Tuesday, September 28, 2010

God's Hairbrush

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

I have been so stressed lately; so high strung; so concerned about productivity; so tired. So when God spoke these words from Matthew 11 to me today, I felt myself instantly relaxing in His arms.

The words “rest… rest… rest” kept replaying soothingly in my head. It was kind of like God was brushing my hair—so relaxing—does anyone else understand that? Maybe I’m just weird.

Anyway, as God kept brushing, I couldn’t help but think of the times that I work so hard all day. Those are the days I yearn to sit down, to take a break, to be done. Those are the nights that I finally decide to be done, to check that last thing off my list, and to collapse into my comfy, cozy bed…and I just lay there…not moving… just breathing…and I rest…rest…rest.

This rest, so delicious to our bodies, is the type of rest Jesus offers us for our souls. This rest is a taste of what Heaven will be like every day. I am not proposing that we won’t work hard in Heaven; I think we will, but our rest will be sweet and satisfying.

Our rest here on earth, today, can be sweet as well, if we will just allow Jesus to unburden us as we take His lead, share His yoke, and learn from Him. He is gentle and humble in heart. In Him we can find rest for our souls.

Keep brushing Lord Jesus. I’m resting.

My heart and flesh cry out. To You the living God. Your Spirit’s water to my soul. I’ve tasted and I’ve seen. Come once again to me. I will draw near to You.

(From the song ‘Better Is One Day’ by Kutless)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Rescue

After reading Bill Hybels' book, Descending Into Greatness, I have been consumed with the amazing rescue act of Love that God put into motion when he chose to leave Heaven and become constrained by time and space and hunger and pain and skin. What is man that He is mindful of us?

Hybels helps us catch a vision of Christ's amazing sacrifice in becoming a man. Listen up:

"Once His life on earth began, Jesus never stopped descending.
Omnipotent, He cried;
The owner of all things, He had no home.
The King of Kings, He became a bondservant;
the source of truth, He was found guilty of blasphemy;
the Creator, he was spit on by the creatures;
the giver of life, He was crucified naked on a cross--bleeding, gasping for air.
With His death, the descent was complete--from the pinnacle of praise in the universe to the ultimate debasement and torture on a cross, the innocent victim of human wickedness.

What more can be said? To the world, Christ was the biggest loser, but to God, "Christ became the greatest of the great. He had accomplished totally the purpose for which God had sent Him; He had pleased His Father and advanced God's kingdom on earth."

Amen and Amen.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chili Theology

Well, I really, really, really didn't want to clean my house today. But then I remembered "humility" and that I was supposed to be a servant, and I thought, "what a better way to show servitude than to clean up the messy house for my family." So I did. To tell you the truth, though, it wasn't the servant attitude that kept me going all morning long, it was the bagel calling my name at the finish line--my beloved Panera.

That, however, has nothing to do with what I wanted to tell you this fine evening. It just kind of snuck in their for some reason. Here's the little tidbit I intended to share:

The other night, we were going to have chili for the second night in a row and I put the pot on the stove to heat it up. Of course I turned the burner to high; I am impatient and I like to heat my food fast. I then proceeded to get the rest of the meal ready--forgetting that I put the soup on HIGH. And guess what, next thing I know, my soup is boiling--and burning. Because I am proud and I don't like people to say I am a bad cook, I quickly turned the soup off , stirred it up and tried to fish out all the little black specks now floating on the top. Despite my meticulous efforts, I could not get all of the burned pieces and I tried to push them down to the bottom. This didn't work very well. Now painfully aware of the obvious fact that I was a bad and distracted cook tonight (and tonight only...OK, I'm mostly kidding), I ladeled out the soup to my family and said, in my most Julia Child-like, nonchalant way, "Just ignore the burnt spots and enjoy!"

And you know what? They did. And they didn't say anything about how burnt it tasted either. They just spooned it in, as if it were excellent, and enjoyed the pleasant conversation. I was very pleased...and relieved. It was easy for them to ignore the burnt spots--why was I focusing so much of my energy on them? Why couldn't I ignore the burnt spots too?

I find myself acting this way with my own burnt spots. I have lots of imperfections--things I don't do well. I worry about what these burnt spots will say to others, so I try to hide them by pushing them to the bottom and covering them with feigned confidence. What if I stopped trying to cover my weaknesses? What if I just let them float to the top? "That's really me--the authentic, and sometimes not-quite-right, Tori." If I just let my burnt spots give me personality, maybe I could freely engage with others--and not worry about their judgement of me--or my evaluation of them (and their burnt spots) and I would be able to say, in my most Christ-like way, "Let's just ignore the burnt spots and enjoy!"

I think God would like that. Don't you?

