September 30, 2012

It's Gotta Get Worse to Get Better? Well, Kinda. (part 1)

Are you familiar with the phrase, it's gotta get worse to get better?  I was thinking about it a lot this weekend while tackling the bookshelf organization project that has been on my mental to-do list since before Katherine was born.  I believe the phrase came to mind about the time that the floor in front of the shelves was looking like this:

Organizing bookshelves was not looking even remotely organized!  With each shelf I rearranged, not only did I make more of a mess on the floor, haphazardly tossing books in to general category stacks, but I was faced with decisions about whether the book in my hand at the moment was worth keeping and how I'd organize the shelves once I had duds weeded out and firm categories established.

At one point I had to stop to get Katherine from her crib; returning to the project later was so disheartening.  Ugh!  Surely this task would never be complete.  I wanted to close the door to the room and walk away.  Forever.

That wasn't really an option, though, because we kinda need that room!  I had to persevere.  Despite the fact that it sure seemed worse (when I started there were far fewer books on the floor!) some progress had been made, and if I kept going, more progress was coming.  About that time, the truth hit me that although the room was messier, on the whole things were moving forward: logical categories were emerging, there was a growing stack of books to give away, a few shelves even had some books on them ordered neatly by height.  Getting better did not really involve getting worse, getting better involved getting to work.  Maybe the phrase should be it's gotta get uncomfortable to get better, which is similar to the phrase, no pain, no gain, which Colin reminded me of this evening.  So true.

Before I began the book reorganization on Friday, the shelves were OK.  They could have been left alone.  Yet while they were not too terribly arranged, there was such potential with all of those bookshelves, to have it look polished, make books easier to find, and to create extra space for some of our school things, by eliminating books we no longer want or need.

The shelves were OK, but there was such potential!

Where am I going with this anecdote about my glamorous life and supremely fascinating weekend task, you ask?  Well,  you'll have to check back tomorrow to find out!

September 24, 2012

That's My King!

Yesterday, preaching on Hebrews 1:1-2:4, our pastor was talking about Jesus being our King.  He made this statement:
If you have Jesus the King, you have everything.

I've been thinking about it since.

This morning, I was reminded of a sermon I was introduced to sometime in college, and (of course!) you can find it on YouTube.  So for your listening pleasure and your heart's encouragement, I give you SM Lockridge’s, “That’s My King” sermon.  (If you've never heard it, you're in for a treat.)

That's my King.
Is He your King, too?

September 21, 2012

Wrestling with Weakness

There are things about myself that I really don't like.

No, it's not the facial hairs I have to routinely pluck (all the while wondering how awesome my mustache will be when I'm 60), how frizzy my hair can get, or the muffin top at my middle, (though, yes, those annoy me!)  But, no, those aren't my biggest problems.  

What I really despise is the inside ugly.  My pride is mocked and maimed by the daily manifestations of my chronic sin patterns: concern with what others think, arrogant and judgmental thoughts, a quick temper.

Those have been on my mind lately, (by God's grace) not really in a self-loathing kind of way - I sure am thankful Jesus died for all that sin!  But more in a, it-sure-seems-like-it's-getting-worse,-what-am-I-to-do!, kind of way.

This week, my Bible reading schedule had me in 2 Corinthians, and God met me with His word.  Specifically these words of Paul, chapter 12, verses 7-10.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul was God's chosen man to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.  As far as up-bringing, he had a lot to brag about.  But the only thing he would boast in, was the Lord.  Even so, here he mentions the mysterious "thorn in his flesh," which I believe has kept scholars guessing through the centuries.  God gave it to him, to keep [him] from becoming conceited.

He wanted Paul to rely on His grace alone.

According to God's logic, Paul needed that weakness.

That got me thinking about my own weaknesses, particularly the nasty sins that Satan can use to pull me away from grace, to taunt me into believing God neither loves me nor forgives my sin, luring me into the realm of grace-earning rather than grace-receiving.

Paul's affliction could have been anything, I suppose: physical, mental, spiritual, relational, or emotional.  But God was determined to use it in his life to demonstrate His power through a man's weakness, because His grace is sufficient.

Because His grace is sufficient.

In thinking that through, I pondered my own "thorns": my sometimes-debilitating need to please people, my proud, hurtful, judgmental thoughts, my quick temper.  And I wonder, Lord, will you demonstrate your power in my weakness?  You don't even need to take this away from me - which is what I've always wanted in the past - if you'll show your power in my weakness, if somehow, I can be a mouthpiece of righteousness and an instrument of grace and peace in this world, despite all of my ugliness.  Would you be so gracious?  Oh yeah, that's kind of what you do.

So, weakness.  When you hear that word, what do you think of first?  Where might you be challenged to hear and believe the Lord when he says:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

And how will that change what you boast about?

Deep thoughts for the weekend ahead.  I hope you and yours have a good one!

