Spectrum of Faith

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Years ago, I made a conscious decision to see the world the best I could the way my son Shelton does. To understand how he thinks and what he feels, to do my best to understand the world from his perspective. Years ago, the word autism became an everyday part of my vocabulary. Years ago I was devastated, there is no cure, there is no explanation. It simply just is and I was angry that it was our is.

early-diagnosis-autism-neurosciencenews-publicI felt I was armed with little in the way of resources, so I made the decision to learn and understand, to read and to inquire, arm myself with information and pray. I would, I have, I do pray. A lot. In the beginning I asked my King to take it away. Upon reflection of my past behavior, that tends to be my go to with King, just take it away and then I do not have to deal with it. Clearly, I avoid conflict. Clearly He does not seek my counsel on what I think is best for me. When He does not honor said request, I then become angry, indignant, and attempt to give the King the silent treatment. This proves to be a futile effort, rudimentary in its effectiveness. Eventually faith and trust give way. I accept the is, and I make concerted efforts such as the ones laid out above.

Now, many years later, my efforts are not always as intentional. One such instance happened a couple of years ago. I was scanning the radio stations when I heard an interesting talk show debate of sorts. The voice of the host, the lack of inflection and excitement despite the passionate subject matter, seemed vaguely familiar to me and I continued to listen. Over time, I grew to like the show host and co-host. Their discussions were informative and varied, but I could take them, or leave them, all contingent upon the next song played. My opinion and understanding changed entirely the day I heard them discussing how the parent of an individual with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was told by a person of authority that this child was incapable of having a relationship with Jesus. In essence, the authoritarian told the parent to give up hope and not to expect from his or her child the impossible. I was stopped at an intersection, headed into Fultondale. That discussion marked me. It immediately gave me cause to listen. I turned the radio up and settled in.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to be honest, to be candid, if I’m gonna lay it all out there I ain’t even gonna try to lie. So here goes honesty, it marked me because if I am honest, I will admit the very thought has crossed my mind. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a relationship with Jesus hits the top of my priority list for my children. It is often the answer to the rhetorical “Why I do what I do” or “What are we doing?” If I do nothing else in this life I want their relationship with the King to be better than my own. All of my children have professed a relationship with Jesus, each one fleshing that out as uniquely different as they are.

pexels-photo-207653Shelton, randomly just told me he loved Jesus and that was that. He isn’t such a big talker about it. He rarely gets emotional. Being the overly emotional and dramatic individual that I am, this is a concept I have difficulty with. As I listened to the radio that day the host divulged a fact about himself. He reported that he too was on the autism spectrum. He then debunked the entire theory that the individual in question could not have a relationship with Jesus. I ain’t even gonna lie here, I got out of my minivan elated, an extra pep in my step. Hope again prevailed and I carried on about my day a little lighter.

From that point on I was what they call “a dedicated listener.” Shelton most especially enjoys the show. To date my favorite was his reaction to the discussion that revolved around “Fiddy Cent” and his large donation to the Autism Society (fueled by his indiscretion at an airport involving an individual on the Autism Spectrum). Between Shelton and the host’s explanation on how it feels to be bullied when you are on the Autism Spectrum, I was enlightened. All I can say is, I had no idea. It was eye-opening.

It is now customary for us to listen to the show as we traverse the Alabama terrain going from place to place. On just such a day recently my wandering thoughts were focused on what my ears were actually hearing. It was a discussion on the emotional matters. The scenario being described, I’m familiar with. An emotionally driven and charged time of reflection, worship, prayer, a box (or twelve) of tissues scattered about the premises, crying and hugging and crying and more hugging. My emotionally dramatic self loves a time like that. I’ve been a puddle lots of times, but as my world has morphed into that of being the mom, and as my age has progressed and time has passed, those times are fewer and far between. It is not that I am no longer moved by the King, in fact I am more moved now than ever but those moments tend to occur more in private than in public. (There’s also the small logistical detail that my dry eyes do not as readily produce tears.) Over time though, I’ve come to realize, rarely was I weeping over that which should have grieved me. Rarely did I weep because I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, or devastated by my own sin.

