Who am I…..?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me…when I call?” The words to the popular song rang through my head today. Really. Who am I? Some days I’m so busy I’m not sure who I am! Why on earth would it matter to God Almighty when I call on Him? How does he hear us individually among the clanging throng of voices sending up our heartfelt pittance of praise as an offering and our constant requests? It’s humbling really. I picture this giant stadium, the size of let’s say….uh…Earth! And in the center of this stadium, around the 50 yard line, is God himself, or this incredible illumination that we know is Him, but like so many in the past, we cannot see His face. And everyone is yelling out at once. Occasionally you can pick out an “I love you!” amidst the screaming stands. Occasionally you hear a few singing together as an undertone while the crowd just roars. And then, as the rows part around me, it’s as if suddenly there is quiet, and my small little self is suddenly put on the spot and I hear myself struggle out a single word in a puny voice, “JEESUSSS?” and I realize he’s listening just to me. Yet, it seems the scene is repeated over and over for everyone in the stadium. I notice that it’s not just me standing in a parted aisle, someone else is in a parted aisle, and someone else in yet another, and everywhere I look each person is alone and He is paying attention to every word they say…all at the same time. His ability to focus individually on everyone is amazing! And when we are each done, we sit down and in total, the stadium is silent. Can you picture it?
Sometimes it’s difficult because we can’t get past the one in a trillion people part of the picture. We feel like the aisle will never part and it will never be our turn. Or perhaps our sense of worth is such that we think only those who are special or spectacular will be heard or have a chance to turn the ear of God.
At one time, when Jesus himself walked among us, in the days He dwelt with man on this earth, there was a woman who felt much like that, I’m sure. She didn’t feel worthy, she didn’t think she’d ever get her moment in the spotlight to tell Jesus how much she trusted Him, how much she believed in Him let alone ask for His healing touch. She could feel the mob of people screaming His name, calling out to Him, asking for help, asking for blessings, asking for wisdom. And there she was, a self-degraded person, who was considered unclean by everyone else as well, a woman who felt like even touching him without a word was good enough.
“As Jesus was on His way, the crowds almost crushed Him. And there was a woman there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched Me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched Me; I know that power has gone out from Me.’ The woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed. Then He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace’” (LUK 8:43-47)
The stadium was full wasn’t it, per se? The throng of people following along with him. She knew she couldn’t yell out over them and have anyone pay attention to her. She was worthless, she thought. Even though she’d have loved to have Jesus’ undivided attention, she knew that no one would ever just notice her other than to push her out of the way in their excitement to follow Jesus. So she stealthily worked her way through the crowd with complete faith that just the touch of Him would heal her, even if He didn’t know it. But it didn’t work quite that way. Oh she was healed alright. But then, as I picture it, suddenly the crowds parted and there she was, from the safety of His shadow to directly in His line of view….the crowd is quiet…and He peers directly at her….”who touched Me?” She has no choice but to speak. “It was me. J-E-S-U-S!” she proclaims in a hushed way as she falls to her knees. She tells him what she has longed to for so long and how she has instantly been healed. And He sends her off, healed as a direct result of deep faith.
He noticed her. He didn’t even need her to answer when He asked who touched Him. He noticed and He knew. Just as He notices you, just as He notices me. And no matter how many times a day we find ourselves in that world of a stadium, every time we call His name, the aisle parts and He hears us, “J-E-S-U-S?”
“Who am I that He is mindful of me? That He hears me when I call?” I am His..

On Assignment

An Assignment
Any time I leave for any reason, I usually leave the kids a list of things to do while mom is gone. The reason is two-fold. First, it’s always frustrating to come home and find that the house has gone backward and things are messier than when you left. But also, if it works as it should, it keeps the kids focused on their chore, rather than getting into scrapes with each other. And, yes, that happens at our house. Just the other day I came home to hear the woes of a couple of the kids who’d gotten into an argument with one another. One went to turn the TV off on the other, another shoved the ottoman forward to stop her in her path, and unfortunately, instead it tripped her and sent her flying into a low table, only inches from my son’s larger television. Phew! Close one! But it happened because no one was doing what was on their list and they were sitting around watching television instead.
Everyone knows that having a plan is always better than having nothing. Ask anyone who starts a business. Most businesses that fail are said to have never had a business plan in the first place. Just like without a map, it’s often hard to know where you’re going and how to get there. We need a plan, we need a direction. I like when I have a list to check off too. I like when I know exactly what is expected of me and that there is a set path to getting it done.
The thought of always having an assignment and knowing what to do for the rest of my life would be very reassuring! No guess work! Well, recently it seems my studies have taken me to I Peter 2 over and over again. Whether it’s the one I lead, or the one I attend to, or even my own study at home, it seems lately, I have read I Peter 2:1-4 over and over and over. So last night I decided to back up. I decided to go back to 1 Peter 1 and start from the beginning. And right off the bat, I was struck by a thought that really never occurred to me before. I read it in the NIV to start and then again in a paraphrased version called The Message. Check out the versions:
From The Message: “I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!” I Peter 1:1-2

