What If The Truth Changed?

What if.  What + If = Change. “What If”can precede a positive statement.  But, I think most of the time we use those two little words in a negative way.
What if my hair doesn’t look right?

What if my son is in a car accident on the way home?

What if I can’t fit into the dress I bought for the wedding?

What if I run out of money before my next pay check?

What if I lose my job?

“What If” marches ahead of everything we do. It either motivates us to move forward or it paralyzes us with fear. The more we use those two little words together in a negative way the larger they become until they start to look like Goliath. Instead of being small enough to instantly brush aside, they grow until they block the road ahead of us and we can’t move past them.  And there we sit, stuck in traffic because “What If” has us paralyzed with fear.

“What” asks questions. “If” throws doubt on a situation. God has the answers. What if we didn’t question God’s answers? What if we started believing His truths….really believing them and acting on them?

The rich young ruler, in Matthew 19:16-26, asked Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life. He had plenty of money and he had followed all the rules as set out by his culture. Despite outward appearances he felt something was missing on the inside. But when Jesus told him he needed to sell his belongings and give the money to the poor he must have run through a few “What If’s”.  What if he sold everything he had and gave it to the poor? His friends, neighbors and relatives would think he was crazy. What if they thought he was crazy?  He would be ostracized from them, looked down upon. He couldn’t do that….be looked down upon. The fear paralyzed him from moving into a new life with Jesus. The fear paralyzed him from receiving the true happiness that only God can give to fill up the empty space in our hearts. “What If” caused a traffic jam in his life and stopped him from moving forward. He had received the truth, but he didn’t allow it to change him. “What If” caused a traffic jam and stopped him from moving the truth from his head to his heart. It is only when the truth lives in our heart that it can change us.

When a truth lives in our heads we talk about the truth, but we don’t live it out in our lives. The truth only changes us when it moves into our hearts. Truth is a paradox, it always remains the same, but it changes who we are when we decide to live it and not just mentally assent to it. We are coming up to a new year. I challenge you to move a few of the truths who live in your head into the upgraded facility of your heart and see how it changes your new year.

The Parable of the Glasses

Richard and three of his friends joined a small group of hikers waiting to cross the forest.  Richard laughed at his friends, “I can’t believe I let you talk me into following this guide across the forest.  We should have crossed on our own.  Look at the other people in our group.”  He nodded toward the group of middle-aged, slightly overweight people who wore the glasses provided by their guide.  Richard’s own sunglasses made him look like he had just stepped off the pages of GQ.  
The white clad guide handed everyone an instruction handbook with the title, “How To Cross the Forest” in bold black letters on the small white book.  The guide said, “This book contains the instructions for what to do should you get lost and separated from the group.  You must remove your sunglasses because there will be times on this hike it will be dark and you won’t be able to see me if you don’t take off your suglasses.”  He pulled several pair of glasses out of his bag.  “Here are glasses for those of you who don’t already have them.  They will help you see me better when it gets dark.”  Richard and his friends half-heartedly took the glasses and tucked them into their shirt pockets with their instruction handbooks.  Richard shook his head and glanced at those wearing the glasses, he decided then and there he would never be that goofy looking.

The open path and sunshine bolstered Richard’s opinion he could have crossed this forest without the help of the white clad guide.  He glanced down at his own rencently puchased hiking gear and snorted at the idea of anyone wearing white to go hiking.  Who was this guide anyway, obviously he didn’t know much about the outdoors.

The hikers bunched together in front of the gaping dark hole of the cave.  The guide made an annoucement, “Everyone must take off their sunglasses and wear the glasses I have given you or you will become lost.  If you should become separated from the group make sure you are wearing the glasses I have given you so you can see and then call out for me and I will come help you.”

Richard pointed to the people wearing the glasses and snickered to his friends, “Those are the people who can’t see, they wouldn’t be wearing those ugly glasses if they had good eyesight.”  He confidently gave his sunglasses an extra push up his nose.  The guide turned and stepped into the cave, the people wearing the glasses he had given them followed first and Richard and his friends straggled in behind them.  Richard felt a momentary pang of fear at the deep darkness in the cave, but he shook it off.  Richard picked his way carefully through the cave concentrating so hard he fell behind the others and could no longer see or hear them.

