His Call. His Time.

In my trek to read through the Bible again, I have (after over a year) reached the book of Jeremiah this morning. I love Jeremiah chapter 1: God’s call on a man’s life. The verses simply ebb and flow with the substantive strength and undergirding of the Lord God. Truly, Jeremiah must have felt encouraged and emboldened as God spoke His part into Jeremiah’s life.

“…I formed you…”

“…I knew you…”

“…I consecrated you…”

“…I appointed you…”

“…I send you…”

“…I command you…”

“…I am with you to deliver you…”

“…I have put my words in your mouth…”

“…I have set you this day over nations…”

“…I make you this day…”

“…I am with you…”

Wow!

According to His words of commission, God has placed Himself as the driving force over Jeremiah’s call. Granted, God intends for Jeremiah to speak out when commanded, but He does not expect–nor does He even attempt to imply–that Jeremiah should feel compelled to speak or act on anything outside of those commands.

God created him for a purpose. God called him to that purpose. God desires for him to fulfill that purpose. That is enough for God.

And Jeremiah’s purpose? God gets to use him as a megaphone to speak judgment over the evil actions of His people. (Hint: Jeremiah’s life will get very, very uncomfortable.)

But here’s the pivotal verse that stuck out to me regarding this call: “And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land” (verse 18).

Hmmm…I can’t help but wonder how many times Jeremiah had to speak back to himself and encourage himself yet again in his call. “I am ‘a fortified city…an iron pillar…bronze walls…’ God made me thus.” I wonder how many times he didn’t feel like any of those things. (Say, when he was in stocks, or in the dungeon, or in the cistern.) How many times did Jeremiah have to remind himself of whom God made him…regardless of circumstances.

Sometimes the call of God places us in situations that don’t seem to match up with the vision. Those positions require a deeper determination to hold on to His words–to choose to allow His words, and not what we see or feel, to direct our course and steady our thoughts.

This aspect feels quite personal to me this morning. Having arrived in our new home near Little Rock, fresh and eager to start a new church, we find ourselves still settling in–wondering if we’re doing enough toward that end–pondering whether we should stop settling in and start to make that church happen. And yet God has not given my husband clear direction on the particulars. Ideas. Thoughts. But not clear and distinct direction. So we pray. So we wait. So we settle.

And yet the call on my husband’s life to be a pastor remains. He has been created, consecrated and appointed to be a pastor. He simply is one. And a pastor without people can feel a little at sea–just like a shepherd with no sheep. Ministering to people throbs within his heart and soul.

Therefore, keeping our vision focused, we remind ourselves of the call. The story of its inception. The steps God worked out so clearly to get us here. The verses and words of encouragement others have spoken into our lives. We recollect God’s faithfulness and His character to always, always fulfill His Word.

We choose to walk in His word and wait on His ways.

We choose not to run ahead of God, trusting that–like with Jeremiah–the One who called us will be the same One who will command us.

Our God.

His word. His call. His purpose. His time.

“…I am watching over My word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12b).

Praying for our people in our city from our porch.

Praying for our people in our city from our porch.

Advertisements

Puttin’ On Some Attitude

I’m just going to come out and state it boldly: I can’t choose my health, but I CAN choose my attitude!

Now, I know people who are going to say, “Oh, yes, you can choose your health!” (I can hear you already!) So let me clarify: I can make choices about my health, but ultimately I cannot make myself well. If praying for God to heal my ME/CFS and making lifestyle choices would do it, I would have this thing nailed! I haven’t been able to accomplish this feat because God is the one who maintains ultimate control of this tool He is using to mold and modify my life and heart.

My attitude, however, is another story altogether! I can choose gratitude. I can choose love. I can choose joy. I can choose all kinds of wonderful things. I get that choice! On the other hand–should I prefer, I could choose entitlement, unforgiving, crankiness, or a whole host of not so pleasant attitudes. I still get that choice.

A tactic that the enemy of our souls likes to employ is to strip us of our choices. If he can rob us of our understanding of this, he can keep us spiritually depleted. If he can keep us depleted, he can keep us defeated. We will cease to walk in all who God is creating us to become…which He intends, by the way, to far surpass any current situation.

In light of this, what attitudes do I want to choose to put on then? While the ugly ones have a pesky way of sneaking into my life, I much prefer the attitudes that make me look like Jesus, of course!

