Monday, June 24, 2013

...and yet another vulnerable moment

It takes me a while to work through the stuff in my life that is particularly messy.  Even longer, then, to write about it.  However, if those of you faithful enough to read this blog can benefit from my processing, and my vulnerability, then WAHOO!  It's worth it.

Here's the stuff of what last week's post was all about.  Let's review the passage that was key:
“This is my dearly loved child, whom I regard with strong affection, and in whom I take great pleasure!”  Words of God, the Father, to Jesus, as the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit rested upon him following Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17).

I frequently need reminders just like this one; reminders that I am loved and that the Lord is pleased with me as I am.  Just as I am.  You see, I struggle at times with wanting to be what someone else is.  I know I'm not alone; we all do this at one time or another to some degree.  But combine that particular "want to" with my personal insecurities and the "gremlin voices of shame," the "record of negativity," and the "wallpaper of lies" glued in my brain, really start to cripple me.  I go back to the never-quite-good-enough, or how-can-I-be-of-any-use programming that has plagued me since my salvation.  What a broken record! I truly wish I could smash the thing once and for all!

As I've spent the last few weeks preparing for a few upcoming women's retreats, pulling the puzzle pieces and the big ideas together, and while listening to other speakers, reading other books and blogs, off I go again.  That's when the Lord gave me Matthew 3:17.  He knew I needed to remember the message.  He knew I needed to reflect on agapetos = me!  So, there I sat, pondering and storing the truth of those words, all the while fearing that if I walked away from them I would quickly forget...and I did.

Another blog, another message, and there I sat condemning myself for how far I fall short of perfection.  Sigh.  You know the drill.  Example: there I am reading encouraging words that the Lord has placed on someone else's heart & I start to think how my blog may get 22 hits in a day compared to the thousands of this one or that; and, before I knew it, I was sinking in a heap of melted hopelessness.  :D

...until I went back to Matthew 3:17 and read again agapetos eudokeo.  "Beloved, I am pleased."  Once more I soaked in the words: Me in Him, beloved!  Me + Jesus - a delight.

...until I remembered I've been issued a calling.  It's a simple one.  It's not to masses, but to a Savior who has a message he wants anyone.

...until I listened to another message by a messenger speaking to other speakers.  His #1 point:  JUST BE YOU!!  Be confident that only you can "do" you.  No one can "do" you better!

...and then my little feathered friend of hope soared high and my Christ-identity started becoming reality once more.  

God cares, about the gremlin voices.  He does.  He wants to help me smash all the broken records that I keep allowing myself to listen to again and again.  Want to join me in a record breaking party?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dearly Loved Child

“This is my dearly loved child, whom I regard with strong affection, and in whom I take great pleasure!”  Words of God, the Father, to Jesus, as the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit rested upon him following Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17).

I really needed this reminder today.  God knew I needed it.  He ordained the timing and the words jumped off the page to light in my soul like a feathered sparrow of hope.  Maybe you need them today, as well.

Jesus in me.  I, in Jesus.
The Son in me.  I, in the Son.
The Father looks down upon me, and I am so hidden in Christ that all God the Father sees is the Son…

…and, YET, the Father knows me by name (Is 43:1), sees me as His child (no matter how hidden in Christ I am).  For to all who received the Son, he gave the right to be his children (John 1:12).

So, picture this –
            The heavens are opening,
            The Holy Spirit descending…on you!

Now, hear these words spoken over you:  This is my child, dear to me, greatly loved, and, in whom I delight.

I don’t know what these words do to you, but every once in a while, I need to hear again how loved I am by my Father.  Sometimes doubtful thoughts arise…and these warm and tender words stir and thrill my soul like no others. These words definitely make my heart flutter, and that little bird of hope soar in flight...

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and go…keep walking in that love (Ephesians 5:1-2a)!

Remember this word: Agapetos (English transliteration of the Greek “beloved.”)  
That is us!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pondering & Storing - Important Stuff

As I sit to put words on paper this morning, I already know what I’m writing about (sort of).  The theme will seem a bit out of place; it will appear to be too “Adventish” (If I can create a term) for this time of year – a little too much Christmas for June.  I reckon we can always use a little more preparation for the ushering in of Jesus into our lives on a regular basis.  I just happen to be reading through Matthew.  I’ve made it through Chapter 2 over the course of this week.  I stopped yesterday morning when this thought connected:  “Poor Mary!  Oy – all the moving!”  (I wonder why that crossed my mind? Duh!)

Of course I have moving on the brain still.  I’m just barely unpacked from our little move.  It has seemed a bit of a big deal, to me.  However, over the course of just a few years Mary made three major moves.  I wonder if it seemed a big deal to her? She didn’t own a truck and a trailer, so she had to learn to simplify (I know, possessions were much simpler in her day, but it still meant packing and sorting).  Every move for Mary had a purpose.  Every move meant God’s Son was protected and nurtured until God-the-Father’s timing was right for Jesus to be presented to the world…  I know she understood that, since an angel made it perfectly clear to Joseph in a dream.  Every move God's had us make has almost the same purpose...

