Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Raw Emotion

There is nothing like a good Psalm to adjust your attitude. Tonight I had to drive my daughter to her second counseling session. Against her will. She didn't want to go. As a matter-of-fact.. she said that if I made her go that she would just sit there and say nothing. The drive up there was anything BUT enjoyable. She screamed... I screamed... she cried... I tried not to cry. I know that this is the right thing to do, but making her go through the pain of it is not quite so easy. It is painful for me too.

I told the counselor when we arrived that she didn't want to come... and then I went to the bathroom to get on my face before the Lord and beg for his intervention. After I poured out my heart to Him... I headed for the lobby to wait. Something just kept telling me to go to Psalm 103. Now... lest you think that it just popped into my head out of nowhere... it didn't. I have spent some time in the past memorizing this Psalm. I know most of it by heart. As I read through it over and over... these lines kept jumping off the page to me...

"who redeems your life from the pit; and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

I started really praying those verses for my daughter.... and God impressed upon my heart not to stop with just those two verses... personalize the whole thing!! So this is how my Psalm 103 went...

"Praise the Lord O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His Holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
I will not forget all of your benefits-

You can and will forgive all of our sins;
You heal all of our sin sick diseases,

You can redeem any life from the pit-
You are able to then crown them with love and compassion,

Father, you will satisfy all our desires with your good things- if we will let you;
You can renew our youth like that of the eagle's,

Lord, you work ALL for your righteousness;
and you bring justice for the hurt and oppressed,

You will make your ways known to those that love and seek you;
You show your wonderful deeds to your people too,

Father, you are compassionate and gracious to us;
You are slow to anger- I want to be like you,
You are abounding in love- fill my heart with it too,

You are not our accuser;
when you are angry you do not harbor it long,

Thankfully, you do not treat me as my sins deserve;
You have not repaid me according to my iniquities,

For as high as your heavens are above the earth that you created;
so great is your love for me and Jenna,

As far as the east is from the west;
so far you will remove our sins from your mind- if only we will ask you to.

As a Father should show compassion to his earthly children;
Your compassion for those that love and seek you is even greater,

You know how feeble we are... how we are formed;
You know that we came from the dust,

Our days are like the grass;
it can flourish like a flower in the field one day and be gone the next,

From everlasting to everlasting is your love is FOR me and FOR Jenna,
if only she will receive it,

You will be my righteousness, and it is for my children as well;
Please help me to keep my covenant to you and obey your precepts,

Lord, your throne is established in heaven;
and you rule in your kingdom over all,

Praise the Lord you angels;
you might ones that He created to do his bidding,

Praise the Lord all of you heavenly host;
you are His servants and you do His will,

Praise the Lord all of His works... all that He has made;
and please allow me to join in...

Praise you Lord, Praise you Lord!!... with all that I have and all that I am." Amen

Well... after that I was emotionally spent. I then started to work on my Bible study lesson. Of course it is a Beth Moore study... Living Beyond Yourself. She told a story of her daughter needing her help in the bathtub one night... her daughter said,

"last week I found a small knot in the back of my hair, and I tried to get it out with the brush. It hurt so much that I quit. Every day it's gotten bigger and bigger and now look!!! In the back, nearly all of her very thick, long hair was in a huge knot. The knot was so big and tight I could not imagine any other solution but scissors; yet I would have had to cut her hair to the scalp. I could not believe the mess. I sat down beside her, asking God for patience, and began to brush... one hair at a time! I tried to hold her hair as tight as I could so that she would not feel it pull, but finally the knot was too close for me to fit my hand between it and her head. The tears streamed down her cheeks. I asked, "Do you want me to stop?" "No, mommy. If you do I'll never get it out. Keep brushing." It took us many minutes to get through those tangles, and those minutes seemed like hours. Totally submitted to untangling the mess she was in, she rested her head in my lap and endured the pain. Her tears were not those of resistance. They were tears of submission: knowing that the end was worth the means."

Well.... thank you Father. I will endure this pain every week if need be. I so want you to untangle this mess that has grown into such a huge knot of rebellion, anger, hate, and hurt. I know that it is really her hair that is being brushed... but somehow my hair is tangled up in there too. My head can feel the pain and the pull too. But... it is my prayer that afterwards this painful hair brushing will leave us both with beautiful hair that glorifies my Father.

