Friday, March 30, 2012

what the water heat taught me about love

The water runs stone cold from the faucet.  My daughter can’t fill the bathtub.  I can’t do the dishes.  (A disappointment for one –a cause of celebration for the other.)

Matt says, I bet the pilot light is out.

He’s laying down on the cement by the hot water heater.  Yup.  The pilot’s out. 

He tells me to go try turning on the gas stove. 

It works! I yell, and he says the gas supply isn’t the problem, then. 

So I bring the matches, and he follows the steps to light the pilot.  Soon we hear the crackling sound of water heating. 

I ask why the hot water heater would be working fine for months and then all of a sudden the pilot light would go out.  He tells me sometimes there’s a strong backdraft of air that puts it out. 


This morning I woke up and wondered why in the world my heart has felt so…nothing…for people this week. I got down on my knees and asked God to strike a match to my heart. There’s nothing wrong with the source of love. I just need the flame. I can’t maintain the heat of love by myself.



“We know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  (1 John 4:16) 


Has your love toward someone grown stone cold? Has some backdraft of annoyance or hurtful words or failure to keep a promise swept in and put out the flame?  Get down low on your knees and check the pilot light.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

put a halt to complaining

I sat at dinner with my husband and was telling him about my upcoming annual physical, which I despise going to.  Do you know why?  Because the doctor always lectures me about how I’m supposed to be taking care of myself.  And I’m always thinking I KNOW ALREADY!  I’m an intelligent adult.  I think I know how to take care of myself.  I sat at dinner ranting and raving about how annoyed I get when the doctor tells me what I already know.  (Hmmmm… a bit strong willed one might observe.) 

Then I remembered something I had just listened to.  Francis Chan told about visiting Lima, Peru where there had been an influx of refugees.  He showed a picture of a dusty hillside filled with squatter shacks that house about 300,000 people.  No running water.  No electricity.  Not a single doctor. 

Not a single doctor for 300,000. 

When that came to mind I felt ashamed at my arrogant, wealthy person pouting about how annoyed I get at my doctor.   

Colossians 3:15 says “Be thankful.”  Well, I’m pretty sure griping and being thankful cannot share the same space.  I have swallowed the complaining, and you can be sure that when I’m at the doctor’s office today I’m going to be thanking God for the privilege of health care.  I promise I’m going to listen to whatever my doctor says and be thankful for the privilege of medical education. 

Is there something you’ve been complaining about?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

repair

Dad has money, but he never buys new stuff if he can repair the old. 


·        I watched him sit in the living room one entire evening and re-stitch the heel of his boots to the leather.
·        He fixed the dishwasher.
·        He always did repairs on our cars.
·        He patched the hole in his tent.
·        He fixed the lawn mower.
·        He took apart a broken camera and got it working again. 

It takes so much time and effort to fix something instead of tossing it and buying a new one.  Investigation to figure out the problem.  Taking it apart piece by piece.  Cleaning.  Finding the right parts -sometimes fabricating new parts.  Fixing.  Putting it back together piece by piece.  It requires determination and know-how. 

Jesus said, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”  (Matthew 11:5) 

Jesus fixes broken people. 

“…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...”  (Isaiah 61:1) 

What is broken in your life?  All you need is a good Repairman.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a mandatory change of taste

I ate hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was growing up –one of my favorite foods.   

Until one time I came down with a nasty head cold.  I made myself a PB&J, but it tasted horrible.  My stuffed up nose and inability to smell drastically changed how I experienced the taste of one of my favorite foods.  I ended up throwing the sandwich away. 

1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world.” 

Well, I have loved the world.  Clothes.  Dessert.  House d├ęcor.  You name it –I have loved it. 

So quite a while ago I started praying that God would make these things taste like that PB&J.  Flat.  Unappealing.  Unsatisfying.  Disappointing.   



I find myself in Target looking at the cheerful colors of the spring dishes in the housewares section (always a weak spot for me).  For a brief moment that love for stuff of the world rises up within me.  It’s a strong lust of the eyes –a feeling that I could only be happy if I owned these.  But then comes the flat-PB&J feeling, an experience deep in my heart of knowing these things on the shelves have pretty colors but offer nothing to satisfy my soul.  In that moment Satan’s salesmanship crashes into God answering my PB&J prayer. 

