Friday, August 26, 2011

World War XVII

I must admit to you that I am not much of a history buff. Ok, that very well may be the understatement of the century. I often slept through never cared much for that class. English was fun for me, because it often involved writing and talking, two things I loved to do especially the latter. Math was fun because my brain worked well with Math and it gave me something to have in common with my Dad when I visited there every other weekend. But, history, not so much. Whether it is World History, Texas History and U.S. history, it doesn’t really matter. I am an equal opportunity un-enthusiast. And while I’m at it, I pretty much lump geography, government, economics, and all of that other like-minded stuff into that same “not-so-much-my-favorite” category.
            Throughout school I was in all honors classes. It is just what I did. I was, however, the very laziest A and B student you could ever meet. I did the absolute least amount of work that required the absolute least amount of effort that I possibly could, in order to get a 79.6 (which would round up to an 80) and I wouldn’t get grounded. My social calendar and precious phone time was far more important that my educational work ethic.
And, while this applies to all subjects, it was especially true for all of the subjects listed above. I made it through the classes, but mostly by the skin of my teeth partnered with my added charm to persuade my teacher’s for extra credit by the heap full. I once thought it would be funny as a wise and “fully grown” adult to take the citizenship test that people must take to join our fine country. Let’s just say I’d be stuck in some other country for life had I not actually been born here. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
But, to go back to my schooling years…I got to my senior year of high school, seniors ’97 are da bome! Sorry, inside joke I’ll explain someday I had pretty much had it with this history stuff. I begged and pleaded with my parents to allow me to take regulars history instead of AP Government and Economics. I mean, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be running for office or pursuing a career in map-making. And, after all, I could name the president of the United States and count my allowance money pretty well, so I was good. After annoying them to no end politely asking them to hear me out “You guys don’t ever listen to me, ever!” they allowed me to, for the first time in my high school career, take a core subject class that wasn’t honors. Wahooo, party time! And it was. All the “cool kids” that I’d never really had any classes with were in my new World Geography class, i.e. “Advanced Map Coloring” taught by one of the “lesser academically motivated” football coaches. I was golden.
Don’t worry, friend, as is the case in most of these kind of stories, all of this slacking off eventually caught up with me; and then some. My lack of educational motivation, poor work ethic, and completely non-existent lazy study habits caught up with me by my very first semester of college. It didn’t help that that was the very same semester I met and quickly fell in love with my now husband, Ryan. Man, I was ga-ga for him from day one. But, this was also when I discovered the great college epiphany #1. I didn’t actually have to go to class. “No, seriously,” I told my best friend who attended a very small Christian college, “They don’t even take roll! This is greatness!!”
Until mid-terms. Then, great college epiphany #2 quickly followed; if you don’t actually go to class, you don’t really learn much about that class. What is that called, the law of proximity maybe? Who knows? I bet they taught that in AP Government. I received, on my very first college “report card” three C’s and one D. That’s right, a D. That is a college-fancy way to say you failed, don’t get credit, and you basically paid us a bunch of money for nothing. Lovely. As if that wasn’t bad enough, friend, the D was in Speech. I don’t know how long you have known me, or if you even do know me, but if you have read any of my incredibly long blogs before, you should know that I’m not exactly one of those kind of people who lack for words. Ever.
My parents almost sold me into slavery were less than pleased. In fact, although I have tried to block the memory out, I vaguely remember by 6’4” father picking me up slightly off the floor by my shirt and saying “Three C’s and a D!?! And the D is in what??...SPEECH!?!? You have been talking since you were two years old and you haven’t shut up since, how the heck or something like that did you get a D in speech?” He proceeded to inform me that his hard-earned money would not be paying for me to go to college and just have fun. If I didn’t bring my grades up to A’s and B’s, where they belong, by the next semester, then not only would he no longer pay for my college, but I would also pay him back, with interest, for the money he’d wasted so far.
Friend, I believed him. My Dad wasn’t really known for messing around.
I saw the proverbial light that Christmas break. I went back to school that next semester and worked my stinkin’ tail off. I learned how to take good notes. I studied harder than I ever had before not a difficult task to do. I even went to class. Congratu-stinkin-lations. Over the next four-and-a-half years, I received straight A’s, maybe two or three B’s and one C (in some history class, no doubt). I went from academic probation to graduating Magna Cum Laude with a 3.9 average. I had changed.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel inclined to tell you that I still do not necessarily like history. I must admit that as a grown-up, I have had like maybe three times where my T.V. has gotten stuck on the History Channel and I’ve found myself intrigued by the stories of people behind the scenes. The relationships, the family ties, and the heroism that the narrator on the show describes, makes it sound so fascinating. Sometimes, it grabs me. I wish I had had a teacher like that in school that made learning about history so fun! But, alas, I didn’t, not sure how much that would have changed me and so I am now left to being the idiot woman who can’t list the names of the Axis vs. Allies countries at all. I honestly don’t know which side we were even on. I’m thinking Allies though. Or at least I hope so, it sounds much friendlier. Which is obviously very important in a war and all.
I don’t know details about the Civil war.
I cannot recite for you a single line from the Declaration of Independence. Wait, is that We the People of the United States of America one? Shoot, I’m gonna have to look that up.
I can’t label but about 10 of the states in our country on a map. Not the world, our country. Sigh.
            I can’t say, exactly, why we got involved in World wars I or II.
But, friend, I just want to be clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about history or war. I know what I’ve been through; my history. And I have been in battle, time and time again. Unfortunately, I know it very well.
Whether you know it or not, friend, you and I absolutely have an enemy. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
And we are absolutely battling through a war right now.
“But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7:23)
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)
You may not feel like “sin” wages war against you much. Well, that must be nice friend, but I can’t say the same thing. I deal with some serious stuff, like worry (yes, that is a sin!) pride, envy, having a judgmental heart…the list goes on and on and on and on, but hopefully that’s enough of my list to show you that this is for real. During certain times in my life, it seems these some of these different sins flare up and are more difficult to fight against than others are. Can you relate? Do you ever feel like you are constantly up against it? Like the world, and everything in it is just working against you to make your once blessed life, miserable. Trouble at work. Deep hurt within your family. Medical crisis. Financial crisis. Depression. Anxiety. Name it. You can almost hear the canons blasting before you even get out of bed each morning. Friend, welcome to my world.
