Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks for Giving

Psalm 28:7

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

During this holiday season, even the most cantankerous, grumbling folk can muster up a few words of gratitude for obvious ways that they are blessed. Even in these difficult times, most of us have at least one thing we can thank God for.

I, as an American-born citizen, resident of a trendy city, member of an influential church, occupant of a comfortable home, wife of a godly man, mother to 3 great kids, have much for which to be thankful. Those things are obvious - I'd be a fool not to recognize the lavish earthly blessings God has bestowed on me.

Paradoxically, over the past few years, God has given me a perspective on the darkness in my life for which I, too, can truly offer praise and gratitude. The very experiences that others would look upon as suffering and trials are the very events that I hold most precious. They are the things for which I thank Him for most fervently this Thanksgiving because they are the vehicles through which I have gained more of Christ. Deeper intimacy with Him and true worship of Him are the result of receiving into our lives both the obvious blessings and the "obscured for the moment" blessings.

Dear Father, Thanks for giving me a dad who didn't always protect me from harm so I could discover true comfort and protection in the arms of my Heavenly Father.

Thanks for giving me an uncertain prognosis for bearing children because of my past sin. The 3 children born out of your Grace and Redemption are tangible gifts of your love for me daily.

Thanks for giving me a husband that didn't lead me well early in our marriage so my sin of control and usurping authority would be exposed. The joy we experience today in our marriage as we live out the gospel to each other is nothing short of miraculous.

I offer you my submitted, grateful heart as an act of worship because you are worthy to receive my gratitude in all circumstances. Amen.

This Thanksgiving, let us humbly and freely thank God for the obvious blessings - the blatant outpouring of His Grace upon all of our lives. Let us also be grateful for the subtle, even difficult, blessings in disguise - they are gifts of sanctification that endear our Savior to us all the more.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Idolatry Springs from Ingratitude

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or GIVE THANKS TO HIM

I get it.  I feel like my eyes have been opened to a deep Truth that was always there (of course, there is nothing new under the sun...) but that I never saw.  We hear often of idols in current teaching at church and Redemption Group.  The idea is not new but today it lives in me as a disturbing, convicting realization of where my heart has been.  The reason I turn from God, the Worthy Object of my Worship, to a pathetic yet deeply desired substitute is because of my ungrateful heart.  An ungrateful heart paves the road to idolatry. 

I am saying to God, "No thanks, what you are offering me is not quick enough, pleasurable enough, tangible enough, powerful enough to satisfy and soothe my needy heart.  I am unhappy and discontent with You and Your Promises - I'll use food, drugs, sex, money, numbing, tears, depression to make me feel better.  After all, that is all I want right now.  Right.  Now.  I want to feel better."  Skillet sings a song with those lyrics and it has been on a continual loop in my head.

This morning, another song began wriggling its way into my heart - the words of the beloved carol..."For He alone is Worthy, Christ the Lord..."  He ALONE is worthy of my worship.  I have worshipped at the alter of the known god for too many weeks now:  the alter of Jen.  The sacrifices I  brought have come at a high price to many I know and love. 

The highest price has already been paid and I have been ungrateful for the Ransom.  I am humbled and made grateful today for His plentiful redemption in my life.  I am reminded of the starting point of my journey in this blog:  Recognizing Jesus.  Lord, may I see you more quickly, worship you more purely, give thanks to you continually.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

So Lost Without You...

James 4:8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I've resorted to humming Air Supply songs to pass the time til my husband gets home.  He is the captain of our ship, the lighthouse in our storms, the ground wire in the electric current of our home. Our household is simply not the same without him.  In an effort to redeem the time I have wasted away in his absence, I want to record the many ways in which Phil's presence is desperately needed in our home.

1.  He provides COVERING.  Something about knowing he is coming home at night gives the kids and I a sense of protection - we are dependent on him.  The longing in our tears speaks to the power of his influence in our lives.

2.  He offers DIRECTION.  Phil sets a tone that gives each of us a sense of purpose and clarity to our mission for the day. 

3.  He speaks WISDOM.  His words of Truth and grace that speak to each of our souls have been greatly missed.  I have overheard the boys asking each other multiple times, "What would Dad say about this?"

4.  He embodies INTEGRITY.  Phil is one of those men that is not a mystery.  He is consistent inside and outside of our home.  His integrity follows him - instilling a sense of trust in his family and those he

5.  He offers STABILITY.  The kids and I can get off course and wound up over the peripheral things in life and Phil is able to graciously remind and redirect to the items of primary importance.

