Friday, September 19, 2014

A Lesson from Carpet

Yes folks, God can indeed use anything He so chooses to teach us.

For me, on this particular day, it was carpet.

I had missed my morning coffee and treated myself to a BIG 36 oz Styrofoam cup of half diet coke/cherry coke at 8:00 am.  (Don't judge)

I had dropped the kids off at school and had a small window of time to get back home and work on some bible study homework for about 45 minutes.

Settling into my spot on the floor I immediately began writing our scripture down in the designated spot of my bible study book.  Writing relaxes me sometimes.  I was sincerely trying to write and say and soak in the words of scripture while enjoying spontaneous sips from my 36 oz drink.

Well....the inevitable happened.

The drink got knocked over.  Turns out carpet isn't very sturdy for such a top heavy drink.

I jumped up to get some paper towels from the kitchen and returned to find my spilled coke standing on top on the carpet.

Seriously....the carpet was resisting the stain.

Amazed I just stood there watching the carpet do its thing.  Then I tossed the paper towel down on top of the standing coke drops.  They immediately absorbed into the paper towel.  When I lifted the paper towel my eyes could not see where the drops had been originally spilled.  The carpet wasn't even wet.  No stain appeared.  It was as if the spill had never occurred.

Right there I sensed God speaking  to my heart.

Resist sin Andrea.  Resist what spills onto you.  Resist the things that tempt to overtake you.  Resist selfishness.  Resist vanity.  Resist pride.  Resist overindulgence.  Resist the sin that seeks to entangle you and stain your life. Resist jealousy.  Resist gossip.  Resist revenge.

If I am about running to Jesus then resisting sin should be something that comes natural.  This carpet is built to resist stain.  It has specific fibers that the manufacturers used to make it that way.

In an odd comparison....the very fibers of my being were changed the day that Jesus came into my heart.  His Holy Spirit now dwells within me and changes me from the inside out.  When I am weak I run to Him and He helps me resist the sin that tempts this wayward heart.  Whatever should spill onto me can be wiped clean by the nail scarred hands of Jesus.  I am now stain resistant too.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

Monday, September 8, 2014

Selfless Saints

The church gets a bad rap in today's culture.

You often hear the word hypocrite when you mention church at all.

Yes it is full of a bunch of hypocrites.

I am most likely the biggest one of all.

I am a sinner saved by glorious grace.  Although God has redeemed me, I can still be a hot mess some days.  I lose my temper.  I lash out at my husband, children and friends.  I make selfish choices.  I lack faith. I lie.  I over eat.  I shop to make myself feel better.  The list goes on....sadly.....on and on.

But Jesus saved me through His death on the cross. is made up of other people just like me.  People who blow it when we should know better. 

But this blog post is to honor and esteem some sweet people in my church family. 

I want you all to catch a glimpse of a group of hypocrites humbly serving one of their own.

It is easy to call these folks my family.  They love us, pray for us, minister to us, rally around us, encourage us, and bear our burdens.

I mentioned a few posts back that this was a BIG year of change for us regarding our daughter, Caroline. 

Since she is in the youth group she attends regular church service with us now.

This has hugely changed our time in worship....especially for my husband.

Instead of singing in the choir, he would pull a few chairs out and sit with Caroline in the back of the sanctuary. Once I would finish singing I would come join them.  We would then spend the next 45 minutes trying to keep her quiet and occupied all while trying to soak up what we could of the message.

One Sunday was decent.  The others were tolerable at best.

She would yell out and try to distract on purpose.
She would kick her legs in her wheelchair stroller just to be belligerent.

We were trying our best to train her to sit quietly through the entire service.   Now she can totally do this.  She just doesn't want to.  Handicapped children are bright and can be highly manipulative.  Just ask the parents of these wonderful kids.  Some of them cannot help it....but my girl can.

She was using this time in service to be disruptive so we would be forced to take her out.

As I fretted and worried and dreaded the arrival of each Sunday God was working this from another angle.