            I have been battling medical drama for going on four years now. I am only 32 years old, so that is an eighth of my life. Math nerd alert. Math nerd alert. And with the medical roller coaster I have been whipping around on for so long now, I have developed a very un-healthy sense of fear and dread.
            Am I going to die young?
            What are the doctors missing?
            Am I ever really going to be well again?
            The fear and worry seems to subside during healthier seasons, but quickly shoot themselves back into the forefront when medical drama creeps back in. Can you relate to this at all? Do you have something in your own personal life that rears its ugly head when you are already feeling down and out? Friend, that is the enemy and his relentless attacks. Talk about kickin’ you when you’re down. That’s his specialty. He knows our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our fears and our insecurities. He knows what buttons to push and the exact moment to push them. But, friend, please listen to me – I know God is allowing this for a heavenly reason. I fully believe He is working out my “faith muscles” I should look like a bodybuilder after all this working out! in order to truly grow a sold-out heart to Him. A heart that truly trusts Him. A heart that believes the promises of Truth in His Word. A heart that desires His will above my own. That last one gets me sometimes. I like my will. I’m attached to it. But, I gotta let it go.
But, friend, it ain’t easy. Just last night…as I lay there staring at the checkerboard ceilings of yet another stinkin’ hospital…the enemy was raring to go and throw sinful, worrisome thoughts in my head.
See, I told you weren’t going to get well.
I bet the doctors don’t catch this one in time.
Your kids sure are going to miss their Mom.
I bet Ryan’s next wife is skinny, cute, and fun at parties! I know, I’m a mess!
                You may be sitting there thinking “I had no idea she was this bad.” I hope you aren’t thinking that. My exaggerated and unhealthy desire for everyone to like me is scared of that. But, friend, I gotta keep it real. It is only then, that I can truly be open and point to God and all He’s done and continues to do. You also may be thinking that I should have it together by now. I’ve been through this enough that surely I should be able to handle this better. You are right. But, God has brought me light years further than I was just a few short years ago. That’s totally His work, not mine.
I read a quote last week when I was researching for the blog “Walking Funny” and I think it is worth mentioning again here. David Guzik said “Many of us think that real Christian maturity is when we come to a place where we are somewhat “independent” of God. The idea is that we have our act so together that we don’t need to rely of God so much day to day, moment to moment. This isn’t Christian maturity at all. God deliberately engineered debilitating circumstances into Paul’s life so he would be in constant, total dependence on God’s grace and God’s strength. Many harbor a longing for the day when the Christian life will become “easy.” We hope for a time when the major struggles with sin are behind us, and now we go on to bigger and better things without much of a struggle. That day is an illusion. If the apostle Paul himself constantly experienced weakness, who are we to think that we will surpass him?”
Amen to that!
So, what should we do? How can you and I defeat this enemy of ours that is always out to get us? How do we deal with our sins each time they surface? Friend, we can be prepared for battle.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17
Two times in that short group of verses, Paul tells us to put on the FULL armor of God. I always assume that if God tells us something more than once in Scripture it is because He knows our dumb selves and knows occasionally ok, almost always we need a good reminding. (Which reminds me, that the Bible says “Fear not, or do not fear” 365 times – that’s right, one for every day of the year!) And, while you could spend weeks and weeks studying just these short amount of verses above, (which I encourage you to do!) I will try to briefly describe some of the highlights I cling to.
This armor is purposeful. Each piece is used to protect and defend the person being attacked. Please note that this doesn’t say we need this armor if the enemy attacks, it tells us to be ready, he will attack!
The belt is mentioned as truth. My dear sweet friend spoke at a women’s dinner years ago, for an hour all about how just this one piece of armor is so vital. Belts hold everything else up! Your belt doesn’t work, your pants will fall. You will be vulnerable. So, be aware of truth and pull that tightly around you! Don’t be led by your feelings, other’s opinions (I’m talking to myself there!) – all of this is un-truth. Stick to what God tells you!
The breastplate of righteousness is protecting one of the most vital organs of your body – your heart. Self-righteousness will not get you there. The world’s version of “right-ness” won’t get you there. Your heart will only become more wounded, more jaded, more hardened.
The shoes of peace. Let’s be honest, we women love a good pair of shoes. Well, friend, I assure you these peace shoes are far better and more valuable than any with a red sole. In the heat of battle, there are few things of God that are more precious than that of having His peace. My life verse reminds us of just that. The Amplified Bible puts my life verse this way, “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippains 4:6-7) Oh how I desire to be content with my earthly lot! I also love that the original Greek word for “guard” is phroureo, which means “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight” LOVE THAT! God’s peace guards us from outside attacks and from our inside selves fleeing from Him. Thank you, Lord!
We must hold up the shield of faith. Once again, not to be ready if the enemy slings one arrow, but when he fires away all the flaming arrows he loves to shoot. Our faith is what shields us from his ultimate attack, which is the hope he has for us to spend eternity with him in hell. Get your shields of faith up, friend. I know they may be heavy sometimes, but they are crucial to our defense.
The helmet of salvation also guards the other major vital organ; our brain. I believe this applies to our thoughts too. The truth of our salvation guards our wandering mind. As my pastor says, “None of us are getting out of this thing alive.” The truth of our salvation binds and protects our thoughts from going astray and losing focus as to why we are here.
Lastly, I have a question for you, friend…did you notice the only offensive weapon mentioned?? All these so far have been for the purpose of defending ourselves. Did you notice? Or maybe you’ve heard this before. I remember the first time I was told this, it changed my perspective on this battle completely. The only offensive weapon mentioned is the sword of the spirit, or the Word of God. I’m going to go out a limb here and assume you haven’t ever fought with a sword. Me neither. But, I’ve seen Braveheart and that’s a pretty intense type of fighting. Modern warfare has come up with many sophisticated weaponry to protect the fighters from having to get close to their enemy. Bows and arrows, guns, canons, grenades, and nowadays, even computerized missiles that can be programmed to wipe out your enemy half way around the world. But, this weapon, our weapon, while fierce, is meant for hand to hand combat. Quoting His Truth in Scripture, memorizing it, singing about it in praise songs, writing it on paper and posting it around your house – all of these swipes with The Sword do serious damage to our enemy. James 4:7 tells us that if we “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Period.
            War isn’t pretty. I was watching a show on the history channel lately I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve ever said that and it talked about the devastation that the Civil War had on the South. The land, the buildings, the morale, all of it were devastated and destroyed. I can relate to that. I have sustained quite a few battle wounds over the years from this war I’ve been in.

