Monday, April 25, 2011

Heavenly!!!

This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  Makes me wonder what the masses dancing in Heaven before the throne is going to be like...  : )

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Tree, A Curtain & A Stone

(Posted originally in 2009)

Once upon a time, a couple thousand years ago, a seed was planted… surely by the very hands of God. The Father, Son and Spirit must have formed this seed carefully, intently watching it fall to the ground, to be covered with earth and die so that it could live and grow. For this would be no ordinary tree. It would grow straight and strong and someday be cut down… to be raised up again so that the Son of Man could die upon it for you and me. It must have been a holy moment when the seed first opened beneath the ground, beginning to reach for the sun and the sky… And to this day it still points to the Son. I wonder. Did Jesus know? Did he ever walk by that tree and know it was the one? Was it already growing the night the angels appeared to the shepherds singing “Glory to God in the highest!”? Did it grow like a silent keeper of the time that was passing, of the time that was coming when Jesus would fulfill the prophecies and shed His blood so that we could be forgiven and one with the Father? 


For long before the seed was planted, a curtain was hung in the temple. Woven under the watchful eye of God by skilled hands, it stood as a symbol of the separation between God and man. Sacrifices were offered. Blood was shed. The merciful Father forgave, but knew that one day, the curtain would be torn! Not by human hands bent on destruction or even the passing of time, but by the mighty hands of God as Jesus cried “It is finished!” God reached down from heaven and tore the curtain in two from top to bottom! How He must have longed for that day to come! How all of heaven and hell must have been awestruck at the death of Christ giving way to this! The removal of the separation between God and man! The price was paid for all! Hallelujah!!! 


But those who loved Him didn’t understand. They didn’t know. And they came searching. Grieving. Mourning. They didn’t know that when the foundations of the world were laid, a stone was formed... a stone that would seal the tomb of its Creator, only to be rolled away on the 3rd day! The beloved women and astonished disciples came and saw that huge stone, rolled away to reveal the empty tomb and the fulfilled promise that Jesus would rise again. And they believed! The stone was rolled away. The curtain was torn. The tree had served its purpose. It was finished. And Jesus was alive!
The Matthew 27: 50-54
"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!' "

Friday, April 22, 2011

By His Wounds I am Healed

Everywhere I look today I am reminded of what Jesus did on the cross for me.
 And I have nothing to say except THANK YOU...  
 With my mouth...
 With my heart...
 With my song...
 With my life...
 Thank You, Lord, for laying down yours in exchange for mine.
 "But He was pierced for [my] transgressions, He was crushed for [my] iniquities;
the punishment that brought [me] peace was on Him
and by His wounds [I am] healed."  Isaiah 53:5

Day 40

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 39

I am still thinking about the ladder picture God gave me and think now that there could be two opposite ladders.  One where the front two legs (Pride and Insecurity) are leaning on the back leg of Self-Reliance (bad, dangerous ladder!) and the other ladder where the front two legs (Humility and Confidence in God) lean on the back leg of Dependence on God.  (Click here if you missed the picture/post about the ladder.)

God wants me to be confident in Him and not insecure.  God wants us to be humble, but not humiliated.  And humbleness, is for me becoming more and more tied to thankfulness.  : )  And to freedom and resting and trusting because God knows what is good for me and what He has planned and what is needed and what is not...  what is actually failure and what is not.  

I've been reading a biography of Amy Carmichael this week.  She was a missionary in India who had an amazing ministry.  But before that she was a missionary in Japan.  And she "failed" there.  : )  I have often wondered what will happen if we go to Peru and we have to come home because I don't have the strength to handle it.  (In other words...  if I FAIL.)  I think it was extremely gracious of God to lead me to the story of someone who "failed" according to her perspective at the time but whose "failure" was just part of God's plan for her life.  Once again evidence (that I can also find over and over in scripture!) that I can depend on God and don't have to live in fear.  Even what looks like "failure" will be for my good in God's hands.

So I stand again at a fork in the road.  One sign points to the road of Self-Reliance which leads to the cities of Pride and Insecurity but always dead ends at the Impasse of Fear of Failure.  The other sign points to the road of Depending on God which leads to the Valley of Humility and the Mountain of Confidence in God, ultimately leading to the Resting Place of Intimacy with Christ where I always will find freedom and victory.  And that path is paved with His love and He walks there with me.  Why do I ever consider going another way?  : )

Thank You, Good Shepherd, that You walk with me even when I stumble onto the path of Self-Reliance and that You lead me back to Depending on You.  It is so much sweeter to walk trusting and resting in You.  Thank You for laying down Your life for me so that we can walk together...  so that I can be one of your sheep.  There is no one else I want for a Shepherd...

