Friday, September 30, 2011

God reaches for us

It's easy for me to get caught up in wrong-thinking: that God is sitting "upstairs" in an easy chair, reclined, arms crossed, waiting until I do something -- pray, obey, serve -- then He will respond or make Himself known to me. But the opposite is true. Far from being passive, God actively pursues me.

"There is no need to plead that the love of God shall fill our heart as though he were unwilling to fill us. He is willing as light is willing to flood a room that is opened to its brightness; willing as water is willing to flow into an emptied channel. Love is pressing round us on all sides like air. Cease to resist, and instantly love takes possession." Amy Carmichael

Know the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:19

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting to Know You

Most mornings, from 6-8am, I sit in a ratty (but comfy) old recliner next to a rickety, unfinished bookshelf that holds commentaries, devotionals, hymnbooks, and Bibles, and I meditate and study because I want to know God. I have the luxury of spending two hours in quiet time since my kids are grown and I don’t have to run off to work outside the home. This morning, in one of those devotionals (Utmost for His Highest), I read about another person who sat in a special place and meditated on God.

John 1:45-48 says, “Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.’

‘Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’

‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied.

As they approached, Jesus said, ‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.’

‘How do you know about me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus replied, ‘I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you’” (NLT).

When Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know about me?” he wasn’t asking, “How did you see what I was doing?” Everyone could see that. What amazed Nathanael was that Jesus saw what was in his heart and that Jesus knew him.

I didn't start setting aside time to get to know Jesus until I was thirty-five years old. But this morning it struck me in a new way that sitting and getting to know God is not just a one-way deal. It's how God gets to know us too. Of course, this doesn’t happen only when we're sitting quietly, but what does our willingness to set aside the first part of our day (and the amount of time is not important) show Jesus about what is in our hearts?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do Less, Better

Although I call myself a writer and a speaker, I really consider myself simply a learner. I love to read and study, and I love to go to conferences and hear other speakers. If it were up to me, I'd just sit around and absorb all this good information for myself. But this would be selfish, right? Jesus says, "Love your neighbor."

And so I'm compelled to pass on to others what I learn -- and this happens through writing and speaking. And that's what this "blog" is all about. I don't promote it (as you can tell by my whopping 13 followers) but simply use it to pass on things that I've learned.

Today I'd like to mention two books that mentored me and changed my life: "Ordering Your Private World" by Gordon MacDonald and "Margin" by Dr. Richard Swenson.

These books teach about time management and making priorities. MacDonald's book encourages us to run our lives instead of letting life run us. Swenson's book reminds us that we need to plan "down" time - not cram as much as we can into our day but leave some breathing room. The result when combined: a peaceful and productive life. If this sounds like something you'd enjoy, I encourage you to check out these books.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sometimes I just need a friend to come and pat me on the back and say, "You can do it! I believe in you! Keep going!" But sometimes real people are not around. Or maybe they are, and I just can't see them.

Hebrews 12:1 says, "We are surrounded by ...a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith." The NLT Bible comments: "Their faithfulness is a constant encouragement to us. Others have run the race and won, and their witness stirs us to run and win also."

For me, one of those faithful witnesses is Thomas Chisholm. You're probably familiar with his hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, but in 1897 he wrote another one that never fails to encourage me when I sing or pray it. It goes like this:

♫ O to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer. Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee! Full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind. Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting. Seeking the wandering sinner to find. O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee! Lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save. O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee! While I am pleading, Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love. Make me a temple deemed to receive You. Fit me for life and heaven above. O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart. ♫

I'm so glad that Thomas Chisholm wrote down the songs God gave him so I could be strengthened and encouraged more than a hundred years later.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Praying at all times

The Spirit of prayer makes us so intimate with God that we scarcely pass through an experience before we speak to Him about it. ~ O. Hallesby

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Summer I Learned How to Love (More)

(The following was previously published in LIVE, Purpose, and Good New Northwest.)

“Mama, you should come and serve breakfast with me at the mission in the morning. We start at 9:30.” Nineteen-year-old Elizabeth cornered me as I was getting ready for bed. Inside, I groaned. After wrapping up a busy season of ministry, I’d planned to spend the next morning sipping coffee and catching up on some reading. But how could I say no to her request? So the next morning, I drove downtown, plunked four quarters into the parking meter, and walked into a whole new world.

Elizabeth introduced me to her friends right away: Skeeter, a lanky young man with an infectious grin. And Gary, whose street name is No One. “I’ll never call you ‘No One,’” I vowed. “You’re Gary.” But Gary didn’t grin. His teeth were missing, knocked out in a fight by the butt of a rifle. And Jesse. Jesse’s street name is Ogre. At 6’7” or so, with long hair and a beard, the name seemed to fit him.

That morning, as I raced from table to table balancing plates of sausage gravy and biscuits, an unspeakable joy rose up inside of me. I couldn’t stop smiling! It was true: “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25, NIV). I decided to volunteer two days a week serving coffee.

