Monday, April 19, 2010

Enjoying Life

Do you ever notice how we criticize and condemn ourselves for enjoying life? Why is it that when I am sitting on my deck, soaking in the sun, breathing in the fresh air, listening to the songs of the birds and just "being" that I feel guilty for not "doing"? Sometimes I have to say that I hate living in a culture that only values activity and accomplishment, not resting and enjoying. We seem to be so fearful of becoming lazy that we work ourselves into an exhausted frenzy and then we're resentful for not being "allowed" to rest yet we feel too guilty to actually take the rest. Well, I want to start a rebellion. I want the freedom to enjoy myself without condemning myself. I am on a mission to let go and to be at peace with being a person with a soul, not a machine whose only value is in what it can produce. Back in January I wrote in my journal that this is going to be the year of peace not pursuit, of praise not production. Can I tell you how hard that goal has been so far?! Being still often takes more effort than working myself to death. Yet I long to laugh and enjoy without wondering if I'm failing or neglecting something more important. What could be more important than enjoying and being grateful for the life that God has chosen to give me? Yes there's sorrow, "In this world you will have tribulation" Jesus said, but he also said "in me you may have peace, take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). So I am trying to relax and let go; I expect the sorrows, I expect the "have-to's" but I don't have to let them rob me of my joy and confidence that Jesus has it all under control and I am allowed to enjoy life without feeling guilty.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Like a Child

Matthew 18:21-35

The King of the universe has forgiven me of an enormous debt. A debt beyond calculation. Who am I to demand payment from a fellow sinner who has also been forgiven his debt by the same King? It is ridiculous to think that they would owe me anything. Realizing this, and living in this truth offers such freedom, inner contentment and immovability. My peace cannot be taken from me by anything that anyone does or says, I cannot be shaken. I recognize that I am a great sinner as is everyone around me, but I am forgiven and loved by a great savior. And he loves each one of us without partiality.

Friend of Sinners

Verse 1:
You found me in an empty, howling wasteland
Unwanted, helpless and covered in disease
You wrapped your cloak around me
Bathed me in forgiveness
Adorned me with acceptance and your glory (Ezekial 16)

Sometimes like a fool,
I think I saved myself
Quick to forget you
O God, you are my help

Friend of sinners
Holy One
Repentance is your precious gift to me
Friend of sinners
Glorious One
Repentance is your gift to set me free
Friend of sinners

Verse 2:
How can I stand before you so offensive
I choose the darkness trampling on your grace
Lead me to repentance
To the cross, the face of Jesus
It was my sin that held my savior there

Pre-chorus 2:
Sometimes like a fool
I think I give so much
that I don't need you
But I'm not good enough

Jesus Friend of sinners
Jesus Friend to me
Father true forgiver
Spirit guiding me

Matthew 18:1-10

"Turn from your sins and become like little children" (18:3 NLT)

"Little children", what does it mean for me to become like a little child? What do I see in my children? A.) They know they are not in charge. B.) They are continually aware of their sinfulness. C.) They have to constantly be apologizing to each other D.) They are always needing help and they don't mind asking me for it. E.) They know that they have a lot to learn and they apply themselves to learning new things all the time. F.) They depend on me for their daily needs and for protection. G.) They know that they need to obey without arguing, complaining or delaying and that they need to trust me. H.) They are joyful and easily delighted. I see that my children are by nature humble yet secure and confident in who they are and in my love for them. They can make mistakes and still know they are accepted. They can repent and not wallow in self-pity or guilt. They embrace forgiveness and offer it so freely to others. Lord, make me like a little child.

"Anyone who welcomes a little child on my behalf is welcoming me." (18:15)

Do I regularly welcome my children? Or do I sigh with frustration and fatigue when they ask me the hundredth childish question or tell me the same silly joke? Do I light up with smiles and warmth when they come into my presence, or does my selfishness pucker up my face into a frown? Do I regularly thank God for and appreciate who He made them to be: quirks, faults, strengths and all? Lord make me more like you as a parent.

"Beware that you don't look down on any one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my father." (18:10)

Forgive me God for having any kind of critical, complaining spirit towards my children or towards any other believer for that matter. To criticize them is to distrust and criticize you, their maker and redeemer and friend.

