my earning potential is ZERO

So, I got a text from a friend this past weekend.  It said…..

“please call me A.S.A.P.”

my first thought was…

“oh sh*t, who died?”

(just being real here.  I try not to cuss in front of my child, but let’s be honest, inside my head…yup, I did use those words and it would be dishonest to tell you otherwise.)

So I clicked on her number.  This friend, let’s call her SB, is someone I don’t talk to often.  Like once every 5 or 10 YEARS.  But we have mutual friends that she would get news about faster than me if something bad had happened.  So I sat there, at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, listening to the dial tone and the ringing with my heart pounding.

She answered, and was so cheerful I knew at once that nothing like *that* had happened.  Now I’m curious, what on earth was so important that she needed to reach out to me on a Saturday morning with that urgent message?  I wasn’t upset, just puzzled.

Turns out she was worried about something she had seen on my Facebook feed.  Something that was innocent on my end, but might lead people to believe that I endorse or approve of a particular person who has strong connections to Satanists, Nihilists and other agents of chaos.

Let’s stop and think about that for a minute.

Think of the courage and compassion it took to see someone in error and literally call them on it.

SB didn’t judge me.  She skipped over that and went straight to the heart of the matter – concern for her fellow Christians.  She wasn’t concerned about me.  She knows me well enough to know that I’m not personally heading down a negative path, but she was concerned for my witness and for people who might be confused by seeing links to such things on the Facebook feed of a professing Christian.

“But be careful with your freedom. 
Your freedom may cause those who are weak in faith to fall into sin. 
I Corinthians 8:9″

Funny how Paul is so relevant, even today.  He was talking about the right to eat anything, but that could just as easily apply to my right to read (or mentally consume) anything.  It doesn’t give me the right to put potentially dangerous meat out there for others to consume.

I explained to SB the reason that person was even on my friends list.  A person from my childhood that I care deeply for, pray for and treasure.  We discussed ways to keep my friendship with this person intact and still guard against spreading or appearing to endorse beliefs and practices so counter to my own.

Message spoken. Message received.

It was a wide ranging conversation.  We discussed raising of our kids, our fitness agendas (or lack of them in my case) and our past friends and connections.  We even discussed the fact that she was nervous about calling me.  Which I find hysterical. She said she felt like she was calling someone famous !!!!!  On the flip side, I still get a HUGE kick out of the fact that this person who I hero worshiped when I was an underclassmen and she was a ultra-cool upper-classman is actually a fan of my writing !  So it was kind of a mutual admiration society there for a minute, which was fun.

Deirdre, get to the point.

okay. okay.

As the conversation was starting to wrap up we wandered back to the original topic of friends and acquaintances who we need to keep as friends and show them love, while still not approving of their choices.  I then made the comment that I wished my brother Stephen had made better choices and that I wished I could believe that he was in heaven.  He was such a devout Christian as a kid.  He would witness to literally anyone.  He really loved Jesus.  His faith was so strong.  God was always his first thought.  Prayer was his first answer to anything.  But then he hit the teenage years and started questioning everything.  He headed down some dark paths and he never looked back.

So when he died a couple of years ago, I started struggling with a question that troubles many people…….

“can you lose your salvation?”

I wanted so much for Stephen to be safely in heaven, that I convinced myself that I wanted it too much.  It was comfortable to think that he was in heaven, so therefore it couldn’t possibly be true.  So often in our Christian walk, Truth is difficult.  So if I believed something simple and comfortable, it had to be wrong.  Get it?  See the trap I was falling into?

Then SB said something that rocked my world.

“IF you could lose your salvation,
that would imply you could have earned it to begin with.
So,  NO.
You cannot lose your salvation”

That pulled me up short.

Most of us are pretty clear on the straightforward reading of Ephesians 2: 8 – 10

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and
this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not by works so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance as our way of life.…
Ephesians 2: 8-10”

We can’t earn salvation.  Got it.  No intellectual problems with that.

Sometimes I still try to earn it though.  I beat myself up for my sins.  Current ones (see cussing, above) and past mistakes (divorce, lies, greed, gluttony the list goes on and on and it’s not something I should share anyway).  Anyway, I fall prey All. The. Time. to the LIE that I have to be good enough to earn God’s favor.

But Guess what?

I CAN’T DO IT

I have absolutely ZERO earning potential when it comes to saving my soul.