Day 39

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Being His Hands and Feet... and Giving Thanks

 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17 

I don't very often remember to think of doing everything in the name of Jesus.  To me right now it means that whatever I do today, I could do it aware that Christ is working through me and I'm being His hands and feet.  Since He isn't here physically to wash dishes for my family, I'll do it on His behalf.  Since He isn't walking on earth in my home, I get to care for my kids in His name.  I get to reflect Him as best as I can (by His power - not mine).  

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday...  the day we remember Jesus washing the disciples' dusty feet in the upper room - the day before His crucifixion. I am praying that as I spend the day with my family God will help me remember that the Holy Spirit does dwell within me and wants to work through my hands and feet and mouth and facial expressions.  Jesus wants to "wash my family's feet" through me.  And as I embrace humility, taking up His yoke and throwing off every other, I am filled with gratitude that He would be willing to work through me.  What extravagant grace!  What an amazing privilege.  And I get to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.  I cannot even comprehend how that happens but even now say thank you, Father.  Thank You for working in and through me.  Thank You for the plans You have for me.

Show me how to be Your hands and feet as I allow You to wash my feet somehow too.

Day 38

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Escape from Pride

OK.  So about this pride stuff.  First of all, let me clarify (thank you, Monica) that when I talk about needing to be humbled, I am NOT talking about humiliation.  I might talk more about that this week yet, but for now I'll just say I see those two things as very different.  The first good, the second not.  I'm also still thinking about the idea that fear of being humbled might be an indication of pride...  it might actually just be an indication of being alive because being humbled is painful and normal people don't like pain.  : )

Anyway.

Here's what I noticed last week.  I was feeling exhausted.  I was feeling  frustrated that I couldn't get everything done and afraid of what would happen if people knew.  (Knew "what" exactly, I'm not sure...  that I'm human?)  It was another perfectionism/insecurity/anxiety attack because I feel like so many things are out of my control right now and I. DO. NOT. LIKE. IT.  I want our schedule to be under control, our house to be clean, our things to be uncluttered and organized, our files to be tidy and our children to be good missionary kids.  I want to feel like I'm in control because feeling out of control is scary.  AND I DON'T WANT TO FAIL.

All that by itself isn't necessarily wrong, I don't think.  But here's what is:  when God kept digging, under all of my efforts to want to be in control is wanting to look good.  Wanting to meet expectations.  Wanting to please people.   Wanting to be good enough and wanting to get more affirmation because I am insecure in this new role in ministry AND because my pride doesn't want to get hurt.  I like what Monica said: "Pride is insecurity all dressed up."  : )  Pride and insecurity together make a relentless, ridiculous taskmaster that is exhausting to follow.

I do want to say I don't always feel this way.  These last couple of weeks, however, made for the right combination of pressures to help me fall into the trap.  As God was uncovering how pride and insecurity were at the root of much of my discouragement and weariness last week, I realized I felt much like the "wizard" trying to control all of the levers and pleading for Dorothy and crew to "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!!"
Oh, Lord.  Thank You for your mercy.  Because that's where Matthew 11:28-30 came alive.  I had already chosen it as my passage to memorize in Spanish the week before - because of the "Come unto me...  and I will give you rest" part.  But it was the next part that caught me all of a sudden.

Verse 39 says "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and HUMBLE in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

I had never seen it before.  There is a direct connection between humility and rest.  When I am determined to get it all and keep it all together so that I can always look good, I'll never rest.  When I let my pride or insecurity call the shots, I won't rest.  But when I embrace humility and the truth that my confidence is in God and NOT IN MYSELF...  in God's grace and not my strength or smarts, I can leave it in His hands AND REST.  I can follow His lead AND REST.  I can thank Him for His faithfulness every day of my life and I will find rest for my soul.  For His yoke really does fit easier and really is lighter.

Thank You Lord!

Day 37

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sneaky Pride

PRIDE.  Bad, evil stuff.  (OK...  before I write more I have to go deal with the security light outside that keeps turning on and off and blinding me off and on.  Be right back...)

(I'm sure there is a reason I had to include that piece of non-information, but I don't know what it is yet.  Maybe I just think you'll be amused by my rambling about stuff that is completely unrelated to the point.)  (And I do have one, by the way...)