" 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prepare for Descent

God likes to poke fun at us...just a little...once in awhile. I could almost hear Him chuckling last week. Here's why:

I have just started working through a Bible study called "Seeking Him" in which we, on day 5 each week, work through a personal inventory to see how our lives are lining up with Jesus. Last week, as my small group sat together and discussed this portion, I volunteered that I had dutifully completed the individual survey and discovered that I had real problems with humility--especially as it relates to my husband. Thinking I was a pretty humble person, I was shocked at this assessment of myself (I AM JOKING). Anyway, I determined to work on this fault and purposed myself to "not think of myself more highly than I ought".

Fast forward 24 hours. As I began to think about next week's study (which I am leading), I decided to pull out the teaching schedule to see which topic I would be focusing upon. And yep, you guessed it...and God knew it...HUMILITY.

So, painfully remembering my unasked-for admission of ignorance regarding humility to those whom I would be teaching the following week, I decided I had better to get to work on this whole pride thing. BLOW # 1.

Evening; same day as BLOW # 1; We go to the high school to pick up our guest for the next three weeks: a foreign exchange student from Spain. As the bus pulls into the parking lot and all of the Spaniards disembark, the American students rush forth and are greeted with the traditional right/left/right kiss on the cheeks from the foreigners. I see our student greet my daughter this way. I see the other students greeting their "siblings" and "parents" with kisses. So, I go to my student expecting the same, and she thrusts out her palm for a handshake. Embarrassed, I take her hand and wonder at her hesitation. BLOW #2.

Next morning; As I arise, I remember the prayer sent up recently asking God to teach me about humility so I could teach others. Standing in pajamas, looking for a book, any book, with "Humility" or "Pride" in the title (I decided that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice probably wouldn't cut it), Brent walks in and says, "What are you looking for?" When I told him I was trying to learn about humility, he pulls out a book called Descending Into Greatness and says, "Read it. It will be really good for you." BLOW #3. (It's OK, honey. I know you meant well.)

Today; a rainy day; a good reading day; I sat in my polka-dotted chair by the fireplace and devoured Bill Hybels' Descending Into Greatness in one sitting--a long sitting. Hybels pointed me to the very best book on humility--the Bible--specifically Philippians 2.

In Philippians 2, Paul makes a very persuasive argument for imitation. Not imitation of himself. Not imitation of the world. Imitation of Christ--the perfect humble servant. In this chapter, Paul encourages those in Philippi to act like Jesus. How? By "doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit" and " in humility considering others better than themselves."

I plan to read Philippians 2 every day this week. I have a lot to learn from Christ. Jesus, by example, shows us time and time again that moving down is the only way to become great in God's eyes. He must become greater. I must become less.

I still have a lot of descending to do. And I still have to teach on Thursday.

God continues to instruct me..and maybe giggle a little at me. And I continue to learn what is means to "give it all" to become obedient, unwavering, and humble. So...if it's the blows that make me truly "great", #4, I'm ready! Bring it on!

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Philippians 2:5-7

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And I thought I Was the Teacher...

At D6 tonight, where I teach a great bunch of wide-eyed kindergarten students, we had a dilemma. Little Lily didn't want to stay in class. Little Lily wanted to sprint out the open door and find her mommy. Little Lily cried and writhed in my arms as I tried to comfort her and keep her from escaping. Little Lily believed that her mother had made a mistake leaving her in that classroom because everything felt wrong to her. That's what Little Lily thought.

Here's the truth: Lily's mommy loves Lily sooooo much that she allowed Lily to be uncomfortable for a time in a place unfamiliar to her. Lily's mother knew that the Kindergarten D6 would be just right for Lily--a place where she could grow closer to God and fellowship with her friends. Lily's mother would never do anything to hurt Lily and only does what she knows is best for her daughter---even if the best feels like the "worst" to Lily. If Lily really understood how trustworthy her mommy is and how much her mommy loved her (more than Lily can begin to comprehend), she would be able to be at peace with the decisions her mommy makes for her. But Lily is a kindergartener--fearful, immature, and child-like. That's OK for Lily. She will grow and learn that her mother is her protector and the lover of her very soul. She will adjust to changes and learn that not all of them are bad. Life lessons--even hardships--will teach Lily to be strong.

I recognized myself in Little Lily. Sometimes, I too, cry and writhe--trying with all my might to get out of God's grasp. I twist and I squirm until I am sweaty and exhausted--just like Lily was. And, if I see what appears to be an open door to freedom, I try to sprint out so I can be on my own. I believe that God has made a mistake by putting me in an uncomfortable situation because everything feels wrong to me. That's what I think.