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-15).

Walk Boldly in Your Kingdom Role

My darling, precocious daughter.

My darling, precocious daughter.

She was such a little thing–that precocious toddler of ours–but she simply wouldn’t obey me. I told her to do something. She stubbornly refused. The whole scene played out as though I weren’t even uttering a word. Actually, the whole scene played out as though I weren’t even in the room! There she sat, continuing in her own little world of play and ignoring my now repetitive requests.

Frustration!! (Every single parent knows what I mean!) And frankly, though I hate to admit it now, I didn’t know what to do.

An unwavering certainty started settling itself across my heart and mind. Undeniably, a truth arose in my motherly breast: I was the mom here. No other mom was going to magically show up and make my daughter obey me. This was God’s new role for me–and I needed to walk in it.

Rapidly my mind raced to grasp and sort all the gleanings I had gained regarding motherhood. Compassionate nurturer. Kindly supplier. Faithful corrector. Ah…faithful corrector–my missing link. Thusly armed with my new comprehension, I stepped boldly into my full role as mother.

I couldn’t help but recall this scenario when I considered Esther’s plight after Mordecai challenged her to plead for her people before the king. Granted she was the queen, wife of the king, but the Persians had this nasty little law about putting to death anyone who appeared uninvited before the king’s presence–unless he held out his golden scepter toward her, thus extending his favor.

In her time as queen, no doubt, she had grown to understand other aspects of her role. Reign in the women’s quarters. Appear in her finest at state functions. Hasten to the king at his request. But this role? How could she ever walk in such a strong calling? How could she present herself and find that presentation enough?

We all know those feelings. We come supplied with a handy list of our shortcomings. If others can’t figure out why they shouldn’t accept us in our role, we could probably tell them several reasons. But there we vulnerably stand anyway. Heart racing. Doubts pulsing. Fear rising. But we stand. We must. For this is our role.

Each new bride or groom, each new parent, each new employee, each new landlord, each new pastor, each new anything, must understand what their role entails and step boldly in. Will we make mistakes? You betcha! Will our shortcomings show? Undoubtedly! But if God has called us to a new role, we have no other choice but, with eyes fixed on the King of kings, to step undeterred in what He has granted us to do.

Actually, that’s not quite true, is it? Esther had a choice. With great wisdom, however, Mordecai counseled her that God would supply relief and deliverance through another, but the cost to her would be great. You see, we can choose to not walk in the role God has conferred on us, but at what cost?

What if I had chosen to not walk in the full role of mother? What if I had elected to simply love on my children and provide their needs? What if I had decided that disciplining my daughter and son was too much work, or felt that perhaps it might impede my “loving” relationship with them? Would I now have a twenty-one year old blessing of a daughter? Would I have an eighteen year old blessing of a son? Or would the cost to my life and home be grievous? And, since my children must learn discipline, who then would God have raised up to serve as their tool of correction?

I don’t know what new role God may have opened for you. My daughter currently has a new role, and both my son and my daughter have new roles looming before them as God takes them into new arenas. But I do know the same holds true for you that holds true for them–and that has held true for me. God will provide and equip for that to which He has called.

Walk boldly in. He is with you.

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13b-14).

God’s Face -> Cutthroat Decisions

“In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy [age 16], [Josiah] began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images” (2 Chronicles 34:3).

To my never-ending delight, I get to enjoy the role of mother to two pretty nifty young adult children. And much like young king Josiah, they have faced the challenge of growing up in about as un-Christlike a culture as you can find. Whereas Josiah’s father, Amon, endorsed that culture by choosing to do “what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:22a), my husband and I have tried our level best to choose, and to encourage our children’s choosing, of God’s highest–even in the small, unseen places which don’t play out on the big-screen of life.

Thus our little family has marched on, trying to evaluate our choices in light of God’s Word with a longing to stay sensitive to His Spirit’s direction. To the encouragement and conviction of some, and to the amusement and bewilderment of most, we don’t watch certain TV shows, go to certain movies, indulge in certain video games, nor read certain books. We don’t judge others, we simply try to judge our actions through God’s eyes. Imperfectly? You bet! But we’re in there swinging!