Anyway, back here I was thinking about pride and humility and insecurity and confidence.  I was praying for God to deal with my pride because, to be honest with you, pride scares me.  I know how much trouble it can get people into.  I know God doesn't ignore it.  And...  I think I'm also afraid of the public humiliation that could happen if God needed to deal with my pride.  Which...  probably means I have some pride issues that need to be dealt with.

(Did you follow that?)  The fact that I'm afraid of pride is actually an indication that I already have pride that needs to be humbled.  (But I didn't recognize that until just now.)  So because I was so scared of pride (and because I know humility is God's way) I prayed for God to deal with my pride.  I hoped it wouldn't be too painful.  It was painful anyway.

But in the process, I feel like I've discovered a secret that has actually been right in front of me forever.  Like Toby's medicine last night that was right in front of me when I was looking all over the house for it.  Like my keys that were hanging on the hook but I couldn't see them because there was something else hiding them.)  But finally, like the flashing security light (see?  I knew it would tie in!) the truth God has shown me about pride has brought some much needed clarity and revelation.  And freedom.

Want a clue?  Look at Matthew 11:28-30.  I'll explain more tomorrow.  In the meantime, are you afraid of being humbled like I am?  Have you ever thought before about "fear of being humbled" actually being pride in disguise?


Day 36

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Crazy Faith

A few more thoughts about Rebekah and her crazy faith.


I guess that first night they were too busy celebrating to discus a timeline, because in the morning Abraham's servant was ready to go.  With God's help, he had accomplished his task and he was in a hurry to return with Isaac's new bride.  Rebekah's brother and mom (of course!) objected, however, requesting that she stay for ten more days first.  This was all quite sudden and understandably, they weren't ready to say goodbye quite yet.


But they agreed to ask Rebekah to see what she would say.  ("Surely," her mom must have thought, "she won't be ready to leave already!!!")  But Rebekah - incredibly, if you ask me - says she will go.  Right then.  She said goodbye to her family and left with this stranger to go to a strange land to marry a man she had yet to meet when the very day before she was not even dreaming about or wondering about or preparing herself to go to anywhere (as far as we know.)

Crazy faith.  Amazing faith.  I'm so glad God hasn't asked me to do that.  I can't imagine learning tonight that I was moving and then discovering in the morning that we were leaving that very day.  I wonder how hard it was for Rebekah and her family to say goodbye.  (I'm glad she at least got to take her nurse and maids with her.)  But saying goodbye to her family must have been heartwrenching. We don't know if she held back her tears as much as she could until the camels were on their way, but I'm certain the trip was an emotional one.  And she did it anyway.

Lord, thank you for examples of faith.  Thank you for so many examples of your FAITHFULNESS.  When I dread packing again in a few months and saying goodbye to people, remind me of Rebekah and brave people like her...  May I be so willing.

"So they called Rebekah and asked her, 'Will you go with this man?'
'I will go,' she said."
Genesis 24:58


Day 35

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crazy Faith

I was reading Genesis 24 today.  It's the story of Abraham's servant travelling back to Abe's home town.  He arrives, with ten camels and "all kinds of good things", looking for God's chosen wife for Isaac.  The servant (whose name we are never told) prays for God to lead him in a very exact way and before he is even finished praying, Rebekah shows up and does everything the servant was praying "the right girl" would do.  He gives her a gold nose ring and some gold bracelets and follows her to her family's home where he pops the question on behalf of Abraham & Isaac.  Her father and uncle respond with "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed." (Gen. 24:50-51)

Wow.  Can you imagine?  A man and his ten camels show up and you send off your daughter with him?  Really?  THAT IS FAITH.  CRAZY faith.

Maybe this was normal back then.  But I doubt it!  Rebekah must have had dreams about marrying and mothering and likely that included having grandparents nearby and uncles and aunts and cousins.  That day, she woke up and went about the day like she had done hundreds of times.  But it the cool of the day it all changed.  My, how it changed!

I wonder how she felt.  I wonder if she slept that night after all of the celebrating had finally ceased.  I suspect not much.  I bet she prayed.  I bet her thoughts were spinning and her stomach was all butterflies and she kept thinking to herself "I can't believe this is really happening!"  "Did I imagine all of this?"  If she slept, I wonder if she woke up and her first thoughts were of the normal things she did every morning and all of a sudden she noticed the nose ring and bracelets and remembered.  Her life was changing.

