I Want It All, And I Want It Now

My daughter has asked for a bedroom makeover for her birthday. As an artist, she told me that she’d rather her room be more of an art studio with a bed in it than a bedroom with an art table in it. Okay. I get it. I just wish she had come up with this idea when we originally designed her room a year and a half ago.

So this is going to be a low budget endeavor, and it’s going to require a lot of elbow grease on her part. In the works is a “new” wardrobe that must be refinished, a cool metal chandelier- also in need of refinishing, and walls that must be painted…. in chalk paint. She also wants to trade in her bed, and put her mattress and box springs on top of- wait for it- wooden pallets. Luckily, we found those for free by a dumpster at our church. They just need a bit of sanding.

We decided to start small… with the chandelier. It’s been in my mother’s attic for the last decade or so. It’s cute. Or it will be. But first we had to clean years of grime off it. A spray of hot water took off most of it, but then we had to get in deep with a rag. Once we scrubbed all the grime off, we noticed that over the years, the existing paint was chipping off in places. All that chipping paint had to come off. Some scraping was in order.

I’m not sure my daughter understood what it was going to take to turn this piece back into a treasure. She wanted to skip right to the painting part. I was eager to see the final transformation a new coat of paint would bring to the light also, but I knew if we skipped the important prep work, the final product wouldn’t be what we had hoped.

I think we all like instant gratification. I do. I guess that makes me sound… shallow? Maybe. But honestly, our country is in the sad shape it’s in because too many of us enjoy the temporary satisfaction that instant gratification brings. Who wants to wait for the promise of long-term contentment when we can bank on instant gratification?

Families are falling apart because something feels good in the moment, and a marriage vow is broken. It’s easier to feel giddy and good now than work to make a marriage last over the long haul, right? Finances end up in the toilet because we want what we want right now, and those credit card companies are all too willing to help us get it now. It’s easier to get what we want on credit than to work and earn the money to buy it later. We can’t keep up with the Joneses by waiting, can we?

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

We finally finished all the cleaning and scraping on the small chandelier, and started the painting. Slowly, it began to look like the treasure my daughter hoped it would. The old was made new again. It’s like what Jesus does for us. Yes, we are changed through salvation in an instant. Yet the process of sanctification can take us a while. There’s no quick fix for our humanity. Becoming Christlike takes time. It’s hard work, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we become treasures, priceless and holy. The old is washed away and the unholy is chipped away.

The result is truly great. We are His treasure and He is willing to make that long-term investment in us. No instant gratification required. It’s time for us to make that commitment, too. Let’s stop letting our heads be turned by the things of this world. Those things turn to rust, and are moth eaten. Let’s turn our eyes to the only One who can change us in an instant, and who is willing to stick around for the long haul for us to become what we will be.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a proper perspective. I go to work everyday in a major medical facility, and as I walk the halls and see the patients it can be really overwhelming. I mean, these people are sick. We’re talking sick. It’s hard to see it sometimes. Young and old alike are suffering.

I know what you are probably thinking, because I think it, too. “Wait, it’s hard on you? You’re not the one in the hospital bed.” And that’s really true. Yet day after day, seeing such trauma and illness can begin to work on a person. If I am not careful, I can lose perspective. I can forget that what I am seeing is still the exception, and not the rule. Most people aren’t sick like the ones I see every day. And sometimes, I get to see miracles. It’s on those days when my perspective rights itself. On those days when someone “beats the odds”, I can keep going, keep working. Sometimes I get to meet someone who is pushing through their adversity and keeping their eyes on the Lord. Those are amazing people.

My husband used to preach a message on keeping a proper perspective. It was a great message. He talked about Peter, and how Peter walked upon the water. Now, of course, Peter did sink, but only after he did walk. As long as Peter had a proper perspective, he was walking upon the water. His eyes were focused on Jesus. His eyes were not focused on the storm around him, or his friends who were probably screaming at him for getting out of the boat in the first place. No, his focus was proper, his perspective was on Jesus.

