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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Few Things I Just Love...and I Few I Don't

I just love it when...
  • you pray persistently about something and, voila, God works in mighty ways. Not that your prayers were magical or anything, but that our good and gracious God answered in such a visible way!
  • you get your hair cut and the hairdresser actually colors, cuts, and styles it very well. Usually mine (God love her...and I do too) only cuts and colors it well. I have to come home and re-style it myself. Today I hit a hair trifecta!
  • my child calls with good news, as opposed to bad news..."Mommmmm...."
  • you gain energy throughout the day rather than lose it.
I don't love...
  • helping my daughter change the water in her fish bowl.
  • when you can't figure out what is causing that terrible stink in the kitchen!
  • when you forget to go to something that you were really looking forward to.
What do you love? Or not love?

Monday, November 29, 2010

What Do You Know?

Have you ever taken one of the many quizzes or little tests that are meant to help you know yourself better? You know the ones:
  • Where you examine your lipstick to see what it's worn shape says about you--you're mysterious and hold your cards close to your chest because your lipstick is pointed or you're bold and outgoing because your lipsstick is flat and worn straight across.
  • Where you find out if you're an introvert or extrovert by the colors of clothing you wear, fabrics you decorate your home with, and foods you eat.
  • Where you determine the best kind of vacation for you by examining the books on your bookshelf, the socks in your sock drawer, and the fruit in your fruit bin.
  • Or where choose the kind of man you should marry based on the kind of coffee you like to drink--bold and robust or rich and smooth...
I've certainly taken my share of those tests in my day...more so in my Glamor magazine college days than in recent years. The editors of Southern Living and Southern Lady don't seem to have caught on to the value of such questionnaires. But I've evaluated my colors, my lipstick shapes, my favorite ways to spend a Friday night, and my handwriting enough to know that whether or not these things actually indicate anything about me, the editors of those magazines and the creators of those tests certainly know how to craft a questionnaire so as to make me consistently fall into the same one of four types of people.

In other words, the tests don't really help me know myself better, but they certainly help sell vacation time shares, lipsticks, sweaters, romance novels, and even cars--whatever the generator of said quiz is pushing.

The truth is knowing ourselves is a somewhat convenient and helpful skill to aid us in navigating life's little decisions. The better we understand our personality, temperament or learning style, the better we might handle relationships, school, or a job search. So it is wise to do some self-evaluation occasionally...though there are probably better ways than looking at the shape of your lipstick.

On the other hand, if we really want to be successful at this life, navigating it wisely, skillfully, and with integrity, we're better off with a different kind of knowledge.

This is what the Lord says:
The wise must not boast in his wisdom;
the mighty must not boast in his might;
the rich must not boast in his riches.
But the one who boasts should boast in this,
that he understands and knows Me--
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord's declaration.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24)

The world would have us stay absorbed in finding ourselves, exploring our human nature, learning more about how we operate. God would have us focus on getting to know Him. And not just knowing about Him, mind you, but really getting to know Him. 

I've taken enough silly little quizzes to know they are a waste of time. If I'd spent the same amount of time contemplating my God that I have spent trying to know myself, trying to understand human nature, and trying to figure out other people, then I'd be a lot more prepared for life's twists and turns. After all, while I'll never really understand my crazy emotions, unpredictable behaviors, and mixed up thinking, God completely gets me. And although I'm no closer to understanding men than before I married one, God knows them through and through. And while my children seem to change almost daily, one day seeming more grown up and the very next seeming to revert to their childish ways, God is never taken by surprise with their mind-boggling antics.

He gets people; I just need to get Him.

Whew! Kind of takes a load off, doesn't it?

As Christmas approaches, I think it's a good time to focus on getting to know my God...reflecting on His character, mulling over His ways, and meditating on His words to me. Won't you join me in getting to know our God?

I promise, no silly quizzes are involved :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Baaaaack!

I had a splendid trip to Georgia to visit with my parents, but I don't think I've ever been so excited about coming home! Georgia put on a beautiful autumn show for me with all the colors I've missed for over 17 years (can you believe that!?!), my parents doted on me suitably, my mom and I had a great visit to our little country estate--the Biltmore mansion--, I enjoyed seeing so many friends and family members, I got to teach my mom's Sunday school class one Sunday, and I had a super turnout for my Coffee with the Author two Saturdays ago.

