Tag Archives: God

U2 on the Roof – God Cares about EVERYTHING

I had a really rough night last night. Really rough. I spent today feeling bruised and battered, like I had been run over by the emotional express train. In the evening, driving the kids around, I dialed up a string of U2 songs on YouTube and let ‘er rip in the car. Through the cracks in the conversation with my daughter, my mind kept grasping and pecking at the lyrics and riffs, trying to maneuver them into my soul and elevate my mood. But relief was eluding me. I kept thinking, Man, I really want to hear ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’.

I pulled into our church parking lot to drop the kids to youth group and while pulling back out, I thought, I bet God was just waiting for me to drop them off so I can hear the song uninterrupted. Three minutes and one song later, my radio wails with recorded police sirens and DJs frantically announcing an impromptu U2 video shoot on top a building in LA at 7th and Main. Voices of police officers threatening Bono they will shut down the shoot play over the pandemonium rising in the background as crowds pour into the streets. But their legendary opening riffs blow over the rooftop and into the streets below. It was March 27, 1987. The song they played that day… Where the Streets Have No Name. Best version of that song ever recorded.

Relief, blasting through my speakers and settling in my soul. The song is great, but my God is Good.

A Hamster in my Hand

We have a hamster who, to be truthful, I did not want. Despite my objections and resistance to its invasion of our home, over time the little guy turned from rodent to pet in my heart. And because, of course, the agreement that the kids would take care of this hamster (Stan) has long since evaporated, I make sure on a daily basis that the little guy doesn’t starve to death. The result has been that I have earned the exclusive right of having him crawl into my hand and cozy up for a little scratch, tucking his bitty nose underneath my thumb, and sometimes even taking a little snooze. Over time, he learned that my hand is a safe hand; he learned to recognize and trust me.

What strikes me every time little Stan is in my hand, is that he has no possible concept of who and what I am. Even if his eyesight weren’t naturally dreadful, he could not possibly take in my full scale just by shear proportion. It would be like standing on an outcrop during an ascension of Mount Kilimanjaro and trying to take in the whole mountain. Stan can’t see me, he can’t possibly understand me with his definitively small brain, but he trusts me. He knows my smell, he knows my touch, and he knows I will keep him safe, warm, fed, and comfortable through life’s hamster challenges.

But isn’t this just a reflection of us sitting in God’s hand?

Aren’t we in the exact same position in our ability to comprehend who and what God is?

hands holding the sun at dawn

Sing it with me: “He’s got the whole world in His hands…” This isn’t just a childhood song. It’s a fundamental truth. You are sitting in God’s hand, whether you recognize it or not. He is way too big for us to see. Way too complex for us to understand. Way too magnificent for us to behold with our five senses. But unlike the hamster, we use our decisively large brains to conclude, therefore, that he doesn’t exist.

And so we strive in our own effort.

And we falter without seeking His support.

And we toil through the days feeling an emptiness, and a burden for life’s outcome.

What if today, we decided to be more like Stan? What if we chose to believe there is a great Caregiver who loves us and will keep us safe, healthy, strong, comfortable, warm, peaceful, joyful, if only we allow Him? If only we believe? If only we take the time to understand Him outside our five senses; to learn to recognize His presence and how He wants to relate to us?

To acquire the discernment of what is God’s hand, and what is not, is life’s foremost goal. When we do, we develop clarity for separating out those things that do not keep us safe, healthy, strong, comfortable, warm, peaceful, joyful. With awareness of His presence, we learn to know His hand and trust that we are firmly in it. And that He will meet our needs for life’s challenges.

I invite you today, to allow your beautifully large and complex brain to expand beyond the boundaries of its five senses and open up a window of trust to the God you cannot fully see or understand. Remember, if Stan could control me, I would not be his caregiver. And if you could control God, by being able to fully document and describe Him, He would not be your Caregiver. Spend some time today, alone, tucking your nose under His thumb, and allowing Him to help you know and trust Him. He’s got you in His hand.

The Right Serving

Over the years, I’ve been on a roller coaster of spending my time in service to others and pulling back to allow myself rest and focus on the family. Up and down, back and forth, in and out of life. But no matter which hill or valley of the roller coaster I’m on at any given point in time, I find that the benefits are fairly short lived. I might feel satisfied with accomplishment for a while after spending my time in service to others and I might feel restful and relieved when I choose to focus on myself for a while. But both are fleeting. Sadly, when I’m serving myself, that sense of obligation creeps back in, pecking at my conscience, but when I’m serving others, it eventually turns to exhaustion from overwhelming myself and kills the joy of what I’m doing. So what’s the deal? Why can’t I find the happy medium?

