Thursday, January 31, 2008
As I watched it again the other night, I noticed something for the first time. In the montage that accompanies the opening song "Tradition" all of the flashes are of jewish religious iconography: tabernacles, places of worship, acts of worship and the torah. This was significant to me because what the song and imagery was saying was that the tradition upon which they based their lives was based on the word and worship of God.I can't say that about my traditions. As a New Orleans native, I live in a culture steeped in tradition...little of which has anything to do with God, his word or his worship.
I remember when I first became a Christian, the forsaking of these traditions was to me the first natural order of business. This was also the real problem my parents had with my conversion. They were cherished traditions, held by generation after generation in my family. New Years is a time to get as drunk as possible and then eat black eyed peas and cabbage the next day. Mardi Gras was as obligatory as church on Christmas and Easter, and also required one to get as drunk as possible while their children were perched precariously on their shoulders or atop a rickety, unstable ladder seat. Easter was about crawfish and egg pocking...and lots of beer.
So pretty much our tradition was drinking. Birthday parties, government holidays, sunday afternoon football games, we'd find a reason to celebrate...a lot.
When I became a believer, I did't refuse to participate in family functions, just all of the other things that went along with them. And if the family function coincided with church, I showed up late...much to their chagrin.
I didn't like upsetting my family, but I'd been grafted into a holy family, a royal priesthood and I was adopting new traditions.
In his opening song/montage, Tevye goes on to talk a bit about this very thing. He says that because of God's word "everyone knows who He is and what God expects of Him."
My traditions told me what everyone else expected of me, but gave me no clue as to who I was, really, or what God had to say. It flew in the face of that very thing, and when I came to God and begain to walk in the traditions and precepts He set forth, it flew in the face of my old traditions.
This is a difficult transition, but a necessary one for anyone who calls himself "Christian."
What do your traditions say? To whom do they speak? Of whom do they speak? Do they tell you who you are and what God expects of you?It would be wise for each of us take these questions and a pliable heart to the Lord and see what He has to say.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
"Your heavenly Father."—Matthew 6:26.
GOD'S people are doubly His children, they are His offspring by creation, and they are His sons by adoption in Christ. Hence they are privileged to call Him, "Our Father which art in heaven." Father! Oh, what precious word is that. Here is authority: "If I be a Father, where is mine honour?" If ye be sons, where is your obedience? Here is affection mingled with authority; an authority which does not provoke rebellion; an obedience demanded which is most cheerfully rendered—which would not be withheld even if it might. The obedience which God's children yield to Him must be loving obedience. Do not go about the service of God as slaves to their taskmaster's toil, but run in the way of His commands because it is your Father's way. Yield your bodies as instruments of righteousness, because righteousness is your Father's will, and His will should be the will of His child. Father!—Here is a kingly attribute so sweetly veiled in love, that the King's crown is forgotten in the King's face, and His sceptre becomes, not a rod of iron, but a silver sceptre of mercy—the sceptre indeed seems to be forgotten in the tender hand of Him who wields it. Father!—Here is honour and love. How great is a Father's love to his children! That which friendship cannot do, and mere benevolence will not attempt, a father's heart and hand must do for his sons. They are his offspring, he must bless them; they are his children, he must show himself strong in their defence. If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care, how much more does our heavenly Father? Abba, Father! He who can say this, hath uttered better music than cherubim or seraphim can reach. There is heaven in the depth of that word—Father! There is all I can ask; all my necessities can demand; all my wishes can desire. I have all in all to all eternity when I can say, "Father." -- Charles Spurgeon
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I’m making room for my joy
And I choose
To be the best that I can be
To be courageous in everything I do
My past don’t dictate who I am I choose...(From “I Choose” by India.Aire)
Choose ye this day whom you will serve…(Joshua 24:15)
“I live a small life, [worthless and] small.” That quote starts out being Meg Ryan’s character in “You’ve Got Mail” and ends up me. In my mind, what would make it valuable (which is what she actually said) would be marriage and family.
It’s been that way as long as I can remember…every day was supposed to be one step closer to where I really needed to be. But, it wasn’t long into my teenage years that I began to feel like every day was a step away. I wasn’t pretty enough (step back). I was overweight (‘nother step back). Not a lot of people seemed to like me (Yet another step back). If I couldn’t fix these things, I thought, I’ll never get married.
