Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mary’s Faith

A couple weeks ago I was asked to be Mary in my church’s Christmas play…or, actually, in the four scenes to be performed before the four sermons on the four Sundays before Christmas.  And, while practicing my lines, I was struck by a line that I hadn’t ever heard before… I don’t think.  And, the crazy thing is, it WASN’T one of Mary’s.  Actually, it’s Elizabeth’s.  It’s found in Luke, Luke 1:45, to be exact.  Mary has just shown up at Elizabeth’s door, and the baby in Elizabeth, soon to be known as John-The-Baptist, leaps (ummmm – he doesn’t have room to leap, obviously – he probably kicks, or spins about inside, or just does a quick spread-eagle) for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.  So, Elizabeth greets Mary with prophetic words, words that confirm to Mary what the Angel already said.  AND THEN ELIZABETH ends with “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (that’s the verse 45 part).

Every time I practice (so, 12 times this last Sunday morning to start with) I’m shocked by that.  If I had been Mary, and an angel had come to me, telling me that though I was a virgin, I was going to give birth to the Messiah everyone had been waiting for, I’m not sure I would have believed him.  I would most definitely have questioned him more than simply saying, “But how will this be, since I am a virgin?”  But that’s all she asked, and she must’ve asked with a right heart, for the angel had no problem with her question.

Somehow, even though she wanted to know HOW this was going to be (I would too), she completely believed that God was going to do just exactly what the angel said.  I wonder if that’s why God picked her or had been preparing her?  Because He knew she had the faith to accept the impossible.  How much did her faith play into her giving birth to Jesus?  My guess is, a lot.

Have you ever had anyone come up to you and tell you something from God, or just know in the very core of your heart that God was telling you something, and then, a day or so later, think to yourself, “Oh, that wasn’t God.  That was just a bit of my wishing, a bad night’s sleep, a bit of undigested meat” (sorry, I got a bit Christmas Carol-y there).  I know I have.  Granted, I’ve never been told I’m going to give birth to the savior of the world, but I have been told some other stuff about myself and my life – much more every-day-type stuff.  But I still tend to dismiss the impossible, the improbable, or the just way too good.  And I think, maybe, I’ve been sinning.  I think maybe I need to start believing, or at the very least pondering and testing, those words spoken to me either BY God, or by someone He sent.  It’s actually probably pretty rude for me to not at least consider words that God Himself took the time to tell me.  Kinda like slapping Him in the face.  And that would break my heart.

So, this Advent Season, these four weeks before Christmas, my prayer is to be like Mary.
I want to believe the impossible too.

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Black Friday

So last year I talked about being thankful for what we have, instead of right after giving thanks around a table bending in the middle with food dashing out into the mad masses and doing whatever is needed to get the best deal on the biggest, flashest new gadget or gift.

And really, I still definitely feel that way.  But since I’ve already said it, and I haven’t figured out a new, creative way to say it, I just have one thing to ask you.

As you go about in the craziness of this season, whether it’s shopping, or partying, or decorating, or whatever it is you do between now and January 1, 2013, please remember that you don’t need everything that shimmers in the windows and on the TV screen around you.  You probably have more than you need, in fact.  And, in reality, probably whoever you’re buying presents for doesn’t need anything more than they have already either.

So, remember to be thankful for what you have – quirks of it and all.  And remember, as you whirl about for the next six weeks, that there are others in this world whom are not as privileged as you.  People who would be grateful for that sweater you never wear that hangs in your closet, or for the leftover slice of turkey you threw away yesterday.

Please, remember them.  Pray for them.  And, as God leads, do something for them.

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Weddings and a Knight

I have probably been to more weddings than most people – assuming most people aren’t in the wedding business.  If you’re a florist, or a baker, or a photographer, or a caterer, or a designer, or a planner – than you’ve probably been to more weddings than me, but just barely.

See, my father was a high school teacher at a Christian school.  And, back in the late 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up, he got invited to what seemed like every-student-that-he-ever-had’s wedding.  So of course, he brought my mother, my brother, and myself along to all those weddings.  It’s just what he did.  And we went to multiple weddings every summer.