So as the host described such a scene and interjected his perspective of having not understood it. He made the following statements, “Statements of the Day”, maybe of the decade…”All that is emotion. There isn’t much in the Bible about emotions. There is a lot about faith. Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.” I wrestled with that one for the remainder of the afternoon. Those I saw may have even wondered where my mind was. It was here, camped out wrestling over that one, weighing what I know about faith and service against the stated argument. I even went to the recess of my memory and recalled a statement made by a friend of mine several years ago about how the King himself, hadn’t allowed himself to be dominated by emotion and feelings, how when He could’ve buckled beneath it He didn’t. In the midst of Lego sea creations, brain-builds of all sorts, hello’s and goodbyes, errand running and lunch I wrestled, and again the King said to me “What is your name?” He asks me that when He wants me to refocus, to gain a new perspective. Declaring my name gives me cause to pause and reflect. I’ve come to realize that emotion isn’t a bad thing; God made me to feel emotion, but it is not to dominate me. All that emotion doesn’t add up to faith. Emotion is not required for a relationship with Christ, faith alone is.

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Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.

Wisdom from Children’s Books

I was on Facebook this morning and ran across an interesting article called “20 Quotes From Children’s Books Every Adult Should Know” from encurious.com. I enjoyed reading as a child, and I read to my children, so I was interested in the concept and I looked to see which quotes were chosen.

“Promise Me you’ll remember you are Braver than you believe; Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think.” ~ A.A. Milne

The next was, “A person’s a person No matter how small” ~ Dr. Seuss. I have found a lot of wisdom through the years from Dr. Seuss.

The next quote was, “No act of kindness, No matter how small is ever wasted” ~ Aesop

My mind wandered from the article to think of the scripture from Matthew 25:40 NIV that went along with this quote. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” As I looked back to the first two quotes, I thought about what scripture would go with each of these quotes. The quote from Winnie to Pooh brought me to Luke 2:52 KJV “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and Man.” Then the Dr. Seuss quote took me to Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them; the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

pexels-photo-206673As I read through the list, my eyes stopped on a quote from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Braum – “There’s no place like home.”

Home can mean a lot of different things but I consider that Heaven is my home. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV.

The quote chosen from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My scripture thought for this quote comes from Romans 10:10 NIV which says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you profess faith and are saved.”

The next quote was by Shel Silverstein which said,

“Listen to the Mustn’ts, child –

Listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts,

the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never Haves,

Then listen close to me….

Anything can happen, Child,

Anything Can Be.”

My thoughts went to one of my favorite verses. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS.

Then came my favorite Mary Poppins quote: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, You find the fun and Snap! The job’s a game.” ~ P.L. Travers

This took me straight to Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

As I continued to read through the list of quotes from children’s books, I came to another of L. Frank Baum’s quotes but this time is was from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The quote is: “The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.”

My thoughts turned to Jeremiah 1:8 where the scripture says, “ ‘Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”

When children ask how much they are loved, sometimes the answer is the next quote, “I love you to the Moon and Back.” By Tim Warnes and Amelia Hepworth.

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

poor-2754335_1280Another quote in this list came from Dr. Seuss in “The Lorax.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s Not.”

The Bible tells us in Luke 10:33-37 ESV, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

I continued to read the article where Piglet asked, “How do you spell love?” Pooh replied, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ A.A. Milner ~ Winnie the Pooh.

John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has not man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The last quote was from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. “Why did you do all this for me?” He asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

My thoughts went directly to my all time favorite scripture, John 3:16 ESV, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As you go through your day, look for God’s word to jump out at you. If God can speak to us through quotes from children’s books, He can speak to us anywhere and through anything. Look for God as you go throughout your day. How is God speaking to you today?

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As It is in Heaven

I sit and wait. I occupy myself with the needful and the mundane. I read to my son. I email instructions to my class. I text a grocery list to my daughter. All the while my heart is in another place, another plane really. My dear friend, one who has taught me so much about the Kingdom of Heaven, is about to step into the Far Greater Country. The last message I received from her family said simply “she has her feet in the Jordan.” She is ready to depart this earthly existence. She has struggled with her mortality and concluded Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:23 is true, being with Christ is better by far.

But leaving is hard. My friend is only in her 50s. She has a husband and children and grandchildren who love her dearly. People she longed to grow old with and watch grow and marry and become who God created them to be. But cancer is a sinister foe and death is a reality for us all. A couple of years ago, she spoke prophetically and profoundly at our local Bible Study. She talked about her journey with cancer and the crippling fear she faced. She shared an analogy the Lord gave her to calm her fears. She recalled restaurants-playgrounds-free-fun-in-austin-salt-licktraveling when her kids were young. The family would stop at rest stops along the way. The kids would play on the playground and run in the grass. They thought the tall metal slides and squeaking chain swings were the most fun they could ever experience. When it came time to leave, the kids cried and protested. And my friend just stood there perplexed. She would tell them in frustration, “Don’t you know where we’re going? We’re heading to Disney World and you’re settling for an old rest stop playground.”

