Did Jesus feel like Jesus?

I know that’s an odd question, but you’ll know what I mean by the end of this post. I know since I’ve started writing again, my posts have focused on work-related things, but that’s what my brain is thinking about most of the time. That’s what owning your own business will do to you, no matter what kind of business it is. And so, this is yet another post about such things.

I mentioned that I’d started doing a lot of things for the business this year that I had previously not done. Well, one of those things was to recognize employee birthdays and get them a gift. It’s nothing exciting, but just a little something and a card.

My plan had been to give them their presents at the monthly meetings we’ve been having. Well, the first time I had a birthday to celebrate at this occasion there were actually two birthdays, and one of the ladies to celebrate was not able to make the meeting. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually considered not giving her the gift since she’d not been to the meeting. This is silly on many levels, and I didn’t really have a reason other than that I also liked the gift and would’ve been happy to have it for my own. I actually un-wrapped it, and put it where I would’ve wanted to put it if it were mine. But there were a couple of weeks between the celebration and her actual birthday, and about mid-way through that time, I picked it up from where I’d placed it, and re-wrapped it.

I didn’t really even think about it. I didn’t have a big revelation about being magnanimous or any conscious thought that I “should” give it to her after all. I just did it.

We have a pre-appointed drop off spot for items she may need for a job (keys, etc), and I put her present at the drop off point the day before her birthday.

This day happened to coincide with an incident of her not quite meeting one of my expectations. I try not to be a hard task-master, so I hadn’t “scolded” or anything, but she knew because one of our incentives is a higher pay if you meet excellence standards, which she did not get that week. She had asked me what the issue was, and I told her. As I said, I try not to be harsh about these things, but nobody likes to hear what they’ve done wrong, and apparently this bothered her more than I knew.

This discussion took place earlier in the day, and she did not go to the drop off spot until later. After she went to her box, I received this text from her: “You are incredible. Here I am feeling terrible about failing you and you fill the box with gifts. You remind me of Jesus. Thank you so much!”

(On an aside, she only says “fill the box with gifts” because I’d also had aprons printed for us and included one of those in there as well. This, in my opinion, harldly counts as a gift, but that is why she makes it sound like multiples.)

This text meant as much to me as, probably, the gifts meant to her, if not more! And I didn’t feel very much like Jesus. I mean, I almost didn’t give her the gift at all.

But I started thinking, I know that I don’t feel like Jesus. But did Jesus feel like Jesus? I imagine him always doing the right thing and always being happy about it, but didn’t he weep at the Garden of Gethsemane, but then obey the Father anyway?

I think, too many times, we are waiting for a feeling of being happy about doing something when what is really required of us is to do what the Father asks whether we feel like it or not.

Hope for Abbey

I’ve been volunteering with the One-on-One Visitation program at the Tennessee Prison for Women here in Nashville, TN for just over a year, and my husband and I made a site for the young lady I’ve been visiting with.  I’m basically just posting here what is on the site, so if you would rather go to it there, or if after reading this, you feel led to donate, you can see the site at http://hopeforabbey.com. The woman I have been visiting with and getting to know is named Abbey Leavitt, and this is my plea for a little help and hope for her new start. She is up for parole in May of 2013. I’ll tell you a little bit about the program, so that you have a little background for Abbey’s situation.

One-on-One Visitation is a Faith-based group that provides a mentor to incarcerated women. It is significant that they only partner with women who receive no visitors, and have submitted an application to be in the program, so the women in this program are very alone, but they want to learn, want to be mentored, and want to change their lives. The expectations of the program are that you will visit them once a month and write letters, faithfully, in between. These women have no one who is able or willing to be there for them while they are serving their sentences. As you would imagine, it follows that many of them also have no one who can help them when they are released.

Though justice is served by their punishment, unfortunately, it doesn’t end for them when they have completed their sentences. They often have no legal identification, no money to start out, nowhere to go or no way to get there, and obligations, such as child support, that are almost immediately back in effect upon release.

This is Abbey’s situation. Abbey is a young mother with three young boys. Two of them live in Washington State with their father. She dreams of returning and making a life there, but will have to stay in Tennessee long enough to regain custody of her other son, who lives with her brother in Memphis. This puts a strain on an already difficult situation, as her brother struggles to get by financially and will not be able to offer her much. Jobs will be tough to get with her criminal record, and legal obligations are imminent. She is considering a halfway house to help her get back on her feet and employed, but even halfway houses usually require an up-front fee.

