Posts Tagged ‘God

20
Oct
09

Joy is in the Journey

Sometimes just sitting in church is overwhelming. I go to a church that nearly 10 per cent of my city attend. It’s huge and I never know who I will see…the mayor, presidents of banks, scandalized newsmakers, teachers, friends, and even enemies and convicts. Once in a while, I glimpse a moment for one of these people – a tear or a hug more emotional than just hello – and I realize that we are all journeying together. Regardless of station, good or bad, every one of us is a human being with very similar feelings and struggles.

Sunday was one of these days. There is genuine concern in these times. Children are at war, homes are being lost, and the future is uncertain. Pain is everywhere. Then I wonder how many people walked into this church, hanging their hope on a Sunday school promise that God will take their troubles away. Because of this pretty and simple package, how many will leave this building in a bitter sadness, defeated and even angry at a God they have never met?

I hold the church responsible, in “recruiting efforts,” for painting this simple picture of a joyful life lived with the Lord. I believe in this picture, but it stopped being simple the first time life got hard. When life got hard, I discovered that the Lord Himself does not just hand us a colossal aspirin and pain-repelling umbrella tied up in a red ribbon of exuberant joy.

What he does do is reach out a hand, often times from across a chasm, and promise to take the walk with with us. Unfortunately, when we have been promised a fluffy cloud will carry us along – over the hard parts – it’s hard to understand a God who still makes us take the long way. I worry that this is where people are lost, when they hoped to float over the chasm so they don’t take the hand and make the frightening leap.

Real life with the Lord is exactly that – real. The joy part of it is learned, through trials that are conquered because our faith is placed in a God who is unchanging. He never promised to remove the trials, he promised to make them smaller. Feeling the Love of God on my life reminds me most of being a child. There were scary times and sad times and so many times that I didn’t understand. In those times, there was my dad. He would pick me up, or put an arm around me, and nothing around me changed, but I felt safe. Somehow I knew that whatever came of us, at least something would be the same – my dad.

My dad was certainly not capable of fixing all the trouble that found its way into my life, but he made it more bearable. God cannot remove trouble from our lives, either. If He did, it would mean taking our free will, which is a dangerous but crucial blessing He gave us. He gave us rules to make the climb a little less painful; our obedience is up to us.

That is why there are so many severe warnings against sin. It is not to make us feel guilty or give us restrictions. As adults, we understand that there are just behaviors that are destructive. It would be miserable, if not even impossible, to live as eternal beings in a pattern of sin. And that’s where we got the provision, through Jesus, to give us the opportunity to live as was intended. God grieves that any of us perish, surely grieves in a way we cannot even comprehend. His love for us was the original first love. It is fully passionate, exciting, and hopeful. It never goes away – it may be put away, stashed comfortably in a recess of our heart, but it is never gone. He carries a torch for the world as we carry a torch for those we first loved, a torch that will never be extinguished.

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13
Dec
08

Mirror, Mirror in the Crib…

Since I have been a mother, I have made an obvious assumption that God gave us family as an earthly expression of His unconditional love.  I noticed that when the girls were unselfish, I wanted to give them more.  When they made good decisions, I trusted them with more.  It felt like I learned more and more about the Lord my Father with each passing day and I have been grateful for His love and His example. 

So I thought I had it all figured out and things were good.  But then, God felt like I should learn a little more.  He loves that.  It’s time for the annual gift binge, complicated this year by the addition of my teen daughter’s social life.  Now it’s the annual gift and party binge from reindeer hell!  After spending yet another evening driving her to yet another party and waiting in yet another parking lot to pick her up, I thought about how much I love the words “thank you.”  There is a lot of thinking time in the parking lots I frequent, so I spent some time on this, mostly because I knew I wasn’t likely to hear it.  I love to hear “thank you.”  It is usually followed by “I love you” and is all around great.  It makes me so happy to hear and I am so concerned when I don’t, when favors from me or others are taken for granted. 

Aha!  If God gave us a picture of His love when he gave us a family, then he handed us a mirror when our children were born.  I began to wonder, sitting in that parking lot, if God loves to hear “thank you” from us as much as I love to hear it from my children.  The Bible mentions gratitude hundreds of times.  He must love it.  Like our children, there is a reason we should offer thanks.  The minute we realize we have something to be thankful for, our troubles miraculously shrink.  Gratitude makes us want to share.  It makes us happy and it brings true joy.

