name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: May 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Being Tested

Some time later God tested Abraham.
He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.
Genesis 22:1

Tests. They come in all shapes and sizes. Academic tests, physical tests, career tests, emotional tests, marital tests, parenting tests, spiritual tests. Is there ever a point in our life when we are no longer faced with testing moments? I don't think so.

Five years ago, I cried out to the Lord with a life changing request. My heart's deepest desire was to move beyond a personal relationship with the Lord and experience a previously unknown level of understanding, love and intimacy with Him, much like King David's. I gave Him permission to transform me from the inside out.

Looking back over the past five years, I can see how my faith has been tested in radical ways. The path that He has set before me doesn't look anything like the one I had envisioned for myself when I first said, "yes" to Jesus. There is no one to my right or left to show me if I'm doing it right. He is teaching me to keep my eyes on Him.

Nobody else takes my test nor do I take theirs.

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a conversation with a friend. I was sharing how the Lord had spelled out my priorities for the next two years. Part of the Lord's directions included sharing this two year plan with my pastors, as a means of accountability. Almost immediately after doing so, I was presented with a test.

I was approached by two different staff members at my child's school and asked if I would consider serving as their PTA President. A great honor? No doubt. A great responsibility? You bet. A great need? Absolutely.

I weighed and tested the possibility in my mind. Honor - I had no personal desire for the "honor" of the title and recognition that would come with the position. Responsibility - It would be a lot of work but I was fully capable of filling the position. Need - This was my trigger point. Great Need - This was my test. I paused and began to consider the possibility before sensing the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Did this position fit in with the, previously mentioned, Lord's priorities for my life? In the end, I said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Now while this test wasn't nearly as difficult as others I have faced, it made me aware that there is a pattern to the tests which come before me. It also highlighted my understanding of one of my own trigger points. When I look back over my life, I see how many of my tests deal with the same issue - just different scenarios. It is only when I allow the Lord to transform that particular part of my life that it ceases to be a test which shows up with annoying regularity.

Tests are not my favorite part of life. Yet, it is reassuring to know that the Lord's tests are always designed with my limitations, needs and ultimate good, in mind. Will I believe God or rely on my own understanding? Do I stay on this path which provides just enough light for the next step or do I walk toward the artificial light of the world? Do I stay true to the new thing He has called me to or do I revert back to old habits and familiar places? Do I trust Him enough to say, "Here I am"?

Oh Lord, You who know all things, see all things, and hold all things together. You see my heart. You see the places in my life where I try to hide my anger, fear, shame, hate, and pride. You see me, Lord, and You love me still. Forgive me for holding on to things that are no good for me. Help me to be open to your tests, your lessons, and your truth. Show me how to forgive myself when I fail a test and give me the courage to face the next one. Teach me how to be more like You. In the mighty, redeeming name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Blessing of Prayer

"I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that
you are my disciples." -- John 13:34-35

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
The question was put to me recently. It caught me off guard, pleased me in a deeply personal way, and brought me face-to-face with the living Christ.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
When this powerful question is asked it releases a blessing. I was blessed by the invitation to share my prayer needs with another. I was blessed as I paused to consider my response. And I was blessed, further still, as I made my requests known.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
So why did these words take me by surprise? They were spoken by someone who stands at a major crossroads in their own life; someone 20 years my junior; someone who I've only known for a few short months; but most importantly, someone who knows how to love just like Jesus.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
As believers in Christ, we are called to pray for one another. We are called to ask the question which blesses, as it says:
You are important.
You matter to me.
You matter to Christ.
How can I support your faith journey in prayer?

Thank you, Father, for the blessing of being loved by others in the Body of Christ through the ministry of prayer. Lord, give us eyes to see someone who needs to hear the question, "Is there anything I can pray for you?" Holy Spirit, give us the courage to ask this question with sincerity and love. Finally, give us the discipline to follow through by lifting these prayer requests to You. May we love each other well in prayer. We love You and thank Jesus for the reassurance that you hear each and every request placed before your throne. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Who Am I Today?

An event from the past takes on new meaning...September 14, 2002

My daughter Claire (10 years old at that time) and I were shopping at the Quarry for a birthday gift for one of her classmates. She slowly made her way up and down each aisle of the toy store, determined to find the "perfect" present. Knowing there was no way to speed up the process; I chose a spot a few feet away and settled in for the duration.

