Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Playin' in the Mud

What is it about boys and mud??  It attracts them like bees to a can of coke. 

If there was any mud to be found in our back yard my four boys would find it.  They would never carefully step around a mud puddle.  Oh no, they would stomp right into the middle of it. 

I can’t tell you how many times I would go out to the backyard and find them playing in a mud puddle or rubbing mud all over each other.  One time my husband was "watching" them and I came home to find the boys covered in mud from head to toe! 
The only way to get them clean was to spray them down with a hose and get them into the bathtub for a good soak.  They were good at getting themselves dirty but were powerless to clean themselves up – that was my job as their mother.

How true this is in our spiritual life as well.  We love the mud!  We don't skirt around it, we jump in feet first wallowing around in our pain and filth.  We know how to get dirty but are incapable of cleaning ourselves up, no matter how hard we try!   Because that is not our job it's God's!

Before we accepted Christ’s gift of salvation we were enemies of God.  Our sin separated us from any type of relationship with Him.  Scripture describes it as a veil between us and God, an impenetrable wall which we could do nothing to remove.  We were forever destined to live in the muck and grime of our own making, separated from God.

But God in His mercy was not satisfied with leaving us to wallow in our own sludge.  He desired for us to know Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him. He wanted the veil to be removed.  So he sent His one and only Son to take on human form and live a perfect life, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for us.  Jesus took the punishment we deserved and bore our sin on the cross.  In doing so, He made it possible for us to have an intimate, personal relationship with the God of the Universe; the veil that separated us from God was removed!

2 Corinthians 3:16 (The Message) says, Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone.

Do you see it?  God is a LIVING, PERSONAL presence.

He IS living and active, not dead and obsolete.  He is NOT like the song says, “. . . watching us from a distance . . . “   He IS intimately acquainted with all our ways.  He is NOT a statue that we carry around from place to place, a God we have made in our image.  He HAS come near . . .

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 continues, “And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

There is nothing between God and us!  NOTHING! 

But don’t we often live like there is? 

When we give ourselves to Jesus Christ, His Spirit comes to dwell in us and He transforms us. He washes us clean of our dirt and grime and we become brighter and more beautiful than we’ve ever been before NOT because of who we are but because of who He is!  It is not us who does the work in our lives but His Spirit living and dwelling in us. 

Are you wallowing in the mud and dirt of your own making?  Have you tried to clean yourself up and then come to God?  It doesn't work that way!  God wants you just as you are. . . 

As a follower of Jesus, have you given His Spirit full reign in your life?  Or are there muddy areas that you are clinging to, unwilling to let go of?  Our muddy, grimey place can feel so safe and comfortable and we often find ourselves justifying why we want to stay.  "Isn't mud good for you?  I mean people pay good money to get mud baths? . . . "

Come to Him, surrender your life to His work and allow Him to transform you from the inside out! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Holy Spirit . . . Oh, I Remember Him.


I had the most amazing thing happen to me this weekend!  I got to witness God’s work in the lives of women I had never met before and experience His work in my life as well.

I was preparing for this speaking engagement and once again feeling the attack of discouragement and disillusionment.  “Why am I doing this?  I don’t have anything to say.  There are so many needs, how can I meet them all?  There is so much heartache and pain, how can I speak to all of it?” . . .  On and on my thoughts raced round my head.

I had spent time in God’s Word and in prayer on Monday and had this wonderful feeling of expectation.  I just knew God was going to do great things.  But by Tuesday evening, I was in the depths of despair (as Anne of Green Gables would say) wondering why I had agreed to do this and feeling completely inadequate for the job. 

On Thursday I spent most of the day hashing out my two talks and revising everything.  By Thursday evening I felt the Lord say to me, “Your DONE.  Put it away and I don’t want you to look at it any more.  You need to TRUST me that I will give you the words to say.”  (Admittedly, I don’t do this well but I knew I had to obey.)

