Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Good Lookin' Grass:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

I'm on a roller coaster ride with contentment.  Looking back, it seems as though it's a topic that I write about every couple of months.  And the reality of this blog is that though my readers may find themselves getting something out of it- I don't write for them...I write for me. 

It's a place to hash through my struggles and my victories.  A place to give outlet to my thoughts and accountability to my spirituality.  Which means one thing about my frequency of visiting this topic: I wrestle with contentment a lot. 

I'm sure there are those of you out there who can relate.  The cliche, "The grass is always greener on the other side" probably wouldn't exist if this was not a universal struggle.

A couple weeks ago I found myself, once again, in the boxing ring with contentment.  Everyone's grass was looking pretty good right around then.  I found myself daydreaming about where I would rather be and what I would rather be doing. Imagining what it would be like to walk in their shoes.  And slowly but surely, the feelings of discontent and insecurity started sneaking in. 

My negative thoughts offered them a crack in which to seep through and start coating my life with discontent.

I once read a book about the topic of contentment.  One chapter included letters from 3 college friends who were keeping in touch 15 years after graduation.  One was a single, successful business woman.  The other, a stay at home mommy of 3, and the third going back to finish her education since her children were grown and in school. 

The series of letters were essentially a running list of complaints- each woman looking at the lives of her friends as "better than" her own.  The single woman wished she had a family to call her own.  The stay at home mommy wished she was out working, using her degree and making money.  And the third wished she would have already finished her education like her other two friends.  The letters went on and on but ultimately unveiled the discontent in each of their hearts.

The unfortunate thing about that chapter is the fact that, essentially, that becomes real life if we're not careful.  I don't want the letter of my life to be full of wishes and wants.  God has placed me where I am in this season of my life because I am CALLED to be here.  There is purpose traced through every single hour of every single day if I choose to look for it.

At times, that purpose is writing an article for a magazine, counseling clients, or speaking about important topics.  But at other times, that purpose is watching my daughter splatter applesauce all over her face while trying to feed herself, changing a dirty diaper, or loading the dishwasher. 

God's purpose for our lives is in everything, and it can never be calculated by what we are accomplishing on the outside, but on who we are becoming on the inside.  Watching God at work in our lives can never be boring.  Seeing him take our lifeless lump of clay lives and turn them into majestic and beautiful art is a process that unfolds each and everyday...if we will only notice.   

And as we watch this labor of love, and see God's will unfold in our lives, we will find ourselves rejoicing always...and giving thanks continually.  We will find that at the end of our day, this is the only way to find true contentment.   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Get Robbed:

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?

Lately I’ve been camping out in the story of Moses.  It’s amazing how reading the bible in different seasons of life brings out a whole new meaning and perspective to even the most familiar passages. 

This was one of those new seasons for me.  I’m reading the story of Moses.  I’ve probably read it over a dozen times, and watched the Charleston Heston version on TV over 25 times.  But this time I noticed something that I have never noticed before: Moses got robbed.

I don’t mean tangibly, in a monetary way.  I mean spiritually.  You see, God himself appeared to Moses through a burning bush.  God himself.  I can’t say I have that kind of experience on a daily basis. 

But as though that were not enough, God offered Moses something.  He offered him Himself.  “I will help you speak…I will teach you what to say…”.  Funny thing is, for Moses- that wasn’t enough.

He wanted the tangible.  He wanted help he could see, and feel, and touch.  He wanted assurance in human things, in familiar things, in physical things.  And at the end of the exchange, Moses exchanged the direct help of God himself…for the help of his brother Aaron. 

The funny thing is, I never really saw this passage that way before.  It completely boggles my mind.  I’m thinking, “Seriously, Moses?  Seriously?  You would rather have the help of your random brother than the help of God himself?”  It made no sense to me in the moment.  How foolish.  How weak.  How lacking in faith. 

But, like usual as I’m reading God’s word…the tables are turned.  “What about you, Deb?  I offer you myself every day, and many days that is not enough.”

And God was right.

There are so many days and seasons in my life where I am trying to believe, longing for faith, longing for more of God…and wanting some extra assurance on the side.

That extra financial boost, that relationship, that apology from a friend, that test grade, that approval.  There are so many times that I want the tangible more than I want the spiritual.  And just like Moses, that exchange is always a poor and pitiful choice.

