Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Makes You Cry?

Tears happen. Whether from joy, sadness, or frustration, and at times unexplained or unexpected, these salty droplets randomly punctuate my emotions.

During church today when we listened to a video clip from Frank Peretti's testimony, I felt them.
--compassion for those bullied and ridiculed

As my husband and I circled the living room our feet moving in the Texas Ten step dance, my eyes burned with those familiar pre-tear sensations. Our bodies were moving in sync, it felt so good and our practice had not been in vain.
--kudos for accomplishing something that required effort

I prayed for insight for those who seem to have let  "pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" cloud their thinking.  My spirit longs for those close to me to see truth and understand the love and grace of their God, and how he yearns for relationship with them. Somehow intense prayer turns on my tear ducts.
--longing for change and better things for someone else

The tear switch may be flipped to on when reading a book.  Miraculous Movements stirred up the well as I read of many Muslims being personally visited by our Lord through visions and dreams.  The workers who are discipling them are so passionate in their mission and full of love for the ones they work among.
--a craving to see God work in and through me and in those I encounter

I woke up several mornings lately feeling weary, anxious and weak.  I know where my strength resides and my curling up into the Father's presence for more of his grace and enabling was accompanied by teary cries for help.  In these moments, text messages via Scripture give me hope and make his presence real.  When the words come to my mind automatically from previous meditation or memorization, the Spirit's whispers make me cry even more.
--vulnerability, anxiousness and worry
--the sweet comfort of the Holy Spirit

While writing this post I came across this blog entry by John Piper.
John Piper wakes up sometimes with a 'fragile' morning syndrome!  Just realizing that I'm not alone and that others experience similar things, brings comfort and encouragement, and yes, tears.  :)
--the sweet comfort of the Holy Spirit through others

In the course of running some errands in a bustling morning of activity, I paused to listen to a breaking heart. Her marriage was tearing apart. She was in the midst of making hard decisions and feeling alone. She wept in pain, and my eyes watered sympathetically as I prayed for her.
--the ability to feel and care for others and to be about my Father's business

OK, I'll say it.  There are times my eyes burn when I say our national pledge of allegiance. I am one voice among a crowd of people who all share in the abundance of a prospering, peaceful country. (I didn't say perfect, and I'm not in denial about the sins and godlessness of our times) We may not have much else in common, but we know these same words and we share this piece of the world together.
--gratefulness for the good things we have and the brief moment of unity I feel with my fellow citizens

I cry when hurtful words are hurled at me. Sometimes when a friend is insensitive. When I know I've done wrong and am sorry. When the day feels overwhelming and I just want to stop and relax. When rejection makes me feel worthless and unwanted.
When I don't get my way?  Ummm...I can't say it hasn't happened.

These salty companions bring release; they are the bridge that takes me from emotion to clearer thinking, to a calm place once again, to the Father's presence where all pretenses melt away and everything is uncovered and laid bare. Oh, what a privilege to be known and loved like that!

So what makes you cry? Do you let the tears bring you to His presence?

"If  any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  James 1:5.

That covers any reason for tears. That and his never failing love.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Equipped With All We Need

Our study on Hebrews is almost finished. The last verse ends with "Grace be with you all." 

In this study we observed the heart of an author who truly cares for the ones he is addressing. The listeners are urged to keep their faith strong, to not let anything they have heard or been taught slip away and to keep their eyes focused on Jesus. They are told to run with perseverance the race marked out for them and are reminded of the faith of great saints from their history. The warnings and advice are given with intensity, yet much is made of God's provision for them in Jesus and how Jesus has made it  possible to go boldly into God's presence without fear to make their requests known to him. In Hebrews we learn of a future that far surpasses this life-- a heavenly city of joyful angels, God's redeemed people made perfect, face- to- face time with our Father God and Jesus Christ, and things that are too awesome to describe with human words.

I am so thankful when the scriptures I focus on have  much relevance for the specific day I face. Verses 20 and 21 of chapter 13 were those kind of words for me this week.
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

I will be equipped with everything good for doing his will. So, for instance, strength will be there when I feel weak, words will be given when he nudges me to speak of Kingdom things and besides that he'll be working in me what pleases him.  While I'm doing  his will, equipped with all I need,  he keeps his transformation work going  inside me.  The titles of our Equipper and Remodeler are the God of peace and the Great Shepherd. Do you feel the grace being with you? (Grace be with you all)

An object lesson this week illustrated the importance of the one behind the scenes keeping watch and transforming things to keep them pleasing. I received a call one evening from a retailer online who wanted to know if I had made a purchase for a certain amount of money a few days prior.  I did not remember that transaction and it was agreed that someone had stolen my credit card number.  The order did not get charged to me and it was canceled. I asked what had raised the red flag to cause them to call me.  There were things that had not looked right about the transaction, maybe missing information or that the purchase didn't fit my history and profile.  I had to follow through with my card company and get a new card.

