Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sharing

Last weekend a dear friend of mine, Laurel, ran the P.F. Chang's half marathon ( That's 13.1 miles for those of you that are like me and have no idea about anything that involves running!) Sheryl, another dear friend of mine who is also a 5 year survivor of melanoma, and I were there to cheer Laurel on as we have for the last four years. There was something, however, much different about this year ... Laurel was running to honor and celebrate Sheryl and I reaching our five year anniversary of being cancer free. (Myself from breast cancer and Sheryl from melanoma.)

When she first told me about her intentions, I thought about her gift and realized that there were similarities between her race and the one that I ran when I was fighting cancer. For example, both involve a long journey, require pacing and stamina, and are not for the faint of heart. Both have unexpected challenges, require dedication and sacrifice, and are easier if the runner has supporters to cheer them on. Both are painful, yet are filled with rewards. Both have a way of teaching those watching, as well as those running, about life. I did not realize it at the time, but this year her race was going to have a huge, and lasting, impact on me.

Being three year veterans, Sheryl and I entered this year with a tried and true game plan: catch Laurel at the 8 mile mark and then again at the finish line. We arrived at our first destination with plenty of time to spare ... about 45 minutes. While waiting, as always, I passed the time watching and taking pictures of both the participants and the onlookers ... and as always I found myself touched over and over again. So many people, so many stories. So many reasons for being there, for running, for watching. If you have never been, there is just something awe-inspiring about watching thousands of people running for a cause. There is just no way to describe it.

About forty-five minutes later, right on schedule, we noticed a bright pink visor bouncing a top the throng of runners. (Did I mention that Laurel is tall?) Right away, already quickened by all the other moments I had witnessed while waiting, I immediately found myself with a lump in my throat. When she got to us, she paused to hug us, modeled the shirt she designed for the occasion, and gave us an update on her current physical standings. Her foot was hurting her with each and every step she took and she was tired, but she was determined to make it ... and with a quick hug good-bye she returned to the race revealing to us, the back of her shirt which read, "Laurel 13:1 or bust."

As soon as she rounded the corner, Sheryl and I rapidly departed and hurried towards our final, and most important location in the race, the finish line. If you think that there were a lot of people in the race, then multiply that times 3 and I am sure you can imagine what that area looks like. It is really wall to wall people, all trying to find their loved ones. Last year, we made it to the edge of the crowd, bit were unable to make it through it to the finish line. This year we were determined that we would not be stopped. We were going to be there at the finish line for Laurel, after all she was running for us! So we ducked and pivoted, rushed and maneuvered our way through the crowds with such determination that we were at the finish line before we knew it. We strategically placed ourselves in cue at a spot where there the mob of people was only a few deep to the rail, and held our breath. Would the people move? Would we get to the front before our friend arrived? We called her on her cell phone, and found out that we had about 5 minutes to her arrival. Within minutes the family in front of us watched their loved one cross the finish line, and they were off to find him. Sheryl and I took our positions at the edge of the course and watched expectantly. Before to long, the pink visor came into view. She was walking, the time was ticking and she was walking. Slowly I realized that this could only mean one thing ... she was really hurting. My heart rushed out to great her, encouraging her, pulling her forward. She began to run once again and our hearts swelled. Camera shutter operating at warp speed, I captured her running towards us. When she got right in front of us she looked right at us, pointed to her aching feet and then us, while mouthing, "This one's for you!" And time stopped for me.

This one was for me ... and Sheryl, but I was on the precipice of an epiphany. (So, know that when I say "For me" I am not forgetting that it was indeed "For us," but God was painting a picture for me.) This beautiful friend ran for me. For me ... she trained long hours. For me she sacrificed time she would have spent doing something else. For me she sacrificed and took on the cost of running 13.1 miles ... physical pain. For me ... she smiled in the face of pain and celebrated me. For me ... she pushed on even when her body screamed for her to stop. For me ... she finished the race. For me ... she paid a price ... because of her love for me. And in that seemingly endless moment in frozen time I realized that I could see Jesus in my dear friend, and could feel His love pouring through her. As the tears streamed down my face, I could picture that day so many years ago when Christ finished his race on Earth and could almost envision God pointing down at His only Son painfully nailed to a cross ... only to then point at humanity, eyes full of love, and mouth, "This one is for you."

