Monday, November 30, 2009

Work Unto the Lord

Seems like the lessons He gives me don't always find permanent residence in my life.  And so He reminds me again, patiently cycling through the things I once learned but have since forgotten.

These words came back to me yesterday as I drove and listened to sermons.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...

Work consumes my life.  Not because I want it to, but because that's just how things are right now.  Not that long ago I heard these words whispered to my soul, and it changed my attitude toward the job I was floundering in.

But life goes on, and so does my focus.  Lately, work has become a chore again.  It requires much greater energy than before to do quality work like I should be doing anyway.  The days are shorter and darkness settles in many hours too early.  I have taken on new ministry projects that I would much rather pour my efforts into, but simply don't have the time.

Working is a burden.

Work at it with all your heart...

God isn't content to let me simply relearn a lesson.  Rather, He ups the expectations the next time around.

Don't just work your job with all your heart - work your everyday life with all your heart as well.

Clean my house as though Jesus is staying there.

Engage in conversation as though I were speaking to Jesus.

Prepare my food as though I were feeding Jesus.

Get ready in the mornings as though I were going out to meet Jesus.

Practice my music as though it's Jesus I will play for.

These things are not that far from literal.  Jesus Himself said that whatever we do for the least of His children, we do for Him (Matt 25:40).

This is the challenge before me today.  I have the day off, but the hours ahead loom over me like a dark cloud with all the projects and things I need to accomplish.  But I am not just hacking away at a list of duties.

I am working unto the Lord.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Been trying to write...sort of half-heartedly.  I have ideas, partially formed, resting inside my mind.  Once in a while something stirs them up and I make a mental note to write about it later.  But when I sit in front of this empty white space, my mind takes on the same form.

Empty and white.

Any thoughts I had previously have checked out, and I never know if they'll return.  I could force something into black and white.  But that never feels very good.  Nor does it usually end well.

So I sit back and wait.

I don't want to put something out there that was forced, that was written just for the sake of having something to keep my site hits up.

I want it to be real.

Because who wants to read something shallow and disconnected?  And why should I put thoughts and ideas out there if I'm not actively thinking about them myself?

So I continue to wait.  I don't like knowing that when I miss a couple of days, my readers disappear.  And I don't like that it takes weeks to rebuild that network.

But then I have to remind myself why I'm doing this in the first place.

It's not to have the most readers, or the best stories, or to be a favorite stopping point of fellow bloggers.

I write for the LORD.  At least, I hope and pray that I do.  He gives me the words, and I trust that His words will not return empty and void, but will accomplish their purpose.

It's a fine line to walk, this balance between monitoring my stats and writing because it glorifies God.  But sadly, there shouldn't be a line there at all.  There should be no self in what I say or do.  There should be only Him.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Tuesday's sermon asked me if I was willing to surrender. 


I realized I was not.

I was driving home from work, listening to these questions as the day's last light gave way to the night sky.  In just over an hour I would be strumming my guitar and singing songs of worship alongside a small handful of other offering their voices to their Maker.

Are you willing to surrender it all?

Are you willing to do whatever He says?

If He asks you to move to a different country tomorrow, are you willing to go?

My own list continued.

Am I willing to relocate and start over in a new place if He asks me to?

Am I willing to walk next door and tell my neighbors about Jesus tonight if He asks me to?

Am I willing to send an email to make amends with an old friend who may not even know how hurt I was, if He asks me to?

Am I willing to spend all night on my knees praying if He asks me to?

As I was thinking through these questions, I decided that I wanted to choose songs to sing Sunday morning that asked us these same things.

All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give...

Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone...

Take my heart...mind...will, conform it to Yours...

I rehearsed in my mind words that I would speak to the congregation.  Words that would challenge them, cause them to truly question and determine their desire to surrender to Him.  I didn't want us to simply sing empty words for the sake of making noise.  I wanted us to corporately give our all to Him.

But I quickly realized that if I were to issue such a challenge, then I needed to make sure my own heart was right.  To merely lead these songs and sing these words without having examined myself would be hypocritical.

I don't know what happened after that night.  Maybe it was because I was catching a bug and not feeling well.  Or maybe the enemy knew my intentions and distracted my thoughts.  Maybe I should have given the questions more attention when they were fresh in my mind rather than waiting for a more convenient time in my schedule.

