Miss Julie and the Kingdom Conversation

Friday, April 4, 2014

She is exactly 20 years my senior.  This woman has become my second mother while my first is approximately 560 miles away. She stood there with tears in her eyes telling me what it meant to plant seeds in little hearts Sunday after Sunday, to seize that one-year window to tell them about Jesus and tackle the hard theological questions in between the disciplining and the crackers and water and bathroom breaks and art rotation--that teeny, tiny little 15 minutes we get to tell children how much the Creator of this Universe loves their mushy hearts and wants all of our big people hearts to be mushy too. This is the life of a teacher: you wonder what is getting through and if you perchance peer into their ears, you may see something besides the hair in their ears--please?? And then you have these bright and shining moments where a little blonde girl comes up to you and explains that she accepted Jesus into her heart the other night and you feel like the rug has been swept up out from under you because you never realized that the seed you planted the year before with the craft made of dye cut Bible people and popsicle sticks ever actually took root. 

But it did. 

Miss Julie and I stood there and cried together because she mentioned the importance of giving and giving especially when you didn't have anything left to give and if somebody touched you with a feather you'd tip over or burst into tears or both.  Matthew's account (chapters 8 & 9) of Jesus portrays it like he didn't even stop, because after he calms the storm and arrives at the other side of the region of Gadarenes, he casts out demons.  And after Jesus arrived in a boat in his hometown, he healed a paralytic and "from there" he recruits Matthew, maybe it seems like he didn't stop because he didn't.  And isn't it written there aren't enough volumes to contain everything that Jesus said and did in those three years? (John 21:25)

And here we are with a little to-do list of ten items that we just can't seem to get accomplished in just one day: but here's the important part: Jesus was saving lives, he was getting to know people, he was having dinner with his friends and he was praying--a lot.  And so we may not get to those ten items, or even those three, but if we are sowing into a kingdom then there really is only one thing to do each day:


Feeding Baby and God's Blessings

Monday, March 31, 2014

Creative Commons by hepinkpeppercorn
So, I have the privilege of having one of the most amazing jobs ever.  I'm a nanny.  I've been with two amazing little girls the last year or so and it's been an incredibly joyful, growing experience, and while I've been through all this business with Little A, it's equally as cool to go through teething, liquids, solid, potty training and time-outs with someone else's and the beauty of it is, there is still so much to learn. 

Every. Day.

The baby is now almost 16 mos. and of course we've been on solids for quite some time.  Their dad has got some pretty cool kid tricks, one of which is meting out the baby's food.  Give her a pile of Cheerios, they'll probably end up on the floor, but give her a few at a time or one or two pieces of her sandwich at time and now we're workin'.  She eats it, minimal amounts are fed to the trashcan beast and the floor stays relatively clean.  It's a win-win. 

And, as we were sitting in the park the other day enjoying our lunch on a cloudy day, and I was measuring out the baby's turkey sandwich to her, it hit me. 

This is God. 

He knows exactly what we need, in exactly the right quantities and He gives us what we need when we need it. 

We can't get huffy. 

We shouldn't grow impatient.  He KNOWS that if we're given exactly what we want in exactly the quantities we want it, we'll squander it--big time.  His gifts will end up on the floor, wasted. But we have to--we CAN trust him.  This goes back to everything in life, but what I'm driving at right now and what I'm personally trying to understand right now are the desires of my heart.  I want big things, but they haven't come just yet.  God is still pruning me, getting me ready and measuring out exactly what I need...

Anything you’ve desired but haven't seen come to fruition just yet?  Ask God to show the areas you need to grow in to prepare you to receive that blessing and know that this is a learning process...Feel free to share how you've seen this work in your own life.

My Girls

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creative Commons by Sarah Buckley

We met this weekend to celebrate life.  Our good friend is six months pregnant with a little girl.  I little girl, I pray, just like I pray for my own daughter, will meet an amazing group of women like this who have stood by one another, in loss and life, sickness, health, joyful craziness and in heavy sorrow.  I realize that there are deep confidences shared among pairs and sets and that is how it should be and how it will be because we trust one another and at the end of the day we will give our right hands or maybe just our right kidneys for one another--even though it hasn't come to that just yet. 

We may not have been through exactly the same scenarios, but we can relate where it counts. And it all started at a tiny little liberal arts college in the middle of the foothills of Tennessee where we were forced to make our own fun and find our own way without the distractions or options of big city life, so we threw birthday parties with blindfolds and made grilled cheese on someone's George Foreman grill way past dinnertime, stayed up until goodness knows when and were devastated with one another over bad dates, breakups and unfair grades.

And as a remnant of the 16 of us gathered around the table and shared pregnancy horror stories (with humor), I wondered later if we were scaring the first-time mom and I thought,  "Nah, she can handle it and if she can't, we'll help."

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Spring Cleaning and Getting Rid of Soul Junk

Friday, March 21, 2014

Creative Commons by scott*eric

There's been a whole lot of cleaning going on in our house these last few weeks: bags of old clothes, boxes of books, Little A's crafts she's sorted through and deemed obsolete, pounds and pounds of papers out to the recycle bin.  If it doesn't serve a purpose or isn't a dearly kept memory, it's been chucked. 

Man, it's felt good. 

A few weeks ago, I felt like God was saying to me, "Get rid of the clutter." I wouldn't necessarily label myself a pack rat, and certainly, if you walked into the apartment and ignored the random bits scattered here and there, I suppose I'm <cough> fairly organized.  So, it took me a while to see that there wasn't just physical clutter junking up the works, that this clutter was the stuff I'd emotionally carried along the last few years, a lot of that has to do with self doubt and regrets from my past. I'd been holding on to things some physical things from an old life, yes, but lots of emotional things as well.