It has been a week and I am still emotionally moved by the memory of that single moment. I am changed by it, and I can't help but ponder what it would be like if we all strove to touch someone else's life so deeply by being intentional about the way we show Christ to others. What would it be like if we were willing to work for it, hurt for it, sacrifice for it? What if each one of us truly dressed ourselves the way that we are instructed to? (Ah, so there is a tie to my verse ...) My friends I challenge you today. Being Christians, we will show Jesus to others whether we are seeking to or not. Therefore, choose to be an active participant in the way that you do it. Be intentional about it. Be willing to love, the way that God asks us to. I love you all dearly, and thank you for going on this journey with me. Oh, and Laurel, thank you and I love you. I will never forget that moment, or the amazing way that God used you to declare His love for me.

May the Lord shine through you in ways that change the world,

Lisa


Father,
Thank you for my dear friend Laurel and her amazing heart. Thank you for using her to show me your heart for us and the imensness of your love for us. I pray that I would be aware that lives can be changed in a single moment, much as mine was that day at the race ... and in that awaresness constantly seek to clothe myself as yours ... putting on behavior that reflects tenderhearted pity and mercy, kindness, a lowly opinion of myself, gentle ways, and patience both tireless and long-suffering, that has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper. Refine and guide me Father, that I might be a vessel that pours you out to everyone I meet in ways that glorify You. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Giving

OK ... So this does not have to do with my memorization journey, but I thought that it was important to share! If you are reading this, I am sure that you know about the Thiele's and how they are in the process of adopting 3 more children from Ethiopia. If you know them well, and probably if you don't, you know the amazing stories about how God has confirmed over and over again that it is His will that they do this. I was privileged to be a part of this the first time when the adopted. I was able to see 1st hand the miracles that fell as His plan unfolded. I also learned that it was not just them bringing the kids home ... it was US. God had roles for US in the process. How amazing a journey that was! So, what about this time? Is there a role for US? I believe so. I believe that God is using this to show us something, to teach us something. I think it is about being The Body of Christ. This is what I have learned ...

Giving

How often we bow a knee and ask God to bestow "more" upon us ... "more" of a job when one is lost, "more" money when we run short, "more" time when our to do list is longer than there are hours in the day, "more" patience when our nerves are frazzled, "more" ... "more" ... "more." Not that this is a bad thing ... we are told to ask ... to pray ... to go to our Father for out needs and our wants ... BUT what if we went to Him with a request for "more" opportunities to give and serve others, "more" of a desire to give than receive? The two go hand in hand. Our cup is supposed to run over. Too often we try to make the cup bigger to hold more. When we do this ... we rob ourselves of the blessing of "running over." We end up feeling that we need "more" of something to fill that cup. What we should do instead, is strive to make the cup smaller. If we did this, it would be running over all the time!

So let's make out cups smaller. Let's pour out the blessings that God has filled us starting here with this cause. It is not "your cause" Drea, it is God's entrusted to you ... to us.

I am pouring out a dream that I have held onto for a few years ... a pond in my back yard. I have the kit. I have the wiring in. It is all ready to become a reality. I will be selling it on Craig's list with a heart that is overflowing with joy that I can be a part of something that God is doing. :)

Lisa

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Learning

O.k. So this second verse comes early by seven days, but it is the one the I NEED, and so I am committing to it today. Let me explain why. I am a school teacher. I can't say that I always wanted to be from the time I was little, although I did play endless hours of school as a child ... as we all did. I was actually a young adult when I suddenly realized that I wanted to be a teacher. It was an idea that consumed me as soon as it occurred to me, and with in a year I was in school to become one. I just knew that it was what God wanted me to do. It was so crystal clear.

Fast forward 20 years. I have been teaching at the same inner-city school in Phoenix for over 15 years. I still feel that it is what God wants me to do, although I (at times) wonder how I can bear it much longer. (Not that I would quit teaching, as I still have a peace that it is what I am gifted and lead to do, but that I would move districts.) You see No Child Left Behind, paired with Arizona's current laws that mandate how children are to be assigned to classrooms according to their language level, has made it incredibly stressful. (Did I mention that I teach second language learners? I have the low intermediate group of kids.) The expectations on us are high. State testing and labeling is looming in the near future. The State Department of Education comes through our rooms ... clipboards in hand. We are chasing a moving target, are working harder than we ever have, and are constantly having to find ways to give even more. Now all of this is not bad. In fact it does have its benefits. I feel challenged, I have to self evaluate and keep improving and learning, I have become a skilled teacher. But ... I also feel defeated when my kids are not scoring high enough, feel disheartened when the 3rd grade level assessments do not reflect the improvement that I know they have made, and feel tired when it seems that my job is never done.

