Monday, December 29, 2014

When His Deep Calls to Mine

It should be the most wonderful time of the year.  But for many people, including myself, the holiday season brings an unwelcome visitor.  Depression creeps in steals our joy and, try as we might, we can't seem to get it back.  The grayness is oppressive and heavy.  It feels as if we carry the weight of life on our shoulders.  It tugs us deeper and deeper into a storm of sadness and frustration.  But it didn't used to be this way.  I once reveled in this time of year with the gathering of friends and family, warmth and good wishes abounding and the contagious joy.  Then life happened.
I lost my Dad unexpectedly in December 2009.  The pain of his loss left me reeling that Christmas.  The following year in September my dad's dad lost his battle with leukemia and the year after that we lost my grandmother.  Memories of Christmases past haunted me.  Christmases would never be the same without these people.  And depression found a cozy place to stay.  Some days it was so intense that not even the excitement of my children lessened the ache inside.
But this year my holiday squatter never showed.  The boys were bouncing off the walls, we visited family, there was a new baby to play with, we sat with our church family and received the Lord's supper together and it was reverently beautiful.  The season was a wonderful mix of rowdy joy and blessed quietness. 
And then I get the call.
My other grandmother has had another mini stroke and is not recovering well.  Here comes the dread, here comes that sinking feeling and, in an instant, I am drowning in helplessness and fear.  Not again.
I feel like the psalmist in verse 3 of chapter 42 where he writes,
"My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'"
Exactly.  Where are You, God?  Why is this happening AGAIN?  Haven't I had enough?  I was just getting past the depression, my heart was healing and now THIS??  Where. Are. You?
It is then, in that honest wailing, that He calls to me.
Psalm 42:7, "Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me."
With this verse, God reminds me that I am made in His image.  I am cut from he same cloth as the Almighty; I am a tiny, miniscule piece of His majesty.  And because of that link, when He calls my soul responds to Him.  Because He created me from Himself and not just dust, He is the only One that can soothe and satisfy the chaos and self pity that threatens to consume me.  He says that when the world threatens to sweep me away, it is His waterfall that washes over me instead.
The waterfall also reminds me of His infinite greatness.  A single drop of water can't do much but a waterfall can cut mighty canyons from the hardest rock.  A waterfall can move mountains.  That is the power of my God compared to what I can do on my own.  This is God asking me to let Him carry me.  This is God telling me I cannot and do not need to even attempt to walk this road alone.  It is Him reassuring me that He can shoulder what I cannot.
I don't know what the next few weeks and months will hold for me and my family.  I don't know what this development means for my grandmother.  But I know that His "deep" will continue to call to my "deep" and if I rest in His power and trust where His current takes me then I have the promise of the next verse as well. 
Psalm 42:8, "The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life."
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, my friends!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Confessions of a Worship Seeker

I always thought I knew what worship was.  But this past year has changed everything I thought I knew.

For me, worship has always meant singing.  Music touches a place in my soul and brings with it an emotional response.  Singing is how I express my praise.

Or, rather, it was.  Almost a year ago I lost my voice.  I lost my ability to worship as well.  I was angry and seething with bitterness. I would stand in the service while the congregation sang around me and sob.

I lashed out at God, How am I supposed to praise you when it sounds so terrible?! 
God asked me, Do you sing because you love Me or because it sounds pretty?

I was struck.  I had never realized how much my worship depended on the quality of my voice, how much pride was hidden in the talent God had gifted to me.  I never realized how deep the rut ran that I had become stuck in.  Because I focused so much on music and that particular outlet of worship, I didn't know how to worship any other way.
That one incident has sparked a journey for me.  A journey to discover what true worship is and what it is not.