Here's the truth: God loves me sooooo much that he allows me to walk through unfamiliar territory sometimes--places where the pathways are broken and the signs are unclear. God allows these uncomfortable, unbearable times because He knows that where He has me is exactly where I need to be. He knows that in that place I will grow weaker in myself, but stronger in Him. God, my Father would never do anything to hurt me. His love for me and His devotion to me are unfathomable! If I really understood this about God and trusted Him fully, I could be at peace anywhere He places me. I am not a child any longer. I know that what God says about Himself is true and that what He says about me is true too; I am precious to Him.

Now I need to make the decision to believe that truth, remember my worth, and begin to rest in His arms.

Thanks, Lily, I needed that.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Psalm 131:2

Monday, September 13, 2010

Broken Hearts

I met with God at Panera today, as I sometimes do, as a reward for cleaning my house on Monday morning. Today we talked, over a bagel and iced tea, and this is what He showed me in Jeremiah 3:19-20:

"How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel, " declared the LORD.

As I read this, an audible cry of sadness escaped my lips and I wanted to weep, but I held it in; I feared creating a scene right there at my little table. Unfallen tears blurred my vision as I captured a glimpse of God's heart for His children...and their hearts for Him. Even now as I write it, I cannot keep from crying. Sadness rips through my soul as I read, "I thought you would call me 'Father'." Oh, Abba! O Abba! I am so sorry we reject You! I'm so sorry that we turn away! I'm so sorry we are unfaithful! You want to give us a beautiful inheritance but we keep running to our own land to make mud pies in the slum. When we have fully covered ourselves in the grime, we come crying to You -expecting You to take us in. And You do. You always do.

Why do You keep on loving, Lord? When we'd rather suffer punishment at Your hands than run into Your arms? Why do You keep on believing, Lord? When we let You down instead of lifting You up?

Lord, my heart breaks; You yearned for 'Father' , but we never spoke Your name. You bent down low to feed us, but we spat upon Your face.

O God, we are so sorry. O God, we are so wrong.

Please bend down once more, Father. Please break in and save us, Daddy. Please forgive us, Abba. Make us faithful once again.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."

Hosea 10:12

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lost and Found

Not having anything inspirational to write about tonight and waiting for my daughters to return from their cross country meet, I have decided to list all of the things of value that my children have lost in the 19 years that I have been a mother. Here they are:
  • 1 pair of winter boots (during the winter when the unnamed wore them daily)
  • 1 winter coat (lost during a different winter than the above)
  • 1 beanie baby elephant named "Beanie" (clever, huh?) with a blue body and orange feet
  • 1 multicolored beanie baby bear named "Spumoni" and its multicolored baby bear
  • 1 shoe of one pair of tiny Adidas soccer cleats
  • 1 pair of heavy duty scissors--to be used only for sewing. Hmmm...has someone been sewing elsewhere?
  • 1 doctor prescribed and doctor-priced orthotic insert out of one shoe--the unnamed claimed the neighbor's dog ate said item
  • 1 leather wallet containing ID and money
  • 1 learner's permit (kind of like a pre-license) in a pair of shorts returned to Target
  • 1 very nice watch
  • numerous cheap running watches
  • 1 pair of black Nike boy's shorts
  • 1 pair of black Nike girl's shorts
  • 1 black backpack containing silver size 13 track spikes and black track pants
  • 1 pair of Cutters leather football lineman gloves--less than one week after they were received as a birthday gift
  • 1 pair size 12 women's New Balance running shoes--lost during cross country season when the unnamed was wearing them daily
  • numerous pieces of silverware taken to school in lunch boxes, then most likely tossed in the trash
  • 2 red Nalgene water bottles
  • 1 CD of a 4 disk set of an "Adventures in Odyssey" radio drama borrowed from the library
  • 1 black boring lunch box
  • 1 cute flower-shaped lunch box
  • 1 Ames Track and Field sweatshirt with 'Haverkamp' embroidered on the hood--this was returned too the unnamed two years after its loss
  • 1 pair of cool, mom-purchased sunglasses used for hurdling purposes
  • 1 necessary scientific calculator purchased as a bargain on ebay for $60.00
  • 1 girl's little leather Bible with a pink butterfly on the cover
  • 1 girl's little leather Bible with a red ladybug on the cover
  • so many socks
  • so many mittens
  • 1 new leather baseball glove
  • one of Mom's running gloves
  • lots of Mom's patience
Ok, there. I got it all off my chest. And you know what, though I'm all for respecting property and taking care of your stuff--especially the stuff that your parents bought you with their money...I know that none of these things really matter in the long run. My kids understand that I don't like it when they lose things, but I hope they also understand that the things I value most aren't things at all. I hope they know that my Treasure is in Heaven, and the things of this earth are like trash in comparison to the Glory of that place. And guess what? In Heaven, nothing will be lost--including ourselves. We will be found in Christ. Can you say "Amen"?

