Offended.

OffendedI was furious.
I cried in the shower that morning.
Not because I was hurt but because I was livid.

I bounced a check.
Not because I hadn’t kept track of my accounts.
But because of a series of truly unfortunate mishaps.
And suddenly, I had a bounced check, overdraft fees and anger.

I was angry with the people involved.
But more than that, I was angry with God.
He could have prevented the entire debacle.
But He chose not to.
So I was angry.

Frustrated at His unwillingness to intervene.
Angry that He had brought me to this place of lack.
Furious that He had put me in this situation.

I spent the rest of that week wrestling with God.
Not wanting to be angry.
Not wanting to feel as let down as I did.

But He is good.
And kind.
And patient.
In His kindness, He reminded me of Jesus and John.

John had been called by God to have a life set apart.
He was the second Elijah, a prophet just like the first one.
His mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah.
For his cousin, Jesus.
And he had done that.
And done it well.
Crowds followed him.
People repented and were baptized by him to show they wanted to be ready for the Messiah.
And finally, when the time was right, Jesus walked onto the scene.

John gladly watched as Jesus’ fame rose and his own fell.
He told his followers that Jesus “must increase” as he, John, “decreased”.

But then one day John found himself in King Herod’s dungeon.
Simply because he told the Truth about Herod’s sin.

From there the anger built.
The disappointment.
The “God, I did what You wanted. I served You well. In fact, I gave up everything for You. And this is how You repay me? This is the thanks I get?”

The Bible doesn’t record those words.
It does record the message John sent to Jesus.
“Are you the one we have been waiting for? Or should we look for someone else?”

Are you actually God?
Do You have this under control?
Or have I been living a delusion?

I love Jesus’ response to John. He didn’t preach a sermon or lecture.
Instead, he turned to the people near him and healed them.
Here is how Luke recorded it:
“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.”

After He was done healing, he turned back to John’s friends and said, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

In other words, tell John that, yes, I am the Messiah.

But then Jesus added the words that convict me every time I read them:
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Other translations say, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

For me, my week of wrestling finally boiled down to one statement that I felt Him say in my spirit:
“Kathy, you are either with me or you are against me. There is no middle ground.”

It doesn’t matter if I understand Him.
A god I can understand isn’t big enough to be God at all.

It doesn’t matter if I like or dislike what He is doing.
Only one of us sees the whole picture. Only one of us is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. And it isn’t me.

It doesn’t matter if I am happy. Or sad.
Confused or walking in great clarity.
Frustrated or delighted.
Full of faith or full of doubt.
Ill or healthy
Broke or wealthy
Full or hungry.
Weary or well-rested.

None of those circumstances change the foundational question:
Am I for Him? Or against Him?
Am I in His camp? Or the camp of the enemy?
Do I bear His name or not?

If I am His, and He is God, then He can do what He wants.
When He wants.
How He wants.
Even when I don’t understand.
Even when I don’t like it.
Even when it hurts.

Because what John had forgotten and what I so often forget is that He is good.
And everything He does is right.
His timing and ways are not like mine.
He doesn’t see things that way I see them.
He knows hearts.
Thoughts.
Motives.
He knows the past, present and future.
He knows it all.
Sees it all.
Understands it all.

And most of all, He is Lord of all.

So, when the darkness is thick…when the questions are heavy…when the feelings are raging…when the circumstances are bleak…when the confusion sets in…when the doubts weigh in…when my head is spinning…

Whose side am I on?

Will I choose to believe that He is good?
That He is in control?
That He loves me and will work even this out for my good and His glory?

Will I choose to believe that if He loved me enough to die for me, He loves me enough to live with me? And to give me the abundant life?

If He really did create me and really does know me, that He also knows what is best?
That my feelings are not reality?
That my circumstances are not truth?

Will I choose to NOT be offended because of Him?

The alternative is not acceptable.
And so I choose.
I choose to look at His track record.
The blind see.
The lame walk.
The dead are raised.

I choose to look at His heart, even when His hand is unfathomable.
I choose to remember the cross where He died.
And the tomb where He did not stay.
I choose to remember that this life is incredibly temporary.
And that He owes me nothing, while I owe Him everything.

But most of all, I choose to remember that He is good.
And everything He does is right.

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Him.

What Say You?

What Say You

They say:
Hustle.
Work hard.
Then work harder.
Make it happen.
Make a plan.
Implement it.
Work around the obstacles.
Peer into the future.
Try to determine the best outcome.
Make projections.
Work harder still.
Hustle.
You are enough.
You’ve got this.

