Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding God in The Diapers and Dishes

Routine swallows me up.  Before I get wise to it, I've lost an entire week to diapers and dishes and I'm wondering where the great adventure of Christianity is.

I'm ready for big things.  I want to reach thousands through a book or a speaking engagement or a study I've written.

I'm writing a book now that feels like it will never see completion.  A thousand words a week seem like they are just floating in the air without ownership by any hurting heart.  Will they die up there all alone?  Will they just float away if no one reads them soon?

I long to see God move.

But the thing is...He's moving and I don't even pay attention to it.  He could be tap dancing with flailing arms all over my living room and I wouldn't notice.  Because my spiritual eyes are shut and all I can sense is the cold dishwater in front of me.

God is here.  He is here in my mess, in your mess.  He doesn't just meet me in the madness.  He meets me in the mundane as well.

" be constantly aware of God's presence, it is necessary to form the habit of continually talking with Him throughout each day.  To think that we must abandon conversation with Him in order to deal with the world is incorrect.  Instead as we nourish our souls by seeing God in His exaltation, we will derive a great joy at being His."

-The Practice of the Presence of God by brother Lawrence

What a terrifying and beautiful thought.  

Brother Lawrence was a monastery cook who mastered the art of constant communion with the Lord.  Whether he was alone in his quiet room, or bustling around a loud and busy kitchen, his fellowship with the Lord was always the same.  Could you imagine?

It is terrifying for me to know that there is so much of God that I do not experience.  A healthy fear I imagine.

And yet, it is so beautiful to know that not only is it possible, but expected of me to never step out of my awareness of His pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  I crave this talent, this gift that brother Lawrence declares we should all strive for.

The laundry basket holds more than whites and colors.  It holds breath-taking blessing.  What a gift it is that we are fortunate enough to have clothes and clean running water to wash them with while so many suffer the cold and the pain from lack of covering.  If I cultivated a deeper sense of God's presence would I still openly complain about our laundry?

The grocery list holds more than 101 ways to make chicken.  We have no idea what a luxury it is to be able to walk through a supermarket and pick a box from an entire aisle lined with breakfast cereal while others intimately know the pain of a hunger that never ceases until death.  If I were constantly aware of God's hand in my life, would I grumble so loudly about having to drag my three kids through Wal-Mart?

Oh dear God.  The lack of you in my life is astounding.  It is humbling.  It is unacceptable.

Open my eyes sweet Jesus.  Show yourself to me in the routine, the mundane, in the mess.  Give me a greater sense of your presence in this home and in this life.  More of you, less of me.

Open my eyes so wide that I can do nothing but kneel in the magnitude of your grace and power.  More of you, less of me Lord.

Help me to find you in the diapers and dishes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

How To Worship in Truth

Kicking for something solid.  Longing for truth to not be relative.  Grasping for understanding.

In the thick of my hottest battle, I discovered what it meant to worship in truth.  This revelation has become one of my most valued intangible possessions.

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."
John 4:23

What the heck does that mean?

Let's unpack "Worship in the Spirit" first.  Worshipping in Spirit simply means to worship with all of your heart and emotion.  You give your love, your adoration, your excitement to Him.  It's why, in worship, some people choose to sing out loud, to raise their hands to heaven, or to kneel.  It's what moves us to tears.  This emotion that comes from the total awe and reverence for our God who loves in unbelievable ways, is worshipping in Spirit.

The more we see God for who is really is, the deeper it sinks in just who He is and how He is...the more spirited our worship will become.  When we realize how sovereign He is, we can't help but fall on our knees and praise Him.

The next bag to unpack is to "Worship in truth."  This is a principle that has broken a few chains for me personally.  To worship in truth means to worship God by living your life according to the truths found in the word of God.  What is the truth? The truth is...

You must be of great worth because you were bought with a very costly sacrifice.
"For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time." Hebrews10:10 (NLT)

No matter what your suffering or desperation is, there will be a time of comforting and healing over if you believe Him for it.
"He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds." Psalm 147:3

You are very well taken care of.  Things can get better.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11(NLT)

The truth is that I could write every day for the rest of my life on the truths of God's word and still not cover it.  The important thing to remember is that as we wade through life here on this earth, we lay every feeling, emotion, action, and word right next to what God tells us and we line it up.  

Do we really believe that we are of great worth?  Do we really hold on in tough times because we know that healing is coming?  Do we really believe that this life is worth living?

Worshipping in truth is bringing glory to God by living out His words, by living as though we actually believe what He says to us.