To be truthful, it doesn’t exist. Not when I’m trying to find this balance out of my own sense of should and shouldn’t do, derived from our cultural norms. Here’s the big shocker – the right amount of serving comes only from God’s plan over your life. So what does that mean exactly?

God has been giving me a growing level of discernment about myself – I’ve started to become aware when I’m doing something that’s motivated by a sense of obligation vs. motivated by God’s request for me to act. Although truthfully, the first does provide a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I’ve helped someone through a life challenge, the reality is, that satisfaction is only a shadow of the experience of walking out something I know God has asked me to do. In the first, I get this filled up feeling, slightly euphoric, a little puffy-chested, that allows me to breathe more deeply in the aftermath.

For the second, I get the experience of being in God’s presence.

This would be a joy that flows through me like an abundant river, with an intensity that brings me to my knees. A shower of blessing drenches me, not for what I have done for someone else, but because I am overcome with the awareness that God saw me, chose me, asked me. My thankfulness comes not from what I accomplished, or even what He asked me to do, but because He turned His gaze to me. I can’t help but to ask Him to bring me more of those opportunities, ask more of me, just to experience more moments of awareness that His eyes are on me.

But He is a good God. And He will not ask too much of me. So when He is not asking, I do not bear the burden of obligation. This is my time to delight in rest.

As it is with everything in life, our first action should always be to seek God. Imagine a world if everyone did this – if everyone sought Him for their daily activities – there would be nothing that was left undone and nobody would be overburdened. What an amazing place this would be!

There is only one Judge: Jumping into the Brittany Maynard Conversation

I’ve not spent much energy engaging in the Brittany Maynard conversations, recognizing the cesspool of strife that would be stirred up by opposing positions on her decision. I didn’t find much value in slinging arrows in the crossfire. However, in the last 12 hours, I have been nudged twice to respond to the situation and I find I have a statement to share afterall.

Here is a link for the background on the story: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/terminally-ill-death-with-dignity-advocate-dies/ar-BBcEQgq?ocid=ansnewsap11

Honestly, I’m dumbfounded more by my fellow Christians on this topic than the agnostics or atheists. OK, to be honest, when I first read her story, my snap reaction was to judge her against the topic of suicide and murder in the bible, and write it off. But, it couldn’t stop there. God wanted me to think deeper about this. And here’s the revelation that came to me:

I’m not sure why any of us believes we have a right to condone or condemn her decision. Either position we take assumes the role of Judge, for which none of us has a right to occupy.

For those who do not believe in God, the question is simple, “By what authority do you have a right to judge her (for or against)?” From there, the conversation is not about Brittany or Dying with Dignity but becomes a spirituality and faith discussion.

For the Christians, the answer is clear. You have no authority to judge her. I challenge you to step past my initial snap reaction, to step out of God’s chair as Judge, and recognize that only He can decide whether what she did was righteous or not in His eyes. If she sought His direction and received His blessing, she made the right decision. If she did not, and acted upon her own desires, she made the wrong decision. Only she and He truly know which one it is.

I have observed people using all kinds of stories to support their position: my grandma died that way, the 9-11 jumpers, those who chose to live it out, etc. Using these stories is merely a means to justify your judgment and is not what we are called to do. We are called to share the word and pray that others will receive it.

Here are the things we know from the bible.

The taking of a life is a sin. Suicide is the taking of a life, your own.

We know the story of Job and intense physical pain (endured)

We know the story of Judas and intense emotional pain (suicide)

These stories, and many more, are God’s word. If you want to use a story to glean understanding, then use these (unless you happen to know God’s wisdom from the 9-11 attacks… which presumably none of us do). Their teaching is very clear, avoiding suffering is NOT our primary goal when faced with extreme challenges. However, that does not give us the right to use these stories to judge whether Brittany acted from a place of serving herself or God. They are a means to direct your own life and to teach others.

The answer in every situation is always the same, seek God first then follow His will for your life. Unless somebody knows with certainty whether Brittany did or did not do this through her journey, we cannot claim whether her act was righteous or not. So stop looking for the story that supports the definitive answer; stop taking either position to condone or condemn her. Just pray that from this, the world will turn to the true Judge and relinquish their perceived right to act in His place.

