Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What a Homeless Man, Me, and John Piper have in common:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

I learn so much from my daughter.  This little 10 month old has so much to teach without even trying.  God uses her in so many ways to help me understand the things that He's been trying to teach me for, oh, about 28 years now.  

Last night my husband and I were praying together after we put her to bed.  When it was my turn to pray I found myself praying about her purpose.  I don't know where that came from, really, but the words just started spilling out of my mouth.  And as the words flowed from my mouth, the tears flowed from my eyes.  I realized that this is a topic that really strikes a cord for me.

Purpose.  You know, if you ask me, when it comes down to it I believe that's the one ingredient necessary for a healthy and meaningful life.  There is really nothing more important.  My prayer for this little girl is that she learns God's purpose for her life the moment she has the ability to understand what that even means. 

I want her to see that her purpose is so unique, so special, and so important.  I want her to understand that the God of this universe has a spotlight on her life and on her soul...she is His focus.  She is His love.  She is His life. 

I see so many teenagers and adults in my office that have never grasped their purpose.  They haven't even gotten a glimpse of it.  Not in their parent's eyes, not in the worlds eyes, and in turn, absolutely not in God's eyes.  For them, life is so broken, so painful, and so meaningless.  They don't understand that they have been created for significance.  They don't see that their life has indescribable value.  They don't fathom that God has plans for their life that are beyond what they could have ever hoped for.    

But, you see....that's the truth.  It's the God-honest truth.  It's the truth for my precious little baby, and it's the truth for my hurting clients.  It's the same truth for both the brilliant John Piper and for the homeless beggar that stands outside in the cold.  It's the same truth for you...and for me.

My prayer for you, precious reader- is that today, you catch a glimpse of His purpose.  Today, you see a glimmer of the great plans He has for your life.  Plans to give you hope.  Plans to give you a future.  Plans to take the joy that is in your life and use it for the encouragement of others.  Plans to take your seeds of suffering and pain and bring life to the dead world around you. 

Plans for you.  A purpose.  Will you receive it?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Watermelons, Elephants, and Major Sins:

Hebrews 12:1
...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles...

I bought a watermelon about a month ago.  

It looked so good in the store on a hot summer day, and I imagined cutting a slice outta that thing after dinner and letting it's sweet juice run down my face.

I put it in the fridge to cool until after dinner.  But for some reason, after the dishes had been put away and the pots and pans had been washed- I was really not in the mood to clean up one more mess, so I passed on slicing up the sweet treat.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or the day after that.  Or...the day after that. 

Four weeks later I bite into a slice of watermelon at someone's house and it triggers a thought- didn't I buy one of these?

I go home to my fridge, and there before my eyes sits the watermelon.  Huge as ever (and spoiled by now, might I add).  But somehow, I had gotten SO used to seeing that gigantic watermelon multiple times every day that I actually stopped noticing it.  It became a normal part of the background, until I hardly even realized it was there.  

I was sharing this story today as I was talking to a client of mine about the danger of getting so comfortable in our sin that it no longer becomes visible to our spiritual eyes.  That is the reality of how we function as human beings. 

We are so resilient and pliable that we can bounce back and conform to almost any situation.  But as life saving as those traits can be...they can also be permanently devastating.  To the man who gets so comfortable with the lust that has become the only excitement in his life.  To the woman who gets so numb to her addictive behaviors that they become a normalized part of her every day.  To the teenager who gets so acquainted with getting high as the only way to deal with his unpleasant emotions.  To the girl that finds her home in the toxic relationships that have taken over her heart. 

For those who get so comfortable with seeing their sin every single day, that they learn to become experts at learning to ignore it. 

It's time to come face to face with the elephant in the room.  It's time to recognize the sin in our lives that has outstayed it's welcome.  It's time to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Perfecter of our faith, and begin to recognize and throw off each and every sin that has so easily entangled us. 

Before it's too late.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More Junk In This Pile Than I Ever Imagined:

2 Corinthians 10:5
"...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

There are so many things that come to my mind when I think about obedience.  But the interesting thing is, none of them have to do with my thoughts.  I don't know about you but when I consider the word obedience I tend to find my mind gravitating toward actions: sexual purity, respect, kindness, fidelity, selflessness, honesty...the list could go on and on.