I’m not sure when it started, sometime in middle school probably, Mom and I started critiquing the weddings.  We LOVED how the bride displayed her cake; what on earth was that bride thinking putting those colors together.  Or those dresses?  Seriously?  Ouch.  And with the critiquing came planning MY wedding..someday in the future.  Which is pretty normal for a girl actually.  And of course, in order for the wedding to be perfect, there needed to be the perfect groom.  At some point (probably when I was 3) I started dreaming about him.  He would be strong, and godly, and a leader, and not easily angered, and a handy man, and had a heart for missions, and handsome (preferably blue eyes please), and taller than me, and loves kids, and loves to read, and likes to do things, and….well, the list goes on.  At one point it had 32 things on it.  Poor future husband.

I had it all planned out.  He would love me.  He would notice my needs before I even spoke them, and then take care of those very needs without me saying anything.  He would cuddle me.  He would be fine with purple flowers decorating our bedroom.  He would be tender.  He would randomly bring me flowers.  Or chocolate.  But chocolate less often than flowers.  He would surprise me with nights out.  He would listen to me.  He would wake me up before the sun, pack me into the car with a large, lumpy quilt, and drive into the sunrise.  He would be Prince Charming and oh, so very wonderful.

I’ve grown out of some of those delusions.  I’m still waiting for others to actually take place. But something hit me the other day.  I want someone to love me…just because I’m ME.  Not for anything I do, not for anything I can give them or make them feel, but because I’m me – plain and simple.  And I want that person to think I’m beautiful, and to want to spend time with me, to spend money on me (or simply be super-creative with gifts), and to honestly look for my desires and help them become reality.  And I want to do all those things and more for HIM.

Purple pansy in dead leaves

The cool thing is though, God wants the exact same thing.  He wants to be adored, to have you honestly desire to spend time with Him, to tell Him how your day is going, to spend money on those He loves…He wants you to love Him.

The thing that’s circling round my mind though, is that, personally, I think worship looks a lot like love.  I mean think about it.  Part of our worship is our tithe, right?  That’s spending money.  OR He asks us to take care of one of His little ones.  That’s spending money.  He wants us to spend time with Him – whether it’s the traditional “quiet time” or it’s going on a hike with Him, or writing Him a letter or driving into the sunrise – that’s time.  Part of worship is singing, and telling Him how wonderful He is, how amazing and awesome and beautiful and powerful He is.

We are commanded to worship.  I THINK worship is simply a way to teach us how to love God.  I mean, it’s hard, right?  Loving a God – loving ANYONE – that you can’t see, is practically impossible.  Talk about long distance!  You can talk to Him, but not face-to-face, and forget cuddling.   So He gives us worship – a model for how to love Him.  But He, like any person on planet earth, doesn’t want us to love Him simply because we have to.  Rather, because everything within us, wants to.  Like the middle school girl who cannot get her first boyfriend off of her mind, He wants to be that present in our lives.

SO, how’s your worship recently?  Are you worshiping Him, or are you spending your time, your money, your thoughts somewhere else?

He loves you SO much, and His heart hungers for you to love Him back to the best of your ability (it’s what you were molded to do from the beginning).  So, if you haven’t recently, go on a date with your Lover.  Whisper into His ear as He whispers into yours.  Spend some money on Him.  Ask Him how His day is going.  Sit on a park bench and thank Him for all the little, thoughtful things He did for you today.  Like the sunrise.  Like the flowers, or the intricate twigs reaching to sky, or the snowflakes, or a friend’s hug, or a really good meal.  Like pearls, or a peacock feather, or a beautiful piece of art.   Or a butterfly.

So, go ahead, dream of your future prince.  Dream of Him often.  He’ll come for you one day, AND He’ll be on a white horse, Revelations says so.  How awesome is that!?!

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Pearl Necklaces and Dreams

I’ve discovered that I’m not very good at surrendering the pearl necklace.  Or, more accurately, I’ll surrender it, but the process is SO much more painful than I ever had any clue.

