Archive | June 2014

Foot-dragging

“Quit dragging your feet!!”

Unaware of the ticking clock and the many things our mother had to do with her children in tow , she often used that phrase to hurry us along.  Even as we moved about the house independently, there was evidently something very irritating about the sound of shoes not fully lifted from the floor with each step.  “What does it matter as long as I am get where I am going?” I would wonder silently as I corrected my form.  Then I grew up, had children of my own, many things to do, and discovered for myself that, yes,  foot-dragging is definitely very annoying.

Foot-dragging came to my mind this morning during my run.  There is a young man who is often out for his run at the same time as I am.  We run very nearly the same pace, however, he runs in the opposite direction.  This means that we meet on the track twice with each lap.  He noisily shuffles along with neither foot ever completely leaving the ground with each step.  He keeps a very steady pace, puts in quite a few laps, and logs more days running than I do. But with every lap I want to shout “Quit dragging your feet!!”

While my mother’s admonition had its point, there is another voice I remember when I think of foot-dragging.  Years ago as a young woman I was introduced to the writing and speaking of Joyce Landorf.  I learned a great deal from her and I would encourage each of you to seek out her books.  We often watched her videos or listened to cassettes of her teaching in our weekly bible study group.  I do not remember which teaching included this phrase, but it really stuck with me:

“What trust is NOT:  stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation.”

This reverse definition has served me well through the years.  Many times I told myself I was trusting God with the circumstances, situations, or people in my life, yet the truth was I had simply resigned myself to whatever may come.  Stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, and sighing, God would remind me of those words.  I cannot be sighing and resigned and trusting at the same time.  Trust involves assurance and confidence.

Sighs can be expressions of relief, but can also convey boredom or disappointment.  To resign means to give up.  Ever been so disappointed you wanted to give up?  I have, more than a few times.  Stoop-shouldered, head hanging?  Yes, again.  Foot-dragging?  More times than I like to admit.  But the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me that my trust is not in what I can see or feel or understand.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Can that young runner complete his run while dragging his feet?  Yes.  Is he getting everything out of the run that is possible?  No.  By correcting his form, he could increase both efficiency and effectiveness, and decrease the risks of injury.  There’s a lesson here…

Spiritually dragging my feet isn’t going to keep me out of heaven.  But it will steal from me the effectiveness God had planned.  My sighing doesn’t draw anyone to Christ.  By actively choosing to trust God, especially when I don’t understand, I am positioned to do exactly what He has for me to do AND I am less likely to fall for the enemy’s schemes.

I love the words of the old hymn, Trust and Obey:

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do;
Where He sends, we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.

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Recall

Before Alzheimer’s, my dad had a great memory.  I always found it amazing that he could remember so many people, so many details, and had so many stories.  He reminisced often, reliving moments in his mind and telling those around him.  He even wrote his autobiography years ago when he was recovering from a surgery.  Not one to enjoy being still for long periods of time, he decided to put his life story on paper.  It was very interesting reading.  It was comedy, adventure and mystery.  The comedy was often the result of his love of being a prankster.  The adventure came primarily from being on his own from the age of thirteen and the many exploits he had concocted to do.  The mystery was in the reader having to decipher not only his penmanship but also the multitude of misspelled words.  He was master of many things.  Spelling was not one of those things.

His autobiography, however, was not a drama.  He chose not to write about the reasons he was on his own at such a young age.  He did not write about the heartache he had experienced as a child or an adult.  He did not write about the things that were difficult, unless he could make it a funny tale.  He did not include business ventures that went south or his struggles as a father with the very children who would read his story.  He chose to write about the things he wanted us to know, mostly things that would make us laugh or cringe.  His stories showed his strength and his character without arrogance or self-adulation.  He simply wrote what he had done.  And whether or not it was a strong motivation for writing, the things he shared helped us know him better.

We have thought of Your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of Your temple.  As is your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness.  Let Mount Zion be glad!  Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments!  Walk about Zion, and go around about her, number her towers – her lofty and noble deeds of past days.  Consider well her ramparts, go through her palaces and citadels, that you may tell the next generation – and cease recalling disappointments.  For this God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even until death.  Psalm 48:9-14

This is the verse God led me to this week.  I’ve been recalling a recent disappointment.  Not only was I thinking about it, but I found myself repeating it to others.  This brought only a deeper level of disappointment over the experience along with that uncomfortable “knowing” that each time I repeated it I was grieving the Holy Spirit.

Whatever our experiences, God longs for our trust in Him to use them for our good.  But we will never see the good He is working if we are constantly recalling the disappointments.  The writer of this psalm was encouraging God’s people to remember all He had done.  And not only remember his marvelous deeds, but to tell them to the next generation.

