Monday, August 13, 2012

Confession #19 - Clean up this mess!

One night while tucking my daughter into bed, I reminded her that tomorrow morning she must clean up her room and put all her toys away.  She asked me if I would clean it up for her.  I said yes but only if she helps.  Then she sweetly replied, "Mommy, I'm going to pray to God to put them away for me so when I wake up the mess will be clean."  I giggled and thought how cute and said, "Well, I'm sorry honey, but God doesn't clean up our messes."  Funny thing, as soon as I verbalized that statement clarity came rushing into my mind. 

You see, it wasn't too long before that night that I would spend my prayer sessions begging God to heal me.  I have a laundry list of health nuisances and issues that I frankly can just do without.  From obesity to diabetes to back problems I would pray for God to heal me.  I reasoned that if God could heal the woman from the story in Mark 5, because of her faith, than He could heal me as well.  The story goes:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:24-34

I have the faith that this woman displayed.  All I needed was an opportunity to catch a piece of His rope in my hand.  So I would ask God to figuratively send down the edge of Jesus' robe.  And then I would claim the healing on my life and expect that by morning all my aliments would be gone.  Now let me also say that by nature I do not buy these so-called "name-it-n-claim-it" philosophies.  But I do believe with all my heart that my Lord is completely able to heal me and as a matter of fact I believe He is also willing to heal me.  With that being said, I hope you're not anxiously holding your breath for a miraculous story because as of yet, I'm still suffering from the same issues.  However I've learned a very important lesson from the process. 

I've learned that God doesn't clean up our messes just because we ask in faith.  Frankly, I am the person to blame for the messes I've made in my life that have lent to some or even most of my so-called aliments.  I can't just expect God to clean that up if I'm not willing to do some work.  Remember the story in John 5 about the invalid who lied on his mat for thirty-eight years at the pool of Bethesda waiting for the waters to be stirred up for healing only to have someone else beat him into the pool time and time again.  He complained to Jesus that he had no one to help him into the water.  Interesting that Jesus asks him a simple question, "Do you want to get well?"  John 5:6

Do I want to get well?  It's resonating in my ears as I type.  The bleeding woman who reached out for Jesus' robe, well she was at the end of her rope.  Having exhausted every human method to get well she could find, when finally, in faith, she reached out to God.  The invalid man, he lay there on his mat feeling sorry for himself waiting for this unknown person to do the work for him. 

I realized that I have been lying here on my "mat" waiting for God to carry me into the water instead of putting my faith into action and allowing God to do the rest.  Are you like me, still lying here on this "mat" praying to be taken into the water?  Well your faced with the same simple question, "Do you want to get well?"  It's a simple yes or no.  "Do you want to get well?"   "Do you want to get well?"   "YES?"  Then pick up your mat and walk (John 5:8)- put your faith into action and make it happen.  "NO?"  Then lie there waiting for someone to pick you up and throw you into the water.  

We can't lie around waiting for God to clean up our messes.  If our mess seems too big to clean up just remember as long as your doing your part, like I was willing to do for my daughter, God will help.  If not, you may be lying on that stinkin' mat for a long, long time....

"Dear Lord, please forgive me for lying around waiting for you to clean up my mess.  Let me get to the point where I can answer the question "Do you want to get well with a resounding Yes!"  Let me put my faith into action and pick up my mat.  And dear Father, help my sisters in Christ find the strength, courage and faith in action to pick up their mats along with me. In Jesus precious name I pray." AMEN!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Confession #18 - This is the stuff that drives me crazy

In July our air conditioning broke, living in South Florida there's no option, we had to repair it.  About a month ago the outside handle on the passenger door of my  car broke off.  Our fourteen year old dog has health issues are piling up along with the vet bills.  A few weeks ago my car suffered a blow out on the highway resulting in replacing the two rear tires, and the next day my husband ran over a curb making it necessary to replace the two front tires.  Three days ago the inside handle on the passenger door of my car broke off so now unless you're Bo or Luke Duke your not getting in or out of that side.  And on Thursday our air conditioner broke again!  That morning I found myself listening to Francesca Battistelli:

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I've gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
Might not be what I would choose
But this the stuff You use

The summertime is my least favorite time of the year.  In our industry work comes to a near standstill and life gets stressful.  No matter how much I seem to save by the end of the summer it's all gone.  Summer after summer we struggle to pay our bills.  And it never seems to fail that during the summer we somehow encounter expenses we never planned on.  This is the stuff that drive me crazy!   

