Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent Day 16: Do You Want to Be Well

I've been thinking so much lately about gratitude. A thankful heart truly unlocks so much in a life. Let's be real for a minute though- life can really stink. We all go through seasons where we feel an increased pressure or tension- almost like the heavenly realms are waiting with baited breath as we make choice after choice- are we going to be victorious in this season? Or will be be defeated? 

 I have gone through kind of a weird season lately and as some things have been shaken up a bit, I've pressed in to the presence of God like never before. And He has met me, like never before. I would never wish a weird season on anyone, but to be honest, it's been kind of awesome in a strange way. 

Today, was a day when I needed to be reminded again about the way God makes Himself available to us. We have gone through some sleepless weeks here lately with a nasty flu virus wrecking our house. We've all been exhausted. We've been healthy for a couple weeks now, but yesterday, the familiar drip-drip-drip of the nose began. The littlest Crawford started running a fever. Strike One.

This morning, 3 more of us woke up with cold symptoms and are feeling generally lousy. Strike 2. And also, our toaster just loves to incinerate toast indiscriminately as of late. 3 burnt toasts. Strike 2.5

Noticing that my mood was starting to take a dive, I thought, I'm not going to cave. We just have colds and three burnt pieces of bread. This is not a crisis by any means. 

So we pulled out our Easter decorations and had a festive time decorating with bunnies, chicks, eggs, and flowers. In the bottom of one of the totes was a long, cylindrical jar with a cork lid that I have been looking for. I have wanted to make a "Blessings Jar" where we write daily something that has been given to us as a gift from God. I wanted to do this as a family to make my kids (and their parents) more mindful of the many good things that come our way each day- things of which we are not even aware. I had found my jar! I knew it was somewhere in this house. 

It was a little dusty, so I went to the sink to wash it. As I dipped it into the soapy water, I smiled, thinking of all the great experiences we'd have as a family, depositing our slips of paper filled with thanksgivings and blessings into the jar. And then, it slipped. The jar. It fell right into the edge of sink. And it shattered.  Strike 3?

Seriously? I mean...really? We're under the weather, our toast has nearly caught on fire 3 times today, and now this?

What did I do? I started to laugh. It may sound crazy. But it's true. The boys, looking on from the safety of barstools behind me, joined in. We were laughing at shards of glass. In my mind, I thought, Blessing #1 to go into a different jar some other time- Thankful for laughter even on days of snot, burnt toast, and shattered jars. 

I've been reading John 5 over and over the last few days. 

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Of course he wanted to be healed! He'd been an invalid for longer than I have been alive! But Jesus asked. 

He always asks. Because there is always a choice. 

Maybe Jesus was asking a bigger question than what we see on the surface. Maybe what He was saying was

Do you seriously want things to change?
Are you ready to exchange what has been for what could be?
Are you sure you want to move away from this familiar misery?

Because, a whole world awaits beyond the side of that pool where the man had been laying and waiting for his healing. Things will be faster. Things will be more difficult. Life will happen.

Jesus asks us the same thing today. Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be delivered from a life of fear/worry/control/impatience/ingratitude/hurt/conflict/relational tension?

Sometimes it feels easier to stay where we are than to venture into what we don't know. Sometimes it feels good to wallow in our misery rather than accept that God has something greater. Those are the places where the enemy loves to breed selfishness and discontent and inaction.

If you really want to be healed, it takes laughing and choosing praise over defeat when the day goes crazy. It takes minute by minute choices to embrace God, to taste and see that He is good. This girl right here? She's not going to be moved very easily. She's part of the Kingdom that can't be shaken and a daughter of the King who holds those who put their trust in Him. Even through the snotty noses, burnt toast, and shattered glass. We live in hope that He will hold, He will heal, and He will strengthen us through our trials and difficult seasons to step in to the amazing things He has for us to do. Thank you, God, for being our strength and for opportunities to become strong. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent Day 8: If You Only Knew

My reading today was PACKED full of revelation. Oh, how I love when the Word proves itself to be living and active. It does, indeed, read me as I read it. So today I took a dive into chapter 4 of John- the story of Jesus and Samaritan Woman at the Well. A few verses really kicked me in the butt (in a good way.)

So maybe you have heard the context of the story of the Woman at the Well, maybe you haven't. If you haven't, a brief synopsis is that this Samaritan woman was getting her water in the heat of the noon sun because she did not want to be around other people. She was, in effect, hiding in plain sight. Her shame held her back from going to the well at the cooler time of the day in the morning, when all the other women would venture out to get their water. So here is a woman, full of shame, about to get rocked by the only One able to restore her. Oh, that we would be so willing to sit and chat with the Master at the well for a few minutes today...

