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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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.

 

 

 

plan interrupted

plan interrupted

When I was 15 I had a plan.

  1. Graduate college
  2. Find a man
  3. Get married
  4. Adopt a dog
  5. Be adopted by a cat
  6. Have kids
  7. Live happily ever after

My life soooooo didn’t go according to plan.

I didn’t graduate college till I was almost 30.   I had two failed marriages.  The dogs and cat didn’t come till after I turned 30. And children of my own body will never happen.  Some of the reasons my life didn’t go according to plan are my fault, some were things that were never in my control to begin with.

Like many couples, we struggled for years to have children.  Eventually we made the life altering decision to open our hearts to adoption.  (Let me just say here that this was not a decision we made lightly, nor was it an attempt to replace childbearing.  Adoption is an entirely different emotional adjustment and needs to be approached with prayer and care)

That said, we went through the process and were eventually selected by a young couple to raise their baby that was due in approximately 5 more moths.  We really bonded with them.  They said it was very important to them for their child to be raised in a Christian home.   They let us pray with them.

Just a month later we got a call from another agent.  An Emergency Situation – a baby had been born in a local hospital and the mother had just walked out.  Classic abandonment.  Did we want the baby?  Martin and I looked at each other…we were tempted.  Oh so tempted.  We could honor our agreement with the first couple and wait for their baby, or go right now and come home with a baby today.  Oh we were tempted.  That’s when grief unresolved rears its ugly head.  My arms ached to hold a baby, any baby. But we prayed, and felt a sense of peace about honoring our agreement with the first couple.  We felt good about that decision.

Then it happened again, the very next week. Similar situation.  This time it was twins.  Oh my word!  But again we decided to wait and go with the couple we had already committed to.

We were now just a month or two away from her due date.  It looked like our happily ever after was just around the corner.

But …(why is there always a but?)

A week later this couple, that had been so open and sweet turned out to be dishonest.  They chose to disappear with a large chunk of money and a huge piece of our hearts.

We were devastated.

We were in shock.

Why had God allowed us to connect so well with this couple? Why did He allow them to defraud us? Why had He given us such peace about continuing with a couple that HE knew was going to wrong us?  A couple that he knew was lying to us and their own extended family?

Some good things came out of the situation.

We watched our agent display integrity and compassion.

We were able to be a witness to the couple through our opportunity to show them mercy and not press charges. As well as the various kindnesses along the way.

Maybe God’s purpose was the timing?  For those of you who have met Ginny,  you know the story turns out well.  But did you know that she is a miracle of timing?

The very same weekend that we had been invited out to meet our first couple.  The very same weekend that we were supposed to go to an ultrasound appointment with them

Is the same weekend, even the same HOUR that Ginny’s birth parents  were having an ultrasound that showed them Ginny.  That was when they were making their decision that would lead to us adopting Ginny.

We didn’t know it at the time of course.  All we knew was that we had been hurt by one couple and we didn’t know what to do next.  Weeks later when I eventually saw the ultrasound for Ginny, the time and date stamp just leaped right off the page at me.  I got chills.

Was that the purpose of the whole mess with the first couple?  Was God just trying to keep us on hold with them so that we wouldn’t jump at those two abandonment situations?  Was he trying to make sure we would be ready and waiting when Ginny’s birth parents were ready to make their decision?

Maybe.  It is certainly one pattern that I can see. But was that God’s purpose?

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 everything that lead us to Ginny.  NOT because I finally have my fairy tale, but because all things are in God’s control and he works all things together for HIS GLORY

HE interrupted my plans (multiple times, but who’s counting?) so that He could give me something far greater than anything that was on my pristine plan.

Yes Ginny is nearly eight now, but I still marvel at how beautifully God orchestrated events so that Ginny would be part of our family and we would be forever part of hers.

 

 

crying it out

I’m talking to parents here.

Ever done that thing where you sit in the hall, with the lights out and listen to your child cry?

Most parents are familiar with this as a way to try to get a child to learn to go to sleep on their own.  Learning to put yourself to sleep is a life skill that we all need.  But it doesn’t just happen, you have to learn it.  and learning is, sometimes, a pain-filled process.