So why don't I move? The kids. They need teachers who are called to them. If education were a mission field (which I would say it is ... at least mine) they are my "people group." The group that my heart is drawn to. I know that I am in the "right place." I just am not sure that I have the "right attitude." If God indeed did place me here for these little ones that are so precious to Him, then why do I feel and act so frustrated and downtrodden? Why do I feel like the "other team" is winning? Why do I find myself frequently visiting a place of disappointment and irritation?

A friend at school told me that "I had God on my side" and that "I could do it." It was comforting at the time, but was comfort turned conviction later the next day. Did I have God on my side in what I perceive as a battle? Yes, of course. He is always there for us. He is our help! (Yes, Drea ... I am also stepping up and working on the Psalm for Stepping Up!) But, was I on God's side in it? Let's just change one word. Was I along side God in it? Or, have I started to see this as my problem, my burden, my challenge, etc. And in doing so, have I redressed myself in robes of behavior marked with a hardening heart, impatient tendencies, and pride. (Yes, I say pride because I don't want people to see that my kids are so behind ... I don't want people to think badly of my teaching.) And so I work even harder to make sure that I help my kids to learn. But are they mine? Or are they God's? Am I in teaching for myself? Or am I in it for God? Am I doing this on my own strengths? Or am I leaning on my creator to create the strength that I need? Did I create the spiritual gifting that drives me to do this? Or is a gift bestowed on me by God? All of these thoughts flowed through my mind, heart, and spirit ... and I began to see that I was not standing behind God in this struggle, but rushing infront trying to fix, that which I was not meant to do alone.

So what are my next steps? Pray? (I do do that, although I could be more specific for the individual needs of my students ... maybe I will make a prayer list for them by name.) Set it down at His feet? Yes, I know that is right ... but what exactly was I to lay down? My pride? Yes. My desire to do this on my own merit? Yes. But, there was something I was missing. Something that I did not realize until I happened upon the following verse ... my attitude. So Colossians 3:12 is what I will be memorizing. It says:

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

I will blog later about what I am already seeing as applications for me in this Please continue to pray for me as God and I continue this journey. I have a feeling that this will be easier to memorize than to apply. :o)

May God's hand be upon you, and His light shine through you.

Lisa

P.S. To that friend who said "You can do it ... You have God on your side." ... thank you! I am glad that we are becoming friends. You blessed me. :o)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Finding

Ok ... so it has been four days and I have already memorized my verse. :0) There are a few things I have noticed about it that I think are worth sharing. The first line of the verse is, " I will give them a heart for me." God does not say, "Have a heart for me." He says that he will give them or me ... or us) a heart for him. I can't have a heart for him on my own accord, it is something that I have to ask for. It is something that I have to depend on him for! The second part of that sentence is, "that I am the LORD." LORD here stands for YAHWEH, or "I forever was, and forever will be." He wants them, or us, to know that he is and and will always be. The next line is (and I am doing this without it in front of me ... just so ya know!), "and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." When we ask for, and are given a heart for him ... we renew and deepen our covenant with him. The final line says, "for they will return to me with their whole heart." Interesting it starts with the word for. It is a given that they will return. He knows, and he adds that they will return with their whole heart. If we ask for him to gift us with the desire to know him ... he will give it and we will return to him with our whole hearts. Whole hearts, when I looked it up, refered to mind, body, spirit, whole self. It refered to all of a person ... every facet. What a verse! Clearly chosen (by God for me) for a reason as I start this journey.

This evening, I sat down and a poem flowed out of my pen. I think I will close with that poem.

Seek me and
I will provide you with
the gift of desire.
For only with this gift
will your heart
yearn to know more
of me and my ways.
Accept it and know
that I am Yahweh-Elohim.
The one who is
your God
who waits for your return
from the exhile
of your own making.
You know so much of me,
but do you know me?
No, because your heart
has not the power
on its own.
Come and ask.
You will be mine,
and I will be your God
asking only for
your whole heart
in return.


Thanks for stopping by!

With prayers for God's hand in your life,

Lisa

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Seeking

How many e-mails do you get a day? Me, I get a fair amount. Some I read, others I skim, while others I release back into cyberspace without a second glance. (Don't worry if you are reading this blog, you can be sure that your e-mail has NEVER met that third fate. :o) Promise!) E-mails have made me laugh ... have made me cry ... have warmed my heart ... have kept me close to people that I otherwise might have lost contact with ... and on a rare occasion have shifted the course of my life and changed it. I received such an e-mail today. It had one a few sentences in it, but with a few click of my mouse, I was committing to something that I am sure will change my life forever. Curious ... you might have gotten it as well ... it said: "Also, click on the link (on the side of the page) to Beth Moore's blog - there is a scripture memory challenge she is doing this year - anyone game?" Anyone game? Memorizing? You've got to be kidding! Memorizing is not really a "game" that I am skilled in for two reasons that I have held tight to for many years now ... 1. Chemo brain. (My memory has never quite been the same since going through treatment 5 years ago.) AND 2. Age! If I live to be in my eighties, I am half-way through my life, which makes total sense because I can only remember things about half of the time! Drea has for many a study been trying to get me to memorize scripture. I know the importance of it. I know that it is what God wants ... but, it is just not something I am good at. (See reasons 1 and 2 above.)

