Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where is God in the Wilderness?

Have you ever been so tired that you felt you couldn’t take another step? That life has wrung you out and hung you up to dry? Have you ever wanted to just give up and throw in the towel?

Where is God when there is a thirst in our soul that cannot be quenched? Where is God when the darkness invades our spirit, when we’re in a dry and barren land? Where is God when there is a longing for wholeness where only brokenness is found? Where is the hope? Where is our God?

I wonder if Elijah felt like this when he ran away . . .

After defeating the prophets of Baal and experiencing God’s mighty answer to prayer for rain after a three year drought, Elijah was given a death threat from the wicked queen of the land. “Most Wanted” posters for Elijah went up in Israel over night and he fled for his
life. . .

Just a few hours earlier, Elijah had witnessed the mighty power of God and watched as the people of Israel turned to God in repentance. But discouragement invaded his soul like a mighty army and Elijah ran . . .

He ran far out into the wilderness, found a solitary tree to sit under and begged God to let him die. He’d had enough and he wanted out!

What happens next is so surprising. He falls asleep and God lets him. When he awakes the angel of God feeds him and he falls back asleep. There is no condemnation, no scolding. There is just food and rest.

Once Elijah is rested and filled, God has him travel 40 days out into the vast wilderness. While Elijah is holding out in a cave God reveals Himself to him. Not once does God reprimand Elijah or scold him for being so self-focused, for desiring to dropout. God asks Elijah a simple question: What are you doing here? And he listens to Elijah’s reply. And then God gives him another job to do.

As I reflect on this beautiful story of God’s love and care for His faithful servant Elijah, I am reminded of God’s love and care for us. In the midst of the brokenness God is there. When we are tempted to dropout from what He has called us to do we are reminded that God sees all – He knows all. He is a witness to our pain and frustration, our heartache and sorrow and every tear we cry. He promises to care for us in the same way He did for Elijah. Our job is to trust Him and to keep our eyes fixed on Him and nothing else.

God promises in Isaiah 41:10 (NLV), “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If Only . . .

This summer I have committed to writing out the book of Proverbs. My son has been doing it for a class in school and his endeavor challenged me to do the same.

I have never done anything like this before and probably would never have thought about doing it until my son started. But I have to say it has been an amazing journey! It’s so surprising what you can learn just by copying down the words of Scripture. I am enjoying it immensely and am learning much along the way.

In my copying of Proverbs, I came across a verse in Chapter 5 that says, You will say, "How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings!" Those two words, IF ONLY in that verse, stood out to me.

IF ONLY are the words of regret. If only . . . I had not ignored the warnings of my parents, If only . . . I hadn’t eaten that last piece of cake, if only . . . I had said I love you, if only . . . I hadn’t rushed to get married, if only . . . I had not worked so much, if only . . . I had spent more time with my children, if only . . . if only.

You can’t undo regret; you can’t make it go away. Regret is something you carry with you for the rest of your life.

I realized early in life that I hated regret and purposed in my heart as a young person to do everything in my power to not have a mountain of regret at the end of my life. I didn’t want to be at the finish and have IF ONLY as my epitaph.

As I write this I’m reminded of the profound words by the late Erma Bombeck after she found out she had a fatal disease.

If I Had My Life To Live Over

I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's". . . More "I'm sorrys" . . .

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute. . . look at it and really see it . . . live it. . . and never give it back.

Let’s not wait until the end of our life and wish we lived in a different way. Let’s live differently NOW. Will you purpose, in your hearts with me, that from this moment on you CHOOSE to live a life with no regrets and in the words of Erma Bombeck . . .

"Seize every minute . . . look at it and really see it . . . live it . . . and never give it back.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Day My Prince Will Come!

I love fairy tale stories. Ever since I was a little girl listening to my mother read them to me, I have dreamed of being a princess. I love the idea of a prince coming to the rescue of his damsel in distress, for taking a lowly maiden and making her a princess, for never giving up in his hunt for the one he loves. I think that’s why I like Cinderella so much. She was desolate and alone and the prince searched until he found her. And when he found her he brought her into his castle and she became his princess.

When I was in high school, I witnessed a real life fairy tale (maybe you did too) in the wedding of Princess Diana to Prince Charles. I was so excited for the wedding, I remember watching as Diana rode in a beautiful coach pulled by horses and walked down the long aisle of St. Paul’s Cathedral – it was all so beautiful. It amazed me to think that someone actually would experience a life I had only ever dreamed about. But in the years to come, I found out that it wasn’t much of a fairy tale after all.

