Month: September 2010

Finding God’s Favor

It was my day off, but I had somewhere to be early that morning, so I was getting ready along with the kids as they got ready for school. As I was putting on my makeup, I heard it. It was the distinct sound of dishes being loaded into the dishwasher.

It’s an unmistakable sound. I listened intently for the sound again. In a few seconds I heard it. I knew my husband had left for work already, so it wasn’t him. My oldest two kids weren’t up yet and my daughter was shut up in her room getting ready. Most likely, she was on her third or fourth outfit of the day.

That left the youngest. Evan. I tiptoed to the kitchen door and looked in. Sure enough, ready for school, there he was loading the dishwasher! He must have heard me because after a moment he looked over his shoulder at me and smiled. Then he continued on with his task.

He’s been really helpful like that for a few days now. Offering to help me do this or that. Asking if there’s anything he can do for me, not complaining when I tell him it’s time for a shower. Things like that. One might think its another

Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

But no. It’s really Evan. Only it’s a motivated Evan.

He’s trying to earn money to buy a certain toy he’s got his eye on. We don’t give our kids an allowance as a general rule. We feel like chores are just a part of being a part of a family. But on certain occasions, Evan knows if he goes way above and beyond the call of duty he’ll gain my favor, and I’ll reward him with some of the green stuff.

jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

I do the same thing with God sometimes. There are times when I want God to do something in my life. Maybe I need him to provide money to pay bills, or open a door of opportunity. Maybe I want him to work in a friend or family member’s life, or come to my rescue when I’ve really screwed up.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Don’t they? When I really need to hear from the Lord, or I need him to move in my life, I get real good at “being Christian”. I talk to Him more. I read the Bible more. I worship Him louder and mind my p’s and q’s. It’s all a desperate attempt to get His attention, and gain his favor. To get what I want from him.

What we forget sometimes is
that we already have God’s favor.

We think that by being “extra Christian” He’ll take notice of how good we are being and reward us, give us what we want. Except doing the things that we hope impress God only serve to benefit our relationship with him, apart from our immediate need.

So how does one get more favor from God?

He’s already met our most urgent and primary need. He gave us a Savior and restored our broken relationship.

The answer is, we can’t get more favor than that.

My son has worked really hard for his reward, and I will honor his effort and buy him the toy he wants. (After all, I think it’s only a ten-dollar toy.) The little bugger managed to work his way into my good graces!

Yet the truth is, we cannot work our way into God’s good graces. Not one bit. Jesus did that for us. What we can work on is our relationship with Him. Then we will learn better how much we can trust Him to meet the needs we have and some of the wants we have.

I love to give my children the things they want, as long as the things they want are good for them. How much more then, does God love to bless us in the same way?

God could not favor you more than he does right now. Go ahead, lean into Him, talk to Him, and listen to Him. You’ll see.

His favor is all over you.

Wedding Dreams

Every little girl dreams of her wedding day.

I did. I’ll bet you did, too. What did that look like for you? Small, simple, yet romantic? Or blow out all the stops and over the top? Maybe somewhere in between?

I loved to draw when I was little, and so I would draw pictures of my special day. I knew what my dress would look like. I drew flowers and cakes and doves. Oh yes. What could be more romantic than that? There would be candles and music….

Little girls would gather up my super long train, and carry it down the aisle behind me. My best friends would be standing at the alter with big smiles and green eyes of envy. The church would be full of friends and well-wishers. Anyone peering into my mind’s eye would see my perfect wedding and long for such a day for themselves.

The only hitch was that I honestly never believed that day would happen for me. I was smart enough to know that for my wedding daydreams to become reality, someone had to love me enough to ask me to marry him. I just didn’t see that happening. Ever.

I could see well enough the reflection in my mirror. Staring back at me was a shy, skinny girl with limpish brown hair and crooked teeth. I knew no one would ever give me a second look, much less love me enough to spend the rest of their lives waking up to that.

But God took pity on this little girl, knew the plans He had for her, and those plans included a mate. Long before I knew him, God was working. I just wish He had let me know. It was years before I thought there might be a glimmer of hope for me.

I remember my finance’s younger sister was just in middle school when he and I were planning our wedding. It had been years since I had seen any of my drawings, but she presented me with one she had drawn of her brother and me and what she thought our wedding would look like. It reminded me of the ones I had drawn years before, and the sight of hers plucked at my heart strings. I still have it.

That particular drawing meant someone did love me enough to want to wake up to the sight of me every morning! Miracles did happen!

I was still skinny- strangely enough; when my future husband first met me his first impression was-

“She’s too skinny”

See? I told you. I did have better hair then (I had discovered hair products!), and my teeth had been straightened through the miracle of braces, but I still couldn’t believe someone loved me this much. He had pursued me (Although I hadn’t made the chase too hard on him.) relentlessly.