Also... Happy Thanksgiving!! Here are just a few of the things that I am thankful for:

The ladies that come to Bible study on Tuesdays

God allowing me to watch each of them grow in their relationship with Him

God's grace and mercy

My salvation

My family

My job

Chocolate anything... Especially milk

Skittles (and God knows which colors)

My heating pad that keeps me warm in the bed and on the couch

My church... all of it... the preacher and the choir... and everything in between

The desires that God puts into my heart to do His will... Even when it is not easy

The quiet in my house in the mornings before everyone else gets up

My little car that gets great gas mileage... And the low gas prices right now

Great Christian music... Turned up really load

Starbucks... Especially Pumpkin Spice Lattas

My mother-in-laws turkey and dressing

Eight hour lunches

Blueberry pop-tarts

The grocery game and coupons

A good nap

What about you? Have you made out a thankful list recently??

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Judge or Jury?? Or Both??

This week I have been on jury duty. This is actually the first time that I have ever had the "privilege" to be on jury duty. And... I used the word "privilege" very loosely. The only up-close and personal experience that I have ever had with jury duty was when my husband served on a murder case. Yuck!! It didn't leave a very pleasant memory in my head. A young boy with a mental illness had left his home... a few states away... without his medication... and came to our area and killed both of his grandparents and their neighbors. My husband didn't sleep for about a month.... although the trial only lasted about a week. My husband and some of the other jurors felt mislead by the explanation of verdicts that they had to choose from... so about a month or two later... my husband had to go to court for the defense to try to get the young boy another trial.... but that didn't happen. I just remember that my husband had such a hard time with all of this. So... you can see the reason for my excitement when it was my turn to have jury duty.

I arrived Monday morning at the courthouse with about 100 other lucky people. When we were divided up into 3 groups.... of course, I was in the group that had to stay all day. We went up to the courtroom where thr trial was to begin. The defense attorney and the defendant were seated on one side of the courtroom... and our local prosecutor was seated on the other side. They randomly chose names from the jury pool to come up before the attorneys for them to make their choice of the "perfect" jury for the case. About 8 names into it.... they called my name. I went up... with my arms full... my jacket, my purse, and my bag with my "stuff" in it... you know... my current book for Lelia's study, the next book for Lelia's study, two different fiction books, my Beth Moore bible study workbook, my Bible, my hairspray, my comb, my mints, my gum, my chapstick... and probably many other things that I have forgotten about. There I stood.... in front of the prosecutor's table.... while he viewed several different pieces of paper in front of him. He announced... "present the juror". That meant that he would accept me... it was now up to the defense attorney. Before the sweet little lady in front of the courtroom could ask his opinion.... he said, "excuse this juror!!". That meant that he rejected me. WHAT??? Now... I didn't even want to be on this jury.... but what do you mean that YOU don't WANT me on this jury??? I made my way back to my seat... not sure how to feel about all of this.

It was over so quick. I just sat there while they called out other names and made their choices. I couldn't just look at the person on the outside and decide in my head if they would be chosen or rejected. Sometimes... I would think... "they will send that one away"... only to hear them accept them and put them in the jury box. Other times... I would think that they looked acceptable to me... only to hear them be rejected just like I was. What was that all about???

I thought about another courtroom scene. Where I will be the defendant... The enemy... my accuser... will be seated at his table. My defender, Jesus Christ, will be seated next to me at our table. There will be no jury.... thankfully. Their opinion of me will not matter. The Judge will be on His throne. When the enemy stands against me.... my Father, the Judge, will look over at my defender and declare me FORGIVEN!! No amount of "wrongs" in the past will be enough to convict me. WOW!! At that time... I will also be acceptable to the accuser... he would love to have a chance to have me. BUT... my defender... will not even wait on the question... he will be quick to say, "Oh! no you won't have her!!". I will be excused !!

I didn't really want to be on a jury. I was concerned about judging someone's innocence or guilt based on words and not on sight. I wanted to make sure that even if they were found guilty in our eyes.... they knew that they could be forgiven in God's eyes. I wanted to make sure that they understood that what they did... didn't have to make up who they are. I am glad that it turned out the way it did. I didn't have to sit in judgment of this person.