This thought became the driving force of my life…and discouragement after each failed attempt to change myself to get someone to love me fueled my depression and gluttony.
Then I became a Christian and thought, “This must be what God was waiting for! He wants to give me a godly man who will love me no matter what is wrong with me!” Joy! Bliss! Euphoria! …for about as long as it took me to get back into real life and see that I was just as unappealing to the opposite sex as I had been before my conversion.
Since then, it’s been a battle between what I know about God (He is sovereign, He is for me, He is good) and what my present reality seems to say about my future. And two weeks ago, the Lord showed me that, regardless of what I say I believe and know about God, I have no faith for my future. I believe He is sovereign and for and good to everyone but me.
That knocks the wind out of me, still.
I’m thankful that it does. In truth, ugly and painful though this reality of my heart may be, it is God’s grace to me. He reveals so he can deal and then heal. He showed me this, flattened me with it more like, because he doesn’t want me to stay here. He wants me to really, truly, finally be free.
Free of what?
Fear of disappointment.
I am terrified of being disappointed. So much so that I do whatever I can to avoid it or insulate myself from it or disappoint myself because it doesn’t hurt as much as being disappointed by others. Hence the “small” life…small, in the corner, or worse…at home when I should be out living. I hide behind serving, work, babysitting, chores, money, rest…you name it, I’ll hide there!
What does that kind of life say about my God?
God doesn’t want us to hide. He wants us set on a hill, shining brightly for Him. He wants us fearless, confident in His sovereignty, goodness, power and love.
Enter the song “I Choose”, which is quoted above. Now, it is not a Christian song, but the Lord has, nonetheless, used it to reinforce what He has been showing me and minister to me.
"I choose to be the best that I can be. I choose to be courageous in everything. I choose…my past don’t dictate who I am. I choose."
I choose to hold my cup up to the Lord and gratefully receive my portion for today.
I choose to leave tomorrow to Him.
I choose to thank Him for giving and taking away.
I choose to stop waiting for something that has not been promised to me.
I choose to live the life the Lord has ordained for me now.
I choose to drop the bags of fear and worry and doubt and faithlessness and make room for HIS joy…which is full and overflowing and never ceasing and beyond understanding.
I choose, this day, to serve the Lord…whether I ever have a “me and my house.”
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
In college, “that guy” for me was Thomas. We were at school together for 3 years. We took many of the same classes and had lunch at the same time and shared many mutual friends. We both lived on campus and walked everywhere. We both studied in the library. We were both friendly with our professors. But for the better part of those three years, we barely said more than “Hi” to one another. Then, during his last semester, we started talking and imaginary Thomas was replaced by real Thomas. I was wrong about most everything I assumed about him.
I think Christ is like that for a lot of people. He’s always around. People talk about him. Movies depict his life. Songs are composed about his character. Authors write books detailing their perceptions of and encounters with Him. And some think they know Him from this peripheral type of encounter. But, as my experience with Thomas proves, you really can’t know someone until you’ve been with them, talked with them, been invited into their life or invited them into yours.
With my friend Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised by his actual personality, but how many people have I dismissed or disliked on casual observation…and felt justified in doing so? It seems that many people do that with Christ. They gather information, mostly accidentally or haphazardly, and then form an opinion. For some it leads to false conversion, for others, ignorant rejection…both have grave and eternal consequences.
Yet, despite this, despite the flightiness and ignorance and rebellion, God roams to and fro across the earth, seeking hearts, pursuing the rebel and loving his enemies. He loves us because He loves us. His pursuit and affection are not based on some bent in us toward him or any redeeming quality, neither is it deterred by our aversion to him.
Isn’t that just wonderful?
Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I was an ignorant rejecter of Christ. I thought I knew all there was to know about Him, and the scientific/historical evidence refuting His deity. I was puffed up with knowledge, yet still searching for something bigger than myself. But, as it turned out, I had rejected a perception - a rejection that was just as real and weighty, however.
