Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Human Nature and Learning to Walk in the Spirit...

  By nature I am a perfectionist.  I actually have to try really hard not to beat myself up when things don't turn out how I expected or want (which is pretty much all the time).  I also have to constantly remind myself that if I did the best I could, that's all I can do and that has to be good enough...for everyone, including myself.
  Now I certainly realize that having a perfectionist nature also lends to me being pretty controlling.  I don't want to be a controlling person, but I also want things to go right. So, I tend to act out of that need to control believing that only then will things not fall apart (which the often still do).
  I am really trying to work on this.  To learn to surrender to God and allow Him to have control.  To do my best and then leave the rest in His hands trusting that He can handle the outcome and give me the grace to get through it as well.  It's been kind of a learning process for me.
  However, in the midst of truly learning how to "let go and let God", I've realized something else about myself.... I also tend to take on responsibility that is not mine to carry.  Now, while in some ways that totally points to me taking on other peoples work, I am actually talking more so about the pressure I put on myself concerning situations that really aren't mine to take control of (or at least it's not all my responsibility).
  For example, this past weekend I went for the first time to volunteer at this program that I knew nothing about.  There ended up being a lot of volunteers in one section so a few of us volunteered to help out in a different section.  Now remember, I had never been there before, had no idea how things normally go, and had no plans other than to do what I was told.  Yet there I was doing my part, but noticing that nobody was really in charge and things were not going well, and I couldn't help but feel like I was responsible and I was failing at this.
  Or here's another example, the other night some new friends of our invited me and my housemate over for dinner.  It was a great time and I truly enjoyed myself, but I had to constantly remind myself that I was not the only one responsible for how the night went.  It wasn't my house, therefore I wasn't hosting, and I clearly wasn't the only person there, so there was no need to feel pressure to make sure everyone else felt comfortable and were enjoying themselves.
  It all sounds so self-centered, like obviously I think the world revolves around me and thus I need to make sure I take care of it all.  And maybe it is... I would be the first to admit that I can be awfully self-centered on a daily basis.  But this isn't the life I want to live.... there's no freedom in that.
  I know that true life is found in Jesus Christ.  In surrendering all to Him, following His lead and trusting Him with the results.  I see the reality of the freedom we have in Christ when  we walk in His Spirit.  I know that in Him is found abundant life.  So why can't I seem to just let go...to let God take over and to find refuge in Him?  What am I so afraid of?  Where does this lack of trust come from?  Anyone else ever been here?!?!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just a Thought...

    So for the past two weeks I have been attending a women’s bible study on Tuesday mornings.  This has been such a blessing to me as I have longed for fellowship and community for so much of this year.  Anyway, as I sit in these weekly meetings I tend to make notes for myself on my phone of little things that stick out to me or questions that arise in me from our group discussions.  I guess I should, in ­­reality, be sharing some of these thoughts and ideas with the group (and some I do!), but one benefit of writing them down for myself, is that it gives me time to really think and process what I really feel before saying something in response that I don’t really agree with (which sometimes happens still).  This morning, towards the end of my personal notes, I wrote a question….” What is more important, being loving or being right?  And is there ever a time when it’s most loving to prove a point?”. 
  Personally, I like to be right (in fact there is a running joke in my family that my 3 favorite words are “You Are Right”), but I honestly cannot bring myself to the place of believing that pointing out a Bible verse that contradicts someone else’s lifestyle or intellectually pointing out the flaws in someone else’s beliefs, will ever lead that person into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I don’t think people can be “won” into the kingdom based on our good arguments or personal perspectives.  In fact, I don’t even believe that it’s even US who can “save” anyone (that’s God’s job).  That’s not to say that there’s never a time to speak up or to speak into someone’s life…. But rather, I think it’s important that as we do, that we are sure that we are speaking out of a place of love…as opposed to obligation, guilt, or even a need to be right.
  Which brings me back to that question I wrote in my notes….what is the loving thing to do?  My immediate response is that it’s always better to be loving than to be right, as love conquers all and in fact God is love.  But that doesn’t really address the question of what is more loving? Is it more loving to speak the truth to prove the “Christian” point, or is more loving to keep our mouth shuts and let our lives lead others to their own conclusions? And I guess the best response I can come up with is this… it depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  Often times I think I know what’s best and I think that it’s my obligation to make sure I share that opinion.  But the reality is I don’t really know anything in and of myself…. I am completely dependent on God for all truth and all reality.  Thus it would only make sense that God, who actually does know everything (including the in’s and out’s of how we all individually operate, think and feel), would also know the best way to respond in any given situation.  Therefore, the logical conclusion, would be for me to allow Him to take the lead and thus follow Him (Hum.  It seems like Jesus said something like that in the Bible at least a few times).
  So I guess the better question I should be asking is not, “What is the most loving thing to do?” but rather , “What is God saying?”.  Maybe if we spent more time snuggling up to the heart of Jesus and following His heart beat, instead of trying to get people to believe what we do, we would actually see "His Kingdom come and His Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"!.  Just a thought...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Who Are We Really Believing In?!?!...