I’ve been learning about the Holy Spirit in a Bible study that I’m in and  feel like my whole life has been turned upside down by what I am understanding about the Spirit and His work in my life.   I have known that He was there living inside of me but have really underestimated what He can do with a life completely surrendered to Him.  I have pretty much taken Him for granted – He’s been a handy thing to have around but I have not given Him full reign in my life. 

Ephesians 4:30 (The Message) says, “Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.”

In the midst of this study, I’m discovering that I  DONT' WANT to settle for just having the Holy Spirit living inside of me I WANT Him to be moving and breathing in me, in that most intimate part of my life.  I want to live recklessly abandoned for my Savior!  Whatever the cost.


As I prayed for the weekend retreat, I felt led to pray that the Holy Spirit would empty me and fill me with His Spirit.  In the past, I would think that I needed to empty myself and then the Holy Spirit would fill me.  I’m understanding more and more that His Spirit has to do that work in me, I can’t do it on my own.  I just need to be fully surrendered to Him and step out in faith as I trust that He will do what He promises.

I have a confession to make:  when I am upfront and people are looking at me, I struggle with wanting God to speak through me and feeling self-conscious and prideful always worrying about what people think.  It has been a huge battle for me and I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never fully be able to put myself aside.  I would always have to wrestle with this in my life.

As I began to pray that God would empty me and trust that the Holy Spirit would speak through me as I surrendered my well laid plans into His care, God removed the self-centered spirit within me; it was GONE and for the first time, I was able to be an open, empty vessel for Him to fill and use in whatever way He saw fit.

What about you?  Have you, like me taken the Holy Spirit’s work in your life for granted? 

I wonder if we will get to heaven some day and Elijah, or King David or Moses will say to us with wonder in their voice, “What was it like to have the Holy Spirit ALL THE TIME in your life, we only had Him for bits and pieces but He was living inside of you all the time.  What was that like?

Will you find yourself saying, “Well, hmmm, it was okay . . .  I guess.”

Let’s not live our life regretting that we didn’t take more advantage of the Spirit’s work in our life.  Let’s give Him full reign in our hearts, recklessly abandoned to the Spirit’s leading in our life. 

Mark Batterson in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, says this, “I don’t think anyone has sacrificed anything for God.  Why?  Because we always get back more than we give up!  And if you get back more than you gave up, have you really sacrificed anything at all?”

I got back so much more than I gave up this weekend, sure I was exhausted and worn out  . . . But I got the privilege of watching God work in my life and in the lives of His precious children and it was intoxicating!  I have to say it was a BEAUTIFUL thing and I can’t wait to see God do it again!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What I Learned from a Canoe


It was spring time in Michigan, dreary, cold and rainy.   The dampness had crawled into my coat and made itself at home.  Could I be more miserable . . .  I wondered. 

The idea of a day-long canoe trip on the Manistee River in Northern Michigan seemed like a great adventure at the time.  My canoe partner had never canoed on a river but she had more experience than me so; I thought we were good to go.  We agreed she should steer and we set off on our journey, completely unaware of the misery that awaited us.

It didn’t take long for both of us to figure out that canoeing on a lake is completely different than canoeing on a rushing river!  Before we knew it I was lying flat on my back wedged between the canoe and a gigantic tree! Fortunately for us there was another canoe with a couple of guys behind us. They helped us out of our predicament and sent us on our way.

But it was as if our canoe was a magnet to every fallen tree in the river!  As time passed, we both grew incredibly frustrated and then as if things couldn’t get worse it started to rain. 

Time after time our nice friends would graciously pull us out of one dilemma after another.  After rescuing us over and over they finally suggested that we switch and one of them should go with my partner and I should join the other canoe. 

I gladly put one foot in their canoe but that’s all I got in before the canoes began to separate and I fell into the freezing, bitter cold water.  I came up gasping for air wishing that this day would come to an end.  I hated this trip, was completely miserable and purposed in my heart that hell would freeze over before I ever got into another canoe.