Yet I wondered, because Scripture doesn’t tell us, how all the moving affected Mary.  Was she at all like me?  Even knowing God was in the process.  Even knowing God had a purpose greater than the place they called home.  Was it difficult for her to pull up roots?  Was it hard to say good-bye to friends?  Did the what-next-question occupy her mind? Did she wonder how she would fit into the next season, the new chapter, and the unknown of the next day?  Did she get anxious?  Fearful?  OR…was her response the one that seemed to roll so easily off her lips when the angel visited her prior to Jesus birth?  “I am the hand-maiden of the Lord.  Let it be as you have said (I skipped ahead to Luke 1:38).”  Did Mary always have a ready-to-serve, submissive heart?

Then it struck me.  Mary was a “ponderer” (another made up word); and, she was a hoarder-of-sorts (just not of material possessions, like me).  Mary carefully considered all the information before making a conclusion.  She reflected and weighed the circumstances, the options, the facts, and looked carefully for God in the middle of them.  She had a life-style pattern of taking mental snap-shots of life experiences, and seeing God’s hand all over the stories of her life.  I know this is true, because the word, ponder, is often used in connection with Mary.  Then, she saved the snapshots and all the accumulated knowledge of God locked up in the treasure vault of her heart for future faith-use.  (A side note: Great leaders are ponderers.  I know this because I just finished a book written by a credible leader, who listed the number one characteristic trait as the ability to think "gray." I think you can connect the dots.)  

Here’s what this reflection has revealed to me.  Because pondering-and-storing were a lifestyle habit for Mary; because she had a history of accumulating faith-building-experiences noting God’s presence, His faithfulness, His provision, then God’s requests were easily noted and responded to with ease.  

Pondering-and-storing.  Important stuff.  Faith is built on pondering-and-storing.  Humility, surrender, and obedience find their key in pondering-and-storing.  

Pondering-and storing will be written on the new pages of this next chapter called life, because I want Luke 1:38 to be me. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

39 Years With Who & What Next?

The last couple of entries, I’ve talked a lot about how a ten-year chapter of life has come to a distinct close. The thing about endings is this: every ending means a new beginning is just around the corner.  That’s a very positive and hopeful statement.

I can tell you this much, our new chapter began with a full week of unpacking, sorting, organizing, remodeling, storing, and filling nooks and crannies.  It began with an encouraging over-night visit from a former dorm son, now teaching university in Somalia.  It began with tying up a lot of loose ends (bills paid, checks written, horses retrieved from summer pasture, lawn mowed, sprinklers re-set, ministry newsletters in the mail).  It began with an anniversary – and, this is where I want to settle this morning.

I have loved this man of mine for almost 43 years.  For 39 of those years, we’ve been married.  I can’t imagine life without him.  I love him more today than yesterday…and I’m fairly certain (based on our track record) that I will love him more tomorrow than today.  Yet, marriage statistics in our country are not thriving.  All around us marriages are dissolving.  We haven’t had a perfect marriage, by any means, but the Lord, in his goodness, is “perfecting” the relationship we have.  What has been the key?  I was pondering that question as I opened up my Bible to begin a new Scripture-journey into the book of Matthew. 

If anyone had a relationship doomed to failure it would be Mary and Joseph (see Matthew chapter 1:18-25).  They had so many strikes against them: an engagement planned by their families, a pregnancy out of wedlock, an unbelievable story, a non-typical pregnancy, stress upon stress, rejection, a peculiar calling, forced travel in a Roman occupied land, no hospital in which to give birth, let alone a room to sleep in – and this was before the baby came.  Yet, one thing struck me as I read through that passage.  It came in the words of the angel who told Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’”  Those words stirred a new courage inside Joseph, a courage that lasted for the duration of his marriage to Mary.  They were words that rang reminiscent of similar ones to a man named Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).”   Who can be afraid with Immanuel?  What can creep in and tear apart when clinging to Immanuel?  Nothing is impossible with God!

As I glance back at 39 years, the one unchanging denomination has been God-With-Us.  We have lived in uncertainty, yet absolutely certain of the ONE who is ordaining every step.  In spite of the ups and downs of life, the stress, the difficulties, the travel to foreign lands, the calling on our life, we have trusted in the fact that God.Is.With.Us.  In this one Word, Immanuel, we have always, always been on the same page. Just as with Joseph, & Mary, it stirs courage within us to keep on keeping on.

So, this new season of life has started, just as we begin our 40th year of marriage.  I trust my man, because he trusts Immanuel.  Without trust, there can be no marriage.  Without trust, there would be no new chapter to write.  So, the story continues...