"So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last. You know that the rulers in this world (mothers and fathers) lord it over their people (children), and officials (parents) flaunt their authority (an attitude of "I'm better than you") over those under them (their children). But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader (a God-honoring parent) among you must be your (the children's) servant and whoever wants to be first among you(honored and respected as a mother or father) must become your slave (recognize that we are not superior to our children). For even the son of Man came not to be served but to serve others (and He is superior, He's God and has every right to "lord it over us" but he never did) and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:16, 25-28)

May I remember that I am just as annoying as my children can be. I can be more stubborn, more petty, more forgetful, more defensive and argumentative than they are. I am not above my children in worth or value to God's kingdom. I just have a role of leadership that I don't deserve. May I faithfully serve my children by training them and inspiring them through my faithful, humble leadership. And may God receive all the glory for who they are and who they become.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Made to Worship

More thoughts on joy

"Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace!"    Proverbs 12:20 (NLT)

What does it meant to "plot evil"?  Is it just bad people planning to do bad things?  As I was studying this Proverb I came to understand that plotting evil can be more subtle than that.  It includes interpreting people's behavior and words as having evil intent.   For example, "they don't like me, they looked at me that way because they're mad at me, they did that to hurt me, they said that to make me feel bad", etcetera.  Plotting evil is seeing the negative in every situation, "I have too many children, I always do all the work, why doesn't anyone ever help me, my house isn't good enough, my friends aren't what I really want", etcetera.  And when we're sitting around plotting evil, guess what happens?  Our hearts begin to fill up with deceit.  Always seeing the negative around us will cause us to lie to ourselves about people and circumstances.  We begin to truly believe that life is terrible, that God isn't blessing us, that we are abandoned, that people are malicious, and so on.  These are lies straight from the enemy and the more this deceit fills our hearts, the more we are resistant to truth.  Plotting evil also causes us to fear, and fear denies truth.  It surrenders the heart and soul to deceit.  Fear is deciding that evil has mastery over us which is rebellion against the truth of God's sovereignty and active care for each one of His children.  

Planning peace is the complete opposite, it is looking for the good and the holy in people and circumstances.  It is seeing the Spirit at work all around us.  It is surrendering to the sovereignty of  God.  It is giving up the need for control and living a life of faith.  And the amazing thing is, when you are determined to see the good in life around you, you start seeing it!  Proverbs 11:27 speaks to this, "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you."  If you want to see the bad in things, it's easy to see it and all that negativity will find you and surround you and strangle you.  But if you are searching for good, you will find it, bringing you favor and joy.  Planning peace is living in faith, trusting in a holy, good God and being surrendered to him with hope and gratitude and what a joy-filled life it produces.

I just finished reading an amazing book about faith called "Mimosa" by Amy Carmichael.  It has changed me and given me new eyes.  It is a true story of a woman in India in the 1920's who was called by God to be his child but she didn't know his name, she didn't have a Bible, she never heard of Jesus, she just knew that there was a God who made her and loved her and was good, that was all she knew.  She lived her life for him in complete opposition to her idol worshipping caste, she suffered persecution and misunderstanding but she never blamed her God.  I just want to share a few passages from this book.
"Not one scripture did she know; there was nothing from the book of books for the Spirit to take and show her at that moment.  But His resources are limitless. 'O God', she said aloud, and the words seemed to rise through the thin blue air above her, 'O God, my husband has deceived me, my brother has deceived me, even my mother has deceived me, but You will not deceive me.'  Then she waited a little, looking up, and stretching out her arms, declared; 'Yes, they have all deceived me,  but I am not offended with You.  Whatever You do is good.  What should I do without you?  You are the giver of health and strength and will to work.  Are not these things better than riches or people's help?'  And again she waited a while."  
This book is so powerful.  On the outside, this woman had nothing good going for her, but she had a different opinion.  She had everything she needed because she was a child of God.  "Mimosa stood alone among her people, a woman charmed by a beauty she could not show them."  
I am a child of the Master of the universe.  There is nothing he cannot do.  And he loves me.  He is on my side.  Therefore, all is well and it is good.  I will choose to worship him no matter what the circumstance.  And I will not plot evil but I will plan peace.  God is all around me and evil cannot harm me.  
"O worshippers of the Lord, rejoice!  Search for the Lord and for His stength (not your own, it will fail you, but his strength never fails) and keep on searching!  Think of all the wonderful works he has done!" Psalm 105:3-5
Blessings and peace to all.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Finding Joy

This post is a talk I gave at my church last month.  I hope it blesses you.

