Resource? Or Source?

I am scrambling this week.
The details are many, the time is short, the deadlines are looming.
So naturally, I am overwhelmed.
And naturally, I turn to problem-solving.
Listing my resources.
Seeking solutions.

And the reality is that my personal list of resources is very long!
I am one blessed girl.
I have:

My brain
My (somewhat) functioning body
My bank account
My property
My credit history
My family
My friends
My coworkers
Stores
The internet
Access to professionals of various kinds
Technology
Freedoms of many kinds

I have tons and tons and tons of resources.
I am ridiculously blessed.
God has given me SO much.

Which makes it very, very easy to rely on my resources.

This week it is all about preparing for future events.
VBS next week.
The short-term trip to Guatemala in a little over two weeks.
And then moving to Guatemala for a year in a little over a month.

Other times my challenges look very different.
Something goes wrong.
An issue arises.
A challenge looms.

Regardless of what is causing the stress, my first instinct is to catalog my resources.
So I can then to go into problem-solving mode.
What (or who) can I use to meet this challenge?
How can I fix it?
What can I do to make it better?

But here’s the REAL problem.
The challenges I face – we face – shouldn’t make us seek our resources.
Because they are just that – RE-sources.
They are not The Source.

They are gifts from The Source.
Good things from the hand of a good God.
The God who created all things, including me.
The Giver of Good Gifts.
And the Ultimate Gift, Himself.
He needs to be where I turn FIRST.
He needs to be the One I automatically seek.
Not scrambling to gather my resources and figure it out.
Instead, turning to Him and asking Him to show me the answer.
Most likely, His answer will utilize some of my resources.
But they are not my hope.
Not my bottom line.
And it isn’t up to me to figure out how to best use them.

So, in every situation, I have to ask myself some hard questions.
Am I seeking the Resources?
Or do I seek the Source?
Am I after His hand?
Or am I seeking His heart?
Am I relying on the gifts He has given to meet my needs?
Or am I relying on Him?

It is a subtle distinction.
But it makes all the difference in my heart.
And my outlook.
In my decisions.
And in the truth of what I ACTUALLY believe vs. what I SAY I believe.

Because when our resources become the things we look to in order to solve a problem, they take His rightful place.
Whether that resource is a person – a best friend, a spouse, a coworker, or a mentor.
Or that resource is something tangible like money or possessions.
Even when that resource is our God-given talents and abilities.
When we rely on anything other than Him, it becomes our god.
The resources become the idols. .
The things we actually worship.
Because we look to them to provide. To protect.
To make us prosper. To show us the way. To guide our steps.
And we relegate Him to (at least) second place.

So we have a choice. I have a choice.

Problems hit.
They always will since we live in a fallen world.
And when they happen I have to choose.
Where do I go?
What do I do?
Do I start by cataloging my resources?
Or do I start by seeking Him first?
Do I say, “OK, Kathy, you can do this. Get yourself together and solve this!”
Or do I say, “OK, Abba, Daddy, King of Kings and My Source, here is the situation before me. What would You have me do?”

Who is on the throne?
Me?
Or Him?
My resources?
Or The Source?

I have found that having my resources in first place never, ever works.
People fail me.
Things fail me.
Systems fail me.
I fail me.

But putting Him in first place always, always works.
Seeking His heart about a matter.
Finding out what His Word says.
Modeling what I do after what Jesus did.
Laying every burden at His feet.

When I do that, He supplies the resources.
Bringing to mind something I haven’t considered.
Providing in a way I didn’t expect.
Showing up in the midst of my limited resources and multiplying them in astonishing ways.

I should add, this verbiage isn’t original to me.
I heard Tony Evans tell his congregation that if they ever figured out how to turn first to The Source rather than their resources, their lives would change.
And those words resonated with me.
It is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God – and He will take care of the ALL details.” (Matthew 6:33, Kathy-tized)
He’s promised that if we keep Him as the Source, the Main Thing, the First Thing, He will supply every resource we could ever need.
Resources are good – but the Source?
He’s the very best.
Relying on my resources brings exhaustion.
Relying on my Source brings peace.
Relying on my resources means they may run out.
Relying on my Source means I have a limitless supply.
Relying on my resources brings glory to them or to me.
Relying on my Source gives Him all the praise He is due.

So today, I ask myself, “Resources? Or Source? Which will it be?”
And heartbeat to heartbeat, I want to choose Source.
How about you?

Shine!

My body and I have been at war from the very beginning.
I think that is true of every person.

The battle looks different for each of us.
But we all wrestle with some sense of failure with what our body looks like. Or how it performs. Or what is has in overabundance. Or what it lacks.

