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Posts Tagged ‘Obedience to God’

You haven’t noticed her at church before.  She must be new.  She seems awfully young (a teen!) to have a babe on her hip.  And, what’s this?  She’s pregnant, too?  She slumps in the pew as if to make herself smaller, almost invisible. 

She’s sitting with a woman you recognize as a long-time member.  The people who have offered the young woman welcome inquire as to the whereabouts of her husband.  The two women are vague on this point.  Rumor has it that the babe on her hip and the babe in her belly have different fathers. 

Should you greet her?  Welcome her? Invite her to brunch?  Maybe it’s better to keep your distance.  Obviously, this gal hasn’t been brought up right.

If this was your response, you would have rejected my great-grandmother.

Yes, the young woman in this story was real.  The babe in her belly was my grandfather.

We all make judgments based on the limited information that we have.  The trouble is that we don’t have the whole story.  Only God does.

God sees our whole truth – the reasons we behave the way we do, the circumstances surrounding our actions, our baggage, our history, everything.  While He doesn’t excuse away our bad behavior, He does have infinite compassion for us. 

God has tasked us in return to love others without judgment, to choke back our pride long enough to realize that we don’t know everything about every person we meet.  Isn’t this what we would want from others?

Now, here’s what you didn’t know about the young woman in the story:

My great-grandmother married at the age of sixteen.  Her husband was an Englishman who swept her off her feet.  But he was a terrible drunk who beat her.  At nineteen, she took their two-year-old son and fled for her life to her mother’s house.  In that town, she fell into the arms of a man who promised her the moon – and got her pregnant.   The boy born to her (my grandfather) was treated by society as rubbish because he was a “bastard child.” He carried the shame of this label his whole life. 

Later, my great-grandmother married a good man who took them all in and raised the boys as his own.  My grandfather grew into an upright, wise man of exceptional character, who in turn mentored other fatherless boys.

I have been guilty of judging people without knowing their story.  I have judged people who seem just a liiiiiitle less “good” than me.  Unless you and Jesus are twins, you have done it, too.

For just one day, remember that each person you meet has a story. 

Remember that God is the only one who knows it. 

And leave the judging up to Him, who loves us all.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV)

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I checked off another birthday this week.  This one was difficult to accept.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday.  It’s just that upon examination, my life isn’t what I thought it would be by this point.  I am not who I wanted to be.

I asked Hubs, “What’s so great about being this age?  Please tell me.  I need to focus on something positive.”

Sweet thing that he is, he tried to comfort me with talk of wisdom and depth.  Somehow, those perks seemed worth little when weighed against drawbacks like wrinkles, gray hair and sagging body parts.

So I had myself a good, long think.

I thought about how I spent my youth borrowing against the future.  I couldn’t wait to get to the next thing.  I always wanted to look older.  Never satisfied…

I thought about how that shifted.  Around age forty, I started looking back.  I missed the trappings of youth.  I wanted to look younger.  Never satisfied…

Like a giant light bulb illuminating my pity party, it hit me: 

Why not just be satisfied with this moment, this age, this life right now – just as it is? 

What if wishing to be somewhere else, or pining for my youth, or nursing my dissatisfaction is sapping my energy and joy? 

What if all this “wishing for different” is really me playing the victim?

Gasp.  Shudder.  Ew.  Gross. 

As folks say in the south, “I tell you what.”  (Contextual translation:  “I am so over that.”)  It is time for some changes. 

I don’t have God’s perspective, so I’m leaning on His.  I have laid out my every activity and attitude before Him and asked, “Is this what You would have for me?”  The answers have been surprising. 

He is renovating.  I am an observer, watching Him work.  As the drywall dust settles, I see glimpses of a new creation.

And what freedom!  I am no longer a powerless woman having a pathetic mid-life crisis.  I am His project, which means I am fully empowered to move forward – with boldness.  I can say “no, thank you” to things which might be burdensome, and give a resounding “yes!” to things which He has determined are right for me.

Birthdays need not be a funereal passing of another year. 

They can be the start of something wonderful – a birth-day, a cause for celebration.