One morning, I bought four dozen roses to give away to the clients. Two blocks from the mission, I saw Jesse, walking down the street, ranting profanities into his imaginary cell phone. I pulled over and parked my car. “Jesse,” I hollered, “could you help me carry this box?” I didn’t really need help.

Jesse looked up. “Sure,” he said, moving from wherever he was in his mind to being quite present with me. I smiled to myself, imagining passers-by seeing a 5’1” woman in a rose-pink jacket walking down the street with an “ogre” carrying roses.

For nine months I served coffee to the “least of these” — sex offenders, drug addicts, mentally ill, and troubled street kids. Then a change in volunteer policy ended my time at the coffee pot.

Eighteen months ago, Skeeter died when he fell through the roof at a construction site. He’d moved home to Texas to live with his mother; the Sunday before his death, he went to church and recommitted his life to Jesus. Skeeter came to our house once and skipped around the farm property, taking pictures of the lilac bushes, sheep, and even the family photos on our wall. I imagine him skipping around heaven doing the same.

Gary is in jail, serving time for assault. And 32-year-old Jesse still wanders the streets as he has, reportedly, since he was sixteen. We see him sometimes and sit with him on a bench. We give him money even though he never asks for it and probably uses it for cigarettes.

That summer God opened a part of my heart that had never been open before. I’m glad I said yes to Elizabeth when I wanted to say no.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Redesign Your HomeMaking - the Book!

Last weekend I attended a writer's conference near Asheville, North Carolina. The only thing on my agenda: hopefully meeting the writing partner I apparently needed to get my speaking topic, Redesign Your HomeMaking: Creating Room to Love God and Love People into print.

I begged a ride from Raleigh, and my reluctance (or refusal or fear or laziness) to drive an unfamiliar rental car led to my meeting my writing partner! Then -- I arrived home to a welcome email: Harvest House, a major publisher located in Eugene, Oregon, gave me the thumbs-up. They're interested in seeing my proposal. I had this invitation two years ago, but I wasn't ready. I hadn't met Eddie. Yes, my partner and helper for the home management topic is a guy. This should be interesting.

Anyway, finally, after all these years, my speaking topic Redesign Your HomeMaking will become a book, either through Harvest House or another publisher, Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas.

If you've heard this talk, I'd love some new feedback. You can post it here, or email me, or Facebook message me. What stuck with you? What worked? What didn't? What problems are you still facing in caring for your home so that you are freed up to spend more time with Jesus and then have more resources, like time, money, and developed talents to go out and love others?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chew on this

Today my daughter gets her wires clipped. She'll be able to open her mouth (a little) for the first time in six weeks, since her car accident on December 6. Oh, how she is looking forward to eating real food.

Of course, she'd like to eat steak or a hamburger, but Panda Express rice, scrambled eggs with cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy will be on the menu. Soft food. No chewing yet.

And speaking of chewing, here's what I'm chewing on today. It's from Practicing the Presence of People by Mike Mason. Boy, is this a great book. If I could afford to buy a copy for every member of my family, and then have a few extras to give away to friends, I would. (Maybe I will.)

Here's what I read. See if you agree with me -- that this is worth chewing on:

"Jesus' second great commandment implies that we will love others only to the extent that we love ourselves. The command might be better understood by putting the words "You will" in front of it: You will love your neighbor as yourself.

How thoroughly we have bought the lie that it is not okay to look after ourselves...We spend our days being stressed, insecure, angry, sullen, or numb with genteel denial. And in this condition we continue to tell ourselves that we can work, love, be productive, smile, help others, make a difference. But it's all a sickening lie.

The way to make a difference in this world is to become what everyone else is not: happy and full of life. It's not enough just to point the way; we must become the way, as Jesus was. He made it possible for us to have "the full measure of [His] joy" within us (John 17:13).

Why aren't we filling up our tanks? Is it because we won't admit we are empty? Are we so proud and neurotic that we cannot even believe that joy - real joy, irrepressibly bubbling over - is deservedly ours? Shutting ourselves off from this fullness, we have nothing to share with anyone else. Moreover, if we're not filling up with joy ourselves, it's guaranteed we're taking it from others. We are robbing each other blind."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Setting Spiritual Goals

Wow. I thought this was good! (Maybe it's just me...)

"In our natural life our ambitions change as we grow, but in the Christian life the goal is given at the very beginning. The beginning and the end are exactly the same, namely, our Lord Himself.

We start with Christ and we end with Him... not simply our own idea of what the Christian life should be. The goal of the missionary is to do God's will, not to be useful or to win the lost. A missionary is useful and does win the lost, but that is not the goal. The goal is to do the will of the Lord." ~ Utmost for His Highest, 9/23

Sometimes I get caught up in being "useful" to God and that's when I get into trouble.