Monthly Archives: January 2012

Want What Is: Day 31

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The ticking of the clock booms in our den and calls attention to the passing of time.  I sit and think of lessons over the last 31 days during my  “Want What Is” project on contentment.  A broken vacuum, a broken shower, a new tv, a troubled teen, a gift between brothers, a sore throat, opportunities to share my faith, a hurting friend, a marital “discussion” :>), making ends meet, a fallen tree and a broken fence, a friend in recovery, a little more prayer….all bring a a sort of discontentment.  Discovery dawns, because I, like the singing duo Sugarland, know “there’s gotta be something more.”

I don’t just “want what is.”  My heart and soul cry out for more than is.  Recalling an old saying, I cringe:

“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.  Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.  I don’t want enough of Him to make me love [those different than me] or pick beets with a migrant.  I want ecstasy not transformation.  I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.  I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.  I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”  -Wilbur Reese

I want more of Him.  I don’t  want to settle for $3 worth of glory and satisfy myself with the mundane as I barely taste of the divine.   As C. S. Lewis says,

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

 Maybe “Want What Is” is a pretty good goal, but possibly falls sickeningly short of the abundant life promised.  The goal is “godliness with contentment.”  A better project title– “Want Him.” Just semantics?  Probably.  Worth thinking about?  Definitely.
The clock ticks and deep calls unto deep with each second.  God makes me want Him.  I feel His pleasure when I respond to the echos of eternity and realize with even greater clarity that not only contentment, but even abundance, is found when my life is totally yielded to Him.

Real Hope in the Shadows…

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I’m sitting by the fire.  The house is quiet.  All the boys just grabbed up lunches, backpacks, projects and reports and headed out the door.  Sweet pastor-husband gave a peck on the cheek and a squeeze of the hand as he stepped out into the cold.  I clean eggs out of bowls, gather piles of laundry and start up all the ‘machines’ (I’m so thankful for the machines!)  I light the fire, collect my books, including the big one I love so much.  Just before I settle down to talk to God, I pour coffee into my “hope” mug, given me by a dear friend.

I love this mug.  Every morning I fill it and, with varying degrees of intensity, I think about the word on the front. It always brings encouragement.  Pastor-husband often fills it for me and whispers, “Start your day with hope.”

I think about my day: the plumber coming, school supplies to purchase, the three things I forgot at the grocery store yesterday to be remembered today, bills to pay, dinner, and hope.  “We are merely moving among shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.  And, so Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:6-7, New Living Translation).

I walk among the shadows and they clamor for my attention, my devotion, my hope.  They promise happiness and joy…the shadows of wealth, pride, beauty, health, control, & pleasures promise and promise and promise.  I’ve often believed them, striving, reaching, working to accomplish that which offers “the promised land,” only to find a shriveling soul and the echoing question, “Am I happy yet?”  I long for the garden without the fall, and in the end, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12)  The self-deception and the sick soul remind me that the True Hope is calling me.

And the mystery comes alive.  “Christ, in me…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)  As His kindness leads me to repentance, His presence brings me the fulness of joy I had turned from. His light casts out all the shadows.

I sit by the fire, His word in my hands, my “hope” mug beside me.  I think about the things we frequently “talk” about together.  I keep asking Him to give me women to share the real hope with, and He is answering in amazing ways.  I sit and wonder, will I be able to explain it to them?  Will I be able to answer their questions, build a relationship, draw them with love?  I’m nervous, I want to shy away, to make an excuse, to be devoted some other way…. ANY other way.  I want it, but I don’t.  And He shows me false hopes again…hopes in myself to “share the Gospel right,” to avoid embarrassment and to skirt failure.  His word reminds me again that it’s HIM in me, NOT me in me and I say with Paul:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,            

who according to His great mercy has caused us to be

born again to a living hope through the resurrection

of Jesus Christ from the dead…” I Pet. 1:3

I’m filled with true pleasure, great excitement, thrilling anticipation as I wait to see just what He’ll do!

Beginning to sink….

