Sunday, July 14, 2013

Transformed

Why is it that the fire of my passion for Christ so easily turns into a smoldering coal?  I get all fueled up after an awesome message, after seeing Him working so evidently in my life, after reading a powerful blog post on one of the blogs I follow, or after being completely challenged and blessed by the examples of godly believers around me.  The fuel ignites a flame and my bed of coals burns brightly for an hour or a day, sometimes as long as a week....And then, before I know it, my fire dies down and my light grows dim. 

I was pondering all of this while working at the little coffee shop this week, and realized that my fire burns out because I forget so quickly the great things He has done.  I was going over in my head what the Lord had done for me, what I owe Him in return, and I began to write it out.  (On the back of a pay envelope, because that's what was handy.)

I started to write, from my perspective, the step by step changes in my life that occurred since I fully turned my life over to Him, and before I knew it, my pen couldn't keep up with my mind.

Rescued: From my destructive, self-serving, arrogant self.

Redeemed: I've been bought with a price

Cleansed: From the filthy rags I considered to be my righteousness.

Set free: From my slavery to sin.

Renamed: "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God."

Valued: God saw a worth in me that caused Him to pay the ultimate price for my freedom.

Loved: With a love that is larger than life.

Grateful: To a new Master who bought me to set me free.  I'm more than grateful - I'm...

Indebted: To say, "Thank you" is inadequate, and it would be impossible to repay the debt I owe.

Bond slave: Because it's my desire to take the life He bought back, and give it over to Him.

I wrote until the envelope would hold no more, and stood back in complete awe.  The Lord worked a complete transformation in my heart and life, and all I need to do to be reminded is to look in the mirror.  Oh, and the flame? It's been ignited today.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Meet Doug(ie)

Doug is in his fifties, has a voice that rasps from too many cigarettes and prison ink all over his arms.  He comes through the drive thru a couple times a day with a huge smile on his face and an encouraging word for whoever it is that makes his iced white mocha with whipped cream and caramel sauce drizzled on top. I first met him two years ago when he came through the shop and handed me a cup from a different coffee stand, apologizing for being a disloyal customer and assuring me that our coffee tastes better.

"I was on the other end of town for a Bible study so I stopped there.  The only thing that I liked is that they wrote my name on the cup.  See?" He pointed to the scrawled "Dougie" in sharpie marker.

I dug a sharpie out of the drawer under the cash register and wrote "Dougie" on his mocha and added a smiley face.

I've worked in the coffee shop for days or weeks at a time, with months and years in between.  The faces and drinks of the regulars have come and gone, but Doug's remains the same.

This afternoon he breezed into the sit-down bakery and coffee shop.  "What's the Word for today, sunshine?"  he asked me.  (Lately we've been sharing back and forth what we'd been reading and learning and meditating on. This ongoing discussion started when we were chatting about the guys he was meeting at the shop to mentor for the alcohol and prison recovery program he's working with.)

His question gave me a pause, because I speak Christian-ese well enough that I can always answer a question of that nature, but for some reason I couldn't put on a face for this man.

"Well truthfully Doug, I had a crazy morning, and never cracked open my Bible at all."

I cringed as those words came out of my mouth.  Mentally I berated myself.  "Come on, Merrie!  You've memorized enough verses.  You've stored up a stockpile of insights and analogies.  You can give him a better answer than that!"

The truth hurts to admit, (probably because I care so much about the image and the reputation I've built for myself.) but Doug didn't blink an eye like I would've.  Didn't sniff or look down his nose like I've done.  Didn't preach at or reject me.  He just loved me like Jesus loves me.  Accepted me, with my faults and imperfections.

