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.

 

Advertisements
hello, my name is mud.

hello, my name is mud.

I realized something today about humanity…..and by extension, myself.

I am mud. We are all dirt. (it’s an analogy, work with me here, okay?)

God gives rain.  (“bad times” negative experiences etc…)

God brings sunshine. (good times, successes, mountain top experiences)

Seeds are planted in our lives by encounters with others and by reading God’s Word and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.

But those seeds need rain and sunshine to enable them to flourish.

If not for the rain, nothing would grow.

That growth has to happen for anything good to come of us.

We are the dirt.

We are not the plant. God planted the plant in us, the dirt men and mud women.

Nothing we do, nothing we are, is any good without God. This gets really simple to understand when we fully realize our dirt-ness.

Have you ever managed to make anything nutritious or yummy out of dirt?

Nope, I didn’t think so.

You can make good things GROW in dirt, but the dirt itself is not yummy.

Not. One. Thing that I do has any value apart from God.

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

There is nothing I as a dirt-woman can accomplish that has any value. But the plants, the seeds, the rains, the sunshine, the growth….these CAN Bless others and be used for God’s glory.

 

don’t wait

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

just read that sentence and you can hear the song in your head.  Or if you can’t, click on the video.  Enjoy.  I’ll wait.

 

A concept that resonates with just about everyone.  We all get it.

Somewhere in the world, it just turned 5 o’clock, so its okay to let loose, party and perhaps consume an adult beverage or three.

Fun idea,  and not too difficult to understand.

Now I want you to consider applying this concept to a Bible verse.

yes, a Bible verse.

Lamentations 3: 22 & 23 (ESV)  to be exact

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
Great is your faithfulness

 

How many times have we heard people say “His mercies are new every morning” and mentally applied it like this:

“wow, I really messed up today, but tomorrow I can start fresh”

“ugh it’s only 9:47 a.m. !  Today has started off horrible!  So glad tomorrow will be better”

Why wait?

The earth is round.

You are on the earth.

the sun is coming up SOMEWHERE

so

DON’T WAIT

Claim it right now.  His Mercies are new right now.

You don’t have to wait till tomorrow for the Faithfulness and Mercy of our Living God.

This is one thing it is okay to be impatient for.

 

 

 

with fear and trembling

I am posting this with fear and trembling.  I know it will be misunderstood.  I know people are going to say all kinds of ugly things to me about this.  But I just feel that now is the time and I need to post it. 

 

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient,
to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one,
to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men.
Titus 3:1&2

Something about the structure of this verse really speaks to me.

If you look closely at it there is a progression from simple (and possibly teeth gritting) obedience all the way to a change of heart and mind.

First things first – nowhere does this verse say “only obey laws and rulers if you agree with them”

Now I know that is not going to make me very popular.  But in the wholehearted enthusiasm that Americans tend to have for the campaign season and the creation and destruction of laws and candidates we tend to lose sight of something very important. 

Once the votes are counted, it is time to set aside the differences and work together.

This is not just a civic (and civil) duty…..it is an instruction from GOD himself.

And lest you think that God might not approve of THAT PARTICULAR candidate having won and that gives you a hall-pass so you don’t have to obey…think again. 

God changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel 2:21

So, no matter who wins.  No matter what the temporal laws are, God is the one who put them there.  Yes, we can fight against injustice, but stay within legal boundaries.  Bad laws and poor rulers do not excuse the sin of disobedience. ever.

Ahem.

Back to what I was saying….the structure of this verse moves from teeth gritting obedience, to a change of heart.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities,

Subject.  This indicates an understanding that we are indeed supposed to obey.  We must think of ourselves not as being above human laws and regulations, but as being subject to the law, just like everyone else.

to be obedient,

here again, obedient.  People who are obedient are not conforming under threat, they obey because they choose to obey.  In order to be called “obedient” you need to display a pattern of regularly obeying.  Sounds obvious, but we tend to want to be called obedient based on a single instance instead of a long term pattern.

to be ready to do whatever is good,

For me this line indicates a mindset that has moved beyond naming names and caring which “party” or stance a particular ruler belongs to or espouses.  Understanding that all good deeds are done for God, no matter who is the earthly leader. So get out there, and do good. 

to slander no one,

if it isn’t campaign season…keep your lips closed firmly over all forms of mud slinging and other hurtful words.  They do no-one any good, and they harm both yourself and your listeners.

to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men.

I can’t think of a much greater compliment than to have someone say “I really like being around her, she is just so filled with a sense of calm….peaceful.  You can tell she trusts God”  How many of us can honestly say we have a sense of peace about anything political?

Try this

Trust God.

He is in charge.  He is the one who determines the outcome.  He has a plan.  And He doesn’t make mistakes.  If you disagree with God on who He has allowed to rule in any given span of time, take it up with Him while you continue to obey.

oh and you might try Praying.   Pray for the God who created us all to flood the minds and hearts of the people in power so that no matter who they are, they end up doing what God wanted them to do in the first place.

renewal

In this fall season, renewal is not a primary focus, but something just jumped out of a verse at me this morning and I wanted to share.

