Archive: June, 2012

Pondering Change

 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

I’m thinking about change today. You know, the big changes that come in life.

Not expected change, like the children growing up or the wrinkles on my face. Those things are gradual, we may not like it when we see it happening, but we’re not surprised by it either.

It’s the big changes that tend to throw us for a loop. Like in my case… moving far away from everything and everyone I know.

I’ve always loved this quote… “Hold everything lightly and nothing tightly.” It’s solid wisdom because things in life absolutely change.

There is such a sense of security in the familiar. And that sense of security goes under attack when we face big change.

Perspective is an important thing in the midst of big change. God’s perspective especially is paramount.

When everything else feels strange and unknown I’m learning to turn my heart to Jesus.

The security I find in the familiarity of Him who is the same yesterday and today and forever makes the big changes in my life a lot less alarming.

The promise that He not only forges the path ahead, but that He is here holding my hand in the place that I’m at… where ever I’m at… is just the comfort I need.

So, with all of the upset that comes with these big changes in my life, I’m doing an equally big ex-change for the peace I get in the One who is completely unchanging.

“So trust in the Lord always, because He is our Rock forever!” Isaiah 26:4

*Linking up with Laura at Beholding Glory for Faith Filled Friday!

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He is Gracious to Me

I just joined Beth Moore online for the 2012 Siesta Summer Bible Study and today was the launch. She asks a question about the verse above that is dancing around in my thoughts today: Do I believe that God is gracious to me? 

I know the quick good-bible-study-girl answer: Yes, absolutely… His Word says He is, of course it’s true for me.

But, then I swallow hard as I consider the evidence. When the real-life circumstances play out and my real-time responses come crashing onto the scene.

When I face trials. In my marriage. In friendships. In parenting. In ministry. In my everyday life. I confess the instant and usually unbridled response is from my fiery flesh. And in that moment I wonder why God allows me to struggle so. I search for His at-the-scene mercy and seemingly find none. As a result I question if His grace is really meant for me.

But, the Spirit, that ever faithful friend within, rises up… in real-time… and faces off with my miss-led flesh. And, I quickly remember what He did…

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.”

Ephesians 2:4-5

Saved by grace alone.

Oh, yes… He is gracious to me.

If that were it, it’d be enough. Despite the daily troubles. Despite the really tough times, it’d be enough.

Ah, but still there is more…

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 

1 Peter 5:10

If I were to live on the surface of my circumstances… in the fleshy moments I’d surely miss the awesome mystery of God. I’d miss the way He uses my hurts and my affliction to draw me in closer and to grow me up magnificently in Him. I’d miss it all and I’d firmly stand on that lie that He is not gracious to me.

But, when I look past the scene, wander into the greater purpose behind my troubles I find a God who’s interested in my continued journey of sanctification. One who gives me strength when I need it. One who offers me comfort and peace and love and gracean abundance of sweet and totally undeserved grace.

Oh, yes… He is gracious to me.

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Perfectly Imperfect

I have to admit it.  I am a recovering perfectionist.

Notice the interesting word choice when it comes to people having such problems.

Recovering.  Not recovered.

Satan often accuses my perfectionistic mind and tricks me into thinking that I should be reaching for some state of perfection in my Christian walk.  I become disillusioned and start thinking, “One of these days I will get it right, and then I can just maintain this for the rest of my life”.

I forget that human perfectionism makes little of the Cross.  I forget that God was always meant to be approached on the basis of grace and never on the basis of merit (Billy Graham).

And plus, trying to be perfect is just not all it’s cracked up to be!  American writer and psychologist Harriet Brakier said, “Striving for excellence is motivating; striving for perfection is demoralizing”.

Striving to be perfect is not God’s command for us (thank you Jesus!).  As I reach for perfection, it puts the focus on me rather than God’s power to work in me.  Trying to be a perfectly-perfect Christian, the more weary and hopeless I become and the less I cling to my faith and the power of God’s strength made perfect in my weakness.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

God doesn’t love us because we are perfect.

He loves us perfectly.

One of my favorite, hang-on-the-fridge-worthy inspirations comes from Martin Luther.  I hope you are blessed.

This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness;

not health but healing;

not being but becoming;

not rest but exercise. 

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. 

The process is not finished, but it is going on. 

This is not the end, but it is the road. 

All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified. 

So are we off the hook?  No, we are to love God so much that we want to be obedient.

“For this is love of God, that we obey his commandments” (1 John 5:3)

And the minute we take one step of obedience, God opens up opportunities for new life.

And when we mess up, as we will, we are to confess, repent, and turn to different behavior.

And in this process, God purifies us and blesses us.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered”  (Psalm 32)

Glorifying God with you,

Erin

 

A Cinderella Attitude in Cinderella Circumstances

   

The other day my 7-year-old daughter and I popped in an oldie but goodie-Cinderella.  As the narrator began telling her story, one remembers her life did not start out as a fairytale-she was trapped, abused, and orphaned.  We then get our first glimpse of Cinderella and she isn’t crying in the corner-no!  She wakes up singing, whistling, getting dressed and cleaning up with the help of lovely little birds and cute little mice.  Always processing situations, the psychologist in me said to my daughter, “Wow, she really has a good attitude given her circumstances”.  To which my daughter replied, “Yes-and she has the help of her little friends”.

It made me remember that we have even more help than Cinderella.  When life is tough, or we feel trapped or abandoned, we have the help of the Great Helper-the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus prepared his disciples for his upcoming crucifixion, he promised them the help of someone who would take his place-the Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another HELPER, to be with you forever…” (John 14:16)

The movie also made me question myself—when life throws me Cinderella-like-circumstances, do I have faith in God and do I take pleasure in God to display this Cinderella-like-attitude?

The answer, of course, is no, not always.  But I want to!  And God has something to say about HOW.  It’s called faithfulness.  And here’s the biblical blueprint:

1)  Ask God for the ability to see Him in your circumstances.

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1: 17-19)

2)  Believe God when He promises He is using your circumstances for GOOD.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

3)  Thank God for all of your circumstances.  That’s right-all of them.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

And unlike fairytales that we all know are most often too good to be true, God’s promises are for real!  And they are for us to enjoy!  To God be the glory!

Glorifying God with you,

Erin

 

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Thank y’all for serving with us this week!!!

The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] No other commandment is greater than these,” (Mark 12:31). The only thing better than loving your neighbor, is enabling your neighbor to share Christ with others. On Tuesday, one little fifth grader who lives at the Castaway Motel joined our group. She walked with us and prayed with residents and handed out groceries. It is amazing to see the things God is doing here. Have a great weekend!

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I’m Not Ready Yet

Yesterday afternoon, we hop in the car and begin a slow decent down the street.  I gaze out my window at the landscape of suburbia when my husband presses the brakes. He snaps his head around and says, “Why do you only have one shoe on, baby girl?” Even though the kids spent inordinate amounts of time “getting ready,” Scarlett still managed to forget her shoes.

“I just wasn’t ready yet,” she explains with a shoulder shrug.

I’m reminded of the times I’ve told Jesus, “I’m not ready yet.”

Do you have those moments?

I’m not ready to kneel at your feet, I’m unworthy.

I’m not ready to do what is required, I’m not qualified.

I’m not ready to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, I’m scared.

But you know something?

God doesn’t mind if we’re not ready yet. He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of our heart, the stench of our sin. He’s much bigger than that.

God’s time is now and he enters into our messy-mama-carpool line, ready or not.

Now is where he calls us.

But we still manage to invent mushroom-like excuses, don’t we?

Some days we may feel sloppy and stoppable, unqualified and incapable ~ not ready for our God-given assignment. We say, “God, I’ll be ready to go but first I must clean the house, find that matching sock, plunge the toilet, pray a little more, seek more counsel.

But God says, “I’m here now, and I’m okay with the mess because I’m here for the messy, the unorganized, the weak.”

I remember when I wasn’t ready to start a ministry. I remember when I wasn’t ready to teach a Bible Study. I remember when I wasn’t ready to take the Gospel into unsafe places. I remember when the fear of being persecuted stopped me. I remember being afraid to enter homes in a slum community; a community that is now home to many friends.

But with a tear stained face and both shoes on, I can humbly tell you this. Not for one second was I as ready as I wanted to be. I may not have always been ready for God, but He’s always been ready for me.

I don’t know what the future holds for us Jesus girls, but I do know that he doesn’t need us to be ready for any of it, because He is ready.

And that’s enough.

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I’m Not Ashamed

Matthew 8:17 tells us “He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” Why wouldn’t we go to those who are both physically and spiritually sick and diseased? That’s exactly what Jesus did for us. “We received free of charge;” now we must also “give free of charge,” (Matt. 10:8).

And that’s what we are doing today.

We are taking the Gospel. We are praying. We are serving. We are providing basic needs for the people at the Castaway Motel. I’m so thankful for the beautiful women joining me today.

When I think about sharing the Gospel, I think of Paul. He, being courageous, sacrificial, and passionate about the advancement of the Gospel motivates me. When Paul shared the Gospel, he had no confidence in his rhetorical skills to overcome the human objections to the message, but he knew the power of the Spirit to change the lives of people as they heard the Good News about Jesus’ death and resurrection. People are saved by faith but faith isn’t the cause of salvation. The cause of salvation is the grace of God, the will of God, and the Spirit’s power working through the message of God.