It should come as no surprise, then, when either of our thought-filled children come to us to talk about past choices–to wonder if they missed the boat in regards to the pleasures and delights this life has to offer. Or to ponder future choices–to consider what those will cost in light of past decisions. As many of their friends embrace all the cultural options available to even Christian youth, my children cannot help but speculate on what they might have lost out on, and will they continue to “miss out” if they maintain their trajectory.

The answer is yes. They have missed out on what our culture has to offer, and, yes, they will keep missing out if they stay their course.

godsway

Christians who love Jesus and determine to seek His ways do NOT get to play both sides. We cannot serve God and indulge our flesh. We do not get to explore all the allures of our culture and maintain spiritual purity. We cannot sate our soul with societal pleasure and the fulfilling joy of the Lord.

And wise parents won’t allow their children to believe they can.

Furthermore, wise Christian parents will train their children when they are young to seek God’s face and act on God’s guidance.

You will note that as King Josiah sought the God of his father, he felt compelled to take action and purge his kingdom of the things which provoked those around him to serve their cultural gods. He didn’t just not participate–he went on a seek and destroy mission!

Seeking God will do that in a person, for to truly encounter God’s face will result in decisive cutthroat action. As a matter of fact, if we don’t find ourselves tearing down cultural idols in our lives, perhaps we should wonder if we’re really seeking God’s face.

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

The Sweet Joy of Obedience

Believe it or not, last week I floundered in my desire to follow-through on a commitment I had made. Have you ever done that? Of course you have! Who hasn’t? You see, each week I dedicate some time to do a little behind-the-scenes work on my computer for our church. And last week–guess what?–I didn’t want to do it! I plainly and simply did.not.want.to.do.it.

Yet God, with great faithfulness and kindness, reminded me of a solid, old lesson He had taught me years ago:

Joy doesn’t come with the anticipation of obedience–joy comes with the actual obedience.

Yet in order for true joy to flow, I had to remember one key ingredient: Who was I doing this for anyway? The church secretary? Nope. My sweet husband? Not even. To preen the vanity of my own self? Still no. The only way that true joy–not just happiness–could sweep across my heart and spirit was if I offered this ministration as my own personal drink offering to Jesus. If I was willing to take that which had been given to me and pour it out through my service to my church, but as unto Him.

Another gentle reminder that streamed across my mind came from the example laid out in The Law: God commanded the Israelites to offer only the best of their flocks and vines. Their unblemished animals. Their firstfruits. They were not allowed to toss “any ol’ thing” upon the altar: God required that it cost them their highest as a reflection of His worthiness to receive their worship. And do you know what? I bet that the heart of each Israelite who truly worshiped Jehovah–despite any original balking–ultimately rejoiced to exalt God with such a blessed offering. For only the heart of one who has considered the cost, yet offered his ultimate sacrifice anyway, could fully enter into that joyful place of true worship.

We all have our offerings to surrender. Our sacrifices of service. Our personal drink offerings. We all know what it’s like to make a commitment, then struggle with the desire to follow through. We have all balked when we realized the true cost. Trust me, it’s rare to understand the full cost at the onset of our service. Yet God asks us to adhere to each word of commitment we have made. Not merely because of others–but for the sweet joy of walking in obedience to Him.

“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Philippians 2:17-18).

The Burden of the Lord

I’m just going to come out and admit it: today has not been my day.

As the wife of an associate pastor at a fairly large, but understaffed, church, I often find my calendar overwhelmed by activities–and the upcoming month or two are no exception. In addition, as a woman who is in a relapse with a debilitating disease, I find that I can view these activities as just another thing which demands my husband’s attention yet leaves me home alone…again.

And today was one of those days.

Receiving my weekly update on the bulletin, I balked. Quickly I texted my husband and queried, “Did you realize we have church events three weekends in a row?”

Moments later my phone rang. My sweet husband. He did his best to explain that two weren’t really “events,” but, yes, the two-day worship conference clearly would be quite the affair. He gently recalled to my mind that our pastors truly pray over each and everything we host, while also turning so many opportunities away. And then…he apologetically reminded me that this Saturday our church was hosting a rather large Ladies’ Tea–at which he had to serve, but which I could not even attend.

My heart sank. My eyes teared up. My body plunged into “cope mode.” Essentially, I was undone.

After Josh left for his baseball game, I decided I needed a nice little nap–something I hoped would refresh me enough to address this steamroller sensation. Not so much.