He laid it on the hearts of a Sunday school class to help us out.  This class is made up of young grandparents and empty- nesters.  The teachers of this class approached me and Shep about setting up a rotation and allowing Caroline to sit with a different member of their class each week in service.

I was (and still am) overcome. 

How completely kind and selfless for people well past the kid phase to feel led to help out with our special kid.

Yesterday this officially took place for the first time. 

Shep was able to sing in the choir again.

I looked out from singing on worship team and my heart wanted to burst at the sight.  My Caroline was sitting next to her new friend and grinning from ear to ear.

Shep and I then were able to sit together and listen to the entire sermon without distraction.

I just laid my head on his shoulder and appreciated the simplicity of being able to sit by my man again without worry.  Someone else was officially on call.  God had stepped in and given us the day off.

This is church family.

We may be hypocrites who mess up but there are still moments that we shine with the brilliance of God's grace. 

(May I add that Caroline never made a peep during the entire service.  No kicking of her legs and no yelling out.  She just sat happily next to her new friend and listened like a big girl.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raw Beautiful Joy

I was stumped this past week in bible study when the writer urged me to think about characteristics of God.  Lots of things come to mind when I think of God: holy, righteous, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, grace, mercy and the Sunday school list just goes on....

But the writer talked about Joy.  The verse quoted was John 15:11, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

She prompted us to think about God and joy.

To be painfully honest I was embarrassed...even in front of just myself and God.

Joy is not a frontrunner of thought when I think about God. 

I am thinking that this clearly indicates my pessimistic mindset most of the time. Ouch.

Obviously I am wrong here.

God IS joy.

It is a part of His nature.

Just like I grin at my own children when they do things that are trademarks of who they are....I think he grins at us too.  The way we hold our mouth in deep concentration or the way we prefer certain foods over others....

He delights is us.  He delights in His creation.  He delights in our praise of Him.

He delights often but somehow, if you are like me, you rarely focus on that attribute.

A couple of weeks ago I was slapped in the face by a moment of rare, beautiful and raw joy.

A small group of us had met to pray on Sunday evening.  We had broken off into four separate groups to pray for our church, revival, the lost, and some of our most pressing needs.

In my little group sat a man enduring a trial that all parents fear.  His daughter is battling cancer.  She is 10 years old...beautiful, innocent and eyes teeming with vigor and life.  Her recent diagnosis has rocked our church body.  This family is precious.  They serve Jesus and our church with consistency and without complaint.  A rare combination. 
After our time of prayer I asked him how we could continue to specifically pray for each member of his family. He shared a few specifics with our little group. Then he said these words with a genuine grin on his face and tears standing in his eyes, " I hate that I waited this long to come and pray.  I hate that I waited for her cancer to bring me here.   My faith has exploded over the past month.  I know that God wants to use me as I meet others at the hospital who are angry and bitter over the  touch of cancer."

I pray looking back that my mouth was not completely agape. 

But who cares really?

This man, broken and desperate for his daughter, showed me joy. 

He did not sugar coat the pain that he and his family are enduring.  He did not deny that fear comes knocking often.  His face showed the strain and stress that he carries with him. But he also spoke with hope and resolve, tears and a grin.  Yes~ a grin.  Jesus is His closest companion these days. And Jesus gives joy that cannot be explained or understood.

Circumstances cannot touch the joy that Jesus brings.  That being said I believe that joy is not attainable without a relationship with Jesus.

In the seasons of life when troubles overtake us He alone Is our joy.

There is nothing else. 

No wonder we catch glimpses of unbelievable joy amidst those suffering with pain or heartache.  Who looks to the people who seem to have the world by a string and wear constant smiles? 
When every need is met and life is well and good no one even cares to notice the smiles.

It's the others we study.

We watch the people going through the valleys of despair and thank our lucky stars that it isn't us.  But we watch....and wait...and keep watching.

We want to see real JOY.

And when we do catch them in the moment....tears streaming...and somehow catch that smile that shouldn't be there...we know that Jesus is close by.

 “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.  My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you. " John 15: 9-12