That was twenty years ago, and he still pursues me.

It still blows my mind.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

Likewise, sometimes I think we doubt that God would ever really pursue a relationship with us. I mean why would He? Of course the idea of such a relationship fills our hearts and minds with longing, but we know ourselves. We see who we really are, and know that we are not worth the trouble.

Only that’s not the truth. The truth is that God desires a relationship with us above everything else. He gave up that which meant the most to him to have that relationship the day Jesus died. He’s been pursuing us ever since. We are constantly on His mind. Do you believe that? Or do you look at yourself and have doubt?

The Bible says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He’s not waiting patiently on a bench, hoping we’ll open the door sometime. Nope. He’s at the door. Knocking. He really wants to come in. And then once He’s in its not done. He desires for that relationship to continue growing ever deeper and more intimate. Doesn’t that bring a smile to your face? It should. That the Creator of the Universe desires to know you so much that He never gives up the pursuit?

Makes me smile just thinking about it.

A Cracked Pot Fable…

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My sister-in-law came across this fable a while back and shared it with me. I’d like to share it with you now. Read on and you’ll see why I am partial to it!
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An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?”

“That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

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What a relief to know that we can be useful even through our imperfection. So many times we listen to the lies that say because we don’t measure up in one way or another that we cannot possibly be useful to God or His purposes. But so often it is because of those flaws that we are just the one He chooses to use. Are you a cracked pot? I know I am!



The Lost Look

I had just stepped out of a class on service recovery.

It was intended to teach all employees at the hospital where I work how to help recover a favorable impression from patients and visitors who might have experienced a less than great situation at our facility.

One of the things discussed was just how lost people can get in our humongous hospital, and how we should be on the watch for “the lost look”. I knew it well. It’s noticeable from yards away. It’s a mixture of bewilderment, frustration, and despair. Their mouth is a slightly open, eyebrows are raised, and their hands are slightly elevated with palms up. Sometimes they are even spinning slowly as if they’re on a rotisserie, looking this way and that, trying to figure out how to get to their destination.

Because I had just completed my mandatory training, I was hyperaware of the people around me. I was also hyperaware of how hungry I was. I had sat for two hours in the class listening to my stomach growl. I still had a long afternoon of work ahead, only thirty minutes to find something to eat, and get at it. I was on a mission. My goal?

I love Guthrie’s chicken fingers. They are cheap; they come with fries, and that really awesome uber-crushed ice. You know the kind…. It’s crushed so finely that some of it can be sucked up your straw? My mouth is watering even now as I think about it. My mouth was watering then, too.

To get there I had to leave my building,

go across a crosswalk,

completely through another building,

down
a
flight
of
stairs,

outside,

down a half block,

around the corner,

and into Guthrie’s.

It was going to take me about five minutes of power walking to get there, five back, and that left only twenty minutes to eat. Definitely doable. Usually.

I started out to get my food, and noticed all the people hustling and bustling by. Lots and lots of people. I tried to be friendly and speak to as many as I could. My class, remember? We also learned, however, that eye contact is what the lost in our facility are looking for. Someone to notice them, and notice they are lost.

I made it only a few steps out of my office when I ran into lost persons number one, two and three. Luckily they were together so I could direct them to one place. Quick. Easy. No real time lost, but I stepped it up anyway. I had made it halfway across the crosswalk when she spotted me. Had we been cars on a freeway, she’d have had to cross three lanes to get to me, and she did. I had made eye contact and smiled. My mistake.

She almost ran to me. She dropped all four of her bags at my feet, and dug around in her purse for a small piece of green paper with some letters written on it. It was the acronym for one of our intensive care units… and it was way back past my building and up a few levels, with a few twists and turns thrown in. No offense, but looking at her, I knew she’d never make it. Silently telling my stomach to quiet down, I picked up her bags, and told her to come with me. Relief flooded her face.

I’d like to say that she was the last person to delay my lunch and workday that afternoon, but no.

I began to wonder if someone had secretly placed a sign on me saying:

“Ask me. I can help!”

I ushered at least three more people to their destinations within my hospital that afternoon. By the end of the day it did feel like my hospital! I wondered if the ones who taught my earlier class planted all those people there, and this was my posttest.

What was the difference for me that day? Were there more lost people than on other days? I doubt it. The difference was me. The difference was that day I had eyes to see and I was looking. I wasn’t only focused on all I had to do, I was paying attention to the needs of others around me. Any other day I would have walked right on past those people intent on my own destination and all the important things I had to do.

How many times have I walked right past someone lost and in need of Jesus?
I know they are all around me. But am I too busy? Am I late for my own destination, and unwilling to stop and help? Too caught up in my own agenda to show them the way to Christ? Sometimes I am. Ouch.

