Friday, July 30, 2010

Precious in His Sight

I was on a movie date with my daughter. Okay so it wasn't really a date. It was more like just CC and mommy watching "Pocahontas" on the basement couch. But to her, it was as if we had been out to watch a Broadway show. Having that one on one with mommy was enough to make her feel like the luckiest girl around.
She was so very excited when I told her I'd join her, I could still see the smile on her face beaming.
The face of love looking right at me.
And what an awesome feeling that is!

I bought myself flowers the other day. Beautiful yellow flowers. Just wanted to do something nice for myself. They're sitting on the kitchen table, as a constant reminder of it.
Sometimes it's nice to "be nice" to yourself. And I shouldn't feel weird about it. Right?

Well, you see when you've had a "legalistic" type of upbringing, you don't always feel comfortable treating yourself to something special. Like I feel badly if I'm home and find myself not "doing" much around the house...feeling lazy. And if I treat myself to something like brand new shoes, I almost always feel a little guilty, though I'm not sure why.

The mentality is: I should be "doing something" all the time.
So much so that I should not have any time to relax. And when I'm doing something, I should be doing it just right. Furthermore, I am longing for validation from those around me. Someone's always watching, right?

Sounds crazy? Perhaps not.
If it sounds more familiar than crazy, then you may know where I'm going with this.
Translation for the "spiritual": God's people should be working hard and if they are too happy, something is wrong. And the validation for how well you are doing comes from those who are watching you. And you always have to look "good" for those watching.

Wow.... to think that was my interpretation of God!
And yet still in my ignorance, God says, "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you..." Isaiah 43:4
And He goes on to name His promises for His chosen people.

I am precious to Him. He is honored by me. And He loves me. He just does.
He sends me flowers everyday. He sings me love songs, and He sends me love letters.
And it isn't because of anything that I've done, anything that I am doing, and/or anything that I will ever do. God is just crazy about me!
I admit sometimes I struggle to perceive it. Sometimes I wish it was because I'm doing something right.
That sounds naive, I know.
And it is... and yet He still loves me!

Sometimes during our one on one times, the face of love looking right at me, the smile on my face beaming; I feel like the luckiest girl around!
I am precious in His sight.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Important Arguments

I met up with an old friend. We talked about what drew us apart. We talked some more about how although there's been distance, we still do care very much about each other. We ended our meeting in prayer.

Philippians 4:2-3a, "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke fellow, help these women who have contended by my side in the cause of the gospel..."

When I get to heaven, one of the first things I want to do is..... (okay I'm a little embarrassed to admit this) find out what happened with Euodia and Syntyche. I just want to know. I want the scoop! The Bible is not clear about what took place, but it is obvious that the two ladies (sisters in Christ) were in disagreement about something. They were in discordance, maybe even animosity. They could have had some kind of "fall out" about a personal affair, or maybe they were disputing something more to do with church affairs. Nevertheless, they were not in unison, and Paul felt the need to address it. Not only does Paul publicly address them, but he also calls on the "congregation" to come alongside these two ladies and help them resolve the issues at hand.
WOW! I don't know about you, but I'm really taken back by all of it.

If I imagine myself being Euodia, for example, I think I may feel embarrassed if not humbled by Paul's words...that he would write my name and address me in his letter to the church. And yet it could be that Euodia and Syntyche were wanting someone to point it out, and/or come to their aid. Who knows.

Regardless of what the details really were, I can definitely see why God would want this to be a part of Scripture. Although there are many details left untold, this type of occurrence is not foreign to us today.

In fact, disagreements and arguments are prevalent in the church today. (church-meaning the body of Christ)
Friends let each other down.
Brothers have misunderstandings and fall outs.
Sisters express their feelings and offend each other.
Children get frustrated and disrespect parents.
Parents get weary and give up on their children.
Couples hurt each other and even betray.
It is all more common than we care to admit.

I guess it's our humanity...that draws us to disagreements and arguments.
We are prone to letting people down. Prone to wanting others to see "our" way. Prone to making "our" point. And in doing so we can also suffer losses. We lose friendships. We lose fellowship, we lose communion, and sometimes we even lose ourselves.

I got to see the latest "Karate Kid" the other day. Cool movie!
There is a scene in the movie that stayed with me most.
Mr. Hann was crying and remembering his wife and child who had died in a car accident. He said they were arguing about something before he lost control of the car. He couldn't remember what exactly it was they were arguing about, but in his grief he said something like, "I hope the argument was really important."