So I wondered if God was holding up a mirror for me, a reminder that I don’t remember to thank Him for the ride – ever – but I sure complain when it is bumpy.  Or crowded.  Or lonely.

When Daughter Number One was in kindergarten, I got The Call from her teacher.  She had done something awful and was more rude than remorseful.  My first reaction was exactly what the teacher expected, “Where would she pick up something like that?”  The teacher was silent long enough for me to realize exactly where she picked it up.  Number One showed me all kinds of bad habits and unacceptable behaviors I had, so I have known about the mirror.  The problem is, I thought the mirror was mine.  Fourteen years later, I understand that the mirror, like everything else, is the Lord’s.

14
Sep
08

Created in Love

I drove for several hours today, which is inspiration in and of itself.  Gas prices are keeping traffic to a minimum, so I can actually let my car open up and devour our beautiful mountains dotted line by dotted line.  It’s like Pac Man on PCP. 

So not my point.

It is impossible to drive through the mountains at sunset with a full moon rising and not consider the Lord.  For years I have felt and understood His love, but I have to be honest.  I have doubted.  I doubt, but that is when I grow.  Frankly, the overwhelming love of an intangible creator is incomprehensible to me.  I have felt it, and I believe that is when faith becomes real.  It is not possible to explain the peace that comes from God’s love to someone who doesn’t believe in this love.  But to someone else who has felt it, no explanation is necessary.  It is unmistakable.  So it is realistic to consider a loving God.  A loving Creator.  If God is our Creator, and I believe that many religions, particularly the Islamic faith, believes this without a doubt, then He must be a loving, benevolent God.  How can violence be committed in His name?  A Creator bears love for His children, mirrored in a parent’s feelings for theirs.  Is that a gift He gave to us so we can begin to understand?  This loving Creator would not lightly or thoughtlessly sentence His creation to eternal death.  The basic precept of radical Islam is just that, convert or die.  If a non-believer dies, he is forever separated from God with no opportunity for reconciliation.  That is where it ends.  The decision must be made here on this Earth.  The Creator I know will move mountains to bring me to Him if He knows there is a chance I will come.  If I will come, He will not let me die without making that decision. This Creator would not establish a covenant under which I have one chance or certain death.  He is a God of second chances.  When you know Him, you know.  The God of Islam?  Not the same.  Not a god who loves his children.  He keeps them wondering, keeps them guessing, keeps them trying to gain approval up to the very end. 

Creation itself, those beautiful mountains and that amazing moon, even the joy I get from driving through those mountains, is proof that God loves us.  He will not forsake us if we will just have Him.

If you want to experience this love, this peace of a loving Creator, pray.  Pray to God and admit that yes, you have sinned and you just may do it again, but you would love to come to Him for the forgiveness only He can offer through His son Jesus Christ.  That gets you a ticket, but then take the time to learn.  To apply this to your life and learn about this amazing love.  You will never be the same.

30
Aug
08

My Lord and Tailor

God shifts gears.  For years after I became a Christian, Noah’s Ark was my favorite story because at the end a passionate God says, “Maybe I went a little far – I just love you so much!  I will never do THAT again.”  Then He gives us a little visual gift, the simplest way that he has to communicate with us.  He shifted gears so we could move forward and continue in our relationship.  That a supernatural being would do this should strike awe in our hearts.  To me, God became approachable and trustworthy in that moment that He was fragile.

A lesser known, but perhaps more poignant example of God’s gearbox occurs in Genesis, the third chapter of our creation.  God has just cursed the serpent, cursed Eve, and cursed Adam.  In those verses, it seems as though He has washed His hands of this creation.  His words are fierce with even fiercer implication…in essence, he destines the serpent to wallow in lowliness.  He lays the gauntlet and tells Eve to get ready – everything she wants and needs for her family will be a fight.  Adam, he says, will work until he dies – a new concept – just to eat.  These curses resonate through the generations with an echo that will not be stilled.

