Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ultimate Road Trip Tag

Most of my "tag" experiences involved cars that I would see on the highway while on a road trip who were going equally as fast as I was.  It was nice to just get right behind them so they'd be the ones getting pulled over, or so I didn't really have to look at my speedometer, and I could just rest and go.  If you lost your tag because they were low on gas, or if they got to their destination before you did, eventually you would find another, but this is not the kind of tag I'm talking about.

Last year (and I don't know if this qualifies as a "tag" since it was planned, but I'm calling it that), I had the luxury of following a friend all over Germany.  I had a bum GPS in my car, and three kids, so following someone was a huge stress-relief.  At one point, however, she got off the autobahn VERY fast, I only had a split second to decide what to do, and I kept on the highway - I kept going my way (insert d_ _ b).  Why?  I do not know, and I will never do it again, but that was my natural instinct.  Several hours later, we did hook up at our destination town, but it was several hours of unrest (stated mildly) before that - Foreign country, three girls, broken GPS...  you got the picture.

Needless to say, now, if I know who my tag is and their destination is the same as mine, I will follow them wherever they take me - no matter what my own map says.  It happened yesterday, and because I had made that mistake in Germany, I did not make it again.  
Proverbs 14:12 says "there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."  
This, actually, may have been the case.  She missed her exit, I followed, she circled back eventually to get on it and we passed a fresh accident...
When it comes down to our plans or Gods - ditch our map and go with His - He knows what the end looks like.  We do not!  Even though we often think we do.

Sometimes your tag speeds way up to pass someone on a 2 lane road - if you don't go, you lose your tag, if you do go, it's exhilarating!   God likes to take us on adventures like that, too!
John 8:12 says "whoever follows me will never walk in darkness."  When we lose our tag, we feel lost.  Dark.  When we follow Jesus, He promises to keep our path lit, and exciting.  We can rest when we see the One we are following; we don't really have to think.  We have given them the responsibility for the outcome.  It's not our fault if we get lost, they led us there.  And, God actually wants that responsibility.  He asks us to follow Him wholeheartedly, and He promises us a land of milk and honey - it started way back in Genesis!

So, what does it look like when God leads?  He guided His people by cloud in the day, and fire by night back in Exodus. In Isaiah He says "Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way, walk in it."  And now, He gives us His Holy Spirit - directly in our hearts, to guide us, helping us with every decision.  It's up to us to listen to Him.

Finally - one thing I had to do was fight for my spot.  Sometimes people would want to budge in between me and my tag.  If that happened, it allowed for more people to get in, and eventually I lost sight of her.  If I kept close, but not too close, I could stick with her.  God wants us to fight fiercely for His leadership in our lives.  He is a jealous God.  He doesn't want anyone else competing for our hearts.  Stay close to Him, don't let anyone or anything get in the way of you and the One who made you for Himself, and loves you more than you will ever know!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Seal (Car, Part 2)

Not long after the jeep issue had passed, the thought of a newer, different car intrigued me.  One with better gas mileage, maybe a different color.  I didn't really like where my head was going with this, so I went on the search for a unique sticker for my own car to keep me bound to it emotionally.  I was never allowed to put stickers on my cars before because it hurt the resale value, but I'm not really concerned about the resale value because I'm keeping it.  So, I found a nice gaudy sticker to put on it that represents all of the users.  It's not going anywhere now, we're bound to it.   Immediately, I lost my interest in other cars.  I was content and satisfied with the one who had not let me down so far.  Her gas mileage was pretty lame, but she was mine.  I was not gazing longingly at anything else.  It was actually pretty cool how that worked.  No, I'm not going where you think I am with this...

Then I realized that we've been sealed like that.
2 Corinthians 1:22 says that God "set His seal of ownership on us".

A seal denotes ownership and security.

Just like the sticker I put on my car made it more "mine" to me, even though I had already purchased it - God has already purchased us through Jesus, but He puts His Seal in us when we believe in Him (Eph 1:13).  At that point, when we submit to Him as Lord, He owns us.  Some people aren't really keen to the thought of being owned, but look at the word after that in the definition - security.  Who doesn't warm up to the thought of that?  When we are sealed by God - The Creator of the Universe - He owns us and We Have SECURITY!  Revelation 9:4 says that He protects those who are sealed.