Sharing my disappointments may result in sympathy or empathy given to me for what I have experienced, but those are not lasting moments and they don’t really change my perspective – they keep me in my own self-centeredness.  Choosing to focus on the fact that God is my God forever and ever will not only change my attitude, but will have eternal value.  It’s when we tell of His greatness in the midst of our disappointments that the next generation learns more of Who He really is.

Daddy may not have been able to spell the simplest of words, but he was a very smart man.

 

 

 

 

Camp

Sleep patterns are back to normal and brain function has finally returned.  It’s good to be back.    🙂

Last week was spent at church camp:  6 adult sponsors, 2 teenagers, 40 girls (2nd-6th graders), 1 cabin, and 3 showers.  We were the largest church group attending and our cabin was filled to capacity – a body in every bunk, overflowing suitcases scattered on the floor, blankets hung between bunks like forts, towels and swimsuits strewn throughout.  Chatter was incessant, giggles were abundant, and thankfully, tears were few.  Silence graced us only as we slept, not counting the rustling of the plastic mattress covers with every move or the occasional snores that escaped the lips of exhausted campers.

Days packed with scheduled activities, it was easy to get lost in the logistics of simply getting each child where they needed to be appropriately clothed, name tag on, and with the necessary supplies.  Constantly counting heads and practicing names, we led them from one thing to the next while answering the endless questions and assuring them that the snack shack would surely open at the appointed time.  There were a few complaints when there was no time for wardrobe changes, a few screams as the wasps had us running as fast as we could, and a few trips to the nurse for the scratches and scrapes, and of course, the stings.  But they were troopers!

We watched as the myriad of personalities and temperaments blended as a whole with no one left out.  Older girls cared for the younger, veteran campers encouraged the first-timers, and strangers became friends.  Oh, there were a few squabbles along the way, but these were easily resolved.  I am reminded that this is how God expects His children to behave and I don’t want to miss this lesson.

Swallowing hard to hold back the tears at lights out, fears were faced and conquered.  Strapping on life vests and hanging from the zip line with white-knuckled grips, mountains were moved.   Quiet moments when the faith of a child chose to believe, a life was changed.

Some of the girls we’ve known for years, others we met for the first time on Monday.  Many attend church regularly, and others rarely go.  We know some have broken homes, absent fathers, or difficult circumstances.  We are not psychologists or trained professionals in areas of counseling for these matters, but we are their leaders and teachers and we love them, and for one week we can take them away from all that for fun and games and Jesus.

Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18:16-17

It was a wonderful week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But HOW do I give it to God???

Sitting on the bottom step of the stairway in the homeless shelter, she asks me this question.  It’s not a simple question and there is not a simple answer.  She has just heard me speak of how God is waiting for us to come to Him with everything – our circumstances, our problems, our pains.  She tells me she wants to give these things to God but she doesn’t know how.   She hasn’t spent her life in church.  Her mother died when she was young and her father took her to church only once in her childhood.  She believes in Jesus and has given her heart to Him, but how does she give Him her fear?  How does she give Him her homelessness?  How does she give Him her body which is broken and handicapped?  How does she give Him her addiction?

In this moment I repent of any occasion I may have flippantly commented “Just pray and give it to God!” as if it were that simple.

Her question reminds me of my own struggles of learning how to give things to God.  It has been process that has taken years while I’ve been primarily surrounded by Christians and highly involved in church!  She is alone, surrounded by strangers and an atmosphere that breeds despair and hopelessness.

Too many times we are quick to try to start people in the middle rather than the beginning.  I remember trying to teach a young woman to sew.  I had been sewing for many years by this time, and I kept assuming she knew things she didn’t yet know.  It was a frustrating experience for both of us!  I had to drill down to the most elementary levels (this is where the needle goes….) and I hadn’t really planned on investing that much time….

“Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

For a first-timer wanting to learn how to give things to God, what would be the key word in this scripture?

Cares?  Focus on all the needs?

Cast?  Focus on what we are supposed to “do”?

I believe that’s the middle.  The starting point has to be Him.  If we don’t know Him – who He is, what He’s like, and what we can expect from Him – then we struggle with giving Him our problems.  If we don’t really know Him, we won’t really trust Him, especially with our deepest pains and difficult circumstances.

The intention of the verse above is that we are to throw the whole of our caresall our anxieties, all our worries, all our concerns – once and for all on Him!

Think of someone you really trust.  If you give that person something to take care of and they tell you “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this”, you walk away and don’t really think of it anymore.  You certainly don’t call them repeatedly all day long and ask them if they are still going to take care of that for you.  You don’t pace and wring your hands wondering if they will do what they said they would do.  Your mind and time are free to do other things because you trust them.

