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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.