Today can be a birth-day.  It’s all in the attitude.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

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If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

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Ladies and gentlemen, let the record reflect that I am mean with a cultivator.  It’s a good thing, too, because besides being a rigorous tricep workout, cultivating is one of the most important tasks in the garden.  I am by no means a gardening expert, but here are the two main benefits, as far as I can tell:

  1. It keeps weeds and grass (which rob plants of water and nutrients) out of the garden bed.  Clawing at the dirt with a cultivator will reveal weeds and grass that you didn’t even know were growing.  By the time a blade of Bermuda grass shows above ground, its root system is already established.  For a healthy garden, cultivate frequently so that weeds and grass don’t get a foothold.
  2. It aerates the soil.  I like to keep my garden soil fluffy.  Cultivating keeps the ground from getting packed.  Fluffy soil can accept water and fertilizer, and the plant roots don’t have to work so hard to push through the dirt.

One morning as I was whacking away at the dirt, God was showing me a parallel between cultivating a garden and cultivating a life.

I don’t know about yours, but my life is fertile ground for weeds and grass.  Resentments, grudges, irritations, pride – all of these rob me of the abundant life I am meant to have in Christ. They threaten the health of my relationships.  They rob me of joy.    

I need to be vigilant so that these crummy weeds don’t get a foothold.  If I neglect to uproot them, they will get bigger and suffocate my growth.

Metaphorically speaking, frequently cultivating my life also keeps me from becoming so hardened that I cannot accept the watering and fertilizing – the good things – with which God might bless me.

What about you?  What are the weeds in your life?  Is there something you need to release?  What is robbing you of joy?

Digging deeper:  Locate your Bible.  Blow off any dust which may have accumulated there.  Go to where there are things growing in some dirt, either in your yard, or in a pot on the windowsill.  Read Matthew 13:1-23.  Now reflect for as long as you like upon the soil of your life.  What is growing there?  Are you satisfied with this?

Let’s pray:  Dear God, there are so many weeds in my life!  I name them silently now…  Help me to uproot them so that nothing will hinder my walk with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

garden

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I cast a despondent gaze over the little piles of laundry lining the hallway.  (Sigh.)  I have faced those same, boring little piles every Monday of my married life.  The size, shape and quantity of the clothing have changed over the years.   The task itself has not. 

I was just about to complain to myself about having to do the dang laundry for the umpteenth time when a piece of scripture popped into my head.  (Scripture has a way of doing that.)

 

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Colossians 3:17, NIV, emphasis mine)

 

Hm.  I had to mull that one a bit. 

Whatever I do…

Whatever I do…

Wait a minute.  Whatever I do?  Does this mean to say that I’m supposed to do laundry for Jesus?  That can’t be right.  I do laundry so that we can have clean clothes and so that we don’t stink.  I do laundry for my family.  I do laundry because I have to and I’m stuck with it and if I didn’t do it, my children would wear the same clothes until the clothes could wear them and because maybe, just maybe somebody, someday will APPRECIATE ALL THE HARD WORK I DO!

Whoa.  Time for a gut check.

What would happen if I did do the laundry (and everything else) for Jesus?  Well.  My perspective might change a wee bit.  Didn’t he wash their feet?  Didn’t he come to serve, not to be served?  Doesn’t the King of Heaven wash my dirty laundry when I confess it to him?

Yes.  Whatever I do, I must do for him.  And why? 

Because if I do it for myself, it is too easy to stop. 

Because if I do it for the recognition of people, I will be disappointed.

Because everything I am able to do, I am able to do because of him.

Yes, I will do the laundry for Jesus… and swish the toilets, and grow the children, and love the husband, and teach the students, and write the blogs, and whatever else he wants me to do.  Thanks be to God that I can!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to put the sheets in the dryer… with a smile on my face. 🙂

laundryforJesus

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The game MONOPOLY was invented in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression by an unemployed man from Pennsylvania.  Parker Brothers rejected the game, citing “52 design errors.”  Undaunted, the man sold 5,000 handmade copies, approached Parker Brothers again, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, over 250 million games have been sold in 103 countries in 37 languages.  5,120,000,000 little green houses have been constructed for the game.  Estimates are that nearly 500 million people have played the game of MONOPOLY.*

Holy cow.  We do have a taste for the green stuff, don’t we?

Why do we chase after money, pine for it, mourn the lack of it, or flaunt the wealth of it?  People who have lots of it are considered “successful”, while those who lack it (supposedly) deserve our sympathy.

