Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Busyness of Life

Do you ever find yourself rushing around in life? Sometimes I run around like a mad woman, in order to check things off my “list”. I have a pretty big list, with plenty of things I want to do on a daily basis- study, exercise, get 8 hours of sleep, catch up with old friends, invest in new ones, and ever so often watch a tv show to unwind. Recently I have even placed an emphasis on quiet times, daily devotionals, and reading the bible. All of these activities do make me a better person and help me achieve my goals, in turn making me feel accomplished. But I have started to wonder whether all of my “accomplishments” are really as great as I think they are. 

I find myself being the typical Martha (from the Mary and Martha story) most days of the week. I feel constrained by the daily list of chores that I have to do. These chores are completely self-imposed and yet I find myself getting overwhelmed with everything I have to do on a daily basis. Maybe it’s just this situation, I think to myself. Maybe one day when I am a so-called grown-up I will have time for the things that REALLY matter in life.

But what about now? I make declarations to do big, grandioso things. On the days that I accomplish my goals I feel like a million bucks. On the days that I don’t, I feel like I have to wake up tomorrow and make up for what I didn’t do the day before. A classic example of this is with my bible studies and devotionals. I say I am going to read a certain amount a day, and do my quiet time daily. And then life happens. And I get behind one day, and then the next day I am frantically playing catch-up and overcompensating for what I missed the day before. And all along it’s like a big rush. And I feel like I let God down, because I didn’t get to spend the right amount of time with Him. I didn’t get to check anything off MY list.

I wonder if God thinks about things the way we do? I don’t think he sits and watches from afar, like a beauty pageant judge, checking our qualifications off the list. I don’t even know if he HAS a list for us. Because after all, I know that he knows how handicapped we are on a daily basis. He didn’t make us robots (somedays I wish I was…. Autopilot- HERE I COME!) He gave us human minds, susceptible to emotions, distractions, and feelings. He knows we can’t do it all.

And as I’m writing this, I am asking God “But God, you want me to be my best, and to  give my best, so isn’t that done by showing you that I am disciplined?” You see, part of me, in my mind, thinks that if I do all of these things the right way, I will glorify God. A soft voice from God gently replies, throw your list out the window. Throw away your check list, throw away your chores, throw away your earthly accomplishments. And a loud voice from me replies back to God, “NO WAY!” And then I feel convicted. The world has told me that checking things off a list, succeeding in school and in a job, and being an accomplished person is what is going to bring glory to God. But God tells me something differently.

God tells me to judge my life on a different standard, and that is his standard. And it doesn’t always add up perfectly. I mean God sending his only perfect son on a cross to die for MY sins doesn’t “add up”. Neither does Jesus walking on water or turning a few loaves and fish into a meal for thousands. And we sit on earth, trying to get things to add up. Trying to get A+B=C.  Trying to check things off the list so that we can feel accomplished. If I try to keep up with my list, I will always be in a rat race. Racing for a prize and accomplishments that are not eternal.

Read the Mary and Martha story from Luke 10. It super quick but it has a ton of insight.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It’s like Martha is exactly like me! She is distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. In other words, she is busy checking things off her list. Maybe in today’s world, she would be trying to do it all exactly like me. She is trying to prepare for Jesus at her house so of course, she has to go get the best food, and deep clean the house. And she wants to look nice so she has to get new clothes. That was her “work” for the day. And some scholars are even arguing that part of Martha’s task was to be a good Christian leader, and good influence so I’m sure she is praying and focusing on her ministry. And all along Mary was worshipping at Jesus’ feet, spending quality time loving him.

Martha cries out to Jesus and says  “Don’t you care Jesus? I am doing everything that is right. I am being productive, while Mary just sits there!” And Jesus soothed her by saying that only one thing is needed. And I would argue to say that is love.

I Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I get the feeling that God says “Lindsay you can run around like a frantic person, checking things off your list all day. And I guarantee you, you will not get it all done everyday. It is almost physically impossible to do it all. You can have the best intentions. Even if you did get it all done, it doesn’t mean anything without love. “
I am taken aback, because I thought that meeting goals, and being successful and smart meant something. The only person it means something to is me. The only serving I am doing- is self-serving. As I hide behind worldly accomplishments, I am reminded that they will all fade away. And as person with type A tendencies, that makes me feel uncomfortable. Because who am I am really without these worldly trophies? Who am I without a Baylor education? Who am I outside my new great job? Who am I without my to do lists? Is it a person that God wants to me to be? Am I taking the time to be available for God so that he can use ME, without all the fluff? Because that’s how God wants me. Cooked up, rare done, with a side of lovin’. 

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

My challenge for this week:  I will let love be the focus of my life, instead of my list. Whenever an opportunity comes to love, I will, even if it means I have to give up something. I will love God with all my heart, mind, and soul. I will rest in the confidence, that in him all things are made and held together, including all of the details of my life. I don’t have to work so hard on checking things off my list and instead I will focus on building an eternal list of things that are pleasing to God.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wonderfully Created

Psalms 8

I started reading one of the plans on Youversion where you read the bible in a year. And of course, where do we start off? Nowhere else but the creation story! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story, but I have already read it a couple of times and haven't seen exactly what God tries to tell me through that story. In my mind, I figure that when I am going to sit down and read the bible, I want there to be revelations and huge break-throughs. I want it to be like God screams at me the right answer (because let’s be honest I have selective hearing- especially when God calls me to do something uncomfortable.) 

How many times have you read the creation story? For people who have grown up in the church, you have probably heard the story at least 10 times throughout vacation bible school or Sunday school. For others, maybe you haven’t ever heard it. But you at least know the general gist of it, right? In the beginning… .blah blah blah.  (This is certainly not meant to be insulting- but I believe that is how we hear the story sometimes. Let’s be honest, how many of us choose to memorize Genesis 1-2 and quote it?)

I have always thought- I get it God. I understand that you made the heavens and the earth, the seas, the animals, and all of the great things I enjoy. Sometimes, especially focusing on studies or working inside all day, we don’t even get to see or experience God’s great beauty of life because after all, we are inside all day focusing on whatever little tasks can distract us.

But maybe there is something more to the creation story. The creation story easily shows us how BIG God is.  It must take a pretty big God to create the earth and accessorize it in 7 days! That is usually the general take away. As Christians, we easily acknowledge that our God is so BIG that he created the earth. It’s like the essentials to Christianity 101.

For me personally, I do not realize the beauty of the creation story until I am standing in some exotic location, or on a vacation, or driving a couple of miles outside cities and towns. Then I realize, God made this beautiful place! I am so thankful that he created it. My thought process usually stops there.

Today, as I was reading the creation story again I saw something so special jump out to me. God created the earth. Yes he did. But he also created me. I think we all probably knew this, but Genesis 1:27 says

27 So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

Did you catch that little gem there? God created man in his own image. The big, great God created us to have little glimpses of Him. Our ultimate goal in life is to mirror the image of God through our lives.

And then I read Psalm 8 and it all came together. The Psalmist ( I believe it is David) is talking about how great God is.  And I agree.

