Archives for the month of: January, 2014

“Hallelujah, we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” –Tenth Avenue North

It’s time to admit that I struggle.  I have admitted it before, but I think most days I just get up, say my prayers, try to admit my worries and surrender them, read the allotted chapter out of my Bible, and call it good.  And I’ve done that long enough now that I’m due for a really good cry and a lot of journaling.  Admittedly, today is the last day of Christmas break and we took our tree down, which lends itself to a little post-holiday depression anyway.  But as I’m ironing the candle wax out of the runner I got advent wax on this year (along with the one that’s been sitting in my laundry room since advent wax got on it LAST year) I feel horribly inadequate and generally unhappy with myself.  I should have gotten that candle wax out last year.  Chad asks me if I’ve seen where a stack of DVDs are, and I have no idea.  Our storage space and extra bedroom are a complete mess.  My house is undecorated.  The list of domestic putterings and unfinished projects in my head races to the forefront.  Aren’t I supposed to be on top of this sort of thing?  And wasn’t I going to get more done today?  And oh yes, I need to get on top of planning for youth group, too.  It starts back up again Sunday.  As a ministry leader that should make me excited, right?  But why do I feel somewhat of a drudge and dread at that, down at the bottom of my heart?  Gosh, Katherine, you’re not supposed to feel that way.  Get a grip.

But Kat, you’re pregnant.  Remember just a month or two ago?  You couldn’t even make dinner after getting home from work you were so exhausted, much less iron off the candle wax.  You were letting go, remember?  Not worrying about the dust or the cobwebs or the mold in the toilet or the mess in the basement.  So now that you have energy, you’re just going to tear yourself to shreds with criticism?  That’s not fair.  You’re pregnant.

Or busy. Or working 40 hours a week.  Or whatever.  There will always be SOMETHING I can look to as an excuse.  But even doing that… an excuse says there’s still something lacking.  That the standard is still HERE, at a certain spot, and you’re missing it, but it’s okay because you have a valid excuse.  And the problem with THAT, is that I’m still trying to live up to some arbitrary standard I’ve set for myself, and fooling myself with an excuse.  Fooling myself thinking I’m okay, when I’m still measuring my worth and my value by a man-made standard.  Using a man-made measuring stick.  But the measuring stick is the wrong one, and I can’t let it go.  I keep picking it up.  And putting it down.  And picking it up again.  THIS is my struggle.  The measuring stick I use on myself.  Using my own, instead of using my Maker’s.

And yes, the Lord wants me to be a good steward of my resources.  Of my time.  To take care of the gifts he has given me, which include my home and the table runner my mother quilted me.  And yes, he has called me to be a youth leader.  And perhaps I have attitudes and issues he needs to deal with me in that regard.  But those are separate from the measuring stick he uses to determine my value.  My value has already been set.  It was determined way, way back, a long time ago.  Before I was born.  Before I was an ultrasound picture, or a heartbeat my parents were ecstatic to hear.  Before I was the precious miracle they held in their arms.  Before I was a beautiful little girl.  Before I grew up into a sexy wife of some sort.  Before the world attributed any value or worth to me at all….  I was loved.  I was a precious daughter.  A princess of the King.  And that’s a title I did NOTHING to deserve or own.  And so that means there’s nothing I can do to keep it, and nothing I can do to lose it either.  Whether that stupid candle wax comes off the table runner or not… that doesn’t change who I am, who my Father created me to be.  He made me with the intention I’d be perfect and we’d love each other.  By the nature of sin, I screwed that one up.  So he died instead of me and forgave me… which set me free from my chains.  So that I’m free to struggle, not struggling to be free.

Lord, help me to once again set down that silly measuring stick of mine and the world’s making.  Satan’s a poophead and keeps telling me I need to use it.  Well he’s wrong, isn’t he?  Remind me once again who I belong to.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”   Psalm 103:1-5

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:1-10

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1 …  “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” 8:6  “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  8:14-15

by Katherine Hatting

Have you ever seen a sun dog?  I hadn’t until we moved to Iowa, where the winters can be extremely cold.  The first time I saw one, probably eight or more years ago, I was driving home after dropping my daughter off at school.  Although I’d never seen one before, I immediately knew what it was!  Sometime in the past I must have read about them or seen photos, because the minute I saw this strange triple sun in the sky, I thought, “sun dog.”  Wow.