Abbey is a beautiful and funny young woman, and her honesty will sometimes take you by surprise! She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and wants other people to do the same. She has a ready laugh, but you can see the concern for the future in her eyes. She loves the Lord and wants to live her life differently than she did before her imprisonment. She tears up when she talks about how much guilt she feels over not being there for her sons. Please read Abbey’s story and pray about whether giving her a helping hand is something you are able to do. Nothing is too small, and everything will be appreciated, and I know that God will put it to your account!

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

ABBEY’S STORY

My name is Abbey Leavitt, and I am 24 years old. I have 3 boys, and was born in Michigan. Although I might not look like it, I’ve lived a life way beyond my years. The elder people in my life call me an “old soul.”

I must let you know that I’m a far cry from an angel. I’ve done drugs, sold drugs, stolen, and lied to satisfy the hole that couldn’t be filled with earthly gifts. Let me tell you my story:
It started when I was about 2 years old. My little sister’s father would put me to bed and I would scream. Of course, everyone just thought I didn’t want to go to bed, but I was being fondled to pornography, and he would lay me on top of him and hump me until he was satisfied. That went on until age 6, when one night he decided to molest me in my anus. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I remember like it was yesterday. He called me his favorite. (I wonder why!) I did tell one of my brother’s friends the next day.

To make a long story short, we moved to Colorado. That didn’t last long due to racist shootings, high prices and extremely cold weather. We stayed about six months. We brought a couple of people back, though. Momma always had a way of adding folks to the family.

Now, most of the molesting from not only my step-dad, but my girl and guy cousins occurred in Michigan. That started when they would make me play house or hide and seek, or simply give orders for sexual favors. As I look back, I’m not angry with them. They were only children, too, and were learning the behaviors somewhere!

At age 4, I witnessed my big sister get killed in front of me. She asked my mom if she could go to the store to get the movie E.T. My mom said, “No,” and my sister said, “I hate you.” Then she went and told my brothers that my mom said, “Yes.” Well, they jumped on their bikes and headed to the store with my oldest brother leading the way. My sister took her time while I cried out at the window, watching, wanting to go. As she was crossing, a man driving a truck with a boat attached sped up and hit her! Her bike went under the truck, crushing instantly as she tossed in the air like a beach ball, hitting the boat on the back of the truck and almost dismembering her entire leg. The driver kept going. My brothers screamed and pulled my sister out of the road as she took her last breath in his arms. I lost my mother that day. She was there physically, but mentally she wasn’t for years, and all the while I’m being sexually abused and it was becoming “my normal.” If my mother wasn’t getting beaten and chained in the basement or we weren’t in shelters getting molested by the “battered women,” it was by our closest family members.

I became pregnant at age 15, living in Washington State with my eldest brother and his family. Life was rough. I couldn’t find happiness or fill a huge void I felt in my heart. So, I would play men and women…lots of them…trying to use them like they used me. I became involved in drugs and hacking computers. You name it – I was involved in it. I became pregnant with my second son at age 18, and my mother passed when I was 9 weeks. Needless to say, I died with her.
I chose to stay in Washington and do the family thing. It worked for a while until my immaturity and bitter heart tore my family apart. I ended up on the streets with two kids and no hope. I sold drugs and got back into using them again. After being pistol-whipped in front of my children by a meth addict, I threw in the towel and called my other brother. I jumped on a bus with my two kids and as much as I could carry for a 3 day ride to Tennessee.

When I got settled in Tennessee, I became bored with the slow pace an began to commit small, petty crimes and do city crimes in a small town that eventually led me to state probation and three violations, and eventually prison. Here I have been for almost three years, and it is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It is in here that I have found who I really am and what beliefs I want to instill in my children. I have taken parenting classes, anger management, and completed an intensive rehab program.

I’m starting over, but I need help. I have no clothes, no money, no identification – nothing but the willingness and determination it takes to achieve my goals. I want and will go to college, but I am at ground zero. I have a struggling family who cannot help me, but they do the best they can with my children.

