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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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.

giving good gifts

We all love to get good gifts, but how many of us are good at giving really good thoughtful gifts.  I’ll admit, I struggle.

And even when I manage to think of something absolutely prefect to give, most of the time it is outside of my budget, or there are time constraints that make it just not possible to accomplish.

But I got a reminder this past Saturday that there are some gifts that are precious, perfect, always appreciated, and free.

I had to go to a funeral on Saturday, (bear with me here.  it will all make sense in a minute, I promise.  just keep reading….) and I needed to take Ginny with me.  Martin had commitments that could not involve a four year old, so she had to come with me. I knew it wasn’t going to be any fun for her, but she can be pretty good about sitting still so I knew it wasn’t going to hurt her to go. 

The funeral was for a Sunday School teacher that I had when I was very young.  She also did substitute teaching at the Christian school I went to and her son was a young man I looked up too alot.  In a “6th graders distant crush on a rugged senior soccer player” kind of way. 

The church where the funeral was held is the same church I grew up in and my mother worked in.  First Alliance Church in Atlanta.  While my mom worked, my brother and I used to play all over the church.  We would do commando crawl races under the pews. We played hide and seek and tag everywhere (and I do mean EVERYWHERE, even the baptismal).  We even got in trouble once for eating up all the communion crackers.  We thought they were just crumbled up saltines.  During services my mom sat close to the front row.  She had a real talent for disciplining us silently and unobtrusively.  I remember that quite clearly, but I can also recall times when I would get sleepy and put my head in her lap.  Mother would do what all mothers do…trace letters or just random patterns on my back and run her fingers through my hair as I drifted.

okay, so you get the picture.  My mother and I were heading into a building that we hadn’t been in since 1987.  To attend the funeral of this dear lady, and to see people we hadn’t seen in forever.  Bringing my child along just made sense. She can be a conversation piece.  A distraction if this whole experience gets too intense or awkward.

Besides, she has this adorable smocked dress.  It’s black with tiny white snowmen up around the collar.  With her fair coloring and those big blue eyes……how could I resist the opportunity to show her off? 

Stay with me…there is a point. 

So we are all in the car.  Me, my mom and Ginny.

And Ginny, naturally asks “Where are we going and why am I all dressed up?”

pause.

me: “okay Ginny, when mama was a little girl she had a sunday school teacher she loved very much.  That sweet lady had a good life.  She had grandkids and was very happy, but now she is gone to heaven to be with Jesus and her family is very sad.  We are going to go give her family hugs”

Ginny “okay”

Then she goes back to playing with her stuffed toy in the back seat and my mom and I embark on a discussion of old times at First Alliance Church.

We get to the church, walk in and wow…..  it is different, and the same all at once.  There were people we know and people we used to know and people we don’t know at all.  The service was beautiful and the music really got Ginny’s attention.  It was a long service though and by the end of it I was whispering to Ginny all about the special treat (high tea with mama and grammy) that she would get if she could just sit still for a little while longer.  Eventually the service was over and we filed quietly out into the vestibule.

At which point,  my child enthusiastically reaches for all these complete strangers and starts handing out hugs. 

Some people she grabbed around the legs, some she pulled on their sleeve till they bent down or picked her up to see what she wanted, and once she reached out from my arms to hug the mother of a friend of mine from middle school.  She literally attack-hugged the whole crowd….and it was like watching the sun come up to see the effect she had on that room.

It was so simple.  She gave comfort.  She gave smiles and hugs because they were needed.  She didn’t know these people.  But she blessed them right where they were.

Yes, my child is adorable, but that’s not the point.

The point for me is that so often when someone preaches on using our gifts they talk about time, money and talents.  The talents they refer to seem to be the specialised sort.  Like being able to sing, or preach, or organize or build things.  To me, those things are nice but what I think gets overlooked are the little gifts.

  • a note (but of course to write an encouraging note you have to have at least some familiarity with the person)
  • a hug (but most people, gregarious four-year-olds aside need to have some acquaintance with a person before hugging them)
  • a smile.  Smiles can be given to anyone, anywhere without knowing a single thing about the other person.

What? you don’t think a smile is a gift?  When was the last time someone just beamed when you walked into a room?  Remember how that made you feel?  Well you can make other people feel just like that.  I call that a gift.

I have a challenge for you.

Next time you walk along  in the mall, or on your way to or from your car in a parking lot, try giving the gift of a smile to literally everyone whose eye you can catch.  That way they don’t think you are just smiling to yourself.  Make sure you catch their eye and then smile right at them.   Make them feel like you smiled because they crossed your path.

Let me know how it goes.  I’m betting you will be addicted to this form of gift giving in just one session.

oh, and one other blessing rained down on my head during that service….Ginny put her head in my lap and I got to play with her hair and trace letters on her back in that same sanctuary where I can clearly recall my mom doing the same to me.

very slightly sick

okay, moms of this world, back me up. 

