeted me and then turned and watched me walk to my vehicle.  Was it real or did I imagine their horrified faces? Did they really look at me like “Oh dear, it looks like that poor teacher needs government assistance!?”

I need to live for an audience of one. It pains me greatly that I even care. Nick doesn’t care. He doesn’t look around concerned that people are judging him based on his driving a jalopy.  I do, and it’s proof that I don’t understand the Kingdom. I don’t live the truth: God is my only real audience. He is my only judge. Everyone else’s opinion is irrelevant in the face of his.  God help me.

How do you live for an audience of one?

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.