imperfect is the new PERFECT

Tomorrow marks the last day of my “Give God 5 a.m. for 30 Days” adventure, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give up this unique season of leaning in to hear Him in the morning quiet.  I am reluctant to fly solo and forge ahead in my daily agenda when I have become accustomed to trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the leading I’ve discovered that can only be birthed out of dedicated time and quiet for listening, for prayer, for undiluted and undivided devotion.  Maybe that’s the source of my unwillingness to let go right there – my devotion has not always been pure and focused during these 30 days, I don’t have clear answers to all I was seeking, there is so much unfinished business, and the deepest part of the journey was late in getting started because I stuttered on the way to letting God have His way with me in the randomness of what He was bringing up.

I did all the “God things” making time in the early morning with my Creator, but too often I became disconnected from prayer, listening, the Word, straying into study and reading time, soaking up and lavishing the wisdom of some of my favorite Christian writers when God laid something random and unexpected on my heart – all good stuff, solid biblical advice and direction, but I missed out some days on the leading of the Spirit that only comes from meditating on Scripture, the authority of the Godhead calling me back to obedience found in the truth of his Word, the One true voice that matters most in how I choose to move forward when I take time to listen.  I began to make choices based on what past experience told me to expect, instead of seeking God’s perfect will, instead of relying on His promises, on a  hope that will not lead to disappointment.

In the sheer panic of Day 30 looming, I began to engage full throttle this morning in a concentrated fight to get my life back in line with my priorities, core values, purpose and dreams.  The enemy is being coy with me, disguising what I might easily recognize as idolatry with a less obvious lure of misplaced priorities, affections, interests and loyalties.  I have to ask the hard questions … What is dominating my thoughts and affections?  Where am I investing my time, attention, and effort?

I return to my touchstone scripture passage – Psalm 86.  It is where I go to reconnect with God when I have strayed, when I feel like I have failed or disappointed Him …. as if that’s even possible.  It reads like a manuscript to a play – with a God part, and my part, and it leads me back to Him every time.

1 Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.8 No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
None can do what you do!
9 All the nations you made
will come and bow before you, Lord;
they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
You alone are God.

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
You have rescued me from the depths of death.[a]

14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
a violent gang is trying to kill me.
You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
Give your strength to your servant;
save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.

I prayed that God would send me a sign of His favor, that I would know that in a Pass/Fail grading system, I had not failed this 30-day test.  When I turned to today’s In Touch daily devotion on Philippians 1:12-18, I knew God had designed the perfect Final Exam for me to reflect back on these 30 days.

Paul’s Joy That Christ Is Preached

12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.

Can I say that everything that happened during the 30 days I used as an opportunity to spread the Good News?

13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,[b] knows that I am in chains because of Christ.

Does everyone know I am a Christ-follower?  Is it obvious in my behavior, my language, my heart attitude?

14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers[c] here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message[d] without fear.

Have I influenced others by sharing my story during this 30-day journey?  Have I brought anyone more confidently before God, or encouraged anyone else to share their story, the message God has laid on their heart?  Have I moved anyone out of a fearful stance so they could speak boldly for Christ?

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

There were times I was unsure about the motives of those who posted comments to blog posts.  Some wanted to boost rankings or exposure of their own websites by asking for a trackback to their site, and you all know I received some sexually explicit comments early on as a new naive blogger.  Still others asked for blogging advice or had questions about different aspects of my theme.  I received some comments in foreign languages that I didn’t understand, and I received some incredible insights from some of you that gave me new understanding.  Yet, none of that matters … what matters is that I am sharing Christ in my life through this blog, simply planting the seed and trusting the Lord to nourish it and bring it to harvest when the season is right no matter what kind of ground the seed falls on.  Would any of us doubt that regardless of the intent of some of those obscene comments, God may very well have allowed my message to settle there in that impure heart and begin to stir a desire to know Him?  I know my job is only to be faithful in planting the seed – the rest is up to the Master Cultivator. I have been blessed to be able to share the message of Christ without hindrance and create a forum for others to share God’s glory, too.

So, did I do it perfectly?  Absolutely not!  But I am comforted by Paul’s words in Galatians 3:3 – “How foolish can you be?  After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”  Epic!

For those who have followed the journey, I would love to know if God has spoken to you through a story, a reflection, a question raised for you to think about on the blog.

A new adventure begins Wednesday for me … I hope you’ll join me for the next 40 days of “The Lenten Fast”.

What are your FAQs?

Did you ever think about the most Frequently Asked Question of you?  You know, that question that everybody seems to ask – maybe just in a season of life, or in a particular situation, a chance encounter or planned meet-up, the FAQ that presents itself as often from a stranger as from a new acquaintance or even your BFF?

We had a church community group gathering at my townhouse last night, and one young woman who had never been to my home asked me if I had painted the two opposing living room walls in a dark cinnamon color.  Another woman – who had actually been here shortly after I took occupancy, but hadn’t moved in yet,  asked if the walls had been painted like this when she was here, remembering meeting one summer night in August when the only furniture I had in the living room was a group of folding chairs … she said she didn’t remember noticing the colored walls at the time.

Funny thing is, the week before, I had a friend I had recently reconnected with over for dinner, and in the midst of talking about some of life’s deeper issues and sharing what God was doing in our lives, she acknowledged it was a random question but asked if I had painted the walls the cinnamon color or if they were like that when I moved in.  I can recall one incident after another of first-time visitors to my new house – one of my best friends last September, even my sister from Wisconsin visiting last Thanksgiving … all with the same question.  Seriously, what is that about?  Why does the very same question (about painted walls, no less) emerge from so many people who walk through the door, regardless of how connected I am to them or how well they know me?  What is the significance of who painted the walls?  What is the reason for this line of questioning?  Curiosity?  Skill assessment?  Why is this somehow important for people to know?

It reminds me of my pregnancy with my twin daughters, now 23 years old.  It didn’t matter if I was explaining my relative size to a concerned stranger in the grocery store who was afraid I would deliver in ShopRite or if I was sharing the news that I was having twins with friends or co-workers – the question was the same … Do twins run in your family?  Even my family asked “Wasn’t Grandpa Bill a twin?”