3 When I observe Your heavens, 
the work of Your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which You set in place, 
4 what is man that You remember him, 
the son of man that You look after him? 
5 You made him little less than God 
and crowned him with glory and honor. 
6 You made him lord over the works of Your hands; 
You put everything under his feet: 
7 all the sheep and oxen, 
as well as the animals in the wild, 8 the birds of the sky, 
and the fish of the sea 
that pass through the currents of the seas.
But then David asks a great question in Verse 4. What is man compared to the greatness of creation? Or maybe in laymen’s terms- How do I fit into the creation story? And then in Verses 5 and 6, he answers his own question. He made us a little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor. He charged us with the mission of being His hands and feet. Our great God, the one who created everything, the one with all the power in the world, the one who holds the whole earth in his hands created US in the image of him!
I think I had the same revelation as David. Our God is a BIG God. But he created us with a purpose. He put in some special dust (because after all, he created man out of dust) and said he/she will be my child. They will not roam around the earth like animals. They will be able to have compassion, and be able to love. They will be able to have deep relationships and be smart and creative! He even threw in something extra and said I will give each person something special (spiritual gifts) and give them great talents!  And above all else, I will do something even more. I will give them free will to choose me and love me on their own accord.  
So are we making the most of what God gave us? Are we being loyal to our creator and divine master? At the end of the day, the things of this earth will fade away. In fact, even we will fade away! But our souls live on forever, with our heavenly father eternally in heaven.  The hidden gem in the creation story should be how we fit into it.  We were made with a purpose. Let’s live up to the hype! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Me, Myself, and My Worst Enemy

As I woman, I naturally struggle with confidence. I can always find somebody prettier than I am, smarter than I am, funnier than I am, or better than I am. I sometimes think  very very quietly to myself “Why am I not that person?” and sometimes I even plead to God “When will things quit flawlessly working out for other people and start working out for ME?”

On the outside, it appears that everybody else has it together, except myself. On the inside, I face battles within myself. I battle my lack of self -esteem, lack of confidence, lack of fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-makes-me-feel-unworthy-for-the-day.

Where do these thoughts come from? They are certainly not founded on God’s daily and eternal promises for our lives. Many people think they can come from worldly things- the movies we watch, the shows that consume our tvs at night, the music we listen to. Others will say these thoughts come from our friends, who maybe aren’t on the same page as us, or maybe they come from an overbearing family member that always put pressure on us to be perfect. I wouldn’t completely disagree with any of these influences, because I do believe in the old mantra, “Garbage in equals garbage out.”

But I would argue to say that these thoughts come from the deep recesses of our souls and hearts. The part of our hearts where we claim that God has control of, that is so protected that no boy, friend, or pressure could ever get to.  Or so we claim.  What if there is a problem with the guard system to our hearts? We think our hearts are isolated- on a castle surrounded by a moat, right in the middle of a strong  fortress (guarded by handsome protectorates, right?)
The battle starts in our mind, on a daily basis. And it is compromised ANY time we let a tiny, toxic thought even come remotely close to entering our minds. Once they reach our minds, and we put thought and effort into it, these wandering and dangerous thoughts somehow make a path to our hearts. I wish I majored in Biology or Psychology or some “ology” that would teach me how this works, because I don’t’ know. But I know it happens, because the next time I look up I am battling thoughts in my heart that should have never been there in the first place.
Once they enter our hearts, they become our worst enemies. These are the thoughts that define so-called beauty, tell us we want to be successful, and famous, and fabulous.  They tell us that we want to live the ultimate glam lifestyle. They tell us that all along, there was a prince waiting for us, who is 6’4½ in, brown haired and blue eyes, athletic, funny, and of course successful (did I mention he also had to be perfect?) After our beautiful Pinterest wedding, that we spent approximately $32,260.80 on, we will successfully have 3 kids (2 boys, 1 girl) all before the age of 30 and then we will be soccer moms the rest of our lives and drive a black Escalade. And all along we promise that we will go to church regularly, attend every church event, be so involved in a woman’s group, moms club, and junior league in order to stay balanced and focused on what God wans for us. (Note to self: I think anytime we think of a plan this detailed, God chuckles a little bit and says “yeah right, girlfriend”)

Okay, so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. But seriously, do those thoughts ever enter your minds? Maybe not any of those exact ones, but similar thoughts that give you a timeline, and date for certain big events to happen, or expectations? Expectations is a big one for me. Expectations that other people do this or that according to my plans and my thoughts. Danger zone! All along, the castle sirens start going off! Alert! Alert! You have let this thought creep into your heart. But what is even scarier is that sometimes we can’t even hear the sirens go off. We just let this thought come and make a home in our hearts. Now that the thoughts have entered our hearts, they become a rug in our homes (or hearts- however you want to look at it), covering up God’s truth.

