They are starting to show up again, cracks in our walls. From the corners of door facings and windows, they move along the walls in jagged lines. My son’s little finger traces over the crack that moves from one corner of his window toward his bed. The windows themselves have begun to separate from their sills. You can feel the cool morning breeze from across the room, with the window closed. Door heights have had to be adjusted so they will lock closed. These are visible signs of an unseen problem – the foundation. This house was built upon shifting ground. Though the owners had the foundation anchored, the problems persist.

Often times I see the cracks in my own life. Anger. Jealousy. Fear. Control. These cracks are evidences of the major flaw in my foundation – sin. On my own I grasp for straws wanting something solid and sure. I’ve tried to build on my own personal abilities, talents and desires – like the time I wanted to sell Mary Kay products. Boy, that was an expensive venture that went no where fast. I wasn’t in it for any reason other than what I could get out of it. Money. And less expensive make up. Truth is, I told myself it was for my family. That if I could just make enough income to work from home then I’d be happy. Isn’t that what we want? To have what we want, when and how we want it. Happiness, information, fulfillment, fill-in-your-own-blank, on our own terms. Yet, there’s that crack, leaving another gapping hole.

As many times as I’ve tried to make things right own my own, those darn cracks still show up. Just like in my house, I can patch and paint over the flawed walls, yet after time they reemerge, some not quite as wide and some in new spots. The same is true in our spiritual life. It is not a matter of just fixing the cracks in the walls, we must address the problem within our foundation. Jesus is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 7 speaking to this very subject.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on a solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27 NLT

Notice in Jesus’ words the conditions that both houses faced. Torrents of rain come, floodwaters rise and wind beats against both houses. I’m not sure if you’ve ever found yourselves in the middle of a hurricane, but my husband and I rode out Hurricane Katrina in a second floor apartment south of I-10 in Baldwin County, Alabama in 2005. In the days and months following we saw the destruction left behind by that powerful storm. Foundations wiped clean. Lives lost. Possessions destroyed. The storm did not pick and choose which homes and families to devastate. It destroyed all that was within its path. There was not one life in it’s path that was left untouched – whether physically or emotionally.

Afterward, as we spoke with families that had been affected, we saw despair in the eyes of some and hope in the hearts of others. Why such a difference?

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Proverbs 1:7 NLT

There were many who had experienced loss of homes and possessions, even of family members, that their hope was in the Lord and in His faithful Word. While they were shaken to the very core, their foundation no longer lay within their own strength and ability but in the Lord.

Those cracks are just symptoms. Treat the symptoms and the problem still persists. The problem is in our foundation. Build upon the Rock, who is our God, and we will find true knowledge for He alone grants wisdom. We cannot depend on our own abilities and strength. His Word tells us in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we should seek Him in ALL we do. Not in half of what we do, or only when we think we need Him. We are to seek Him. Daily. Moment by moment. Worshipping Him alone. Then, we will see that what He is building is much stronger, much sturdier than anything we could build on our own.

And just in case we need a reminder, like the foundation of my house had to be anchored so that it wouldn’t continue to cause major destruction to the structure that was built upon it, we have an anchor also.

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT

** So thankful for a wonderful small group of women with whom I meet for Bible study.  This blog came after reflecting back over one of our recent sessions. **

I’ve always been a fan of sports. Not in the way that made me want to play as much as I enjoyed watching them. My younger brother played baseball from when he was young through high school. I enjoyed watching him play because of his love for the game. He would watch his favorite players and try his best to do as they did. And he was good at the game. Now, as a mom I have the privilege of being their biggest cheerleader when they take a field in competition.

Recently our oldest son started playing Upward basketball. Now, basketball has never been my favorite sport, but I am enjoying watching him grow in his skills, love of the game and sportsmanship. But just like anything, it’s a process. Last week, he had a pretty good game, save for the fact he kept guarding whomever had the ball instead of sticking with his assigned man. So after the game as we were walking to the vehicle I just reminded him that the coach gave him a man to guard, if he chose not to no one else is going to do his job and he wasn’t meant to do another man’s job. Which got me to really thinking…how often do we do this in the church?

