Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I notice the different weeds in my patch of garden,
My little garden that I and my husband installed
When pests ate our grass,
Grass that wasn’t native to this earth.
We carved out our little plot and placed native plants there,
Things that were intended to grow in this sandy dirt,
Rather than the golf course turf that housebuilders and associations love,
But require water the sky doesn’t provide and nourishment the earth doesn’t produce.

I pull weeds.
And I praise the One Who created me.
And I praise the One Who created the weeds.

I see one weed that is beautiful.
It fans out like hot weather, bright-sun fern.
Its spidery, lacy fingers hide tiny creatures
That run in fear for shelter as I remove their home.
Its roots are shallow, so it comes up readily,
And breaks easily, leaving behind bits of itself
To regenerate and spread.
If I’m not careful to remove it completely,
I will have two weeds tomorrow where today
There was only one.

I see one weed that looks like a shoot of grass, similar to the grasses I’ve planted,
No big deal. But
The spike that grows up from the earth
Is half as high as the tap root hidden below,
Tying it in an underground grid
To its kin six inches hence.
I’m surprised by the strength and will,
How deeply dug in it is
And I reach for my spade.
As I gently pull and follow the root
With eyes that cannot see,
I bring all of it up and discard it.

I see one weed that dresses up in clothes of legitimacy.
Clever weed! You look just like my jasmine!
You slither through the bed, ingratiating yourself to me with pretty flowers.
But your stem gives you away before you
Choke life from this ground’s rightful resident.
Carefully I follow you, up and over and under and through.
I know you from your fleshy stem.
If I hadn’t paid close attention, you’d have taken over before I noticed anything
Was even wrong.
With you gone, the chaos diminishes and the path is clear again.

I see a weed that is just…so…weedy.
Surely I’ve seen your spindly stem and puffy head
Elsewhere? Just a little yank and…
Your roots, thick and fibrous,
Take so much earth with them, leaving a
Gaping hole.
I shake the dirt off, patting it back down,
But the scar remains.
Time will take care of it.

My gardener’s wisdom grows as I move from weed to weed, deliberately,
A little at a time.
The sun rains down, beating me, encouraging them.
O so tempting to work and work and work and leave it all out there in the work.
But would that be best? No.
The work would be sloppy. And so I work twenty minutes, until
The dripping sweat comes, and
The fair skin burns, and
The dizziness starts.
And I see there is more to do tomorrow.
And I see a tiny weed poke up from the patch I gave my strength to yesterday.
And I know all over again my work requires diligence to diminish the invasion
Over time.
But the work will always be.

John said yesterday, “Just spray them
Don’t wreck your back on this futile work.”
But – spray poison and render this plot barren
All for the sake of convenience?
At what cost? What else might the chemical kill?
My gardener wisdom grows.

I pull weeds.
And I praise the One Who created me.
And I praise the One Who created the weeds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How Can You Believe?

You look at me and say, "How can you believe?" But I look at you and say, with equal incredulity, "How can you doubt?" The difference? I know the answer to my question. - Given to me yesterday, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I grew up in church and I believe wholeheartedly in God, and that Jesus is His Son, and that Jesus died for our sins, and is resurrected and seated at the right hand of His father (see the Apostles Creed for more detail on my beliefs.) Even so, I have always asked questions, and looked for answers. I think some of this is tied up in my God-given personality; I've always enjoyed reading the works of apologists and others who explore the concrete evidence for our faith and the history of it. I've never believed in checking my intellect at the door of the church. That's just not the way God wired me. Besides, I Peter 3:15 (NIV) instructs believers to "...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." Part of giving your answer is having a succinct version of your testimony ready to go. And part of it is knowing why - and what - you believe. And so I read. And I study. And what I read and study strengthens my faith.

But why should I believe in the first place? What led me there? For me, what started as the training that I received as a child became my own belief system as I grew, and as I saw evidence that the world cannot be a random place. I also found a hole in my heart that no one and nothing else could fill.

Still, I have in my circle of friends and family those who just don't get it. They just don't see how anyone with an ounce of intelligence can believe in an invisible God. This fact usually leaves me feeling very defensive, because oftentimes, those who don't believe don't just disbelieve; they ridicule and belittle, and show little respect for someone with different beliefs (not always. But often.) What they don't get is this: it's almost as impossible for me to comprehend their position as it is for them to comprehend mine.