Right now I'm humbled.  Right now I'm thinking that I haven't been such a big-hearted person as I thought I was.  Right now I'm realizing that a recovered addict/ex-convict is living more like Jesus than I, a born-and-raised-in-the-church Christian.  This morning I thought I was a pretty big deal, but right now I'm thinking it might be better to be "one of the least of these."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"But the Lord directs his steps"

-Wash red comforter, clean guest room
-Put dishes into dishwasher
-Grocery shopping
-Start chicken in crockpot
-Send in Enrollment Agreement
-Run
-Core workout
-Work at noon

I got home late last night after closing the bakery, and walked right into the Wednesday night Bible Study that meets in my sister's living room.

They'd been studying the book of James from start to finish and were in the middle of chapter 4, where James rebukes the saints for their boastful planning.

The practical application was somewhere along the lines of "So, when our day doesn't pan out as we planned, how can we acknowledge God's control over our lives?"

Ideas and suggestions were tossed back and forth, but the one that I loved the most was that we ought to adopt a spirit of gratitude. Offering thanksgiving in all things is in a sense acknowledging that all things were purposefully orchestrated just for me.

After I went to bed I wrote up the above list of things I needed to remember to get done in the morning. When I got back to the list tonight, I had to laugh. My day, as awesome as it turned out, was NOTHING like I planned.

I'm thankful for every part of it - and amazed at the timing of the truths that were shared last night.

"A man's heart devises his way; but the Lord directs his steps."

As it turns out, besides the core workout, I ended up essentially doing everything from the original list, in one way or another - but not in any way that resembled my plan for the day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

FIguring things out

We talk about getting our lives together and figuring out what we're supposed to be doing.  We talk about making a plan, and we make plans to make a plan for our lives, but then we always smirk when someone else says that they're trying to get life figured out and let them know to "Let me know how that works for you."

It may be a repeated theme for me on here, but the way our society puts so much stock into plans and position has weighed on my heart lately and was still in the back of my mind when we got to church on Sunday.  We were late, (which isn't too unusual as Sunday is the only day of the week that we're not up hours before dawn up here) so we slipped into the back row while the service started.

The special music stirred something in my soul and I've been mulling over it ever since.  An elderly man, well past seventy, got up and introduced a song he had heard for the first time as a teenager before he started singing.  The look on his face and the passion in his voice told me that he believed every single word.

I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,
Since I've found in Him a friend so strong and true.
I would tell you how He changed my life completely,
He did something that no other friend could do.


No one ever cared for me like Jesus!
There's no other friend so kind as He! 
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,
Oh, how much He cares for me!


All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me,
All my heart was full of misery and woe;
Jesus placed His strong and loving arms about me,
And He led me in the way I ought to go.


To hear these words from a man who is at the end of this crazy journey we call life really made me think twice.  Perhaps figuring out life isn't as important as we seem to think.  Perhaps the important thing is to love Jesus.  Perhaps all that's left for me to do is to love and trust Him and let Him take care of the details.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Accepted? You bet!

I have an interview scheduled this week, after which I'll find out whether or not I will be accepted into the Midwifery College I'm really hoping to get into.
Boy-oh-boy, you wouldn't believe the insecurities that are cropping up all over in my life, hinging on that silly word, "accepted".   
 
What if I'm not smart enough, or my home-school education is inadequate?   What if I'm not the right type of person to be a midwife, or what if they just plain ole' don't like me?

Our culture puts so much stock into accomplishments, status and "What are you doing with your life?" that it's not enough to be joyfully serving the Lord by folding laundry and cleaning bathrooms for your family anymore - and I've put a lot of stock into this Midwifery School thing, thinking that while it seems to be God's direction for my life, it'll also be an acceptable life path and I'll have a really good answer for the "what are you doing with your life?" question that always comes up.

Insecurity is like an infectious disease, spreading from it's source to every other accessible area of my life.  I was laying in my bed last night with thoughts and fears tumbling and swirling around in my head, keeping sleep far from me. I had just nailed down my need to be accepted as the root of my problem when it finally occurred to me that by problem was a non-problem, because I am already accepted.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."

Romans 15 hit it spot on.  No matter what happens, I've already been accepted, (through no feat or failure of my own) and I can rest in that.  Literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When I drop the ball...

