Thursday, January 30, 2014


So many situations have been presented to my husband and me along our little journey that have truly been matters of faith challenging, knee scraping, tear soaking, and helpless paralyzation. However, I have not been numb to the fact that we are not alone in these moments that present to us the very question that Satan wishes to pose to the followers of his enemy, "do you believe?" Can you recollect a time in your life where you have, maybe not said out loud, but thought, "Where are you, God?" Has there been an event or two or twenty-two that has left you feeling exhausted and hopeless when you know you are called to "fight the good fight" and there is no "fight" left in you? Or here's a question that I have even caught myself asking, "God, what have I done to bring upon myself such a conundrum?"

As of this present moment, I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will finish. Here is where I am grateful for the blessings of His evidence in my life. And here is where I think those who are lost in their troubles are unable to find the hope that He so desperately wants them to see/hear/feel. When I am faced with a new challenge, because I have been involved in challenges truly more often than my little mind could even grasp 20 years ago, I am reminded at little things that God is and I AM NOT. For instance, I am all about a project, but often I find myself not completing the project. (Insert embarrassed smile here) God WILL finish. He, who began, will complete. God is a healer. The God who has healed my husband TIME AND TIME again is the same God that healed my mother who is now completely whole as she dwells in eternity with Him. The same God that gave us a child when it was said by our doctors that it would be difficult and possibly unlikely, gave us two. The same God that embraced my mother into eternity, placed His healing hands on my father just a year later and removed the plague of cancer so that he could enjoy his grandchildren for a bit more, better yet, meet three of them before she does. The same God that blessed us with child our third took her because she was formed in a way that would allow the world to be kind and decided that my mother would get to meet her first.

So I find myself perplexed. There are people in this world who are confident of their relationship with the Almighty Creator, but when things become complicated, they fall into a pit of hopelessness and anger. Now, let me tell you that I know as these words leave my mind and enter this page, it is fueling the Evil One with creating in my life that very feeling so that I will curse my Creator and be useless for His kingdom. Therefore, it is important that my guard be more prepared and not lax. There is another time and another blog for that prep work. You see, God has given us the gift of emotion and has not banned us from use of it. We have freedom in Christ to hurt. We have freedom in Christ to mourn. We have freedom in Christ to celebrate. We have freedom in Christ to think. However, we do not have freedom in Christ to be idle. Idleness comes when we consume ourselves with worrying about what tomorrow will hold because of our predicament. Idleness comes when we allow the "what if" game to become the forefront of our motives. Idleness comes when we grieve over something that has caused us pain, but allowed someone else freedom and joy. Idleness comes when we avoid things because we are unsure of what "might" happen and therefore, we do not step forward...we stand still. People are watching how you handle your struggles and if you model idleness, it replicates. Pretty soon, we have a community of idle citizens accomplishing nothing and expecting something to happen.

God and I have had many, MANY, many talks over the years of my life. I don't hide things from Him. He knows my thoughts, so why try to hide. I have told Him when I am lonely. I have told Him when I am scared. I have told Him when I am uncertain. I have told Him when I am disappointed. I have told Him when I wanted things to be another way. I have told Him when I am struggling and feel weak. I have told Him when I am battling anger with people that He has called me to love. I have told Him when I see it a different way. I have told Him when I desperately need to see it His way. Each time, He has lovingly extended patience with me and has allowed me just enough comfort to put my feet down and take a step...sometimes super small, but forward.

My God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY. There is NOTHING my God cannot do. You see, I am very aware that my situation is but temporary. And I am not just referring to my time on earth; I am referring to my moment here in January of 2014. I know that today even as it is beginning can be full of an entirely new perplexing agenda. I know that my heart can be thwarted and calmed and jerked and swollen all in the same moment. I have felt that. Yet I know whom I have believed, that He is faithful. God and I have this great relationship, you see. My husband finds himself irked by my approach to God from time to time, but I believe that a true relationship is one where both people understand each other. My God created me, so undoubtedly, He understands me. I am a "fleece thrower" so to speak. I ask God for signs. Now, before you go joining my husband's side, I don't ask for it to literally rain on a specific area on the ground while leaving the other area dry. Nor do I ask for 3 lightning bolts to appear in the shape of a triangle or anything like that. I simply ask for Him to reveal to me His desires for my life and to reveal to me that He is near. He does it. Over and over and over and over again, He has faithfully placed His hand on my shoulder and comforted me.