But turning this verse on it’s head, essentially doing the math and realizing that if I can’t EARN salvation, then I can’t UN-EARN it either is something I had never really processed.

Time for School. Let’s go back to Algebra for a second here.  Math.  Yes I’m quoting math.  Never thought THAT would happen…

Properties of Zero

0 added or subtracted to anything equals itself

0 multiplied by anything equals 0

0 divided by anything equals 0

We cannot divide by 0

 

So take “a” as GRACE or Salvation.

God has declared that I can literally not add one single thing to my salvation.  That means I am the ZERO in this equation.

ZERO literally does NOTHING to the equation. Zero can’t add anything to the value.  Zero can’t remove anything from the value. Zero can’t multiply or divide the initial value.

GRACE is completely UNCHANGED by anything the ZERO (me) can attempt to do to it.

just dwell on that for a minute.

 

not to be trite, but

MIND BLOWN.

So now I know.

My brother Stephen is in heaven.  I know this to be true, because I know my salvation is true.  I can’t earn it.  And Stephen couldn’t UN-EARN it. No matter how hard he tried.

wow.

you have no idea what a blessing that surety is for me.

So thank you SB.  Thank you for reading my stuff.  Thank you for pestering me into writing again.  Thank you for seeing God in at least some of what I write.  and Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit and reaching out to me to deliver TWO messages from God this past weekend. I am humbled and honored to be cared for by someone like you.

and I’m ever so glad to have ZERO earning potential.

 

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I can’t handle this!

“my life is rough right now, but I take comfort in knowing that God won’t give me more than I can handle”

I’ve seen this concept popping up a lot recently in statuses on facebook, twitter, google+ and it keeps cropping up in conversations as well.

Frankly it makes me want to scream.

NO!

I don’t care if Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it, it is NOT BIBLICAL.

God promised to give us MORE than we, as frail, fallible, fickle human beings could possibly handle.

Why?

So that HE could step in and show off HIS DIVINITY.

His POWER in our weakness

His HEALING in our extremity

His MERCY in spite of our biggest messes

You will ALWAYS be struggling against an overwhelming flood of something in your life.  But  you can trust that God is Good (I John 1:5) and that your purpose in this life is not to show off your own ability to get through the struggles but to point to your savior and say HE is the reason I got through it.

God wants to give you more than you can take so that everyone around you will see you weather the storm…and then they will ask HOW.  How did you get through that?  and you can quietly point them to your Lord.

let blessings abound

In this season when “blessings” are on everyone’s minds thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve had recently on the subject.  Just to throw my hat into the ring, so to speak.

A co-worker of mine has come up with a fabulous idea for her next birthday party

She is getting a big group together, coordinating them through facebook, to go serve in a local soup kitchen together.  I think they will be going out afterwards too.

Isn’t that a cool idea? 

I asked Trenadia what prompted her to come up with this idea.  What was the trigger?  This was her answer;

“Well I just decided that I wanted to promote giving back. So I’m just inviting friends out to  volunteer at the Atlanta Food Bank.   Because it’s about who I am.  On a personal note; over the past two years, I have had to use a few of the services as well as people who have giving hearts, to maintain everyday life…not only from family or people I know, but strangers as well. Giving back helps us remember that ‘WE ARE ALL ONE’.”

My life changed in one day, from one of comfort and privilege to the exact opposite.  I have  always volunteered but during this time, I volunteered a lot and it helped me get through my hard times.When you help others, you truly help yourself.”

Bravo Trenadia.  And I quite agree, we are all blessed in order to BE a blessing.  If your blessing today is hands that can lift, sort and pass food out to those in need, do it.  If your blessing today is some extra cash in your grocery budget, drop off some food at your local food pantry.  If your blessing for today is just a smile that you can share, then share it.

And if your blessing is that you always have too many friends who want to come to your birthday party, consider organizing a joyful giving party. 

Let the blessings abound!

and the answer is….

42

Yes that’s right.  I am forty two this year and I am perfectly fine with it.  To celebrate, here are 42 good things about my life.