So, if you find yourself checking out other cars, just go slap a sticker on your own - make it yours - give it a sense of security.  That way, when it breaks down, you can't just go turn it in for another.  You are bound to fixing it.   And - when we fumble the ball ourselves, it sure is nice to know that once we're sealed, He's not giving up on us, either!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Do You Want More?

I want a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited - Red.
It's been sneaking up in my head for the last week or so, and they are now parked or driving by wherever I am.  I even took one out for a spin the other day, in hopes that that would curtail my desire - dumb move.
Then I took the dog for his morning walk.

It had rained a lot the night before and I walked past a very cool flow of water through a what used to be flooded area.  It had been made into some sort of a ravine for drainage.  It even funneled into a big pipe that was built under several driveways to keep the flow going in the right direction.
God told me - that's what my spirit looks like in people who don't fill themselves up with the things of this world.
Ouch... Okay, I got it.  So, if I were to fill myself up with, let's say, a jeep, the flow would stop and there would be a blockage?
Yep.  He said.

Not a minute later, I gave Him the Jeep.  He took it.  Then He showed me one of my friends who really needs some prayer and encouragement right now and I was able to hear Him and intercede.

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs"  Jonah 2:8

"The true gospel is a call to self denial.  Not a call to self-fulfillment"  - John MacArthur

"To step with Jesus into the path of self-denial immediately breaks the iron-clad grip of sin over human personality and opens the way to a fuller and even fuller restoration of radical goodness to the soul."    - Dallas Willard

I got home, feeling free as a bird, and picked up a book that a friend gave me just a few days ago called Kisses From Katie.  It is about Katie Davis, who at 18, went on a missions trip to Uganda and ended up staying for good - and adopting more than thirteen girls there.  She is very cool and I wrote about her several months ago.  This is what the back of the book says:

"Sometimes I want to spend hours talking with my best friends about boys and fashion and school and life.  I want to go to the gym; I want my hair to look nice; I want to be allowed to wear jeans.  I want to be a normal young woman living in America, sometimes.  
BUT I want other things more.  ALL the time, I want to be spiritually and emotionally filled every day... I want to be challenged endlessly...  I want to share God's love with people who otherwise might not know it."

In other words, sometimes I want a cool car to drive around in and feel the wind in my hair, I want to be able to drive over big snow banks, and take my dog for fun rides.  BUT, I want other things more.  I want to be able to drive my kids friends where they need to go - comfortably and safely, as many as needed.  I want to not to make my kids clean the garage every day so I can put my car in.  And, I want to be able to drive to the homeless shelters in Chicago not having to worry about keeping my cute little car safe...

The weird thing is, I had been working on writing about self-denial for the past week.  I was even saying that allowing ourselves to be empty so there is room to be filled with God is way more appealing than filling ourselves with stuff that we think will make us happy.  Maybe God was just trying to help me get a nice, tangible example...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who's Garden Are You Watering?

I've been working on some longer posts that haven't come full circle yet, so, in the meantime...  Here's a little nugget that God showed me today:

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor asked my girls to get her mail and water her plants and vegetable garden while she was away.  She said she'd pay them, so they were all over it.  Two of them shared the task every morning of bringing buckets of water over for the pots and turning on and off the sprinkler.  They wanted to make sure that they shared the load equally so they would receive equal pay.  It was actually a nice diversion for my early risers to have a job to do (note to self).

When we saw their car in the driveway a week later, we knew the job was complete, so they gave the mail to her daughter.  That night they saw her out at a friend's house down the street and she commented on what good waterers they were, and how she had never seen such large tomatoes growing!  "What was their magic?", she asked.  After they relayed this message to me, one of them said,  "I don't really care if we get any money or not, it doesn't really matter."

I think one of the reasons they didn't mind if they received any money was that they really like her,  and, she had a very nice garden.  They got to be involved in taking care of something beautiful, for someone they respected.

