Monday, July 28, 2014

The Real Me

I've come to the realization recently that I don't always show people the real me.

I'm an open person, perfectly willing to share the stories and events of my life.  But there are parts of my story I tend not to share.  There are parts of me, the earthly me, the me I would be without Jesus in my life that I tend not to talk much about.  And perhaps I overemphasize the person the good parts.  Perhaps I spend to much time talking about the me I am trying to become through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I don't want to become a whiner who spends all her time complaining about her sins and mistakes, but I do want to let you all know I don't have it all figure out yet.  I am a new creation in Christ, but I still battle with the earthly me who wants things HER way, who is prone to emotional outbursts and would rather read a novel than the Bible.

Someone, a good friend, recently commented on my marriage, how Erik and I seem to have this marriage thing down.  That is so far from the truth I was taken aback for a moment!  Is that the image I portray to people?  Because it's not the truth.  Yes Erik and I love each other deeply, but let's be honest... we fight.  We argue, we disagree, and we annoy each other.  At the end of the day (or usually by morning at the latest) we work it out, but don't think for a second that we have this marriage thing all figured out.

Another friend recently made a comment on my prayer life.  This comment made me laugh out loud!!! If there is one spiritual discipline I struggle with it is prayer!  I could give you the list of excuses why, but honestly, that's all they are, excuses.  Yes, I talk to God, everyday (or almost everyday), but I do not spend hours (or even half of hours) on my knees each day.  Occasionally I do, but not often.  Sometimes my prayer is focused, more often it is distracted.  Sometimes I make it through all those things we are supposed to pray for (adoration for God, thanks for His blessing, my spouse, my marriage, my children, their future spouses, their teachers, their friends, their safety, our country, our leaders, the church...) more often than not most of these things get left out.

This week was our church's VBS and I was one of the co-directors.  The first year of directing is a little like trial by fire.  There is no list of your job description because anything and everything falls under "your" responsibility.  It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work.  Along the way someone asked me if I ever just lost it.  They inferred that I always had it together.  And although I will give Jesus credit where credit is due, He and the Holy Spirit have come a long way in helping me tone down my out of control temper, my nearly-about-to-combust outbursts.  However, I still on occasion just lose it.  Usually at home, usually with my own family, but not always.  Sometimes I still have public explosions and though they are not as damaging as they used to be, they are still humbling, painful, and require apologizing to whomever I hurt when all is said and done.

I am a new creation in Christ, just like the Bible tells us.  But that doesn't mean I have it all together.  That doesn't mean I don't still have moments the earthly me rears her ugly head.  Honestly, I am so far from having this all figured out, I feel guilty when someone implies I have things figure out, because it just means I'm not showing them the real me.

The real me is a sinner, daily in need of the grace and forgiveness that will only come from my Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  That is the real me!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Repent and Rest

I stumbled across a verse in the bible the other day that has had me thinking about it ever since.

Isaiah 30:15 says, 
"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'" (NIV)

Generally, when I think about salvation I look to verses like Romans 10:10, 
"For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, 
and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." 

or Ephesians 2:8 
"For is it by grace you have been saved - through faith..." 

Perhaps I might turn to Mark 16:16 
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved..." 

or John 10:9 
"I am the gate, whoever enters through me will me saved."  

The verse I have not turned to much (or at all) regarding salvation is Isaiah 30:15.  And honestly I didn't really understand it when I read it yesterday.  I get that we need repentance to be saved, but how does "rest" play into salvation?  So I did what all good seminary students should do and looked up what the original Hebrew said.  

Yeah, that didn't help at all!  

Perhaps it's the fact that I haven't actually taken Hebrew yet, but I got no help from that.  So then I looked up the verse in multiple translations to see if that clarified things.  That helped a little bit, the HCSB said, " You will be delivered by returning and resting."  The NET said, "If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered."  Ok, that makes a little more sense.

Once I added the Biblical context of this verse, it all started to come together.  You see the Israelites were God's chosen people and He longed for His people to be saved.  Yet they kept turning away from Him.  They would repent yes, but then in the next moment they would run from Him, sometimes in fear, sometimes because of pride, and sometimes for a variety of other reasons.  Finally God said, through Isaiah, just stop!!!  Stop running from me.  Repent.  And then rest.  Stop turning away from me.  Stop running from.  I know you are scared, but rest in my presence, that is where salvation will come from. But the Israelites would have none of it.  They continued the pattern of repenting and running.