If you’ve never seen a sun dog, picture the winter sun, low in the sky.  Then imagine an arc half-encircling it, sort of like a rainbow but not really visible.  Now place another bright sun at each “end” of the arc, and you have a sun dog!  Also called a mock or phantom sun, this event is caused by light refracting off a certain shape of ice crystal in a particular kind of cloud, creating a prism effect (that’s why sometimes the “false suns” are multicolored, like a rainbow, but more muted).  When conditions are just right, you can even sort of see the arc or halo around the real sun, but the refractions also look a lot like the sun.

sun dog

I don’t think any of us would confuse a sun dog for the real sun, but if you’d never seen a sun dog before and woke up one winter morning to this strange sight, you might wonder whether something had changed overnight in our solar system (or you might wonder if you’d woken up in a science fiction movie).  But you would have known instinctively that the sun in the middle was the real sun, and the others were imposters.

Do you think you would ever confuse a false god for the real God?  I’ll bet all of us are pretty confident we can tell the difference.  But think about what you spend your time and money on, and ask yourself what holds the place of greatest honor in your life.  I like to think that I’m a pretty “good” Christian, yet sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night, and my brain is still percolating over ideas, I realize that I have given God hardly a thought all day.  How can that be?  I am certainly aware of who God is, and I don’t think I would ever confuse some imposter for the real God, but if that’s true then why do I so often give God so little of my time and attention?  Sometimes I treat Him more like a faraway friend than my sovereign Lord.

When we think about idols, maybe we picture statues or other physical objects.  There are lots of stories in the Bible about people worshipping false gods and keeping idols in their homes and temples.  But what is an idol, really?  When I look up the word on dictionary.com, I find these definitions:  “an image of a deity other than God” and “any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.”  When I look around my home, I don’t see any images of deities other than God, but I do see a lot of other things that I might regard with devotion, for instance, my book collection.  Now, I’m not saying God frowns on recreational reading, but when I neglect His Word to read other books, that’s a problem.  When I compare the hours I spend watching TV or working on art projects to the time I spend in prayer and meditation, I start to feel convicted.  When my relationship with God gets out of balance, it’s time for me to work on my priorities.

God sent a rainbow after the Flood to remind us of His mercy and faithfulness.  Maybe He sends sun dogs to remind us of His sovereignty.

I’m not a big fan of shoes. Oh, I like them to protect my feet from splinters and rocks and keep my toes warm in winter snow. Sandals are my favorite, I think because my feet can still feel “free.”  But my all-time favorite thing to wear is cowboy(girl) boots.  They are absolutely the most comfortable thing on earth for your feet…but they have got to be sized just right.  When you slide your foot into a boot and it gets “sucked down” into the heel, it is an “Ahhhhh” moment!

However, when you have many miles on your old “hoofs,” the cowboy boots can be a thing of the past.  Foot surgery, tears in the achilles tendon, hours of physical therapy…plus the problem with shoulders and arms that just don’t have enough strength to get the stupid boots pulled back off!  Am I whining?

Well, at any rate, the whole shoe thing made think about my mom.  She had more shoes than any other person I’ve known.  A pair for every outfit almost!  And she loved to shop for shoes.  When we’d go shopping at the mall, she would invariably stop and try on shoes at two or three places.

When we had to clear out her house after she’d died, we had boxes and boxes of shoes.  I’m getting to the point, I promise!

Mom’s shoe boxes held every-day flat slip-ons–some were well worn and you could see smudges on the leather, the wear pattern on the heels–others were gently broken in.  And at the far back corner of her closet there were boxes of what I’d call “Dressy dress” heels.  Not the normal heels you’d have for Sunday.  They were fancy enough for a dinner party or wedding and hardly had a wear mark at all.  In fact, a couple pairs I am not sure she ever wore once.

But they were there in that closet with all the rest.  And they were just as important as all the well-worn shoes.  Even if they’d only been out of the box once…they’d done what they were supposed to do–made Mom happy with a little extra glow on her cheeks because they were her shoes and she felt proud to wear them.

shoes

Sometimes I’ve felt like a pair of shoes.  In a box.  In the back corner of a closet.  In the past I felt useful…when I was younger and got out a lot and did all sorts of walking and nothing stopped me or zapped my strength.  Now…not so much.  Will I ever do that again?  Will I ever be useful again?

Nothing you ever read or learn is wasted.  Your brain remembers absolutely everything, but often we can’t access it because of the overload of so many other things that crowd daily living.  And as women, we put ourselves last as we serve family and friends.  It’s okay to admit it, ladies, we DO put ourselves last.

One thing I remembered a few weeks ago was that years ago someone had mentioned being “put on a shelf” and waiting and waiting for God to use them.  It struck me then how similar it was to the boxes of Mom’s shoes.

We don’t get to choose when and how we will be active for God.  He is the one Who plans our gifts, talents and strengths.  Sometimes I will feel like I know exactly where I’m headed and what God is doing.  Other times, I’m that pair of pretty dress shoes, feeling I’ve been forgotten.

But God knows exactly where I am and what I am good for and when He will use me and how pretty I will look.  And He will be so happy and proud that I am His.  And He will say, “Ahhhhhh.”

by Cindy Best

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