From the NIV: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” I Peter 1:1-2
I love how The Message describes Peter as on assignment by Jesus! I had to look up in numerous places the definition of apostle to learn where this claim of assignment came from. An apostle was someone who was given a specific job, in this case to spread the gospel. Even Jesus was referred to as an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. He was sent by the Father with a specific assignment…to save the world!
What a cool thought…on assignment from Jesus. I want to be able to say I have truly been assigned a job by Jesus! I can think of tremendous benefits by having such an assignment. Like my kids, when I leave a list for them, I have to think I am far less likely to stray into wasted time and wasted efforts if I’m focused on an assignment. I love the idea of knowing what is expected of me. It makes achieving it possible. The other idea that is encouraging to me is knowing that no one gives someone an assignment that they don’t think they can complete. If Peter was on an assignment, an apostle, for Jesus Christ, Jesus had full confidence that Peter could complete the assignment or He wouldn’t have given it to him.
We all need an assignment. Truthfully, we have already been given lots of them:
“Seek first the Kingdom of God…” Matthew 6:33
“Love one another…..” John 13:34
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel…” Mark 16:15

The list is huge! Peter’s assignment was quite specific. It’s easy to think, all those other assignments for us from Jesus are broad, how would I know what my specific assignment is? I really believe when we are in the word, when we pray, and spend time with God, we’ll know what our specific assignment is. It’ll be a tug in your heart, it’ll likely put your spiritual gifts to work, it’ll either present itself, or when you present it to someone else, you’ll feel confirmed in knowing what that you have an assignment that you are fully able to complete. If you don’t know your assignment, if you’re waiting….take it to Him and ask. Because if you start with all the directions He’s already given, “seeking first the Kingdom of God, loving one another, going into the world and sharing the news of the Gospel” your specific assignment will likely come into view very quickly! And now….I’m off to give the kids their assignments for the day!

What are you waiting for?

When God calls you to something, you are as qualified as you need to be at that very moment to just “GO!” God would never send anyone anywhere if they weren’t what He needed for the job at that moment. Surely, we learn along the journey. But not being qualified should never stop us from answering the call with a resounding “YES!”