For me, although worshipping in Spirit is catalyzed from His truth, it is often difficult to trust what He says.  Is that the case for you?  If so, let's break that imbalance today.  Ask God to form your heart into one that trusts and believes His truths.  Ask Him to help you live that out on a daily basis!  He will give you the desires of your heart!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Exchanging Selfies for The Kingdom

I knew she was hurting.  I knew she carried the weight of the world, a little extra weight on her hips, and the weight of a growing child.  I knew she was lonely.  But most of all, I knew she was desperate to feel loved.

Her selfie screamed it.  Those eyes, that tongue, and that cleavage broke my heart.  I just wish she knew that she didn't have to put herself out there like that.  Love was already waiting for her.

I closed Facebook and breathed deeply.  I bet the Samaritan woman at the well would have taken a lot of selfies.

In this piece of scripture found in the gospel of John chapter four, Jesus takes a rest from an intense journey near a well in Samaria.  When a disgraced and shameful Samaritan woman approaches the well, she has no idea who she is about to encounter.  I can picture her face as she walks in the heat of the day.  Hot, dusty, and creased with the cares of the world.

You see, she's been married five times and the man she is with now is not her own.  As women, we can surely understand her plight.  We often look for love in all the wrong places too, don't we?  The bible doesn't tell us much more about her past, but I can only imagine what kind of heartache she has brought upon herself over the years.

Today, she would be that girl chasing the married man.  She would be the desperate (cheating) housewife.  She would probably fill social media with cries for attention.  Insecure.

Aren't we all?

Women are like a petrie dish for the cultivation of insecurity.  The sex, the selfies, the string's all a longing for love, isn't it?  An intense desire for someone to notice us, to pursue us, to want to know us intimately.  And if that's the case, then these cries for love are all a longing for God...because God is love.  

The craving for connection is a God-given gift.  It's a part of the beauty of a woman.  The need to be known.  Really known.

Tragedy strikes when our need to be known gets misplaced on men rather than our heavenly father.

You see, He lovingly and gently placed that craving in us.  He put it there.  But not for other faulty human beings to fill.  He instilled an emptiness inside us that can only be filled by Him.

He wants us to crave Him.  As badly as we want to really be known, He wants us to really know Him.  He wants us to seek Him, pursue Him, fall madly in love with Him.  We should never be able to get enough of Him.  Always craving more.

And He's big enough to continue to fill us, time and time again, like a never-ending gush of love and security and confidence in who we are as children of God.

Men have a wonderful place in our lives all to themselves, especially inside a marriage.  But when we take God's pleasure of being our all and all and grant it to another man, we are grieving His heart and ultimately setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Actually, it's not fair to them that we expect them to do that which only God can do for us.

Jesus tells the woman at the well about living water.  A refreshing love that is so satisfying that she will never be in want for it again.  A quench for her thirst.

Could it be true for us today?  Is there a love so big that it quenches the thirsty selfie? Could we find an ever-satisfying love in Jesus Christ that quiets our desperation once and for all?

I think the answer is an echoing yes.

So how do we step out of the shadow of a selfie culture and into the warmth of God's appreciation and pursuit of us? It starts with prayer.

A heart change is a change that can only be made by the Holy Spirit working in us.  It takes a commitment to prayer, asking God to mold your heart after Him.  Tell God about your sincerest desire to throw yourself at Him.  Confess your need for His deepest love and security to be felt in your life.

It moves on with scripture.  His word is filled to the brim with truths that will spur you on to live a life in which you are completely and totally satisfied in His attention, His love, and His safety.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Copy God's words down and post them on your bathroom mirror, hang them from your rear-view mirror, tape them to the back of your phone.  Read and re-read them, all the while asking God to let their healing power saturate who you are.

Finally, we can make a conscious effort to shift our focus off of ourselves and onto His Kingdom.  What a lovely difference it would be to see fewer pouty-faced selfies each week on Facebook and Instagram and more photos of us with our family and friends doing solid work for the Kingdom...loving on our kids, coffee with a mother who desperately needs a break, or a shout-out to our husbands for how hard they work.

Exchanging selfies for the Kingdom...let's do this!

Monday, September 8, 2014

An Unexpected Harvest

At the beginning of Summer, my family and I decided to grow sunflowers.

Okay, it sounds nice and supermom-ish when I say it that way, but the truth is I decided to grow sunflowers and I dragged my family into it.

It has been an experience I have fallen head over heels in love with.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 years ago, my grandmother planted a "Sunflower Playhouse" in her yard.  Mammoth sunflowers bloomed and towered over me as I walked a thin path of stepping stones to the bench in the middle.  It was a young granddaughter's dream.  I could sneak away and have a place of my own to hide out in.

I decided this year that my four year old had enough years under his belt to appreciate a sunflower playhouse.  We did the research, brought home the necessities, and set to work.  Here is what I learned:

You can't till up untouched earth with a plastic ninja turtle cultivator.  I mean, technically you can, but if it's a large area, at some point you're going to have to break bad and invest in adult gardening tools.  I had the callouses of a cheapskate to prove it.

It's called a cultivator.  For a while I just called it a "digger-thing."  I take my cues from the four year old.

Cultivation requires you to start on your knees.  I bent, I kneeled, I sat, and I squatted while digging up roots, planting seeds, and pulling weeds.  I had to be low.  I couldn't enjoy things that were twice my height until I first humbled myself and got my fingernails dirty.  When I find myself on my knees, I should ask myself, "What greatness am I being prepared for?"  Handling the loftiness of God's work requires humility. (1Peter 5:6)

I need not worry for my future.  These incredible little seeds were dropped into a dark, one-inch grave and emerged weeks later without my intervention.  They stood up tall and tender.  Through summer storms, high winds, scorching heat, and small hail, they persevered.  If the creator of the universe and all in it sees to it that these flowers grow just for our enjoyment, will he not establish my growth as well?  Will he not protect me when my life is dark and stormy and I feel hopeless? (Matthew 6:26)

There is beauty in the process, not just the finished product.  These plants captivated me through every stage.  I actually woke up each morning and peered out my bedroom window to see overnight progress.  I looked forward to going out each day, coffee in hand, and inspecting new sprouts, new blooms, and harvest-ready heads.  Too often, I forget that God admires me this way as well.  I get discouraged with my ugly shortcomings and all-out lacking.  I know that God is pleased with my progress and that he finds me beautiful at every stage. (Song of Soloman 4:7)

We harvested so much more than seeds from these giant flowers.

I had no idea that simple gardening would move my family and I in this way.  My son learned a little about hard work and not quitting.  My girls, although still so young, were in awe.  My husband, if anything, enjoyed not having to cut grass in that corner of the yard.  I reaped all kinds of harvests: head knowledge, heart knowledge, and a deeper love and appreciation for my cultivator (The almighty cultivator, not the digger-thing).

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I Didn't Know About My Husband Before We Got Married

My anniversary is this week.  Five years married to this crazy guy.  Unbelievable.  Through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful, I have to say that it has been the best five years of my life.  However, he failed to mention a few things about himself before we said, "I do."  In honor of our anniversary, here are a few things I didn't know about my husband before we got married.

I didn't know he is a baby-making machine.  We came home from our honeymoon with more than fond memories.  A few short weeks later, I was sick as a dog and we were preparing to shock friends and family with the news that we were already pregnant.

When that little nugget turned two years old, we intentionally aimed for baby #2 and were surprised yet again...with twins.  Two days after Christmas we found ourselves married for just a little over three years with three babies under the age of three.

Talk about whiplash.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I didn't know I wouldn't be in charge.  I had read plenty about the role of a Christian wife and what the bible teaches about submission.  I didn't think I was the sole woman on earth to be exempt from this guideline, but I did think that there must be some further explanation for it.  Because I'm smart.  I can find my own way.  I mean, God made me pretty great.

But the shocking truth is, it doesn't matter how smart I am.  My husband brings things to the table that I never will be able to.  God has gifted him with the wisdom and strength to lead a family.  I have discovered (thank God) that I don't have to do all and be all.  I have a partner with a strong and tender hand to guide us.

I didn't know he could do any wrong.  When I walked down the aisle to this man of mine, I thought he was pretty close to perfect.  And what wasn't perfect, was cute.  I didn't know he could cause heartbreak and pain....just like I could.  I thought he was superhuman.

What I learned was that we are in this boat together.  He can grieve the heart of God and man just like me.  And that's why we are afforded the highest form of Godly community - marriage.  To love on each other when we need it most.  To hold accountable, to encourage, to hold each other up when we feel like we just can't muster another ounce of strength.

Sweetheart, I want you to know that if I lost you tomorrow, and I never knew the honor and joy of marriage again, I would consider the last five years the privilege of my life.  I have grown in so many ways because of your impact.  After all we've been through, I can't imagine what the next five years holds!  And I can't wait to find out.  Love you so much.