Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pink Polish Panick!

Nineteen months ago, my parents adopted a beautiful baby girl named Alyssa--she is such a joy to our family, and I love her to death! A beautiful addition to my life from having her around is that God has been teaching me about His character and His relationship with us.

The other day, Alyssa had her toenails painted for the first time... quite the milestone, I know! Well, as odds would have it, there was quite a meltdown when mom tried to put Alyssa's pajamas on her.

Why? Because they were footie pajamas! How dare we try to cover up those pretty pink toes?!?! We eventually put normal, open-toed pajamas on her and then we were able to find peace for the evening...

...yet, as I headed to bed, the situation really stuck with me. How often do I waste my time screaming at God because I can't see my pink toenails??

Earlier that night I had a good tear-fest while driving home in my car. I cried out to God, asking Him why the blessings in my life weren't turning out the way that I'd been anticipating. One specific promise He made to me long ago.... God, what happened to keeping that promise?

Now I think of my toenails.

God isn't taking away the blessings in my life, and He is still keeping his promises... but maybe right now they're just a little hidden. Just because I can't see my pink toes doesn't mean that they're gone. I need to have faith in God's character even when the blessings in life aren't easily seen. Because He has true character, and He never fails us.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

to feel what You feel

I feel like I can be such an selfish, apathetic person.

The other day I was reading a blog written by my dear friend, Mariah, and I realized just how numb my heart has become. She was talking about all the pain we see in the world: forced prostitution, starvation, slavery... and how she was moved to tears as her eyes were opened to their pain.

It hit me as I read this that I felt nothing. I was thinking, "Oh, how sad... that's all so terrible." But my heart wasn't broken like it should be. How could I be so ignorant that I looked at a homeless, starving child and didn't feel gut-wrenching pain for them??

I know that God takes this seriously--how we treat the lowest, most hurting people. Right after I finished reading Mariah's blog, God led me to Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus is talking about the end of time when He'll separate the people from each other, "as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (32) He will say to His sheep,

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (34-36)

But then he turns to the goats... and he sends them away from him "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (41). His reason for doing this? Because they failed to do what the sheep did. Both groups ask Him,

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirst and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" (37-39, 44)

...Jesus' response to them is what shook me: "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (45)

Watch this video by Eric Ludy... He talks about this very issue. I know that it caught in my throat.

I acknowledge that my heart isn't where it should be... yet. My prayer is that God will give me His heart; that my heart will break for what breaks His heart. That I will feel what He feels, and love who He loves.

(Check out my friend's blog post as well -- Mariah Fowler: Give Me Your Heart )

Thursday, October 13, 2011

For it is by faith you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

God has been teaching me a lot about forgiveness lately.

The first and most important step in forgiving someone else is remembering how much we need forgiveness: It is only through pride that we could hold a grudge against someone else. When someone wrongs me it's so easy to think ". . . how could they . . . they need to apologize to me first . . . I don't deserve this . . ."
When in fact I do deserve it--we all deserve the very worst.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which  you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Ephesians 2:1-3

I know that I was broken and lost before I knew Christ, but my heart winces at the description of who I once was: Dead. Following the ways of the world. Gratifying the cravings of my sinful nature. The object of wrath. This is the bleakest way to describe the brokenness in those that don't know Christ. And I once was one of them.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

I did absolutely nothing to deserve God's forgiveness. When I was still dead, an object of God's wrath because of my wickedness; that's when He saved me and He gave me life. God did showed me grace so that His grace will be shown through my life... but how is it shown? God's grace is exemplified in my life when I humiliate myself and remember what I was saved from--when I truly forgive.

Now that I remember my wretchedness, the next step is is forgiving someone else.

Forgiveness is so much more than words spilling from your lips as you tell someone that they're forgiven--forgiveness comes from the heart, and forgiveness is complete. Once you forgive someone, that sin is gone. You've wiped clean their impact on you, and you can no longer hold any hatred or pain over them.

This seems like a good idea in print, but in practical life it seems a little extreme. How do you forgive someone that killed a family member? How do you forgive the person that cheated on you? We so easily justify our grudges when it comes to the deepest pains in our lives, but the Bible doesn't allow room in the margins: It's about radical forgiveness.

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matt. 5:39) --- Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) --- But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:13)

When someone hurts you, forgive them; let them hurt you again, and forgive them again. In love. Any sin that someone else commits against you pales in comparison to the sins that God has forgiven us for. We wallowed in unpardonable sin, and through Christ's sacrifice we were pardoned.

I won't pretend that I have this all figured out... when it comes to forgiving others, I still grapple with when to surrender and forgive. But God is teaching me forgiveness and working in my heart as I forgive those who have hurt me.

As you walk away from this, I hope you're asking yourself: who do you still need to forgive??