Month: October 2014

Don’t Follow Your Heart

Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

We’ve all heard people say, “Follow your heart.” This philosophy may explain many people’s fears and aversions toward death and heaven. Left to their own devices, our hearts often seek other, more worldly things. But the heart is deceitful above all things. The Bible is full of stories detailing the destruction that follows when we follow our hearts. Look at David and Bathsheba! And if you need more proof, read the book of Judges. Watch what havoc is wreaked in individual lives and in society as a whole when people do “what is right in their own eyes,” in other words, when they follow their hearts.

God has given us divine instructions—along with intellect, reason, wisdom, and a renewal of the mind—so that we can “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). We need to seek and follow His will. And when we point our hearts toward Him, we will find that they actually point toward heaven, not away.

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The Button Book

Image- Button Book

 

“It’s all tangled up,” Laredo says, as she tries to untangle the colored strings holding their brightly-colored buttons onto The Button Book. This children’s book features 10 scenes resembling felt-board illustrations. In each one, there are a number of “holes” where the kids are supposed to put the different buttons. I found my copy at a second-hand book sale. My mom also found a copy at a second-hand sale. Maybe that should have been a CLUE about how maddening this book would turn out to be. In fact, every time I read it I think about donating it.

But it has some lessons to teach, beyond just color recognition and hand-eye coordination. Most importantly, it teaches patience. The parent learns patience by having to untangle the button strings EVERY time the kid wants to read the book, and the child learns patience by waiting for the parent to untangle the buttons EVERY time they want to read the book. So I put it back on the shelf, and I take it back down off the shelf, and it hasn’t been donated—at least not yet.

I love how even life’s little frustrations can teach us something, or remind us of something we thought we had already learned.

Test Me in This

Malachi 3:10

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,”
says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven
and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Isn’t it intriguing how God can speak to different people in so many different ways through a single message? Our pastor, Brady, just finished a sermon series on stewardship, entitled, “For the Love of Money.” Malachi 3:10 states that there is exactly one realm of our lives wherein we are invited, and even encouraged, to TEST the Lord our God. That one realm is stewardship. And throughout my life, I’ve taken God at His word, and have given Him the first fruits of my efforts. And no matter what I’ve faced, God has delivered. I have never had an expense, expected or otherwise, that I haven’t been able to pay. I can’t say that there has always been anything leftover afterward, but there has always been enough.

So needless to say, I didn’t expect this series to speak very loudly to me. But, on the last Sunday of the series, God spoke to me. And actually, it was the benediction that first caught my attention. Our missions pastor mentioned how help was still needed in setting up for and tearing down after the Compassion Mobile Experience over the weekend (http://www.compassion.com/change/default.htm?referer=134089). “Maybe you have some extra time that you could give,” is what he said. But in my mind I thought, Well, I don’t have extra time. I don’t have enough time to do all of the things that are on my plate as it is. But that thought triggered another. During the sermon, Bracdy had challenged college students to give to the church, addressing the common ‘moral’ objection that many of them have to giving their parents’ money—money that isn’t technically theirs. But Brady suggested that the same moral conviction doesn’t come into play when it’s a matter of buying a case of Red Bull, or a coffee, or a sorority t-shirt (#Lawyered). So I reflected for a moment on all of the things that I would make time for: exercise, coffee with a friend, Dancing with the Stars, and on and on.

And I heard a still small voice saying, “Test me in this.” And I did. I signed up to help with both the setup and tear down. And God rewarded me. I got to meet a great group of people on the Compassion event staff, and I got to serve in a way that was uniquely suited to my gifts and passions (and those opportunities are hard to come by). For me, that would have been enough. But now I can also say that I am almost caught up with my other obligations. In fact, I’m probably closer to caught up than I’ve been in months. Granted, I had to skip my workout for a couple of days, and I had to work all weekend (I caught most of the highlights of the Baylor game on instant replay while multitasking). But, as is always the case, God was faithful. He passed the test with flying colors—and was there really any doubt that He would?

