Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let's Talk About It!

Last week, I received a phone call from a close friend. We had such a wonderful time catching up on the events in each others life, and of course, laughing together. Friendship is a wonderful thing. Truly a gift from God to bless our life in ways unlike anything else can do. I hung up the phone refreshed, revived and ready to face the day.

As we were reminiscing about times gone by, I was reminded of a powerful lesson taught to me by a five year old, wise beyond his years.

It was BJ's first day at preschool. He was only two and this was his first adventure away from the familiarity and security of his mother. As soon as his mother walked out the door, leaving BJ behind, his tears had started to flow. And flow they did....on and on and on, like a steady river.

I tried everything I could think of to bring comfort to this precious little boy. I tried showing him around the room, pointing out fun toys and puzzles. He wasn't interested. I tried introducing him to some of the other children. He wasn't ready to make their acquaintance. I tried reading him a story. He was only interested in his own story....life in a new place, without his mom.

All through out the morning, BJ would cry, then stop momentarily, only to stammer, "I want my mommy" and then, start crying all over again. If only I could get his mind off his mom and onto something else in this room, I thought.

A short while later, another student, five year old Benjamin, walked over to where we were sitting. BJ, still visibly distraught, had for the moment at least, hushed his crying and I was hoping to keep this tear-free moment going for the rest of the day!

"What's wrong with him?" Benjamin wanted to know.

"Oh, he'll be fine," I said, "It's his first day, so everything is new to him and he's just feeling a little uneasy about being here.".

No," Benjamin replied. "That's not what's wrong with him. He misses his mommy."

In a split second, the word I had been trying so desperately to avoid was out there. I was sure at the near mention of the name, "Mommy", BJ would once again burst into tears.

"Uh, let's not talk about that, OK, Benjamin? I think talking about it will only make BJ feel worse. Let's talk about something else, OK?" I now found myself feeling just as uncomfortable as little BJ.

"NO. I can tell this is really bothering him and I think we should talk about it" Benjamin said, as he moved right up next to his brand new classmate and looked him straight in the eye.

"You miss your mommy, don't you? Well, you know what? When I first came here, I missed my Dad. But don't worry. My dad always comes back to get me, and your mom will come and get you too. Now, dry up those tears. Wanna play with me?"

To my utter amazement and total surprise, BJ wiped his eyes, climbed off my lap, then took hold of Benjamin's hand as they wondered off to play. I sat there totally speechless. For hours, I had tried to bring comfort to BJ, yet foolishly, I had totally missed the mark. Instead of tackling the issue head on, I had tried to skirt around it, and avoid it completely. Who says we can't learn from children?

Benjamin, having gone through a similar experience, was well equipped to handle this situation. He knew exactly what BJ was feeling, and spoke to the heart of what was bothering little BJ the most.....fear of abandonment. Once Benjamin reassured BJ that his mom would eventually come back for him, he was free to play and have fun.

How many times have you and I skirted around issues, not wanting to bring any more pain or discomfort to those around us? We casually talk about the weather, share in politics, or talk about the cost of groceries, all the while missing the mark totally. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to talk about it.

Yes, it might be awkward at first. And yes, it may stir up painful memories or buried hurts, but in the end, it will bring comfort and healing. There is something powerful in talking to someone who has been there and experienced first hand what we our self are going through. There is also something equally powerful about sharing your own experience and your testimony with someone who is now walking down a road you have already traveled.

I am a firm believer that pain has a purpose. We will all suffer pain in some form or another in our lifetime.The choice, then, is not will we hurt, but rather what will we do with our hurt. We can choose to allow the hurt to take root in our heart, producing loneliness, bitterness or apathy, or we can choose to find the purpose in our pain, and instead use our own experience to help someone else. Then, and only then, will our pain begin to reveal it's purpose. Purpose, in turn, will brings with it strength, restoration and healing. The Bible tells us to comfort one another with the comfort we have been given. The only way we can do this is to talk about it......openly and honestly.