He says:
Pray.
Ask for direction.
Do the next thing.
Look ahead expectantly.
Wait for guidance.
Then walk forward in confidence.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
For My glory.
Don’t try to figure out what is next.
Or how to get around the obstacle.
Instead, take it to Me, the One Who made you, the Designer of all things, the Lord.

Don’t worry about anything.
Instead, give thanks for ALL things.
Even the tough stuff.
And then leave it in My hands.
Tell Me what you need. Yes, even what you want.
And then rest.
Rest in the fact that I will make it happen – if “it” is My will.
Rest in the fact that I will show you what to do next – if there is a “to do”.
Rest in the fact that I CAN see the future and I know exactly what will happen – and that I am working all things out “in conformity to the purpose of My will”.

I say:
But God has given me a brain – He expects me to use it!
(As I bow at the idol of self-sufficiency.)

Laziness and sloth are sins. I have to work hard!
(As I bow at the idol of control.)

If I don’t take care of this, who will?
(As I bow at the idol of my own importance.)

The Truth:

Time is short.
We desperately need workers in the harvest field.
The Lord of the Harvest is returning soon.
And we want to be found faithful in working for Him.

But He never asked us to do it in our own strength.
He never asked us to do it without Him.
He never asked us to figure it out.
He never asked us to make a plan for His approval.

He never said, “Hustle first. Then pray when you have exhausted all other resources.”
He never said, “You can do this; I can help.”
He never said, “You are enough.”
He never said, “You’ve got this.”

He said, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”
He said, “Sit back and watch what I can do.”
He said, “I am the Potter, you are the vessel.”
He said, “Take my yoke upon you. Do things my way. And you will find rest for your soul.”
He said, “You can do all things – if you do them in Me. Through Me. Because I asked you to do them. For My glory.”
He said, “Humble yourself before Me. And then watch me raise you up.”
He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

Your first job is not to hustle.
Your first job is the stay connected to the Vine.

Your first job is not the make it happen.
Your first job is to make time for Him. For prayer. For the Word. For listening.

Your first job is not to tell yourself how good you are.
Your first job is to tell Him how great He is.

Your first job is not to recognize all your best qualities.
Your first job is to yield every part of yourself to His mighty hand.

“The natural temptation with every difficulty is to plan for it, to put it out of the way yourself; but stop short with all your planning, your thinking, your worry, and talk to Him! Rest, trust, and wait, and see how He does that which you wanted to do and had so much care about. ‘Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’”
A. E. Funk

Resolved: One and Done

New Years Resolution

‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions.

I have a lot of things I would like to see happen this year:
Dreams
Goals
Ideas
Hopes

And a lot of things that I DON’T want to happen this year:
Fears
Worries
Concerns

But here’s the thing about most resolutions:
They are about control.
Controlling my finances.
Controlling what I eat.
Controlling how much I exercise.
Controlling my habits.
Controlling my emotions.

But here’s the other thing:
Self-control is a great thing.
But it is not a product of my will.
I have proven over and over again that I can have it for a little while and then I will lose it, drop it, blow it big.
Because on my own, I am incapable of maintaining self-control.
So it cannot be a product I manufacture.
Rather, it is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)
A product of the work of God in my life.

Fruit doesn’t grit its teeth to make itself appear.
It doesn’t lay out elaborate plans.
It doesn’t work harder, smarter or faster.

It just emerges in a healthy plant.
A natural product of growth.

I need self-control – we all do.
But I don’t get it by willing myself to have it.

I get it simply by abiding in The Vine. (John 15)
Sticking close to Jesus.
Listening to the Holy Spirit.
And obeying His still, small voice.
Choosing to keep short accounts with God and people.
When the Holy Spirit nudges me to say, “That was wrong”, I immediately say, “I am so sorry – I will turn and walk a different way. Please give me the grace and strength to do that.”
And when He says, “Get up and do this thing”, I do it. Immediately. Without question.
That might be exercising.
Or putting down the thing I want to buy.
That might be doing something kind.
Or doing a task I don’t want to do.
Whatever it is, He will lead. And I will choose to follow.

I will know His voice by saturating my life in the Word of God.
Making room to be still before Him.
Filling my life with people who point me to Him.
Choosing to make His ways a priority.
Abiding in The Vine.

When I do that, self-control is a natural byproduct.
As is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.

So for the “cost” of one “resolution” – drawing closer to God – I gain all of those benefits.
Or, more accurately, the people in my life gain all those benefits!