When the recession hit and neighbor after neighbor was loosing their homes, and nothing promising was being broadcast on the the news, I found myself lying awake at night terrorized by the notion that we were next.  I would plead with God,  "Please don't let us loose our house, please Lord, please!"  But not matter how much I pleaded there was no peace.  Sleep became a thing of the past, because terror reigned.  I was certain that the risk of foreclosure was inevitable and that we would loose everything very soon.  Yet, well, here we are in the same home for 13 years now never having missed one payment, not one! 

I cannot explain why or how but one day I became so tired and weary I just decided to let it all go.  I said to God, "Look, if you choose to allow this house to be taken from me, than so be it!  It's just a "thing".  I don't love the house, I love you, and I trust you God no matter what, I trust you. May your will be done, not mine."  The next day I did the same and each day that I felt myself holding onto things instead of clinging to God, I would offer my "stuff" back to Him.  And you know what?  Each and every time I gave him control over my life & my stuff, my faith grew, and my God grew. 

His will was for me to trust Him.  He was using the risk of losing my stuff as an opportunity to gain and grow my faith and to show me just how blessed I really am.  He is always faithful.  As I said we have never missed one mortgage payment.  We have never had a car repossessed.  With some help we have been able to put food on our table because somehow God has always provided. 

Matt 6:23-34 tells us not to worry, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I wish I could tell you that we may never loose our home to foreclosure, but that may not be how things go.  However, I can tell you that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  If He chooses to continue to bless us with this home or choose to take it from us, I trust that, "(I) know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romas 8:28

So as one of the most expensive summers of my life comes to a close I can honestly say, "Thank you Lord for all the blessing you have bestowed upon my life and God I have faith, that you will continue to meet our needs." AMEN!

Whatever is driving you crazy, give it to God and let Him use it to build your faith and to show you just how much you are blessed!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Confession #17 - There's a little Chicken Inside

One of my good friends posted this on her facebook page a few days ago: 

Since after church on Sunday, our daughter has been asking if we or she has a chicken inside? We assumed it was a part of their lesson, but could not figure out where that come from. Well, my husband cracked the code today: They have been learning about the Holy Spirit in Children's Church and about God's Power. They were telling them to "not be a chicken" when standing up for what you believe in and telling other's about God's love. LOL! As my husband tried to explain what "being a chicken" meant, our daughter got it, she said, "Well, I don't have to be a chicken because I have the Power!" Love how literal kids take things.
This post hit me in the gut.  As cute as it may be, it served to remind me that sometimes I have a little chicken inside me too.  There are so many instances where I've failed to share the gospel with someone because I don't know how they will receive it.  And based on what God's word says, I know that He does not want me living with a little chicken inside:  Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."  and 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline,"

Then there are times when I've failed to speak up about an issue that is against God's word.  Not that I don't oppose sin, but that little chicken perked up and intimidated me into believing that I may be offending others.  You see, I was raised in the wake of the political correctness movement and grew up believing that we ought not to offend others.  However, as a Christian I've come to discover that God does not necessarily support political correctness.  Jesus himself tells us in Luke 12:51-53: "Do you think that I came  to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son, and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." 

When we accept Christ as our savior the Holy Spirit indwells us.  That means that the very spirit of God lives inside us.  One of the gifts the Holy Spirit brings is the spirit of boldness.   It is our responsibility to tell the truth even to the point of death.  It reminds me of the fearless men, women, and children who have died at the hands of persecutors for the sake of Christ over and over again.  Remember Rachel Scott?  Rachel Joy Scott, a devout Christian, was the first to be shot in Columbine High School shootings. Reportedly she was eating lunch on the lawn outside the school when she was approached by the killers and asked if she believed in God. Knowing full well that the end result would be death, she said yes.

