Friday, July 29, 2011

Just when you think things couldn't get worse...

Trust me, I know how it feels to have the vice of God clamped down upon your chest, all of the air gone out like a three day old helium balloon. It is painful, confusing, frustrating and tear filled. Right there with ya, right now as a matter of fact! I have looked around me for the glaring mistake and found none. I have wandered the halls of human solution and found no doors ajar. I have sunk to my knees in prayer, tearfully begging my Lord to show me the way, to relieve me my burden, to enlighten my mind and heart to His desire. I have had no answer... Yet.

I am not calm in this endeavor, at least not all the time. I have moments of peace but nothing lasting. Each time the panic hits me it seems to ratchet up a notch and I am left in a sobbing heap, frightened and exhausted. I don't pretend to know what God is doing, but I do know some very basic truths.

God loves me, has from the start and continues to do so even now. I don't have to feel good to know this. I stand on the truth that He has promised to neither leave nor forsake me. I cling desperately to Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This alone is my source of strength in this very confusing time. Of course I want a solution, I want to see the issues I am so desperately afraid of come to resolution in my favor. For whatever reason, God is slowing the pace down, stretching my faith, pruning my vine. I accept it, reluctantly.

I realize in my turmoil, my problems pale in comparison to others'. I watched a young woman on television who had been abducted and sexually assaulted at an extremely young age say a very profound thing. She said that if you carried your burdens in a sack to your circle of friends and sat and shared their contents openly with them, and they in turn shared theirs with you, by the end of the day you would be happy to retrieve your own bag and walk your own path, rather than anyone else's. Very wise council indeed. Anytime I think about how hard my life is, I try always to remember that someone else has it much harder than I do.

The last truth I am clinging to is hopeful, but proven time and time again. In the words of my Grandma, "This too shall pass..." (Yes, I know she wasn't the author, she's just the person I remember saying it to me over, and over, and over....) I know that tomorrow holds another challenge, time marches on and once this problem is resolved, I will have more issues to resolve, pray over and wait out with the Lord. When I am faced with those things, I hope I will remember to look back and relive the surety that God is still in control, He still loves me, my problems are for me, not against me and I can rest assured He is walking with me through the valleys as well as the mountain tops.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All You Need is Love...

We have all seen them. That elderly couple, tottering down the aisle way of the local market, holding hands like they were sixteen again. Maybe some of you even have that couple living in your family. A set of grandparents that appear seamless in their love for one another. You hardly ever know of an argument between them, they finish each other's sentences, anniversaries and birthdays don't go forgotten... And if you are like any other human being on this earth, you wonder how they do it.

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 22:37-39 NIV) This is again one of those concepts that is simple, not easy.

I believe that love is a complex concept, not often understood by many in this lonely, fallen world. As complex as it can be, however, I know one thing to be true. Love is not meant to be looked as an emotion, love is a choice, a verb, if you will. This contradicts everything we want to believe about love. We want it to FEEL good, to be easy, to be the one thing we don't have to work at or think about to much. Oh, how wrong we are!

Love as an emotion is so shallow and fickle! If I were to look at my marriage in light of love as an emotion, I should have been divorced long ago. Marriage is hard work! It isn't easy, it isn't convenient and it certainly isn't stable. What it is, frankly, is a choice we make every day to keep on doing it. Love your husband when he isn't lovable, choose to not leave him when he is ill, or unruly, or thoughtless...That is love. A choice.

If you want to make it even clearer, have children. It is then that the love-choice becomes more understandable. Our kids can often be the hardest and the most rewarding things we could ever hope to do in our lives. They are definitely not always lovable, especially when teenage angst enters the picture. Remember when they were tiny and they woke up every couple of hours to demand food from your exhausted self? Loving them then was a choice. As they grew into the willful toddler, pushing every boundary you set up as if it were their life's work to make you crazy, loving them was a choice. Even as they roll their eyes at you and maybe even scream the most hateful of things during those teens, you don't stop loving them. They are your children, you choose to love them through whatever they are going through.

