Friday, February 18, 2011

Taking Time to Consider the Clutter

Every once in awhile, I can feel the stack of clutter grow to the point of toppling over in my head, and I realize that I need to stop, take a break and consider the clutter in my life.
That’s what I’m determined to do over the next couple of weeks. 
Who knows how clutter forms?  We put something down here and something there, determined to get to it later when we have more time, but life gets busy and finding (or making) time gets harder. And the clutter grows.
So, I’m making and taking the time to look at the clutter. Just like clutter in my house, there is probably stuff I’ve collected that I don't even need anymore. Might not even know why I kept it in the first place. There are things that need to be attended to and important things that need to be given priority to, instead of getting lost in the shuffle.
Reorganizing. Reenergizing. Reconsidering. Recalibrating. Relaxing.
I’m not even sure what’s cluttered around up in my head. That’s what I need to sort through.  From practical issues like kids activities, plans for our home, yard and health, to future issues, like finalizing plans for a mission trip, and what I desire to do in ministry. Should I continue writing? Blogging? Teaching? Speaking?  Should I take on a part-time job? There are even some dreams that I want to sort through.  Should I write that book?  Go back to school?  Run a race? Take up photography?
I’m not doing it alone, though.  My husband and I will be taking this time together to sift and sort through all these things. I’m sure he has some clutter of his own that he wants to work on, too.  And above all, we are seeking  the Lord and considering what He is asking us to do.  
I’m sure that there will still be some piles when I am done, but hopefully they will be a bit more organized and I’ll have some peace over the direction that I am walking in with the Lord and in my life. 
It’s good.  The clutter gets overwhelming and it’s hard to see over the piles.   I’m excited to see what God is going to show me as I take time to take a deep breath, relax, allow His will to settle in to my heart and listen to what He has to say.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Thank you for journeying with me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Much Needed Fresh Look on Love

This morning I woke up and, having forgotten the night before that it was going to be Valentine’s Day, I quickly gathered up some red and pink decorations and tried to present a bit of “visual” love on the counter for breakfast.  Skipping a shower, due to lack of time,  I mixed up my grandmother’s famous Kaiserschmaren recipe (the equivalent to chopped up pancake in a pan – an old German recipe), and tried to make the morning memorable. I signed notebooks. Made lunches.  Pressed clothes. Helped console a child who forgot to write out a few Valentine’s. Hustled kids to school, and even turned around once to go back home, as someone fell and soaked their pants through with mud.
I’m trying to love in tangible ways; I try to do so every day, but today with love on my mind I’m trying to be even more intentional. AND I’m trying to look at real love – again – because, I forget.  I get busy. I get tired. I get snirky.  I don’t always love well.  I don't like that I do this.
How about you?
I realized this morning, I need a fresh look on love. I can pull out some decorations and make a fun breakfast, but I need a reminder about a love that goes deeper than that. It’s easy to love the things we love, when all is fair and good, but God calls us to love – at all times.  Not always an easy thing to do, but always the right and good thing to do.
The famous love chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13 (vs. 4 – 8, 12-13) helps us to remember what it looks like to love God’s way. I pulled the paraphrase of the Bible, the Message, off my shelf and read through it. I’m glad I did. 

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I don’t know about you, but I needed this reminder today -- everyday. I want to love God’s way. 

Praying the same for you, dear reader.

Dear Lord,

Thank you that You are love and that we can learn to love Your way, by learning of You and seeing how You love us.  Help us to be lovers of You and lovers of others.  Even when it is not easy to love, help us to not give up hope, but to persevere, extending grace and forgiveness and always trusting You in all things.  Help us to stop today and remember that You lavished Your love on us, and help us to love others in return.

In Jesus name I pray.  Amen

Thursday, February 10, 2011

God Gives Songs in the Night

Yesterday, in our Women’s Bible Study,  I taught about the the story of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts chapter 16.  Here, unjustly beaten, bruised and bleeding, Paul and Silas CHOOSE not to whine, complain, blame and seek revenge, but to sing and to pray.
I’m convicted and refreshed by this example.
Charles Spurgeon, a well-known saint of the church and preacher from the mid-1800’s said, “Anyone can sing in the day.  It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skilful stager is he who can sing where there is not a ray of light to ready by. Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of men.”
Songs in the night.  When we are surrounded by darkness and have a very real sense of being imprisoned by an injustice or in a time of great suffering, it can be quite difficult to pray. Perhaps, it is even more difficult to sing. But God gives songs in the night.
I know that it is true.  Maybe you do, too.  I am not sure where the songs come from, but they spring forth  and they blossom and bloom.  They are sweet songs, often simple songs, filled with faith and a trust in the Lord who holds all things together. They come during a time when we do not know what to say.  They are words of truth and love that are pushed up out of the ground of our hearts and given life.
Are you scared and overwhelmed with uncertainty?
Are in the vast expanse of loneliness?
Or in the darkness of rejection?
Do you find yourself imprisoned by injustice?
Do you feel stuck in a situation and it appears that there is no way out?
God gives us songs in the night, and God uses our praise to Him for the benefit of others. The pure sound of praise amidst suffering is so lovely, so grace-filled, and so unnatural that it makes others wonder, “How can they do that?”
Others around you may be watching and wondering.  Praise the Lord in your pain, for His sake. Depend on His grace to help you do so. You just may not know how He may use your dependence on Him. Trust on and allow His songs in the night to flow from you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

