My Opinion- for What it’s Worth

In a world where opinions fly fast and free I am aware that I am not very political.

Even though I have little regard for what the world considers to be politically correct, conflict and confrontation still make me uncomfortable.

I tend to be the smoother of all those ruffled feathers rather than being the one making those feathers fly.

Some would see that as a huge personality flaw.

C’mon! Take a side! Speak out! Step up! Fly a flag! (Oh, but not that one.) Point a finger! (Oh dear, again, not that one.)

No, I am not political.

But I am also very sure of what I believe.

I believe God created us in His own image and He calls me to regard all of His children with love, compassion, and respect.

I believe in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. Created as a perfect guide for our lives and not as a battering ram against people with whom I do not agree.

I believe it is not my job to strong-arm others to believe the way I do. (Only Holy Spirit can convict a heart.)

I believe it is not my job to judge another human being. (Only God can judge the hearts of men.)

My job – my only job – is to know Jesus and to make Him known.

To offer Jesus in every way I can through acts of kindness, love, compassion, justice and mercy. To speak the unwavering truth with the knowledge that what I do here during my limited time on earth matters so much.

Every day is a gift too precious to be wasted on hate-mongering.

Time is short.

Seek the truth.

Speak the truth in love.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Content

Be content.

As I opened my eyes to greet the morning those were the words lingering in my mind. It seemed like an odd reminder because at that very moment I wasn’t feeling agitated or stressed. I had slept well.

There were no particular pressing problems on my mind and yet there was Holy Spirit whispering to me in the wee hours of the waking light.

Be content.

He was preparing me.

He knew what was coming when I did not.

Unlike the storm warnings that flash across my T.V. screen – Be alert! Be prepared! Take cover! He was whispering softly – Be content, Lean into Me, I am your soft place to fall.

Loving and living in God does not mean a free and easy life. It isn’t an iron-clad guarantee that I will be exempt from sickness, that those I love will always agree with me, that stressful circumstances will not come barging into my orderly existence like uninvited house guests.

But it does mean that those things can not overtake me.

Each day, God provides a spiritual covering for my heart in His Word. It is in those moments of quiet that He reminds me that His love never leaves me. That there is nothing that happens in this world that escapes His view. He is aware of it all and is constantly providing for me.

It is up to me to believe and receive.

To lean in.

To trust in His sovereignty.

To be content.

Unearthing the Truth

It began last night with a question. This unraveling of me.

What is it that has kept me from being who I am supposed to be?

It’s strange how Holy Spirit breaks into the places I think I have patched up so neatly with the Do Not Disturb sign clearly posted. But there I was in the middle of dinner and He asked me that very question.

What is it that has kept you from being who you were meant to be?

He knew the answer. It was me who needed to probe a little deeper.

But instead I turned to the one I love and asked him that question. Surely we all have things that have held us back. Perhaps hearing his answer would guide me to my own. But instead of giving me his own definitive answer he turned the question back to me.

And in the middle of a crowded restaurant over a perfectly lovely dinner, my eyes began to well with tears. I knew the answer. It was hidden in the same pathetic phrase I had uttered to myself time and time again. It was fuel to the raging fire that consumed those around me in my pursuit of perfection. It was the fear that held me back from anything that seemed too wonderful.

Am I worth it?

Seeing those words makes me cringe.

They beg a deeper question as they call my faith to the spotlight.

Do I believe that this Jesus, the One who anchors my hopeful heart, thinks I am enough? Despite my faithlessness, does He still think I am worth it?

And beyond that, does He adore me?

Too often I try to display the Father in the faulty, family frame I inherited. My perspective of His love for me gets muddied by the emotional gaps reflected in my shallow stream of understanding.

I know my earthly father loved me. The deepest parts of my heart tell me so. But the words of affirmation and adoration that I longed to hear were never spoken aloud.

And my interpretation of that silence formed an inaccurate picture of who I am. It has followed me into womanhood and surfaces every time I am on the brink of becoming more of who I was meant to be.

I’ve spent a lot of time digging in that garden of lies scratching the dirt and pulling at roots, desperate to unearth the weeds that grow there. I remember that each time I am able to grab a root in my hand and raise it to the light, it withers allowing space for good seeds to grow.

So here I am again. On my knees in the dirt grabbing at the root of this lie. The one that tells me I am not enough. I am not adored. I dig into the Psalms to unearth the promises of redemption and restoration He has for me. The ones that proclaim a father’s compassionate love so great that it is as high as the heavens are above the earth.

That truth begins to reverberate anew in my soul. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 

God is not stingy with His love. He lavishes it on me, pours it over me in extravagance. He spared no expense in the pursuit of my heart. Not even His very own Son.

That’s how much I am adored. The truth I have known my whole life suddenly seems a fresh truth. A new depth. He died for me.

He adores me. I am worth it.

Thank-you, LORD.

Self Sabotage

It’s interesting how my mind works. Before a recent trip to the store I grabbed a pen and paper to jot down a grocery list. I knew the fruit drawer in my fridge was nearly empty so I wrote down “fruit”.

