Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lovely Feet

I was getting ready to speak at a women's retreat and feeling a little bit of anxiety. Then some melody, some chord progression, something during the morning worship reminded me of the old chorus: "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news...Our God Reigns." And it settled my heart. I knew in that moment, God was saying that my size 9 1/2 self-pedicured feet were lovely. That the message I had to share that afternoon was Good News! I was announcing peace and proclaiming news of happiness. I was shouting from the mountains that Our God Reigns. That no matter what happens in life - He is able to redeem and restore. There is nothing He cannot heal, no brokenness He cannot restore!

I can spend a lot of time trying on the shoes in my closet, looking for the best match for some new outfit I've put together. I can also spend a lot of time standing in front of the mirror knowing that the options from my closet are not quite right. That really what I need is something I don't have, like a pair of strappy two-tone platform sandals, or camel boots with a rounded toe. I have to remember when I have shoe envy that I may not have the loveliest shoes but I do have lovely feet. I can cover them with socks and tennis shoes and feel pretty good about that!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Feeling Afraid? Try Making A Sandwich

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3-4
These verses caught me the other day. I thought how funny that David says in verse 3 "When I am afraid" then just a sentence later he says "I will not be afraid." That is a pretty big shift in my mind and it happens in only 15 words. So what takes place between the fear and no fear? I don't know about you but I see a sandwich. Two slices of trust toast and some praise pastrami stacked up in the center. Let's break it down:

1. When I am afraid - Inevitable, right? Fear seems to be a part of life on the planet. David wrote often of his fear. Case in point Psalm 55
2. I will trust in you - This sounds like a conscious decision to me. Like David is saying when fear comes, I have a choice and I choose to trust.
3. In God, whose word I praise - God's word is just the place to take our fear. And in his word we find hope, freedom, peace, and joy. We read that God is faithful. He is strong. He is loving. He never changes. We find all kinds of reasons to praise him and when we praise him, we take our eyes off of our circumstances and look up. Our perspective changes. Light shines in darkness. He is the glory and the lifter of our heads!
4. In God I trust - The decision to trust happens before the praise. After the praise, David affirms in whom his trust lies...in THE GOD of the word. THE GOD he just praised. THE GOD who delivers and heals and restores! Our God is trust-worthy!
5. I will not be afraid - We chose to trust, we go to the word, we lift our praise, we affirm the God who is worthy and that is when things change. The fear doesn't change, we change. We are not swept away or captured or paralyzed any longer.

We don't have to give in to fear. We can make a sandwich! Whip up a little Praise on Trust!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fisherman or Poet?

When I was 13 yrs old, I made a personal decision to follow Jesus at a Dale Evans-Rogers concert in the Bismarck, North Dakota Civic Center. I'm not sure who sponsored the concert but they had quite a follow-up in place for 1981! My parents drove me across town for a weekly Bible study on the book of John. I can still remember sitting around the art deco, Formica top table in this couple's kitchen where I fell in love with John's writing. His epistles are full of highlighting in my childhood Bible.

I've decided that John must have been thrilled to get out of the family fishing business when Jesus called him that day on the beach. He was not a fisherman. He was a poet! I wonder if John always knew he was made for more than fishing? Was he out there casting nets on the Sea of Galilee half-heartedly waiting for his "real" purpose? Or was it something that slowly came to light as his life intertwined with the life of Christ?

John wrote these words about his own writings: And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 Jn 1:4) I identify with that. I share and write with the hope of bringing joy to those who read what I have to say. But, some translations of the Bible read this way: We write this to make our joy complete. Actually, that word in the Greek is ego - usually translated I, me, or my. And I see that too. It brings me great personal joy to write! When I read comments of how my words have made some sort of impact it brings me even greater joy!

It is interesting to read this verse and wonder why there are different words in different manuscripts. Perhaps some in the early church had a problem thinking that John would write for the selfish reason of his own joy, and decided that surely there was a more noble cause - for the joy of others. Which little word was there first? I'll have to hunt down John the Poet some day in heaven and ask him.

