Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Know It All

I've always had a healthy ego. I like to think I know what I'm doing most of the time, and I tend to avoid anything I'm not good at. It takes alot to shake my self-confidence or intimidate me. 

So when I first started following Jesus, I assumed he was going to show me how stupid I really am by taking away all the talents, joys, and comforts of my life. The moment the Holy Spirit took over me, I instantly believed that suffering was the best way to teach me some humility. I was prepared to "lose it all" for the sake of Christ.

But God had a completely different plan. 

If you've been following my blog, you know how MUCH God has given me. In fact, some of you are probably sick of hearing about my exciting adventures, miraculous stories, and praises of blessing. Especially if you know me! You can attest to the fact that I'm nothing special and that I don't deserve any more gifts than the next person. {come on, be honest! some of you may even resent the fact that I seem to get some serious doses of awesome stuff from Jesus. I know I would feel that way!}

It may not be obvious on the outside (yet), but in my heart, I am constantly convicted of how unworthy I am to receive what God gives. In fact, the more he gives me, the more I see my own inability to do anything for myself. Which leads me back to Jesus again and again, asking him to take care of every detail, arrange every plan, provide for every need.   

And isn't that the point? God desires to have our hearts, and he oversees the circumstances of our lives so that we have infinite opportunities to fall on his mercy. Whether it is in suffering or blessing, in want or abundance, God is for us and with us and wants us.

This is why the apostle Paul could confidently say, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 

On this eighth day of Lent, I am reflecting on how well God knows me, and has a plan that is good for my life, and will never leave me. Today, I meditate on these great truths, and I share them with you through Thomas Merton (below) and a reading of Psalm 139. 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I will do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always, 
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In the Small Stuff

This Lent, I have chosen to fast from some things in order to make room to experience others. This is allowing me (so far) daily reflection on various aspects of my spiritual life. In addition to my previous meditations on my sinful state, I have also considered the many blessings I have received over the years, and I'd like to share some here. [If you search my archives for the tag "Stones of Remembrance" you can find seven other specific posts about amazing things God has done for me]

While I love recounting the miraculous adventures that God has led me on, the simplicity of Lent has led me to consider more of the "small stuff" that can so easily be forgotten. In just these first few days of Lent, I feel like the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to the stories happening around me and humbled me to acknowledge that my story exists only because of him. He has reminded me of so many "small" pieces of my puzzle that have contributed to the incredible place that I am today and which give me trustworthy hope for where I am headed. 

For example, after I came to faith, I joined a church. But it was never just a building that I went to on Sunday morning. Instead, it was an entire community of people who loved me in my mess, supported me in my marriage, and even encouraged me in ministry. The more people I meet in this world, the more I understand how rare it is that my first experience with the church was full of love, truth, and grace. I needed all of those things as a young person who thought she knew everything. I still need them, because I still need Jesus. I am firmly convinced that the kindness and patience that was shown me in those early years in the church laid the confident foundation I now have to give to others.

Since the day I met Jesus, I have never once doubted his love for me or his power to perform unbelievable works in my life. That is a gift. Everywhere else in my life, I question whether I am truly accepted, and I expect people to fail me all the time. But those doubts have never entered my spiritual life, and I see this as part of God's grace towards me. I know, not just with my head but with my entire being, that I am completely and unreservedly loved by God no matter what. I belong to him! oh, what freedom I have to live! 

If all I had was my faith and a community of believers around me, my life would be rich. But God has also chosen to add to these blessings the privileges of marriage and parenting. The joy of traveling across his creation. The responsibility of continued employment and the opportunity for creative expression. Hundreds of people to learn from, partner with, and minister to. Great books! Delicious food. Healthy debates. Changing seasons. Working cars.  

Small stuff. But it is in those details, those little things that are so easily provoke or delight us, that our hearts are turned slowly towards or away from God. 

Holy Spirit, use these forty days to show me the beauty of my Lord! Teach me how to decrease so that he might increase. Remind me of all that he has done for me and give me faith to ask for even more!   


Friday, February 24, 2012

In My Best Behavior

Listen now, all of you— take this to heart
It's not what you swallow that pollutes your life
it's what you vomitthat's the real pollution. 
It's what comes out of a person that pollutes
evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness
all these are vomit from the heart. 
There is the source of your pollution.
 ~ Jesus

Who is the worst person you know?
Who is the worst person who has ever lived?

I am.

The apostle Paul recognized this when he told his young friend Timothy, "This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. "

I forget that most of the time. Most of the time, I let kinder words cover my cruel thoughts. I hold my husband's hand to hide the fantasies entertained in my heart. I do good deeds to mask my lack of love. 

But when I turn the camera lens on my inner life - the private, hidden self that runs rampant and unbridled - I confess that I am really messed up. When I open myself to the convicting work of God's Holy Spirit, I can see that I am really polluted. I'm not solving any of the world's problems - I'm adding to them. I'm so often consumed with wanting to change everyone around me, but I can't even change myself.

Western culture wants to convince us that we are essentially good but that society pollutes us. Despite the gaping holes in that logic, I need only to record about three minutes of my unspoken thoughts to recognize that I'm a dirty, murderous, tramp. Really. Without the conscience of Christ, I would wreak some serious havoc on this world.  

Referring to the serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., songwriter Sufjan Stevens wrote - 

He'd kill ten thousand people 
with a sleight of his hand...
and in my best behavior,
I am really just like him

In my BEST behavior - I am just like Hitler. Just like Kim Jon-il. Just like members of the Kosovo Liberation Army. I am capable of committing the grossest crimes against humanity. We all are.   

"There, but for the grace of God, go I." ~ John Bradford

* I recognize that these first two Lenten reflections have been pretty depressing. I hope to talk more over the coming weeks about why it is so important to start with our junk - and yet why it is so necessary not to stay focused on it!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Am The Problem

Lord, I'm tired.

I am tired of wasting my time
making selfish choices
wallowing in resentment
judging people I don't know
considering myself better than people I love.

I am tired of looking the other way
hardening my heart
ignoring the Truth
neglecting the least
protecting myself.

I am tired of demanding to be right
fighting to get my way
forgetting to listen first
working for what does not matter
chasing what will not satisfy.

I am tired of being dead inside 
breathing desert air
when all the while you sit beside me and offer living water.

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article 'What's Wrong with the World?' I am. Yours truly,” 
 G.K. Chesterton