But...as Thanksgiving approached, I began to get excited about preparing my own home for the big holiday, making our traditional Thanksgiving feast, and spending quality time with my own nuclear family of four--the one that doesn't revolve quite so tightly around it's nucleus anymore, but will be restricted to the confines of my watchful eye for at least a day or two later this week. I was one happy mama getting on that airplane and heading back to my corner of the world.

Then I walked in the door of my house.

Sure, the thrill of my homecoming stuck with me a little longer as I kissed on my beautiful daughter, petted the doggies who obviously had come to bitter terms with my disappearance and were overjoyed to see me, and settled into the familiarity of home. But as I began to look around at the house, my joy turned into dismay then weariness and then frustration. My house was, is, a mess. And I had gone from excited to overwhelmed in just minutes.

Now I am praying about my attitude and trying to get on board with enthusiasm again. It's amazing how quickly our attitudes can change, isn't it? When circumstances drive our emotions they can take us on a fast and furious ride of ups and downs.

But we can choose to stay off that roller coaster. We don't have to be people who are up when all our ducks are in a row and then quickly out of sorts when our ducks get away from us. We can resist the temptation to be mastered by our emotions. How? By being led by the Spirit instead.

It's a choice--letting the Spirit be in control, that is. He's there, but we can take over, or, worse yet, let our emotions take over. Or we can yield to Him and allow Him to produce love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in and through us.

I came home with joy, but my messy house drained me clean of it in a matter of minutes. I came home ready to do a little good and be a little kind, but that left too as I stewed over the mess I had not made but now had to clean up. And self-control was hanging in the balance, ever so tentatively, ever so fragile.

But I've chosen to yield to the Holy Spirit this morning. I'm going to get up from here and dwell on Truth, serve my family with the love of Jesus, and allow Him to infuse me with His enthusiasm...because mine has waned. And I am convinced that He will restore my joy, give me a rekindled love for my family, help me do a little good, and keep me under control.

Do you ever have to take your nasty emotions to the Lord like a ripped garment or a broken necklace and ask Him to fix them? Do you ever feel yourself sinking and cry out to Him so you won't end up at the bottom of the pit of self pity? Boy howdy, I do! (Can you tell I've spent some time in Georgia?)

So here's to living and walking in the Spirit today! Here's to letting Him infuse me with something good instead of me wallowing in something putrid. And here's to whipping this house into shape with a little love and joy!

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time for My Georgia Fix

I'm heading out on a jet plane for Georgia today. It's time to spend some quality time with my parents and get my fill of tall pine trees, a little humidity, Mama's cooking, and people who talk just like me! I may post once or twice during my Southeast ramblings, but I'm not promising anything. Still, I wanted you to know what I was up to and that I hadn't left the country...just the state.

Take care dear bloggy friends. I hope you're still here when I return!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Does It Matter?

I read those words this morning in the Bible, of all places. Doesn't that surprise you a little too? "What does it matter?" Paul asked in Philippians 1:18. Indeed.

I'm the first to admit that I can get in a big wad over the silliest and most unworthy concerns. Can you relate?

I've found that I'm especially prone to waddiness over things that affect me personally somehow. "How will that make me look? How does that affect my schedule? What will people think about me if we do that? How come I don't have one of those?" You get the picture.

But surprisingly Paul was in just such a situation as he wrote the church in Philippi. He had found out that some people were preaching the gospel, just like him, and being esteemed as wise men of God, just like him, and experiencing kingdom success with their preaching, just like him, but doing their preaching with all the wrong motives, unlike him. And there were undoubtedly people around Paul who were even goading Paul on to adapt my normal attitude of "How does that make me look?" That's why Paul was addressing this issue in his letter.

But, unlike me, Paul simply said, "What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed."

Paul got himself out of his own way and focused on the big picture instead--something very hard for most of us to do. Why is that? Because if we habitually focus on ourselves, we soon grow (in our own minds, at least) to be bigger than the big picture! We become our own big, fat, faulty picture!

And when you are the big picture, it's awfully hard to say "What does it matter?" because then everything matters a whole lot more than it really should.

On the other hand, when we look for God in the situations of our lives, we're more likely to see the big picture correctly and we're also prone to realize how little some things matter. Especially the things that seemingly affect us. We realize, as Max Lucado says, "It's not all about me."

