Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Busy Hands

On Christmas Eve, the pastor shared a statement that has come back time and time again. He said something like, "If your hands are busy patting yourself on the back they can't be raised in worship to our Lord." These words made sense and I accepted his challenge - at one point in the message he encouraged us to stop thinking this would be a good message for so and so, but instead accept the message for ourselves.

In the weeks that have followed I have spent time thinking and praying about this very thing...how do I pat myself on the back? When am I tempted to do it? Naturally God has taken me to the area of pride and I'd love to share a few verses with you -

I will break down your stubborn pride. (Lev. 26:19)

A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. (Prov. 29:23)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Through this process of God doing exactly what He says He will (see Lev. verse above), I looked up the definition of pride and found this - a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

Pride isn't something that's just portrayed by our actions or through boastful words, it can be a thought in our mind. One others may not see, but one God knows is there.  

As I've thought about this topic, I've simplified the definition of pride - focus on self, and during this time of searching my heart, God's added to the phrase our pastor shared. 

I'd been reflecting on the year that had passed and found myself focusing on the things I didn't get done and the goals I never met. I was disappointed and convicted, but after a bit of time I was also feeling condemned. As I allowed my heart to go from embracing the much needed conviction to drowning in the condemnation I heard many familiar phrases - "You'll never change. You're not good enough. What do you have to offer?"

A day or two passed and I found myself revisiting my notes from the Christmas Eve service and silently heard myself saying, "Well, I'm not patting myself on the back." (As I type I realize that's a prideful thought right there!) Then I heard a quiet whisper from God, "But Jill, you're so busy beating yourself up, you can't lift your hands in worship either." 

Honestly at the moment I felt like I'd been beat up by the hand of God, but friend, sometimes I need that and really I couldn't argue with the statement He had made. The way my hands are busy (patting myself on the back or beating myself up) is irrelevant, but the fact that they are is critical. 

Friend, you and I were created for a purpose...to worship and glorify the ONE who created us. Pride all too often gets in the way as we focus on ourselves and take credit that isn't ours. But thru this process I've been reminded of a quote from Susie Larson, "Insecurity is a form of selfishness" and I believe it's also a form of pride. When I, or maybe even you, worry about what others will think and doubt what God can do we are focusing on our selves, we are being prideful.

Will you join me in using our hands for what they were created to do? Let's keep our eyes on Him and lift are hands to Him...I truly believe He will provide the encouragement (pats on the back) and discipline (beatings from the front) we need!


Monday, January 14, 2013

To call or not to call...

The other day I was reading a book, the one I wrote, and I was struck by these words, "I didn't want to be a burden." I stopped and thought to myself, "Why do I always feel that way? Do I see others as a burden to me?"

Honestly I don't know the answer to my first question, but I don't think I see others as a burden. I treasure the people in my life, enjoy spending time with them and am grateful when I hear from them.

The thought I read on that page is one that's often run through my mind...perhaps you've felt the same. You long to talk with someone, but you're afraid to pick up the phone because of your fear of bothering the one who will answer your call. Or maybe you need some help but you neglect asking because everyone is busy and you don't want to be a burden.

In the days following my thoughts about these words I was feeling a bit disconnected and kind of isolated. I'd sent a few emails and left a couple of voice messages, but hadn't really talked to anyone. Then for 3 straight days in conversations with friends I heard, "When is a good time to call you? I don't want to bother you." "Thanks for calling...I never know when to catch you." "I know you're busy and I don't want to be a burden, but if you have a minute..."

By the time my third friend said this I got the point God was trying to make. My friends are NOT a burden or a bother to me. I appreciate them asking about my schedule and not wanting to interrupt our day, but I love hearing from them and value our conversations. As I looked at things from the other point of view, I thought about the moments I've been the one sharing the famous line. Chances are I don't bother my friends and neither do you.

I thought about this and came up with a question: What motivates me - the fear of being a burden or the joy of blessing another? I hate to admit all to often I'm motivated by fear and often miss the joy. How about you? The thing is in our fear of burdening another we're often only burdening ourselves...as we neglect connecting with others we force ourselves to walk alone and carry our burdens by ourselves. I know how I feel when I hear from a friend or am asked to help...grateful, encouraged and blessed! What if someone feels the same when I'm the one asking or calling?

Friend, as I thought about all of this God took it a step further and took the title of this post and made it personal - "Jill, what about the moments when you decide to call or not to call Me?" I wish I could say that was never a dilemma, but I'd be lying. There have been moments when I felt the same...God's busy, I don't want to bother Him with this.

As He reveals the truth to me about my friends He's reminding the same is true for Him. He wants to hear from me, and you. He is never too busy and no problem is too BIG or small. He commands us to ask, seek and knock. Will you join me in doing just that today?

Ask and it will be given to you; 
seek and you will find; 
knock and the door 
will be opened to you. 
Matthew 7:7

Friday, January 11, 2013

Words I Wanted to Ignore

Earlier this week I found myself reading in Jeremiah, chapter 6 specifically, and when I got to verse 16 I stopped. These are the words I read:

This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find REST for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
(Jeremiah 6:16)

The words about rest are what initially caught my attention. Days prior Wendy Blight had shared about this topic and it was something I found myself digging into. Rest was something I wanted and more so it is something I need. How about you? Christmas has passed, the breaks are over and we're back to routines...ones that often involve busy, overloaded schedules that leave me, maybe even you, longing for rest. 

The other day when I came across this verse I decided I wanted to share it with a friend. I was typing it up and found myself surprised at how this verse ended...honestly I was tempted to leave the last line off. The words, "But you said, 'We will not walk in it' just didn't seem to be very encouraging. 

As I paused and contemplated my decision to edit scripture (that's another post!), God used the words to do exactly what I thought they couldn't do. He encouraged me...and convicted me.

You see I'd been feeling a bit down, discouraged and distant, nothing major but I was not experiencing the rest this verse refers to. So in my attempt to share God's Word with another, He used it to speak to my heart. 

I read a verse I'd typed for another, but God pulled it apart for me and whispered to my heart. "Jill, numerous times throughout the day you stand at a crossroads - Do you get upset over another mess or do you pause and ask for patience? Do you seek approval from others or find your worth in Me? Do you rush thru Bible reading and cross it off your list or do you cherish moments spent with Me? Jill, you know what to do, but do you choose to do it? You understand I AM the Way, but do you follow Me? Daughter the choice is yours...remember the last line of this verse, I don't want your response to be the same."

Friend, the next time you stand at a crossroads I pray you will remember this verse as well, specifically the line I wanted to ignore!