And here is what I love about the Spirit of the God.
He doesn’t use intimidation or bullying to get me to change.
Instead, He peels back layers one at a time and shows me the thing that needs to be dealt with next.
And He does it in loving terms.
Never by sarcasm, insults or shame.
But simply by wooing me closer to Himself.
Showing where I am not like Jesus.
And then giving me the power to become more like Him.

Why wouldn’t I resolve to draw closer?
It is a one-and-done proposition.
Draw near to Him in love and obedience (which Jesus said are one and the same).
Let Him do the necessary work to make my life pleasing to Him.
It will show up in the practical ways that are always on the list of resolutions.
Directly impacting everything I do.
From what I eat to what I do with my time and how I spend my money – and everything in between.
Much easier than trying to gut it out myself.
And productive for all of eternity.

Resolved: Abide in The Vine. Saturate my life in His life. Breathe deeply of Who He is. Marinate in His character, His Word, His heart. Obey Him as He leads. And let Him take care of the rest.

One and done.

Continue reading

On Stickers…

stickersWhen I lived in Japan, I heard it almost daily: “You are very large, aren’t you?” I was much heavier then. But I am sure I would hear it there even today since I am built like my northern European ancestors and always will be.

In the States, I most often hear, “You’re so loud!” Sometimes it is a compliment. Other times it is a dig. But the reality is that God has given me a voice that carries and a personality that loves to laugh – and laugh loud.

Here in Guatemala, it seems to be about my age. To a kid in elementary school, 49 is on the edge of dead. To my millennial friends it is about the same. And on the other side of things, my friends going through menopause seem anxious to share all that lies in my near future.

Gray dot stickers.
That’s what Max Lucado would call those labels.
Fat. Loud. Old.
Gray dot stickers.

In his children’s book, “You are Special”, he writes about a wooden person named Punchinello who lives in Wemmicksville. All wooden Wemmicks like to give each other gray dot stickers if they think something is wrong and yellow star stickers if they like what they see. Punchinello is covered with gray dots until one day he meets Lucia, a Wemmick with no stars or dots. He cannot figure out why they don’t stick to her. People try to give her compliments or cast aspersions, but either way, they don’t stick. She tells Punch it is because she spends time with Eli, their Maker. And after visiting Eli, Punchinello finds out that the only opinion that really matters is that of his Maker. And he discovers that because he was made by Eli, he is special.

Such a simple, simple truth.

And yet every day I see people of all ages who are wrecked by the stickers.
They constantly wonder what other people think of them.
They crave compliments and recognition.
And they hate that they crave it.
They wither under a negative comment.
And they hate that they wither.

I have been there.
Still am some days.

But here is what I have discovered: freedom.
The Truth is that what you think of me does not matter.
There is only One opinion that matters. Only One who is allowed to say, “That needs to change”. And only One who constantly tells me wonderful Truths about me.
Because the bottom is that real life and what really matters is NOT. ABOUT. ME.

In the original languages of the Bible, the word “glory of God” is actually better translated the “evidence of God.”
I was not created so that you would be impressed with the evidence of me.
How skinny I am.
How soft-spoken.
How young (which, in our culture, means how beautiful).

I was created so that you would see the glory of GOD. The EVIDENCE OF GOD.
Since He designed me, it is about Him.
Since He created me, it is for His sake that I exist.
Since He is the Lord of All that exists, HIS is the ONLY opinion that matters.

And when I really believe that, really soak that in, really live that, then Lucia is right: the stickers don’t stick.
Does a compliment feel good? Sure.
Do harsh words wound? Yes.
Do I appreciate being appreciated? Of course.
Do I want people to enjoy being around me? Yes.

But do I find my identity there? No.
I find out who I am in Christ.
And I let who HE says I am be the answer to every compliment – and every dig.

So here’s a refresher on who He says we are.
But a caveat here – much of this list applies only to the person who has accepted the gift of salvation that Jesus offers. Any one can accept the gift – and if you have, this is the Truth about you:

You are loved. Not because of anything you have done or not done. Not because you are good at something or you did something good. You are loved as a mother loves her tiny, helpless newborn who has done nothing but cause her 9-months of discomfort and hours of agony in birth. You are loved simply because you are His kid.

You are forgiven. There is no condemnation for you. There is no shame. He is not keeping score of how many times He has forgiven that offense. Yes, He longs for you to be free from sinful choices – but not for His sake. For yours! He is not holding out on you because of your past. He doesn’t ever look at you and think, “Hopeless”. He looks at you with longing and offers you all the power He has for you to live for Him. And WHEN you blow it, He forgives again.