Ultimately, it was a lesson about how fragile life can be, and how we should cherish those around us because no argument is worth losing the people you love.
This might sound a bit extreme, but reflecting on Eudioa and Syntyche, the lesson is not so different.

You see in the body of Christ, no argument or disagreement should be considered that important.

Maybe I'll meet with my old friend again. Maybe.
And maybe someday, I'll get the whole scoop!

"Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody." Romans 12:18
"Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others." Philippians 2:4
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another." Colossians 3: 13

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where Do I Go to Resign?

"Where Does a Mother Go to Resign?" by Barbara Johnson. I remember reading the book a long time ago. I was still a young mother of just one then. Mrs. Johnson, since has passed away, shared her very personal experiences as a mother of three boys and how she had to ultimately surrender her will and her sons to God.

Today, I'm wishing she had actually given us a "way out". You see being a mom has got to be the second toughest job ever. Being a committed wife falls into "the first toughest" category.

So I'm repainting and redecorating my son's room. This is exciting for me. Well, at least it was until he walked in and began to turn down all of my ideas. He didn't like how I had rearranged the furniture, and he began to lash out. He disagreed with everything I said, and accused me of not listening to him.

In the meantime, I was determined to stay focused and finish the venture I had taken on. So while I hammered the picture frames to the wall, he threw his clothes on the floor and ripped up the "love note" I had given him a while back. Finally, I had had enough. So I told him that he would be grounded for a week. With that I walked out and went on to making lunch for everyone and playing Lego's with my daughter.

Not long after that, I noticed my son was making some kind of escape plan, as I saw him leave the house through the garage door and hide in the back of my husband's truck.
"I wish I had an escape plan", I thought to myself, feeling unappreciated.
"What would God do?", I asked myself, while feeling mixed emotions inside.

He would give even when it hurts, and He would take the very little we offer Him.
He would sacrifice Himself for the benefit and best interest of others.

...Man, that sounds so difficult! .... why did I bother to analyze?
I remembered the family devotion I had lead that same morning.
The theme being: God has a perfect plan for us, and we just need to be faithful wherever God has placed us.
What does that have to do with me being frustrated with my son today?
How am I to be faithful right now? Should I consider this event with my son, one of insignificance. Where my reaction towards his behavior is not important? Or do I consider that even this, God has allowed as an opportunity for me to be faithful to Him?

And so the internal dialogue takes wings, "I want to be faithful God".
"You must persevere", I hear Him say.
"Love", "Give", "Surrender your will."
"Wow, am I really capable of all that?", I wonder. "Am I really cut out for this most self-less job?"
"You're not, but I am... Allow me to give my love through you. Allow me to forgive through you. Allow me to draw your son closer to me, through you. That is how you can be faithful to me."
(Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.")

Solemnly, I realize, there is no place for me to run and resign. But there is Christ living in me, who can do all that I am not capable of.

Finally, my son did not get very far on his escape, and I am still reflecting on what I could have done differently. Ever had one of those days?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's Good to Know Someone is There

"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh," he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw, "I just wanted to be sure of you."

Sometimes just knowing that someone is there for us, is enough. I remember a long time ago, when being in the midst of a very heated argument with my "better half"--- I recall the words: hate, fault, and divorce--- when the phone's persistent ring interrupted our fight.

I took the phone call, and didn't recognize the stranger's voice on the other end. But she said these words to me (trying hard to recollect, I'm rephrasing a bit), "I know you don't know who I am, but I just want you to know that you are not alone...I've been where you are right now, and I know it's hard. But you are not alone."

I felt my blood pressure plummeting downward. I was at a loss for words, and all I could do was listen. And it almost seemed like I was listening to God Himself. He had once again, "found me". In the pit. In the miry mud. In my hurt. He reached me.
I remember feeling so convicted, humble and loved. It was like God was saying, "I love you Lucy, and I have not forgotten you."
Now I know it wasn't God's voice. However, I also know that He was the one who lead that woman to call me. You see a few weeks prior, I had left my number at some agency that dealt with marriages that were in trouble. Never expecting that I'd get a call back in the middle of one of my most heated arguments.

