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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Obedience is Not a Diet

Well ladies, it has come to this! I must, once again, embark on that four letter word ... diet. How can anything that has D-I-E in it's first three letters be good for you? I guess, at least it does describe the way I am feeling like... I'm "DIEing" to have a cookie, or those cinnamon rolls are to "DIE" for! I have been struggling with my weight for a good three years now. I had my fourth child and my body forgot to stop looking pregnant! I had half my thyroid removed last year and that along with my age seem to really add to my struggle with loosing weight. Oh yes, and let's not forget the ice cream that soothes all stressful church moments.

When you decide to embark on a diet, it almost seems that the food police should read you your rights. It goes like this:

You have the right to remain eating salads.
Anything you eat or drink will be held against you
at your weekly weigh-in.
You have the right to complain about the diet to your girl friends,
and you may have a girl friend present while eating carrots.
If you cannot afford the special diet food, you may eat much smaller
portions of the stuff that made you fat in the first place!

I think by now you can tell that I really LOVE dieting! NOT!

Many months ago in my prayer time I felt the Holy Spirit say, "Debbie, obedience is not a diet." That was a surreal moment. I really strive to serve the Lord in all I do, but just like everyone some things come easier than others. I was asking the Lord for help in this area, and He gave me an answer that blew me away. Now, I wish I could tell you that - that very day I ran out joined a gym, ate correctly, and now am a size 10. Quite the opposite. Sometimes when God gives us an "inconvenient truth", it just makes us struggle that much more. Our old man pops out and we wrestle with what we should do as opposed to what seems (at the time) easier to do. In the long run it really isn't easier to not treat our bodies well. It just seems less scary, because as horrible we may feel, at least we know that not dieting means continuing to struggle with what we have come to live with.

Isn't that sooooo typical of Satan. Oh yes, we have a part to play, but he is so crafty. He takes a little problem and picks ever so slowly until one day we are in quite a snickers bar... a cake.... some chips... I mean a pickle. Then, Satan spends the rest of the time whispering lies that are designed to keep us trapped in a life less than God has designed for us. God's Word gives Satan the title of destroyer. It is his ultimate goal. Some issues need but a simple rebuke, and they seem to disappear. Other issues, just hover and make us or others around us struggle with the apparent sin in our lives. I think that is why God's answer left me so surprised. It really shouldn't have. Usually His answers are almost always simple yet powerful at the same time... Obedience is not a diet.

So, perhaps those first three letters, DIE, are just right. After all, that is what obedience is all about. I have to die to what I am doing and submit myself to the Lord. I may or may not do this new diet well. Nevertheless, I would rather scratch and crawl my way out of a Romans 7 existence. Romans 8 is just a chapter away in the Bible, but it is a life change away from having the life Christ already claimed for us.

What about you? What do you need to lay down at God's feet? Obedience is not a ________________. Remember giving our all to God is ultimately having victory ... even the harder stuff.

Romans 8:37 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Best Church Moment This Summer, so far!

Oh friends! What do you think could warrant such a title as 'best church moment of the summer so far?' Now before I tell you, let's just admit people coming to know Christ or major life changes after folks come to know Christ always top the list! This best church moment comes from a more demure category. It is on the topic of servant hood. You know, those many things we get to do each week. What happened last Sunday has kept me laughing all week.

So, I was leading in the preschool class. I have a little boy that comes to our church and is very creative. He always wants to color and loves making crafts. I felt very honored because last Sunday he brought something that he had made from home to show me. He had made a 3-D map. He had colored the ground, and had created rocks out of globs of tape, and added little toy soldiers. Frankly, it was amazing for his young age. We put it on my teacher's table in a place of honor. I made quite the "big deal" of it. My son, Jeremy, is in that class. After a while Jeremy wandered over to the table to 'get a better look' at the craft. Those soldiers were too tempting and Jeremy wanted to touch them. About the same time I noticed the little boy who brought the craft was looking concerned and he started walking toward Jeremy. So, I said to Jeremy, sweetheart let's not touch that, your friend worked very hard on his DIORAMA and we just look at it. The little boy got up in Jeremy's face and said very firmly, "Yeah, that's my DIARRHEA! Don't touch my DIARRHEA!"