So, how about you? When you hear that still small voice, will you listen?

Seven-eighths

I had certain plans in mind for this week’s blog, but today I was made aware that this is Mental Health Awareness Week. So, having a bit of personal experience in that area, I thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge others who may also be struggling. If you ask my friends and family to describe my personality, they might tell you that I’m melancholy. Or, they might describe me as cynical. I tend to describe myself as a “glass seven-eighths empty” kind of person. Now, that may or may not come across in my blog entries, and that may or may not be the Zoloft talking—but whatever the case may be, I have a great deal of sympathy for people near to and distant from me who struggle with all varieties of mental illness and related challenges. Even people who don’t suffer from a diagnosable mental illness can experience bouts of sadness, doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, you name it.

It would appear from various sources of research that mental illness is on the rise and especially so in America. Now, certainly, that is partly attributable to higher rates of diagnosis, greater possibilities for effective treatment, and a lifting of the stigma that once accompanied an “admission” of anything but the most stable mental and emotional condition. But also most certainly, there are a lot of sources of discontent out there that are inhibiting many from embracing the abundant life that God intended for them. We can see that even in the rash of celebrity suicides that seems to have plagued our society during the recent years.

A view that is very common among those struggling with mental health issues is that things will never get better. From experience, I can say—no, I can PROMISE—that they do. As a young girl, I wrote a lot of poetry. Nowadays, I have found other outlets for self-expression, and I write many fewer poems. But for this blog, I searched through an old notebook to find just the right one to close with:

Too Weary Have I Grown
(April 11, 1995)IMG_7267

I cannot
No longer have I the strength
No longer can I carry on
I tried, and thought I could,
But too heavy is the load I carry
Too long is the path I face
Too weary have I grown
Too many are my burdens
Too few are my allies
Too distant are the pleasures of this journey
And I cannot go on.

 

If you can relate to these feelings, then believe me when I say that you CAN go on.

 

 

Kids and Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Kids are funny. If you’ve been following my posts for very long, you already know that. But at the same time as they make you laugh, kids also make you think. It’s crazy to reflect on the profound nature of some of the things that kids say and do, even unwittingly.

The way they pray is a great example. We have some friends whose kids pray with an overarching theme of thanksgiving. “Thank you for Mommy and Daddy,” sure—but it doesn’t stop there. They continue with things like, “Thank you for allergies,” and so on. They don’t understand the difference between a praise and a petition. And it kind of makes sense, when you think about the way we teach them to pray.

Up until recently, Tijge had only learned enough about prayer to burst out, “God is great!” and to close with a “Yea!” and a round of applause. Lately, though, he’s started to pray, “God is great, God is good, thank you for our food, Amen.” Then just yesterday, I overheard him while playing in the tub, “God is great, God is good, thank you for bath time, Amen.”

I remember reciting that same prayer at mealtimes whenever we used to visit my grandmother as a kid. But somewhere along the line, I stopped doing it. I guess it was because I outgrew the need for such a “simple” prayer. But looking back at it now, and hearing Tijge say those words, I’ve realized that this seemingly simple prayer is actually quite profound. What I mean is, if we opened every prayer with the acknowledgement that God is great and God is good, could we then follow those words with a statement of gratitude, knowing that a good and great and loving God will ultimately do and allow only what is best for us?

Doesn’t the Bible say to give thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? And to trust that God is in control of those circumstances? Might it change our outlook and our perspective if we, too, expressed gratitude in the midst of trials and challenges, as well as joys? Might that cause us to look beyond ourselves and our present circumstances, to see what God is doing on a larger scale? I think so.

So, we might think that our kids are really confused, when in fact they are wise beyond their years. Maybe, just maybe, they have it all figured out. Maybe we ought to let them teach us a thing or two about prayer.

God is great, God is good, let us thank Him. Period.