Thursday, May 27, 2010

When Few Words Are Needed

Simple Moments

Simple moments
Lost in time

A delicate dance
With Savior mine

Captivating beauty
Splayed out for all

The canvas of nature
Presents His call

Of soft tender mercies

Bathed in dusk’s light

Reflections of Him
When day turns to night

- Lisa

Friday, May 21, 2010

Making Cents

As most of you following this blog have realized, I tend to see "God" things through situations that happen in every day life ... and those are the things that I tend to share here. Today's post is not going to be the exception to the rule, but it might be less entertaining than some of the others. It might pull at your heart strings more than some of the others ... and hopefully just hopefully it will stay with you a little longer than the others.

Let's start with the day to day experience that birthed the hope that I will lay before you for thought. I live in Arizona, and Arizona like many other states is in financial trouble. Millions of dollars were cut from the budget this year ... leaving us still with an enormous statewide crisis unsolved. To remedy this, our governor proposed a 1 cent sales tax increase that would last for 3 years. This 1 cent sacrifice would spare education in our state an additional 440 million dollar slashing ... not to mention the millions that would be further cut from other critical service occupations. A few days ago, the sales tax proposition passed. In the ensuing media coverage it was estimated that this 1 cent tax will raise an estimated 1 billion dollars per year for our state. $1,ooo,000,000,000 dollars a year, which is 100 billion pennies.

I was floored when I heard this. A one cent sales tax ... I will pay 1 more penny on every dollar I spend ... 10 pennies on every $10, and $1 on every hundred. If I were to spend a thousand dollars, it would only be an additional $10. It seems like such a small amount to me ... but it has the potential to make a huge difference for our state ... when combined with so many others that are putting in their 1 cent tax as well. In Arizona there was a need, and working together ... sacrificing a mere 1% tax ... we will work to provide a solution.

This started me thinking about the world ... specifically all of the people who live in poverty. Regardless of where the poverty is ... which continent we pick to talk about ... poverty kills. BUT ... it is such a huge problem ... one that seems insurmountable. How can one person make a difference? Unless you are one of the world's 497 billionaires, probably not much in the way of solving it. BUT ... what if we all did a little? What if we all gave just a little ... if 1 % from each of the citizens of Arizona raises 1 billion per year, what would 1% from each citizen in the U.S. raise? I can't imagine the number, but I bet it would go a long way in solving the problem of poverty.

One more random thought ... and then I will close ... people sometimes give as a reaction to guilt. I believe with all my heart that this undermines the gift and robs the giver. You see we are designed to give ... from our very beginnings when God breathed life into Adam's nostrils ... we were created to give Him glory and relationship. We are also not saved to despair, but rather to hope ... from the moment that Christ drew in His final human breath on the cross ... we were saved to share hope. I believe that there is something important to see here. When we give to those that are in poverty ... we give out of hope not guilt .. we give to give hope not desperation.

I think that the problem is that the problem is just too big ... to overwhelming ... too real. It is scary and people tend to shy away from it because it feels like there is no way that mere individuals can make a difference. That might be true, if we fail to join together and fight it arm in arm.

So, let's take a look ... let's look at an amazing opportunity to lock arms and give hope .... here are the numbers .... BUT don't stop reading ... the challenge is at the bottom.

Here is the challenge. What if we all ... all 20 of us that actually read this ... committed to use their change to create change? To encourage all of our friends to do the same? To post it on our blogs, on Face Book, on MySpace? And then picked an organization that helps people in poverty and donated the change? Change for Change. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Embracing Braces

Today was a day that we have know was coming for some time now. We have planned for it, saved for it, and waited for it. Today was the day that we went in for our oldest's final orthodontic consultation. They day where the orthodontist exposed the problems that KT's teeth have, and presented the solutions he (in his expertise) had devised for correcting them ... and the time it would take.