You know, sometimes we feel so burdened to serve and be a blessing to others that we forget that others (no matter how small) are meant to be a blessing to us as well. Summer can especially be one of those times. Attendance can be low, and workers can be few. People tell you they are going camping, or to a special destination and you hearken in your heart... take me with you. Some Sundays (like the fourth of July that is coming soon to a Sunday near you) could almost have a holding down the fort attitude; if you allowed yourself. Here are some thoughts about making summer great!

First, use the summer as a gearing up time. My oldest is going to run cross country at his high school this fall. He has already started running with his team. They are not waiting till school starts. They are training their athletes now so they can be ready. Ask yourself, as a pastor's wife, what can you do to encourage and get the other pastor wives and leaders under your authority ready for the big race this fall? Summer can be a great time for extra attention to leadership and preparation.

Another idea to make summer great is to get AWAY!!!!!!!! Run far, far, far away, and do not feel guilty. I used to think it was the pastor who felt guilty for leaving for some rest. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that many times it can be the wife. Why? Because our feelings make us worried if the timing of the vacation is good. Listen, barring any major events like (not a vacation)Vacation Bible School :), or a something in the life of the church as a whole, GO! Truth is, there is never a perfect time to go on vacation, but HELLO... even Jesus (you know the one we should emulate) got away to rest and to pray.

Finally, make the simple choice to enjoy every Sunday no matter what the season! Who's party do you want to go to? The needy /whiny girl's party or the optimistic / happy girl's party. How you serve effects those (or the lack of those) around you. I know struggles come and go in church work, but we have a choice to make. The choice to have joy in what we do starts in our heart. Once you realize that where your heart is, there your treasure is also... "church work" in the summer, fall, winter, and spring will have a whole different feeling.

Summer is turning out to have some surprises! None, of which, have caught God by surprise. Since we are still early in the season, please allow me to end with a blessing. May God grant you peace and rest this summer. May you grow in His knowledge and find joy where you serve. May your family get the rest each needs and may they rest in the fact that God cares and provides for all those needs. In Christ- AMEN

What about you what great moments are showing up in
your summer?

Psalm 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Happened?

I am thinking about making up a t-shirt that says, "I planted tomatoes and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!" Can you believe it? A week ago there were 23 beautiful tomatoes hanging on their stems. I went to bed that night thinking in the morning I was going to pick some. I knew I had a lot of tomatoes, but there are six of us in our family, and I knew we would be able to polish them off and give some away. Sure there had been some start up costs involved (plants, dirt, special growth food), but they were organic and I had been out there twice a day to water and care for them. I knew it was going to be awesome! The cost would be minimal compared to the bounty that was about to come. That is... until "HE" showed up!

So I woke that next morning to see if the beautiful ripe 'yumminess', we call tomatoes, were ready! I opened my back door to let my lab out, and she started going crazy! I knew that could mean only one thing... deer! It was! There in my back yard was a buck so majestic and might I say, looking quite full! After it jumped back over my fence (never go out when a lab is chasing a deer), I ran to my garden. THAT... God's creature... had eaten all but one of my tomatoes! He had left small ones as if he was saying,"I'll see you in a few weeks." To date my family and I have eaten four very expensive tomatoes from the garden (including the buck's reject tomato).

I thought I was being so clever at out smarting the deer. I thought the planing and placement of my little plants were out of the radar of the deer. Instead, I think they were just out there waiting beyond my fence until they could feast. This being summer, the deer sort of remind me of church. Do you ever feel like you plant seeds in people, spend the effort feeding them with time and God's word, and right when you think they are ready to harvest into a bounty of blessings, you watch them jump back over your fence, full of your efforts, never to be seen from again.

