Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hard Questions

When I was in high school, I was a total geek. Socially inept, I could get things done but not make tons of friends while I was doing it. Frequently I made enemies. Remembers the pom-pom squad the year I was drum major.... I didn't inspire people. (I am not discussing...at this point...whether or not any of that has changed... ;) ). And, I was in a church that really didn't subscribe to the notion of women as spiritual leaders.

But there were a few ladies that gave me examples of how to go after God in my life...one of them was my high school youth leader's wife, Jeannie. Jeannie was someone who served God, loved teens, and dispensed wisdom to raw young hearts.

She was even my 'Ideal Woman' pick for role model when I was in the Sunshine Society my freshman year of high school.

Shortly after I got married and moved to Alabama, Jeannie was diagnosed with cancer (I can't remember the variety at this point...it was a Really Long Time ago...). She fought the battle and I prayed for her and believed God for her from 400 miles away.

Praying for healing was a new idea to me...see, in the little dispensational congregation of my youth, healing wasn't something we believed for. Wisdom for doctors, yes. Strength and peace, yes. Divine miraculous healing? Um, well, if God wants to, sure, but we won't be so presumptuous as to ask for such a thing.

But as I grew I began to realize that, perhaps, God wanted us to ask for healing. A sermon series on Standing in the Gap gave me the courage to actually go before God and claim healing for my friend and mentor Jeannie.

I was devastated when she died in November of 1981.

The fact that there were a number of people -- including members of Jeannie's family that she had prayed for for years -- who made decisions to take Jesus as Lord at her funeral only superficially dressed the wound. I felt like God had let me down, ignored me, rejected me.

But, we were active in a church. I liked the people, and I didn't dare let them see what was really going on in my heart. I did a really good job of acting like someone who wasn't angry with God should act. For something like 2 years.

Then, one of the older ladies in the church (who was probably younger than I am now...groan...) organized a group to go to a weekend retreat. I was strongly encouraged to attend.

Trouble was, I didn't want to. I was a college student, with schoolwork deadlines and a tight budget. And I didn't want to face God. I didn't want to confront the fact that I was angry with Him. But, I also didn't want the ladies to think I was any less spiritual than they were. So I tried to pass the buck to my husband.

"Honey, these ladies want me to go to a retreat with them; I'll be gone for three days and I don't know when I'll do all the history reading I'll need to do then and, besides, it's going to cost $50...I don't have to go if you think it's a bad idea."

But he thought it was a good idea. So I was out of excuses and I went.

I date all my real spiritual growth from that weekend. God dealt with me and my anger...not necessarily anger that Jeannie had died, because how can any of us be offended when one of our brothers/sisters gets to go to Jesus? When they get to see what we only guess at? When they're outside of time, so that the separation is, to them, momentary? No, it wasn't bad for Jeannie to die...I was mad because God did not do what I demanded Him to do. Because I didn't understand.

What I learned in that weekend was a simple truth: God loves me, and I can trust Him.

Oh, there's so much more to say about not understanding what God does and doesn't do, but that is the basic truth to all of it.

Now there are hard questions in my corner of the world again. Not as close to me as Jeannie, but close enough. And closer to those around me who are asking the questions. We say God heals, but...how do you explain when He doesn't? Why He doesn't? Why pray for healing at all?

Because it's not just what happens at the end of the battle...it's how the battle is fought. Faith under fire demonstrates the reality of God in ways that cannot be shown any other way. Not loving their lives unto death is one of the weapons in the hands of the faithful...one of the weapons that will overcome the dragon. So that weapon must be used...which mean someone departs.

I'm not trying to give pat answers. These are hard questions, and I don't think we'll have the answers until we all get to heaven and see the end from the beginning ourselves. Or, rather, we'll see the One who sees the end from the beginning . Then we'll understand, better that we ever possibly could here.

But in the meantime...God loves us, and we can trust Him.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shifting Perspective

After having my Monday posts designated for a year, I'm wondering what to do with this space....

It was good to take that time and look things over as I approached 50, but in going back over it I find so many things that I aimed for and missed. Things I wanted to have achieved, or overcome, or straightened out by the time I hit that milestone. And I'm still working, still struggling and still muddling in so many of them.

My house isn't neat and organized. My fabric stash has continued to grow. Middle age spread has hit my middle, and so far it appears only drastic measures...such as fasting...will reduce it.

I can do drastic measures for a while, but I can't make it a lifestyle. And I don't want to 'drastic measure' myself down to something I'd term acceptable, just to have the weight creep back on with what I'd consider normal life.

So I'm looking at the life messes that didn't get resolved by age 50 and wondering if I'll *ever* get them out of my life. And feeling rather discouraged about the whole thing.