She said she knew she was only playing on the old playground right now. She knew her final destination is infinitely more beautiful and breathtaking and overwhelming than anything her mind can grasp. Paul says this earth is only a shadow of things to come. But knowing the truth and walking out the reality is too much for our earthly heart to comprehend. She told me just a few months before her health declined so quickly that she didn’t want to go, but she was at peace. She knew that God knew the number of her days and when she had finished what He needed her to do on earth, He would take her to her true home, and she knew it would be uncomprehendingly beautiful.

After that conversation, my prayers began to change. I asked the Lord to heal her, but more than that, I asked God to have His way. I went back to the simplicity of the prayer Jesus modeled for his disciples, “Thy Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Ultimately, isn’t that the most powerful prayer we can pray over those in Christ who are sick and suffering? We can ask God for healing, yes. We are free to ask for it boldly. And we should. But we ask humbly, knowing that this world is NOT our home. On this earthly shore, our vision and understanding is limited. Why pexels-photo-568027would we want those we love so much to stick around this broken, rusting place when Jesus has prepared a heavenly home for them? A home that eye has not seen nor ear heard.

It’s because we selfishly want them here a little longer. We’ll miss them. Our hearts will ache in their absence. The hole they leave behind will be profound and deep. But for those who belong to Christ, those who have confessed with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Christ from the dead, they are citizens of heaven. Their life is just beginning when they take their first breath in heaven. The sorrows and tears of this present place are left behind and complete healing and wholeness are ahead. If, as a follower of Christ, I say this is what I believe. Then I have to walk it out in the hardest places.

Today that place of waiting is painful, but hopeful. I have prayed fervently that the Lord would take her quickly home, but I am resting fully that His will is best. Asking Him to have His way and resting in His sovereignty and love is the only way to grieve with hope. Because of the reality of Jesus Christ who defeated death, even death itself cannot overcome us. In Christ, we are more alive than we have ever been before. May His will be done. I trust Him in life, and in death.

*Epilogue: My precious friend crossed the Jordan and walked into the Promised Land just a few days after this was written. Her memorial focused clearly on the hope we have in Christ. Her life and her death have spurred many on toward a deeper relationship with the One who saved her and made her broken soul whole once again.

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The Day the Cows Came Home

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For reasons I do not know or have yet to fully understand – although I am somewhat convinced it has to do with dependency – financial struggles have been the baseline under which we as a family operate.

There has never been feast or famine, there has always been just enough. The summer months tend to be lean months for our budget, we barely make it to a vacation paid in full. As school starts up and the days shorten, the budget improves slightly and by the calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621time the Christmas season rolls around it inevitably proves to be more lean than its predecessor autumn.

We’ve learned to roll with it, define what it is, and in which season we are in. This serves to prime the pump for a miracle. There was a particular day last fall when I and the Holy Spirit alone knew the essential home item, toilet paper, was making its way to the last few sheets. As I took note of such need and asked the King to intercede I had no idea that He had just that day prompted a dear friend to purchase the biggest pack of Angel Soft my eyes had ever seen. Then in a fish and loaves kind of move, that toilet paper seemed to go on and on. When one roll was placed on the holder to either be folded or wadded (I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world – wadders or folders – I am the latter, a fact I find ironic as I am disheveled in most areas of life save the one).

The following month The Lord Jesus used various anonymous gifts to sustain us through those lean times: a gift card here, a “I’m cleaning such and such out, you want it?” and the such-and-such would be precisely what we needed. I would find myself recollecting “The Green Grape Story.”

grapes-frozen-fruit-summer-organic-115007.jpegMany years ago, before I knew what it was like to rely on God to provide, I heard this story. I listened and can still recall the details of, at the time, a very foreign concept to me. The speaker was conveying how her young daughter, had requested green grapes for her snack. The Mama knowing full well grocery and payday were a bit away, made no promises that green grapes would be in the near future. That afternoon when the Mama arrived home, someone had left a box of random grocery items for the family and there among the items was a bunch of green grapes. There are times of lean when I recollect the “Green Grape” story, and I am reminded that Jesus knows exactly what we need and delights in giving us good gifts.