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Romans 12:6-8

It is so easy to get caught up in what we want to do well, what we can’t do well, what someone else does well that we don’t see what God has graciously gifted us to do well. So many times in my life I have fallen into the trap of comparison. “But God if only I could do what this person does, then I could serve you better.” or “But God if I only had this gift, opportunity, platform, then I could serve you better.” And then there have been times of “why this gift, opportunity or platform?” I made it about me.

If only I…

Don’t we all want to ball? Don’t we all want to make the basket, hit the home run, make the big play? His word says, He has given us different gifts, for different purposes. Not to compare to the rest of the body of Christ, but to build them up. A team works best when every person does their part, guards their man, runs their route, plays their position. And sometimes that means we need to do a little self evaluation.

What are my motives for wanting to do this? Is this something The Lord has gifted me to do? Will this benefit the Body of Christ?

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

This is the way of life for the church. And the church is not a building where the people meet. It’s not a set meeting time. It is the people of God. The way we are to live Every. Single. Day. Day after day, month after month, year after year. We live in a constant state of self sacrifice – laying our pride, selfish desires, comparisons on the altar before Christ. Daily choosing His will, His way. Which means using our giftedness for His purpose and for the building of His church and His kingdom. Oh church, that we would desire what is good. Not what we think is good for us, not what we want to be good for us, not what is good for someone else. But that we would learn to live our lives and use the gifts He’s graciously given to each of us as a means of daily glorifying Him.

Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path…

Psalm 27:11

_______________________

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Church, when we each use our gifts, and stop desiring what was never meant for us, we will learn He is good. And we will edify the body of Christ in the process.

You know your own words will sometimes come back to bite you, right? That’s totally how I feel today after a disastrous evening yesterday.  Let’s just say coming to the end of one’s self…pride, abilities, relationships, etc….is no easy feat. It feels like stepping into the ring expecting a win and receiving a knockout in under a minute.

Last night our pastor (my wonderful husband) handed out paper to our small group and asked each of us to write these words across the top:

I am broken because…

And then to finish the sentence.  In an instant my face was flush, my pulse racing.  WHAT?!!? I couldn’t gather my thoughts. It seemed as if everything in that instant was swirling around me and I’d drown in my own words. Why would you ask me to do this?  TO NAME MY BROKENNESS.  I thought I was pretty clear in the last post (which, to his credit, he had not read) I don’t like my faults pointed out. 

I let perfectionism and control isolate me from people, often including, but not limited to, the church.

There it is. I said it. I was so angry that Anthony, the very man who loves me, protects me, trusts me, would ask me to name what is keeping me from Jesus. I couldn’t see past my husband to my Heavenly Father who was speaking through him.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Burnout is real folks!  It doesn’t just happen in relationships or careers.  It happens anywhere we are spinning our wheels doing things our way. It happens when we are “looking for love in all the wrong places” (thanks Johnny Lee!). Whether that is in money, perfection, career, family, successful ministry, relationships, love, etc.  I’m burnt out on trying to be something I don’t have to be – perfect, having it all together.

Do you see where I’m going?  Jesus invites us to follow Him and learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.  There is no business model.  No twelve step plan. No formula to make this happen.  It is so simple…follow. Do what He did. Love who He loves. Obey what He commanded. Live by His example.

When it is all said and done and I stand face to face with Jesus, my pitiful perfection is only gonna look like garbage next to Him. He isn’t gonna weigh my good deeds against the bad. Not gonna look at any attendance record. He doesn’t keep score.

Only His blood covering me – the whole of me, the things I can see and the things hidden deep in the secret places of my heart- that’s what matters. He covers it all. Christ carries my burden. No, naming my brokenness, the broken mess of me, isn’t fun. I don’t like it, not even a little. I sure have no desire to put it out there for all of you.  Truth is, you can do, or not do, with it whatever you please. As for me, I must follow Him.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

– Anonymous

Oh yeah, that doesn’t mean I can go at this alone. Because of my need for Christ, I need the church too. But that’s another post for another time.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

Psalm 139:1 NLT

The thought of any person knowing everything about me does not excite or thrill my soul. I am easily embarrassed at my myriad of shortcomings.  And I certainly do not like to have them pointed out. Yet there is something comforting about David praising the Lord for knowing everything about him, even down into the deep recesses of his heart.  And there is something just as comforting when I praise the Lord for knowing me fully, shortcomings and all.