And what to my weary eyes should appear, but an encouraging word from someone who's in a similar state, albeit ten years behind me.

She's right, you know. It's not time to give up...it's time to just start over.

Thanks, Sarah, I needed that... ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Verge '09

I am interrupting my regularly scheduled blogging break to pass along a link. This week is our annual youth camp in San Destin, FL...and for the first time, the services are being livestreamed, with an accompanying chat room. It's where I've been for the past three nights; it has been amazing on so many levels, even if the feed is not absolutely perfect.

Tonight is the last night; it'll be way late for the folks on the east coast; it's pretty late for those of us in central time. But, oh, my.

Anyway, if you're interested, here's the link:
Rock Family TV.

There are services at 10 AM and 8:30 PM CDT today; the camp speaker, Sean Smith, along with worship leaders Rita Springer and Paulette Wooten, will be in all three services at church on Sunday (8 AM, 9:30 AM and 11:15 AM) and will also be livestreamed on that channel.

Just for anyone who's interested....

ok. Back to work now. ;)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Little Bit of Heaven

If you didn't know I grew up on an Indiana farm, this would for sure give it away...

I mean, really, it just doesn't get any better than this. This corn was on the stalk in Dad's patch when the sun came up this morning. MMMmmmmm....

We took the Flute Player to our Designated Meeting Place in western Kentucky and traded her for a cooler full of sweet corn.

Next week, they'll give us another cooler full of sweet corn to take her back... ;)

Meantime, next week is the Quarterly Blogging Break, so, while the other three kids are at camp on the beach, I'll be working and (hopefully) doing some much-needed catch up around here.

And eating sweet corn.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fresh Start....

I guess this will be the cap on the Jubilee posts...
So, the surprise My Sweet Baboo planned was a night at the Really Big Fancy Resort Place in Nashville, TN. It was marvelous...so long as I don't think about how much it cost. ;) But, I've always wanted to walk through those atriums with him, and boy, did we walk. through. those. atriums.

We also walked over to the mall that's about a half mile away and ate dinner at The Aquarium restaurant. Very unique!

On Saturday, which was actually my birthday, we came home and took the kids to Macaroni Grill for my birthday dinner...and, no, I didn't let them request a birthday seranade!

I walked enough that my weight was down a pound on Sunday morning, even after eating a hefty slice of birthday cake:

All in all, I was thoroughly distracted from the facts of the day, and had a lovely time.

But now...what will I post about on Mondays? Hm....

Friday, July 10, 2009

James Lesson 10: Apply the Principles of Patience

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Epistle of James: A Blogged Bible Study
July 10 James 5: 7 – 20 Apply the Principles of Patience

I. Be Patient as You Wait on God – James 5: 7 - 8
Verse 7 instructs us to Be patient...until the Lord's coming. While the Second Coming is an obvious interpretation/ application for these verses it could also mean 'Be patient until the Lord comes to you...until He shows up in your circumstances.'

A farmer can be patient waiting on the crop; if he put the seed in the ground, he knows the crop will come. Furthermore, he knows that there is nothing he can do to the crop itself to make it mature any faster. If the farmer gave up on the crop because it didn't mature as quickly as he wanted, he'd walk away from the field and miss the harvest.

Don't give up before God shows up!

II. Be Patient with Each Other – James 5:9 - 12
James then lists some specific ways we are to be patient with each other, beginning with 'Don't grumble against each other.' Grumbling is blaming someone else for circumstances. Think about the Israelites in the desert; over and over again they blamed Moses for unpleasant situations. And over and over again, they suffered judgment for what they did. But, when they grumbled against Moses after Aaron died, and the snakes came into the camp, the Israelites went to Moses and said, 'We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.' (Numbers 21:7). Moses interceded for the people, God healed them through the bronze snake, and they were able to enter the promised land. That was the last time they were recorded as grumbling! They finally confessed that it was a sin, gave it up, and were able to go into what God had for them.

James refers his readers to the example of the prophets, who were patient even in suffering. Specifically, he mentions Job, noting that, despite his losses and dire situations, God did deliver him and restore him in the end.

One other thing James instructs us to do in exercising patience with each other is to maintain one's integrity. Don't swear oaths ('by heaven or by earth or anything else'); plain 'yes' and 'no' should be sufficient.

Oath – A formal declaration or promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling upon God or some other sacred object as witness; The words or formula of such a declaration or promise; That which is promised or declared; An irreverent or blasphemous use of the name of God or anything held sacred (New American Heritage Dictionary).
An oath is an attempt to add authority to your words; unwilling to allow your words to prove themselves over time. Our character should be such that yes and no is sufficient to those who know us.