The Angel Soft from Heaven has been just one of the tangible ways The King has met our needs, and on a recent Cow Appreciation day I was reminded of another. It is no secret that the Chick-fil-A (CFA for short) is a Martin family favorite. When given the choice, it is always a chosen eatery. As recent as the day before Cow Appreciation Day, I had to decline a request for lunch at the favorite restaurant of choice, noting the dwindling budget and sighting the “sandwich stuff” already at home in the Frigidaire. I reminded my children that we would be dining at home sans chicken and waffle fries. They reluctantly accepted my verdict and we made our way home. Early the following day I was perusing the internet, researching, investigating and figuring out just how to make that tight budget just a wee bit more flexible when I stumbled across the Cow Appreciation day info. As a veteran participant I knew the drill: dress up like a cow, get free food. When I made mention of it to my youngest she immediately said, “But we don’t even have a cow costume Mama but you do have that donkey one.” True, I contemplated, could I pass that donkey for a cow? Not likely. The bushy tail and oversized lopped ears are a dead giveaway. Perhaps we could make a cow costume. Perhaps, one but not the required five. “There ain’t no way” was my exact thought as I yielded to the incessant plea to just go see if we had what would be required to construct the costumes.

As we made our way downstairs I gave her the daunting task of finding white t-shirts. I knew full well we did not possess one, much less five tee shirts of coordinating colors. Our laundry piled high on a table makes finding a white shirt in in that pile more daunting than a two inch straw colored needle in a 75 foot haystack. In a matter of moments I had just what was needed for the base of the cow costume. A little more searching and a few minutes later I had a small remnant of scrap black fabric, I began to cut random cow spots.

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I expected to get no more than four or five spots but it was as if the fabric just kept multiplying. My scissors cut and the moment I looked away there was always more. The final spot was cut and I began to pin those spots in place. In a few moments I had constructed 5 costumes, cow ears and to my amazement they didn’t look all that bad.

As we arrived at our destination I marveled at how smoothly it had all come together, how the King knew the details, how He knew it would delight the hearts of the Martins to have lunch at their favorite. I marveled at how He provided in a most unconventional way. He knew I was capable of making the costumes, he expected me to take a leap of faith and at least make my way downstairs in search of supplies, and he knew I would be delighted to have an opportunity to craft and create with my youngest.

His word says that He will give us the desire of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I forget the delight part. I am all about the “give me” part, but the truth is when we delight ourselves in Him, He puts the desire in our heart and we can trust that desire is in essence His desire and He will use that for good.

The cows came home that afternoon, full and happy, giggling over bad jokes and puns that were “udderly” hysterical, having made a day of delightful memories. I marveled at how once again He who is good provided.

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One of Those Days

I’m feeling like a failure today.

No quirky intro or cutesy story to start things off today. Just the nitty-gritty-ness of having “one of those days.”

I know it’s a spiritual attack.

It’s a battle and it feels like The Enemy of our souls is winning. I know He’s been defeated by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but I’m just not “feeling it” today.

I know I can’t trust my feelings, that instead I need to trust the truth of what God’s Word says about me. But I can’t seem to shake it today.

f-school-letter-gradeHow did I get here? Who knows. Sometimes I know. I sometimes realize sin or grief or disappointments in life or illness or lack of exercise or some other factor may be at the root of that horrible feeling. But then there are days like today when I have no clue.

So what am I gonna do with it? This feeling, that is.

I could wallow. I could cry. I could eat chocolate. I could do retail therapy. If I were the type, I could toss back a drink or two or some pills. But what would any of that do for me in the long run? Nothing.

I think because the spiritual life is just that – spiritual – that we don’t bother to look at spiritual things in a logical, practical way at times. God gave us a bright mind, so let’s use a little logic and practicality.

If my toilet is stopped up I don’t throw chocolate down it – so I’ll rule that out as an option here too. Passing something through the plumbing is no help.

Tears may offer a slight biological release, but mostly they just get my shirt wet, make my eyes puffy, and cause me to feel sorry for myself. So I’ll nix that idea.

Wallowing sounds selfishly appealing. Maybe I could make everyone around me miserable as I do that?! Nah. I hate it when others do that to me.