If you've been trying to move forward, I want to share one of the most beautiful, reassuring, empowering verses.  It was tucked away in this week's Bible study on Micah, a book that goes back and forth with Israel's sin and the promised hope that God will bring to them once again through Jesus Christ:

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

What an amazing gift!  God wants us to move on, keep our eyes fixed and him and make level paths for our feet.  A good friend has a plaque up in her office with this saying: "Don't look back, you're not going there." It's funny we don't know the stuff we're carrying around until we really face it and have to get rid of it.  We all know that moving is the best motivation for purging.  We've got to keep moving, we can't look back, we can't even slow down, because God has AMAZING things in store for you.  I'm talking saving lives, rescuing relationships, renewing hope, BIG things, so we can't let the baggage slow us down.

Maybe it's time to take a personal evaluation, to come face to face with some of the stuff you've been avoiding and accept the power of the blood of Jesus Christ in your life.  Is there anything practical you could do right now to make that step?

Let Us Not Become Like Tofu-Part II of II OR Lessons from King Hezekiah

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Photo: Creative Commons by Andrea Nguyen 

[Hezekiah] was successful in whatever he undertook.  He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.  From the watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory. (II Kings 18:7-8) Hezekiah was going forward in the power of the Lord almighty, defeating enemies, claiming land, purposing success for the nation of Judah.

But he hits a snag.

Throughout his reign, he witnessed the King of Assyria begin to snatch up land all around him, in Samaria, deporting Israel to Assyria and settling them in various towns, but the scripture was specific in why God had allowed this , "This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant--all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded.  They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out."

And unfortunately, the next big target for the King of Assyria was Judah..."Sennacherib King of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them."  This is where, I believe, the story gets sticky.

Because Hezekiah allows himself to be intimidated and begins to back down saying to Sennacherib, "I have done wrong.  Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me."  Not only does Hezekiah hand over all the silver in the temple, but he raids the treasuries of the royal palace, going so far as to strip the doors and posts of the temple of their gold.

Wait a minute...didn't scripture say in II Kings 18: 6 that Hezekiah "held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him."??  Why was he backing down?

Proverbs 29:25a "The fear of man will prove to be snare..."

We cannot back down. 

That is why God gives us his spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13), promises his angel armies (Psalm 91:11) and declares throughout Scripture, "Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)  Yes, our enemy the devil is prowling BUT that is why we are commanded to remain self-controlled and alert. (I Peter 5:8)

Continuing on with the story: "The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander...with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem."  They called for the King and he sent out his palace administrator, secretary and recorder. 

Isn't it just easier to get other people to do our dirty work? :)

Assyria's field commander tried to intimidate King Hezekiah's men with phrases like: "You say you have strategy and military strength--but you speak only empty words.  On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?"

And if you say to me, "We are depending on the Lord our God"--isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem?"

The enemy begins to bargain with them:

"Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses--if you can put riders in them!"

And then he resorts to just plain lies:

"The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it."

He turns to Hezekiah's people, switching his language from Aramaic to Hebrew so that they can understand [I can just see the sweat trickling down his face.]

"Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.  He cannot deliver you from my hand.  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, 'The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.  "

He then showers them with empty promises (I can't help but think about the first liar in the garden...)

"Make peace with me and come out to me.  Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey."

Stand firm, brothers and sisters.

This man has got to be red in the face by now, asking,

"Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?"

But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply because the King has commanded, "Do not answer him."

After this passionate speech, Hezekiah's messengers were scared, intimidated, tore their clothes and came back to Hezekiah, telling him what was said.

Guess what?

Hezekiah was scared too, he tore his clothes and asked for his men to go to Isaiah the prophet and have him plead their case before God.

And Isaiah relays this message from the Lord: "Do not be afraid--those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen!  I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword."

The King of Assyria sent a second message to Hezekiah.  Same scare and intimidation tactics...

Hezekiah is broken, he is frightened. He is fearful for an entire kingdom that he had carefully grown for fourteen years.  So this is where the story catches in my throat.  We know God's promises.  Hezekiah knew God's promises--it was going to be ok, but he did the only thing he knew to do.  He took it to God, face down, fingers clutched around the King's letter and laid it before the Lord of Hosts, the Lord Mighty in Battle.  He says, "It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men's hands. Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God."

God wants us to come to him like this.  Whether we are pleading or crying or just submissive, he wants us to lay it out before him--and Hezekiah's words and actions are reminiscent of another's, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."(I Chron. 20:12)  Nothing we can conjure up will make it go away, so we lay it submissively, painfully, frightfully at his feet and we remember the promises.

Isaiah sends this message from the Lord, "I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria...He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."

And we serve a God who is true to His Word:

That very night, the angel of the Lord put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp.  So Sennacherib broke camp, returned to Nineveh and stayed there...he was later killed with the sword by his two sons.

This is a powerful story and there are so many elements that we must be mindful of in our own lives.  Maybe you are hearing these very threats of intimidation right now, I know I have personally, but here is the important part:

Cling to God with the last ounce of strength that you have, rely on others to intercede in prayer for you, take it before the father, just like Hezekiah did and admit that you have nothing left except for a promise.  Find that one verse that God has revealed to you in all this mess, memorize it, repeat it, put it up places where you will see it several times a day and finally, worship God in advance for the victory that He will bring you. 

You need only be still.

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