God Does Answer Prayer

I’ve been praying recently asking God to repair the damage that was done to my adopted son’s brain during the first year of his life due to the lack of a nurturing adult to care for his needs. Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that maladapted brain patterns develop in the absence of receiving comfort and human contact during that first year. All the efforts I have put into trying to rewire his brain have been largely useless, bringing me once again to the place that God so often does, to rely solely on Him.

Today, I opened a book I bought a week ago, Dannah Gresh’s “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in Your Boy”. Here is a quote from that book: “Research has shown that there are two periods in one’s life during which there is explosive proliferation of connection between brain cells – during the last few weeks before birth and just before puberty (8-12yrs old)”. My son is 9. He is in the prime age range to have his brain patterns altered before they are set for life. It then goes on to explain exactly how to accomplish that.

God does answer prayer. He is not going to miraculously heal my son but he did equip me to take advantage of a critical opportunity in my son’s life to repair the damage that was caused early on. He is faithful. He is good.

(ps – I highly recommend this book to any mother of a boy – phenomenal)

Worlds Apart Post 2: Icarus and the Pride Test

Icarus is a Greek Mythological character who escapes imprisonment by the king through his father’s successful attempt to create wings of feathers and wax and fly away. Before they fly to freedom, the father warns Icarus not to fly too high nor too low so the sun cannot melt the wax nor the ocean dampen the feathers. But once free from captivity, Icarus soars on his wings, not heeding his father’s advice and flies too close to the sun. The heat melts the wax and Icarus falls to the ocean and drowns.

The second chunk of lyrics in my series on the Jars of Clay song, Worlds Apart, are this:

Soaring on the wings of selfish pride, I flew too high and like Icarus I collide

Most people think pride is synonymous with arrogance. They think of the guy who’s always bragging on his bankroll or the lady who’s got her face in the mirror all the time. Although pride may manifest that way, that’s not the whole deal. I’ve splashed a couple scriptures through this post to build a better picture of what God says it is. They rocked me off my rocker when I was first convicted of it…

Here’s the first:

Psalm 10:4: In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God

Ok, so basically, not thinking about God means there is pride. It means when there is a problem, we are not looking to our Father for advice on how to fix it. We should expect the wax on our feathers to be getting a bit gooey if we’re not in His word looking for the solution.

Here’s another:

Proverbs 13:10: Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice

Who has strife in their relationship with their husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, child, co-worker? OK, seriously, who doesn’t? I sought plenty of advice, as the scripture directs, before my marriage splintered… and I made darn sure my husband knew about it every time. And that he knew everything HE wasn’t taking advice on. Strife is pride; it has a sneaky way of getting masked as “helping”. I had to get over trying to “help” my husband.

Proverbs 14:3: A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.

Lashing out at somebody, accusing them, is prideful and foolish. A world of hurt results from inaccurate interpretations of the other person’s motives as assessed by their behaviors. This is my soapbox, so I’m going to cut it short here before I write a novel. I had to learn to seek knowledge about my husband’s behaviors instead of accusing him. Asking questions (real, legitimate questions, not accusatory, directed questions) creates the shift to overcome this highly destructive behavior. “You always” and “you never” type statements are your red flags that you’re floundering in foolish folly.

So, here I am, back in my car listening to Worlds Apart (see post 1), tears streaming down my face, with God showing me how prideful I’d been in my marriage, breaking down, shredding, that perception of myself that I was the one doing all the work and the entitlement I felt about that. Here is the little litmus test I devised for myself to check whether I’m backsliding into the pit of pride:

If I am spending more of my time thinking and talking about what the other person is doing wrong than I am searching for how to change my attitude and behaviors, I am stuck in pride.

And I’m just going to go ahead and restate that so you can experience it at a more personal level:

If you are spending more of your time thinking and talking about what the other person is doing wrong than you are searching for how to change your attitude and behaviors, you are stuck in pride.

If you are currently feeling low, consider this powerful scripture:

Proverbs 29:23: Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

It is your pride that makes you feel low. Kind of a shocking revelation, isn’t it?

Are we at risk of melting our wings? We need to stop and assess whether we are flying too high. If so, we need to step back and take the advice of our Father and behave according to His word. We should not expect anything more than to crash and burn should we choose to fly too high.

http://www.vagalume.com.br/jars-of-clay/worlds-apart.html

Worlds Apart Post 1: I am the Only One to Blame for This

Jars of Clay self-titled debut album, Jars of Clay, is a deeply beautiful music composition that is both theologically sound and intensely personal. Its music speaks to every Christian at every stage of walking with Christ and grows with the listener as s/he matures in relationship with Him. I had known this compilation for nearly 14 years when during one of the darkest times of my life, a 9 month separation in my marriage, the track Worlds Apart recreated itself for me. Its lyrics came to life in a way I had never known before; they washed through me and over me as I listened to the song over and over and over for months on my way to and from work every day. It broke me apart and tore down the ugliness of the life I had created as the truth of God’s word convicted me through its words.

