Monday, June 16, 2008

The Invitation


Today I received an invitation from the Lord.  Lately, I've really been struggling with the loss of our baby 7 months ago. I've been desperately running after many different distractions as I've been trying to find a way to bury this pain and disappointment. Today, as I visited with God's angel in the form of a special friend, I came to realize that I've been running from the very thing that would heal me. The grace of Jesus.

I have so many questions for God. I want him to explain this to me. I want to know why he would give us a baby if he knew he was going to take it away. For years I've believed that he was the giver of good things. So, if he is the author of life, it would seem that this miscarriage was completely under God's control. It would seem that he knew about it before it ever happened. You'd think maybe he'd know how much it would hurt me and how much I'd grieve and how it would turn my entire world upside down.

For years I've believed that God loved me. That he wanted the very best for me. That he only wanted good for me. And now this...

But, the truth I've realized tonight is that losing that baby was not the defining moment in my relationship with God. It was not a punishment from him...he did not intentionally allow my baby to die so he could speak something to me. However, he is intentionally using this heartbreaking situation to speak to me.

There's a song that goes, "sometimes he calms the storm and other times he calms his child". Just because God allowed my baby to die doesn't mean he willed it to die. He is taking a devastating circumstance and using it for the good in my life. Or, at least, he's trying to.

So, here comes my choice. I have the opportunity here to be vulnerable, to give myself wholy to the Holy One. I can surrender this hurt and confusion and disappointment and desperateness and allow God to make something strong and beautiful and workable with it. Is it worth the risk?

What would happen if I said no? What if I decided it wasn't worth the risk...that I wanted to make sure I was never hurt again? I could take control over this situation, couldn't I? If I just harden my heart and stuff the pain back down, won't it eventually go away? That's what I've been thinking for 7 months's still not working.

After I got off the phone with my sweet sister today, I drove in to town to pick up my husband. On the way I turned on the CD he already had out. It was Steven Curtis Chapman's Speechless. How ironic, I thought. Chapman's family recently lost their young child in a horrible accident. I began to wonder how his faith had been shaken over this terrible death. I thought that surely he must have all kinds of questions for the God that he'd devoted his life, family and career to. Then, his song, Great Expectations came on and I knew the answer.

He's grieving, just like me. He's broken and confused and disappointed and feeling like his entire world has been turned upside down. Just like me. He has all kinds of questions for this holy God who holds us in his hands. I bet he wonders now and then if God might be punishing him for something...

But he and I have something else in common. We both serve and love and are devoted to a God who turns ashes into beauty. A God who gives strength to the weary and grace to the humble (read: vulnerable). And deep down, we both know that God allowed this but he did not will it.

Me and Chapman, we've received an invitation. We've been invited to believe the receive the see beyond our wildest imaginations.

So, to Chapman, and all the rest of you out there who are grieving and confused and heartbroken: let's lift our eyes up...let's turn our faces to the Lord. Let's allow his grace and love and mercy and peace to wash over us. He will restore our soul and heal our brokeness.

Come Lord Jesus, we invite you... I invite you, once again, to be the lover of my soul.

Great Expectations by Steven Curtis Chapman

The morning finds me here at heaven's door

A place I've been so many times before

Familiar thoughts and phrases start to flow

And carry me to places that I know so well

But dare I go where I don't understand

And do I dare remember where I am

I stand before the great eternal throne

The one that God Himself is seated on

And I, I've been invited as a son

Oh I, I've been invited to come and ...

Believe the unbelievable

Receive the inconceivable

And see beyond my wildest imagination

Lord, I come with great expectations

So wake the hope that slumbers in my soul

Stir the fire inside and make it glow

I'm trusting in a love that has no end

The Savior of this world has called me friend

And I, I've been invited with the Son

Oh I, I've been invited to come and ...

We've been invited with the Son

And we've been invited to come and ...

Believe the unbelievable

Receive the inconceivable

And see beyond our wildest imagination

Lord, we come with great expectations

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

God's Will

Tonight, while going through a book for a Bible study tomorrow, I began to ponder the phrase, "God's Will". I started to wonder if Bible women ever just begged and pleaded with the Lord to show them His will? Although I'm sure it's possible, it's just hard for me to imagine Esther or Mary or Miriam as being unsure of the Lord's will for their life. It seems to me that they just kinda took it one day at a time and continued to do the last thing God told them to do until they heard differently.

So, I am wondering, when I ask God to show me his will, am I using the right phraseology? When I really think about it, it seems that what I mean to say is, "God, do I really have a purpose?" Do I want validation from the Lord? What would I do/think/say if he told me, "Sarah, I want you to get up in the morning and do the exact same thing you've been doing for the last 10 years. That's it." Would I be satisfied with this?

No, I want God to answer with something big. I want him to validate me---to whisper sweet nothings and give me a GRAND PLAN!! I want to do something amazing, profound, notable, worth remembering...I want accolades and applause and back pats and praise. 

Wait. Isn't that what the Lord is supposed to be receiving?

What if my daily grind is actually blessing the Lord? Maybe the every day in and outs of my life are exactly His plan for me. Could it be that His will for my life is that I get up and do the exact same thing I've been doing for the last 10 years? That doesn't sound big and amazing and notable. But it needs to be done. And God has put me here at this time to do it. And...if it weren't me doing it, who would I choose to fill that place? 

A Call For Intercession: Bad Girls of the Bible

I just finished reading Liz Curtis Higgs', Bad Girls of the Bible, and while I always find her work to be funny and fascinating, a particular idea really stood up and spoke to me during this particular adventure. While making the case for the 'badness' of Lot's wife, Higgs brings up two points about God's grace. The first, she says, is that it stretches further than we can imagine. The second is that God is withholding fire and brimstone even now, for the sake of us here on earth. This gives us an opportunity, she says, to let others know about the judgment that awaits them, as well as the grace.