Is there some hurt in your life that you have been carrying around way too long? Why not find someone whom you trust, and talk about it? Is there someone you know who could use a listening ear and an understanding heart? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words they need, and then approach that person. Let's quit ignoring the issues of our hearts. Why should we choose to settle for only pain, when God has so much more in store for us, if we are simply willing to talk about it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fear Not, Part 2

God has given each of us the privilege of being His hands and feet to those in need around us. Just open your eyes and you will see opportunity for giving and sharing everywhere you look. I have always been keenly aware of these opportunities, yet shamefully, I must admit, I have usually turned my face to these calls for help and avoided them altogether.

No, that's not exactly true. Whenever I've been given the honor of helping someone in need of food, clothing or money, I have always been more than willing to share what God has blessed me with. This kind of giving is easy. It's not hard to drop off a box of food, or write out a check. I guess the type of giving I'm referring to is the kind that requires giving of yourself.

For the past six months or so, my neighbor has been courageously fighting a battle with cancer. I know this not because I have spoken to her, but because her husband has been sharing her struggle with my husband during chats over the fence that separates our yard from theirs. Knowing she has been facing this, you would think I would be doing whatever I could to help her, right? Wrong! I have instead willfully chosen to turn my face to her and her obvious need.

Do I feel guilty about this? You bet! Yet, day after day, I remain silent, doing absolutely nothing to help her. Why? It's simple. Fear. Fear of invading her privacy. Fear of saying or doing something wrong. Fear of making her uncomfortable. Simply put.....fear of making her situation worse and not better. I rationalize my total complacency to her need by convincing myself she would be much better off without me. And believe it or not......I actual believe this to be true. So, I stay away.

More than ten years ago, my mother in law was fighting her own battle with cancer. Her eyes were growing dim and her strength all but gone. While her family was in the kitchen sharing in a meal, I was sitting at her side. Feeling so incompetent to be in this position, it wasn't a place I would have chosen to be. Yet, God placed me there for this moment in time.

As I gazed upon her frail body, lying there in her bed, I noticed her neck, which appeared to be in an awkward position.

"Are you OK?" I asked. "You don't look very comfortable. Would you like me to try and adjust your pillow so you can rest your head more comfortably?"

With all the energy she could muster up, she nodded her head "yes".

Immediately, fear flooded my entire being. What am I going to do? How can I possibly move her without hurting her? If only someone else was here with me. I don't know what to do?

With a whirlwind of thoughts, doubts and fears racing through my mind, I leaned over this precious woman, gingerly placing my hand under her head. As I tried to figure out how best to reposition her on her pillow, she reached out with her own hand, placing it firmly on my shoulder. Then, using what little strength she had, she said slowly and deliberately, "DON'T BE AFRAID".

I lifted her head, readjusted her pillow, and gently laid her head back down once again. She looked up at me and smiled. Those three words, DON'T BE AFRAID, were the last words she spoke to me. Two days later, she passed away.

I have carried those words in my heart ever since. Dying words meant to speak life. Yet, unfortunately, I have allowed these words and the power they bring to lie dormant in my heart. Ten years later, I am still choosing instead, to listen to the lies of Satan. Lies that only serve to imprison me in fear and render be totally useless as God's hands and feet to those around me. My neighbor needs me, and I am not there for her.

And that is my whole point in writing this. I want to be used by God no matter HOW he chooses to use me. Be it lending a dollar or lending my heart. Until I am willing to give of myself, I will never be able to live up to the true potential of my calling...to serve my fellowman. This giving of myself will most likely not be easy and will most likely make me extremely uncomfortable, but then again....it's not about ME, right?! It's about forgetting all about me so I can instead focus fully on the one in need.

It's also about forgetting my obvious incompetence and instead, focusing on the Lord, who IS able. He is able to do all I could ever thing or imagine and then some!!! I know I am not able to meet the needs of others.....but the great I AM certainly is! All I need to do is surrender to my need for Christ to work in and through me, and He in turn, will be faithful to use me to meet the needs he brings before me.

