Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CIRCUMCISED

I am not married and I have no sons, so this is not a visual for me, and I'm sorry if you are distracted by that in your own head.  Go ahead and get it out because I'm talking about circumcision of the heart.


As I dropped my girls off at school the other day, one of the teachers looked in the car and said:  "No baby today?"  I told her that the previous ones were back with mom and there would probably be another one soon.  To which she replied "you must really like doing that".
That struck me.  Notsomuch.

Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm not a baby person.
When people come over with their babies, or we bring a meal to someone or visit someone who had a baby, I am not the type to ask to hold it.  I'm really just glad it's not mine and I get to leave soon.
I don't volunteer too much in the kids ministry at church because that's really not one of my favorite things to do.  I figure I've got enough time with kids in my own home, that's plenty.  I'll hang with and serve the adults.  (However, when I do serve with the kids, I always enjoy it - hate when God does that.)

Back to the statement that was made:  I'm not doing this because I really like it;
I'm doing it because I like what it is doing to me.  

Each child we have through Safe Families, God uses to circumcise my heart.
He promises that He will do that to us in Deuteronomy 30:6:
"God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, REALLY LIVE!"
(Message translation)

In bible study last week as we heard Beth Moore, she was talking about how she'd never pray to be broken or ask to be broken, but when she is broken, it ends up being a really good thing.
She's right.  When we are broken, we can be used by God.  I think broken and circumcision mean the same thing.  They are both painful at the time because they are cutting away/breaking off, the things that we hold onto (whether we know it or not) that are actually weighing us down from living the life God planned for us to live!

Jesus was broken bread and poured out wine for us.  And as we are broken, in our case, in spirit - when I'm down to no strength of my own, that's when God uses me for the sake of others.  And, I can actually REALLY love these children!  I think with each child that comes in our home, a piece of my flesh is removed.  The Spirit grows where the flesh comes off and I become less selfish.  A cool visual I just read about is that the bread with a hard crust can't soak up the wine, but when it is broken into pieces, it can.  I am seeing this happen with my time that I use to want all to myself; I am WANTING to spend it on others, the blood of Christ is soaking in.  It's not law anymore.  It's desire!

"In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with a circumcision done by Christ..."
Col. 2:11

So far, each little child that enters our home seems to be a flint knife.  And I don't think it makes me a masochist to say that I love it because the hurt is making something I never dreamed of - a desire to really follow hard after the God who is wooing me to Himself, and has been for my entire life though I didn't always know it.

Just this morning, as I was consoling my own hurting child, I told her I loved her, and instead of responding with, I love you, too, she said, "I know".   That's what I want.  That's what I'd rather hear.  Because it's when she knows she is loved, that she can go out with confidence in who she is.  And that's what God wants from us - He wants us to know how much He loves us.  The more we allow the work of His flint knife to carve away the other stuff, the more clearly we can hear Him - and live in that love!




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Power of a Hug

We currently have two new little bodies in our home to love on, and I am quickly learning, or should I say, re-learning, the power of a hug.  One of the girls is five.  She misses her mom.  When I told her that I should probably be hugging her more and invited her into my arms, she grasped me with all her might, we stayed close, and everything shifted.  For both of us.  Her spirit was re-juvinated, and a greater sense of love for her entered into my heart.  I was able to get past anything that had been bothering me from her and just love her.  Now,  we promised to start  and end every day with a hug - not to mention whenever needed in-between.

When my middle daughter came downstairs all bummed out about something a month or so ago, I asked her if I could have a hug.  I ended up being transformed as much as she did.  We sunk into each other as my chin rested on top of her head I told her that she was the best one to hug right now because I could stay in that position forever.  We needed that, and since then, we regularly do it when it looks like the other might just need it.

A good hug will melt our hearts and take us into another place.  A very good place.  God knew this all along and wants us to see the tenderness, power, and example from His hugs, too.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart..."  
Isaiah 40:11

"And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them."
Mark 10:16

God wants us to be His arms of love.  But He showed us first.
He told us how He cared for us like gathering lambs (us) in His arms and carrying them close to His heart.  And when He became a man, He was finally able to show us what that looked like.