When I sat down to read my book the next day, The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns,  I landed on this line that kinda brought it all together:

 "The Lord's command to go out and make disciples is a direct invitation to join God in what He is doing - a call to action...  God is saying, You, Me, let's go!"

When we choose to act on God's nudges by seeing with eyes from Matthew 25, and help the poor, feed the hungry, invite the stranger in, set the prisoners free, tell someone how much God loves them, we get to join God in what He is doing.

God is up to lots of amazing stuff!  He is going to complete His plan.  He invites us to join Him, to get in on the action.  We don't need the payment that doesn't last, we get the ultimate reward - joy, peace, and a garden that flourishes!  If we ignore what's asked of us, we miss out - someone else will get the chance to know they helped someone grow some pretty amazing tomatoes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Sandbar

We went to the beach the other morning nice and early before it got crazy - the peaceful time.  The girls swam in frigid Lake Michigan up to their waists, played in the sand, collected rocks - all the good stuff.  Then a big family came in, looking new to the beach.  They were awesome.  Playing in the water, daring eachother to swim out deeper, then one girl did it - she got to a sandbar.  She kept screaming, "I'm on sand, I'm on sand!".  It was so new, I really don't think the rest of them believed her until they actually saw her standing up effortlessly with both hands posed in the air.  It was all they needed to know they could risk swimming that far out, too.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.  He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand"  Ps 40:2

"There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock."  Ex 33:21

According to Websters, sandbars are formed by the actions of waves or currents.
In our lives, that's just when we need them.  AND, I think that's when they are formed for us, too.  As we experience the waves and currents of life, if we don't have something to stand on we will sink.  Most people seek God when something is wrong in their lives.  As they find Him, their sandbar starts to form.  To most of us this is called faith.  Faith is often built thru trials - currents - waves.  It energizes us like the girl who was screaming to be able to stand after swimming through dark waters.  But the main tie in from the verses is that it's God who does this - not us.  He lifts us out and gives us something to stand on - our faith comes in when we stop swimming and put our feet down and notice it!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Race Car Driver Neck

About a year and a half ago, I discovered what a herniated disc felt like.  Not quite sure what it was from; but my guess is that it was the dog's fault (blame it on the one who cannot defend himself...).  Besides all of my other injuries, this was one of the most painful things I've been through; including the two shots I then received to help it, which, thankfully, did!
After that, I saw a friend who helped me start some exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding my neck so that this would not happen again!  Her goal was to make my neck as strong as that of a race car driver.  Sounded cool to me!  Her philosophy is addressing the entire body, instead of just the area in pain, because it's the strength of the whole body that keeps everything else safe!
I changed a lot of my activities and lived quite carefully (not counting the airplane jump), so as to not allow this nastiness to happen again.
I went for a ride on my mountain bike the other day and realized that that may not be the wisest choice...
I hit a hidden hole (meaning; I wasn't prepared for it).
I prayed.
I worried. (Shouldn't be there due to the previous one, but was)
I was okay!
I DID have a race car driver neck!  Woohoo, it worked.

So, the question is, are you prepared?  What are you strengthening so that when you hit an unexpected jostle, you remain strong?  I didn't really know if I had the neck strength I needed until I hit the hole.  We may not know if we have the strength we need until the storm comes - but it will come...  "In this world, you will have trouble.  But, take heart!  I have overcome the world!"  John 16:33

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in Chapter 3 is just what we need in order to be prepared.  The Message translation says it this way:  "I ask him (The Father) to strengthen you by His Spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in."

He wants to strengthen our core.  My neck was only strong because I had been strengthening the muscles that were deeper - the core muscles (that strengthen the entire body).  That "glorious inner strength" is our core!  It is what anchors us.  As we pursue Our Father every day - meeting with Him in prayer and walking with Him,  He will have us ready (by living in us) for whatever may be in front of us during our great adventure of life!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God's Mountain bike

I went for a bike ride the other day and took along the only water bottle available.  As I set out, hitting curbs and stuff, the water bottle kept falling out (it wasn't snug enough in the cage).  So, I had to stop, turn around, find it, and put it back.  I re-adjusted my riding technique a little, trying to bump less so it would stop doing this, but by the third time it fell out I gave up and left it there.  It was a free, Park District water bottle, and my ride wasn't too long, so it wasn't worth the hassle anymore.

