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.

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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.

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