When I was approached and asked to write a devotional last week I agreed without hardly thinking about it.  I had no other choice.  I believe that God is calling me to testify to His goodness through my relationship with Him - so I said yes- but inwardly I was cringing.  See, that morning was the first time in weeks that I had opened my bible to read it for myself.

My spiritual life had been in a slump and my old enemies, Laziness and Complacency had crept in and taken over.  I was just flat-lining.  No mountains or valleys, just deadness.

 And what Christian wants to admit to that?  Not this one.

Feeling defeated and ashamed for being such a failure as a christian I flipped open my Bible that morning. It was the Lord who directed me to Psalm 25

"In You, Lord my God, I put my trust.
I trust in You.  Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.  
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame."

The Psalm went on and on, reassuring me, encouraging me, speaking to my soul, meeting me exactly where I was at.

I can't testify to a relationship with Christ when I haven't actually been in fellowship with Him.  That would be like me telling the world that I'm super close with the girl I grew up across the street from whom I haven't talked to in ten years.

But I can still testify to this -  I serve a God who is faithful when I'm not, who makes me His priority when I've shelved my Bible and then, when I come crawling back to the throne of grace, and who meets me where I'm at and carries me home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Deep thinking and bathroom cleaning

Maybe in another life I would have been a philosopher.   I would have become famous just by dressing up, sitting around thinking up profound thoughts and writing them down in a cryptic way so that years later when my discoveries were discovered students of life would spend half their studies figuring out what I was saying and the other half understanding it.

But I'm not a philosopher.   I'm just a 20-something year old girl charging headlong down this path called life and every now and then I think of something profound.

Like today, for instance.  I was cleaning bathrooms, ipod plugged into my ears while texting a friend.  As I sprayed and swept and scrubbed I was trying to figure out why it's so hard for me to get life figured out. 

Family dynamics are hard for anyone.  They're hard when you're six years old, and trying to learn all those important things to learn for six-year-olds, like reading and people skills and why you can't wear prints and plaids together.  It's hard to know where you belong when you're six. 

And then it's hard when you're sixteen and trying to learn all those oh-so-important things for sixteen-year-olds.  Like reading people and how to wear exactly the right thing, among many other things.  It's hard to know where you belong when you're sixteen.

I'm betting that life is hard when you're twenty-six too.  I'd bet that you have lots to learn, although it may be different things than when you were six.  I'd bet that sometimes when you're twenty-six it's hard to know just where you belong.

It seems like just when I get something figured out, God goes and changes the circumstances giving me a brand new set of dynamics to learn.

Why is it that the toughest dynamics to work with last the longest?  And as soon as I figure them out, things change?  I pondered as I finished scrubbing the toilet in one bathroom and moved to the next one.

It dawned on me that perhaps the purpose of the tough things in life are to teach me a lesson, and just like I wouldn't stay scrubbing a clean toilet, neither would God continue to give me the same test.  As soon as I've finished with one toilet, it's time to move on.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Significant Stuff

There's nothing like being in the middle of the ocean to make a girl feel insignificant.  I paddled out in waves that were way too big for me today on a ten foot long board because I couldn't be outdone by my younger sister and brother who were all gung-ho and excited about the monstrous* surf.

The final score for waves that I caught was zero, while the score for waves that got me was in the teens. 

I swallowed a lot of pride and salt water before I finally made it outside past the break and found a deep hole to sit over, leaving me in no danger of being able to catch a wave.

I could see the sandy bottom far below me and forced myself to identify the moving shadows as kelp plants and a bat ray.   The sun was breaking through the clouds and the water temperature was just slightly lower than the air. 

Twenty minutes later I had caught my breath and was calculating how long I would have to stay out before the tide dropped and the waves got smaller, and if my toes would fall off due to hypothermia before then.