Whatever the reason, after that car ride, I was never able to come to that same place again.  I don't know if I felt ok with God's desires for me...or if I simply had become calloused to the idea.  I do know that my time before Him continues to feel distracted and distant.

I didn't offer any words from the stage this Sunday morning.  I simply invited the people to join our small team in singing songs to our Maker.

I can feel the difference in my music when I am playing to the Lord and when I am simply playing.  This morning I was simply playing.  I didn't want it to be that way, but each strum of the guitar felt empty and hollow.  I was still fighting sickness this morning, and singing was a struggle for my weak voice.  Maybe that accounts for the disconnect between my heart and my hands.

Maybe it doesn't.

I know and I've seen the Spirit do His work despite me, despite the actions that I simply go through.  I'm glad for that.  It's comforting to know that He's not limited to my performances.

In the meantime, my own heart needs to find its way home.  Back to the place of humble kneeling before the throne of Him who asks for my all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

His Promises to You

If you are weary and cannot hear His voice, do not lose heart. My knowledge is greater than yours, and I will never be tired. Put your hope in Me, and you will find new strength. For as long as your eyes are on me you will not grow weary; you will soar like an eagle.

If you stand in the middle of the crossroads of life, unsure of the path to take, He holds out His hand and says, Don't be afraid, for I desire to give you the best, and I will fill you with hope for tomorrow.

If the path you walk is dark and you can't see what lies ahead, remember that He offers just enough light for the next step.  My words will light your way, even in the midst of darkness.  When you walk with Me, you will not fall; I will hold you up and show you the way.

If each month you wonder how the bills will be paid or when you will have food, He says to you, Do not worry, for I will take care of your needs.  You may not have abundant wealth, but you will not go hungry, nor be without clothes.  I care even about the little sparrow in the sky - how much more do I care about you!

If you gave into sin and are now feeling the burden of your choices, do not turn from Him, for He has not given up on you.  He begs you, Come here, My dear child.  I long to hold you in My arms and trade your burden for Mine.  Find rest in Me.

If the doctor's words cut straight through your being, and your life now revolves around the illness, hold onto Jesus' words:  It is not for the healthy and the righteous that I came, but for the sick, the wounded, and the sinner.  It is you who are broken whom I have come to redeem as My own.

If the phone call carrying the message of death tells you your friend and loved one will no longer be by your side, He speaks to your soul, The pain of suffering and loss is great, but do not lose hope.  If you are My child, you will live with Me.  In that day, I promise you will never again feel the searing pain of loss or shed another tear of sorrow.

Each morning you rise to a new dawn, and regardless of the events of yesterday, He whispers gently to your soul, Arise, My child, today is a new day.  Hold My hand and walk with Me, for My love will hold you up and My mercy is endless.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

True Rest?

Somewhere deep inside the recesses of my mind, thoughts are developing and brewing.  Tough thoughts, difficult concepts that aren't yet ready to emerge.  But when they are, I'll let you know.  In the meantime, here are some thoughts from my journal not that long ago.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Life is a steady constant of ups and downs.  There are days when I feel comfortable with where I'm at.  And there are other days that seem to have no other purpose than to drain the life out of me.  On one such heavy-laden day, I read a friend's post about rest.  That night, as I crawled into bed with weary bones and droopy eyelids, I turned to the verse she wrote about.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  -Matthew 11:28-30
If I had chosen the end to this story, I'd have laid back onto my pillow and drifted off to peaceful sleep amidst rest and relief.

Alas, that was not the true ending.

Rather, my brain shifted into overdrive as new questions rushed to the surface.

Your yoke is easy and your burden is light. ...But Jesus, didn't You also say that anyone who wants to come after You must deny himself and take up his cross and follow You?  We interpret the cross as burden, but for You it meant death.  To follow You and take up our crosses means we follow You to our own deaths.

How is that a light burden?

Or maybe not that question so much as this:  How do we change so that death becomes a burden that is light?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sabbath Follow-Up

A short while back I posted some thoughts about the Sabbath and how we tend to glaze over it (go here, here, and here to read more) .  I also contemplated what it should look like in my contemporary lifestyle, and I committed myself to putting my musings into practice.  I don't want to be just another person who harps and rants about all the things everyone is doing wrong, and then do nothing to change my own deficits.  So here's an update, so to speak.