Today’s topic is how to find joy and how to live daily in the freedom of joy.  This is a topic that I have personally struggled with over the years because I have a history of dealing with depression and anxiety.  So you see I feel a little awkward being the one discussing finding joy and living in joy with all of you.  But God has won some amazing victories in me and as one pilgrim to another, I’m excited to share some of my journey with you.  If you have ever struggled with depression, you will know that telling a depressed person to have joy is like telling them to grow another arm.  It seems absolutely impossible and it often makes them mad.  But it’s not, it is slow going and difficult but not impossible to experience joy even in the midst of pain and sorrow.  This does not come easily to me in the slightest and I have had to work strenuously on this and it is still a battle but one that’s getting a little easier every day now that I’ve learned some important things.

Before I get into those things, let me just give you a little background to who I am.  I was born 33 years ago on Jan. 19, 1976. I am the fourth child of my parents but only the third one living.  My sister was born 7 years before me and after her came my brother, Peter, who was born with a hole in his lung and died in infancy.  My parents’ faith was really tested.  They trusted God but had to walk a very sorrowful path alone because their church didn’t know how to sympathize with their grief.  After Peter, my sister was born.  She had some health problems as a child and my Mom didn’t think she wanted to have any more children. 

Like me, my mother also struggles with depression and anxiety and this journey was extremely difficult for her.   It is a generational stronghold that goes far back into her family line.  She married my dad who is the complete opposite of her.  He is as sanguine as the day is long and even today in his 60s he has more energy than I do!  He loved children and wanted more of his own, so after much begging my Mom (in faith) agreed to have one more baby, me.  When I was born, I also had a hole in my lung just like my brother.  But this time I was kept alive through artificial life support for a few weeks.  So once again my parents faced this same difficult situation. When the doctors gave up hope they told my parents to prepare themselves.  So they went home, and as my dad tells it, they wrestled with God for a long time.  They were mad, they cried, but ultimately, they said, “OK, God, we give her to you.  She’s yours.”  They released me to God.  The next morning the doctor called, completely mystified.  He said, “Your daughter started breathing on her own, we took her off life support and the hole in her lung is gone.  We don’t know how this happened, but you can come and take her home.”  My dad calls me his Isaac because after being willing to sacrifice me, God showed mercy and let me live.  I tell you this story because it shapes me in ways I am still learning about.  But one of the ways that I am aware of is that I have such a firm, undeniable faith in God’s sovereignty and I believe it comes from this experience where I paced the gates of heaven and waited with my parents to see what His decision would be.

Now, God made me a certain way as he has made each one of us a certain way.  He chose to make me an artistic person complete with the stereotypical artistic temperament; melancholy, brooding, dramatic, intense, sensitive, emotional, passionate, tender, sympathetic…you get the picture.  Well, with the stronghold of depression being passed on to me from my mother and her family line and having a disposition already prone to depression, you can see how easy it was for Satan to get a foothold in me.  But God was faithful from the beginning.  When I was four years old He called me to be his child and I accepted the invitation with my whole being, I held nothing back.  I remember it clearly and it was genuine even at age four.  So even though depression plagued me from the start, God was my champion and he has always been fighting for me…I look back and see it now.  When I was in high school I remember thanking God many times for saving me as a child because if he hadn’t I’d probably have committed suicide. 

Well, like any normal girl, I often questioned my place in the world.  I always felt so undeserving of God’s gift of life to me, I mean, who was I…nobody! I didn’t deserve to live and my brother die.  I was temperamental, emotionally unstable, moody, impractical, all my talents were pointless and I didn’t have any spiritual gifts (or so I thought).  I wasn’t a great evangelist, I was insecure and introverted…why had he wanted me to live?  And that great deceiver Satan began to sink his claws in deeper and I unwittingly let him.  Depression was never far from me. 