And then after the girls were born, when I’d be out with them in the stroller and strangers would stop to look and chat, the FAQ became “Did you know you were having twins?”  No, of course not.  I thought I just looked like a beached whale because I was eating too much pasta.  Really?  What kind of question is that?  Actually, that one I can probably explain because everyone who asked seemed to have a story to share about somebody who didn’t know they were having twins until they were in the delivery room and Twin B surprised even the doctor.  Was that anytime after the Dark Ages?  Seriously!  What brings that kind of question to so many minds universally?

Okay, you tell me … if you ran into me in the grocery store with 2-year old identical twins in the stroller, what’s the question you want to ask?  If you said “How do you tell them apart?” – BINGO, that’s it!  Of course that probably isn’t as dumb as the FAQ my daughters have been asked their whole lives … “Do you like being a twin”?  Seriously, how would they know any different?  They’ve always been a twin!

So what is it that people are really wanting in asking these questions?  I can’t be sure – after all, I’m guessing I may have asked one or two of you the unique universal FAQ that plagues you … but my sense is that people are looking for CONNECTION.  I think people see something that stirs them, gives them a feeling of pleasure or comfort or joy and there is a natural instinct that kicks in and says “I want some of that in my life” and the question becomes a litmus test for possibilities of recreating that in their own life.  When you enter a room that feels warm and inviting, the question may well be Could I paint the walls in my house to create this kind of warmth? When you encounter an expectant mother of twins, you may wonder Is there a chance I could have twins (or my daughter could have twins) or do they have to run in your family? “Do you like being a twin?” may be a longing to hear “it’s not all that” from someone who bore the loneliness of being an only child and yearned for a sister all of their growing up years.

If these FAQs are about possibility and hope … what are your Frequently Asked Questions before God, the One for whom nothing is impossible, our Deliverer, Healer,  Giver and Sustainor of Life and all things hoped for?  Are they the right questions?  Are we giving God full reign over our lives or just asking Him to approve our agenda, our plan?

And what FAQ are you hearing from God?  Are you listening?

As Christians, we are quick to quote Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. But we can’t stop reading there … the key follows in verses 12 & 13 – In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Will you lay out your FAQs in prayer at the throne of grace?  Will you bring your whole heart to Jesus with open ears and ask him to tell you one more time what he has been asking you to do with your life?

Answers to my FAQs

No, I didn’t paint the walls this rich, deep, cinnamon color – they were like this when I moved in and the color went perfectly with my furniture.

No, twins don’t run in my family.  Plus Ashley & Marissa are identical twins, a fluke of nature and one of God’s truest miracles that a fertilized egg could split in two and produce two perfectly formed beautiful little babies.  Only fraternal twins (formed from two fertilized eggs) run in families.

Yes, I knew I was having twins from about 16 weeks on when I had an ultrasound because I was larger than expected for my due date.

Google Doesn’t Have Feelings

I ran into an old friend at the nail salon, and there we sat side by side soaking our colored gel nails in acetone.  She was soaking off the colored gels, having decided to return to LCN gels, and I was preparing my nails to have Bastile My Heart color gels freshly applied.  I sung praises of the change I made to color gels several months ago – less expensive and less time consuming for bi-weekly “fill-ins” than the LCN gels, while my friend found the color gels to be disappointing – less durable and prone to chipping, though acknowledged as I did the unending quest to save money.  When I mentioned the additional expense of getting touch-up hair color to cover the gray in this season of life, my friend – without hesitation, confidently exclaimed “that’s a necessity!”

I had to agree on an emotional level, but my mind traveled back to what I had just read that morning in Crown Financial Ministries Money Map Steps to Financial Freedom materials about understanding the difference between a need, a want, and a desire.

Needs – these are the purchases necessary to provide basic requirements, such as food, clothing, a job, home, medical coverage, and others.

Wants – wants involve choices about the quality of goods to be used: dress clothes versus work clothes, steak versus hamburger, a new car verses a used car.

Desires – these are choices according to God’s plan that can be made only out of surplus funds after all other obligations have been met.

Okay, so needs are pretty straight forward.  But that word “choices” in both wants and desires is falling suddenly on fresh ears.  I’m not sure I make many actual choices when it comes to my finances – money comes in and money goes out … without ever really touching my hands.  I have no real connection with money in my life – my paycheck is directly deposited into my checking account with a small amount directly deposited into a savings account.  I pay nearly all my bills through online banking, my tithe is set up as auto giving through a regular weekly electronic funds transfer, even ministries I contribute to – sponsorship of two World Vision children, New Life Ministries, Proverbs 31 Ministries – all of my giving is accomplished through regularly scheduled billing to my debit card.  I rarely write a check, and pretty much use cash (withdrawn from the ATM at work) only at the gas station because it is less per gallon than using a debit or credit card.  I use my debit card for almost all day to day expenses – after all, you get a complete list of all your expenditures charged to the debit card through online banking … of course, I never really look at that.

Even Monopoly money seems more real.  Do you remember sitting there with full view of your paper bills in front of you?  Mine were neatly sorted and organized – the ones, fives, tens, twenties, the blue fifties, yellow hundreds, and oh that glorious bright gold $500 dollar bill (if you were lucky to have that kind of money), tucked under the edge of the board.  The Monopoly board gave you a view of your total financial picture at a glance, not just your stash laid out in front of you, but even the potential financial pitfalls up ahead,  like luxury tax or an opponent’s well developed properties with hotels that you were at risk of landing on.  There were no LCN gels or hair color touch-ups to land on, no 30% off at Kohls – the only decisions were to buy or not to buy.  When you landed on luxury tax, you paid – not online, but actually pulling the bills from your organized pile, watching the money pile deplete as you counted out the bills.  The only income was income property, passing go, landing on free parking (oh, what bliss!) … it was a totally cash economy, and the only desire you had was to amass more wealth – more property, hotels, and more money, especially more than what everyone else had.  Is it any wonder that I’m struggling to get control of my personal finances, that I’m spending more money than I earn?  I am completely out of touch, offline with what’s coming and going online.