“The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.”  (1 John 2:17) 

What do you love in the world, just absolutely love and feel like you have to have to be happy?  Take the PB&J prayer to it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

you do it

I feel extreme disappointment every time I get to this place in the story. 

Five thousand men and then some.  The end of the day.  Everyone is hungry.  The disciples tell Jesus to send the crowd away to go buy themselves food in the villages. 

Jesus says to them, “They do not need to go away.  You give them something to eat.”  (Matthew 5:14-16) 

You give them something. 

I wish they had said “Okay.” 

This is the ending I pretend:  Disciples looking around to see what resources they do have.  Disciples bowing their heads and praying, “Lord, umm, a few loaves of bread and some fish?  Can you do something with this to meet an ocean of need?”  Disciples passing out bread and fish.  Passing it out and passing it out.  One thousand fed.  Two thousand fed.  And so on and so on.  Laughing out loud as they just keep handing it out.  Because it’s ridiculous what God just did with the nothing they had.  Now that’s a good story.   

What does Jesus ask you to do that’s ridiculously huge and for which you know you are inadequate? 

You do that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

love and presents go together

She held out her hand to show me three colored pieces of glass.   


“I have a lot of these at home.  I wanted to give some to you.” 

A sweet, sweet gift from a beautiful little girl to her teacher. 

She was thinking about me when she was at home.  Melts my heart, and I’ve put these three precious pieces of glass on my windowsill above my kitchen sink.  So I can remember that someone adores me. 

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Mark 12:30) 

Love makes you look around to see what special thing you could give as a present.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

do you ever feel like you're not a good person?

A few days ago I felt not good.  Said something in the heat of the moment that was stupid.

Sigh. 

My question to God was, “Okay, I’ve said I’m sorry to the person, and I’ve said I’m sorry to you, but now what do I do with this hangover feeling of worthlessness and thoughts of I’m-just-a-horrible-no-good-bad-person?” 

And I wondered –does anyone else ever feel this low after messing up? 

Then, just as I was drifting off to sleep in my feeling-lousy state, I remembered Jesus’ words to the rich man.   

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good –except God alone.”  (Mark 10:18) 

Oh, that’s right.   

It’s comforting to be in a big club.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

watch your language

The Flathead Electric Co-op Annual Meeting is not a really fun place to spend an entire Saturday morning, but that is where my daughter and I trudged off to at 8:30 last Saturday.  They were doing a drawing at the very end of the meeting for two $500 scholarships for graduating seniors, and we figured it was worth a few hours of our time to take a chance on her winning one of those.   

For the entire meeting I kept looking at the last line on the program that said “drawing for scholarships”.  We saw about a dozen cards in the drawing box.  Odds were good for her to win one. 

I remembered what I heard a woman say before she played a game once.  “Well, my strategy is to pray for luck.”  And I thought –can it be both?  Do prayer and luck go together? 

Should I pray for my daughter to be lucky in this drawing?  Do God and odds mesh?  

In Isaiah 48:17 God says, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” 

She didn’t win the scholarship. 

On the way home I told her, “It would be a really, really depressing life if all we had was luck.  Just beating the odds by chance.  Very depressing.” 

But we have God.

God directs.  Luck is random.   

God has a “what is best for you”.  Chance doesn’t care. 

God plans a specific way my daughter should go.  A specific college.  A specific way to pay for it.  A specific best plan for her in a specific direction. 

What do you hope for?  Do you speak of it with the language of luck or faith? 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

just when you think you've got it all together

I had an 8:00 class in college.  I would crack open the bathroom door to shed a tiny bit of light into the dorm room so I could get dressed without waking my roommate.  Because I’m slightly OCD about certain things, I’ve always arranged my socks by color in the drawer, so I thought I was doing okay in dressing myself. 

Until I got into the full light of class and looked down, to see that I was wearing two completely different colored socks, neither of which went with my outfit. 

That’s how I feel about loving God and loving people.  Sometimes when I’m sitting at home with my Bible open I pretty much feel like I’ve got my act together.  I really do love God, and I really do love people. 

