Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Here It Comes.......

I know, I know! It's been a while.  I wanted to blog - really I did.  I thought I'd at least sit down and type up my marathon experience to journal and share with y'all.  I still may do that at some point but what can I say? I couldn't come up with words and The Lord didn't give me nothing!! (And yes, fellow grammar police, I know that is a double negative but sometimes it's just called for!) I mean NOTHING....nada....ZILCH!! I was beginning to think He was done with the segment of my life where I had a blog of sorts.  However, the last several weeks I've really been feeling the desire to get back at it.  In retrospect, I think because of my marathon experience, I was emotionally, physically, and even spiritually drained.  I will DEFINITELY have to tell y'all about it sometime, though! For now, I will simply say, God is good, I made it through....and refer you to the verse I put on my race bib, Ephesians 3:20.  

Now on to matters at hand! 

I got this weird feeling the other day.  I hate to compare it to nausea because it's much sweeter than nausea (most of the time anyway). But, you know that feeling when you are at the very beginning of a stomach virus and that first wave of nausea hits you? You say, "Maybe it was something I ate" or "Maybe I just need to eat a little something to settle my stomach" and you try to brush it off like it's nothing.  (I'm actually nauseated as I write this but I'm attributing it to eating leftover birthday cake with 4 layers of icing for breakfast.)  It continues to build and before long, you're saying, " it comes!"  Well, that's the feeling I get when I know I'm going to have to put something in writing.  And I do mean.... put it in writing like a contract....because it's usually a lesson for me specifically and writing it down solidifies it.   It begins to stir and I try to brush it off as my own thoughts at play but, then it builds and bubbles up until  there's no stifling it anymore.  That's what happened when I read a quote on Facebook by Francis Chan the other day that said this:  

"We don't give anyone a reason to ask about what makes us unique, so nobody asks. Yet, we still feel the need to evangelize.  So, we end up coming across as sales people peddling a product that didn't work for us. 
This was the first wave.  I tried to brush it off....but it was not "nothing".  (Yes, another double negative, but I think there are some legit occasions to use them:))  
Now - I digress from the nausea and double negatives..... 

I was reading Jude her bedtime stories last night and she insisted on reading all of them from her Preschooler's Bible Story Book.  I was just so happy to get a break from the big princess story book, ya know what I mean?! She got to pick where we started and picked the story of Jesus walking on water... and another wave hit me.   

Peter, Peter, Peter: 

To recap this first one (Matthew 14:22-33)  - the disciples were in a boat in stormy wind and water and saw Jesus coming toward them walking on water and they were afraid.  Peter, bold as he is, tells Jesus if it's really him to command him to come to him on the water.  So, Jesus told him to come.  Peter and his confident self went and did great (most of the way).  He walked on water but when he got to Jesus, took his eyes off of him for a split second and looked back at the wind and waves and started to sink.   

See, Peter was one of the boldest characters we read of in the New Testament.  I mean, I didn't read of any of the other disciples being real quick to step out on the water.  Nor would I have been! times....he was also one of the biggest failures. Interestingly enough, it was mostly because of his over confidence.  That's why Jesus told him in Luke 22:31 that Satan was going to "sift him like wheat"….because Peter needed to be humbled and realize  from where, exactly, all of his confidence should originate  And it just made me think.....  

I had just shared with my Mops (mothers of preschoolers) group on Friday about this very thing so It was fresh on my mind obviously.   How many times do I become over confident in myself, or better my "faith"….get busy doing life and take my eyes off of Jesus? Have I not learned by now that that's exactly what the enemy is waiting on me to do so he can knock me down like a big wave on a stormy sea? He's counting on it and when we do.....he makes his move.  I imagine that's why in 1 Peter 5:8 he warns us that we have an adversary, the devil, that prowls around like a lion, seeking to destroy.  What do outsiders looking into our lives glean from us when we start out with the best of intentions but take our eyes off of Jesus? 

  • Fear.  It's weird how self confidence leads to fear and not trust.  Safety 1st, right? Stick with what we know or what we can control (or think we can control anyway).  They end up seeing the same thing in our lives as in every other predictable, safe, self-confident life....they definitely won't see any walking on water.   
  • Failure. Maybe we put aside safety and went for something major.  Only,  even the good things we commit to do....the things we were called to do....go awry when we start thinking, "I got this all planned out" and leave Jesus out of it.   
  • Negativity.  We whine, complain, pout, etc.,  SO much that people wouldn't even know we were a Christian unless we came out and said the words! I think it's safe to say they wouldn't respond with, "Oh!! Tell me more...I want what you have!!"   
  • Judgment.  When we don't keep our eyes on Jesus.....we so easily get so caught up on "do's and don'ts" and forget to love.  Yes, we are to speak truth, unapologetically.  But when we leave Jesus out of our conversations and actions, not allowing Him to continue teaching US, we often leave love out of it, too.   