  1. I don’t really have the answer to the question of life the universe and everything, but am more aware of where to find the answers
  2. I’ve actually really been enjoying my 40’s so far.  Lots of pieces of my life have changed quite drastically in the transition from my 30s to my 40s. and yes, that counts as a “good thing in my life”
  3. The most obvious is Ginny.  Nothing can shake up your routine quite like a child. 
  4. I am grateful to my heavenly father for granting us financial stability even with two layoffs in two years.  Martin’s came first, and mine was just a year later.  But God took care of us even when we had no idea what to do next.
  5. There has been peace even amidst surgeries and my dad’s cancer diagnosis.
  6. I love my grey hairs.  Yes, you read that right.  I see the silvers as free highlights, courtesy of God.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do about the change in texture…..
  7. Ice Skating.  After a 25+ year break,  I have gone back to the rink and I am loving it.  I’ve found something that will keep me active and healthy and vibrant for a long time. And yes, I see even this as a blessing from God.
  8. There has been a sense of renewal  in my marriage (in part due to the shakeup of the aforementioned layoffs and Ginny)
  9. I’ve found that I have a real friend next door.  Not just the mom of Ginny’s best friend.  But a real live girl friend. 
  10. You almost have to have been in the skating world to know how unusual this next one is –   I have a Christian woman as my coach.  Previously my coaches were almost all men and across the board they were all completely anti-church.  They all expected their skaters to practice on Sundays.  Not a one of them understood that God was important to me.  But my current coach not only gets it, we can actually talk about God and church topics over lunch.  What a blessing!
  11. Being an adult skater brings up a completely different coach/student dynamic.  And yes, that too is a “good thing”
  12. This year, so far, I have been able to lose 40 pounds
  13. Martin has lost at least 30 pounds (he’s catching up to me…I’m gonna have to work harder!) 
  14. I love my job.  Through the course of my layoff I had a chance to really explore what my real working style is and to look for a work environement that meshes with my style.  I was unable to find that blessing on my own.  God hit me over the head with my current job and I love it.  I have impact on peoples’ lives and across campus in a way that I never could have foreseen. 
  15. I was blessed to be able to return to a campus I love and whose mission I believe in- Emory University
  16. This is a Siesta Scripture Memory Team year.  I love learning my verses. (though I am a bit behind in memorization…)
  17. My job allows me to post my memory cards as artwork in my cubicle.  Thus providing me with an artistic outlet, spiritual assist, open devotional and memory aid all in one!
  18. My home Bible study group has chosen “to Live is Christ” as our study this fall.
  19. My husband is amazing.  He is Mr. Mom during the week and cool technical director for our church on the weekends. He does it all.
  20. My brother is back in college.
  21. My boss understands what makes me tick and we communicate well.  Don’t knock it, usually that takes years to figure out. 
  22. I enjoy my co-workers….
  23. …More importantly, I enjoy the job itself.
  24. I am learning new skills through volunteer work at church.  Maybe I’ll learn how to run the sound board next year….
  25. I am young enough to still be active…..
  26. ….And old enough to know when not to push
  27. I’m not in such a hurry anymore
  28. The highlight of Ginny’s day is when I come home and play horsey with her
  29. …..Which makes playing with Ginny one of the highlights of my day too.
  30. I have actual fans of my blog who push me to write more often.
  31. Life is fun – I accidentally volunteered at the face painting booth last night at ginny’s school Fall festival and rediscovered how much I love painting!
  32. Sitting on the back porch with the neighbors, watching our children run and play together.
  33. Discovering fantastic local restaurants.
  34. Café d’Alsace’s currant and port chicken liver pate.
  35. Three blind mice’s entire menu…
  36. …Especially the sticky toffee pudding
  37. My parents live close enough to sometimes have impromptu evenings together at local cheap Mexican restaurant.  Or just hang out and watch football on a Sunday.
  38. Reconnecting with a friend from grade school (!!!!) through facebook and getting to hug her in person was a real treat.
  39. I met Beth Moore.
  40. My Ginny and Martin have also met Beth Moore.  And she told them that she knows who I am!  How cool is that?  And kinda intimidating to be honest….
  41. I got to stay in the home of a dear friend in Houston that I met through blogging.  And our husbands enjoyed each other and the kids all got along!   And they are foodies!  Missy found an amazing Cajun restaurant out in the boonies that we are going to go back to when we see them again in January.
  42. I really enjoy my neighbors’ kids.  They are active, happy kids that play well with Ginny.  It is such a huge blessing to be right next door to Ginny’s favorite playmates.  And most of the essentials of child rearing…we agree on! 

I think Douglas Adams got it right.  42 turns out to be a very good number.

blessed beyond my wildest dreams

(this is a re-post with follow-up.  i’ve got stewardship on the brain, so this post was a natural to include in this series.)

A couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Beth Moore ( of Living Proof Ministries) asked a very interesting question on her blog.  I answered it in a way that surprised me.  So when Brian asked me to write something for the stewardship campaign I felt a nudge to let you in on my answer.

Beth asked-

What are you grateful for that you NEVER thought you would

be grateful for?

Well.   That one got me thinking.  The usual stuff is easy – health, home, family, Jesus.  All the pat answers.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for those things.  But what, in my life, that would normally be viewed as a negative could I turn on it’s head and view as something to be grateful for?

If Beth had asked this question in years past, my answer would have been my infertility that led us to adopt Ginny.  Never in a thousand lifetimes would I trade.  Ginny has been a huge blessing.  I can never thank God enough.

But when Beth asked this question it was 2009…..Alright.  The thing I never thought I’d be thankful for in 2009  was that my husband lost his job in August.  August 4th as a matter of fact.  On my mother’s birthday.

I was so sour about it at first.  He was my Bible study partner on the way to and from work for 5 years.  We loved our commute together. So I was seriously bummed when that ended.  I said all the right things.  “God will take care of us.”  “It will be okay”  and I meant them.  But deep inside, even while I knew God would take care of us, I was resentful.  And to be honest, I kinda of imagined that God taking care of us would mean us scraping by on ramen noodles and finding ways to cut corners on everything.

I envisioned a life of constant restriction.  Nothing extra to enable us to help others. No joy.  Just getting by.

Apparently that is not what God had in mind.

Even just the first 4 months after the layoff was filled with blessings.  First, to hear my man say that he wanted to continue his tithe through the end of 2009 AS IF HE STILL HAD HIS JOB.  Wow. I don’t know how to be grateful enough to God for sending me Martin.  When I think of the background we both come from.  The sin, the darkness of our respective pasts……..and now to see Martin, how much he really does love God,  and know that he is the real spiritual head of our home.  That in itself is a blessing.

We grew in our relationship.  Our relationship had gotten lazy.  We depended on that commute to keep us connected.  We had to learn all over again to find (or MAKE) time for each other.

Martin got to spend lots of time with our baby girl, which was very good for them both. 

Four members of our family extended family were sick and needed lots of time and care in the Fall of 2009.  If Martin had still had a job they likely would have had to let him go because of all the family emergencies we went through.  We never had to face that though.

God sent a job opportunity to Martin that he never would have been able to take on if he had been tied to the old routines.  It changed our whole dynamic.

So spiritual growth, learning, new patterns, time with family……But what about money?  How did we get by?  did God provide?

*sigh*

Finances. 

The big bug-bear.  The nightmare of all who are “downsized” in this economy.   God had sent us a clear message that we were not to worry.    There were two (not one, but TWO) out of the blue, un-asked for, financial gifts to our family that, are you ready for this? enabled us to continue our tithe all the way to the end of 2010 as if Martin still had his old job !  When the checks came, the first thing on Martin’s heart and mind was the tithe.  Wow.  After all I have been through in my life and put others through, to finally be married to a real Christian MAN OF GOD is just blessing me right down to the tips of my boots. So there you go.  In 2009 I was thankful that my husband lost his job.

Well since we were so ultra faithful in 2009 and trusted God for his good provision, did we receive a huge blessing in 2010?  Absolutely!  I got laid off in October of 2010. 

No, I’m not being sarcastic.  We got a chance to trust God to provide again.  I’ll be honest, we did look at that money already set aside for the tithe for 2010….shook our heads and said “Nope.  That money already belongs to God.”

But it was sitting there, tempting us.  So we decided to go ahead and instead of writing a check out once a month, we just moved it all to the charity account.  That helped a lot.  With a combination of blind faith, deliberate actions and lots of heart to heart discussion my little family got through a couple of years that look rough on the ledger books.  But in my heart, these have been three very good years. 

We have become much more focused on relationships.  with God, each other, family and friends.  Life is not about presents, or activities anymore.  We’ve had a spiritual attitude adjustment. 

Now, if you ask me about my life, I will generally say “I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

it was a total shock

When I lost my job back in October it was a total shock.  Martin had lost his job to a lay-off as well just a year before.  The temptation was to try to figure out what we did wrong. Did God want us to move? Become missionaries?

Why was this happening to us?

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all a disaster.  Many good things came out of the lay-off.