My husband and I are members of a Baptist church that we love.  He teases me and calls me a closet Pentecostal because sometimes I long for loud rejoicing.  I long for uplifted hands and the sounds of people praising the Lord in their prayer language.  My other half finds those styles of worship strange to say the least.  He doesn't doubt their validity or honesty, he just doesn't praise that way.
On the other end of the spectrum I have also been learning about more reverent rituals and services like Ash Wednesday, Lent and the life of Benedictine monks.  I am fascinated by the focus and worship found in quietness.
I have begun to realize just how multi-faceted worship is. It isn't confined to music and it isn't something that can be stuffed into a neat little package.  No single denomination has cornered the market on "proper worship."  God is not more pleased or less pleased with our adoration of Him in its different forms.
True worship is a kaleidoscope of every color in the spectrum that combine to make one shining, brilliant white!  Each form of worship, whether it be exuberant or reverent, is a part of that whole.  And just as we are dazzled to watch the colors in a kaleidoscope roll and change to make new designs, we could (if we let ourselves) be just as awe inspired when it comes to different kinds of worship.
I can crank up Skillet and praise the Lord with a "joyful noise" or I can weep at the beauty and depth of an old Baptist hymn.  Both are true.  Both are correct.  And maybe Skillet isn't your cup of tea.  That's okay!  It's still a part of the same whole.  

The same God that paints a different masterpiece in the sky every morning and evening has imparted to us the same creative spirit.  That creativity craves different outlets and has a need to be expressed as well as a need to be experienced.  When it comes to worship, while here on earth, it will look different because we are all different.  It will be diverse because we interpret God differently.
When we get to heaven, I don't believe we will be divided by worship preference.  We will not find a single Baptist hymnal or Christ Tomlin song (gasp!).  We will be singing, shouting, chanting, repeating the same song...a NEW song!  A song shaped by the innermost part of our being and formed in complete understanding of the Almighty God as we stand in His presence and praise Him!

And it will be reverent and holy.  It will be joyous and jubilant.  It will be complete and perfect.  It will be all the parts finally coming together and making the perfect whole!
   "Then I heard the sound of massed choirs, the sound of a mighty cataract, the sound of strong thunder: 'Hallelujah! The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong!  
   Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give him the glory! The Marriage of the Lamb has come; his Wife has made herself ready'" 
Revelation 19:6-7


Friday, February 21, 2014

He MUST Have Me Around for Entertainment...

If my husband were to walk in the door right now, I would have a lot of (insert voice of Ricky Ricardo here) 'splainin' to do.

Today, I ventured into the realm of domestic diva and attempted to make my own laundry soap.  I had attempted this on an earlier occasion trying the pioneer method of stirring until my arms felt like limp noodles to get all the lumps out.  Eventually I deemed it "good enough" and went on with the process.  Suffice it to wasn't.

So today I decided to try a "no cook" method for the "domestically challenged."  I must say, I took a bit of offense to that title and decided I don't receive that.     

Anyway, off I go to prove that I am NOT domestically challenged with a proud tilt of my chin and a determined glint in my eye.  It didn't last long.

It began with trying to clean the flopped detergent out of the containers they were in.  What I got for my effort was a gloppy, clumpy mess in my sink that bubbles.  Nice.  On the other hand, it did make an alright sink cleaner.

Then I figured out that when I began the process, 48 hours ago, I had separated my bar of soap into two bags instead of putting the whole thing in one bag and inadvertently soaked the soap in 4 cups of water instead of 2.  Oops.  Now what?

I quickly think, Double batch!  I run to my closet and begin to dig out canning jars and THAT requires pulling everything out of my side of the closet to get to said jars.  As I am furiously unwrapping jars and throwing newspaper, I realize it won't work.  I do not have another bar of soap or another 48 hours handy in which to dissolve the soap.


Leaving jars strewn all over and my closet upended, I return to the kitchen.  Finally I decide to dissolve my other ingredients in half the amount of boiling water called for, add my watered down soap and hope for the best.  All went fairly well after that until I managed to get a jar not quite the right size for the blender and narrowly avoided a shower of detergent and glass!  Changed to another jar and blended.  Crisis over.  Whew...time for a rest.

Or so I think.