I had two reactions to that incident. One, I was pretty sure I knew when the number had been stolen and I felt violated and taken advantage of. Secondly, I sensed a lot of gratitude that I had been notifiied and relieved of any unwarranted expenses. I also realized how good it feels to have someone cover your back like that and to know that the system of protection and maintenance of accounts works.

I praise you, Father, that you always keep me as the apple of your eye and hide me under the shadow of your wing. You work to make things turn out for good, and you delight in transforming me to look more like Jesus. I believe that you have provided me with everything good for doing your will.  Help me to use what you've provided and never worry that it won't be enough or use some substitute instead because it's more familiar to me. I am so blessed to be your child and to  know your wonderful grace and love to me ALL the TIME!  Thank you!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rewards After Peas and Before Bed

Moist chocolate cakiness clumped to my fingers like fudgy glue. Licking them off would only attract a thicker coating of the gooey goodness as I held the frozen treat to my mouth again. The combination of the soft outer layers of chocolate with the cold hard vanilla ice cream inside made this sandwich my favorite summertime reward.

Earlier in the day, I and my siblings had opened pea pods methodically from the bucketfuls my mother kept bringing in from the garden. The green balls filled the bowl in my lap slower than coins mounded in my piggy bank.  The cool morning quickly turned into a heat monster that spewed muggy droplets of humidity over every inch of my body, trapping the moistness in the pockets where elbows folded and behind bent  knee caps. Fans' breath equaled little more effect than a toddler trying to blow out a birthday candle. After hours of shelling and my thumb nails turning green, the last pod was popped and our work was finished.

Hopping on bikes we pedaled uphill to the corner grocers. The wooden floors creaked as we stepped inside. Candy jars lined the long counter and the air smelled of both licorice and vinegar from pickles bouncing in brine in barrels on the floor. My dime was spent on the one treat I had salivated for all day; dreaming of it's goodness had sustained me through aching muscles and boring hours of unwrapping homegrown garden bounty.

My clammy skin goose-bumped as the arctic bites met my  hot throat. In this moment I was satisfied and happy.

Rewards are like that. They come after completed tasks that require work and endurance. Whether they are promised and anticipated or given as surprises, we feel compensated and grateful.

I've been noticing a pattern related to my bedtime routine. I may feel touches of exhaustion when I get home from work. Then lethargy makes it's attack after supper when my belly is full and I begin to relax. Whatever the evening holds, a church meeting, bills to pay, or laundry to fold, sleep is prohibited until the bed covers are turned down and I stretch out on the comfy mattress. However, no matter how tired or yawn prone I've been, I find myself turning on the tablet to check Facebook, or reading some mail I've been wanting to catch up on, or texting a family member, or listening to the news on TV. This behavior baffles my husband who crawls into bed before me and is often snoring comfortably before I have finished brushing my teeth.

Why would I jeopardize my best chance to ward off belly fat, by staying up past my bedtime? Or why do I trade my sleep for time to do something I enjoy? Is it worth feeling guilty that I haven't acted responsibly? Or worth feeling sleepy and tired the next morning? Apparently, yes, because I continue to put off turning out the light.This is something I've had many a conversation with my Father about.

As I bedtimed one night this week, I realized I wanted to reward myself with me time before the day ended. If the day and evening was full of work and obligations, I felt cheated out of time for myself. While many nights it was legitimate to enjoy those down moments, other times I was insisting on stealing the time.

God is so faithful to get through to us, to answer a prayer for wisdom and revelation. It was as though the Holy Spirit pulled out the lesson on rewards and I was listening. He reminded me of what he said to Abram in Genesis 15:1.  "I am your shield, your very great reward."  God also said he rewards those who diligently seek him. Then the Teacher said, "Hey, kid, where are you storing up treasure?'s obvious isn't it? the place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." (Italics quoted from Matt. 6:21, Msg)

So if I end up being on the computer because that's the place I most want to be, against wisdom that says I need to be sleeping, or I'd rather be there than having a few last words with the Father or listening to His words from the Bible before I fall asleep, do I really consider him my reward? The Greatest Reward? Am I finding him more precious than life itself?  More satisfying than ice cream sandwiches after working and sweating hard?

You are so good, Faithful One! To keep drawing me closer, to keep my eyes on the prize that can never be found in this world. Please keep teaching me how to enjoy this life, receiving it and the good things it offers, as gifts from you, while you remain my greatest reward and joy. I know that I am tempted to misspend my time.  Time is also is a gift from you.  May I do everything to your honor and glory, not because I should, or even because I feel guilty when I do my own thing, but because you are beyond comparison. The rewards and things you have in store for me are glorious and out of this world and the life I live in you is far above the pleasures I experience in earthly things. I'm yours always, and especially in the moments before I go to sleep. Love you so much, Abba!