You see, KT has a "significant" overbite. So much so, that it has affected her profile right down to the cute way her bottom lip pulls in and pouts out at the same time. I have always thought she has a cute little pixie face, but the truth is that her lower jaw is not big enough and her top teeth are no where near to touching her bottom teeth. The body, a most amazing creation, has a way to compensate for this though --- as can be evidenced in the way her top teeth have shifted over time, and now point slightly inward ... the body's attempt at correcting the teeth. Enter the normal braces and the below device:

Did you just cringe? I did when I saw it. The above device is called a
Herbst Device. It prevents a patient from closing his/her jaw in the position that they have always closed it in. They must adapt and learn a new way of doing so by learning to move their jaw forward a little. This, over time, will teach the muscles to pull the lower jaw forward and will encourage it to grow. For KT, the whole process will take about a year, at which point the device will be removed, while the braces remain.

I was horrified that my daughter would have to wear such a thing ... (To think that I had been worried about the
possibility of a headgear like I used to have to wear!) With great enthusiasm I asked, "So, what do you think KT?" Her response, "Can we start today?" You see she wants to get on with the work of correcting her teeth. The cost seems nothing to her, she just wants to start. She sees the big picture ... the end result ... and understands that there is a journey that must be taken to get there ... and a cost that will be paid in the process. She knows that it is necessary in order to get to the end result. She has embraced braces.

God, ever the teacher, taught me something watching KT accept (without blinking) this most daunting of contraptions. You see God, like the orthodontist, is a specialist. He knows just how He wants us, and sees all the problems that keep us from reaching that end goal. One by one He brings them to light,
presents the solutions He (in his expertise) has for correcting them, and works tirelessly to make sure that his treatment plan is carried out. We, like KT, have the choice not on if the treatment for change will happen, but in what manner we are going to respond. Do we choose to see the big picture ... the end result ... knowing that whatever the cost is ... whatever God has to do to get us there ... is worth the cost?

You see, I am most certain that the device will be uncomfortable. It will be challenging for KT at times, but her attitude will help her to get through it ... instead of making it even more uncomfortable. Life can be that way for us as well. There is no doubt that this journey of God changing us will
be uncomfortable at times. It will be challenging for us, but our attitudes can help us get through it ... instead of making it even more uncomfortable.

"Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong–then guide me on the road to eternal life"
-- Psalm 139:23-24 [MSG].

Oh ... and LORD ... can we start today?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Being Useable

OK ... so I have really been contemplating what kind of Christian I am ... my works look (from a purely earthly perspective) pretty good ... but, I am afraid that aside from corporate study on Sunday at church and a Friday night Bible study that I do not sit and read God's Word. I have a number of excuses. There's, I am so busy - there is just not time in the day. Or, I can't find a Bible study group that I want to join. How about ... I just can't seem to persevere and have follow through. Do you recognize any of them?

Before I go any further let me begin by saying that the works part is important ... but, only when they are in response to a deep, personal relationship with Christ. I have a personal relationship with Christ, what I lack is the deepness that comes from sitting with Him ... sometimes without even speaking a word ... and studying His Word. The two should be intimately linked and should spur each other on.

I have written a rather long, unpublished blog about this very thing ... but had not reacted to what God had shown me until now. You see after writing it, God spoke to me through two different Pastors on the same subject. He told me through me .. then two others. Then the name Zechariah came to mind and I turned there ... a word immediately jumped off the page ... encouragement. And, as this word landed in my soul, I just knew that this was the book that I would study without any other companion than God. (And you ... as I share whatever lands upon my heart to share.)

I started today ... beginning with a quick history lesson involving a people (God's chosen people) that were called to return home from exile to rebuild God's temple ... who built a foundation, but then in fear failed to finish. About a God, who waited patiently for 16 years ... and then sent two new messengers to His people to remind them of their charge. One of which was Zechariah and the other Haggai. Haggai actually delivered God's message to the Jewish people first and they once again began the work of building the temple. It was after they were doing so that God used Zechariah to speak to them again ... only this time in a call to repent and return to Him ... with the promise that He will in turn return to them.

