Wednesday, April 25, 2012

God Is Not A Cosmic Killjoy

When my daughter was about two years old, I left her in the care of a friend while I was at work. Let's just say that leaving a two year old, on a tricycle, on a porch, get the picture. But for the grace of God, Kelly's beautiful face wasn't scarred for life. Just imagine hearing these words over the phone at your workplace. "Your daughter looks like a war child." Enough said.

A few years later, my son was about the same age, cruising along in one of those walker things, and someone didn't have the baby gate in front of the basement stairs. You guessed it. Baby and walker went atumblin'.

There is a good reason that THIS is in place whenever a grandchild who hasn't learned to navigate the stairs is visiting our humble abode.

Fences, gates and boundary lines are there for a reason. Anyone reading this is clearly past the age of two, but nevertheless, still needs to be compassed about by some borderlines. Even adults will have the propensity to jump on a set of wheels and mistakenly think they're going to get the ride of their life.

I don't think that I'm oversimplifying when I say that God, being the perfect parent, does His perfect job, perfectly, when He sets up boundaries.

The world in which we live is an anything goes, if it feels good do it world. I sometimes think about people who don't know Christ, and observe that they wake up each day without a thought of God and just do...well, whatever it is they do. Things seem to go well for them. They sometimes even prosper far more than I do. They appear carefree and they look like they're having a whole lot of fun. Right?

Just in case you think I'm a bad Christian for thinking this way, my friend King David had similar feelings. Remember that God called him a "man after His own heart". David observed those that he called, "the wicked". He envied them. He saw their prosperity, their good health, and freedom to do as they pleased. Listen to his own words:

"Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me. (Psalm 73: 13, 16)

God demanded a pure heart, clean hands and a blameless walk from David. He demands the same from you and I. He doesn't want us to have any fun. He doesn't want us to have joy. He wants us to live with a serious scowl on our face, and wait for our enjoyment to come when we get to Heaven. Unbelievers think this is true. Sadly, many believers adhere to this belief as well. Au contraire.

God is not a cosmic killjoy. 

He wants you to enjoy your life. He wants you to have joy. In John 10:10, He said that He came so that you would have life, and have it to the full. He came so that you would have abundant, overflowing life, within the boundaries that He sets forth in His Word. Those borderlines are in place for a reason. God knows that without them we will tumble head first and find ourselves in all manner of destruction and pain. He needs to put up the gates. He needs to erect some fences. He needs to measure out some boundary lines. We need never resent them, or Him. We need to gladly welcome them, and live within them.

God breathed these words on the page in Proverbs 1:33:

"Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without fear of harm."

Safety. Ease. No fear of harm. I like that.

In Jesus' own words: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7: 13-14)

Life or destruction. That's a no-brainer.

Change the way you view God's fences, gates and borders. Don't look at them as things that are trying to suffocate you, steal your joy, or make you live like a religious sour-puss.

David came to this conclusion, in Psalm 16: 6. He said, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places."

You are not hemmed in. You are surrounded. By this:

God crowns your head with love and compassion. (Psalm 103: 4)
Goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. (Psalm 23: 6)
God surrounds you with songs. (Psalm 32: 7)
You are surrounded by unfailing love. (Psalm 32: 10)
He surrounds you with His favor. (Psalm 5: 12)
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, 
so the Lord surrounds you both now and forevermore. (Psalm 125: 2)

Pleasant places indeed!


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Terrible Awful

If you've had the pleasure of reading The Help, you have already been captured by the title of my post. You either smiled a little smile, laughed out loud, or said a big, "EEEUUUWWW!!!". I pick the big "EEEUUUWWW!!!".

For those of you who have never read the book, let me just tell you that "The Terrible Awful" was something that was unspeakable. It was terrible. It was truly awful. Enough said. You'll just have to get a copy and discover it for yourself. 

Unspeakable. Unutterable. Inexpressible.  Terrible. Awful. THE Terrible Awful.

I had a Terrible Awful of my own. It was a recurring thought, made of words that I would never speak aloud. It belonged to me and me alone. I think that I was really duped into thinking that if I never let my lips utter the words out loud, even God wouldn't know. It was that terrible. It was that awful. The funny thing is that He knew it all along. Imagine that! And He wanted it out in the open. 

I had been doing a study on the life of David, specifically asking the Lord to give me a heart like His. I was asking for a heart transplant, and I got more than I bargained for. Each day, God would reveal another something about my heart that He wanted to change. He was in my closets, rattling skeletons, and blowing on cobwebs. He wasn't going to stop until He got every last bit of me, and merciful Savior that He is, the day arrived when it was time to deal with The Terrible Awful.

There is not one living, breathing human being that could have ever convinced me to utter that thought out loud. No one, no matter how much I loved them, or they loved me. No one close to me. No one. Not a one. But God...

He set me up. 

The perfect day, brought the perfect quiet time, the perfect bible passage, the perfect subject matter. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I spoke the unspeakable. Out loud. 

I didn't die. Bolts of lightening didn't come down from Heaven. I turned my face upward and said, "There! I said it! It's The Terrible Awful! I am so, so sorry!"  

Now, I've never heard the audible voice of God before, but as clear as I could hear His voice in my spirit, He told me that my Terrible Awful was a lie. That I had been believing that lie for years. That freedom was mine that very day. 