“He cares for you.”  I always read that as if it only meant He cares about me because He loves me.  It does mean that, but that’s not all.  It means He has said “I’ll take care of you and all that concerns you”.   He doesn’t take away every trial and struggle, but He takes care of us in the midst of them and works all things for our ultimate good.  So why are we pacing and wringing our hands??  Because we don’t trust that He will do what He said He would do when He said “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you”  Hebrews 13:5.    We quote Jeremiah 29:11 but don’t really trust that His plans for us are good.

So as we sat on the steps, I shared those scriptures with this young woman.  I gave her a scripture promise book that would help her find specific scriptures on fear and other topics.  But mostly I talked to her about Him.  I told her of His goodness and His faithfulness and that He could be trusted.  I encouraged her to read and pray and get to know Him and He would teach her how to give every aspect of her life to Him.

I will probably never see this young woman again.  I don’t have the resources to meet her physical needs and the shelter is a temporary home for her.  By the time I return, she will most likely be gone.  She will move on.  So I’ve asked God to take care of her.  He said He would, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in heaven.  We will laugh and talk and rejoice in all that He did for both of us as He taught us how to cast our cares.

 

The wrong dress

Years ago I was invited to attend a formal event.  It was an end-of-year business function where awards would be presented and employees were to be honored for their efforts with a grand celebration.  At the time, I lived in a small, country town and worked in an old building that had been renovated and made into a health club.  My employer had graciously offered this newly become single-mom the opportunity to live on-site in return for managing the club (i.e., being the one to open the doors every morning at 6 am and be the last to lock up in the evening).  He and his family had previously inhabited the very small living quarters in the back of the building, and I had no hesitation in jumping at the chance to live rent-free.  But as you can imagine, this reduced my income to whatever I brought in from the aerobics classes I taught.

My club manager schedule left little time for social events, so the opportunity to dress up and go out was planned with the utmost care.  My date had informed me it was very formal and I had little to spend on a new dress.  I carefully designed the perfect dress I could make myself.  Everyone at the gym knew I was making a new dress for a big night out; like I said, it was a small town…  Friends offered jewelry to complete the ensemble and showered me with compliments as the dress came together.  It was beautiful, if I do say so myself.

The first clue that something was amiss should have been that my date arrived in a suit rather than a tuxedo.  Not having been treated to formal events beyond high school prom, I thought perhaps this was acceptable.  The second clue was when we arrived at a dinner-theater rather than a ballroom.  Well….ok….again, what does this little country girl know??  As we entered the reception area it seemed as if all eyes were on me.  This would have been a wonderful moment if everyone had been looking at my beautiful dress as if I were a movie star that had just graced their presence.  That, however, was not the case.  I was the ONLY woman there in a formal.  To better understand this experience you must also know that dinner was a buffet and I went through the line behind a woman in shorts. Yes, shorts.

I can still feel the sting of the embarrassment of that evening.  I couldn’t wait until we sat down in the dimly lit theater so that I was not in view.  I just wanted to go home.  (Still in the early stages of learning to forgive quickly, I did not speak to this man for months afterwards.)  The next few days brought the reliving of my mortification as everyone that knew I was attending this event anxiously anticipated my retelling the evening’s wonders.  It was weeks before I could talk about it without crying.  And it was years before I could laugh about it.

I wonder at the level of embarrassment and shame we may experience when Jesus returns to find that we’ve lived our lives inappropriately attired.  Oh, I’m not speaking of our literal clothing at this time – that’s a whole other lesson in itself!   But rather how the Bible says we should be clothed:

“For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on (clothe yourselves with) Christ.”  Galatians 3:27

“Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones…by putting on behavior marked by tender-hearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways and patience.  Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive.  And above all these put on love…”  Colossians 3:12-14

“And put on the new nature – the regenerate self – created in God’s image.”  Ephesians 4:24

When I wake up in the morning, being clothed in love isn’t what first comes to mind!  With the extremely busy schedule I’ve had lately, I find myself waking in the morning still tired – patience is not my first response to anyone or anything.  I have to think about it and purposely put it on.  When someone offends me, I have to decide to forgive quickly, remembering how very much my Lord has forgiven me.

Just as we cannot stand at the closet and expect the appropriate clothing to just jump on our bodies, we cannot expect that there is no effort in putting on the attributes of our new nature.  The old nature is well established in its habits and desires.  We can’t carry our Bibles and sit in church and think we are going to be clothed in this new nature by osmosis.  We must learn what appropriate clothing is and we must put it on!!  We are His representatives in this earth and everything in our lives is to reflect His glory.