There was something else that contributed to my depression, constant physical pain.  My Mom says that as soon as I could talk I was communicating my pain to her.  God not only gave me a sensitive nature but a sensitive body as well.  Even today there is not a day where I do not experience pain.  This is difficult and Satan is very good at using physical pain to depress us.  I have gone to many many doctors over the last 33 years but the source of my pain and the answer to it has eluded everyone.  I have wrestled with God on this a lot.  He has decided to not heal me as of yet, but one thing I’ve learned from this is that my physical pain keeps me fully dependent on God for His strength. 

Well, I grew up and went off to college deciding to major in music first and later I would pursue art (I hoped).  But God brought across my path an amazing optimist who to my shocking surprise adored me…Mike Best.  Mike was everything I wasn’t…fun, happy, outgoing, confident, secure, lighthearted and cute.  And he really liked me which just stunned me.  He was everything I had ever dreamed of and after dating for 6 months we were engaged and were married 3 months later, I was 20 and he was 24.

Unfortunately adulthood proved to be pretty rough for me.  I had hoped I would outgrow the moody depression junk, that marriage and children would fix all of that.  But the depression continued to be a problem and my physical pain only got worse each year.  Finally, after four babies and the postpartum depression never leaving, I finally got serious about getting some help.  I did some counseling for a year, I went on an antidepressant for about 6 months and then I dramatically changed my diet and through all that God’s spirit really began to teach me in earnest and I was finally able to see though my cloud enough to hear him for the first time.  So here I am, about three years into this and I am a different person.

So how can we find joy in the midst of painful, sorrowful circumstances?  How do we experience the freedom of joy when the accuser is constantly barraging us with fears and doubts and lies?  Does God really expect us to be joyful all the time?  Will he fulfill his promise and give us abundant life?  I believe the answer is yes!  Here is how I have found joy and how I am cultivating a life characterized by joy.


Joy begins with a repentant heart.  “What do I need to repent of?” you might ask, “I’m suffering, I’m not sinning”.  Well first let me say, repentance is a gift not a punishment.  Whenever we repent we are set free and made new.  Who doesn’t want to be set free and made new?  But we Christians have given repentance such a bad rap saying it’s reserved only for the really bad sins and if you have to repent you must have really messed up and I’m sure God is pretty disappointed in you.  But do you realize that repentance is a gift. Isaiah 30:15 says “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”   If God has revealed to you that you’re going the wrong way, the best thing to do is say, “Oh thank you for showing me, now I won’t get lost, I can turn around and go the right way, phew.” 

So, if we’re miserable and joyless, what is that we need to repent of?  An ungrateful heart.  I believe that most sin comes from an ungrateful heart.  An ungrateful heart only sees self; it does not see the Father, Jesus or the Spirit.  When we see God we can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratefulness.  Sorrow is real and often cannot be ignored but the discipline of saying thank you changes us and miraculously allows our sorrow to be overshadowed by the glory of God and a grateful heart eases our suffering tremendously.  There is a quote by Elizabeth Elliott that I have had up on my bathroom mirror since I was first married; “We accept and thank God for what is given, not allowing the not given to spoil it”.  What a powerful statement, we thank God for what is given: our health, our church, our children, running water, money for groceries, our husband, etc…not allowing the not given: that other women’s husband, that other person’s spiritual gifts, that other person’s job of finances, that other women’s children, etc. to spoil it.

The very last commandment is to not covet…wanting what you don’t have.  Why do you think it’s the last commandment, I think it’s because God wanted it to be the last thing we remember as we go out into our world.  An ungrateful heart is the primary joy stealer in a Christian’s life.

“O my people, listen as I speak.

      Here are my charges against you, O Israel:

      I am God, your God!

 I have no complaint about your sacrifices

      or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.

 But I do not need the bulls from your barns

      or the goats from your pens.

 For all the animals of the forest are mine,

      and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.

 I know every bird on the mountains,

      and all the animals of the field are mine.

 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

      for all the world is mine and everything in it.

 Do I eat the meat of bulls?