So my perplexion is with those who don't ask for the comfort? He knows your hurt. He is with you in the midst of your storm. He wants to reveal to you His presence and let you know that He is listening. The complication comes with the matter of trust. Do you trust Him enough to look for His presence and accept it? Do you trust Him to do what He says He will do? Do you trust Him to be bigger than anything else on this earth HE CREATED? Do you trust Him enough to stop talking and listen? Do you trust Him enough to give up what you think is best, and be obedient to His Lordship and leadership? Do you trust Him enough to say NO to the world?

Are you perplexed? Or are you comforted?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Overlooked Obedience

God is funny. Really, He is. As I reread certain passages in scripture, I am thankful that God allows me to see each passage from a different perspective. Though the Word is limited to just these exclusive books, they are never without impact or relevance every time you read a passage for a second time. God intended it that way, and we are aware of that in our mind. Yet, it is important that we remind our heart as we open His Word and expose ourselves to His written voice once more. Our church is going through a corporate Bible reading for the year and we are currently in the book of Matthew.

In Matthew 17:24-27, our author, Matthew/Levi, recaptures a moment with the disciples where Jesus was challenged, or even antagonized by the local authorities. I imagine that though there are many of these events recorded in scripture, they are just a grazing of the grief given to Jesus by both the church and governing leadership. Even today, we see people with certain power react with frustration or anger or hatred towards anything that may question their position or pose a threat to their popularity. That is a side lesson for another day.

In this passage, the disciples and Jesus are posed with the required collection of a tax. Though Jesus explains that His true authority afforded Him the privilege of being exempt from the tax, He will appease the local authorities and pay the tax. How often do we choose to appease the masses in order to be more affective in our ministry instead of buck the system? This the first act of obedience that I see covered in this text. Jesus chooses His battles. This battle is not worth the fight. Instead of revealing to the collectors who He truly is and His exemption status, He complies with their wishes so that He may remain in His present location continuing to impact those who are under the effective circle of influence at that time.

God is so funny. In this situation, I could easily imagine many of us challenging authority with statements like, "I don't have to pay that." "Don't you know who I am?" "You can keep asking, but I am not paying." "Go back and check your records. My name will be on the exemption list." "I am taking this to the courts to challenge." "How dare you question what I am entitled to!" "No!"

Jesus explains the small, but impacting, fact of who He is and where this quandry places Him. Yet, He leads by showing the importance of winning those in authority over as well by being obedient to the laws at the given time. By not fighting the system at this time, He makes greater strides in His impact to this local community and eventually the surrounding areas as well.

The other intriguing and humorous example of obedience in this passage is Peter's fishing excursion. Jesus tells Peter to go catch a fish and pull money out of the fish's mouth to pay the tax. What?!?! So Peter says, "OK" (said in my best Goofy voice). Wow. Though the disciples don't get it many times, this unusual command was not questioned by Peter. He just went to do what he does best - fish. Neat how Jesus chooses to utilize this strength to teach Peter on many occassions. (Something else to take note of - Jesus met people where they are in order to make His message more understandable).

Because Jesus had made His message more understandable, Peter was far more willing to obey the strangest of commands. When you are frustrated with parenting or with some area of authority that you possess, re-evaluate your approach. Are you communicating with your target on a level that gives them understanding? Are you respecting the place where your target audience is currently operating. Are you respecting your target audience period? With just a little bit of coaching in communication techniques, you too can persuade people to pull money out of the mouth of a fish.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

New Year, New You, Right?

Though it cliché, every year I try to make a goal for myself for the upcoming calendar year. So often people make 1, 2, even 10 resolutions to achieve over the upcoming 365 days. Yet also, so often people fail within the first 1-3 months of this commitment. My husband abhors this concept. He is of the belief that we shouldn't just take one time out of the year to make goals and strive for achievement. We should be striving to better ourselves with new breath and strength each and every day. I tend to agree to an extent; however, as an educator, setting a "finish line" for me is crucial to intrinsic motivation.