Funny thing, though.

When I looked back at the list I had actually written “cookies”.

Hmmmm…

I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

An inspiration to take a walk strikes me, but on the way to get my shoes I end up in front of the computer checking my friends’ riveting Facebook updates. I mean to grab my Bible, but spy the TV remote and suddenly the newest episode of House Hunters is on.

It would be easy to just blame it on the fact that I’m a weak-willed-woman.

But that would be a lie.

I am not a weak-willed woman.

But, I do get sidetracked on occasion. My priorities get out of kilter. Especially if I’m overwhelmed with activities or lacking the necessary sleep to keep me functioning at peak performance.

(O.K. I had to suppress a giggle just then, because I don’t think I’ve been at peak performance since 1994.)

Still, I’m not the only one for whom self sabotage is an issue.

The apostle Paul also struggled with his own contradictory behavior. In the New Living Translation of Romans 7:15 Paul writes, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

That sounds freakishly familiar.

So what’s the answer?

Whenever a friend of mine does the children’s moment at church she tells the kids that it’s a pretty safe bet if she asks them a question the answer is always going to be “Jesus.” The apostle Paul would agree with her. In Romans 7:25 Paul says, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here’s why.

Jesus has my best interest at heart even when I don’t. And what’s more, He sent Holy Spirit to me as my biggest cheerleader. When I lack the motivation to do what I know I should, I can ask for Holy Spirit’s encouragement.

Granted, sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of asking me to give up control.

And that isn’t easy.

But giving up control helps me develop discipline. Discipline that urges me to take the narrow road even when the wide path looks like a tantalizing short cut. Discipline that guides me to do what I should in the moment instead of setting it aside until later and then it is forgotten.

I know it may not keep me from penning “cookies” on my grocery list, but there is a sweeter satisfaction to be had.

And His name is Jesus.

 

It doesn’t change a thing

IMG_1259

While her husband was on a business trip, my younger daughter and her newborn son came to stay with us. What a joy it was to meet each morning through the wide-eyed wonder named Luke.

At five weeks he has already changed so much. Beginning to shake off the sleepy cloak that wraps a newborn’s mind, he is alert for longer periods during the day (and regrettably for his parents, during the night as well.)  When he is awake, his arms and legs engage in a constant stationary dance to music only he can hear.

This morning as he lay beside me on the couch pumping his tiny arms and legs, I began to whisper in his ear. Occasionally he would fix his eyes on me and seem to be soaking in every syllable.

“I love you Luke. You are so beautiful. And even though you really don’t understand how much I love you, it doesn’t change the fact that I do.”

It is doubtful that he understood a word of what I said, but my voice still commanded his momentary attention.

Sometimes I am just like baby Luke. When God calls me, my response involves thrashing around in a crazy stationary dance.  Stuck on the couch looking up at the ceiling lights, neither moving backwards or forwards, my is mind running wild.

What if I fail?

What will people think?

How can I accomplish something so far outside my comfort zone?

Then I remember the promises of God.

I remember that Romans 8:31 says if God is for me, then who can be against me? And according to 1 Thessalonians 5:24,  if God has called me to it, then God will see me through it.

When I’m stuck on the brink of a land flowing with milk and honey, tempted to retreat to Egypt, I can go forth in the confidence that God’s love lies ahead and behind me. Whether or not I believe the promises doesn’t change God.

He remains the same.

The only change is in me when I respond to His promises with faith and love. So when I am faithless and fretful I must listen closely for Holy Spirit’s truth.

The lovely reminder He whispers in my ear.

“I love you Anne. You are so beautiful. And even though you don’t understand how much I love you, it doesn’t change a thing.”

After You

It was my turn to speak to the children during one of the Sunday morning worship services. The highlighted scripture that day was Luke 14:1, 7-14. In this passage Jesus had been invited to dinner at an important Pharisee’s home. It records his observations of the guests’ behavior as they maneuvered their way around the table trying  to get the most honorable seat. As an adult I understood Jesus’s implications, but translating it into understandable words for a five or six-year-old child proved to be a challenge for me.

I spent several days scouring the internet for relatable children’s sermons, but none of them seemed quite right. Finally, I talked to my daughter about the difficulty I was having and she gave me sage advice. “Mom, the stories Jesus told were always about what God wanted him to reveal about His character. You should ask Holy Spirit to tell you what He wants you to say.”

I went to bed Saturday night without a plan of my own, but prayed that Holy Spirit would teach me what to say about the character of God. The following morning I awoke with this story spinning in my head.

Once there were two little boys. One was named Me First; the other was After You. Although Me First and After You were members of the same class at school, they were very different characters. When it was time to line up for art or music class, Me First elbowed his way to the front, never caring that someone got their toes stepped on or was pushed to the ground. After You didn’t mind where he stood in line. He was too busy helping up the little girl who had been pushed to the floor as Me First ran by. 