I love 2 Corinthians 4:7 -

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

No, it's not about easy and it's not about us. It's about surrender. Surrender to all that is holding me back, and possibly holding you back, too. Be it our pride, our selfishness, our laziness or our fear. All are simply tools of Satan to keep you and I turning our heads, and walking away. It's about surrendering our own meager talents and abilities, and instead relying on and trusting in the limitless power of our God. It's about surrendering the urge to turn our face and walk away, and instead, moving forward, in God-confidence, to minister and be used by God. It's about making a difference and making our life really count! It's about being Christ's hands and feet to a world so desperately in need of HIS touch.

I've wasted the lasted ten years of my life, and countless years before that. I don't want to waste one more second.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fear Not

God takes us to many places in our lives. Currently, I have been given the awesome privilege of serving as a Nanny. I am employed by a wonderful young couple who have been blessed with three small boys. One son attends a Christian preschool in the mornings. A few days ago, when I arrived around noon to pick him up, I walked in on a conversation between his teacher and one of his fellow classmates.

"Joshua, it's ok, now. You can take your fingers out of your ears."

Noticing I had entered the room, the teacher shared with me that the school fire alarm had been malfunctioning, sounding numerous times over the course of the morning. It was obvious by the look on Joshua's face, and of course the fingers in his ears, that the alarm was getting to him.

"Joshua. Finish coloring your picture, Honey."

Joshua, who had no intention of using his fingers for anything other than preventing the loud, shrill sound of the alarm from penetrating his small ears again, just sat there.

"Really, it's ok, Buddy. I think the men have fixed the problem. I don't think we will hear it anymore today."

"But what if there's a fire?" he asked.

"Honey, the fire alarm isn't going off because there is a fire in our school. It's just not working right today. It's ok, though, because there are some men here fixing it. There is no fire. Our school is fine. "

"But what if there IS a fire?" he asked again.

"Well then, we will simply do what we did earlier today when the alarm went off and we practiced our safety drill. We will go outside where we will be safe. It's ok, Joshua. There is nothing to worry about. Finish your picture, Sweetheart."

Still, Joshua sat totally immobilized by the fear which had gripped his heart.

"I don't want to die in the fire!!!" he finally screamed.

Walking over to Joshua and gently taking his fingers out of his ears, the teacher knelt down beside this scared little three year old and looked him right in the eye.

"Don't worry, Joshua. I'm right here. I promise I won't let anything happen to you. I'll take care of you, Joshua. I promise. Teacher is right here with you."

For the first time since I had entered the room, a look of peace flooded Joshua's face. It was ok. He didn't need to worry. Teacher was here and she would take care of him. He was safe because she was right here with him. Joshua reached for his blue crayon. Soon, he was back to work coloring his picture and sharing in conversation and laughter with his classmates.

As I'd witnessed this scene, I'd realized I am a lot like Joshua. I have a tendency to let the cares and worries of this world grip my heart, leaving me paralyzed in fear, unable to enjoy all that is going on around me. I become consumed with fear and allow it to steal the life (not to mention the joy) right out of me.

As I watched Joshua, I was reminded of a acronym I once heard for the word fear:

F - false

E- evidence

A- appearing

R - real

This was certainly the case with Joshua. Joshua was fearful of a fire that didn't exist. I, too, am fearful of things that probably don't exist either, or most likely will never even happen. Yet, even though what I fear is not usually real, the fear itself most definitely is!

Maybe you are like Joshua and me. Maybe you also struggle with fear. If so, how can you and I learn to escape this fear, once and for all, and live in the freedom and abundance of life that Christ wants us so desperately to experience?

It's quite simple, really. Joshua found his peace when he realized his teacher was right there with him and would take care of him. We can partake of this same peace by keeping our heart and mind fixed on our Heavenly Father, who promises to never leave us, nor forsake us. Even more than this teacher could ever hope to be there for Joshua, our God IS there for us. We don't have to fear ANYTHING in this life, because our Father is with us.

I have heard it said that the phrase "Fear Not" is found 365 times in the Bible. 365 times! That is one time for each day of the year......or each day of our life. Obviously, God wants us to live a life free of fear.