Then, I leave my house and interact with people -and realize I’m not looking as good as I thought I did when I got dressed in the dark.  Seems there’s still a lot of selfishness and impatience and lack of diplomacy lurking around in my heart. 

I found a great truth once, in a devotional prayer booklet written for one of the Olympics.  I cut out the words and pasted them in my journal.  It said our public life shows us what we need to deal with in our private time with God.  And our private time with God shows us what we need to work on in our public life.     

“Jesus replied:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Matthew 22:37-38) 

I’m sorry for the times when I get a look at myself in public and realize my love for people is smaller than I had hoped it would be.  I obviously need to double-check this in private. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

atmosphere control

Every Monday at 5:30 I walk into a meeting, and everyone is Monday frazzled.  You can feel it when you walk in.  Saggy bodies.  Half-smile hellos.   

Several weeks ago our fearless leader instituted a mandatory group cheer to begin each meeting.  It’s ridiculous.  Hands on top of hands.  We choose a few motivational words to cheer as hands gone down and then up again.  He forces energy, excitement, and laughter on a weary group of people. 

This is the coolest thought ever, and I’m stealing it from Michael Hyatt’s blog (chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing).  Have you ever thought of the influence you have over the atmosphere of a room? 

Changing the atmosphere is like casting vision, only it is immediate. When there is tension, fear, or apathy, a spiritual leader can transform the immediate power of these storms and restore vision, vitality and hope. A spiritual leader can fill a room with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness, even while speaking hard things. –Bob Hamp 

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”  (Galatians 5:22-23)  What if you took one, even just one of these qualities into the office today.  Or into the classroom.  Or to the dinner table. 

Immediate power to influence the atmosphere of an entire room. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

plagued by the same sin

My blood pounded in my ears when Grandma pulled out the keys to her '67 Chevy and told me it would be mine to use as soon as I got my driver's license.  It was a massive tank, with a steering wheel a good two-feet in diameter, but I didn't care.  I was going to have my own car to drive in high school!  It came equipped with an a-ooga horn and an eight-track tape player.

One time that a-ooga horn malfunctioned when I was driving downtown.  It was loud and sickly sounding, and cars started pulling over because they thought some kind of an emergency vehicle was coming.

I loved that car, but I had so much trouble remembering to put gas in it. 

Dad brought a gas can when I got around the block from home one day and sputtered to a stop. 

Dad brought a gas can to Taco John's after dark to fill my tank.

I lose count of how many other times I ran out of gas, and dad didn't seem to keep track.  Every time I called he came to my rescue.  Annoyed.  But he always came.

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) 

I fill my gas tank now.  It took a while, but I finally got it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

one day when I was a jerk

Several months ago I spent the afternoon doing personal finances.  It was bad.  You know –lotsa bills and not lotsa money.  It left me feeling stressed and on the edge.  Anxious.  Barely holding in tears. 

And that’s how I walked into the meeting.  A donkey on the edge, if you will.

My pastor friend who leads the meeting said, “Hey team, let’s go pray in the sanctuary.”  And I said, “but I brought dinner and it will get cold.”  (Great pastor’s wife I am –more worried about the food than the prayer.)  And he insisted we start with prayer and that it would just take a few minutes.   

I lost it. 

Wow, that really set a great tone for the evening.   

Here’s the only thing I know.  I acted like a childish, emotional, out-of-control woman toward my friend, but he forgave me.   

I don’t think you really know if someone is your friend until you’ve been a total jerk to him and he still wants to hang out with you. 

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

God in the periphery

It was subtle, the purposeful lifting of the guitar neck just slightly.   

The drummer was playing full energy.  Sticks flying.  Eyes on his drums.  But when the band leader lifted his guitar neck the drums came to a halt. 



There is the picture of how we live.  Full energy into the tasks in front of us.  Being who we are with all of our heart.  But always, with every beat, watching for God’s direction from the corner of our eye. 

It’s his song. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”  (Hebrews 12:2)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

would you step onto a magic carpet?

One of the most profound spiritual images I live by comes from Disney’s Aladdin. 

I know.  I’m 43.   

Aladdin looks at the princess, asking her to join him on the magic carpet.  She’s dubious, but he puts out his hand and says, Do you trust me?  

Is it safe?, she asks. 

He ignores the question and instead repeats his. 

