What’s the Promise?

If you knew that God was telling you to do something, would you do it? I mean, if you absolutely, positively, no-doubt- about-it knew that you were supposed to do something, would you do it? I’m assuming the answer is yes. If there’s no room for error, we’d all do it. It doesn’t take courage; we have conviction.

Okay, let’s raise the stakes then. What if the thing you had been asked to do was crazy? I mean, it flat-out did not line up with what should happen. And yet, every time you stopped to ask, “Are you sure, God?”, His answer was  still a resounding YES. Would you do it?

I’m going to propose the answer is yes…eventually. I think we would all stop and pause. It’s to this “pause” period that I want to write about today.

I’m thinking about this idea because my pastor preached on Joshua 1 this past Sunday.

(For those who want a reminder, Joshua  was the guy who took over AFTER Moses. He’s the guy that accompanied Moses up half of Mount Sinai when Moses went to go get the Ten Commandments. He was “the” guy who went and fought while Moses held up his arms so that the Israelites would have victory.)

Even though Joshua was, and is, highly regarded, God told Joshua something that he must have thought was crazy. He told Joshua to go and lead the people into the promised land.  Now, since Joshua was a kind of “second in command,” you would think this wouldn’t be a shock. I mean, God had even formally commissioned Joshua to be the next leader. Joshua HAD to know it was coming.

But, Joshua also had to be unsure about his ability to walk in his new role and carry out God’s plans because when God told Joshua that it was time to move, He had to command Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous.” The last time He even says “Have I not commanded you?”

Umm…hello Joshua. It’s time to go.

I’m imagining that Joshua froze up on God in this moment. It had to be his “pause moment.”He had to be sitting there, running through the lists of what’s happened and how it’s happened and trying to search out if he really thought he could do the job that God called him to do.

In the end, I think it had to be God’s promise (that “the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you”) that moved Joshua’s feet. He had to obey, yes, but his reasoning for doing so had to be because God promised to be with Him. There’s no one in their right mind who would take on a task like that out of vain ambition. He was able to go because there was a promise attached.

And as Joshua went, every time an obstacle or a hard time came, God reminded them of the same things:  Do not be afraid. Don’t get discouraged. Keep you mind on the things I’ve told you…and then He brought up that same promise “Remember, I am with you WHEREVER you go.”

God convicts us to do things like take care of people and to apologize and to pursue paths of righteousness. Those things can be a little nerve wrecking, but they don’t take much courage.

But when He’s taking us into our destiny, I think He has to command us. And I think He has to command us because we’d never be convicted that we deserve the things He’s planned for us. We have to trust Him, obey, and accept the courage that gets drummed up from simply hearing a promise from the God of the Universe. Wholly faithful. Ever true.

I’m asking you today, what’s the promise that God’s given you for what He’s called you to do and where He’s asked you to go?

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My Poor Lil Heart

I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t a worry-wort. In fact, it’s probably genetic. My mom’s a worrier. Her mom’s a worrier. My dad’s mom will ream me out if she finds out that I’m out of the house past 6 pm. That’s how much of a worrier she is. I got it on all sides. Worse though, I’m so much of a worrier, that I have pretty much exclusively cultivated friendships with worriers. We’re all just a big, huge, splattered mess of anxiety.

We’re women who get heart sick over worry. We’ll play out conversations in our minds. We exaggerate the smallest ideas in the tiniest nooks and crannies of our brains. Those we love are affected by our anxiety, yes, but WE are affected by it most of all because it’s OUR sound mind and our relationship with God that takes the biggest hit.

That’s why the verse I got this week impacted me so much. It addressed the worries, the real problem, and the solution.

When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O LORD, supported me. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. -Psalm 94:18-19

The worry is that I”m slipping. I’m losing my mind. I’m not able to force myself into faith or thankfulness or into obedience. I’m overwhelmed by something. And that I’m going to do something stupid or that something or someone is going to defeat me.

The real problem is that I think that I’ve gone further than He can pull me back. OR that I’m being so petty that He’ll just leave me to deal with my mess. I forget every basic Christian doctrinal idea and somehow become a deist in 2.5 seconds.

But the solution that God offers is love. His love is so great that He brings Himself to our concerns. Not a angel with an answer. Himself. And that brings perfect peace and unspeakable joy. The “comforts” God offers, “they do not only pacify the mind, but they (bring) joy (to) it; they do not only satisfy it, but ravish it; they not only quiet (it), but delight it.” (Charles Spurgeon)

We slip, we become exhausted, irritated, agitated, worried .. and our faith slips, our spirit slips. His response is to love us by giving us the only thing that will pull us out: His love. That cheers us.  “Cheers” isn’t the right word though. A better translation of that word is “make confident.”