What is your "Terrible Awful?"

It may be something you've done. It may be something beyond your control that was done to you. Maybe, like me, your mind is entertaining lies sent straight from the pits of hell to torment you, and make you believe that you can never be free. God may want to tell you today that you've been believing a lie. Maybe it's something from your past that you can never imagine speaking out loud. Perhaps you are neck deep in a pit of sin. Just because you don't speak it, don't think that God doesn't know. He wants to shine His light into your darkness and set you free.

In Psalm 32, David poured out his heart to God over his sins of adultery and murder. Here the context is David's sin; it may or may not be sin in your case. You know what it is.  See if his words resonate with you at all when you think about that unspeakable thing in your own life:

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" -- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (Psalm 32: 3-7 NIV)   

Know that there is no safer place to be, precious friend, than in the presence of Jesus. He is right there, right now. He wants to set you free. No matter how unspeakable, unutterable, or inexpressible your own Terrible Awful is. His nail-scarred hands are holding out forgiveness, healing, and tender mercy. He is ready to tend to you, right where you are.

When the last word of your Terrible Awful leaves your lips, Christ will open His mouth and begin to sing you a beautiful song of deliverance. 

Sing along, sweet child, sing along!      



Monday, April 09, 2012

My Hero

Happy Resurrection Day, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus! Having taken a social media break for the last six and a half weeks, it's time to resurrect this blog! As the Lord has been speaking to me, there are all manner of subjects that I want to write to you about over the next few weeks.  Before I take on any of that however, I need to tell you a story that trumped all of those topics. I believe that's just as God would have it. So dig this...

Last Wednesday, I had a lunch date planned with a precious friend. We had set the day, the time, and the place, about a week in advance. If you know me at all, you know that in order to make this lunch, I had to plot out my morning just so. Just so I would make it on time, with everything that I needed to get done at home...done. On schedule, about a half hour before our designated time, my friend called to ask if I would mind changing the restaurant because she had a taste for cream of broccoli soup.  No problem. She also asked me to bring along some papers that I had given to her previously, but she had misplaced. Again, no problem. Except that those papers were buried in boxes in a closet and would take a few minutes to collect. A little damp above the upper lip, I set out of the house, a few minutes later than I would have liked.

Because of our change in the location, I headed east from my house, when the original location would have taken me west. About ten houses away from my own, I couldn't believe my eyes! There in the oncoming lane, right smack in the middle of that lane, stood a little girl, no more than about two years old, in her hot pink, one-piece jammies. Sweet Jesus, she was just standing there! Now mind you, I don't live in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac. I live on a very busy ROAD! A car was sitting right in front of her, with a line-up of other cars behind him. They were just sitting there! I slammed on my brakes, threw my car in park, flung open my door, and ran over. Scooping her up in my arms, I took her to safety where I had left my car. 

The driver of the first car took off, making sure he gave me a look of complete disdain and disgust. Apparently he mistook me for the child's parent or grandparent, and pronounced me the most irresponsible person he had ever seen. Whatever. The rest of the cars followed suit and were gone. I was left standing there with a little darling in hot pink jammies, and a wet bottom to boot. 

She couldn't tell me her name. She couldn't tell me how old she was. When I asked her where her mama was, she pointed to about three different houses, repeating the word "mama" over and over again. I didn't want to put her in my car for obvious reasons, my phone was too far on the other side to grab without putting her in my car...can you sense that I'm out of breath just speaking of the thing! Right about then, a lady stopped her car and asked if we were okay. She agreed to call the police for me, got out of her car, and waited with us. The police station is right on my corner, so our wait was only a matter of a couple of minutes. 

After I explained what happened to the police officer, he took the child from me and proceeded to go across the street with her in tow. Just then, out came the "mama" from the corner house. Not running. Not a wee bit flustered. "I was in the bathroom", she said.

My maternal and grand-maternal temper wanted to scream, "without securing your doors? without making sure this kid was in a pack and play or SOMETHING? What were you doing in there all this time?" This doesn't even begin to address the dismay and anger I was feeling toward Mr. Look of Disdain and Disgust, who never thought for a blessed minute to get out of his car and pick that beautiful child up out of the street!  I shudder at the many "what if's" and "what would have happens?"

After giving the police my driver's license information, I was able to leave and slowly pull away. What. was. THAT?! 

THAT my precious friend, was God Himself!

Every last day of that pink-jammied little one's life, was ordained for her and written in her Heavenly Father's book before one of them came to be. Before the foundation of the world, His ever-watching and ever-loving eyes discerned her going out, literally into a busy road, on a sunny Wednesday morning in April. From eternity past, longer than we can fathom with our finite minds, He determined that no harm would come to her. 

He would use a lunch date. He would make me late. He would send me in another direction. He would even give my beautiful friend a hankering for cream of broccoli soup. O the wonder of my Blessed Savior! I just can't get over Him! He is too much!

My man asked me if I was aware that I was a hero. He said that I saved that little girl's life. I was just part of a plan bigger than myself. An instrument. A willing vessel in a grand design. There was nothing of circumstance or coincidence or happenstance in this scenario. The One whose eye is on the sparrow, had His eye on His precious princess in pink pajamas. 

HE is MY hero.