When it was snack time Me First jumped from his seat to retrieve his snack, then gobbled it down with gusto. After You was slow to rise because he’d noticed the distressed look on the new student’s face. He soon found that the new boy had not known to bring a snack so After You graciously offered him half of his.

At recess time Me First made sure to get the purple ball before anyone else could take it. It bounced the highest and flew the furthest when he kicked it. He would surely be the winner of all the games if he had it. After You didn’t care which ball he played with. He was too busy helping others clean up their area before stopping to hold open the classroom door for his wheelchair bound friend.

At the end of the day the teacher told the children that she was going to give a reward to the child in the class who had the most humble heart. Me First didn’t know what a humble heart was, but he was sure that he would receive the prize. After all, he was so good at everything.

Then the teacher did a surprising thing. She asked the class who they thought should receive the reward. One by one, hands went up telling of the kind and humble things that After You had done for them.  The teacher smiled as she called After You to the front to present him with a giant candy bar.

Even though this story was intended for children, Holy Spirit impressed upon my own heart how it was also for me. The truth of the matter is this – try as I might not to be a Me First kind of person, my efforts often fall short. I get irritated when someone cuts in front of me in traffic, takes something I had my eye on, or even overlooks the good job I have done. “Me First!” my heart cries out. “Not fair! I deserved that place of honor.” It is only when I say “After You” to Jesus that change occurs.

Allowing his supernatural love to permeate my heart reminds me that being like Jesus means coming to the party to serve, not to be served. Looking at life as an opportunity to share God’s love with others even at my own inconvenience is the place where I can truly be the kind of woman I long to be. The kind of woman who lives her life in a constant state of After You.

Pity Party

Shortly after attending a teachers meeting this week I threw myself a big ‘ole pity party. I began inviting my colleagues to join me in my party lament of “too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-it-and-furthermore-nobody-appreciates-what-I-do-anyway.” Throwing out complaints like confetti I began cataloging all the things that make my job seem impossible – increasingly higher expectations with larger class sizes, diminished prep time, increased duty time, and no classroom aides. I come to school early and stay late, but there is never enough time to do everything that is required of me. My discouragement-o-meter was pointing to HIGH by the time I got home that night.

My husband lent a sympathetic ear as I continued to complain that talk was cheap. “People can say they appreciate what you do, but unless they really do something to show you it means very little.” Even as I fell into bed that night trying to sleep the party racket went on. Finally, in the war between spirit and flesh I gave in and began praying. “Lord, you know I don’t want to feel like this. I want to be a woman after Your own heart and be thankful in all circumstances. But sometimes it is so hard when it seems like nobody cares that you are doing your best. Nobody shows you that it matters what you do.

And then before I could get another word out, the Holy Spirit began reminding me of the ones who did appreciate me. Little Allie who’d met me at the door that morning with a beautifully drawn picture of flowers and butterflies with the words “You are the Best Teacher” written in crayon across the top. An orange pipe cleaner heart placed in my hand by Katelyn. “I made this for you,” she’d said with a smile. And two bear-sized hugs from the two Justins in my room before they had left for the day. The remembrance of these heart-felt expressions brought me to tears. How could I have been so blind to the appreciation that was right before me? The appreciation that meant the most to me! “Forgive me, Lord! You showed Your love for me through a child’s pure devotion and I almost missed it.

The pity party was over and in its place I threw a big “I love you, Jesus” celebration. I am so thankful I serve a God who loves me so much that He comes to my lousy self-centered parties and changes the atmosphere just by being there. For when Love enters, there is no room for anything else.

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

A Bump in the Road

On an unseasonably warm January day I headed to the park for a walk. As I strode down the wooded trail I spotted a small boy seated on a bike at the bottom of the hill. Trying to get over a hump in the road he was furiously pedaling, but going nowhere. Seeing no adult in sight I was inclined to stop and help. However, as I came closer I caught sight of his father standing on the path to the right. He had been obscured from my sight by a hedge of bushes lining the paved path.

The boy’s face was contorted in anger and frustration as his father called out to him. Walking past them I heard the dad call out to his little boy, “Do you need a boost?” I had to smile as the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Sound familiar?” How many times have I struggled to get over my own bump in the road refusing the help that was available? How much easier would it have been if I would have simply acquiesced to the Father and allowed Him space in my situation? I remember the words of Jesus when he calls to us saying,”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. I don’t have to keep spinning my wheels trying to get some place fast when my Father is willing to carry me there!

It’s so easy to fall into the thinking that I can navigate this world on my own. Why ask for help when I am perfectly capable of running my own life? However, when the incline becomes steep and my little legs cannot pump fast enough to move up the hill I become very aware of my need. I am thankful for the reminders that God puts in my life, like little boys on bicycles and patient fathers on the path. And ultimately, the knowledge that when I hit that bump in road I can look up ahead and be certain that my Father is there, patiently calling out to me, giving me the boost that I need.

Thank-you, Lord Jesus for your ever-present invitation to find rest in You. Help me to remember that You alone are the truth, the light and the way. And when I struggle sometimes to find you remind me that I need only to call out and You are there. I love you, Lord.