The phone rings.  It's the school nurse telling me my oldest son is sick and needs to be picked up.  Okay.  I am still in my Tweety Bird PJ's so this is not a welcomed development.  AND I still have to go to Walmart.  (No, it couldn't wait)

Now I'm home with a boy in the bed, jars everywhere, bedroom looking like the closet vomited its contents all over and I sit here blogging in the midst of my mess.  

When my honey gets home he'll get to hear this whole story and we will share a good laugh together.  It's part of what makes being married worth while.  To have someone who will laugh with you and even help clean up a mess or two.

You know, God loves us like that.

We can make some of the biggest messes but He's always there to pick up the pieces.  Even when we can't laugh about it, He's there with strong arms to hold us while we cry.  

Yesterday I ran across these verses and they touched my heart.  Today, shaking my head at myself, I am hearing them again in my mind and it is making me smile.

 "...I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to the dancers of the merrymakers."
~Jeremiah 31:3-4

God loves us with an everlasting and unfathomable love.  You may get irritated, frustrated, aggravated or just plain ugly during the course of a hectic and hair-raising day but remember that the Lover of your soul is always there waiting to embrace you and rebuild you.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Eating With The Sinners

9) As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting  at the tax office.  And He said to him, "Follow Me."  So he arose and followed Him.
10) Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
12) When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13) But go and learn what this means:  'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."  
~Matthew 9:9-13

For about a month now I have been hearing this phrase repeated over and over in my head, Eating with the sinners.  And as I read these words I feel the stirrings in my heart again.  A nagging in the back of my mind or in the depths of my soul that there is something wrong with the way I love.

You see, it isn't that I don't love people.  It is that I show that love in the wrong way.  I give unsolicited advice and worry constantly over the choices my dear ones make.  I warn and I preach and tell them that God has something better for them.  I voice my opinions on lifestyle choices of others loudly and pronounce them "lost."  Without realizing it, I have become what I thought I hated.

Jesus called Matthew in the middle of tax collecting.  Then he went to Matthew's house and hung out with his wrong-side-of-the-track friends.  What do you suppose they talked about?  I can tell you what they didn't talk about.  The Law.  If Jesus had been giving them a lecture on their lifestyle, the Pharisees would have been in the corner saying, "You tell 'em, Jesus!"

Instead they wanted to know why Jesus was disgracing Himself by hanging out with these sinners.  Ouch.  That hurt.  Know why?  Because that is what I am.  A sinner.  I have been forgetting that lately.  I am a sinner.  I am forgiven.  I have been redeemed and set free but I am still a sinner.  

The thing I notice about Jesus in these verses is that He accepted those people, those sinners, just as they were.  He may have talked about the love of God and His grace or He may have just simply shared a meal and some laughs.  But He didn't condemn, He didn't talk down to them.  He loved them.

When I say I am a Christian and called to love others...what does that mean?  What does that look like?  It looks like me having a relationship with others and leaving the judgment up to God.  It means that I don't try to lay the yoke of the Law on someone who doesn't know Jesus.  When I do that, I think I am pointing someone in the right direction but what I'm really saying is, Yes, Jesus loves you, but you need to get yourself cleaned up first.

I don't see Jesus presenting this message to Matthew and his friends.  I see Jesus spending some time just loving on some people that really, really need Him.  Have I loved on someone that needs Him lately?  

I need to change the way I love.  Maybe you do too.  I believe it is something we, as Christians, struggle with.  We don't want to come off as condoning an action so we err to the side of caution and condemn instead.  Friends, that is not what Jesus called us to do.  Jesus says the world will know we are Christians by our love, not our messages on hell fire and damnation.  

I need to get serious about loving people to Christ.  I'm not sure what that is going to mean but I feel sure it isn't going to be easy.  It won't be something I can make up my mind to do.  It will be a change brought on slowly by the Holy Spirit and God giving me plenty of opportunities to practice.  My goal should be to shine a Light, not quench a spark.  

46) "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47) And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do mare than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?"  ~Matthew 5:46-47