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

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I met a friend at Starbucks the other day.

Although I love the smell of coffee, I don't drink the stuff. I asked for a big cup (I actually pointed to the display) of hot white tea. The person behind the counter politely translated my order into Starbuckese, "I need a Venti Tazo White."

I took my drink over to a nearby counter to add some sugar. Removing the lid, I stared into a cup of steaming hot black liquid. Definitely not white tea. I asked myself the question, "Do I waste precious time correcting my order or just drink it?" I put the lid back on the cup and joined my friend.

An hour and a half later, I headed home bringing the rest of my tea with me. As I sat at my computer answering emails, it became harder and harder to concentrate. The Starbucks cup mocked me as the truth dawned in my jittery brain...I had just consumed a serious amount of caffeine!

I immediately did an internet search and discovered that a Venti (24 oz) Black Tea has approximately 125 mg. of caffeine. (There weren't any numbers for the "Tazo Awake" brand I had been given. Even the name sounds lethal!) For comparison sake: a 12 oz. can of Dr. Pepper has 41 mg. Aside from an occasional piece of chocolate or a rare soda, my average daily intake of caffeine is close to zero. No wonder I was wired!

What started out as funny turned serious as I fought waves of nausea and the sensation that I was going to jump out of my skin. My irritability continued throughout the day. Relief came in the form of a long walk through the neighborhood with a friend. She was kind enough to listen as I wondered aloud what I was supposed to learn from this experience.

In Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth he says,

"'Everything is permissable' - but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissable' - but not everything is constructive." -- 1 Corinthians 10:23

There is a reason I stay away from caffeine - it is not "beneficial" to me. I will definitely remember that the next time I order a drink at Starbucks. End of the story? No.

The Starbucks adventure illustrates the way God is calling me to a more authentic faith. More often than not, when I quiet my mind and make my body still before Him...He whispers to me about the details of my life. He shows me how even the smallest choices I make have long lasting, far reaching consequences.

Everything is permissable -- but not always beneficial (wholesome) or constructive (edifying/promoting growth). There are times when I am frustrated by how much small decisions matter to God. If I am totally honest, I would rather He help me with the big stuff and just leave the little stuff to me. But the truth is that all of my choices matter to Him.

Even the ones involving caffeine.

You are the God of the Universe. And still, details matter to You. I want to honor You in all of the details of my life. Please show me how to make choices that are both beneficial and constructive. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Plate of Warm Cookies

"We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don't try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this." --2 Corinthians 4:2 (NLT)

Have you ever noticed that the Lord is not above using some of the smallest details from your life to teach you about His ways and His plans?

God busted me recently. Over a plate of warm cookies.

Recently, as part of our relocation process, we were required to have our home value determined by two separate appraisal firms. The first appraisal was scheduled. The house was clean and ready for viewing. I had prayed that the Lord would cause the contractor to look upon our house with favor. However, I felt the need to "do something" more.

Minutes before the appraiser arrived, I had preheated the oven and two dozen sugar cookies were turning a beautiful golden brown. The appraiser didn't stand a chance! As he made his way through the house, the cookies cooled on the counter. I was very pleased with my "not so subtle" aromatherapy.

A few days later, I came across 2 Corinthians 4:2 and felt the Lord's thoughtful gaze as He waited for me to make the connection between His Word and my recent baking episode. (Just for the record, He didn't have anything against the cookies.) He wanted to address my motive.

What I had done was simple. I had prayed for God to be in charge. And then, I took over. I attempted to manipulate the outcome using methods that were unpleasing to the Lord. Another lesson learned.

The following week, the second appraiser showed up to view the house. It was clean and everything was in order. But this time, there were no cookies.

Later on, our relocation company called with the results of the appraisals. Both appraisals were favorable and our house had appraised at a higher value than we had even hoped for. After the initial celebration, I was struck with remorse over the thought that our good fortune came at the hands of my "underhanded methods." Imagine my delight when I discovered that the highest bid came from the second appraisal...the one I had left in God's hands.

I don't think I'll ever look at a plate of cookies in the same way again.

Where would I be without You? Thank You for the loving ways You call me to obedience. On this day, give me "eyes to see and ears to hear" You. Help me to submit all of the details of my life to Your care and Your direction. Thank You for the blood of Jesus that covers my every transgression. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Past Revisited

Something unusual happened this week (in addition to participating in Sunday's Cardboard Testimony -- as if that wasn't enough!). I had just sat down to my daily time of studying God's word and had opened my Bible to the book of Job, chapter 40. By the time I reached verse eight, I had to stop reading because of my reaction to the words.