My life has been filled with missed timing, painfully poor choices, a temper (and oh WHAT a temper!) and trying to hide from it all. I’ve always wanted to be perfectly put together, an outward appearance that would make up for all the skeletons in my closet.  To be without flaws.  Yet nothing could mask my heart, even though I thought nothing, and no one, could protect my heart – but me.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23

I’ve continually read that verse so out of context, with much misunderstanding.  Guarding my heart is not about building a wall around it to keep others out.  It’s not about picking and choosing who to let in. It’s not about pretending perfect. Truth be told, all that really does is just keeps one trapped inside, hardened and pretending still. Guarding your heart means to listen to the wisdom of The Word and live by it.  It is finding freedom to be fully known right where you are, as you are, for who you are by The One who Created you.  To hear Christ say, “Follow me,” and abandon self, pride and all, to follow.

My identity is not found in all that muck and mire.  My identity comes from and through Christ.  His cross tells me HE is enough for me, for my shortcomings, my sins.  HIS blood covers me. He is

… the author and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 NASB

So, in this new year, 2017, my desire is to abide in Christ, to remain in Him.  To be fruitful because I am grafted into The Vine, not hidden behind false perfection. Giving, and receiving, grace, mercy, love, gentleness, etc., as His Holy Spirit grows and changes me to be more and more like Him.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

John 15:4 NASB

 

Obedience is a word I just can’t escape lately. It comes up at the most inopportune times and stretches me in uncomfortable ways. In scripture, obedience, to me, is best personified through Abraham. Even before his name was changed from Abram, he willingly followed this God along unknown paths to places that he’d never been and trusted Him for things that seemed beyond impossible. Abraham’s life was changed, stretched even, in ways that he could have never foreseen at the start. Over the last week I have began to study six of the names of God using the S.O.A.P. method and an outline from LoveGodGreatly.com, with a few dear women in my area. I’d like to share a little along my journey.

“So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed him…Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.” Genesis 12:4 NLT From the time Abraham was seventy-five years old, he began to follow the direction of the Lord. Moving to an unknown place, fleeing to Egypt, separating from Lot, rescuing Lot, pleading on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, waiting for the promise, holding and then sending away his firstborn son. Then God changed his name and the promised son arrived, nearly twenty five years from his first act of obedience to God. What was to come next was a stretch I can’t even imagine.

After years of obedience, Abraham had received the one thing he had desired of God, an heir – a son. Isaac brought laughter and happiness to his parents. Yet here Abraham was receiving instructions from God for he and his boy to go and worship. To hear something like, “Abraham, get up in the morning and take Isaac, your sacrifice, to the place I’ll point out and offer him to me there.” There are no words. I can’t imagine that I’d be able to keep that to myself. The shock, grief, despair even. However, I can find none of that in the text. Abraham had full confidence that in his obedience the Lord would honor him. The Lord, who so faithfully promised Abraham an heir all those years ago, would not break his promise. Abraham had faith and because of it was declared righteous. Once again, he held on to that faith and listened for the voice of the Lord.

In his obedience Abraham found God to be the One who will see it and provide. It being the very thing of which we have need. And he was so right. That day on the mountain God did something for Abraham, for Isaac. He provided a substitutionary sacrifice. Abraham was willing to give his desires back to the God alone who could fulfill them.

In our modern-day, instant-access, microwave society, we know little about waiting. Little about drawn out obedience. We look for God to evolve with our changing pace, changing cultures. He doesn’t change. For over twenty five years Abraham waited on the Lord. He was impatient at times, making poor choices thinking he could help God out. Living in turmoil and grief because of his actions. Still he had faith the Lord would provide. And God is faithful.

As I studied this week, there were a few things that stood out:

  • The supply for our needs, our desires even, does not come from a place; it comes through the person of Jesus Christ.
  • God is always before us, prepared to open our eyes and reveal Himself as we humbly walk in faith.
  • God wasn’t looking for a sacrifice, He provided that Himself. He was looking for a willing, obedient heart…which He found in Abraham.

My challenge is to walk drawn out obedience in faith, humbly with my God.