He stopped to take a break and heard the rattle of a snake.  Cold shivers ran up his spine and he slowly took off his sunglasses with a shaking hand and replaced them with the glasses from the guide.  Now heat flushed his face as he realized how stupid he had been not to put them on before.  He could clearly see the snakes around him and the rattling of their tails intensified.   Richard berated himself as he slowly pulled the guidebook from his pocket.  He hoped it had instructions for how to get past  snakes.  He could hear the voice of the guide in his head telling him all he needed to do if lost was to call out for him and he would come help.  But Richard wasn’t quite ready to ask for help.  He was confident of his skill now that he could see again.  

Richard flipped through the book til he found the instructions for how to find the way back to the group.  He read them:   1.  Put on the glasses…..step one was complete.    2.  Call out for the guide and he would arrive to help.  Richard  turned the page for step three.  There was no step three.  The snakes slithered in a little closer and smiled at him tongues flicking as they licked their lips in anticipation.   Richard’s heart pounded in his ears and staring into the eyes of the closest snake  he whispered the guides name.  Richard felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at the white clad guide.  “Let’s go” he said.  “B-b-but what about the snakes?” Richard asked.  “What snakes?”  Richard looked, the snakes were gone.  “Hey,” he asked his guide, “how come I can see so much better with these glasses on?  “Those glasses are spiritual insight and help you see the truth.   The longer you wear them the better you can see.”  Richard decided he would never take them off, he didn’t care if he did look goofy to other people. 

Complete surrender. The only way to truly live the Christian life is to surrender our lives and all our actions to God. But the problem is we don’t want to surrender everything. Afterall, what is surrender? It means we have lost the battle and we give up. For example at the end of a war the side who lost surrenders and gives up purueing their goals.  The victor of the war moves forward with their plans. That’s what happens when we surrender to God, we stop fighting and give up our plans allowing God’s plan for our lives to be carried out. Not only do we concede we have lost the battle, we start fighting for the other side. It’s not like a war between countries where the soldier becomes a prisoner of war. No, when we surrender our lives to God we stop fighting for self and start fighting for God.  
The problem is we fail to completely surrender to our leader.  We are like Richard who decided to follow the guide through the forest, but he didn’t bother following all of the instructions.  It’s time to put on God’s gift of spiritual insight glasses so we can clearly see the path God has created for us.  

Talk is Cheap

Aspen loves presents.  After Christmas she starts planning what she wants for her birthday in August and after her birthday she starts planning the gifts she wants for Christmas.  Then of course there are the gifts she wants every time we go to the store.  It is a never ending desire for more gifts from her dear loving parents who desire what is best for her, which occasionally includes not buying a gift every time we go to the store.  Jesus said we should become as little children.  God’s gifts to us are free.  While God’s gifts are free, action is required to receive them.

Aspen looks forward with much anticipation to her birthday and Christmas.  As a parent I also look forward to the moment when she can open the gifts we bought for her.  We love the excitement she expresses over the things we have given her.  Most little kids on their birthday or Christmas eagerly accept their gifts and tear them open, excited to play with their new toys.  They don’t ask how many dishes they need to wash first or how much tv they should give up before they are allowed to open their presents.  They don’t stop before opening each gift and consider the possibility they may not like it, or the possibility they may not want what’s under the brightly colored wrapping paper, they assume every gift is something they will love.  They seem to never tire of opening presents and when they come to the end of the pile they are disappointed and want more. 