Sometimes this wrestling is because of unrealistic expectations.
We look at people in advertisements and sigh because we don’t look like them.
Of course, they don’t look like them either. It is make-up or lighting or Spanx or photo-shop or all of the above. Our brains know that. But our hearts don’t.

Sometimes the wrestling is because we have allowed food to be an idol. We overindulge one organ – our tongue and taste buds – at the expense of all of our other organs. Or we overindulge our stomachs in an attempt to fill a void in our souls. And then we hate ourselves for both our outward appearance and our inward lack of self-control.

And sometimes this wrestling is physiological. Because we live in a fallen, sinful world our bodies were born broken. And they become more broken as we go through this life. We wish we were more athletic. Or more graceful. Or less tall. Or more tall. With a bigger this-body-part and a smaller this-body-part. Or we wrestle with chronic illness. Maybe one that is visible. Or maybe one that no one can see.

We all wrestle with our bodies in some way, to some degree.
And we all have different ways of coping with it, don’t we?

Some of us make exercise and food an idol in the name of good health.
And some of us give up on eating well or exercising because we tell ourselves we don’t care – or we aren’t going to change anything anyway, so why try?

Some of us wallow in our frailties. We make sure everyone knows about our chronic condition and therefore excuse ourselves from living – or at least from doing that things we don’t want to do.
And others of us don’t know how to say, “I can’t do that” and we push past what we can endure.

Some of us obsess over the outward appearance of things, layering on outer trappings – clothing, make-up, hair dye, jewelry – to disguise our flaws.
And some of us give up and don’t even try to make the outside look pleasing to any eye, including our own.

So many traps.
So many pitfalls.
So much pain.
I get it.
Like I said, I have been at war with this body of mine from the very beginning.

But I was reading about Solomon’s temple that he built for the Lord.
And I realized that the way God had him build it is a fabulous metaphor for life – and particularly for our bodies.

The whole thing was made of stone. That was the foundation and the walls.
Massive stones, hewn out of a quarry and fit to size, then dragged to the building site and fitted together.

Overlaying the stones was cedar wood. Panel after panel of wood for each room, walls, ceiling and floor.

But then came the gold. Every bit of wood – even the floor – was overlaid with gold. I cannot even imagine walking on a floor made of gold!

The attention to detail in his temple was astonishing, too. Intricate carvings in the walls. Gorgeous flowers made of gold. Curtains with designs woven through them. Everything crafted to bring maximum glory to the God the temple was made to honor.

Solomon’s temple was destroyed thousands of years ago.

But Paul told the church at Corinth that WE are the temple of God now. If you are a follower of Jesus, YOU are God’s temple. And what struck me this week is that we are designed much like Solomon’s temple.

The foundation for your temple and mine is solid Rock. THE Rock. The Cornerstone. The Living God indwells those of us who are believers. Giving us all we need to stand firm. Filling us with His power. Enabling us to live for Him.

Layered on that rock are the wooden walls – in this case, our earthly frames. Skeletons, organs, skin, hair and nails.

But then comes the gold. And this is where we stumble so very, very often.

We think the “gold”, the things that makes us beautiful, desirable, worthy of love and attention are the outward layers, the things that the eyes see.
Clothing, makeup, jewelry.
Certain measurements and certain curves.
Or muscles in all the right places.
The right haircut and color.

And while there is nothing wrong with looking nice or being physically fit, these things are not the real gold.
They are the things that come and go.
Time, age, and circumstances all alter them.
Physical ailments and the treatments for them make them change.

But the things that make you sparkle, the things that make you shine, the real gold?
They are the things of eternity.

Are you kind? To everyone. Not just the people who look like you and agree with you?
Are you forgiving? Of everyone. Not just those who you decide deserve it?
Are you generous? Generous with your wallet, sure. But also with your love? Loving the unlovely, the ones who can’t do anything for you? Are you generous with your compassion? Putting yourself in the other guys’ shoes, his perspective? With your time? Laying aside your agenda to help someone else?

Are you thankful? Recognizing your many, many blessings instead of focusing on what you lack?
Are you available? Willing to let God use you however HE chooses, on HIS timetable, with HIS agenda?
Are you merciful? Showing others the mercy you have received, not treating them as their sin deserves because God has been merciful to you?

Those things – and many more – are the real gold.
The other stuff? The things we focus on so much?
Those things are fool’s gold.
They are not eternal.
And they will not last.

Please hear me.
Taking care of your body is a good, good thing.
Eating well.
Getting enough exercise.
Getting enough rest.
Clothing yourself in a way that looks good on you – and isn’t a stumbling block to others.
Highlighting the outer beauty that God has given to each of us.

These are good things.
But they are not THE thing.

You are His temple.
And the wood behind the gold – your body, your frame – that is important.
But the gold that layers it – your conduct, your heart for others, your heart for Him, your obedience, your attitude – that is what makes you shine.

