Saturday, February 28, 2009

Our God - The Tear Collector

Haven’t said much lately. Mostly cause I’ve been too tired. My wonderful weekend in Savannah was followed up by a weekend trip to California to visit my brother and sister-in-law with my mom. My brother is in the Navy and about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Anyway, traveling two weekends in a row must have just taken its’ toll on me.

But even though I’ve been quiet, my mind has still kept reeling. I’ve been thinking about a book that a read a couple months ago called “The Shack”. I wasn’t expecting to like it at all, but it definitely touched me. The part of the book that I’ve recently been thinking about was when the main character, Mack, was crying and Saraju (a portrayal of the Holy Spirit) swept his tears in a bottle and told him that she collects tears.

Maybe I’m the only one, but it seems that I’ve cried a lot of tears in my short lifetime. I’ve shed tears for numerous reasons: some have been out of joy or awe; some have been out of empathy; some have been out of desperation; some have been out of confusion; some have been out of pain. Writing this and I realize that the majority of the reasons for my tears are sad, but not to be dismayed! I have found THE COMFORTER. Here are just a few scriptures concerning His comfort:

* Psalm 119:50 – “When I am hurting, I find comfort in your promise that leads to life…”
* Psalm 119:52 – “I find true comfort, LORD, because your laws have stood the test of time.”
* Isaiah 49:13 – “Tell the heavens and the earth to celebrate and sing; command every mountain to join in the song. The LORD's people have suffered, but he has shown mercy and given them comfort.”
* 2Corinthians 1:3 – “Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort.”
* 2Corinthians 1:4 – “He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.”
* 2Thessolonians 2:16 – “God our Father loves us. He is kind and has given us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope.”

A couple points stick out to me in these passages:
1. The writer’s obviously needed comfort. You would only need comfort if you were hurting and lost; if your life was upside down; if you were crying in your pillow; etc. What is interesting to me is sometimes we assume that once we give our hearts to God, all of our problems will be solved. I think that we think any need for comfort will dissipate at the altar of repentance, but not so.
· Matthew 5:45 – “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

2. God has promised us comfort, but He has not promised to radically pluck us up from the circumstance that has us troubled and “fix” everything the way we imagine it needs to be fixed.

In Bible Study last night, we had much conversation about a portion of scripture in Proverbs. Here it is first of all: Proverbs 11:8 – “The righteous is delivered out of trouble…” Our conversation was centered on one word – DELIVERED. Plainly, God has promised deliverance to the righteous, but what is deliverance? I think that our idea of deliverance and His idea of deliverance are not always the same. For me, they are hardly ever the same! But that doesn’t mean that I have not been delivered. That doesn’t make His word a lie nor does it mean that I must be living an “un-righteous” life.

Ex. When I was diagnosed with the brain tumor, in my mind deliverance was to be radically healed or to have a radical recovery. Neither of those things happened. So did God skip over me? No. Did I have the brain tumor because I was “unrighteous”? I don’t think so…

I received the deliverance that He had promised, just not the way I had it all planned out for Him. Funny how He has a mind of His own and does things His own way and not mine! My deliverance came as a peace and a strength that I didn’t have before. It came as I searched for Him and our relationship became so much stronger. My deliverance came as my family being blessed enough financially that we don’t need an income from me to make it. Maybe we had to make some sacrifices, like selling my car and having a slim bank account, but here we are making it on just my husband’s income so that I can have time to rest, recover, finish nursing school, spend time with my kids, and have time to visit with family like my cousin, and my sister, and the weekend with my brother.

If God had listened to me, if He had of delivered me like I thought He should, none of that would be possible. I would be back at work full-time with no hope of finishing my college education, I wouldn’t have the time to spend with my kids and do little things like enroll my daughter in soccer (for the first time in her 10 years of life by the way), I wouldn’t have had to depend on Him with every aspect of my life and watch Him deliver building my trust and faith in Him, and I wouldn’t have ever experienced a peace that passes all understanding…

3. My third point is that GOD LOVES US. There are no stipulations, no little clauses, no conditions. Nowhere does it say, “I’ll love you and be your Father IF you do this and this and this…” Does He desire for us to live sinless lives? Sure. But His love isn’t contingent on that. He has just as much love for the saint as He does for the sinner. That’s what grace is – undeserved, unmerited, unconditional love.

So I guess my point to all that is just that He collects our tears… He knows every tear we’ve shed and why those tears trickled down our face. He knows every disappointment and every question that we have. And no matter what, He loves us so much that He offers us His comfort. Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And so I wait...