I am having a rough day at work.  Actually the last two days have been rough.  And when this situation began I reacted poorly.  Not as poorly as I have in the past, but not perfectly either.

A spirit of fear, defensiveness and anger took hold of me.

This morning, as the tension mounted…..I found myself winding tighter and tighter.  In desperation I looked around my cubicle walls and started reading the scripture memory team cards posted there.

Those who look to the LORD are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

Well, that doesn’t help.  It only makes me feel worse, since I didn’t keep my eyes on God.

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things
Colossians 3:2

*sigh* here again, I didn’t keep my mind focused where it needed to be.  I feel like a failure.  And then my eyes found the verse that delivered the help I needed after a failure…

Create in me a clean heart oh God, and RENEW a right spirit within me
Psalm 51:10

The word RENEW jumped out at me in a way it never had before.

I had always thought of this verse as a plea for God to create a clean heart and right spirit in me and then I was supposed to be able to keep it clean and pure and right.  Through my own human effort.

But the truth is that I simply can’t.  I can’t keep a clean heart and right spirit on my own. 

I need to be renewed….probably about once a minute or so.

Even the psalmist felt the need to have a right spirit renewed.  So logically we can conclude that even the psalmist failed to continually have a right spirit.  He had, at least occasionally, a wrong spirit.  And yet he had complete confidence in God’s love for him and willingness to rescue him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Though I don’t normally advocate deriving comfort from the failures of others, today I found a great deal of comfort in the failures of the psalmist.

because i promised

I recently got a message from a friend who reminded me that I hadn’t posted on the blog in a while.

That same day I had submitted my written testimony as part of a job application to a Mission organization that I really would love to work for.  In the process of writing the testimony, I handed it to my pastor to see if he had any edits or suggestions.

He handed it back to me and to my utter shock said this

“Don’t change a word. Oh, and I want you to read this during my sermon this Sunday”

Can you spell shock?  or how about flabbergasted? that’s a good one.

So I did it.  I read it in church.  My husband says it went over really well.  I wouldn’t know.  The whole experience is somewhat of a blank to me.  Something about the dark room and that spotlight just erased my brain I think.  Anyway, here is the written version.

Streams of Mercy, Never Ceasing…..
As a Christian child, I loved the Jesus of Sunday school and songs, but my faith had no depth, so my adult choices resulted in two failed marriages. At my lowest point I was living in a sinful situation, with no repentance or desire for God.  I thought God was all about “no” and rules.  Eventually my wrong thinking took me somewhere I had never planned to go.  Friends and family alike were fed up with my continuing disasters.  My life was a mess, and it was my fault.

I was alone.

God then poured out His mercy on me through one friend – Barbara.  She made it clear that she deplored my choices, but Barbara also made it clear and that she, and God, loved me. And she set out to prove it.  After unsuccessfully inviting me to church many times, Barbara decided to kidnap me.  Every Sunday she got her family up early, drove to my home, rousted me out of bed, and took me to church.  My unwilling ears heard truth at that church.

Sometimes I would come home from work, expecting a silent, lonely house and I would find instead a home full of Barbara’s family.  The kids were happy to see me, dinner was on the stove and I had a family to eat it with.  We would read, talk, and fellowship.  My hardened heart saw love made tangible.

Because of Barbara’s deliberate ministry to me I began to want to know God.  I finally read the Bible, and found out about a God beyond Sunday school songs.  A God that wants an intimate relationship with me.  That still blesses me with fresh meaning every day.

My life still has highs and lows, but every day I learn more ways to praise my redeemer.  These days my husband and I host a Bible study in our home, I write devotionals, volunteer in our church, and I’m currently learning the inductive method of Bible study.  Martin works for our church and we have a beautiful daughter through the blessing of adoption.  My Lord has bound my wandering heart to Him through more goodness, blessings and merciful moments than I can count.  Streams of Mercy, Never Ceasing.  Here, I raise my Ebenezer indeed.

pump up the volume

Thoughts.  Thoughts scurry in my mind.

Like fifteen toddlers who all are trying to get out the door all at once.  What you really need is for them all to be quiet, and pay attention so you can instruct them to get in line and hold hands.

No one will get left out.  Just calm down.

When you are dealing with just one toddler at a time, you can afford to use a quiet voice.  It won’t work all the time, but some toddlers will quiet themselves down just to be able to catch the sound of a quiet, calm, authority.

But when you are dealing with a room full of noise, distractions and chaos……

Sometimes you just have to raise your voice. Just a smidge.

“Everyone needs to sit down. Now.  And Be Quiet.”

I think,  sometimes, God needs to shout at me.  To “Pump up the Volume” as it were.  Just a smidge.

Don’t know about you, but I get swarmed under by myriad fears, anxieties, worries, things I’m planning, posts to write, schedules to arrange….and when I was waiting for our adoption to come through it was even worse.  The thoughts that crowded my head all the time…oi!  Each thought was a mere whisper, but the cumulative effect was an overwhelming din.