We take time to decide what to wear each day because we know people notice how we are clothed.  So, what are we wearing today?

 

Agreeing isn’t believing

From my earliest memories of being in church I heard the message that God loves me.  I memorized the scripture that said so and because of my belief that God is real and that scripture is His word to me, I agreed that He loved me.  But I didn’t really believe it.

To believe brings with it a confident assurance.  I lived most of my life agreeing that God loved me but not living with a confident assurance that He really did.  There’s a big difference in the two.

Perhaps you’ve been agreeing with God about some things as well.

You know the scriptures say you’ve been forgiven, but you’re not living like you are.  You continue to circle around your mistakes, beating yourself up again and again for your failures.

You know the scriptures say you’ve been made righteous, but you continue to measure whether or not you are right with God by what you “do”, and expect Him to be angry when your actions are less than stellar.

You know the scriptures say God has lavished His grace – undeserved mercy and favor – on you, yet you fear the future and walk through each day expecting the worst.

You know the scriptures say not to worry and to cast your cares because He is taking care of you, but day after day finds you analyzing and planning and stressing over how you will make things work out.

Are you just agreeing with God because the words are there in scripture and you wouldn’t dare say you disagree?  Or do you really believe?

I’ve been putting my “beliefs” to the test lately and asking myself “Am I agreeing or believing?”

We come to know Christ by the drawing of His Spirit.  Our souls made aware that there is more to this existence than just the natural, we choose to believe in something so wonderful as a God Who sent His Son to save us.  We weren’t there.  We didn’t see it.  Yet we believe.  Once we’ve accepted this amazing salvation, there is so much more to be discovered!

So why do we struggle so with truly living our lives with the confident assurance that He is everything He said He is and that He will do everything He said He would do?  Why do we passionately believe one part of scripture, but only mentally agree with another?

For me, it’s a matter of a lack of knowledge.  The more I study a particular tenet of my faith, the more grounded I become in its truth and the more clearly I hear what God is saying to me about it.  This is when I move from agreeing to believing.  If I truly want to believe God, I must sacrifice the time to study.  Every time I do, it is so very much worth the effort and anything I had to give up to make more time for Him!!

Agreement is important.  We obviously will never believe in something we disagree with.  But agreement is only the beginning.  Jesus didn’t call us to just agree.  He called us to believe.  He called us to have a confident assurance in Him all the time, in everything and every situation.  Agreeing affects my words.  Believing affects my words and my actions.

“…And so they believed and trusted and relied on the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.”  John 2:22

 

Some days

Some days are just hard.  It’s usually a culmination of many things that make these days hard and I suspect that each of us have our own particular buttons that when pushed, threaten to send us over the edge.  Yesterday in meeting with my ladies, it was revealed that several of us were in the same place – in need of someone to talk us back from the ledge.   All with different circumstances demanding our attention, straining our brains, and draining our emotions, we were dangerously close to jumping.  Exhaustion was at its peak and hung over us like an enormous thundercloud that at any moment could break forth in a deluge of tears.  We put forth our best efforts to hold it together while finding great comfort in the atmosphere of understanding that would have simply passed the tissues around should the dam break.

Some days these storms dissipate on their own and those around us are spared the soaking that was about to take place. Other days we open our eyes desperately hoping to see the sun shining only to find that the clouds loom darker than the day before.  The forecast is gloomy and there are no energy stores left to face anything more.  We are empty.

We may turn off the alarm and pull the covers back over our heads and escape into a world of dreams.  For days.  Or we may get up, get dressed and go through the motions of our duties like robots, functioning but with no emotion. Or we may cry.  A lot.  Over every little thing.

We long to be overcomers but find ourselves struggling just to be survivors, clinging to the belief that the storms will pass sooner or later.   The enemy bombards us with thoughts of how we could have or should have done things differently, as if we are so powerful in ourselves that we can prevent the storms of life from ever coming our way. Our greatest faith efforts are given to resisting the enemy’s words of despair and defeat that repeat in our ears.

We think our victory will be in what we do to make the storm better or easier or pass more quickly, and when empty of the energy required to “do” anything, we fear defeat is inevitable.  But victory is truly found when we find ourselves fallen at His feet in desperate need of Him.  Whether the storm was of our own making or something completely out of our control is of no matter to Him when we lay at His feet.  He has always been and will always be everything we need.

He is our Father who loves us no matter what.

He is the Healer of our broken hearts.

He is the Shepherd when we don’t know which way to go.

He is Mercy for our mistakes.

He is the Rest we need.

So when we are empty, when there’s nothing left to give, let’s remember that victory is ours at His feet.