Having to stop nursing two of my three children before I was ready because of hospitalization and the affects it had on my body.

Being told I shouldn’t have any more children because of all the trauma my body’s been through.

My husband’s stress level skyrocketing because of him having to be Mom and Dad for months at a time, year after year.

The guilt that come so easily from feeling I’ve “caused” this burden to my friends and family.

Tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of dollars spent on medical bills coming from an already pinched one-income salary.

My baby girl realizing mommy can’t pick her up and hold her, so she just stopped putting her arms up for me altogether.

My sons being nervous about their anyone’s health, even when minor, after seeing mama’s go up and down.

Seeing my once active and athletic body gain a great amount of weight and lose a great amount of strength…and the body image issues that come along with that.

My children coming to terms that Mommy “can’t” and “shouldn’t” do so many fun things and so therefore we, as a family miss out.

Missing my oldest’s birthday because I was in the hospital again.

Losing friendships with people I really care about, because honestly I think it’s just too hard to be good friends with the always-sick girl.

My friend, these wounds hurt. They left scars. Some bigger than others, but scars all the same. But, I can tell you with full honesty that they have grown my faith in ways that never could have been accomplished otherwise. I count myself blessed, like James encourages us in his book. In fact, he can barely get past greeting his pals in verse one, before he reminds us to (James 1:2-4) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Not lacking anything. Amen to that.
If you’re a reader (which I am generally not but have slowly but surely gotten closer to becoming one), I strongly recommend that you check out Joyce Meyer’s book, “Battlefield of the Mind”. It is truly chock-full of Scripture you can stand firmly upon. She talks all about so many different battles we fight, simply with our thoughts. And of course, as I heard quoted just last week in the sermon at church, “Thought is the father of deed.”
My dear friend, as difficult as it was for me to share so openly about my sins and they are many! I feel blessed that you stuck with me. I feel honored that you read what He says through me. I feel thankful that He continues to trust me with his message. I’m just holding on for dear life here, trying not to screw the whole thing up.
So, let’s make sure that armor is on. We can do this. And even when it seems like we can’t do this; He can. “For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)
By the way, I feel pressured and reluctant want to share what I looked up about “We the people of the United States”. It is the first part of the United States Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence. Aren’t they the same thing? NO. They are not the same. I totally wish I knew that. The Declaration of Independence broke our nation's tie with Great Britain. It was a declaration of our Independence. The Constitution was the document that followed. It set our rule of government and how our nation would function. Yes, that’s a direct quote from the internet. Dangit, it’s official. I’m an idiot. And now you all fully know it. Please still love me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Walking Funny

Ok, so I am about to make a pretty embarrassing confession to you. Most people would be completely embarrassed by it, but I am more than completely only a little embarrassed about it. Are you ready?




That’s right, when you look at my outward appearance, you may think “Hey, she’s not bad lookin’.” But, when you get down to the bottom – all the way to the feet region, just trust me – it ain’t pretty. My husband who thinks he’s so funny has been known to tease me relentlessly a little. “Ya know babe,” he teases, “if I had actually taken a good look at those feet, I may not have married you for fear of procreating with you and passing that on.” Ha. Such a funny man. Hope the couch is comfy tonight, Mr. funny man.
Funny, but true. I will spare you the details since I am stupidly announcing this to the world as to the exact reasons for this beauty impediment for me. Ya, I meant to do that! He, he. But, just trust me on this one. So, along with the ugliness, I also have a terrible habit of picking at my feet. I know, I know, now we’ve moved from ugly to flat out gross, but just stick with me.

The backs of my heels are awful thanks to my subconscious picking. It’s really bad! And the reason I am sharing this with you is because, believe it or not, God actually spoke to me through my funktified heels. I know, I’m such a weirdo.

I had messed with my feet so much that the injuries actually spread to the underside of my heel. Are there any women out there that can relate to the pain I have been feeling? Due to the wounds I have inflicted upon myself, it felt as though someone was shoving a stinkin’ 6 inch thorn in my heel every single time I put weight on my right foot.

So, what did I do? Did I cover the wound with healing aid creams or wrap it with gauze so that the cushioning would help? Nope. I just changed the way I walked. I actually started walking with every right step up on my tippy toes. Great. Now, not only do I have ugly feet, but I now I walk funny too. Wonderful.

