Friday, July 29, 2011

Old Story, New Lesson

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today my plan led me to the book of Jonah.  I had to fight hard the urge to skip that book because I knew the story so well.  I mean, how many times have you heard or read the story of Jonah and the big fish?  Finally, I decided to give God the chance to show me something new in that old story, and WOW, did He!   

The story begins with Jonah, a prophet of God, being told to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent.  Well, Jonah thinks God is off His rocker this time and decides to ignore His command.  Actually, he doesn’t really ignore God.  He defies Him.  Jonah decides to board a ship and go across the world to escape God’s call.  Big mistake!  He ends up becoming fish food when a huge storm whips up, threatening to overturn the ship.

Can you just picture this?  Here are several non-believers, purely innocent bystanders, desperately fighting for their lives.  Jonah tells them the storm is his fault and instructs them to throw him into the sea.  Here is what I find fascinating.  Jonah does not call out to God and repent until after he is thrown overboard and half drowned.  At least, the Bible doesn’t record any repentant prayer or cry for help.  I can just see Jonah frantically slapping the water, trying with all his might to grab the nearest supply barrel that had gone over before him.  Not until he is utterly exhausted and has completely given up does he resort to prayer.  Isn’t that so like us?  We get ourselves into a sticky situation and we don’t want to ask God for help until we’ve exhausted every single resource, every solution we can dream up.  I think this is especially true when we know that we defied God and are just reaping the consequences. 

Maybe you knew God wanted you in church on Sunday and you decided to go golfing or boating instead.  Maybe, as a result of that decision, you left the plug out of the boat and it sunk to the bottom of the lake.  (I know one reader who is laughing right now because this happened to him.  Mind you, he wasn’t laughing then!)   God doesn’t always punish us so directly for our rebellion, but when he does, do we think to repent and cry out for help?  At what point does that happen… the last possible moment? 

God doesn’t sit in heaven gloating and telling us, “I told you so.”  No.  He waits patiently, longing to hear that call.  I know this because I’ve experienced it with my own children.  One of my sons gets sent to his room for talking back and being defiant.  As a Mom, I know that ignoring the offense will only cause it to be repeated.  Still, you know that all this Mommy really wants to hear is a genuine plea for forgiveness.  What does my son do instead?  He kicks and screams, and sometimes cries himself into a tizzy before finally saying those dreaded words, “I’m sorry.”

Have you gotten yourself into a mess?  Have you tried to defy God?
How long will you wait before you repent and ask Him to help you get out of that mess?

This question hits home with me today because I, like Jonah, have spent years running away from God's call.  I  have glossed over every Bible verse pertaining to gluttony and self-control with regard to food.  My resulting "mess" is the excess weight that I carry around with me every day.  Each diet I have tried has been my last ditch effort to save myself from my own mess, slapping the waves so to speak.  But God waited patiently for my call.  Today, I stand repentant (and forgiven) of my disobedience and lack of self-control.  While I beg God daily to help me shed my excess baggage, I can joyfully report that He is showing Himself faithful.  I am seeing the light of day.  Praise Him for His patience and ever loving mercy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tribute to My Mother

Today's blog hop topic is: how are you alike and different from your mother?
I think I'll just have fun with this one.

Growing up, my mom and I were always asked if we were sisters. Yes, there is no denying that I get my looks from her. I use to wonder if that was a compliment or an insult. Did I look old, or did she look young? I soon decided that it was a promise of a good looking future. At least, that's the hope. My mom is truly beautiful and always has been, inside and out.

Judging from that last comment, you may deduce that I am quite the optimist. This quality, I believe, comes from my mother as well. Her optimism, coupled with her gift of mercy, helps her to always see good in people. She always gives others the benefit of the doubt. I find myself imitating this when my own children come to me with a complaint about someone. I count myself fortunate to have learned from the best.

When it comes to our differences, well, my mother is one of the most selfless people I know. This, I wish, she had passed on to me. She will drop what she is doing to attend to the needs of another. That is why she made such a great church secretary for so many years,and also why she was "Mom" to far more children than she actually bore. Mom also loves to serve behind the scenes. In contrast, I tend to chose the ministries where I am surrounded by people. We both enjoy teaching, but her teaching tends to come more from example or one-on-one counseling. I have been blessed greatly through the years by her counsel.

I graduated college.  My mom never went.  She married early instead, and learned from life as she raised her four children. While I made all "A"s in school, I had no boyfriends. I was a bit chubby. That didn't help. She, on the other hand, had many boyfriends and was thin as anyone would dream to be. She grew up in the country, I in the city.  These are the differences that stand out to me in this moment. 

I could probably go on about being the same height, and coloring our hair in our thirties, loving to play Scrabble and being married to men who hate the game, but none of that really matters all that much.  What matters is that we are best friends and I will cherish her always.

Proverbs 31:28-29                                        
Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.

I love you mom!

Footnote:  My mother is the grammatic genius in the family and she usually edits my postings.  This one I wanted to be a surprise, so please forgive any mistakes.

Hop to the next blog by clicking here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Laundry Day

The laundry is piled in a heap on my bed, an all too familiar scene. If I would put each load away before I pulled out the next one, then the pile wouldn't grow so high. Honestly, sometimes it seems so daunting that I go to bed and attack it the next morning when I am feeling braver. Today I did five loads of laundry and still have yet to put it all away. I'm certain there is a lesson to be learned here. All suggestions are welcome. I have a feeling, though, that I know what you'll say. "Just do it!"

Staring at my pile, I can't help but think about how other things can pile up in my life - chores that need to be done, messages needing to be sent, bills to be paid. The list could go on. But the worst kind of mess that I get myself into is the one created when I let sin go unconfessed. The Bible says that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God gave us the Holy Spirit, and a conscience, to make us aware of our sins. God is fully aware of our sins as well. His desire is that we confess those sins so that He can wipe our slates clean and free us from all guilt and fear. (I John 1:9) At least that is the plan. But, have you ever noticed what happens when you let your sins pile up? The burden of those sins becomes almost too heavy to bear. I've seen men and women crippled in their ministry because they had sins they were unwilling to let go. You start to feel like God couldn't possibly want to use you. You feel dirty and, to say the least, unworthy. I assure you that I am speaking from experience. But our God is patient and kind. He lovingly waits, anticipating the day when we will tackle our pile and be made free once again.

If you are staring at a heap of unconfessed sin, make today your clean up day. Confess before God. Name those sins, one by one, and feel the burden being lifted off your shoulders. Don't leave a single piece of dirty laundry for tomorrow.  It's time.  Just do it!  He's waiting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Step into the Light

Have you ever tried to put on makeup in a hotel bathroom?  It never fails.  You think your face looks just right only to go outside in the sunlight, see your reflection in your rear view mirror, and discover that you don’t quite look like you thought you did.  The lighting in the bathroom fooled you into thinking that you had achieved that soft, natural look and now you see the truth for what it is.  You either resemble a harlot with your overly bright lipstick and bold eye color, or you look pale and sickly because the sunlight has a different hue than the fluorescent lighting in the hotel bathroom.  We’ve all been there.
I experienced this recently and it occurred to me that there are times when I think I appear better to God and to others than I actually do.  I’m not referring to makeup and hair this time.  I compare my actions and behavior to others and to the standards of the world and I feel like I’m measuring up.  In actuality, I’m just standing in poor lighting.  Then I step into the light of God’s Word and it reveals a whole other set of standards that are a bit higher than mine.  I start to see myself as God sees me.  I see the way I treated that person at work, how I yelled at my children, or how I was selfish with my spouse, and suddenly I am not looking so good anymore.
Praise God that He doesn’t let me go around wearing blinders.  Instead, He shines His light right on my heart and opens my eyes to  the real me that He, and surely others, must see.  The question then becomes:  how do I respond?  Do I walk away from the mirror and do nothing about my hideous appearance?  This is the very scenario that James addressed in James 1:22-25. 
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

My prayer today:
Lord, open my eyes to my true appearance and help me not to walk away forgetting what I have seen.  Instead, help me respond in obedience so that I can become a true reflection of You.