Saturday, March 31, 2012

Strength in Humility (A blog from our lovely daughter)

"You did not seriously think that a hobbit could contend with the will of Sauron?"
Translate this thought to our world: You didn't seriously think that one such as you could overcome the will of Satan?
Yeah. We can't. But that's the whole point!
Let me clarify. Many of you that read this, I know, have experienced God working in their lives in some way or another. Actually, all of you have, but the difference is whether or not you're conscious of it. God NEVER stops working in us or through us, and every passing moment is an opportunity to act on this knowledge or to let it slip by. But yet, we can't control these moments. In fact, we truly don't control anything in our's all because of grace! Do you think about that daily? Left to our true desires, we run rampant in this world...and if we truthfully admit, we wouldn't be happy with the aftermath of all those choices. Too often I've heard stories of "If only" or "I should have" and believe me, I'm one of them. But yet, I don't think any of us would really want to trade the growth that's come from our past experiences to go back to our old ways. In fact, we're not meant to! God's called us to His purpose and not our own, and every minute of every day is meant for Him to shape us into the mold He's designed for us to be...and in completion, it will be perfect. Here's the catch: the shaping process will hurt. Severely. The beauty of it is that God is with us through it all despite and that there is always the other side to be reached. In his book Desiring God, John Piper writes, "This is God's universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in self and the world," (233). If this were something easy to attain, we wouldn't need God. We'd have even less appreciation for the multitude of graces we've already been shown if our faith were of our own doing. Thank God that it's not! Even beyond that, "Our sufferings make Christ's sufferings known so that people can see the kind of love Christ offers. We complete Christ's afflictions by providing what they do not have, namely, a personal, vivid presentation to those who do not see Christ suffer in person," (Piper 245). That's one of the hardest parts; keeping in mind that it all serves a higher purpose and that our reactions are a testimony. People watch our lives, whether we realize it or not, and everything reflects back to our relationship with Christ. How dare we doing anything to tarnish His beauty for something that we'd "prefer"?!
The highlight for learning all of this this week has been in the course of breaking my foot (again), but this time for a different reason than the last. Previously, it was due to a careless mistake. This time, I just pushed myself farther than I realized, thinking that I could handle it. I hadn't trained. Running nearly five miles when you haven't done that in a few months just isn't smart, but it felt good. The same applies to sin; going into it feels great, but you never realize until after the fact what sort of deep trouble you've gotten into save for that tiny voice that you sometimes listen to that tells you it might not be wise. The result for me now is I've become almost completely dependent again. Last time around, I feel I was much more accepting of this. This time (privately, mind you), I've just been a pathetic spaz. I've found myself struggling with anger, frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation. The laughter or pitiful looks from others just makes me want to break down on the spot. But I remembered today what one of my favorite role models, Marva Dawn, who is renowned for her tranquil attitude despite a plethora of ailments, including recent leg amputation, said, and that was that she was grateful to be a service opportunity for others! Today, I'd reached my limit. Between crutches, pouring rain, a flat tire, and being late to class, I was done. But on my way back to car, I was flooded with offers for rides, carrying my bag for me, etc, and that was when I remembered Who and what I was meant for and my tears just flowed when I reached my car, partially in shame for my pathetic attitudes lately. So, I'm actually grateful for it. I remember having prayed a little while back that I wanted to be reached out to and this has been God's way of showing me the surprising friends that will 'rise out of the woodwork' when needed, so to speak, and it's comforting. Thanks to all who've been around thus far - it's not gone unnoticed!
Back to the main point, all of this highlights so well the verse in Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,". And, more specifically in Philippians, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (3:8-10). Anything that happens in this life can never measure up to what Christ has already done for us. Rejoice in any opportunity to suffer with Him and pray that we all would welcome it when the time comes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mirror Mirror....with cracks....

Have you read the plot line for Mirror Mirror?  I was so looking forward to seeing Julia Roberts' portrayal of the evil queen, until I read some of the reviews.  Apparently, Snow White not only saves herself in this retelling of Grimm, but also saves the prince.  Are you serious?  I can see how tiny tweaks of the fairy tale could be fun, but turning Snow White into a fighting feminist is too much!  I don't know about you, but I really don't want a Prince Charming who has to be rescued by a girl....

