Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Courageous Faith

"I think I have a problem," Sarah confided this morning. "I was so sure God wanted me to teach this Sunday School class.  I was excited about doing it, but this week it seemed like too much. I don't like teaching children sometimes. Maybe I'm just tired, but maybe I should quit."

It's okay if you struggle with your calling sometimes. The task may be the most wonderful opportunity you imagined.  It may be perfectly suited to your delightfully quirky differences and talents. It may have started out with a hopeful vision, but the labor of seeing it through is more than you expected.

Sometimes, even though we enjoy our ministry, we don't feel like going to the prison, visiting the sick, counseling the exhausted, encouraging the weak or teaching young children.  By being faithful regardless of human emotion and struggles, courage grows.  Faithfulness stirs hope and increases joy.

Probably at age 70 when God called Abraham to leave his country, there were some self-doubts and disappointments. Paul and Silas sang in the prison in spite of the severity of their suffering, but this doesn't mean they didn't struggle. Jesus wrestled with His calling in Gethsemane enough to sweat blood.

Learn with Peter as he walked on water. Courage is staying out of the boat even when you are confused and sinking.  Courage is kicking fear and disappointment in the teeth even when you are risking everything you hold dear.  Don't grow weary and don't be sidetracked from your calling.  Stay out of the boat.  Just stay out of the boat and be faithful. Like the great crowd of witnesses who have gone before you, do not quit.

When you are sinking into the raging waters, keep trusting the God who is walking alongside you in the dark, raging storm. He didn't quit in Gethsemane.  He says, "Peace. Be still." And even the winds and the waves obey Him.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Toward Jerusalem

Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow.
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea.
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?

Hold us in quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

~Amy Carmichael

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

We sat side by side on the old wooden bridge, my little one and me.  Long days of allergies had turned  Mr. Happy Boy into Mr. Grumpy Pants. Breathing in fresh morning air and gazing across the creek to rolling hills created a balance in my perspective.

"It makes me feel taller," he said quietly.

Something in us doesn't love a wall.  Wide open spaces beckon us, make us feel bigger on the inside. We feel liberated, free to explore.  Our creativity is fueled and our hearts open up to new possibilities and dreams. We feel lively, bold, generous, contented. The quiet chases away the noise and the fray leaving us comforted and soothed.

Our lives need quiet outdoor time to soak in truths, to collect thoughts.  Walking in the quiet produces fruitful understanding that does not blossom in the typical routines of life maintenance and work.  It takes away the issues of money and the fights for our rights.

Without the quiet even young children and babies become confused and irritable. There is something so delicious about walking in the fresh air and sunshine, sitting quietly before the grandness of open spaces.

Capture the depths of joy found in widened horizons.  Don't lose it.  Don't merely look at it and turn away. Let it call you toward a better you, a you that has embraced the wide open world.  When you return home you will be eager to take that fresh view inside. You'll be motivated to clear away the clutter that drains your energy. You can get rid of the messes that destroy the simple gift of calm that is available to everyone.

God must be a cowboy at heart.
He made wide open spaces from the start.
He made grass and trees and mountains
And a horse to be a friend...
And trails to lead old cowboys home again.
          ~Dan Seals

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Walking with Granny

When my Great-Granny Sutton was 89 I asked her when she first realized that she was old. Her eyes crinkled a million wise wrinkles as she squinted at me, reading my innermost thoughts. With the experience that raised 8 farm children, buried most of them and survived a dozen lifetimes in one, she snorted. Then she burst into laughter.

She shook her head at me and said, "I never did. Truth is sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and nearly scare myself to death a wonderin' why in the world is there some old woman in my bathroom! I still see a young girl when I look at myself." She took my hand. "We live forever. It takes a forever to get old. I'll get there. Then you will."

Though Granny left me a hundred memories and a thousand words when she died at 102 1/2 (a half year matters, don't you know?) it is her outlook on aging that has woven itself into the fiber of my being and continued to bounce around in my heart. 