Sadly, for Peter, those precious moments were few. I don’t blame him much, it took a lot of guts to climb out of that boat to begin with. Out there on the water, he began to hear the wind, get splashed in the face, see the waves, listen to his friends, and begin to realize that what he was doing was crazy. (Only moments before, he was actually doing successfully that which was crazy.) He began to listen to reason, he began to weigh his options, he freaked out, he stopped moving forward and therefore, he started moving downward.

One of my great friends has cool life philosophy. It’s a simple one. “Keep moving forward.” It’s a pretty good philosophy, really. If Peter had believed this philosophy, if he had only kept moving forward toward Jesus, he would not have taken the plunge into the stormy sea.

There is a rescue when we lose our perspective. Just as Peter found out, when we stop our forward motion and begin to sink, when we take our eyes off of Jesus and lose our way, he is closer than a breath and He’s there to pick us up. But don’t you know He wants us to walk on that water to Him? Don’t you know every time we push through adversity and keep our eyes on Him, His heart leaps with joy for us?

Have you lost perspective? Are you distracted by the things that seem too heavy and too great to bear? What about those insurmountable odds? Are those causing you to lose your focus and turn your eyes from Jesus? Just remember, while it would make His heart sing for us to keep moving forward, he is close as our shadow and there to pick us up if we sink. He will fix our perspective and set us right again. He’s just great like that.

Need a rescue?  Take heart. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He knew intimately what Jesus was capable of and even he lost his focus. Even Peter needed a rescue. So stop beating yourself up over it. Reach out, allow Jesus to lift you up and set you on sure footing once again.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face, 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel, 1922)

Bear One Another’s Burdens

We are called to bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2 says just that. No man or woman is made to walk this life alone. Case in point:

When Israel was in battle with the Amekalites, as long as he held his staff high, Israel was prevailing (Exodus 17). But after a time, his arms grew weary. (I can understand this. I have pretty much no upper body strength.) So when Moses would grow weary, his arms would start to fall, and his army would begin taking a beating. It was then that Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses to help him bear his burden. Because they did, Israel was victorious.

I always feel privileged when someone asks me for prayer. I mean, I don’t think they would ask if they didn’t think I talked to God fairly frequently, and had a pretty healthy relationship with Him. I must admit, though, that I didn’t always pray when someone would ask me. Oh, I would promise to, and I always meant to, but sometimes I just forgot. Not really nice. Weak arms, and a poor memory.

I’m better about that these days. I have a healthier respect for God’s powerful response to prayer. Now if someone asks me to pray, I do. Right then. I will try to remember to pray again later, but I know who I am and I am forgetful. So just in case, I cut right to it.

I have a friend who is a great intercessor. She has a special talent. She feels called by God to prayer. She leads a team of dozens at her church in intercessory prayer ministry. She recently told me that sometimes the Lord will allow her to feel the burden she is praying for. I mean physically feel it. She told me this doesn’t last long, because we are not called to bear the burdens for long, we are called to cast our cares upon Him. I had no idea what she was talking about. She really FEELS the burdens? How does that work? I couldn’t imagine.

Until…

This friend, whom I call upon regularly to pray for me, called me for prayer. This time my prayer warrior needed prayer. It was serious. Her life had taken a turn that caused her heart to break. It made mine break, too. As I spent time praying for this friend the next morning, I began to feel her pain. I mean I physically felt her pain. My heart felt like a dead weight in my chest. Suddenly, I remembered what she had told me about feeling the burden. I felt it all day long. I was no good at work that day. My mind was on my friend, and on lifting her up before the Lord.

All. Day.

By the time I arrived home later in the afternoon, I was feeling better. I had given over the burden to the Lord. I still don’t quite understand what happened to me. Did I feel what I felt because of WHOM I was praying for? Because of my friend’s tight relationship with the Lord, perhaps? I just don’t know.

Bearing one another’s burdens is no small thing. For years I thought I was pretty good at it. Now I know what it really means to do that. It wasn’t pretty, but it was indeed a privilege to stand in the gap for my friend. To stand in prayer with a friend facing adversity is a blessing- to both parties.