Love is a gift.  We receive love, we give love.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.  And the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.     God gave us love, we are to give it back to him and also to give it to others.  There’s plenty of talk about love.  But talk is cheap as the saying goes and the actual loving of others is expensive.  It costs us to love others as much as ourselves.   1 John 3:18 tell us to love not just in word and talk  but in deed and truth.   God’s truth in Matthew 5:43 says, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..”  I don’t know about you but I have a hard time loving someone who has cut me off in traffic, nevermind someone who has actually persecuted me.  Loving someone who is unloveable whether they cut me off in traffic or told a lie about me at work or are just rude in general hurts.  It usually hurts bad enough we come up with really good excuses not to love them.  But, Jesus loves them and we are to follow his example.  The painful part of loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves is we have to give up our pride to do it.  Our pride says, “How dare they treat me with such disrepsect? I deserve better treatment than that.”  But Jesus came to this world to show people the love of his father in heaven and we, as Christians, are called to do the same.  

Little children love to open gifts.  Let us become as little children and be as excited about opening the  gift of God’s love for us and others as little kids tearing open gifts on Christmas morning.   Let’s not hesitate and wonder if we really want it or wonder how many good works we need to do to have it.  Let’s rip it open with great anticipation and enjoy using the gift of love God has wrapped up for us. 

Tripping Over Jesus

I walked next to Brett holding his hand.  I took short steps walking  a little jerkily, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left and other times coming to a short momentary stop before continuing my journey.  I was once again trying my best to avoid stepping on Aspen’s feet.  When Aspen walks with us she insists on walking directly in front of me causing me to disrupt my usual walking gait and begin to jerkily walk in ways to avoid stepping on her feet.  Occasionally Brett reaches forward to hurry her along or I tell her she needs to hurry up, but eventually she is right back where she started and I go back to my awkward little dance.

The last time I did my best to avoid stepping on Aspen as we crossed a parking lot it dawned on me that this is exactly how Jesus wants me to follow Him….so close I’m stepping on His heels.  Just like following Aspen isn’t easy, neither is following Jesus.  Sometimes following Him can be downright annoying when the direction He is going is the exact opposite direction from where we want to go.

People stand in line for hours to buy the newest iPhone.  They dress up in the costumes of their favorite characters and camp out overnight to see the first showing of a movie with their favorite characters.  People sit at the slot machines for days at a time.  These are just a few examples of people pursueing their gods so closely they trip over them.  But what does it look like to pursue God with the same intensity?

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  When we shrink our world down to just us and God it doesn’t matter what the circummstances are around us.  Our world has deserts, streams, mountains, valleys, hills, plains, lakes, oceans, sunshine, rain, hurricanes, tornados, and warm breezes.  When we walk through life we will eventually experience all of these along the way.  But when we follow on the feet of Jesus none of these changes need affect  the inner peace abiding with God creates.

Peter walked on water when he ignored the impossibility of doing it and focused on Jesus.  It was only when he took his eyes off Jesus that he started to sink.  The sun rises and the sun sets at it’s apointed time.    We can’t control it, just like we can’t control everything and everyone around us.  When we shrink our world down to focusing on the feet of Jesus we will walk on water just like Peter, ignoring the storm around us.  “Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:7

Preconceived Ideas

I had a preconceived idea this morning.  I believed if I made a right turn while driving I could later make a left turn to head me back in the right direction.  But, I learned my preconceived idea was wrong.  I also pushed out of my head a true fact: I have no sense of direction.  I will, if at an intersection where I don’t know which way to turn, always turn in the opposite direction I should go. 