I look to be making parole in May of 2013. I struggle every day, but I’m thankful. I’m thankful for my past, my trials and my pain. It has molded me to be the woman I am becoming every day. I am not looking for a handout, just a helping hand. I am willing and ready for a change – the kind of change that will pay it forward to youth in my situation. If my testimony has touched and moved your heart to help me, you will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
Abbey Leavitt
“Never ask for a lighter load, rather, a stronger back.”
You may contact me at:
Abbey Leavitt , #436394
3881 Stewart’s Lane
Nashville, TN 37218

Since then…or “The Luckiest Girl”

…that’s me…the luckiest girl…God has done so much in my heart and life in the past year, I couldn’t even begin to spell it all out.  But I’d like to try.

The biggest earthly change in my world is that I got married last August.  For any of you who previously followed this blog, I married the former boyfriend, whom, last you heard, I was no longer dating.  I say “earthly change” because, there have also been (and continue to be) a lot of spiritual changes, and for the better.

The restoration of my child-like faith is one…I can’t really explain what I mean by that, except to say that I had slowly had been descending into a very “grown-up” cynicism and simply resolved to the way life was/is instead of being able to live day-to-day in the joy that God promises us even while we are still here on this earth.  I guess I still felt His peace, but had lost His joy.  And as it says in Nehemiah 8, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  I believe that is why, in large part, as you could read in my former post, I had very little perseverance…I had let the joy die, and therefore my strength was faltering.  My prayer was as David says in Psalm 51:  “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

God has done that, and I can hardly impress on you how much!  I guess for one, I will say that the “joy of my salvation” is never so strong in me as when I recognize my need for it most.  When I am sorely aware of my failures is when I am most greatly in awe of my salvation, most grateful for it, and most amazed at its power.  That (as opposed to when I am feeling self-satisfied) is when I truly feel the joy and wonder of Jesus sacrifice, when I am less obstructed by thinking of myself, when I am resting wholly on Him.  And it brings a joy I cannot describe!  When I am most aware of my lack of deserving His grace, is when I am able to most revel in His love!

And this has restored to me, not only the joy of my salvation, but the ability to feel wonder, to feel love, and, I hope, to reflect those same things to others.  In this, I do feel like “the luckiest girl,” but I know that God offers it to each of us to feel like “the luckiest;” to live so deeply in His presence that circumstances are most aligned with this particular definition: “an unessential or secondary accompaniment of any fact or event; minor detail.”  The FACT is based in our relationship with Christ and our eternity with Him, and that is the thing determining our outlook, not the secondary events of this fallen world, though they may be disabling, disheartening, disjointed.  We are never promised comfort on this earth, and to live expecting it is to live in disappointment.  Romans 8:23-25 says, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Hoping for what we do not see, but have been assured of!

What does this have to do with getting married?  I don’t really know how they’re intertwined exactly, to be honest.  Very poor writing, to jumble them up if I don’t plan to connect them, I know.  But somehow it doesn’t matter to me.  I’ll just let you readers analyze as you like.

I’ll tell you a little about our life…God really worked a miracle in our relationship, completely eradicating the past hurts and bringing out the best that it could be.  I can honestly say that I could not imagine a better husband or a person I would rather go through life with.  I have never known someone who, when confronted with truth, is more willing to commit their whole being to following it.  Chris is a learner, a diligent seeker, and, as such, when God shows him the way something should be, he diligently chases after it.  And, in so doing, inspires me to do the same.  He is exactly what God knew I needed.  When we started dating, a lot of people had reservations…he was an alcoholic in a rock band with not a lot of apparent commendations.  Now, he is a tireless evangelist, and the best spiritual leader I could hope for.