Fear tries to take us prisoner, causing us to think irrationally and respond unwisely. We need to remember that most fear comes from Satan. The Bible tells us that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but rather one of power, love and a sound mind. Only when we choose to keep our focus on Christ, knowing and believing that He is always with us, will we be free from the torment of fear. As we rely on Him to take care of us and to work all things out for our good and His glory, we will be able to let go of fear and instead take hold of the power, love and sound mind freely available to us through Christ.

The choice is up to us. We can either choose to sit around with our fingers stuck in our ears, fearful of what might happen, all the while missing out on what IS happening, or we can rest in the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, embracing and thoroughly enjoying each and every minute of our life!
Now..... where did I leave my crayon?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fully Satisfied

As I was paying the cashier for the gas I had just pumped into my car, I was approached by a young man in his early twenties.

"Excuse me, Ma'am. Is that your little green Honda?" he asked.

Not sure who he was or why he was interested in my little green Honda, I apprehensively answered, "Yes."

"Did you just fill up at that pump?" he asked next.

"Yes, I used that pump, although I didn't fill up. I only purchased about eight gallons. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I used that very same pump right before you and I DID fill up. It cost me over $50.00! But, when I drove away, nothing registered on my gas gauge. It doesn't show that I purchased any gas at all. I think something is wrong with that pump. While I talk to the cashier, would you mind checking your gas gauge to see if you got the gas you just paid for?"

It seemed like an odd request, but I nodded my head "yes" and headed outside to my car. I put the key in the ignition and anxiously watched my gas gauge. Slowly but surely, the needle moved away from the "E" as it made it's way closer and closer to the "F". Unlike the gauge in this young man's truck, my gauge showed I had gotten exactly what I had paid for, about half a tank of gas.

Looking up from the gauge, I saw the young man walking toward my car.

"So, did your gauge move or is it still sitting at the same spot as when you drove in?"

"The pump seems to be working fine," I answered. "My gauge is showing I have about half a tank, and that's the amount I put in. Maybe something is wrong with the gas gauge in your truck."

"Maybe." He replied. "Although, I don't see how the problem could be on my end. I just bought this truck! It's practically brand new. I'm pretty sure the problem is with this pump." And with that, disgruntled and upset, he turned and walked away.

Satisfied with my purchase, I pulled out of the station and went on my way.

Later that evening, as I was reflecting upon the events of the day, I thought about the incident at the gas station. Both the young man and I had went to the station for the same reason. We had parked in the same place, used the same equipment, talked to the same attendant. Yet, only one of us left there satisfied.

Spiritually, the same is often true of us. Trucking through the day to day journey of life, we look at our "heart gauge" and suddenly realize our hearts are on "E". Knowing we are in desperate need of a fill up, we head to church, or read our Bible, or spend time in prayer. Some walk away from this "fill up with God" full and satisfied, others are left feeling empty. Why?

Like the young man at the station, we often fall victim to a faulty gauge. Stop and think about it for a minute. What do you use to gauge Christ's presence in your own life? Is it your emotions? As humans who are emotionally wired, this is often the instrument we rely on. Yet, probably nothing is more unreliable or fickle than our feelings!
When I entered the gas station that day, I had no reason to believe I would leave there still on "E". Why then, should I believe, when I enter into the presence of the living God, the Creator of the Universe and the Lover of my Soul, I will walk away with anything less than what my heart needs and desires the most?

God promises those who hunger and thirst for righteousness WILL be filled. Regardless of what my emotions may be telling me, I must believe God has filled me to overflowing with His love, forgiveness, wisdom and grace. I must believe I have been strengthened in my inner man to once again run the race set before me. I must believe God is at work in me and through me. I must believe I have received what I came for!

God is more than able and more than willing to dispense His goodness and His blessings into our empty hearts. We simply need to approach His throne of grace, open our heart before Him, and allow Him to fill us up. Are you In need of a fill up? Why not head straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Believe God will be faithful to meet your needs, then head back onto the highway of life, happy and fully satisfied in Him!