This morning I gave my son a ride to work because the car he drives is in the shop for a few repairs.  After dropping him off I decided to take some side streets home rather than battle any potential traffic jam ups.  I meandered along enjoying the scenic view of landscaped yards with pretty spring flowers.  I turned onto the street which would take me home.  As luck would have it a few blocks later I arrived at an intersection where a road sign clearly stated,”Right Turn Only”.  I needed to continue straight and would have ignored the signs instructions, but the traffic I had previously tried to avoid whizzed passed me in both directions.  I made a right turn per the instructions of the road sign.  I then made a left turn to make up for the right turn.  I continued my spring flower sight-seeing so I didn’t mind this little detour.  The little road twisted and turned and when I came to the end of it I  wasn’t sure of my location, but relying on my intuition, I made another left turn.  When the road ended I turned again based in my intuition.  I was a little lost but pretty sure I was going in a direction which would take me home and hoped I would soon recognize a landmark.  I did recognize a landmark, but I was going in the exact opposite direction of home.  I’m not sure why, but it surprised me to discover I was going in the wrong direction.   I made a U-turn, secure in the idea I now knew where I was going.  But another road sign popped up in front of me, “Road Closed”.  I made a quick left, but another road sign loomed ahead of me which clearly stated “No Outlet”.  I decided I really was lost and couldn’t get home on my own.  I pulled over to the side of the road, right in front of a road sign that said, “No Parking At Anytime”.  I picked up my phone, clicked on the map app and typed in my home address.

Preconceived ideas and ignoring the truth can cause us more trouble than we would like to think about.  We have preconceived ideas about where our lives should go, about what career directions our kids should take, and about how our friends should treat us.  We have more pre-conceived ideas about what the teacher should be teaching in his class or how the pastor should be running the church or how people should be treating us with more respect.   Then there is the truth we like to ignore: God’s pre-conceived ideas are better than our own.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” (1Corinthians 2:9).  “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us…” (Ephesians 3:20). “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5) and “For I know the plans I have for you….” (Jeremiah 29:11).  Preconceived ideas have a bad connotation, but we are all preconceived ideas.  God preconceived us to walk in His paths of righteousness.   Just like I pushed the truth that I have no sense of direction out of my head and continued with my plan to take the back roads home rather than staying on the main roads, we like our own preconceived ideas and push on to accomplish them.  We think we can clearly see our own way little realizing the troubles we are creating for ourselves.  We find it scary to go on the path God has created for us.  It requires believing in something we can’t see.   “We live by faith, not by sight”  (2Corinthians 5:7).  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Here is a short parable to illustrate;  I’m sitting on a small hill out in nature enjoying the beautiful view.  Jesus walks up to me and asks me to join Him in a climb up the tall mountain in the distance.  I hesitate, the view is really nice right where I’m sitting and I was just daydreaming plans to build a house on the very hill I’m sitting on when Jesus walked up to me and interrupted my reverie.  I look at that tall mountain in the distance…..Jesus wants me to climb that?  I don’t really care for exercise and I can just imagine the aching muscles I’ll have at the end of the day.  But Jesus counteracts my thoughts as if He can read my mind.  He says, “You can sit on this little hilltop and see for miles around, but if you climb this mountain with Me, your view will be greatly increased.  The higher we go the more you can see and the more I can point out to you.  There is joy in knowing Me more deeply, but you will also experience a deeper sadness at some of what you will see.  The more time you spend with Me the more your heart will become like mine and your love and compassion for others will grow.  At the top of the mountain I have already prepared a home for you.  A home far more beautiful than the one you are planning on building for yourself here.”  He reaches out his hand and asks, “Will you give up your preconceived ideas about life and follow Me?”  

Mother’s Day Musings 

Sometimes I feel like I’m driving down the road of life at a 100 mph, but I feel like I’m sitting still and getting absolutely nowhere.  I love to drive fast, but when I drive fast under my own power my works look momentarily cool stirring up dust behind me, but then the dust settles and disappears.  I spend so much time driving my car fast  I don’t take the time to stop and have it repaired, until one day the engine of the car stops running on empty and gives up, unable to go on anymore, broke down beside the road.  No one stops to help, everyone rushing by at 100 mph, too busy creating their own swirls of dust to even see me broke down beside the road.  