Crazy.  Yet she and her family trusted God and trusted this man.  Was it crazy or not?  Can you imagine?  Would you go?

Day 34

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Keepin' On

Well, I have to admit that once again I don't know what to write about.  This blogging every day has turned out to be one of the hardest things I've done for Lent.  I think it's been a lot easier in the past to fast from things like caffeine or sweets or facebook.  But this is harder...  Abstaining from something takes one kind of effort - but doing something extra is different.   It's a sacrifice of time but also has brought up all sorts of other mixed feelings about what I blog about.  What is the right balance of honesty about struggles and sharing about happy stuff?  What do I say on days when I don't have anything to write about?  Especially when I wait until the end of the day!  ; )

It is good, though, to be faithful even when I'm not feeling inspired.  Life in ministry is going to involve lots of days when I'm excited and inspired and enthusiastic and feeling all of the blessings that God has POURED out into my life.  BUT, it will also involve lots of days when I don't think I have anything left to give, anything left to say, anything left to feel - for myself or anyone else.

And yet I want to be faithful.  I don't want to quit - with the blogging or with the ministry training or the ministry.  Whatever it may be.  Even though there may be moments or hours when I wonder what in the world God is thinking calling us into this.  But I choose to remember - even today - that God's ways are not my ways.  His resources are infinite and He isn't worried at all.  Even when I have exhausted my energy, my strength and my understanding, His grace, strength and wisdom will always be enough for whatever He is asking me to do or be.  And that is a good thing to know.

Day 33

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When the wind and the wildflowers danced...

On April 14, 15 years ago I married my favorite guy in the world.  He helps me be brave when I'm not feeling it and reminds me that this too shall pass when I'm afraid it won't.  I can't imagine anyone better for me and I can't imagine ever doing the things I'm doing without him by my side - sometimes cheering, sometimes nudging, sometimes pushing or pulling me on.  We are different in so many ways, yet share so much in common.  It's the best of opposites attracting and great minds thinking alike all at the same time.


He is stable and I am dramatic. 
We both love God and God's church.
He can multi-task and I have a one-track mind.
We both are messy.  (hmmm... that's not such a great thing...)
He grew up all over the world and I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley.
We both want to go live in Peru.
He's an extroverted introvert and I'm an extroverted extrovert.
But we both love quiet vacations away from crowds.
I stare at the ocean and think big philosophical thoughts.
He stares at the ocean and thinks "This would be a great place to build a house."
We both dream.


And that's how we spent a couple of days earlier this week...  enjoying the mostly uninhabited coast of California, watching the wildflowers and grasses dance, the seagulls soar, the waves roll and the elephant seals lie around and throw sand on themselves.  On Monday we were sitting in the van enjoying the scenery when some music came on that seemed to fit the landscape so perfectly it was as if the grasses and wind were dancing along on purpose.  That's what inspired this video.  It's a souvenir of sorts of the day we spent wandering around the coast without a schedule or anyone asking if we were there yet or declaring they were starving or any other such emergencies.  Everywhere I looked I saw creation dancing along with us.  And it was lovely. It was fun to dream about making a video of it all with the same music we were listening to and even more fun to actually put it together while Lowell was driving us home and see it turn out just exactly how I'd imagined it.  


So if you have a few more minutes, you can see what it looks like when the wind and the waves and the wildflowers and waterfalls dance...  God is the Master Choreographer to be sure.


video


Happy anniversary, Babe.  I THANK GOD FOR YOU.  And I love you so incredibly much.

Day 32

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Creative, Colorful Creation

We came home today after a couple of days at the coast of California celebrating our 15th anniversary.  It was beautiful.  The flowers were beautiful.  (My mom always said they were prettier at the coast than anywhere else!)  : )

Here's a sample of the rainbow we saw...





     


   

  



Matthew 6:25-34 
 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? 
See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.



Day 31

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Much To Say


I'm at the end of a super relaxing day and don't want to ruin it by overanalyzing and overexplaining it.  But I'm thankful for a husband of almost 15 years to have shared it with.

God is good and His creation is amazing.  : )  See you tomorrow.


