Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breaking out of the Comfort Zone

Someone once suggested I become a stand up comedienne. My response was that the job sounded kind of hard, could I be a sit-down comedienne instead?

Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with comfort…you could even say I’m a bit lazy, although I hate to admit it. But, when you think about it, we’re all kind of fixated on being comfortable, right? The number one selling chair in America is the Lazy-Boy recliner. How many of us have stayed at a Comfort-Inn before? When we’re at the end of a stressful day, what kind of dinner do we crave? Comfort food! At night we even slip into our comfy PJ’s and under the covers, also known as our comforters. The "American Dream" might be defined as making a comfortable living, living in a comfortable home located somewhere on Easy Street.

But, consider this…have you ever met anyone who did something great while pursuing comfort for him or herself? Think about all of the heroes of the Bible, they were faced with some pretty uncomfortable circumstances while living out God’s purpose for their lives. Abraham had to make uncomfortable choices, Moses had to face his fear of public speaking, Noah had to put up with years of ridicule from his neighbors for building a boat in the desert. Our friends in the New Testament didn’t have it any easier. Jesus faced the cross, Paul faced Prison, the early church faced severe persecution. If any of these folks had made comfort their priority, think of the much larger blessings they would have missed.

Russ Lee once told me that miracles happen in the places that lie just outside of our comfort zone. I have tested this theory and found it to be true. Therefore, the challenge for you and I is to figure out where that place is, and with God’s strength, to go there and be a part of the miracles He is working.

Do you have a great story about a miracle that God worked in your life that happened outside of your “comfort zone”? Please share it by commenting below.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flaws and All

Michelangelo’s statue of David is arguably one of the world’s most famous works of art. This stunning piece of work depicts in remarkably life-like detail a young, strong David, with stone in hand as he prepares to slay the Giant.

What’s interesting, though, is that the huge chunk of marble that Michelangelo used to create David had previously been rejected by at least two other Italian sculptors. They complained that the marble was full of veins and too porous. It could easily shatter with just one wrong move.
Yet, Michelangelo saw a masterpiece in that highly flawed chunk of rock, and 3 years later, his careful workmanship came to life.

I know lots of folks who believe deep in their hearts that God could not possibly use them for anything important, because they have too many flaws. Maybe you feel this way about yourself. However, this line of thinking sells God short.

The Bible is full of stories of very flawed folks who God used to great things. I think God prefers to use messed up people, because when they are victorious there’s no doubt that God is the one who deserves the glory.

Listen to this verse from 2 Corinthians "'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

So, do not be deceived. God can indeed use you for mighty and beautiful things. Allow him to be the artist, sculpting you day by day from that big chunk of flawed rock into the masterpiece that he sees within…just waiting to be created.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I’m pretty sure that, within the past few years, the town where I live has passed some sort of ordinance mandating that all new buildings constructed within town limits must include a sidewalk along the perimeter of their property. I’m assuming this because I’ve begun noticing spans of sidewalk in front of new homes and buildings even when those stretches don’t connect to any others. They look a little weird, really, these random bits of walkways that lead nowhere.

I’m guessing the sidewalk ordinance is part of a plan to help our town be more accessible by foot, more “walk-able”, and I applaud the effort. It must require some very forward thinking council members to put such a plan into motion. Think about it, the people who got the sidewalk ball rolling will, most likely, not live long enough to really appreciate it’s benefits. Decades will pass before, section by section, all of the pieces connect allowing pedestrians walk around town without ever running out of sidewalk.

It’s kind of like parenting, isn’t it? As moms and dads we are constantly, often tediously, paving the way for our children’s futures. We do so knowing that many years will pass before we see the outcome of our work. It’s often not until our children have children of their own before we can sit back and congratulate ourselves on a parenting job well done. And, some of us may never have the opportunity this side of heaven to see the work we began in our children completed. That’s tough to think about.

But we do have assurance that the work we are doing today will eventually come to fruition. Consider this nugget of parenting wisdom from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I love this verse because it reminds us that the often thankless task of laying the groundwork for our children that we do today, will eventually be rewarded. Those random stretches of sidewalk we lay each day will, someday, all connect.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Woman He Deserves

Ephesians 5:22 & 25
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
My husband and I recently celebrated 12 years of marriage. And, as cliché as it may sound, I am more in love with him now than I have ever been. It helps when you’re married to an incredible guy.