You are liked. I think A LOT of Christians nod their heads with the first two but struggle with this one. God delights in you. He “gets” you. He understands your jokes. He knows just how you feel even when you don’t. He rejoices over the tiniest steps you take. And He is cheering you on in this race that is the Christian life. You are never “too much” for Him. And you are never “not enough” for Him. He thinks you are an amazing creation of His own hand – and He designed you with intent and purpose.

You are gifted. You may not be good at everything – no one is! Personally, I will never, ever be coordinated. Part of who I am is my klutziness. I will never be good at walking, let alone sports. But I have been given other gifts. Many, many other gifts! And He has given me these treasures for two reasons – to show the evidence of Who He is and for my benefit. It is really, truly fun to operate in the gifts God has given you! So, if you are serving in some capacity and not having a blast while you do it, you may be in the wrong place. Or you may be trying to use a gift you have not been given. Find out who He has made you to be – and try not to be afraid of it.

There is so much more I could say.
But here’s the bottom line:
You were designed to walk in freedom.
Free to be who you are.
Free to have the stickers not stick.
Free to play to an Audience of One.

Because if He is pleased with your choices, you will be in right standing with others.
If you walk according to His design, in His ways, the stickers won’t stick.
He designed you.
He adores you.
He likes you.
Will you let Him?

This Is Christmas

Nothing in my world feels like Christmas.
There is no tree in my living room.
And I don’t think there will be.
The roommates are scattering to the four winds when school gets out in less than two weeks.

I have almost no money so there is very little shopping to do.

The ambience is missing. Warm weather, volcanoes, earthquakes, flowers in bloom, squashes ripening on the vine – these things do not say “Christmas” to my heart.

No Hallmark channel so no cheesy movies.
And no Christmas commercials since I don’t watch TV.
Christmas music only if I choose to play it.

Frankly, it doesn’t even feel like December.
And it certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas.

And I am glad.

Because Christmas, contrary to popular opinion, is not a feeling.

Don’t get me wrong.
I love the ambience, the trappings and the trimmings.
And I am glad that I will be home with family for it again this year.
Glad that there will be a tree and yummy foods, gifts and carols, cold weather and decorations.

But I am also glad that this year is very, very different for me.

Because Christmas was never meant to be a feeling.
Ambience.
Or trimmings, trappings and things.

Christmas is scandal.

A young woman, barely an adult, claiming to be impregnated by the Most High God.

Her fiancé, a businessman in the community, having to decide who and what to believe. Did she cheat? Is she pure? Or is she insane? A liar, a lunatic or the love of his life?

The Son of God born in a stable and placed in a manger. No softness except his mother’s body and a bed of straw. No cozy bedroom, no clean house. A feed trough for a bed.

Some crazy shepherds making claims about angelic visions in the night. Who were they to be told first? Who were they to have the privilege of the first visit?

Then the escalation of the heavenly war, God versus Satan, already in progress, now manifest by the murder of baby boys by a wicked king, bent on protecting his throne.

And a young family fleeing into the night, becoming strangers in a strange land, refugees and immigrants in Egypt to escape that same evil king.

This is Christmas.
Scandalous events.
And scandalous grace.

The One who spoke the world into being becoming a speechless infant.
The Almighty unable to hold up his own head.
The Omnipotent devoid of all power.

And then that same sinless God-made-man choosing powerlessness again at the end of his life.
Submitting to torture.
Humiliation.
Slaps. Spit. Slashes with a Roman whip.
Thorns thrust into his scalp.
A purple robe thrown over mangled flesh.
All while knowing every detail of every person who mocked him.
And loving them still.
Willing to take their punishment, even for the sin of punishing an innocent man.

This is Christmas.

Four limbs.
Three nails.
One cross.

Six hours of agony.
Separation from God the Father.
And the crushing weight of sin.

Unable to breathe without pushing up on the nail in his feet.
Yet able to forgive the ones who “know not what they do”.

This is Christmas.

A cold, dark journey just before dawn, carrying spices and fretting about who will roll away the stone.
Shock and confusion that the tomb was empty.
Elation at the words of the angel: “He is not here. He is risen, just as He said.”

This is Christmas.

Light piercing the darkness.
The veil of the Temple torn in two.
The ability to “boldly come before the throne of grace to receive help in time of need.”

This is Christmas.

So it is OK that I am not feeling “it” this year.
Because Christmas is not a feeling.

It is friendship with the Most High God.
It is the guarantee of eternal life and the glories of heaven that awaits.
It is the knowledge that I am never, ever alone.
And that He has ALL my life under control.

It is knowing that resurrection power is available every moment of my life.
And that I have all I need for life and godliness because I have Him.
It is the sure knowledge that He will go to any length to pursue me.
And that He found me to be worth dying for long before I found Him to be everything I need.
It is the promise that He will complete the good work He began in me.
That He will one day return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And that I do not have to fear the future in this life or the next.

