Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The house is quiet. Not even the slow drip of the icemaker in the fridge interrupts the silence. There was a time when I longed for quiet, but not today. Today, I am alone with my thoughts and I do not feel as if I am among friends. My anxious glance evaluates the room and drops to the floor. I notice the carpet might benefit from a brief relationship with the vacuum cleaner. The crumbs will still be there tomorrow, convicting me of a wasted yesterday. I wonder sometimes if I have a purpose beyond the walls of this house. Today I wonder. I wonder if my life makes a difference at all.

Oh, sure, to my family and some friends I matter. But when the house is quiet and there is really nothing pressing to do, this suburban housewife does not seem to have purpose. Well, I should probably clarify. The cold hard truth is that beyond the temporal, purpose is fleeting for any human existence. I cannot create nor sustain my own existence. Every breath is predetermined by some elusive power of Whom even the most brilliant of beings cannot fathom. And, yet, I breathe . . . in and out . . . day after day.

These are not the ramblings of a depressed woman . . . maybe an introspective student . . .  or an invisible mother, perhaps.

It is Christmas. I imagine the day after Thanksgiving, there must be a grand director who announces from the ecumenical throne, “Lights, camera, action!” and myriads of trained players upon the world stage scramble to play their parts. I don’t feel like playing today. The house is decorated in fashion with the Biltmore with three full sized Christmas trees this year and three inflatable animatrons entertaining on the front lawn and competing with the neighbor’s. Yes, we’re doing Christmas Texas style this year . . . big and gaudy. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that there seems to be something missing . . . something important.

Twice in the gospel of Luke there is reference to a pondering mother of Jesus. However, Mary is not wondering about her own life, but of the life and purpose of her son.

Every mother has a colorful birth story to tell, but none involve visits from angels and shepherds as for this 15 year old new mom. Mary considers the grand entrance of God’s son into the world in Luke 2:13-20.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Then again as Jesus grows and his passion for truth and his devotion to God is revealed, Mary considers the gradual revelation of his purpose in Luke 2:41-52.

41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

I try to imagine myself as Mary, watching the Creator of life grow in wisdom and stature from human child to man. I imagine the heart wrenching cries of a mother witnessing the cruel crucifixion of her first born.

And then it hits me…

I know it is not the first time I acknowledged this truth, but I have renewed clarity…a purification of sorts. My purpose is tied to His. I have purpose because He gives me value. Every breath I breathe is for His glory, not mine. It is as if someone lifted a weighty burden from my heart and mind. I am free!

Do you know what it is to be free? Try this, imagine yourself at the foot of the cross at Calvary witnessing the death of the most significant person ever to walk this earth. All of the major traditions of man recognize His existence and significance. Imagine His blood falling in droplets on the hair upon your head. Imagine His loving glance and His voice above you pleading, “Father, forgive them.” Now, is it possible for you to walk away unchanged?

Even vacuuming the floor has value when it is done for the glory of God.

(I wrote this last year and for some reason never published it. I hope you enjoy my ramblings.)

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 I have been alone with my thoughts more than I care to be. This reminds me of a scene in The Mirror Has Two Faces where Lauren Bacall (playing Barbara Streisand’s mother) after a sleepless night comments to her middle aged daughter, “It’s awful to leave a woman my age alone with her thoughts.” The inference to age aside, I am realizing that when left alone I seem to default to fault-finding introspection.

I have more time on my hands recently since I am between Seminary courses right now. I love my classes, although I no longer enjoy the camaraderie of my peers now that we moved half-way across the country from my school…again. Southern Evangelical Seminary is my third college to attend because we have moved so much due to my husband’s career. I have 110 hours toward a business degree and am about 11 courses short of completing my Biblical Studies degree. Studying as an external student is isolating, almost as much, I remember, as being a stay-at-home mother of four preschoolers.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I LOVE learning! I have over 600 books on my computer (many are reference books), but I could read a book every day for 200 years and still never satisfy my insatiable appetite for knowledge. Makes me sound smart and perhaps in some circles I am, but the more I learn, the more pitifully inadequate I become.