I open the glove box hoping to  find an old candy bar or a bottle of water, but I’d been too busy to stop and add emergency supplies to the car.  All I saw was the owners manual.  What a dry boring book, I’d  never bothered to read it, it looked as new as the day I bought the car.   I picked it up, I had nothing else to do and maybe I would find something  to help me get back on the road.  I looked up all the light symbols lit up in red on the dash board; oil can…..low on oil, annoyed I realized I didn’t have a spare bottle of oil in the car.  Tire with a slash through it……low tire pressure, disgusted with myself again I realized I didn’t have an emergency tire inflator in my car either.  A third light told me the engine had overheated, now there was something I could be proactive about, I could wait for the engine to cool down….but I still couldn’t drive it without oil.  So I sat there next to the road berating myself for my broke down condition.  Flashing lights pulled up behind me, a police officer strolled up to me and ticketed me for sitting next to the road in a broke down car.  He did offer to call a tow truck for me, but I refused.  If I called a tow truck I would have to let him tow my car.  If I let the tow truck tow my car it  meant I had given up control of where my car went and no one drove my car but me.  The officer strolled back to his car leaving me alone again.  

I was tired after all the years of racing around creating dust, so I leaned my seat back, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.   A moment later I jerked awake as a semi-truck blew past my car rocking it from side to side.    I almost wished I had let the police officer call for a tow truck, but I hadn’t and now it was getting dark.  The cars that whizzed past me had turned on their lights.  Obviously I’d slept several hours.  I picked up my cell phone to check the time and saw my battery level blinking at 2 percent.  I panicked.  Then I saw the car manual again where I had tossed it onto the passengers seat.  On the front cover in oversized bold print was a number I could call for roadside help.    

I picked up my cell phone, which now blinked at 1 percent and contemplated calling the number.  I needed to call soon, but I paused for just a moment longer to review my options.   Ok, so there weren’t many, I could sit here broke down next to the road, cold and hungry in the dark and soon be without cell service or I could call the number on the front of the Owners Manual.  A few more thoughts flashed through my mind, I remembered vaguely seeing other broke down  cars for just a moment through the haze of dust and the memories of the people  sitting in their cars weren’t pretty, but I was going so fast it was easy to ignore them.  I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.  I didn’t want to stay trapped in my car forever because I couldn’t give up control of who decided where the car went.  I needed help!

I hadn’t even finished dialing the number when a tow truck pulled in front of me and a man jumped out and hurried over to my car.  He opened my door and helped me into the front cab of his tow truck.  Next he reached into the back of his truck and pulled out a take out bag from my favorite restaurant.  While I opened my bag and pulled out my favorite meal he smiled and walked back to hook up my car.  Three semi-trucks blew past and didn’t even ruffle his hair.  Finished with making the car secure he hopped into the front of the cab and drove us to the repair shop.   We pulled up to the shop and I wiped the last of the crumbs off my face.  Delicious!   I got out and watched the driver unhook my car.  He pulled a white rag out of his pocket and proceeded to wipe all the dust off my car.  The scratches in my cars paint and the small dings disappeared.  He popped the hood and with the same rag wiped all the grease from the engine.   When he was finished he folded the cloth and put it back into his pocket.  I was wide-eyed when I saw the cloth was as white as when he had started, but my car looked like it had on the show room floor.   He opened the passenger side door and offered to take me for a drive.  I hesitated for a moment because I like to drive my own car.  But, I decided to live dangerously and hopped into the car eager to see what else this man could do.  He got into the drivers seat and started the engine, it purred as if it were brand new.  I looked at the odometer, “000,000”.  Why hadn’t I called for help sooner?

Shadows in the Wind

I stood at the picture window and watched the darkness loosen it’s  grip, drifting into a hazy beginning.  The wind breathed the leaves of the trees lining our street into action, inhaling and exhaling the shadows on the pavement into shadowy shapes.  The shadows came to life in the form of a man pushing a small child on a swing.  I could almost hear the boy laugh while his daddy swung him back and forth.  

We moved into this house  ten months ago.  I have been outside many times, raking leaves, planting flowers, pulling weeds or sitting on the porch while Aspen rides her bike up and down the sidewalk.  I’ve never seen a man and a boy hiding in the tree tops.  1Corinthians 2:9 tells us,  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have  entered into the hearts of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him”  When the shadow boy swung toward his father, the father reached out for him to give him another push.  The boy laughed and the cycle continued, back and forth,  the wind blew the father and the son towards each other.  It reminded me of how the Holy Spirit blows on our hearts inviting us to spend time with our Father in heaven.  The natural cycle of the Spirit inviting us to spend time with the Father results in the Father reaching out to spend time with us.  

