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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cardboard Testimony

"Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" -- Luke 9:23

I held up a sign today.

As part of a visual sermon, I joined twenty others and stood on a stage, facing my brothers and sisters in Christ, and held up a cardboard testimony for everyone to see.

One side of my sign read: Seeking Approval of Many.
The other side: Following the Voice of ONE.

The first side represents my life before meeting Jesus. The second side proclaims the transformation that has taken place since my encounter with Him. On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward:

Before meeting Christ, I was a people pleaser.
After meeting Christ, I only followed Him.

But I have a confession to make.

When I said, "yes," to Christ, I did not stop my approval seeking ways. For me, following His voice, and no other, has been a long, slow transformation that has stretched out over the past 14 years and continues to this day. What I have learned is that it comes down to choice.

The way I live out my life reflects my decision to focus on Him or myself. Whether I consciously choose to or not, each day my actions bear witness to the invitation Jesus issued in Luke 9:23: Deny myself. Take up my cross daily. Follow him. Or not.

Truthfully, I have racked up an awful lot of "Or not" days in the past 14 years. It is a sobering reality and thus my need for confession. Today, I stood in solemn victory, mindful of all of the lessons He has had to teach me along the way. The beauty of walking with Jesus is that each of my failures has been covered by His blood. I am forgiven and stand without condemnation.

What a gift to be able to start over daily. And what a gift to claim His transforming grace that continues to teach me how to "Follow the Voice of ONE."

You know me well. I stand before You and confess my shortcomings and sins. For all of the times I have chosen "Or not" rather than follow Jesus, forgive me. I admit there are days when my feet hit the floor and I do not give You a thought until my day is well under way. The truth is, Lord, there is no joy in my day without You. Help me to choose You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Journey Begins

With our family move looming in the horizon, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about journeys. The journey from childhood to adulthood. The journey of marriage. The journey of parenting. The journey of faith.

Aside from a few major events in my childhood: baptism, first communion, and confirmation, the majority of my faith journey has taken place since marriage and the arrival of my children. For the first thirty-three years of my life, I believed in God but I didn't know Him.

Fourteen years ago, in the fall of 1994, our family was living in St. Louis, MO. My husband, Marty and I signed up for a Disciple I Bible study through our church. For the first time, I opened my Bible with the intention of learning about the God I worshiped each Sunday. And so began my journey of studying God's Word.

During that Disciple I class, I was pregnant with my third child. At the end of each class session, our group members would circle up and close in prayer. Each week, without fail, my pastor would pray for me and my unborn child. I can remember my shock and delight the first time he did so. It was a blessing I had never experienced before but one which I received, humbly and eagerly, each and every time. And so began my journey of receiving the blessing of the Father.

And then my son, Mitchell, arrived on January 27, 1995. Our pastor stopped by the hospital to visit. He took Mitchell in his arms and sat down in the rocking chair. He asked Marty and me if he could pray for Mitchell. We said yes. But rather than pray over Mitchell, he prayed to God as if he were Mitchell. "Thank You, God for my mom and dad. Thank You, God for my big brother, Andy, and my big sister, Claire. Thank You, God, for my grandparents and aunts and uncles...For ice cream cones and puppy dogs. For all of the Sunday school teachers who will teach me about You. Thank You, for the plans You have for my life..." It was a sweet, sweet, holy moment. And so began my journey of prayer.

A few days later, members from our Disciple class began showing up on our doorstep with meals for our family and gifts for our new son. For weeks, we were showered in love, support and prayers. And so began my journey of fellowship.

Five weeks after Mitchell's birth, my husband was offered a job in San Antonio, TX. He accepted the position and soon began leaving town on Sunday afternoons and returning on Friday evenings. I set out to be Superwife/Supermom and did not ask for help as I parented an infant, a two year old, and a four year old and tried to keep a house clean for potential buyers. Because I did not know how to process the grief I was feeling, over leaving my new found family of faith, I did my best to ignore it. Physical exhaustion, loneliness, grief and anxiety soon took its toll. I went from needing no help to needing help for the smallest of decisions. The Body of Christ ministered to me in ways that I will never be able to repay. They drove me to doctor's appointments. They watched my young children. They invited me over for dinner. They prayed with me over the phone at 6 a.m. because I did not know how I was going to make it through another day. They loved me, encouraged me and believed for me when I had no hope for myself. And so began my journey to ministry.

During the fall of 1994 and the spring of 1995, the Lord poured out His blessings upon me and my family, again, and again, and again. What I have realized is that it wasn't only a year of blessings, it was also a year of introductions: to studying His Word, receiving His blessing, to prayer, to fellowship, and to ministry.

Thank you, Father, for reflections and a new understanding of how You were at work in my life during the beginning of my faith journey. I marvel at the strong foundation You provided for me through example after example of faithful men and women whose names and faces are now mostly a blur. But their acts of love, oh Lord, their selfless acts of love are forever imprinted on my heart. May You bless them richly for the legacy of faith they have imparted in my own life. And Father, may you help me to be the same for those who would cross my path. I love You, Amen.