I've been trying to re-establish early morning quiet time. With the altered sleep patterns that come with a newborn, and a tendency toward a lack of self discipline, this isn't easy. But this morning, when I awoke, I reached for the Bible, rather than the laptop. And I promptly read what I thought was today's reading (turned out to be tomorrow's...ha! God can even work through my mistakes!) The New Testament portion of the reading was I Corinthians 1:18-2:5 (NLT), which begins this way: "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God." It goes on to say in verses 20 and 21: "So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe."

The point that I'm trying to make is two-fold. First, those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior don't just not understand; they are incapable of understanding. God must call, God must do the work and woo someone for them to even begin to get it. This is, of course, where our prayers enter. So be encouraged if you feel like someone doesn't get it and makes fun! They don't scoff out of personal derision; they scoff because they are blind to the truth you see! And be encouraged if they display any interest whatsoever in the kingdom, even if they haven't had a full salvation experience. Because God had to actively call them, He must be actively working with them for them to even have an inkling of their need!

Secondly, as a believer, whose wisdom do you seek and follow? I'm pretty literal when it comes to reading verses 20 and 21, and I do not seek counsel from those who are not believers about life issues. Would I ask a Buddhist about gardening if he were an expert? Sure. Would an orthopaedist who is an atheist do a good job of setting my broken wrist? Probably...providing that she is also a good doctor. But when it comes to advice about marriage, or child rearing or finances or how to conduct myself in a sticky situation, or any of the other dozens of curve balls we're thrown daily, I turn to those who believe on God, because, as verse 30 in the same passage says: "...For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself." And so, just as we cannot properly love without God, because He didn't just invent it; He is it...so it is with wisdom. Outside of Him, apart from Him, it doesn't exist. It is foolishness. It is useless nonsense.

I hope this frees you from a desire to argue your "point of view." I hope it frees you from defensiveness, like it did me. Sure, give your answer. But whatever time you would be tempted to "argue for Jesus" would be better spent praying for your opponent or foe.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Day Two: You Are Not an Accident

Point to Ponder: I am not an accident.

Verse to Remember: I am you Creator. You were in my care even before you were born. - Isaiah 44:2 (CEV)

Question to Consider: Knowing that God uniquely created me, what areas of my personality, background, and physical appearance am I struggling to accept?

That I made exactly this statement in yesterday's blog is probably less some great revelation, and more stemming from the fact that I've started this book and not finished it at least 4 times. Still, as I'm writing and reading today, trying to hurry and spend time with God while Elle is smart cycling and Jake is sleeping, I'm finding it hard to settle down in my spirit enough to really get the revelations of this chapter. As I read through it, and consider the core messages, I find three that really stand out: our lives are not accidental; God does not make mistakes; and God is love, and that is His motivation for creating us.

I am not an accident, and long before I was born, God planned me down to every detail of my being, as well as where and when I would be on this earth. If, as believers, we could let go of all of the distractions, all of the negative self image that we've built up (again, a kind of insidious, reverse pride - thinking of ourselves far too much, because we're focusing on the things we dislike) and just consider this reality...how much more seriously would we take our time on earth, and every single interaction we have with others? Nothing is random. Nothing is without potential value. You are not an accident even if your conception was not planned. You are not an accident even if you have a birth defect of some sort. You are simply not an accident. God intended you to be exactly how you are. Do we pollute the creation with bad choices, like not staying fit? Sure. Is this a license to let poor personality traits continue to develop unchecked? Of course not. As we seek His face and follow His will for our lives through reading the Bible, through prayer, and through wise counsel and fellowship, we have the potential to improve our traits that are the raw materials, the starting points. Still, you are as God made you. I am as God made me...complete with a curvy figure, a sarcastic wit, and loathing for sweat, and a love for cooking. As I seek His face, maybe the reason for these traits becomes obvious. Maybe not. But I am the package that He made to do the work He wants accomplished. And that's just neat.