September 19, 2012

My Gram (a repost)

We spent this past weekend in Omaha visiting my Gram and other family members from my dad's side.  It was such a treat and we had so much fun together.  While we were there, Gram pointed out that we were coming up on the first anniversary of her heart surgery.  Today is the day.  Gram is doing so very well; she will, Lord willing, celebrate her 90th birthday on Valentine's Day.  We enjoyed listening to many hilarious and/or touching stories from her younger years, as well as taking in some Omaha fun.  But without further ado, I give you last year's post on this very day.  Be encouraged, friends, the Lord is faithful.  Gram is quick to remind us to trust in Him alone.

Love you, Gram!

From September 19, 2011, one year ago today:

This morning, my Gram will go in for heart valve replacement surgery out in Omaha, NE, my dad's homeland.  I spoke with her last week and yesterday and want to share this part of her story.
with her Pittsburgh great-grandkids Feb, 2010
(Iris joined the crew this year!)

In August, the week before one of her sons was to marry in Chicago, she just wasn't feeling well.  She decided a visit to the doctor would be wise, so nothing happened to her on the flight or at the wedding.  The doctor took some pictures of her chest, looked at them, and came back to ask her which hospital she'd like to go to.  She asks, "When?"  His answer?  "Right now."  What followed was a week in the hospital full of tests, as she had congestive heart failure.  She said getting to the doctor was just the beginning of God taking care of her through this process.

She missed her son's wedding, but an internal heart problem she didn't even know she had was caught.

After the week in the hospital, when the test results were all back, she was presented with her options: let things run their course (her lungs could continuously fill with fluid and need to be treated with meds or other methods) or open-heart surgery.  How does one even make the decision?

She decided to schedule the surgery and had a few weeks to wait for the Sept. 12 date.

Meanwhile, she asked us to pray for wisdom and guidance; was this surgery really the right thing?

She has a couple of children in town there in Omaha, and a few spread out.  One, my aunt Jill, in Alberta, Canada, went down for a visit before the surgery.  When she left, Gram said she laid down on her bed and said to God, "Give me some peace about this decision, Lord."  And five words came into her mind:  My peace, My presence, My power, My protection , and My provision.  And when she "heard" the word provision, she had her peace.  She knew in her heart of hearts that God had spoken to her and that his provision was the surgery.

My dad had planned a trip out to be there over the surgery.  But as God would have it, the surgery had to be postponed due to an infection.  Gram thoroughly enjoyed her visit with my dad and the waiting for the surgery continued.  Another little gift from the Father.

My favorite quote from her on the phone last week was this, "If God's got something more for me to do, then I'll be here a little longer.  If not, then I'll be in heaven."  That's faith, folks, trusting that GOD knows what is good and right, has plans for you, and will see them to completion.  Then yesterday, she mentioned that if she's not able to live alone after the surgery, then she'll just change addresses.  Walking by faith, we can see the possibilities and fear none of them, for we know we have a heavenly Father who is caring for us.

The infection has cleared and this morning at 10:30CT, the surgeons will begin their amazing work of replacing a faulty valve with a healthy one.  And we pray that God will guide them in their work and His will be done in my Gram's life.

And what a life it has been - she has so many stories - a lengthy testimony to God's faithfulness in calling people to trust Him and growing them into steadfast believers who walk with Him all the days of their lives, and one day, through pearly gates onto the streets of gold where there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God!

September 7, 2012

A Reminder, Dear Christian

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 2:21-22

A reminder for you today, dear Christian.

If you have faith in Jesus, God started and sustains that work in you!  You were in the darkness; he brought you into His glorious light.  He anointed you, set His seal of ownership on you, and put His Spirit in your heart, as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Let your heart rejoice in the Lord and rest fully in Him today.  He makes you stand firm in Christ!

September 6, 2012

On Transitions (Part III) -or- Some Thoughts on Hospitality

I've been sharing some thoughts over on the Emerging Scholars Blog the last couple of weeks.  This is a final post in three-part series on Transitions.  I would like to thank Tom Grosh for the opportunity to contribute.  Thanks!

*    *    *

The last two Thursdays I have focused on how to think about life when you’re in the midst of transition and some things you can do to weather transition well. I’d like to direct this final post in the series at those of you who are not in transition, but find yourselves in a place (like, say, the University setting!) where there are new folks around on a pretty regular basis, particularly during this time of the year.
Hospitality can happen at Wendy's!
For seven years, we attended a church in Cambridge, MA that was situated between Harvard and MIT.  Every September, the pews were full of new faces. Every summer, we attended many a good-bye party for those moving on to their post graduate school adventures. There was much joy in welcoming those new folks and much heartache at the farewells. And you know what’s happened to us in Pittsburgh? We’ve joined a church in the heart of the University center of town, practically on University of Pittsburgh’s campus, finding ourselves experiencing exactly the same thing here as we did in Cambridge!
As members of both congregations, the opportunities to practice hospitality (as Paul encourages in Romans 12:13) are endless.  Let's take a quick look at that passage in Romans 12, where Paul is beginning to wrap up his letter and seems to want to get in a bunch of thoughts before closing.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:9-13

Click here  to read on!