After a few days of this annoyance and embarrassment, I decided to try and “tough it out” and just put my full weight on my heel when I walk. I’m a big girl. I can do this. That lasted about 3 ½ steps. It was brutal.

I thought to myself, This is ridiculous! I can’t believe I’ve let this wound change the way I walk!

Bam! God’s loving and sovereign 2x4 to my head.

Oh how I do this in life, friend.

Do you?

We are all wounded. Whether it be mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical…or even worse like yours truly and the answer is – E: all of the above. I can be a basketcase sometimes.

Maybe you suffer from depression. You know what it’s like to walk around in a dark and filmy funk that feels like an excruciating weight that you just can’t get free of.

Perhaps your struggle is anxiety. You have such extreme moments of intense worry that it change the way you act, think, and interact with others. You just aren’t you.

Or maybe you have a chronic illness that has latched onto your life without your stinkin’ permission. So, the cheerful memories of yesterday are clouded by the constant pain that is today and will be tomorrow.

Business failure after business failure… failed relationship after failed relationship…emotional drama in your family that makes General Hospital seem like Leave it to Beaver… whatever it is, friend – it has caused a wound. Are you walking funny?

I’ve had days where I look like a flat out moron with my funny walkin’. But, at least now, thanks to God’s loving re-re-re-direction, I have been strengthened by His Truth.

God used the apostle Paul to stand alongside me these last days and weeks of my funky walk. Paul, the man who used to do everything he could to kill those who loved God. The Bible said Saul did all he could to “breathe out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”. Yikes! Yes, friend, this guy had the biggest 2x4 moment your little brain can imagine on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) So much so, that God changed the man’s name. Further proof that God doesn’t desire for us to associate ourselves with our former bondage. The persecutor, Saul, was now and forevermore the servant of God, Paul. And, his story has moved me.

Paul writes to the Corinthians about what he is going through and what he has gone through. He is open, honest and transparent. He doesn’t take credit for his success or his wisdom. He simply points to Christ. 


Oh, how I desire to be that way.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But, He said to me, “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.”

Wow. Good stuff. Thank you, Paul.

There are so many different gems in this passage. I have spent a lot of time researching and digging deeper about this lately. Could you please go with me on this journey, friend? I think you will be glad you did.

First off, I love that God knows us best and loves us most. He absolutely knew that Paul had a history of being a cocky dude. He’d had to have been in order to persecute Christians so boldly – that takes an uber amount of confidence in oneself.

So, God gave him a thorn in his flesh. (Notice that Paul didn’t write that he was “afflicted” or “cursed” – this was given to him by the God he served!) Paul even referred to it as a messenger from Satan. That’s pretty intense. But, how can a gift from God also be a messenger of Satan? Simple. Our God is so great that He can even use the enemy and his evil desires as pawns moving around at HIS permission to ultimately bring Him glory. In the moment, this thorn in Paul’s flesh is awful, tough, even despairing – all things the enemy loves to bring to us – but ultimately, God gets the glory, because Paul continually returns to Him for strength, peace, and support. One of the commentaries I read put it this way, “This thorn was both a “messenger of Satan” and also given (ultimately by God) to Paul. Satan probably jumped at God’s permission to afflict Paul and did so with malice. But, God had a purpose in it all and allowed Satan’s messenger to successfully keep Paul being “exalted above measure”.

This, I can relate to for sure. Can you?

If left to my own demise, I could ride that “exalted beyond measure” plane all around the world a few times
You are looking at one frequent flyer here, baby.

And, I have been tormented by far worse that this pesky wound on my heel. I am, in fact, writing to you from my couch, once again again, again, again, again, again because of my medical drama, again! (Did I mention that this isn’t the first time!?) I have another spinal fluid leak (this is my fifth one in four years) and will face an excruciating procedure on Monday (my ninth one) that will hopefully fix it. The anxiety this has caused me over the years has been at some times annoying, and at other times, debilitating.

The word choice Paul used for this “thorn” in his flesh is skolops, which isn’t used to describe a splinter. It was more commonly used to describe a tent stake. Can you relate, friend, to walkin’ around with a tent stake shoved in your flesh. Ya, me to.

And this tent stake didn’t just annoy him a little. He said it tormented him. The original Greek word for torment (or buffeted) is kolaphizo, which means “to strike with a fist, give a blow with a fist, to maltreat with violence.” This isn’t some unrealistic fight scene from a Hollywood movie where the actors are wresting each other off ledges, punching each other full force and then beating one another over the head with iron crowbars repeatedly, only to receive a small, conveniently placed above the right eyebrow, kind of wound. Ya right. Who are they kidding? Just one of those blows to the head would cause serious brain damage. No, friend, this is the type of torment that has one guy holding you back while another guy kicks you in the teeth over and over until there are no more teeth to kick. This is for real.

Paul lived it. I’ve lived it. I wonder, sweet friend, if you’ve lived it.

One great theologian put it this way; “Perhaps you have looked into the face of a Christian who is always smiling, who never seems to have any worry, is always happy and radiant and, as you have thought about your own circumstances, you have said in your heart, ‘I wish I were he! He seems to have no problems. He doesn’t have to take what I do.’ But perhaps you have lived long enough, as I have, not know that sometimes the most radiant face hides great pressures, and often the man who is being most blessed of God is being most buffeted by the devil.”

So true. Do not get caught up in the “grass is always greener” world, friend – because when you get over there, you will flat out discover that it is Astroturf. It. Ain’t. Real.

And, no, I don’t recommend that we walk around with every emotion on our sleeve and no boundaries at all.