His love makes us confident. We’re reminded of who we are and who He is.  And then comes our part. We have to choose to either accept or reject the statement “God loves me enough to handle this for me.”

If we can accept it, then the worry will dissipate. If we can’t, we’ll stay in the state of burning, stressed out shoulder muscles and rapid heartbeat.

For me, this week, I needed to be reminded of just how big He is. I needed to hear the “thunder of who (He) is,” as the song says (below). I needed to search His heart out and hear that He loved me again. And I needed to trust that the little pieces will be cared for. And as I did, things got better. It’s just what happens.

Hope this blesses you.

Tears at the Craft Fair

Since my husband had to work, I decided to have a full day with the kids today. Now, taking my three kids anywhere is an ordeal, but I planned to go to a pumpkin festival, the Morton Arboretum’s fall fest, and then somehow make a magical family dinner happen. On top of that, I threw in a craft fair to kick off the day.

It was at the craft fair that something beautiful happened though. For those of you who have never been to a craft fair, the whole concept just smells of sweet hometown goodness. There’s fresh cooked food and bakery items, hand crafted knickknacks, and the cutest, hodgepodge things for sale.  I swear, you walk by each table saying, “Ooh! that’s cute!” This is stuff that you SWORE you’d never buy for YOUR house, and yet you debate for 20 minutes over whether to buy it or not.

This particular show was the cream of the crop though. When I walked in, there were two old men sitting by the front entrance to hold the door for the ladies and to direct people.

Once inside, I got caught up in the labyrinth of tables — Halloween stuff, Christmas stuff, bows for little girls, hair flowers for big girls, sparkly jewelry, homemade soaps, purses…it was endless. About half way through, I stopped to ask myself why I felt alive looking through these tables. It was because women got to be women. They got to envision a way to make someone or something more beautiful, create that thing — that way, and then have someone else value it. It was rare. It is rare.

After making my way through the aisles, I took the kids over to the cafeteria. Since we were in a Greek church, we ordered up the only thing they had — … Greek food. As I sat there, feeding my children, I couldn’t help but notice all the other women in the cafeteria staring at us — staring at my children to be more exact. It was like they were all re-picturing what it was like to raise their own children, longing to have even one more moment of it.  I got to tell you, it was a really touching moment to be in a place that valued my kids. They didn’t want to educate them, or tame them, or suck money out of my pocket through them. They just wanted to love them. So rare.

Our last stop was the bakery aisle. Besides having pastries that could kick my recipe’s butts  (no, really, the Hallelujah chorus may have sounded as I took a bite into the Bavarian Cream), besides that though, I was awestruck as I watched as the women carefully crafted the wrapping of their handmaid goods. They worked together. They were proud that someone got to enjoy the fruit of their labor, and they had a sense of purpose. I’m talking about seeing eighty-something year-old women come to life. It was magnificent. So magnificent that I started to cry.

I wept because it was beautiful. And I wept because my generation hasn’t valued it, and it will soon be gone. I wept because the women of my generation will never know how powerful these women truly are.

As one of my good friends reminded me this week Queen Esther didn’t change the world because she organized an army of people to storm the castle. She changed the world by offering her beauty, her company, and a meal. I long for my girlfriends to “get it.” I long to “get-it-and-keep it.” And I hope I have the courage to live it out.

Ready to Give Up Yet?

I had a cousin that lived when I was young. He was 10 years older than me, and the boy just knew how to toughen someone up. He would wrestle with me and my brother until we were screaming in pain, and then we’d just yell: “I give up, I give up!” He’d let us up, but the sensitive kids we were, we would often walk off crying. We really thought we could win the battle; and every time, we’d find that we weren’t strong enough. So we’d be discouraged.

I feel like October has been a wrestling match for me. I’m used to fighting because I hit spiritual warfare pretty much on a daily basis. I’m used to things like depression, oppression, and threats. I’m used to being on the defensive. I’m strong enough to handle that. God’s taught me how to fight that. But I’ve found this month that God has told the armies of darkness that they can’t even go near me. So what’s the problem? Well, the tough thing is that God Himself that is wrestling with me. And if you’ve ever wrestled with God, you know how much tougher that is to work through.