As he was roaming to and fro across the earth one day in July of 1994, He stopped at room 310 in Babington Hall on the campus of Nicholls State University in the small town of Thibodaux, Louisiana. There, not only was my perception of Christ changed, but so was I…and I am forever grateful. But every day since, it has been a fight to keep what I believe about God in the reality of who He is, based on my time with Him and what He says in His word and not other’s opinions, circumstances or feelings. Our hearts are so prone to wanderings and change in affection, but He is steadfast and faithful. And that is the most wonderful thing, of all, don’t you think?
Friday, January 18, 2008
When I was a child, our family vacations consisted of driving to Mississippi to spend the weekend at my great aunt Bel’s camp. The camp was a single wide trailer on a huge piece of land. Between her property and the neighbor’s (about a mile away), there was a pond and a creek. It was paradise to me. In the evenings we would light a fire and stare through the darkest dark I’d ever seen up to the night sky as God intended it to look, strewn with as many stars as there are grains of sand on the beach.
Often, the fire would begin to die down and Dad would send us to look for kindling. My brothers and I would run around in the dark looking for every stick and twig and thick weed we could gather. It was like finding treasure because kindling meant fire, which meant marshmallows and hot dogs and s’mores and sometimes bamboo shoots and coke cans and other things that were fun to burn.
I don’t think there is ever any other context in my life when I looked so joyfully upon a dry, brittle stick. When I see them now, lying beneath trees or on the sidewalks or next to curbs, I think of them as mess to be swept away. And when my heart is dry and brittle, my response is much the same. But dry sticks are easier to sweep away than a dry and hard heart.
In those moments when we feel the dryness and dullness toward the Lord, it is easy to become discouraged and skulk away from His presence, waiting for it to just go away. But our God is a consuming fire, and our dry hearts are easily ignited kindling waiting for the flame of God to set it ablaze. That flame can’t spark the kindling from a distance, we must run into it!
Oh Lord, help us to run!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
JOY is the lesson set for some,
For others pain best teacher is;
We know not which for us shall come,
But both are Heaven's high ministries. -- Susan Collidge
Once upon a time there was a blog named "FinallyFreeInHim". It was created by a woman who had a testimony...a testimony of freedom. See, for years prior to the blog's creation, this blogger was in prison. This prison was not one of concrete and bars and bullet-proof glass but it was prison just the same. Her bricks and mortar were fear, gluttony, pride, and hopelessness and her cell was constructed in protest against the hand life...God...had dealt her. Within the cell, she was in charge. Though a doomed fate might be her's she was going to take and do and fill herself with whatever she could here and now...and shed as many indignant tears as she liked.
Then there was light...
This light flooded the cell, strewn with the remnants of self-pity and self-gratification, revealing her refuge as a prison. The light also cut through the mess...the sin and shame...and pointed to a way out, to the true refuge.
She reveled in her new life. For the first time, she felt loved, she felt accepted, she felt hope. But it wasn't long before her thoughts, her motives, her goals and priorities began to creep in, making her refuge seem darker and colder than it had been, until she felt alone again, with only fear and gluttony and pride and hopelessness to comfort her.
That blogger is me, if you haven't already figured that out. That is my story...sorta. But, that is not the end.
Over the past few months, I've wrestled with how to address my failure and sin. I made my testimony public. I made great claims and believed God had completely delivered me from gluttony and despair. My current situation begs to call someone a liar, but the truth is I am a sinner and God has been pleased to humble me...and He gives grace to the humble.
I don't, and can't, know more than that.
Except perhaps that the Lord has promised to give me "a hope and a future" and that He is no liar. And that He is good...and knows the plans He has for me...and that nothing that has been was done/allowed without cause. He's also shown me that he has called me to do nothing more and nothing less than surrender all that I am to Him and His ways.
Here's hoping for grace upon grace...and a life more surrendered today than it was yesterday.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
So...on New Year's Eve, I decided to stay at home and take some time to really get before the Lord. I wanted a fresh start, a fresh perspective, and a renewed heart. Later, I'll share a little about what I got, but in the meantime here's a little something that was too good not to pass on...
I recieved this via e-mail from Nancy Leigh DeMoss at Revive Our Hearts.
Ten Questions for the New Year
1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?