Saturday, November 11, 2017

You Be Okay

He placed his chubby hand on my chest, looked into my eyes and spoke gravely. "You be okay. You be okay." Owen, my three year old grandson, was pretending to pierce my ears with his Nerf dart gun. I was pretending to be nervous. So, he soothed me in a way that he obviously has been soothed.

His momma rocks him and holds him when he's hurt, upset, or afraid. She knows that his boo boos will heal and that his frustrations will pass. She realizes that his fears really won't harm him, (barking dogs, moving curtains) and that he can sleep in peace. So she tells him, even if he can't see it yet, that he'll be okay.

Sometimes I still feel like a kid. I am irrational, fearful and nervous. I know that life is unfair. I've seen it countless times. Yet I still expect fairness, and feel the sting when I'm disappointed.

I know that hurting happens. People get hurt, loved ones are lost. Grief must be endured. Yet I still reverberate with shock and surprise at the pain that comes.

I have been disappointed, disillusioned and disenchanted, and still fear that my plans may fall through, or my great idea will be rejected. See...a little kid.

My daughter has suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, for half her lifetime. It is an anxiety disorder which manifests itself through repetitive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. The workings of her mind are hidden. I can't see the fears that burden her, although I see what they do to her. She herself can discern how irrational her anxiety is, but that doesn't make it any less real. Once in a while she'll ask me, is everything going to be okay?

There is a reason that I always say - yes, everything is going to be okay, even when sometimes I ask that question myself. It's because of these words which are a balm to me, not just because they sound good, but because I know there is truth behind them. For every time I've been disappointed, hurt, sorrowful and anxious, there has been comfort, courage, hope and love in the words that I hold in my heart. Words like - 

When my heart was anxious within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Psalm 94:19 )

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1).

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14)

Or these words from men and women of integrity who attest to the truth of God's presence and help - 

When we choose deliberately to obey him, then he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with his almighty power. (Oswald Chambers)

The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter, truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God. (Corrie ten Boom)

Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid. (Elisabeth Eliot)

Because I know that God is LOVE himself, that his timing is always perfect, that he knows our needs and that he cares about every little detail of our lives, because I trust that he has the answers even when I can't see them yet, and because he's promised to take all my fears, I can know, like Owen with his chubby little hand and his fathomless blue eyes, You be okay, you be okay.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Only Thing That Counts

It only took about two years for me to finish the nine-week Bible study, "Believing God" by Beth Moore. I actually started it over five years ago, took a hiatus for a while, then began again. I found it helpful and appropriate five years ago, in very different circumstances, and now in changed circumstances and environment, it is still helpful and appropriate. The challenge then and now is to live the faith I claim.

If you've gone through this study, you probably remember the five points on which the study is based. If you haven't, here they are:
     ~God is who he says he is.
     ~God can do what he says he can do.
     ~I am who God says I am.
     ~I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
     ~God's word is alive and active in me.1

Faith is easy to talk about - harder to practice. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." The point about faith is the "not seeing" part. We are talking about things hoped for, but not realized yet. Time moves slowly when you're in "hoping" mode. The needed funds, a job, physical healing, emotional restoration, the change that is expected but a long time coming: these are the things which tempt us to lose heart.

I think of Abraham and Sarah waiting eons for the promised child. They are both listed in the hall of fame for faith in Hebrews 11, even though they tried to take matters into their own hands a couple of times. That gives me hope, since I've done the same thing. God seems to be having a problem getting this one worked out, but I have a great idea!

What I'm taking away right now, from Believing God; what I'm pondering and processing is something the author said in the very last study, almost the very last day. She pulled out a little scrap - part of a verse that I know I've read a hundred times - and asked, "What about this?"

Here it is: in Galatians 5:5 - the only thing that counts is faith expressed through love.

Wait. How did I not see this before? The only thing that counts?

It seems pretty straightforward, but think about expressed through love.

I like to think I'm pretty faith-filled. I've got this. I know about God's faithfulness. I've experienced and seen great moments of faith in my life and others. I feel confident that my faith is placed in Christ and he has forgiven me. I trust the promise of resurrection and eternity.

It's the more nebulous areas where I falter. There's always the muddy question of God's will versus my will, and the fact that God sometimes says no. I tend to practice my faith kind of like I practice piano - when the mood strikes, or when I must play for some event and I desperately need practice. But the truth is, I desperately need to practice faith every day.

And now this verse adds a whole new dimension to faith. I couldn't connect the dots without a little help from Beth. She does the math where faith is an exponent of love.

I have a hard time with love.  GASP!

I know a few exceptional people who appear to have genuine love and compassion for mankind in general, and for the unlovable in particular. I'm not one of them and...admit it. You struggle too. That doesn't make it right - for me or you.

I struggle to love the relative who caused me pain. I struggle to love people who have hurt my children. I struggle to love the mother who sent her kids to an outdoor church event in 40-degree weather in dresses, or the neighbors who routinely let their dogs out in the middle of the night for the sole purpose of barking. The takers, the stalkers, the people who use over and over, who show more sense of entitlement than gratitude. The guy who pawned my husband's guitar for drug money, or the couple who "bought" a car from us but somehow managed never to pay for it.

To quote Beth Moore, God has called us to love even when - 
     ~We don't want to.
     ~We don't feel like it.
     ~We get nothing obvious in return.
     ~They don't deserve it.
     ~They're not worth it.
     ~They don't even know it.
     ~It makes no difference.2

Petty? Cynical? Justified? You may be thinking, well, nobody can love everybody. Except that somebody did - and he places that call on my life, if I'm going to be his follower.

The truth is, I can't. And that's where faith enters the equation. If I want to be like Jesus; if I want to reflect him in my life and my actions, then I need to trust that he will help me to love when I ask him. I must believe that I don't need to work up or even pretend a love I don't feel. Rather, I trust the truth that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13) On this journey where I am challenged to practice faith every day, and realize my own weaknesses where love is concerned, I cling to the Source of love and trust him to fill me with his limitless supply.

For me, that's a leap of faith. For all of us, it's the only thing that counts.

1. Moore, B. (2004) Believing God. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press. Pg. 9
2. Moore, B. (2004) Believing God. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press. Pg. 214

System Restore

Restore Point 1 Samuel 12:20   “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart....