Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shew fly!

Most days I enjoy a quiet and uneventful ride to work. The view begins to get better and better this time of year, as I venture down Candler's Mountain and watch the foliage be touched by fall's colorful changes. It is these quiet moments where I talk openly to God about my day. I love these intimate talks. I love that I can chat with Him like He's sitting in the passenger seat with me (after all, He is, isn't He?!). Some days I sing a song of praise to Him and some days I drive in silence trying to focus my mind for the upcoming day.

On this particular day I wasn't in a hurry and had a full 10 minutes of "extra" time. I was feeling good and ready to face the day and so my prayer time began...

"Thank you, Lord, for another day. Your blessings to me are beyond what I deserve. I am so grateful to You for..." BUZZ

Huh? I was in the middle of my thanksgiving to God when I was rudely interrupted.

BUZZZZZZ ... Ssssss... Hssssss.....Bzzzzzzzzz

My heartfelt prayer came to a crashing halt because of the fly now swarming my head. Surely my new Bath & Body Works scent must have been a favorite because the insect continued to land on my lotioned arms.

Swat! Swap! Shew! Shoooooo!

If you could have seen the sight - one arm frantically swatting at the fly, the other arm trying to maintain control of the wheel and the car. Eyes on the road, eyes on the fly, eyes on the road, eyes on the - where'd it go?! I hear it but I can't see...SWOOP! Ahh...I missed again!

It must have realized the imminent danger it faced, having so rudely intruded on my private conversation with the Lord. So it quickly flew out of reach and remained at the windshield. I could see the struggle ensue - swarming, flying, frantic - over and over flying into the glass, pounding its body against the see-through pane. No longer annoyed, I felt sorry for the little guy and decided to roll down my driver-side window - enough for the fly to have plenty of room to escape but not too much that it would ruin my freshly washed and styled hair (I simply wasn't going to let it ruin THAT too)!

Over and over it flew into the windshield. I started to talk to it, much like I talk to God, only it wasn't listening or understanding, "The window is open over here! Fly away. Be free..." No luck. I reached to swoop it toward the escape route but it was too far inside the dash and my arm wasn't long enough.

You know where this is going. Me in my feeble attempts to get to the "freedom" on the other side of the glass - I can see it, feel it, nearly taste it, but I just MISS the ROUTE in which I should take. I remain trapped - a prison by my own idiotic and futile defeat. I refuse to look around or see the help that's there. I say a quick prayer and, like the dumb fly, I repeat my blunder over and over - pounding myself into the "wall" of my circumstance only to end up with the same result.

My prayer ended differently today. Thank you, Lord, for the fly who taught me a lesson!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Jesus' Name

There is a name I love to hear
I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ears
The sweetest name on earth
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me!

It's a sweet sweet song and tonight my heart sings it. Even sweeter is His name, and tonight my heart rejoices in who He is.

El Elyon - The Lord Most High
Elohim - Eternal Creator
El Shaddhai - All Sufficient God
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner
Jehovah Jireh - The Lord My Provider
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord My Healer
Jehovah Saboath - The Lord of Hosts
El Olam - Everlasting God
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord My Peace
Jehovah Tsidkenu - The Lord My Righteousness
Jehovah Mekaddishkem - The Lord My Sanctifier

Who is He? He is I AM. Literally translated "Ha'shem" - The Name. The name above every name. The name which causes every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. It's more than the name we call - Jesus, Emmanuel, Ha'shem - it is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Almighty God we call upon. We call upon His name - we seek Him and find Him.

The Name. Lord of Hosts and Creator of all things - even fallen flesh like me. Lord of Peace in the midst of my storm. My Righteousness and Sanctifier to cleanse my filthiness. Everlasting God when my days are numbered. Lord Most High even when I'm at my lowest. My Banner and Protector no matter what enemy seeks to destroy me. My Healer and Provider despite my brokenness and frailty. The first, the last, beginning and end. But most of all He is my God and my Savior. The God who is, who was and who will always be. Whatever I need Him, whenever I call upon Him.

Who is He to you?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rend Your Heart

"Even now," declares the Lord, "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:12-13

I've loved the Jimmy Needham song reflecting this passage, but I just now read it and fully received it. Rend. It's not a common word. At least not one I use everyday. So you know me - definition, please. 

Rend
1. to separate into parts with force or violence.
2. to tear apart, split, or divide.
3. to pull or tear violently (often followed by away, off, up,  etc.).
4. to tear (one's garments or hair) in grief, rage, etc.
The definitions could seem a little confusing, considering the verse is asking for hearts to be rent, or torn. He's asking them to pull or tear violently away from what causes them to stray. (The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jer. 17:9) He's saying their "normal" way of life - the destruction and devastation seen in the previous chapter as a result of their sin -  should be torn away. 

In essence he's saying "Tear your hearts, not your clothes." In sorrow, in remorse, in repentance, return to the Lord. Why? Because He's gracious and will have mercy. He hasn't withheld every bad thing but His abounding love can be what He brings instead to the broken heart willing to repent and receive forgiveness. 

We know this from Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

From David's Psalm of repentance we see that God doesn't deny a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17).


Once again, I'm forced to find the definition. What does having a broken and contrite heart mean?
Contrite - caused by or showing sincere remorse, filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement.
Did you catch that? Showing sincere remorse; a desire for atonement or reconciliation. 

So let's put the pieces together.

Rend your heart. Tear away from what binds you, ails you, hinders you, prevents you, blocks you, causes you to stumble, defeats you. This isn't just a gradual tear. This is not when you're sitting in church trying to quietly and discreetly remove the info card from it's attached and perforated edges. With steady and slow movements, you detach one little bit at a time so as not to disturb the pristine service or anyone around you. No. That's not the call to action here. This causes a ripping so intense, so violent, so life-shattering that it will leave you raw, hurting, even bleeding. The force will be so brutal it will surely leave a scar, but immediately it will cause you to do nothing but fall prostrate from the sheer pain wrenching your now bleeding heart. 

And just as you're left bleeding and nearly lifeless, you sense it. You know. The Lord is close to your broken heart. He's rescuing you. Saving you. Reviving you. Picking up the pieces and holding them in His nail-scarred hands. 

It is in this broken and contrite state where you desire healing and restoration. And so in His abounding love, He shows grace and compassion. He provides the pressure to stop the bleeding. The painful removal was necessary for growth and healing, but He will not let you bleed to death.

As Needham sings words coming from my Savior, "I don't need a grand display. Show me that your heart has changed. I don't need a show. Only just to know your own heart breaks." Oh, it breaks. It bleeds. But I rend my heart and I come.
 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes my words aren't sufficient. So here are words from Oswald over the last few days. Be encouraged. 

It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand.

If all you see is a shadow on the face of the Father right now, hang on to the fact that He will ultimately give you clear understanding, and will fully justify Himself in everything that He has allowed into your life.

Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy SPirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion.

Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.

God never forces a person's wil into surrender, and He never begs. He patiently waits until that person willingly yields to Him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Free

"...and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all." Luke 13:11

Bent over. Broken down. Heavy laden with a burden. No, it hasn't been 18 years, but there are days when it's felt like that. How long have I wandered through life crippled? How long have I been oppressed by this burden? How long have I allowed this to keep me from "straightening up"?

There are all kinds of things one would inevitably miss if walking bent over. Hunched down, eyes toward the ground, not up. The amazing sky at sunrise or sunset. The tall trees stretching toward the heavens. The birds soaring through the air. Not to mention just missing the faces of the people who are all around.

Being weighed down to the point of being crippled. But of course! Being so burdened, so heavy laden, so overloaded - you can't move underneath it all. Being crippled by fear. Crippled by broken dreams. Crippled by fleeting hope. Paralyzed and unable to move.

But alas. The woman meets Jesus.

"When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God." Luke 13:12-13

He saw her, He had compassion on her, and He set her free! Free of her ailment. Free of her burden.  Free of her crippling weight. He reached out to her. He touched her. And it happened. Not because she had earned it, or deserved it. Not because she had even asked for it. But because He saw her need and He freely gave.

And in that moment she straightened up - loosed from her weight, cured of her ailment, healed of her disease, free. Free from all the weight she bore - for 18 long and I'm sure insufferable years - so that she might straighten up and see. See what's around her. See the beauty of His hands. See His love and grace. See His miracle at work in her life. And see HIM...and she PRAISED GOD!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Working on Labor Day

It's Labor Day and I'm at work. The school doesn't shut down so we can choose to take the holiday the Friday before, today, or bank it for later but today I've denied myself a day of rest. It's the 9th month of the year and I have 11.5 personal days left to use in the next 3 months. I'm so stingy with my "days off." I'm always afraid I will need them later or something will come up so I want to save them for a "rainy day". 

Today in a blog from Steven Furtick, he cites Leviticus 16:31:
It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.
What am I denying myself? Well, today I'm denying myself the opportunity to be curled up on the couch with a blanket and my kindle, maybe an afternoon nap, and a lazy day to myself. Wait a second. Back up. Let's be honest - I have a 3 year boy. There's no such thing as a "lazy day to myself." And while I love the thought of a good book, the truth is I have about a dozen of partially read books all started or browsed through with good intentions but no follow through. It's not that I don't have the ability to read a book in its entirety. But when those big brown eyes are looking longingly at me with the plea of "Mommy, you wanna come outside?" I just simply can't deny him. So yes, this is me denying myself.

Furtick gives another thought about the illusion that I have to work to keep the world working. In my "world" of the Career Center, I have tricked myself into believing this to be true. The reality is if I'm not here, not working, students will still get resume assistance, career counseling, internships registered and professional development training. In all actuality, my work isn't in vain but it certainly isn't because of me. Am I appreciated? Sure. After all, my job doesn't change lives, I do (affirmed by the "You Matter" campaign adopted by the University).

So if I take that to heart, if I change lives, then it is a part from my job, a part from my ministry, a part from my talents, a part from my skills, a part from my words...simply said, a part from anything I "do" but who I "am." Or rather, Whose I am.

So once again the idea of denying myself comes into play if I am truly His. If I want to follow Him, I must deny myself and take up my cross (Luke 9:23). What am I denying? My hopes, my dreams, my plans, my will, my efforts, my thoughts, my failures, my successes. Now before you think that sounds depressing, stay with me. Denying all of these things that I hold onto will allow me to make room for His plans for my life, His purpose for those around me, His strength perfected in my weakness, His righteousness replacing my filthy rags, His will being done. Taking up my cross may be the load I bear, the thorn in my side, the burden I've received, the trial I face, the temptation seeking to entice me, the persecution I endure, or the failures I've experienced.

So I'm at work today, denying myself a day off, saving it for another "rainy day" but learning a lesson in the process. I want to be in the position to deny myself of what I want and take up what He wants and follow Him. I'm thankful for a Labor Day at work.