There is fool’s gold that I have longed for my whole life.
But I will never be athletic.
And I will never be a teeny-tiny woman.
I will never be particularly graceful.

But I can shine.
And so can you.
Regardless of your list of “I will never be…”, you can shine with true gold.
Eternal gold.
So get glowing!
The world needs to see His glory in you.

On Sudoku, The Scriptures and Sinful Me…

Math in general and logic in particular – we just don’t get along very well.
Give me a word search, a game of Scrabble or a jigsaw puzzle any time.
But please don’t make me play a game that is all about logic.
I’ll be a good sport and attempt to play – but it won’t go well.
And if it is a partner game, you really want to pick someone else.

Don’t worry – I have learned enough math to get along just fine.
And because I found it difficult to learn myself, I can teach it really well.
To elementary school students.
But please don’t make me go above 5th grade math.

I tell you all of this to set the stage for a little known fact about me:
I play Sudoku every day.

Yes, a math game, used to teach logic.

I play it every day because I am bad at it.
I play it in order to exercise the part of my brain that is the weakest.

I do my very best to complete each puzzle without looking at the answer key in the back.
And for the easy ones – and even the medium ones – I don’t (usually) need to look.

But as I work through the book and get to the hardest ones in the back I have learned that it is in my best interest to check my thinking.
I will solve a square to the best of my ability.
But then I will double check that square with the answer key in the back.
Because just one fallacy – one wrong number – in one square – throws off the entire game.

I feel absolutely no guilt about checking the answer key, either.
I recognize that my logical brain has limits.
And that the answer key contains the truth of the matter.
Regardless of what makes sense to me.

The more I play, the more often I am correct when I compare my answer to the key.
But there are times when I am still badly wrong.

And so it is in my life.

My thought processes are weak in the areas of holiness and godliness.
I am naturally bent towards sin.
Selfishness.
A lack of love.
Pride.
A sharp tongue.
Etcetera.

We all are.
Because we were born with a sin nature.

Yes, when I chose to become a Christ-follower, the penalty for ALL my sin, past, present and future was placed on Him instead of me.
But that was only the beginning of the journey towards holiness, Christ-likeness, godliness.
The author of Hebrews says that “…having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I stand before God fully justified – my sin-debt has been paid in full.
But I also walk with Him now in the process of being sanctified – being made more and more like Him.

And until I see Jesus face to face, I will wrestle with me, with that sinful bent, with temptation.

Just like playing Sudoku is a battle for logic for me, living a holy life will always be a struggle while I am in this body.
Because my brain and my heart are wired toward sin.
Therefore, I must keep a constant eye on the answer key, the Word of God.

Unlike Sudoku where I only have to heavily use the key on the “hard ones”, I have found that in life I need that “answer key” of the Word of God like I need oxygen.
Because everything about this life is “a hard one”.

I can never, ever sit back and say, “God, I’ve got this one. I don’t need Your perspective on how to handle it because I have complete understanding of the situation.”

Nope.
I have never once been all-knowing, all-powerful or all-present.
I have never once been able to understand another person completely.
I cannot know the motive or the heart of anyone else.
Shoot, I don’t even understand my own motives or heart half the time!
I have never found it easy to love my enemy.
And I have never found that it comes naturally to put your interests ahead of my own.
I have never found my brain to be wired so that forgiveness is my default answer.
Even in the most mundane, day in and day out situations.

So I am utterly and completely dependent on the “answer key” that is the Word of God.
But the beautiful thing about this Answer Key is that it not only provides the right answer to any situation.
It also gives me an example to follow.
As well as the power to be able to do it.

The Word of God in written form is the Bible.
But the Word of God – Jesus – became flesh and lived among us.
He showed us how to live – how to love – by example.
But then He took it a step farther when He traded places with the Holy Spirit after He ascended to heaven.
And God walking around in the flesh, trapped in place and time by a human body, sits at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. But He sent the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit to live inside of every believer.

So that I not only have the knowledge of the written Word, and the past example of how Jesus lived, but the very Power of God inside me “to will and to act according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Incredible truth!
And astonishing, dumbfounding, amazing grace.

There have been times where I have played an entire game of Sudoku without ever checking the answer key.
And it all seems to be going well.
Until I get to the last square.
And nothing fits correctly.

And there are many, many times where I do not access the Written Word or ask for help from the Living Word.
And it seems to be going well.
Until it all falls apart.
Because I was leaning on my own understanding instead of trusting Him.

So take my advice, friends, and check The Answer Key often. Daily. In every situation. Even the small ones.
Know the Word well.
And then do what it says. Do what He did. Do what He tells you to do.
It is the only safe and Kingdom-successful way to play this game of life!