I can’t do this…

An excerpt from my journal…recording the “conversation” God and I had this morning…

Lord, I can’t do this.
I can’t do this day.
I can’t do any day.
I can’t make a struggling friend feel better.
I can’t successfully battle temptation.
I can’t guard my tongue.
I can’t solve a single problem.
I cannot love as You love.
I cannot be effective.
I cannot communicate well.
I cannot.

So I have two choices.
Choice 1:
I can crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head – literally or metaphorically.
Literally sounds great but is not an option.
But metaphorically, I can.
I can “pull up the blankets” and act like everything is fine, that I DO have it in me.
I can say encouraging things to myself, give myself pep talks, envision myself doing the things that need to be done.
And I can choose to avoid the painful things, pretending I do not see them, do not hear them, do not know they exist.
Or, worse yet, acknowledge them, but then shut down with a selfish, “Not my problem.”
Blankets firmly over my head.
Snuggled down.

Choice 2:
I can believe You.
I can believe what You say in Your Word.
That I can do all things through You.
That I can live and move and have my being in You.
That You have a plan and purpose for me and will direct my steps as I trust You.
That You have already given me everything I need for life and godliness.
That the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
That my days were numbered before one of them came to be and that in You I need to make the most of every moment because the days are evil.
That You have armed me for battle, giving me the armor and the weapons that I need to be an effective soldier.
That You are still the God of miracles, still the God who multiplies small things into big ones, still the God who breathes life into dead things.

And, best of all, I can believe this: that all I have to do is stay close to You – keep short accounts, keep my eyes fixed on You, keep Your Word in front of me, keep talking to You throughout my day – and YOU will do the work that needs to be done.

Because the Truth is that I cannot do this.
I am weak.
Flawed.
A sinner.
And I do not see the whole picture.
I don’t have all the information.
Or the resources in myself to do life well.

But since when do people expect the pot to cook for them?
Where does it make sense that the pipe creates the water that flows through it?
Who in their right mind is more excited about the container holding the treasure than the treasure in it?

Because You are the Master Chef, creating the gourmet meal.
I am the pot You use to make the masterpiece.

You are the Living Water that chases away drought, washes away dirt, quenches thirst.
I am the pipe that the Water flows through.

You are the Infinite Treasure, the Invaluable Gift.
I am the box that simply holds the gift open for others to see.

The pressure is off.

I don’t have to fix it.
I don’t have to have all the answers.
I don’t have to be the glue.
I don’t have to be strong.

I do have to be willing.
I do have to choose to obey.
But that is all that falls on me.

Because You will give me the words to say when I need to say them.
You will direct my paths so that I am in the right place at the right time.
You will give me the strength to conquer today’s to-do list — You will even remind me of what needs to be on it!
You will bring to mind who I need to pray for – and then You will fill in the blanks as I pray.
You will supply all I need today – financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. In every way, You will be my Source.
And because it is You and not me that gets it done, You will get the glory You deserve – and You will accomplish incredible things because of me in spite of me.

Peter put it this way:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, 7 casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” (I Peter 5:6-7, AMP)

Whew! That’s a relief.
I can’t do this.
But You can.
So let’s roll!

 

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On Clouds…

rainbow in grey clouds

This time last year I was prepping to fly to Papua New Guinea to help out some missionary friends for three weeks. How quickly time flies! Here is a story from my time away…

I was attempting to get home.

It was not looking good.
I was supposed to fly out of Goroka (the city nearest to my missionary friends) at 3PM on Tuesday. From there I would overnight in Port Moresby, the capital, and then fly out the next afternoon at 3PM for Singapore.
However, as we were driving into Goroka, the heavens opened. And they stayed open for several hours. The tail end of a cyclone (a hurricane in the Southern Hemisphere) had settled over the mountains. And for the small twin- engine prop plane we were to fly, no visibility = no landing.

So my plane came in from Port Moresby just fine.
They told us it was just above the clouds, circling the Goroka Airport.
And it circled.
And circled.
And circled.
Until it had just enough fuel to go back to Port Moresby.

No worries, they said. We’ll try again for the 9AM flight.

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So I got one more unexpected night with my friends.

But then the 9AM flight was full.

No worries, they said. We’ll get you on the noon flight.
That became the 12:30 flight.
That finally took off at 1PM.
To fly an hour and ten minutes.

And, after it finally landed in Port Moresby, I would have to get my bags, go through security, run to a different building, check my bags into the international flight, clear immigration and go through more security – all in 30 minutes.

