Monday, June 27, 2016

The Owner's Manual

One of my greatest weaknesses is the kitchen. I'm not meaning I have a weakness to resisting foods of the kitchen. I mean I commit consistent folly in the preparation of foods in the kitchen. I have four recipes that are edible. One of those four is scrambled eggs.

The end.
That's the end of my kitchen abilities. 

Once I made lasagna from scratch. I did purchase the pasta, but the tomato sauce was purely concocted in my own kitchen. I was so excited and proud of this dish. I lovingly layered the cheeses & sauces, and with a flush of pride and a domestic-diva flourish I offered it to my family. And guests. (An unplanned addition to dinner.) Everyone served themselves via my informal hostessing style. As I cut into my own square of the dish, nestled in the middle of my plate, it seemed something was wrong. It took me a second of chewing to realize what it was.

Not a single layer of lasagna between the layers of tomato sauce and cheese. I had boiled the pasta, strained it, then left it sitting in the strainer on the counter. I brought the bowl of now congealed pasta to the table and we all self-served weird blobs of sticky dough on top of our sauce/cheese squares. 

I've never made the dish again. 

Whether we do things right and in order determines the definition of the thing. My dish did not turn out to be "lasagna." It was edible, tasty even, but it was not lasagna.

Our lives require that we properly build them, or else we find ourselves alive, but not living. Everybody dies, but not everyone lives. To truly live we must follow the guidebook. I dislike when parents say that babies do not come with an instruction manual. Yes, they do. It's called The Holy Bible.

We have ruined society by arrogantly believing we can build a successful life without referring to The Owner's Manual, which is the Word of God. God created humanity in His own image. The creator of a thing is the best person to have a conversation with about that thing. The creator knows every detail intimately. If you have questions, the creator has answers. As an Apple user I was bummed when Steve Jobs was no longer at the helm. It's not that I knew him personally and would therefore mourn his death. But I knew his passion for his creation kept the quality of my daily-used product (the one I read scripture from, write blogs on, make todo lists in, stay connected with friends and family by) at tip-top, well-running order. Comparisons can be equally made with the Keurig, America's new convenience machine. Truly, any creation you enjoy, the creator of that thing could tell you how to keep it humming like new. 

God is the creator of humanity. His ways are higher than our ways because He's the creator. He's not on a power trip. It's just a fact. Therefore, for our lives to be joyful, and abundant, and peaceful, healthy, and whole, we must follow the instructions of The Owner's Manual called, The Holy Bible.

Jesus gave us a story of two houses, one built on the rock, the other built on the sand. He told about a great storm that came and rained down on both houses. The house built on the sand, the one without a foundation, was destroyed. While the house built on a firm foundation stood the test. Jesus told us that this is how our lives are. We have a choice as to where we each build our lives, on The Rock, Christ Jesus. Or on the shifting sands of present culture. We each choose where we're going to build our lives. 

We must prioritize building our lives on God's Word, from the foundation, to the eaves. Every nail, every column, every detail of decor, each and every decision must mirror the Word of God.

Keep the Bible ever at the ready in your life. Even when you're not specifically looking for direction, read it every day. It's a living book and it will quietly hitch a ride in your mind until you do need it. And at that time it will pipe up and say, "Here's how you should handle this..." 

Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Matthew 7:24 (KJV)
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

Matthew 13:23 (KJV)
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth [it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sacrifice: A Goal-Setters Nightmare

I love to set goals. I am a born procrastinator and slacker. If there's not a deadline attached to a goal, I'll never get it done. Even with a deadline I'm one of those who could wait until five minutes to the deadline to get it done. And with the adrenaline rush of deadline comes a burst of creativity that doesn't disappoint. But I hate this character flaw. 

Consequently, I've fallen head over heels in love with goal setting. Obviously, goals with a date. I am prayerful about my goal setting. It's not that I hear a reverberating voice from God telling me which goals to set. But I'm prayerful as I set goals. And so far, I've never had God tell me not to set a goal. All of the goals I set have to do with self-improvement, family unity and growth, and ministry. I've accomplished some things in my life that I'm very thankful to have been a part of due to my goal setting.

I've written and published an illustrated children's book. I've recorded many albums. I've written many songs. I've directed many church events that have greatly impacted people's lives. All of this because of my goal setting habit. 

But I've experienced, for the second time, God asking me to sacrifice a goal. These have been excruciatingly difficult. While I won't divulge my current sacrifice offering, I will tell you that the first He asked for was "my" Hadassah girls' conference. Hadassah was my pride and joy. I loved it so much. I fought Him over it. And after I killed the goals (past and present) on the altar of surrender I mourned their loss, just as one mourns the death of a loved one. I've struggled more with bitterness over the sacrifice of a goal than I ever have over the betrayal and rejection of a friend.

Those of us who are goal-setters understand the attachment to a goal that is formed. To accomplish a goal it is investigated and studied. The goal turns out to be full of unexpected mystery and intrigue. The goal must be woo'd like a lover. It is hoped for, prayed over, and chased. Sleep is lost in the pursuit. Tears are shed. Joy is felt. A relationship is formed with a goal. 