Any good therapist or coach would ask me “What have you tried so far to deal with the problem?”  Well, let’s see … my sister made a visit out to counsel me about creating a budget and set me up on Quicken several years ago – too cumbersome, too much thinking, a real bore-fest all that detail … I googled (notice how Google has become a verb in this techno world of ours?) Crown Financial Ministries when I heard this was a Christian financial management program (hey, all things are possible through Him who gives me strength, right?) – I’ve got the Money Map book, CD’s, online financial tracking.  But then that got a little tedious, so I went back to Google to look for other Christian financial programs and discovered Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover Workbook” – I like this guy, sense of humor, lots of workbook quizzes and exercises that made it fun … until I got to that detail part again of tracking expenses, figuring out fixed expenses, creating a budget – ooh, I don’t even like the sound of that word.

Dr. John Townsend wrote a great little book called Now What Do I Do? The Surprising Solution When Things Go Wrong – it is a 7-step approach to solving any problem you’re up against, and the first step is a surprising one … Feel What You Feel.  Say what?  I was all about avoiding that detail thing when I pulled the book from my shelf and was happy to have a refreshing start to getting control of my finances when I sat down to read.  Townsend says before digging in to analyze your issue, allow yourself to feel your emotions about the problem in the moment.  Feelings are a valuable source of information, emotions are a signal that tell us something is going on that we need to pay attention to.  Feelings are a part of how God  helps us look within ourselves – so sweet this Jesus of ours.  “When you ignore your emotions, you deplete energy you need to solve your problem.  Attempting to “unfeel” whatever you feel is a huge drain on your energy … God meant feelings to help us search, with himself and with one another, for truth in our innermost parts.”

Dr Townsend suggests spending 5 minutes a day alone thinking about your problem, being open to your emotions, and listing whatever feelings you notice.  He says “This kind of simple focus is a message to your feelings: Its OK.  I want to hear from you. You may be surprised by your feelings, and that’s all right.  You are on a hunt for information.”  I say Let the Hunt Begin!

My 5 minute feelings purge about spending more $ than I earn – UNFILTERED

Anxious, worried that I will blow through all my savings while I continue to overspend

Ashamed I have spent so much of the $ I pulled out of sale of the house already – want to hide financial picture from everyone

Helpless – don’t know where to begin getting control of finances (definitely willing to try this feelings thing)

Afraid I will have to move again this summer, that when I look at my finances honestly I will discover I can’t afford this rent

Resentful that I don’t get paid more in my job

Feeling like I’ve disappointed God, have not used what He’s given me responsibly – why would He give me more?

Convinced that I will make $ in the future through coaching, speaking, writing for God’s glory

Stubborn resistance about giving things up – I know cutting expenses will be painful

Afraid I’ll be judged by  my sister, daughters, others for squandering money

Embarrassed I can’t fully answer the question “where did all the money go?”

Think about the last 5 things you did a google search for … were you looking for information, a how-to, opinions on the issue, maybe articles, even blog posts on the topic?  Funny isn’t it that we don’t really consider the credibility of the search results … unless we don’t like what we read, we just arrow back and pick another result to check out.  Trust me, I know, anybody can create a website, anybody can set up a blog, and in a flash become a searchable expert – there is no credit check, no background check, no reality check that deems you a credible or bogus source of information.

But there is One that we can turn to for direction, there is a source of His promises and truth that we can take up against any enemy, any problem, a Word we can rely on in our deepest fears and our darkest hours.  You won’t find Him online, in a chat room, at an ATM, or by direct deposit – you must come to Him and lay out your feelings at the throne of grace … and that’s just the beginning. 

Feel What You Feel – Will you take 5 minutes today to jot down your feelings about something you’re wrestling with? Will you take your search offline – out of the hands of Google and into the Hands that Hold with David’s cry?  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24.

The Jesus Relationship Project

I came downstairs this morning, anticipating my get-together with God, and with random questions on my mind … How do I greet God in the morning?  How do I say good night?  And what happens in-between?  Do I check-in during the day to see how His day is going, to tell Him what’s going on in mine?

Crazy transition, I know, but my thoughts traveled back to Sunday night when I flipped on the TV to check the track of yet another impending winter storm, and an episode of the drama “Brothers & Sisters” caught my attention.  Paige has a school project caring for a 5 lb. bag of flour as if it were her baby.  Named Joaquin, Paige needs Uncle Kevin to babysit her “flour child” – he takes his duty seriously until it’s time to hand off baby Joaquin to his grandma Sarah (Paige’s mom).  Sarah has other things on her mind and leaves the baby at her own mother Nora’s house, which upsets Paige who is taking her parenting responsibilities very seriously.  She cares deeply about her flour baby, following the rules of the assignment requiring her to get a babysitter for any stretch of time that she could not personally take Joaquin with her, but her mother completely dismissed and disregarded the relationship.  Fast forward to the next day when Paige and Sarah go to pick up baby Joaquin, and we hear a bone-chilling scream from Paige when she discovers Nora’s visiting guest made breakfast muffins out of her flour baby.

Flour baby projects are not uncommon in Health or Life Skills classes for teens these days.  The purpose of the week-long exercise is to teach young people what it’s like to have a baby, to create an awareness that parenting is a 24/7 responsibility, requiring your constant presence, and to help them understand the far-reaching impact a child has on your life.  Now God doesn’t see us as flour babies, but as His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10), He knows everything about us – even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30), and He is with us always (Matthew 28:20), but are we aware of any of that in between Good Morning and Good Night?

I was reading an online recap this morning of what happened on the Biggest Loser last night called “Biggest Loser Parents Throw the Weigh-In to Protect Their Children” – sounds pretty dramatic, doesn’t it?

It was the announcement of an additional Red Line that would automatically eliminate the person with the lowest weight loss. The parents decided they needed to ensure it wasn’t the younger contestants, so that’s exactly what they did.

Irene gained a pound, Jesse three, but nobody could touch Deni. Declaring all of the players her kids, she said she would do anything to protect them and did just that with an eight-pound weight gain.

Such a dramatic silly little news story was easy to respond to – that this woman, Deni, would sacrifice her own opportunity on the show for continued weight loss because she would do anything to protect the younger contestants.  Jesus Christ did everything to protect us, save us from the bondage and penalty of sin – he put his whole weight behind the sacrifice for you, for me.  And still, if you’re like me, I take my daytime relationship with Jesus less seriously, less passionately than Paige looked after her fake flour baby.