I find it interesting how often that infamous canoe trip has mirrored my relationship with God.  Let me explain. . . 

When I gave my heart to Jesus, I started off with a great sense of adventure and excitement at the prospect of this new relationship with the God of the universe.  But it was only a short time before I became disillusioned when life was hard and didn’t work out like I thought it should. 

 I continued to steer my own canoe of life, getting into trouble every step of the way.  Each time I would turn to God and expect him to rescue me, which He did time and time again.  I became more and more frustrated with this yo-yo life I was leading and began to wonder if God had a different plan.

As I began to listen, God gently showed me that I wasn’t supposed to steer my boat and ask for His help along the way.  He wanted me to get into His boat and let Him direct my course. 

I knew what I had to do.  But even as I was stepping into His canoe, I found myself questioning whether I could really trust Him or not.  Did He have my best interest at heart?  Would He allow terrible things to happen to me?  My fear paralyzed me and I ended up with one foot in my boat and one foot in His which ultimately plunged me into an abyss of doubt and despair. 

My emotional bankruptcy propelled me towards change.  I recognized that I had to surrender EVERYTHING to Him and place my faith and trust in this God who created me and loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.

 I made the choice to step fully into His boat and leave mine behind.

. . . “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”   Matthew 6:24-25 (NLV)

What will you choose?  Will you step into God’s canoe and let him guide you or will you continue to steer your own canoe and expect Him to rescue you at each turn?  The choice is yours to make. 

Every day, I choose His Boat, His Way, and His Life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

View from a Tent


One year, our small group decided that we should all go camping for a weekend.  My husband and I were not thrilled with the idea - taking four little boys camping wasn't high on our list.  But we decided we needed to be "good" group members and particpate.  

I just have to say it was one of the worst weekends I’ve ever had.  It wasn’t the company, it was the camping itself.  Have you ever been in a tent with four little boys, tracking in dirt constantly?  Then there’s the cooking, the dirt, the clean up with no running water, the dirt, the humidity, the dirt . . . 

Then there was  the sleeping or lack of it . . .

My husband and I were smart (or so we thought) – we brought an air mattress so we didn’t have to lie on the tent floor but what we didn’t bring was an extra blanket to put on top of the air mattress to keep the cold air from seeping through.  I laid awake for most of the night dreaming of my nice soft comfortable bed.  My thoughts went something like this, “This is nuts!!! My nice warm dry bed is forty-five minutes from here.  I have a house with air-conditioning, running water, flushing toilets and no DIRT and I choose to be here!  Something is seriously wrong with this picture.  We must be insane!"


Look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (The Message), “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.” 

When it comes to spiritual tenting – I think I feel the same way I do about physical tenting.  I don’t like living in a tent!  I long for my real home.  The home where Jesus is, where I can  have a face to face conversation with Him, where there is no more sorrow and no more tears, where the pain of this life is a distant memory, where I will have the answers, where I’ll see loved ones who’ve gone one before me, where there is peace, and no messiness.  I long for my REAL HOME, don’t you? 

“God has put a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”  He gave us the Holy Spirit to remind us that this is not our home, that there is so much more that awaits us and to teach us not to settle for anything less.   But it’s easy to lose sight of the “little bit of heaven” that God has placed within our hearts and live day by day settling for so much less than God intended.

And isn’t it funny how we get so distracted with our tent? 

We decorate it, “fix it up” and try to disguise it so that it won’t look and feel too much like a tent and yet it doesn’t change a thing.  And oh, the time we waste focusing on the temporal instead of the eternal.

Let me ask you, are you settling for less?  Have you spent so much time focusing on your “tent” that you have lost sight of your real home?  Have you forgotten that you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you?

Let God whet your appetite with a taste of what’s up ahead and never, never, never settle for anything less!