Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds!

I love spring time!  I love to watch the leaves slowly forming on the trees, the flowers peeking their heads out from the ground and the birds as they busily fly around collecting twigs and straw for their nests.  I never really appreciated spring until I moved to West Michigan and lived through a cold, drab winter.  It seemed to me after that first winter that the trees were greener, the flowers brighter and the birds’ songs more melodic.

But there is one thing about spring that I don’t find so pleasant - the weeds in my flower beds!

I love planting flowers but find weeding to be low on my list of priorities.  And because it’s low, I confess I have a few flower beds that have been long neglected. 

Knowing this I decided the other day that I needed to be disciplined and get out there and weed those beds.  Of course, I didn’t pick the best time of day to do it – two in the afternoon when the sun was the hottest.  Not so smart! 

I put on my gardening gloves; made sure I had a long enough shirt on so that I wouldn’t have the “plumber look” going on for my neighbors and got to work.  Wow! Was there a lot of weeds and because it had been so long since I had weeded, they had worked their way right into the middle of my plants.  Some of the plants I actually had to dig up so that I could pull out the weeds from them.

It was tedious, exhausting work but I finally finished and was amazed at how much better it looked.  Of course that was only one flower bed and I have about a thousand to go!

As I was weeding I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is to let sin creep into my life, just like those weeds crept into my garden.  How easy sin worms its way in and before I know it, I’ve been invaded! This infiltration changes everything; what I believe, how I think and what I do.
One of those invasive weeds in my life was the need to be in control.  It had so captured my heart that I didn’t even see the damage it was causing in my life. 

It was devastating my marriage, hurting my children and hindering my relationship with God.  It wasn't until I began to understand how my need for control was hurting me and the people I loved, that I was able to begin to surrender to God's weeding in my life.  It was a slow and painful process of allowing God to show me what it looked like to TRUST Him and relinquish control.  And I have to admit that it’s one of those areas in my life that will constantly need to be weeded.  It’s not a onetime deal for me. 

God’s unfailing love makes this possible in my life and in yours!
Look at what Psalm 51:1-2 (NLT) says, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.  Wash me clean from my guilt.  Purify me from my sin.  For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.”

David found forgiveness, after committing adultery and murder, in God’s unfailing love and so can we!

What do you need to have weeded from your life?  What is holding you back from having a rich and intimate relationship with your Heavenly Father?

Relinquish your hold, surrender to the weeding work of your Savior and become a well tilled garden ready for Him to use.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

His Listening Heart

One of my sons, when he was little had an endearing habit of grabbing my face so that I would look at him while he was talking.  He wanted me to give him my full and undivided attention.  He wanted me to know his heart.

Even at such a young age, my son had a built in longing to be heard and understood, to be loved and valued for who he was.

We all have a yearning deep in our soul to be heard and understood, loved and valued for who we are. 

Have you ever been talking on the phone with a friend when you get a little niggling doubt that they might not really be listening to you?   How devastating it can be to bear your soul, only to discover later in the conversation that they haven’t even heard a word you’ve said.

Do you ever secretly wonder if God is the same way?  He’s got so much on His mind, demanding His attention, how could He ever have time to listen to your concerns?  Does He really want to take the time to stop, bend down and listen to you?

Look at what Psalm 116:1-2 says, I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.  Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!  

This is God in relationship with us!  Drawing close.  Bending down.  Listening intently.  Loving fully. 

Isn’t this the kind of God we’ve been searching for? 

Just as a child longs to have his parent’s undivided attention, our heart longs for God’s ever attentive love.  He made us this way.  He put within us this longing.

But so often we turn away from Him and not to Him.  We ignore the longing in our heart and we look to other people or things to satisfy this deep need in our soul instead of going to the Source.  Then we get disillusioned in our faith and wonder if God even cares, if He is really listening and if He understands.

But amazingly He does and when we finally turn to Him, He kneels down and gently takes our face in His hands, wipes the tears from our eyes and says, “I’m listening, my child, what do need to tell me?”

Monday, May 7, 2012

In the Hands of the Surgeon

I have this issue with pride.  It has been a constant struggle for me for as long as I can remember.  As a young child my favorite statement was, “I know!“    I didn’t want anyone thinking that they were teaching me anything new.  I remember my Dad asking me, “Kristi, do you know everything?” (There was a definite sarcastic tone to his question.)  I would reply without blinking an eye, “Yes!”  And I believed it.

As I got older I was forced to realize that I didn’t truly know everything and I began to learn that people didn’t really like someone who knew everything.  So my pride came out in other ways. . .  For instance, I got really good at handing out my “verbal resume”.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  When you name drop, share your achievements and shamelessly promote yourself.

As I grew in my relationship with God I began to be convicted about my pride and knew it was an area of my life that I really needed to eradicate.  Admittedly it was a difficult process but I began to see some improvement.  I made sure that I didn’t tell people it was my idea they were using.  I contentiously worked on keeping my mouth shut when I wanted to share who I had been with or what I had accomplished.  It was a slow and painful process but I was encouraged with the growth I was seeing in my life.

Then one day I took a spiritual assessment test and had other people fill out an assessment on me as well - one of those people was a co-worker.  When I got back the results from her evaluation I was shocked to see that she had rated me as prideful.  I could feel the blood pressure rising and immediately wanted to lash out at her.  “Didn’t she know how hard I had been working on this?!  How could she have seen this – she must just be wrong!”

After I took a few deep breaths and calmed down, I went to her to ask about the assessment.  I quietly questioned her (I worked hard to make sure it wasn’t an inquisition!) about what she had seen in my life that would lead her to say that she saw pride in my life.  She shared a couple of instances where she felt that I was being prideful.  I walked away wondering if she could be right.  Instead of immediately dismissing her evaluation (which I confess I wanted to do), I began to pray and ask God if this was true. 

As I spent time with God, He began to reveal to me that it was spot on.  At first, I was devastated but as I began to listen to God’s promptings I realized that I had been “fixing” the “outside pride” but had neglected the root of where my pride was coming from.  It was as if I was putting a Band-Aid on cancer. 

At my core, I was prideful.  I had been storing up, treasuring, holding onto pride in my heart.  It looked like this:  When I would see someone using my idea, I wouldn’t tell them that it was my idea but I would say in my heart.  “That was MY idea!  They’re using MY idea.” 

I was harboring pride in my heart and it was seeping out of my pores through my tone of voice, the rolling of my eyes and sarcastic comments.

The Bible speaks clearly to this when it says, A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”  (Luke 6:44, NLV)

I knew I needed open heart surgery.  This was not something I could do on my own – I’d obviously tried that and failed.  I began to pray and ask God to cut this sin of pride out of my heart.  I was tired of making myself god – I wanted Him to be my God and nothing else.

It’s been a slow and painful process and I cannot say that I have arrived but there is growth!  Not from what I have done but from what He has done in me.

Let me ask, where do you need to allow God to do surgery in your life?  Maybe your struggle isn’t with pride but some other sin.  Let’s call it what it is – SIN and surrender to the cleansing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

My friends, think what The Master Surgeon can do when we place our heart in HIS HANDS!