I’m just saying …. what kind of Jesus Relationship Project could we create to carry around Jesus all day long, to be attentive to and responsible for our relationship with him, to observe the impact he’s had on our life – heck, of giving us life, a new life in Christ?  Is there something we could carry with us as a constant reminder that He is Emmanuel, God with us, every moment of the day – not just the One we call on when we need Him to rescue us, to heal us, to help us make a decision?  In times of uncertainty or indecision, the question to contemplate isn’t WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) – the question we oughta be asking is What DID Jesus do?

In my post Self-Control or a Matter of Pride, I talked about God bearing down on me to change my heart.  When I got to work that day, someone had left a small chocolate heart on my desk for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve left it there on my desk calendar – each day flipping the page to a new day and replacing the chocolate heart like a weight on the new page.  That little heart is there to catch me every time I start to roll my eyes, to remind me when I begin to think negatively about a co-worker, to stop me when the enemy tempts me to gossip … this little bit of sweetness brings the melody and words to mind Change My Heart, Oh God … and it works!

I’m thinking of all the names and references to Jesus in the New Testament and brainstorming ideas of what I can carry with me in the car, lay down on my desk, pack in my lunch, meet in my laundry room, encounter at my computer …  Here’s some possibilities I’ve come up with so far:

Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) – maybe a knick-knack loaf of bread from the Dollar Store

Jesus is Deliverer (Romans 11:26) – a UPS or Federal Express overnight envelope

Jesus is Lamb of God (John 1:29) – a cute little ty stuffed lamb

Jesus is Light of the World (John 8:12) – a small flashlight

Jesus is Ruler of God’s Creation ( Rev. 3:14) – I like this one because I could buy a gross of small plastic rulers and leave one in the car, one on my desk, one in the kitchen, laundry room, bedroom, study.

Jesus is the Way (John 14:6) – a map or even a GPS

Help me out here – what ideas do you have for “Bringing Jesus to Work Day”?  For “God in the Laundry Room”, for “Find Him on Facebook”, “God in Every Financial Transaction” …?  How do you keep Him on your mind, in your heart, ruling your life from 9 to5 and beyond?

What Kind of Blamer Are You?

“I’m so tired” I whined out loud this morning when I settled into my green chair … I’m sure God was pleased at my cheery greeting – after-all, He’d only been up all night waiting for me to come to Him.  It’s my own fault, I thought, there’s no one to blame but myself.  I was at a meeting and I had proactively set a boundary in advance, saying I needed to leave by 9 p.m. so I could be home and in bed by 9:30 p.m. for adequate sleep time.  But the meeting wrapped up and there were some other important planning issues I needed to talk about with my pastor’s wife … important yes, but still I wonder, why can’t I honor my boundaries set for very good reasons?

That wasn’t bad enough, but when I got home – already past my bedtime, I couldn’t go right to bed …. I had to put on the electric mattress pad to make sure the bed was toasty warm when I crawled in, knowing I would be rolling over at 4:30 a.m. to hit the precious snooze just one time.  So while the bed was heating up, it made perfect sense that I clear the pots I left in the sink in haste to get to the meeting.  Odd, but I felt some strange Forrest Gump-like force trying to wrestle the soapy dishcloth out of my hands, with a resounding “Stupid is as stupid does” …. I knew I was being irrational having to clean the sink, but I just couldn’t let it go.  While I was already operating full tilt in clean-up mode, I decided to check my email to see what I could dispense of quickly, but oh no – there were some Facebook message alerts that seemed harmless to look over.  I tucked myself in bed an hour and a half later than planned, falling asleep to the rhythmic beat of self-blame.  Ugh!

Interesting, I think, that I tend to blame myself for EVERYTHING,  but don’t we all know that irritating somebody that always blames others, or the circumstances in their lives for everything?  What kind of blamer are you?  A self-blamer?  An other-blamer?  A circumstance-blamer?

We are about to enter into the Lenten season, where we speak of Jesus as blameless – does “blameless” mean without blame, nothing to be blamed for (as in did no wrong), free from sin and fault, or does it mean one that does not blame others?  And what is the antidote for our kind of blame?

Genesis 6:9 tells us that Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. And in Job 1:8 the Lord asks Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job?  He is the finest man in all the earth.  He is blameless – a man of complete integrity.  He fears God and stays away from evil.” David sang the song of Psalm 18 to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul, and in verse 23 he says “I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin.”

  • Noah walked in close fellowship with God
  • Job was a man of integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil
  • David kept himself from sin

That’s all well and good – I try to walk in close fellowship with the Lord, to be a person of integrity and to stay away from evil, but I’m really more of a New Testament girl.  Besides, we all know how things turned out for those Old Testament guys.  And while I yearn to conform to the image of Christ more and more each day, let’s face it – seriously, I will never be blameless, so how do I live with and reconcile my tendency to feel responsible for everything that goes wrong?  Even as I raise that question, I feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of a certain arrogance – what makes me think God would have created me to be that powerful, to have responsibility or authority over so much in this earthly life?

My greatest struggle with self-blame has to do with my children, believing every difficulty they have, any disappointment, lack of confidence, uncertainty, or unhappiness they experience in their adult life results from my decision not to follow their father to a job he accepted on his own, and painfully against my wishes.  They had no choice in my decision to stubbornly stand my ground and demand to know that I mattered, that I was valued, before I would make the move, and when that affirmation never came, it was my choice in my personal brokenness – not theirs, that spilled over to let divorce divide our family into two different states that took their father out of their every day life.

I love what Stormie Omartian says in The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children

There are only two ways to avoid guilt as a parent.  The first is to die soon after your child is born.  The second is to walk with God every day and ask Him for wisdom about everything.  I say that walking with God is the better solution of the two.  When you walk with God, you can not only go to Him for guidance, you can also ask Him to set you free from any guilt you feel as a parent.