Eventually God says I want your heart back, I want to reign over EVERY thought and be your filter. And this is where we struggle. We can’t seem to let go of these things that appear to be so great, in order to be more of the person that He wants us to be. I don’t know much. I really don’t .  However, one thing that God is very clear about and that I do know is that we have to give up all the rights to ourselves in order to be a follower of him. “More of you, less of me” (John 3:30) “Deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow me”(Luke 9:23) . We have to see the ones we love as unimportant and here is the shocker- we have to hate them?  (Like 14:26) We have to devote our minds, body, and souls to him (Deuteronomy 6:5) and we have to guard our hearts daily with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10)? EXTREME! I know. I struggle with this every day.

But personally, I believe the beauty of it all is that God knows we are our own worst enemies  He knows that we come in un-perfect, messy packages. He knows the deepest desires of our hearts, that on some days temptations will be so strong,  and he knows that on other days it will be hard to love and put him first. And its even crazier to think that God not only designed us to be this way, but he allows us to be this way. Why does he do this? Why doesn’t He in his supreme knowledge and power just make it an easy choice for us? I also don’t know.  But what I do know is that when we choose to quit being our own worst enemy, when we choose to let our hearts belong to God, and when we give God the time, and devotion that he deserves he will be there every step of the way.

And we will get such a special gift- seeing things through the eyes of God. And all of the thoughts that bother us, that put us down, or that trick us will seem so incomparable to the greatness of our God. Because when God is for us, who can be against us? Not even ourselves.

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Evil and Love

Do you ever wonder if evil really exists in our everyday lives? We think, certainly not. Certainly somebody is not so evil as to make our lives a living hell on a daily basis. Even if they did, certainly they were not trying to… Because people are inherently good. Or are they? And even if people as a group are not inherently good, certainly I am, because I have good intentions everyday to generally do the right thing. Or do I?

When our lives become disrupted by glimpses of evil, we are taken aback. We wonder who, in their right mind would want to murder, cheat, lie, and steal.  After all, we (and our inherently good selves) would NEVER do those things. We are good people, with good intentions. But I do think evil invades our minds, and souls more frequently than not.

If evil is really the opposition of love, in what instances do we see evil in our lives? I would say anytime we aren’t actively focused on loving, we could actively allow evil to intrude into our heart.

Evil comes in the form of “you can’t”, “your neighbor has this that you want”, “ you aren’t good enough”, “no one will ever love you the way you are”, “just this one time, it is okay.”

These thoughts so frequently destroy my confidence. Ultimately they destroy my relationship with the creator who came to provide grace for all of the evil things we would ever do in life. So every time I just sit back and do nothing, and think that evil is not invading my heart. Maybe it is. The devil comes to steal our joy, to take everything he can from us. Any time we are not actively focusing on the ultimate example of love maybe we give the devil a chance to enter our vulnerable thoughts and heart.

So what is the solution to this predicament? We cannot avoid evil. It comes in our daily circumstances. It is NOT a rarity in life. People will do evil things. The devil will try and take everything he can from this world, and ultimately he will succeed. Because the world is not where love is grown and cultivated. God IS love.

The more we seek him, the more we find shelter and protections from all of the evil thoughts, actions, and experiences that can push love away from us, the less evil has over our lives. What if we woke up with the mindset to CHOOSE love? Not to be love. Not to think that if we are good people, love will come. But to actively pursue love, by actively pursing a relationship with our almighty creator. And then, all of those relationships that we thought showed a picture perfect image of love, we will realize that love is not human created.  Love is only found in abiding in Him. Now, THAT would be a true example of overcoming evil.

  33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33