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Sinking.  It’s a bad feeling.  On the way down we feel ourselves begin to suffocate!  Sinking can only happen if we have stepped out onto the water, like Peter.  It is only experienced after one has actually been afloat…and then something happens.  The wind, pelting rain, isolation– everyone else stays in the boat, like ‘reasonable’ people, and we begin to falter.  We’ve all experienced it one way or another.  Income decreases, healing is delayed, relationships are difficult, pain continues, the way is lost in the midst of life, the storm stirs and sinking ensues…

Circumstances definitely rock the boat, but in the story of Peter’s sinking, it wasn’t the outside influence of the wind which caused him to begin to sink.  It was his response to the wind: Fear.  It could be any number of responses other than faith which tie a rock to our ankle and cause us to begin to sink: discouragement, self-righteous anger, resolve to take control, humiliation, apathy, pride.  The bottom line is that Peter doubted the One who called him to step out onto the liquid floor. I can definitely relate to Peter; even this morning as I sat at God’s feet, I laid my fears there, only to snatch them up again with the next breath. Experiencing the winds of life often brings some form of mis-trust of the Savior and I, like Peter, deny Christ.  There is a lot to learn from Peter.  But, the One to really observe in this story is Jesus.

Look at Jesus.  Look at His response to Peter.

The passage tells us, “And beginning to sink, [Peter] cries out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him.”  Amy Carmichael, missionary to China, wrote on this passage, “How many seconds lie between a man’s beginning to sink, and his actual sinking?  A single second or less, I suppose.  How swift, then, was the movement of love!  And as He was, so He is.” 

Jesus saved Peter.  He called Peter to experience the height of the joy of faith and obedience.  He also let Peter experience the fierce wind, the severe rain, the rocking waves. Jesus had not changed between Peter’s joy and fear, Peter’s focus had.  So it is with me, and maybe you.  When I choose to focus on the wind instead of Jesus, I begin to sink.  As my ankles begin to get wet, I am reminded I have only one sure life boat.  Jesus.

David, King of Israel, tells us over and over about times he felt he was sinking.  Every time David doubts, he, like Peter, cries out to God.  One particular time is recorded in Psalm 60.  David’s people are experiencing defeat– ‘the wind,’ so to speak.  David cries out to God, “Save with Thy right hand and hear me.”  Charles Spurgeon comments on this prayer saying that God begins the business of saving even before the prayer is finished.  Immediately.

A bit earlier in the Bible, a short story in 2 Kings tells of a borrowed axehead dropping into the river and sinking.  The servant who had borrowed the axehead is distressed.  He asks for help from God’s man, the prophet Elisha.  Elisha threw a stick into the water and God caused the axehead to float so that it could be recovered.

If God is so concerned with a borrowed axehead sinking and causes it to float, just think what He can and will do for His own who begin to sink.  An axehead, David’s army, Peter, a man, a woman, me, you.  He reaches out His hand to save.  Saving is His business. He is not too slow and nothing is too small.

There is hope in His outstretched hand and His loving heart.

Do you have fleas? (Want What Is…day 14)

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If you have or have had young children in school, you have probably had to check heads for lice before. Not a fun experience at all. But how about checking for fleas?…

I just re-read The Hiding Place, the story of Betsy and Corrie ten Boom and their experiences in German concentration camps in WWII.  Upon entering Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s extermination camp, they found their “beds” swarming with fleas.  Betsy encouraged Corrie to give thanks for the fleas in obedience to God’s command to  “give thanks in all circumstances.”  Corrie responded, “Betsy, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea!”  Betsy persisted, stressing the use of the word “all” in regards to which circumstances God’s children are to give thanks.  Corrie finally relented and gave thanks for the fleas.  As time went on the sisters wondered why they had such freedom with Bible teaching and praise in their barracks.  Finally, they discovered that the guards did not want to enter because of the infestation of fleas!  They were given the privilege of seeing what their faith couldn’t even imagine…that God could use fleas for His glory.    