Do you trust me? 

She looks him in the eye -not at the carpet hanging in mid air -in the eye.  Gauging who he is before saying yes and stepping on. 

Living in obedience to God is totally a magic carpet ride.  Not overly safe.  Rationally impossible.  And awesome. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and try not to think about how ridiculous climbing on a magic carpet is (Christy’s version).”  (Proverbs 3:5) 

Do you trust me?

Monday, March 12, 2012

your character and your to do list

We watched two shows back-to-back this weekend.  Both were set in Alaska. 

The first was about men looking for gold on the ocean floor.  Cussing – greedy – fighting men.  One man had divorced his wife to look for gold in Alaska.  She thought the idea was foolish, so he left her.   

The second was about men in the Alaskan Coast Guard.  Disciplined – heroic – team-oriented men.  One woman bragged openly about the pride she feels in what her husband does every day. 

I wonder – 

Does gold make men greedy or do greedy men seek gold?  Does a rescuing job make a man selfless or do selfless men seek a rescuing job? 

Same ocean. 

Such a difference in character and purpose. 

What do you wake up to do every day? 

“Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

the seventh day is for empty people

All week long we feel the emptiness of our souls and try to fill it.

With food.  With people.  With new things from a store.  With a TV.

And that's why we go to church.  To remember where fullness.  Real fullness.  Comes from.

O God,
Thou hast taught me
that Christ has all fullness and
so all plenitude of the Spirit,
that all fullness I lack in myself is in him,
for his people, not for himself alone,
he having perfect knowledge, grace,
righteousness,
to make me see,
to make me righteous,
to give me fullness;
that it is my duty, out of a sense of emptiness,
to go to Christ, possess, enjoy his fullness
as mine,
as if I had it in myself, because it is for me in him;
that when I do this I am full of the Spirit,
as a fish that has got from the shore to the sea
and has all fullness of waters to move in...

-a puritan prayer from Valley of Vision

May you get filled up today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

the desk where things happen

I am at my desk, and right now the papers I’ve printed are all crinkled up because so much stuff was stacked in front of the printer when they came out.  There’s a battery sitting here, and I don’t know if it’s old or new.  There’s a pile of necklaces I used in my Bible lesson with the kids at church, and on the left is a stack of papers turned every which way that are probably important.  No one in their right mind would leave anything here for me to do.

My mom’s desk is pristine (and has probably been dusted more recently).  Tidy holders for everything.  Neat stacks.  There are a few square feet where you can see the actual desk itself.  If mom says, “Go put it on my desk and I’ll take care of it” she actually does.   

What does God’s desk look like?  Seriously?   

When my kids put something on my desk, they know they had better follow up and maybe throw out a “So, mom, did you take care of my…”  Is that what God is like? 

I always pretend I have this huge stack of anxiety in my hands, piled so high that I can’t even look over it.  And I walk up to God’s desk and plop it down so loud that everything rattles.  And I say, “Can you take care of all of this?”  And he says, “Sure.  Just leave it.” 

And by looking at his desk I know I can.   

Plop all your anxiety on his desk (Christy’s version) because he cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7

Thursday, March 8, 2012

follow the neon

We happily agreed to loan our ski pants to a friend -a quiet, reserved friend.  He didn’t know the pants were neon green.  I wish you could have seen his face when I pulled those out of the front closet.   

I later laughingly asked his wife what she thought of the pants, and she said, “Thank God for those pants!!”  They skied down the mountain into a dense fog, and the only thing she could make out in front of her was neon green.  Scared to death, she followed that spot of color all the way down the run. 

I feel like I’m serving God in a dense fog sometimes.  Trying to push forward energetically and valiantly –but where is forward? 

In this season of my life when I am walking into unknown territory, God’s words are to me like neon ski pants in a fog. 

Not just any words –not the whole Bible.  I am talking about specific verses that God has pulled out and handed to me and said, “Here, this is your job.  This is what I want you to do with your life.” 

So when activities of the day feel weird, which they do a lot –like writing a blog –and I wonder if I’m going in the direction God wants me to go, I fix my eyes on those neon verses and don’t let them out of my site. 

Do you have one?  Some instruction in the Bible that you know is your verse.   

