Monday, June 25, 2012

Standing in the Gap

      A really amazing man of God once said, "The gap between asking & receiving is the place where faith lives."  Have you thought about that lately? We ask things of God all the time. We want, we need, we plead, we beg, we bargain... But what do we do when we're in the gap between the asking and the answer?
      Most of the time, I find myself whining, complaining, and whimpering. I don't like waiting or spending my precious time in the waiting room, and I don't like the uncertainty of not knowing how He will answer. I certainly don't want Him to answer in a way that I don't expect or with an answer that I don't want. I want what I want when I want it (now) and the way that I want it (my way) ! 
      It reminds me of a part I love in "The Shack" where the main character is seated at the judge's podium and God is brought in front of him. He stammers that he has no right or ability to judge God, and the Holy Spirit says, "Well, while that is very true, you must believe that you can because you do it constantly."  Ouch! How incredible that my actions and thoughts portray my confidence that I am able to judge the God of the universe! "Well, (I tell myself) I'm not really judging Him, I'm just telling Him what I want!" 
      Really? Let's just look at this through a different perspective. When we demand our own way, we are saying that we know better than He does what we need. When we whine and complain, we're expressing our dissatisfaction in the way He is meeting our needs or wants. When we doubt, we're rejecting His promises to always care for us and do what is best according to His plan for us. When we shake our fists at heaven in our anger and frustration, we're telling our Father that He is not satisfying us in the way or timing that we want! We are judging God, no doubt about it.
      So how should we be reacting instead? If faith lives between the asking and the answer, then the challenge is to strengthen our faith. The ways we do that are so simple and yet so powerful:
*  We pray about our needs, thanking God for His answers in advance. 
*  We read His promises in the Word and find ones that apply to our situation so we can claim them and reassure ourselves of God's ultimate love for us and His desire for our good. 
*  We hang on to those promises so that when the enemy rushes in to discourage us or cast doubt upon God's faithfulness we can defeat him with Biblical truth. 
*  We surround ourselves with those who will stand with us, especially those who have fought the same battle and have been victorious. They are faith-builders for us and invaluable encouragers!
*  We listen to Christian music, which will help us focus on God and remove worldly influences from our thinking.
*  We only act as He leads us, not in manipulation or with secular methods, but according to the Word and the Spirit's prompting!
*  And having done those thing, We Rest - in His love, His promises, His timing, & His ways. 
      If we do these things, we will be building our faith and as the answers come we will be able to see God's hand at work. We will also find that the next time we are in the gap it will be a little easier! Not only will our waiting room be more comfortable, we may just be the one God uses to help someone else in theirs!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Daddy & me