I cranked some worship up on the ole iPhone stereo and stepped into my steam shower. My worship center. My refuge where I pause to pour out the cries of my heart, both praise and pleadings.

I sang along with “Hallelujah Jesus,” and simply felt His presence near. I then sat and started interceding. For my beloved daughter, who leaves today for her dream missions/service trip to Maui. She’s weary from the past couple of weeks, and desperately needs me to hold her in my prayers. For my dear son, who bears the weight that only a junior in high school can feel, while also struggling with a baseball season where he watches more than he plays. For my husband, who already seemed weary before he even left our home this morning. All burdened. And then me.

But as I prayed I remembered how Jesus blasted the attitudes of the Pharisees, who He also referred to as “children of the devil” for “they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:4). Yet Jesus said of Himself, “for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

My choice today boiled down to whose burden did I want to carry: the heavy load of the devil or the easy and light burden of my Lord?

My shoulders and mind relaxed. My heart melted. My choice was made.

This is not to say that the next couple of months will float by like silken petals adrift on a summer breeze. Nope. Though rewarding, ministry mixed with family responsibilities often presents hard, hard labor. But allowing God to speak His gentle words across my heart has permitted me to nestle into His goodness and kindness and love for me, even during a steep trek in life.

So let the SAT prep and baseball games continue. Let the church activities and events and retreats come. Let my daughter’s graduation approach. I don’t have to live all these things at once. I simply get to live each day with my Jesus.

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken,” (Psalm 55:22).

Who Am I?

As my son and I continue our homeschooling ramble through World History, we embark on the era shatteringly known as World War II. We, therefore, must encounter one of my favorite “heroes of  faith,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man so intelligently aware of his times and so devoted to his faith, that he deliberately chose to step into the fray, and joined a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The conspiracy failed. Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement, and eventually executed.

During his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer continued to live out his faith and witness before the guards and other prisoners. Even for the most stalwart of believers in Christ, this was no easy task. Bonhoeffer exquisitely captured his own inner struggle through the words of the following poem.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
that I step out of my cell
calmly and cheerfully and firmly
like a manor lord from his mansion.

Who am I? The often tell me
that I speak freely and cordially and
clearly with my guards
as if I were the one giving orders.

Who am I? They also tell me
that I am bearing these days of misfortune
with equanimity, smiling and proud,
like someone accustomed to victory.

Am I really that which others say I am?
Or am I only that which I know about myself?
Restless, longing, sick, like a bird in a cage,
gasping for breath as if someone were strangling me,
hungry for colors, flowers, for the song of birds,
thirsting for kind words, for human nearness,
trembling in anger at arbitrariness and petty insults,
driven by anticipation of great things,
helplessly worried about friends infinitely removed,
too weary and empty for praying, thinking, creating,
exhausted and ready to say farewell to everything?

Who am I? This one or the other one?
Am I this person today and a different one tomorrow?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others
and a despicably pathetic weakling before myself?
Or is what is left within me like a vanquished army
fleeing in disarray before the victory that has already been won?

Who am I? Such lonely questions mock me.
Whoever I am, you know me, and I am yours, O God!

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1944)

Although caught in a situation beyond any that those in the general populace face, Bonhoeffer’s words yet resound deeply within the core of so many. I, too, feel his internal struggle as I daily come to grips with who I am. I know that I am a daughter of the King of Kings, the Almighty One. In light of this knowledge though, how can one who longs to do so much be captured by a disease which compels me to such a small life. My home–my bedroom–encapsulate my cell. ME/CFS serves as my guard, restricting my boundaries with undue vigilance, my longings and deepest desires seemingly ignored.  Many Christians try to tell me that am the victor and that I must claim my healing, yet in the light of the whole gospel, these words fall short. And I must discover the me who I really am within my constraints and before my God.

  • I am His daughter, and His lovingkindness toward me has yet to fail.
  • I am His workmanship, and He molds me through His private and sacred means for His glory.
  • I am His bride, and He is simply making me beautiful.
  • I am decreasing so that He may increase, though I may never see earthly results.
  • I am learning what it means to simply be His, with NO limitations on His hand.

I cannot see all or know all, but I can rest in the One who does, and I can place my hope in His love. I can choose to daily surrender any rights I think I may have. I can choose to let His knife cut just a little bit deeper.

Who am I? Just another child longing to be more like Jesus.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).