Surrender 2016

“Surrendering your will to God lies at the very core of whatever grieves you today.” – Wayne Stiles

I copied this quote a while back. I’ve come back to it from time to time- not quite ready to move on. It’s haunting me, dogging me, taunting me, pushing me, stretching me, teaching me.

What?

How does that work?

Am I galvanized in the grief of a lost relationship? Holding on? To what? What once was, but is not now? Or to what I thought once was?

But what never actually was?

Or was it simply for a season and I’m reluctant to let go?

How does that connect to the surrender of my will, which, by the way, I’ve done over and over again.

Why, you ask?

Isn’t it a once and done?

Shouldn’t it be?

Ahh… evidently not for me.

Because I keep grabbing it back in selfish ignorance and then in those moments of lucid vision (light bulb moment) I gingerly give it back to God like it’s a live wire I want nothing to do with anymore.

Haven’t I learned? Shouldn’t I have learned by now?  Shouldn’t we all have learned?

The reality is that learning to surrender completely (meaning it’s finished when you’ve surrendered), is a process. We give up, give in. Easily. Readily.  Then we reach out with our grubby hands and hold on for all we are worth. Because we keep forgetting that surrender is freedom and life.

In Christ.

Alone.

How do you get on with surrender? Is it important to you? Difficult or easy?

Take a look at the exchange between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah and the fulfillment of prophecy from the Lord  in Jeremiah 37-39:6.

I SURRENDER ALL.

 

The Blame Game: Are you trapped in the maze?

 

Fall is here. Ok, autumn, really. But someone forgot to tell Texas that the temps can cool down now- the calendar says it’s October, not late August. We are still experiencing mid to high 90s in the day(high 30s for you centigrade folks). Some days we get teased with lower temperatures and then it’s right back to the dog days of summer.  Ah, but enough about the weather.

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I want to talk about the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” Maze – aka – the Blame Game. I find myself trapped in this game almost every day.  The phrases roll through my mind like wildfires through a forest on a hot, dry day in summer: look what you did with the time today; you could have helped someone;  you should have done that; you should find someplace to volunteer; God would want you to do this; if you could do anything you should be spending your time intentionally on a mission project instead of spending money on a vacation; there’s a Sunday school class out there with your name on it, you could teach it if you would.

And so it goes. Endlessly. Trapped in the Maze.

I waste time. We all do. Do you beat yourself up over it? I do.

I go from watching Netflix to Amazon to Apple tv.

I go to the grocery store for just that one thing and end up strolling the aisles for an hour and a half. {I know. How could anyone do that willingly?

Or I read through FB, email, blogs, other social media or shop the internet.  I could go on. I’m sure you have your own list.

What I could do, or would do, or should do I daydream about frequently. Those daydreams become grandiose at times.  Great things I could do, would do or should do for God.  Back in reality, I blame myself for not doing those grander things;  for not doing something more.

But-what God wants me to do has nothing to do with any of that.

His plan and purpose for me is fulfilled in how He designed me and where He has placed me.

I’m right where He wants me to be.

Here.

Not there.

Not off somewhere loving on orphans for a few days and then back home- broken hearted and wrecked (as some say), writing about them in the hopes that others will contribute to their welfare because they are touched by the words I write or the 4×6 glossy prints I post. 

Don’t get me wrong. I wish I could be Jesus’ hands and feet to the great big world out there. I am forever amazed and impressed by fellow bloggers that can and do travel and help in the way that they are gifted and purposed by Him. I love reading your stories and seeing the pictures, I pray for you and for the people you reach out to, I ask for blessings in the middle of the barefoot poverty that is the mission field.

But I know in my heart of hearts – down deep – there, where my spirit and His commune together that His purpose for me is here. That I’m right where He wants me.

Preparing the next generation to listen for His voice and recognize when He is speaking to them. I do that by loving on those littles; reading to them; singing –sometimes off-key, and pointing them to Jesus. 

I talk with friends and family. I pray for them. I help where I can. I am just being me. I’m the me that He made me to be.