That first Sunday after I posted, my plan was to come home after church and lunch to rest, reflect, nap, pray, and ultimately focus solely on God.  No grocery shopping, no folding clothes or ironing, no doing dishes or other computer (!!!).

I was discussing my plans with a friend over lunch that day and told her what my plans were to do and not to do.  She gently reminded me that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

I pondered this, and ended up lifting a few of my restrictions.  Was I being too ritualistic and Pharisee-like by trying to avoid all those things?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  Maybe I was.  But I think my intentions were true.  On the modern flip-side, what does it look like to rest in the LORD on His day?  Is it still ok for me to be on facebook?  Hang out with friends?  Bake cookies simply for the sheer joy of baking?

Weeks later, these are questions I still ponder.  Perhaps the ultimate question is this:  Is what I'm doing distracting me from thinking of/speaking to/being with God?

Needless to say, I have not been successful at adopting monk-like behaviors on Sundays.  I still facebook, drive across town to visit friends, and bake stuff just because I want to.  I also don't always get my laundry folded and put away on Saturday, which requires finishing on Sunday so I have clothes to wear to work on Monday.  A couple times I've even spent my afternoons shopping to stock the food pantry or buy things for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

While I have been making a conscious effort to take a few small steps toward observing the Sabbath, I sure haven't been overly successful.  I kind of like the way I'm doing things now, but I'm not convinced my patterns are the most honoring to the LORD.  I still have some work to do.

There's a part of me that finds appealing those monk-like behaviors of silence and solitude.  I'm a far cry from that now, but maybe one of these days I'll get there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Love to Thee

As I get older, my appreciation for the old hymns grows deeper. I still prefer to sing the contemporary songs (most of the time), but sometimes the words of hymns blow me away.

A few weeks ago we sang "More Love to Thee," and I have to be honest - for the first few verses I wasn't paying much attention to what I was singing.

But then we sang this next verse. And the words brought me to attention mighty fast.

Let sorrow do its work
Send grief and pain
Sweet are Thy messengers
Sweet their refrain
When they can sing with me
More love O Christ to Thee
More love to Thee
More love to Thee

It's true that the hard times and challenges in life are what cause us to grow the most in our faith, if we let them. But to request them?

To refer to sorrow, grief, and pain as sweet?

To recognize that these three sing with us, "More love O Christ to Thee"?

Oh, to possess the wisdom and understanding the writer had when she penned these words!

Monday, November 2, 2009

At the Proper Time

These are interesting days surrounding my small community of friends. Seems like I'm being constantly reminded by stories on blogs or the relentless weather that the line we walk remains fuzzy at best. Sometimes it disappeares altogether when the snow blows in.

One friend wrapped up five years of dedicated work and walked out the doors of her office into a world of uncertainty and unemployment. She believes the Father is faithful and will provide. In the meantime, finances are adjusted for the income that doesn't come from quiet days of sitting at home.

Other friends have spent weeks fighting discouragement as they have no choice but to surrender to unforgiving weather that has kept them from even beginning to harvest their fields. Just when it looks like the reaping can start, another round of rain settles in for a couple of days, and progress is delayed yet again.

My own life, as of late, is filled with ups and downs of unsuccessfully finding that right balance between career and calling. God is shaping and reforming my desires, and as He works, my focus turns toward giving and serving. But these are things that demand time I currently am unable to give, and progress feels at a standstill.

Tonight as I drove home from work, I looked between the snow not yet melted and the fields disappearing under standing water, beans and corn looking quite soggy and sad. I thought about my friends. One has a harvest and can't get to it. The other stands in the middle of a freshly plowed field, not yet green with the promise of a harvest to come. And me...I stand on an open road under cloudy skies, knowing from where I've come but unsure of how I'm supposed to get to what lies ahead.

I think of the different places each of us are in life.

And I'm reminded of a promise:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

The storms of life are relentless. Just when we think the time to harvest has come, another storm passes through to muddy the ground and slow our progress. And it's hard to push forward.

But push forward we must, for we have a promise to hope for.

One day, at the right time, new life will spring forth around us.

The skies will clear.

The ground will become firm beneath us.

We will reap a harvest.


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