      Do I drink the blood of goats?

 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,

      and keep the vows you made to the Most High.

 Then call on me when you are in trouble,

      and I will rescue you,

      and you will give me glory.”

Repent, all of you who forget me,

      or I will tear you apart,

      and no one will help you.

 But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.

      If you keep to my path,

      I will reveal to you the salvation of God.”

Psalm 50:7-15, 22-23 (NLT)

(See also I Thessalonians 5:16-18; Ephesians 5:18b-20; Philippians 4:4-7; I Corinthians 10:10-13)

I think what God wants more than anything is a grateful heart from his children.  This is something we crave from our own children.  Christmas always reveals it to me the most…they’re given so much but they’re not happy because they’re not grateful.  The minute we’re grateful we’re happy.  If we predetermine what we need to make us happy, then we will never be happy because our requirements for happiness are all wrong.  We need to allow God to change our definition of what is good.  Only God knows what we need to make us happy, what we need to do is to practice saying “thank you God, I trust you, I don’t get it but you’re God and I’m not so I will thank you in faith and then let the Sprit change my feelings”.  And when we step out in obedience, our heart follows eventually.


I think the reason we are so often ungrateful and therefore unhappy is because we don’t remember who God is, what he’s done, what he promises, or who we are in him.   We need to remember the truth. 

Philippians 4:8 “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Remembering the truth, meditating on it, saying it out loud to ourselves leads us to gratefulness which fills us with joy no matter what our circumstances. This is exactly what the Psalmist does over and over. 

Psalm 42:5 “Why am I discouraged?  Why so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again—my savior and my God!  Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember your kindness.”  He is in true pain and sorrow and has no problem with pouring that out at God’s feet.  This is where most of the Psalms start, in sorrow and despair but they don’t end there.  You can see that in almost all of the Psalms, the writer forces himself to remember and recount what God has done for him or what God has done for others.  He also makes himself meditate on God’s character and power and promises, this leads him to thankfulness.  Our joy can never truly come from our circumstances or from ourselves, it comes from the essence of God and when we remember him, joy is quick to follow. 

Here are some worthy things to remember: 

Ephesians 2:4, 2:19, and 3:12b tell us that while we were sinners, He loved us enough to die for us.  We are no longer strangers, but part of God’s family.  We can come fearlessly into God’s presence, and God promises to give us good things!

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

      Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

   I will strengthen you and help you.

      I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

(See also Psalm 68:19; Matthew 7:11)

You could take a Psalm and personalize it.  This is something I love doing.  Take Psalm 71 for example.  I’m not going to read it to you but I’m going to summarize all the things it says about God here: he is a refuge, savior, protector, welcomer, rescuer, giver of hope, trustworthy, always with us, a helper, righteous, good, mighty, just, powerful, a keeper of promises, he is on our side.  And then practice personalizing it for yourself; For me God is: a listener, kind, an abundant blesser, a friend, good, a powerful rescuer, always right, faithful, dependable, bringer of good news, provider of new mercies.  We have very short, faulty memories, which is why I am so glad we have the Bible because it clears up our foggy minds.  The things the Bible says about God are true whether or not we feel like they are.  It’s important to remember them. And after we’ve repented and spent time remembering we need to respond.


Did you know that rejoicing is a choice, not just a feeling?  We can rejoice.  It may feel empty and inauthentic when we first begin but we can train ourselves to be thankful people.  As a mom I often have to tell my kids, “say thank you” whether or not they feel thankful.  In fact, I recently made it a rule in our house that they can’t leave the table until they’ve thanked the person who made the food for this “good meal”.  Do they mean it?  No, but I’m training them and eventually their hearts begin to mean it.  There have been a few times the kids have said with true heartfelt thanks, “thank you Mom for this awesome dinner, I loved it!”  And wow, it’s brought tears to me eyes.  And the only reason they thought to say that at all was because they have been practicing saying thank you even when they didn’t feel like it.  Jesus calls us children, and we really are and many of the ways children learn are exactly how we need to be learning.  Don’t worry about whether your response comes from the pit of your heart right away, do it anyway and let the Spirit worry about directing your heart.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

      and there are no grapes on the vines;

   even though the olive crop fails,

      and the fields lie empty and barren;

   even though the flocks die in the fields,

      and the cattle barns are empty,

 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

      I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

                                    Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)