My mom always said she would quit teaching if she weren't allowed to hug her kids.  I get it now.  It can change a mood in a flash.  It fills the tank - of the recipient and the giver, then they both just become the same.

In her book, Hug Therapy, Kathleen Keating showed us this, too.
A hug is "the power to give (and receive at the very same time!)"

I think that's why Jesus died with His arms wide open, awaiting our embrace.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How To Morph

I didn't learn at all what I thought I would on our missions trip to Costa Rica over Spring Break.

What I did learn happened to be right in line with what God had been teaching me before I even went.  Weird how He always does that.

When asked why his church hadn't grown in leaps and bounds since it'd been around so long, one of the local pastors said something along the lines of - people don't want it bad enough.  His church demands a lot.  They want to make disciples.  They will love and take in whoever comes, but unless you really want to be a disciple, and want to do what it takes to become one, you probably won't want to stick around very long.

Here's why:  "You will never experience holy transformation until you are involved in regular, loving accountability relationships centered on God's Word."  - Chip Ingram


"Butterflies change in a cocoon.  Christians change in a community.  Both experience shelter.  Both experience struggle.  This is one of the most difficult concepts for American Christians to accept and integrate into their lifestyle.  In other parts of the world, people have a communal concept of life.  Generations stay close or even live with one another.  Not so with mainstream Americans.  We've got that John Wayne mentality: "I can do it myself".  The average American Christian brings that same mentality into his or her relationship with Christ.  He or she things, "It's me, God, my Bible, and prayer.  If I hang around other people, and we encourage each other - that's nice but not necessary."  For American Christians, community is optional.  That's not what the Bible teaches."
- Chip Ingram

I witnessed this in Costa Rica.
Families living practically right on top of each other.
Sharing life.
Cooking from 5am till 7pm - TOGETHER.
Parenting each other's kids.
Staying at church for longer than an hour - GLADLY!
Worshipping without inhibition.
Confessing (with others being able to see).
They knew they needed each other and they received strength from each other!  So should we.

In this book, "The Miracle of Life Change", Chip Ingram devours Ephesians 4.   The verse that supports the idea of community being our cocoon is verse 2:

"Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love"

Each of these attributes is displayed and grown in community.  We can't be patient or gentle or humble alone.

I also heard a message from Beth Moore with these two quotes three days before we left:

"When we quit engaging in the joy in the body of Christ, our problems become insurmountable."

See it again?  The people of Purral, CR live in a nasty neighborhood - they'll admit it.  But, because they are regularly engaging in the joy in the body of Christ - they have hope for their community!  They have a plan and they have the support of their family of believers to go about that plan.






"When we detach ourselves from the problems that the rest of the world is having, we become ineffective."

This one keeps us from the idea that we are to only keep in our Christian community.  These brothers
and sisters in Christ have immersed themselves in the problems that the rest of the world is having - together!  And, from what's happening in the neighborhood so far, they are highly effective.

I think Costa Rica was my Dot To Dot page.

We spent time hearing the goals and feeling the love and family-type atmosphere of fourteen churches with a passion to win Purral, CR (near San Jose) for Jesus.  Often times I couldn't tell who the pastor's family was, there were so many people involved closely with him they all just blended.  We felt the love of the people in another nearby church who performed a thirty minute display of song, dance, and drama for our enjoyment - then gave us homemade tamales as we left!  Another made a spread of authentic Costa Rican food (fried plantains are amazing, by the way), and gathered their church family together just to meet us!  They wanted us to join with them in community!  The playground we put in was for the purpose of drawing kids in the community to come play and then, hopefully, keep going up the driveway right on into church.  They were inviting others to share in life with them!  And, to morph.

"The God of the Bible is the God who lives in relationships and who brings about holy transformation as we also live in relationship." - Ingram

Let's take a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Costa Rica and practice bearing with one another, supporting each other, and sharing life!   I'll even make you fried plantains (perfected or not).