It’s hard to explain what Chris does when asked, but a friend of mine summed it up for her family when we were asked last week, “He answers really big questions about God.”  That’s in summary, but it’s basically it.  Through the internet, he releases videos and podcasts that answer big questions about God, and thereby receives many personal e-mails with more big questions about God, which he is then able to answer one on one.  He probably spends between 3-6 hours a day answering these e-mails, and the rest of his work-time studying for new projects or creating them.  Less than a year ago, he was still doing all of this part-time, and received no earthly compensation for it.  He was feeling the Holy Spirit compel him to spend more time on it, but needed also to have an income, as we were planning to get married soon.  Around the same time, his part-time job flooded, so a change was going to have to be made regarding his employment.  I called him soon after this happened, and he told me he was doing a job interview with God.  He had looked up job interview questions, and was answering them as if God were asking them.  I talked to him later, and he said he felt like he got the job…and that is when the current adventure began, somewhere in June of 2010.  He went full-time in his ministry, and added a donation button to his websites, believing it was God’s will for him to dedicate all of his time to it instead of just the leftover time.  God has provided faithfully ever since.  We have always had enough, and often had excess.  Being in the position of constantly relying on God for our collective income has put us in a position of active faith that we, as Americans, rarely experience, being so well-prepared, and unaccustomed to risk.  We are trained to live in such a way that we are prepared for everything, financially and physically…so that disaster is averted through our preparation and earthly assurances.  I would not, in contrast, say that we should live frivolously with no preparatory thought whatsoever, but I would assert that where God calls us to depend on Him, we should be willing to live in uncertainty from an earthly perspective.  Chris has no worldly assurance of a next “paycheck,” but we have God’s promises.  And every time things start to run a little thin, God hits us with a big present, as if to say, “Trust me!”  He is able, as it says in Philippians 4, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Living in constant awareness of not only our spiritual, but our physical need for God’s provision is one of the biggest blessings I can imagine.  It builds your faith like you wouldn’t believe, because He DOES provide.  If we would only give Him the chance more often, and trust Him long enough to see it before scrambling to do so through our earthly methods.  I will close with words from Ephesians 3: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Generosity

I seem to be surrounded by generous people.  I have so many great people in my life, and I feel very lucky for that.  I would like to list here some situations which made me grateful for these people.

When I moved, 5 of my friends were a world of help.  It would have been torturous doing it alone!

I moved a cabinet in my car that would only fit with the windows rolled down in the back seat.  I hadn’t planned on this, and it was when it was just starting to get cold.  I had to babysit late that night, so was not going straight home.  It was midnight when I was about to leave and I mentioned that I was not looking forward to driving home with my back windows rolled down.  I had not dressed for that!  The lady I was babysitting for insisted that I take a coat, gloves, a scarf AND a hat so that I would not be cold on the way home.  If you know me at all, you know how grateful I was because I can’t stand to be cold!

I had some projects for which I did not have the tools.  One of my friends allowed me to borrow tools of hers, and also to come to her house and use tools that were too big to borrow.  She also aided in picking up some furniture I had bought that would not fit in my car. 

Every time I have moved since I came to Nashville (which has been  4 times) I have had friends with vehicles who were happy to let me use them for the move, and have not had to rent a truck at all.  The last two times I moved, it was my employers at the time…first my carpenter employer with his Tahoe and trailer, this last time it was my caterer employer with her catering van.

My catering boss is always particularly generous with her things.  She let me do laundry at her house before my washer & dryer were installed here.  She let me use her internet to do my personal things before my internet was hooked up.  She let me borrow her vacuum cleaner until I purchased one.  (I only had hard wood floors before.)  She is also allowing me the use of a cabinet that was her grandfather’s.  She did not have a use for it now, and as I live in my one room cabin with no closets, there is much need for free-standing storage space.  I’m using this cabinet for my towels & things.  She also gave me the cabinet that is now my pantry.  It is one of those free-standing metal cabinets, and perfect for this.  She just gave it to me.

And that starts out the list of the major things I have in my home that have been given to me (not counting just regular gifts).  I’ve been thinking about it, and have decided that I either seem particularly opportunistic or needy, or else people just like me.  I feel like stuff just gets given to me all of the time.

The medicine cabinet in my bathroom was given to me by a former roommate.  There was no mirror in the bathroom here when I moved in, and they had just replaced their medicine cabinet.  I asked her if I could buy her old one, and she just gave it to me. 

I had not owned a TV since I moved to Nashville seven years ago.  I purposely sold mine when I moved because I have a tendency towards reclusiveness.  I wanted to make myself get out and meet people.  (Incidentally, it did not work…I just turned to books instead.  I counted up as many as I could remember after the first year I lived here, and I had read at least 70 books in that year.)  But after that I always had roommates that had TVs so I never even thought of buying one.  Then I was going to live alone and did not have one…I’m not sure that even then I would have gone out and bought one.  I don’t really watch that much TV.  But one of my nanny families got new flatscreen TVs and offered me their old 27″ television.  Perfect condition.  And so I have a TV. 