It was NOT looking good.

And, if I missed that 3PM flight to Singapore, I was potentially stuck for several days since there are two flights a week to Singapore.
OR, if they rerouted me through another country – like Australia – I would miss my scheduled 12-hour rendezvous with my cousin, a missionary in a nearby country.

SO.

You can imagine how I felt as I sat on that little plane, wending its way to Port Moresby, not knowing what the next hours or days would bring.

As I looked out the window of the plane, the sky was filled with all sorts of gorgeous, puffy clouds.
And I thought, “They look so touchable, Lord. Like I could gather up handfuls.
But I know they would just be vapor in my hands. Just like me – just like my life – just like you say in Your Word.
We are vapor, a mist, a flower quickly fading.”

And I felt Him say,
“Yes – clouds are just a vapor – but look at the power they have displayed even today in your life. Clouds are the reason your flight was delayed.
Clouds block the powerful sun and bring with them the torrential rain.
Clouds may be a vapor – but they serve Me and that makes them powerful.
You are a vapor – a flower quickly fading – but you are Mine.
Keep serving Me and you will see what I can do with ‘just a cloud’.”
I was blown away.

And as I was sitting there, thinking about His goodness and grace, His amazing love and mercy (and once again giving Him my concerns about making my connections), I looked down again – and there, stretched between two clouds was a gorgeous rainbow. A kiss from my heavenly Dad at just the right moment.

I made my flight, by the way. In a 30-minute window, with the help of some kind people, and primarily by the grace of God, I made my flight to Singapore.

You may feel insignificant or alone, down or discouraged.
And you are, indeed, a “flower quickly fading”, “a vapor”, “a mist”, according to Scripture.
But you are useful to the Creator, a cloud of His creation, set apart for His purposes.

Just keep trusting Him and then sit back and see what He can do with YOU, His cloud.

Choosing…

birthday party

Oh, the memories!
I had driven eight hours that day, a round-trip delivery of Grandma back home.
She had given birth just five days earlier to the little man in my arms and had a not-quite-two-year old at home as well.
(She has an amazing husband who is incredibly helpful, but there are some things only Mama can do.)

So we were both exhausted.
Her even more than me.
But it was my birthday that day so she surprised me with a mini-party, thrown in my honor.
And we had a blast. And this photo is a precious memory.
Because we both chose for it to be that way.

Life is all about choosing.
Choosing your thoughts.
Choosing your response to your emotions.
Choosing your attitude.
Choosing your actions.

So often, I am tempted to allow my emotions to run my attitude, which in turn runs my actions.
Or, if not my emotions, my physical circumstances.

I am sad. So I focus my thoughts on how bad everything is. And then I start complaining about everything.
I am hungry. So then I get frustrated. And I snap at a friend.
I am lonely. So then I throw a pity-party. And I turn to chocolate to sooth my soul.
And so on. And so forth.

But it is all about choosing.
Choosing to be thankful. In ALL things.
Choosing to control my emotions rather than them controlling me.
Choosing to respond in love, with gentle answers, no matter what was said to me.
Choosing to believe the best, and not the worst, about the person who crosses my path (even when that person is a stranger driving another car – or worse yet, a family member “who should know better”.)

One of my all-time favorite stories in the life of Jesus is in Matthew 14. It starts like this:
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”

What had Jesus heard? It was the news that his cousin, the one who had been foretold by the prophets to prepare the way for him, had been slaughtered by King Herod. John the Baptizer had been in prison for a while for speaking the truth to Herod – that he was wrong to kill off his brother in order to marry his brother’s wife. But John’s prison term had ended when, driven by lust, King Herod made a rash promise to his stepdaughter to give her anything she asked for – and she asked for John’s head on a platter. Which she was given.

That was the news Jesus heard.
And his response?
So completely and utterly understandable. “…He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
He wanted time alone. Time to pray. Time to mourn. Time to be with his Father.
But he did not get what he wanted.
Instead, he got a massive crowd. A crowd that followed him out to the middle of nowhere.
And here, Jesus had a choice.
He could have sent them all away.
He could have raged at them, saying, “Can’t you people see I am upset here?”
He could have ignored them. He could have run from them.

But he did none of those things.
Instead, he chose love.
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (vs. 14)

In fact, he spent the entire day with them, ministering to them. It finally got to be so late in the day that the people were hungry. The ever-practical disciples came to Jesus and said essentially, “Hey, Lord, um, we’re out here in the middle of nowhere and it’s getting kind of late. You need to tell these people to head back to the villages so they can eat!”