I have a personal story to share about this concept in my life. Many of you know that our family has been sued.  The lady who bought our house in California is suing us.  I won’t get into the details, but it is difficult, to say the least, to be falsely accused of wrongdoing. And then to put forth lots of money (that we don’t have) to fight this thing.  I wrestle with God about this.  There’s no answer yet.  There have been times when I would weep and say with the psalms, “Vindicate me, God!  Show us your mercy!  Set us free! This is oppressive, my enemies are against me!” And there are times when I think, “This isn’t fair!  Why am I here?”  And God has said to me, “Heidi, say ‘Thank you.’”  To which I reply, “What!?!”  That doesn’t make any sense!  But finally, I say (not with a great attitude, mind you), “Thank You, God, that I’m being sued.  And that I have to pay all this money.”  And amazingly, when I begin to say it out loud, the Lord pours all this truth into me, saying, “If it wasn’t for this, you wouldn’t see My faithfulness.  I have provided for you when you didn’t know if you’d make it.  And the money has just come ‘out of the blue.’  Would that have happened without this lawsuit?  I am going to show you My glory through this.”  And I believe it.  I don’t know how or when, but God will show me His glory and I CAN be thankful!  If it wasn’t for this lawsuit, I wouldn’t be who I am.  I would not be growing the way I am.  And I am really, truly thankful. 

When you find yourself miserable, sorrowful, stripped of all your joy, sit down and ask God to forgive you for not being grateful, then ask him to show you what you can be grateful for, open your Bible to any Psalm just to get the ball rolling and read what it says about God, then begin to thank God out loud for what you’re reading, personalizing it as you go.  If you spend any time in the Psalms you’ll see a pattern.  The writer starts in deep despair, much deeper than I think many of us experience, he does not ignore his pain, it’s very real and he brings it straight to God.  But as he’s weeping and sorrowing, he begins to choose to remember and in the remembering you can see his heart of repentance because he’s turning from self-focus to God-focus and beginning to experience thankfulness.  And at the end of nearly every Psalm, he is responding with praise. 

Hear My Cry          Words and music by Heidi Best

Lord, hear my cry

Lord, don’t be far from me

Do You see me?

I am overwhelmed

Tired and alone

This journey is hard

The waiting is so long


Blessed be the Lord because He has hear my cry

My cry

You are my Shield, my pain You will heal

You lift me up

My soul exalts in You, my loving Father

To You, my sovereign Father, I cry


Trust feels so hopeless

Faith feels like death sometimes

Please stay with me

I believe You’re good

Yes, I believe You’re near

You’re close to the broken

You save the shipwrecked heart


Blessed be the Lord because He has hear my cry

My cry

You are my Shield, my pain You will heal

You lift me up

My soul exalts in You, my loving Father

To You, my sovereign Father, I cry


Those who know Your Name

Will put their trust in You

For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you


Blessed be the Lord because He has hear my cry

My cry

You are my Shield, my pain You will heal

You lift me up

My soul exalts in You, my loving Father

To You, my sovereign Father, I cry

 © 2008 Punky-Doodle Music

Joy is not putting a Pollyanna sticker on genuine sorrow.  But joy is available to us even in the midst of sorrow.  It’s not too good to be true, it is not impossible to experience a life characterized by joy…it is the right of a follower of Christ.  It is the fruit of the Spirit that has been given to us.  Pain is what is needed to change us because we live in a sinful world.  Thank God for the pain, you can do it.  Satan intended for pain to break us and drive us from God, but God swoops in as our hero and uses pain to heal and shape us.  This ticks Satan off.  Think of the story Sleeping Beauty.  The evil fairy casts a spell to kill the princess, but the good fairies swoop in and use that curse to bring the princess into a deep sleep and then bring her the love of her life after 100 years.  What the wicked fairy intended for evil the good fairies turned into good.  It was painful for the princess, but in the end she was victorious and blessed.  This is what God does.  When we walk though the valleys, we begin to know what true joy is and it is not the fleeting happiness that is dependent on our circumstances…praise God.  Joy begins to breathe into our souls when we repent of our ungratefulness, when we remember truth and when we respond with thankful praise.  If you don’t feel like God cares or wants to bless you, say out loud in faith…”I know you care, I know you desire to bless me and that is where my hope lies” Say with David in Psalm 27:13-14 “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Fatigue