Love isn't easy. Ask Christ how easy it was to hang on the cross and He will tell you He didn't do it because it was easy, He did it because he loves you. I think we all remember, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)" Do you also remember that Christ wept in the garden before he went to that cross, asking God that if there was any other way, let that burden be lifted from His shoulders? His choice is our salvation. His choice is our example. His choice was and still is to love us. We were not worthy of that love, we did nothing to deserve that kind of unconditional sacrifice. He chose to love us anyway. That my friends, is what love really is.

The next time you have a fight with someone near and dear to you, the next time you are tempted to say something you cannot take back, remember, love is not an emotion that we can fall into and out of like rolling in and out of bed. Love, true love, is a choice we make every waking moment of every day. It isn't easy, but then the good things rarely are. Love doesn't mean there won't be pain. There are times that the deeper the love, the more painful it can be. Christ simply urges us to choose love, over and over and over. It is His first and second greatest commandment to us. It isn't a suggestion, it's the rule.

Who will you choose to love today, no matter how much they don't deserve it, no matter how hurt you are? Christ is our example and He will show us how. Choose love!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Decisions, decisions...

The sun was scorchingly hot. He could feel the sweat bead on the nape of his neck and run slowly down his back between the crags of his slumped shoulder blades. It ran into his eyes and stung, mingling with the tears hiding in the midst of the perspiration.

He watched ahead as they hiked up the steep slope while his only son, born a few short years ago in his dotage, bounded up the hillside as only youth can. The boy played with the sticks he carried, beating at the sparse shrubbery as if warding off dangerous beasts and wily robbers. He grumbled low under his breath and played at parrying imaginary foes with the dagger he held. Any other day, the man would have smiled lovingly t the gameplay. Today was different. The boy had no idea.

As the two of them reached the pinnacle, he began harnessing the boy's energies to gather rocks to build a small altar. It seemed barbaric to the man that he would be asking his son to help him now, but there it was. The sweat flowed freely now, the morning giving way to the hot desert afternoon, as they stacked and balanced each piece until the altar was set.

"But, Father," the boy asked quietly, "Where is the sacrifice?"

Can you imagine the father's desperation and despair as he explained that God would provide a sacrifice all the while knowing the boy himself was to be killed on the altar? His heart had to have been breaking with the weight of the small boy's immediate shock as he was bound when the altar had been dressed for the burnt offering. No where in the scripture does it say that the boy resisted his father's will, so am I to assume that he simply crawled up there willingly, in absolute trust? The father didn't stall or argue with God, he simply kept at the task with an almost robotic methodology - this is how I am to sacrifice for my Lord.

The dagger is held up, glinting in the cruel desert sun, ready to plunge into the chest of this man's only, hard won son... And at that precise moment, when it was certain that the man was in full obedience, only then does God intervene.

"Stop! Do not lay a hand on the boy!"

What relief... What sweet relief that father must have felt at that moment! His obedience would be rewarded with so much, but the sweetest had to be gathering up his bewildered son in his arms and telling him how very much he loved him.

Decisions aren't always easy. Sometimes the decisions we are faced with, even when they are the right ones, directed by God, are very, very difficult. Some decisions even seem to contradict what we know to be true and right and definitely contrary to what we deem easy. Some decisions are made because they are the right thing to do, not the easy thing to do.

For whatever reason, we humans seem to think that once we become Christians we will not have hardship. We buy into the ill conceived idea that our decisions, if truly from God, will be made with ease and lightness of heart. We think that God wouldn't make us sad in our decisions for Him. How do we ever come to that conclusion?

Growth is painful. God is in the business of growing us. Ergo, some of the decisions God will ask us to make will be painful, heart rending, antithetical to all we thought would be asked of us. Sometimes God asks us to give up the one thing we feel is holding us together, when what God sees is that very thing holding us back. He cannot do the work in us He desires until we can truly be wholly His, without hesitation or questions. God wants all of us.

Making the decision to be obedient to the Lord will always be rewarded. It may not be an immediate relief or a certain welcoming response, but God rewards faithful and obedient hearts every time. Have faith that in your desire to be obedient to your Lord you will be rewarded with His ultimate praise when you make your decisions based on His truth and His will, not on your emotions. It is a very difficult thing to do, no doubt. Christ never said it would be easy, simply that we would never be alone in it. He will always be with us.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)