Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Least Likely

Almost forty years ago, someone, maybe two someones, were voted Most Likely to Succeed from the Class of '74 at St. Florian High School. For the life of me, I can't remember who they were. I guess I'd have to pull out my old yearbook and take a look, but it's buried somewhere.
Being voted Most Likely to Succeed is certainly a prestigious honor, and hopefully those people lived up to those expectations. If we heard the news today that they did in fact succeed, we wouldn't be the least bit surprised, would we? 

What about those who were the Least Likely to Succeed? Their names weren't written in any yearbook. That would have just been rude. But I'll bet that you and I can remember who they were. If we heard that they actually succeeded and accomplished great things, we would be having a "Really?", "Seriously?", "You've got to be kidding me!" moment. 

We certainly are quick to write people off, aren't we? I guess that's the ugly, judgmental part of every one of us. We do it when we judge someones potential for greatness in the world. We do it when we judge someones potential for greatness ... even in the Kingdom of God. 

The atheist who refuses to consider that there is a God. The agnostic who doesn't care one way or the other. The man who wears a full metal jacket made of anger, or the woman who sells her body because once, someone stole her soul.  We call them hopeless and impossible, and unreachable, because Lord knows, we've tried to reach them, and they've never responded the way we'd have liked them to.  

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus." (1 Cor. 1: 27-30)

My family is full of all manner of people. We're a diverse group, all on our own journeys with God, or without, as some cases may be. Like you, I can pretty easily pick out the ones that are obviously destined for greatness in the Kingdom. We look at them, and we're wowed by the potential that we see. But, are we looking at the right ones? Are we looking at the ones that God is looking at? 

Lying dormant in a stuttering, murderer could be a Moses. In a troubled teenage girl, trying to destroy herself, could be a Mary Magdalene. In a loose, promiscuous, husband-stealer, could be a woman, clinging to an alabaster box, ready to pour it's contents on the feet of the Master, with more love than any of the righteous among us. Inside that atheist who gives approval to the death of everything that is God, could be a Paul. 

Lord, forgive us for having eyes that do not see. 
Give us your eyes. 

I prayed in earnest this morning for those closest to me that would be labeled The Most Likely Not To Succeed. It's God's way. They are closest to His heart. He came for the least and the lost and the stubborn and the unmotivated and the confused and the misinformed. He has proven that to us in His Word. 

He has proven it to me because He chose me, didn't He? 

I don't remember who was voted Most Likely To Succeed way back in 1974, but I do remember every single name, and every single story, of someone deemed "Least", who stood before me with feet firmly planted on a Rock, lifted out of a pit that almost swallowed them alive, singing a new song, placed in their heart by the One who searches for just such as these. Those are the ones I will never forget.

This morning I prayed for the Most Likely among my loved ones. But I prayed in earnest that the Least Likely of those I call "loved ones", would one day be the very ones who do the most damage to the kingdom of darkness.

That, right there, is where God receives the most glory.   

That, right there, is the heart of God. 

Linking with Shanda
...and Ann
...and Painting Prose
...and Rachel

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

#227 Filled to the Measure

She walked to the brook early every morning, her water jar atop her head. It was good to go early before the heat of the day. She rehearsed the words that she would say to her son when she returned home. How would she tell him that they only had a handful of flour in their jar, and only a little oil in their jug? At least she could bring home some water to serve with their last supper.

Getting nearer to the brook, she observed that what she had dreaded had finally come to pass. A three and a half year drought had eventually done it's damage. The brook was dry. She would carry no water home to her son that day. No food. No water. They would surely die. 

Tears ran down her cheeks as she gathered some sticks to take home for the fire of the last meal. As she was gathering, a man approached, asking for some water and a piece of bread.  There is no water. There is no oil. There is no bread. There is nothing. Everything is empty. 

When it's all empty, how can I give anything to anyone else?

Do you ever feel like you just don't have anything left to give? Your soul feels dry and parched. You've lost your creativity and your zest for living. You search for the One that Scripture tells you will give you Living Water in a dry and weary land, but even He doesn't seem to be near. 

People still expect things from you. They pull and they tug and they ask and they demand. All you have are a few sticks to build a paltry little fire. When it's all empty, how can you give anything to anyone else? Truth, precious one...you can't. An empty vessel is just that...empty.