Another concept that I have to be still and allow to wash over me: God never, ever makes mistakes. How do I reconcile that fact with my daily prayers of "Thy will be done"? I mean, God doesn't make mistakes, except that my dad died when he was 42, right? No? God doesn't make mistakes? Okay. Well, He doesn't make mistakes, except that I can't handle sleep deprivation, and I have two children. What? That's not a mistake either? Um, k. Oh, and He doesn't make mistakes, but my mom, who is a bonafide saint, is having a terribly hard time in her job right now. Nope? And I have a young friend who is about to lose a leg to bone cancer...an amputation! In this day and time of enlightened medicine! Clearly a mistake, because no WAY does the God that I serve allow that to happen. Hmmm...God doesn't make mistakes. Period. Where I am, and what's going on in my life and the lives of those I love...they aren't mistakes. Good will come of every single circumstance. Wow. Sometimes, that's a seriously bitter pill to swallow. But it provides peace, too, doesn't it? Because He's there, ordering what seems like the most chaotic situation...and we know for certain that good will come. Because His infallible word says it will.

The last point I'd like to make has a certainly "um duh" factor, to use very little eloquence: God is love and He is a God of love. He loves us and created us for the very purpose of loving us, and for us to love Him in return. Again, so what? Big deal? Next! But this must be important, because I've noticed something lately. Perhaps I'm coming late to observing the atheist party, but have you noticed how many atheists lately are impugning the reputation of God? I keep seeing accounts of Old Testament history that call acts of judgment "genocide," with no discussion of the back story. There are things in the Old Testament that are tough to stomach through the filter of our day and age; I will not argue there. But Jesus, over and over, discusses God's nature as that of love. He tells us that loving one another is the greatest commandment. So this is something that we should remember and should be considered as our core. That God's nature is under attack makes sense. We should understand the relevance of Satan's attacks.

God is love. He doesn't have love. He doesn't just love; He is love. It is His very essence. He is everything that Paul lists in I Corinthians 13 as love. Because of His love for us, He did the unthinkable, and allowed His son to die to reconcile us back to Him. How can those that don't acknowledge that God exists...love? What is there definition, I wonder? I'm about to spend some time with a self professed atheist...perhaps we can discuss the point. I'd be interested to know his thoughts.

In the meantime, I hope that you really allow this fact to sink in today. You are not an accident. You are not random. Neither are your talents, attributes, physical characteristics, surroundings, family ties, etc, etc. Reject the popular notion that it's all random, all coincidence. Consider that it isn't; that your existence (and mine) is ordered and for a reason. To do something. To be something. But above all, to love God and be loved by Him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day One: It All Starts with God

Point to Ponder: It's not about me.

Verse to Remember: Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him - Colossians 1:16b (Msg)

Question to Consider: In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?

This isn't pretty. But it's been sitting in my draft tray for 2 days while I deal with sleepless nites that I owe to my children and some wicked overtime that Jeremiah is working. Better to get it out here than to wait until it's pretty.

So how's this going to work? Not sure. But I can tell you one thing: you should read this book if you'd like to know what it's about, because I won't be providing blow-by-blow summaries of the chapters. I'll be using these entries to expound on the the daily point, verse, and/or question, and how they apply to my life and my relationship with God. So I suppose that, more than anything, you will sort of be peeking into my journal.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm deactivating my Facebook account until July 1. I have every intention of returning to FB, unless I get to the end of this time, and I feel that it's better that I don't. I don't decry FB or any other social networking tool; it certainly has wonderful value for keeping in touch, for communicating information, for entertainment. But I personally was spending so much time reading about the lives of the 300+ people that I'm friends with that I was neglecting my own life, and my family as well. Time for some balance. So time to unplug.

I'm on a 40 day journey. To wrest the doubts and demons. To find my purpose and be at peace with it. To settle the struggle to trust. To renew. To refocus. To accomplish this, I'm going to let Rick Warren will be my guide. I commit to completing this book and to discovering a greater understanding of my purpose.

For too long, I've struggled with feelings of inferiority. I think that would surprise a lot of people...I believe I project confidence. But inside, I always feel like I'm being lazy, that I'm not doing enough, that I'm not living up to my potential. This could be true; on the other hand, this could be, by and large, a deception of the enemy, who would have us focus on ourselves to the exclusion of what we should be trying to accomplish. I've always believed that, whether you are focused on yourself because you think you're fabulous, or you're completely self-absorbed because you think you're worthless, the end result is the same: you are spending WAY too much time on yourself. I am spending WAY too much time on myself.

