Works In Progress

I haven’t had the energy to write lately.

It’s not that I don’t think of things to write… because every now and then, I’ll write a poem or something. It’s that the things I DO want to write are works in progress.

A work in progress is such an exhausting thing. There are so many parts of me that just want to type out a story or blog, without doing the necessary work to refine and fine-tune it. It’s so much easier to throw a bunch of words on paper than it is to have to take a hard look at them and decide what I need to change about it.

On top of all that, I ask people their opinions on what I could change (which is great, if you know how to do it right, but apparently I don’t). They inevitably tell me I need to do a lot of work, moving things around and yet somehow figuring out a way to make sense despite it.

What usually happens through this process is that I end up with it all torn up and no idea how to patch it back together.

I get overwhelmed and then refuse to touch it for a few more months. And part of the reason is that editing doesn’t feel like writing, and I know I should be writing. (That’s what all the writing memes say, right?)

It reminds me of how I used to drive my husband crazy early on in our marriage.

I would see something that I needed to organize, so I set about the job, pulling things out in an attempt to make a “clean slate” for me to start putting things back into. The problem was that sometimes, I would stop there for a period… so my husband would come home to a mess and I would tell him, “I started organizing things today,” totally proud of myself, and he’d look and say, “I can’t tell…”

Since then, I’ve learned how to organize my stuff and make sure I FINISH what I start. I haven’t learned how to do that yet with my writing.

I’m on a writing page on facebook called, “Write Away, Mommy”. There was a live video from her today about completing our work. I confessed that I have many things on that list… but I’m still not sure whether I’m going to change that in the near future. I don’t want to be a flake – I want to finish what I start – but sometimes I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

What do you do when you don’t know where to begin? When I’m cleaning or organizing, it helps me to remember I can just start in one corner. I just need to figure out what a “corner” of a story looks like.

We, too, are all works in progress. When we invite Jesus in, we think He’s just going to adjust a few things. He has a different plan – one that is quite messy! C.S. Lewis said it well in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I’m so grateful that God finishes what He starts. I’m thankful that He doesn’t leave his handiwork in its messy stage. Philippians 1:6 says “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I am a work in progress. I don’t have things figured out. Most days, if you find me, you will find an absolute mess: but I thank God that He is continually working on me (and that He gives me the grace to work out my salvation with fear and trembling – Philippians 2:12).

I may be a mess, but I hope I’m a mess that points to him. Soli Deo Gloria.

When God says “No”

For a person whose dreams are as big as she is crazy, it is sometimes hard for me to imagine laying those same dreams down at Jesus’ feet. There have been many – MANY times in my life where I had a dream and God said “No” to it.

There was the time I wanted to act in Hollywood.

No.

The time I wanted to go into direct selling – twice.

No.

The time I wanted to own a magazine.

No.

The time I wanted to become a youth pastor.

No.

The time I wanted to become an accomplished writer by taking an awesome writing course.

No.

“No” doesn’t always mean “Never.”

In fact, many times, the dreams we have are noble ones… but we have to remember that God’s timing is not our own.

I truly believe I’m meant to be involved in youth. I think I may have been guilty of what many mainstream Christians can be guilty of: assigning God’s voice to one of my own desires. I’ve come to accept that I may never be a youth pastor,  but that doesn’t mean I can’t help out in youth and use my talents to the glory of God in my church’s youth group. I don’t have to be the top of the chain. God doesn’t call everyone to a high position of power – if that were the case, all the church custodians in the world would be living against the will of God.

In my life, I see God calling me to humility more often than positions of power.

I see Him reminding me, as often as necessary, that it’s not about me. I am meant to glorify God with my life, and help others. I should be a support and encouragement to those around me. The Lord has led me, through my pastor (& also through my husband), when I have begun to get off-track. Through their leadership, I have often heard the refrain, “You are a mother first.” Admittedly, it wasn’t one I was too fond of at first. Eventually, I realized that motherhood is the highest calling I have right now. It’s also one with some of the least recognition, which is probably why I took issue with it! Pride is no joke!