The one to live your life by. 
The one to measure every activity of the day by. 
The one to throw every ounce of energy into obeying.   

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  (Psalm 119:105) 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

the best kind of sermon

There are two kinds.

The first sermon is the one that makes me cringe because I hear from God’s word something I haven’t been doing.  It’s the kind that makes me feel awful and disappointed in myself.  It’s the kind that makes my shoulders sag and leaves me quiet and wondering what I can do to live in a manner that’s more worthy of what Christ has done for me. 

The second kind of sermon is the one that has me shaking my head up and down, saying, “That’s right, Preacher!”  It’s the kind where I hear from God’s word, and I do a little inward celebrating because I know I’ve been doing exactly what I should be doing.  The kind of sermon that makes me smile because I know I’ve pleased God. 

I like the second kind better.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

match the stride

I didn’t know about type-A personalities when I was kid.  I just knew dad walked really fast wherever we went. 

I remember jumping in the truck with him and going down to the hardware store.  We got out of the truck, and he was already halfway down the sidewalk before I even set foot on the ground.  I had to run to catch up with him. 

He would always bark over his shoulder, “Keep up.  I’m not waitin’ for ya!”   He was a man with things to do.

Dad never once kept his promise to leave me behind, but he also never slowed his stride to match mine.

Now I walk fast.  I remember walking past someone once, and the person said, “Now there’s a woman on a mission!”

Paul says to Christians, in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 

How fast does the Spirit of God walk?    

Monday, March 5, 2012

my personal story of finding God

When I was in high school I felt far from God.  I had chosen to follow him when I was young, but as I walked away from my baptism in a cold Wyoming river at the age of 8, I remember thinking, “This is it?”  I felt deeply disappointed that I didn’t have a profound internal experience. 

Almost a decade later I sat in a high school science class, glazing over at a lecture on cell division.  It was my own soul that was divided, partly committed to following God and partly doubting if he was even real. 

“Lord, if you’re real I want to know it –to really feel it deep inside.”  A desperate prayer that changed everything. 

The following summer I went to church camp and took an afternoon class about how to have a “quiet time”.  As I sat on the grass in a beautiful garden, I learned how to pray and read my Bible and spend time with God. 

When I got home from camp I tried it -spending time with God.  Boring drudgery!  I pushed through my first attempt that seemed to last forever and was shocked to see only a few minutes of time had passed. 

Day after day of drudgery.  Praying to someone who didn’t seem real. 

But something was happening.  Slowly I got to know God.  Sometimes I would read the Bible and it would seem personal –really personal.  Sometimes I would pray about something specific and would get an answer to my prayer.  Amazing.  I began to experience God interacting with my life. 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13) 

I hadn’t realized he had been waiting for me to spend time with him.   

Now every waking moment is a quiet time, and I’ve never been so confident that God is real.

Friday, March 2, 2012

what's your score?

My son brought home a syllabus for his freshman PE class.  In it the teacher clearly laid out his grading method. 

Daily grades are based on a 4-3-2-1-0 scale. 

4 –exceeds request and requirements of instructor –participates without being watched
3 –participates in class activities –meets the requirements
2 –cruises in neutral –participates only while being watched
1 –not prepared for class –shows little or no improvement
0 –no effort to participate during class

In Colossians 3:22-23 Paul challenges Christians to live a “4” kind of day.  “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” 

It's a daily grade.  Are you cruising in neutral?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

swipe

My husband just got a new toy –a Droid (all the cool kids at work have one.)  He was showing me the swipe feature, which I had never seen before.  SO COOL!  How does the phone know where you are going with your word?  Swiping from letter to letter in one quick, fluid motion without lifting your finger.


And since I’m weird and see a blog post in everything, here’s what it made me think of:

I’ve been a follower of Christ since 1977.  As I have more and more experiences with God in my life, his movement feels like swipe technology.  As he works smoothly in each circumstance, I am beginning to sense where he is going.
 
Which takes me to my all-time-favorite Bible verse.  Jeremiah 9:24.  “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.”  So not to boast (which always means you’re about to boast), but I totally am enjoying seeing where God is going with my life -not all the details right up front, but sensing the direction.   

Can you trace the life experiences you've had to see where God has been at work in a certain direction?