So, time to settle it. Time to go all out. Time to stop living short of my potential. OR - time to find out that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. Either way, I believe that peace will be the by-product of the journey.

So back to today's message. Today, I focus on "it all starts with God." In reading this chapter, and in considering the point, scripture, and question at the end, these were my thoughts.

I am not an accident. I am significant in Him. I was born by and for His purpose. And I'm here for a reason, not randomly.

I heard Jonny Diaz's song "More Beautiful You" this morning while taking Elle to school. The song brings tears to my eyes, and fit perfectly with God's message to me for today. Here are the lyrics, in case you aren't familiar with it. It's appropriate for women of any age, to understand their worth. Heck, its core message of "you are valuable to God just the way you are" should resonate with everyone.

More Beautiful You

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine
Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight her body isn’t fake
And she’s always felt overweight
Well little girl fourteen

I wish that you could see
That beauty is within your heart
And you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair
Are perfect just the way they are

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

Little girl twenty-one the things that you’ve already done
Anything to get ahead And you say you’ve got a man but he’s got another plan
Only wants what you will do instead

Well little girl twenty-one you never thought that this would come
You starve yourself to play the part
But I can promise you there’s a man whose love is true
And he’ll treat you like the jewel you are

So turn around you’re not too far
To back away be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear they can all be washed away
By the one who’s strong can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl

Some Purpose stream of consciousness

  • Focusing on myself will never, ever lead me to my purpose. It is only in GOD that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end. It's only when we sacrifice our life that we find it (Matt 16:25.)

  • We have two choices to determine meaning for our lives: speculation or revelation.

  • God isn't just the starting point, the square marked GO. He is the source. He's the creator of the board and all the pieces.

  • To discover purpose, turn to the Word, shut out (and up!) the world!

Regarding today's question

In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself - and teach my family - that life is really about living for God, not myself?

We are immersed in the messages of the world. We don't even have to seek these messages actively; they're everywhere we turn: on TV, on our computers, in our papers, magazines, music, and shopping experiences. To combat these constant messages, this bombardment of the philosophy that it's all about me and getting for me and mine, we must seek to immerse ourselves in the Word and in Kingdom influences. It is imperative to the successful Christian walk that our focus be on Christ first thing. When my eyes open in the morning,my first thoughts should be toward praise and prayer. It is ONLY by focusing solely on Christ that everything else in our lives comes into sharp clarity. It is with our peripheral vision that we see most clearly.

As silly as this is going to sound - and I know...it sounds very, very silly - thinking about keeping focus reminded me of the movie The Runaway Bride. In the movie, Maggie keeps leaving fiances at the altar - and, of course, breaking their hearts in the process. I won't bore you with all the details, but when she's just about to make it successfully down the aisle, it's because she maintains eye contact with her groom - almost. When she loses eye contact, she loses focus. When she loses focus - on him, on the future, on their life together - she becomes distracted by doubts, by fear, by those around her who have told her she'll never succeed. Light-weight chick flick...with some profound meaning. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, even for a second, what happens? We start to focus on all the reasons this can't possibly work. By the shiny things. By needs that seem overwhelming. By distractions and temptations.

Keeping my focus on God is mandatory. Everything falls into place, and priorities and self-restraint become the rule, not the exception.

Forty Days of Purpose

I know, I know...it's been done to death. But that doesn't make it any less necessary. Or appropriate. Or helpful.

My grandmother died rather unexpectedly last month. I say rather unexpectedly because she was, after all, 85 years old. Still, the day it happened, there was no reason to believe that things wouldn't just continue on the way they had been. So when she died of a stroke on 15 April, I think it caused many of us to stop and ponder afresh our mortality, and whether the decisions we were making day to day were good ones, pleasing to God, and the right examples for our families.

Or maybe it was just me.

When MaMa died, it meant a trip home to WV. There were stressful situations wrapped up in a last minute, 800-mile journey. There were unexpected things that happened, both terribly hurtful, and wonderfully healing. Out of this trip home though, first and foremost, came my deep desire to, oh, I don't know how else to express it - to focus, really re-focus, like a laser, on what I believe, what I live for. And that's Jesus. To glorify Him. To determine my purpose. Not to be distracted by the worries of this world. God is on the move...another catalyst for this all coming together was a close friend who, after years of fighting, finally found peace with God, and whoosh! - his life changed overnite, dramatically and for the better.

