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Friday, September 30, 2011

Obedience Rather Than Sacrifice

The last two weeks of my life have been spent with my new grandson, Michael. My daughter and son-in-law live in Brevard, North Carolina, nestled in a valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have lived in western Carolina for almost 5 years now, and these mountains have become a sabbatical for me. Every time I visit, I discover a new place to experience the very presence of God. This time, it was in a waterfall glen about a mile hike from the road. Transylvania County (great name, isn't it?) has more waterfalls than any other county in the United States, and each one is unique, one rushing, another hundreds of feet high, most tumbling. But nothing prepared me for this quiet place of a slight steady stream of water cascading gently overtop a high, shallow cave indentation back in the Appalachian woods. For a few minutes, as I stood and looked at the waterfall, true silence surrounded me. No footsteps, no cars, no overhead airplanes, only the sound of God spilling gently into a wadable rock pool. I wanted to stay there all day and listen.

That water has no choice but to do what it is meant to do...run downstream somewhere. It obeys gravity. In that quiet place, God spoke to my heart about obedience. We do certain things, or at least I hope we do, every day, without thinking, that are a mark of obedience. We exercise restraint because of laws: stop at stop lights, follow the speed limit, especially though school zones when we see a police car. What if we saw God looking at us when we choose to disobey Him? Have you ever seen a toddler who is told to not do something and then he looks directly at his parents and does it anyway? Are we not like that at times with God? We know He is looking at us and prompting our souls not to do something and we do it anyway?

A wise woman I respect once sent a prayer request for the children of an ill mother who was in a coma, and in the request she included this: "pray that they will be obedient to God's Word, because I am sure their mother would be praying the same thing for them."

As I hold my 3-week-old grandson and have held my 4-month-old granddaughter Maile in Colorado, I pray many things for them. I pray that they will have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, I pray that they will know that they are set apart for something special, I even pray for their future spouse. But I have also been praying that they will be obedient to Him and His Word. The troubles that we bring to our own life really can be traced back to this one and most difficult daily thing: obedience. It is true of my own life, and I see how my disobedience has affected others. And although I have studied about it, talked the good talk about it, and prayed for a heart for it, I don't think I have truly practiced it.

"Now then if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all earth is Mine." Exodus 19:5

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Love Like a Hurricane?

"We've been through a lot together, and most of it was your fault." So reads a pillow that I bought and now has a place of honor in my husband's and my bedroom. I laugh a little every time I see it. I have quite a talent for blaming Mike for everything.

Just this morning, I was about to read my daily devotional, and suddenly it dawned on me that in all of my unpacking over the past 3 weeks, I hadn't found some of the things I treasure the most: a collection of whole conch shells and driftwood that our family collected over many vacations to one of our favorite places, the Outer Banks. Cape Lookout, Outer Banks, to be exact, the place where Hurricane Irene made first landfall (kind of ironic when you think about it, isn't it??). Suddenly, I was obsessed with finding those shells. Ever become obsessed with finding something? I was convinced they had been lost by the movers, or worse yet, thrown away by my husband.

I searched high and low in the house- the garage, the basement, anywhere there were still boxes. NO SHELLS. First I shed a few tears, then I let anger take over. Really, Mike, I thought to myself, don't you know better? I imagined him finding the box of shells in the attic back in Georgia and thinking they were useless, that they didn't need to be moved anymore, after so many moves with the Army. Those shells even went to Germany and back. How could he throw them away now that we had finally settled down?

Somewhere in the runaway train wreck of my angry and hurt emotions, God got ahold of me. I decided to let go of my gotta-find-it obsession and go read my morning devotional. Maybe it would speak to me. Yeah, it spoke to me. Like a lightning bolt.

John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (NIV)

That's very hard sometimes, isn't it, especially when we have started fretting? One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:8 : "Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing." When I fret, I usually start casting blame on someone else. My mind runs in the wrong direction, and there is no love to be found. Oftentimes, the people I want to throw stones at are those that I care the most about.

So, I decided to forgive my husband for his wrongdoing. How magnanimous of me! Except I remembered one place I hadn't looked for the Outer Banks box of treasures.

The enclosed patio.

Now, if I had thought about how my organized and smart husband's brain worked, I would have looked on the enclosed patio FIRST. I went out on the patio and looked on the stand where I used to display the shells and driftwood. Guess what? There was the box, with each shell individually wrapped. My husband had done that, I am sure, because when I packed the shells, they were loose, able to shift around and break.

Had the Holy Spirit not whispered to me to spend time with God this morning, I might have gone in, woken my husband up and demanded to know where the shells were. Pretty embarrassing when I think about it. Thank you, Lord, for one little victory at a time getting ahold of my mean girl.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Keeping It Clean

I love my new stove. I can't even remember the last time, if ever, I owned a brand new stove that I picked out. The last 10 years of my life were spent in military housing mostly. But that's another story...

My new stove is stainless and has a ceramic glass top (Samsung if anyone wants to know. I highly recommend Samsung.) The only problem with the stove top is that it is black. I should have read the directions first about keeping it clean. There are special cleansers that have to be used on it, and if you let spills sit, the top gets speckled and dirty PRET-TY quickly. And forget something like spilled spaghetti sauce that has hardened. That's an hour job. Awww, but when it's polished with the correct cloth and cleanser, it shines so that I can see my reflection in it. If I maintain it daily, the surface is protected, which keeps the upkeep of the entire stove in tact.

God reminded me that my soul, my being is like that stove top. When we read God's Word regularly and spend time with Him in prayer, He shows us the dust and spots of dirt that need to be cleaned away. Maybe big spills of emotion have been internalized for a long time and a mess hardened our hearts. God showed me just yesterday that I was hardening my heart to grief. Through the Bible, God's Holy Spirit reflects right back to us the instructions of life, the right way to view ourselves, the grace to fall and get back up again. And just like that stovetop, it's easier if we are proactive in reading how to keep ourselves shiny.

James writes this:
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
(James 1:23-24 ESV)

Dear readers, don't forget what God says about you! You are loved, redeemed by the price of Jesus' life, precious in His sight. Knowing those truths enable us to live and give to others that same gift of love. I pray that you will be drawn to the beauty of God's Word, that you will look to Christ to clean away the spills and then mirror the reflection of Him.