For Valentine's, my husband and his buddy, Chris, whisked me and Haley off to Savannah for a night. It was absolutely everything that I have always imagined it to be - rich in history, breathtakingly beautiful, and just perfect. Our trip was fantastic: we walked everywhere we wanted to go, soaked in tons of beauty and history, took fantastic tours, and stayed up way past my "curfew". And even though it was well worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, I've definately paid for it the last two days.

I felt great during the trip, which was such a relief! But yesterday and today I've just felt exhausted, wobbely and slow, and my heads been hurting. When we got in the truck to come back home, ice cream cones from Leopold's in hand, Chris popped in a CD and the song that played couldn't have been more perfect. It's from John Waller titled "While I'm Waiting". If you've seen 'Fireproof', you'll recognize it from that movie.

These words perfectly match the words in my heart. "I'm waiting on You, Lord, though it is painful, but patiently I will wait...While I'm waiting, I will serve You. While I'm waiting, I will worship. While I'm waiting, I will not faint... I'm waiting though it's not easy, but faithfully I will wait... I'll be running the race even while I wait... I'll be taking every step in obediance... "So God, even though my head is splitting in pain, even though the pain is enough to keep me awake at night and grimacing during the day, even though I don't understand why I'm still going through this 15 months post-surgery, even though it isn't easy to keep on going - I am waiting on You... I will continue to put one foot in front of the other out of obediance... I will not faint...

I will worship and serve You because no matter how I might feel, You haven't changed. You are still God. You are still good and majestic and holy and pure. You are still righteous and true to Your word. You are by my side through every smile and each tear. You are faithful, and so I will be too, Lord. I am hopeful... And so I wait.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

To church or not to church - that is the question...

I took Martin to work this morning (6 am on a Saturday - that's true love), and as is our normal custom, we talked all the way to his work. Lately it seems the theme of our conversations has been the number of people that either talk directly to us or that we overhear discussing how hypocritcal churches, and even Christians, are. Several of our family members and friends no longer attend church due to this very reason. Sadly, there is some truth to their complaints.

First of all, churches are made up of people. Christians are people. All people have flaws. Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". I think sometimes we hold authority figures in the church and even lay people of the church to a higher standard. Yes, Christians should strive daily to live Christ-like lives, but all have sinned. Now don't think for a second that I am condoning such sin because as a Christian, we should lead repented lives. Job 36:10-11 "He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment". My point is just that none of us are without sin and shouldn't be so quick to judge. John 8:7 "But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." I, for one, am far from being blameless, so I choose to keep my stone casting to myself.

Secondly, there is a disturbing warning that God gives to us. Acts 20:30 "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." Martin and I have certainly heard these complaints from people. It is so unfortunate to hear of corupt churches, pastors, or saints. But sadly, it should not come as a shock because God warned us that some would be corupted. And maybe it's not so much shock as it is hurt and disappointment. We don't expect certain people to let us down, but sometimes it happens. However, it is important to remember that while people may have let us down, God has not.

With this being said, what is the answer? Stay away from churches? Hummm... Did you know that there are 80 verses in the Bible that instruct believers to assemble together. Many use the arguement that the church is within them and not a building or assembly. Some say that assembling themselves can be done with Bible Study's or even friendships with other believers. That is 1/2 right. Our body is His temple. 1 Corinithians 6:19 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own". However, my question is this:
  • Mathew 18:17 "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." Tell who?? Tell me, tell you, tell an individual? Or tell an assembled group of believers?
  • Acts 2:47 "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." Was I added to? You? Or and assembled group of believers?
  • Acts 16:5 "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily." Since this is plural here, is it saying that I was strengthened and increased in number? Or you? An individual maybe? Or an assembled group of believers?
  • Romans 16:1 "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea" Whoa - Who was Phoebe? A servant of the church. A servant of mine or yours or another individual? Or a servant to an assembled group?
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 "To the church of God which is at Corinth" To whom?
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1 "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia" I think this is pretty self-explanitory...

In the NKJV, there are 120 mentions of the word "church" both in the Old and New Testiments. I think I've made my point clear that I don't think the answer is to stay away from church. Do you know what I think the answer is? I think it goes back to John 8:7. Galations 6:1-5 " Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions (not test the actions of someone else - look at yourself). Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else (Wow. Without comparing yourself to anyone else. Sounds like a warning to be careful not to cast stones to me), for each one should carry his own load. "

I've said all that to say this, I agree that some have fallen off their pedestools and that there have been some churches and some Christians that have been corupt, but we are not to focus on the mistakes of others. We are to keep our eyes on God and we are to test ourselves. Matthew 7:4-6 NIV "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

So don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. All churches are not corupt. All people that call themselves Christians are not hypocrits. All churches aren't on autopilot barely living "good" lives. Maybe it's been hard to find people that really love God with their whole hearts, or maybe you've been discouraged and stopped looking, but they are there. Trust me.

And in the meantime, a challenge to all of us that strive to be Christ-like: test yourself like the Book of Galations instructed. Study and examine yourself, your intentions, and the way you come across to others. Find your weaknesses, not the weaknesses of others, but your own. And as instructed in the Book of Matthew, remove your "plank". Once you have, then you can help (not hurt, not condemn, but HELP) you fellow brother.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"I am lost for more to say..."

Isaiah 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Revelations 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

The angels surrounding the throne of God constantly cry “Holy, holy, holy” unto the Lord. Yesterday I was thinking about them (the angels) and thinking of how they know that He is great just by looking at Him. They’ve never actually experienced His holiness for themselves, but they look at Him and see His goodness radiating from Him...
And then I was thinking of how I’ve actually experienced His holiness first-hand. I remember where I used to be; the things I used to do, way I used to feel, and the darkness that threatened to drown me. So tainted and dirty, I could easily let shame from my past sweep over me. And yet He delivered me! Changed me! FORGOT all the horrible things back there!! ....
Isn’t He so good? I mean, it would’ve been incredible for Him to just change me, or deliver me, but to forgive and forget too??? That His eyes could even look on me with love when He shouldn’t even be able to look in my direction at all because He is so pure and I’m just not… I’m just awed… I am awed that I AM His daughter and that He is my Father… Awed that He believes in me enough to have made a way possible for me to get another chance… That He laid down His very life for me?!?!?!?!
Gateway Worship sings a song called, “Beautiful”. There’s a line in it that says, “I am lost for more to say…” That perfectly pegs how I feel. I’m not sure if I can even entirely wrap my head around how beautiful He is, and I definitely don’t even have words to describe the way I feel about Him and why I feel the way I do about Him… But I’m so incredibly grateful for the glimpse of Him that causes my eyes to well up with tears every time I think about Him and my heart to skip a beat when I think about Him.

Recently, a friend asked me how I was able to keep my faith in God after being through so much (already) in life. I didn’t really have any words to give, but as I think about it, how could I not??? Of course I have faith in Him!!! He’s so incredibly amazing… Maybe I have been sick… maybe I have looked death in the eyes… maybe some days are full of pain… maybe there are times when I don’t understand… But I don’t even deserve LIFE, much less to be able to clutch His hand through those times. Already, He’s done so much for me…
And when I am sick; or when I do have a stare-down with death; or when I am in pain; or when I don’t understand – I just hold His hand and He squeezes it to remind me that He will NEVER leave me and NEVER forsake me. I don’t know why! He should. If He was anything like me, He would’ve never even glanced twice in my direction. But thankfully, He’s nothing like me and even though it goes against my understanding, He loves me still.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ouch )-:

My neck has been really stiff the past couple of days and I'm wondering if it has something to do with the cold? We've had a freezing cold front move through and it's colder here than it has been all year... Last time my neck was stiff was when we came down from the mountains in California after playing in the snow. It was cold then too...

I see my nuerologist next month though and schedule my next MRI. Those two will give me some more answers.

I do feel better today though, which is great since tonight's Bible Study and tomorrow my husband runs his first 1/2 marathon. :-D

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ah-ha Moment

This morning I was doing ordinary household chores and for some reason I started thinking about "the headaches". I don't know why that's what my mind settled on because I don't have a headache today (I mean, I have a headache every day, but today I don't have "the headache"). I was remembering week before last when I thought I was going to black out in pain when "the headache" hit me like a freight train. I remembered my desperate pleas to God and my questions over why, 14 months post-surgery, this was still going on. And suddenly, as I was loading the dishwasher, a thought passed through my head. Over and over I kept hearing, "I know the plans I have for you..." I knew that those words were spoken to me by God because 1. I certainly don't understand what's going on and 2. I wouldn't think in the first person (I mean, when I think about myself I say things like "I know my plans").

I wasn't like in the floor sobbing or anything. Just talking to God while I loaded the dishwasher. So after I finished up my chore, I looked up the scripture running through my head to see exactly what it promises.

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."

Don't think that I can follow that promise from God with anything even close to adequate. I'll just say that I hardly ever, well never really, understand what He's up to, but I trust Him. You know why I trust Him? Because He loves me. I know He loves me.