I recently heard this song again after many months and was moved to tears once more with awareness and humility of how great our God is and remembering how He recreated me closer to His image during that time. I was inspired to write a series of posts that are my personal exposition of the individual lyrics of the song and how they transformed my life.

“I am the only one to blame for this”

That’s the first lyric. It stands alone, a statement almost beyond verbalization. I challenge you to think of any problem you are facing right now and with it in mind, declare that statement above. If you are like me, the words just don’t want to come out. It’s too hard to believe. It’s too hard to accept. It’s too hard not to jump to all the things the other person is doing to you. This is the first thing God convicted me of regarding my separation… on my way to work… with tears ballooning over my eyelids… and running down my face… while heading toward a man’s world of developing power transistors for military devices… Good thing they didn’t care what my makeup looked like.

I am the only one to blame for this. I am the only one to blame for my separation. I am the only one to blame for the wreck the marriage ended up in.

But I tried so hard! How could that be?

I read marriage books and counseling books and personal growth books and went to counseling and *lovingly* encouraged my husband to grow past his flaws and…

I am the only one to blame for this. I did not live up to my marriage commitment, until death do us part. I did not live up to my vow, for better or for worse. I was always one foot out the door, waiting for it to fall apart. Always threatening, directly or indirectly, that “unless you…” that I was leaving.

What marriage can stand the perpetual threat of impending failure?

I was the only one to blame for everything I contributed to the decay of the marriage. I was the only one to blame for not living up to the vow I made to our God. I was the only one to blame for not taking the time to understand the institution of marriage as designed by its Creator and follow His plan for its success.

If you’ve never felt like you’ve literally been broken in half and crumbled to pieces, this could be the one that does it. Accepting this truth. And through this breaking, the freedom of shedding a life lived for yourself to a life lived for God and His Word instead, is beyond words. It is a freedom that enables you to let go of the bind that knots you up to someone else’s shortcomings and allows God to recreate you for what He intended you to be. Only then can the other person, opposite you in your problem, be free to accept their own blame and allow God into their hearts to recreate them from the inside out.

I am the only one to blame for this. Try to accept it for just a moment. Allow it to transform your life.

http://www.vagalume.com.br/jars-of-clay/worlds-apart.html

“Christianity is a Crutch”

A friend of mine once told me that Christianity is a crutch. He believes that it is a religion for weak people to lean on to make it through life. At the time, my Jesus muscles weren’t big enough to rebut him eloquently and influentially, so I snickered under my breath and let the comment pass. But I’ve thought about it often. I’ve thought about it as I’ve walked through the fires of trauma, addiction, marital strain, financial pressure, job stress, broken friendships, and more. Not wallowing over the fact that these things have happened to me, but that I’ve chosen to walk into the fire of refinement to overcome them because Jesus was leading me and pushing me there. Walking through the scorching pain of having my pride torn down and my world view radically altered and being stripped of the need to control my environment which felt literally like I was going to die and having my hands pried open to release my money into His kingdom, has felt like anything but a crutch.

I was reminded of this “crutch” comment again during my morning bible reading. “The Cost of Being a Disciple”, Luke 14:25-35

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+14%3A25-35&version=NIV

Here is the explanation of these verses (taken from the Life Application Study Bible by Tyndale and Zondervan):

“When a builder doesn’t count the cost or estimates (the cost of a building) inaccurately, the building may be left uncompleted. Will you abandon the Christian life after a little while because you did not count the cost of commitment to Jesus? What are those costs? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. They have to give up control over their money, their time, or their career. They may be hated, separated from their family, and even put to death. Following Christ does not mean a trouble-free life. We must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciples so that we will know what we are getting into and won’t be tempted later to turn back.”

And here is an excerpt of the definition of “crutch” on dictionary.com:

1. a staff or support to assist a lame or infirm person in walking

3. anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop: He uses liquor as a psychological crutch.

Thinking these aren’t the same… just sayin’.

There is no crutch about Christianity, only the promise of a peace that transcends all understanding when you step out the backside of the furnace. Freedom from fear and oppression and addiction and brokenness. If your walk with Jesus is painful right now because He is tearing down who you thought you were, march on soldier, you’re headed in the right direction. If your walk with the Lord is not now or has never been painful, it’s time to throw away your crutch and step into the fire with Him. Hand Him your life today.