Retail therapy sounds really fun! But then I will create more of these down days for myself. The day the bill comes in. The day that money is actually needed and isn’t there. The day I want to offer monetary help to someone God has put on my heart but my indulgent lifestyle prevents it. … Ok so retail therapy is out too.

And fortunately the other two options are an automatic “No” for me. I learned early in life the physical, mental, emotional, and relational damage that can be done by trying to depend on substances inside me to solve my problems. Kinda like the flushing the chocolate, only you destroy the toilet as you send it through.

So what do I do?

nemoWell number one, I’m gonna do a Nemo and “just keep swimming.” Or like Kris Kringle of the 70’s Santa Claus story sang, I’ll “put one foot in front of the other.” I’m going to get up and do the next thing God has before me whether it is going to work or doing laundry or encouraging my husband and kids even though I don’t feel like it.

Number two, I’m gonna read the Word. I don’t care how dry it “feels” or how little I’m interested in doing that at the moment, that’s what I’m going to do. ‘Cause the truth is, His Word accomplishes something. It won’t go back to Him empty-handed. It will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purposes He has for it.

Number three, I’m going to pray. I spend way too much time calling up a girlfriend when I’m having a bad day and too little time going to my Creator and the Lover of my soul who can actually offer real help to a hurting heart.

Fourth, I’m choosing NOT to trust my feelings, but to remind myself of what I know to be true. I’m going to constantly engage my mind in the kind of thinking Philippians 4:8 tells me to. I’m going to exercise self-control by controlling my thoughts. I choose to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and  praiseworthy. That will leave me no time for thoughts of failure. And as my thoughts go, so go my feelings!

And last, I’m going to focus on someone else. If I allow myself to focus on myself my “feeling bad” grows into problems, the proverbial making a mountain out of a molehill. But if I turn my attention to others’ needs, my problems grow smaller. My own little “rough places being made plain” and the glory of the Lord being revealed.

So in my down-ness today, I choose to send a friend an encouraging text. I choose to write a card to someone God puts on my heart and mail it. I choose to buy a rose and hand deliver it to someone with a smile. I choose to take a store-bought cake to an older lady I know who has become homebound. I choose to see what my husband’s needs are and seek to meet them. I choose to be nice even though I feel grouchy. I choose to see the best in people and situations even though I feel the worst. I choose to not give in to a negative feeling.

The apostle Paul tells us,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

There is encouragement in Christ! When we act in humility considering others before our self and looking out for their interests we are obeying and pleasing God. I think a hidden truth for our down days lie within these scriptures. When we obey God’s word and look out for the interests of others they are blessed, uplifted, and encouraged and we are too!

So Be gone feelings of failure! I choose not to live with you today!

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Back to Basics: Worship

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It’s coffee time! And worship time! For me these two go hand in hand. Sound strange to you? Read along and maybe you’ll join me.

As a church attender for fif-… ah… many years, I’ve attended many “worship” services. You too?

If so, you’ve probably noticed the similarities and the differences. You’ve felt at times as if the worship ushered you into the very presence of God, while at other times you wondered why this particular meeting was even labeled a “worship service.” You’ve most likely worshipped with tens, hundreds, or thousands at time, and hopefully you’ve found your deepest worship with just a close few, maybe friends, likely family, definitely a spouse, and hopefully one-on-one just you and your Abba. Through singing, preaching, praying, instrumental music, in your own living room, on a mountain peak, or in a huge arena, you’ve worshipped. You have perhaps worshipped through grief that seems it will bury you, and at other times, through joy and ecstatic delight. You may have found yourself worshipping alone even though you were in a crowd, or more sadly, alone in a crowd of worshippers when your heart and mind were far away.

So what is worship? What do we need to know that will draw our hearts to be true worshippers?

As I’ve studied Revelation chapters 4 and 5 lately, I’ve seen true worship in its ultimate, eternal character. Worship in this heavenly scene involves:

cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089Bowing down. Throughout the New Testament the word translated “worship” is proskuneo. This Greek word refers to kissing the hand in reverence or of bowing down, kneeling, or prostrating oneself. Here in Revelation 4 and 5 the elders and 4 living creatures are falling down before the Father and The Lamb in worship. Their reverence and awe is evident. How long has it been since you knelt to worship or lay flat on your face worshipping Him in reverence of His holiness? I remember hearing of a preacher who left indentations in the floor boards beside his bed because of his faithful kneeling to pray day after day. Wow! To be that faithful in prayer and worship!