I am me. I am gonna be me...forever. 

Put me in a group of people and I immediately start to notice all the ways I am not like them. Life can be a challenge because I am not a joiner and I am spastically self-conscious.  I ramble on much too generously yet crave the words of others to soothe and bolster me. The young girl inside me is still desperately struggling to become the best version of herself.

I hit the pause button on that thought in January to study it. By September I am beginning to understand. There just might be unseen value in something as eternal and unique as me. 

It's a forever road I'm traveling. God knit me together in my mother's womb and decades later He is still working on me. My God always finishes what He starts. I am the apple of His eye and, while some of the refining and knitting may hurt a little bit, what He creates is always good. It just takes a little time sometimes. But, He's a forever God and we aren't pressed for time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Impossible Happens

Ever wish you could just start over? Take a different life road, be a better you. Such an adventure requires cleaning house and tossing the garbage first, doesn't it?  That handful of high school regrets, the bucket of rebellion from college, the heap of broken dreams from your 20s and while you're at it, the extra 10 pounds of junk food you gained eating comfort food with your toddlers.

You will, of course, remember to pack hard earned wisdom, favorite hobbies, tried and true friends, your Starbucks card, favorite hoodie and your laptop. Suitcase getting full? Don't forget your marked-up Bible, fresh journal and Ipod.

It may not feel like this has been your day, your month or even your year. It doesn't take much to feel that way. Our eyes are trained to see failures and our hearts to see burdens. It's why Monday is my favorite day. I get to start over and seek simplicity, good choices, the refreshing gratitude that comes with a new week.

God is already working behind the scenes in your life.  He is transforming you into the person He knows you can be. He is the God who is never overwhelmed by our failures, never surprised by our circumstances.  He knows all about that different life road to a better you. He is the God who is able to do more than all you could imagine. Every day He is available as Guide to help us make decisions that determine the rest of our story.

You won't find the adventure by accident.  The choice has to be deliberate.  Courage to be different must overcome resentment and discouragement. Each choice leads to more choices.  Each change leads to greater change.The momentum will build until you find yourself living whole and free, living that dream you thought was impossible. My God specializes in the Impossible.

So, come on! Stick your phone in your pocket, grab your keys and let's go!

"This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year." Exodus 12:2

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Running Uphill

To run far and fast, you start out fully fueled, trained and toned.   I was running my life race at a strong and steady pace, working toward peak performance, running to win. At a blind curve the road became a rocky incline. I adjusted my stride, weaving around potholes, more alert to obstacles and dangers.

Spiritually I have spent my summer running my race in my most difficult terrain ever. As the hill incline increased I called on a reservoir of strength I hadn't realized was even available.  Years of training in spiritual disciplines proved worth the struggle.

Then heart muscles began to strain. Attitude began to waver. Focus began to drift.  Determination for running to win changed to desire to finish the race.  Disappointment followed disappointment. Crisis followed crisis. Running uphill in the desert wasteland of enemy territory was lonely.  My usual kindred spirits, encouragers and prayer warriors had scattered, concentrating on their own races. I was being crowded off the trail by enemy critics taunting my grief with envy, shame and discouragement.

"Resistance", said my running buddy, Lindsey, "may reduce speed for awhile, but eventually it makes me faster.  It hurts the worst at the very end, right before reaching the goal.  But when it's all said and done, the most incredible joy overwhelms. Every bit of pain is worth it."

My steady confident stride slowed to survival speed.  Running slowed to walking as I continued to keep in step with the Spirit, believing His promises.  Man of Sorrows and Lord of Joy never once left my side.  Crawling, battered by the enemy, I recently reached the top of the hill.

Out of enemy territory I sit by the side of the road resting in the green pastures of a new plateau.  An article in Runner's World Magazine tells me "It is not only doing the work required in a race that makes you stronger. It's during recovery that muscles can rebuild and adapt to the challenge."

Sounds good! I definitely need rest and recovery, but I didn't quit and the victory is sweet~