My surround sound system/DVD player was given to me buy a friend…she got two of them through a rewards program at her office.  The above mentioned TV did me little good as I would have to get satellite to have actual television out here, and don’t care about it that much.  I couldn’t watch movies because I didn’t even have a DVD player…now I not only have a player but a surround sound system as well.

All of the windows for my window wall were given to me by a friend who remodeled his house.

My dresser was not exactly “given” to me, but sort of.  I traded it with the same former roommate I mentioned above for a trunk and a porch rail that I no longer wanted. 

I also have several ornate iron porch railings (the tall ones…I’m not sure what you call those) that I use for decoration and were given to me by someone I did not even know.  They were in the back yard of my boyfriend’s former neighbor.  I asked him if he was using them for anything, and he said no.  He worked construction and rebuilt someone’s porch and thought they should not be thrown away, but did not have a use for them.  I offered to buy them, and he said that I could have them, because he just wanted them to be put to use.

And the most recent addition to great things I have been given is my new patio furniture.  It was given to me by the same nanny family who gave me the TV.  It’s bar-top and they wanted to get something lower for the kids.  It fits beautifully on the side section of my little patio, and I put a picture of it here because I am excited about it!  It’ll be like being on a vacation when it warms up a little (I’m sure you’ll note the snow in the picture), and I can have my morning coffee sitting outside looking at my cabin view.

patio-furniture.jpg

I feel like I am leaving out some things that were given to me, and if you gave me something and I forgot it and you are reading this, feel free to remind me! 

I just wanted to write this blog to say I am grateful for the people in my life.  I am truly blessed.

Hope, Take III

Let’s just continue the theme here.  I have obviously been dwelling on this thought!  But it keeps coming back up.  I guess it could be my own mind interpreting everything in light of what I have been thinking of, but who can really say?  Either way, I believe that God is really just trying to drive it home…to root it firmly in my soul as truth.  And not just as the word “truth” – I mean, as truth that is something to live by.  There are a lot of truths that I hold in my brain that never make it to my heart and my actions.  I think God is trying to make sure this is not one of them. 

Every verse I read has been about hoping in the Lord or waiting in the Lord.  These words are often interchanged between different translations…what is “hope” in one translation might be “wait” in another, and vice versa.  As a conglomerate, it is like the Word of God is screaming at me, “Put your belief, what you are waiting for, in the eternal, and the promises you seek will be realized.”  I have to list a few verses (and maybe commentate a bit on them along the way).  To have their full effect, you should go read them in context, but I’ll leave that to you and just pull out a few.

Psalm 39:7 – And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.

This one hit me particularly hard.  The psalmist’s question in the first part of this verse is a question simply asked to make a point.  He is trying to say that he does not wait for anything, because he HAS the thing he is waiting for…it is fulfilled in God.  In God.  He seeks nothing past God, because God holds all things.  What a disservice I do to God when I tell Him that He is not enough!  My attitude says, “I know I have you, God, but I am still not satisfied.  I need you to make MY plans come to pass.  You who created the universe – you must not know what needs to happen in my life.”  I seem to have forgotten about the verse a little further along in Isaiah 55 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  He sees and knows more than I do…infinitely more, and I still seem to question His methods and doubt His wisdom.

Isaiah 55: 1-2 – Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come buy and eat.  Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.

Here, it speaks of our striving…striving for things that pass away and do not fulfill.  He says that God does not even require your desperate striving…He is giving you what you need without any cost and because of nothing that you have done.  It is His to give, and He is giving it, but we have to take Him up on it.  I believe this speaks not only of salvation, but of all of His promises.  His abundance is there, but we have to accept it.  We can choose to spend our souls in squalor on this earth even as Christians if we do not choose HIM first and step out of the world…He is “what is good.”