I say all this to culminate with this confession; I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Sounds juvenile and pathetic, I know. And I am quite embarrassed at the acknowledgment of said fact; however, this undeniable observation is the elephant in the warehouse of my thoughts. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years now, and, by God’s grace, I do not have to work. This I recognize as a beautiful blessing, as I am unhindered to fully invest in my family. But still, a small part of me wants to do more—to be more. And that small part is getting louder with every day that passes.

Is this the equivalent of my husband’s mid-life crises? I hope not, because we don’t have enough room for all of Jim’s accumulated toys in the garage for me to add to the stash. I do sense an emerging desire to DO something rather than HAVE something. Everywhere we have lived, God has placed successful Christian writers and speakers in my life and many have encouraged me to pursue the same occupation. I have considered this many times, but (and here is the darkest thought that keeps occupying my mind)… I am NOBODY. I fully believe that I have nothing of value that would be of any help to anyone.

But maybe that is not an ominous thought after all…

Maybe it is essential for a simple clay pot to realize it is a simple clay pot. Apart from Christ I am nobody and can do nothing of eternal value, and perhaps that is the most proficient knowledge of all. To be content as a clay pot is liberating, to be satisfied as a clay pot is condemning. So I shall feast my mind’s eye on this: Let every breath glorify my Savior even if my service never seems to reach beyond the four walls of our home.

I foolishly believed that enduring a plethora of humiliations at Walmart at the less than stellar behavior of my children, that I have emerged a humble woman. But, no, I could still be accused of secretly desiring glory for myself. While there may be some substance to that accusation, I really just want the approval of my Father. I just want to please Him and I think we all make the mistake of confusing the praises of the world as the praises of the Father.

God can be glorified whether I am scrubbing toilets, teaching a precept to my son at the dinner table, reigning on the Best Seller list, or speaking before an audience of thousands. Loving the Lord faithfully should consume my thoughts and my actions even when no one is watching. I may never enjoy the praises of the world, and I can be content with that. I would much prefer the praises of my Father.  My purpose is not to draw attention to myself, but to draw the attention of others to Christ. Perhaps one day something eternally exquisite will arise from the confines of this simple earthen vessel. When that day comes, to God be the glory!

  14     What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15     If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16     and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17     Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18     But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Jas 2:14-18.

One cannot have faith without works anymore than one can have love without mercy. Why do you get up in the morning?  Because the baby is crying? Because someone has to pay the bills?  Because you have a “to-do” list the length of your arm? When love motivates me, my whole attitude changes. The day is no longer about what I have to do, but what I get to do. I get to serve my family, I get to provide for my family, I get to breathe another day.  Faith and works, mercy and love all produced by grace bring glory to God. Make Lamentations 3:22-24 your prayer today and let Him be the reason you get up in the morning.

  22     The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23     They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24     “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” La 3:22-24.

When I was a little girl, I loved to go to church. I felt safe there. Everything seemed better at church. Food tasted better, colors were brighter, music came alive and the world made sense. When I played the piano at church, it seemed I could hit any key and it would be beautiful. When I sang, my 10 year old voice soared over the congregation and harmonized with the reverberations coming back to me. Later as a preteen and teen, church was my sanctuary. I wanted to be in God’s house every time the doors were open. Fortunately I had godly friends who could drive and didn’t mind picking up the scrawny little girl with horn-rimmed glasses three times a week.

Then my sophomore year in college, the pastor of my parent’s church raped someone very close to me. I didn’t find church to be so appealing after that. It lost its luster you could say. Apparently he had committed the same evil at his previous church, but they remained silent on the subject. Quite embarrassing and who wants that kind of liability? It took some time for me to wrap my mind around the appalling injustice committed in the name of God. The holy refuge I retreated to when I was lost now held dark and dangerous secrets. I still longed to be close to my heavenly Father, He just seemed so far away.