Frankly we don't have any room for that little chicken.  When hurting people cross our path, we need to stand on the boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit and send that little chicken packing.  People are hurting and they need a real savior. And when I turn my back on my beliefs I am turning my back on God.

If you're still afraid that the truth may cause division in your life, just remember, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31Never be afraid of speaking in truth.  That is, truth in love, mixed with grace and mercyAfter all, Jesus suffered and died to give us life let's not exchange His act of pure love for an act of cowardice.

"Dear Lord, please forgive me for the times I have failed to share the good news with hurting people, and please forgive me when I have failed to stand for truth in the wake of this fallen world.  Continue to build a spirit of boldness in me and send my fears packing.  And Dear Lord for my sisters in Christ, who also live with a little chicken, I pray that you would give them the courage to stand for you and your word.  In Jesus' precious name I pray." AMEN!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Confession #16 - Lord, I didn't realize I was supposed to bring a gift!

A while ago I had a dream.  I fell from the earth into a large open roofed warehouse.  Landing on my two feet I noticed that I was standing on a gravel path that extended around the perimeter of this immense space.  There were all these people running on the gravel path passing God who greeted them at the end/beginning of each lap.  In my dream God looked like James Marsden, don't ask me why cause I don't know, but that's not important.  Anyway, every runner was giving God these beautifully wrapped gifts.  He would graciously accept the present and give each runner a hug before they would continue on the in their race.  Seeing this, I approached the Lord feeling guilty because I had no gift for Him.  Apologetically, I said, "Lord forgive me but I didn't realize that I was supposed to bring you a gift."  God smiled and took my hands.  He lovingly said, "Joanne, you don't understand.  I don't expect these gifts, nor do I want them, you are my gift.  All I want is to spend time with you."  God hugged me and began to run alongside me on the gravel path.  He didn't run with the other gift giving folks, just me.

When I woke I pondered my dream.  Soon it became clear that this dream symbolized what my relationship with the Lord was like.  I thought about the gifts and questioned, had I been so busy running around trying to please God and wrapping my "works" in beautiful packages with pretty bows?  Was I forgetting to just "be" with Him?  It was as if I were saying, "Here you go, I served at church today."  "This one's for you Lord, I gave to the homeless."  "And Lord here's the biggest of them all, I am now teaching a bible study, woo!"  But God doesn't want my pretty gifts, He wants me.  He wants to spend time with me so I can get to know Him.  And He wants to be invited to run the race of life with me.

For a long time I've struggled with personal quiet time and I can tell you that nothing substitutes for it.  Not reading a Christian book or doing your weekly bible study lesson, or listening to a televangelists broadcast or going to church on Sunday.  Nothing can substitute for the time you spend alone with God.  Nothing can change you like a personal intimate relationship with our Creator.

Have you been missing out on your relationship with the Lord?  Have you forgotten to take time every day to just sit and talk with Him?  Are you running around serving, giving, and doing "Christian" things mistakenly thinking that your gifts are what God really wants from you? Are you too busy acting Christian or really being a Christian? 

Let's slow down our race and start walking with the Lord.  He doesn't want our pretty packages of "works", He just wants to spend time with us every day and He promises to run the race of life with us.

"...ask where the good way is, walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jerm 6:16

"Dear Heavenly Father, draw me each day to spend time with you.  Let me never forget that my works are just empty packages and what you really want is to be with me.  And dear Lord, for my sisters that struggle in this area teach them to slow down and walk with you ask well."  AMEN!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Confession #15 - I'm NEVER at rest!