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

This is the most obvious, and also the most succinct of the verses with this theme.  It is surrounded with verses telling us not to stress, not to hold onto the things of this world – telling us to trust the Most High God with our every worry.  This verse also means something particular to me because about 5 years ago God gave me a dream about this verse.  In this dream, I was given a gift.  I was an adult, but I was back at the church I went to as a child for some special thing, and one of the older members gave me a gift.  I went home and opened it.  When I opened it, I could not tell what it was supposed to be.  There were no instructions in the box.  It was a bunch of pieces of stirofoam that were obviously supposed to be put together.  There was also a presence with me – a presence that I never looked at, but that was helping me try to piece the gift together.  I was conversing with it as I went, and it was guiding me somehow, although never speaking out loud.  As we began to fit the pieces together, all of the sudden I realized that they had now changed from stirofoam to plastic.  I still had no idea what it was supposed to end up being, but we continued to try to make sense of the pieces.  And as we continued, they changed to wood.  I thought for a moment that it was going to be a wooden wall shelf, and thought that was a pretty good gift.  But we continued to work and it continued to change, and I realized that it wasn’t.  And then it turned to stone.  And when it turned to stone, it was no longer in my hands, but outside my window in the ground.  It was a tombstone.  Only I was not looking directly at it.  I was looking at it through the reflection in a mirror.  In the reflection, I could see myself, a clock, and the tombstone, which was engraved with the words, “Seek Ye First.” 

Now, if you can’t interpret that on your own, I’ll do it for you.  I’ve had 5 years to analyze the subtleties and infrequently take it to heart.  When I was young, a gift was passed on to me – the knowledge of the true God and His saving grace.  When I received it, I did not fully understand it.  It’s implications were not formed or sturdy in my life.  I was not taught how to fit it all together, but along the way, God’s presence was always there with me, patiently guiding me, watching my clumsy attempts.  This understanding grew more sturdy as God continued to guide me.  It became something less breakable (plastic) but still something that I did not know how to make use of.  Time went on, and it became something stronger yet (wood) and at this point, I sort of thought I saw it taking shape.  I only just, in typing this, recognized the significance of thinking it was turning into a wall shelf, and being satisfied in that.  A wall shelf…a thing never used for much except to look pretty – to put your decorative things on display.  I would have settled for using God’s salvation as something to look at, something for others to look at, but still serving no real, functional purpose in my life.  But God did not let me stop there…and His gift turned to stone.  Solid.  Immutable.  And then it was no longer mine.  When I understood the gift, it was not even something I was supposed to hold on to…it was something I was supposed to let go of – my life.  It was truth.  It is not something inessential and decorative like a wall shelf.  It is gritty and real and hard, but true.  So true that it makes you only do things that matter.  And of course, the clock and my own reflection – my days…man’s days…are numbered.  The only thing that matters is to seek God first as it says and to do the following:

To die to self (I Corinthians 15:31 – I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.),

Realizing that my days are numbered (Psalm 103:15&16 – As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes, for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.)

And recognize that only God’s purposes will have any lasting value as Job does here (Job 42 2-5 – I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.  You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’  Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  Listen, please and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and and you shall answer Me.’  I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.)

I love what Job says there.  He says he said things, questioning God about things that he did not understand…things too wonderful for him to understand.  God’s plans are so great and so good and so far above our heads that we can’t even fathom the magnificence of them.  In other words, the God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)  And then Job says he finally gets it.  He says, in effect, “I had heard about You before, but now I have seen You…now I KNOW You.”  He got it. 

I’m not sure I’ve “got it” yet.  I’m not sure what stage I am in from that dream.  I like to think I am getting close to a place where God’s place in my life is so grounded and real that I live it as the Word of God says we should in I Corinthians 7:30&31 – …those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not mis-using it.  For the form of this world is passing away. 

To buy but not possess, to use but not mis-use.  And to stop waiting for anything, realizing that God is THE good thing (as illustrated in the passage from Isaiah above) and possessess all other good things in His hands, where He is also holding me (John 10:28 – And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.) 

May I learn to not be as Martha in Luke 10:41&42 who was “worried and troubled about many things”, but may I be as Mary who chose “the ONE thing that was needed” – to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His words.  That is where hope is found.