However, right after this tirade, after the world is forever changed and God’s plan is thwarted by the disobedience of His children, he downshifts.  He sits down with them and makes clothing out of skins (Genesis 3:21).  He had banished them from the Garden of Eden and he could have banished them from His presence, but He did not.  Instead, He put that behind them so they could prepare for a new and decidedly different future.  This is a pure and beautiful model for a family whose dreams are waylaid.  When our children are born, we have a clearcut vision of how life will be.  Today, I think most of our vision comes from the media but still, there are values that will be passed down.  Wisdom these children will carry into adulthood.  We are certain that our children will not make the mistakes we made.  

But then they do.  Then we have adjustments to make.  We have anger to work through.  We have resentment.

Unfortunately, while we resent and adjust and “work through” our anger, the world keeps moving.  All of that takes such precious time and much is lost in that time.  Imagine what a closer bond could be forged if we sat down and made clothes, stitching together the changes to come.  Of course this can’t be easy.  Even for God, this was a sacrifice.  The clothes were made from skin.  This is significant because until now, there had not been death in the Garden of Eden.  In fact, death wasn’t part of the plan.  Surely God did not want to destroy any piece of His creation, especially to mollify His children’s disobedience.  But He did it.  AND THEN he sent His children away prepared, nurtured, and loved.  Loved but not alone.

Something else happened during this chain of events.  As God set forth his curses, Adam matured.  Right afterwards, before they made clothes, Adam named his wife.  He named her Eve, “because she was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20).”  I can imagine this…God is mad, completely fired up, and he unleashes this curse.  The curse is really more of a “now look what you’ve done” kind of statement because God is not being cruel, he is just outlining the consequences of their actions since they will no longer have access to the Tree of Life.  Of course, that part he leaves out until all is said and done.  After this, Adam sheepishly comes to God and strikes up a conversation, the kind that you had with your parents and now your children have with you, the confession.  He tells him what he learned from what he did and God feels good that His child may be responsible after all.  Then, Adam gets to the point.  He realizes that they are it and he and his wife have been charged with great responsibility.  For the first time, he looks at his wife as a partner for the work ahead, not just a companion, and he respects her.  Then he gives her a name borne from all of this understanding.  This is when Adam grows up.

I have a teenager.  She is wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, and has the brightest future I can imagine.  In her I can see the fruition of so many dreams long abandoned.  I desperately want her to stay on track to be wildly successful and happy beyond measure.  In my heart, though, is tucked this story.  There is no doubt that our family will shift gears in the next ten years.  Happiness to her may mean something completely different than it means to me.  Choices will be made.  Hers is not my life to live.  I just hope that we can sit down and make the right clothes when it happens.

16
Aug
08

Crystal Red Lust…Crystal Clear

Driving into work this morning I am obsessing about my dwindling (although slowly) debt and feeling very grateful to the Lord for tending to all my material needs.  I’m thinking about the lilies of the field and the swallows of the air¹ when here comes a CADILLAC CTS.  RED…Crystal Red.  You know the one.  It’s resting on meaty haunches, ready to pounce on my unsuspecting Nissan.  And I’m rooting for the CTS!  Trusty Nissan be damned!  I roll my window down, hoping to hear the engine, but the driver is not an engine revving kind of girl.  Tragic waste.  Suddenly, I am weak in the knees.  WEAK IN THE KNEES!!  And I’m thinking, “come on…open it up…let’s see what you can do…”  Then I start to get the whole men and strippers thing.  I wanna see IT ALL!  There are no more lilies on my brain, just 6 pounding cylinders and a leather wrapped steering wheel.  This hunk of throbbing American metal is begging me to save it from the mundane suburban traffic and run it through the twisting canyon just miles away.  Never mind national security and environmental implications, the true tragedy of our current energy crisis is the demise of the drive.  At $4.00/gallon, it is a rare treat to open the throttle and feel my car’s power surge into the empty lane next to me.  And an aggressive drive through the canyon?  Sadly put on hold as I “conserve” the liquid gold for trips to Super Target.  Where’s the joy?

Actually, it’s probably not in the Cadillac.  Amazing how, despite so many efforts to avoid materialism and count my MANY blessinge (even that trusty Nissan I sold down the river), I am quickly taken from a state of gratitude to a state of dissatisfaction.  In a mere moment, I question every choice I’ve made and rue the dull life I have chosen to lead.  Sad what a little chrome can do to steal the luster from true joy.  With beautiful, healthy, warm, educated and well-fed daughters and a husband and countless friends I have no right to want for more. 

 ¹Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Luke 12:27

 




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