Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rusty Gold

My husband and I have a guilty pleasure to confess.  It is not anything that is detrimental to our spirits or disastrous for our physical bodies.  It is just wasted minutes spent watching a program where we learn pretty much nil except the value of someone else's junk.  We love to spend late nights peering into other people's garages, basements, and store rooms via "American Pickers". 

The hosts, Frank and Mike, travel around the country in a van looking for valuable recyclables - Rusty Gold.  Their eyes light up and sweat begins to roll off their foreheads when they spy something they can transform from junk to treasure.  Rare bicycles and tin toys or porcelain cafeteria signs and oil pumps incite giddiness between them.  Mike likes to say "I'm just an ordinary guy looking for extraordinary things".

Rusty gold, huh? Their finds are covered in dust and cobwebs and years of grime, neglected  under a bottom shelf at the back of a rarely entered shed.  But they can see through the mud and mire to the beauty underneath.

Does this sound familiar to you?  God slapped me upside the forehead one late night while watching those antique archaeologists dig. I practically heard His voice quietly shouting:

YOU are MY Rusty Gold.
YOU are MY rare treasure covered in sin. 
YOU are MY priceless find.
I KNOW your beauty beneath the grime.

Does the Lord really convict me while watching the History channel?!  Absolutely.  So much so, He began to bring to mind all of my rust obscuring the gold underneath.  Ugliness like PRIDE, FEAR, DOUBT, INSECURITY, and JEALOUSY.  Every sin I hold onto and continue to control adds another layer of funkiness to what God had intended.  Every sin I refuse to surrender and hand over to an All Forgiving God contributes to the gunk accumulating around the beautiful edges He created.  When I resist His desire to transform me into a new creation by living out the old sins, I add an even thicker layer of yuck.

Just as the treasure hunters lovingly clean and restore their precious treasures, my merciful God knows and sees my true value and worth.  He waits for me to surrender so that He may polish away the rust of my pride and fear.  He is ready with His scouring pad to remove my grime of insecurity and jealousy.  My gracious God is ready with his soft buffing cloth to remove my scratches and scuffs of selfish living and ugly ways.

Unlike "American Pickers", my transformation is not neatly wrapped up in an hour. Occasionally, I actually purposefully hide with my filthiness inside a cabinet not to be seen.  But the Lord is relentless in His patient pursuit of my transformation.  The Bible says:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

I rest confidently that regardless of my new dents and dirt I acquire along the way, He will NOT stop His good work in me.  My Father will continue to shape and reform me into His new creation . . ."Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

American Picker's host, Mike, is an ordinary guy looking for extraordinary things.  But MY God is an EXTRAORDINARY GOD perfecting a rusty piece of gold like me.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Stay There Until . . .

I have a 6 year old daughter with a passionate spirit.  Nothing is gray when it comes to her.  It's black or white, perfection or disastrous, sweet or sour.  Absolutely no in between.  She is the gift from God that keeps on giving - challenges, frustrations, laughter, hugs, smiles, and tears.  In her I see a future leader or ring-leader.  I see an amazing woman that God has created to inspire other people to act with vigor and vitality.  She has an infectious smile that lights up her eyes and the room she enters.  She has a heart that breaks at every infraction inflicted upon her by me, her brothers, and her sister.

This girl o'mine is a challenge to home school.  She is the "Why Girl".  EVERYTHING under the God-created sun warrants an inquisitive comment. 

Why is spaghetti called spaghetti?
Why can't I have dessert at every meal?
Why must I brush my teeth?
Why did Abraham Lincoln chop down the cherry tree?  (By the way, this is NOT something we covered in home school!)
Why didn't the slaves just say "no"?
Why can't I wear my pj's to church?
Why did Mary use her hair to wash Jesus' feet?  (She is totally grossed out by this idea.)

Sometimes the questions are a genuine quest for knowledge.  Sometimes the questions are a stalling tactic to delay the inevitable spelling exercises, Phonics (her least favorite), or Math.  I can spot the "I'm-gonna-create-lots-of-distraction-so-Mom-won't-make-me-do-school" look from a mile away.  My general response is genius (not my own - I borrowed the idea)!  I ask her to write down all her questions in her "My Questions Book" and then we will answer them after her school work is completed.  This is two-fold: she gets handwriting practice and has to decide whether the questions are really worth recording. 

As you can imagine, her distraction plans are derailed and the tantrum often comes in on a tidal wave.  The stomping of feet are mixed in with the shedding of easily spilled tears.  The child is 6 1/2,  mind you.  She is sent to her room with the admonition to stay there until she can return with an appropriate attitude.  She'll walk up the stairs wailing the unfairness of it all while imagining in her mind that she is stomping her feet and slamming her bedroom door.

After 20 minutes of a Tantrum Time-Out, she called down to the kitchen:

"Mom, I have a question."