Speaking. Revelation 4:8 says,

And the four living creatures… day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ ”

They never stop saying it. Never!

The 24 elders then join them, also speaking in worship of God. (4:11) They say,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

In chapter 5, we read of their worship of Jesus:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

And in Revelation 5:11 thousands of angels join the proclamation, reciting,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And by the end of this heavenly panorama in chapter 5, EVERY creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea join these worshippers around the throne in saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Ascribing worth to the one being worshipped. Everything these worshippers said attributed worth to God or Jesus. The Father was worshipped as the creator. The son was worshipped as the Lamb slain to ransom people for God, for being The Redeemer. Jesus was also worshipped as the only one worthy to carry out God’s redemptive plan and His judgment on the Earth. How often do we appeal to God or His son Jesus about our wants and wishes, but quickly go away without admiring their glory, acknowledging their love and power, or simply sitting in awe of their majesty and holiness?

Humility. If you didn’t pick up on this, let me say it straight out: Father God, the Lamb of God and the Spirit of God are the only ones who are worthy of our worship! We need to lay down our will, our desires, our image, and our pride when we come before God. That’s what prompts us to fall to our knees or flat on our faces, the realization that we are nothing and He is all that matters. If we don’t choose humility, it will one day be thrust upon us. Make no mistake, “Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Every knee. Every tongue. Not just those knees and tongues who chose to follow Him. But the knees and tongues of those “under the earth” who reaped a different destiny because of their pride and rejection of Him. 

worship-cambodia-church-public-domainSinging. There is music in Heaven and music in our worship here on earth as well. There are trumpets and loud noises and singing. A song of redemption sung by the redeemed! I am a trained music educator. To those who say you can’t sing, and therefore you don’t sing in church, may I free you up? A baby can’t talk, but it doesn’t learn how by not trying. A 5-year-old doesn’t know how to read, and they never will if they don’t try. Everything you do in life, at one time you didn’t know how, but you tried and you learned. It’s the same with singing. Just do it. When we first married, my dear sweet husband sang out of tune because he had been raised in a house that had an out of tune piano. But years of singing in church has turned him into quite a singer. So I encourage you, bring that sacrifice of praise! The sacrifice you may be making might just be sacrificing your pride and not worrying about what people around you at church think about how you sing.

A Last Word.

Before you go to a church to worship this week, try worshipping alone. My personal worship time each day, from the time I started having kids until today, has almost daily involved a cup of coffee, a snuggly blanket, His Word, a pen and a notebook. Also, it often involves a combination music and dance, speaking and quiet meditation, reading and praying, writing and interceding, tears and joy, questioning and listening, confessing and crying out to Him, praise and love, bowing-sitting-falling facedown, and a huge dose of humility or humiliation depending on the condition of my prideful heart.

When you do congregate with your brothers and sisters this next Sunday at our Father’s house, examine yourself. Are you going through the motions or going before the very throne of God to honor and praise Him? Are you worshipping Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23-24 tells us to? It’s quite easy to “get in the spirit” in an exciting musical “worship” setting, but are you truly worshipping? It’s not just the clapping or hand raising or the feeling of euphoria. Are you humbling yourself? Ascribing worth to God? Bowing down? Speaking or listening? Singing? … Dig into His Holy Word; get to know Him more. The more we know of the truth of who He really is, the more our hearts truly worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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“What Are We Doing?”

“Oh Lord I’m not going to Hell!”

It was a declaration. She was adamant. The sweat was dripping from our brows into our eyes. The sting of it making an already dreadful experience worse.

We had been to the grocery store.

On a Saturday afternoon.

In July.

In Alabama.

As we hurled our groceries into the back of her sporty SUV we were drenched in sweat and covered in stress. The blacktop parking lot only served to make a bad situation worse. We had filled our baskets with food enough to feed a family of nine and maneuvered our way through others who had set out to do the same. As we navigated the crowded store I had heard her informally curse under her breath several times. She has some standard phrases of unofficially cursing which include but are not limited to:
“For the Love!” “Come on people Get it together!” and “WHAT ARE WE DOING?!” (She often says this with an emphasis on the we and the doing)

She is an enthusiastic user of the English language and there have been many a popular phrase whose genesis was with her. Her level of patience and clear exasperation with people and the situation was evident that day. This was clearly evidenced by the response she had given me, “It’s not that hard.” Whereupon receiving instructions on pexels-photo-498701starting her car, I looked at her dumbfounded. Unlike my own tired old minivan with duct tape holding the seats together, her vehicle did not require a key. In fact, there was no ignition in which to place said key to start the car. I stared at her, mulling over how exactly I was supposed to turn the key in the nonexistent ignition “Just get in, push the pedal, and push the button.”