Let me explain.

Sometime growing up I heard the story of a father who gave his young daughter a pearl necklace.  You know the kind – the pearls are just plastic beads and if you rub them too much the pearl paint wears off so it’s just a white plastic bead that doesn’t shine at all.  The father’s daughter LOVED the necklace.  She wore it everywhere.  She didn’t even want to take it off at night, or to take a bath.  And, of course, the pearl paint was wearing off.  So the father decided to do something crazy – he went out and bought her a REAL pearl necklace.  Now, what father gives their eight-year old a real pearl necklace is beyond me; I definitely do not know any fathers like that.  But, that’s not important for the story.  The point is that he got the necklace for her, and when he got home, he asked his daughter to come sit on the couch with him.  She did with joy; she loved spending time with her daddy. But then the unthinkable happened.  He asked her for the necklace back.  She was heartbroken.  She couldn’t imagine why her daddy would want the symbol of his love for her back.  But he asked, and, eventually, with tears spilling from her eyes and her whole body trembling, she did as he wanted.  I like to imagine she was so worked up that she couldn’t undo the clasp of the necklace, and so her daddy had to undo it. And, while her back was to him, he pulled the real pearls out of their velvet pouch in his pocket, and gave her a kiss on the top of her head as he clasped the precious necklace in place.

And the point, of course, is that sometimes God asks us for those things we love most, the very things He’s given us.  And, whether or not we realize why He’s asking for it, we should surrender it back to Him.  He has something better in store.

I’ve always loved that story of the necklace.  I think partly that’s because I love pearls (They’re my favorite stone!), but mostly because I love the idea of a daddy loving his daughter so much that he bought her (and then trusted her with) something so precious.   And she loved him so much she did whatever he asked.

But it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve realized why the daughter was so distressed about giving the pearls back to her daddy.  Call me a late-bloomer, but it’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve become attached to my dreams.  When I was a girl and through my early twenties, I never dreamed of my future – or I wasn’t aware I was dreaming.  And then God started giving me dreams and desires for myself.

But, being the broken girl I was, I didn’t believe they would ever actually happen.  And so I didn’t get very attached to them.   I didn’t dare.  It would’ve been too painful when they never  happened.

Until this summer.  I was in Portland, on a youth group mission trip, and I had it out with God one night.  I was completely heartbroken about how I saw the trip going, and about how God never gave me any good stuff (which is ludicrous, God gives me amazing things all the time).  But you know those verses that talk about God giving us our heart’s desires?  (They’re all over Psalms and in the New Testament).  Well, I never believed that God would do that for me.  I figured my desires were probably sinful and so of course He wouldn’t give me them.  And there were so many other people needing things in the world, why should He give me what was in my heart?   But that night He reminded me how much I love giving gifts to my friends, and then He told me that as much as I love giving gifts, He, who is perfect, loves doing the same for me SO MUCH MORE than I could ever imagine.  And would I trust Him to give me the desires He’s placed in my heart?

So I started trusting.  And over the last four months a couple of the desires have grown crazy-intense.  Painfully so.  Like sometimes they’re all I can think about.

And now He’s asking for those dreams back.  Asking that I trust Him with the timing and the setting and…everything.  Which should be easy for me.  I know the pearl story.  But…  but now that this crazy dream is so alive and consuming in me, it’s hard to trust that God’s taking care of it.  I mean, I KNOW God’s taking care of it…but I want to control things just to make sure that my dream actually takes place.

Isn’t that how we’re raised in America anyway?  If you want it to happen, you have to make it happen.   And KNOWING that God is taking care of it is so very different than trusting, and even further from believing.   AND, it’s so very painful.  I’m rather attached to this dream at this point.  I don’t want to give it up.  I’d much rather be in control than sit back, do nothing and just trust.  (Heh.  “Just trust” – it’s like “just pray” – trusting and prayer deserve anything but the word “just” in front of them.  They can be HARD!)