Much like the ancient Israelites, I think we tend to do the same thing today.  We repent of our sin and we turn away from it.  We turn toward God and things start looking pretty good.  But then something happens, any variety of things, and we get scared, or prideful, or hurt, or __________(fill in the blank); and instead of resting in Him, His strength, His peace, His presence, we turn away from Him, we run.  Maybe we run toward our own sense of financial security, maybe we run to a sin, maybe we run to material possessions, or something that will allow us to take a break from the reality we are facing; wherever or whatever it is we choose to run to during moments like this, it is not Him.  

In repentance and rest (resting in Him) is your salvation.  Salvation will not be found in financial security, escapes from reality, material possessions or whatever else you are turning to.  It will only be found in Him.  Returning to Him, patiently waiting on Him.  That is where salvation is found.

Repent and then rest.  Rest in Him.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Secret of Contentment

I have recently undertaken a happiness challenge.  

The challenge is to find at least one thing to be happy about for 100 consecutive days, then share a picture of that happiness via social media.  At the beginning of the challenge it was reported that only 29% of the people who began the challenge actually completed it.  71% of the people could not find something, anything, to be happy about for 100 days in a row!  

I imagine that the documenting of said happiness and posting it to social media had something to do with the success rate.  Surely people are happy at some point everyday right?  It was probably just taking the picture and getting it posted that was the hang up.  Or at least I would like to think so.  

But then I thought about Paul's words in Philippians 4:12-13.  

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (emphasis mine)

Contentment, let alone happiness, is not something that came naturally to Paul.  It was something he had to learn.  He learned this secret of contentment, not through a life lived according to the law or the world's standards, but only after he began a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Only after he had found the deep and abiding joy of a relationship with Jesus was he able to find contentment in any and all situations.  

Lack of contentment seems to be pervasive in the culture around us.  Everywhere I look people are discontent.  They don't have what the want or want what they have.  They are too busy and too stressed to enjoy the process of living the life God has given them.  They waste their days chasing one dream or another never finding true joy, happiness or even contentment.

The thing is you won't find contentment on your own.  The world will tell you that you can never have enough, that you should always want more (more money, more friends, more success).  That kind of attitude breeds discontent. It is hard to be happy when you are continually discontent.

There is a soul deep joy and a peace that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  A joy and a peace that surpasses the world's expectations for a "good life"; a joy and a peace that surpasses the immediate circumstances of your life; a joy and a peace that lets you know God is in charge and allows you to be content in any and every situation.

That doesn't mean you will always be happy, that doesn't mean you will never be sad.  But it does mean that underneath that sadness is a joy and even a contentment that no earthly thing can touch.  And when you are content with the circumstances in your life, when you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have an underlying joy and peace that runs soul deep, then you can find happiness in each day.  The only thing left to do is take a picture of it!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Wisdom in a T-shirt

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands."
2 Timothy 1:6

It's summer time!  Which means the kids are out of school and my days are jam packed with  planning activities, entertaining kids, swimming, baseball, horse back riding, referee-ing disagreements and maintaining sanity (theirs and mine).  That has left very little time for things like quiet time with the Lord, spiritual disciplines or writing.  

And I must say I have missed it greatly.  It is through writing that I process the things God is teaching me.  The act of organizing my thoughts and getting them down in print is almost therapeutic for me and it helps me better understand the lessons I am learning.  Needless, to say, thus far, this has not been a summer of great learning for me, and I find that frustrating.

Last night found my family once again at the ball fields (no surprise there!), where I saw a young boy in a t-shirt I simply loved!  The t-shirt read "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."  I pointed it out to my boys and after a great discussion we all agreed the t-shrit was true.  When I got home later that night, I was reminded of this verse Paul wrote to Timothy, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God."  Timothy had talent too, a gift of God to teach, preach, encourage and lead the church in Ephesus.  But much like the t-shirt read, Paul was telling Timothy that talent, or a gift from God, isn't always enough.  It also takes hard work, you need to fan the flame, make it grow, develop it.  

Whatever your talent or spiritual gift might be, whether it is baseball, writing, singing or praying, Paul tells us to fan this gift into a flame.  Don't just take natural talent for granted but work hard.  And that talent, that spiritual gift will grow into a flame that no one can put out.  

Very few gifts are given to us in full bloom, they need to be nurtured and developed.  They need to be practiced and repeated.  We have all heard the adage that practice makes perfect.  Though none of us will ever be able to claim perfection, our gifts do need to be practiced.  If your spiritual gifting is prayer, then practice prayer, study prayer, read about prayer, learn about prayer and fan into a flame your gift.  If your spiritual gifting is music than practice music, sing, play, dance every day, fan the flame.  If your spiritual gifting is writing, than write... every day.  

My boys coaches will tell them to "see the ball" everyday.  Practice.   Because talent isn't enough.  Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn't work hard.