  There's an old Saturday Night Live Skit (SNL) where the character Stuart Smalley, played by Al Franken, would talk to himself in the mirror and say, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."  Now to be honest, I've never actually watched a full episode of SNL, but I've seen plenty of snippets on YouTube of some of their funniest bits, and this is one that recently started popping back up in my mind.  I guess it's because lately it seems like several people in my sphere of life have been talking a lot about, what I will term, the power of positive thinking....Basically telling themselves if they believe something hard enough, it will actually be true...and I can't help but picture Stuart sitting in front of the mirror, trying to self-motivate himself, before stepping out into the big bad world!
  Now don't get me wrong, I do not think that all self-talk is silly.  In fact I have gotten through some really hard time in my life by reminding myself of the truths I know about God and who I am in Him.   But it's truly hard for me to believe that just because I say, "I am healed in Jesus' name", that it means that I will no longer have cancer or depression or any thing else for that matter (or if I claim I have something, that I automatically will).  I'm not saying that God can't heal you by the power of His name.  I'm not saying that we shouldn't confess things like "By His stripes we are healed".  I'm just saying, that for me, thinking that just because I claim something...just because I say it out loud...that it automatically makes that thing happen, is a little hard for me to swallow.
  And maybe I feel this way because 6 years ago we lost my brother-in-law to cancer.  People who tell me, "You  just have to believe and not doubt and God will do whatever you confess to be true", feel like they are basically saying, "if you...your sister, your family, your friends.... had just believed more fully, your brother and law wouldn't have died"!  I don't believe that's true for one second!  Do I believe God could have healed by brother-in-law?  Yes I do!  God chose to heal Him in heaven instead of on earth, but I still have no doubts God could have done it the other way around!  Saying that if we had just claimed the healing power of God and truly believed it would happen here on earth, then things would have turned out differently, to me is basically saying that we in a sense could have been like God...and isn't that one of the lies the devil used to convince Eve to commit the first ever sin ("If you eat this fruit, you will be like God!").  To think that we could be like God, or even  determine what He will do, turns God into something like a genie in a bottle that if we rub the right way will give us everything we want!  I don't buy it!
  Maybe I am wrong, I don't claim to have the market on truth and I certainly still have a lot of growing to do, but I think rather than trying to live our lives out of some place that says, if I just think correctly my life will be wonderful, we should rather focus on who God is and what He can do....and instead of trying to build ourselves up or rely on our own abilities, we should turn to God and trust Him!  If God is really all He says He is, then He knows our weakness, and He also knows exactly what we need (even more than we really know what we need) and He's big enough to take care of us.  So wouldn't He be the perfect person to trust?!  I think it's when we actually put our trust in Him, allowing God to be God...the all powerful, omnipotent one... instead of trying to make ourselves the one whose in control by trying to have enough faith or claiming what should be, then it doesn't matter what happens in our lives, we will be content and find the true, abundance of the kingdom that the Bible speaks of.  I don't think the Christian faith has ever been about how good we are, how much faith we have, or how "put together" we can make things.  Instead it's always been about a perfect God who came and did for us, what we could never do for ourselves.  Why are we trying to change things now?!?! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

No Firmer Foundation...

  It's September 1st!  A new Month, yeay!!!  Which also brings me to a new "stage", if you will, in my ministry here in Ecuador!  For the next month I will be traveling back and forth, spending a few days in Saraguro and a few days in Cuenca...but ministering in both places!  And I am so ready and  excited for this change!!!
  I feel like this has been a very challenging year and I've been beaten up and beaten down to the point that I've wanted to give up multiple times...and yet I've held on and persevered and now God is releasing me into something more "refreshing" (for lack of a better word)!  It's like I've lived in the desert for most of this year....learning and growing, but definitely still feeling like I was drying up... and God has not only led me to an oasis, but He's also shown me where exactly the source is!  I feel like all those truths about God and His faithfulness that I have held unto all year (even when it's been oh so hard) are becoming clear once again!  And all I can do is rejoice!
  There's something about the dark places...about the valleys in life... that show you not only how strong you really are, but also exactly how strong our God is!  For so much of my life God was this distant fellow who cared about me, but only "interfered" when I desperately needed help or was in danger of jumping off the rails!  Theses past two years, He's shown me just how intimately involved He is and He wants to be in our lives.  And in this year in particular, He's proven that He sticks closer than a brother (that's so one of those verses I've heard all my life and yet only now truly understand it in the depths of my soul)!
  There was a time this year, just a few months ago actually, where I felt abandoned by EVERYONE and I mean E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!  And it wasn't that people particularly wrote me off or turned their backs on me, but everyone was busy with their own lives and issues and so there I sat, alone...with no where to turn...and feeling like even those who could find time to reach out, just weren't really understanding me.  So I would sit on my bed and journal and cry out to God, because He really was the only one I felt like I could turn to and find comfort in.  And what I found was that He is enough...at least for me...He is enough.
  Now I'm not saying I'm perfect or unhuman and I no longer need friends or people who just get me, or that I no longer find myself seeking acceptance and approval.  Cause the truth is, I think those are things I will probably struggle with for the rest of my life.  However, I've learned that the firmest foundation I will ever need is Jesus Christ and He is the solid rock on which I stand!  Amen!