Still, if I ask, I believe God will give me the eyes to see those in need of the help I can give. I know the way. I can show them. I should show them. I even want to. Even if it means I don’t make it to Guthrie’s.

Worst Enemy

A friend at work recently shared this funny story about her five-year-old son.

Funny also is the fact that he has never admitted to being the one who did the deed. I do this sometimes. Well, I don’t pee in my bed, at least I haven’t in a long time, but I do things to myself that I like to blame on other people.

Do you do this, too? We can blame others all day for the situations we find ourselves in or for the very way we are as a person. We look this way and that for the next person to blame. We point fingers at our parents, spouses, bosses, and others. How many of us want to look closely enough to see that it is often our own finger on the trigger of the gun that just shot our foot.

Yet there is a blessing in being able to take responsibility for our own mistakes and shortcomings. It’s the first step in the growth process.

Unfortunately, it’s the hardest step and sometimes I just find it easier to blame someone else. Then it’s not me that needs to change, it’s someone else’s deal.

It’s hard to admit that sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

My husband once preached a great message about taking personal responsibility for our own shortcomings. He talked about how when Saul, King of Israel, was told by God to completely obliterate the Amalekites. They were enemies of Israel, and allowing anything to remain from their society would have been detrimental to Israel. Well Saul mostly did what he was told… but he decided to keep a few really nice things. All of which he really wanted for himself. When Saul was confronted with his error, he didn’t own it. He blame shifted. He blamed the people of Israel, saying it was the people that kept those things, not him. (All the while the Amalek sheep are bleating behind him and giving him away.) Eventually, Saul was the author of his own demise.

In contrast was King David. David was King, all right. Sometimes he was the King of screw-ups. But he knew where to rest the blame. Take a look at Psalm 51: (I added the emphasis)

 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Maybe our struggle in accepting blame for ourselves is a way to keep up appearances. Sometimes I am so good at it that I can fool even me.

We may fool others and ourselves sometimes, but God is not fooled. And you know what? It’s okay to admit we peed the bed…. so to speak. King David was a man after God’s own heart, and he was far from perfect. What he was, was willing to open himself up before the God who loved him so, so that he could be changed. Check this out:

 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; 
       you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
I’m learning that God is not disappointed in me for my shortcomings, even when they land me in a pickle. But when I am willing to admit my failings, He is ready and willing to make up for them. And then I grow.

I Remember

I remember where I was when Bear Bryant died. Losing Paul Bryant was for Alabama fans what losing the Pope would be for Roman Catholics. Well, sort of. Alabama takes its football seriously.

I remember my location when the Challenger blew up in midair. The video of the explosion is burned into my memory. Thank you, CNN.

I also recall where I was when those terrorist driven planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a rural field in Pennsylvania. (Missing its intended target because of some brave Americans whose attitude was, “I don’t think so!”)

Saturday was a day of remembrance for our country. 9/11 was a day that meant huge changes for us here, and abroad. As my family sat around the dinner table, we all talked about where we were when the first plane hit the first tower. For the most part my kids are really too young to remember it happening. My youngest was just ten months old. My oldest had turned seven the day before.

When he turned ten I remember him saying sadly,

“9/11 will always be more important than my birthday. It’s going to always be what people think about now.”

He was bummed. He wanted to keep that spotlight for himself. For all our sakes, I wish he could have.

I did not know, personally, anyone who lost their lives that day, but I remember that it didn’t matter. It felt like they were my neighbors, my friends, anyway. For all our differences, we were one nation in the days that followed that tragic one. Our false sense of security stripped away, we drew together in strength, and we gathered our reserve. We turned to our God in prayer and pleading. We didn’t criticize our leaders for praying publicly. We wanted, expected, them to.

Then God did what he always does when his children call upon His name. He answered, and poured out his grace and mercy upon our grieving nation.

In that one day we were reminded that our security lies in Him alone. Since that time our country, as well as the world, has suffered great economic hardship. Again we are turning to God for provision. So often, as a country, we tell God, “We’ve got this. We can do fine without You. Have a seat over there until we need You. We’re good right now.” And so He does. When He’d like nothing more than to crawl right up in the middle of our stuff and show us the way.

We can complain all we want to about how “they” are taking God out of everything. But think about it. Don’t we all do that on our own level at least sometimes? We take the reigns over from Him with this false sense of security and proceed to drive our lives right off the road.

Then with our wagon in the ditch, we call out to Him. What if we just stopped doing that? I’m talking about the part where we take the reigns from Him in the first place, and ask Him to step aside.

What if I live my life for Him, really live it for Him, and not just say that I do? And what if you do? What if every Christian in our country and others do, too? Rather than Christianity being only a part of who we are, it becomes the whole of who we are.

It’s just not enough to click the Facebook links that say, “Click ‘like’ if you are a Christian and proud of it.” Or “Let’s find one million Christians on Facebook”. Whoop-de-do. Still, that’s about as bold as some of us get with our faith. We click a link and think we’ve really done something for Jesus.