This got me thinking: 'Lord, do you mean that just like Abraham, who begged for mercy for the people of Sodom, I can also plead with you to withhold your judgment so that more and more of your people can escape it?' This is intercession! As much as we Christians may want to be in Heaven with the Lord---no more sin, no more death, no more carmel pecan clusters to mess with our diets---we can only get there one of two ways. Either the Lord comes back to get us or we die and find ourselves in a new just-the-right-size body bowing at His feet. In either case, there is now at least one less person on Earth to share the good news.

Some Christians have sort of sequestered themselves away from THE (big bad)WORLD in order to fulfill what they believe the Bible is teaching when it warns us to be in the world but not of it. Do we really just want to buckle up and sit back for a long, boring ride to Heaven? Couldn't we take a lesson from Abraham here and plead with God for just one more day? A day to spend praying for my lost and lied-to brother. For a friend's mother who can't seem to find her way. A day to spend on the phone with a sick father-in-law who has been too stubborn to yield to God. Maybe God is waiting to allow that last 50 or 45 or 30 or 20 or even 10 souls to become his.

God is not the big-bad-boogey-man up in Heaven cackling and stirring his tribulation pot. He's a just and holy and loving God, drying the grieving tears of his son Jesus as the Lord mourns for those who've already made their devastating choice. Jesus is interceding for us even now---urging us to be of good courage, to finish the fight and to finish strong. Let's all take up the challenge to intercede on behalf of those we know and those we don't know who need the Lord to save them.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your dreams?

The earliest answer to this question that I remember is from the fourth grade: I wanted to be a teacher. This answer remained constant until late high school when I added some specifics: I wanted to be a high school English teacher. In fact, my plan was to wait until I was about 27 to get married...and IF I had kids, it would be after 30. After I got to college and discovered that it was cool to respect your instructors, I did a little revising: I wanted to be a college English instructor.

Half way into my first year of college, my boyfriend convinced me that I should marry him---so that summer I was married and my first child came a year and a half later.

I continued to attend college while writing for a local newspaper for another year and a half. During this time, my dream was once again revised. I decided I wanted to homeschool my kids so I figured I could be a work-at-home journalist.

In the past 10 years, I have taught both preschool and kindergarten at a private school, worked as a journalist for a community newspaper and served as editor of a city newspaper. I am now a full-time homeschooling mom.

So, now that I've fulfilled all my goals, what next? I have two new goals: I would like to write professionally and I would like to speak at Christian women's functions. I wonder how these will come about?

Red and Yellow Black and White, We Are Precious In His Sight

A few weeks ago, our church invited an evangelist to come and speak for a few nights on the subject of encouragement. He really blessed our church: great message, powerful prayer time at the altar; this man had a genuine heart for God.

Those of you who have been in church for awhile can relate to the attitude that I'm about to admit to. You've all had it. Yes, you have. Even though we all know that we are not to judge one another, we still find ourselves meddling in others affairs---if only in our minds---by assigning each person a level of "spiritualness". We say to ourselves, "yeah, I'll never be as good as her...but at least I'm better than her." It humbles me to write this...but I'm going somewhere with this so stop judging me and read on.

I serve on the worship team at our church and as I was up there on the platform that morning and as we began the first song, God prompted me (as he sometimes does) to just look out over the group assembled there.

As I looked out at the approximately 350 people there, I began to see them differently than I usually did. Instead of the sweeping, 'who's here' gaze, I began to see each individual. I saw husbands and wives---some of them new to the church and leaning just a little in toward each other for unspoken assurance. I saw teenagers; some with their hands lifted high, others with their hands in their pockets. I really saw these people and God began to speak something to me. But I didn't yet understand it.

That evening when we all came back for the second service, that same thought pattern came back to me as we opened in worship. This time, God began to clarify what he wanted me to hear.

You see, we "seasoned Christians" come to church with our notions of who each other really is and what each one of us is thinking and our "discernment" of one another's "real reason" for being there. We have our preconceived ideas of how it's goona go and how it should go and how it'd better go; and many times we completely miss the point. Thank God that he has been showing me the point so clearly lately.

When I looked out over those people and into the faces of those couples, I saw what the Lord sees: people who are hungry for him. Just like me, each one of those in attendance could have been anywhere else that night. We chose to come to church---for whatever reason and motivations that got us there---the main theme here was hunger. Some of us thought, 'this is my night! The evangelist is here! Surely he will move God's hand in my favor.' Some of us thought, 'yes, this man is a mighty man of God. But he is no more able to pray for me successfully than I am for myself'.

Again, this past Sunday, God made clear to me the vulnerability of his people. I watched a young couple who is new to the church and newly free of a sinful life as they worshipped together. In the particular song we were doing, the men sing a line and the ladies echo and it goes back and forth. It was so neat to watch this man really trying to get his part right and then his wife would chime in and then he'd be right there, singing with all his might...entering in and being a part of the body. Soon, he was raising his hands in worship. I saw that couple as God sees them: children. Vulnerable and needy and desperately seeking his love, approval, acceptance; and his mighty hand to sustain them.

God is very much working in me to turn around this critical spirit. He is showing me that just as I so desperately want to see him move in my life---each one of my brothers and sisters in Christ wants the same thing. We all have our fig leaves that we put on to hide our vulnerability---but in some way or another---we are all truly seekers.

I need God to work in me to help me give grace to others. My critical spirit and judgmental attitude will only keep me locked up inside myself: unapproachable, unwelcoming and ultimately useless.