As our good shepherd, God leads us. Along the way, He is watching to see if we will listen to His voice.

He will be faithful to instruct us, but we must listen carefully and refuse to dig our heels in if He should say something we don’t want to hear. We must go where He leads, not where we think is right.

You may wonder, “What if it’s something we REALLY want? Can’t we just do that one little thing?”

There are no small things to God. If we disobey and do our own thing, we are not living for Him, and not acting like we are even His.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

If we are His, we follow, even when we don’t understand.

 

 

 

 

The Great Divide between Knowing the Right Thing and Doing It

He said, “Follow Me.”

He didn’t say, “Like Me,” “Hear Me,” or even, “Have good intentions toward Me.”

He wants me to follow Him.

“Take up your cross and follow Me.”

I’ve been a Christian for long enough to know when I’ve screwed up. The Holy Spirit convicts me right away. The problem is, my stupid flesh does it anyway. My sinful nature is constantly warring with my spirit, and it’s really irritating. I want an off day, once in a while. I’m not going to get one.

I fail in my walk constantly. I pray, ask forgiveness of those I’ve heard, and I read the Word to encourage myself to remember the seriousness of His commands.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery,  rivalries, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger,dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21) 

Hits ya right in the gut, doesn’t it? At least, it does for me. I find myself doing these things way more than I’d like to. In fact, last week, I did them a lot to the people I care about the most (I’m talking fits of rage, jealousy, strife, and divisions).

It turns out we’re not the only ones who’ve ever struggled with this. (…You have, right? It’s not just me?)

In Romans 7, Paul, too, has a grievance against his own nature, starting in verse 15 and ending in verse 24:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

To clarify, Paul isn’t making excuses for his sin. Sin is something that we all, through the help of the Holy Spirit and Christ in us, can overcome. Otherwise, it makes no sense that he have written, just a chapter earlier:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

He IS saying, however, that it’s a struggle that must be fought – flesh vs. spirit.

There are many variations of an illustration about the interaction between a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather is trying to pass a bit of wisdom to his grandson, so he tells him, “Son, in every person, there is a black dog. This dog symbolizes the evil inside him, but there is also a white dog in every person. This symbolizes the good. They are constantly fighting each other.”

Wide-eyed, the boy asked, “But Poppa, who wins?”

Winking at his grandson, the grandfather replied knowingly, “The one you feed the most.”

What are we feeding? Are we feeding our flesh, or the Spirit that lives in us?

The one we feed the most is the one that wins.

 

 

 

 

“I’ll give Jesus MOST of me…”

Do you guys relate to that feeling? I know I do.

As a teenager, I told Him He could have all of me (except my dating relationships). I applied His truth when I felt like it, and if I didn’t, then it was ignored. I thought I could make God in MY image, but if He was, He wouldn’t be God! I was constantly praying and rarely reading His Word.

See, the thing about that is, a prayer submitted to God is a good thing, but if we’re not careful, it can become this long “Christmas list” to Santa rather than an actual prayer to God. We ought to pray, “Thy will be done,” just as the Lord modeled for us, both in His instruction of how we should pray and in His own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.

I believe that’s a huge part of what Western Christianity has done wrong. There’s so much focus on the Christian – even the songs are full of “I” and “me” statements – and not enough focus on the Lord and Savior of our souls.

I have to admit, I’ve contributed to the problem.

I recently watched a video that was compiled for a “Day to Pray for the Persecuted Churches” (or something of that nature… I don’t remember the specific wording), and one of the things someone said was, “You will pray for our safety… but we want you to pray that we will stand through the persecution. That we will be unwavering in our faith.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for safety, for my friends or loved ones, knowing full well that God calls us to uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous things!

Jonah to Ninevah, a violent nation. Hosea to Gomer, the unfaithful prostitute. David to King Saul’s courts. Jeremiah to a people whose hearts were set as stone against God. The first-century church was called to death by crucifixion, being torn through streets, lit on fire!

We prioritize the wrong things. We want safety and comfort, but He wants holiness. We need to start praying for the right things.