" What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

Philippians 3:8

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Freedom Fence

When my older kids were little and we lived in town, our home was situated just one house away from a busy street. On beautiful spring and summer days and sometimes even on wintry ones, Luke and Tess would beg me (Shay couldn't talk yet) to let them go outside to play. I loved to have them play in the backyard, but I also had to accomplish things inside the house. And since I didn't trust their preschool judgments regarding traffic, I rarely let them play outside unattended. Therefore, there was always the dilemma of them wanting to be outside longer then I wanted to watch them.

I knew a fence--a chain link fence with a childproof gate--would solve my problem. I also knew this solution would be a costly one. So, after one particularly pleasant evening, as Brent and I watched the children playing happily in the backyard, I broached the subject of "The Fence". Knowing that Brent made decisions according to logic, I laid out my proposal in a very systematic, non-emotional manner. And to my surprise, after some discussion about cost and sacrifice, my proposal was accepted! I was thrilled!

My friend, "The Fence", was installed within a matter of weeks (after getting approval from the neighbors on either side and behind us). It was beautiful and shiny and it wrapped around my entire long backyard. It made me smile just to look at it.

Now, on any day--sunny, rainy, windy, cold--Luke and Tess, and sometimes one year old Shay, could wander out to the screened porch, shimmy through the punched out screen in the bottom of the door, and make their way--unattended!--into the wide world of backyard wonder!

I didn't have to watch them every single minute! They had limits to their freedom and they were safe--maybe not from each other--but at least from the road. When they stayed within the confines of "The Fence", they were happy, I was happy, and no one had to fear danger or punishment. What a wonderful barrier!

Instead of curtailing their childish curiosity, "The Fence" actually gave them more freedom to do what they wanted...where they wanted...when they wanted---just as long as they stayed within in it's bounds. The boundary of "The Fence" let them know exactly how far they could go in their explorations before they got in trouble. The boundary of "The Fence" gave them (and me) a sense of security and protection. The boundary of "The Fence" let them know that everything within it's borders was "good" and OK for them. The boundary became their blessing because it fully explained their freedoms and kept them from dangerous situations. They never thought of the fence as bad or restrictive because they so enjoyed their increased freedom within it.

Isn't that what God does for us? He lays out the rules for us in the Bible. He tells us how far is too far. He show us how to curtail our anger or our passion or our appetites with His Power and His Word before they get us into trouble. He shows us how to stay within His Will and under His Authority. He tells us if we "go it on our own" the devil can "run us down" with his schemes.

God gives us boundaries because He loves us. He gives us boundaries so we can run free without getting hurt. And He gives us boundaries because He can bless us within them. Within His boundaries we can enjoy security and safety.

Without these "fences", we act like foolish preschoolers and we run into the road of self destruction. We go too far because we don't know how far we can go.

These boundaries are set in place by love and sacrifice. It cost God His Son to give us His Spirit. Now that's an expensive fence!

So...next time the Word convicts you or you get a check in your spirit that says, "Don't go there", stop. Step back in. And give thanks for the "Fence" of Freedom.

"When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slave to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life."

Romans 6:20-22

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beautiful Through Me

Since I don't have any original thoughts today, and since I haven't posted for nearly a week, I thought I would steal a little thunder from my buddy, O.C.

In Utmost for His Highest today, Mr. Chambers states,

"Jesus did not say, 'He who believes in Me will realize all the blessings of the fullness of God,' but, in essence, 'He who believes in Me will have everything he receives escape out of him.' Our Lord's teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a person--His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure."

So...I guess this means that what I learned about Carl Jung's "self-actualization" in high school psychology class is just a bunch of bunk (you can thank my father for that phrase). Jung said, if I remember it right, basically, the goal of one's life is to fully realize the self--that is the highest plane of existence..."self-actualization". But, as Christ-followers, we must disagree with this premise. As Christ-followers, we are called to be "broken bread and poured out wine".

Am I there yet?

Do I truly live for God's glory, having no need to become successful, or talented, or esteemed?

Do I, like Mary of Bethany, who broke the flask of costly perfume and poured it upon Jesus' head, do my acts of service...or love...or mercy out of pure devotion? And not because I crave the affirmation and approval of man? Or if my acts aren't received approvingly (as was the case for Mary), do I worry what others will think?

Am I bound to a particular set of social rules or am I totally surrendered to Jesus? If I am "all in", then I need not worry if the world finds me peculiar. If I am "all in", I will be drawing attention to my Father and not to myself. If I am "all in", I won't be seeking my own satisfaction--my own self-actualization--I will be seeking to hide myself in Jesus. Only then will I be truly satisfied.

God's goal is not to make me beautiful. God's goal is to make Himself beautiful through me.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

John 7:38