“It’s a button?”

“Yes! It’s not that hard! For the Love!” A string of informal profanities propelled me out of the grocer. To my surprise she was right. It wasn’t that hard. Technology and engineering at its best, a far cry from a hand crank Tin Lizzy.

As we meandered our way back to our place of lodging, I began to ponder on that declaration. The one about going to Hell, or rather not going to Hell. I thought about the certainty of her declaration, the authority with which she had spoken it. It was the kind of certainty that accompanies a fact. A vow of sorts. An altogether different kind of swearing.

As I’ve pondered on it still and giggled to myself, my sister’s words still ringing in my ears, I too have given pause and examined my eternity. I’ve pondered about what a declaration means for me. Not just any ol’ declaration though, that one in particular. As a Christ follower, I can confidently declare, “Lord, I’m not going to Hell.” The King’s Word says that He can restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12). I was five years old when I met Jesus. When I declared I would be with Him forever in Heaven. Five, hardly a kindergartener, yet I knew I loved Him. Back then, I would not have necessarily defined myself as a “Christ follower,” I hardly knew how to follow anyone, other than my parents and my soon to be Kindergarten teacher, yet there I was, riding down the road in a green 1970-something Chevy Impala giving my life to Jesus. The faith of a child, blindly committing to Him my everything. A decision that to date supersedes any other I’ve ever made. I do not distinctly remember jumping up and down in celebration but I do remember being happy about it. The certainty that had come with knowing not my future, but the outcome of my eternity, there was comfort and joy in that. There still is.tomorrow

My Mama has a sign in her kitchen, likely a gift she received, that says “I may not know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow.” I suppose that sums it up nicely. I can trust my future is in the Hands of My King and in knowing that I needn’t worry about what will happen, or not happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next. I need only to trust Him.

I like to keep it real. I have real flaws. I’m a real hot mess. I try hard to be real honest, and if I’m being real, I will admit on a day-to-day basis I do not behave as if I am overjoyed with my salvation or that I trust Jesus to take care of tomorrow. I’ve come to realize that may be partly why I struggle so.

The second part of Psalm 51:12 says “grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Perhaps, therein lies the solution to the problem. The joy of one’s salvation, the beginning of a beautiful relationship – how exactly does one get that? The answer seems to be simple.
Go back. Now I know I can not be five years old and even if I could master that one, I’m not sure I’d want to, those teen years were hard to say the least. However, what I have learned is when a relationship gets tough, it helps to remember how and why it began. My relationship with Jesus is the same way.

Ask for a willing spirit. I can pray and ask for a spirit that is willing. Willing to be all that He calls me to be. The Holy Spirit that lives in us has the power to sustain. To maintain that state of joy even when my emotions want to dictate otherwise.

fire-orange-emergency-burningI would venture to say that an Alabama summer isn’t as hot as Hell, although there are certainly times it feels like it might be really close. There are sometimes subtle reminders that I can take comfort in and one of those is knowing that in Christ, my salvation is secure and I can be thankful for a guaranteed eternity and a gracious King who gave Himself for me so that I can boldly take hold of His promises and know without a doubt that I am not going to Hell.

 

 

F.O.G.S.

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Sometimes my minivan looks like a trash dumpster threw up in it. Truly there will be stuff everywhere. My van will be full of random things like an empty drink bottle, one shoe, half of an eaten biscuit. I might find two bobby pins, an extra t-shirt, multiple scratched CDs, or one earring (I wouldn’t dare throw it away in hopes I might locate its long-lost mate that I haven’t seen in 3 months). There might be a candy bar wrapper or two, a partially drawn in notebook, a car phone charger, various specimen of wipes. The possibilities are endless. The times when my van gets this cluttered I’ll open the door and it’s like garbage dump Russian Roulette. Things just fall out, I have to scramble to pick them up before the wind carries them away or I become a self-proclaimed “litter bug.” Typically I toss them right back in, just so they can fall out and I can do the same thing all over again. It is a tiresome and endless cycle that is merely damage control. It never actually fixes the problem. Eventually my tolerance of the situation will expire and I clean the van out. I love riding in a clean van. It feels very much like I am going on vacation. I always clean the van before a road trip. It is an illusion of order I attempt to maintain.