You see, when we are relying on the tangible, we are missing so much of what God wants to do with us.  We are missing intimacy with Him in a powerful way.  An intimacy that can only come with Him guiding, Him leading, Him whispering in our ear.  Him speaking to us, and Him teaching us. 

But instead, we opt for what we can see, what we can feel, what we can touch.  We opt for the familiar.  And in the end, we, like Moses, get robbed.  We get robbed of knowing God in a deep and powerful way.  We get robbed of the opportunities to grow in our faith, in our trust, and in our reliance on Him and Him alone.

God didn’t argue with Moses.  He got angry at his lack of faith.  He was probably hurt by it.  But he didn’t get angry.  Instead, he gave him the tangible instead.  He allowed Moses to choose whether he would have more of God, or more of what was comfortable.

What about you?  What assurances are you holding on to that are taking the place of God?  What tangible things are you leaning on when you should be leaning on Him? 

May we have faith to let go of the tangible, and exchange them for more the supernatural.  For more of Him. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do I really believe this stuff?

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

My belief in this verse and my confidence in the God of these words was put to the test last week.  My husband and I drove out to visit a dear relative suffering from a terrible illness.  We went to help, we hoped to encourage.  But somehow when you choose to bless others, you are always humbled at the way that you yourself are blessed by them. 

In this situation, this was especially true.

I've always imagined the thought of losing a loved one to illness or death.  Whenever I hear of someone struggling physically, it always seems to darken my spirit.  Ironically, I'm a therapist who deals with some of the most emotionally painful situations a human being should never have to go through.  But at the end of the day, there is always hope in the emotional.  There is always a chance for healing, for those who want it.

Physical pain, on the other hand, seems to make me feel a little more helpless.  There is only so much that can be done.  Doctors are incredible, and God is the great Healer- but ultimately, our mortal bodies are slaves to this thing called the grave.  Our bodies are temporary.  And one day our spirits will find a new home.  An eternal home. 

As freeing as this thought is to the believer in Christ- it also carries a tremendous amount of sadness.  I struggle with the truth that our bodies are just bodies...and one day they will see their last breath.  That means my body, as well.  But even more difficult for me, is the though of one day losing those I love.  My parents.  My friends. My husband. 

Just thinking about this reality can strike a chord of panic in me.  Serious panic. 

But something about experiencing this specific situation of suffering second-hand really challenged me to ask myself:  Do I really believe this stuff?

It's easy to talk, but when difficult situations come a long the reality of our commitment to God is really tested.  Would my relationship come through it?  Would I be able to uphold my end of the bargain and love Him, trust Him, and believe in Him no matter what?

I've struggled with that thought for years.  I read the story of Job and think- seriously??  Who can have that kind of attitude in the face of utter despair?  I doesn't even seem realistic.  "Though he slay me, yet I will trust Him".  I hardly feel that and my life is nothing compared to the difficulties that others go through. 

But, I learned some serious lessons spending time with my family last weekend, specifically, with my cousin who I have come to love and respect greatly.  I watched her in the midst of the most horrific struggle she will ever undergo and I learned this profound lesson: God gives us just what we need...just when we need it.  Not a moment before, and not a moment after.   He has blessed her with a grace and a peace far beyond anything I have experienced in a long time.  He has given her a strength that caused me to step back and take inventory of my own faith.  He comes through with a peace that doesn't even make any sense. I've seen it with my cousin, and I've seen it numerous times in the lives of friends and loved ones. 

Don't get me wrong...there are moments of sheer pain.  There are times of sorrow, sin, and struggle.  But at the end of the day I am encouraged beyond belief to know that my God is going to meet me where I am at, just when I need Him to.  He did it for them, and He does it for countless others...and I know He will do it for me.  I can count on that. 

I don't have to muster up strength in preparation for the difficult times...what a terrible life that would be.  In the Exodus, God provided manna to feed the starving Israelites.  Every day he would provide for them just what they needed.  He even asked them to only take what they needed for that day, requiring them to trust Him again for tomorrow.

And so He will do the same for my starving heart when the need is there.  He will provide nourishment for my hungry spirit just as He promised he would.  I believe this.  And when I don't  feel it, I choose to believe it.  If He is God....He can be trusted.