Is there something going on in your life today that you've been focusing on from the wrong perspective? Have you been looking at how it affects you instead of how God is working in it? Has your clouded vision magnified the issues to the point that you're hyperventilating over things that really don't deserve even a fretful moment? Are you trying to play god in the situation? Does it have you in a wad?

I'm not inferring that there isn't anything worthy of our concern, but even those things are handled better through prayer than through our anxious stewing. Before we get in a wad over something, even something that seems as worthy of our waddiness as false teachers or evil motives, we'd be better off to ask the true God, "Does this matter to You? Is there anything I need to be doing about it? Or do You have it under control?" My bet is that 99% of the time God would impress upon our sweet little misguided hearts that He's got it "taken care of, but thanks for asking." Other times He might give us a simple instruction to do something proactive, but I can absolutely guarantee you that whatever He tells us to do will involve love, grace, forgiveness, and humility. Jesus didn't let John and James call for fire to rain down from heaven, and He's not about to let us solve our problems that way either.

Here's the bottom line. Most of us, including me, need to get out of our wads. We need to get ourselves out of the picture, take a closer look at the "big picture," shrug our shoulders and say, "What does it matter?"

Does it matter to God? If it does, talk with Him about it. If it just matters to me, I might better just take myself out of the picture so I can see things more clearly.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Are You An Eccentric Christian?

It's kind of hip to be eccentric these days. No one wants to be run-of-the-mill or ordinary, so eccentric sounds like a nice option. Quirky, unusual, a little odd.

But when applied to the Christian, eccentric is not the enviable label. While the term eccentric has taken on such acceptable meanings as "a little quirky, out of the normal, and a little unusual, especially in a funky and nostalgic sort of way," the word actually means "to be out of the center, not centered."

When we begin to focus on that which is not really the priority, that which is peripheral, we become "off centered." When we become consumed with that which looks large, but really isn't, we become off kilter. When we become obsessed with those things that are really trivial and unimportant in the greater scheme of things, we become...well, eccentric.

It's easy to get life out of focus. To dwell on that which we can see, that which looms large in our immediate scope of vision, that which yells the loudest to get our attention. It's easy to become so focused on our own problems, our own schedules, our own goals, and our own pursuits, that we become blinded to all else.

I know I find myself off-center on a regular basis. Like a fish hugging the shore line of a large pond, I swim in the shallow water of my own self-absorption, my own "overwhelming" situations, my own concerns. At that point I easily forget the deeper things that can only be found in a well centered life.

Isaiah 40:22 says:

God is enthroned above 
the circle of the earth;
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.

This small verse in the huge book of Isaiah reminds me that God is at the center of all things in reality. He is the center. He is center. He is. I, on the other hand, am like a grasshopper. That doesn't mean that I'm so small as to be insignificant. God even knows intimately the hairs on my head, the grains of sand on the shore, the stars in the sky. I imagine He knows the grasshoppers outside on my back patio pretty well too. So this verse isn't calling me and my stuff and my life and my concerns insignificant. 

It's just putting them in proper perspective.

God is enthroned above it all. And me and mine are like grasshoppers. 

So what's a gal to do when she finds herself living as an eccentric Christian, one who has gotten things a little out of perspective? What are we to do when we realize we've been looking at our little personal world through the magnifying glass of self-absorption while the truly important things have been getting lost in our peripheral vision?

Do what Selwyn Hughes suggests and, "See how great and powerful God is. Set your problems in the context of His omnipotence."

I suggest we spend some time reflecting on God's power, God's unlimited ability, God's sovereignty, and God's purposes. When we do, we'll feel ourselves moving back toward the center, back toward the deep middle, back where we really belong.

It may be cute to be an eccentric professor, artist, or woman down the street. But there's nothing stylish or hip about being an eccentric Christian. Let's stay in the center where God is enthroned and our lives can be seen with proper perspective.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And When You Vote...

Don't forget to vote today. I just did.

I forgot my glasses and so now I have a headache. I don't know if it's from reading the small print, from trying to navigate my way through the many initiatives, ammendments, and questions on the ballot, or from stewing over my decisions. Nothing a Diet Coke can't cure, I'm sure.

But I'm doing more than voting today. I'm praying too. Praying for God's will to be done, for people to get out and vote, and for the wise and godly to have victory. And while I'm at it, I'm committing to being more diligent to pray for my country and it's leadership on a more regular basis. It wouldn't be a bad idea to pray more for my state and local government as well.

So when you vote today, don't forget to pray as well.