No, I’m not a missionary anywhere but here. He has brought me to where I can help the way He wants me to help. I’m ok with that when I stop daydreaming and really think about it. 

And, those of you who can and do go to where He sends you? I will be here; praying for you and cheering you on. Knowing that you are just who and where He designed you to be.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 AMP

 

Longing for the perfect world with aliens like me

 

I’m not a sentimental person when it comes visiting the graves of those who have gone on before me. I miss them; I long for conversations; I look forward to seeing them again someday on another plane of existence prepared by God. But I’m not a cemetery visitor- at least not in that sense.

I don’t go out to visit friends’ or relatives’ gravesites regularly, or place flowers or flags on at certain times of the year. I know many do.  I know that it gives them comfort to go out to the cemetery, pull a few weeds, leave a memento, put fresh flowers in a vase, clear away the dead leaves that accumulate around the stone and have a chat with their departed loved one.

I do believe the story of a community is told, in part, by the words on those stones. Some have long lovely poems inscribed; some simply have names and dates of birth and death separated by that inevitable “dash.”

I do go to cemeteries to see if I can piece together a part of the story of that community. To some that seems morbid, but I’m always looking to see if I can find another thread of the story that is woven into our lives.

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Here, I read on a stone that this sweet babe was lovingly placed here at the age of two months and I wonder if the mother carried the burden of sorrow the rest of her life without other children to cheer her. Then I see, three more small stones next to the first and know on that slightly larger stone next to them that she succumbed shortly after the last little headstone.  I see the father’s stone next to hers with many years between the first and last dates. There, on the other side of his stone, another woman’s name with his last name added and beside her stone, two more small ones. Heavy burdens indeed.

I read another that has the name, rank and regiment on it that has “loving husband and father” etched below the dates. I do the math. He was 29. He gave all to defend his home and country in a long gone war that men fought a century ago.

unknownstoneweb

Over in the corner of another cemetery stands a large black granite monument. Some person of rank or authority. I read the name. I read the dates. I do the math.  This one lived a long life.  A solitary life from the looks of it, there are no other names or dates on the monument. There are no other large stones nearby. I do find two small solitary stones standing upright many feet away. The surname is the same and dates correlate with people who could have been his parents. I wonder about this one and a tale begins to weave in my head about what kind of life was lived by this one.

Cemeteries are storytellers. They are places of sadness when death occurs. They stand as sentinels of the inevitable. They are ossuaries, repositories of bones and holders of history.

We humans place a lot of significance on bodies and bones. We care for them in places that look like what we imagine Elysian Fields might look. Or we stack bone upon bone to stand in silent testimony to reveal the atrocities we do to each other. Some lovingly scatter ashes of bones out upon the spot in the world that has meaning to them. Some visit the resting place of a famous person who once inspired and leave a solitary flower or scrap of paper with words they wrote as a result of the dead one’s life. Some have built great churches upon the bones of those who have come before.

I suppose there is a lesson somewhere in this little discourse in that I’m not a visitor to a particular stone in a particular cemetery at a regular time and date.  I prefer to think that these stones are testimonies to lives lived. Well or ill, long or short.  They are reminders to me- that I do not belong here. That I, too, will leave this corporeal existence and move on to where I really belong:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

Between these two sets of verses there is what is called the ‘roll call of the faithful’; a list of patriarchs and matriarchs and their faith in scripture. What is most telling and is more important to me is what occurs here- before and after the dashes of their lives.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16

And, Peter gives a description of what our dash should be like:

Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  1Peter 2:10-12

I am an alien and stranger here. I hope to live the rest of my days here remembering that I am and that I am looking for a country of my own.

maygodweb

 

Faith

 

In the spring and early summer the night birds start up early, before morning. Tuning up to greet the day as it approaches. Now they are silent. The reason for their silence is a cat.

I hear that cat, caterwauling, letting the world know it is not happy for one reason or other that usually involves another cat or a dog. It tunes up and disturbs the night with its snarly tone. No soft meow for this cat.

