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

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Marching Orders

“The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people
and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.”
--Genesis 12:1

It is almost 4 a.m. For the last hour and a half, I have unsuccessfully tried to stem the flood of thoughts, concerns, and “to-do’s” that are running through my mind. My over-stimulated brain is trying to come to grips with the reality that our family of five is being transferred from San Antonio to Dallas, TX. It is a surreal moment.

In the 12 hours, since receiving the news of our move, I have been thinking a lot about Abram and Sarai. What went through Abram’s mind when the LORD called him to a new life? Did he struggle with guilt over uprooting his wife and all the people in his household for a destination unknown? And what about Sarai? Did she have a hard time sleeping as her to-do list grew and grew?

I’ve also been thinking of the wisdom of God’s timing in their family planning. It is a selfish thought, I know, but at least they were spared the heartache of moving their teenaged children soon to start their senior, junior and eighth grade years.

Were their hearts pierced over the thought of saying goodbye to family, friends, neighbors, pastors, church and community? Were they worried about where the LORD might take them? Scripture doesn’t provide us with details about their thoughts.

What we do know is how Abram went about the next part of his faith journey. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). By faith, Abram made a choice to believe God, to trust God and to follow God. I want the same to be said about me – “By faith, she left as the LORD had instructed…”

Father God,
Thank You for going ahead of my family to prepare the way for our move. Today, by faith, I choose to believe You, to trust You, and to follow You on a journey that is largely unknown. I confess my fears, grief and worries to You and ask that You would provide your peace that surpasses all understanding. Give me strength and courage for the days and weeks ahead. I love You and I need You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keeping God at Arm's Length

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive what is due him for the things
done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
-- 2 Corinthians 5:10

For the last several weeks, I have been in a place of desert dryness, brittle prayers, and a hard heart. This is not to be confused with the spiritual desert that God sometimes calls us to in order to bring about a deeper faith. No, I traveled to this barren place of my own free will. It is a place I know well; a place I go to hide, to escape, to ignore the call of God.

When I am in this spiritual state, it is as if I mentally stretch out my arm and say, “You may come this close but no farther.” Consider the absurdity of a 5’2” woman, puny arm straight out and palm facing forward, telling Almighty God to stay back! Of course, I do not possess the strength to control God. I can, however, choose to withhold myself from Him.

I’ve been pondering this choice of keeping God at arm’s length. Why do I willingly walk away from fellowship with the Lord to miserably wander alone in the desert? A couple of things come to mind: weariness of carrying my cross, pride when I think I’ve sacrificed enough, fear of what lies ahead, laziness. When I focus on myself and my circumstances, it becomes easier to justify a side trip. Before I know it, I am wasting time in old, familiar territory.

During my most recent trip to the desert, God used his word to speak to my wayward heart. According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, someday I will stand before Christ and receive what I’m due for the things I have done, in this life, whether good or bad. Well, what about the things that I refused to do? What about the time I spent avoiding God in the desert?

The truth is that I do not want to stand in front of my Savior, in my current faith condition, knowing that this is all I was willing to give him. He has called me to journey with him to experience a life of deep faith and service. How can I look him in the eye, aware of the limitations I have put on my growth because I refused to cooperate? In light of the truth of God’s Word, hiding is pointless. It is time to pack my bags and head home.

You are my Creator. You know the depths of my heart. You know what is best for me and, yet, You let me choose for myself, even when I choose badly. Forgive me for keeping You at arm’s length; for preferring my desert over your plans for my life. Thank You for always welcoming me back into relationship with You. Teach me how to trust You and stay true to the path You have planned for me. May I live my life in a way that shows gratitude for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and brings glory and honor to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Holy Moment at HEB

Our air conditioner went out on a recent Saturday morning. That evening, I headed to the grocery store in search of cold beverages, frozen treats, and anything else that might provide a break from the miserable heat.

After loading my groceries in the van, I pushed the empty cart to the rack. I made eye contact with an elderly gentleman standing next to a large SUV. He stood in the space created by the passenger door which was open wide. The vehicle was idling and there was no one in the driver's seat. His startled, anxious eyes compelled me to walk over to him.

"Hello. Can I do something for you?"

He answered my question in a voice so weak and muffled that I had to lean in to catch his words. I repeated what he said to make sure that I'd heard him correctly.

"Your daughter's name is Katherine. She's shopping in the store and you need her?"


In the split second it took to process his statement, my mind went in three different directions: 1. Oh no, all of the frozen food I just bought is going to melt in my van. 2. How am I ever going to find his daughter in this busy grocery store? 3. I wonder if he even knows her telephone number. I pushed the first thought aside and accepted the fact that, at least temporarily, I was now responsible for the welfare of a complete stranger.