Sometimes you just need to know that someone is there.... For you.
And God knows that. He is very well aware of it. And so He uses people and things to reach us.

Paul talks a bit about this in Philippians 4:14, "Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles."
He was thanking the people of Philippi for being there for him during his trying times. They had reached out to him in different ways, and he was grateful.

Indeed, it is good to know someone is there for us, be it in prayer, in a monetary form, or in a physical way.

And so as I conclude, I am grateful for that woman who reached out to me, not knowing who I was. Nor how that call changed the turn of events in my life.

I also think about those who may be in need today... In need of a call, a note, a gift, a smile.

May I be willing to be there for someone else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You Had Me at Hello

It's one of my favorite movie lines. From Jerry McGuire.
For a long while there, I was a big fan. I suppose most people can recall the scene, when Tom Cruise comes in and interrupts the ladies' support group meeting, and says, "I'm looking for my wife".
They all stare in awe as he approaches her, and he begins to explain how he was so wrong to let her go, and he goes on and on with more words than I can remember because all I remember is his "wife's" response. "You had me at hello".

Meaning she didn't need all of the explanations. Just seeing him come into the room looking for her, was enough to take her breath away. As if she had been awaiting that moment her entire life. And the moment had finally come. Someone cared enough to search her out.
I call it "feeling loved".

Nothing else in life can touch you as profoundly as the feeling of being loved.

It's like a newborn baby looking up at you.
It's the dewy feeling on your skin on a very early dawn.
It's the warmth of a fiery summer sunset.
It's your child's smile in a crowded room.
It's a friend's embrace, when tears are overwhelming.
It's hearing the sound of those three words from some you love. ..."I love you"

Some things in life are so easy to accept. Some things you don't need to work so hard for. And you are taken in by the glory of it all.
That's how it is with God's love. It searches us out until we are found. How can we ignore it? Turn away from it? Run from it? Not accept it? Not succumb to it? I find it impossible.

Today as I ponder on its greatness and its permanence, all that my heart can do is bow down in humility. My heart is filled with gratitude and awe. And all it can say is, "you had me at hello".

Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Monday, July 12, 2010

New dog Old tricks

Romans 7:14-15 and 8:15, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
"For you did not receive a spirit of fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'."

Trying to lose weight can be such a downer! And it seems the older you get, the harder a task it becomes. You see, if good eating habits were not established earlier on, then it's like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.
I know my dog is pretty set in her ways already. At least for some things she is, and she's only two. For example, fetching. All dogs fetch, right? Maybe not. Well, do all dogs bring back whatever it is they fetch? No.
We throw a ball or a stick for our darling dog to retrieve, and she finds it. But she won't bring it back. And as much as we have try to teach her to bring it back, she won't.
Now this lesson is not about how to train dogs. But it is to get us thinking about how to break bad habits and/or develop good ones.

Developing good habits requires adjustment. Adjustment requires work (or at least mental effort). It is not always comfortable. It is not always enjoyable.
Recently, I reinstated my visits to the chiropractor. I won't tell you just now why I stopped going some years ago. (I'll save that one for a one on one conversation) And so my new chiropractor has prescribed me a heel lift.

A heel lift..... I didn't know I needed one. True... I have known about my Scoliosis since I was 12, but no one ever told me that a heel lift would alleviate some of my back trouble. Scoliosis is a curve in the spine that will cause you much pain, pressure and limitations.
So doctor tells me that I will need a 1/2 inch lift and has started me off with a 1/4 inch lift. She says this will help balance things off, and will help take some of the pressure off. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? No it doesn't. The only problem is that I have been without the heel lift for all of these years and have grown quite accustomed to feeling my right hip a bit higher than my left, and my right hand hang a little longer than my left, and so on. And believe it or not having to adjust to walking with this 1/4 inch lift has not been fun. I feel awkward. I feel like one side is higher than the other. Doctor told me, "You've been wrong for so long, that you don't know what is right." She's right. Hence, adjusting to the "1/4 inch heel lift new me" is causing me work.
Just like sitting upright instead of slouching is work. Just like eating an apple instead of apple pie is work. Just like being quiet instead of yelling when someone angers me, is work. Like reading the Bible is work. Like praying for someone who hurt you is work. Like letting God handle your cares is work. Like letting God lead you is work. Like letting God.... is work. And ironically, that's where we find peace and rest.