But... then why do I find myself being judgmental at other times?? That's a good question... when no one needs my opinion.... it seems to be so easy to find. But... when the state of South Carolina wanted me to pass judgment on someone.... well... suddenly it became a big deal to me. If nothing else.... God has used this experience to show me several things about Him... and myself.

God is so quick to show me mercy... and no one else's opinion of my sin matters.

God doesn't need my judgment of others... although I am often quick to think it.

When I am actually called to give a judgment of someone else's sin... that is when it suddenly becomes important to me to show mercy. Maybe it is because I would have to voice it to the actual person and not allow it to just sit in my head. What does that say about my opinion??

I cannot judge a person's value by their appearance. You would think that I would already know this... and I thought that I did. But sitting there, I found myself trying to decide if each person would meet the attorneys standards or not. Most of the time I was wrong. There again... what does that say about my opinion??

Man.... I want to be more like Him... I need to be more like Him. Quick to show mercy. Quick to see the potential of every person. Slow to judge... and only when it is necessary.

Although I thought this week was a complete waste... maybe it really wasn't. Thanks God!! I imagine that this was really what this week of jury duty was all about... not the poor man sitting at the defense table... but about me sitting as the judge and the jury.post signature

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes To God

Once again... this is my very late post about the great book that we are studying on Lelia's blog. We are reading Lisa Whittle's book, Behind Those Eyes. We are winding down on this study... I can't believe it is almost over.

I have to tell you ladies... I am not able to eat Skittles these days without thinking about the fact that God knows my favorite color Skittle. I know that it was such a simple statement in last week's reading... but it has left a lifetime's worth of impression on me. The last bag (snack size, of course) that I opened was overwhelmingly purple and red. I felt like God was looking down at me saying, "my little sweetie... this is just for you". He loves me that much. WOW!

On to this weeks chapter...

Chapter 9 We Are Completely Flawed Yet Forgiven

Lisa told us a story about her daughter intentionally smashing some potato chips on the floor at her son's school in front on the many others that passed by... her whole morning had been a mess from the beginning... to which Lisa said the only two words that she could come up with to explain her daughter's poor behavior was...

"Sin nature"

Well... that summed it right up. Our sin nature often leads us to do things that go against what we really know that we should be doing. There are so many times that I respond to my husband or my children in a way that is less than (okay... WAY less than) pleasing to God. I would have told you just moments before my outburst that I know that I shouldn't act that way... and maybe even that I wouldn't act that way. I cringe every time I see that "old self" come back to life in me... I so wish that it would just go away. But... I guess if it were really gone... I might forget that I truly need a Savior. But instead, so often I am sent back to the sweet feet of my Jesus asking him to forgive me for being my "old self".

Lisa then said,

"It's not that we can't do right or that we are helpless victims to our sin nature, but if we do not allow ourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, our sin nature takes over. And that's when things get really messed up."

There is another mouth full. Being controlled by the Spirit. God so graciously sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of each believer... for that very purpose. To help us walk in victory over our sin nature. To keep our sin nature from taking over again. Being controlled by the Spirit is a job. It is not something that happens without effort. We must work at submitting to His authority. I wish that I could come up with a quick little formula to make this happen... but I am afraid that there is not one. So the battle continues.

Lisa also said,

"We are fleshly and flawed."

"For if there were no flaw, there would be no reason for forgiveness. And then we wouldn't get to see the awesome power of God miraculously at work in our lives."

I am pretty sure that if given the choice of walking in perfection... or seeing God's miraculous work in my life... I would choose to see God's work in my life. And... well.... he gives me many opportunities to see that as I battle my sin nature.

The next section of the book was about being completely forgiven. Lisa's example of her forgiveness for her child is about the best way for me to imagine God's forgiveness... but even at our best example, it still does not compare to God's forgiveness.

A while back I started to try to memorize scripture... my first attempt was Psalm 103. I did pretty good for a while... so many times I recited the line,

"as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us".

(just in case you think that I arrived at my goal... I just had to look the verse up to be sure that I had it correct!) I always let that description just flow over me... not really getting into my heart. Lisa's explanation of that made me really stop and think about it...

