Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Heart Grass Stains!

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This morning as I was doing my kids' laundry, I had an unusual experience. I noticed that both of my daughters had some crazy grass stains on the knees of their pants. Finding them was not so unusual, but my response was. Normally, I'd give a sigh and pull out the stain remover with disdain. But today, I saw them totally differently. I rejoiced at the sight of those stains.

The reason a smile broke out was this: I loved seeing firsthand the evidence of them having a great time. I loved knowing that they had really played hard that day, had let loose with abandon and just enjoyed being kids. What delight it brought to this mom's heart to know that her kids were living all out in that moment.

That's how I want to live. I want to approach this life with all of the gusto I can muster. I want to run hard and dig into the grass in joy and excitement. I want to embrace the joyful moments life brings. My prayer is that I will live this way, as a wife, a mom, a friend. I want my life to reflect the joy and fullness that knowing Christ brings to everything, to celebrate this amazing life He has given us. I long to rejoice in His majesty reflected in this incredible world He created. And I want my life to bear the grass stains of someone who got up, ran hard and dug in with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Oh, that we would all embrace the life of freedom and joy His precious blood bought us!

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meant for More

I John 1:7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

I was in a hurry. I went to wake my daughters from their late nap to get ready to head to church. As I walked the hall to their room, an overwhelming smell hit my nose and I immediately knew what happened. I opened the door to find my younger daughter asleep, covered head to toe in her own poop. It was everywhere. It had dried on the sheets and the bed, even on the wall. I immediately picked my daughter up and rushed her to the bath. As I was gently scrubbing her precious little porcelain skin, God clearly spoke to my heart.

He showed me that what I saw before me was a picture of what He sees when He looks at us. When I found my daughter in that bedroom, covered in feces, my love for her didn't run the other way. I ran to her. I longed to cleanse her from the muck of something she wasn't meant to cover herself in. The smell of that stuff covering her was putrid to me, just as sin is to God, but it wasn't enough to stop me from scooping her up and taking her to where she could be clean. In the same way, when I was covered in the stench of sin and shame, Jesus still reached out to me. He came and died in my place so I could be clean. As I bathed my daughter and she began to cry from discomfort, my heart broke. I had to scrub a bit to get the caked on residue to give. I had to dig under her fingernails to remove the matter that had lodged itself there during the course of her adventure. And though the process was painful, it was for her good - to make her clean. When I have wallowed in sin and allowed God to work His cleansing process on me, it has at times been painful. Sometimes it's uncomfortable when He uproots unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. But it's always for my good, to make me clean.

I learned a lot that day with my daughter, but what I treasure most is the glimpse it gave me to the Father's love. You see, when my daughter was covered head to toe in poop, she was still my daughter. My love for her did not change at all -not one single bit - by the fact she was wrapped in something so awful. She was mine. And I knew I had the ability and the resources to help her get clean. I had the knowledge and understanding to teach her that she wasn't made for playing in poop, just as God teaches me that I wasn't meant to play in sin. I was heartbroken that my daughter chose to play in poop when her Dad and I and her Grandparents had provided so many more wonderful things to play with. I wanted her to see all of the great things she had available to her, instead of playing in the stench. And I think that's God's heart for us too. We weren't meant for sin. We were meant to live today and for eternity enjoying all of the precious gifts and promises that the precious blood of Christ bought us at the cross.

I don't know where you're at this morning. I don't know what sins, addictions, struggles or worries have you marred. But I do know this. There is no sin too great or too small that Christ cannot forgive, no tragedy He cannot redeem. He is a precious, loving Father who will cleanse you. Trust His arms. Trust His process. Trust His heart. When you're His, you're His forever.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Frontline Ministry

I've got lots of friends down front. They are in the trenches of ministry, doing the hard things that no one else wants to do. These men and women aren't getting all the press. They aren't receiving medals or lots of accolades, but they are indeed great warriors. They are doing the work of the Gospel. Loving men and women and children in the name of Jesus in hopes that they might say yes to Christ's incredible invitation to receive His forgiveness and live eternally with Him. They are literally binding up wounds, touching the poor, caring for the homeless, ministering to broken families, caring for little children, writing words of hope to the hopeless, challenging the wayward, teaching truth, feeding the hungry, singing songs of healing and hope, and spurring on the believer.

Sometimes, if I'm honest, I have a tendency to get a little jealous of their position. I know they would laugh at reading that because the places these men and women serve, the things God has asked them to do are hard. They are lonely. And they are often done without thanks or recognition. But oftentimes I long to have the impact I see these men and women making. I want to make a difference in what really matters - the matters of eternal life and death - the things that will far outlive us all.

But you know what? This morning as I was thinking about that, wishing I had a place on the frontline, God showed me something. If we are His, we are all on the frontline of ministry. There is no back of the pack file pusher. There is no overlooked wayside wanderer. God has work prepared for each one of us to do. And His Word tells us it was prepared in advance.

My frontline may not look like what the world (even the church world) defines as frontline ministry. And that's the rub. I think that's where the enemy corners us many times. We simply overlook the importance of where God has us. We fail to trust the sovereignty of His hand in knowing the lives He longs for us to impact. We are looking for platforms and avenues, when we are standing on and in them. And as we sit, idly wondering when our day will come, we are missing the opportunities of the days in front of us, the ones passing by under our noses. May it be so no longer. May you and I wake up to see that there is no ministry too small.