Maybe you share my struggle and the tendency to blame yourself for everything around you.  Or maybe you’re stuck in a place of blaming your husband, your kids, your mother-in-law, for the way your life turned out because you loved them enough to put their needs and desires above your own.  It might be your job, caring for an elderly parent, unemployment, a cheating spouse, addicted child, illness or depression – some circumstance or situation that is so tempting to blame for the emptiness you feel in your life.

Paul gives us the victory and the antidote in Philippians 1:9-11

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ …

It is in the fruit of our salvation that we have already been made holy and blameless – Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.  As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. Colossians 1:22-23.

Christ has brought us into his own presence, and we are holy and blameless standing before him without a single fault … and all we have to do is guard against drifting away from His promise.  Wow!

Will you come into his presence and stand before the King of kings?  He has already rendered your verdict – not guilty!

Let me bless you with Paul’s final greeting in 1 Thessalonians 5.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Weekly Wrap-up – My “To Explore” List

I don’t know that I can explain my absence from the blogosphere this week.  I only know that my 5 a.m. meetings with God have taken me into uncharted territory, with a randomness that puzzled me and a determination to figure it out that paralyzed me.  While the 1 1/2 hours I spent last week with Him daily was fruitful and directive, the only harvest I seemed to reap in 2+ hours each day this week was unanswered questions, uncertain calls, unfinished business from one day to the next when I was led to yet another unexpected destination.

Can I share with you where my journey has taken me this week?

Doing a daily devotion on 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 focused on spiritual maturity, my eye glanced down the page to Chapter 14 on Tongues and Prophecy.

Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives – especially the ability to prophesy.

Now I have had some experiences with prophecy – situations I would describe as a “sense” or “knowing” in prayer that others have labeled prophecy when a shared word with someone has been borne out to be of God.  But I have dismissed claiming prophecy as a spiritual gift, feeling gifts of teaching and leadership are much stronger and already in use for the Kingdom.  Still, I cannot deny that this sometimes “knowing” never occurred before I gave my life to Christ and was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  But “you should desire … the ability to prophesy”?  I don’t desire it – frankly it scares me!  I’m always unsure whether to share something God has put on my heart with the person involved … what if it wasn’t from God, but just my own crazy imagination that brought the thought to mind?  There are some I have been willing to share openly with about what I am hearing in my quiet time with the Lord, but for most, I agonize over it in prayer for days until the test of time and multiplicity forces me to free myself by releasing it.

The passage goes on to compare the ability to speak in tongues with the ability to prophesy.  Verse 2 tells us that if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you are only talking to God – people won’t understand, but one who prophesies (verse 3) strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.  Verse 4 – a person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.   And in verse 22 Paul tells us that speaking in tongues is a sign for unbelievers, but prophecy is for the benefit of believers.

Well I have never spoken in tongues – actually I have never heard anyone else speak in tongues, and to be honest, I think it might freak me out … but this verse says to me that there is an influence to be claimed for believers and non-believers alike if I were to explore the possibility of a gifting of prophesy.  Do I really want to miss an opportunity to influence others for the Kingdom, to comfort, strengthen, or encourage someone who desperately needs what I may have to give?

So here is what I was left with one day – the clear command in verses  20 and 21 – “Don’t be childish in your understanding of these things … be mature in understanding matters of this kind.  It is written in the Scriptures.”  My question is this – How can I become mature in understanding prophecy?  I would appreciate your thoughts on this, faithful blog readers.

One early morning as I sat in my green chair, I looked across the room to the long window facing me on the wall next to the stairs leading up to the main floor.  It must be 10 feet long with a rounded window on top of the long window covered with a blind.  I noticed the darkness outside through that top window, realizing that if I kept watch during my meeting with God, I would see the morning light of dawn emerge through that window.  I would see more if I raised the blind … that got me thinking – Am I content in my life to just let a little of God’s Light in?

I have already experienced God speaking into the darkness of strongholds I have been battling for years in just the 11 days I have met Him in the pre-dawn hours.  What if I opened the spiritual blind, keeping the window of early morning study and prayer and listening open beyond the 30 days I signed on for?

As I mull that over, I become acutely aware that changed priorities have come out of giving God 5 a.m.  I have watched virtually no TV in this time of rising to meet God so early.  I have had to reorder and maximize the 4 hours I have in the time between leaving work and going to bed for sufficient sleep to support an early wake-up.

It’s funny how God has reframed my motivations and intentions for these early morning meetings.  As I was seeking deliverance from gossip, the Lord has shown me it’s not about controlling my behavior – I am powerless without the Holy Spirit … it’s not self-control, but Spirit-conviction that I need.  And God has shown me that what I need to be praying about is a change of heart – it is my critical spirit, judgmental heart, even self-righteousness and pride that are keeping me all wrapped up in sinful gossip. But when I am able to sing or pray “Change my heart, oh God … You are the potter, I am the clay, mold me and shape me…” there is such freedom, effortless changes in behavior, and a peace I’ve never known.  I just have to plug the pothole of temptation with a rendition of Change My Heart.

In my pursuit of financial freedom, wanting to control my spending so I am not living beyond my means – geez, do I try to control everything or what? – God has shown me that to gain financial freedom I need to face my greatest fears and counter them with biblical principles, to believe that in turning ownership of everything back to God, I can trust Him to provide for my needs, and with His help, to know that I can have financial freedom.  I believe God is telling me that He will not give me additional income through coaching, speaking, or writing – even if it’s to glorify Him, until I handle responsibly what I have already been given.

What has God shown you in the past 5 days that I’ve been missing you?

What have been your AHA moments that tempt you to take a new path?

What do you have on your “To Explore” list with God?

Self-control or a Matter of Pride?

An interesting thing happened this morning – I got my “old self” back …  and I didn’t like it!  Exhausted, I went to bed at 9 p.m. last night and read awhile, asleep by 9:30 p.m.  I gave myself grace this morning to push my AM schedule to a 5 a.m. alarm instead of 4:30 a.m.  I sank into my familiar green chair feeling well rested, almost too well rested, and oddly back to my “old self” – clear-minded, focused, eager to begin my planned time with God.