So, with my heart splitting in half, I’m taking off the pearl necklace.  I’m trusting that what God told me in Portland is true, that He wants to give me good things.  And that He will.  And maybe you need to start trusting Him to do the same for you.  He does, after all, love you better than anyone in this broken world can.

And so, Daddy God, I love You.   Here You go.  Take good care of this dream for me.

 

Matthew 7:11
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

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Roller Coaster

I have been on an emotional roller coaster these past two weeks.   I’m actually pretty sure someone kidnapped me, knocked me out, buckled me into “The Twister” (the big roller coaster at our amusement park in Denver), woke me up with a jolt, and set the controls to just keep going.  Never pull up to stop.  I keep passing the “unload” part at sick-making speeds.  I’ve been up and down, down and up, upside down (which isn’t exactly part of The Twister, not sure how that happened), and downside up (can you do that?  It sounds cool….).  All at lightning-fast speed.  Talk about making a girl’s stomach slightly unsettled!

The truly hard part is that it’s going on INSIDE me.  Escape isn’t happening.  Jumping out of the little speeding car going clickety-clack along the tracks is NOT an option.

Two years ago I would have escaped; I would have jumped out of the speeding-bullet little metal car – by reading, or hanging out with friends, or watching TV, or by simply ignoring what I was feeling.  I thought emotions were a sign of weakness and got in the way, not to mention were an inconvenience for everyone around me.  Thankfully, through several hard lessons and some sweet friends, I learned differently.  So this time, I’m choosing not to run from the chaos twisting itself around my heart and innards.

And that’s kinda the point.  My emotions have been all over the place for various reasons.  Frustration with the kids I teach because they won’t be quiet, exhilarated that they finally get a concept, slightly disappointed that they didn’t get it as solidly as I’d hoped.  Basking in the goodness it is to be with friends who just understand you, slightly depressed that some of them aren’t as good as I really need them to be right now.  Super frustrated that I’m definitely not as good at being a friend as I’d like to be right now.  I’m too spent.

And I’m embracing it all.  I’m actually pretty sure God gave us those emotions, and wants us to experience them.  Why else would they be hardwired into every human on the planet for the entirety of the history of said planet?

And so I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to run from them, or numb them.  I’m not exactly sure the whole point yet, but I think it has something to do with experiencing this wonderful world God has given us.  I think our emotions are a reflection of the emotions God feels over us (yes, I believe God has emotions).  I think they’re also a reminder that we need God.  I think most of our loneliness is our heart’s longing to be connected to God like we were originally intended to be.  I think our happiness in the world around us, in the people we surround ourselves with, is a dim reflection of the happiness He feels over us and His creation.  I think our frustration with our loved ones is just a mere glimpse of His occasional frustration with us when we refuse to listen to Him.  I think the crazy, butterfly-in-your-stomach feeling just barely scratches the surface of what goes on in God when He thinks of you.

So, embrace your emotions.  Learn from them.  Look for God in them, because He’s there.  And, if nothing else, they’re one more thing to share with Him.  Run to Him when you’re lonely.  Cry into His shoulder when you’re heartbroken.  Laugh with Him when you’re happy.  Complain to Him when everything is falling apart.

And that’s the rub.  You can’t purposefully stay in one single emotion.  I have known women who ignore any emotion except happiness.  Or being depressed.  And that’s not what God intended.  He gave us a rainbow of emotions, and it’s not monochromatic (that means one color).  You aren’t supposed to stay depressed because you crush dumped you.  And you aren’t supposed to make those life-changing decisions in those emotions.  So, be wise with these powerful feelings, but don’t ignore them either.  See, in each and every emotion you experience, look for God.  He’s in all of them. He’s using all of them to draw you to Him.

But, above all, in all, as my theater professor taught me, “Look for the love”.  God is love right?  So in every bit of this earth, in every bit of this life, in every emotion, is hidden just a bit of love.  In your loneliness, in your frustration, in your heartache.  In your joy, in your happiness, in your love – find it, embrace it, and thank God for it.

And then keep looking for more.

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