I like cats. I understand them. But the caterwaul in the night sets my teeth on edge. It is menacing; full of aggression and gives notice to all that the cat is on the prowl. It makes me think of the bully in the schoolyard, strutting his stuff while everyone draws back and pulls away from him.

I sometimes wonder if the behavior of animals is immediately identifiable to us because we see ourselves in them.  Played out before us in the world of nature, they are tender, identifiable, and sometimes shocking. The tolerance of a mother dog with her pups as they play around and on her. The encouragement of the mother bird as she pushes those chicks out of the nest for the first time, knowing they have to go to live. The grooming many mother animals do for their young. The way a mother lion puts herself in danger to protect those cubs and ensure the continuation of their species.  The methods the mother eagle and hawk use to find, dispatch and bring food back to nurture the young to adulthood. The protection and care the bees give to all the eggs in the hive to ensure just the right environment for hatching. It all boils down to propagation and preservation of their species.

And then, I watch the nightly news. And it seems that we humans use the lesson of the “survival of the fittest” to be the one thing we deem important to do that reflects the behavior of animal world. We are so quick to make an effort to propagate and preserve “our” species just as long as that species speaks the same language, worships the same way, wears the same clothes, has the same color skin, and whose culture mirrors our own.

But, all of us humans, ARE the same species. 

And those basic human rights we banter about; promote and vow to protect- it seems to me that not all of us got that memo. 

I ask the questions here that most disturb me-

Why is it that we either justify or condemn the behavior of another culture from our soapboxes, and pick and choose which side to be on; like we were back in the schoolyard?  Didn’t the confrontation with the bully teach us anything? If we all turn away, united in our going, the bully won’t have anyone to bully. Simple as that, yes?

Ah, but no. Just no.

There’s another dynamic in play here. Early on in our childhood we learn to pick “sides” according to our likes and dislikes. We play war, we strategize, we call it baseball, dodge ball, red rover, soccer, football, basketball. It doesn’t matter what we play; we imitate the grownups.  We learn to act and think as one entity in the team we are on. The ultimate goal is winning. That we all understand. Winning is the most important thing after all. It ensures we live to play another day. It does matter how we play the game because that determines whether we win or lose. Someone has to be better than someone else. Survival of the fittest plays out. Every time.

The thing is though, that it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were supposed to grow up in a beautiful garden, surrounded by animals living together in harmony, eating off the land and generally having a good time with all of our needs met by a God who created us and loves us and Who walked and talked with us there.

And that’s where I trip up. I start wondering why, if God designed all this, why did He let sin in the front door? Why didn’t he just do away with satan at once? Why even allow the snake in the garden? Why create a snake in the first place? Why didn’t he build in resistance in Adam and Eve? Why couldn’t he put in a failsafe? Why put that tree there? What was that fruit; that it was so powerful that it could show us what we are not? It was His garden after all. The questioner in me revs up and gets going. I start asking so many things that my mind, like Job’s begins to boil with questions.

And then I stop.

Short.

Because they lead to more questions that I can’t answer.  

The teacher in Ecclesiastes said it was “chasing after the wind” trying to understand it all.

Because I’m not God. I believe in order, not chaos and things happen for a reason.

Because I believe there is more than I can see or reason away in logic and that there is more than survival of the fittest going on in this world.

Because, some things demand faith.  

Faith that there is more than what I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch or feel with my emotions.

Faith that the other side of this fabric of life is not all knots and threads in disarray, but a beautiful picture that makes total sense once I lay my eyes on it.

Faith that God is God.

Why the wind blows where it does, how it blows, the direction, the strength, the ebb and flow- some of this can be explained but only to a certain degree. After that….

It’s either a good day to fly a kite or it isn’t.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible. Hebrews 11:1-3

 

Questions, Questions, What’s With All the Questions?

 

When I was a little girl and questions were a large part of my day I would ask my mother a questions and she would respond {in rather a smart-aleck tone}: “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”  Profound.  I know. {rolling my eyes}  It didn’t take me long to figure out, when she answered thus, there would either be no answer from her to my question or the answer was “no”.

