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.

 

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.

 

 

 

one day, one story

One day, one story

Testimony. Relatively small word with a huge amount of baggage. Movie sized baggage. I think that all too often that baggage squashes a lot of us and keeps us from sharing our very real, very worthwhile testimonies.  Even I have said it….“Oh, I don’t have a testimony, not like “the cross and the switchblade” or Tim Tebow, or Beth Moore.”  Nothing big like that.

This is where I think Facebook could actually be good for Christians. Forget about having a screenplay-sized testimony….Try telling what God just did in your life in the last 24 hours. Or 24 minutes. Make it short. To the point.

You don’t have to twitter about it, speaking of it as it happens in a play by play. Most times none of us actually recognize a happening as significant until days later anyway. But put it out there.  share.

Don’t be stingy with your testimony. God is alive. You are alive. God is in your life. Therefore, guess what? God JUST did something in your life. Period. If you tell me He didn’t, I’ll tell you you weren’t watching.

So what’s my testimony been recently?

Well last just week,  24 hours changed my life.

Or more accurately 24 hours changed my PERCEPTION of my life.

1 week ago today I was awaiting the results of a thyroid biopsy. I was at work. I was covering the front desk. The one place where you REALLY don’t want to get caught making a personal call.  ahem….

But my cell phone was dead. And that’s the number the nurse had for reaching me. So I dug out the phone number, picked up the front desk phone….and made a personal call.

And got the “bad news” 

Funny really. The cancer had been there for years. I just didn’t know about it. What is it about “knowing” that changes how we see everything? I don’t feel any different. But there is an endless refrain in my head right now (the is the uncensored truth I’m about to share here. Not a piously edited version)

“I have cancer. Holy shit! I have cancer. Does it show? Can I feel it? Is this really happening? I have cancer. Cancer. Cancer…….really? I have cancer. Did you know? Does that person know? Does it change how they feel about me? Holy shit! I have cancer”

I’m not kidding. That paragraph up there, or some variation of it, has been running through my head almost continually for just over a week now. Hopefully it will go away eventually. But for right now it is a constant buzz in the back of my brain.

Why am I blogging about this? Hang on. You’ll see.

So I told my boss. She came up front to sub for me so I could go to my office in the back, make medical appointments and call my husband. Did that. Set the appointment with Dr. Amy Chen for March 24th (which was then a week away). Called Martin. Told him the news. Managed to laugh about it. Told him not to tell anyone yet. Especially don’t put me on the church prayer list.

Then I went back up front and told my boss that we were going to have to wait another week to find out what kind of impact this diagnosis was going to have on me, on the staffing situation at work etc. I also mentioned that I had asked the appointment staff at Dr. Amy Chen’s office to keep me on a “hot list” and call me if anything opened up sooner and I would drive right over.

I managed to tell my mom in a way that made her laugh ( I hope).

This is the point at which I changed my mind about the prayer list thing. I knew there were loads of people who would want to know so they could pray. But notifying all those people by personal email was just too much to contemplate, so….I posted it on facebook. Yes, the support poured in. But that wasn’t the point. I allowed participation in my life and when God moved just a few hours later, I was able to post that too.

Just before the end of the workday I called the appointment scheduler for Dr. Amy Chen’s office back and they said that an appointment had just opened up for 9 a.m. the very next day. I practically shouted “I’LL TAKE IT!”

And then immediately got on facebook again and was able to post the praise that God had worked out the timing and moved my appointment up.

How is that a testimony? It allowed me to demonstrate, in a tangible way that I truly believe God watches over our real lives and makes these types of things happen. And it gets better….

When I met Dr. Chen the next day she was wonderful, professional, reassuring and very likable right off the bat. But it gets better…One of the things I had written on my form when I checked in under the “what do you want to talk to your doctor about today” heading was “U.S. Adult Nationals (figure skating) in 3 weeks”

So we got to the normal end of the appointment, just about the time you expect a doc to shake your hand and leave. We’ve covered all the normal stuff after all, she has other people to see. When what does she do? She sits down, looks at me and says, “So, you’re an ice skater. Did you know I skated when I was a kid?” Then she proceeds to tell me stories from her time as a child skater and eventually we talk about the scheduling of my surgery, how it will impact my work and my skating. It was such a huge relief to be able to talk to a surgeon about recovery and have them already understand about skating. What it entails, how to return to the ice without endangering the surgical site etc.

Once again, I got to put a post up on facebook that demonstrates, by example, that I know God cares about each of us and knew that Dr. Chen was the right surgeon for me, not just because she is skilled, but because of her personal background.  We have a personal God.

These little bits of my life that get lived out in public ARE my testimony. The little things that will eventually add up and make someone who has known me say “why are so okay with this? Can you tell me more?” Whether they ask me, or someone else, the seed is sown.

To me “testimony” doesn’t mean telling people the GOSPEL in its entirety. It means living a life that causes them to one day ask for more information.

Live that life. One piece at a time. One day. One story. One Moment. One shared thought. Where people can see it, so that one day, they will ask for more.

One day.

One story.

One life.

One seed.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.