I think summer is a notorious time for change. I was at a conference, and I think I have never heard a more funny word picture than Dino Rizzo gave. He said that some people just leave but others leave like they are in some horrible old western bar fight. He said gun fire goes off, and they get up and knock over tables and chairs. They get up, shoots fire again and they keep destroying everything in their path. They finally leave but not before grabbing ten people on their way out. Whether they leave quietly or like some bad B movie production, it still makes me a little sad.

I have to be careful to not become bitter. It is like someone saying I don't like your toys anymore. After 20 years in the ministry, you name it and people have left over "it". Here are some real winners:
Too involved
Not involved enough
Too much Bible Study
Not enough Bible study (aka: "I'm not being fed")
You didn't call (even when I didn't call you to let you know I had a problem)
You are too caring
The music is too loud
we need more and or less video
... and so it goes...

So here are some things that help my spiritual sanity get through the tough times.
The first and foremost thing I always keep in mind is that God is The Shepherd. Yes, we are tending to His sheep, but they are only on a "lease purchase agreement". :) I used to be so hurt when someone left. Now my main prayer is that they find a place to serve. Recently a family I love very much had to leave town. They were very important in my life. I will miss seeing them every week, but I am so excited that God has moved them. Because He has great plans for them. I think they will be great at the next church they serve! I pray God brings them back to this town, but more than anything I pray God uses them to His highest glory.

Sometimes folks leave and it is under... um... they hate your guts! :) Hey loved ones, don't own that. My husband once said about a hateful anonymous letter, "Debbie, do you feel condemned or convicted?" He told me that if I felt convicted (even a little) that was the Holy Spirit. If I felt condemned that was from Satan. There was a man that left our church who was very hateful. Years latter he came back to visit. He apologized for his behavior. He shared that he had a lot of sin in his life at that time and that, after years of running from God, God was changing him. What a prodigal son moment. Many times through face book or letters from former youth, or church members they will write things like, "I'm sorry I didn't support you, or I am sorry for how I acted as a youth." BIG ADVICE MOMENT: If someone writes you a hateful letter, or calls you and says hateful things don't respond! Been there, suffered that... bad idea to respond. Say, "I'm sorry you feel that way. I love you and would never want to hurt you." Apologize if you need to, but don't defend. Seldom harsh words never change what is in a man's heart. But a gentle answer turns away wrath. Sometimes parting with minimal wrath is the best you can hope for; at least for a while. Above all else pray for all who God has given you to lead.

Change can be scary, especially for women. Rarely do we like our nest to be disturbed. Fear can creep up and make more stress in an already stressful situation. Sometimes we look to our husbands to make it better, and they are staring at us to find comfort because they have no idea what is going to happen. Once again please listen to what has taken me a long time to own. Do you know what your nest is? It is that good looking pastor husband staring right back at you. If God chose to end our ministry tomorrow, He would not destroy our nest. My nest is the family God has given me. More specifically my husband. My security is in Christ and the knowledge that He loves us. Recently, a pastor in another state was kicked out of his church. It divided the congregation and left a trail of hurt. I wish I could tell you the next day that man had ten offers to go somewhere else. He did not. It took months for him to wade back into the ministry. What he did have were friends and family gathering around him. Mainly, he had the love of his beautiful wife. Together they are now looking at new ministry options. Together they will move on. Their nest was weathered by the storm, but now it is stronger. They have have some new sticks and have placed them in strategic areas to keep what is truly important strong.

Change is a part of life. We can no more stop it than we can stop the sun to rise and fall. What we do have is a God who can do anything. When we can own that change is a part of life, life becomes so much sweeter.

When you serve this week at church, serve God with your whole heart. Thank Him for who is there and the new guy that came, and ask Him to give you strength to love and lead those who make up the church you are at. Find your joy by knowing you are not in charge. We lead by being led by God. PRAY-PRAY-PRAY and READ-READ-READ God's word. The more you read the more you know who is really in charge. How about you? What do you think about change?

Jeremiah 17:7-8 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."