      June 18th was my Dad's birthday. Although he has been gone for 17 years, I will always feel a certain loss, a hole in my heart, that will never be filled by anything or anyone else. As I was reflecting on days past, my heart overflowed with sweet memories.  I thought of the many times we walked along the pathway at Heisler Park, just talking and enjoying the sun, or  when we were sitting out by the pool in the backyard. I loved having him at our sons' football games, or going with him to Dodger games. I loved how he took me on my first official "date" and treated me like the most special "grownup" lady in the world, (I was 13 at the time) telling me that any guy that didn't treat me that way was not worth my time! I enjoyed our evening chats when I was home from college & I remember the tears he tried to hide at my graduation, just like the ones he brushed away when he saw his first grandson for the first time! Special times, special memories...I miss those times a lot and although I know he's happier now in a "better place", I would love to be able to be with him again. But it wasn't events, times, or places that made our bond so special - it was our relationship.
      What I miss the most about him is the person he was on the inside. While he had a "John Wayne" exterior, Dad was really a softie. He never took for granted that his life had been blessed & that made him compassionate and caring towards others. He was gentle in ways that were often overlooked, but not unnoticed by those closest to him. He didn't always look at the practical side of things and rarely made a decision based solely on facts. He was a heart person. 
      Because he was loyal, he was my "safety net" and I never feared anything that life could throw at me because I knew he would always come to my defense or my aid. The security found in that kind of loyalty is unmatched by any amount of "things" or finances. It's a blanket that wraps around you in the most horrific circumstances that shelters your heart and tells you it will be okay.
      Because he was always on my side, I knew he would always listen and respond with my best interests at heart. He was disappointed in my choices at times, but never in Me. He always stood with me and I never felt judged or condemned. It was very freeing to be able to be real and even vulnerable. We could talk about anything and everything, the heavy or the trivial, and sometimes hours would pass as minutes. He was very well educated but never made others feel inferior.  . 
      Most of all, I always felt loved. Dad would have quickly, without a thought, given his life up for me and I knew it. He would have willingly sacrificed himself if it would have been needed for my protection or care. He wouldn't have hesitated. And that love was not conditional either. He didn't love me because he had to, or because of my choices, or because...He just loved me. I knew there was never anything that would change that love or alter it. Nothing I did or didn't do would break our bond because it wasn't built on feelings, but relationship.
      As I have ministered to young women through the years, I find many who have never known this kind of love from a father. Because of their past, they are hesitant to believe in God as a father. Experience tells them that God must be harsh, demanding, judgmental, critical, and abusive. They have to be shown that there are other "dads" who are not like theirs...that God is the ultimate good Father who loves unconditionally, always desires their best, and will always be there. He is on their side and even sacrificed His own son on their behalf. They must come to see that it's about relationship and not feelings. What they do or don't do has consequences, but His love for them does not change...not ever!  
      With each opportunity I have to share about my Father God in this way, I am thankful again that Dad was who he was and that God gave me such a gift. It is a priceless one that will always shape and mold who I am, what I do, and what I believe. So even though he is no longer physically here with me, he continues to impart into my life...and for that I am eternally blessed!!  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In Praise of Pruning!

We have an apartment house right outside our back door. I never noticed it until this morning while I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing but it's there. You see, we have this giant tree that has had some dead, diseased branches removed. Each place where a branch used to be is a hole that has now become a nesting place for little birds. They don't seem to mind the close quarters and happily fly in and out, feathering the nests and guarding them from "outsiders" that would try to intrude.
As I watched them, and listened to their beautiful sounds, I was reminded of the verses in Matthew 6 that tell us that although God cares for each of these little creatures He loves us so much more!  Through an unlikely procedure of removing dead branches, He has provided a safe and secure place for these bird to call home. How much more will He care for me!
How amazing our God is!
      And consider this - I'm sure when those branches were being pruned, the tree experienced a certain amount of shock but that soon gave way to additional health and wholeness for the tree! Sometimes we want to hold on to crippling and diseased things in our lives that do nothing but cause us pain and lead to eventual destruction. All the while, God wants to prune off that deadness so that we can become a more perfect home for other things that will enrich and renew us. He takes our sin and bad habits, if we let Him, and prunes them away so that His Spirit has a beautiful and clean place to dwell. He will replace our negative thoughts with His precious ones. He will bring new relationships to us that fill & complete us in ways the shallow, negative ones never could. He renews our minds, comforts our hearts, supplies our needs, & gives us great joy even in the midst of trying circumstances.
     I have known many Christians who started their journey with the Lord but refused to give up their old lifestyle and eventually their unsaved friends drew them back to their former ways. While God warns us that this is possible, it doesn't mean we have to abandon former relationships completely. It just means we have to cultivate positive ones & put boundaries on those that would influence us to go the wrong way. The same is true with activities, habits, or any other thing that causes us to stumble. God has so much more for us than the world has given us. We just have to be willing to let Him prune us, shape us, and make us new! It may hurt a little at the time, but the end result will be well worth the temporary discomfort!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Are you a Secret Millionaire?

     There's a tear-jerking show that runs every Sunday night called "Secret Millionaire" where people who have made it big pretend to be "ordinary" and volunteer in organizations that are helping other people in various ways. These wealthy people leave behind their money, jewelry, credit cards, and even cars, and live in the disguise of poverty, existing on food stamp rations and staying in less than adequate housing while they check out the worthiness of those who may be the recipients!
      The first thing I love is watching the reaction of these successful people as they walk in another man's shoes - it shocks them awake to have to look at a price tag, think about whether coffee is a splurge, ration their food, guy last night said it had been 12 years since he even saw a price tag, let alone thought about what he was spending. His comment was, "Two of us have to live on $71.00 for a week? How do people do this? I spend more than that on a nice business lunch!"
      After volunteering and learning about a couple of places, the millionaires return in their true identity and give big checks or franchise opportunities to these selfless folks who are blown away by their generosity. It's very touching and often both the givers and receivers are crying!
      As Christians, we are millionaires as well. We have been given great and precious promises, exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think. We are loved unconditionally with a limitless love that never fails. We are also forgiven so completely that nothing we have repented of is even remembered by God. We have a pre-planned & glorious life that starts now and continues eternally. We have abundant supply for all our needs, and are loved by God who wants to even fulfill our desires! We are watched over by a Father who never gets tired of us or becomes discouraged by our foolish or disobedient mistakes. We are guided by the Spirit who comforts us, intercedes for us, gives us direction, and imparts the good things of God to us. We are loved by Jesus who died for us while we were still antagonistic towards Him and who looks forward with joy to the day we will become His precious, spotless "bride".
      And yet, we live in a world of people who are sinking in sin, darkness, poverty & pain that wait for us to share our "millions" with them. God desires that we take off our blinders, look at our hurting surroundings, remember where we came from, and Share His Love. Better than the fading riches of this life, God's source of supply will affect change both for now and forever. Let's not be "secret" millionaires any longer...reveal who you are in Christ, Shine, & Share!! You will change a life for someone else and enrich your own at the same time!

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's not about me...

       Either due to depression or in the face of loss, I have been asked several times this week "Why am I still here?"  Although it may come across as just one more Christian platitude, the simple answer is that God still wants & needs you here. I know that just saying that sounds so incredibly simplistic and trite but at times I don't think we know the value of who we are in God's eyes and the amazing job He has given us to do.  So I hear you say, "I'm not doing anything for God and I don't have the energy, will, desire, do anything."  Believe me, there have been times in my life that I felt the same way - that life was just too hard, that no one really needed me anymore, that if I just got in my car and drove it would be better...disappearing sounded like an almost feasible option! Of course there would be people that would miss me, but they'd get over it soon enough and go on. In reality, it was a pit of the enemy's making and there were times I was ready to jump!
      But then God turned the mirror into a lens and said, "Hey, this isn't just about YOU! Take off those dark glasses and start looking through My Eyes!" (And let me look you straight in the eyes for just a minute and say, Maybe you are not looking at your life with God-vision either!) As I began to take my focus off myself and try to see what He meant, I saw that there are those around me that never call for my attention but watch my life just the same to see if God is real. There are those who examine my words and actions in order to find God in difficult times. There are others who seem so "together" that still need my seemingly inadequate words of comfort, hope, encouragement, or support. There are family members who count on my advice, my counsel and my consistent walk with God to be both a source of blessing and strength. There are those acquaintances that God has brought into my life as "divine appointments" that count on me to give them a "word in season" and those I've yet to meet that will be showing up sooner or later. And maybe most importantly are those whose lives are inseparably intertwined with mine that wouldn't miss me just for a season but would have a giant hole in their hearts, as I do for those I've lost. And even with the holes, God still doesn't expect me to live without purpose or give in to depression.
      It's hard sometimes to see beyond our own viewpoint...especially when our finite minds have repeated the question over and over & the answers, even when given, still don't seem to satisfy our hearts. That's when we have to put our faith back in the One with the plan, the One who holds each of our days in His hands, the One who calls us to see again that each day is a gift of opportunity to bless, to love, to be loved, & to share His love. It's time to go forward into tomorrow, even if I have to offer each day as a Sacrifice to Him, and when I have done all He's asked me to do and lived to the full measure of my days, I am confident that He will come and get me. Then I will be able to see each day from His vantage point, thankful that I accomplished His will along the way...and hopefully He will say "Well done, good and faithful have done all that I asked. Now you can enter your rest." Until that time, however, it's really not about me,... and in case you're wondering, it's not about you either!!!  I love you!