Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Set Apart

Levi, who is now four years old, asked me this question:" Did God make everybody special?"

"Yes, He did", I said.

"But, what about people who are bad?" (With this he points to Darth Vader on his Lego Star Wars pajamas.)

"What about this bad guy? How can he be special?"

Good question....

This is my attempt at answering him: "Yes, God made him special too. But when he chose bad things, he hurt his specialness. It was still there, but it was hurt and he couldn't use it. He was choosing his own way instead of God's. When you go your way, you are going against how you were made special. When Darth Vader was dying, he saw how wrong he had been and said he was sorry. He wished he had used his specialness for God." (Ok, I took some liberties. Deal with it, George Lucas.)

Even at this age Levi understands that to be special is to be set apart. God uses the word "holy" to describe this setting apart. God calls Himself holy and makes it clear that there is no one like Him.

God also says to us, "Be holy as I am holy."

This speaks to at least two things: being separated from sin and being separated to whom God created me to be. I am focusing today on the second part.

When I try to do it all or I try to be someone I am not, I will always miss out on the person the Father created me to be me. I have gifts, callings, and abilities that He has given me. When I choose to rest in those, I am honoring Him. I am walking in holiness.

God loves to see me write, teach, cook, and decorate. God loves it when I use my gifts in relationship. Cooking for the family or friends and enjoying the meal and conversation are real ways of honoring God. Writing my blog, as well as writing notes of encouragement and letters of appreciation to others bring glory to Him. Teaching a child God's Word or how to read or draw blesses the Father. Creating beauty out of old forgotten things reflects God's own redemptive purposes as He takes all of our past, good and bad to make things new and beautiful.

All of these things tell of my uniqueness and the design the Creator established for me.

When I look at my own children, I don't think, "Oh, it's too bad she can't do..." or "It's really a bummer he isn't more gifted in the area of...." No, I am excited about what they can do, what they look like, how they are made. I admire their qualities. I rejoice in how they were created and in the passions God has put in their hearts. Each one is unique, different from his or her siblings in various ways. Each one brings a smile to my face. And nothing is more fun than watching them rest in being who they were created to be.

God made you special, as well. He delights to see you excel in the gifts He has given you. He rejoices to see you let go of things that He never called you to do or be. Walking in relationship with Him, hearing His voice, resting in who He made you to be, and giving thanks for how He created you are all ways to "Be holy as He is holy."

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Cow Tale

Then there was the time I hit a cow in the middle of the road....

When we lived in Oglethorpe, Georgia I was often on the road to Perry, Americus, Warner Robins and other " major metropolitan" areas.

Taylor's best friend, Allison, lived about sixty-five miles north of us in Gray, Georgia. That was quite a distance for her family or mine to drive, so we would often meet somewhere in between to pick up or drop off one of the girls.

One night I was making the drive to meet the Maynards in Perry and return Allison to her family. It was an exceedingly dark and moonless night, as I headed down Hwy 127.

For all you cityfolk, you need to understand that there are no neon signs, no businesses, no street lights, nothing on many of these roads. When it's dark, it is black as pitch.

This was one of those nights. I could see nothing but the small area illuminated by my minivan's beams.

I was going about 60 mph when suddenly, there in the glow of my headlights, I see a cow. A solid black cow. He is not coming at me head on; if so, maybe he would have the sense to get out of the way.  Rather, his tail is in front of me as he is sauntering so nonchalantly down the blacktop.

His peaceful evening stroll, however, is about to be interrupted in the worst of ways.

The kids are all chattering away, quite oblivious to the accident that is unfolding. Instinctively, I cut the wheel sharply to the right  in an attempt to avoid smashing this bovine into my grill. And I succeed; if you want to call it that.

I graze him and run off the road and into a nearby corn field. I am shaken, the kids are screaming and crying. And the cow is lying motionless in the middle of the road.