Why did you even bother?

This past Sunday, a group of young college students sat behind us in church whispering.  Talking, whispering, and eating during worship or preparation for worship are all big pet peeves for me.  It's not just one age group that does this, either.  We even have little signs posted outside the sanctuary requesting that you not participate in these activities.  Other than being irreverent, these things make it difficult for others (particularly those of us with hearing loss) to hear and/or pay attention.  My first thought was, "Why do even bother coming to church if you're not going to participate in the worship?"  Being the fiery redheaded, short-tempered person that I am, it was difficult to refrain from snatching one of them up by the ear and hauling them to the church front steps for a dose of "wisdom."  This morning, however, I find myself wondering what was God's purpose in having them there and sitting right behind me.  What was God trying to get through to them....or to me?  It's something for me to think about and has caused me to pray for them in a new light.  In the meantime, PLEASE refrain from talking, whispering, and eating or drinking during worship and/or worship preparation lest I pray for you! ;) 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Good Life

My husband frequently gives me mental wake-up calls, and for that, I love him.  This morning was one of those wake-up calls....

In the 1970's the BBC put out a sit-com called "Good Neighbors" which followed the lives of Tom & Barbara Good as they embarked on a life of self-sufficiency in suburbia.  I absolutely love this TV series and have always desired a life completely off the grid, with chickens, goats, and a lovely garden.  This morning, as my husband stared blankly out the window into our tiny backyard, I asked him if he ever desired to be like Tom Good so he could stay home.  He quickly answered "no" and also informed me that I really don't either. ????what????  He turned and glanced around the house and said, "Look at all the gadgets." 

He's right, as always.  I could give a lot of it up, or would like to think that I could; but then, there's the cell phone.  How could I manage without any phone; my phone, which connects me to everyone. computer which holds blogs, Pinterest, and the almighty Facebook....  I could continue listing my electronic gadgetry and my countless kitchen appliances and tools, but let's not embarrass ourselves here!  Am I really that attached to my toys?

At this point I haven't decided if I'm an enigma or an oxymoron.  I still admire the Goods....and St. Francis and St. Clare, but I also know that my poor health would not sustain me were I to give up a/c and open the windows and let in pollen and the asthma attacks that would follow.  Perhaps, I need to lay down my "toys" more often and focus more on the company of our Lord or on the needs of others.....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Simple Gifts

 Lately, I've had to remind myself to think like a Christian and not like an overly entitled American.  I found myself recently feeling rather poor and deprived.  I see people on HGTV go into houses and turn their noses up at "outdated" appliances newer than mine.  I see young couples buying their first home, and these homes are more often than not three times the size of mine.  I find myself wondering where these people get their money and why don't we have some of it.  I look around and most people have smart phones, net books, and ipods.  I see people dropping $300+ on a simple handbag, while I'm buying mine from some place like K-Mart and paying only $15.  Yes, I'm poor, deprived and to be pitied. 

Fortunately, these feelings were short-lived, although I'd rather they hadn't popped up at all.  We are supposed to take joy in sharing in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and one of those sufferings was His poverty.  Imagine. Christ, the sovereign King of the universe came down to Earth and was born into abject poverty and filth.  And, I'm complaining because I have Formica counter tops instead of granite????  How spoiled and attached to worldly things I have become!  How soon we forget our brothers and sisters in other countries (or even stateside) who live in what can only correctly be termed as squalor.  When I come to the end of my life, I'm not going to be saying that my life would have been complete if only I had stainless steel appliances and a perfectly manicured lawn.  I'm going to be regretting all the time I have wasted on the meaningless and trivial emptiness we call "stuff." 

So, yes, I'm middle class.  I could even be considered on the low end of middle class.  I'm a far cry from a Poor Clare, but I am happy where God has placed and what He has graciously given me.  I want to embrace God, not things.

Simple Gifts
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right.

 Simple Gifts was written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848. It was first published in The Gift to be Simple: Shaker Rituals and Songs.