Sometimes we listen to the Holy Spirit and spend time interacting with our Father, other times we don’t, we choose to ignore His call.  When the wind of the Holy Spirit whispers to us, we resist, we don’t want to be blown towards the Father, we want to do our own thing.  The wind blows often here in Nebraska, in fact we spent last night sleeping in the basement due to a tornado watch until 2am.  I’ve seen the wind blow the leaves many times in the front yard, but I never felt any joy from it.  But, I did feel a certain sense of lightheartedness watching the shadow father interact with his shadow son.  The father and the boy are always there, but the leaves of the trees don’t always respond in the same way to the wind.  The possibility of a relationship with our Father in heaven is always there, but how do we respond to the invitation whispered on the breath of the Holy Spirit?

I read Esther chapter 5 this morning.  It tells the story of  Esther inviting the king and Hamaan to a special banqet prepared  just for them.  The distinctive honor of the invitation increased Hamaan’s pride.  He rejoiced in his elevated position.  But, one action took away his joy, a man named Mordacai refused to bow before him when he saw him at the gate.  Let’s take this one step further.  What was it that actually caused Hamaan to seeth with anger when Mordacai refused to bow before him?  It was his pride, which he held onto instead of letting go, his pride caused him to be hung on the gallows he had built for Mordacai.  The actions of Mordacai did not cause the ultimate downfall of Hamman.  Hamaan refused to let go of pride and therefore held onto a ticking time bomb.  

When the Holy Spirit whispers to us to receive joy from our Father by spending time with Him, it is our pride that stops us from accepting the invitation.  We say,”No” because we have our own grand plans for life, we don’t want to give them up.  It is pride that steals our joy and we do it to ourselves, refusing to let go of the ticking time bomb that stops us from relaxing in the natural joy of swinging towards our Father and laughing in joy when He reaches out to push us…..push us into places of joy we never imagined could exist.  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the hearts of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.”

Not So Clever Afterall

Warm spring breezes scented with lilacs have gently, but with determination, blown the  cold winds of winter far, far away.  I love spring, greens in every shade imaginable sprout forth from the brown of tree limbs and dirt.  I imagine beautiful veggies growing in my garden, untouched by bugs and yellowed leaves.  Maybe it’s the scent of the lilacs or the fresh cut grass, or the combination of both with just the perfect amount of warm sunshine that causes me to dream of a garden much bigger than I need.  I made plans for the perfect garden which included the skills of my husband, who makes use of his testosterone by skillfully weilding manly tools like drills and staple guns and carrying the heavy stuff.  

A couple of weeks ago we started our garden project.  We popped up the pop-up green house, Brett put together the raised beds stored in the shed and I filled them with dirt, manure, and compost.  But, my plants still sat in the green house waiting for us to find the spare time to put up a short chicken wire fence to keep Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Topsy out of the garden.  The little cottontails are adorably cute hopping around the yard, but I am a little selfish and  do not want to share my lettuce with the neighborhood bunnies.    

Brett and I went to Lowes and after much pushing the cart up and down the ailes, and doing more math than we’ve done since graduating from highschool, we finally determined the various prices of different types of wood in the amount that we needed.  We settled on the cheapest stuff we could find, had it cut to the appropriate length and left the store with grand visions of our new fence.  

Brett pulled into the parking space in the back of the house and unloaded the lumber.  For all our planning the actual building of the fence went up with one new idea at a time.  We decided to attatch the wood to the lined up boxes.  I held the wood while Brett operated the drill and buzzed the screws into the wood.   The last peice of wood in place we stood back to admire our work.  Most of the peices were straight, but several were decidedly crooked.  How could we have not seen they weren’t staight up and down?  Brett reversed the process and drilled the screws out of the wood.  This time he held up the wood and I stood at a distance to tell him when it was staight.  