Grocery clerk: “How are you today, ma’am?”
I’ve-Almot-Lost-It-Girl: (bursting into tears) “My husband doesn’t love me, my kids hate me, my house was on last week “Hoarders” show and I have herpes.”

Grocery clerk: “Um, ok, do you want paper or plastic then?”

Yes, that isn’t healthy or productive or sane. Let’s not be that girl.

Instead let’s look at Paul, a spiritual giant. Here he is pleading with God to take this tent stake away. Now this, I can completely relate to. Modern mathematics cannot count the number of times I’ve pleaded with God to take away my illness, my anxieties, my pain. I’ve been face down, snot in the carpet, kind of ugly begging about it. Yet, from my couch, again, I type.

You may think it is “un-spiritual” to ask God for something over and over. I get that. But, can I please remind you about the garden of Gethsemane? Our Lord Himself pleaded three times for His Father to take this cup away from Him. Three times. So, I figure is He is God incarnate – the Word made flesh – perfect and without sin - and even He pleaded three times, I cut myself some slack for pleading a few thousand more times than that.

What matters though, is how Jesus ended that prayer. Mark 14:36 tells us His heart’s desire was “not my will, but yours be done.”

Not my will.

Not my will.

Not my will.

Amen to that.

I honestly believe that God cares more about your heart and your motives and your intentions than He does about your every particular action. Your actions can scream “not my will, but yours be done” all day long, but is your heart and mind screaming “PLEASE JUST DO MY WILL” inside where no one else can see? Ya, I’ve been there, too today.

God did not answer Paul’s plea the way Paul desired. But, friend, please hear me… that God most assuredly did answer. The commentary I read by David Guzik put it this way; “Paul was desperate in his desire to be relieved of this burden. But there are two ways of taking away a burden. It can be done by removing the load, or it can be done by strengthening the shoulder bearing the load. Instead of taking away the thorn, God would strengthen Paul under it, and God would show His strength through Paul’s apparent weakness.”


I don’t think you and I can truly appreciate the sufficiency of God’s strength until we have been slapped across the face with the reality of the insufficiency of our own.

The great theologian, author, preacher, and early evangelist, Charles Spurgeon put it brilliantly; “Great tribulation brings out the great strength of God. If you never feel inward conflicts and sinking of soul, you do not know much of the upholding power of God; but if you go down, down, into the depths of soul-anguish till the deep threatens to shut her mouth upon you, and then the Lord rides upon a cherub and does fly, yea, rides upon the wings of the wind and delivers your soul, and catches you away to the third heaven of delight, then you perceive the majesty of divine grace. Oh, there must be the weakness of man, felt, recognized, and mourned over, or else the strength of the Son of God will never be perfected in us.”

Friend, this was written over a hundred years ago. Paul’s tormenting happened thousands of years ago. This is not new. We are not unique in our sufferings. In fact, Scripture promises us this (once again through the divinely inspired pen of my buddy, Paul) in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

People especially ones that are named ME often misunderstand this Scripture. As my beloved pastor puts it, “People think that becoming a Christian means that the rest of your life, you will be healthy, wealthy and wise. So, they want to give up on God when they face times when they are sick, broke, and dumb.”

Paul is telling us that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. Not that we won’t face things beyond what we can bear. Because, friend, I assure you that you can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit someone who would say in full honesty that they have faced something that they felt was too heavy to bear. If you can’t find anyone, come my way and chunk your rock in my direction. I’ll tell you plenty more than you want to hear. We will continually face things we don’t feel like we can bear. But, the amazing and fantastic news is that we will never, and I do mean NEVER face anything to difficult for God. Ever.

Luke 1:37 says that “nothing is impossible with God.”


And this was said by an angel to a little teenage girl who just found out she would be giving birth to the Christ child. Talk about more than she could bear. I think if God could handle that through her, then He can handle my junk. Can I get an Amen?

So, my dear friend…although I do not know your specific wound, I do know what it is like to be wounded. I do know what it is like to look like a fool from changing the way I walk because of it. May your wounds and my wounds strengthen our walk, straighten our walk, and re-direct our walk on the path he has lovingly and divinely chosen for us. He can be trusted.

And while I am fully aware that this is already a very long post, I beg you to just stay with me. I want to leave you with some more wisdom from the research I’ve been doing. May these reflections on the Truth of God, the love of God, the faithfulness of God, and the strength of God nudge you all the more closely to putting your full faith in God. Not just for the salvation of your soul – but for the salvation of your each and every day. I love you, friend.
David Guzik writes: My grace is sufficient for you: You may emphasize any aspect of this you please.
i. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Grace is the favor and love of God in action. It means He loves us and is pleased by us. Can you hear it from God? “My love is enough for you.” Isn’t it true?
ii. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Whose grace is it? Jesus’ grace. Isn’t His love, His favor, enough? What will Jesus fail at? Remember to that Jesus suffered thorns. He cares. He knows.
iii. “My grace is sufficient for you.” It is right now. Not that it will be some day. Right now, at this moment, His grace is sufficient. You thought something had to change before His grace would be enough. You thought, “His grace was sufficient once. His grace may be sufficient again. But not now, not with what I am going through.” But God’s word stands. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Spurgeon wrote, “It is easy to believe in grace for the past and the future, but to rest in it for the immediate necessity is true faith. Believer, it is now that grace is sufficient: even at this moment it is enough for thee.”
iv. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Redpath explains this aspect best: “Do you see the humor of the situation? God’s grace: me. His grace sufficient for little me! How absurd to think that it could ever be any different! As if a little fish could swim in the ocean and fear lest it might drink it dry! The grace of our crucified, risen, exalted, triumphant Saviour, the Lord of all glory, is surely sufficient for me! Do you not think it is rather modest of the Lord to say sufficient?”
v. “My grace is sufficient for you.” I’m so glad God didn’t say, “My grace is sufficient for Paul the Apostle.” I might have felt left out. But God made it broad enough. You can be the you in for you. God’s grace is sufficient for you! Are you beyond it? Are you so different? Is your thorn worse than Paul’s, or worse than many others who have known the triumph of Jesus? Of course not.