The Littlest Creature

My daughters have a hamster. His name is Stan. Although this mama was vehemently opposed to the addition of this creature to our family, his friendly demeanor and supple coat found its way into my heart. So Stan has successfully elevated his status from rodent to pet in our family.

It would seem that Stan is vying for a new promotion amongst our ranks, bible teacher. He hit the scene with a surprise lesson the other morning… 5am to be exact… that God really does care about the littlest things in our lives. Stan found himself free of his homey habitat and shivering with fear behind a suitcase under our bed in the wee hours after his rooftop door was left open the previous night. The story of glory is in the adventure of his trek in which only a divine guiding hand could have maneuvered him through. There are at least three insurmountable obstacles he had to overcome on his journey:

1)      Avoiding a date with a 12ft drop from the second story hall to the family room below which sits immediately behind his cage.

2)      Eluding starvation by bypassing refuge in the nearest bedroom, my daughter’s, in which he would have become like ET enveloped in an outrageous pile of stuffed animals and undetectable for days until his stench led us to his whereabouts.

3)      Miraculously escaping the jowls of my 75lb golden retriever after having been buried inside them as he was dripping with saliva when we finally rescued him.

After safely tucking Stan back into his cage, I crawled back into bed thanking God I didn’t have to deliver a fatality story to the girls in the morning. I was immediately reminded of the scripture that says, look at the flowers of the field, they do not worry what they will wear, and look at the birds of the air, they do not worry what they will eat; the Lord provides for these and doesn’t He love you all the more?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6%3A25-34&version=NIV

God was basically saying to me, “See, I do care. I have you covered even when you’re not looking.”

Today, know that God does care about every part of your life. He has you covered. He will provide all that you need when you put your faith in Him. Every little creature on this earth, whether a flower or a hamster or a problem or a relationship, is under His care. When you meditate on this and relinquish control to His will, He will see you safely back home.

Speak Life

I woke up to a great TobyMac song in my mind this morning, Speak Life, which prompts this post.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBv9r92VQ0&feature=kp

One of the *great* manifestations of my having been abused as a child is to have lived with a perpetual expectation of impending death. This was such a facet of life for me, that up until just a few years ago, I didn’t even understand that it’s NOT NORMAL! That not everyone walks around thinking everyday life events spell sudden death.

Now, to reset the garish perception that I run around with a blanket over my head checking my locks 47 times, refuse to leave the house because the sidewalk might freakishly rupture and swallow me whole, or believe an alien abduction awaits me at every turn of the corner, it looks more like this. A bracing of my muscles as I drive into an intersection waiting to get fatally t-boned in the driver side door (particularly if I’m the first, last, or an isolated car). Turning a string of headaches into an inoperable tumor in my brain. Thinking that ongoing stiffness in my back means cancer leaching up my spine. When in reality they are, unlikely, job stress, and an old mattress, respectively.

So, praise God, I’m free from the emotions associated with the thoughts of impending death, even though it’s pretty much impossible to stop them from coming into my brain. But as I’ve taken that ridiculous outer layer off the death onion, I’m now privy to recognizing the more subtle ways that impending death invades my life.

At one time, waiting for my marriage to die

Waiting for the innocence of my children to die

Waiting for my son to die emotionally, spiritually

Waiting for friendships, relationships to die

Waiting for dreams to die

And the list goes on…

I was just waiting for all these things to die because I wasn’t doing the opposite, fighting for LIFE! That’s not to say I wasn’t working hard on them, on the contrary, I was working ridiculously hard, and then waiting for them to die.

Check out the first words of every verse of the story of creation:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NIV

They all start with, “And God said…”  He SPOKE life into everything. Not planned, not executed, not met with 14 other people, not strived, worked, developed, designed, counseled, read, discussed…

I’ve done ALL these things to an excruciating, painful, exhausting end, and they are all absolutely necessary, BUT, they can only be effective AFTER the life of God’s word has been breathed into the situation. Otherwise, the effort is spent while waiting to die.

Breathing God’s life into a situation is just as simple as speaking it; speaking aloud that you receive the life of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name into a situation and you reject death. The spoken words alone are powerful enough to alter your perspective on the spot. God is the giver of life, and that doesn’t mean just at our conception and birth. It means, perpetually and unfailingly every single day. Seize this great opportunity by Speaking Life today.