We all need Aarons and Hurs in our lives. Even prayer warriors need prayer sometimes. We know, as Christians, how this game ends. (We win.) And yet we are called to walk this life full of pitfalls and snares. Wouldn’t the journey be better with people to stand in the gap for us? (Ezekiel 22:30)

So you don’t think of yourself as a prayer warrior. Me neither. But it is a privilege to approach the throne of the Most High. He loves the sound of our voices, and like a good Father, wants provide for us. The only way to get started being a person of prayer, is to just get started. I have turned my journey to work every morning into a Divine appointment. Those twenty-five minutes are when God and I hang out. It’s a really great way to start the day, and the only twenty-five minute period of my day that someone else hasn’t laid claim to.

So let’s become a people of prayer… for our families, friends, churches, leaders, and for our country. We were made to bear the burdens of others, to lighten their load, on this journey.

Parents Need Reinforcements

“Without good direction, people lose their way;
the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Proverbs 11:14

My pastor recently talked about the importance of having good relationships. At one point he said something to the effect of, “The devil puts people into your life just to destroy you.” Those are pretty harsh words, but I’ll bet you can think of one or two people you’ve crossed paths with in your life that would fit that bill.

As a parent, one of the best things we can do for our kids is to help them have good, healthy relationships. So often, we can see far ahead of them, that a person in their life is doing them no good at all. It could be a dating relationship, a friendship, or even a casual acquaintance. When we see these things happening, we set boundaries, forbid relationships, and we argue our position ad nauseum. If your kid is a teenager, you may find you are fighting a losing battle on that front. You will often find, the harder you speak out against a destructive relationship, the harder they will fight for it. So what’s a parent to do?

You need reinforcements.

So where do those reinforcements come from?

For us, they have come from lots of different places. My oldest son had a guitar teacher once named Dan that he thought was so cool. He still does. Dan was about twenty-five and was a worship leader at a local church. He poured great stuff into my son. I didn’t care if Landon ever learned to play the guitar. Dan was telling Landon the same things his dad and I were telling him, only cooler. And Landon listened.

This last week, I attended a meeting at my church concerning an internship my two middle kids will be a part of. During that meeting, I was introduced to eight college kids that are a part of Highlands College at Church of the Highlands. These students will be pouring into my kids this next semester. All of these kids are in their early twenties and have decided to give their lives to the possibility of full time ministry… starting with mentoring my kids. I wanted to hug and kiss them all.

So if you’re having some troubles on the relationship front with your kids, or even if you’re not, here’s a suggestion. Find them a mentor. Pay them if you have to in order to get them to spend time with your kid.

I’m about to get really practical here.

This person should be just a few years older than your kid. Old enough that they have figured a few things out, but no so old that they appear out of touch to your kid. Twenty-five or younger if possible. For Christian parents, you are going to want this person to be a strong believer and Christ follower… but they need to be cool. I cannot stress this enough.

Where can you find such a person? Well, what’s your kid into? Landon wanted to play guitar. It took us a while to get a lesson slot with Dan, but the wait was well worth it. Whatever it is that your kid has an interest in, find that mentor. And it’s never too early to start, either. My youngest son (11) is taking drum lessons from Park who plays drums at his church and who just entered Highlands College. I tell you what, those loud lessons are so worth it! It’s those conversations before and after the lesson with Park that really matter.

As much as my kids are still willing to listen to Matthew and me (for this I am grateful), I know they are seeking counsel from other places. I want to make sure those outside influences are good ones.

I remember about a year ago, there was a young man who was showing quite a bit of interest in my fourteen-year-old daughter. It was getting a bit out of hand. I had tried talking to her, but I could tell she was a bit obsessed with his interest in her. Then one night, one of her mentors (a college student named Abby), brought her home from church. Laura told me she had talked to Abby about this boy on the ride to our house. I asked her what Abby had said.

She told me that Abby told her that she was a prize, and that she was worth far more than what this boy was offering her. And that was it. She was done with him. All it took was a chat from a cool mentor. Abby didn’t say anything I hadn’t said. She just said it …cooler. And my daughter heard her. Abby was my hero.

So if the devil is going to try to put people into our kid’s lives to bring them down, we have to stack the deck against him. And it’s never too early or too late to get started. Don’t fight this battle harder. (Or louder) Rather, fight it smarter. Our kids are worth it.