But then Jesus once again chose.
He chose to allow these circumstances to bring an incredible teaching to his disciples about Who he was and how he could provide.
He chose to bless the people once more – all 5,000 men, plus women and children.

He responded to the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You feed them”.

And the rest, as they say, is history.
They brought Jesus a boy’s lunch.
And Jesus thanked God for it. And broke it. And gave it to the people.
And it just kept coming.
Until thousands were fed.
And there were 12 baskets of leftovers.

All this from a man who was grieving.
A man who was weary.
A man who just wanted to be alone.

But a man who was also God. And a man who knew the power of choosing.
He chose to bless the people.
He chose to heal them.
He chose to give away more than he humanly had, knowing that God would multiply and provide the increase.

And, by the way, after everyone was fed, much later that evening, he finally got his time alone with his Father. He sent the disciples on across the lake while he headed up the mountain.
And while he was praying, a vicious storm broke out on the lake, terrifying the disciples. But that is a story for another day.

But the fact is, Jesus chose.
And not just that day.
But every day.
He chose to do the will of God.
He chose to serve instead of being served.
He chose to love instead of hate.
And eventually he chose the cross instead of being rescued by legions of angels.

Paul put it this way in his letter to the church at Philippi (which is also his letter to you and me): “Have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2)

In other words, choose.

You cannot choose what others do or say.
And you cannot choose your emotions.
But you can choose your reactions.
And your attitudes.
And your actions.

And the best part? The same power that multiplied the loaves and fishes is at work in you. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead have given you everything you need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1) You have the power inside of you, not from who you are, but from WHOSE you are.
So you are able to choose.
And so am I.

Because life is a choice.
So what will you choose?

 

One Man…

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This past weekend I received the gift of watching a young friend dance at the Kennedy Center.   She performed with the American Ballet Theater in “Sleeping Beauty”. It was a truly delightful evening.  Beautiful costumes; dancers of all ages, colors and sizes; incredible music; amazing athleticism displayed in the choreography.

But what struck me as I watched? One man was the key to the entire evening.

Without him, the whole thing would have been a disaster.

No matter how hard the principal dancers had worked, if he had been off, they would have floundered.

No matter how gorgeous the costumes were, if he had fallen down on the job, the evening would have flopped.

And no matter how masterful the musicians in the orchestra were, they were fully dependent on him.

 

Had they all practiced?

It was evident that they had!

Hours and hours had gone into pirouettes, arabesques, and grand jetés.

Days, weeks and months had gone into learning how dance en pointe, how to do the lifts and the leaps required.

You could see the muscles in the dancers.

You could feel the grace and fluidity that comes from endless practice.

You could hear the way the orchestra played as one cohesive unit.

 

They had most definitely practiced!

 

But it still would have completely crashed without that one man.

The conductor.

Because he led the orchestra at all, the musicians could keep in time with one another.

Because he led the orchestra with precision, the dancers could perform with confidence, knowing that the notes played that evening were the same ones they had danced to in the studio over and over again.

They could trust the conductor.

And he did his job flawlessly.

Which led to the end result of a fabulous evening for all – the musicians, the dancers and the audience.

 

I am a dancer on this stage of life.

I have spent years in practice, learning little by little how to dance better and better.

Time spent in the Word of God and in prayer.

Time spent with other dancers who are farther ahead of me on this journey.

Dancing to the music created by this “great cloud of witnesses” who surround me – those who have gone before and those who walk with me now.

 

I am a dancer.

But I am nothing without my Conductor.

He is the glue that holds my life together, bringing just the right music at the right time, the right dance partners at the right place.

He sets the pace.  Six days of work and one of rest.

He brings in the instruments to make beautiful music; sometimes in a minor key; often in lilting, joyful tones; always the right music at the right time.

But without Him keeping the rhythm of my life, it would all fall apart.

 

Paul said it this way: “In Him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17)

 

And here is the thing.  He is a good, good conductor – the very best there is.

When I listen.

When I obey.

When I dance for Him alone, an audience of One.

Then we both look good.  Because He IS good – and I am following His magnificent lead.

 

I get in trouble when I forget that I am NOT the conductor.

Or, worse yet, when it is not forgetfulness but rebellion that leads me away.

Then the dance falls apart.

And this dancer gets injured.

And the rest of the dance company suffers as well.

 

But this good, good conductor simply reaches down a hand and pulls me to my feet.  He tends to my wounds and holds me close.

 

And then He picks up the baton so that we may begin again…