III. Put Prayer to Work (13 – 20)
Finally, James says that the true work of patience is prayer. We are to pray
When in trouble
When someone who is sick has asked for prayer
When you have sinned
After confessing sin to one another

(I posted the portion of teaching dealing with 'How to pray' already...it's Here)

Prayer brings help (implied v. 13),healing and forgiveness. James provides the example of Elijah, who was someone just as human and fallible as any of us, yet his prayers were powerful enough to control the weather.

Prayer produces changed lives; leading someone who has strayed back to the truth.

Prayer is the weapon of patience.

Things to think about:
In what situations of my life am I considering giving up on God’s way and doing something else?

Who in my life am I blaming for unpleasant circumstances? In what situations am I adding oaths to bolster my authority? Why isn’t my character sufficient to uphold my word?

How many circumstances/issues of my everyday life do I honestly pray through on a regular basis? What keeps me from praying ‘fervently’?

The study to date:
May 1: Study intro
May 8: James 1:1 Intro to the Epistle of James
May 15: James 1:2 – 18 Make Quality Decisions
May 22: James 1:19-27 Make Real Changes
May 29: James 2:1-13 Live the Law of Freedom
June 5: James 2:14 – 26 Demonstrate Real Faith
June 12: James 3: 1 - 12 Discipline the Tongue
June 26: James 3:13 - 18 Recognize True Wisdom
June 29 James 4:1 – 10 Check Your Sources
July 3 James 4:11 – 5:6 Lose Selfish Desires

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What hill?

Where? When? I don't remember any hill...

My Sweet Baboo gave me a t-shirt with that sentiment upon it...ten years ago.

Since I've had some comments from folks who also share July 11th as a birthday, I thought I'd post about finding out someone else has a birthday on that day...

Ten years ago I spent my 40th birthday off on an Adventure. I left the Rocket City early on July 6, and drove down through Birmingham, past Tuscaloosa, through Mississippi and Louisiana and a good bit into Texas to spend a week at Teen Mania Headquarters, doing a week's worth of various odd jobs as a summer missions volunteer while teen missionaries came in, trained, left for their missions, and another group returned, debriefed and headed home.

So I was in Texas on my birthday.

And I found out something. The founder of Teen Mania, Ron Luce, has the same birthday I do (I am two years older than he is). I don't know if what happened on the night of my birthday had anything to do with the fact that Mr. Luce was also celebrating a birthday, but there was a surprise concert by the Newsboys for the kids who had arrived that day from their various mission trips.

And I got to go and rock out with the rest of the folks on campus that day. It was a cool way to turn 40....

Three days later I climbed back in the car and made the return trip. I had an amazing week, but I was sure glad to get back home to my Sweet Baboo and hot water in my shower... ;)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jubilee Monday #44- The Final Week

Well, this time next week my Jubilee year will be over. It has been a very interesting year...lots of introspection and some things learned. A few of them have even been applied and I feel like I've grown. The rest of those issues will be continuing education...for the rest of my life, no doubt!

Thanks to everyone who's hung with me for this year... I don't know if it *really* is going to make turning 50 any less painful than it would have been otherwise, but I'm glad I had the company and the occasional encouraging comment.

As to celebration...My Sweet Baboo just told me that he and I will be leaving town Friday morning and returning Saturday afternoon, and we'll have a 'family celebration' Saturday evening.

I won't find out what I need to pack for our night out until Friday morning.

I love surprises! ;)

(only 44 posts...I know I missed a few weeks, but I expected more than that. Wonder if I mislabeled something somewhere?)

Friday, July 3, 2009

James Lesson 9: Lose Selfish Desires

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Epistle of James: A Blogged Bible Study

July 3 James 4:11 – 5:6 Lose Selfish Desires

So, after an exhortation to check the sources for our desires, James gives some examples of selfish desires; desires that arise when our 'self' or the world system is the source of our desires.

I) Desire to be Morally/Intellectually Superior to Others (4:11 – 12)
Brothers, do not slander one another (v. 11, NIV)
'Slander' - the utterance of a defamatory statement injurious to the reputation or well-being of a person (New American Heritage)

This is non-constructive criticism; using words as weapons against another person with intent to do them harm in some fashion, thus winning a sort of battle and being shown to be superior to the opponent. It's putting others down in an attempt to make oneself seem better.

Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it– The Greek word used is krino, which means judging, divide, separate, made a distinction, come to a decision, to adjudge to punishment, condemn

Now, a word about judgment. Judgment is not something that determines the rightness or wrongness of someone's actions. That's what laws do. If the law says the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, and I drive 60, I have broken the law. That's not a judgment, that's a fact. Now, I may have been driving faster than the speed limit because I had a bleeding child in the back seat and I was trying to get to the ER as quickly as possible. 'You exceeded the speed limit' is a fact. 'You are a selfish impatient person and a bad driver to boot' is a judgment.