In verse 7- Soon a Samaritan came to draw water and Jesus said to her, "Please, give me a drink." 

Verse 9- The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. Why are you asking me for a drink?"

Verse 10- (My favorite) Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."

What a response! And I believe Jesus says the same thing to you and me today. Like the Samaritan woman, (who, if you read on, can discover that she had been seeking joy, comfort, and identity in the arms of multiple men, rather than in the everlasting arms of a Savior) we seek to have our wants and our needs fulfilled in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. 

And Jesus waits patiently as we cower in our shame and live day-to-day with unfulfilled longings. We expect very little from our relationship with Jesus, so we get very little out of it. 

But what if...

We started believing that our God is who He says He is?

What if we were willing to leave our shame from the past behind and look forward to a future filled with His goodness?

What if we could drink from a well of neverending capacity and purity? 

Questions of identity, worth, and calling can be answered by doing three simple things as outlined in John 4:10:

- Recognize the gift God has for you and see Him for who He is.
- Ask Him for His presence and sustenance in your life.
-Position yourself to receive His living water.

All that we could ever need has already been paid for. We simply need to receive it. 

Come. He is waiting. If you only knew all that He has for you...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent Day 7: That is All

I realize we're on day 7 of Lent and I haven't shared for a few days- some of my musings in my journal each day either aren't interesting to anyone but myself (ha) or they are intensely personal and I don't wish to fling them out into the world in some creepy reality TV show manner. But today, I do have something to share! I hope that the last week has been full of revelation and intimacy with the Lord. It is so true that when we draw near to Him that He will draw near to us. It's exciting to me in this season of Lent to see that happening!

So today, I have been reading in the third chapter of John. A few verses in particular stood out to me today- (starting with v. 27) "God in heaven appoints each person's work". These are the words of John the Baptist as he addresses his own disciples, who fear (rightly so) that they and their works are overshadowed by Jesus.

This verse is similar to Ephesians 2:10, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago- " For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them." 

John, starting in verses 28-30 expands on this concept more: "You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for Him-that is all. The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom's friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom's friend, and I am filled with joy at His success. He must become greater and I must become less and less."

Whatever your calling may be in this world, these verses give us some strong guidelines of how to live it out.

1. You have been and are being equipped for the calling which God has decided for you.
2. You need to know your proper place- you are not the Messiah- you are here to prepare the way for Him- that is all.
3. You will finish well if your ultimate goal is that you diminish and His glory increases.

I will leave you with some great insight from Matthew Henry from his commentary on this passage:

Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in His strength and for His sake; to Him, and not to men. Renewed hearts bid His light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is and to do it though against his own worldly interest. A change of his whole character and conduct has taken place. 

My prayer for today: Lord, You know the plans you have for me. More than any plans or completion of them, I just want to love You and know Your love for me. For I know it is out of your great love that my purpose becomes more and more clear. I trust in Your wisdom. I boldly ask for more of Your presence in my life that I can be better equipped for all that you have for me to do in this world. Not only that, but also so that I may become more and more like You. I long for a shift in character and mindset daily that leads me to a more pleasing, holy, and effective life.  I recognize that You are in charge, You rule over my heart and mind and each step I take. I am here to prepare the way for You- and that is all.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent Day 2: This is the One

At the root of every decision, at the closing of every door of opportunity, there is a nagging question. One that we feel like we should have answered by now:

God, do I trust You?

My reading for Lent today took on a decidedly emotional turn as I was only able to breathe in two verses before bursting into tears and praise. Because I found the answer to that age-old question in the pages and in the recesses of my memory.

John 1:15: John pointed Him out to the people. He shouted to the crowds: 'This is the One I was talking about when I said, 'someone is coming who is far greater than I am', for He existed long before I did."

Observations: THIS is how we know that all things work to the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose: "He existed long before I did."

He has been.
He is.
He will be.

Instead of listing all of the current annoyances and troubles we face, what if we, instead, started listing our victories of the past. To remember is to fall in love with Jesus all over again. In similar fashion, when I go on a date with my husband, we smile as we remember things from our past. And it draws us close together once again. A shared history, a deep connection and abiding faith that things have worked, and will continue to work according to God's will for us.