And once again, the great Charles Spurgeon, blesses us with this truth; “This sufficiency is declared without any limiting words, and therefore I understand the passage to mean that the grace of our Lord Jesus is sufficient to uphold thee, sufficient to strengthen thee, sufficient to comfort thee, sufficient to make thy trouble useful to thee, sufficient to enable thee to triumph over it, sufficient to bring thee out of it, sufficient to bring thee out of ten thousand like it, sufficient to bring thee home to heaven . . . O child of God, I wish it were possible to put into words this all-sufficiency, but it is not. Let me retract my speech: I am glad that it cannot be put into words, for if so it would be finite, but since we never can express it, glory be to God it is inexhaustible, and our demands upon it can never be too great. Here let me press upon you the pleasing duty of taking home the promise personally at this moment, for no believer here need be under any fear, since for him also, at this very instant, the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient.”

And now back to good ol’ David Guzik:
 Many of us think that real Christian maturity is when we come to a place where we are somewhat “independent” of God. The idea is that we have our act so together that we don’t need to rely of God so much day to day, moment to moment. This isn’t Christian maturity at all. God deliberately engineered debilitating circumstances into Paul’s life so he would be in constant, total dependence on God’s grace and God’s strength.
ii. Many people see God as a parent that we outgrow. Once we’re mature, once we have overcome certain obstacles in life, we can shake off God just the same as we shook off the authority of our parents. And some of us treat God the same way we treat our parents. We give Him a measure of respect, we give Him His due - but we no longer feel we really have to obey Him any more. In our hearts, we have moved out of the house. We think we can make our own rules in life as long as we have supper at God’s house once a week and give the “old man” a little recognition.
iii. Many harbor a longing for the day when the Christian life will become “easy.” We hope for a time when the major struggles with sin are behind us, and now we go on to bigger and better things without much of a struggle. That day is an illusion. If the apostle Paul himself constantly experienced weakness, who are we to think that we will surpass him?
iv. In fact, the illusion of strength and independence actually leaves someone in a weaker place. “There is nothing more hindering the work of God than the uplifted and proud Christian.” (Morgan)
v. “Ministers of the Gospel especially should banish all thoughts of their own cleverness, intellectual ability, culture, sufficiency for their work, and learn that only when they are emptied can they be filled, and only when they know themselves to be nothing are they ready for God to work through them.” (Maclaren)
vi. “God works through the man who has been wiped clean and turned inside out, his life emptied before the Lord until he is hopelessly weak, that no flesh might glory in His presence.” (Redpath)

And if there is even one solid soul still reading these great blessings of truth God has given to me this week, can I just lovingly caution you, in your own world as the Holy Spirit has cautioned me in mine…

“Yet, we should never think that in our lives, the mere presence of a thorn means the glory and strength of Jesus will shine in us and through us. You can resist God’s grace, and refuse to set your mind on Jesus, and find your thorn cursing you instead of blessing you. “Without the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, thorns are productive of evil rather than good. In many people, their thorn in the flesh does not appear to have fulfilled any admirable design at all; it has created another vice, instead of removing a temptation.” (Spurgeon)

Let this not be us Lord, not me, not my friend reading that probably fell asleep earlier but then woke up to finish. None. May we walk funny, only in the sense that we walk not like this world walks. May we walk only in the strength you give us. In your precious Name, amen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stockpiling stupidity

Have you ever heard the ol’ Christian wisdom that usually comes from those older in years and in faith that warns…”Don’t pray for patience. God won’t give you patience, He will give you circumstances to be patient through.”

Have you heard it? You know it? Then, friend, where the heck were you just yesterday morning when I sought out verses to help me be more patient with my kids? Were you sleeping in while I was spending time with God? Gee, thanks.
I have had a loooong week or so. Not bad, mind you, just loooong.

If we are being completely honest and I always try to be whether you want it or not it has been a loooong last seven weeks. My sweet Ryan has been off from work for that long and so we have been here at home together all day every day since then. Nope, no Hallelujah chorus insert here. Keep on movin’. And like I said, it hasn’t been bad, just loooong. 

I am more than thankful for this pretty much one and only perk that comes from serving in the education field. Most families don’t have the benefit of having Daddy home for so long. We truly enjoyed the time together, we really did. Especially after the year we’d had, we sort of ok, we completely thought we kinda deserved it. But, while it was so much fun for some reasons, it was also just a loooong summer for other reasons. Did I mention it was loooong? Ok, just checking. Ryan had a list of things he wanted to get done during his time off. Both with me, and the kids, and with projects around the house. We cleaned a lot. We organized a lot. Ryan’s idea of fun, by the way. Wahoo. We swam with the kids a lot! But, overall, we just did a lot. And keep in mind, that just a few short months ago, a “big day” for me was showering, doing dishes and folding a load of laundry all in the same day. (I praise you God for how far you have brought me!)

So, this summer was a big summer. And I was thrilled to get to be a part of it. Just. So. Thrilled!!