Day 30

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thank-FULL

**This was originally written and posted in May 2008.  It's a favorite of mine I thought I'd share again.  : ) **
Last weekend we went to Cambria (on the coast of California, a couple of hours away from where we live). And God taught me a lesson about thankfulness. On Saturday afternoon we went to the beach. I had this big plan to build a big sandcastle. We had buckets, shovels… we were set! Except the beach we went to didn’t have great sandcastle-building sand like I remembered. It had pebbles. Lots and lots and lots of pebbles and a little bit of sand. And once we got there and we discovered that Lowell was right and I was wrong, we couldn’t just go somewhere else, because we were waiting for Lowell's brother and his family to meet us there and we didn’t have cell service.

We sat down and tried to build a castle with the little bit of sand that was there, but it collapsed. So we just played in the pebbles and dug holes and fed and chased sea gulls and searched for “gems”. Mikaela had quite a beautiful collection of pretty rocks (her "gems") and by the end of our time there, we were all hunting with her. Well, in the middle of my gem hunting, I found a real treasure: thankfulness.

About a week ago, I was asking God about my tendency toward regret & disappointment. For example, I was really sad when I found out we could have sent Timothy a camera and other gifts when he was referred to us. I wished we had known and was in a small way grieving the loss of pictures we could have had if we had sent something earlier. But God showed me (as I pondered the regret issue) that a big part of the solution is TRUST. I needed to trust Him that it was fine and maybe even good (for whatever reasons) that we hadn’t sent anything before. If it hadn’t been fine or good, He would have done something about it. So I could trust Him, grieve what we had missed and move on.

That day at the beach, after we had been there a while having a very nice time, I was still wishing I would have remembered the beach wasn’t sandy so we could have gone somewhere else. Then God opened my eyes. Toby and Lowell were having fun trying to get the waves to make water go into a hole they had dug. And Mikaela was in paradise!!!!! She loves pretty little things as much as anything in the world and she was surrounded by them! And they were free! And she could collect as many as she wanted! And her mom was helping! And I was on the beach, listening to and watching the waves (one of my favorite things in the world to do). What in the world was I doing still wishing for something else? And that’s where I discovered thankfulness. When I stopped wishing for something else and started being thankful for what I had found instead, the regret and disappointment started to evaporate. And I also realized that thanks-GIVING is really quite easy when you’re thank-FULL to start with.

YMelissa


Sabbath

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Extravagant Beauty

Yesterday and last night the sky was amazing.  I kept watching big, white, billowing clouds floating by outside and it almost made sense that somewhere along the way people decided heaven must be a land of clouds.  As the day wore on, the sky just got more and more beautiful.  I had a couple of errands to run so ended up out driving around as the sun sank lower in the sky behind an amazing display of beauty.  Extravagant beauty!

In the East, there was fresh snow (April snow!) on the Sierra Nevadas.  In the South and North there were fluffy clouds with the sun still shining on them.  And the western horizon...  wow.  I'm sorry I don't have pictures for you.  There were layers upon layers of clouds with the sun shining through from behind and it was amazing.  It reminded me of a sunrise I watched in Texas last year when I also was overwhelmed by God's extravagant love for me.  

I sat in the grocery store parking lot for a few extra minutes and just watched.  I watched people hurrying around and the glorious sky and wondered how many people were noticing God's extravagant display just over their heads.  And I took a few minutes to enjoy it with God.

I've been more intentional for the last months about taking Sabbath time.  I'm taking time to rest and enjoy God's creation and I think it's affecting the rest of my days as well.  I'm learning to slow down and enjoy the beauty around me, knowing that somehow what needs to get done will get done and that WONDER is a life-giving thing.

I hope you take some time this weekend to look around you - whether you are inside or outside, alone or with others, in silence or sound, sitting or moving - and that you see some marvelous displays of God's glory in creation and in people made in the image of God.  I'm sure God will be happy you noticed.  And I think you will be too.

Day 29

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday!

I was going to try to post something thoughtful right now, but just changed my mind.  : )  Even though most of you won't read this until tomorrow or later, I'm doing a tribute to Friday.  Because today was Friday and Lowell just showed me a really cool Friday video.

Now.  Some of you are afraid of what might be coming because you know who Rebecca Black is.  This girl became an almost overnight youtube sensation (though not in the best way) for her music video "Friday."  (Click here to get the gist of the video or the rest of this won't make as much sense to you...)

I think she's a decent singer, but honestly the lyrics are just so very, very bad.  The biggest problem is how the song gets stuck in my head.  Running through my head in the middle of the night kind of stuck!  

There are lots of people making their own versions of the song now and THIS ONE is so fun.  So THIS is my tribute to Friday.  I hope yours was a nice one.  : )




Day 28