We finished one section of the garden and decided to move onto the second section to be fenced.  After putting a few boards up in the second section, Brett stood up and glanced over at the first section, no doubt to admire the results of his hard work.  He noticed the long boards we had attatched to use as trellis’s for the tomatoes and cucumbers looked as though they could use more support.  We took a few of the longer boards and attatched one of them horizontially across three of the vertical boards.  Having begun the new project without a real plan of how it would look when finished we tried the second board in a few places before attatching it.   So far, so good.  But, what next?  We were quickly using up the boards we had bought for the second section of fence.  We attatched a couple of boards diagonally and had one small board left to attatch.  Wanting to attatch it in just the right spot and straight rather than crooked, we had learned from our previous mistakes, I stood back and told Brett to move the board to various places trying to get it “just right”.  It dawned on me that if he attatched it in the middle of the other two boards we would have a capitol “H”, perfect as the first letter of our last name.  

Brett posted photos to Facebook of our finished garden fence with the letter “H” in the center.  A friend used the word “clever” to describe our fence.  She didn’t know we hadn’t planned it that way, we just took one step at a time and arrived to the perfect ending.  

In the middle of building the fence I told Brett I would use the story as an example of our relationship with God.  First of all there are many times we think we know what we are doing and have no idea the boards of our life are going on crooked.  We see the situation up close, God sees the whole picture from a distance.  Just like I stood back and gave Brett directions to place the board straight, only God can help us get the direction of our lives straight.   Brett and I haphazardly put the fence up, making up the next thing to do as we went along.  At one point we thought we were finished, but then realized we needed to make the trellis’s more stable.  We randomly started putting up wood and somehow or other ended up with the first letter of our last name in the middle of the fence.  

When we follow God, we only need to know the next right thing to do.  Brett and I made it up as we went along, God doesn’t.  He has a plan and in the end, if we follow him one right action after the other, we will end up with the perfect ending.  We seemingly haphazardly ended up with our name represented by a capitol “H”  in the middle of our new garden fence, but God’s plan for us isn’t haphazard.  He knew our name from the beginning of time and planned for us to be in His family.  Now when I see our garden fence, I am reminded that just like I pre-planned my garden, God pre-planned us being here.  He has planted us in his garden and just like I envision beautiful plants bearing much fruit, God envisions me growing in His garden and bearing much fruit for Him.   

Give Up to Live Up

Scanning through my journal a few days ago I found an entry that struck me as a good blog post.  I’m not sure why I didn’t write about it before except that at the time it seemed so directed at me that I wasn’t ready to share it.  

In the fall I had raked up the leaves in the yard and heaped them in a pile to the side of the yard.  The next spring when I was making up my garden beds I scooped them into my wagon and hauled them over to the  4×4 wood boxes.  Just under the top of the semi-composted leaves I discovered a sprouted walnut seed.  I had never seen a sprouted walnut seed.  It looked so big compared to the little alfalfa sprouts I buy at the grocery store.  It struck me as quite beautiful, the shell had cracked open and the roots reached down into the soil while the green leaves of the newly sprouted walnut tree reached for the sunlight.  So new and fragile and yet it’s future potential to stand as a tall, strong tree someday already evident.  It crossed my mind that the walnut could not sprout until the shell had cracked open.  Once the shell cracked open it no longer had it’s hard shell of protection.  It’s new life was now exposed to elements it could not control.  But the tree couldn’t grow and become what it was intended to be until it’s hard outer shell was removed.  I felt as if God were telling me that I needed to remove my hard outer shell.  He knows I like to wear it because of the feeling of safety it gives me, a feeling of control.  But He also knows that I can not grow into the person He created me to be if I fearfully hold onto my outer shell intent on keeping myself safe.  