Currently we are vacationing at my in-laws log cabin in the woods.  Being in a quiet place with a beautiful view is very relaxing, yet my heart is never at rest.  All I'm thinking about is the laundry I have left to do, how much is piling up at work, how my ailing dogs are getting along without us, and OMG I haven't blogged !  I didn't sleep well during the night which caused me to oversleep this  morning so I didn't rise-n-shine till 10 am.  That's just not like me.  Then I went on a nice long guilt trip.   Do you do this?  Torture yourself for just relaxing?  Isn't it okay to just relax?   As women when we are on vacation so many of us are not actually vacationing.  The world doesn't revolve around me so why is it that when I'm away I think nothing can possibly function?  I know I can't control the universe and yet there is this little part of me that is convinced that I secretly can. 

God rested.  He spent six busy days creating the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested.  God knows how important it is to rest.  You know that saying, "A woman's work is never done."  Well God's work is never done, and still he found time to rest. So what we're actually saying to God is, "I don't trust you."  He tells us in his word, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matt 11:28-30

He's got this whatever "this" may be, he's got it.  Give it to Him and go rest your soul.

"Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me that you've got this, that I can trust you no matter what.  Let me find some rest for the remainder of my vacation, and may it bring glory to you.  And Abba Father, give my dear sister the rest they so deserve."  AMEN!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confession #14 - Paper or Plastic? I'm NEITHER!

Paper or plastic?  It wasn't too long ago that cashiers were asking us that question.  Latley I've been thinking that the question shouldn't be paper or plastic it should be plastic or glass? 

There are thousands of things made out of plastic, toys, containers, parts, utensils, etc.  Plastic is a synthetic material, made from oil.  Plastic is inexpensive, strong, and durable.  It's basically made to take a lickin' n keep on tickin'.  Plastic products are fairly easily made - the chemical compound is poured into a mold and then it hardens.  When you drop plastic it generally bounces right back.

So what's my point?  Why the lesson in plastic?  Because lately I've seen a lot of plastic; plastic smiles, plastic emotions, plastic posts about how great life is when you know for a fact that it isn't.  I've seen it used and abused over and over again by people who wish to pretend that they aren't feeling that pain, they aren't having any problems, they have a "perfect" life.  I've struggled with plastic too.  In earlier blogs, I've admitted to being a people pleaser.  I've attempted to live like my heart was made out of indestructible plastic.  But God has been working on me about how living with a plastic heart is not helping anyone, least of all, myself. 

My blog is a series of "confessions" because I wish to purge the plastic out of my proverbial closet and get real so my fellow sisters in Christ can also find healing.  But if your not ready to do some housecleaning and purge the plastic out of your closet your seriously missing out on discovering real truth my friend.  That smile and the answer to how are you is as synthetic as your favorite Tupperware.  And contrary to what the media would have us believe God did not create us to be plastic Barbie dolls.

Look, I realize this getting real thing is really hard.  I know that some of you think you have a reputation to uphold.  Perhaps others look up to you and transparency can be risky.  We are terrified of appearing vulunerable or weak.  However, God's word says, "...truth will set you free.” John 8:32

I tend to think that God intended our hearts to be more like glass than plastic.  Glass is difficult to form,  it takes a refining heat and breath to shape and mold it into a workable piece.  Glass is transparent, we can't hide things inside it.  When light shines on glass a certain way it can refract into beautiful and colorful prisms.  Glass is heavy and can carry a strong burden but when it hits rock bottom it breaks easily into a million pieces.  

You see God wants us to be somewhat transparent, he wants our heart's facets to refract His light, and he wants us to be breakable so that only He can put us back together again.  God has breathed life into our hearts and allows us to go through the refiners fire to mold us into the women he wants us to be.  Plastic cannot stand up to the heat and eventually it's going to burn up and disintegrate into nothing. 

Mark 9:49-50
"Every one's going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you'll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames."

So what's it gonna be ladies?  Glass or plastic? 

"Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the desire to live a transparent life.  Thank you for breathing life into this delicate glass heart and refining me into the woman you want me to be.  When I'm tempted to substitute the truth for plastic remind me how I'm at risk for disintegrating.  Let your light refract through me so that the facets of your beauty will shine, and when I am broken, glue me back together again.  And for my precious sisters out there that are struggling between plastic and glass show them how to find the material you desire for them."  AMEN!