1 "Then the Lord said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

3 Then Job replied to the Lord,
4 “I am nothing—how could I find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. 5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”

6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
7 “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
8 “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?" (NLT)

I was sobbing. I was grief stricken. I was broken...and all in the time it took me to read from verse one to verse eight. Why?

Because as I read the words, the Lord confronted me with something from my past. Using the dialogue between Job and the Lord as a backdrop, God took me back in time and gave me fresh eyes to see an old experience:

Five years ago, while serving as a team member on a Spiritual Retreat, I was in the chapel at Mt. Wesley in Kerrville, TX. I was on my knees at the altar rail, seeking the Lord's favor and blessing just before I was to deliver a talk to the retreat members. The prayer team was in the chapel with me and also praying on my behalf. It started out as a beautiful time of worship and praise. Never, in my life, have I been so "in love" with my God. Which is why what happened next came as such a shock.

As I worshiped on my knees, I experienced the sensation of a lead blanket (the kind the dentist puts on you before taking x-rays of your mouth) being placed on my upper body. This was not a new sensation for each time our group had gone to the chapel for prayer/worship services, the lead blanket feeling would accompany me. It was, as if, the very hand of God was with me.

So this time, I subconsciously acknowledged the lead blanket sensation and continued praying. But then everything changed. The weight of the hand upon me exerted a pressure that was not only uncomfortable but frightening (multiply the lead blanket x 10). I could no longer draw a full breath of air for there was no room for my lungs to expand. And I could no longer remain on my knees for the pressure insisted I get down on my face.

As I lay, flat on my face, my heart raced and my terrified mind darted in all directions. I was aware of others praying for me as I struggled to breathe and struggled to pray. I no longer remember if I prayed aloud or in the silence of my heart but these are just some of the words that exploded from within: "What is this? What is happening to me? Help me!! God, where are You? Is this You? Is this the enemy? I rebuke you, satan, in the name of Jesus Christ. You may have no part of me for I belong to Jesus. I have a talk to give...I am not going to fail You, God. You have called me. You have prepared me. I will be obedient. Please help me!"

After some passage of time, my heart rate returned to normal and the peace of God flooded my soul. Shortly thereafter, I left the chapel to give my talk; determined but shaken to my very core. My mind pushed back the questions that would haunt me for weeks to come, "What was that? Why did it happen? Was it of God or was it evil?" It was a long, slow process to sort through the answers to those questions and the subsequent lessons that I've learned (but that is another topic to write about). The entire thing left me a changed woman.

Reenter the present, where I am sitting at my kitchen table, sobbing over Job 40:1-8. Why am I grieving? Two things cut me to the marrow...

1. Job knew he was in the Lord's presence when God spoke to him from the whirlwind/storm. I know, now, that it was the Lord that visited me in the chapel that day but it took me a long time before I was certain it was Him. I was grieving the fact that I did not know my Lord when I was in His presence.
2. Job knew to cover his mouth. Job knew to be quiet in the presence of the Almighty. I was grieving at the realization that I never closed my mouth. The entire time I was on my face in the chapel, my mouth was moving (if not literally, at least figuratively)because to be still meant giving The Voice an opportunity to speak and that would have been more than I could have handled.

After an hour had passed, my grief subsided. It was as if the Lord said, "Ok. So now we have that cleared up." I ended up writing the following words in my journal,

"What did I miss that day because I did not submit my mind to You? I was so busy talking that I did not listen. I felt the heavy hand of discipline from the Lord and I never shut my mouth. Oh, my God, forgive me. I wish I could go back and show You the reverence and fear You deserve. I do not understand why You are showing me this right now but I accept that it is necessary."

So here I am, after revisiting the past, humbled to discover that I have not learned all there is to learn about that day in the chapel. I would not be surprised to discover that the lessons continue for the remainder of my life. Without a doubt, the Lord's timing and His ways are a mystery to me.

Once again, I am shaken to my core. Once again, I am back on my face. And even so, the irony is not lost on me, that as I admit I have "said too much already. I have nothing more to say," (Job 40:5) the Lord has given me permission to write about it.

I confess that I only thought I knew You. Who can really know You? Help me to be more like Job, to cover my mouth with my hand, and to listen. In the name of Jesus, Amen.