There is something unique about meeting God at 5 a.m. – I am sleepy, muddled, and “pliable”, too tired to fight God when he switches up the game plan.  I am okay now being the lump of clay and letting him be the potter, I am willing to let him call an audible at the line of scrimmage.  He sees how my defenses are lined up, whether I am the wide receiver in perfect formation to catch what he wants to pass me, or the running back unsuccessfully trying to power my way through some issue or circumstance of my life on my own until I reluctantly have to punt it, giving him possession.

To be honest, I don’t really know how I fell into Job this morning.  That’s one book of the Bible that to me is like a movie you only need to see once – it’s so long and drawn out, all the trials and hardships inflicted on him, all the losses he suffered in the name of testing him to deny God, and we know how it turns out in the end – everything is restored two-fold … it just takes so long to get to the happily ever after part.  I can’t imagine God would ever finger me as he did Job, a servant blameless, of complete integrity, one who fears God and stays away from evil, so I usually look to connect with biblical characters I can relate to.

I have been praying that I can get control of my tongue, that I can resist gossiping, and adding to the gossip that surrounds a co-worker.  Every time I have headed toward scripture passages on the “tongue”, I have been side-tracked or led elsewhere in my morning studies, so I have been trying to follow the convictions of the Holy Spirit at work when temptation arises and just “zip it”.  I started a section in my journal, labeling the page HUNG BY THE TONGUE VICTORY LOG – INCIDENTS OF STANDING STRONG – sadly I have only posted one incident where I reigned victorious in the last week.  I’ve had more success with Plan B – that is to avoid as much contact with this individual as possible so I have nothing to roll my eyes at, nothing to smirk at while I raise a knowing glance to someone around me, nothing to talk about to build a case in my mind, but it is so tough not to stand in agreement with others who come to my desk to ask if I heard about the latest bit of incompetence, irritation, or failing she demonstrated.  I am trying my hardest to control my tongue, but I’m held captive by my thoughts, and not speaking what’s in my mind doesn’t take the thoughts away – it only frustrates me deeper.

So here I am in Job and verses start to lay something entirely new on my heart.  I’m trying to skim, but each time I read something that resonates with me, I have to go back and let the story unfold around it.

And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.  (35:12)

But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. (36:17)

Then the Lord said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?  You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

I begin to feel that it’s not deliverance from gossip or the tongue I need – I have a pride issue and God is dealing with it …. oh boy!

IF WE COME TO PRAYER WITH PRIDE AND CONDEMNATION IN OUR HEARTS, WE’LL REMAIN ABSOLUTELY UNCHANGED.  -Kevin Goins “The Prayer that God Hears”

Does that hit you like it does me, like a Mack truck just rolled over you?  I need a heart change, not self-control or avoidance … “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” is not on the spiritual road map out of this affliction of mine.  Before I compare my co-worker to myself, to see all I do right and all she does wrong, maybe I need to see myself in comparison to Christ – whoa, now there’s a great divide!  But isn’t that what I’m after in this spiritual journey of mine, to conform to the image of Christ, to become more Christ-like?  If I turn my struggle with this co-worker into a prayer request before God, but don’t change my condemning spirit, my critical heart, surely God knows that nothing but the packaging has changed.  And He’s not having it!  God is calling me to surrender to him, and not just me, but my relationships – he will not surrender to me.

Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop say it this way in Transformation

When we obey God outwardly, but allow our minds and hearts to remain unsurrendered, it’s only a matter of time until inward disobedience becomes outward sin.

Help me, Lord God, to surrender my heart and mind to you.  Take captive my motives, intentions, thoughts and self-righteousness, and release me from this human bondage with a changed heart.  I surrender all my relationships to you, especially my relationship with this co-worker.  Let no comparisons arise within me unless I am bold enough to compare myself to you, Christ Jesus.  Change my heart, oh God.

You Tube – Change My Heart Oh God

Are there even people on my prayer list am I praying for after I’ve had some thoughts or judgments about what they should do or how they’re wrong?  Shamefully, yes.

If I’m running my prayer request for them through my critical spirit shredder first,  what’s left of the prayer request when it reaches God?

How about you?  Are you screening your prayer requests for God?  Are you shredding any with your critical spirit?

Misery Loves Company – and Jesus did too!

When I ventured on this “Give God 5 a.m. for 30 Days” journey, I was expecting this month to be a magnified version of the focused, purposeful, and laser-sharp audible connection I seemed to have with God last month when I was doing The Daniel Fast. Oh well, we plan – God laughs!

Only the thing is I’m not really thinking of the Lord, the love of my life, right now as My Funny Valentine.  I was planning on changing my Facebook status to In a Relationship because I am just so about loving Jesus right now, but in the 6 early mornings I have spent with God so far, I have felt distracted, redirected, disturbed, unfocused – or as my good friend journeying with me said “all tangled up”, and completely out of sync with what I wanted to deal with in the morning quiet with my Maker.

Some days I have not gotten beyond my prayer list in the first hour of meeting with God because He puts something entirely unexpected on my heart – a scripture passage I have to check out, a random thought that comes out of nowhere and takes me on a mental sidetrip (trust me, I’m not talking about a blissful destination wedding here) until I have to stop and ask the Prosecutor where this line of questioning is going.  Seriously!  Do we really need to go back to that time 5 years ago?  I have some real-time issues I’m trying to deal with here, Lord.  I start down one path and then think of, or read about, something that opens a door – or sinkhole – to a completely different issue.  God is pulling relationships and situations out of my COMPLETED file and throwing them back in my INBOX for me to look at again, but I’m wanting to get to work on the stuff in my PENDING folder that I could really use some Spirit-led direction on, so I’m feeling frustrated, disorganized and almost disoriented in a morning discipline that used to be comfortably routine, polished, and intentional.

You can imagine, then,  the “joy of the Lord” (Nehemiah 8:10) that came over me this week when two of my sisters in Christ, doing the 30 day morning meetings with God, shared in separate emails that they were also feeling discombobulated in their encounters with the Lord.  God’s mercy – of the misery loves company kind, didn’t end there … I was anointed with the “oil of gladness” at breakfast this morning when two other sisters on the adventure had their own unsettling stories to share about being led to strangely unexpected  places or left to rework incidents in their past instead of the future they wanted God to reveal.  Yes, it was like a remake of the 2002 comedy-drama  Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood except we were acutely aware that the blood oath of undying loyalty was not between us, but taken and sealed by our Savior Jesus Christ that we might be redeemed … even for the things our Heavenly Father was stashing back in our IN boxes.