Stupid pride.  Stupid need to gain approval.  Stupid Merrie.  I realized early on that I needed to rethink my decision making paradigm.

My dad was sitting inside hoping to coach me into some waves, and I could see him beckoning me in closer to him.  I ventured inside once only to paddle frantically back to my safe spot the second I saw a set forming on the horizon.

He eventually followed me out there to reassure me.

"You know, your Mom hates to surf, and I still love her."

"I don't exactly hate to surf.  I love the idea of surfing!  I hate that I'm horrible at it!  I'm pretty much stuck here, because I'm too scared to go back through the big waves that are between me and the shore!"

He assured me that he wasn't worried about me in the least so therefore I should have nothing to worry about and finished by telling me, "Even if you never learn to surf, I'll still love you."

Eventually I did make it in through the waves,  (Obviously, because they don't have wi-fi in the lineup yet) and Dad came in with me, making sure I survived. 

He walked me back up the beach before paddling out again to surf for another hour, and I sat on the beach, waterlogged and humbled.

There's nothing like being in the middle of the ocean to make a girl feel insignificant, but then, there's nothing like knowing that my significance has no bearing on how much I'm loved.

*Monstrous: 3-4 foot with occasional overhead peaks.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Un-scheduled

Staying up until nearly two in the morning discussing life and love and all those pertinent topics with my sisters when I needed to be up at five-thirty to get to a class on time was totally worth it.

In fact, I slept 'til six, zipped through unusually light traffic and am sitting in the truck relishing coffee and a bagel, writing on my blog, because I have time.

I was actually headed to bed at a decent time and was about to ask the crowd in the kitchen to quiet down, because I had such an early morning ahead, when I realized that these relationships wouldn't wait, and the time to be a part of their lives was now.

So here I am, sufficiently rested, (or caffeinated), on time, humbled and re-writing my priorities... Sure there's a time for sleep, but sometimes other things can't wait.

I've noticed a pattern lately.

Jesus and
Others then
You spells JOY.

I may have plagiarized that saying from an old Sunday School lesson, but it still rings true in my life.

"...For the joy of the Lord is your strength" Nem 8:10

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rethinking Resolutions.

"Be kind"

"No more energy drinks"

"I'm making a resolution to not make resolutions"

"Run a 26 minute 5k."

"Write on my blog twice a month."

"Become confident taking jumps on my snowboard."


We stood around the island in the kitchen last night discussing our resolutions for 2013 and wondering how long they each would last.  The resolution I had to cut out sugar for the first three months of 2013 has already gone kaput and I'm behind on the resolution to get a collective 2,555 hours of sleep. (averaging 7 hours per night)

Resolutions.  What is the point?


I sat at the island again this morning watching the morning sun wake up and start it's day.  I read in Isaiah where it cautions those who try to see ahead and know God's plans, saying, "Let God hurry; let Him hasten his work so we may see it.  The plan of the Holy One of Israel - let it approach, let it come into view, so we may know it." And I started to wonder about the wisdom of making plans and goals.

And I weighed the other verses in scripture that came to mind, including James chapter four which says, "Now listen, you who say, 'tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life? It is even a vapor which appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say," If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil."

But the arguments for the other side popped up as well.  "Where there is no vision, the people perish," and "A man's heart devises his way but the Lord directs his steps."

I realized this morning that I had been going about my resolutions all wrong.  In resolving to achieve certain results this coming year I'd made them prideful boasting, never saying, "If it's the Lord's will for me, I'll do ___________ in 2013," but often spouting, "Look how disciplined and spiritually mature I will be in 2013."

I think the whole, "Duty is ours, results are God's" theory comes into play here.

I think I'd better re-think my strategy towards resolutions.

I think I've missed the point.  The boasting comes in not when the plans are made but when I decide which results are going to happen. 

So I asked my littlest sister what her resolution was when she came in this morning only to find out that she's light years ahead of me in the wisdom and maturity thing when she told me her resolve was to, "Do at least one cartwheel everyday."