An "Ah-Hah!" Moment at the Gym

While I huffed and puffed through a work out last week, my trainer Dave was telling me about a new event coming up this summer. 
“I’ve got a race for you to do this summer, Andrea,” he said, “An obstacle course that I’m helping to put together.”
“Good!” I joked – kind of, “Since you’re making it, could you make it so that I can do it?”
“No …. I don’t think so, nice try” he replied, “I’ll make you, so that you are able to do it.”
It was one of those "ah-hah" moments for me. I stopped, stared at Dave and ran to get a piece of paper and pencil to write down what just transpired.  I was convicted in my heart and I wanted to remember it and write about it, because -- this is basically the same conversation that I’ve been having with the Lord, lately.
I talk to him about the obstacles that are currently in my life or that I see on the horizon ahead of me.
And I say something like, “Could you just make them so that I can handle them? Not too hard? Can you orchestrate it so that I can maneuver my way around them, over them, through them? Please? Pretty please?”
And time and time again, it seems as if I eventually realize that He says back to me, “Nice try, Andrea, but no, I will make you so that you are able to do it.”
It is true.  We are God’s workmanship. He created us and continues to make us – form us, strengthen us, train us – so that we are able to do His work.  Sometimes, He works in our strengths, fine tuning them, enriching them, so that we are able to fight and serve Him better. And sometimes, He works in our weaknesses, not necessarily making us stronger, but exhibiting His strength in us.
Bottom line, He doesn’t make our lives so that we can handle it, He “makes” us – constantly transforming us and molding us – so that we do what He asks us to do and in the process, glorify Him.
Next time, I find myself straining under the weight of the world (like today), I’m going to remember this. It’s all a part of the workout for the day, learning how to carry the burden He asks us to carry for ourselves and for others, learning how to wait patiently and learning how to trust Him in the process.
We do not know what obstacles are ahead of us, but He does and He is -- amazingly -- for us.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shaking off the "Shoulds" and the "Shouldn'ts"

I’ve been in a funk all day.
Can’t put my finger on it.
I’ve tried to figure it out but I keep coming up blank.
And then I read a post by a fellow bloggy friend, Niki.  She wrote a great post (click here) about the “shoulds” in her life – and as I read her words, I felt a bit of the weight I’ve been lugging along all day – lift.
I’ve been sitting here, “shoulding” myself to the point of – funk.
I should really clean up the kitchen. I should get something done on the study I’m writing. I should run that errand. I should get a chunk of the laundry done.  I should chop some chicken. I should clean off my desk. I should this and I should that.
And then I mix in a few “shouldn’ts,” as well. I shouldn't just sit here. I shouldn’t be so down in the dumps today. I shouldn’t be so pathetic today. I shouldn’t be in a funk.
It’s a “should” and “shouldn’t” shake – that I'm -- errr -- trying to shake off.
Niki talks about “chosing” instead of “shoulding.” She’s right.  And so I’m working on changing my focus and giving myself a break today. It’s okay. I’m choosing to just take a break, to veg out. I’m choosing to not call it a funk, but to call it freedom.  I know that the Lord loves me and that I am free to just be. I don’t always have to be “doing” something; sometimes, the very thing He has for me is to just be me. It’s okay to have a down day – either in my heart or in my home. 
The Lord loves me for me. And He loves you for you, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mixing Mortar?

The clear, sweet voice of Amy Grant streamed out of the speakers of my radio, “Here I go, mixing mortar, for another wall to build.”  And as I listened, I could feel my heart ache, as the Lord lifted the veil from the wall building project I've been working on. 
It’s not that I mean to build a wall right now. Before you know it, I take the crumbled dust of my hurt and pain and  mix it with the water of my tears -- stirring, stirring, stirring and making mortar. 
The thing about wall building is – once you’ve built a wall, even if you’ve torn it down, it goes up much easier the second (and third and hundredth) time.  I guess you could say, we become rather “skilled” at it.  We pick up the bricks, slop a bit of mortar between them, and up the wall goes.
I’m not sure we even realize it most of the time.
It’s not like we intentionally pull out the trough and the trowel and get to it. It just happens.
So, today, I’m standing back and evaluating the wall that I’m building. 
I’m asking myself (and the Lord) some tough questions.
What triggered me?
Why do I feel vulnerable?
Why do I seem to need to try and protect myself right now?
Is what I am doing wise? Am I building a wall to “guard my heart” for good?
Or am I building a wall to keep others at a distance because I fear more rejection?
Is this wall helping me? Hurting me?  Or Hindering my relationship with others?
And – finally, and most convicting – am I trying to build a wall between the Lord and me?
So many questions. Not sure of the answers.
So, I’m going where I know that I can rest and search and see – to the Lord.  I’m stepping over the wall I started, and running in to His arms, trusting Him to help me.
Can you relate dear reader? May I pray?
Dear Lord, There is so much that we do not know about our hearts, but you do. You know what we think, how we feel and why we act the way we do. You know every detail of our lives. Help us, the ones who are prone to “building walls” to see the truth.  Remind us of Your truths.  Help us to see if we are being wise and “guarding our hearts” for good reasons, or if we are being overly self-protective. Thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for being ever present and entering in to our pain. Help us to bring glory to You in whatever we do.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.
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