It was a busy day and the store was filled with the sounds of excited children discovering new treasures. I smiled to myself as I overheard familiar parent/child discussions regarding price tags, negotiations, whining and threats.

The atmosphere shifted dramatically at the sound of a male voice raised in anger. A young man, in his early 20's, stood at the checkout counter waiting for his purchases to be gift wrapped. His frustration was directed at the young girl who stood by his side. She appeared to be around my daughter's age; heavyset, dressed in a t-shirt and short skirt. She spoke in a high immature voice that trembled in fear.

It quickly became apparent that she was in distress about something. It was just as apparent that the young man did not care. His voice increased in volume as he harshly dismissed her need and told her to be quiet.

By this time, everyone in the store had stopped what they were doing. Several people grabbed their children and left. Claire looked to me for reassurance but I had none to give. I remember standing there wishing to shield my daughter from the drama and failing miserably. I also remember wishing God would "do something."

The young girl spoke again. This time she was pleading. One bold mom stepped up to the young man and tried to intervene, only to be told to mind her own business. Without a trace of compassion, the man told the girl to go outside and wait by the car.

She slowly turned towards the front door; squeezing her legs together as she walked. I looked down at her feet as she took tiny, shuffling steps and saw the urine as it trickled down her legs. Her head was bowed in shame. She was crying. We all watched in horror as she left the store, by herself, and made her way to the car. The young man gathered up his purchases and stormed out the door, as the eyes of countless witnesses bore holes in his back.

I learned an invaluable lesson that day.

I thought that by doing nothing, I would protect my daughter. I was wrong. While I watched through the eyes of a parent, she experienced the same thing though the eyes of a child – one who could readily relate to the young girl being abused before her eyes. She did not escape the horror of the situation anymore than I had. Both of us were shaken to our very core.

I learned another invaluable lesson.

It wasn’t until I spent time with the Lord, that I understood that I had a role in the toy store drama. By doing nothing, I had failed my Lord and Savior, my daughter, and that young girl. I failed Him. I failed Claire. I failed her. His forgiveness was immediate. He showed me that I had failed because I was not prepared. The next time, He emphasized, I would be called to act.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” --1 Peter 1:13
Be ready to think. Be ready to ask what He would have you do. Be ready to act when He gives a directive.

“On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem you were like one of them.” -- Obadiah 1:11
Doing nothing does not keep you innocent. Observing without standing up for the persecuted brings guilt upon your own head.


So who am I today?

Am I the young man; short on time, short on love?
Am I the young girl; beaten down by circumstances, unable to speak up for myself?
Am I the clerk behind the counter; pretending not to see, wrapping as furiously as possible?
Am I the one who walks out the door; unable or unwilling to witness anymore?
Am I my daughter; unprotected by her parent, identifying all too well with the victim?
Am I the horrified bystander; paralyzed with fear, unprepared for action?
Am I the woman who stepped forward; no guarantee of outcome, standing up for the oppressed?

You who know and see all things, You know the condition of my heart. On this day, I confess my shortcomings to you. It is by Your will and Your plan that I am to become more like Christ. I ask You to continue Your work within me that I would be prepared the next time You call me to action. Thank You for the promise that the good work You have begun in my life will be carried on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6). Let it be so, in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What Do You Want...?

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. --Luke 18:40-41

The blind beggar on the side of the road was persistent in his attempts to get Jesus’ attention. When he was told to be quiet, by those leading Jesus’ entourage, "he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’"

Jesus heard. Jesus stopped. Jesus ordered the beggar brought to him. With a simple question and a simple response, the man’s life is changed forever.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

In a split second, I go from reading the story to being in the story. Jesus puts the same question to me but unlike the blind beggar, I don’t know what to ask for. Jesus waits for my reply. I struggle through the process of sorting needs from wants. My subconscious argues that this is a silly exercise -- as a believer in Christ, I can go to him anytime I want and make my requests known. But I cannot shake the sensation that I am standing on the dirt road with the Savior and there is something specific he wants me to ask.

After reviewing and discarding several worthy choices, I discern God’s leading. With relief, I make my request. Jesus responds with the same grace and tenderness he poured out on the blind beggar.

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
--Luke 18:42-43

Through your son, Jesus Christ, You pose the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” May we take the time, this very day, to explore this question with You as our guide. Thank You for the blessed privilege of being escorted into your presence and being able to respond with our heart’s deepest desire. May our response to these answered prayers always bring praise and glory to You. In Jesus name, Amen.