Friday, May 27, 2011

MISSING HOME

Sometimes God leads His people away from the place they call home.

The LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people, and your father's household to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).

Abram went, as the LORD told him to.

Yes, there were promises of incomparable blessing from a God who fulfills what He promises. He had "Abraham" in store for this Abram, and all the blessing that came with it. No small thing! But I wonder if it was difficult for Abram to "leave and go." I figured it must have been. I know how it feels. I've "left and gone" a time or two.

The first time, it was like "Thea, go from your town, your people, and your father's household to the place I have made for you. Sure, you'll know nobody. But I will be with you." That place was Boston. I went out of obedience from a place that was tremendously dear to me to a place that could not have been less familiar. Yes, I met my husband there--an unmatched blessing that came from following where He led me.

The second time, I was living back in my hometown, this time with my husband I'd met in Boston. We loved our life there. I did NOT want to leave that dear California town for anything, ever again. But just two years later, there it was--the leading to go: "Thea, go--again--from your town, your people, and the place where you grew up to the place I have made for you." This time that place was Atlanta, and this time I went a little bit more "kicking and screaming." But there was nothing BUT to follow where He was leading, and I knew it. I knew it! It's like when Abraham's servant showed up to Rebekah's home to ask if he could take Rebekah home to be Isaac's wife, and her family said, "This is from the LORD--we can say nothing from you one way or the other." It's like it would be futile to do anything but respond with obedience when the leading was so clearly from the LORD. I had this very conversation with someone who tried to talk me out of moving to Atlanta. I felt like I had no choice but to go. I mean, yes, I did have a choice--I could have stayed put--but God had so clearly made His will known in us moving that it would have been ridiculous to choose anything but to go.

We've been here for 8 years, and we've been really, really blessed. Truly, His mercies have been new--here--every single morning. But I am tremendously homesick. Every day for weeks I have checked airfare, but the rates are just ridiculously high. I know it's not the time to go home, but it doesn't make it any less of a bitter pill to swallow. I miss home badly, and it feels way too far away right now.

Good heavens, how did Abram do it?!? Surely he pined for his own land. He must have longed for the place he'd known as home.

I wonder what he missed the most. Maybe he had a hilarious grandfather back at home like I do. Maybe he missed his dear friends. I don't know what he missed, but I'm sure he had something.

I wish God's plan included us being close to family. Apparently it just doesn't. That is TOUGH for me!! Really!

But I am called to His will, not my want.


Where You go, I'll go

Where You stay, I'll stay

When You move, I'll move

I will follow You


All Your ways are good

All Your ways are sure

I will trust in You alone

Higher than my side

High above my life

I will trust in You alone


Where You go I'll go

Where You stay, I'll stay

When You move, I'll move

I will follow You

Whom You love, I'll love

How You serve, I'll serve

If this life I lose

I will follow You.


CHRIS TOMLIN * I WILL FOLLOW

LORD, please comfort my pining heart. I know there's a cost that comes with following You, and I would rather be walking in obedience far away from the home I know than to be there and missing out on what You want for me. Still, it's tough. My heart is really hurting! Pour out comfort. I need assurance that You have brought us to this place for such a time as this.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

HE WANTS TO "LIVE GOOD"


For the past several weeks our small group has been praying for one person from the group all week and then fasting together on Wednesdays. We're done with the adults and now are praying for one of the children in the group, and this week is our son's week. When he was asked how we can be praying for him this week, he told the group,

"I want to live good."

I thought I misheard him because I have never heard him really say something like that, so I asked him to repeat it and he said again, "I want to live good."

He also said he wants to play and be safe and have a good week. All very age-appropriate. But back at our house, as I was tucking him into bed, I asked him again how I can be praying specifically for him, and he said,

"I just really want to live good."

Correct grammar aside, I thought his request was beautiful....and pure. Especially in light of the video the adults had just watched--a Francis Chan teaching on Philippians 1:27:

LIVE YOUR LIFE IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.

It was all about the discrepancy between the way we often live in light of the worthiness of the gospel of Christ. I just sat there downstairs, challenged by this truth while my children played upstairs. And then to have my son come downstairs and share his request, and have it be about the way he lives...Well, I was challenged once again.