I think we've all experienced seasons of emptiness in our lives. Maybe we've worked too hard. Didn't say "no" to enough things. Our circumstances fell in such a way where we had no choice but to keep running fast. We didn't eat right, sleep well, or take care of ourselves properly. We live in a world of fast. Instant. Run. Race. Drive. Work. Serve. Get up and do it all over again.    

I think it's a gradual emptying. Really we're just too busy to notice that we're about to be running on empty. Then that last poor soul asks us to do that one last thing, and we blow. We just can't. We have nothing left to give. When it's all empty, how can you give anything to anyone else?

I remember reading a long time ago, somewhere, that when you are feeling just this way, you should try and remember what you were doing during the times in your life when you felt the closest to God and the most alive. I have had to do exactly that recently, and when I remembered, I discovered the answer to the emptiness. 

First, when I am physically exhausted and poorly cared for, I am of no good to myself or anyone else. The older I get, (55 next week), the more rest I need. I'm the kind of person that runs and forgets to eat. Anybody? I've come to realize that I must eat three good meals each day. My days of surviving on coffee and chocolate are over. That's not a good diet for anyone, no matter your age. I must eat right, get to bed at a decent time, and at my age there's not one thing wrong with wanting a nap in the afternoon.  

You may have littles running around your house and you'll need to adjust what you do to take care of yourself. Eat when they do. Don't just eat the crust off of their PB & J's either. Eat well. Nap when they nap. Devise some type of quiet time for them that will allow you some quiet time as well. A well rested, happy Mom is a real blessing to those little ones with boundless energy. Eat healthy foods. High in protein and low in sugar. Drink lots of water (yuck! I know.) 

The frosted devil's food donettes are calling me from across the kitchen. 

Second, I had to learn, still learning, that it's okay to say no. It's not selfish. It's not un-Christian. It's a necessary word that you need to employ when you know that you just cannot do one more thing. Say it. "NO". Practice it in the mirror. C'mon...you can do it. When you are convinced that you have to say "yes" to everything, something is going to suffer. You can't do everything...well, maybe you can, but you certainly cannot do everything well. 

We all have the tendency to take on more and more, and then we find ourselves doing it begrudgingly, out of guilt, or fear of making someone angry. God wants us to do things wholeheartedly, being cheerful givers, not stressed out, worn down, or with the wrong motivation. Do fewer things with excellence. Many things that vie for your attention are good things, but again, you can't do it all. 

Last, and I rank it as most important, is the time and attention I give to God. Personally, when I look back, the time that I felt the most alive and the closest to God, were the seasons where I immersed myself in God-things. Quiet time, Bible reading, devotional books, Christian music, and listening to good messages on TV, filled my empty self to overflowing with the life-giving Word of God. The nourishing springs of God are only found in the things of God. 

Our minds can be the devil's playground. My mind needs to be continuously renewed with God's Word so that my thoughts are right. I need to know God's truth in order to recognize the lies of the enemy. Jesus told a story in Matthew 12: 43-45, about an evil spirit that had been driven out of a man. It sought rest in arid places but couldn't find it. So it returned to the house it had left, finding it "unoccupied", took with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, went in, and lived there. An empty mind is fertile ground for the devil to have a party in your head. Where the mind goes, the man follows. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23: 7)

If we neglect taking care of ourselves, establishing the right priorities, and filling our minds and hearts with the things of God, we will one day find ourselves sitting under broom trees saying, "I have had enough, Lord", and praying to die like Elijah. (1 Kings 19: 4)


The man of God brought a word from the Lord to the woman, not just a request for a meal. The Lord, the God of Israel said, "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land." Having faith in the word of God, the woman did as the man instructed. From that point on, there was food every single day for herself, her son, and even the man of God. "For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah."


Only God can fill the empty places. Only His Word can refresh tired minds and weary souls.  

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 
(Ephesians 3: 16-19 Message)

Story of the woman taken from 1 Kings 17: 7-16.

Linking with Ann
Linking with Shanda
Linking with Painting Prose
Bless a Blogger Friday Blog Hop
Linking with Rachel