Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankfulness

Our pastor just finished a month long series of sermons on gratitude. The first week was the most helpful to me, reminding me to be thankful throughout the week, paying attention to things throughout the day that we should be thankful for but take for granted. A couple of weeks later I did a devotional for our weekday teachers and took that sermon and thought over it a little bit. I decided there are three levels of thankfulness. This is not Biblically based yet. Maybe I'll find some verses to back me up someday, but for now its just the gospel according to Christy.
I think the first level is the basic level of being thankful. Its what we preschool teachers are famous for. Thank you God for the sun, moon and stars, the grass and bees and birds and trees. And its what most of us do at Thanksgiving before the big meal. Thank you God for our health, our family and and food. That's a perfectly fine level of gratitude. We do need to thank God for all of those things. All of those things are from Him.
The next level is really paying attention during the day to things we can thank God for that we might not usually attribute to Him. Thank you God that I have a car that works and has air conditioning. Thank you God that my closet is full of clothes, even when I complain about washing and ironing them. Thank you God for this hot water that is coming out of the shower. Thank you God that the woman at the grocery store had a smile on her face today. I could go on and on. Every person that you come in contact with is an opportunity to be thankful. Every quality in your spouse or child you like or even dislike is something to be thankful for.
The third level is usually the most difficult. That's when we are truly thankful for who God is. Most weeks I don't even think about the greatness of God except maybe on Sunday morning in church. But Oh God, please forgive me for not being thankful for your holiness, your greatness, your power and might, your faithfulnes even when I am not faithful to you. I was singing "Mighty to Save" the other day, and it hit me that moving mountains seems like a big deal to us, but the big deal is that He's the author of salvation. Yes, He has the power to move mountains and open the seas and break down walls. But the thing to be thankful for is that He has the power to save us, to save me. He rose and conquered the grave! That is way more important than moving mountains. Let us be thankful for HIM not just for what He gives us. Thank you Father for all that you are. Help me not to just thank you on this one day a year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I urge you to go deeper in your gratitude today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fear

Some of you may know that I have struggled for years with really strong fears, especially when Jason is out of town. When Cooper was a baby I would move his pack-n-play in my bedroom when J was gone so I could lock my bedroom door and put a chair under the door. I realized I was raised that way, so I knew it was a generational sin that I needed to overcome. So I refused to make my kids sleep in different beds because of my fears. But then I would stay awake all night, or have to take sleeping pills to sleep. Its gotten much better since we moved, one because our neighborhood is safer, but two because I started sleeping with my Bible open to Prov. 3:24 "when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet", and God has brought me so far with that issue that its not an issue anymore.
So then I just struggled with the day to day fears, my kids dying in a car crash, or Jason getting sick or our house burning down, etc. I remember telling someone before I even had kids that I suspected that one day one of my kids would get sick, because I thought God would want to use us to give him glory through a struggle. Back then, I thought it was almost a privilege to struggle in that way, but now that I have kids, that thought terrifies me. Please God protect my kids!!! I would envision almost daily a horrible story in my head of something tragic happening. I hated following Jason home from church because I just knew I would see him getting killed in a car accident. I realized once that I could tell where I was spiritually by how many or how tragic the stories were I was having. The closer to God I was, the less fear I struggled with. Makes sense.
Recently (the last year or so) I would struggle with knowing that I wasn't close to the Lord, completely surrendered to Him, but I was afraid that if I did surrender, something horrible would happen to use us. Or, I was afraid if I told God that I wanted to get closer to Him, something horrible would happen to bring me back to Him, to bring me to my knees. Its not fun living that way!
So, two things in the past months have changed me! I just finished the Beth Moore study on Esther, overall not my favorite of hers but still good, of course. But one session she did on video was life changing for me. She was talking about how Esther had to face her fear to go before the King. I don't have my notes in front of me, but the main point she made that helped me was to imagine the worst possible things that could happen to you, easy for me. Then walk through them with God in the picture. If ____________ happens, then God. If my husband dies in an accident, then I will grieve and sell my house and God will give me strength. Yes, it would be bad, but I would survive. If my kids got sick and died, I would fall apart, but then I would get back up and God would give me strength. If the absolute worst thing happened, I died in a car accident, I would go to heaven, the ultimate victory. If _____________ happens, then God! She said courage wasn't facing your fear and pretending it wasn't there, but to face your fear knowing that God was in control. I think that was it. I will get my notes later and add more, but that was what I remember that freed me!
Then again, at the Right Now conference, I heard Kay Warren speak. I don't really remember her topic, but the one thing she said that stuck out to me was "God's not safe, but He's good." She said what I have thought, that some people are scared to surrender because He might send them to Africa or give them cancer. And its true that God is not safe. His journey will not be easy, but He is good! He wants what is best for us. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. That is so encouraging to me. And I promise since that Beth Moore lesson, I have not had one of those horrible stories play out in my head. Once or twice a story has started , but it doesn't finish because it doesn't have to. I know how it will end, with good!
In case you are interested, and have any fears at all, I really encourage you to listen to Beth's lesson 4 of Esther. You can download it off lifeway's website. So that's deep blog post #2. More tomorrow?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adventure