I’m facing that with Ginny right now.  We used to have a pretty solid routine and she knew how to go to sleep by herself.  We were very good at the whole “never put her down asleep, always put her in her crib when she is drowsy, but still awake” thing. She learned her lessons very well and we hardly ever had to get up in the night or spend hours begging her to just please go back to sleep.

We thought she had learned that life lesson perfectly.  Chalk one up for the awesome parenting duo of Martin & Deirdre.  Congrats.  Your child has passed this test.  Please move forward.  You won’t ever have to learn this one over again.

WRONG.

Over time we let the routine slip.  Inch by inch we moved so far away from a child that puts herself to bed with no fuss that we are now living in the land of a tyrant who never gets enough sleep herself, and never lets papa get enough sleep. She crawls into bed with us in the middle of the night, she insists on a movie to fall asleep to, and papa must sit down with her to watch it.  Which leaves papa asleep on the sofa and Ginny getting just enough of a nap between 8 and 10 p.m. that when Martin finally wakes up to take her upstairs, she wakes up pretty thoroughly and either makes him read to her half the night or begs for another movie. 

Martin’s poor tired, sleep deprived soul is not strong enough to resist her at that hour, so she pretty much gets whatever she wants.

But the lack of sleep is getting to be a serious problem.  Not just for Martin, but for Ginny’s friends and playmates.  She is a crabby, bossy spoiled, violent little terror these days.

Ginny is unhappy. Martin is unhappy.  I am unhappy.  and Ginny’s friends, school-mates and teachers are definitely unhappy.

Don’t get me wrong, Ginny is also blindingly intelligent, adorable, sweet, loving and kind.  But she can go from one extreme to the other so fast it is really scary and I’m convinced that half of it is a lack of sleep.

So, we are going to try the old, “sorry, I know you don’t want to, but you have to go to bed now” routine again.

Which means her parents are going to find themselves in that hall again…listening to her cry.

Why am I telling you all this?

to make myself look bad? no.
to belittle the parenting skills of myself or my spouse? no. Martin is a hero as far as I’m concerned.
to humiliate my child? no.  she’s just being a kid.

It’s because of a song that got sung in church this week.

Nichole Nordeman’s “Why are they screaming”

We rode into town the other day
Just me and my Daddy
He said I’d finally reached that age
And I could ride next to him on a horse
That of course was not quite as wide

We heard a crowd of people shouting
And so we stopped to find out why
And there was that man
That my dad said he loved
But today there was fear in his eyes

So I said “Daddy, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why is He dressed in that bright purple robe?
I’ll bet that crown hurts Him more than He shows
Daddy, please can’t you do something?
He looks as though He’s gonna cry
you said he was stronger than all of those guys
Daddy, please tell me why
Why does everyone want him to die?”

Later that day the sky grew cloudy
And Daddy said I should go inside
Somehow he knew things would get stormy
Boy was he right
But I could not keep from wondering
If there was something he had to hide

So after he left I had to find out
I was not afraid of getting lost
So I followed the crowds
To a hill where I knew men had been killed
And I heard a voice come from the cross

And it said, “Father, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why are they casting their lots for My robe?
This crown of thorns hurts Me more than it shows
Father, please can’t You do something?
I know that You must hear My cry
I thought I could handle the cross of this size
Father, remind Me why
Why does everyone want Me to die?
When will I understand why?”

“My precious Son, I hear them screaming
I’m watching the face of the enemy beaming
But soon I will clothe You in robes of My own
Jesus, this hurts Me much more than You know
But this dark hour I must do nothing
Though I’ve heard Your unbearable cry
The power in Your blood destroys all of the lies
Soon You’ll see past their unmerciful eyes
Look there below, see the child
Trembling by her father’s side
Now I can tell You why
She is why You must die”

http://youtu.be/sRKV8Jh5IgQ is the link to the song. 

The whole song is breathtaking and was presented by a teenager in our church in a very moving way.  She didn’t sing it perfectly, she sang it with absolute participation and consequently brought the audience to tears.  The verse that really gets me is the one about God the Father listening to His son’s screaming  and having to wait for the time to be right to respond.