 Do you have fleas?  I know I do. Certainly, we all experience situations and circumstances when we think, “even God can’t make me grateful for this!”  Consider choosing to be grateful, choosing to thank God for the fleas in faith as you serve Him. It’s a steep challenge. When I have done this in obedience, I experienced more joy, more love, and even sometimes gained a glimpse of how He used the “fleas” for His purposes.

j

My dreams true in You…

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While out walking today, thinking of things I have hoped for in life that failed, dreams I dreamt that never came true… I thought, “want what is” and I began thinking how God has used unrealized dreams throughout my life and in the lives of others for His glory.  Once home, He gave me this poem…(unfortunately, because of the blog site I use, I cannot format it as I want, but it’s a quick read, even though it looks long!  Sorry!)

a little girl,

eyes so wide

a great big world,

all mine

a young girl,

full of energy

so much to see-

so much to be

dreaming big

on my own,

of life and love

and things unknown

what will i do

what will it mean–

make an impact

keep dreaming dreams

making a living

striving for life–

doing big things

and doing them ‘right’

when will it happen

who will he be–

the one i desire

to love and to marry

things go along

but not as I imagined

trying to be strong

as disappointments happen

a woman half way

dreams have been shattered,

all that i longed for

didn’t seem to matter

but i never imagined

something so grand,

life i never dreamed

led by Your hand

for through all the dreams

that never came true,

there was more than i hoped

in discoveries of You

no shadow of turning

all promises true,

i found more than i longed for

as i traveled with You

it was all too weak–

the dreams that i dreamt,

for this life full of meaning

instead of just spent

now one dream

so beautiful and true–

an amazing life

lived in You

all that’s unrealized

the dreams gone untrue

have been the path

for dreams true in You.

Thank You, Jesus

jdh

*Bible Study/devotional coming late May–great for summer:  Dreams True in You:  The Life of Joseph

Beware of falling rocks…

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Driving home from Birmingham this week, I noticed a road sign, “Beware of falling rocks.”  Hmmm…what does one do with such a warning?  Should I pull over and park and look up for falling rocks?  Should I slow down so that I can swerve and miss the rocks?  Or should I speed up, trying to outrun the potential avalanche?

Sometimes we are tempted in life to worry about ominous falling rocks.  The temptations usually come in the form of “what ifs.”  “What if our child never turns back to the Lord,” “What if our finances continue to be a struggle,” “What if I can’t make amends with that friend.”    Such worry is as useless as the warning, “Beware of falling rocks.” There is no action step we can take, nothing positive in wondering, “what if.”

What ifs can paralyze and cause us to “park, stopping any progress in our walk of faith.  Or our fears may cause us to be so cautious that we never step out and dare to live fully for God.  Or maybe our “what ifs” make us so afraid of failure that we run at full speed, accomplishing the urgent at the expense of the eternal.

Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink, or your body, what you will put on.  Isn’t life worth more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  Matthew 6:25-26

As I thought about all my worries, God reminded me to look up, not for falling rocks, but to look at the birds and to thank Him.

Want What Is–Regrets

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Sitting around the table, laughing, sharing and then the question was asked, “What do you regret most from 2011?”  Things got quiet.   That one powerful word- “regret”- immediately changed the mood.  As each person recalled perceived mistakes and past sins, a “weightedness” came over us.  Regrets don’t lead anywhere.  They often stall us and prevent us from growing and progressing. Regrets usually carry guilt with them, but we are the “uncondemned.”  In the silence of the moment I thought, “Want What Is.”  Could the idea apply to the past?  Why not?  Under a God who has accomplished the end already according to His perfect plan, a God, who as our pastor says, “…uses what He hates to accomplish what He loves,” we of all people can say, “I wouldn’t have chosen that path, but because God is my father, I want what is.”

Words you can’t take back, a relationship you should have ended earlier, not realizing the road your teen was headed down, missing opportunities to play with your little ones, buying that unneeded item, hurting your husband….regrets.  Don’t let them weigh you down any longer.  Repent, ask forgiveness, and want the path you have trod, it is in His hands.  God is the God of second, third, fourth…..chances.  He can redeem anything.  Anything.