Isn't Christmas wonderful?  I love Christmas!  It's cold and grey outside but everything feels so warm and cozy.  During the first two weekends of December our family is always deeply involved in our church's Christmas Dessert Theater productions.  It's a wild whirlwind of activity that results in some serious fatigue.  We are in the fatigue stage right now.  But this year it's different.  I feel more peace, more comfort and joy and goodwill toward men instead of the usual fatigue-induced grumpiness.  My body is weary but my soul feels alive.  I've actually appreciated the fatigue because it has made me more sensitive to the beauty around me. 

Last Friday our family was doing some shopping and as Mike was in the store, the rest of us waited in the car.  I just sat there with nothing to do so I watched the Salvation Army bell ringer and noticed all the people who stopped to give their money ... women, men, young, old ... so many people in just the 10 minutes I was watching.  I found myself crying because of the goodness I saw in these people.  I understand that we cannot be good or do good without Christ but look how the world around us is trying, especially at Christmas.  Without Jesus, they'll get it wrong every time, but what I see in people is hope and longing for goodness; goodness in themselves, goodness in others and goodness in the world. Isn't this also what God desires?  He sent Jesus to give us Himself so we could be good and have good. Wasn't this the message of the angel?  "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY which will be for ALL THE PEOPLE; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE AMONG MEN with whom He is WELL PLEASED". (Luke 2:10-11, 13-14)

Some of my theology bucks at what I read here, God says he is well pleased with man.  How does that reconcile with the fact that no one is good and that we are desperately wicked without Christ's atonement?  I don't know ... but here it is.  God is pleased with his creation and He longs to see all people at peace with Him.  He wants everyone, even before they are good.  So when I watch the world around me do good and desire good, I see that they are bearers of God's image and what they are truly hoping and waiting for is Jesus to be the good in them that they cannot be on their own.  They do good believing it's the right thing to do, and it is.  They just don't have all the information yet.  I guess what I'm realizing is that the people out there who are not yet adopted into God's family are not the enemy.  They may generouly give to the toy drive and then grumpily curse at me on the freeway, but that's the mess they're in: the sinfulness in the world.  But Jesus came down into Satan's muck that we're all trapped in to pull us out of it.  What people don't know in their souls is that there is an answer and all their attempts to be good are a search for that answer.  They are wicked because they don't know the answer yet.  

Compassion.  That's what I feel.  Peace and goodwill towards others.  Most people want to be good, they really do.  They just need to be invited to know how they can be.  Christ didn't come for the people who are already "in", he came for the "searchers," people who are trying to do good by putting their money in the Salvation Army pot.  He is all the good we will ever need and when we accept him, that's it ... we're good.  There's nothing else we need to do.  "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence assured of his GLAD WELCOME" (Eph. 3:12).  This is why I love Christmas.  Now I can fearlessly come into God's presence because Christ has brought me peace and I know that I am gladly welcomed.  He came to bring everyone peace.   I just wish I knew how to tell everyone, how to invite them to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  I am glad to know that Jesus is still coming into our muck to live among us and to save us.  I am grateful that he exchanged his life for mine and has covered me entirely with himself.  I am overwhelmed by the blessing of Christmas and what it means for all who are willing to believe ... peace, goodness, comfort, joy, eternal life, love, protection, and so much more.  And this year I find that I am grateful for the fatigue.  It's good to be more sensitive.  God's heart beats for all people, he loves them tremendously which is the whole reason for Christmas in the first place.  I often do not love people or appreciate them enough (people outside the church, that is). Usually I choose to categorize them as "saved" or "unsaved", I guess really that means I'm saying they're either "in" or "out".  How about just calling them people who were created to love God and to do good and have either found out how or are still seeking.  And when they are doing good, recognize that as them reaching for the truth.  I cried on Friday because I realized that I do love people and appreciate them if they are not "saved".  I don't have to wait for them to be in God's family before I love them, God doesn't.  If he did there would be no Christmas.  Thank you God for the gift of fatigue that has allowed my heart to beat a teensy bit more in sync with yours this Christmas. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Battlefield