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, unity.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where these is darkness, light

Divine Master, grant me that I may not so much seek,
To be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love,

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Why God Is Better Than Santa Claus

I’m aware that it is nowhere near Christmas.  However, I couldn’t pass up using this anecdote now… 

Last week I was baby-sitting for some kids I keep pretty frequently, and the 6-year-old girl was getting settled in for me to read her a book.  She likes to match the stuffed animal she sleeps with to the book she is reading at night.  So, this particular evening, she had chosen a winged unicorn book, and was getting all cuddled up with her stuffed, winged unicorn.  When I came in from tucking her little brother in, she was frowning and pulling on the stuffed unicorn’s wings. 

“What are you doing?” I asked.   

“Trying to pull his wings off,” she said.   

“Why?” I asked in return. 

“Because they’re scratchy, and I want to sleep with this one.  I wanted him to have snuggly wings.”   

*Pause in dialogue while super-nanny tries to remove wings without destroying unicorn.* 

“Yeah, those wings really don’t come off, do they?” I said. 

“No,” she sighed.  Then she added, “I told Santa Claus I wanted a unicorn with wings and he didn’t even know what I meant.” 

There was a bit more conversation about this, but I think, for my purposes, you can guess where I’m going here.  Santa Claus didn’t know what she meant.  Enter God’s advantage over Santa Claus.  God knows what we mean, often when we don’t even know what we mean.  The Bible says, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  (Romans 8:26)  Not only does He know what we mean, He knows whether or not we actually need what we mean. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  (James 1:17)  I kind of figure that all of the things I ask God for are not necessarily “good and perfect.”  Thankfully, He’s smart enough to edit, smart enough to read between the lines and I don’t have to qualify my requests.  If I wanted a snuggly, winged unicorn and forgot to insert “snuggly” into my request, I am not going to be disappointed by scratchy wings if God finds my prayer within His plan for me, and grants it.  He’s going to know I didn’t want scratchy wings.  I’m not saying that God gives you everything you want.  If you think that getting everything you want is the best thing for you, then we have other things to talk about.  I am saying that the prayers God does answer do not have to be accompanied with a spec sheet.  He knows the specs before I do.  He knows the specs better than I do.   

There are a lot of other reasons I could think of that God is better than Santa Claus.  Maybe I’ll come up with a top ten list before Christmas.  But for now, this is where I will leave you. 

Community Shared Agriculture and Thanks

I have to thank my friend Jody for bringing Community Shared Agriculture back under my radar.  I read an article on it in the newspaper early spring, but completely forgot about checking into it after that.  So, last week I get an e-mail with a form attached for signing up.  Way cool.  If you don’t know, Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) is basically a “subscription” to whatever is grown at a local farm.  The farm I signed up for grows organic vegetables and a few fruits as well.  This farm (called Eco-Gardens) allows you to order a full or half share…a full share is half a bushel and a half share is a quarter bushel, which is plenty for me.  It’s reasonably priced, too.  I would definitely spend more money buying a quarter bushel of organic vegetables at the local store.  Not to mention, I don’t have to shop.  On the sign-up form, there is a list of what these guys grow, and you rate how much you want (or if you want none), and each week your quarter bushel shows up w/ something.  Woo hoo!  It’s gonna be like a surprise package every week!  I’m really stoked about this; can you tell?  For someone who doesn’t like to shop (ME!), this is great.  I don’t have to go decide what vegetables I get, I just go get whatever I get.  So, this isn’t just a local thing…these CSA’s are all over the place.  Mine supplies vegetables for 26 weeks…that’s half the year.  Not bad.  So, if you like supporting local agriculture and prefer to get fresh vegetables or are trying to eat organically with a little bit less expense, I encourage looking into it.  I’m excited to figure out how to cook spaghetti squash when that comes in….hmmm.  And also interested in how they get watermelon to fit in a quarter bushel. 

 And for anyone who read my last blog and is praying for me, thanks.  I have actually felt like a person the last 2 days, and although my human reaction is to say, “Well, the severity of it was probably on the way out anyway,” I know that’s just Satan’s argument because he wants me to deny God’s power.  While my symptoms have not disappeared, they have gone back to being manageable.  So, thanks for praying.  And also you don’t have to stop if you don’t want to.  