By a show of hands, who here actually enjoys it when their child is just slightly sick ?

I’m not talking about barfing, or anything disgusting.  I’m referring to those times when your child is just not feeling quite right. They need rest, fluids and quiet.  But mostly they need to snuggle in your arms all day.

Maybe it is wrong of me, but I love that. 

Or when Ginny falls and gets a scraped knee.  Or stubs her toe.  She needs comfort, she needs me.  Does it matter to me that just half a minute before the fall I was telling her “don’t do that honey, you are going to get hurt !”  ???  Nope.  Has no bearing on that moment when I get to hold her close and lavish love on her. 

While I am sorry that she is hurt,
secretly, in my heart of hearts
I am rejoicing that she turns to me and wants to be held. 

Ginny is at an age where she is trying to accomplish tasks that are beyond her.  She grabs some tasks out of my hands that weren’t meant for her to even attempt yet.  Some are things she will learn to do eventually, others are things she shouldn’t even try.  Often she won’t let me help her….until she has achieved a high level of frustration.  I don’t want her to be frustrated, but I do have to watch her till she gets to the point of turning to me and saying “help me please?”

I don’t like seeing her frustration,
but I love it that she knows that she can bring her frustrations to me
…… and that I can still fix them. 

Sometimes she is just exhausted.  Ginny is still young enough that when she is worn out she prefers to be held.  I know when she is older she will just lie down and go to sleep on her own.  But for now, when she is plain ole worn out, she would rather be held.  And it feels fabulous to be the one to get to hold her.

she was so tired she fell asleep while we were drying her off from her bath

My heart rejoices that this beloved child needs me…
is it just possible that God feels about us the same way that I feel about holding Ginny ?   

The Bible certainly says so

“the LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing”
Zephaniah 3:7

Why do I waste energy in self condemnation?  When my mind has been a little bit sickened for a while, and I need to be renewed, why do I fight against God?  Why do I try to raise my own mood?  Or strengthen my will on my own?  Why don’t I accept that He WANTS to comfort me? 

How often do I fall?  Everyday.  And what do I do?  I feel ashamed of falling.  I caused the hurt that is happening to me through my own stubborn actions or impetuous mouth.  So I mentally run away from God.  I say to myself “God must be so disappointed in me.  I messed up again!” 

How often do I run myself ragged trying to do or be too much to too many people?  I refuse to stop and take time to just rest in the LORD. 

Often I try to do things that are beyond my strength.  I fight and fight to accomplish things that God wanted to do in His strength, in His timing.  Why does it take me so long to hand things over to God?  He has been standing right there, waiting to happily take over the tasks that He meant for Himself, knowing that they weren’t intended for me to DO.  He meant all along for me to hand it to Him and give Him the glory.

When will I get it through my thick skull that God feels the same way about me that I feel about a slightly fevered toddler…..

I’m sorry you are hurting honey, but oh how I LOVE holding you.

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.

whats in a name?

 Okay.  Admit it, every single one of us, at some point or other has read a trashy romance novel.

Whether it was hiding from your parents under the covers at night, or out by the pool because you needed something to read and someone just handed you a random book.  We are all familiar enough with the basics.  The themes are fairly well known.  We can all practically outline them in our sleep. 

Step One – Heroine has rough life of some sort.

Step Two – Meets mystery guy

Step Three – Either falls hard or despises him on sight

But no matter what

No matter when in the book she eventually hears him speak her name

it is always meaningful.

“and when he said my name it had layers of meaning and depth.  He knew the person I could really be”

Or

“and when he said her name it woke feelings in her that she never knew existed”

And, of course,  the classic

“when he spoke my name there was instant connection.  I knew that he knew the real me.”

 Names mean something.

Names have depth. (even in literature that has no real depth….ahem.) 

Take the oposite example.   Have you ever run up against someone who says your name and it clearly means nothing to them?  Like when that kid at Fuddruckers announces that your hamburger is ready

“kateeeeeeeeeeeeeyurburgerisupcomengetitnow”

 Or a telemarketer calls

 “ma’amIwishtospeaktodeeeedrieeeeerooosooolplease”

 No feeling.  No depth. No understanding of what makes that name fit that particular person.  Even if you don’t subscribe to the romance novel concept of names having meaning, you can’t get way from a simple fact

A stranger will speak your name
very diferently
from someone who knows you.

And it is not surprising at all.  They don’t know us.  They have no connection.  Why on earth would their speaking of our name have meaning?

 Now turn this around.  How many time do we carelessly throw around other people’s names without thinking about it?

Or worse

 When was the last time you mentally or out loud just skimmed over the beginning portion of a Bible verse like this 

“thulorjurgahd has …”

 Without thinking about WHOSE NAME you are mangling. 

This week, try giving up our tendency to rush through the names of God.  Commit that every time you encounter a name of God you will pause, think it through and really savor the names of our Savior.