There are a few things that in this that is important for us as followers of Christ.

First, God called them to do His work on the temple before he called them to repent and return to Him. God chose to use them in spite of their sin and not because they had repented from it. Let me interject here .. that God did call them to repent ... just as He will us ... the amazing part is that He chose to use them first ... even in their sin. Just as He will us if He chooses.

Second, and don't miss this part. They were already rebuilding His temple ... and were told, "Return to me, and I will return to you, says the L
ord of Heaven’s Armies.’" v2 You see, He chose to use them to do His work and fulfill His plan and they were ... but even so He made it clear that if they chose not to return to Him in repentance, He would not return to Him. This holds a pattern of action for us if we are to truly experience God and His hand in our lives as completely and deeply as He desires. There are times that all of us feel separated from God. But, He will not return to us ... until we return to Him ... and if we do not then we miss out on His presence as He completes His plan through us.

Finally, God waited for His people to return to building the temple for 16 years. They had failed Him out of fear, but he waited and gave them another chance. How many times have I failed Him out of fear? I am so very thankful that He chooses to ask again.

There is one other really cool thing that I learned in studying this passage and reading a few commentaries to check my understanding. Something that just makes me love how purposeful God is. How He really leaves nothing to chance. Zechariah identifies Himself as "Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo." As we all know the meanings of names in the Bible are often important and revealing ... as they are in this case ... you see
Zechariah means "God remembers"
Berechiah, his father's name, means "God blesses"
and Iddo, his grandfather's name, means "At the appointed time."

Put it together and we have: God remembers and God blesses as the appointed time ... which the commentator identified as one of the major themes of this book.

Amazing God we have friends ... simply amazing.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Loving like Mr. Goodwell

OK ... so let me just admit right now that they new Mercy Me album has captivated me and has challenged me ... inspired me ... and just made my dance! (For real in my classroom after everyone had gone ... I just could not help it.) Anyway, there is a point to this that is beyond telling you how great this album is ... a point that hit me hard. A point not found in the song lyrics (this time) but rather in the writing found on the first page of the inside cover of the digital booklet ... which read:

Who is Mr. Lovewell? He's an idea. He's a movement. He's the hope that the little things can add up to big change. He's what the Bible already called us to do ... love one another. Look for the best in people. Give people a chance regardless of status, race or gender. Mr. Lovewell is the understanding that the gospel is for everyone. Some may receive it, some may reject it, but from where we are standing, all that should matter is that the Gospel applies to us all. Who are we to demand the outcome before we decide to contribute? Do we wait and tip the waitress only if she's done a great job? Or do we tip her even when she's having the worst day? That's what God's grace is ... unconditional. Grace leaves no room for "I've earned this" or "I deserve this." What a concept! To love no matter what!

And that, my friend, is Mr. Lovewell. Who knows ... maybe he'll rub off on a few people. Are you a Lovewell?

I wish we were able to chat live right now ... at the moment that you read this and ask you if you caught it like I did .. right between the eyes. Here is what hit me:

Who are we to demand the outcome before we decide to contribute? Do we wait and tip the waitress only if she's done a great job? Or do we tip her even when she's having the worst day?

How many times do I wait to see the outcome before I decide to contribute? How many times do I apply if ... then stipulations to the responses that God asks of me as His child? All the time.

Let's take the example they gave. I have had such bad service from a waitress that I left a penny to make a point. Ouch. Yes, her service was horrible ... but what was behind it? If she was that bad all the time, would she really be working there? Or ... was there something horrible that happened to her that day that she just couldn't bury deep enough that it didn't effect her performance. Maybe her husband walked out on her ... Maybe she lost a loved one ... Who knows. I never thought to look beyond her bad service, only to punish her for it.

As I sit and type this, example upon example keep flooding in. I will share a few.

"If I give this homeless man money, he'll probably buy drugs. So I will give him none."

"If this person would just manage their money better, they would be fine ... so maybe they will learn a lesson if they have to live without air for a few days."