I didn’t get many answers from her that I could use; however, I did get quite a few examples of what not to say and, I suppose, from her actions I saw many answers to my questions that she gave without realizing.

I hadn’t thought about that quote for some time until the past couple of weeks. I’ve been pondering questions and answers since my Bible Study leader made this statement:

God is not afraid of our questions but we may be afraid of His answers.

And then, this week in my notes on the lesson came this gem:

Pressure from changes and threats in personal life or the world around them make people look for answers.”  

That quote came on the heels of this verse:

“Watch out that no one deceives you.” Matthew 24:4. 

The wheels started turning just about then and I began to think about what it is I question and who I ask for the answers. My mother is no longer around to “not” answer my questions. I am no longer a child who asks those childish questions either. Somewhere in the middle, between my child’s mind full of questions and my mother’s non-answers, lies the “answers” to questions I still have.

I realized as I began to grow up that I had to ask questions of myself. First the basics: What? Why? How? Where? When? Who? And then more complex questions that brought me back to the basics. And most of the time I didn’t get the answer. Because I didn’t have the answer and no one else did either. Like being on a merry-go-round. 

I came to the conclusion that I can take all my questions to God. He has the answers to all of my questions. 

Oh, but, You don’t want to bother Him with that…(insert any subject here).  He doesn’t want all of your questions. It’s impertinent to ask God questions”.

So you say.

Pardon me, but He does want me to ask questions and keep asking! If I choose to seek Him and to look for the wisdom that is there in His Word I will get the right answer at the right time. 

No, I’m not talking about answers to the next physics question in the book or what’s on TV tonight. It’s really much bigger and better than we could imagine.

Aha‘ moments abound.

Answers to what really matters. Like: Who is God? Who am I? Why Jesus? What does He want from me, really?  Who can I trust? What am I supposed to do with my life? How do I know whether it’s true, right or correct?

All these answers and more He will answer.  Simplistic? No.  Just Simple. We tend to make things hard on ourselves, don’t we?

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 6:7-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

How about your questions? where do you find answers?

Life Goes On…

Daily, I’m reminded of my own mortality. It seems not a day goes by without some nudge or other that whispers: You are getting old. The time is coming.

Sometimes there’s more and I choose not to listen.  But the truth is, I am getting older and the day will come.

There have been times I’ve thought “just take me now!” but those were the hard days the ones where everyone wanted a piece of me. Chunk by chunk. Those were the days when I thought I wouldn’t be able to take another breath for the stress. It seems now, looking back that they all came at once. Those days are in the past and now my life is much simpler.

I took a grandson to the movies yesterday. We laughed our way through nachos and slurpees as we watched The Lego Movie. Then we walked by the fountain outside with his questions of “Can I go in the fountain?” answered by my “No.” {It is March after all} Then we saw a sign that said Keep out of Fountain.  He said, “It doesn’t say keep out of the water, so does that mean I can go in?” I said “No.”

We continued in that vein as long as it took us to make a rotation around the fountain. It included questions like: Can I stick my hand in the water? Can I reach in and get a coin? Can I reach in and take a coin out and throw it back? {it was a big fountain}

We walked out by the lake and he wanted to go down to the docks that were barely above the water- the level is so very low. {Rain would be nice about now, Lord}lakewaterweb

I said “No.”  The gates were locked to the docks – whew, dodged that one.

We talked about other things as we slowly made our way along the lake’s edge, strolling toward the car. He asked “Can we get frozen yogurt?” I said “Yes.”

And we did. Actually, it was chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.  For him.

And he talked and asked and answered questions.

And I talked and answered and asked questions.

You know, the ones about life, the universe and everything; and No- the answer isn’t 42. (Thank you, Douglas Adams)

I cherish these moments, blips on the radar, they will be gone too soon, fond memories of one afternoon lingering in the back of my mind.

And, I move on, as we all do, toward that certain end.

But, I’m not there yet. I have more movies to see and more memories to make and more questions to ask and answer!

I want it said of me as God said of Abraham:

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8

I wonder what a “good old age” is……….