Can that be true?!  Another question even during a disciplinary event?

"What exactly is an Appropriate Attitude?"

That is Priceless!  Here I thought I was providing her with an opportunity to focus on her poor behavior and disrespectful attitude.  I was hoping it would draw her out of the "I wannas" and focus on the task at hand and discovering the joy and freedom we can all feel during the act of obedience. 

I failed.

The child needed to know exactly what I expected of her.  I took the opportunity to lay it all out in every detail, written in my own blood with a smile poorly veiling my frustration.  Now, there is NO excuse for her misunderstanding our expectations of her as a student in this Crazy School of Learning household.

Does any of this ring familiar?  Have you ever wondered around, floundered around, trying to figure out what on God's green earth He expects for you?  What he desires of and for you?  Do you stomp your feet and wail (silently or loudly) the unfairness of it all?  Do you sit in your room waiting to figure out the "Appropriate Attitude"?

Here's the thing - our Holy God has given us everything we need to know, do, say, pray, hope and live for, and die for.  His word lays out a map of His expectations for each of us.  We are only to believe that Jesus is our Lord, our, Savior, our only Way.  And we are to love.  And we are to serve Him.  Every single moment of our day is to honor and glorify Him.  These things are to be done with a heart that desires the freedom and joy of obedience and intimacy with Him. And it doesn't matter if I am flipping pancakes for dinner, pullingweeds, training a child's heart, or evangelizing in Costa Rica.  If it is done with an appropriate God-fearing, Son-worshipping, Father-honoring, Holy Spirit-inspired attitude then it is glorious to Him.

How much more appropriate can you get?

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.   Colossians 3:12-17

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Spinning a Schpiel

Spinning a schpiel, you ask?  You know the people I mean.  You probably have at least one friend that comes to mind when you read "Official Schpiel Spinner".  The type of person that talks on and on about really nothing at all.  Or, talks only of themselves and never stops to take a breath.  Or, if they do stop it is to switch subjects of "me", "Me", or "ME".

I recently met one such person.  She seemed nice enough and normal enough.  She used regular speech and made eye contact.  Her children were pleasant and it all seemed dandy.  Until, the schpiel began to flow from her never-closed lips.  Between the I've-been-there and I've-done-that and I'm-gonna-do-that was a cry of insecurity.  The woman was silently screaming "I'm insecure!"  "I'm lonely inside!".

My first reaction was to cross her off my potential friends list.  I know what you are thinking!  Isn't it ugly to think I have such a list?  I unfairly make a first impression judgement and put potential friends in one of three columns: No Way Jose, I'll Let You Know, or Ding Ding Ding!  What does this say about ME?  Call me a Judgemental Judy - I certainly deserve it!

Although this subject of prejudgement could stand alone (and I will come back to this another time), I'll chalk it up to Pride.  In my mind, PRIDE = INSECURITY.  Pride and its ugly stepsister, fear, are the basis for my own insecurity.  We all suffer from feelings of being less than absolutely, positively, 100% secure.  It may mean we exhibit an effort at controlling insecurity through being a Chatty Cathy, in- and out-of-control eating, smoking, pornography, spending greenbacks, exercise (or lack thereof), and whatever else we can grasp to cover ourselves.

Some of us have actual GOOD reasons for feeling a lack of security: abandonment, abuse, neglect, stressful life changes, death, birth, job loss, addiction, and so on.  But just because there is a reason for it doesn't mean we should wallow in it like a grunting hog. 

Time to get out of the mud, suey!

In So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore, I read the following sentence and was floored:  "I not only lack security, I also lack faith.  I don't just doubt myself, I also doubt God about myself" (p. 18).  Shut the front door!  That really hit me.  I am actually doubting God, the Maker of all that is seen and unseen. When I walk around with the burden of insecurity, pride, and fear heaped upon my shoulders I am dishonoring the Lord and His work in and through me.  What a new thought in my dense head.

The wonderful thing about insecurity? We can pour it all out on the Lord.  Psalm 42:11 says:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Another favorite of mine:

I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set me feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.   Psalm 40:1-3

The Liar above all liars would have us believe that we must tote our insecurities around in a giant suitcase, adding to it each day a new issue or concern.  But as you just read, it is a LIE! We are to take comfort in the Gift the Lord has given us.  2 Corinthians 4:6-7 says "God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness" gave us the ultimate light to shine from the inward out.  We can be on fire with His radiating light through Jesus Christ!  Take a back seat insecurity!

However, I am similar to the Israelites who constantly were faced with choosing God's path or their own.  As we know, they choose their own more times than we can count.  I, too, favor my own way.  I am consistently faced with decisions that threaten to swallow me in a sea of insecurity or choosing the safety net the Lord has graciously thrown around me.  I take comfort in this last verse: God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear. Psalm 46:1-2

Adios Insecurity.  Well, almost.