Still battling exhaustion because I am not getting to bed early enough at night to support a 4:30 a.m. alarm, I was determined yesterday that I was going to get into the Word to start looking at passages listed in the Concordance under BODY because I want to honor God with my body … a bit of a caveat here since my commitment to meeting Him at 5 a.m. means I’m not getting enough sleep at night and getting sufficient sleep would certainly be God-honoring.  I decided to start with Matthew 26:41 –For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! I’m assuming I don’t need to explain the attraction to this verse.

Always tough to come in after the story has started, I went back to verse 37 where Jesus takes James and John into Gethsemane, and scripture tells us he became anguished and distressed.  He tells them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.” Our sins (my sins) grieve the Lord deeply – they crush his soul.  But in his anguish and distress – in his misery, he took the disciples with him, he wanted company – he didn’t go it alone.  He shared his burden with the disciples and asked them to keep watch with him, to be present, to walk beside him.

I’m asking myself – Do I share my burden with others or go it alone?  What about you?

Do we invite others into our grief, heartaches, the brokenness we sometimes feel?

Who can you ask to “keep watch” with you?  For me, during this journey, it’s my friend Margie who I asked to be my prayer partner.  She is praying for me daily as I meet with God and is ready to receive my 911 calls at any time to pray for specific needs or struggles that emerge unexpectedly, even to thwart unanticipated doubts planted by the enemy.  And it is my privilege to pray for her and the desires of her heart in this season of life, to listen to her struggles as she listens to mine.  If you are part of the ya-ya sisterhood of morning meetings with God, please girlfriend – if you have not already, reach out in full transparency of your need and ask someone to be your prayer partner today.  If no one immediately comes to mind, ask God to show you who He has chosen to walk beside you.

I have an odd curiosity sometimes about what the Bible doesn’t say.  Like after Jesus tells James and John that his soul is crushed with grief and he tells them to stay there and keep watch with him, Matthew doesn’t tell us how the disciples responded.   We know something of how they responded in later verses – they fell asleep, but don’t you wonder what they said when Jesus shared his grief and told them to keep watch?  How would we have responded in James or John’s place?  I’ll pray for you?  What are you so upset about?  What’s going on?

How do we respond when a friend, vulnerable and broken confesses their need for a good friend to walk beside them?  It is all too easy to say “I’ll pray for you” (I know because I do it all the time) or to ask questions to get the whole picture in front of us so we know what we’re dealing with when we try to fix their problem (I’m gifted in this area, too).  But I think what God is asking us to do – as Jesus asked these two Christ-followers, is simply to stay present, to be there, stand in the gap, to love that person in need right where they are – not to pull out the “prayer card” to remove ourselves from the uncomfortableness of the watch, and not to find a fix that makes the watch unnecessary, but simply to listen and to keep watch.

Paul tells us in Galatians 6:2 – Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Are you willing to enter the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch with another without falling asleep?  Who will you take along to the olive grove to keep watch when your soul is crushed with grief?

Fear or Excuse – What’s Holding You Back?

When I decided to give God 5 a.m. for 30 days, I did the same prep work I suggested all of you do before beginning the adventure, beginning with answering the question, “What are my fears and doubts about making this commitment?”  I really hope I’m not alone on this, (someone please tell me I’m not!) but every fear I listed begins with “that I’ll fail” – that I’ll fail at keeping my commitment to meet God at 5 a.m. for 30 days, that I’ll fail at gaining freedom from the strongholds I want to break, that I’ll fail at hearing what God is calling me to, and worse than anything (in my mind) – that I’ll fail to follow through in obedience where I clearly know the Holy Spirit is leading me.

I panicked when the alarm went off at 4:50 a.m. this morning – I must have hit the snooze at 4:30 a.m. and then again at 4:40 a.m. without even realizing it, so now I only had 10 minutes to do my stretching exercises in bed, brush my teeth, wash my face, and get downstairs to grab coffee and park myself in the green chair to meet God at 5 a.m.  Even as I stretched my back with abbreviated moves, I was chastising myself – okay, here I go, it’s only the third day and already I’m messing up, I knew this would happen … here comes that slippery slope.

But, seriously – was I gonna be struck by lightening if I wasn’t in the chair ready to go exactly at 5 a.m., was the merciful God I had been meeting for the past 2 days gonna let me trip down the stairs as I dallied with disregard for the time, would He really put the CLOSED sign on the door if I arrived to meet Him 10 minutes late?  Oh, good, I caught myself from a neurotic tailspin – a little self-administered grace brought me to my senses.

I was so tired – that’s why I was late getting up, and it was so cold in the house and the bed was so warm.  I went to bed too late last night – if I can just hold on till Saturday, I don’t have to meet girlfriends for breakfast until 10 a.m. so I can catch up on sleep then.  Oh no, WRONG … I have to get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday, too – are you kidding me?  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the self-administered grace that brought me to my senses had also let the enemy in, and he was having his way with me, giving me every excuse to back off of my commitment – I’m tired, I’m cold, I need more sleep to focus at work, I wanted to hear my friend’s lecture last night – otherwise I would have been to bed earlier, …

Did you know that some of the most respected people of our time and in our history achieved success against the backdrop of multiple  failures, and amidst a pool of circumstances that could have easily been used as excuses?

  • Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace while living in a small house with his wife and 13 children.
  • Walt Disney was a failed, bankrupt, small-time ad man before he pursued the vision of Disneyland.
  • J.K. Rowling was unemployed.  Her first Harry Potter book was rejected by twelve publishers.  It was eventually purchased by the relatively small Bloomsbury in London, only because the CEO’s daughter begged him to print it.
  • e.e. cumming’s first book of poetry was rejected by 15 publishers.  He self-published it, dedicated it to the 15 rejectors (don’t you love that?), and became one of America’s greatest poets.
  • Crippled by depression, self-doubt, and living in a cruelly sexist era, Mary Anne Evans changed her identity to George Eliot and became one of the most beloved English novelists of all time.
  • Abraham Lincoln lost multiple jobs, went bankrupt, and failed in numerous bids for public office before being sworn in as the 16th President of the United States.