Those are just a few ways the enemy capitalizes when we become overconfident in ourselves, our own degree of faith, or other people/things.  That's how he so subtly alters our lives to look like everyone else's that no one cares to ask about what it is that makes us unique.....because we're not.   

Giving Thanks: 

Then there was a story we read about the 10 lepers that Jesus healed of their terrible disease (Luke 17).  As they took off to go show themselves to the priests as Jesus instructed, they realized they were already healed.  Only 1 out of the 10 went back to thank Jesus.   

It occurred to me that thankfulness is demonstrative.  It shows up in our lives for others to see. Yet, how many times do I pray for specific help from God, only to forget to offer up thanks or only offer up a brief thanks when He acts and then completely forget what He did for me A truly thankful heart is clearly visible. 

  • We are so thankful for all He has done for us that we don't cling tightly to our "stuff".   
  • We are so thankful for His faithfulness that we don't get caught up in negativity and worry (that is something many people would like to understand and be able to claim for themselves). 
  • We are so thankful for His work in and around us that we work to ensure that others have the opportunity to experience Him, as well. 

Thankfulness is highly visible.  A thankful heart permeates our words and actions and causes others to look at us and wonder exactly what it is that makes us respond in such a way. 

Going the Distance: 

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 was the last "wave" during story time.  I've always focused on the fact that the priest and Levite ignored the injured man on the side of the road and this Samaritan man who was the last one you'd think would help him, was the very one to come to his aide.  I'll tell you what hit me when I read it this time: The Samaritan man could've left him some money.  He could've left him some bandages....all wonderful things to do.  But, in the condition the man was in, he wouldn't have been able to apply them in a way that would really be beneficial in his current predicament. The priest and the Levite could've done that just as easily. 

Often times, we want to help a little....give a little food or money and maybe a tad of time..... to help someone out and that is great.....  Please don't misunderstand me on that.  But, what hit me is that sometimes, people need us to get involved....get dirty....and be terribly inconvenienced.  It's called "being in the trenches." Cooking a meal, offering advice or scripture references, lending money, etc., are all wonderful ways to serve others.  But, if you are in hard times and can't think straight, all the references, advice,  and money in the world are useless if no one is willing to take the time to see you through those times and help you apply those wonderful things to your situation when you can't see clearly enough to do it on your own.

The Samaritatended to the injured man's wounds with his own supplies, loaded him up and walked beside him as he found him a place to stay, stayed with him for a day, paid his way, and told the innkeeper to buy whatever he needed to care of him and he'd pay him back when he returned.  That's being in the trenches.  That's going the distance with someone.  I believe along the way that people come across our paths that God wants us to take notice of.  Sometimes to disciple and encourage them.  Other times, to get in the trenches with them and go the distance with them until they are restored.   We may have to help people tend to their wounds.  We may have to go way out of our way and use some of our own resources and sacrifice some time.  That's part of going the distance and that's what makes some Christians really stand out from the rest of the world.   

When you come out of the trenches, you have some dirt on you.  It's visible...others can see it and may be compelled to ask, "What made you do that?  I want to be more like"  

So, we have a choice.  We can choose to stay in the confines of where our self confidence/self reliance will take us.   OR, we can have confidence in God and go where HE wants to take us and live a life that not only looks different but exudes light in dark places...leading people to ask those questions.  The early Christians, after some tough lessons, fully understood they were nothing apart from Christ and it permeated every thought, word, and action.  Boy, did they look different from the rest of the world.     
The theme for the upcoming new year in the moms group I attend (Mops) is ... "Be You Bravely" with the focal passage of Isaiah 43:18-19: 

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"  

I can say, yes...I perceive it...though, I dare to even speculate on what "it" is.  But, bring it!!  I want it.   I just pray I can keep my eyes focused on Jesus...that WE can keep our eyes focused on Him.... so we don't miss it....and so others around us don't miss seeing Him.  I hope I've seriously learned a lesson here about recognizing and being on the lookout for a wave of the Spirit at work.  That and.... no more 4 layer birthday cake for breakfast!! blugghhhh!   

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