God has been demolishing my definition of obedience by taking my focus from the external to the internal.

You see, I started reading a book last week by Beth Moore called, "Get out of that Pit".   I've never read a book by her before, but I've heard great things about her, particularly from my Christian clients, so I decided to pick it up when I saw it on the sale rack the other day.  I thought, "This will be a good resource to have for my clients...especially the ones who are stuck in a pit".  Addictions, anger, lust, abuse...these are the kind of things I consider a pit.

But, God has a sense of humor.  The book that happened to be on sale last week had nothing to do with my clients...and everything to do with God's client: Me.

You see, I'm a work in progress.  Sometimes I pridefully forget that.  And ironically, that prideful forgetting is a testimony to the fact that God still has a LOT of work to do on me. Though I can be obeying him from the outside...true obedience has less to do with the external and more to do with my internal state.  My heart.  My thoughts.  My attitudes.

It's easy to look good on the outside.  The reality is that in our world, we've all grown accustomed to that.  It's part of wearing the mask.  Do good and you will be good.  But in God's world, there is so much more to it than that.  

The thing I realized this week is that my thoughts are seriously out of control.  Some days my internal world is so misaligned with the idea of obedience to Christ.  I mean, I get that he knows my heart and mind...but it's so much easier to hide that which is between you and God, and hidden from the rest of the world. 

God has really been challenging me to get real with my thoughts.  To share them with trusted friends, and ultimately, to share them with Him.  He's been asking me to weed through the junk that I've allowed myself to focus on and exchange it for truth.  Every bit of it.  And trust me, there's more junk in this pile than I ever imagined...

So, that's where I'm at.  Learning to take my inside and give God the opportunity to allow it to match my outside...I want to take off this mask once and for all.  I want to be real in every sense of the word.    How about you? 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Porn, Pain, Problems...and Grace:

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Nothing surprises me anymore.  I just learned of a highly respected man from this area who committed suicide, a doctor who was caught harboring child pornography, and a school administrator who was involved in drugs.  Add that to the list of problems and pain I see in my counseling office, and you'll quickly understand why my shock radar is completely dead.  Sexual abuse.  Drug addictions.  Theft.  Infidelity.  Compulsive Lying.  Self-mutilation. 

Nothing surprises me anymore.

Time and time again I've seen the evidence of our fallen human nature.  Men and women, seemingly put together on the outside- the house, the cars, the clothes- but behind their mask there hides the face of their own "fallenness". 

Sometimes I see things so extreme that I have a silly tendency to sit back and think, "How do people end up in such awful places?"  I get confused sometimes, as if I- by my own doing- have made the best choices in my life. 

But then Jesus gently reminds me of my own desperate need.  He reminds me that the only reason I am even surviving without the mask is because He has graciously taken it from me, and nailed it to the cross.  He reminds me that I, too, have the capacity for things far more horrid than this, and that I am only rescued by His grace. 

A grace that knows what I'm capable of, yet loves me still.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.   --  John Bradford

Monday, July 4, 2011

There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch:

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 

My best friend Jessie wrote something sweet today that made me stop and think.

"My economics teacher always said "There's no such thing as a free lunch." While I used to argue that, I now know that it's true. Freedom is never free, someone, somewhere, has to pay. Thanks to all the good soldiers who keep our country safe, all the people working in sweat shops to make all the "free gifts" that major corporations bribe us with, and thanks to Jesus whose sacrifice of his blood covers all our mess and makes it new and good! So much brokenness and so much good. Let's all celebrate by being a little sacrificial ourselves. Let's love!"

I really love what she had to say, because there is so much truth in it that can easily get forgotten.  Freedom isn't free.  There is always someone paying the price, and sometimes, the price is nothing small.

But what I love most about what she wrote is her response: Let's all celebrate by being a little sacrificial ourselves.  Let's love.

It is so easy to take our freedom for granted, but it is even easier to live a life of selfishness in response to the most selfless gift we have been given- the gift of freedom. 

Thank you, God, for freedom from our sin, our brokenness, and our shame.