I remember now the trick to losing the extra pounds. I weigh out the outcomes from having healthy food as well as the not so healthy. When I think about the harm that the "junky" food would cause me, I count it as "not worth it". If only it was always that simple with the more spiritual things. But it isn't. You see we are engaged in a spiritual battle (whether you realize it or not). And it takes adjustments to quit doing wrong. And it takes work to begin doing what is right. Remember how Paul talks about "renewing our minds"? And yet Paul describes our challenge in Romans 7:14-15"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
So is there any hope for any one us? Us... with our curved thinking, awful lifelong habits, and comfort zones? Only in God.... when we cry out. "For you did not receive a spirit of fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Free, Free to Be Me

There she was, my five year old little girl singing as joyfully as possible, "I'm free, free to be me! Free, free, free--to be me!" She'd repeat again and again, never tiring, and her giggles were the accompaniment to her tune. She first heard the tune at the school's spring program, when the kindergartners performed it. But this night I didn't take much note of it--preoccupied with chores, time management and time restraints. I just needed to get her dressed and ready for bed. But the more she sang it, the closer I came to realizing I needed a two minute halt to take it all in. And when I did, all of a sudden the words penetrated into my heart. And I so greatly wished for a moment that I too could sing so joyfully and freely. To sing about my freedom.
I pondered on the words. And realized that although she could hold the melody, my daughter probably did not realize the depth of the words. Or did she?

I don't know if I've ever shared this or not in my writings, but my grandmother's death was a suicide. I know... suicide is not something most people want to talk about. But I'm opening the lines tonight.

You see, I grew up hearing about the many skeletons in our family's closets. They were hard things to hear, and most of the time, my grand mom used humor to get by. Mostly, and specifically I had heard about the drowning of one of my grandmother's daughters. I knew she was a teen when she drowned, and that she drowned on Mother's Day. I knew my grand mom suffered an emotional breakdown, as a result of that tragedy. And I always sympathized imagining the pain of losing a child. That would make anyone crazy, right? But I never imagined that my grand mom carried the guilt of her daughter's death. You see I recently learned that it was against her husband's wishes that my grand mom traveled with her kids to a different town that day. She wanted to visit her mother, and the day ended in tragedy. A tragedy that would change the lives of my family forever. And so now, as I learned of this new piece of the puzzle, I sympathized with her in a different way. I began to think about the guilt that she probably carried her entire life. And I thought about how she must have longed to be free of it. Free of guilt. Free to be. I wonder if she ever experienced it.

Not too long ago, I watched a documentary about a man who murdered his girlfriend. He is serving a life sentence in prison. Apparently, even after his conviction, he continually denied committing the murder. However, when he received a letter from the victim's daughter (now a young adult) requesting to come visit him, he was given a new opportunity to admit his crime. When he sat across from the young lady, who asked if he killed her mother, he finally admitted to his crime. She even asked him about the details of the murder, and he shared some. What I found most interesting was how after the meeting, the man spoke about how he now felt a sense of relief, since admitting his crime. He had lived in denial and guilt for so many years. And for him to be able to share what he had done, as he stated, "it brings me relief". Although still in prison, he is feeling free. Free of denial. Free to be.

I pondered on these things, feeling empathy for this stranger. And for all who are still living their lives in guilt, shame, denial. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Feelings of guilt, shame, and denial keep us in bondage, and it's hard to enjoy the gifts and blessings that God gives us, when we are in bondage. However, when we allow for Christ to take the guilt, the shame, and denial from us, we begin to feel "relief". We can begin to feel free.

I am learning to be free to be me. That is my daily goal. You see, being me does not mean perfection. Actually, I am far from it. I didn't commit a crime, and I have not lost a child, but I know what it is to feel guilty and shameful. I know what it is to do wrong and see the pain you've inflicted in someone's eyes, as their tears roll down. I know what it is to not forgive yourself to the point that you don't accept yourself. And you deny others the opportunity to get to know you....for who you are .
Yet, gratefully, I also know that God intends for me to be myself in Him. To let go of those skeletons that still try to hold me back from today's livelihood and His mercies. To indulge in knowing that I am a child of He who loved me so. So much that He died for my sins. So much that He pardons me. He accepts me. He loves me.

Every now and then I catch myself...feeling free. And I thank God. Every now and then I let go and dare to be..... free, free to be me. Because of what He is to me.