The last nine years have been tough ones for this country. I don’t think there is any indication that things are getting any better any time soon. I’m not military or economic guru for sure, and I’m truly not trying to sound all negative. I do have hope.

As Christians we have the advantage of living above our circumstances, both personal and corporate. It’s the ability to walk by faith and not by sight. Can you do this? If you know Jesus you can.

Remember Peter? He’s the only person other than Jesus who was able to walk on water. I know he fell eventually, but that’s because he took his eyes off of Jesus. That’s when he went for a swim. Even then, he was smart enough to call upon Jesus who came immediately to his rescue.

We’ve taken some falls in this country of late. Are we smart enough to call out to the only Savior that can raise us up? I’m calling out, are you?

Meemaws Rock…

I have several friends entering the realm of grandparenthood.

I’d like to say they are all so much older than me. I’d like to say that, but it’s not necessarily so. Some are, some are not. It’s been fun to watch the joy erupt in their lives, however. It makes me look forward to when my own kids sprout kids of their own…. (Some time in another ten years or so.) I’m way too young to be a grandmother any time soon.

And yet I do think about it.

I have four kids of my own. Even if all my kids have only two kids apiece I’ll have quite a gaggle of grands one day. The thought of even more makes me laugh. I understand why my friends are so silly happy.

I am learning that what kids call their grandparents is almost as important as what the kids themselves are named. I think of my own grandparents. I called my mom’s parents “Granny” and “Pawpaw”. My dad’s parents were “Grandmother” and “Grandaddy”. The two pairs were as different as they could be from one another, but I loved them so much.

I can remember when my parents became grandparents. My niece had the privilege of naming my parents, as she was the first grandchild on that side of the family. My mom was “Granma”, and my dad was “Pop”. His name was easy; it’s what my brother had started calling my dad some time earlier, and it was a bonus that it was super easy for my niece to say. Early on, “Granma” came out of my niece’s mouth as “Momma”. I told my dad we could teach her to say “Big” in front of it, and all have a great laugh. He said he liked sleeping inside too much for that.

My mother-in-law so respected her mother (known as Nana to my husband and his siblings) that she chose “Nina” for herself, and so it was settled. My father-in-law was supposed to be Pauly, (his name is Paul) but when my nephew, the first grandchild on that side learned to speak, it came out “Poppy”. Okay. A little confusing for my kids, but what could we do? Poppy it was. And after seventeen years, the names all just fit.

Secretly, I’ve tried on grandmother names already.

I’ve settled on one that I love. It’s not fancy or pretentious. It’s not hard to say and I can just hear it rolling off the tongues of my little precious ones…. Someday in the very distant future. I’ve decided I want my grandkids to call me “Meemaw”.

Yep. That’s right. I mean, say it….. Doesn’t it just roll off your lips, and evoke feelings of love and hugs? That, and it’s just plain funny. I mean, imagine little ones saying it in their sweet little voices. “Meemaw, I wuv you!”

Makes my heart swell just thinking about it. But the best part is, one day those kids will grow up and still have to call me that. Now just imagine it rolling off the lips of a twenty-something-year-old grandson:

“Okay Meemaw, here’s your walker.”

Grandparents are awesome people, as a rule. They get away with spoiling kids without having to pay the price for it that parents do. They get all the fun stuff out of child rearing without the rough nitty-gritty stuff. Grandparents can also be so instrumental in the lives of their grandkids if they choose to be, and if they are allowed to be.

I can still remember word for word some of the life lessons I heard from the lips of my grandparents.

The most important lesson I ever learned from my granddaddy was that it is ugly to stick your tongue out at someone. I had a small doll that did that when you mashed her belly.

I proudly showed it to him, and he promptly cut her tongue off. (Pride indeed goeth before a falleth) I know it sounds harsh, and I was shocked when he did it, but I still remember the lesson he shared behind it. “Tongues belong in our mouths, not pointed at another person.” An important lesson for a five-year-old.

The love shown to me by my grandparents hangs with me even today. Much of their words and practices have shaped who I am and how I live my life. I don’t have them with me anymore, but I carry them in my heart.

Grandchildren are the reward parents get for surviving the raising of their own kids.

But grandparents are also a gift. So I rejoice with my friends who are waiting for those little babies to be born into their families, and I can’t wait to see how they influence the lives of those precious ones.

I think of Timothy’s grandmother, Lois. The Apostle Paul commended her to him for her great faith, and how she passed that faith on to her daughter- and then on to Timothy. What a legacy to pass on. Is there anything more important than that? I doubt she ever considered that the act of passing on her faith to her family would impact millions as part of the Holy Scriptures. I wonder what Timothy called his grandmother..

I’m putting my money on “Meemaw”.