The evil one has certainly been on the prowl today.  My mind has become the battlefield and he's strengthening his troops to sabotage me.  I'm exhausted and it's only 10:30 in the morning. What is my weakness?  Where is his foothold?  How does he get in?  Well, I'll be honest, it's in my self-condemning, perfectionistic pride and lack self-acceptance.  I am constantly berating myself for not "being better", whatever the heck that's supposed to mean.  How can I ever prove that I am "better?"  What defines "better?"  It is some poorly-conceived notion of perfection that I think will somehow make me exhilaratingly happy if I ever actually attain it, which of course I never can.  The crazy thing is, I find I'm under the worst assault when I've just spent time using my gifts and allowing the Spirit to really live through me.

For example, in the last 24 hours I've done laundry, baked muffins, made breakfast, lunch and dinner (all homemade from scratch), worked on three songs that I've just recently written, helped the kids with their homework, called and encouraged people, blessed my husband even though I was tired, painted an entire picture for the book I'm illustrating, emailed, vacuumed, done dishes, sweeped up junk off the kitchen floor, done some Christmas shopping, some chauffeuring,  read to the kids and kept my voice at a gentle tone (which if you have 4 children from ages 4-8 you'll understand how that takes about as much self-control as saying no to the dessert tray when it passes by you) ... you get the idea.  And today I feel like I'm useless, unvaluable, untalented, unproductive,  and just generally beaten up.  This is where I battle...this is where my depression seeps in.  I think that somehow I need to measure up to some standard.  I don't know exactly what that standard is but I do know it does not come from God, but from myself.  It is truly idolatrous when I stop and think about it.  I am worshippng a standard of my own creation and as I keep seeking fulfillment from it, I am left destitute and miserable.  God has none of these expectatins for me, he wants me to rest in his presence, be with him, worship him and trust him with my present, my future, my gifts and my talents and just let him live through me.  That's it, that's all he wants.  

And the lie of the accuser says, "no that's not all he wants and it's certainly not what other people want...they want pizazz and wonder, if you're not providing that then you are a nothing."  And now we're getting into my other greatest weakness ... fear of man.  I sometimes elevate the approval of man so far above the approval of God that I lose all perspective and joy.  Fear of man is a snare and a joy-stealer of the worst kind.  I'll be going along thinking I'm doing well; preferring others, being considerate and demonstrating the "one anothers" but in reality I'm just worshipping the approval and acceptance of other people.  God's approval and acceptance is left out of the equation.  Silly, really, especially since God is so much more gracious and accepting of me than any human can be.  As people, we put requirements on each other, but God never does.  He just wants me to release my whole self to him and then he'll do all the work of living his life through me ... I don't have to do anything, just surrender.  It sounds so easy.  It's not.  The will of self and the lie of the accuser are so persistent ... not strong, at least not stronger than the Spirit of God, but persistent like a nagging hang nail.  I can love my brothers and sisters, but I do not have to live for their approval, that is vanity.

So here I am, it's 11:15. What am I going to do with the barrage of negative garbage being thrown at me from every angle?  I think I'll go and sit in front of my fireplace and engage the enemy head on through prayer.  Satan has no power.  He likes to try to get me to think he does, but I know better.  I have God on my side.  And the best thing is, I already have God's approval, acceptance and joy-filled love for me.  I don't have to do anything to gain it, I am a child of the king today and every day whether I feel like it or not.  In exchange for my cruddy old life, God gave me his shining, glorious life.  It's mine now and nothing and no one can take it away from me.  

I think my enemy is in for a surprise attack...God's on my side and that no-good liar doesn't stand a chance!  I can never lose!!

"'My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.'  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite contnet with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (Christ) is a mighty power among you.  Although he died on the cross in weakness, he now lives by the mighty power of God.  We, too, are weak, but we live in him and have God's power."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 3:3b-4