Leading up to it….Moses Part 1

Have you ever had people in your life who keep repeating the same mistakes over and over?  You know you have. For example, hardly a family isn’t touched by the life of someone they know who is addicted to drugs these days.  It’s heartbreaking to watch them repeatedly recover and then fall back into it again.  Your heart aches for them to just progress past this point in their lives.  Maybe it’s that lukewarm kid who just can’t seem to get over the hump of complaisance in order to begin to thrive.  Maybe it’s a husband or wife with destructive attitudes.  Maybe it’s you…..maybe that spending  just doesn’t ever seem to stop, even though you fully intend to.  Maybe it’s an emotional need that you just can’t seem to fill up and so you constantly battle feelings of inadequacy ….or maybe it’s even forgiveness and you just can’t get there and let it go.  There are so many strongholds in our lives that I guarantee you either are or know someone who continue to repeat detrimental behaviors  over and over.  It’s so frustrating to be a part of someone’s life who does that.  And in most cases, all the tools are there to move past whatever the problem is.  That thought was on my mind today when I picked up my Grandpa’s old Bible.  I was cleaning our room and came across his very old battered large print edition, (in fact it says GIANT print), traditional King James, red letter edition, black leather bound, front cover missing Bible.  I debated whether or not to throw it out as I cleaned.  We have plenty of Bibles.  We have them even in good condition!  Why on earth would it be wrong to throw this one away?  Have you ever tried to throw out a Bible?  It feels AWFUL!  I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment and pondered this book of a very humble, deeply committed Christian grandfather.  He was a man of incredible integrity who felt deeply, and I mean very deeply, all the scripture in his heart.  I opened his beat up old life manual and looked through it.  The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to read this GIANT print!  Having gone to needing reading glasses over the last couple years, it was absolutely refreshing to be able to read without difficulty the words on the pages.  The other thing I noticed were all his carefully written  sermon notes.  He detailed everything that he listened to, all the points that were important to him, and it looks like he BOXED all the main points.  I remember as a little girl in church sitting next to him and watching him quietly reach into his lapel pocket and pull out his CROSS brand silver pen and pencil to make his notes.   He gave the sermon all his attention every Sunday, and his Bible is proof of that.  The book itself is a legacy of information from both my Heavenly Father and the man who functioned as my father in life.  I made the decision to save this Bible and in fact, was drawn to it again this morning when I  woke.  I opened to Exodus 3 and began to read again the calling of Moses.  I think so often of Moses and how strong and mighty and important he was in the history of God’s people, the Israelites. We love to tell his ‘ humble  beginning’ story to our children.  I saw more flannel graph stories of Moses in the bulrushes  than probably any other growing up.  I still marvel at God’s incredible intervention in  Exodus 2, allowing Moses’ mother to tuck him into a little handmade ‘ark’ and set him afloat down the river, only to be found by the ruling Pharaoh’s daughter.  And then to have Moses’ sister offer Pharaoh’s daughter a woman to nurse him and care for him, actually Moses’ own momma, and get paid to do it!  Not only did God provide for the wonderful care of this little man, but he arranged that Moses’ family received wages to do it, and I’m sure it offered them physical protection as well!  How cool is that to provide for the eventual call of Moses before he even knew his foot from his hand let alone his calling in life!!  He grew up in the palace of Pharaoh and knew that dynasty inside and out which would later help him in his efforts to free Israel.  There’s more I’d like to say about Exodus 2, including whether or not Moses’ slaying of the Egyptian cost him an easier way of freeing the Israelites, but I’m anxious to tell you what this old Bible flashed in my face this morning from Chapter 3.  This is the story of Moses and the burning bush that we tell our children or see on the film from ages past.  I found it interesting that when God called to him, he answered “Here am I”.    I know that would not have been the first word out of my mouth.  I would have said, “Who are you!?”  But apparently he knew in his heart who was speaking to him, after all Horeb was the ‘mountain of God.’  I like that God told him to take his shoes off.  Really!  You’re talking to me out of a bush and you want my shoes off?!  God continues on to tell Moses that he understands his plight.  He understands his heart, because he too has heard the cries of Israelites and he knows the hurts of his people and he intends to free them.  Can you imagine the relief in Moses heart at the moment?  Finally, someone gets it!  Finally, God himself, even, shares what has been set in Moses heart for quite some time.  And I’m sure at that moment Moses figured God, who is speaking out a burning bush, will just automatically smite the Egyptians at once and supernaturally free the Israelites.  He has no idea how instrumental he will be or how long this process will be.  But instead God says, “I’m sending you to Pharaoh.”  Whooooaaaa God!  Sending me?  Sending me where I’m not safe, in fact was last sought out to kill!?  Who am I?  And God replies with a ‘hold on there partner, certainly I’ll be with you’ and “I”, keyword “I” will bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.  Then Moses explains how even the Israelites won’t believe him.  God tells him exactly what to say and how they will respond, and exactly what he will do to make it happen.  Still Moses doesn’t believe it.  And so God shows him in all kinds of miraculous signs the power he will use to do this, and still Moses repeats this behavior of unbelief in the power of a God who is talking to him personally!  He tries another excuse.  Apparently Moses spoke poorly and he felt that was good enough excuse to not take on this giant task.  God reminds him, “Dude, I made your mouth and your tongue.  If I send you I will be with you and your speech.”  (Paraphrased of course!)  And still, still Moses wants him to send  someone else.  And finally God gets mad, and sends Aaron with Moses to complete the task.  Do you ever wonder if Moses missed out on a blessing by his repeated excuses and repeated behavior because he assumed he was inadequate for the job?  It draws me back to my humble Grandpa who was quite proper, but whose education was very limited.  He was simple and spoke simply.   But when he went to God in prayer, when he entered the presence of God, he was mighty in speech.  You could tell he spoke as if he was at the feet of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit in complete charge of what came out of his mouth.  It wasn’t pretentious or fake, it was real, with raw emotion and tears and genuine love for God.  I wonder if Moses had agreed to the task right off the bat, when God said I’ll be with your mouth, would that have happened for Moses?  Missed blessing by repeated behavior?  It’s a thought that makes me wonder what our own repeated behaviors cost us;.  our repeated attempts to walk in what we think we are destined for and not in what we are “called” to.  Now don’t get me wrong, Moses was HUGE in the plan for God’s people, but maybe a bit of an example of what repeated behaviors cost us.  Maybe you have a hurdle you just can’t get past?  Maybe you know someone else who does too?  Your heart probably aches more for that other person than it does for what you might be missing out on yourself.  Take off your shoes, sit down and hear God’s voice in your life.  Are you missing out on a blessing of any kind because you just aren’t freeing yourself to follow blindly His calling in your life?  What repeated behaviors hold you back toward affecting the Kingdom of God?  I can share with you that mine is always a feeling of inadequacy, that I am not good enough.  But the same God of Moses is the same God who calls me today and He promises to be with me.  My GIANT print is a GIANT reminder to me today, He is with me.