Because I really want to "live good" too. I mean, don't you? I don't want some big discrepancy between what I believe and the life that I live. I want things to line up and be worthy of what was laid down for me.

And I want it for my kids, too. Honest to goodness, it wakes me up at night and it keeps me up at night. And if someone were to be able to look ahead and tell me that my kids might not live for the glory of God, I would want to go out into the middle of nowhere and scream the most ferocious, grief-stricken, anguished scream. Nothing--no hurt, no disappointment, no loss-could devastate me more. I hope for them to know and love Him, and can well indentify with 3 John 1:4: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." I truly am desperate for my descendants--the ones I hold and kiss and pray over as well as the ones I will never know--to live lives worthy of the tremendously good news of Jesus Christ. Truly, I care about my family's investment in the Kingdom of God probably more than any single thing on this earth. I think about it constantly, and pray that we are preparing our little ones for a life of loving Him.

And so I am going to pray my son's prayer request for him. But I am also going to pray that the life I live will be worthy of the gospel, so that it will be an example to a sweet, sweet boy who simply wants to "live good."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SO BUSY CELEBRATING OURSELVES...

I keep watching this little video clip:


video


In it, my son gets in a great kick on the soccer field. But it's his reaction I'm stuck on. He stops to celebrate his kick, but the rest of the team has moved on to the other end of the field, still playing--without him--while he's celebrating what he's just done.


I love that he's excited about that kick, just soaking up the moment. He's just an unassuming young child, and it's sweet to see his joy! But at the same time, there's something about it that speaks.



When we do something great, what's our typical reaction? Do we step out of the game--a game that is still going, mind you--to soak up the accolades and applause?


I keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 9:24: "Run in such a way as to win the prize."


As we run this race on our way home to Heaven, how are we running? Do we allow the words of blessing and encouragement from the stands to spur us on toward love and good deeds, to urge us on in our running?


Or do we stop every couple of paces in order to be celebrated? Do we run one great lap and then stop and wait for the thunderous applause while the rest of the runners are still running? Do we pause to proclaim our victories rather than continuing to run?


Run in such a way as to win the prize. No successful athlete stops mid-race to celebrate his victories or pat himself on the back--he knows that part will come when the race ends. You'd never see an Olympic sprinter run one time around, then stop and turn to the crowd and say, "Hey, did you all see that? I just rocked that last lap!" while the rest of the runners keep running.



In the same way, when we do something big, we can rejoice while we keep running--there's no need to step out of the race to beg for acknowledgement from the crowd. We know applause and celebration await us with the words we'll hear one day:



"Well done, good and faithful servant."



So keep running. Let those words of encouragement and blessing spur you on--we all need this to keep going!!--But don't stop to soak in the celebration.



Run in such a way as to win the prize. Keep running.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO SEE THAT MOVIE

My spirit and flesh are in a battle against each other this week.

It's over a movie I really want to/don't want to see.

You know how as a parent you say "no" to some things because you love your kids so much and want to protect them, but they get ticked at you for wanting to protect them because they think you're making them miss out on the fun, so they stomp their feet a little?

Well, I'm stomping my feet a little bit. I really want to see the new movie "Bridesmaids." But then again, I really don't. Not with the conviction in my spirit over it.

I've said it before--I LOVE humor. I grew up in a home with a lot of laughter--clean laughter! I think in some respects, I have made humor an idol. I actually crave opportunities to laugh out loud--and I let my standards slide sometimes when humor comes into play. It's always a battle when a movie comes out that people tout as "the funniest movie I've ever seen," because almost inevitably those hilarious movies are laced with inappropriate content. Each hysterical moment seems to be surrounded by stuff I just plain have no business watching.

If any man would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.

I wish I was like the people who can watch a movie, walk away, and not remember every little detail of what they just saw. They seem almost unaffected by it. I say "almost" because I think stuff gets imbedded in our hearts and minds far more than we realize--or perhaps are willing to admit. But for me, I have an almost photographic type of memory. I always aced every spelling test because I could see the words in my mind--in the font they were in on the study sheet. I can see in my mind the phone message my dad wrote for me, and the phone number on it--from a decade ago. God made one very visual person in His creation of me, and it has been a blessing in many ways. But it also means that when I choose to watch garbage, it replays in my mind like a movies on a screen, over and over. For weeks. And that is not at all what He wants for me.

Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable...if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

So no wonder the Holy Spirit, the God who loves me, keeps whispering, "Don't."

I feel a bit left out. I know of a lot of women who are going to see this together, or have seen this together. I want to be in on the fun. I want to laugh with them.

But I want to be obedient even more. I find it really tempting to determine what's right and what's wrong based on what I see other believers doing. If more than half of my Christian friends are okay with it, then it must be okay. Or I do the "comparitively speaking" thing--I'll watch TV shows I have no business watching, simply because "There is so much out there that is far worse than this." My standard has inched further and further away from where the Word of God says it should be. And pulling it back to where it should be sure feels like a bummer. But I KNOW that "the fruit of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever."

You may be reading this, disappointed in me for even having the slightest pull to go see this movie. Or maybe you think I'm being too extreme in concluding that I have no business seeing it. Fair enough. I'm just sharing my struggle--Let the Holy Spirit lead you. But when I consider what was laid down on my behalf, I have a hard time justifying spending my God-provided money on things that are so clearly an affront to His holiness. I hate that I've stomped my feet over this one, but it's just evidence that the LORD still has a lot of work to do in my heart.


But I love Him. And I really, really want to listen to what He's been saying--and obey.

So I just cannot see that movie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

THE MIGHTY PRAYERS OF TINY CHILDREN


Last night I had the worst headache of my life.


It started when we were at my son's soccer awards ceremony, and by the time we were driving home, it had begun to hurt in an overwhelming way. I even asked my husband to pull over at a friend's house for some medicine, because I needed some relief, and I couldn't imagine waiting the 10 extra minutes to our house. I was writhing in pain in the last minutes of our car ride home.

I went straight upstairs, shut off all lights and got into bed, nauseated and nearly undone by the alarming pain I was experiencing. My kids came into the room and put their tiny hands on my aching head and then they each prayed for me. And as soon as my second child said "Amen," I felt the pain stop.

I mean, CEASE.

It wasn't at all like the gradual relief that comes with popping a couple of Tylenol; The overwhelming pain came to a sudden, screeching halt. It made me think of Jesus speaking to those strong, unruly waves and wind and saying "BE STILL!"--and the storm coming to an abrupt end at the sound of His voice.

My kids kissed me, called "Night, Mommy!" over their shoulders, and ran down the hall while I lay there in shock. I started praying to thank God for His healing, and for hearing their requests for my healing.

A few minutes later, they ran back in to check on me and give me more kisses. I told them that God had heard their prayers, and answered them with healing. My tiny daughter's eyes widened and she said, "We made Mommy all better!" I stopped her and said, "No--the LORD healed Mommy. But you two asked Him to."

I cupped their faces in my hands and said to each of them, "There is power in your prayers. Don't forget to pray all throughout your life." One probably won't remember it, but I'll keep saying it to her until she does. The other probably will remember it, and I pray this truth will shape his life. I pray their lives will be marked by prayer!

But I pray that when He answers their prayers in the way they hope, they will acknowledge Him as the One who did it all. They'll know they asked Him to, and that the God who made the sun, moon, and stars also heard their requests--but they'll know with even greater conviction that He is the One who brought about every answer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

THE MILLION-DOLLAR BOX

The other day I was offered to purchase a box.

For $50,000.

But it's no ordinary box. Inside that box is a check made out to me for one million dollars--cashable only if I purchase that box. No gimmicks, no scam--it is 100% sure that I will be a millionaire if I can find a way to make that box mine.

As I've been looking over our finances, I've discovered that we can probably come up with that $50,000. But it will take selling our home and taking the small amount of equity we have built up in our home, plus we'd have to sell our one paid-for car and get rid of the other, plus our furniture and clothing and toys. We would literally have to sell every last thing--and at that point we will probably have enough to buy that box.