"...there is a measurable distance from the north to the south, but there is no measurable distance form the east to the west. God used those words because He wanted to illustrate for you and me that His forgiveness for us cannot be matched or measured. It is without condition or limits. There is no cap on how many times He will forgive us."

Wow. How much more could we ask for?? How much more could that inspire us to strive not to need that much??

Lisa also pointed out this scripture...

"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him." Daniel 9:9

I was stunned by that word... rebelled. Somehow... "disobeyed" makes it sound a little less severe. But... in reality, no matter what we call it... it is severe. Only God could forgive us so completely. I am so thankful... I will also rejoice in its truth.

If you are interested in seeing the many posts about this chapter... just click here. This has been quite a journey. I am so blessed to be making it with so many sweet ladies.

Also... God is working up a post in my head about the difference in being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. Beth Moore started this whirlwind in my mind a few weeks ago in one of our video lessons in Living Beyond Yourself. I am really struggling with this. God is doing a work in my heart about it. I am not sure how it is going to turn out... but I want Him to do a work. I'll be back with that hopefully soon.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes To God...

This is part of a book study that we are doing on Lelia's blog, Write from the Heart. We are reading Lisa Whittle's book Behind those Eyes. I have loved this book. We are almost done... and I am not sure that I am ready for it to end. It's been great.

Chapter Eight We are completely loved and accepted completely

Lisa started this chapter with one of my favorite verses of scripture...

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

I just love the word "lavish". According to the dictionary, lavish means to expend or give in great amounts or without limit. Love in great amounts... and without limit. Doesn't that sound unbelievable?? Well... with God, we can believe it. Our view of love is so scarred by life... and our experiences. But God is not scarred by anything... except the nail scars on the wrist and feet of Christ that show his lavish love for us. Man.... that is some serious love.

Lisa shared many scriptures about God's love for us... another one of my favorites is...

"I have loved you with an everlasting love" Jer. 31:3

Lisa reminded us that in the story of the Samaritan women... we see God's gracious love. Jesus knew all about her... he knew that she would be at the well... he knew she was thirsty... he knew that he had exactly what she needed... AND WANTED. Lisa said,

"Jesus' love was the only answer for her thirsty heart. She didn't have to have a proper pedigree, and her past was of no eternal importance. All Jesus wanted to do was give her the gift of love she hadn't been able to find in anything or anyone else."

I am so glad that I don't need a proper pedigree... because I sure don't. And well... my past.... I am glad that it has no eternal importance. The Father knew all about that stuff when he called me to be His child... and He still called me. He still loves me... lavishly!

The most awesome statement for me in the whole chapter came at the bottom of page 139. I know that this may sound a little trivial to some... but Lisa said,

"Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God knows your favorite color of skittles?"

That is an awesome thought to me. I don't even know my children's favorite color of skittles. I can't remember which one of my children doesn't like ketchup. I often offer my son popcorn... only to hear him say, "Mom! I am allergic to popcorn!". And I have only had about 15 or more years to remember that. I don't think that I have ever even told anyone my favorite color of skittles... of course I have one... actually two favorites.... but I haven't told anyone about them. He knows my favorite fast food restaurant. He knows my favorite song. He knows my favorite outfit. Don't you get it??? He really KNOWS me. I bet if I were to ask all of my children and my husband what my favorites are... not one of them could get every answer right. The way that they know me is nothing in comparrison to the way that God knows me. And He is the one that loves me best. That is more than I can comprehend.

Lisa then said,

"It never ceases to amaze me how God pauses every now and then to show me in a divine way that His acceptance of me is a nonissue."

This morning after I got up... I was slap-dab in the middle of a pity party... when I felt God calling me to meet Him in His Word. I opened my worn out Bible to Psalms... I read some of Psalm 84... then moved on to Psalm 86. It starts out like this....

"Hear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am devoted to you,
You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me."

There He was. Pausing to let me know that even in my needy state this morning... His love and mercy were still there. He hears me. He will answer me. He knows my favorite color of skittles, for heaven's sake!! That fact has stayed on my mind since the day that I read it. I don't expect that it will leave my mind any time soon. What is your favorite color of skittles?? I know someone that knows!! Yes, we are completely loved and accepted completely.

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