But, as the weeks went on and on we checked lots of things off our list…like going to Florida for a week to visit Ryan’s 94-year-old grandmother, celebrating five birthdays, completely cleaning out our attic and our garage I kid you not I had saved every greeting card I’d ever received. Ryan says I’d be on the TV show Hoarders if it weren’t for him. Gosh I’m lucky. J  going to four Rangers games, having Ryan’s Mom stay with us for a week, at least 10 baseball practices and 10 baseball games for the boys, completely cleaning out and re-painting and re-arranging the kid’s bedrooms, painting the entire exterior of the house uh ya, Ryan, not me on that one, three weeks of kids in summer “school” fun days, camping trip for the boys and Daddy, movie dates for us with and without kids, two girl’s nights for me praise God! a doctor’s appointment that’s right, friend, just ONE doctor’s appointment for me since like March, again, GOD you get all the praise!, swimming, swimming and more swimming…we we’re just flat out tired. That really does sound like a lot for just seven weeks for anyone, but for me, it’s darn near like running in a marathon once a week for seven weeks. And that’s a lot of running. Really, that’s like hundreds of miles, isn’t it? I don’t even know exactly how many miles are in a marathon which just goes to show you how far away I am from running one, much less seven!

Anyway, I have been tired. But, as we approached what we dreaded but knew would come, i.e. the “last week” before Ryan went back to school, it kinda hit us…”Oh man, it’s over!?! Noooooo!! Have we really enjoyed it? It went way too fast. I can’t believe it!” Insert a bit of sobbing and acts of living in denial as well
So Ryan asked the boys what three things they’d like to do during the last two weeks Daddy was off. Abigail immediately chimed in “I wanna eat Wendy’s!” Feed our family of five for under $9? Don’t mind if I do, dollar menu, thank you very much. Done. She is easy. In this way and this way only. The boys said they wanted to go to a Rangers game, which was doable, and a waterpark, again, maybe doable…and the zoo. Ya boys, it’s like 105 degrees in the shade. I don’t even think the animals want to be at the zoo right now. Not happenin’. But, two out of three ain’t bad. 

So, after five weeks of lovingly enjoyable, but tiring, chaos, we had two weeks left. So, we planned another Rangers game and a day at the waterpark. Did I mention that we already had a weekend trip planned for my annual family reunion and that Ryan and I also had planned our own little two day anniversary getaway? Ten years baby, wahoo! God totally gets credit for that one too! It’s a darn near miracle the man didn’t run for the hills after month three when he fully realized what he’d gotten himself into. Ok, week three.

So, we got the dates set and on your mark, set, go we did. 

That was last week. 

Literally seven days ago we hadn’t got on our anniversary trip, to the waterpark, to the Rangers game, or to the family reunion. Nutso people, it’s been nutso. A great kind of nutso, mind you.

Anyway, why in the world did I go on and on about all this backstory duh, because it’s me when this post really isn’t about being busy or over-scheduling or anything? Although I have some friends who live like this, and I don’t know how or why you guys do it! I promise I have a point, stay with me. 

So, as we have enjoyed these last seven days very much, it has worn us out. And I don’t know about you, but when I get tired, all the ugly comes out. The ugly Mommy looks. The ugly intentions. The ugly voice at anyone and everyone. All the ugly. All the time. Warning! Warning! I also got a little visit from that repeated monthly woman’s enemy, so that means ugly times a hundred! How many years ‘til menopause again!?!

And then it happened. My folks called us we were on our anniversary getaway to say that, while everyone was “Ok”, they wanted to let us know Benjamin (our adorable middle child) had thrown up twice. Nice.

Immediately the Mommy-guilt crept in like a tidal wave.

“I should be home with him.”

“We need to leave now.”

“This is what I get for leaving my babies.”

And then his sweet little self got on the phone: “Mama, I’m sorry I “frew” up. I really want to “cuggle” his own version of “cuddle”, too cute! with you tonight, Mama. Where are you?”

“I am selfishly staying at a hotel only 20 minutes from you and sleeping better than I have in years not home, baby.”

My parents assured me that they thought he’d probably just eaten too much and he was fine, and I knew he was. I knew I could cuggle with him tomorrow night when we got home. And cuggle we did. 

That, my friend, turned out to not be a very good idea. 

The very next day, when we had just barely arrived at my family reunion, I really started to not feel very well. Hmmmm, I must have eaten too much. Then it hit me. Those same words I’d uttered about my sweet BenBen just two days before. Then, those sweet moments of cuggling flashed back into my head. Noooooooo! But, friend, by then it was too late. Waaaay too late. There was throwing up and there was throwing down. I will just leave it at that. 

So, here I am in this wonderful cabin in the beautiful tree-filled hills of Oklahoma surrounded by family I only see once a year, and all I wanted to do is crawl under my log-style bed and pass out. for like a week

Then, it hit our oldest, Jacob. It hit him hard, but thankfully not as hard as it did me. And then came Abigail. She has to be a part of every party. She is my kid, after all. Oh man, this party would have been one I would have wanted us all to miss. After a loooong four hours home and I will spare you how many changes of underwear for my “potty-trained for a whopping month” 2-year-old, we finally made it home. 

Then it hit Jacob and my walls and my carpet all over again for round two. 

Then, my cousin facebooked me and thanked me for that lovely gift we’d given to her family. 

And then my Dad called – it hit him too. I swear the man has thrown up like four times in my entire 32 years on planet earth, but this was three of those times. 

Then, my sweet Ryan, who had to buck up and start work full time yesterday, actually didn’t. He made it to lunch. Then, he was back home and passed out on our bed.

So, yesterday morning when I spent my time with my God, I knew the day would be hard. I was just barely recovering from this whole deal myself, and Ryan would be gone and all the kids would be cooped up and stir crazy before 10am. So, I prayed for patience. Stupid, stupid girl.

I even went so far as to look up a verse that I could claim all day to get me through what I knew would be a very tough day. And I found it. 