In First Samuel we are introduced to a particular priest and his evil sons. Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were charged with ministering to God in His temple and to His people. They served as God’s representative to His chosen people. What a great responsibility, what a great privilege! One would think that one would desire to live in a manner worthy of such a holy calling. One would think…

1 Samuel 2:12-17 (NASB95)
12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord
13 and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.
14 Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.
15 Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.”
16 If the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.”
17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord.

Hophni and Phinehas not only despised the offering of the Lord, they despised the Lord and Eli did not rebuke them. I have become increasingly disgusted with the selfish and self serving ministry of some pastors and I for one refuse to remain silent like Eli.

Pastors telling God’s people that they need to mail them a check to “sow a seed of faith.”

Pastors committing vile sins and then manipulating their congregations to reinstate them to their former positions of authority.

Pastors who never prepare themselves to teach and minister the truth and starve their flock with spiritual milk.

Pastors so enamored with their “vision” that they deny the gospel.

Pastors who stand before a congregation week after week and refuse to tell people how to find forgiveness because “we don’t do that here.”

Pastors who prey on the wounded and the suffering and lure people away from the path of salvation with provocative lies.

As disgusted as I am with the deception of some evil leaders in the church, I am humbled by the warning to believers found in God’s dealings with Eli and his house.

1 Samuel 3:13-14 (NASB95)
13 “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.
14 “Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Eli was held responsible for not disciplining his house and he and his house were judged harshly for their disdain toward God’s precepts. How long will churches in America refuse to hold our leaders accountable to the truth? How long will we allow teachers to inaccurately handle the word of God? Where are the true prophets to boldly rebuke the iniquity of the false priests? Do we fear man over God so much that we have become paralyzed with apathy?

The American church is no longer viewed as a refuge for the lost and a beacon of truth. The church has absorbed the values of our culture, denying absolute truth and criminalizing those who refuse to compromise the integrity of God’s word. However, I am confident that the bright light of immutable truth will overcome the shroud of darkness that plagues us today. When God’s people behave in a manner worthy of the Name they bear, then God will not seem so distant.

One glorious day all that hides in the darkness will be revealed and holy justice will reign. Those who fear that day have reason to tremble, but the children of Righteousness can rejoice! The Gathering will be cleansed of all deception and God will inhabit the praises of His people forevermore.

 

Over the course of my walk with Christ, He has allowed me the privilege to serve Him in many avenues. My favorite would be discipling and ministering to His people and reaching out to unbelievers. But sometimes I get tired. I am not superhuman, I am not callus. I have suffered in life and in doing so have acquired an ability to share the pain of others.  Compassion can only be learned through suffering. And there is a lot of suffering out there.

As you know, the financial outlook for our country is bleak at best and has resonated through every household. Mine is not exempt. Four out of twelve couples from one of our neighborhood Bible study groups have lost employment since Christmas. The injustice of bailouts padding the pockets of fat bureaucrats and their fat friends is enough to make me want to just pack up and leave . . . and go . . . somewhere. As if there is anywhere on earth not plagued with injustice.

I get frustrated. And at the same time I know that I need to remain focused for those who depend on me.

I was reading Luke 9 this morning. Jesus had sent his apostles out on their first solo mission, spreading the gospel and healing the sick. The apostles returned to Jesus and reported their experiences, and Jesus listened. Then He took them aside to be alone with Him. They traveled across a lake to Bethsaida (house of fish or house of provision), the home town of Philip, Andrew and Peter. When they arrived at the other shore there was a crowd of people waiting for them.

Luke 9:10-11

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

Mark 6:30-34 

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Serving others is great. Listening, counseling, evangelizing, all these things are worthwhile and we should do them with joy. But don’t neglect time alone with the One who sent you. You have the power to serve and the authority to serve because He equiped you and authorized you. Sometimes it is necessary to disengage from service for a season, unplug and rest. It is not a sin to say no to busy-ness, in order to say yes to His invitation.

Is He inviting you to come with Him to a quiet place and rest? Don’t hesitate. Drop what you’re doing and climb in that boat with Jesus. Let Him minister to you. There will be plenty of work waiting for you on the other shore.

Heb. 4:16

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”