What do you think? If I write out of a noble desire to bring joy to your life do you feel more valued or are you inspired to read more? Would that change knowing I write just because it makes me, myself and I happy? Or think about this, if we serve Jesus because we want to bring joy to others is that preferable to serving Jesus just because it thrills us to serve him? Is personal joy a noble motivation? With that question floating out there, remember - Joy was a motivator for our Savior:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Backyard Birds

I was in my God-spot the other morning, out on the back patio, and a falling feather caught my eye. It flitted down to earth and came to rest on the grass. I looked up and noticed a Grackle sitting on the fence. He was shaking his tail feathers and since I speak bird, I told him "Turn your little tail around and poop on the other side please!" As I watched, I decided he was not pooping at all, he was primping & preening. I wondered if he had any idea what an ugly bird he is. Grackles are everywhere. They are common birds with common feathers. Boring. Well, that's my opinion

I couldn't help but wonder if this silly Grackle has ever caught a glimpse of the gorgeous Great Egrets who like to hang around our neighborhood lake. They are tall, brilliantly white birds. They seem a little skittish, yet so elegant in flight. They are the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

Or perhaps he has noticed the Scissor-tail Flycatchers. It is easy to spot these fabulous creatures as we drive through the area. They are hard to miss with their fantastic tail feather action. They have the distinction of being the state bird of Oklahoma. No one picked the Grackle for their state bird, I checked.

I try to get back to the Bible on my lap, but I can't stop thinking about this bird. I've made my judgement clear. I can be so good at that:

Interesting - Boring
Fantastic - Common
Beautiful - Ugly

Thankfully, the humble Grackle hasn't read my mind. I'm pretty sure he isn't comparing himself to any other birds in the neighborhood. I wonder why, of all God's creatures, we get tripped up on the comparison stone. (Click to Tweet) This Grackle is simply soaking up the morning sun at the top of my privacy fence. It's a peculiar thing, but I just noticed how shinny his feathers are. I don't think I'd seen that before. Maybe I need to do a little more soaking myself.

I've spoken to our tendency to compare HERE.

Special thanks to Birds of Oklahoma's Bill Horn for use of his breath-taking picture of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. What an amazing shot! Thank you Bill!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Filled with Joy!

I can be so damn serious. Pardon the word choice, but it's true. Try as I may, I can't seem to find a more delicate way to put it. Maybe it's birth order. I am the oldest child, and spent a lot of time bossing my siblings around. Maybe it's just my personality. I actually like to read and study. Perhaps this is an aftershock of pain in my life. I wonder if I've always been this way. I can't put my finger on why, but lately I seem even more intense. I am challenged by this verse:

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
I wonder, does my life look like that? Filled with joy? With eternal pleasures? Or is it more often categorized by stuffy, stoic tendencies?

Those two Hebrew words for joy & pleasures mean: gladness, mirth, gaiety, pleasant, delightful, sweet, lovely, agreeable, beautiful, singing, sweet sounding, musical, joyful sounds. Doesn't that sound fun? Honestly, I feel that way when I am worshipping. I remember all that God has done for me and I want to jump for joy! And I do!

But....I leak.
I'm not sure how far I carry that joy with me when I leave those times with the Lord.

In his little 91 page book, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, John Piper is daring me to pursue joy. To begin by confessing the sin of joylessness. Whoa! Secondly, to pray that God would restore the joy of doing His will. Thirdly to go ahead and do the outward dimension of this duty, in hope that in the doing I will find delight. (p 31)

So, what would it look like to be filled with joy in the pick up line at school? Jesus help me! What would it feel like to find pleasure in helping kids with homework? I'm so low on patience these days. What can I do in my everyday life to stop being so serious and loosen up a bit? Maybe I'll try Zumba. Is it possible to stop the leak or just vital to keep filling up? What do you think?