I need to remember to take myself out of the equation. Sometimes frustration looms when I share Christ but don’t see shoots of faith. But God notices the seeds falling and he is faithful to turn them into harvest, into beauty.

John Piper is quoted as saying, “Overflow of joy in God gladly meets the needs of others. Scripture and prayer sustain our pursuit of ultimate and lasting joy in God; costly risk taking missions of love are efforts to double our joy in God.”

This is so true.

It feels true too… missions of love do double our joy in Christ.

Lord, I pray you will “Give them a heart to know you, that you are Yahweh,” (Jer. 24:7). Enable these people to see the marks of the cross in us and feel the love of the cross from us. I pray they will realize that the God who brought Jesus out of a black tomb is the same God who can deliver them from the blackness they find themselves in. I pray our words would not be our own, but yours, only yours.

Amen.

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Splashes of Hell

My heart thumps as I listen to her story.

Having had no outlet for her gritty words, they jumble together all at once.

She’s my divine appointment, someone God led me to minister to.

Her journey is like flipping through sheets of an old novel, tattered pages from the wear, compromised binding from the broken.

She’s frail and doesn’t parent perfectly. But I too am a needy mama who doesn’t parent perfectly. She is on and off drugs, but doesn’t want me to judge. Who am I to throw the first stone?

She’s lambasted by family, shunned from society ~ a society who rejects the least of these. Tears drip as memories roll across the screen of her mind. She hesitates in an attempt to hold away the floodgates. She’s tough but even more loving. “How are you today?” she’ll ask.

I think she needs Christ to lift the gauzy veil between the past, the now, and the still to come. She needs to feel the radical weight of smeared blood on splintered wood with words carved in red ink, “I love you.”

She thinks the parking lot we sit in, is the pit of hell. I tell her, even though God gives us tiny tastes of hell on earth, they’re merely splashes compared to the real thing. I think God gives us glimpses of hell so we might be awakened out of our spiritual slumber. Like an icy cold reality in our face. One that seemingly wakes us from the fleshly fire we find ourselves burning in.

But how?

How do I effectively share the Gospel to this woman sitting in my car asking, “Why?”

Effective or not, I do it anyway.

I share Jesus with child-like vocabulary.

I continue, slightly fumbling.

God gives himself, not a bunch of answers.

He is the answer.

He doesn’t give a bunch of words.

He is the Word, the Word made flesh,

nails gouged,

spat upon,

beaten bloody,

hatred hammering.

These aren’t just facts about Christ. This crucified love isn’t abstract or detached. The good news is up close, personal, and poured out like wine as strong as fire.

We hold hands and pray together in the middle of hell-fire parking lot downtown. I thank God for being good not because he explains reasons why, but because he explained himself on Calvary. The spotless Son of God, who in the span of nine hours, bore the sin of billions and made it over-the-top personal for us.

With a squeeze of the hand, “Amen,” we both whisper.

I drive away heavy.

But suddenly,

I find myself thanking God for my own splashes of hell. A drenching of what life would be like without him. I smile as reality shines. The pulses of pain that skip across the surface of my soul make me the perfect (or imperfect) instrument for His use… should He choose to use me.

I pray He always will.

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Understanding Ownership

The issue of ownership is filling the space in my mind.

We left our home in Reno nearly two weeks ago… the one we own and are trying to sell. And we arrived here at this home in Decatur, Alabama just four days ago. It is a beautiful home and some really wonderful people worked very hard to create this lovely space for us to live. I absolutely love it.

But… it’s not really ours.

Ah, it’s a strange struggle that I did not plan for before we arrived. Oh, and I planned for every-thing before we arrived.

But God.

He does that you know… surprises you with little mental detours… established specifically for our unexpected, yet completely advantageous growth. I love that about Him.

So, what is it He’s showing me?

Ownership is a bit of a deception.

When we “own” something we’ve taken the rights to it and grasped a hold of it proudly as OUR personal property. We puff up with the knowledge that it belongs just to us and no one else. While we do try hard not to rip it from the hands of the giver and claim it for ourselves… we seem to steal away with it none-the-less.

When the paper lists our names as sole owner we readily accept it and we revel in the sweet sense of security it offers us. False security- as it certainly is.

But, today I’m remembering who the great and generous Giver is: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

That speaks nothing of personal ownership that I can see. In fact, my eyes are opened that the idea of it is a lot more like the “shifting shadows” because it can change in an instant.

However, that verse does speak clearly of our true security in the “Father of the heavenly lights”. This kind of security offers provision in all things… beyond the paper that says… this thing (whatever it is) belongs just to me.

So, the issue of ownership is less of an issue and more of an understanding. One that I am only learning. The ownership we need to focus on is HIS ownership over us. That’s where we are safe. That’s where we are free to roam.

And that’s what is filling the space in my mind.

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