Friday, January 27, 2012

The Genie in the Lamp

I remember those Saturday morning cartoons where Bugs Bunny would find a lamp. Rub the lamp. Genie appears. Three wishes granted. Sad to say, but I sometimes approach God the same way. Open Bible. Read verse. Say thanks and start making those requests.

And hey-hey, God is infinite! No need to limit myself to three measly requests; I can get anything I want! God is all about bringing joy and good stuff into my life.

Reality check: God is more interested in my heart than in keeping me warm and comfortable.

Even though my Father cares for me and wants me to ask of Him, there is something He desires even more. He wants me to seek Him and know Him for the joy of knowing Him.

Knowing Him! I, Karen Cone, mortal, human being, and sinner get to walk into the throne room of grace to know, talk to and relate to the Living God, Creator of heaven and earth. It's mind-boggling, really.

Knowing Him does require discipline on my part. For me it means rising a little earlier so that I can sit at His feet and incline my ear to hear His voice. It means saying no to things that are good and sticking to that which is best.

My Father is no genie. He doesn't answer to me or anyone else. He is not magical, but mysterious. A lamp, a bottle or box can't hold Him. He is big, way beyond genie-size; He encompasses all of heaven and earth.

"...the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth...."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Missing Something?

As a recovering ministry addict, I know well how easy it is to feel good about yourself because you are serving. It is so very tempting to think about others, "Look at all those lazy people who won't get off their blessed assurance and serve where there is a need." So, I want to be really clear here: this is not a guilt trip to convince you to serve in your church preschool.

I want to tell you how God blessed me on a recent Sunday in my church preschool.

I give most of my time to working with four year olds. I love them! They are authentic and real; something I want to be. They are usually smiling and glad to see you; a response I hope for when I see people I know. They are fun and funny, and will laugh if you act silly.

Did I tell you that I love them?

Even so, when it is my Sunday to serve during worship, I struggle usually with not wanting to do it. (I am working on being real and authentic here.) I hate to miss worship. I hate to miss Pastor Johnny's sermon. I want to enjoy and participate in the service. So I struggle. I don't mind serving, but I want to worship, fellowship, and hear God's Word preached.

When I last served on a Sunday morning during worship, God opened my eyes to some things I had missed before.

I showed up kind of tired, again wishing I was in church. However, as the children came in I was glad to see them. I knew most of them and enjoyed talking to them and hearing their stories. I loved telling them about God and answering their questions.

Later, we went to children's church together. We sang songs about Jesus. I listened as the leader taught the children about Jesus.

The lesson was on how God provides for the birds to be fed and the lilies to be clothed, and how I am worth much more than birds or flowers. Jesus said I could trust God to provide for my needs as well.

It was in the midst of this experience that the Father let me see that I was worshiping. I was singing. I was lifting my hands (we are very free in children's church). I was praying. I was fellowshipping. I was receiving God's Word. I was sensing His Spirit speaking to me about needs in my own life. In short, I had church!

I came dragging in that Sunday morning, but left full of God's love and care for me. I know that serving too much (yes, there is such a thing) can suck the life out of you. But not serving can siphon your spiritual life away too. I think I am learning balance between the two. And when I have that balance, I can give of myself and still get full.

Friday, January 6, 2012

5 Easy Steps to Becoming Human

I have a tendency to want to get things done. Make a list. Do the list. Cross it off. Done. This tendency works well in many areas of my life. Organizing closets, packing for trips, meal planning; you know, getting stuff done.

And for the longest time I thought my spiritual life should run on a list too. I was drawn to books that seemed to promise spiritual breakthroughs and solid solutions. You know the ones: "Be A Spiritual Giant by Thursday," "Three Easy Steps to Raising Perfect Children," and "The Secret to Changing Your Spouse." I read them all. I swallowed them all, at least as many as I could bear. I tried extremely hard to do what these books told me to do.

But I failed, again and again.

I couldn't quite make sense of it. I loved God. I wanted to please Him. Why couldn't I get there? Why didn't my husband turn into "Godly Man" when I prayed the prayer of a "Godly Wife"? Why didn't my children immediately obey and stop bickering? Why was I angry?

In a nutshell, it seems the DNA has revealed that I am a human being. Shocking, I know. I found it hard to believe at first too. But, yeah, we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, as well as children of the King.

Once I got over the initial distaste for being human, I began to see the "up" side.

I could relax knowing that I was not God and therefore would not be perfect until heaven. I could rest knowing God was God and wasn't going to stop loving me, working in me, and changing me. I could become a little more realistic (yes, that means less idealistic) and forgive myself and others for their shortcomings. I could stop praying for God to zap my husband, children, and others and start praying for them to know the depths of God's love like never before. I could stop constantly apologizing for my anger and asking God to make me different. I could start admitting I was angry, telling God what I was angry about, and asking Him to show me where I needed to learn to say no to others. I could see where I needed to accept "no" from those around me. I learned that the biggest way I could love another person was not to give advice, but to hear her pain and attempt to understand.

As you have guessed by now, there are no easy steps. Life is short and filled with mysteries we cannot fathom.

And the biggest mystery of all: God. Why does He love us like He does? Why does He, Who is complete and limitless, desire to fellowship with me, the limited and incomplete? Who is this God, Who created everything and fills all of heaven and earth, yet longs for His fullness to be revealed in me?

No real answers here except that is Who He is. He is that He is. And He is Love.

I haven't figured it all out yet. I'm just going to swim in it.