The term resolution is something that we have always just used as tradition or in passing. It is either used to identify these somewhat attainable goals created by self or to describe the visibility of our HD television. Yet my great friend Merriam-Webster defines the term resolution as the act of finding an answer or solution to a problem or conflict. Reread that definition one more time. A resolution is the act of finding an answer or solution. In order to need an answer/solution there must first be a question/problem. Now this gives completely new meaning to a New Year's resolution to me.

You see, the idea of improving yourself means that you must first find that which of yourself is imperfect. As we have read through the Word from the Creator of this world, there was only one who was perfect to walk on this Earth. Therefore, if we are to take a moment and look in the mirror, we must look deeper. You may be one of those beautiful people with flawless skin, hair full of body, or a physique that is lacking any more sculpting. You might be a brilliant leader, a skilled laborer, or a loyal ally. Your Bible knowledge might shame others, your service to the community is merited of awards, or your worship is uninhibited. But somewhere you are marred. Somewhere you are lacking. Somewhere there is room for improvement.

We are finding more and more evidence in the generation that is being produced today a resounding confidence that is both positive and negative. Self-awareness and self-confidence are crucial to create individuals who can be the innovative leaders and workers of tomorrow. However, there is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. More often than not, we are being confronted in various venues in our society the concept of entitlement. People are presenting themselves as deserving of financial privileges or forgiveness; deserving of benefits or freedoms; deserving of inclusion or adoration. Please do not misunderstand me. I want my children to enter into adulthood aware of their talents and abilities and armed with wisdom and skills that will not only equip them to survive, but will also provide them advancement to excellence. Part of that skill set is humility and suffering. Part of that skill set is disappointment and correction. Part of that skill set is challenge and adversity. Part of that skill set is self-evaluation and intrinsic motivation to improve upon past conflict and to find a solution to their problem or an answer to their question...not for me to find it for them.

In order for my children to learn how to enact this principle, they must have it modeled. We have always heard the other great colloquialism "practice what you preach," but it is true. However, some of us are at a place where we no longer even "preach" so to say. There is an absence of instruction in today's society on how to resolve anything besides a math equation or a bullying intervention. Even in those instances, answers are being provided, not discovered. As a parent now, I am becoming so aware of the struggles that my parents faced. These are not the struggles that first come to mind such as providing a warm meal on the table every night or making sure that my kids have appropriate attire for the elements. Struggles like being a listener as they work through a conflict with a classmate and not immediately picking up the phone to solve the problem for them. Struggles like allowing them to work on a large project for school and not doing it for them when we know it could be better or when they just didn't have enough time because of their hectic schedule. Struggles like establishing financial boundaries even at the grocery store when they ask for the items that are out of the budget for that trip, but you know it will make them happy. Struggles like career orientation or where they will choose to study and prepare for this career. Struggles like bailing them out of trouble when they have made wrong choices...or simply holding to your disciplinary parameters when it seems heartbreaking to watch. Struggles like knowing when you ARE to intervene and push them to a decision that is for their betterment now and/or in the future. Struggles like SAYING NO.

It is not just a principle to be modeled for children. It is to be modeled for ALL. Whether we like it or not, we are all under observation (some of us more than others). When we set a goal and do not stay committed to this goal, we are telling others that this behavior is acceptable. Therefore, we have at least 3 generations now of uncommitted contributors to society...people who verbally agree to a goal, a job, and a relationship and eventually fizzle out because it is too hard. We have a population of people who are not looking for an answer/solution to their question/problem. Like my husband as stated, resolutions are a joke. Agreed. Statistics say that less than 19% of people actually achieve their New Year's resolution. That is evident in our society today. It is crumbling because of lack of commitment to improve or achieve.

Though I am just one (you are just one), I have put much more thought into my "resolution" for this upcoming 2014. My goals are attainable, but challenging. My goals are important for the improvement of self so that self can assist in the improvement of others. My goals come with an underlying motivation that I will not be alone in my struggles. Though it will be difficult, my solution to my problem is the Creator of all things and the sustainer of my heart and the Savior of my soul. Though my goals are not something for which I can find immediate results, I know where to find the answer when a question is posed along the journey. With that awareness, I can look in the mirror and find that which God needs me to improve upon and strive to be obedient to His command to improve.

How committed are you to your resolution?