So where does God have you and me? What is our frontline? Is it your family? your neighborhood? Your office? Do not doubt God's ability to do mighty things right there in your backyard. He finds every life precious and is not willing that any should perish. Don't lay idle in your calling simply because your "mission field" looks differently than you would define it or envision it. Step up to your frontline and reach out to the lost and the hurting all around you. Minister boldly and intentionally with dynamic and authentic love and compassion.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Put Your Hands Together

A few weeks ago my family and I were blessed with tickets to the Circus. While there, I noticed something. Hardly anyone applauded. These festively dressed men, women and animals were performing death defying stunts and engaging acts of skill and delight. They were performing "the greatest show on earth." And what response did they receive in return? A half-hearted clap or two, if at all.

And it got me thinking. When did we become so numb to displays of joy and wonder? Couldn't we see how hard these people (and animals) were working to bring smiles and excitement to the audience? Have we become so entertainment based that we cannot applaud and celebrate the simple wonders of life?

And I thought about how we do the same thing to God. How often do we glaze over the magnificent displays of His splendor each day? The sunrise, and the beauty of nature that surround us each day are enough to warrant praise and thanksgiving. The miracles of life and love are enough to draw admiration and joy. And the Gift of Christ's salvation and of God's abiding presence are certainly worth a great deal of applause and gratitude.

But we don't do that very often.

We fail to stop.
And gaze.
And truly breathe in

the miracles that are every day before us. We overlook the moment by moment opportunities to applaud the God of Heaven.

May it not be so.

May God give us eyes to see just how much His glory is on display every day in the things we are tempted to call common. May we be a people who applaud, and woot woot, and shout and sing praise and thanks to God for all the things He has done. If we awaken our eyes, we find that there's no shortage of things to applaud. His majesty, His character, His love....the works of His Hand....His faithfulness....there are so many reasons today - this very day - to put our hands together and clap loudly. Never has there been and never will there be, a more worthy recipient of our applause. So whatever you're up to today, take in the demonstration of God's love and beauty all around you. Put your hands together for the truly Greatest Show in Heaven and on Earth.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Favorite Shoes

I have a favorite pair of shoes. They certainly aren't the best ones in my closet, but when I put these brown Mary Jane's on, I just feel comfortable. They are perfectly broken in, they're cute and they go with lots of things. But if I'm honest, there's a problem with my favorite pair of shoes.

You see, at the top of these shoes, where there used to be a darling shade of chocolate brown, there are now two solid lines of white scuff. Time and wear have taken their toll on these shoes and these marks tell the story. Even though these shoes are looking pretty rough, it's hard for me to let them go. And here's why: It took time and wear to make these shoes mine. And now they're oh so comfortable. (I also happen to like the way they're styled. ) And even though the scuff marks now betray their cute factor, I still find myself going to them first, like "golden boy" on Seinfeld - Jerry's yellow sweatshirt that was always the first thing he wore when all of the laundry was washed.

A few weeks ago, when I put on these favorite shoes, I saw them for what they were: past their time. And it was a sobering picture to me of the way I approach other things I've outgrown in life. I began to think about the parallels between how dragging my feet had scored those timelines on my shoes and how dragging my feet in life was doing the same on my heart.

What is it when God asks us to move on that causes us to hold so tight to the present, or sometimes the past? I think my shoes can shed some light on this phenomenon.

1. We value comfortable. I don't want to get new shoes because these are so comfy. I like the way they've been primed to cushion my feet. And I have been willing to give up the new for the comfortable. How much more so am I doing that in life? Forsaking new for the sake of comfortable?

2. We avoid pain. Starting something new costs us. Getting a new pair of shoes will cost me money. It will cost me time in discovering what pair will next best suit me. It forces me to face my fear: What if I give my shoes up only to never find a pair I like as much? So, starting fresh costs me money, time, emotion, but there's more. Just like my shoes will cost me discomfort as I learn to walk in a new pair, so beginning new steps can be equally hard. No one likes the pinching, blistering or squeezing that new shoes sometimes cause. But there are times when we must press on anyways. Sometimes, what we find so uncomfortable in the beginning opens the door to a whole new pair of shoes, a whole new part of life, we would have never imagined we'd like so much.

3. We get stuck looking down. I love my little brown shoes. And though others may see a scuffed, boring pair of plain shoes, I see a darling little set that's perfectly suited to my personality. I love to admire their shape and their stitching because it makes me happy. You may laugh at that, but I promise you there are ways we all do this in our lives. There are pet things in our lives that we get stuck admiring, when the time to give them up has long passed. Just like I do with my shoes, we get busy looking down, admiring where we are or where we've been instead of where we're headed. You can't go very far with your head looking down. Sometimes, what was good for a season loses its value and its relevance for now, and it becomes time to pick our head and our feet up and move on.

So what do we do when we find ourselves stuck in a rut? We make a decision to go forward. We take time to treasure the comfort and beauty and enjoyment of a particular season or thing or experience. We thank God for it. And then, we lay it down. We trust that this life is just a passing through to the eternal life we were meant to live forever with Christ in heaven. And we realize that anything He asks us to lay down is of far lesser importance than the treasure of Christ Himself. We trust the God who had the creativity to even dream up shoes. We trust that His ability to design new and tailored shoes and seasons and assignments would blow our minds if we were able to see it from His point of view. His creativity is endless and His attention to personal detail is both comforting and trustworthy.

So this morning, I'm asking myself, as I'm asking you: Are you willing to quit dragging your feet? Are you willing to lay down your favorite projects, ideas, and dreams and trust God to lead you to your next set of shoes?

Galatians 5:25 "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."