Let me see if I can still quote it from memory………Proverbs 14:29 “He who is patient gains great wisdom, but he who is quick-tempered gains folly.” 

Ok, now let me check………

Huge sigh of relief I got the address right! That’s the part I have the hardest time with! Here is the exact verse as it is so written in the good ol’ NIV

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” NIV

But, as if that wasn’t enough, I even dug a bit deeper and wanted to find out what other translations could teach me about patience…just call me a glutton for punishment :)

“People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” (NLT)

Ok, gee, that makes it sound easy.

And of course, you gotta look at good ol’ King Jimmy…

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” KJV

Folly “sounds” like a fun word, but I’m thinking it’s not. I also really like the Amplified Bible. It usually adds even more words in parentheses, so you know that’s right up my alley.

“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty of spirit exposes and exalts his folly” (AMP)

No extra words this time, but still, it showed me that being quick-tempered not only exalts my folly, but exposes it. Ouch.

And then, friend…just for good measure, I looked up The Message Bible to see how it would tell it like it is to me. And, boy did it. Get this one…

“Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.” (MSG)


Stockpiles stupidity. 

Isn’t that brilliant?!?

I love it. 

And unfortunately, today, I not only loved it, but I lived it. Dangit.
I really did pretty well, considering my tiredness and my current state of womanly junk, twenty-two years-ish and counting… for a good portion of the day. I will spare you all of the 643 things that the kids chose to do to gang up on me today test their boundaries. But, in all honestly, I remarkably made it ‘til about 6:30pm. From then until bedtime, I was stockpilin’ so much, you’d have thought I was getting ready for the stinkin’ Apocalypse. 

As I was walking my completely ornery and mirror-image-of-me daughter to “time out” a safe distance away from me for the fourth time today, I couldn’t even get the verse out of my mouth, I just kept mumbling 14:29, 14:29, 14:29. Maybe that’s why I remembered the address this time!

I raised my voice. I spanked when I shouldn’t have. I spoke out of anger. I gave looks that crush small children. I expected too much. I loved too little. I didn’t show grace. I threw patience and darn near my child out the window. 

I just flat out stockpiled stupidity. 

Ever been there, friend? You have to say yes or I’m not sure we can be friends.

You may be more spiritually mature than I am and honestly not be dealing with this right now, but maybe you can recall a time when you did? 

When you looked back at your last few weeks and in hindsight, saw how clearly you could have, should have, and would have…but just plain didn’t? Can I please get a witness?

It grieves my heart. I mean it, it darn near breaks it, after an hour like that, or God-forbid a day like that. When I went to tuck in those sweet babies to bed, I ‘bout near started bawling because I wanted them to know I much I love them and how very truly sorry I am and how incredibly thankful Mommy is to be upright and well and able to even be playing with them. Why is it that they always look so sweet and precious and innocent and harmless when they are in their jamis tucked in bed with their favorite lovey? Sigh.

It just plain grieves my heart friend, and even worse, I know it grieves my God’s heart. Ugh, that kills me. I know how desperately He wants me to be like Him. And I know that He knows how many billions of light years I am away from that. 

And as I sit here atop my stupid stockpile, with a view so clear from way up here I can almost see that cabin in Oklahoma I didn’t even get to enjoy…I can close my eyes and almost smell a fresh rain coming. Don’t get excited local friends, not real rain!

The best kind of rain one can feel. The rain of His pure mercy. 

Then these verses came to my heart…

Lamentations 3:19-25 “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;”

Great is Thy faithfulness. So true. I mean, c’mon people, that was even a hymn!

Have you felt it before? Oh how I hope you have! The feeling of His mercy, His compassion, His grace, just rain all over your scrawny neck? When I was looking up some of the other verses that used this same root word for “compassion” (or mercy)…so many of them were about mercy being given to those that just honestly didn’t deserve it!

Um, ya, that would be big, fat me: aka “The Stockpiler”

But, I do love that my mind recalled the same thing that the writer of Lamentations recalled. How cool is that?!? We both were reminded of the HOPE we have in Him. Because of His great love, we are not consumed. I am not. You are not. We are not. He is my portion and I will wait for Him.

Will you?

Maybe your stockpiling has been going on for years and someone needs to turn you into that Hoarding show with me, apparently. Fine. So be it. God can (and wants to!) wipe all that junk out and it only takes one single drop of His mercy. Maybe you are dealing with something not as serious as I am, but still, you stockpile all the same. Whether yours could fill a few shoeboxes or a few stadiums, it matters not. What matters is that you go to Him every single day and repent of this awful choice. 

Every day. For some of us, it really needs to be more of an hourly thing. I’m just sayin’

Let us remember the manna, here, shall we?

In Exodus 16, those good ol’ Israelites who I can, unfortunately, relate to way too much! were given manna from heaven and it was fresh and new every day. But, they wanted to store it up. They wanted to do it their way and not God’s. Let’s face it, friend, they just flat out didn’t want to have to depend on God every day. Ugh I hate that I am that way. 

Well, friend, I really don’t hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t work that way. 

He designed you to, desires for you to, and actually looks forward to you COMING TO HIM EVERY SINGLE DAY! 

For…fill in the blank. 

Don’t let the enemy of your soul (1 Peter 5:8) tell you that your stockpile is too big, or too dirty, or too anything. It ain’t true. It just takes a drop, friend. Just a drop.

Let’s just put our big girl panties on and join SA (Stockpilers not-so Anonymous) and let Him work on this thing, shall we? Membership is free for you. Jesus paid it already. (Matthew 20:28)

“Hello. My name is Caroline”

“Helloooo Caroline.”

“And I…am a stockpiler….but, not…for…long!”

Amen and amen!