So, I’m going to let my excuses stop me now?  Really?  I’m reminded of something Andy Stanley said in The Principle of the Path – “Direction – not intention, determines destination”.  It doesn’t matter that I intend to meet God at 5 a.m. – it’s the direction I move in, the steps I take, that determine whether I end up where I want to be at 5 a.m.

But even if I dismiss the excuses, what about my fear of failure?  Where does that even come from?  I am beginning to recognize that so many of those fears are tied to a sense of powerlessness, deeply rooted in childhood, and in some of the uncontrollable losses experienced in my adult years – and it’s that uncontrollable piece, what I try to control, but can’t, that feeds the powerless disorder further.  We may be powerful in some areas of our lives while out of control in our compulsive behaviors.

Try doing this exercise with me – in your journal write across the top of a page Areas of my life I am powerful and list areas of your life where you feel powerful.  Then write down Areas of my life out of control with compulsive behaviors and list areas of your life where you experience powerlessness that results in compulsive negative behaviors.

Areas of my life I am powerful – this in itself is hard for me to acknowledge – it feels braggy or boastful to me to acknowledge that I hold power in any area of my life.  But if I think of it as INFLUENCE instead of POWER, I am able to acknowledge (still a little uncomfortable) that I have influence in my church, in my Christian Life Coaching practice, in my community group, even in blogging.  Interesting, isn’t it, that all of the areas I feel a measure of influence in are God-appointed, Spirit-led, ministries and relationships I didn’t ask for, but yielded in obedience to what I felt God was asking me to do?  Every area of my life where I have influence is where God has given it to me – not where I took control, not because of something I did.

Now the flip side – those areas of my life out of control, where I feel powerless, where I repeat the same negative behaviors over and over again – why can’t I address my finances once and for all, and live within my means; why am I so often “hung by the tongue” unable to resist gossiping with my co-workers; how many visits to the chiropractor for lower back pain will it take for me to really get that God is waiting for me to treat my body like the temple of the Holy Spirit instead of a frat house, and do what I need to do instead of waiting for Him to heal me completely?

The cost of not admitting my powerlessness before God has already caused me to lose some of the good things my life has produced – like my marriage, and I know that stubbornness has the capacity to infect and destroy so much more of what God has planned for me.  I am ready to face the losses, admit I cannot make it on my own, and rely on God’s mighty power to begin to grow again.

What are the areas of your life where you are powerful, have influence?  Where does the power come from?

What areas of your life feel out of control, powerless?  What will you do about it?


50 Ways to Walk Away from God

I was surprised in this week before Valentine’s Day – when love is in the air and red hearts decorate windows, floral ads and heart-shaped chocolate boxes flood online advertising space, stuffed animals boasting plush red warm & fuzzy hearts line shelves of drugstores, supermarkets … to hear”50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” on the radio countdown of #1 songs over the last several years.

“The problem is all inside your head”, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

She said it’s really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

She said it grieves me so to see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again
I said I appreciate that and would you please explain
About the fifty ways

She said why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight
And I believe in the morning you’ll begin to see the light
And then she kissed me and I realized she probably was right
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

When I settled into my green overstuffed chair this morning, with Bible, journal, my “plan” for meeting God, and coffee at 5 a.m., I felt a little disoriented.  I was sitting in the same place, the Contemporary Christian music cable channel was on, and I had all the familiar things around me that are usually part of my prayer and devotion time at 6:30 a.m., but my mind felt cloudy and I was unsure where to begin.   I heard the refrain “My Help Comes from the Lord” … oh, right, good place to start – let God make the first move in this early dawn.

Well, okay, that wasn’t happening, so I turned to my “go-to” verse in Psalm 25 –

4 Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

I’m not sure why, but something made me look to the beginning of the Psalm –

1 O Lord, I give my life to you.
2 I trust in you, my God!

I give my life to you … have I given my life to the Lord?  Is that what I’m trying to do now in this 30 days, to give Him my life utterly and completely?  It’s 5 a.m. – you won’t get an argument from me, Lord!  But that next part … do I need to trust in you to give you my life?  Even in my muddled thinking, I was able to understand that surrender and trust go hand in Hand … I don’t know, I might be with “Jack” on that one, trying to “slip out the back”.

Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Who are my enemies?  Most times, I’m my own worst enemy, disgraced by my own failings that I don’t really want to let others see … “You don’t need to be coy, Roy, just get yourself free” – like maybe I ought to believe No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced (v. 3).

6 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
7 Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.

Yes, Lord, if we could just forget about my past … I don’t really think we need to be talking about those years of rebellion from Your Ways – I’m with you now, Father.  Hop on the bus, Gus – you don’t need to discuss much. Or maybe now it would help if I came to you with full confession, with my heart breaking for what breaks Yours, confessing especially my need for You because I keep getting off at the same “bus stop” in life and it’s just not working.

8 The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

How many times have I been Stan – just make a new plan when Dr. Phil asks “how’s that working for you?” and I know my life plan isn’t working at all?  Lord, let me lead my family, in my job, in my church, my community according to Your plan – not my own new idea, and with unfailing love and faithfulness -that means not dropping off the key, Lee, when the love’s not returned or things get tough.  I need your Leading, Lord, to see your faithfulness.  Let me stand in obedience, show me Your demands, what You want from me.

15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.

Keep my eyes on you, Lord, so the enemy cannot work his evil ways and create doubt in me about what I can do through You, my Hope, my Redeemer.  Fix my gaze on You alone when I set about to do Your work, and let me work with integrity and honesty that are worthy of Your call on my life.

Why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight
Because I believe in the morning I’ll begin to see the Light.

And then He kissed me and I realized Psalm 25 was right – The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

If there are 50 ways to leave your lover, there has got to be at least that many ways to walk away from the One who loves us so extravagantly.

Which one are you – Jack, Stan, Roy, Gus, Lee?

What’s your part in the refrain  … how do you walk away from God?  Let me get us started on our “chorus of confession “- I’ll be waiting to hear what you struggle with most.

Just take your eyes off the prize, Suz.