As it turned out, he did know her number. I used my phone to call her, introduce myself and relay his message. She said that she was in the checkout line and would be outside, as soon as possible.

I relayed her words, assuming my role as "Good Samaritan" was over. It was the look in his eyes that made me pause and then ask, “Do you want me to wait with you until she gets back?"

"Would you?" he asked with gratitude and relief.

Assuming his daughter would be joining us momentarily, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and ask him for his name. It was John. He lived with his daughter in San Antonio .

Dividing my focus between John and the grocery store exits, I continued to ask questions. He had grown children living in Houston, New Braunfels & San Antonio. He was grandfather to six.

His daughter had yet to make her appearance. By this time, we were both scrutinizing every woman walking out of the store. I continued to ask John about himself. He was originally from Houston and 30 years earlier, had moved to San Antonio to sell eighteen-wheelers.

Ten minutes passed and still no sign of Katherine. John became increasingly agitated as the time went by. He shared with me that he had recently been in the hospital and had spent time in rehab. Then he looked at me and admitted that he had trouble with panic attacks.

I asked him if that was what was happening when I had walked over to him. He looked down at the ground, answered, “Yes,” and told me that they made it hard for him to breathe. Gently squeezing his arm, I shared that I had struggled with panic attacks, too, and they did make life difficult. After that exchange there didn't seem to be anything left to say. He slumped against the car’s seat for support as we stood there in companionable silence.

I began to struggle with my own judgmental thoughts. What kind of daughter would leave her father outside for such a long period of time? Why was she taking so long? What if he’d fallen? What if he’d tried to go into the store to find her? What if…

I started praying. I prayed that John was in a family situation where he was treated with respect and honor. I asked God, "What is going on here? What do you want me to do? Please show me." The Holy Spirit whispered, "Look at him."

In his mid-80’s, John’s tall, slender frame was frail and stooped with age. He had a full head of white hair, paper thin skin and clear blue eyes. He was wearing sensible brown shoes, khaki pants, a crisp, blue short sleeve button down shirt, and snappy red suspenders. By all outward appearances, he was well taken care of. My eyes slipped past him to the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. A set of dentures rested on a tissue. I smiled to myself as I realized the reason for John's muffled speech.

I continued to look and saw more. I saw a man who no longer had the physical strength to climb into a large vehicle by himself after he had climbed out. I saw a man who could no longer drive himself where he wanted to go and was at the mercy of his daughter’s errand schedule. I saw a man who somehow maintained his dignity, even as he welcomed the company of a stranger in a grocery store parking lot. And as I saw, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of how much Jesus Christ loved this man.

About this time, I noticed a cart heading straight towards us; pushed by a woman, who looked to be in her sixties. I searched her face for clues about her relationship with her father. She did not appear to be alarmed or rushed. She calmly brought her cart to a stop and looked at John.

“Dad, what do you need?”

“I couldn't breathe,” he confessed. Comprehension spread across her face as she murmured, “Oh, Dad.” Those two words conveyed a deep love and understanding that eliminated the need for further explanation and answered every one of my “What ifs.”

“Katherine, this is Denise Webb. She stayed with me while you were in the store.” I was startled, amazed and pleased as John introduced us. Katherine thanked me for taking care of her father. I assured her it was my pleasure. It was time for me to go.

Before I left, I turned to John and reached out to shake his hand. As he thanked me, I looked deep into his eyes and with a new awareness of Christ's love said, “God bless you, John.” I meant those words with everything in me.

As I drove home, I tried to wrap my mind around what had just happened. I wiped away tears as I acknowledged how deeply the encounter had moved me. What had happened? Even as I continue to seek understanding, I have discerned two things.

I stood in his presence. “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32) I believe my standing and waiting with John showed him respect and honor at a time when he needed it most. The Lord loved this man and wanted me to know it and to show it. Under the evening sky, I had the privilege of representing Jesus and bringing God glory by merely standing with another human being.

He spoke my name. “This is Denise Webb.” His remembering and speaking it aloud blessed me beyond words. The more I ponder this, the more I realize it is true. A wise woman once told me that there is great power in the spoken name. She explained that Jesus called those he loved by name, “Martha. Peter. Mary. Lazarus.” When we hear our name spoken, it re-centers us and calls us back to Christ. John spoke my name and blessed me as tenderly as if Christ, himself, had spoken.

The sacredness of my encounter with John has provided me with a brand new appreciation for the phrase, "Blessed to be a blessing."

Oh Father, what a blessing to be known and called by name. Forgive me for those times I do not hear You calling because I am too busy with my own plans. Give me the faith to entrust my schedule to Your safekeeping and the courage to cooperate with Your divine appointments. May I say "Yes" to what You have planned for my day. Help me to see with the eyes of Christ that I might love with the love of Christ. Abba, serving You in this way will always bring You glory and honor. I love You and praise You. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.