Jan 24, 2012

On growing up

Last week my nephew and sister-in-law visited us.  Poor little guy . . .  it’s hard being away from his home and routine but he’s quite a trooper.  Dinnertime, though, is especially difficult.  The other night we were trying over and over to get him to sit and finish his green beans and rice.  He wanted to turn around in his chair, look at the kitty, stand on his chair, get down and play, lay his head down, and basically do anything other than obey. His mom took him to the other room for a few minutes and then he returned to the table.  “Are you going to obey?” I asked.  He nodded his head.  “Ok, so can you take a bite of green beans?”  He mischievously grinned, and shook his head, “No!” And so it continued.  “Will you obey?” “No!”  And it got me thinking . . .

Though I am a married Bible school graduate with 23 years of Christianity under my belt, I am struck by the sheer immaturity and disobedience of my heart. Am I really that different in my spiritual life than a 2 year old?  The honest answer is no.   I’ve always struggled with obedience.  I have a strong will.  I like to stomp my feet, cross my arms, and do things my way.  God, in His kindness, has been allowing me to hear His small voice more often, saying, “Laura, you should stop.  Laura, you should respond in love.  Laura, you should put others before yourself.” I’m glad that I hear Him.  But I would be even more glad if I responded with “Yes, Lord!” instead of “No!” It seems so childish.

Fortunately, the situation isn’t hopeless.  My nephew didn’t obey that night.  He was sent off to bed without the rest of his dinner because, as we all know, disobedience has consequences.  But his mommy reminded him that he would have another chance to obey tomorrow.  How wonderfully true with God as well!  Lamentations 3:22-23 says “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (NIV) It makes me shake my head because I can’t quite understand that amount of love and patience, but God’s mercy is new every morning.  Every morning.  Even when I am stubborn, He will not forsake me.  Though I deserve it, I will not be consumed.  He offers me a new chance to obey each day. 

Let’s take this beyond coffee: My prayer is that I will stop and listen to God’s voice and realize the options He is putting before me.  Obedience brings me closer to Him.  Disobedience carries consequences that virtually always involve me moving a little farther away from Him.  “Laura, will you obey? Will you come to me?”  Lord, help me to put aside myself and choose You instead!

Oct 24, 2011

Surrendering Ever After

When I was a little girl, my dad took me to see the movie Ever After in theaters. It was such a fun daddy-daughter date. I still remember seeing the opening credits - the beautiful landscape and the scrolling title in a vibrant purple. Before the story even began I knew I was in for a treat. As the story continued I found myself admiring the main character for her humility and willingness to serve, even when she was mistreated. That's not to say that she always responded to her masters well, but I recognized godly humility in her that I was sorely lacking in myself. There was, and still is, a part of me that saw being a servant as romantic. The idea that you could have such a heart of service and humility that you could unconditionally love and serve even a cruel master.

I may have focused in on service and humility at the time but, looking back, the real star of the film is surrender. It is the giving up of one's rights and even one's will and placing oneself under the authority of another. This brings to mind Romans 6:16 which says, "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedience from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (6:16-19)

I have to admit, the idea of surrendering as a slave is at the same time confusing, terrifying, and beautiful. I understand what being a slave to sin is—I fight the urge to serve my sinful flesh on a daily basis--but understanding that I am now a slave to righteousness is a bit more difficult, particularly because I continue to sin so often! So if I have been freed from my bondage to sin and yet continue to present myself to sin as a servant, then I suppose the opposite would be to surrender and present myself instead to righteousness. This would require me to die to my self/flesh, to silence my self in the midst of temptation, and choose instead to serve my Good Master.

This is easier said than done because complete surrender requires complete faith and trust in the one to whom you surrender. I have to trust that the Lord, to whom I surrender my will, will do 'right' by me. The problem is that sometimes what I think is right and what the Lord knows is right are different, and sometimes the Lord's best for me involves significant pain and suffering. And another thing - God's best is not about me. It's about Him. So even in seeking my best interest, His best interest (His glory) is always the first priority. My selfish flesh tends to be mildly concerned about this at times because I want the first priority to be ME!

Yet despite these concerns, the act of surrender is so beautiful. Jesus is the prime example as He surrendered Himself to the will of the Father in order to pay the price for our sin. As He thought about the suffering He was about to endure, He wept and event, for a moment, wished that the Father’s work could be accomplished another way. But He was obedient and self-sacrificing, and He surrendered His life and will to the Father, ultimately accomplishing our salvation.

Well, let's try to take this beyond a cup of coffee.  I don't really know what I can do to surrender more to the Lord apart from literally sitting down and asking him to help me.  It goes a bit against my [sinful] nature to let go of everything in preference of another.  But clearly it's worth it.  Our master is good and kind and just and perfect.  It's almost silly NOT to surrender to Him.  So today I'm just going to start with asking the Lord to help me let go and surrender to His service and glory.

Dec 7, 2010

A Belated Thanks-Giving

It’s been a long almost-7-months.  My husband is coming home so soon!  Yesterday, while I was in a bad mood and irritable because I’ve been having trouble sleeping, I was walking back to work after my lunch-time Starbucks run, and passed by a woman outside her car in the corner of the parking lot.  And it reminded me how much I have to be thankful for.

The woman was so thin.  It was clear she must be so hungry.  Calling her car a “car” at all is probably being generous.  It was packed to the ceiling with her belongings, and several of the windows had been broken and were covered with plastic bags and duct tape.  She wasn’t wearing any shoes as she hobbled over to another car and used their driver-side mirror to glance at her reflection after snuffing out her cigarette on the roof of their brightly shining sedan.  As I walked by, wondering at her situation, I noticed cans and bottles outside her car.  And underneath the car, likely being shaded from the intense Hawaiian sun, was an uncovered, half-eaten sheet cake that I suspect she’s been eating for a few days. 

There’s this other man I see literally every day after work.  He sits in the shade of the parking garage with his little dog.  Bless his heart, a while back I saw him at Starbucks (!) asking for a cup of water, which he promptly took outside and gave to his little pup.  If I was really generous and self-less, I might have stopped and offered to either one of these people a sandwich or just spoken to them like a valued human being rather than passing by, hoping not to smell their filth or be otherwise affected by the deprived state which our depraved world has placed them in.

Instead, I’m ashamed to say, I did nothing.  The Lord graciously reminded me in that moment of how much I have to be thankful for, which is particularly cliché this time of year.  But how can I keep from giving thanks to Him?  I have a home in paradise (with AC!), a car that works most of the time, a job, and a wonderful husband who is coming home to me.  I know for a fact that there are several wives from his unit whose husbands are not returning this week, having been tragically lost overseas.  I have MUCH to thank the Lord for.

Let’s take this beyond coffee….yes, I’m sitting here in ANOTHER coffee shop as I write…what can you be thankful for this year?  It’s not cliché.  Our world is just so used to complaining and whining and being ungrateful that the idea of a season which reminds us to be thankful is simply a bit odd.  The endless slew of TV specials and Hallmark movies don’t help.  We have reason to be thankful every day of the year.  So take a moment and thank the Lord for the little things in your life, like the AC, and the big things, like having your loved ones safe and sound.  And when you’re done, consider how you might be used in someone else’s life this season.  As for me, I’m considering buying a sandwich and some dog food :)