Giving and Un-Giving – Confessions of an Indian-Giver

I am writing this story down, but it is a story I have never spoken out loud…not to my best friend, not to my boyfriend of two and a half years…literally, to no one.  I don’t have a lot of those.  I’m a fairly open person.  I am ashamed of this story, and that is why I do not share it.  It also involves another person…a person that I care about, and would not want to offend.   If this person reads this, they will know who they are.  However, no one else need know who this person is, so therefore the details may remain a bit sketchy for the sake of a little tact.  The telling of this event could possibly offend them, as it involves me taking offense at their actions.  If you are reading this, and you are this person, please know that I am sincerely aware that what offended me was not you, but my pride, which is why I need to confess it – because I am horrified at my pride, and at the things it revealed to me about my character. This friend of mine recently had a milestone, you know one of those great things such as having a baby or getting married or graduating.  I was therefore required by social compunction to provide a gift.  And, indeed, I wanted to provide a gift.  I did produce quite an ordinary gift, but this did not seem enough to me, and so I gave the person, in addition to this gift, a gift that I had made.  I can see you already, rolling your eyes and thinking you know where this story is going, but before you go there, let me assure you that this gift was not shabby.  There were other people who I knew would’ve been thrilled had I given them this gift, and I was rather fond of it myself.  I did make it, but if I do say so myself, it was quite worthy of being given.  (Can you hear the pride even now?  I cannot even turn it off when I am preaching against it.)  Well, I did give it.  And the response was less than thrilling.  I was able to swallow that, but knew immediately that the gift was not as appreciated as I would have hoped and anticipated, nor was it esteemed in any way.  This realization was solidified minutes later, when upon being asked what they had, my friend pushed it under the table and said “Oh, nothing.”  I should insert here, that it was a decorative gift.  I should also insert that my friend is usually quite picky about décor.  In other words, I should have known that any unsolicited decorative items would be unwelcome.  So, in a sense, I was asking for it.  But, let’s continue.   As time went on, the hubbub of the event ensued, many things were brought out, gifts and pretty things shuffled around.  Here is where I begin to be ashamed.  I saw my precious gift, the one I had labored over and was proud of…it was crammed (literally crammed) into a paper bag, with things being set on it and crushing it and bending it.  I should also state that it was NOT a gift that crushing and bending would benefit, and would’ve shortly become something only worth throwing in the trash had this treatment continued.  I watched it being battered as if it meant nothing even as a gift because I had given it, if not for its worth, and (forgive me, friend!), I took it back.  Everyone was doing other things; no one was looking.  I took it back – brought it back to my house, and in time, gave it to another friend whom I believed to have a better estimation of its value.  What on EARTH was I thinking?  I don’t say this because I think my friend ever missed it.  Based on the reaction, they were more likely relieved at not having to pretend to like it by displaying it.   The thing I am ashamed of is my pride.  What did I think gift-giving was about?  Pleasing myself?  Apparently, I did.  When giving the gift did not give me sufficient satisfaction, I just took it back.  Even this did not hit me too terribly hard until a couple of days later.  I heartily justified my actions in my discomfort until I thought about Jesus – Jesus’ gift – and I knew there was no justification.  It stops me in my emotional tracks even now as I think of it.  What He gave up for me, for us…I can’t even fathom it.  How He left heaven and came to live like a simple tradesman; how He willingly suffered abuse, mockery and cruel torture; but even this only scratches the surface.  He suffers my ingratitude on days when I am too obtuse to recognize the worth of having Him as my companion.  He watches me disfigure His gift in front of others to the point it is almost unrecognizable.  He feels the hurt of my unwillingness to assign value to His gift simply because it is His at times when I cannot understand the gift itself and bears, with patience, my inability to understand what He put into it.  He watches me shy away from it, hide it, ignore it and awkwardly try to figure out how I am supposed to display it.  In short, I do to His gift what was done to mine – my little insignificant gift that was nothing more than something pretty.  And I do this more times than I am able to keep track of in a day.  How small I feel when I realize that if I were Christ, I would have taken it back.  I would’ve watched it being battered and hidden, and I would’ve taken it back, thinking that the recipient was not worthy.  God, how merciful He is!  I remember how I felt about my gift, and wonder how He can stand it.  How can He stand it without screaming at us or throwing down fire-bolts, let alone taking it back.  If I could feel as small as I do right now in finally confessing this and spelling it out in words, I think I could actually learn humility.