Growing up in Montana, I saw people who couldn’t afford three squares a day or a Christmas present for their children.  Then during my career as an opera singer, I interacted with patrons of the arts who could buy a car with the change in their Gucci wallets. 

I’ve known some godly poor people, some messed up poor people, some messed up rich people and some godly rich people.  Apparently, a person’s bank account balance does not rise or fall in proportion to their character.

I have wondered over the disparity, though.  Why are there “haves” and “have nots”?  Has God “blessed” some people with money and forgotten others?

And what about tithing?  Why would the God of abundance require us to give ten per cent of everything we make?  Couldn’t He just provide for us all?

Here’s my take, for whatever it’s worth:

Money is only a tool in God’s hand to grow us as human beings.

Perhaps the lacking of money is meant to teach dependence upon Him, the benefits of simplicity, or humility.  Perhaps the having of money is meant to teach generosity, that material possessions don’t bring lasting joy, or that wealth is not a barometer of the heart.  Perhaps tithing is for our benefit – to teach us to give what we have so freely taken.

Perhaps it is all meant to draw us to Him.

This is God’s modus operandi.  Whatever He chooses to give or withhold is meant to teach us and draw us into deeper relationship with Him.

Let us regard money as the tool that it is.

And let us pursue the Carpenter, not the chisel in His hand.

 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:23-25, NIV)

*Source: Hasbro web site

 

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I have been dreaming of starting a certain something for several years now.  (I promise to let you in on it when it is farther along.)  I’ve turned it over in my mind and examined it from every direction. 

I’ve been alternately inspired and utterly discouraged about it.  I have given audience to the inner critic in my mind that tells me it will never work.

Have you been there?  Have you been on the edge of beginning something, but find yourself teetering between jumping in and running in the other direction?

I haven’t exactly jumped in yet, but…

I gathered up my courage and began it.

It was sort of like an out-of-body experience.  I was watching myself take action.  I wanted to yell, “No!  Don’t open that door!  There might be a boogey man behind it!”

But there was another Voice.

“I put this on your heart.  What have you got to lose?  Don’t worry about what may or may not happen after this step.  Just take one.  You can do it.  I am with you.  You do not have to be afraid.”

And then there was calm.

Peace.

I remembered that the success or failure of it is not entirely up to me.  I need only to be a willing participant.  If God chooses to bless my efforts, that is His call.  Mine is to answer it.

At that moment, I reached into my purse for my wallet.  Instead, my hand pulled out an index card on which I had written a memory verse.  I read it, and had to laugh.

“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)

Thank you, God. 

Thank you for the reminder that if you are leading, there is no room for timidity.

Thank you that when we step out in faith, the water we step on becomes as solid ground.

Thank you that we don’t have to do what you ask in our own power, but in yours.

I am following you.

 

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My grandfather had no use for churches, but he paraphrased Jesus all the time, whether he knew it or not.  One of his favorite sayings was, “When you point your finger at someone, just remember that there are three fingers pointing back at yourself.” 

Jesus said that, too.  Not exactly like that, but He said it.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing going on at my house this week by all four members of my family.   (Is there a full moon?)  At our dinner table, fingers are pointing north, south, east and west.

And I think I might just go bananas over it.

My grandfather wasn’t much of a talker.  He preferred to listen.  Unsnapping the pocket of his western shirt to dig out a cigarette, he’d light up, then, elbows on the table and calloused hands clasped, listen to the conversation going on around him.  Occasionally, he would come out with a well-timed joke, but he didn’t give his opinion much, even if you asked for it.

There are plenty of opinions expressed at our table, and sharply at that.

To my knowledge, my grandparents never locked their front door.  The protocol was to knock on your way in, and shout, “Helloooo?  Anybody home?”

“None but us chickens,” came the reply, and the greetings, and the joviality, and the eating of Sunday morning pancakes would commence.

Our door opens by appointment.

How can I change all this – the finger-pointing, opinion-bellowing and guarded welcoming?

Oh, yeah.  Three fingers pointed back at me…

Great.  That means I need to look at my behavior at least three times before I look at someone else’s.  That means I need to remove that two-by-four sticking out of my eye before I can see well enough to remove the fleck of sawdust from another person’s eye.  That means I need to listen to other people’s opinions rather than being intent on defending my own.

And it means my door should be open, just in case Jesus drops by for pancakes.

 My grandparents

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Luke 6:42, NIV)

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