If the deadline draws near and the marriage of plan to accomplishment is not made, the idea isn't chucked. We simply set a new date and keep going. You no more give up on a goal than you'd give up on a prodigal child, or a lifelong friendship.

You just don't.

That God would ask me to sacrifice a goal was earth shattering and life halting. 

I admit that each of the goals God has asked for I've carried to the altar with a picture of Abraham and Issac in the back of my mind. I've laid my goals on the altar fully expecting a ram's bleat from the thicket to halt the proceedings. And when the angel of the Lord didn't stop my hand from plunging the dagger of death, I felt I had died as well.

The deaths of these goals altered huge chunks of my day. Hours that used to be spent on reaching these goals were suddenly vast spaces of empty time. The people I used to communicate with to reach the goals were suddenly no more in my text-feed. The thoughts that used to consume my downtime were suddenly useless thoughts. Indeed, they became painful thoughts. I had created a self-identity from the processes of these goals, and that identity was as deceased as the goals. 

This "death of self" is the point and the win, actually. For I can't walk in newness of life if I don't die to self. New birth is essential to bigger and better things. Our initial salvation new-birth experience isn't the only time death-to-birth is required. In fact, we're suppose to take up our cross daily. Paul said and exemplified, "I die daily." We die so we can be reborn!

I understand that just because we're pursuing goals doesn't mean we're not dying daily. In fact, in order to pursue goals we deny our flesh and kill our affections and lusts every day. But God sees when we've grown accustomed to the rigors of a certain discipline, and we are no longer affectively sacrificing to the death of self. We sometimes become accustomed to the hardships, and can not only survive, but build a tolerance. That does us no good. 

Anyway, I don't want self-identity. 
I want to be crucified so that Christ is alive in me. (Galatians 2:20)
I want a Christ-identity.
When people try to put their finger on what is different about me from the public at large, I want them to recognize Christ, not me. (Acts 4:13)

My goals have put me in positions to minister to a lot of people in one setting. I know God is not opposed to my goal setting. But I have learned that He may ask that I lay the prize, pick-of-the-litter goal on an altar of sacrifice and let it go. 

I hope and pray I have the faith and trust to do so every time. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

You Got Dis; Patience

I used to think that I had no patience because I felt so anxious while waiting for the conclusion of a matter. From prayers, to dinner, patience doesn't mean you feel good while you wait. It means you wait even though you really do not feel good.

The King James Version word for, "patience," is, "longsuffering." It's a more apt description of the process. 

Because we see people that we admire enduring difficult things with poise, we think that since we don't feel how that person looks that we don't have patience. But patience isn't indicated by how a person feels. Patience is simply put, not giving up.

When a person runs a marathon, it's possible that they need to walk a bit during that 26 mile run. They may limp a bit. They may crawl a bit. And for the rest of their life they can legitimately say that they "ran" that marathon. Why is that accepted in the running community when they literally did not run the full measure? Because they didn't quit! In the same way, you are exhibiting patience IF YOU DONT QUIT! 

Whatever you're enduring, whatever is causing you pain and suffering for a long time (ahem, "longsuffering") that suffering is not an indication that you "don't have patience." The pain means you're STILL IN THE RACE! 

STOP saying, "I have NO patience." Words are creation. In reality you simply are anxious, not impatient.

We can learn the discipline of biting our tongue in our anxiousness. Similar to ancient days, before anesthesia, they might give a hurting soldier a piece of leather and tell them to, "bite down on it," as the medical staff inflicted a needed pain to give the soldier an extension of life. When we feel that anxiousness and desperation we need to also, bite down on it; our tongue, that is. 

Scripture gives us instructions to help keep us in the race, enduring to the end.

Cast down imaginations.
Truly, this is our worst enemy. Satan doesn't need to do hardly any tempting because we conjur ourselves into failure. Our imaginations so rarely create hopeful scenarios. Our imaginations quickly leave us in a heap of failure. And crazily enough, these mythological ideas release real chemicals in our brains which continue into real depressive states! 

Bring (Force) every thought into the obedience of Christ. 
Christ is our way maker. God is the miracle worker who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask, or THINK. (Think: imagination.) He's NOT however, a genie. He's a Father who sees how the present difficulty is teaching us how to handle yet another situation later, which will require more strength than the current trial. Today's trial is merely building your stamina to handle the future's success.

Cast your care on Him.
Another word for, "care" is, "anxiety." We must find places to pray. We must duck into rooms to release the pent up anxiety. We must allow tears to come while at His feet. We must allow ourselves to moan in prayer. The scripture says that when we do this the spirit is asking God for what our soul needs, because our brain doesn't realize what we need. Praying in the Spirit does WONDERS for every aspect of our trials. 

Keep your eyes on the prize.
Christ was patient on the cross because he had his eye on the prize. He endured the cross. He despised the pain. But he was able to reach his success because he had a prize in mind. The relief and release is going to be a wonderful experience! Jesus has reward for his children who are longsuffering.