So, today when I read the posts on Beth's blog, I was not really imagining that I would walk away from it commiting to learn a new verse or verse section evey two weeks! In fact I went there convinced that it would not move me in the slightestest ... (Refer once again to reasons 1 and 2 above ... and then add that I am not in the least a committed person when it comes to spending a great deal of time with the Lord. (OK ... so that was brutally honest, but if you know me well you know that I am not really a good liar and have thus given up really trying. Also, if this year is to really show the amazing ability of God to change hearts you should know where mine is right now.) It involves index cards ... and although Drea gets all tingly and excited at the sound of that, I really do not. It involves posting a commitment ... to commit in front of the world and then not follow through would be a living lie and I have explained how I am about lying. And then there was the whole thing about MEMORIZATION! Me? You already know the drill! And then it hit me. One quick thought that absolutely blew excuses 1 and 2 out of the water.

Two months ago I joined Coupon Sense. I will not go into great detail about it here, as much as I would like to, but I will go as far as to explain that it involves a binder with hundreds of different coupons in it. My binder is huge! How in the world does this matter you ask? It matters because when I look at the ads I know if I have a coupon for an item or not and exactly where I can find it in my binder. That is not to say that it is a book of unorganized clutter ... that it is not. But, without opening it I can tell you if I have a coupon for something and sometimes even how much it is for! I memorize them because they are important to me. (Honesty remember?) So, how could I not? How could I do anything but agree, knowing that God was most certainly watching me come to this realization, waiting to see what I would do with the knowledge. So I joined the Siesta Scripture Memory Team. It works basically like this: I have agreed to post a verse that I am commiting to memorize and meditate on the 1st and the 15th of every month on Beth's blog along with every other person who has made the commitment. I have agreed to put them on index cards and memorize them, meditate on them, and give them residence in my heart.

So, that sounds really simple right? Well, if I am going to be honest before you my sisters and friends ... which you know I will ... the problem is not so much the memorization, as was disproven above, but rather that I have not placed much importance on being actively engaged in the process of deepening my realtionship with God. Yes, I attend Bible studies. I go to church every Sunday, because I love it ... not because I am obligated to it. But I am prone to eat the seed rather than sew it for a harvest. (Last week in Bible study Beth Moore was sharing how starving people that were given seeds in Africa were tending to eat them rather than plant them ... leaving no long term benefit. She continued my drawing a parallel about how we are often so very much like those people. How we gobble up teachings instead of planting them in our lives and letting the harvest of change come.) Can't remember God's Word, but can remember your coupons? Eating seed. Make plenty of time to sew, but have not the time to even finish your Bible study? Eating seed. The bottom line truth? I have not made growing and seeking God even one of the top 10 priorities in my life, let alone the most important.

So what does one do when they openly admit that they are at a place such as this? They find it as a place to begin! This blog will be a part of my journey. It is my accountability piece. I will post my verses on the first and the 15th here as well. I will also share insights about them along the way. So please ... share this journey with me. I am sure that God will do great things!

My first verse is ...

"And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the
LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their
God: for they shall return unto me with their whole
heart."
-Jeremiah 24:7, KJV

The journey has to begin with having a heart to know Him ... I have tried to do this on my own. I have ended up eating seed! This verse sounds like a promise to me. I sure hope it is, because it is my prayer. I am going to ask that he plant this desire in my heart and let the harvest grow.
Thank you for joining me in this adventure. Pray for me. Pray for faithfulness and dedication. Thank you for allowing me to be so painfully transparent with the truths about my heart.

Lisa


Father,
Thank you for teaching me today. Thank you for being active in my life and for pursuing me, even though I should be pursuing you. Give me a heart to know you that you are the LORD and to make you the most important priority in my life. Help me to plant your Word in my heart and grow it. Give me a heart for you above all else. Speak into my life Father, I am listening.
Amen

Above all am I convinced of the need, irrevocable and inescapable, of
every human heart, for God. No matter how we try to escape, to lose
ourselves in restless seeking, we cannot separate ourselves
from our divine source. There is no substitute for God.

A. J. Cronin