I know that my sitting in the hall listening to Ginny crying doesn’t even come close, but it gives me a tiny glimpse into “that dark hour”

And makes the coming of Easter just a tiny bit more real to me this year.

one track mind

One track mind

I don’t know about you, but I like to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Most of us feel pulled in 275 different directions everyday.

Carpool, school, breakfast, exercise?, errands, cleaning, more carpool, meetings, afterschool stuff, dinner?  And sleep?  Maybe?

But did you know that you were put on this earth with ONE PURPOSE?

ONE goal.

ONE item to take precedence over all others on your to-do list.

BRING GLORY to GOD.

That’s it.

It’s that simple.

Nothing else is as important as that one task.

So while you are rushing around each day, remember that through it all should run the constant theme

Glorify God. 

Make that carpool line a chance to be kind to other parents.  Give them the gift of a smile as you all sit in line.

Help your child view school as a place to represent God well each an everyday.   

Breakfast.  I know, most of us aren’t conscious at breakfast time, but try to cobble together a few brain cells and pray a blessing at breakfast.  It helps to start the day in the proper frame of mind.

Exercise.  You don’t need to go to a “Christian aerobics” class to make God a part of your exercise plan.  I’m going to say something potentially controversial here.  DO NOT exercise if you are only doing it because you hate your current body shape.  Self-hate is only a temporary motivator.  Exercise because the Creator put you here to bring Himself glory.  And you can do that best when you are HEALTHY.

Errands.  You are a missionary in that check out line.  You have a gift to bring to the people all around you.  The gift of God’s joy!  Show it.

Cleaning.  Yes I know.  Boring topic.  But honestly, look at it this way, if your best friend loaned you a special vase or item of furniture, you would make sure you took care of it so that you could give it back to her with your thanks and in good condition, right?  If you think about it, everything here on this earth belongs to God.  He has simply loaned it to you (the earth is the LORDS and everything in it).  Yes even your carpet.  So take care of all that loaner stuff you are wearing, sitting on, viewing, and driving around in.  Not for the sake of the stuff, but for the sake of the one who loaned it to you.

The same goes for the people in your life.  God put them in your life for a reason.  Take care of them too.

staring at cheesecake

What would happen if  I spent all my time focusing on cheesecake.

If I made sure to have cheesecake  in front of me every minute, how successful do you imagine I would be in maintaining a healthy diet? or in working out? or doing anything other than thinking about the cheesecake I was giving up.  The cheesecake I can’t have.  The cheesecake other people get to have.  The cheesecake I want….

It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?

Instead, I need to focus on the things I should desire – yummy fresh vegetables, nice lean tasty meats and fish.  The endorphin rush of a good, long bike ride.  Or the adrenaline surge from a really good day of ice skating.

Focusing on those things will make the cheesecake …fade away into insignificance.  This is not rocket science.  It all seems pretty obvious, right?  Yet when it comes time for stewardship campaigns in churches across America what do we all do?

We focus, intently, on the checkbook.

We go to money management seminars and read materials on how to be more God-centered in our budgeting.  We pray about our budget asking God “What do you want me to give this year?”  We listen to sermons on how to put God first and how to teach children the value of tithing.

Don’t you see?

We are focusing on the cheesecake!

What if, instead of focusing on our money (which really isn’t ours to begin with, since everything on earth belongs to our creator) we chose to

GET EXCITED ABOUT WHAT GOD IS DOING
and

GET INVOLVED

If giving to the General Fund of your church doesn’t excite you, try reading up on what the “General Fund” covers.  The programs in your church it feeds into.  If your church is anything like mine you will find a list of endless community outreach, mission trips and special items all hiding under that umbrella of “General Fund” 

Still not excited?  Don’t feel like you have found the project that God wants you to invest in?  Call the church office or visit the church website. Look around you.  What project or outreach needs an infusion of cash or volunteers?

We all need to stop focusing on the money we are “giving up”   and instead focus on the adrenaline rush of being a conduit of blessing from God to those around us.