Six years ago, my husband and I went to England for our 20th Anniversary and I gazed in wonder as we walked down the same aisle that Princess Di traversed. It was a wonderful experience. My favorite moment while we were in the cathedral was when a choir began practicing for a performance later on that evening. They had closed the cathedral to any newcomers but those of us who were already there were privileged to listen. I remember sitting in that place looking up at the beautiful architecture and listening to the amazing a capella music swirl around the cathedral and straight into my soul. It was my own little fairy tale.

On that same trip we decided to take the train to Windsor Castle. As we walked up the winding hill from the station I looked in wonder at the great castle on the hill. Once we were inside, we saw a large grassy area where a group of people had congregated. We were barred from going on the area by a fence but as we stood there watching Queen Elizabeth and Charles came out! The queen stood on a little platform and as we gazed in awe, a Knight on a horse in full regalia galloped around the field.

As I stood there taking all of it in, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had stepped back in time. Was this a fairy tale?

As an adult it is easy to forget about fairy tales in the midst of the craziness of life but on April 30th we got to experience a fairy tale again. . .

I was so excited, I got up at 6:00 a.m. and made scones and tea, my boys thought I was crazy. I watched as Mr. Middleton with great pride gave away his daughter Kate to Prince William. That day Katherine Middleton, a commoner, married her Prince. Her life is forever changed now that she is part of the Royal Family.

As I watched this spectacular event I was reminded of my own real life fairy tale. Years ago, I was poor and desolate; a commoner with no hope, a damsel in distress and Jesus found me! He adopted me into His royal family and now I am a daughter of the King, forever changed! Anxiously awaiting the day when my Prince will come for me and I will live with Him forever. This is a not just a young girl’s wish but a hope that is sure.

Paul says in Romans 5:4-5, And this hope (of salvation) will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

He goes on to say in verse 6-8, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Are you a daughter of the King? Have you ever invited Jesus Christ into your life? It isn’t just enough to know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. You have to receive His gift of salvation for yourself. Once you have received His gift, you are forever His child, adopted into the Royal Family! And you too can look forward to the day when YOUR PRINCE will come!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bad Hair Daze

I confess, my hair has always been extremely important to me and I have often said that it has been the “bane of my existence”! I have dreamed ever since I was a little girl of having straight silky hair but instead have curly hair that has a mind of its own.

When I was in the 8th grade I had long hair down to my waist. I knew my hair was wavy and a bit frizzy at times but I didn’t know it was curly. And then, Farah Fawcett arrived on the scene in Charlie’s Angels and I just had to have my hair cut like hers! I immediately began to picture myself with those feathered wings and knew they were going to make me beautiful. Unfortunately, curly hair doesn’t do well with featheredness! And I cried and cried. I hated my hair!

When I was in college, my friend was in beauty school and offered to give me a perm. Don’t ask me why I thought I needed a perm with my curly hair! It was just the thing to do back then, everybody was getting perms. There was just one problem (actually there were a few but this one stands out the most) – they left it on for 2 hours! My hair has a tendency to look like it is not taking the curl when it’s wet and so they finally gave up and took the curlers out. It looked like a beautiful perm while I was at the beauty school but then when I got home and it dried it was a different story. I took one horrified look in the mirror and cried and cried. I had a humongous afro!

Why is my hair so important? Why am I never satisfied with what God gives me?

I’ve noticed something – it seems that often we as human beings are never satisfied. If we have curly hair we want straight hair and if we have straight hair we dream of having curly hair. If the weather is cold, we want it hot and if it’s too hot we want it cooler. We think a computer will make our life easier and then we complain because it’s too slow. We have a large house and we stress about how hard it is to take care of and if we have a small house we are frustrated because we have no place to put anything. And the list goes on and on . . .

Paul says in Philippians 4:11 “. . . I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” What does it mean to be content? How am I to be content when so many things are going wrong?

In chapter 3 of this book he explains how he is able to be content wherever he is at, whether he has a lot or a little. Listen to what he says, “I once thought these things were valuable (he’s speaking about his credentials as a Jew) but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

What is Paul saying here? I believe he’s saying that when we begin to understand Christ’s true sacrifice for us on the cross and what He did so that we could know Him, all of the things that seem so important become nothing in the light of His great love! That’s how we live in contentment.

How silly it has been for me to focus so much time and attention on my hair when I have the privilege of knowing the One who created me and has counted all those hairs on my head!

Lord, draw my heart to You. Help me to set aside those things that are unimportant in the light of the incredible cost you paid and teach me to live in contentment.