Jesus calls us to lay our lives down. He doesn’t want just part of it. In fact, when He was confronted with people making excuses, He repeatedly stressed that giving PART of ourselves over wasn’t going to cut it. Every dark, disgusting corner of our minds and hearts, He wants into. He’s gonna clean it up – and yes – it’s going to be painful. But it will also be worthwhile.

Besides, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

When I finally did hear Him loud and clear, I handed Him over control of my relationships… but I was in the middle of one. One that certainly wasn’t glorifying Him in any sense of the word. I broke things off with him, and stood my ground when he tried to change my mind. It was incredibly painful – for everyone involved – but it was also necessary. The Lord had some things to teach me about His care for me. I was missing out on knowing the full scope of His loving kindness, because I chose to do things my own insecure way. I was immodest, jealous, quick to anger, and very easily hurt/depressed. I didn’t feel assured of ANYONE’S love… because I hadn’t given Him the chance to show me.

It was weird… that year, I didn’t date anyone at all, and though it was one of the loneliest seasons of my life, it was also one of the most comforting. I learned that Jesus heard me, even when no one else did. I knew He cared, even when it seemed no one else did. I learned to lean on Him and He became my best Friend and Comforter.

I wouldn’t trade that year of pain for anything.

So I’m trying to remember this lesson in my prayers for myself and for others.

“Lord, make us more like You. Refine us – make us holy. Let us grow in You… and if we have to experience pain in order to do it, Your will be done.”

The Unpopularity of Servanthood

When my husband, Cam,  and I were still single, we worked at the same fast food restaurant. My memory is certainly not my strongest trait, but one of the memories I have from that time is a conversation between Cam and one of our fellow coworkers. Cam had done something generous and kind for her, and she asked him why he did things like that.

His reply: “Because I’m a servant.”

“I wish you wouldn’t say that,” she retorted, “You’re not a servant.”

The thing is, he IS a servant.

I came from a pretty chaotic home, so I didn’t learn about following Christ authentically until later. I was very selfish early on in my relationship with Camron. I had some issues to work through, and was a control freak and very paranoid that our relationship was holding on by a fragile thread: one that I feared would break at a moment’s notice. Of course, that attitude didn’t just taint our marriage relationship. The selfishness permeated every aspect of my life. Now that my husband and I have spent about a decade together, I’ve calmed down a bit. That said, I am still SO very far from perfect. I don’t think I’ll ever get there, this side of heaven.

My journey through servanthood has been a rocky one, filled with many starts and stops. Sometimes what I think is servanthood is really me just thinking I’m better than everyone else because I’m SO humble. (I’m PRETTY sure that’s not how it works. Haha!) I’ve actually volunteered to do things, then saw something I deemed more exciting, and ditched the behind the scenes work to be in front of everyone. It wasn’t until I was officially asked not to return to the behind the scenes work that I realized what I was doing.

Learning from other servants

My momma-in-law knows a lot about serving. It seems she’s made it into an art form, and everyone around her knows it. She constantly thinks of others. She actively looks for a need and then fills it, and all of her grandchildren (and most of her adult kids, too) have gone to her at one time or another, seeking help or advice. She’s generous with her time and doesn’t consider time spent with others a waste. She follows Jesus in the way she takes care of those around her. I want to follow her example, and ultimately, Christ’s example.

Servanthood is one of the least understood gifts the Lord has given us. Even other Christians will sometimes balk at it. My momma-in-law reminds herself that it’s better to do what the Lord says and be told, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (see that? Don’t miss the word “servant” there) than be told by the Lord that there was something we were supposed to do, yet we didn’t do it. There are some really cool lessons we can learn from serving, about ourselves, about others, and about God. Our service to others should be a reflection of our service to the Lord.

I suck at serving sometimes. I’m going to keep trying, though, because I know God wants me to.

What about you? How can you serve others? Do you have any stories to share where people have tried to discourage you from serving? And how can I serve you?

Galatians 5:13 – “Serve one another in love.”

John 12:26 – “Whoever serves Me must follow Me.”