This is Christmas.
Scandalous events.
Scandalous grace.
Scandalous love.

Joy to the world, indeed!

A Tale of Thanksgiving (Or Giving Thanks In All Things)

Last night, 7:30 PM:
Cannot keep my eyes open. What started as a sore throat Friday afternoon has developed into a full-blown cold.

“Give thanks in all things”, He whispers to my heart.

“Thank You, God, that I can go to bed at 7:30. I have no responsibilities or obligations keeping me up.”

 

9:30 PM:
Wake up because one nostril is totally blocked. Ugh.

“Give thanks in all things,” He says again.

“Thank You, God, that I can breathe through one side of my nose and that it isn’t totally blocked. Thank You that my throat doesn’t hurt any more. And thank You that it is Saturday night and not a school night.”

10:30 PM:
Wake up when the power goes out. Fan stops. Room quickly gets stuffy. Get up to open window more, wondering when it will come back on.

“Give thanks” my heart echoes His words from earlier.

“Thank You, God, that it is a cool evening and that I can open my window. Thank You that You will help me sleep over the barking dogs, fireworks and other noises, even without the white noise of my fan.”

Sometime later:
Wake up when the power comes back on.

“Thank You, God, that I slept. And thank You that the power is back on.”

4:00 AM (normal wake up time):
Get up to use the bathroom.

“Thank You, God, that it is Sunday so I can sleep in a bit.”

Turn on water to wash my hands – no water.

“Seriously, God?? – Er, I mean, thank You that I have baby wipes to use to wash my hands.”

Crawl back in bed.

5:00 AM
Wake up again, decide it is time to get up.
Stumble up the tile step to the bathroom.
Step in water.
Slip on the tile but do not fall.

Roommate’s toilet is overflowing.

Wait – we have no water and her toilet is overflowing??
Oh – we have a trickle now. Apparently enough to overflow her tank.

“Give thanks in ALL things.”

“OK. Got it. Let’s see…”

Thankful that it was tank water and not bowl water.
Thankful I didn’t fall.
Thankful for tile floors on top of a concrete layer between us and our downstairs neighbors.
Thankful our neighbor, Greg, was up.
Thankful he was willing and able to go wake up Jose, our grounds manager, who is also an early riser.
Thankful that Greg has way more Spanish than I do to explain to Jose what was happening.
Thankful that Jose came to fix the toilet.
Thankful that the towels for mopping up water were close by.
Thankful our washer and dryer are inside the apartment and not downstairs or outside.
Thankful for a (now) super clean floor.
And thankful that Jose also restarted the pump so we have normal water flow.

Give thanks IN all things.

Give thanks in ALL things.

Because ALL things work together for my good and His glory.
Because He is IN the details of ALL things.
And because it is the only way to survive.

6:45 AM:
Still have a head cold.
Still have responsibilities at church in a few hours.
Still have a couple of loads of towels and bathroom rugs to wash.

But I also have a peaceful, happy heart.
A heart that knows He is in control.
That all of these circumstances could be worse.
And that He is using all of them for good.

By His grace – and ONLY by His grace – I have a heart that is “set on things above” and not on earthly things, giving thanks in all things.

Not because I am some sort of super saint.  But because I am choosing to choose thanksgiving.

Because He said to do so.
Because His Spirit gives us the power to do the impossible.
Because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
And because He is worth it all.

So what are you thankful for today?

Borrowed Words of Blessing

Now I know how my kids feel.
Every day I make them write in a “Reflection Log” about their day.
It is a great communication tool between them, their parents and me.

But they often whine, “I don’t know what to write.”
And that is where I find myself today.

Usually when it is time to write my blog, I have something simmering inside me, waiting to pour out through my fingers.

But not today.

Sometimes the struggles are too personal to share.
Or sharing them would negatively impact someone else.

Sometimes the words just don’t come.
And you end up writing about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write.

I find myself here today.
Wondering what to share.

Since I don’t have words of my own to encourage your heart, I am going to borrow some from Elisabeth Elliot, one of my heroes of the faith. If you do not know her story, check out the book “Through Gates of Splendor” or the movie “The End of the Spear”. She is with Jesus now, but her legacy lives on through her words. These quotes encourage me; I hope they bless you, too.

—–

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

“You can never lose what you have offered to Christ.”

“The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.”

“God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

“Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them.”

“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.”

You can find a full list of quotes, including these, at https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/40-inspiring-quotes-from-elisabeth-elliot.html