I haven't blogged in so long. No good reasons, just excuses. We went to the Right Now conference a few weeks ago (that could be an entire blog on its own) and one of the side sessions I went to was about writing your life story, and she made one point that has inspired me to write a blog entry again. She said that people need to hear your story. Either your story is universal enough that people can relate, or its unique enough they can learn something new from it. But write something. I have a few blogs spinning around in my head, so here is the first one.
Back in July we were in Glorieta and I went to the prayer garden to pray for a few minutes. I begin to pray about the fact that our lives right now are kind of boring. So I prayed for God to do something to add some excitement to our lives. Even though Jason and I work at a church, we don't live a life of surrendering to the Lord on a day to day basis. We are just at church like average families, when we are suppposed to be because that is what you are supposed to do, and we happen to get a paycheck for it. There's nothing wrong with being average I guess for most people, but I don't want to be average.
A few weeks after that we had our sweet friends Trey and Randi over and their kids, and they were telling us of their adventure of surrendering to missions. They were just commissioned last week to go on the foreign mission field in the spring. I was jealous. I don't necessarily want to go where they are going, but I was jealous of their adventure. Going into the unknown because God told you to and hanging on for the ride, waiting for him to provide at the last minute when you don't know what the next day will bring. That's exciting.
Then I read Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Amazing! And just what I have been praying for. Its all about that our lives are a story, and if your story is boring, change it. God intended for our lives to have conflict, adventure, a climax, times when we grow and change because we are living an adventure. He realized his life was boring, so he biked across the country, hiked the mountains in Peru, started a new mentoring ministry. I read the book in two days, and when Jason is finished with it, I want to read it again with a highlighter. So inspiring.
So that's what God has been doing in my heart. Has anything changed per se? No, but I'm on the lookout. Donald autographed our book (Jason went to high school with him) "thanks for living such a great story." And I'm sure to some people we do. Being at our 4th church, "working for the Lord" on a daily basis. We don't feel that though. I have moments of adventure, when I planned a successful mission project for our preschool, or took our boys to buy stuff for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. But most days are doing dishes and laundry and soccer games and changing diapers. I have had older moms tell me that its ok, this is just the time of my life when its kind of boring, that God understands. But I don't want it to be like that. I don't want to wait another 18 years for my kids to grow up before my life gets exciting. So what do I do? Right now I am just praying and looking out for moments of adventure. Maybe if I keep my eyes and heart open for them, I won't miss them as easily. And maybe God is preparing us for a big adventure coming up, getting me excited so when it comes I'm not overwhelmed. We'll see.
My favorite song right now is Motions by Matthew West. Some of the lines are "I don't want to go through the motions. I don't want to go one more day, without your all consuming passion inside of me. I don't want to spend my whole life asking what if I had given everything instead of going through the motions." I think that's right, that's from memory. That is my prayer right now. God is not safe, but he's good. That another blog, maybe for tomorrow.