BE HOT!

Today, I woke just a little bit later than usual.  Normally, I’m up very early.  I get up around 5 am and feed the dogs and the cat and the chickens.  I make my husband’s lunch and a fresh cup of coffee for him for the drive in.  Occasionally, if he’s in the mood, he’ll be out early enough to eat a bagel or get one to-go.  He’s not much for breakfast.  The house is still quiet and I can start in on my studies. That’s usually the start of my day.

Not today.  Today, I went back to bed.  I almost never do that.  But when I came back to my room after my early morning chores, I realized no one had come in my bed that night.  Usually, by morning, there is one or two of the twins who have migrated to our bed.  So I sneaked back into my dark room and climbed in under the blankets.  I spread out and “oooohhhhh”, it felt so good to have my bed to myself.  And I fell back asleep.  I woke again at 7:30 am feeling like I’ve been cheating by sleeping so long! Yet, I’m not real rested for some reason.

I got up to make my coffee, hoping the kids wouldn’t hear me so there would still be a moment of quiet. Now, I have a coffee routine.  I like to drink the first couple, or the first few, black.  Strong dark coffee.  I like to taste coffee enough that 15 minutes later you still know had a cup of coffee.  The last cup is different.  I usually add a splash of real vanilla, a little sugar and a little cream.  I’m not much for the flavored creamers because there is so much junk in them.  But I do like a “yummy” coffee now and again.  Today, for some reason, I decided to start off with one.

But here is the problem with coffee that has things added.  When I brew a cup of coffee, it’s hot.  Really nice and hot.  I like the heat of that first cup as much as the taste.  But if you add a little cream, it instantly cools it down, even if only a little bit.  So, I either need to heat the cream first, or reheat the whole thing after I mix them.  It just isn’t as scalding hot as I like it and it is more work to make it hot.  You wouldn’t think this tiny bit of cream could cool down and entire cup.  But it works that way more often than you’d imagine.

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine.  She was a more conservative friend, Christian friend and was truly interested in family.  Somewhere along the way in the last year, she’s gotten just a taste of what it is like to enjoy just herself.  Just a taste.  And she liked it.  Before long, her life has kind of become centered around her.  Not her family, not her relationship with God. Traveling, drinking and partying on the weekends seems to be new mode of pleasure.   “It feels good” and “It makes me happy” is what she repeats often.  It’s changed the whole person.  And now, I suspect she’ll lose her whole family because of it.   It doesn’t take much.  Just a little taste and everything changes.

Like my coffee, just a tiny bit of cream cools down a whole cup.  And our relationship with God, our obedience to him, can be cooled off when just a little bit of the world is introduced to the whole.  As my friend told me over and over how nice it was to be this woman of the world, the scripture from Revelation came to mind.  “So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’ But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.”  Rev. 3:16,17 TLV. The truth is, you don’t even have to add the cream for my coffee to cool down…all you have to do is leave it sit for moment.  Sometimes that’s another way we become lukewarm.  We stop pursuing a passionate relationship with God.  Add just a little bit of the world, or do nothing at all, and we become lukewarm.

My friend sounded just like that verse to me.   “I’m happy, it feels good.”   That matches the “I am rich, I’ve made myself wealthy and I need nothing.”  But that is a very scary place to be.  Scripture says if you are in that position, God will “spew” you out of his mouth.  To me, “spew” is pretty formidable word!  It’s not just “I don’t want you any more”, it’s “I’m getting rid of this terrible taste!”  That’s strong words coming from an all powerful God!  I do not want to get myself “spewed!”   “You’re not really making yourself happy…you’re miserable, pitiable, poor and blind and you don’t even know it.”  I don’t ever want to be in that position!  Staying hot means constantly pursuing a passionate relationship with God.  Because otherwise, the world will either creep in and cool you off, or doing nothing will allow you to cool off slowly and without noticing it.  Which is why I’m heading off to the microwave…my coffee just got cold while I blogged!  Stay hot!