While I was pregnant with my second child last year, I felt a strong urge to read The Purpose Driven Life. I have started this book more times than I care to admit, but I've never completed it. I resisted at first because it seemed so trendy (stupid reasoning...rejecting something just because it's popular.) But again, I picked it up, made the pledge, and never followed through.

So - here's the deal. I really want to live productively. I've struggled lately to feel personal value because I've "just been staying home with the kids." This is ludicrous and ridiculous...this is some of the most important work that any human can do - to invest time and energy into his or her children. It is the world's lie to undervalue staying home with children. Nevertheless, that's how I've felt. But I've looked around...and I have to be honest: I am squandering time online that should be spent in prayer, or serving my family, or writing, or at least a dozen other things. SO - for the next 40 days - give or take a day or two - I'm unplugging from what has become my biggest timesucker - Facebook. I'm reading The Purpose Driven Life and I'm blogging on it. I hope that my ramblings are helpful - to you, to me. I pray that, at the end of this time, I'll have a better sense of purpose, of focus, of peace.

We'll see, eh?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking Inventory: The Jesus Model

From this week's message, 6 September 2009
Pastor Gary Powell, Oasis Christ Fellowship

We think being in balance is the natural state, when actually, it isn't. It is only by the grace of God that we would ever spend even one day in balance. It takes close relationship with Him to ensure we don't lean too far to the left or right in any area...

So, a good place to start, a good barometer to use, might just be to use Jesus as your model. WWJD and all that. But seriously, isn't that why we call ourselves Christians - because we're trying to be more and more like Him everyday, in everyway? To simplify even further, if you had to take one way we should be like Jesus, the Great Commission offers a handy starting place:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20

Well, that's a tall order, so maybe we can look at and learn from some of the ways that Jesus went about making disciples of men.

1. He led...by serving. There has been big buzz in the business world for years around the business philosophy of servant leadership. Essentially, in this model, leaders give priority to the needs of those they lead. Jesus modeled this behavior, and left it as an example for us to follow. Sure, we may not lay hands on blind men, and they'll see (then again, maybe we will); we might not have an opportunity to wash the feet of our friends (but perhaps, in our flip flop culture, we might want to revisit this custom.) But we can serve. We can be aware of needs, and we can meet them. Maybe it's not with money, because maybe you don't have a lot. Maybe it's a phone call. Or a pie. Or a ride. Or childcare. Or maybe, it's just being observant enough to know when someone needs prayer or encouragement. How might we impact our world if we just paid attention?

2. He led...by teaching. The cool thing - well, one of many cool things - about Jesus: He didn't show up one day, just demanding that everyone follow Him and fall at His feet because He was, you know, God. He spent time with people. He lived among them. He taught them about the kingdom and how to disciple by example. And He understood that humans are thickheaded with lots and lots of different learning styles. Some learned through sermons; others, through parables; still others needed a lesson driven home with an application, like a healing or a demonic deliverance. There might be an opportunity in everyday living to teach disciples through your words, through your actions, through your (God-given) wisdom.

3. He led...by loving. In John 13:35, Jesus reminds us that all men will know that we are His disciples if we love one another. Well sure. No problem. It's super easy to love other believers, all day, everyday. Riiight. So maybe we should ask for His help with this one. And maybe, when we're tempted not to love, or to call others out on their less-than-Jesus-like behavior...well, maybe just maybe we can think about when we've been unlovable...and when we were loved by others, and by God, regardless. This is important stuff, I think. Love is what makes the difference. Love is what so many people are searching for. Love and acceptance. To fill a void that they might not even know they have. Love instead of spewing hatred because someone stepped on our political toes. Love instead of griping when someone cuts us off. Love instead of dirty looks when someone that doesn't smell very good, or look very nice, comes too close. Love. Do you get that eternity is at stake? Seriously, how important will our present earthly circumstances really be 10,000 years from now?

So check your balance. Take an inventory. See how you measure up, and where you might need to commit anew to God. If you're anything like me, you can't go one day - sometimes even one hour - without calling out in prayer to focus and balance. It's a tall order, and we'll never make it in our own strength or wisdom. Good thing that we don't have to.