After a moment of inspection, we all seem to be okay. No cuts or bruises to any of the humans. Sorry, I can't say the same for that cow.

Law enforcement arrives quickly and I give my statement.  And with a little illumination from a patrolman's flashlight, I can see that my van has sustained only minor damage. I am able to drive away and return Allison safely to her parents.

The next morning, I was working in the kitchen. Caleb, who was four years old at the time, was outside happily playing in the yard. Suddenly, Caleb runs into the kitchen with a look of disbelief on his sweet little face.

"You have to come see this, Mama," he says. And off we go to the carport.

When we got to my van, Caleb pointed to the driver-side view mirror. It had been smashed and was attached only by a couple of wires and some shredded plastic. Dangling there from the broken mirror of my minivan was the tail of that black cow.

I had ripped that sucker's tail clean off his backside.

I usually get a lot of laughs and disbelieving looks when I tell the tale of the tail of the black cow. But, it is 100% true. All beef. No baloney. Some things are too strange to make up.

Hope you laughed. God loves to see you smile.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Throwing My Anxieties on Him

Last post I promised to tell a little of how I am learning to deal with anxiety when it hits.

Instead of stuffing it, pretending it is not there, and other forms of denial, I make a choice to get real. If I am going to learn to "Throw all my anxieties on Him because He cares for me," then I have to go to my heavenly Daddy and admit where I am at.

I do not mince words or try to make myself look stronger or better than I am. I pour out the reality of where I am at and what I am experiencing.

If you think that talking about how you feel or how you are struggling to believe is unspiritual, take a read through the Psalms. Most of them were written by King David, the one known as the man after God's own heart. Ever wonder why David was called that? It had everything to do with his openness, his honesty, his flat-out, straight-forward, plain and simple willingness to pour out the truth of what was going on in his heart.

When my heart is revealed, God can speak into my heart. When my heart is hidden, I am not trusting God with who I am. When I begin to relate to God within the context of truth He becomes real. I am opening myself up to His grace.

There are times when I am so anxious and feel so scattered in my thoughts that I can't even seem to begin to express how I feel to God or to anyone. I become overwhelmed. Here is my go-to plan when I am feeling that way:
  •  Breathe and Move. I pull my shoulders back and down. I tilt my head gently from side to side. I just try to do something to break all that tension that is building in my body. Doing jumping jacks, going for a walk or doing something that requires physical exertion is a great help to me.
  • Listen to worship music. I pick songs that speak to me. I don't try to please my grandmother with my choices; these are songs that touch my heart. One of my favorites in these moments is Kari Jobe's "You Are For Me." Sometimes this step is enough to move me completely out of the fear and into peace. 
  • Write it down. For me, there is something about writing things down. It makes things real and helps me to process. I can think my thoughts to God and speak my thoughts to God, but nothing makes it clearer and more tangible than putting pen to paper.
  • Meditate on a key verse or phrase all day long. Anytime I sense that fear or that worry trying to creep back in, I will remind myself that "Jesus has promised to never leave me or forsake me. He is not going to let me go." Sometimes I use this one: "Even so, Jesus loves me." Again, I pick verses or phrases that speak to me. I don't usually go around quoting Proverbs, not because they are not true, but because a wise saying is not what I need at the moment. When I am struggling with anxiety, I need to know that I am accepted in Him, that He cares for me, that He doesn't forsake me, that His heart sings love to mine. 
  • Talk to a friend. God made me for relationship with Him and with others. I am continuing to learn that calling a friend and talking is not just relief for me, but part of relationship building. If I have it all together all the time, what kind of friend would I be? A very fake one! When I pick up the phone, I look for friends who can listen and are empathetic. I don't need someone spouting, "Be anxious for nothing...."  (Thanks for reminding me that I'm failing; I didn't have enough guilt before.) I need encouragers who can help me move from failing to faith.

Hope these ideas are of some value to you.

Now let me ask, please: what are some healthy ways you work through anxiety?