My brain gets this way too. My van is just an illustration of what happens inside my head, full of stuff I’m holding onto or not sure what to do with and then one day,  Bam! it all starts to tumble out of my mouth. Words carelessly spoken, an overflow of what is going on inside my head. My decision and judgment get messed up, and before I know it I find myself in a bit of a predicament. I have to clean my proverbial brain van out.

Time and experience have taught me to work in a particular pattern.
Step 1: Motive
Step 2: Results
Step 3: Prevention

Step 1: Motive
What was my motive? Why did I choose to make the decision I chose to make? Anytime I operate in F.O.G.S. I can guarantee one thing. It ain’t gonna end well. F.O.G.S. is the short way, an acronym of sorts, for Fear, Obligation, Guilt, or Shame. I added the S a while back when I realized that shame is just as powerful and devastating a motive as its counterparts I’ve named. When either of these – fear, obligation, guilt, or shame – is the filter through which I make a decision, the end result is never good. If I can answer “yes” to any of those motives, I can stop right there and proceed to step 3. The end result of decision-making is always negative when I’ve been motivated by fear, obligation, guilt, or shame.

Step 2: Results
Did this pattern of behavior work? If not why? And why am I still doing it? I’ll be honest, when things go well I do not ask myself these questions. I do not evaluate the why behind the positive results, or at least not as often as I do when things go wrong. When things go wrong you can bet the first statement through my head is an interrogative thought. I need to know the rationale behind things. I tend not to be okay with “just because” or “it’s how it’s always been” or “that’s just how we do it” kind of mentality. I need to know why things are they way they are.

The “ham story” has long been one of my favorites. I heard it several years ago and I completely identified with it so it stuck.

cooking-eat-cut-food.jpgA young woman was preparing her first holiday ham when she abruptly lopped off the end of the ham, discarded the piece and placed the remaining ham in her baking pan. As she prepared to place it in the oven her husband said “Why did you just do that?”

She looked at him and said “That’s they way my Mom always does it.” Her husband pressed further and without a reasonable explanation to offer him, she called her mom. “Mom, why do you cut the end off the ham before you cook it?”

Her Mom responded with “Well, That’s they way my Mom always did it, so that is how I do it.” As the young woman and her mother discussed it, they decided to ask the matriarch, Grandmother, why she always cut the end off the ham prior to cooking, to which she matter-of-factly responded, because the pan I put it in was always too small for the whole ham to fit.”

Step 3 Prevention
How do I keep this from happening again? Begin with the filter of motive. Am I making my choice based on fear, obligation, guilt, or shame. I can say with absolute certainty that the dark place where these reside are places where wounds can run deep.

I adopted a filter system many years ago. In my imagination I visualize it like a series of bubbles with arrows, an algorithm that is followed. I first use the Jesus filter – “Is this decision in direct contradiction to God’s word?” If the answer is yes, I stop right there. Go no farther. If it makes it through the Jesus filter, it goes to the husband filter? “How does this impact my husband, what would he or does he have to say about it?” If the husband filter is cleared then it trickles down until I reach a sound decision.

I don’t always get it right, in fact a large majority of the time I get it wrong, or worse, I don’t get it at all. But that is the very thing for which Grace was intended. Jesus came so that the captives can be set free, the naked could be clothed, the sinner forgiven. He came so that we could have life, but not just life. In the day-to-day and the mundane, have a Life abundant, overflowing with joy. He came to contradict and overcome our F.O.G.S.

Being married to a meteorologist has afforded me some insight into the world of weather phenomena. Fog is a result of air being completely saturated with moisture; fog is merely clouds at ground level. When the cloud gets too heavy, weighed down by the burden of the moisture, it sinks thereby creating fog. When fog is exceptionally thick the air is supersaturated. The fog dissipates when the air begins to dry. This happens when the sun comes out and evaporates the moisture. The reduction in the moisture burden causes the cloud to lift and return to upward state it was intended to be in. Likewise, when the Son is present the burden of the fog is lifted and we are free to live in the state for which we were intended.

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When the Son is present the burden of the fog is lifted and we are free to live in the state for which we were intended.