Are we in God’s will? Will the paperwork ever go through?Will we ever be matched? Are we matched with the right birth family? Is this couple going to run off with our money? Am I sinful for worrying about the money? Is the baby healthy? Am I sinful for worrying about whether the baby is healthy? Am I ready to parent? Is anyone ever ready to parent? Will I be a good parent? Have I worked through my grief yet? Is adoption a moral option? Or am ripping a child away from her family forever? Is this baby going to be permanently emotionally damaged by just the mere fact of being adopted? Will I be able to explain the concepts of adoption to a child without giving him, or her, a complex?

At some point God had to shout to be heard above the babble of fears swarming around in my mind and heart.

“Everyone needs to sit down. Now. And Be Quiet.”

In other words,

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

When that verse is read out loud it is commonly read in a quiet, respectful, calm voice.  But I have this vision of God occasionally having to shout it at me in order to be heard over all the scurry and noise of my mind.  All those fears running in circles, and the things I spend my mental energies worrying at.  Each one, individually doesn’t make that much noise, but collectively? They can be deafening.

How did God “shout” at me?  I am convinced of this – He let our adoption proceedings get to a point where there was, quite literally

Nothing I Could Do.

Not one thing I did was going to make the process happen faster, or better, or proceed in a more understandable direction.  Once we got to the point where nothing I did would have any effect…..

It finally dawned on me that God was in charge.  He had been in charge all along of course, no matter how much I thought I was contributing.

Why am I writing this?  Well Missy asked me to share “what to say to a friend who is waiting for an adoption”

Hmmmm.

Okay.

First off, my reaction when she asked me to write this was something on the order of “are you kidding me?  I am hardly the poster child of someone enduring a long wait for an adoption!” (ours went from the very first phone call with the agency all the way to the delivery room in an INSANELY short 6 months) but then I stopped and thought about it and remembered all the sleepless nights, the heart-rending questions I had, the grief of being convinced that each moment that we waited was some kind of judgment for my past sins and I realized afresh a very simple truth….

When you are in the throes of waiting for something, every single moment feels like the middle of forever.

When you are waiting, you can’t see the end.

When you are waiting for a phone call, you have no way of knowing when it will come.

When you are waiting on the good offices of some clerk in some office somewhere in a county, city, or country far-far-away, or even one next door, there is nothing you can do to make them work faster or look on you with favor.  You just have to wait.

And when you are waiting, you become like a child eager for Christmas.  Or a dog waiting for his master to return home from work.  The only thing your brain registers is

Each

Tick

Of

The

Clock

Seems

Like

An

Eternity.

So what to say to a friend who is waiting for an adoption?  Well unless you can be right there next to your friend every moment, every second of her torment, to whisper to her that God is good and that He knows what he is doing, there is really no way that you personally can adequately comfort your friend.

Lots of people said lots of things to me.  Some of them were helpful.  Some, not so much.  But I have to be honest with you, nothing really sank in until I was forced by God to sit still and listen.  So my best advice is this –

If you have a friend who is waiting, (whether they are waiting for IVF results, or waiting for a clerk to forward their paperwork, or waiting for a match, or waiting for a baby to be born) Give them God.  Give them Scripture.  Encourage them to fill their every waking minute with the love and comfort of our Lord. Scripture songs on CD are especially good.  Any human advice you give them is just going to get lost in the noise of their fretting, scurrying, endlessly circling brains.  BUT scripture will echo in their hearts because it is by nature divine, and when they slow down enough to listen (or God brings them up short, like he did with me) they will finally hear, process and be blessed.

Which scriptures?

Well, that is between you and the Holy Spirit, but here are some ones that helped me

Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (this one was a great one to shout at God when my heart was crying one great big long WHY LORD, WHY?????!!!!!!!!)

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Genesis 18:14
Is anything too hard for the LORD?  (nothing is too difficult for God.  nothing. Simple and true)

Psalm 62: 1 & 2
My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 10:12
Arise LORD! Lift up your hand oh God. Do not forget the helpless.  (we prayed this for our as yet unknown child and her parents. Over and over and over)

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD. Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Galatians 3:3
are you so foolish? After beginning with the spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  (this one stung me.  I am a do-er by nature. Nuff said)

I John 1:5
God is light, in him there is no darkness AT ALL  ( this one helped me immeasurably.  Yes, I know.  As a Christian this sounds like such a simple concept, but it really helped drive me to the point of acknowledging that God IS good.)

Any time you have a friend who is hurting ( and trust me, waiting for an adoption can be a long series of one hurt after another) you should pray, fervently for God to give you wisdom.  For the Holy Spirit to speak through you and provide comfort.  This is something that God has already promised to do for all of us, so you don’t have to worry about if this is in his will or not.  You already know that it is.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Isaiah 61:1&2
The spirit of the sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion.

My family has not yet come to the end of our adoption journey.  We adopted an infant girl from a wonderful family that we love and pray for daily.

But the journey doesn’t end there.  Every day we get up and continue the process of adoption.  As Ginny grows and understands more and more we will have new challenges.  Every day there are new obstacles to confront, and new events to wait for and the scriptures that calmed me during our adoption process still apply.

And so do my instructions from the God that whispers in my heart (and sometimes has to shout at me to get me to listen)…..

Be still, and know that I am God.