So here is my list. I'd encourage you to make one too. It won't take long until you are smiling, and eyes shining with tears as you recall the faithfulness of the God who loves you and has always loved you and will always love you. Always.

-I was chosen, from the foundation of time, to love and serve Almighty God who cares for me and loves me as His own daughter.

-I was born in a land of opportunity to parents who love me more than words can say. I was raised to know and love Jesus and to care about people and to be helpful and to work hard. I was privileged to grow up with siblings who have always been my best friends.

-I was practically pushed into the waiting arms of a charming, loving, kind, respectful, gentle (the list goes on for 327 more pages so I will abbreviate here) man who would later be my husband. The pathway to him was about as subtle as a runway lit at night for incoming airplanes. We were truly meant to be together.

-I was healed and given a beautiful son 7 years ago, even when I had been told it would be difficult to become pregnant. 2 additional, gorgeous sons later, I know nothing is too difficult for Him!

-I have been given talents that not only bring me joy, but have the potential to bring people into a closer relationship with the Lord. But beyond the talent and beyond the opportunities, I have been given authority to carry the presence of God and proclaim His greatness on the earth. This is a wonder that is not lost on me. To play a tiny part in the story of God on this earth at this time and in this place is a responsibility I take seriously and with great joy.

I thought I had done enough reading and listing for the day, but one more glance at the Word let me know that there was to be one final thought to cap off my list of blessings:

John 1:16- "We have ALL benefited from the rich blessings He brought to us. One gracious blessing after another." 

One gracious blessing after another indeed. My list was complete. At least for now.

My Prayer for today: I point to YOU Jesus. And only You! You are the One who gives me all I have ever needed. You have given me enough love and enough hope to shatter the mold of whatever I thought I wanted. Because really? All I needed. All I ever wanted. All along. Was You. And because I know I can trust You and that You are all things to me- I, like the writer of this gospel, will tell. I will sing. I will shout to the crowd, echoing the words of John 1:15:

This is the One I was talking about when I said, 'someone is coming who is far greater than I am', for He existed long before I did."

Yes, this is the One. And I trust Him fully

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent Day 1: Stealing Time

This year, I want to be more intentional in the days leading up to Easter. Sometimes it feels like it catches me off guard. I truly want to soak in the beauty and tragedy and glory of it all. So, I have decided to do that by observing the 40 day period known as Lent in the church world.

It's hard for me to narrow down one thing to give up for Lent. I saw a beautiful Tweet by Louie Giglio today that perfectly summarized my intentions for the next 40 days:

"For lent, I'm giving up. Jesus, be more than I could ever be."

I'm giving...up. Just, giving up. During the next forty days, I am going to Mary my way out of a Martha life. When pressure builds and I find my head spinning with chaos, I'm going to stop and retreat. I am going to steal back the time that so easily eludes me. I'm going to take the time and do something worthwhile...find myself at His feet hearing His voice. I hold on to too much and yet don't cling to the only One that matters. So I am letting go, giving up all of me. Each time I realize I am holding on to unnecessary things with too firm a grip, I am going to retreat- even for 5 minutes-into His presence and re-calibrate.

Today, during lunch time madness, I found my chance. I brewed by strong tea (I would have made a perfect English woman) and stole away to my desk for a few powerful minutes in the Word and prayer. Beginning in the book of John, Chapter 1, verses 1-14, I read and I scribbled out some notes. Here are the treasures I found and my reactions:

John 1: Christ, the Eternal Word

Life itself was in Him and this light gives light to everyone.
-----Thank You, God, for including me and making a way for me to see.----

The light shines through the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.
----Today, I thank You, Lord, for being the light that illuminates my life. There is no darkness that can overshadow Your power and peace----

The world did not recognize Him
------Lord, forgive me for not recognizing You at times.-------

But to all who accepted Him, He gave them the right to become children of God. They are reborn!
------I fully embrace and accept You, my Savior. Thank you for making me Your own. Give me a fresh start, a rebirth, allow me to bloom afresh like the crocus buds waiting eagerly under the frozen ground even now!----

He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness
------I know I can trust You, Lord!------

And we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. 
-----Lord I have seen glimpses of You, but I desire to see more. Show me more of who You are and who I am in You.-----

My prayer for today is- Jesus, Light of the World, I repent for my narrow view of who You are and what You can do. Let me see Your light and let no corner of my heart or mind remain in darkness. I give up. You can have it all. Thank You for your love, Your faithfulness, and Your light.