I’ve found that God has been drawing out my weaknesses. He’s been revealing the places where I’m cold and calloused. He’s been exposing the things that I didn’t even know I hid away. I can’t hide my anger or my messiness or exhaustion. I can’t pretend that I’m not stressed, because He’s not allowing my body or mouth to comply with those lies. He’s siphoning the poison that’s planted deep in my soul. And it’s been as painful as it sounds.

And so, I’m easily angered, easily agitated, easily annoyed, and easily discouraged. But I’m not going to give up.

Part of the reason I’m not walking away this time  is because I’ve had a revelation about Hebrews 12: 3-17. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2012:%203-17&version=NIV)

I’m really encouraged that it is for love sake that He’s “disciplining” me. Because let’s be real, I’m not going to discipline myself. We’re not talking about avoiding a cookie here; We’re talking life-long coping mechanisms. Ones that hurt me, hurt Him, and hurt others.  And He loves me too much to let me live with that stuff any more.

I’m encouraged that He’s telling me to push on — don’t grow weary. The God of the Universe is telling me that I can handle this. I think that I should listen to Him.

I’m really encouraged that He’s reminding me that I am a co-heir with Jesus. That I have a purpose, and I have jobs to do. (It always seems that Satan’s little minions like to tell you that you don’t have purpose when, in reality, God has just taken you off the battlefield for a bit to heal you and give you new armor).

I’m amazed that what He’s doing now is going to bring me a place of holiness.  Not religiosity but holiness.  That word “holiness” in the Greek is a distinct word. It can be translated “sanctification.” In other words, He’s taking me from point “A” to point “B” for a specific purpose. Not just because He wants to change me, but because He knows that I’ll need different tools to live abundantly in the future. And He wants that. He wants me to bless others and to be blessed by Him.

What He’s doing now is going to give me a better character. It’s going to yield fruit. And good fruit. That’s why I have to hang on till the end. And furthermore, what He’s doing now will keep others from being bitter. As someone who’s been wholly healed from bitterness, believe me, I want to stay put if it means I keep others from being bitter.

What He’s doing now is worthwhile. And so while the armies of darkness might make me want to think that there’s chaos ensuing, I know that it’s merely a purification process that will make me stronger and that will let me surrender more to God. I choose God, please. His optimism is so much better. I’m not under a life of terror. I’m under a Gospel of grace.

Would You Just Stay Still One Minute?!?!?

As a mom of three children, I can tell you that one of the most frustrating things is when a kid won’t sit still. Whether it is because we’re in a doctor’s office, or if it’s because I’m changing a stinky diaper, when a kid wiggles, and they’re not supposed to, it’s frustrating. It makes me feel some empathy for God.

Why?

Because I’m a wiggler. When God’s trying to change me, trying to make me better, I squirm and slide and try to get out from underneath Him. I have ants in my pants. I don’t want to wait. I just want the change to happen magically.

God usually has to either soften my heart, exhaust me, or totally convict me to get me to stay still. And believe me, when I do wait, I usually do so like a 3-year-old: full of anger and bitterness, whining in every prayer.

This is the place that I have found myself for about a month now. And today, God used Habakkuk to show me how ridiculous I look.

In Habakkuk 2, God speaks of revelation happening at an appointed time, and then He commands us to wait for it, even if it “feels” delayed. Anybody out there waiting for a dream to come true; a prayer to get answered?

I don’t know about you, but I get like the man in verse 4:  puffed up and arrogant. My desires may not have started unholy, but they get there…quickly. And it’s just as God’s word says, I get there because of lack of faith.

And so, because I don’t have faith, I turn to my hidden idols, just like verse 5 states. And my “wines” do betray me. They leave me in unrest — which undoubtedly hinders me hearing the voice of God even more. Which, angers me and so I go searching, trying to steal any information that will get me to my desired outcome quicker. I am JUST LIKE death — never satisfied. And I often take captives — I make others join in my misery, either by dumping on them or starting petty fights.

It’s only when I come to the end of this, and I have a little cry fest that the Lord shows me that I have to remain disciplined. That I really do need my relationship with Him.  That I really do need to trust that He’s not holding out on me, and that He really did give me a promise that He intends to fulfill. I am humbled by the fact that He’s faithful to wait me out every time.

To get to the answer, to get to the revelation, we have to sit and wait. We have to. There’s just no other way.  He’s promised that if we do wait, He’ll renew our strength — He’ll give us reasons to keep hoping. We won’t be thirsty forever. Help me to remember the promise, won’t you? Let’s do it together.