In fact, I was thinking the other day about what a great husband my Alton is, and how awful of a wife I can be sometimes…getting impatient over little things, nagging him when I’m not happy and pointing out his faults and mistakes. You know, any guy willing to clean house, do laundry, clean up after sick kids, and so on, certainly deserves better than that.

Then I got to thinking about what the wife my husband deserves would be like. She’d definitely be beautiful, with a fantastic body. Even first thing in the morning she’d be lovely and sweet. She’d always be patient, loving, quick to compliment and slow to criticize. She’d be an excellent homemaker. He’d come home to a spotless, orderly house and a delicious, hot meal every day. She’d also be a great mother, president of the PTA, an active volunteer in the community and a part-time aerobics instructor to boot.

Get the picture? But instead of the wife he deserves, my husband has me, the wife he got. But, do you want to know the most amazing part of the whole thing? He loves me like I was that other woman! How incredible is that? How Christ-like is that?

In Ephesians, our Husbands are told to love us just as Christ loved the church. We certainly are not the church Christ deserves, are we? We fall so short of that kind of righteousness. But he loves us anyway! So much so that he died for us! I’ll never be the perfect wife Alton deserves, I’m human. We’ll never be the perfect body that Christ is worthy of, we’re human. But in both cases a good dose of submission and endless amounts of grace will go a long way.

Gracefilled but not Graceful

My husband and I once won a gold medal. No, really, it’s true…we won the Gold medal in the couples synchronized swimming at the 2008 Camp Bethel Family Olympics.

I am sure that we did not win because of skill or grace or choreography. No, it was our total and complete goofiness that helped us take the gold. We performed our routine to the song, “Trading My Sorrows” by Darrel Evans, using movements we learned in Kid’s Church. We were over-the-top in our delivery. There are videos circulating and I’m sure they’ll eventually end up on You Tube…I won’t be able to hold off my black-mailers much longer!

Now, Alton and I don’t usually partake in such random silliness, in public anyway. But, we feel so much love from the close friends we have made at Family Camp, that we felt it was OK to step out of our comfort zone. We knew it was safe to just loosen up and have fun, knowing that we would still be accepted no matter how goofy we got. I firmly believe that we all need friends like that in our lives. People that we can show our true, unguarded selves to without fear of rejection. More importantly, we also need to find that level of trust in our relationship with God.

As a believer, can I really present my true, messed up, baggage carrying, soiled, sinful self to God and trust that he will still love me back? Thanks to Grace that answer is a firm YES. Check out the following verses from Ephesians 2: 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

If you have accepted Jesus, you can surely rest easy in the security of His love and Grace. You are His workmanship, His treasure in a Jar of Clay

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jesus, Bring the Rain

I’ve always had trouble singing along with Mercy Me’s song, “Bring the Rain.” And, no, it’s not because I’m such a bad singer. The problem is the lyrics, “And I know they’ll be days when my life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain.”

It must take an incredible amount of spiritual maturity and faith in God to say to Him, “Lord, I trust you enough that if it is within your will to allow pain in my life for whatever greater purpose you may have, then go right ahead…bring the rain”. To be honest, I don’t think I’m there yet. I like my comfortable, happy life. Pain? Not so much!

However, I do know that Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me and co-author of the song, knows exactly the implications of these words. Bart has seen more of his share of rain, including the untimely deaths of his father and his brother-in-law. In addition, his son was recently diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. So, I would consider Bart to be an authority on the way that God uses our painful experiences as opportunities for growth.

We don’t have to take Bart’s word on it...God’s word verifies this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And, Bart is not the only person who has gladly accepted difficulties with a greater purpose of growth in mind. In the first book of Peter, the disciple says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Nobody enjoys trials, but we are all bound to go through them. When we do, let’s turn our eyes to Jesus, asking him not only for comfort, but that he will reveal a greater purpose for our pain. He is Holy and almighty. So, tell me…what’s a little rain?