And so I'm debating. I know that we stand to gain one million dollars if I buy that box. It's a sure thing. I just find myself torn over whether or not I'm ready to go through the process of giving up every last thing we have in order to get it. I think of the cost to my family, the loss of the way we've known our life to be. I keep wondering if it will be worth it.


You may be reading this, thinking, "DO IT! Of course it's worth it!! Yes, you'd have to get rid of all your stuff but think of what you'll gain in the trade! You'd be a fool NOT to do it!"

Exactly.




"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. He hid it again and--with joy--ran to sell everything he had to get enough money to buy that field."



Matthew 13:44

I read this passage with new eyes recently. There is nothing, nothing, nothing we could lay down that is worth more than what we will take back up in the exchange. I don't know what the man in this parable had to lay down, but he took one look at that treasure and knew without question that selling all he had would be a small thing in light of the gain that awaited him. And so--with joy--he made the trade.

We know this is something so much more than $50,000 for a million-dollar box. It's the laying down of our lives--and yes, sometimes even our stuff--in the pursuit of the Kingdom of Heaven. But just as my proposed transaction seemed to be an opportunity I should not dare pass up...

How much more the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TO MAKE IT MORE PALATABLE

I have to laugh sometimes when I read reviews of recipes...

REVIEW FOR BASIL PARMESAN RISOTTO:

"Well, I give this 4 stars. I'm not really a big fan of basil, so I used some fresh strawberries I had on hand instead. And instead of parmesan, I used some chocolate. I didn't have any Arborio rice, so this actually turned out a little more 'Chocolate-Covered Strawberries'-ish rather than 'Basil Parmesan Risotto'-ish. With these modifications, it was the perfect recipe!"

Okay, so they're not quite this bad. But it cracks me up how people modify the heck out of a recipe, and then decide how they feel about it.

I feel like that happens a lot with the Word of God. Seems sometimes a lot of picking and choosing and modifying and even omitting occurs when people decide just how palatable His Word is.

"I love the "I-don't-condemn-you" side of Jesus, but I could do without the "Go-sin-no-more" side. And God didn't really say what He said about that, did He? Wellll, let's just leave that out--we don't want to leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth!"

Add and change and modify and omit. And after enough modifications, we find God and His Word to be palatable--something we're able to swallow.

But what if we were to taste and see that the LORD is good, and that His Word is pleasing--even as sweet as honey?

And what if we were to realize it's this way...without even the slightest modification?

Friday, May 6, 2011

BITTER BERRIES

My little A. G. just can't resist picking the strawberries out of our garden.

Only problem is, they aren't ready. Not even close! She picks them when they're pale and bitter rather than waiting until they're deep red, juicy and sweet.

And every time she plucks another berry off the vine, it means that what could have been scrumptious and sweet never will be. It was never allowed to become what it was made to be.

I keep wondering if there are meant-to-be-sweet things I keep trying to pluck from the vine before they're ready--things that God will have in store for me, when they're ready--and not until then.

But I'm like a child who just doesn't understand. I see the beginnings of something, and I don't want to have to wait for it to come to fruition. I want to enjoy it now.

But that's just it--I won't enjoy it now!--Not in the state it's in. There's a big difference between the taste of a tiny white unripe strawberry, and a deep red, ripe and ready strawberry. And by trying to devour it before it's ready, I'm left with a mouth full of bitterness. Sometimes I just wish I could really take hold of this in my mind. Even if I could have it before it was ready, I really wouldn't want it.

I wouldn't want that job that isn't ready for me.
I wouldn't want that future mate until he or she is ready for me.
I wouldn't want that opportunity that God hasn't fully brought to completion.
I wouldn't want that thing for which my heart aches until it's time, as God has determined.

Sometimes we're just glad to have something--something rather than nothing. But it is far, far better to have nothing than a not-yet-ready something. I mean, really-which would you rather have--an empty mouth, or a mouthful of bitter berries?







LORD, strengthen me to wait for You to bring Your plans to fruition. I can wait peacefully and confidently, knowing that when You've brought it all the way to its ripest and readiest state, it is sure to be something sweet. Thank You that You are worthy of my trust, and the ready-er of all good things.

He makes all things beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11