Then, I put my own head on the water bottle and personalized it as I continued riding.  (Go for it, just imagine, since I can't photoshop)  And, for the next hour, as I rode - God gave me three ideas from this experience...

First, the water bottle was too small so it fell out.  Hebrews 5 talks about anyone who lives on milk will remain an infant - the milk is referring to what new believers need to live on; other people feeding them the truths of God's word.  But, in order to grow, we need solid foods - being able to feed ourselves.  Studying and chewing on the word of God on our own makes us mature...  Bigger water bottles that fit better in the cage of God's Mountain bike, so we don't fall out!

Second, no matter how many times we fall out of the cage, God will always stop and go back and pick us up.  No matter how much of a pain it is!  He promises that to us.
"Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5

Third, another verse from Hebrews hammered the main point;  "We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.  It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline"  Hebrews 6:18-19 MSG
When we grab on to God, with both hands, it doesn't allow us a free hand to grab hold of anything else.      If we grasp the cage of His Mountain bike securely, and never let go - He can take us on some amazing rides!  He will know we're in it for the adventure, willing to go wherever He wants to take us - and He promises us, it will be worth the risk!

Since it is 4th of July, there's one more thing.
Some things we DO need to be freed from, so Happy Independence Day!  Be thankful to those who purchased your freedom!
In God's Kingdom, independence gets us looking like a banged up water bottle on the side of the road. When we are dependent on God, we can fly - he may even upgrade the mountain bike for a motorcycle !

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Daughter, Gomer

As I lay on the couch the other morning with one of my daughters fast asleep on top of me after a lovely meltdown, I couldn't help but think of Hosea.  I know, it's odd, but true.
If you're not familiar with the story; God asks Hosea to take a prostitute as his wife - letting him know right off the bat that she will not be faithful to him - he chooses Gomer.  He (God) does this to show His children, Israel, what His love really looks like - how He loves them even though they constantly stab Him in the back.  He wanted Hosea's love for unfaithful Gomer to portray God's love for His people.
While the story portrays a husband/unfaithful wife relationship, there are a lot of areas where we can learn how to parent a not-so-perfect child, too.  After thinking I might be brilliant, I googled Hosea and parenting and a bunch came up - so I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it was good for me to discover these truths for myself.
My daughter, Gomer, is fictional - probably a combination of several children at different points...

Here are some quotes from the Message version of Hosea that took me to the parent/child relationship:

"Israel is stubborn as a mule, how can God lead him like a lamb to open pasture?" Ch. 4

"Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears."  Ch. 6

"Their sweet smiles are sheer lies, they're guilty as sin"  Ch. 10

"I took care of you and gave you everything you needed.  You were spoiled. You thought you didn't need me."  Ch. 13

See what I mean?  stubborn.  nice for a moment.  deceitful.  having all they need from us but not acknowledging it...

I've mentioned before the idea of the book Sacred Parenting, by Gary Thomas -  how parenting is supposed to make us holy, not necessarily happy  (same with marriage).  If, by being a parent, we can learn to love our kids like God loves us, then that is true.  And that is what God wants us to learn in Hosea.  He wants us to see how much we treat Him like dirt; and to see how much He chooses to love us despite of that.  And since I desperately need this grace - I, too, need to be a vessel of it!

In the book of Hosea, God speaks about how much He really wants to leave Israel to their own demise, but He can't do it - He loves them too much.  He disciplines them, is tempted to destroy them, but ultimately, since they are His children - He wraps them in His arms and brings them back to safety.  And, while I felt like Hosea as I wrapped my little pistol in my arms that morning, I realize now, that I am really Gomer; a girl chosen by God, who leaves Him often, but oh so thankful that He never leaves me!