"If I knew that ____ was truly sorry, I would call and forgive."

"If that person was nicer to me, I would invest more time in getting to know them."

"If I knew that this (fill in the blank) would help, I would do it."

How deady that way of thinking is. You see we can talk ourselves right out of doing things that we should do. We can fall into the trap of needing proof before we act, of making sharing grace conditional, of hiding behind expectations ... when God wants action. Am I free with grace? Do I expect people to earn it? or deserve it? Ouch. The sad part is that it does not only affect the people that I fail to offer it to ... it affects me as well. I miss out on the blessing of people seeing Christ's mercy in me. I miss out on:

The honest thanks of a person that needs help.

Helping someone see that God's love is bigger than whether we deserve it or not.

The gift of new beginnings ... instead of sad endings.

The opportunity to get to know others ... without their masks on.

The opportunity to plant seeds ... even if I don't ever find out if it helped.

Most tragically, I miss out on being a touchable, tangible picture of God's love and mercy in action. I miss out on being His hands and feet. I miss out on learning what grace really means. You see any teacher can tell you that people in general do not learn by being told ... they learn by doing.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Introducing Mr. Lovewell

It is no secret that I am a cancer survivor, but some of you might not know that the phone call that threw my life into a journey that I will never forget, also started me on a love for the words God speaks through Mercy Me that has lasted to this day. Their album, Almost There, was just about the only thing I listened to for the first few weeks of my journey... it just spoke to my soul ... every song, every word, every breath. So, it is no surprise that I have been counting down the days to the release of the much pondered The Generous Mr. Lovewell, due out Tuesday, May 4th. What was a surprise was what I found today, Monday, May 3rd, when I visited itunes - The album available for down load a whole day early! What a way to end Monday.

"The new album, entitled The Generous Mr. Lovewell is about a fictional character named Mr. Lovewell who reminds us that, in relating with others, it is not enough to simply love others; we must learn to love well.

The idea is based on a fictional character who wakes up every day thinking that he’s going to make a difference in the world around him and so the generous Mr. Lovewell wakes up everyday knowing that, no matter what happens, he is going to love today."

In the words of the lead singer, Bart:

"Society has this concept of what love is and it’s very shallow and very lustful and everything that is… it’s mostly… Love from the Bible’s standpoint is kind of the opposite of what society and media may look at it as. And so the idea was, it’s not enough just to love but how do you love well. How do you do it well. It’s not just helping your neighbor or doing whatever you can for them. It’s going the extra step and saying here’s the deal, if I truly love you well, then I can’t not tell you what’s changed my life!"

I have listened to a few songs and there is one that really caught my heart. The lyrics are as follows:

Won’t You Be My Love

When you fall asleep tonight
In your warn and cozy room
Know that I’m awake and I
Got no shelter and no food

I am not alone
My friends are broke and lost
Looking for someone
To lead them to the cross

I need your hands
I need your hands

Won’t you be my voice calling
Won’t you be my hands healing
Won’t you be my feet walking
To a broken world

Won't you be my chain breaker
Won't you be my peace maker
Won’t you be hope and joy
Won’t you be my love

The other side of the world
She’s just a few days old
A helpless little girl
With no family of her own

She is not blame for the journey she is on
Her life is no mistake
Would you lead her to my cross

Won’t you be my voice calling
Won’t you be my hands healing
Won’t you be my feet walking
To a broken world

Wont you be my chain breaker
Won’ t you be my peace maker
Won’t you be hope and joy
Won’t you be my love

To those I call my own
To those I’ve set aside
As spotless without blame
The chosen ones
My bride

We will be your voice calling
We will be your hands healing
We will be your feet walking
To a broken world

We will be your chain breaker
We will be your peace-maker
We will be your hope and joy
We will be your love

We will be your love

We will be your love

We will be your love

God we love

We will be you love

I am left speechless ... maybe perhaps because it time for all of us to take action and love well.