Judgment is what happens when we make a determination about the content of someone's heart or their worth to God based on what we can observe about them. This is why we are so strictly instructed not to judge; what is observable is not the whole story. Only God knows true motives; only God can judge rightly.

There may be times when individuals require discipline from those in authority in the local body. Even then, such discipline should be issued in love and without judgment. That's tough and painful for all involved, but in God's grace it is possible.

II) Desire to be Fully in Control of One’s Own Destiny (4:13-17)
Bragging and/or boasting about one's future, one's plans and the expected outcome shows a lack of submissionto God’s leadership. The truth is, none of us know what will happen tomorrow.

We must recognize the Lord’s hand in all things – that His hand IS in all things. Anything else is pride. Specifically, if we know to do something good (like submit every day to God’s leadership) and we don’t do it, it is sin (Origin of the concept of 'sins of omission')

The plain truth is that we do not have final authority over our own lives, and trying to be our own ultimate authority leads only to trouble.

III) Desire to Hoard Wealth and Live in Pleasure (5:1-6)
Treasures rotted; clothes moth-eaten; money rusted – all that happens to goods that are stored, tucked away, unused...hoarded. Things that not only do no good for needy folk, but even do no good for those that posess them.

Two witnesses are recorded against folks who hoard – the wages that had not been paid to their workers, and the workers themselves. This desire for comfort, pleasure and personal wealth keeps folks oblivious to God's ultimate authority, condemning innocent people as unworthy of the 'lifestyle of the rich and famous'...passing judgment.

Wealth is given to us to use for God, not to stow away for our own comfort or pleasure...and should never be obtained at the personal cost of others.

Things to think about:Who have I slandered – to others, to God, or to myself? How have I usurped God’s authority to judge? What plans am I making right now that do not take into account God’s will for my life? What resources has God given to me to use in the kingdom? How am I using them? What am I keeping back for myself?

The study to date:
May 1: Study intro
May 8: James 1:1 Intro to the Epistle of James
May 15: James 1:2 – 18 Make Quality Decisions
May 22: James 1:19-27 Make Real Changes
May 29: James 2:1-13 Live the Law of Freedom
June 5: James 2:14 – 26 Demonstrate Real Faith
June 12: James 3: 1 - 12 Discipline the Tongue
June 26: James 3:13 - 18 Recognize True Wisdom
June 29 James 4:1 – 10 Check Your Sources

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Softening the Callouses

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi.

We subscribe to a 'message of the month' from one of the ministries that we support. One of the frequent speakers on these CD's is Steve Thompson, who teaches with a prophetic edge. His messages usually show something from a viewpoint that I hadn't considered before, and consequently I go back and listen to them several times over to get the concepts.

We have a couple of messages on which he has taught on a 'calloused heart.' The application of a calloused, or hardened, heart has mostly been that of a heart hardened by sin and disobedience.

And that does, indeed, cause a hardened heart.

However, Steve's messages have been about a *different* cause for a hardened heart, and it has been pretty apparent to me that I've got to really be on guard against this one.

See, he first uses the example that one gets callouses on one's hands by using those hands to do hard work.

The heart can get calloused in the same way. Not through sin, but by reason of use. Ministry, he points out, is done through the heart...and can therefore cause callouses to form on it, which results in a hardened heart.

The solution to a hardened heart is rest; spending time apart with God; listening to Him speak and allowing Him to renew the heart.

Trouble is, that's easier said than done. And I can recognize in myself the symptoms of a calloused heart.

But I haven't been able to get away and let God soften my heart with Himself. Or maybe I haven't *made* myself get away to let God soften my heart. Because, you know, callouses are kind of protective...numbing...and I'm not sure that I don't find that, um, comfortable.

Just bein' honest. It's easier to be busy and calloused than it is to be tender and responsive.

Y'know, though, if I pay attention I realize I really don't like the way my heart feels when it's calloused. And I've been asking God to soften those callouses.

Wednesdays are Staff Prayer days at church; one of the perks of being on church staff, although these prayer meetings are open for anyone to come. I missed last week's prayer time...just worked straight through it, even though I intended to go. I was caught up in what I was doing and I wasn't watching the time. Y'know, it felt way too normal to skip prayer. Scary.

So this week I made sure I went. And this week, our pastor sat at the keyboard in the sanctuary and sang worship over us as we prayed. I saw him at the keyboard as I was walking down the hall and I suddenly had tears in my eyes -- before I even got into the sanctuary. I didn't realize how long the dry spell had been. I found a spot off by myself and just basically opened my heart to God.

And He was there to hold it and heal it and soften the callouses. How could I ever have thought that lack of communication was 'comfortable'?

Callouses are for hands and feet. Not hearts.