It is only when I let go of my self-made shield of protection that I grow up into the life God created for me.  With my hard outer shell gone, my new life reaches for His light and I put my roots down in His fertile soil.  God created me to be most fulfilled when I give back to Him the life He gave to me.  If the walnut would have held it’s shell tightly closed, it’s true beauty would never have been revealed, it’s purpose left unfulfilled.  

Today is a good day to let go of the fear of God’s plan for your life.  Today is a good day to let go of your flimsy, imagined control of your life.  Today is a good day to live in the light of God’s love and protection.    If you wonder what to do with your life, your first step is to give it all to God, after that He has the plan.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” (Matt. 6:33)  Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…”  (Jeremiah 29:11)  It is only when you fully give up that you will finally live up to your true potential.

To and Fro is Status Quo

Status is an elusive and deceptive acquisition. It keeps the inhabitants of this world running to and fro grasping for the lie that status projects. But, just as we think we have a grasp on status it slips through our fingers, truly just a projection of a lie masquerading as a truth. But the bright allure of status blinds the eyes of the seeker as he chases status through the streets of the city, dodging in and out of stores buying the latest cell phone, the most expensive car he can afford and stepping on his co-workers to make it to the top of the pile first. The brain constantly seeking ways to trade up. To and fro on city streets the feet chase status, the hands reach out to grasp it, and the hearts become buried under the stress of carrying the lie that the status money can buy makes me who I am.

Status whispers, status shouts, it seems to know my deepest needs and desires. Status tells me that my job and the things I have create who I am. The definition of status according to the dictionary: “A position of an individual in relation to another or others especially in relation to social or professional standing.” I have had various job status’s in my life. I’ll contrast two of my jobs and the two status’s attached to them. Currently I work as a pastors wife. Now, I can hear you say that is not a real job, which is partially true. But it certainly is a description used to describe what I do or who people see when they meet me. On the other hand many years ago I worked at McDonalds as a cashier, I also cleaned the bathrooms. While entirely different jobs and many years apart, I am essentially the same person as a pastor’s wife as I was cashiering at McDonalds and cleaning the bathrooms. My moral compass points approximately the same direction it always has, my likes and dislikes remain the same, my hobbies remain the same. I have more experience and going back in time would hopefully make a few wiser decisions given the knowledge I have now, but my status as a pastor’s wife or a fast food worker does not change who I am.

If my job doesn’t define who am I am then what does? I want to suggest that it is the condition of my heart that makes me who I am. There are honest janitors and dishonest politicians. Some pastor’s make the news for having an affair or stealing money, but there are plenty of others who remain faithful and honest.

I will use a few examples from the Bible to illustrate my point. David for example was anointed as the next king of Israel while still a shepherd, then he continued to work as a shepherd until God’s timing was right for him to take over being king. Daniels heart remained true to God when he was just a young man in a foreign kings court. Many years later as a political success his heart remained true to God despite the threat of being thrown into the lions den. Job served God while he was wealthy and comfortable, but he also continued to serve God after he lost everything. His wife suggested he curse God and die but his heart remained faithful to God. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but his heart remained true to God, from slavery to prison, to a sky rocketing ascent as second in command of Egypt.

It’s not our worldly status that defines who we are, it is our dependence on God or lack of it that gives us our true status. If we think money and what it can buy will change who we are then we are headed down the wrong road. Only when we are anchored firmly to The Rock are we in the place God created for us. A safe harbor of peace for our souls. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) When we have God, we have everything. When we have God, He provides everything else we need to do the work He created us to do for Him. The highest status we need to achieve is a heart that seeks God first. Just like David, Daniel, Job, and Joseph, they chose God first and God used His power to work for them. But when we choose the things of this world first, we work for those things.

We run to and fro chasing status and the trappings of success little realizing that while it appears that we have purchased our hearts desires we have instead sold ourselves into slavery. Status rules us with the desire for more. If one fast car is great then two must be even better. If the 48 inch tv was great than the 60 inch must be even better, and if we have one for the living room, we need one for the master bedroom also. We thought we could buy our status but instead sold our hearts and minds into slavery. Status is an elusive and deceptive acquisition. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where you treasure is there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)