I got to spend loads of precious time with Ginny.  Nothing can replace these months I have had with her.  Just being with a joyful, bubbling two year old can be such a joy.  Okay it can be a headache too sometimes, but mostly it has been a fun-filled time that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

Through the crossroads ministry at my church  I got to examine my work style and what I really needed to look for in my next place of employment.  Instead of just hoping for a good fit, I learned how to do my part to achieve that goal.

I met amazing people through the various interviews and got to spread sunshine and a small taste of hope to a lot of people through my consistently, deliberately cheerful facebook and (mostly)blog posts.

Joining Bible study on Tuesday mornings and Aerobics on M-W-F was a huge treat for me.  I was getting to do all those things a stay-at-home mommy does.  And I loved it.  We got to play with our neighbor’s mom’s group and  I seriously started to wonder if perhaps God was saying that I should stay home.  Lord, was this the message?  Should we cut back our budget and struggle through with just Martin’s part-time salary?

Not quite ready to give up on the dream of going back to work, and to keep myself current in an office environment, I started volunteering at my church.  Just basic administrative tasks, but they were things that needed doing and allowed me to explore the possibility of one day working in a church office.  I like the thought.  So Margie, when you retire, just call me, okay?

Was that the purpose of my lay-off?  to move me in a new direction?

In the early days of my lay-off I even got the chance to witness to my boss.  Well witness is perhaps the wrong word.  I didn’t share the gospel story with him per se.  But I got a chance to BE Christian in my response to the layoff and all the processes that followed.  He constantly marveled at my calm and said that I was taking this whole mess far better than he was himself.  And every single time he said that,  I got to look him in the eyes and say “God is good. I believe that He is in control and that I will be fine”  I said that to him so many times in fact that it got down to a kind of short hand where I would just look at him, smile and say one word.  “God.”

What a privilege that was.

But was that the purpose? Was that the reason for me to be layed-off?  So that I could be this witness of calm and joy during a storm to my former boss?

I don’t know.

I may never know.

But here is the key to the whole thing

I don’t need to know.

It is enough for me to know that God is good.  I can trust that God did have a purpose in my job layoff and that it was all about HIS Glory.

wanting the microphone

I’ve been wishing for a chance to speak publicly about some recent events in my life, and at the same time I’ve been ashamed of that desire.  Part of my southern upbringing is to suppress all hankering for publicity.  So every time I caught myself wanting to speak up about some recent blessings I would firmly squash the desire by telling myself that it was rude to brag.  But what I was failing to comprehend was that the publicity I wanted was not for myself.  I don’t want to brag on my own accomplishments. 

I earnestly yearn to brag on my God. 

The God who brought my family through the struggles of infertility. The God who abundantly blessed us during both my husband’s layoff and my recent job loss.  The God who has showered me in loving mercies during a time that most would see as a severe trial.  Sure, I do have a public forum.  I write a blog, but most of the folks in my church don’t read blogs and I find myself wanting  my congregation, my home church to hear about my God and the wonderful things He has done for me.

Even the psalmist had this same longing.  Look at Psalm 116:17 – 19

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call upon the name of the LORD
I shall pay my vows to the LORD
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people
In the courts of the LORD’s house
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem
Praise the LORD!

So, in an effort to break out of my overly-southern, rigidly-polite heritage and offer public praise to my Lord, I now submit a sacrifice of praise in the form of a psalm.   I’m not a poet, so forgive me if this is a little rough.  It is from the heart and that is all I was trying to accomplish.

When I cast myself down and wept
Lain down on a bed of sorrow
You comforted my heart
Your peace, O LORD flooded my mind

When I wandered in darkness,
angry and filled with bitterness
You sent words of comfort
you gave a song to my throat
and fierce joy to my limbs

My God will fight my battles
You allowed earthly powers to triumph over me for a day
but granted me the grace to look
mine enemy in the face and
bless Your name

My oppressor has acknowledged
You O my God.
The power of Your hand has been visible
even unto him who has struck me down
You caused him to weep
in bitterness and to bless your name
You have allowed my oppressor to see
Your favor for me.
He has witnessed the outpouring of
Your blessings on my house and my lands

O LORD my God
May Your name be praised
May my speech and the labor of my hands
Be nothing more than a window to You
Protect me LORD from everything
except Your Glory.

May I never cease to sing Your Praise.

Try writing your own psalm to God during this Lent season and see what happens.