Like JESUS.  He is whom I have neglected in my husband's absence.  My True Husband - the one who ultimately is the Rock and Redeemer of my soul.  Phil pointed this out to me in an e-mail response to my misguided thinking:

"You are not a lousy person when I’m not near because your righteousness does not depend on my proximity. "

He is so right - my righteousness and ability to endure while he is home or away depends on my proximity to Christ.  I am comforted and reminded to draw near to Christ even with my husband in the same room or on the opposite coast.

Can't wait to have you home, babe!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Funeral Reflections

Surreal day.  I attended a funeral of a distant relative with my mom and my sister.  I didn't know Great Aunt Millie personally but she was a special lady to my mom and my mom is a special lady to me - so I went.  The eerie calm of the chapel as we entered was punctuated by the open casket looming at the front of the room.  I wasn't really prepared for how confronting a cold corpse that once held life could be.  I sat quietly pondering the strange reality that death is an inevitable and certain event for all humans.  But, unless forced to come face-to-face with it, I rarely consider its implications. 

Today, avoid I could not. 

I had many moments to dwell on mortality - mine and others.  I paused my life long enough to realize that it's not death I am fearful of - IT'S LIFE.

I am a daughter of God, chosen by Him before the beginning of time.  I KNOW where I am going when my time is up.  My heavenly Father will be waiting for me with open arms because of the sacrifice of His Son.

What I DON'T KNOW is what is going to happen until then - in the gap between today and the termination of my days on this earth.  My fears - big and little - consume my thoughts like hungry funeral reception attendees:  Will we raise godly children?  Will my Mom and Dad get to keep their house?  Will family conflicts be resolved?  Will my health give out soon?

The finality of death pushed me to the edge of my fears today - am I really living TODAY in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ?  Do my fears of the unknowns of tomorrow or my faith in the One who has made Himself Known prevail?

Lord, may the confidence I have in my eternal destiny permeate my heart as I live out my days fully entrusting them to your Promises and Provision.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nothin' Worse than a 40 year old Throwin' a Tantrum

Matthew 7:11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I return to my blog with head held low, humbled but not ashamed - more aware of my sin than ever. 

It all started with a good desire - to honor and bless my son with a really cool 13th birthday experience.  I wanted to go all out with a fancy dinner and hotel stay downtown followed by a vision-casting stroll through the UW and SPU campuses, whetting his appetite for the academic endeavors that await him.  What started out as a good idea slowly grew into a soul-enslaving demand as my fingers grasp more tightly on MY plan.  Foolishly, I hadn't tallied the dollars this would cost our cash-strapped family.  I also wasn't willing to admit that I was committing one of the cardinal sins of short-sighted, instant gratification parenting - swapping the big, glorious event for the mundane moments.

I am so accustomed to this M.O. of mine that I didn't recognize it until it was too late.  I unleashed a Veruca Salt-worthy tantrum on Phil complete with sobs and stomping foot (even more ghastly is that I resembled VS in my early years...) delaring that I wanted a night out, I wanted a fancy experience - honoring Jake was out the window as I spewed my true intentions - I WANTED WHAT I WANTED. 

Throw into the mix that God has been pricking me with the reality that my relationship with my son isn't where I want it to be.  I have been free with criticism and stingy with encouragement.  I have not been building him up as I ought and I awoke to the fact that I was pinning my hopes on "fixing" this problem by applying a fancy-night-in-a-hotel bandaid.  I was less interested in repenting and walking the long, hard road of perseverance to pour into my kids on a daily, hourly basis.  I wanted 24 hours of glitz to tie the relational strings that I hadn't been careful to tie in the past few months.

After more shed tears (this time, softly flowing from a contrite heart), I did what I should have done to begin with - I prayed.  God used a friend's kind but firm words (it was actually she that coined my sin a spoiled brat tantrum!) to stir an idea that is so much richer and deep than even a penthouse splurge.  I spent the next few hours pouring over my old journals, copying words I had written to him over the course of his life.  I remembered God's faithfulness to my son and to his forgetful mother.  I reminisced about wonderful times of joy we have had.  I reveled in the young man that I see God growing.  I was reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in both Jacob and I to reveal sin and redeem our lives.  I can't wait to give him his gift - I am thankful to the Giver of ALL Good gifts for this lesson and for my son.